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Archive for the ‘Appreciation’ Category

(Cincinnati Music Hall)

 

Recently my daughter-in-love and granddaughter invited me to accompany them to “Sing Hallelujah, Cincinnati!”–an event at our city music hall.

Vocal groups and instrumentalists from the metropolitan area participated, presenting music around the theme, “Hallelujah.” The experience turned out to be much more than I expected.

First, a brass band came marching in from the back, playing a jazz rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”–New Orleans style. By the time they exited out a side door at the front, we weren’t just applauding, we were smiling.

The genial atmosphere created by Cincy Brass was further enhanced by the relaxed and friendly master of ceremonies, Mr. Dilworth. In his opening remarks, he explained the meaning of hallelujah: to express joy and to praise God. And that’s exactly what we did for the next hour or so.

 

 

First, Mr. Dilworth taught the audience a hallelujah song, one segment at a time. Then he challenged us with a descant part. The final effort combining tune and harmony turned out quite pleasing. We applauded again, for Mr. Dilworth’s talented direction and our surprisingly good performance. Now we were smiling even more broadly.

Perhaps Mr. Dilworth knows the research: “Singing corporately produces a chemical change in our bodies that contributes to a sense of bonding” (1).

For the rest of the evening, one choir and ensemble after another wowed us with a broad range of music, including classical, traditional, ethnic (Ukrainian and African), gospel, spiritual, bluegrass, and jazz.

 

 

What made the occasion distinctive, however, was the racial mix among performers and audience members. And as the evening unfolded, the music became a catalyst for unity among us—in spite of various ethnic groups and a wide variety of musical genre.

Even though all of the pieces sung and played could not possibly be everyone’s favored styles, the entire audience clapped (Some even gave a shout now and then!) in enthusiastic appreciation for all participants.

We were bonded together in a unity of gratitude.

Also among us flourished the unity of contentment. For one hour we sat companionably immersed in the mutual pleasure of music.  Any rough edges of tension that might cause strain in other circumstances were smoothed over on this occasion–by the hallelujahs of praise.

Finally, there was the unity of joy—evident in the continuous smiles and occasional laughter.

And where there is joy there is the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

It’s probable not all participants and attendees were Christians. Most of the groups who performed would be categorized as secular.

But for this one evening, whether folks knew it or not, we drew close to God through grateful, contented, and joyful praise.   And as a glorious byproduct, found ourselves drawn closer to one another.

 

 

Note:

(1) Bob Kauflin (member of GLAD vocal band for thirty years), https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/words-of-wonder-what-happens-when-we-sing

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.jba.af.mil (Jordyn Fetter); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Numerous times in the Bible we’re reminded that the Lord is our strength. We’re promised that out of his infinite power he will supply the wherewithal to withstand any strain, force, or stress.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we avail ourselves of God’s glorious might?

The answer may lie in just three strategies: affirm, trust, and thank.

 

1) AFFIRM such scriptural realities as God’s sovereignty over all things, his power at work on our behalf, and his constant, loving presence to sustain us (1).

 

 

We can direct our thoughts toward the promises he’s made to help, guide, and protect (2). In fact, scripture contains dozens of promises that offer hope and encouragement for any situation, because:  “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV).

 

 

Asserting biblical truth hour by hour, even moment by moment, results in spiritual strength, much as repetitive moves with weights build physical strength.

Also beneficial to affirm: what we’ve seen God do in the past. Has a surprise check arrived in the mail—almost to the penny of what was needed? Have you escaped a car collision by that much? Has the answer to a prayer far exceeded the request? God has granted such miracles in our family, too.

 

 

 

And that brings us to the second strategy, trust.

 

2) TRUST that the God of perfection will be true to his Word and keep his promises.

But when fretful thoughts do threaten, we can bring them before God with total honesty, just as King David did in the psalms (3). Next, we can return to the Affirm Strategy (above)—which David also embraced. Third, we simply do the next thing, refusing to worry about tomorrow.

 

 

And a trusting heart is a thankful heart.

