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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

 

Christmas is indeed a season of light.

Candles glow and twinkling lights glimmer from houses, buildings, and trees.

People love all the flickering and shimmering!  Some spend weeks decorating their yards and rooftops in spectacles of illumination.  If you asked them why, they might be hard-pressed to express more than, “They’re beautiful!”

 

 

But perhaps it’s more than just aesthetics.  Perhaps it’s a heart-response.

Light is symbolic for:

  • Beauty.  Light grabs our attention, whether it’s sparkling and dazzling or soft and luminous.

 

 

  • Safety.  Where there is light, we can navigate through our surroundings.
  • Comfort.  A nightlight offers just that for many a child who is afraid of the dark.
  • Hope.  Light gleams triumphantly in the darkness at the end of a tunnel.
  • Guidance.  Light illuminates the way.

 

 

Might it be that people respond to light, especially when associated with Christmas, because the human spirit is made to respond to the Light?

Jesus came from the Father who is Light (1 John 1:5), and proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12).

But that statement is more than symbolic.

God the Son is our safety, because he offers eternal life.

 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;

no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

John 10:28-29

 

 

God the Father is our comfort, because he is loving and compassionate.

  

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

 

God the Son is our hope, because of his resurrectionWe will be raised from the dead because he was. 

 

“In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth

into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade—

kept in heaven for you.”

1 Peter 1:3b-4

 

 

God the Father is beauty, because of all his exquisite attributes.  And we have the opportunity to bask in that beauty.

 

“I’m asking God for one thing…

To live with him in his house my whole life long.

I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.”

Psalm 27:4  MSG

 

God the Father is guidance, characterized by wisdom, compassion, and readiness.

 

 

The Light of the world offers us all this and more.

I can’t imagine life without him, can you?

Let’s make time to linger in his Light during this Advent season.

 

 

Let’s be watchful for “Glory-moments, awash in his dazzling Light” (Sarah Young).

 

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How else might we expand our heart-response to Jesus?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.tOrangebiz; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (3).

 

(Revised and reblogged from December 2, 2013.)

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It was almost time for Mom and Dad to say good-bye and leave five-year old me—by myself—to spend the night at the hospital.

Yes, there was a pretty, friendly nurse who promised careful attention. But, of course, a strange bed in strange surroundings with strangers in charge, left me feeling very uncomfortable—in addition to the tonsillectomy-induced sore throat.

The thought occurred to me, I should have brought my special blanket. Its soft, pink familiarity would surely make me feel better.

When I expressed my wish out loud, Dad said he’d go home and get it.  (It wasn’t far.)  Mom stayed until he returned.

Dad’s response surprised me. I thought he’d say, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine without it.”

But Dad understood this was hard for me, and did what he could to ease my discomfort.

Nonetheless, it took a long time to fall asleep that night. But holding my security blanket close and rubbing my fingers against the satin trim did provide sweet comfort.

 

 

Perhaps as a child, you too owned a special blanket or stuffed animal that provided a sense of calm well-being at bedtime. However, part of the maturing process is letting go of such things, right?

No, in actuality, it’s just the source of security that changes as we grow up. Everyone seeks comfort in something, perhaps:

  • A settled career that provides a comfortable income
  • Meaningful and stable relationships
  • Good health, enhanced by careful eating habits and exercise
  • Physical safety, procured through security systems, guard dogs, etc.

 

 

But all of these examples offer only external security. And no matter how protected a person might feel today, we all know how quickly circumstances can change. Ask the one whose company downsized during the recession, the one whose spouse suddenly wanted “space,” the one who received life-altering news from his doctor, or the one whose computer files were hacked.

What we need is internal security. And that can only be found in God.

At the first sign of distress we can call out to him, asking him to draw especially close (Psalm 145:18).

 

 

And when difficult situations linger, we can meditate on God’s wonderful works, as King David did in his psalm of praise, #145. He suggests we:

  • Buoy our faith by remembering God’s miracles (vs. 4-6)
  • Affirm all the benefits and support he’s supplied (vs. 5-6)
  • Keep our minds focused on his glorious attributes (vs, 7-9, 11, 20)
  • Review God’s promises—such as those listed in verses 13-16
  • Remind ourselves that all his actions are absolutely perfect (v. 17)

 

 

Each uplifting thought offers soothing comfort. And strand after strand weaves a virtual security blanket for our souls–a blanket under which we can rest secure.

 

“The Lord’s beloved rests securely on him.

