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Archive for the ‘God’s Faithfulness’ Category

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

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com (3).

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“This is the property,” his agent told him, as they flew over a great swath of swampy real estate—about 43 square miles worth.  “What do you think?”

The passenger, W.E., smiled with satisfaction. He hardly noticed the scrub pines, cypress groves, and marshy ponds dotting the landscape. In his mind’s eye he saw beauty and grandeur. “I like it!” he cried.

Ground view of the kind of landscape W.E. saw that day

Within days, W.E. and his associates were arranging to purchase the land from the various owners. The final price tag: five million dollars (the equivalent of about 43 million today).

That was in 1963. In 2011, the property was estimated to be worth over 1.3 billion dollars, because of W. E.’s vision and his ability to accomplish what he started.

Development of the property began in 1965. It took thousands of workers and six years to complete the initial phase of W. E.’s plan.

First, the acreage had to be cleared, then lakes dredged as well as canals built in order to control the flow of water. Before the first foundation could be poured, the land had to be elevated. Millions of trees, shrubs, and plants were also installed.

Some might say what followed was pure magic, as the massive project resulted in Disney World. And ever since its opening in 1971, the visionary genius of Walter Elias Disney has dazzled the senses of visitors.

Someone else sees value in places where most of us don’t. The King of the universe recognizes worth in you and me, scrubby and nondescript as we might be. In fact, he smiles with satisfaction on his people of faith, because what he envisions is the beauty and grandeur of what we’re becoming.[1]

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:

And what does God’s good work include? Here’s a partial list:

  • He guides us to know what’s right and then empowers us to do it
  • He creates the desire within us to follow his way of wisdom
  • He draws us toward a heavenly perspective that impacts our choices and motives
  • He grows our love for one another
  • He develops godly traits that minister to others and provide us satisfaction as well
  • He transforms us, day by day, into the beauty and grandeur of Christ’s character[2]

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles” wrote Charles Spurgeon—miracles that include wisdom, love, godliness, power, and more. Such transformation is much more spectacular than turning swampland into a stunning park. And God will never stop developing his miracles within us until we’re home with him.

Our challenge is to submit to his work.  

God wants to dredge self-centeredness from our spirits so rivers of living water can flow freely. Then we’ll enjoy the continual, life-giving spring of contentment he provides.[3]

God wants to place us on the foundation-rock of his Word, providing peace and security—especially when the storms of life threaten to overtake us.[4]   

God also wants to establish us like trees planted by water. Then we won’t fear the heat of difficulty or a drought of deprivation, because our roots grow deep into the river of God’s delights—delights like His love, his truth as found in the Bible, his strength and presence.[5]

Walt Disney and his team did accomplish incredible feats of innovation, design, and technology. But God shaping us into beautiful, joyful, purposeful people?  That’s mind-boggling miraculous.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, loving Father, for continuing to grow me in your grace until your task within me is finally finished. Thank you for never giving up, for completing what you start. May I be an enthusiastic participant in your good work!

Sources:

https://dozr.com/blog/building-disney-world

https://d23.com/we-say-its-disney/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/megandubois/2021/09/23/looking-back-at-50-years-of-walt-disney-world-history-and-business-strategy/?sh=a0fc33fff209

https://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140323/17091/making-walt-disney-world-20-amazing-photographs

Notes:


[1] Psalm 147:11

[2] Psalm 119:33-37; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[3] John 7:37-39 and footnote to v. 38, The Woman’s Study Bible

[4] Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 119:24

[5] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 36:8; Ephesians 3:16-19

Photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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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!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com.

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Approximately 250 times in scripture we’re told to praise the Lord[ 1].

Some would see all these calls to praise as the directives of an ego-maniacal god, but that’s hardly the case. Upon further investigation of scripture we find that praise of God is actually good for us.

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? We seek to bless him by offering our praises, and he turns right around and blesses us when we do.

What are those blessings of praise? I’m so glad you asked. Here are just seven as a starter-list.  You may find a surprise or two.

