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My nephew is training for an Iron Man competition taking place in April.

Every day Preston follows a carefully prescribed regimen of exercise, riding his bike, running, and/or swimming. He eats a specified diet, and strives for proper rest. Recently he purchased a new bike based on current research for achieving top speed.

Much of this is according to his trainer’s recommendations, from his acquired knowledge and experience as a competitor. The trainer knows what it takes to finish the race.

Over the last forty-plus years of Iron Man Triathlons, participants have learned strategies for success. For example, they use their arms almost exclusively for the swim portion, saving leg strength for the bike ride and run.

Months ago Preston had to choose: should he embark on this test of endurance or opt for an easier goal? And if he did tackle an Iron Man race, would he seek guidance or train on his own? You already know his choices.

Now Preston is within weeks of the race. He’s in the best shape of his life and pushing his body to accomplish far more than ever before. But any current contentment will be multiplied many times over when he crosses that finish line and celebrates the completion of this extreme challenge.

What Preston is experiencing in the physical realm, God would have us understand in a spiritual sense, as laid out in Jeremiah 6:16:

Like Preston, we face a choice, but of much greater consequence than a competition.  Will we follow the ancient paths of God’s good ways or not? And like Preston, we can experience contentment now—not just when the race is complete. God offers us peaceful rest within our spirits (Philippians 4:6-7).

Meanwhile, many around us suffer from discontent and restlessness–the result of sin and following one’s own path. Jeremiah proposes a better plan: follow the good ways of God and contentment of soul will result.

But there’s a broader meaning to this verse. Jeremiah was addressing the entire nation of Judah. As he spoke the words quoted above, a national calamity loomed. Within a few years the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon, because the people had not listened to God’s words and they rejected God’s law (Jeremiah 6:19).

Our nation also stands at a crossroads, but few Americans seem to be looking to God for how to proceed. Instead they’re engrossed in self-interests. They don’t ask for the ancient paths that led us to security, prosperity, and blessing in the past.[1] They reject biblical values as out-of-date and stifling.

As a result, many Americans experience dissatisfaction in life, relying on drugs or alcohol to numb the emptiness and soul-strife.[2]

And what of us who believe in Christ and do seek the ancient paths? We stand at the crossroads of these choices:

  • Will we defend our faith even though ridiculed?
  • Will we remain on the ancient path of righteousness, or bend to blend in?
  • Will we stand for absolute truth or succumb to the relative truth of the culture that says it all depends on perspective?

Uncomfortable repercussions may result when we stand for our faith and absolute truth. But our souls will rest in the peace and contentment of a clear conscience.

When Preston finishes his race, family and friends will be ready to congratulate him.

When we finish our life race, God will be ready to congratulate us with, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

IF we remain steadfast.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,

for when he has stood the test

he will receive the crown of life,

which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12 (ESV)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Help us all, O God, to be on guard against the lies of the enemy, to stand firm in our faith, to remain courageous and strong in all circumstances. Our heart’s desire above all is to honor you—by finishing strong. 

(1 Corinthians 16:13)

Notes

[1] The security of settled minds (Psalm 112:7-8), the prosperity as God’s people (Jeremiah 29:11), and the blessing of his provision (2 Corinthians 9:8).

[2]   a. In 2017, 12.7% of Americans were taking antidepressants, up 64% since 2014 (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/11/numbers).

b. About 38% of adults in 2017 battled an illicit drug use disorder (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics ).

c. 14.5 million people, or 5.3% of the population had AUD, alcohol use disorder, in 2019 (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics).

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In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included eight statements called beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each one highlighted a virtue that results in the highest kind of happiness: sweet contentment not based on circumstances but on joyful faith in God and his provision for all we need.

In addition to the beatitudes of Matthew 5, the Bible offers dozens of blessing-statements—each one an encouraging slice of truth about God and his ways for us. They just aren’t constructed in typical beatitude style.

For example, consider Psalm 37:4:

 

 

Written as a beatitude:

 

Blessed are those who delight in God

for they shall receive the desires of their hearts.

 

Of course, the desires of our hearts often reflect child-sized plans, while God may have designed a “hugely dimensional destiny” that will surprise everyone.[1]

Kara’s* story illustrates. She fully expected to attend university and then enter the world of business. But even with a straight-A average, no scholarship materialized, and her parents earned too much money to qualify for sufficient financial aid.

