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Archive for the ‘Appreciation’ Category

“As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity

to live each day in wild amazement of God.”

–Margaret Feinberg[1]

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live? Amazement can be a doorway to joy.

Even secular research has discovered positive effects for those who report feeling awe on a regular basis:

  • Lower markers of inflammation
  • Refreshed energy
  • Less anxiety
  • Enhanced sense of well being[2]

Now we know why God inspired King David to write: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles” (Psalm 105:5a). God doesn’t need our adulation; we need the recalibration that wild amazement provides.

What follows are categories of wonder and personal examples for each month of 2023. Perhaps this list will trigger memories of your own moments of wild amazement.

January—the wonder of nature

We woke up to a light snowfall that continued all day. At sundown Steve and I stood at the back window to enjoy one last time the white landscape and frosted trees when a fox trotted by, his plush tail extended gracefully behind him. Dark motion against pale stillness.

February—the wonder of friendship

Old friends since college visited for three heavenly days. The reminiscing, heart-to-heart conversation and much laughter strengthened the long-held connection between us.

March—the wonder of kindness

My cousin sent a package of family heirlooms she discovered while spring cleaning, items she thought I’d like to have. Imagine my delight to receive several handkerchiefs with tatted trim, created by our grandmother, and a needle case stitched by our great-grandmother. Such precious things to pass on to my granddaughters.

(I should have ironed them before snapping a pic!)

April—the wonder of family

When all thirteen of us gather, the house is filled with multiple, simultaneous conversations and much laughter. Beautiful noise!

May—the wonder of participation

What a happy privilege to speak hope and encouragement into the lives of others—sometimes to a group in a formal setting, sometimes to individuals over coffee-shop lattës, sometimes to a stranger.

June—the wonder of life

The daughter-in-law of dear friends posted the ultrasound image of their son, due in December. “He’s perfect,” the doctor assured them. Such glorious news after they’ve endured three miscarriages. I can only imagine their pain and sorrow, yet their faith has remained strong. (Perfect little Cam was born December first.)

July—the wonder of giving

My husband frequently blesses delivery people, wait staff, etc. with generous tips. One waitress puddled up with gratitude. After heart surgery she was behind on her bills; we had the joyful privilege of assisting her.

August—the wonder of imagination

Our five-year old granddaughter drew a picture of herself getting scratched on the leg while hiking a trail with her parents. However, the illustration didn’t depict a bush causing injury; it was an ogre.

September—the wonder of rest

Quiet time on our deck provides supreme restoration, especially when a light breeze keeps me cool and cheerful cardinals add a soundtrack. Beginning this time of year, our black walnut tree provides flashing, golden leaf showers. Mesmerizing.

(These are maple leaves, but they reflect the same golden glow as our black walnut.)

October—the wonder of miracles

Our pastor-son and his wife have served their current church for four and a half years. When they arrived, the church faced financial difficulty. But God began his good work among the people, giving increased, and they even established a savings account. Recently a dire need developed and $85,000 was required. Guess how much was in that account?!

November—the wonder of gratitude

Just this month alone, I celebrated God’s goodness for tasks completed in spite of little time, prayers answered, blessings not asked for, numerous moments of delight, laughter (especially that of our grandchildren), thoughtfulness of others, and memories of years past. “Joy doesn’t cause us to be grateful,” wrote Brother David Steindl-Rast, “joy is born out of our gratitude.”

December—the wonder of Jesus

He is our Savior and King, our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These titles only begin to express his identity and attributes.

God is infinite, his marvelous works are infinite. What moments of wonder have come to your mind? Or perhaps you’ve thought of a whole new category. Please share in the comment section below.

Let’s begin this new year by celebrating our wild amazement of God!      


 Notes:

[1] Wonderstruck, Worthy Publishing Group, 2012, 173.

[2] https://guideposts.org/angels-and-miracles/miracles/gods-grace/why-a-sense-of-wonder-is-important/ and https://hbr.org/2021/08/why-you-need-to-protect-your-sense-of-wonder-especially-now

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere; http://www.canva.com.