Praising God alleviates anxieties.  

As we remind ourselves Who’s in charge and how he provides for those in his care, fears are calmed.  (Psalm 146 offers an example).

Praising God enhances prayer.

Instead of focusing on the problem which presses us downward, praise turns our attention to what God can do and lifts our spirit upward. (See Psalm 103.)

Praising God kicks Satan to the curb.

James 4:7 reminds us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” What better way to resist him than to focus on God’s power, promises, and past provisions?

Praise brings the consciousness of the presence of God,

and the liars from the pit cannot effectively market their wares

in the atmosphere of praise.

—Jack Taylor[2]

Praising God magnifies blessings.

When we look through a magnifying glass at an object, we often experience greater appreciation of that object. Hold a magnifying glass of praise to God for the day’s blessings and experience greater appreciation of Him and his benefits (Psalm 77:11-14).

Praising God offers comfort.

Are you disappointed? Praise God that he brings good out of every situation (Romans 8:28). Are you hurting? Celebrate God’s abundant goodness in spite of circumstances (Psalm 145:7). Are you fearful? Rejoice in God, a strong refuge in times of trouble; he is ready and willing to help (Psalm 46:1).

Praising God provides pleasure.

“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good” encouraged one of the psalmists. “Sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant” (Psalm 135:3). Numerous times in scripture we’re urged to sing and shout for joy because of who God is and what he does. Why?

Praising God replenishes faith.

Meditate on Psalm 145 and note all the attributes of God highlighted, including: his greatness, (v. 3), the mighty acts he performs (v. 4), the splendor of his majesty (v. 5), his goodness and righteousness (v. 7).   

The more you praise God, the more you become God-conscious

and absorbed in His greatness, wisdom, faithfulness, and love.

Praise reminds you of all that God is able to do

and of great things He has already done.

Wesley L. Duewel

Add these to the list:

  • Praising God in the company of others encourages them (Colossians 3:16).
  • Praising God fine-tunes our perspective as our focus shifts from self to him (Psalm 121).
  • Praising God grows our hope, humbles our spirits, and ushers in peace (Psalm 33:18-22, Psalm 8, Psalm 62:1-2).

Surely there are still more blessings of praise to be discovered. No wonder G. K. Chesterton wrote:

  • * * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, Father, for these many blessings you lavishly supply as we learn to enjoy you through praise. May we grow each day in our capacity to celebrate you at every turn.

Did any of these blessings of praise surprise you? Tell us about it in the comment section below!


Notes:

[1] https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/praise-the-lord/

[2] quoted in Satisfy the Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow, 191.

Photo credits: http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com.

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If you or a family member are among the 16 million people in the U.S. who suffer from COPD, you’ve no doubt checked into the pros and cons of oxygen tanks (unwieldy and weighing up to 20 pounds) vs. oxygen concentrators (small, and just 5 pounds or so).

These latter devices can be carried around, even in a backpack. That’s much easier than wheeling a cumbersome, heavy tank everywhere. Such an amazing invention.

Whichever device is chosen, the increased oxygen flow is life-giving to the patient, improving their quality of life and providing peace of mind.

As Christians, we carry something with us that is also life-giving—into eternity. It improves our quality of life in astounding ways, and provides such overwhelming peace of mind, it surpasses understanding.[1]

This entity is lighter than air even though it possesses the awesome weight of God’s glory (the infinite wonders of who he is) and the full height and depth of his love. It doesn’t have to be pulled along or carried on the hip or back; it’s carried within the spirit.

