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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

(The view from my deck chair)

 

As spring approaches I look forward to spending my morning quiet time on our deck—taking in the new foliage-finery of the trees, the happy chatter of birds, the whispering breezes, and the sweet aroma of alyssum from the deck planter.

There’s something about sitting with God in his Living Room* that opens our eyes to his glory and draws our spirits closer to his heart.

Saturday was just such a day. And as I sat in His presence, God seemed to say:

I’m so glad you’re here, Nancy! I’ve planned several discoveries for you this morning.

 

From the Trees

 

 

First, lift your eyes to the trees. Rejoice in the reminders of:

  • My strength (Psalm 93:1)–in the stalwart trunks
  • My refuge (Psalm 25:4)–in their far-reaching limbs, offering shelter from the heat
  • My provision (Philippians 4:19)–as they produce oxygen, give shelter to birds and animals, even provide food

Note the evidence of competence in their design–for purpose, beauty, and sustainability.   I am your God of Competence as well, and have designed you to fulfill an individualized purpose, provide the beauty of Christlikeness to those around you, and spend eternity with Me. 

 

From the Birds

 

(white-breasted nuthatch)

 

You can also revel in the birds—symbols of reliance on Me, and again, My provision (Matthew 6:26). Note the variety of color, pattern, song, and habit. Let the joy you experience watching birds remind you how I value your uniqueness.

Choose to celebrate who you are: the colors of your personality, the pattern of your life, the song of gifts and talents I’ve given you to share with the world, the habits of goodness I continue to form in you so you can impact others.

 

From the Squirrels

 

 

Together we can enjoy the antics of the squirrels! They too provide reminders for the life of faith:

 

  • Even when they walk upside down on a branch, they do not fall. Similarly, I make firm your steps and keep you from falling (Psalm 37:24).

 

  • With great confidence squirrels jump from limb to limb. You can live in great confidence also, because I’ve equipped you for what I ask you to do. (Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

  • Every time they return to their nesting tree, they follow the same pathway through the branches. They remember well which branches offer the best proximity to the next tree.

I have provided a sure pathway for you to navigate through life. You can run in the path of my wise commands; my ways will bring you home safely (Psalm 119:32a; 139:24b).

 

  • Squirrels can sit quite contentedly, even take a nap, on the very end of a branch—never concerning themselves they might fall or the branch might give way. They provide an example of perfect trust (Isaiah 26:3).

I am your security (Psalm 112:8). Out of My love and faithfulness, I will always protect you (Psalm 40:11)—even as I bring you home to heaven one day.

So when you find yourself at the end of a branch, and fear starts to creep in, send it scurrying away with My Word—verses like Psalm 27:1:

 

(Another view from our deck)

 

The Lord is my Light—

[My Joy, Peace, and Guide]

The Lord is my Salvation—

[My Protection, Provision, and Security]

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is my Stronghold—

[The Treasury of all good things]

Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

*      *      *

 

*a creative expression originated by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg

 

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“Here comes another one!” little Jim cried to his dad, as they stood atop the small airport terminal not far from their house. Father and son spent occasional afternoons watching the planes take off and land, much to Jim’s delight.

His sharp ears would pick up a plane’s droning buzz before his eyes could make out the small dot in the sky. He hardly breathed as the plane slowly descended, then lightly touched down on the landing field.

The wonder never grew old. And Jim wished more than anything to be in the cockpit, participating in the miracle of flight, not just observing.

That dream stayed with Jim all through school. Upon graduation he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, and then entered the Air Force. His plan was to become a commercial pilot after his term of service.

 

(The P-51 Mustang)

 

And then Jim chanced to fly a P-51, the fastest jet of the time and capable of flying almost vertically. After that experience, commercial piloting seemed much too tame.

Jim went back to school to earn his master’s degree in aeronautical and instrumentation engineering and graduated in 1957.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established the following year and Jim Irwin set his sites on becoming an astronaut. To achieve that goal he needed to become a test pilot.

 

 

Jim entered that program in 1960. Once qualified he was assigned to a top-secret mission: testing a plane that flew higher and faster than any previous aircraft.

