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Archive for the ‘God’s Grace’ Category

“Father, please try to understand. I cannot go back to medical school. I’m not well-suited to be a doctor.” Francis looked hopefully into his father’s eyes. Perhaps this discussion would finally convince Father to let him follow his heart’s desire:  to become a writer.

“Son, you’ve spent six years in training,” began his father, a physician himself. “It would be foolish to throw away all that time and effort. Besides, think of the security provided by a position in the medical field. If you pursue this notion of becoming a writer, there is no guarantee of success or even a steady income.”

Once again, father and son had reached an impasse. And so, with only a few coins in his pocket, Francis set out on his own.  He traveled more than 220 miles to London, found a job as a bookseller, and wrote in earnest as time permitted. The year was 1885.

Francis’ health began to suffer and he lost one job after another until he ended up selling matches in the Whitechapel slums of London’s East End.

That barely provided food much less rent.  Soon Francis was homeless. To make matters worse, he found himself addicted to the opium he had first taken for relief of neuralgia pain. At one point he attempted suicide.

In 1887 Francis sent some of his poems, “scribbled on sugar paper,”[1] to Wilfred Meynell, the editor of a journal, Merrie England. Meynell was highly impressed, in spite of the humble presentation, and agreed to publish them. But the proceeds were meager.

The following year Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel. Francis did what he could to protect the murderer’s would-be victims, the prostitutes of the make-shift brothels. Perhaps it was one of these women who saw Francis collapse in the street one day.  She allowed him to stay with her and even cared for him for a while. (Francis later referred to her as his “savior,” though he never revealed her identity.)

When the publisher Meynell discovered Francis’ dire circumstances, he arranged for the young poet to live at a monastery where he could regain his health and overcome his addiction. The process took five years. As Francis began to heal physically, Meynell and his wife helped Francis renew his faith in God. Sometimes as he walked the peaceful grounds of the monastery, Francis would become overwhelmed by God’s grace to save him, and he’d break out into songs of praise.

(Perhaps scenes such as this caused Francis’ outbursts of praise.)

During this time Francis continued to write—poetry, essays, and short stories—including his most famous work, “The Hound of Heaven.” The autobiographical poem recounts his experience of being lost and God’s persistent pursuit of him.

“Hound of Heaven” begins:

I fled Him down the nights and down the days

I fled Him down the arches of the years

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears.

(Such a monastery chapel as this may have inspired line 2 above.)

Later in the poem Francis described God’s pursuit:

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after

But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat–and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet–

‘All things betray thee who betrayest Me.’

Another section provides God’s explanation for removing certain pleasures from the speaker’s life, because they were leading him in the wrong direction. God’s purpose was to guide him toward choosing the right path.

In the end God tells the speaker that “the happiness he sought by running away was following him all the time” (Cummings).[2] And the darkness of deprivation had been but “the shadow of the Divine hand stretched over him in love” (Blamires).[3]

Once Francis had regained his health in 1893, the Meynells invited him to stay with them. That same year Meynell helped Francis publish his first book of poems. “Hound of Heaven” was included.

“It was immediately recognized as a masterpiece.”[4] One critic called it “one of the great odes of which the English language can boast.”[5]

Over the ensuing years, “Hound of Heaven” was praised by such respected authors as Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, Eugene O’Neill, and J. R. R. Tolkien. O’Neill showed his high respect for the poem by memorizing it—all 182 lines. Chesterton said, “it is the most magnificent poem ever written in English,” to which Tolkien responded that Chesterton wasn’t giving the poem the credit it deserved.[6]

Francis Thompson subsequently became a well-known, respected poet, essayist, and spiritual writer. But his health suffered due to the hardship of those years in Whitechapel, and he succumbed to tuberculosis in 1907 at the age of 47.