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Happy Thanksgiving, my dear readers!

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Take a walk over wooded hills and chances are you’ll encounter a spring-fed, babbling brook, tumbling over rocks and ever-flowing to its mouth.

Just the sound of it refreshes the soul.

Perhaps in his travels, the Apostle Paul encountered spring-fed brooks, and God brought them to his mind as inspiration for this instruction:

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

–Colossians 2:7c MSG

Such a lovely image of refreshing, ever-flowing gratitude.

Paul urged his readers to be thankful seven times in the four-chapters of Colossians, and forty more times in his other epistles.

Now why would God inspire Paul to encourage gratitude so often?

Surely God wanted us to discover that when we seek to be thankful, we find our trust growing. Look at all these wonderful ways God is blessing and investing in my life, we begin to realize. He IS a good and loving Father; I CAN depend on him!

Perhaps Paul himself had learned: the more we thank, the more we see to be thankful for.

“The grumbler undoubtedly sees few blessings;

The grateful person finds blessings everywhere.

In fact, blessings seem to find her.

J. E. Yoder (1)

I also like Warren Wiersbe’s reason for cultivating gratitude: “When a believer is abounding in thanksgiving, he is really making progress!”

Surely this was one of Paul’s strong desires—that all Jesus-followers make progress toward becoming all that God intends them to be.

But gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we’re more likely to be overwhelmed by our worries than overflowing with thankfulness. Or we’d rather talk about our woes in order to gain sympathy than share our blessings in order to encourage.

So how do we open the channels of our hearts to let gratitude flow?

We might begin with a daily (perhaps hourly ) habit of giving thanks for the benefits we enjoy—no matter what our circumstances—even if the family is in turmoil, or friends have proved unfriendly, or trouble has dropped in our laps.

As noted, ever-flowing gratitude refreshes the soul.  

Perhaps we could begin with these five blessings:

  • The indescribable gift of Christ and all he offers
  • Rescue from the powers of darkness
  • God’s glorious attributes at work in our lives—his goodness, grace, compassion, and more
  • The precious, life-changing truths of scripture
  • God’s constant presence with us (2)

Of course there are many more. We’d do well to keep a written list of such ever-present blessings, ready to refer to when the flow of our gratitude is blocked by disappointment or discouragement.

And at the top of the list we might copy this wonderful reassurance:

There is always good because there is always God . . .

Even when nothing else around us is good,

his presence in the midst of our deepest pain

is a good gift indeed.

Aliza Latta (3)

Picture a glass of water so full it will not hold another drop. Now what if you bump against it? The water is bound to spill over. Similarly, when trouble bumps against us, what’s inside will overflow.

Out of an angry person will come anger, out of a fearful person will come fear, out of a self-centered person will come self-pity. (I have been all three of these people at one time or other!)

But a grateful person? He/she overflows with gratitude, cheering and soothing the soul like a babbling brook. In addition, their trust in God grows and greater maturity develops. Best of all, their thankfulness delights God.

As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver,

So likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.

John Boys (4)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, keep me mindful that no matter what I face, there are ALWAYS reasons to rejoice. I don’t want to give in to anger, fear, or self-pity. I want my living to spill over into thanksgiving—a superior way to spend my days and bring you glory as well.

Notes:

  1. Our Daily Bread
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:15; Colossians 1:13; Psalm 145:7-8ff; Psalm 119:72, 93, 103; Psalm 23:4
  3. Take Heart, 16
  4. Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625, quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury

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If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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In 2 Peter 1:17 the apostle calls God, “the Majestic Glory.” Isn’t that an inspired name for God?

This week I chose to use each letter as a portal into aspects of his majestic glory—other names that reveal his Personhood. With each one, my awe for Almighty God expanded.

See if your spirit responds similarly, as you consider God as the:

Maker of All Things (Nehemiah 9:6)

He is responsible for every star in the heavens (200 billion trillion of them, thereabouts), every tree on our planet (all 3 trillion, give or take) and every fish in the seas (among 34,000 or so species)!