Unless she took out a large student loan, Kara’s only option was community college. Highly disappointed—embarrassed even—she applied. Meanwhile a letter happened to arrive from that local college, describing a new course of study in TV production.

 

 

Kara had just completed a high school course in multimedia programming and loved it, so she applied for this new program and was accepted. Better yet, God provided full tuition as she earned that degree. And best of all, he molded Kara’s desire to coincide with the delightful and satisfying plan he’d designed for her.

Now years later, Kara and her husband make their living in the entertainment industry. No doubt the two of them marvel how God brought them together to work in a medium they love.

Kara is a miracle.

Romans 5:3-4 offers another beatitude truth:

 

 

As a beatitude it might read like this:

 

Blessed are those who embrace their challenges,

for they shall be changed for the better.

 

Anne wanted to support her husband’s dream of a free counseling service in their community and began making pretzels to sell at the local farmer’s market.

Through long effort and a number of failures, Anne was able to grow the business into hundreds of franchises across the country. You’ve probably eaten one of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels at a mall or airport.

 

 

Anne’s personal life also included struggles, failures, and even the death of one of her children. Yet she says, “I am now thrilled to live this life, feeling that each day is one to be enjoyed. God’s grace and forgiveness are what got me through it all.”[2]

Anne is a miracle.

Our third new beatitude is based on Mark 10:27b:

 

 

Beatitude style?

 

Blessed are those who care less about their limitations

and care more how limitless God is.

 

The bio on the backs of Jennifer Rothschild’s books informs the reader she is a wife, mother, and recording artist. Jennifer also travels the country as a speaker, and cofounded WomensMinistry.NET.

What the bio does not reveal is that Jennifer has been blind since age fifteen. In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, she wrote: “God often wraps difficult gifts with His grace—and then uses them to display His glory.”[3] Jennifer’s productive and joyful life perfectly illustrates that statement.

Jennifer is a miracle.

All three women exemplify what Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote long ago:

 

 

Kara, Ann, Jennifer, and countless other believers demonstrate: When we embrace God’s be-attitudes, we not only experience the highest kind of happiness; we become miracles.

 

*Name changed.

 

Notes:

[1] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pp. 160-161.

[2] Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, pp. 147-148.

[3]  Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, p. 84.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Nicole blinked twice as she stared at the number on the doctor’s scale. She knew a few more pounds had glommed on her midsection, but seven?

 

 

During the ensuing consult with Dr. Ames, Nicole mentioned her knees had started to hurt, she felt tired much of the time, and seemed susceptible to every virus that came along. Dr. Ames then shared Nicole’s blood work, revealing several more concerns. His treatment solution surprised her. “I’m going to send you to a nutritionist,” he said.

Three months later, Nicole already felt much stronger and healthier—energized even. Her knees no longer hurt, and her blood pressure and cholesterol had dropped dramatically. Nicole had learned her diet included too many simple carbs and high-fat proteins, depleting her body of strength, energy, and good health.

It’s a fact: we can’t function well without proper nutrition.

 

 

The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. We can’t function well when our souls are improperly nourished. We need to ingest spiritual vitamins.

For example, consider Vitamin A. As a physical nutrient in our food, it improves our eyesight—specifically night vision. In the spiritual realm, Vitamin A might represent Adoration of God, which improves our “vision” through dark circumstances.

 

 

“When we choose to practice adoration anyway

in the midst of whatever we are feeling,

our words lift us over that barrier

and into a deeper connectedness with God.”

—Sarah Hagerty[1]

 

That deeper connectedness with God results in strength and perseverance for what we face.

 

The benefits of the Vitamin B complex include converting food into energy. In our spirits, the Bible energizes us as we convert the food of truth into the energy of faith.

 

 

“I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day.

I wonder why they deprive themselves

of the strength and the pleasure.”

—Woodrow Wilson[2]

 

Vitamin C enhances the growth of bone, skin, and muscle. Companionship with God causes us to grow in faith, character, and contentment—no matter our circumstances.

 

 

“The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life,

the more likely you are to praise Him in the storm.”