Across the decades since his homegoing to heaven, Francis would surely have us remember these words of the apostle Paul:

Notes:

[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/heavens-hound-got-francis-thompson-11630688.html

[2] https://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides3/hound.html

[3] Harry Blamires as quoted in Oxley, The Hound of Heaven: A Modern Adaptation, 81, as quoted by

www.hopechristianchurch.org

[4] http://houndofheaven.com/product/the-hound-of-heaven-the-story-of-francis-thompson/

[5] https://www.patheos.com/catholic/hound-of-heaven-pat-mcnamara-07-10-2012

[6] https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/is-hound-of-heaven-a-name-for-god/

Additional  Sources:

  1. https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/601/faith-focus/poet-return-god
  2. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/opium-addict-and-derelict-the-extraordinary-life-of-francis-thompson-christian-poet/130930.htm
  3. http://www.teleiaphilia.com/a-modern-adaptation-of-thompsons-hound-of-heaven/
  4. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/second/en227/texts/thompson-hound.pdf

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.canva.com.

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For the second time in his life, twenty-four year old Johnny Lee Clary considered suicide. The first time he’d been just fourteen, when his parents split up and his mother’s boyfriend started beating him. Now Clary had reached another personal crisis.

For ten years he’d belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, members providing the family he’d lost.  Clary worked hard to move up through the ranks, thinking achievement would produce fulfillment. But his rise in the Klan came at a cost. His wife divorced him, taking their young son with her.

Six months after attaining the position of grand wizard, Clary realized he felt just as empty and unsatisfied as before.

Now he sat on the edge of his bed, contemplating suicide again, when a sunbeam lit up a dusty Bible on a shelf, and he remembered the hours spent at a Baptist church when he was a boy. Those days were the happiest of his life.

He took down the Bible and it fell open to Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son.  Clary saw himself as the young man returning to his father.  He explained later, “I realized that no matter what I’d done, the Lord had never left me or forsaken me.”

And so thoughts of suicide turned into a whispered prayer.  Clary asked Jesus for forgiveness and rededicated his life to him.

That was 1989.  He left the KKK and spent two years immersed in scripture and in the teaching of respected Christian leaders.  In 1991 Clary felt God wanted him to do two things:  preach about Jesus and call Wade Watts.

Wade Watts, a Black pastor and civil rights leader, had not been far from Clary’s thoughts since meeting him in 1979, when they’d participated in a radio debate on racism.

When Watts offered Clary his hand, Johnny took it without thinking but then quickly withdrew, remembering a Klan teaching:  “Physical touch of a non-white is pollution.”

The black pastor took no offense. Laughing, he said, “Don’t worry.  My black won’t come off!”

During the debate, Clary hurled every hate-filled insult he could think of. But Watts won with his strong logic and good-natured humor.

As Clary left the radio station, Watts stopped him, holding his adopted, biracial daughter in his arms. “You say you hate all black people.  How can you hate this little baby?”

Clary didn’t answer as he stomped toward the parking lot. Watts called out, “God bless you, Johnny!  I’m gonna love you and pray for you whether you like it or not!”

Fueled by Watt’s intolerable good nature and the embarrassment of losing the debate, Clary began harassing the black pastor.  He and other Klansmen hurled garbage into Watt’s yard and plagued him with death threats.  Watts failed to respond.

Another night the Klansmen dressed in their white robes and hoods, lit torches in the pastor’s yard, and dared him to come out and face them.  Watts did, speaking calmly from his porch.  “Boys, Halloween is still four months away, so I don’t have any treats for you.  But come back in October!”  Then he went back in the house, leaving Johnny and company stunned into silence.

When they lit a cross in his yard, Watts asked if the Klansmen would like some hot dogs and marshmallows for their barbeque.

Finally Clary and other KKK members set fire to Watt’s church.  Clary called the pastor a short while later.  “You better be afraid,” he snarled in a disguised voice.  “We are coming to get you, and–”

Watts interrupted the threat.  “Hello, Johnny.  A man like you takes the time to call me, I am so honored.  Let me do something for you.”  And he prayed for God to forgive Johnny for setting fire to a house of the Lord.

Harassment of the black preacher continued for some time but Watts always responded with love, composure, and often humor.

One evening in 1991 after Johnny had turned back to Jesus, he called Reverend Watts.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” he began, “but my name is Johnny Lee Clary.”

“Remember you!” responded Watts.  “Son, I’ve been praying for you for years.”

The black pastor invited Clary to preach at his rebuilt church.   At the end of the sermon a teenage girl came down the aisle, crying, and embraced him.

Then he heard someone else crying—Wade Watts. “Johnny, remember that baby I showed you when we debated on the radio? And I asked how you could hate such a child?  This is that little girl!”