A rchitect of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10)

Here on Earth we marvel at God’s handiwork in the towering mountain peaks, delicate butterflies, and far-reaching rainbows. Try to imagine the fresh beauty, new wonders, and absolute perfection he’s prepared for us in heaven!

Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

God’s jealousy is simply passionate eagerness to protect what belongs to him, what is precious to him—you and me. He doesn’t want us following after such false gods as greed, self-gratification, or popularity that will never satisfy. Only he can.

Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)

In contrast to this ever-decaying world, our God’s perfections never change and his mercies will never end. He is always and eternally available to us.[1]

Song (Psalm 118:14 ESV)

Think of song as a synonym for joy. He is the Author and Giver of joy, even in difficult times. In fact, “He uses troubles to show where true joys are to be found—in him.”[2]

True God (John 17:3)

He’s the one and only Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Yet, as holy, powerful, and awe-inspiring as he is, God invites us to know him—to pull up a chair to his table and talk with him.[3]

I AM (Exodus 3:14)

With this name that encompasses all his glorious complexities, God makes clear: “I AM the God of absolute power and sublime perfection, abiding faithfulness and assured reliability, unfailing love and generous benevolence.” Of course, these descriptors just scratch the surface of his infinite glory!

Comforter (Isaiah 51:12)

We can take comfort in the knoweldge that, even in the dark pit of emotional pain., we are not without hope. God always comes alongside to help us endure until it’s time to bring us out of those depths. And then, when we stand at last on the solid ground of restoration, we experience the exhilaration of greater faith and the enrichment of wisdom-from-experience.

Gardener (John 15:1)

Jesus often used figurative language in his teaching. One time he compared himself to a grapevine and called his Father the Gardener/Vinedresser.

Of course, our God knows intimately what we–the branches–need.  He supplies streams of living water to continually nourish and refresh, and he provides optimum conditions for growth, in order to produce the best yield of the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Light  (Psalm 27:1)

His Light reveals the way on the dark path ahead, lifts the shadows of hurt and despair, and guides us through “the grayness of doubt and uncertainty.”[4]

Only Wise God (Jude 1:25)

Yes, there is darkness and confusion in our world. Wickedness seems to be winning in the battle between good and evil. BUT! Our all-wise God knows what he’s doing—in our personal lives and in the world at large.

When the time is right he’ll dispel the darkness with his dazzling light and bring order out of confusion. One day he’ll rid the world of evil once and for all.

Revealer of Truth (John 16:13)

Our God is the “possessor and giver of all truth. Truth is not men’s discovery; it is God’s gift. . . At the back of all truth there is God.”[5]

And the more we avail ourselves of his truth in scripture, the more we treasure it.

Your Very Great Reward  (Genesis 15:1)

How rich we are because God is in us and with us, wielding his glorious attributes for our best good. How poor we are without him.[6]

Look upon God in all his MAJESTIC GLORY. This is your Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love!

Breathe in the wonder.


[1] Lamentations 3:22; Isaiah 41:10

[2] Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, Songs of Jesus, 200.

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:16; Colossians 1:17; Jeremiah 33:3

[4] Iris Hesselden, quoted in Grandma’s Inspirational Recipes, 40.

[5] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 229.

[6] MacLaren’s Expositions

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You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

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In April of this year I shared an idea borrowed from blogger Michele Morin, about journaling through hymns and praise songs. Such an exercise allows us to meditate on the lyrics, discovering more meaning than when we quickly sing through the words.

In that post I shared from my thoughts on “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (Here’s a link to that post, Opening Up New Spaces.)

Today, let’s look more closely at another hymn rich with implications, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

If you don’t know this hymn, you can listen to a contemporary version here,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S97XYCkJhY, then soak with me in the first verse:

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise”

I praise You, O God, for your immortality. There is much comfort in the fact that you–in all your sovereignty, power, and wisdom–have always existed and always will.

I praise You for your invisibility, which allows you to reside within the spirits of all your children. We marvel at the wonder of such a phenomenon–such a privilege–to enjoy intimacy with you, the King of the universe!