–Matt Chandler[3]

 

Vitamin D plays a role in fighting germs. Delight in God’s blessings fights off the germs of melancholy and discouragement in our souls.

 

 

“Thankfulness restores a healthy perspective about our lives.”

—Valerie Bell[4]

 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Empowerment from God protects against soul damage—from such hurtful emotions as fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.

 

 

“When God is recognized as the One who undertakes for us,

then difficulties are opportunities to trust Him . . .

contentment sings in the heart,

and all things are possible.”

—F. E. Marsh[5]

 

Vitamin K promotes healthy bones which support the body; knowledge of God supports the soul as we affirm his goodness and perfections.

 

 

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;

to seek Him, the greatest adventure;

to find Him the greatest human achievement.”

—St. Augustine

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that as we absorb these soul-vitamins into our spirits, our trust in you will grow. We’ll find our strength renewed, and be able to run the race of life without lapsing into despair. May we be mindful each day to be enriched in your presence, in your Word, and in your power.

(Isaiah 41:31; Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 119:28; Ephesians 6:1)

 

Notes:

[1] Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 151

[2] Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Epson, Inspirio, 2002, p. 40

[3] https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-life/inspirational-christian-quotes-about-love.html

[4] A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 102

[5] Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd C. Cory, Victor Books, 1977, p. 136

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picpedia.org; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixy.com; http://www.hearlight.org; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Uncertain times.

That phrase appears everywhere these days. Between the pandemic, political upheaval, social unrest, and concerns for the future, we can find ourselves desperate to find security—freedom from danger, fear, and anxiety.

But there is only one reliable source of security: God.

 

 

Out of his faithfulness to us, God always supplies what we need. And as it happens, the word FAITHFUL provides a tidy acrostic for eight blessings we enjoy–no matter what.

God is our:

Faithful promise-keeper. He is already ahead of us in the uncertainty of 2021, just as he went ahead of Joshua and the Israelites into Canaan. He has promised not to fail us or abandon us[1]—even when we cross dark valleys of troubling circumstances.

 

 

Attentive Father. Before we put our needs into words, God is on his way to meet it.[2]

Immutable (unchanging) Rock. He “does not change like shifting shadows.”[3] In a world where situations and relationships can change unexpectedly, God remains his rock-solid, reliable, perfect self.

Truth-Revealer.   The truth of God’s Word has been proven through numerous disciplines and in the lives of millions. Within its pages we find the wisdom and support we need.[4]

 

 

“The remedy for discouragement is the Word of God.

When you feed your heart and mind with its truth,

You regain your perspective and find renewed strength.”

–Warren Wiersbe

 

Hope. Our God of hope fills us with all joy and peace as we trust him. Hope allows us to see his blessings even amid hardship, and know with certainty he will use even our painful circumstances to accomplish good.[5]

Foundation. God’s ways provide a strong foundation for life, especially when storms of sorrow come. He upholds us with his love and compassion, peace and comfort that transcend our ability to explain.[6]

 

 

Unerring and righteous Judge. “Your kingdom is founded on righteousness and justice,” wrote the psalmist, “love and faithfulness are shown in all you do.” And because he is righteous and just, everything will work toward the best outcome in the end.[7]

Light, even in dark times.[8] Too often we focus on the swirling blackness of circumstances around us. But “God’s lights in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them.”[9]

 

 

Throughout my years as a blogger, I’ve shared many experiences illustrating how God has been faithful to our family. One in particular comes to mind that encompassed all of the above blessings.

Leadership of our church denomination assigned my pastor-husband to another church across state.   We were not ready to move. God ministered to me during those dark days of transition as I journaled through the psalms, affirming his love and compassion, peace and comfort. And as a result, hope began to blossom.

 

 

I grew in spiritual strength, compelled to rely on him through the grief of leaving beloved friends and the uncertainty of what lay ahead. He miraculously provided a teaching position for me not far from our new home. And in the end everything did work for good as that struggling church became a thriving community. (You can read a fuller account at After the Fact.)

In a book of liturgy, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) kept a bookmark with the following affirmation:

 

“Let nothing disturb you; let nothing dismay you;

all things pass: God never changes.

Patience attains all it strives for.

He who has God finds he lacks nothing.