What is this invisible reality? God’s kingdom. We are Kingdom Carriers[2]—if we’ve accepted his Son Jesus into our lives. That choice leads to the abundant life he promised.[3]

Carry an oxygen concentrator and you can supply yourself with that one necessity for as long as the battery lasts, about 8 hours. But as Kingdom Carriers? Oh my!  God provides numerous necessities for a lifetime and beyond. Some come quickly to mind, such as the peace of mind mentioned above, wisdom for decision-making, and the assured hope of a glorious future.[4] 

But what else do we carry in our invisible Kingdom satchels? Here are a few examples:

  • God’s encouragement. Within the pages of his Word we find heartening promises, assuring each of us, “You’re not alone; I’m here to help you. Remember, with me all things are possible.”[5]
  • God’s equipping. He provides courage in distress, serenity in difficulty, strength under pressure, comfort in pain, and more.[6]
  • God’s faithfulness. Reflect on the numerous times God has graciously protected and provided. With King David we can affirm:
  • The truth about our identity. We are God’s children, created in his image for divine purpose.[7]
  • Joy—even in the midst of trouble. Paul is our example. “In all our troubles,” he wrote, “my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4). We can live like that too!
  • Security. “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God.”[8]

Our Kingdom backpacks even include a new wardrobe!

And what does this new wardrobe include? A long coat of humility that envelops everything else, soft gloves woven of kindness and gentleness, quiet slippers of patience (as opposed to tap-shoes of exasperation), and a large scarf of forgiveness that covers a multitude of grievances (vs. 11-13).

Now, at least several questions present themselves:  

Are we putting to good use these amazing provisions? What can we do to avail ourselves more readily?

And, as Kingdom Carriers, are we sharing the life-giving, peace-imparting contents of our invisible backpacks with those around us?

*     *     *     *     *     *      *      *     *      *

I praise You, O God for transferring us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of your beloved Son. You, the King of the universe, have made us your sons and daughters!  Now, wherever we go, we carry within us your invisible kingdom—and all its amazing qualities. May we be faithful to access what you’ve provided and generously share them with others.   

(Colossians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Luke 17:21; John 10:10; Hebrews 13:16)


[1] Psalm 145:13; John 10:10; Philippians 4:6-7

[2] A phrase coined by Elaine Olsen, Peace for the Journey, 141. (Elaine is one of my former second-grade students!)

[3] John 3:16; 3:3; 10:10

[4] James 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-6

[5] Psalm 23:4; 46:1; Matthew 19:26

[6] Psalm 27:1; Psalm 9:9-10; Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 147:3

[7] John 1:12; Ephesians 2:10

[8] Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman, p. 157; Isaiah 40:11

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

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Play hide-and-seek with a two-year old and chances are, when it’s your turn to do the seeking, you won’t be looking for long. Their under- standing of true concealment is limited.

Some people play hide-and-seek in life. They’re looking for places to hide from such situations as financial ruin, hurtful relationships, and danger. But their understanding of true concealment is limited.

They may build up a hefty bank account, move from one relationship to another when the first difficulty arises, and purchase every means of protection against physical harm.

But these hiding places still leave a person exposed. Not all problems can be solved with money. Shallow relationships don’t satisfy in the long term, and physical protection can fail.

Just as our granddaughter in the first picture needed something bigger to cover her, we need something bigger than bank accounts, a few casual friends, and state-of-the-art alarm systems to cover us.

In addition, we face a number of monumental problems in America that leave all of us greatly exposed: rising drug addiction, increased violent crime, failing schools, the demise of Judeo-Christian values, inflation, supply chain failures, the national debt, and more.

There is only one place where we’re completely hidden and protected: in God himself.

Not that we’re shielded from every difficulty in this life. God hasn’t promised to prevent all trouble. But he is the One who can provide complete coverage no matter what we face, including the security of eternal life and blessings in the midst of trouble.

When God is our Hiding Place, he makes available to us his:

  • Strength

When tumult rages,

We have in him a strong citadel of calm.

–Herman  Lockyer (1)

  • Peace

The very act of breathing in his presence [is] balm.

Jan Karon (2)

  • Help

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him

and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.

–George Mueller

  • Truth, including his unfailing promises

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word.

–Unknown

  • Hope

God has given no pledge that he will not redeem

And encouraged no hope that he will not fulfill.

–Charles Spurgeon

Rest assured, my friends, once we’ve placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are completely covered—hidden in God. He is our steadfast and reliable Rock of refuge (Psalm 31:3).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for sheltering me in the Rock-cave of your refuge. I’m surrounded by your unfailing love and compassion, your all-sufficiency in all situations, and your empowering presence.