I praise you for your incomparable wisdom. Nothing is ever a mystery to you. You’re never puzzled, confused, or uncertain.[1] You always know the best course of action that will best serve everyone involved—even those who are part of the ripple effect, perhaps years later.

How amazing that you make your wisdom available to us–including an ordinary person like me.[2]

“In light inaccessible hid from our eyes”

You are light.  Your radiance is like sunlight, and rays flash from your hands! No one can physically look upon such brilliance.

But your light also symbolizes the purity of your character. Just as sunlight brightens our world, your multi-beamed goodness brightens my soul with grace, strength, blessings, and more.

You also illuminate truth in my life, through the light of your Word. And by the power of your Spirit I can walk daily in the guiding, cheering light of your presence.[3] 

“Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days”

I praise You that you are most blessed. That is, you are fully satisfied within yourself. (Of course this is true–you’re perfect!)

You’re also most blessed because of your holiness–transcendent and “totally other” from anything else in the universe.

In addition, you’re “most glorious.” Your breath-taking attributes astound us, including your:

  • omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence
  • infinity, changelessness, and self-sufficiency
  • faithfulness, goodness, and justice
  • mercy, grace, and love
  • holiness, righteousness, and immanence

I praise you for demonstrating all these traits with acts of power. You perform wonders that cannot be fathomed, and miracles that cannot be counted![4]

Our family has witnessed numerous wonders and miracles. “We are filled with the good things of your house” (Psalm 65:46), many of which are recorded in my God -Is-Faithful journal.

I also praise you for being our Ancient of Days—a name that speaks of your regality, endurance, and sound judgment.  You have reigned in supremacy through eons past and will continue to reign into eternity yet to come.

Again, what sweet comfort and joyful wonder to contemplate that you, such an incredible God, are with me and within me, wielding your attributes for my benefit.

“Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.”

King David wrote, “How majestic is your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1)! Perhaps he had in mind the multiplicity of your names, each one highlighting different facets of your character. You are:

  • Elohim, God of supreme power and might
  • El Roi, the God Who Sees, who watches over all
  • Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides
  • Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals
  • Yaweh Shalom, our God of peace

And that’s just a few out of many. I thank you that as each one reveals more truth about you, we grow to know you better. I also praise you for the hope and encouragement we find in your glorious names.

You, O God, are most worthy of praise because of your infinite excellencies. I praise you for your greatness–beyond human comprehension!


[1] Lloyd Stilley, https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-wisdom-god-romans-16-1-corinthians-1

[2] James 1:5; Psalm 19:7 CEV

[3] 1 John 1:5; Habakkuk 3:4; 1 John 3:3; Psalm 12:6; 119:105; Psalm 89:15; John 8:12

[4] Psalm 150:2; Job 5:9

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While my husband and I enjoy the blessed company of old friends this week, I hope you enjoy this collection of blessing-quotes. Better yet, I pray their truths expand your hope and joy!

Truth #1: God’s promised blessings are vast and far-reaching.

When the Old Testament priests blessed God’s people, they raised their arms and held their hands as far apart as possible . . .It was a demonstration. God’s promised blessings are so big, so unimaginable that the priest stretched himself out as far as he could stretch . . .to show the generous heart of our loving Father.

Jane Fryar, Be Blessed, 12-13

Truth #2: Focus increases blessing.

The more I focus on my blessings, the more blessings I notice, and the more blessings I notice, the more blessings I experience.

Unknown

Truth #3: Waiting enhances the blessing.

If God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious.

Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Truth #4: Trouble often produces blessing.

God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless he has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.

Peter Marshall

Truth #5: Loss often produces blessing.

When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.

C. S. Lewis

Truth #6: God’s best blessings aren’t material; they’re spiritual.

This Divine Lord desires only that He may rest in thy soul, and may form therein a rich throne of peace, that within thine own heart, by means of internal recollection, and with His heavenly grace thou mayest find silence in the tumult, solitude in company, light in darkness, forgetfulness in injuries, vigor in despondency, courage in alarms, resistance in temptation, peace in war, and quiet in tribulation.

Molinos

Truth #7: Blessings are best turned to praise.

Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself; it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 6.

Which quote was most meaningful to you? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

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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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