God only suffices.”

 

God only—in all the numerous demonstrations of his faithfulness–is our certain security.

 

_______________________________________

 

Should you wish to read more examples of God’s faithfulness, you can click on the following links:

 

Notes:

[1] Deuteronomy 31:6

[2] Matthew 6:8

[3] James 1:17c CSB

[4] Psalm 119:24, 140, 160

[5] Romans 15:13; 8:28

[6] Isaiah 54:10; Philippians 4:6-7

[7] Psalm 89:14 GNT; Genesis 50:20

[8] Psalm 27:1

[9] Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment (J. Countryman, 2000) p. 195

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Young William Ramsay, along with his bride of just one year, leaned against the rail of their ship. Eagerly they scanned the horizon in order to catch the first possible glimpse of their destination, Smyrna, Turkey, with its whitewashed structures nestled into green hillsides.

 

(Smyrna, 1900)

 

William’s archaeological adventure, funded by a scholarship, was about to begin.

While the ship creaked around him, William daydreamed of the renown he would garner even as a young Oxford professor, when he proved at least one book of the Bible–Acts–was mostly fiction.

Granted, no one could say unequivocally that Peter and Paul had not performed miracles in Jesus’ name. But he could prove that Luke’s record of the apostles’ work was full of errors in the categories of geography and history, thus casting great doubt on the whole.

The inspiration for such an endeavor began with William’s exposure to the Tubingen School of thought. They asserted that only four of the epistles were actually authored by Paul, and the rest of the New Testament was written much later—perhaps two hundred years later.

 

(The School of Theology at Tubingen University today)

 

In an effort to lionize the heroes of the early church, these Tubingen scholars decided Luke had exaggerated the stories and didn’t concern himself with accurate details. But no one had proven these theories until William set out to do so in 1880.

Soon after arrival in Turkey, the Ramsays met Sir Charles Wilson, an experienced explorer. He invited William to accompany him on two lengthy investigations that included Phrygia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, and Galatia (1).

 

(Ancient limestone cave houses of Cappadocia,

deteriorated into cone-shaped structures due to erosion)

 

Beginning with these excursions and continuing over the next thirty-four years, Ramsay saturated himself with the geography and history of the Graeco-Roman world. He began to uncover facts that refuted the Tubingen theories–information that only a first-century eyewitness like Luke could have known.

For example:

In Acts 14:1-7 Luke reports the escape of Paul and Silas from Iconium, before they were stoned to death. They fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe.

However, later Roman writers including Cicero asserted that fleeing to Lystra and Derbe wouldn’t have saved the men because all three cities were in the same district.

 

(Turkish town of Konia, Paul’s Iconium–1911)

 

But in 1910 Ramsay discovered a telling inscription. In the first century A.D., Iconium was not under the authority of Lycaonia but of Phrygia, from A.D. 37-72—the exact time period when Paul and his companions would have visited the area (2).

Acts 17:1-9 relates the experience of Paul and his companions in Thessalonica. Luke uses the term politarch (translated “city officials” in NIV) in verse 6, a word not found in any other Greek literature. But Ramsay found five inscriptions in Thessalonica that used the title (3).

In Acts 18:12-17 Paul was brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. At Delphi, Ramsay and his team discovered an inscription of a letter to the proconsul from Emperior Claudius: “Lucius Junios Gallio, my friend and proconsul of Achaia.”

 

(The ruins at Delphi, Greece)

 

Historians date the inscription to 52 A.D., which corresponds to the time Paul and Silas would have visited the area (4).

In all, Ramsay was able to verify ninety-five geographical details included in the book of Acts, as well as historical facts and the names of people who existed at the time. He found no evidence of errors (5).

 

(Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, 1924)

 

Ramsay authored numerous books that give record of his findings. In one he wrote:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me . . .but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth . . .

“. . . Luke is a historian of the first rank not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians” (6).

Some say Ramsay’s search for truth brought him to faith in Christ; others argue that he did not embrace Christianity.

But I can’t imagine dedicating decades of my life toward a cause in which I held no personal belief.

What I can imagine is God leading Ramsay from proof to proof while simultaneously working in his heart, bringing him to the point of belief in the Bible and finally in his Son as Savior.

