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“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV).

Many of us memorized those words as children. And some of us may have thought, “Wow! That means God will give me whatever I want!”

So we prayed for new bicycles, the latest gadgets, and swimming pools in our backyards—absolutely certain that if God gave us these hearts’ desires, we’d be truly satisfied.

Some of our prayers were answered affirmatively. A new bicycle with sparkling spokes actually materialized by the Christmas tree. Or Aunt Kate heard the pleas for Mattell’s Magical Music Thing, and sent it as a birthday gift.

But as the years went by, the wise and introspective among us realized:

1. When one desire is fulfilled, another quickly takes its place.

Years ago I heard that a famous actress had accumulated seven houses, each one a different style from the others. Why? Because moving from one to another eased her boredom. (I wonder how long it took to become discontented with House #4, or #5, or #6, before she hired an architect to start the next?)

2. God isn’t in the business of making wishes come true.

Psalm 23:1 doesn’t mean: “I’m one of God’s flock! I’m gonna live on Easy Street!”

If he did grant every whim, we’d soon become self-centered and spoiled.

Perhaps a clarifying interpretation of the opening scripture would be: “God is my loving Care-Giver. All that I enjoy in my relationship with him far outweighs anything this world has to offer. I really don’t need another single thing.”

Ah, to be as soul-satisfied as King David, the author of this psalm!  How can we become that contented?

One place to begin is with gratitude and praise.

Think of all we enjoy as a result of our relationship with God.  Peace, joy, and provision quickly come to mind.

Here are a few more:

  • Companionship with a perfect Friend—every moment of every day–into eternity.  He is always listening, always watchful, always diligent.
  • Hope. No situation is beyond the control of our Almighty God.
  • Settledness, because he is in control, and “makes good things even out of hard times” (Erica Hale).
  • Truth. We don’t have to muddle through life like a do-it-yourselfer with no instruction manual. “The unfolding of [God’s] words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

The bottom-line is this: No possession or position, no place or person on earth can fill our hearts with contentment.

3. True satisfaction flourishes when we affirm that in God we have all we need.

Remember Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28?

Are you weary of the dissatisfaction that results from striving for the next desire?  Are you burdened by unfulfilled wishes and dreams?

Come to Jesus.  Count the scores of blessings he’s already provided in the past, is currently providing this very moment, and has already prepared in the glory of heaven yet to come.

Cultivate true satisfaction in your heart with gratitude and praise!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What helps you cultivate true satisfaction?  Please share in the Comments section below!

Art & photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

(Revised and reblogged from 7-10-14 while we enjoy house guests.)

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Fitness experts will tell you, strong core muscles of the mid-section greatly enhance your physical well-being, contributing to stability that prevents falls, minimization of strain that causes pain, as well as effective breathing that optimizes oxygen flow.

When core strength is absent, a person is likely to:

  • have difficulty getting up from a chair without leverage
  • struggle to bend down and tie his shoes
  • find himself slouching
  • lose his balance
  • experience back pain

But it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Those same fitness experts recommend exercises: crunches, planks, and bridges—to name a few—although just a brisk walk engages core muscles and contributes to strength.

Of course, even more important than our physical fitness is spiritual strength, which raises a new question:

How strong is your core–of the soul?

Just as we can identify symptoms of physical weakness, we can identify soul-weakness when challenge mires us in such thoughts as: Why me? This is so unfair. If God cared, this wouldn’t be happening.

However, it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Our spiritual Fitness Expert, God himself, has provided exercises to strengthen our souls, including:

Bible Meditation

More than just reading a passage, meditation includes taking to heart God’s Word and responding personally.

For example, how might you respond to Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit?”

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

I praise you, O God, for your omnipotent power. Nothing is impossible for you (Luke 18:27)! Just that knowledge alone can settle my anxious heart and foster sweet hope.

I praise you also for your unlimited understanding. You are a God of infinite wisdom and you generously offer to bestow wisdom to me–if I just ask (James 1:5).

Thank you for coming alongside, ever-ready to expend your power and wisdom for my good. You are a gracious God beyond what anyone could hope for!

Such an exercise develops the muscle of faith, contributes to stability of soul, and helps prevent falls into worry and fear.