I also take refuge in the truth of your Word that affirms you will put all things right when the time is right. In the meantime, I nestle into the protective shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 32:10b; Psalm 116:5; Philippians 4:1; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; Psalm 17:8b)

Notes:

  1. Seasons of the Lord, 252.
  2. A Common Life, 116.

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.fox19.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.

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(in celebration of Poetry Month)

Inside us all exists a place

unique in space and size.

Just one thing can fill this space;

it’s nothing money buys.

Some people try to fill the void

with work and busy-ness.

They think that to be well-employed

will bring true happiness.

Others try a different route—

they seek recognition.

But all too soon they learn about

the failings of ambition.

But inside me there is no void—

it’s a marvelous sensation!

Inside me grows peace and joy,

defying explanation.

The future holds no fear for me,

sleepless nights I don’t endure.

There’s no need to fret continually,

because my destiny is secure.

Even when problems come my way,

a sense of joy pervades.

From an inner strength, fears are allayed,

and anxiety begins to fade.

This peace and joy inside me

come from one amazing Source.

It’s Jesus Christ—he’s the key,

the almighty, empowering force!

The Lord alone can fit that space;

nothing else will ever do.

While following his excellent ways,

I experience his blessings too!

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

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Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Putting pen or pencil to paper in such a way slows down our thinking, allowing wonderful blessings to emerge:

  • Increased knowledge of God and his Word
  • Clarity of understanding
  • A record of discoveries
  • A record of faith deposits for later encouragement
  • Renewal of the mind
  • Augmented intimacy with God

If writing a meditation sounds intimidating, adopt the attitude of Isaac Asimov:

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov

For Christian journalers, writing can be worshiping through our fingers.

But how do we even begin such a process? Try Anne Sexton’s approach:

When we invite Jesus into our lives, the Spirit of God takes up residence within our spirits (1). We can put our ears down close to our souls and listen hard for him to guide our thoughts and lead us to the insights he would have us discover.

And then, we fill our pages with the breathings of our hearts (2).

The following is an example of a journal entry, based on the first verse of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”(3). The next four images contain the lyrics.

You, oh God, are the Source of every blessing—every provision, every answered prayer, every wise decision, every creative idea, every moment of joy. All good and perfect gifts come from you (4).

Out of your lavish generosity, blessings flow continually from your hand. May I be quick to praise you for each one as they demonstrate your lovingkindness.

This fount of blessing includes your mercy also. I praise you for your forgiveness, undeserving as I am. Thank you for looking upon me with compassion and tenderness in spite of my weaknesses, failures, and sins.

And I praise you that your mercy never ends! You are faithful to forgive me every time I come to you in repentance. Such grace is beyond comprehension. Yes, I want to sing songs of loudest praise, to honor you rightly for all you’ve done for me and continue to do.

Perhaps if I had the voice of an angel and knew the songs of heaven I could sing the full praise you deserve!

Nevertheless, I celebrate your name(s)—Shepherd, Lord of Peace, God of Grace, Father of Compassion and more. I glory in all the attributes indicated by each one. And I remember: the one trait that is part of them all: your unfailing love.

Thank you for loving me, in spite of my shortcomings; thank you for redeeming me from the consequences of my sins so I might enjoy you forever!

Should you decide to journal through a hymn or praise song, remember: perfection is not the goal, getting to know God better and worship him more passionately are the aims.

An added benefit? Our meditations will positively impact our words and actions (5).

Notes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:16
  2. based on a quote from William Wordsworth
  3. by Robert Robinson, text adapted by Margaret Clarkson
  4. James 1:17
  5. Joshua 1:8

Photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flicker.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org.

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Raise your hand if you ever created frothy foam with vinegar and baking soda.

OK, hands down. Now, who can name five other common chemical reactions?