 

 

Notes:

  1. See Acts 18:23, 14:6, and 2:9 for mention of these provinces.
  2. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/historical-accuracy-of-the-bible/question13-is-acts-historically-accurate.cfm
  3. https://highergrounds.live/2017/12/05/sir-william-ramsay-and-the-book-of-acts/
  4. https://christiantrumpetsounding.com/Archaeology/Archaeology%20Bklt/Archaeology%20Verifies%20Bible%20Ch2.htm
  5. http://taoandtawheed.com/TaoTawheed/TabId/108/ArtMID/550/ArticleID/61/Luke-Got-His-Facts-Straight.aspx
  6. William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, 222.

 

Other sources:

  1. https://www.5minutesinchrchhistory.com/sir-william-ramsay/
  2. https://bibleevidences.com/archaeological-evidence
  3. https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ramsay/ramsay_gasque.pdf

 

Photo credits:  http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.loc.getarchive.net; http://www.pxhere.co

 

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Years ago my husband Steve and I lived in a small town outside Lexington, Kentucky. All through the area old stone walls stitch together fields and pastures into a landscape quilt. We often marveled at the workmanship as well as the time and effort required.

According to historians, the rocks were gathered out of the fields by Scot-Irish immigrants of the 1700s, who settled the area and needed to clear the land for farms. They used the same dry masonry skills of their ancestors back in the British Isles.

As decades passed new immigrants built more walls as did the slaves who followed.

 

(Similar walls in Ireland)

 

Those stone walls came to mind as I read again a story of Samuel, recorded in 1 Samuel 7:1-12. He set up a memorial stone in celebration of an Israelite victory over the Philistines. Samuel called it Ebenezer (which means Stone of Help), explaining that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Thus far in our lives the Lord has helped you and me also. And if we collected a rock to represent each time God has helped us, we’d surely accumulate enough to construct many walls, stitching together our experiences into a kingdom quilt—in the kingdom of God, that is.

And what a memorial it would be to God’s faithfulness!

As many of you know, I began a journal in 1983 of God’s faithfulness to our family—a record of his provision, protection, guidance, and blessing. To date there are nearly 1400 entries.

 

(Note how yellowed these early pages have become!)

 

If I gathered a Stone of Help for every event noted, I could build a wall ten stones high and nearly 140 feet long. No doubt a record of your life would produce a similar-sized wall, perhaps longer.

Imagine an aerial view of thousands of such walls criss-crossing the landscape—a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness to all of us. Our eyes would pop in wonder.

During this challenging year of 2020, God has demonstrated his faithfulness in numerous ways.

 

 

I am particularly thankful for:

  • Sightings of wildlife that turn window glances into marvel fests
  • Family and friends within easy reach through various forms of technology
  • Livestreamed church services that allow Sunday worship with our congregation
  • No hospitalizations for Steve in 2020 (Last year he was admitted four times for various problems related to his liver transplant and a subdural hematoma.)
  • Emotional and spiritual health in spite of isolation

And all of us have benefited from God’s unending supply of strength. We’d do well to remember:

 

 

I’m guessing you can remember a situation or two when you thought it impossible to press on. But you did—because of God’s enablement.

Other times responsibilities piled up to impossible heights, and the emotional crush was nearly unbearable. But then—miraculously—cancellations and postponements occurred, assistance materialized, and the pile decreased to manageable size–because of God’s intervention.

And why is all this looking back at the past significant? Because:

 

 

Where others might say, “So far, so good!” and hope for the best, we say, “So far, so God!” and rely on him whose help is certain. He never fails to do what he has spoken (Psalm 145:13b).

The millions of virtual Ebenezers among us provide reliable evidence we can count on–for 2021 and beyond.

 

 

A blessed and confident New Year to all!

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.needpix.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

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(A journal dialogue between God and me)

 

ME:

I love temperate mornings like this, Father, when I can spend moments on the deck with you, reveling in your creation. Thank you for this little island of quiet amidst urban commotion.

Dark clouds of yesterday have given way to those that artists love to paint: cotton puffs of white, some breeze-pulled into wisps.

The black walnut tree already wears many golden leaves. Occasional leaf showers create a dazzling parade of drifting sunflakes. Summer has acquiesced to fall.