Positive Prayer

Even the tone of my prayers can impact soul-strength. If I focus on the problem, the emotional pain is likely to remain:

Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I keep trying various scenarios in my mind but there seems no way out of these circumstances. You’ve got to help us, although I don’t see how. What a mess!  

On the other hand, if I focus on God’s attributes at work and his promises that apply, the strain of the situation diminishes:

“I praise and thank you, Father, that I have no reason to fear. You’ve given our family the promise that you’ll fight for us; all we have to do is stand firm and see your salvation (Exodus 14:13-14). YOU are our strength, providing the wherewithal to rectify this situation. YOU are our very present help in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

As positivity is expressed in our prayers, the spiritual muscle of hope develops.

Gratitude & Joy

It stands to reason: if we focus on the problems surrounding us, discouragement will weaken our spirits.

But if we focus on all the good things flowing to us from God’s loving heart, we’ll find plenty to be joyful about. It’s just a matter of engaging our praise and gratitude muscles.

Most sets of the physical exercises I do each morning include twenty repetitions. I wonder if we could name twenty of God’s attributes, providing twenty reasons to be joyful in him?

Skim through the psalms with me, and let’s see what we find:

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

We did it—and long before reaching the end of Psalms!

Do you find the strain on your spirit relaxing, just in reviewing his surpassing greatness?  Is renewed strength, stability, hope, and joy flowing into your soul?

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; pxhere.com.

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Have you been pillow-shopping lately? If not, be forewarned: the number of options may cause nausea, dizziness, and high blood pressure.

There are pillows made with down, fiberfill, foam, latex, gel, and even buckwheat hulls. Manufacturers also provide different levels of cushioning, and now pillows come in different shapes, depending on your sleep position or special needs such as neck pain.

All they want is for you to get a good night’s sleep, right? Oh, and sell you lots of different pillows until you find the one best for you!

For proper rest though, we need a different kind of pillow—not made from feathers, foam, or buckwheat hulls; not made by Mike Lindell. The pillows I’m thinking of can easily be taken with us wherever we go and never need to be replaced. They’re free too!

These special pillows have been available a long time, but perhaps Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher of Victorian England, was the first to make note of them. He suggested we “use the Lord’s words as our pillows,” and lie down upon them in restful faith [1].

We’d do well to understand:

God wants us to rest—physically (Psalm 127:2) and especially spiritually (Matthew 11:28-30).

In fact, the word rest, when referring to spiritual relaxation, is used over 200 times in scripture [2].

Spiritual rest brings tranquility of soul.

We can experience rest from anxiety and fear—even fear of death—as we place our confidence in God, our all-wise and powerful, ever-merciful and gracious, wholly-trustworthy and faithful Heavenly Father.

St. Augustine was right when he prayed:

The key to spiritual rest is acquainting ourselves thoroughly with God’s Word (Psalm 119:52).

It’s there we find the pillows of encouragement, hope, and peace we need in order to experience rest.

And what might some of those scriptural Word-pillows be? Here are three examples.

Pillow #1

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

–Exodus 33:14

Each moment we can choose to focus on God and his attributes, or on our problems and their difficulty. When we choose the former, He wields his attributes on our behalf.

  • His wisdom offers perspective, and keeps discouragement in check.
  • His power affords strength to endure.
  • His attentive care provides blessing in the midst of challenge.
  • His protection shields us from deep despair.
  • His provision supplies all that we need [3].

Pillow #2

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

— Jeremiah 6:16

The more we know of God and his attributes, the better-equipped we’ll be when adversity strikes.

Pillow #3

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace,

which exceeds anything we can understand.

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Such truths become all the more meaningful when we remember: the apostle Paul was in prison when he penned these words to the Philippians (1:14). From his own experience he wanted his readers to know that prayer and gratitude produce peace, as we depend upon our sovereign God whose ways are always right.[5]

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O God, help me rest in you and upon your Word-pillows of scripture.

 I thank you for the pillows of promise, reminding me of your sovereign power to provide whatever I need.

I thank you for the pillows of assurance, affirming your glorious attributes, always at work for the best conclusion.

