Archive for the ‘God’ Category



“Your life can overflow with radical blessings!” Jesus told the crowd.

Maybe he didn’t use those words (even in Aramaic), but that was the reason he shared eight glimpses of what happens when we embrace God’s way of thinking and living.  Those eight declarations of blessedness are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Declaration #1 reads as follows:



The subsequent seven statements follow the same pattern.

But read through the rest of scripture and you’ll find other beatitudes as well, especially in Proverbs. And now that I’ve accumulated some life experience over a number of decades, I see more clearly than ever:  we do receive radical blessings when we embrace God’s ways.

For example:

Rhonda was struggling financially, trying to work part-time as much as she could while putting herself through college. She came over for dinner one night and I felt compelled to give her a bunch of coupons from my file, for the things she purchased regularly.



Now you have to understand, that coupon collection was extensive, because I gathered from numerous sources, traded with others, and even sent away product labels to receive high-value coupons.

It hurt to hand over a fistful of my precious stash. But I knew it was the right thing to do.

The next week, I received–from two different women–two bags full of coupon inserts from Sunday newspapers.

And I learned:



Or, written Beatitude-style:

Blessed are those who give freely,

for they will gain even more.*





Everyone loved “Aunt Toss.” She never went anywhere without a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, and a chuckle at the ready. Frequently Aunt Toss would pop into Steve’s office to share a joke he might be able to use in a sermon. She saw humor in everything, was quick with the witty quip, and could pun with the best of them.

Yet during the years we knew her, she suffered terribly from shingles. And she missed her husband dearly. No one would have blamed Aunt Toss if her cheerfulness slipped a little. But she didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Aunt Toss enjoyed a continual feast of happy thoughts, pleasurable moments, and the reflected cheer from others, as she caused everyone around her to smile and laugh with her.

And I learned:



Written Beatitude-style:


Blessed are the cheerful,

for they have a continual feast of delight.


(The lovely lady in the photograph is not Aunt Toss, but she exuded the same joy.)




One of my husband’s spiritual gifts is generosity (Romans 12:8). Even during those early years of our marriage when the budget was tight, he would graciously help others in need.

So how did we make ends meet? We lived quite frugally, owned one car, wore some very nice hand-me-down clothing from family and friends, shopped with coupons of course, and watched for bargains.

One store in particular became a regular stop on my errands—a hit-or-miss place that carried an ever-changing array of goods.

One day a jumble of Keds lay piled on a table near their door. Heather, our middle child, was just about ready for a new pair. But she had narrow feet; her shoes had to be purchased at places like Stride Rite. The chance I’d find her size on that table was slim to none. (‘Hope you like puns!)

But a good rummage through the mound turned up a pair of size 7 slim after all. The best part? The price. You are not going to believe this:

Fifty cents.



Now granted, this occurred in the late 1970s. Things were cheaper back then, but not THAT cheap! At Stride Rite, we were paying $14.00 for a pair of Keds.

During those years of financial challenge, God provided bargain after bargain and gift after gift, due at least in part to Steve’s God-honoring generosity. And as only our Heavenly Father can do, he made sure our needs were always met—and then some.



For out beatitude statement, we can add the result of kindness, from verse 31:

Blessed is he who is kind to the needy,

for he honors God.




Over and over God has proved:   His ways are always best.  In fact, they are perfect.



How has he proved his wise ways in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!


* Of course, financial gain is not the only way God blesses those who give freely. Gains can be received through enhanced relationships, an uplifted spirit, added wisdom, greater contentment—and that’s just for starters. Our God is highly creative; he brings gain into our lives in countless ways.


Art & photo credits — Sermon on the Mount: wikimedia.com, bird on branch: www,canva.com,  coupons: http://www.pexels.com, hands: http://www.flickr.com, smiling woman: http://www.pexels.com, heart: http://www.pexels.com,  tennis shoes: ww.pixabay.com, Proverbs 14:21: http://www.heartlight.org, 2 Samuel 22:31: http://www.dailyverses.net.

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(In honor of Black History Month)


(Mary McLeod Bethune)


Mary turned over in her bed for the umpteenth time seeking a restful position, even though she knew discomfort was not the cause of her sleeplessness–excitement was. Tomorrow morning, October 4, 1904, she would stand in front of her first class of children in her own school: The Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Negro Girls.