 

 

Our squirrel friends have picked up another game of tag. They dash at alarming speed from tree to tree, and sometimes spiral up and down the trunks. Familiarity may contribute to their surefootedness, but such dare-devil antics still amaze.

At least several hummingbirds have visited the feeder since I settled in my chair. No doubt they’re fueling up for migration.

Some hover as they drink, wings and tails a blur of motion. Others rest briefly on the bar, take a quick sip, then fly up and back to warily scan their surroundings. A few partake from one opening and then another. Perhaps they’re hoping for different flavors?

 

 

 

Still others rest on the bar and take long gulps. When this latter group pauses, they remain still. Their glances about appear relaxed, as if they’re simply enjoying the view.

 

 

GOD:

Let the habits of the hummingbirds inform yours.

You are one of my little hummingbirds—small and practically defenseless. But you can fly! In your spirit you can fly at hummer-speed to me, your Provider and Protector.

In me you find all you need, just as the nectar in flowers or feeders provides for the hummingbirds all that they need.

 

 

Let the hummers who rest be a reminder to you. There is no reason to be in constant flight, hovering over this task and then on to the next in a flurry of hurry.

Take note of the birds who rest on the bar and enjoy their surroundings between sips. How can you do the same?

The occasional worship-pause at the kitchen window is a good start.

 

 

And your daily gratitude journal offers more moments of reverent respite.

 

 

ME:

You just gave me another idea, Father (1).

As you lead me to scriptures or quotes that inspire praise, I can copy them to tuck here and there as reminders.

 

 

GOD:

And when you come across one of those cards, quietly rest a moment in its truth. Look around and within for reasons to thank and praise me, as prompted by that scripture or quote.

And what will be the result? Refreshing restoration.  Renewed energy.  Augmented joy.  Deeper peace (2)—in spite of the troubling political and social climate and concerns surrounding Covid.

 

 

Fly with confidence into the days ahead, little bird—strengthened and refreshed in me.

 

Notes:

  1. James 1:17. All good gifts come from God—even good ideas.
  2. Psalm 23:1-2; Psalm 19:7-8; Psalm 119:111; Psalm 119:165.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.needpix.com.

 

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I read the poster, then checked my watch—again. It was time to notify.

“Excuse me, but my appointment with Dr. D. was at 10:30 and it is now 11:15.” I spoke in even tones that belied my frustration.

The receptionist referred to the schedule on her computer. “Thank you,” she responded pleasantly. “I’ll check to see what the problem is.”

Returning to my seat, I expected to be called shortly, but it still took ten to fifteen minutes. Another annoyance: no one ever explained the delay or apologized.

 

 

No doubt you’ve endured similar experiences. Waiting nearly always creates nuisance no matter how many magazines they provide. Who hasn’t been stuck in the waiting areas of car repair shops, office buildings, and airports—when we’ve places to go and things to do?

But those aren’t the only forced pauses we face. At one time or another all of us spend time in the waiting room of life—as we anticipate achieving a long-term goal, receiving that long-awaited email or phone call, or seeing an ongoing prayer finally answered.

How are we supposed to handle the interminable pauses in life?

The following truths promise to ease our frustration and offer hope.

 

 

In God’s view, to wait is not to waste.

There is always purpose in God’s delays. King David wrote, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23 GNT). Next to this verse in the margin of his Bible, George Mueller wrote: “And the stops too” (1).

Just what might God be doing during the stops? He often uses wait time to work on our character, transforming pride into humility, doubt into faith, weakness into strength, and impatience into serenity.

 

A time of waiting provides a time for discovery.

As we turn attentive hearts toward gratitude for what is, praise for who God is, and satisfaction in serving him now wherever he has placed us, we’ll discover contentement.  With Paul we’ll be able to say:

 

 

“The heart is rich when it is content, and it is content when its desires are set upon God,” wrote Miguel of Ecuador (2).

On the other hand, a heart cannot be content if set primarily upon an attainment in the future.

 

Waiting is part of the wonder to come.

It’s a basic principle of investment: the longer we wait, the greater our return. Delay enhances delight.