And I thank you for the pillows of encouragement, reminding me that with you all things are possible, with you I can stand firm through life’s trials, and with you I am NEVER without hope.

(Psalm 23:2-3; Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 145:15-16;

John 5:17; Job 42:2; Ephesians 6:10-17 and 1:18)

What Word-pillow from scripture gives rest to your soul ? Please share it in the comment section below!


[1] Faith’s Checkbook, January 3.

[2] Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 241.

[3] Proverbs 2:1-11; Isaiah 40:31: Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 33:17-18; Philippians 4:19

[4] Psalm 18:30; Psalm 22:28; Deuteronomy 32:4

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.

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Years ago I came across an amusing, tongue-in-cheek article, “What Your Favorite Color Says about You.”  Wish I’d saved it, but alas.

I remember thinking, This will be fun to share with the girls in the faculty lounge during our break.  Those girls would be the other fourth grade teachers at my school.

Sure enough, as each colleague revealed her favorite color and I read its meaning, they began to laugh uproariously, because the humorous descriptions fit each person’s personality perfectly. A few times I could hardly get the words out before a giggle-fit would overpower me—even though the article was already familiar.

Had the laughter come while reading to myself?  No—not until I shared it.

Surely you’ve noticed this phenomenon, which brings us to the first joy-booster:

Share a joy and expand that joy.

St. Augustine explained it this way:

What a God-given gift—the privilege to contribute happiness to one another, and find our own joy increased as well.

Another joy booster?

Pay attention to detail.

I wonder how many of God’s delightful gifts have escaped my attention because I’ve been distracted?

I’m still striving to live aware and not allow my thoughts to be so focused on events (past, present, or future), what-ifs, or the to-do list, that I miss God’s glory right in front of me.

 I want to:

  • Take note of the graceful sway of the willow trees
  • Breathe in the aroma of a crisp winter’s morning
  • Listen attentively to the happy praises of a house sparrow
  • Pause to truly taste the nutty goodness of freshly brewed coffee
  • Focus on the cool softness of a rose petal

The incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of life.

Macrina Wiederkehar

Joy Booster #3:

 Express gratitude and be filled with joy (Deuteronomy 26:11; Psalm 126:3).   

Expressing appreciation for what we already have—even the little things—can profoundly affect our spirits.

For example, I’m grateful for:

Color.  God could have created the world in shades of gray; it probably wouldn’t have mattered.  But the variety, the interest, and infinite number of color-combinations add such great pleasure to our lives.

Anticipation. The remarkable aroma of garlic and onions simmering in olive oil–a precursor to the savory soup we’ll enjoy in a few hours–all the more flavorful because my husband is making it. (He actually likes to cook!)

The contrast of light and shadow. The security lights on the backsides of the neighbors’ houses create enough glow so tree branches cast lovely criss-cross shadows across the snow.

Steve’s three squeezes when he holds my hand.  It means, “I love you;” and we’ve been passing that silent message back and forth for over forty years.

The dimples on a baby’s hand—the epitome of cuteness.

And while contemplating such blessings, I realize afresh why God has told us to rejoice at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Let’s boost our joy by sharing happiness to those around us, living attentively, and expressing our thanks to God continually!

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What boosts your joy?  Tell us about it in the Comment section below!

Photo credits: pixabay.com; canva.com; geograph.org.uk; pixabay.com; wallpaperflare.com; wikimedia.com; pixhere.com.

(Revised and reblogged from March 29, 2014.)

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A glowing horizon and a bright crescent moon provided a delightful inspiration one morning. What if I stayed on the lookout for more of God’s blessings that day and kept a list?

The time was spring—sunbeams spangled the sky, a light jacket warded off cool breezes, daffodils and hyacinths dotted neighbors’ yards, and the birds sang their equivalent of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” By day’s end that list included twenty delights. (You can access that list here.)

Spring is an easy time to count blessings, when creation displays God’s glory in numerous ways.

But what about winter, when skies are often overcast, when much of the landscape offers only shades of gray and brown, and when most birds are silent or absent altogether? Is it possible to find twenty delights in quick succession?

As a matter of fact, yes.

Let’s begin with the first matter of morning: coffee.