And so began a deep friendship between a former Klansman and a black preacher.

Watts often said, “If you want to make beautiful music, you got to use the black and white keys together.”

He and Clary enjoyed making beautiful music for seven years, often preaching and holding rallies jointly until Watts passed away in 1998. Clary continued preaching about Jesus and teaching against racism until his death in 2014.

Martin Luther King. Jr. wrote:

Through forgiveness, humor, and prayer for his enemy, that’s exactly what Wade Watts accomplished.  

Sources:

https://alobar.livejournal.com/3348812.html

https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/not-a-chance-encounter-but-a-divine-appointment-with-truth/

https://www.godyears.net/2017/08/the-redemption-of-ku-klux-klan-leader.html

https://thislandpress/2013/08/29

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.photstockeditor.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.wikimedia.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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One of my favorite passages of scripture wraps up chapter eleven of Romans.  The last four verses remind me (with authoritative yet beautiful language) that my wise and powerful God is in control of all things. 

Paul concludes with this statement of praise:

The following affirmations provide an opportunity to offer God our Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit the praise he deserves. You may wish to pause briefly after each one for a moment of meditation.

With our incredible triune God, we find:

Every need addressed

Every blessing bestowed

Every promise fulfilled

Every prayer answered

Every sin forgiven

Every shame erased

Every step ordered

Every decision guided

Every circumstance controlled

Every distress redeemed

Every worry calmed

Every fear assuaged

Every pain comforted

Every delight enhanced

Every God-given task empowered

Every necessary truth revealed

Every enemy vanquished

Every injustice made right

Every purpose realized

Every spiritual hunger satisfied

Every moment inhabited by his presence

Every weakness overcome by his strength

Every trouble defeated by His power

Every judgment executed by His wisdom

No doubt the list could continue.

To meditate on God’s glorious realities one after the other increases the wonder for me.  Do you feel it too?

We’re wise to review now and then all that God lavishly provides.

No doubt we’ll find our spirits lifted and our faith increased.

And then let’s not keep the delicious wonder to ourselves but tell others about his marvelous deeds. 

With whom will you share today about the glorious realities of God?


Scripture references:

Section #1—Philippians 4:19; Psalm 84:11-12; Psalm 145:13b; John 15:7 (Every prayer is answered with yes, no, or not yet.)

Section #2—1 John 1:9; Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 37:23; Psalm 23:3b

Section #3—Psalm 103:19; Psalm 25:22; Philippians 4:6-7; John 14:27

Section #4—2 Peter 1:3; John 16:13; Psalm 147:3; John 10:10

Section #5—Matthew 5:6; Romans 8:31; Colossians 3:25; Job 42:1;

Section #6—Isaiah 41:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Ephesians 3:20-21; Deuteronomy 32:4

Photo credits: http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.bibleverseimages.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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As far as I know, the apostle Paul was not one to create surprises. It’s possible he arranged a surprise birthday party for Barnabas, or gave a gift-for-no-reason to Timothy, or secured a bouquet of flowers for Lydia in appreciation for her hospitality, but there’s no record of such deeds.

However, when he prayed for the believers at Ephesus, he did include a startling statement:

Note that Paul asked God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, not so they would make judicious choices or recognize and follow God’s plan.  For me, those two requests would more closely fit what I’d expect.  Instead, Paul desired the Ephesians to know God better.

Centuries later, author/pastor A. W. Tozer brilliantly summed up why that would be uppermost in Paul’s mind:

Paul knew from his own experience that developing intimacy with the Heavenly Father would provide more pleasure, meaning, and satisfaction in this life–beyond what earth can offer. In fact, life’s journey can become a wonder-filled treasure hunt as we study the scriptures and look for evidence of God’s glorious Presence all around us, because:

God’s richest gift . . . this side of eternity

is the revelation of himself.