And one day we’ll finally receive the explanation for the pauses in our lives. No doubt our eyes will widen in wonder to see all that God accomplished when in our view, progress stood still.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I thank you, Heavenly Father, that we can trust you during wait times.

You know the perfect sequence and timetable for events to unfold; we do not. You see the whole picture—the lives of others who will be impacted during this wait time; we cannot.

So may we rest on what we do know: You are a God of goodness, faithfulness, and wisdom. The one who trusts in you, whose confidence is in you, is blessed.

  

(Psalm 130:5; Psalm 139:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:24;

Psalm 100:5; Romans 11:33; Jeremiah 17:7)

 

Notes:

  1. George Müller (1805-1898) founded schools and orphanages in Bristol, England, in the early 1800s, providing care for thousands of children.  His testimony of great faith included numerous miracles of provision for the orphans under his care.
  2. Miguel of Ecuador (1854-1910)–teacher and author

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (3).

 

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“Want to take a ride?” a friend asked from astride his motorcycle.

Nineteen-year old me was hoping he’d ask. So off we went—but not before L. shared an important instruction: “When we come to corners and curves, just lean into them. Follow my lead.”

The physics of a two-wheel bike require such a response. Otherwise riders will end up at the curb or in a ditch.  But leaning into the curve feels counter-intuitive to many first-time riders.

 

 

The journey of life also presents curves to navigate: physical setbacks, emotional trauma, and problematic circumstances. At such times, some of us default to responses that do more harm than good—reactions such as self-pity, anger, despair, and fear. If not corrected, these emotions will throw us into a ditch of distress.

But just as motorcyclists learn to navigate curves in a road, we can learn to navigate curves in life.

How?

 

1. Stay aligned 

 Wheels out of alignment cause instability—especially dangerous on a tight curve.

On the road of life, we travel best when our spirits aligned—with regular times of Bible study and prayer. To the uninitiated, that may sound boring. But as the habit is established, participants begin to crave that quiet time when God speaks encouragement and instruction, and we share gratitude and concerns.

 

 

To start, you might choose an earlier bedtime and rising time. But it’s worth it. Awaiting you are wonderful things (1)!*

 

2. Lean in with positivity

Leaning into the curves with his body weight allows a cyclist to maintain balance. Leaning into the curves of life with faith and optimism keeps our spirits balanced, and out of the ditch of worry and complaint.

David of Old Testament times certainly earned the right to grumble and fret. Throughout his life he faced obstacles, enemies, and even death. But he learned to lean into such curves—with God.

One time after David was seized by his enemies, the Philistines, he wrote the following: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise…What can mere mortals do to me”(2)?

 

 

How could David be so confident in the Lord? He knew God well, as protective, righteous, loyal, loving, and good (3)—among other attributes. David focused on his gracious God, not his troubling circumstances.

A steadfast, positive attitude begins with faith in God.

 

3. Remember the curves of the past

Once a novice cyclist has maneuvered a tight curve, the next one is a bit easier, and the next easier yet. Soon she sails around those bends with confidence, based on her experience.

The psalmists allowed experience to provide confidence on the twisting road of life. They remembered the Lord’s wonderful deeds and miracles, his acts of power and surpassing greatness (4).

 

 

And though God certainly deserves every breath of praise we offer, there is benefit for us in the remembering also. Meditation on all his kind deeds of the past sets a tone of confidence for the curves ahead—confidence in God (5).

____________________________________

 

Every day we travel the road of life into the unknown. But with our spirits aligned with God’s Spirit, a positive attitude grounded on faith, and confidence in God based on his flawless record, the unknown does not have to be a source of fear.

It can be an open road of sublime adventure.

 

 

*However! If you are parenting a newborn and/or little folks, caring for an elderly family member, etc.—if exhaustion is your constant companion and time to just breathe is in short supply—be kind to yourself. Listen to a Bible-centered podcast while folding laundry; pray while loading the dishwasher. God will smile with pleasure at any effort to connect with him. And in-depth Bible study can become a priority for the next stage of life.

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 119:18
  2. 1 Samuel 21:10-15; Psalm 56:3-4
  3. Psalm 5:11; 7:17; 9:10; 12:5; 25:8
  4. Psalm 9:1; 105:5a; 150:2
  5. Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 103:2 BSB

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.uihere.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com.

 

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