Three times he applied for the astronaut program; twice he was rejected. Finally in 1966 his acceptance letter arrived. Jim’s first assignment was to direct the testing of a lunar landing module that engineers were designing.

 

 

Then came the moment he’d been waiting for. He and fellow astronauts David Scott and Alfred Worden were chosen for the Apollo 15 mission, scheduled to take place the summer of 1971.

Eighteen months of intense training were required to prepare the men for the twelve-day expedition, three of which would be spent on the moon.

The boy who wanted to fly would soar where only a dozen men had traveled before him.

 

 

Their mission included collecting rock samples and conducting experiments in an unexplored region of the moon. They would also be the first astronauts to drive a Lunar Rover that allowed investigation of a larger area than that of previous missions.

Jim was the eighth person to walk on the moon—certainly a thrill-of-a-lifetime. But later he would insist, those moments on the moon weren’t exciting because he was there, but because God was there. Jim profoundly sensed his presence.

 

 

He’d been a Christian for over twenty years by 1971, but “I was…[a] silent Christian,” he would explain.

On the moon, as Jim looked up at Planet Earth against the black backdrop of the universe, he marveled at its fragile appearance—so delicate that if someone reached out to touch it, the world would surely crumble and fall apart, he said. Jim experienced overwhelming awe for the creation of God and his love for the entire human race—love that sent his Son Jesus earthward to die in their place.

 

 

One of Jim’s responsibilities on the mission was to set up the mechanism for lunar experiments. Not all steps proceeded successfully. But instead of inquiring the NASA engineers, Jim prayed, because waiting for a reply from Houston would take too long.

Each time he sensed God telling him what to do, and he felt the supernatural presence of God with him as he worked. That sensation was so strong, Jim felt sure if he turned around, Jesus would be standing right there at his shoulder.

As complicated as the moon landings were, Apollo 15 proceeded without major problems. The three astronauts landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, even though one parachute (out of three) didn’t deploy.

 

 

A little more than two weeks later Irwin, Scott, and Worden were honored by a ticker tape parade in New York City. As Jim waved to the thousands gathered along the street, his heart ached for those who did not know Jesus as a personal Friend, and he felt God wanted him to tell others about his Son.

A year later Jim resigned from NASA and formed the High Flight Foundation to share about Jesus from his experiences as an astronaut, and to encourage archaeological research, confirming the accuracy of the Bible.

Jim even participated in exploration of Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where other adventurers claimed to have seen what looked like ship remains, high up on the slopes. Conjecturers proposed that perhaps Noah’s ark had been found.

 

(Mount Ararat, nearly 17,000 ft. in elevation)

 

Jim’s astronaut-status provided opportunities that other exploratory teams had not been able to achieve. Government officials allowed the High Flight Foundation access to sites that had been refused to others. Yet in spite of these privileges, Jim and his crew never found the ancient ark.

For twenty years after his moon-landing adventure, Jim Irwin told others that “Jesus walking on earth was much more important than man walking on the moon, that Jesus was the way to know God and receive eternal life.”*

 

 

The day before the twentieth anniversary of his homecoming from the moon, the boy who wanted to fly flew further still. Jim experienced his homecoming in heaven, due to a massive heart attack. He was survived by his wife Mary and their five children.

No doubt, James Benson Irwin heard those beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21)!” Only this time, Jim didn’t just feel Jesus’ presence. This time, Jim was able to see his Savior and Friend face to face.

 

 

* https://godreports.com/2100/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/

 

Sources:

  1. https://biography.yourdictionary.com/james-benson-irwin
  2. https://crev.info/scientists/james-irwin/
  3. https://defendingthechristianfaith.org/others-who-testify-of-faith-in-christ.html
  4. https://godreports.com/2011/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/
  5. https://ramsheadpress.com/messiah/ch17.html
  6. https://www.rocketstem.org/2015/07/07/rovering-across-the-moon-during-apollo-15/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.ebay.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil; http://www.nasa.gov; http://www.jsc.nasa.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (3); http://www.canva.com.

 

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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).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

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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