 

3) THANK God at every opportunity. Even in the midst of trials, we can find joy:

  • In Him and all his glorious attributes
  • In his Word, where we find comfort and encouragement
  • In creation, with all his meticulous handiwork and grand displays
  • In the people around us, with their expressions of loving concern and help
  • Through the five senses, providing unlimited delight

And the joy of the Lord will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

 

These three strategies–affirming, trusting, and thanking—will enable us to move through each day with grace and a light spirit, just as a deer gracefully and lightly clears obstacles and scales rocky peaks, because:

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord, keep me mindful that no one is exempt from trouble in this sin-wracked world, but you rule supreme and will engineer good even from the worst of circumstances. Help me to be ever-conscious of the ways I can avail myself of your strength. And may I learn not just to withstand stressful times, but actually flourish in the midst of them.

 

 

Notes:

(1) 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Isaiah 64:4; Deuteronomy 31:6

(2) Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 32:8 & 12:5b

(3) Psalm 10, 13, 31, and 102 offer examples of psalms that begin with lament and end with praise.

 

P.S. A personal update: Steve received his first chemo treatment this week to keep the cancer from growing and spreading to other organs as we wait for a liver transplant. The anti-cancer drug was applied directly to the tumors. We were warned he might experience pain, nausea, fever, and/or other side effects. But except for some discomfort and fatigue he has been fine. We continue to praise God for his faithfulness!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.christianqotes.info; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainyquote.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainquotes.org.)

 

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“Are you all set for your move to Chicago?” I heard Jessica* ask. She’s one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to. Her station is just on the other side of a partition from where my stylist Anna* works.

As I settled into Anna’s chair last Wednesday morning, I readily heard the conversation between Jessica and her client.

“Yes, we found the perfect house,” the woman was saying. “There are just two bedrooms, but…”

I knew that voice.

In late December my hair appointment had overlapped with the same client. That day she had expressed concern because none of the properties shown on realtor websites were fitting her and her husband’s criteria. She feared there would be no suitable homes to tour during their house hunt set for mid-February.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she confided. “I hate to think of moving into a rental and then moving again later.”

It seemed fitting to share our house-search experience.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted while peeking around the partition. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and just wanted to tell you the same thing happened to us before we moved here three and a half years ago.  We discovered that if the perfect house becomes available too soon, it’s likely to be sold by the time you’re able to visit the area and view homes.

“Our perfect house came on the market just two weeks before we flew up here from Florida to house-hunt. The same will happen for you, I’m sure of it!”

She thanked me warmly, appreciative of the voice-of experience offering reassurance.

And now, at the end of March, I was quite certain that same woman (whom I had not seen since December) was in Jessica’s chair again, sharing the next chapter of her story.

I peeked around the partition just as I had before.  Instantly we recognized each other.

“You found the perfect house! Awesome!” I cried.

“Just like you said, “ she replied. “It came on the market a couple of weeks before our trip to Chicago.”

It wasn’t long before the two of us sported our coloring-chemicals and sat together so I could hear about her house. We chatted away like old friends.

A couple of times Diane* mentioned her husband’s illness but gave no specifics; I didn’t press for details. Later in the conversation it seemed appropriate to share Steve’s recent diagnosis of liver cancer. (You can read a short explanation at the end of last week’s post, “Haven of Peace.”)

“I don’t always talk about the details of my Ken’s* illness,” Diane confided, “but you need to know.” She paused. “Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. The doctors only gave him twelve to fifteen months to live after the surgery, but it’s been two years and he’s still here!”

And together we praised God for his goodness.

I left the salon last Wednesday with my heart greatly uplifted. Ordinarily I would have sat at Anna’s station and read magazines or the book I always bring along.

But God is El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). He saw my need for companionship that day.

He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14). He provided Diane to be his voice of encouragement, hope, and joy.

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty (Psalm 91:1). He rules over all—every situation, every difficulty, every illness—even cancer.  Sometimes he ordains miracles.   Diane’s husband and countless others are living proof.