Within minutes of hitting the start button, our coffee maker gurgles with gusto as the last of the water pumps through, thus providing the first item for my list:

#1: That happy burbling sound indicating the coffee is almost ready!

#2: The sublime flavor and fragrance of coffee.

#3: The fact that black coffee has no calories! (Yes, I realize the first three mercies on this list involve coffee. But I’m sure you agree: its supreme delight warrants attention to the details!)

#4: The view out the kitchen window, especially when it includes virtual mountains—a pale gray cloudbank spreading along the horizon, looking every bit like a ridge of the Smokies.

#5: For that coffee, my new Ember mug (a Christmas gift), keeping the last sip as hot as the first.

#6: The lamp on my desk perfectly backlighting the graceful steam curls from my mug. Mesmerizing!

#7: Sunshine pouring in the south-facing windows across the back of our house, especially welcome after several days of gray.

#8: Blowing cantaloupe-sized bubbles (sometimes bigger) with my fingers. (I discovered this bit of fun during the early days of pandemic hand-washing. With sudsy hands, make a ring of forefinger and thumb and blow!)

#9: Running an errand in my new, cozy and comfy boots—the outcome of a two-month search.

#10: A collection of herbal teas to choose from, once I’ve met my daily quota of caffeine.

#11:  Lazing in our recliners before the fireplace, with books, computers, and tea, reveling in the warmth, crackle, and wood-scent.  All five senses contentedly engaged.

(The view over our slipper-tops.)

#12: Discovering by chance the last item needed for my Colors of Winter list. Red was easy—cardinals and holly berries. Orange—robins and red foxes. Yellow—prairie grass. . .

. . . Green—the pines and evergreens. Blue—blue jays and blue-gray Northern bayberries. And finally, for purple, a snow-dusted beautyberry shrub. 

For eyes that seek, winter offers more than brown and gray after all.

#13: Restoration through creativity, as a scented candle flickers, restful music provides background, and occasional sips of tea offer refreshment. Again, all senses engaged.

(My latest effort–Thanks to inspiration from Pinterest!)

#14:  Playtime with the grandgirls.

(Calico Critters lined up for their baths.)

#15: The luxury of a cozy nap!

#16: A snow flurry, providing more stars for another list, included in my post two weeks ago, “Emblems of Love.”

(Photo taken on our deck)

#17: Fairy lights and candles to dispel the gloom of a wintry dusk.

#18:  A happenstance glimpse of a fox trotting by, as we view the snowfall one last time before dark.

#19:  Popcorn—a guilt-free snack (if prepared properly) and . . .

#20: . . . dark chocolate–just one square, offering a lesson in savoring. How wonderful researchers have determined dark chocolate is good for us!

The more we look, the more we see of God’s mercies and immense graces—a truth that applies even in bleak winter.

Have you been on the lookout? What mercies and graces have you seen? Please share an example or two in the comment section below!

Photo credits: http://www.maxpixels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixaHive.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg (4).

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(What follows is an imaginary conversation between God and me as I contemplated the verses above.)

ME:

O God, at face value this proclamation excludes me from your presence. How unthinkable! I can’t imagine life without you actively involved, providing strength, wisdom, encouragement, and more.

But I haven’t led a blameless life, I haven’t always done what is right, nor kept my mouth from lies or insincerity. Any effort on my part to warrant access to your presence would fall horribly short of your standard.

However.  You understand what I’m made of; you know I’m just dust! You’ve provided the Way for me to enter your presence—even enjoy relationship with you—through your perfect and blameless Son.[1]

Jesus’ sacrifice in my place provided a figurative, pure white robe for me to wear, constructed from his uprightness, which is more than sufficient to cover all the stains of my sins.

It’s not my failures and wrongdoing that you see, but that radiant, spotless robe. “Thank you” seem such paltry words for such a precious gift![2]

And yet, even though I’ve been forgiven of all wrongs and no longer stand condemned, I dearly desire to be pure before you, including my thoughts, motives, and desires. 

I want to please you in appreciation for all you’ve done for me. In addition, a pure life of wisdom and goodness will allow me to experience the fullness of your blessings like peace and joy, untainted by any sin, guilt, or shame.[3]

How do I become pure, Father?

GOD:

(Put your name in the blanks.)