Mary smiled, remembering the miracle of learning to read for herself when she was a girl of ten—miraculous because: 1) the provision of education for African-American children was rare in 1885, and 2) out of the seventeen children in her family, she was the one chosen to attend.


(Cabin where Mary was born, the fifteenth child out of seventeen)


The school was five miles from home, and she had to endure harassment and assault from white children on her daily treks. But Mary knew: this opportunity meant God had purpose for her life.

In 1886 a Quaker missionary financed the continuation of her education at Scotia Seminary in North Carolina.

Seven years later she entered Moody Bible Institute in Chicago as the only African-American among hundreds of white students. Instead of harassment and assault, however, Mary encountered acceptance, proving that “blacks and whites could live and work together with equality” (1).

While at Moody, Mary sensed God leading her to Africa as a missionary. But when it came time to apply, her denomination’s mission board denied her request because she was black.

The disappointment was deeply painful, but Mary soon turned her attention to those of African descent in America, and became a teacher—first in Augusta, Georgia and then in Sumter, South Carolina. She worked tirelessly, not only for her students but also for the surrounding black communities.

Thank you, Lord, for those nine years of teaching experience, Mary prayed. You prepared me well to found this new school.

Granted, there would only be five little girls greeting her in the morning, but it was a beginning. And Mary was confident God would make her school grow.

She chucked to herself. Of course, Lord, you left an awful lot of work for ME to do!

First she found a community in need of a school: Daytona Beach, Florida. Numerous African-American families were moving there, in order to be employed by the newly formed Florida East Coast Railroad.


(Workers on the East Coast Railway Extension, 1906)


Next Mary found a run-down cottage to rent for eleven dollars per month.  She convinced the owner to accept $1.50 as a down payment.

To supply her school with furniture and other necessities, Mary foraged at the city dump and behind hotels for anything useful. Old peach crates became student desks and chairs, an old barrel became her teacher’s desk.

She retrieved discarded linens, kitchen ware, and cracked dishes for the homemaking and skilled trades she would teach. Everything was scoured, mended and repurposed. Even charred wood had value as substitute pencils.

To cover expenses, Mary sold sweet potato pies and fried fish to wealthy tourists. She canvassed neighborhoods, spoke to church groups and clubs, and distributed leaflets.

Now, opening day was hours away.  And as she finally drifted off to sleep Mary wondered, What might the future hold?

If God had told her, even Mary’s strong faith would have been stretched.

That tiny handful of students in 1904 would grow to almost 250 by 1906, requiring more teachers, an advisory board, and a bigger facility. Among the influential men (black and white) on the board was James M. Gamble of the Proctor and Gamble Company.


(Mary and her students, ca. 1905)


In 1923 her school would merge with the Cookman Institute, a co-educational school for African-American students in Jacksonville, Florida. Mary was chosen as the first president. Later the Bethune-Cookman Institute became a college and then a university. (Today, nearly 4,000 students attend the school.)


(Faith Hall, built in 1907 to accommodate Mary’s growing school;

now part of Bethune-Cookman University)


In 1935 Mary helped organize the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) “to connect African-American women across the country and establish a national voice for them” (2).   Mary served as the first president.

A White House Conference of the NCNW met in Washington, DC in 1938. Then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, offered her the position of Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.

Mary met one-on-one with President Roosevelt several times a year and became good friends with Eleanor.


(Eleanor in the middle; Mary to her right)


Her participation on various government committees actually spanned the terms of four presidents, from Calvin Coolidge to Harry S. Truman.


(Mary’s home in Washington, DC)


Mary often said:



The impossible events of Mary’s life offer ample proof.


(Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955)



(1) http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/protestant/mary_bethune

(2) https://savingplaces.org/stories/mary-mcleod-bethune-bethune-cookman-university-hbcu-history#.WnzP3pM-e8U








Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.nationalparkservice.org; http://www.wikimedia.org, http://www.canva.com


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“Well, that’s about as good as I can make it,” Steve announced.

We stood at the end of the hall in the parsonage where we lived, surveying his handiwork: a fort.

You see, a hurricane was roiling toward all of us who lived in South Florida, the second storm in two weeks.