 

 

He is Yahweh Nissi, The Lord Our Banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  He goes into the battle before us, leading the way toward victory in all circumstances—a victory of faith in the face of trouble (1 John 5:4).

He is Yahweh Rapha, The Lord Who Heals (Psalm 103:2-3). And if the healing is not realized on earth, it is guaranteed in heaven (Revelation 21:4).

 

*     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God,

for your knowledge that comforts,

your provision that reassures,

your power that enables,

your leadership that guides,

your healing that perfects.

You alone are the wellspring

of all that we need.

May we trust in you

with unwavering confidence

and rest in your transcendent peace.  

 

*Names changed.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.minot.af.mil (Cassandra Jones, photographer); http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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In spite of research, technology, and highly trained engineers, there are still appliances and products that leave us wondering, Who designed this thing?

For example:

 

 

Some of those motion sensor faucets do NOT work. They only detect motion in ¼” square of air space.  In addition, you must position your hands at a particular angle and you must move them at a precise rate of speed to get the water flowing.

Good luck.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

_________________________

 

 

Take a look down inside one of the drawers of our refrigerator. See that little niche deep in the left corner? All kinds of tiny bits find their way into those crevices; to get the bits out you need a Q-tip.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

Someone who’s never cleaned a refrigerator, I’ll bet.

_________________________

 

 

‘Ever make the mistake of washing your fresh fruit and vegetables before removing the stickers? If so, you’ve wasted precious moments (as I have) scraping off the stubborn adhesive. In these days of Gorilla Glue and Post-Its, you’d think they could create a glue that doesn’t turn gooey the second it gets wet.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

No doubt the top concern of “those sticker people” is what’s cheap–not what’s helpful to the consumer.

_________________________

 

 

And I just love hand lotion pumps.  They (purposely?) make the pump stem short so we’re left with two weeks worth of lotion in the bottom that won’t pump.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

I suppose they hope we’ll throw away the remaining amount to avoid the hassle of draining the container. Then we’ll purchase more often, which means more money for them. Clever.

_________________________

 

 

I know one Designer who doesn’t make poor decisions, careless mistakes, or selfish choices.  You know him too.

He’s the one who created caterpillars that can morph into butterflies by repurposing parts of the chrysalis into fragile wings.  Yet some species are capable of migrating thousands of miles  (1).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

The Supreme Designer gave hens the ability to manufacture a hard shell around a flexible membrane containing a slippery yolk and liquid albumen. In addition to that feat, thousands of invisible pores perforate the shell so the baby chick can breathe.

Within a few days after the egg is laid, blood vessels develop from the growing chick. Two attach to the membrane under the shell; two attach to the yolk. By the fifth day, the chick is obtaining oxygen through the membrane vessels and nourishment through the yolk vessels.

Peel a hard-boiled egg and you’ll notice an empty space at the wider end. That pocket of air provides about six hours of oxygen while the chick pecks his way to life in the big world (2).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

In 2007, scientists attached satellite transmitters to sixteen birds known for their long-distant flights: bar-tailed godwits. One little specimen called E7 flew from New Zealand to Alaska in three months—a trip of 9, 340 miles. That included a five-week stopover near the North Korean/Chinese border.

After nearly four months in Alaska, E7 began his journey back to New Zealand. He flew 7,145 miles in nine days, nonstop, averaging 34.8 mph. He didn’t eat, drink, or sleep that whole time. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he flew alone and ended up where he started (3).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

And those are just three examples, O God, of your incomparable work. I shake my head in wonder at the millions of plants, animals, and even one-celled creatures you have meticulously designed to function perfectly in perpetuity.

From nothingness you have created the universe and everything in it. Thank you for gifting us with eyes to see the beauty, minds to contemplate the wonder, and hearts to savor the miracles.  May we be ever attentive, appreciative, and worshipful in the presence of your creative genius.

 

 

What element in creation leaves you astounded?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

(1) https://lifehopeandtruth.com/god/is-there-a-god/intelligent-design/evidence-for-intelligent-design/

(2) http://biblicaldiscipleship.org/content/marvelousgod%E2%80%99s-creation-8-childen-egg

(3) http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2629

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.simple.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net.