He shields him all day long,

And he rests on his shoulders.”

–Deuteronomy 33:12 CSB

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise You, Father, for the comfort, peace, and security you provide. You alone are able to make us dwell in safety and serenity, where no lasting harm can penetrate. Thank you for your abundant goodness to care for us as we trust in you.     

(Psalm 4:8, 91:4; Romans 11:38; Nahum 1:7)

 

 

(Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.recreation.gov.)

 

Is there a particular scripture you turn to for comfort?  Please share in the comment section below.

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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(Cincinnati Music Hall)

 

Recently my daughter-in-love and granddaughter invited me to accompany them to “Sing Hallelujah, Cincinnati!”–an event at our city music hall.

Vocal groups and instrumentalists from the metropolitan area participated, presenting music around the theme, “Hallelujah.” The experience turned out to be much more than I expected.

First, a brass band came marching in from the back, playing a jazz rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”–New Orleans style. By the time they exited out a side door at the front, we weren’t just applauding, we were smiling.

The genial atmosphere created by Cincy Brass was further enhanced by the relaxed and friendly master of ceremonies, Mr. Dilworth. In his opening remarks, he explained the meaning of hallelujah: to express joy and to praise God. And that’s exactly what we did for the next hour or so.

 

 

First, Mr. Dilworth taught the audience a hallelujah song, one segment at a time. Then he challenged us with a descant part. The final effort combining tune and harmony turned out quite pleasing. We applauded again, for Mr. Dilworth’s talented direction and our surprisingly good performance. Now we were smiling even more broadly.

Perhaps Mr. Dilworth knows the research: “Singing corporately produces a chemical change in our bodies that contributes to a sense of bonding” (1).

For the rest of the evening, one choir and ensemble after another wowed us with a broad range of music, including classical, traditional, ethnic (Ukrainian and African), gospel, spiritual, bluegrass, and jazz.

 

 

What made the occasion distinctive, however, was the racial mix among performers and audience members. And as the evening unfolded, the music became a catalyst for unity among us—in spite of various ethnic groups and a wide variety of musical genre.

Even though all of the pieces sung and played could not possibly be everyone’s favored styles, the entire audience clapped (Some even gave a shout now and then!) in enthusiastic appreciation for all participants.

We were bonded together in a unity of gratitude.

Also among us flourished the unity of contentment. For one hour we sat companionably immersed in the mutual pleasure of music.  Any rough edges of tension that might cause strain in other circumstances were smoothed over on this occasion–by the hallelujahs of praise.

Finally, there was the unity of joy—evident in the continuous smiles and occasional laughter.

And where there is joy there is the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

It’s probable not all participants and attendees were Christians. Most of the groups who performed would be categorized as secular.

But for this one evening, whether folks knew it or not, we drew close to God through grateful, contented, and joyful praise.   And as a glorious byproduct, found ourselves drawn closer to one another.

 

 

Note:

(1) Bob Kauflin (member of GLAD vocal band for thirty years), https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/words-of-wonder-what-happens-when-we-sing

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.jba.af.mil (Jordyn Fetter); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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From the time Darlene McIntosh was ten years old, she knew God wanted her serve him on the mission field.

By age twenty-two, Darlene was newly married to pioneer missionary Russell Deibler, and settled in the jungle of New Guinea where he had built a two-room home for her out of woven bamboo mats.

 

 

Russell and Darlene proceeded to build relationships with members of a nearby primitive tribe, the Kapauku, who had never heard of Jesus. She fell in love with the people, the work, and her surroundings.

On her twenty-third birthday in May of 1940, the couple heard that the Nazis had invaded Holland. It didn’t take long for the war to find them, even in their remote location. The Deiblers and other missionaries could have escaped to safety but chose to stay at their mission compound.

In January of 1942 the Japanese came and took the men captive. Russell’s last words to Darlene were: “Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us.” That was the last time she saw Russell; he would die in the prison camp.

 

 

For a short while, the women and one older man continued to live at the mission.

One night Darlene heard scuffling noises in the house. She got up from her bed and encountered a bandit armed with a knife.

Darlene surprised herself by rushing at him. Even more surprising, the bandit turned and fled; Darlene chased him out of the house. Suddenly a gang of bandits ran out of the jungle to join the first. She expected them to attack her. Instead the first bandit yelled to the others, and they all turned and ran.

From then on, the missionaries kept clubs at the feet of their beds, but they never had to use them.