It pleases me greatly, __________, that this is your heart’s desire. Remember, just as my Spirit led you to Jesus, he is at work within you creating good.[4]

This is a joint effort, however. You strive toward purity while I strengthen you for the task and augment the outcome. With each step you take, the next one becomes easier as you grow in self-discipline.[5]

Let’s begin with your thought life. I inspired Paul to include eight adjectives that describe the kinds of thoughts that will cleanse the mind of negativity, discouragement, and temptation:

And the purest, most noble truth you can dwell on is my Word.

Within the covers of your Bible you find the guidance you need and the wherewithal to heed it, the encouragement to press on and the strength to do it, the comfort for every wound and the faith to embrace it.

And then pray, dear __________.  Seek the quality of purity as King David did when he asked, “Create in me a clean heart within me, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Thus empowered by noble thoughts, scripture-truth, and heartfelt prayers, you’ll learn to love the sound of your feet walking away from things not meant for you[6] and reveling in the pure things that are.

Then–such wonderful blessings I’ve reserved for you! Remember what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount?

To see me is to enjoy intimate fellowship with me. You’ll sense my presence with you. Together we’ll enjoy my glory reflected in creation, in the events of your life, and in the lives of others.

I’ll open your eyes to see rare splendors of my glory.  From morning till night, __________, you’ll be praising my name and I will smile with delight.[7]

ME:

O Father, grow me in purity so I may present it as a love-gift back to you, and as a means of experiencing the blissful life with you that you so graciously offer.

In the powerful name of your Son Jesus I pray, AMEN.


[1] Psalm 103:14; 1 John 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21

[2] Isaiah 61:10;

[3] Romans 8:1; Romans 12:1-2; John 14:21; Proverbs 2:1-11; James 3:17

[4] Philippians 1:6, 2:13;

[5] 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 5:22-23

[6] Based on quote, author unknown

[7] Isaiah 6:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 113:3; Psalm 147:11

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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While exercising last Friday I listened to a podcast of Pete Briscoe’s sermon, “Every Day Jesus.” He made the point that we can actually see “tangible evidence of his intangible love” if we’re paying attention.

Pete told the story of a man who began looking for hearts, as emblems of Jesus’ love for him. He found them everywhere—heart-shaped rocks, shells, clouds, a heart-shaped stain on his jeans, even a heart-shaped dinner roll.

Pete told Jesus, I’d like to find tangible evidence of you too.  That very afternoon he spotted a pile of grass clippings on the side of the road, shaped just like a heart. He shared a photo on the sanctuary screen, and sure enough, there was no mistaking it.

Oh Lord, I thought, while finishing a set of push-ups.  That sounds like such fun. But I wonder if my emblem might be different than hearts—something personal. What could I look for?

No sooner did I get up from the mat than there it was: a star—a big one—blazoned on the wheel of our exercise bike. (Jesus made sure I didn’t miss it!)

The verse in Revelation came to mind where Jesus calls himself the bright morning star (22:16). And brief research delightfully expanded my understanding, so I’d appreciate more the stars yet to be discovered.

Just as Venus, the morning star, is always present whether we see it or not, so is Jesus. He is FAITHFUL and TRUE (Revelation 19:11), even when there’s no evidence in the moment.

Just as the morning star gives us assurance of approaching dawn, so Christ gives us assurance of approaching eternal life with him in heaven. He is our HOPE (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And just as the morning star cheers the night-weary soul, so Jesus brings JOY to the discouraged soul (John 17:13).

Each star then, would be a reminder of my Savior’s unfailing faithfulness, the confident hope I have in him, and the ineffable joy he provides.

Since Friday stars have been appearing with surprising frequency.

For example:

A friend posted a photo of her snow-covered garden. Right of center stood a small windmill –with a star on top.

While looking for an old photo on my phone I came across a springtime star from our own backyard.

We watched our Cincinnati Bengals squeak a win over the Titans last Saturday night. I’d never paid attention before to the NFL logo—with its stars.

The Titans’ helmets also include stars. See them surrounding the T?

In our refrigerator are a half-dozen stars or so. . .

. . . if you were to cut the apples horizontally, instead of stem to calyx.