 

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For one of his most stunning and delicate works of art, The Supreme Craftsman begins with the most innocuous of materials: dust and water.

His factory/workshop for these masterpieces is the upper atmosphere of Planet Earth where he sets into motion a miracle of formation and intricate design.

God endowed water vapor with the ability to cling, even to the tiniest of dust particles floating high into the atmosphere. And when the temperature drops below freezing, those wet, clinging molecules turn into ice crystals. Very quickly they form a hexagon shape, no more than .008 or .009 of an inch in diameter, and a snowflake is born.

Vapor continues to bond to the hexagons in different ways as temperature, wind velocity, and density of moisture vary—even within the same cloud.

Some snowflakes maintain a hexagon shape.

 

(Photo by Wilson Bentley)

 

Others develop arms, and from the arms grow lacy patterns or feathery extensions.

 

 

As the snowflake tumbles downward from the clouds, vapor continues to cling and ice crystals continue to form—up to 1,000 microscopic crystals, each impacted by differing conditions. One outcome is certain: the greater the humidity, the more complex the pattern.

 

 Another photo by Wilson Bentley, 1890)

 

Is it true what they say, that no two snowflakes are alike? Most meteorologists say yes, because the dust particles themselves come from countless different sources–from sand, soil, and volcanic ash to decayed plant and animal material.

Add to that the wide-ranging variations of weather conditions mentioned above, and it becomes apparent: an infinite combination of factors contributes to the infinite number of patterns.

 

 

 

 

But God isn’t finished yet.

The awe factor is increased as tiny snowflakes begin to gather:

  • in graceful drifts,

 

 

 

  • on every branch of the trees,

 

 

  • and in sparkling swaths across the landscape.

 

 

And a few lessons present themselves as well:

 

  1. If God cares about the formation of snowflakes, he surely cares about the formation of his children.

A practically minded person would take one look inside God’s snowflake-factory and shake his head. “Why bother with all these designs?” he might ask. “Such a waste when they’re just going to turn to slush and eventually evaporate!”

But our God is a true Artist at heart, paying attention to details and creating beauty where it isn’t even necessary.

How much more must he desire to create the beauty of his holiness within our spirits?

 

  1. By itself, one snowflake is a fragile entity. But think what an avalanche or glacier can do.

 

 

By himself, one person can accomplish little. But think what happens when human effort is multiplied.

We weren’t created for isolation; God intends for us to live in community with other believers. Together we can achieve great good. Groups of Christians have generously brought aid to those in need, built schools, hospitals, and orphanages, even accomplished the abolition of slavery—to name a few examples.

There is strength in numbers, whether it’s snowflakes or God’s people.

 

  1. The miracle of snow occurs in silence; the miraculous power of God works silently, too.

 

 

Hours before we catch snowflakes on our gloves, the Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their creation. Silently the snow comes, and finally we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of dust and ice crystals.

Similarly, long before we take note of an answered prayer or unbidden blessing, The Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their fulfillment.

Silently he comes. And suddenly we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of his power and love.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Maker of Miracles, just as your universe is full of wonder, so are our lives. We can’t begin to recount all the awesome works you have performed for our benefit. All we can do is sing for joy at the work of your hands!

 

(Psalm 40:5, 66:5, 92:4)

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr (James P. Mann); http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com (Natalia Kollegova); http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com (AMagill); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nws.noaa.gov; http://www.paxpixel.freegreatpcitures.com; http://www.flickr.com & Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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“You prepare a table before me, 

In the presence of my enemies.” 

–Psalm 23:5

 

You, oh God, are my Host at the table of life!

 

 

You have prepared for me a veritable buffet of experiences and opportunities. Some have been delicious and delightful, created (it seemed) solely for my enjoyment—events such as close encounters with birds or butterflies, an afternoon of laughter and reminiscing with old friends, or a spontaneous hug from a toddler.

Other experiences you’ve prepared because they were good for me: challenges, changes, and uncertainties.   You wanted to build stronger character within me and grow maturity in my spirit.