M-m-m. Not as many hands. To be honest, I couldn’t have named that many either. But a bit of research turned up these:

  • Plants turn sunlight into energy for growth—photosynthesis
  • Yeast causes bread dough to rise
  • Bacteria in old milk transforms the lactose into lactic acid, creating that sour odor
  • Combustion causes wood to burn; burnt wood becomes ash
  • In a wet or humid environment, iron and steel will develop rust

And just as marvelous turnings occur in the physical world, God initiates and fosters marvelous turnings in our lives—with spectacular results.

For example:

God’s love turns mistakes into miracles. Joseph’s brothers made a terrible mistake, selling their brother into Egyptian slavery and lying about it. They still carried the guilt two decades later, when the brothers traveled to Egypt for grain during a famine.

Little did they know that Joseph had risen from slave to prime minister, was overseeing the distribution of grain, and saving thousands of lives. What the brothers intended for harm, God turned to miraculous good (1).

God’s power turns weaklings into warriors. Gideon felt powerless against Israel’s enemy, the mighty Midianites. He required much reassurance from God to go into battle against them. But with God’s encouragement and enablement, Gideon led his small army to a rousing victory (2).

God’s grace turns devastation into distinction. Saul was a broken man, blind and no doubt confused when Ananias visited him that day in Damascus. But it wasn’t long before he was traveling the region, preaching passionate sermons, and drawing hundreds of people to Jesus (3).

In addition to his love, power, and grace, our Heavenly Father provides ways for us to turn negatives into positives, and dull into delightful.

For example:

Proper perspective turns irritation into exaltation.

“We can learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to [God’s] love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him” (4)?

Wonder turns weariness to WOW!

“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder” (5).

(Who’s the fairest beetle of them all? This one!)
(How many folds on this mushroom, do you suppose?)
(A dandelion dressed in dewdrops)

Are you feeling a bit of reverent WOW right now?

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” (6).

“The bedrock of our contentment isn’t the goodness of our day but the goodness of our God” (7).

Trusting in God turns uncertainty into adventure.

We can lament, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” or we can pray, “Lord, I can’t wait to see how you do this” (8)!

Hope turns apprehension into expectation.

What’s more worthwhile: worrying about what can go wrong or being excited about what can go right, since God is always at work?

Prayer turns anxiety into peace.

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus” (9).

Worship turns turmoil into calm.

“We would worry less if we praised more” (10).

The question becomes: Will we choose those actions that turn negatives into positives and dull into delightful? Or will we live under a dark cloud of malaise, apprehension, and turmoil?  

God has shown us the way to the former; he leaves the turnings to us.

Notes:

  1. Genesis 37-50
  2. Judges 6-7
  3. Acts 9-28
  4. Emmanuelle Gomez
  5. Tierney Gearon
  6. Unknown
  7. Melissa Krueger, Growing Together, Crossway, 2020, 132)
  8. Unknown
  9. Philippians 4:6-7, Phillips
  10. Harry Ironside

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Betsy gasped at the revolting scene before her. Yes, she’d been warned by Stephen Grellet, a family friend, but even his graphic descriptions could not have prepared her for this.

In a space meant for sixty women, three hundred women and children[1] swarmed over every square foot, some barely clothed. Screaming and shouting assaulted the ears.

But the worst offense was the stench of unwashed bodies, vomit, human waste and more which saturated the meager straw on the floor. Small barred windows offered little fresh air for relief.

The place: Newgate Prison in London England. The time: 1813.

Newgate prison. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

In that first moment inside Newgate, Betsy knew that “God wanted her to minister hope to these women who were being treated like animals and had lost their desire to live.”[2]

The jailers told Betsy and her companion, sister-in-law Anna Bruxton, not to enter the cells, that the women were bound to attack her.

But Betsy insisted, and they marveled when her quiet presence actually calmed the women. Betsy read the Bible and then prayed for the prisoners. Many dropped to their knees.

After that first visit, Betsy began to dream of better ways to deal with prisoners—especially those guilty of nothing more than stealing apples to feed their starving children. She wondered, Instead of severe punishment as the only purpose of confinement, what if rehabilitation was provided?  