A devotional reading this week just happened to be titled, “Star Gazing.”

In my office you’ll find paper clips shaped like stars. . .

. . . and on a table sits a Czechoslovakian, star-topped creche that I leave out all year.

On a shelf in the family room a crystal star adds sparkle . . .

. . . and even makes rainbows when placed in the sun.

With each star discovery, my heart sings. He is here—with us—revealing his extraordinary presence among the ordinary moments of our lives.

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, after less than a week I’m already rich with stars! You’ve scattered them throughout my days with such creativity.  Thank you that each one reminds me: my faith is not misplaced, my hope is assured, and every joy of life is enhanced—because of your loving presence.

Do you find tangible emblems of Jesus’ intangible love as you go about your day? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

P.S. Here’s a link to Pete Briscoe’s sermon: https://benttree.org/sermon/part-1-everyday-jesus/

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.pxhere.com.)

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Ask a group of people to name a taste of heaven and likely answers will include a favorite meal, a beloved quiet spot, or a happy get-together with family and friends.

But British minister William Romaine (1714-1795) suggested a different way to experience a taste of heaven that doesn’t involve cooking, traveling, or gathering.  His recommendation:  gratitude to God.

Gratitude to God

makes even a temporal blessing

a taste of heaven.

–William Romaine

Such tastes of heaven are not few and far between either. During every one of the 1,440 minutes of each day, blessings descend, including such privileges as:

  • Just getting out of bed in the morning and being able to move about
  • enjoying the privilege of communicating with others–including with God himself
  • receiving adequate strength to fulfill the day’s responsibilities
  • taking in helpful information and experiencing delight through our five senses
  • encouraging others with kindness and increasing our own joy in the process

Though none of these are rare blessings, they still hold great value.

If you remember the dignity of the Giver,

no gift will seem small or mean,

for nothing can be valueless that is

given by the most high God.

–Thomas á Kempis

Not only do the gifts themselves hold value, they demonstrate the depth and value of God’s gracious love toward us—when we’re grateful for them. 

To be grateful is to recognize

the love of God in everything He has given us—

and He has given us everything.

Every breath we draw is a gift of His love,

every moment of existence is a grace,

for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

–Thomas Merton

Therefore, we’d do well to follow the advice of nineteenth-century Scottish minister and author J. R. MacDuff: 

Little did Reverend MacDuff know what secular researchers would discover about gratitude a century beyond his lifetime. The benefits include more than a sense of well-being.  Grateful people enjoy:

  • Better sleep
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased optimism
  • Better relationships*

In addition, a few discerning Christ-followers have noted:

1. Gratitude soothes over the irritations of life as attention is directed away from trouble and toward the blessings that remain.

We would worry less if we praised more. 

Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.

–Harry Ironside (1876-1951),

pastor, author, theologian

In other words, a grateful heart is a contented and satisfied heart.  Doesn’t that sound like a taste of heaven?

2. “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter every day epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world” (John Milton).

Every day epiphanies?  Transcendent moments of awe? These too sound like glorious tastes of heaven.

3. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life” (Melody Beattie) . . . as we begin to see the wealth we already own, the blessings we already enjoy, the prayers God has already answered.

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;

but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,

as the magnet finds iron, so it will find in every hour,

some heavenly blessings!”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Imagine naming a blessing for each iron shaving here!

In this week leading up to Thanksgiving 2021, what tastes of heaven are you enjoying? Please share a sample with us in the comment section below!

* https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-gratitude-practice#takeaway

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

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As you probably know, Dove chocolates come wrapped in foil with uplifting statements written inside. Not long ago I found this one:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life,

the more there is in life to celebrate.”

A positive attitude of praise and celebration, even for the little blessings, does contribute to a sense of well-being. But there’s an important omission in this quote—the cause of all those blessings.  Perhaps the sentiment should read:

“The more you praise and celebrate God in your life,

the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Now a pleasing sentiment has become solid truth, because with God in our lives, joy is our constant companion.

It requires such a small effort, really—to note the supreme pleasures in ordinary events or to choose a positive perspective.

Sometimes joy involves making a magnificent moment . . .