Sometimes I’ve wondered what you were serving! Forgive me for saying so, but occasionally you’ve created circumstances that seemed as distasteful as dill pickles, cream cheese, and corned beef.  (That combination sounded awful when I was first introduced to it.)  But just as I discovered how delicious Piggles* are, I’ve learned the superiority of your plan–to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

Another observation:  some of the dishes being served aren’t just good for me, but for others at the table—especially the younger ones. Take Brussel sprouts, for example. If the children see me eating my portion, perhaps they’ll be inspired to eat theirs too. In like fashion, as a participant at the table of life, you allow me to join with you in fulfilling larger, far-reaching purposes–way beyond Brussel sprouts.

Even when enemies such as trial or pain try to swoop in and spoil the celebration, I can rejoice because you are with me, to strengthen and uphold. You’ve given me your Word, where I can feast on your attributes and promises. By your power, those enemies will be held at bay—outside the banquet room.

And on this Thanksgiving Day, when many a cook prays his/her feast will turn out perfectly, I praise you that everything you prepare for me is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).

 

 

Thank you Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider, for your faithfulness and goodness in my life.

May the happy thanks-giving of your people provide happy thanks-receiving for you.

_________________________________

*The name, Piggles, was created the night a bunch of us made pigs of ourselves on this pickle appetizer/snack.

 

(Revised and reblogged from November 26, 2015.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

 

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In March of this year I began a new journal, A Celebration of Small Things, in an effort to become more aware of God’s daily gifts.  But after discovering the quotes below it became clear: my gratitude list is missing whole categories of blessings.

See what you think of these statements.  (Note that with each quote I’ve included my own prayer-response and a corresponding scripture.)

 

QUOTE #1

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Just be thankful you have a glass!

—Jack Wellman

 

You’ve given me a beautiful glass, Father—a life overflowing with loving family and friends, days filled with purpose and pleasure, surprise blessings that satisfy my heart with joy. The words “thank you” seem trivial for such gracious gifts.

 

 

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

Psalm 92:4 NIV

 

QUOTE #2

Give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said,

‘Our disappointments are but his appointments.’

—A.W. Pink

 

I thank you, Father, for the doors of opportunity you’ve closed, the challenging moves to new communities you’ve ordained, and the wishes of my heart you’ve withheld. Each disappointment I know was for my benefit and your glory. Thank you for hindsight to understand in part, and the promise that one day I’ll understand in totality.

 

 

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

John 13:7 NIV

 

QUOTE #3 

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;

second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life;

third, although they took my all, it was not much;

and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.

—Matthew Henry,

on the night he was robbed

 

Thank you, Father, for Henry’s example of grateful positivity. No doubt he lifted his own spirit with such a prayer, and I can imagine your smile of approval as well. When trouble assaults my life, may I be as grateful and positive as Matthew Henry.

 

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

QUOTE #4

There’s one thing for which you can be thankful—

only you and God have all the facts about yourself.

—Dub Nance

 

Oh, Lord, thank you for being a God who delights to show mercy, lavishes compassionate forgiveness, and understands well my frailty. Thank you also for molding me day by day into the image of Christ—in spite of my shortcomings (Micah 7:18b; Psalm 103:12-14, and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

“But God is so rich in mercy that,

on account of His great love with which He loved us,

He made us who were dead in trespasses,

alive in unison with Christ.”

Ephesians 2:4-5, Berkeley Version

 

QUOTE #5

The best things are nearest:

breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes,

flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,

the path of God just before you.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Oh, yes, Father. Thank you for numerous “best things” close at hand such as: a spontaneous hug, the chortling giggles of a grandbaby, a carnival of birds frolicking in the backyard trees (at least six species at once), and savory chicken/sausage soup—made by Steve—for a bleak and blustery day.

 

 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house.”

Deuteronomy 26:11 (emphasis added)

 

Indeed, ALL the good. Thank you, Father, for bringing to mind these new blessings to count.

 

And now, precious readers, which quote especially caught your attention? I’d love to hear about it. Please share your choice and thoughts below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.com; http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

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