The first one, named Frances, had torn branches from our trees, ripped numerous shingles off the roof, mangled the screened enclosure and thrown it in the pool.

It could have been so much worse.


(Jeanne at Landfall.  We lived south of the eye–in that bright red area.)


Now we were facing Hurricane Jeanne. We had no idea if Frances had compromised the roof structure, and of course we were among thousands waiting for an inspection to assess such damage.

Because of the uncertainty of our situation, Steve built that fort. He dragged two dressers into the wide area at the end of the hall where doors opened to three bedrooms, two storage closets and a bath. Over the dressers he put two mattresses, and on top of that, two long, folding tables.

He tightly looped rope around all the doorknobs (to help hold them shut) except the door to our bedroom and bath. Then he laced the rope across the dresser-mattress-table structure like a web, and tied it all together snugly.

Now I know why little boys build forts, I thought, so when they grow up they can keep their families safe during a hurricane.

In spite of Steve’s efforts, however, we could not be sure his structure would withstand the pressure of the wind, especially if the roof gave way. And even a well-built fort could not keep out water should flooding become an issue.

But thankfully our fate was not in Steve’s hands, reliant on his fort-building skills (stellar though they be).  Our lives were–as they always are–in the sure hands of God.




No, those verses are not meant to imply God’s perfect protection for his people at all times. The historical record and present day tragedies bear out: Many wonderful men, women, and even children have suffered and died through no fault of their own.

However, those of us who have “made the Most High our dwelling,” can be assured of these truths:

  1. Any number of catastrophes could have overtaken us already, but God has safeguarded us.

For example, if it were not for his providential care I may already have died from:

  • Any number of illnesses as a child. Thanks to penicillin and antibiotics I survived.
  • Car accidents.  At least several times I’ve come that close to a horrific crash.
  • Falls from high places. (You can read about one such escapade here.)

No doubt you have your own stories to tell of potentially disastrous circumstances.

2. God always brings good out of distress—beginning with heightened awareness of his presence (Psalm 94:18-19).



Another positive outcome:  By the wind of his Spirit, he stirs up the ripple effect of his work in us to impact the lives others.


3.  In the context of eternity, our time on earth is no more than a blink.

One day we will be delivered out of this broken world into a place where no harm or disaster will ever occur, all troubles, frustrations, and pain will fade into insignificance.


Such truths gave me comfort that night as I hunkered down in our fort.  Wind and rain pounded against the house, sounding like hundreds of stomping feet on gymnasium risers.

Yet I slept.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Afterword: Obviously we survived that storm. The roof held firm and we experienced no flooding. Yes, the region was without power again for a number of days, and there was more debris to clean up. But God honored us with his loving protection–again.


(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)


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

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

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

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

Some snowflakes maintain a hexagon shape.


(Photo by Wilson Bentley)


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



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


 Another photo by Wilson Bentley, 1890)


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

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





But God isn’t finished yet.

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

  • in graceful drifts,




  • on every branch of the trees,



  • and in sparkling swaths across the landscape.



And a few lessons present themselves as well:


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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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


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



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

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

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


*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


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


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


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


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“You prepare a table before me, 

In the presence of my enemies.” 

–Psalm 23:5


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



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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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


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


(Revised and reblogged from November 26, 2015.)


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



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

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



Is the glass half empty or half full?

Just be thankful you have a glass!

—Jack Wellman


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



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

Psalm 92:4 NIV



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

‘Our disappointments are but his appointments.’

—A.W. Pink


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



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

John 13:7 NIV



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

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

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

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

—Matthew Henry,

on the night he was robbed


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



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

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV



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

only you and God have all the facts about yourself.

—Dub Nance


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



“But God is so rich in mercy that,

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

He made us who were dead in trespasses,

alive in unison with Christ.”

Ephesians 2:4-5, Berkeley Version



The best things are nearest:

breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes,

flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,

the path of God just before you.

—Robert Louis Stevenson


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



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

Deuteronomy 26:11 (emphasis added)


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


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


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

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The time:  1892

The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.




I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.



2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)



3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  We must keep watching and listening!



A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly. One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).



(Revised and reblogged from February 13, 2014.)


Photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; Art4TheGlryOfGod on http://www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com;  http://www.pinterest.com.au.)

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