I’d been mall shopping for several hours, scouring the sales racks to no avail. Suddenly I noticed my sweater—one of my favorites–was no longer tied to my purse. 

Not only had I not purchased an addition for my wardrobe that afternoon, I’d subtracted a piece of clothing already owned.

Retracing my steps seemed daunting; I had browsed in so many stores.  Besides, it was time to meet Steve for dinner at one of the mall restaurants.  

After we ordered our meals, I told him what happened. “I’ll check the lost-and-found after we eat,” I said. “By then maybe someone will have found my sweater and turned it in.”

So that’s what we did.  No sweater.

Steve suggested we stop at the stores where I’d shopped as we made our way back to the car.

At the very first store the eyes of the young sales girl lit up when I asked about a lost sweater. “What color was it?” she asked.

“Cranberry red.”

“We did find it! It’s right back here!” she replied while heading to the rear of the store. Sure enough, the young woman returned with my sweater. Someone had even put it on a hanger.

Well! I thanked her and the manager behind the counter, not knowing which had found it and been so thoughtful.

One of them jokingly said something about doing good deeds for chocolate.

As it happened, just two doors down was the Godiva Chocolate Shop. Before leaving the mall, Steve and I popped in, bought two little boxes, and went back to the clothing store.

When those two girls saw the Godiva bag they whooped in surprise and started to laugh. We did too.

“God blessed me through you by returning my sweater; we wanted to bless you,” I told them.

“Oh! That remark about chocolate was just a joke!” the salesgirl cried. “But you have no idea how much I needed this. Today has been especially rough.” She started around the counter with her arms outstretched. “Come here! I need to give you a hug!”  Then she added, “Look!  I’m crying!”

I had tears in my eyes as well.

The level of endorphins in that shop soared so high the lights shone brighter and the atmosphere crackled with joy.  And all because Steve and I magnified the significance of a small moment and celebrated a God-orchestrated event.

Truly, “The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What are you celebrating in life today?  Magnify the moment by sharing your joy in the comments below!

Art & photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com.

(Revised and reblogged from April 23, 2015.)

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The Advanced Placement Program launched in the 1950s. Perhaps you took advantage of A. P. classes as a high school student. Though more challenging than standard secondary courses, they provide a substantial payoff–up to a semester’s worth of college credit.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought of A.P. classes upon encountering a Charles Colson quote about gratitude. He presented a whole new level of challenge concerning this quality.

Instead of giving thanks for the goods received, Colson suggested we express appreciation for who God is—his character. Colson said such an act of faith provides evidence the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s life (1).

 

 

So, in spite of self-isolation and lockdowns, distress for our country and world, as well as the personal concerns we all carry, let’s aspire to A. P. gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day by reflecting upon:

 

God’s grace

 

God is . . . a personal Father who cares,

and not a God who merely wound up the world with a key

and then went away to let it run by itself.

God’s grace is a certainty, even amid the turmoil of today’s world.

–Unknown

 

 

God’s faithfulness

 

No matter what we are going through, no matter how long the wait for answers,

of one thing we may be sure: God is faithful.

He keeps His promises.

What He starts, He finishes . . .including His perfect work in us.

–Gloria Gaither (2)

 

 

God’s goodness

 

Of all the things our minds can think about God,

it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most

and brings the most profit to our soul.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

God’s compassion

 

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow;

the same everlasting Father who cares for you today

will take care of you tomorrow and every day.

Either he will shield you from suffering,

or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, put aside all anxious thoughts

and imaginings, and say continually:

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart has trusted in him and I am helped.

He is not only with me but in me and I in him.’

–St. Francis de Sales

 

 

God’s love

 

All shall be well, all shall be well . . .

for there is a force of love moving through the universe

that holds us fast and will never let us go.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

With these eternal gifts bestowed upon us—God’s fatherly care, promise-keeping faithfulness, ever-reliable goodness, soul-strengthening compassion, and never failing love, we surely have everything we need.

 

 

Notes:

  1.  http://www.crosswalk.com/faith-spiritual-life/inspring-quotes/30-christian-quotes-about-thankfulness.html 
  2. Quoted in Values for Life, Walnut Grove Press, 2004.

 

Art & Photo Credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.pixy.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

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