F. Elaine Olsen (1)

As we seek to know God better, we’ll discover delightful facets of his shimmering Personhood—facets such as these:

  • Grace.  Even though he knew every act we’d commit that would break his heart, God the Son willingly died for us anyway.  Nothing can separate us from his fierce love.
  • Goodness.  Even when trouble overtakes us there is good, because there is always God—with his empowering strength, his sweet comfort, and his unfathomable peace.
  • Power to transform. “All we are is by Christ, all we have is from Christ, and all we will be is through Christ” (2).  He alone can transform us, creating beauty out of ashes. 
  • Power to produce.  What we offer him may be as insignificant as five loaves and two fish, but when we put them in God’s hands, he produces more than we can imagine.
  • Love.  “Every door that opens into a treasury of love shows another door into another treasury beyond.  We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of God’s goodness, or any experience for which he will have no blessing ready” (3).

That’s because our God is a “way-making, promise-keeping, battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling, faithful Friend and Savior” (4).  What treasure could possibly surpass such magnificence?


  1. F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond the Scars, 27.
  2. Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 206.
  3. J. R. Miller, quoted in Seasons of the Lord, 199.
  4. Kaitlyn Bouchillon, Take Heart, 210.

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

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Given that everything in the universe has its origin in God [1], it stands to reason music originated with God. 

Granted, he could have bestowed the gift without participating himself, but scripture indicates otherwise.

In Psalm 42:8b we’re comforted with this assurance: “by night his song is with me.”  Our part is to pay attention to the lyrics that proclaim his perfections and good works—lyrics he sings over us straight from his Word. When we memorize verses of God’s Song, they can comfort our hearts even in the darkest of times [2].

In Psalm 32:7 we read of God’s “songs of deliverance” that encourage and inspire.  Where might we hear these songs?

In the calming sounds of nature.  Creation is full of God-Song—beyond the musical offerings of birds.  Think of burbling streams, the wind humming through evergreens, frogs ha-rumphing, crickets chirping, and the soulful underwater cries of humpback whales. 

Indeed, God-Song surrounds us in the air, on land, and in the sea, reminding us we’re enveloped in his love.  And because of that love, he provides deliverance from fear, trouble, distress, and the evil one [3].

Second, we hear songs affirming his goodness, dependability, and compassion in his Word [4].

Third, we hear God’s Song through the uplift of hymns and other Christian music. Men or women may be listed as the composers and lyricists, but surely all would give God the credit for his inspiration and empowering.

In Zephaniah 3:17 the prophet depicts God delighting in his people with song. 

“He rejoices with joy and joys with his singing,

which shows how delighted he is with his people . . .

his own righteousness upon them,

his own grace in them.”

— John Gill

Of course, God wants us to make music also, and not just with our voices and instruments.  God longs to come alongside, and within the sphere of his influence, make sublime music with our lives—much more beautiful and satisfying than anything we could accomplish on our own.

Perhaps you saw the video—based on an actual event (and available on YouTube):

A young father settles into his concert hall seat next to his wife, just as a performance is about to begin.

“Where’s Tommy?” he asks.

“I thought he was with you,” she exclaims, worry lines already criss-crossing her forehead.

At that moment the curtain goes up to reveal a little boy, oblivious to the audience, sitting at a grand piano, legs dangling above the pedals.  Tommy.

 One single note at a time—and rather haltingly at that—he begins to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

“Go get him!” Mom cries in a stage whisper.

Too late.  A tuxedoed man is already approaching the piano from behind Tommy.

Will he reprimand the boy for touching the concert grand? Will he demand that the parents of the delinquent come to collect him?

No, he quietly leans over the boy and tells him to keep playing.  Then he envelopes Tommy with his arms, and begins to add Mozart’s intricacies to the simple melody.  Together they make sublime music, and both smile with pleasure.  So does the audience.

That’s a picture of how the Virtuoso of the universe delights to make music with us, to raise our paltry human effort into transcendent God-Song.  With his righteousness over us, and his grace in us, we can make beautiful music. 

And those around us will hear and smile with pleasure, including the Maestro himself [5].

If you’d like to watch the video:

Art & photos credits: http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com.


[1] Colossians 1:16

[2] Psalm 23:4

[3] Psalm 34:4, 17; 107:6; Matthew 6:13

[4] Psalm 31:19; 145:17; 103:13-14

[5] Ephesians 3:20

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

God’s grace

 

God is . . . a personal Father who cares,

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

and then went away to let it run by itself.

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

–Unknown

 

 

God’s faithfulness

 

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

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

He keeps His promises.