Darlene always suspected the compound gardener had been the bandit, because he was familiar with the house. After the war, Darlene asked him why he had never tried to steal from the missionaries again.

“It was because of all those people you had there–” he replied.  “Those people in white who stood about the house!”

 

 

In May of 1943, Darlene and the other remaining missionaries were taken to a prison camp in Kampili. Commander Yamaji, a man with a mercurial temper, required strenuous work quotas of the six hundred women living there, including killing flies.

The flies bothered the pigs, raised at the camp to feed Japanese soldiers. Each prisoner was required to bring Commander Yamaji 100 dead flies every day (That’s 60,000 flies!)—even while completing numerous other tasks.

Darlene prayed for Commander Yamaji and was able to tell him about Jesus. “He died for you,” she told him. “Maybe that’s why God brought me here, to tell you he loves you.” The commander suddenly left his office with tears on his cheeks.

 

 

In May of 1944, the Japanese secret police came to escort Darlene to another prison. She was put in solitary confinement, falsely accused of espionage.

Darlene endured nightly mosquito swarms, near-starvation, malaria and other serious illnesses, inhumane conditions, brutal interrogations, and torture.

But only her Heavenly Father saw her tears, never the captors. She sustained herself by singing hymns, quoting scripture, and reciting Russell’s last words: God will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

 

One day Darlene pulled herself up to look out the small window of her cell. She saw a woman make her way to the fence, reach through the underbrush, and come away with a bunch of bananas, which she quickly concealed in the folds of her skirt.

Oh, to eat just one banana, Darlene thought. Lord, how I would love a banana! Darlene could not get the coveted fruit out of her mind. She talked to God about her craving, knowing that such a fantastical desire could not be fulfilled.

The next morning, Darlene had a surprise visitor, Commander Yamaji. Tears filled her eyes. “It’s like seeing an old friend,” she exclaimed.

“You are very ill, aren’t you,” he remarked.

“Yes, Mr. Yamaji, I am.”

When the commander left, Darlene watched him speak to the guards for a long time. Later she heard the familiar stomp of boots outside her cell. The door was unlocked and one of the guards threw a stalk of bananas onto the floor.

“From Mr. Yamaji,” he said.

With tears of praise to God, Darlene counted ninety-two bananas. God had provided—far above what she imagined. She savored them, one per day for three months.

 

 

Darlene would surely have been beheaded as a spy, but she was inexplicably returned to Kampili, the POW camp under Commander Yamaji’s leadership.

Soon nightly bombings began. The women hid as best they could in ditches. Every morning they would have to bury those who had not survived.

One night during the siege, Darlene felt compelled by God to leave her shelter in the dirt, go back to the barracks, and retrieve a Bible. By the time she returned to her ditch the bombing had subsided.

But during Darlene’s brief absence, her refuge had been hit directly and destroyed.

 

 

Finally, in the fall of 1945 the horrific ordeal ended. Darlene returned to her family in America to be nursed back to health. She weighed 80 pounds.

Four years later, Darlene was back in New Guinea. God had brought Gerald Rose into her life, another missionary who also carried a passion for indigenous people. They were married and together raised two sons. For forty years they served God, not only in New Guinea but also in the Outback of Australia.

In 1976, a friend told Darlene she had heard Mr. Yamaji sharing his story on Japanese radio. The angry and cruel prison camp commander had become a changed man because of Jesus.

 

 

No doubt God had used Darlene as an important influence in his life—and in the lives of countless others as well.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Almighty God, we exult in your sustaining power that carries us through even the most excruciating circumstances. You supply impossible strength, courage, and perseverance to endure. And just as Russell told Darlene, you never leave us nor forsake us. Hallelujah!

(Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:13; Deuteronomy 31:6; James 1:2-4, Deuteronomy 31:8)

 

Sources:

1) http://reneeannsmith.com/a/tag/darlene-deibler-rose/

2) http://pursuedandconquered.blogspot.com/2012/08/bananas-in-prison.html

3) http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Psalm-27-The-Lord-Is-My-Light-and-My-Salvation…Darlene-Diebler-Rose-Convocation-Fall-2016-kh.pdf

4) http://www.scripturaltruths.org/Articles/Real%20Life%20Experiences/REAL%20LIFE%20STORIES%20-%20Darlene%20Deibler%20Rose%20-%20Prisoner%20of%20War%20-%20May%202017%20-%20PDF.pdf

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.darlenerose.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org;www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com.

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