Betsy went to work immediately.  She organized her Quaker friends (a group which quickly expanded) who made clothing for the inmates and their children.

Betsy recruited volunteers to visit the prisoners, read the Bible and tell them about Jesus, then pray with them, just as she did. No doubt many chose to believe in Jesus as a result.

Mrs. Fry reading the Bible to prisoners.

Betsy arranged for clean straw to be brought in regularly. A prison school was established, paving the way for children and mothers alike to escape destitution. Betsy also convinced prison authorities to hire a matron and female monitors for the women.

It’s no wonder people began to call her the Angel of Newgate. But financial backing proved difficult. None of the male-dominated organizations were interested. Nevertheless, Betsy was able to raise support through friends.

As she worked, Betsy prayed:

“Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone, and then may I humbly trust that a blessing will be with me in my various engagements—enable me, O Lord, to feel tenderly and charitably toward all my beloved fellow mortals.”[3]

News of Betsy’s reforms began to spread. In 1818 Betsy was invited to speak before a House of Commons committee concerning prison conditions. She was the first woman ever brought before such a body as a witness.

Her experience as a Quaker minister helped Betsy deliver a clear and powerful speech. And members of Parliament responded affirmatively. But when she spoke against capital punishment, any action toward prison reform stagnated.

Disappointed but not discouraged, Betsy continued her efforts toward further reforms. At the time many prisoners were shipped to Australia. Women were chained, then transported to the docks in open carts. Crowds gathered to mock and throw all kinds of filth at them.

Betsy initiated change by offering to escort each convoy and keep order if prison officials used covered carriages. They agreed.

She also supplied each woman with a bag of useful items including materials for a patchwork quilt, giving them something to do on the long voyage. Better yet, when the women arrived they could sell the finished quilts.

Inside the hull of the Edwin Fox, the last surviving convict ship. Just 157 feet long, she transported at least 180 prisoners each voyage.

Also in 1818, an American emissary John Randolph visited England to see Betsy’s work firsthand. He wrote, “I have witnessed there miraculous effects of true Christianity upon the most depraved of human beings. Bad women, sir, who are worse, if possible, than the devil himself: and yet the wretched outcasts have been tamed and subdued by the Christian eloquence of Mrs. Fry.”[4]   

Five years later sympathies in Parliament had changed and the Gaols Act of 1823 was passed. It included many of Betsy’s recommendations from three years before.

The new reforms didn’t apply to local jails or debtors’ prisons. Betsy and her brother Joseph traveled the British Isles to gather evidence of the conditions and then presented additional reform legislation.

And yet Betsy accomplished still more. “She established night shelters for the homeless, libraries for coast guards, societies to help the poor, and the Institution for Nursing Sisters to modernize British nursing. She also influenced Florence Nightingale’s training program.”[5]

For more than thirty years Elizabeth Fry championed these causes in the name of Christ. And to think, one year before that first visit at Newgate, she wrote in her diary, “I fear that my life is slipping away to little purpose.”[6]

But of course God would never let that happen to someone who trusts in him.

Addendum: Elizabeth Gurney (1780-1845), married Joseph Fry in 1800; they had eleven children.


Notes:

[1] The youngsters had no one else to care for them

[2] https://setapartgirl.com/story-elizabeth-fry/

[3] From Great Women of the Christian Faith by Edith Deen, quoted at https://setapartgirl.com/story-elizabeth-fry/

[4] https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/to-act-in-the-spirit-not-of-judgment-but-of-mercy

[5] https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/to-act-in-the-spirit-not-of-judgment-but-of-mercy

[6] (https://christiansforsocialaction.org/resource/heroes-of-the-faith-elizabeth-fry/ ).

Sources:

https://christianfocus.org/elizabethfry

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/to-act-in-the-spirit-not-of-judgment-but-of-mercy

https://christiansforsocialaction.og/elizabethfry

https://setapartgirl.com/elizabethfry

https://encrustedwords.ca/elizabethfry

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