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

–Gloria Gaither (2)

 

 

God’s goodness

 

Of all the things our minds can think about God,

it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most

and brings the most profit to our soul.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

God’s compassion

 

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow;

the same everlasting Father who cares for you today

will take care of you tomorrow and every day.

Either he will shield you from suffering,

or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, put aside all anxious thoughts

and imaginings, and say continually:

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart has trusted in him and I am helped.

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

–St. Francis de Sales

 

 

God’s love

 

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

for there is a force of love moving through the universe

that holds us fast and will never let us go.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

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

 

 

Notes:

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

 

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

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After a long siege of cold, dismal days in our area, Saturday dawned warm and bright—a perfect morning to tend the planting beds in front of our house. You’d think that inclement weather would stunt spring growth. But it seems all God needs is plentiful rainfall to paint the landscape in countless shades of green.

 

 

But even on a morning of sunshine and birdsong, I am not one of those gardeners who revels in puttering about in the dirt. My attitude is much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s toward writing. He said, “I dislike writing; I love to have written.”

I dislike gardening; I love to have gardened.

 

(Oh, to skip the gardening for a “have gardened” spot like this!)

 

Not that we have fussy plants needing a lot of attention. We purposely chose bushes and perennials that don’t. Nonetheless, they do require a seasonal schedule of fertilizing, occasional pest control, weekly trimming and weeding.

Sometimes I turn my plant-tending duties into a gratitude challenge, to help pass the time more pleasantly. How many things can I notice to thank God for? Of course, a cardinal serenade, the neighbors’ friendly hellos as they walk by, and a welcome breeze are often included.

 

 

Sometimes a new item makes the list, like the tiger swallowtail butterfly that stopped by one time to cheer me on.

 

 

But Saturday I decided to follow Wordsworth’s advice:

 

 

As it turned out, many lessons presented themselves; perhaps too many to share here. I’m prayerful that among the observations below, you’ll find a new idea to ponder.

 

  • Weeds overtaking a garden remind us of such sins as worry, discontent, and fear that can quickly grow out of control and overtake the mind (Psalm 31:13-15). They need to be routed by the calming truth of God’s Word.

 

 

  • Plants that turn toward the sun, in order to absorb energy for photosynthesis, bring to mind the faithful child of God. He turns toward the Father of heavenly lights in order to absorb the strength, encouragement and wisdom the Father offers, thus enabling the believer to grow in spiritual maturity (Ephesians 5:8-9).

 

 

  • On Saturday I clipped the first three roses for 2020. Of course, I wore my gardening gloves to avoid the prickly thorns, and this familiar quote came to mind:

 

 

I love the way a turn of phrase can turn my thinking and my attitude. You too?

 

  • Every summer we enjoy a constant replenishing of sunshine-yellow day lilies, lavender hydrangeas, as well as the blushing pink roses—all perennials that bloom faithfully year after year.

They offer a reminder of God’s grace—the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God—always plentiful, beautiful, reliable, and never-ending.

 

(A perennial flower bed, though not ours)

 

  • Pruning back the low-hanging branches on the weeping cherry tree brought to mind John 15:1-2. In those verses, Jesus compared the vinedresser’s work of pruning to God’s work of cutting away everything in our lives that’s not to our benefit.

Sounds painful, doesn’t it. But instead of dreading such action, we can be happily grateful. The pruning liberates us from all the dead weight that interferes with God’s blessings.

For example, the slicing away of self-centeredness allows the blessing of generosity to flourish (Acts 20:35). The snipping off of negativity permits more pleasure of positivity (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

And the removal of prideful self-sufficiency fosters the growth of peaceful dependence in the all-sufficient One, God himself (2 Corinthians 3:5).

 

Well, it’s just as I thought. More lessons came to mind last Saturday morning than can be shared here. This post is long enough.

The exercise did accomplish its purpose. Before I knew it, the time for gardening had given way to have gardened. I not only came away with roses for a vase…

 

 

 

…but blessings for my heart.

 

What lessons have you discovered while working in the yard?  Share your experience in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.canva.com (4); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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What are the immense graces of this moment for you?  Please share an example in the Comment section below.  Let’s celebrate together the gifts of His love.

 And a joy-filled day of Thanks-giving to all!

 

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