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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

“God’s presence flowed over me like liquid love.”[1]

Isn’t that delightful imagery?

Perhaps you’ve experienced God’s presence as liquid love—deep-down warmth drenching the soul through a God-enhanced moment, overflowing joy as he lavished favor upon you.

Looking back on 2021, I can identify such glorious moments and have included a few of them below.  Perhaps they’ll trigger memories of your own, when you experienced liquid love from God’s river of delights.

First, the highlight of 2021:  our youngest two granddaughters invited Jesus into their lives—one in August, one in December.  Nothing warms the heart more than seeing loved ones take this all-important step of faith!

Prior to Covid vaccines, a friend arranged a Zoom call for three of us to enjoy a cup of coffee together—virtually.  The delightful gab fest, mutual encouragement and prayer for one another did indeed generate the warm flow of God’s liquid love.

A week of balmy weather in April allowed us to bask in sunshine-amidst-bird-song much earlier in the year than usual.

(Deck view of our backyard, mid-April)

Inspiration for blog posts often comes at unexpected times.  One morning while getting ready for a women’s Zoom Bible study, an idea suddenly occurred to me. I smiled at the pleasure of it, knowing exactly where the notion came from!

After thirteen months of separation, we reveled in joining our son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters for dinner in their home.  The best moment:  reaching the third floor playroom, seeing the girls’ faces light up as they shouted, “Nana!” and tangling together in a glorious hug.

(Snuggling for a selfie)

Early May Steve and I were able to return to church. Though masks hid smiles and hugs were verboten (at first), we celebrated the togetherness of church family and the joys of in-person, corporate worship.

Mid-spring we watched four fox kits cavorting in the grass—a number of times.  Their jumping, wrestling, and teasing nips at one another made us laugh.  Better yet, such close encounters with God’s creatures feel like personal love-gifts from him.  Indeed, “God’s love notes are stashed everywhere.”[2] They even appear in our own backyard.

Speaking of love-gifts, one lies upon our living room floor—a new rug.  Though our wish-list was quite specific, and options studied online weren’t measuring up, the perfect choice presented itself in the first store we visited. (The discovery of a rug that appealed to both of us was a bit of miracle in itself!) 

A Ruegg family reunion (13 of us) in a large, rustic cabin took place in August.  What a glorious time of hiking, games, reading, long conversations, superb meals (planned and prepared by our older son and daughter-in-law), and even a song-fest around the fire pit one evening—all enjoyed in perfect weather no less.

Another cabin-adventure—this time with old friends–occurred in October.  The mountain view out the back windows took our breath away; the laughter, banter, and coziness of our relationship produced a considerable uptick of endorphins. 

(Mineral Bluff, Georgia)

Granted, people take pleasure in nature, family, friends, and delightful experiences all the time—without God. But for believers in Christ, the pleasure of each gift is richly augmented because God is in it with us.

Another gift?  The overflow of liquid love often becomes blissful tears.

Now it’s your turn. In the past year, how did God’s love flow over you like liquid love? Share your experience in the comment section below!


[1] Pat Chen, Intimacy with the Beloved, quoted by Linda Dillow in Satisfy Your Thirsty Soul, 82.

[2] Sara Hagerty, Unseen, 106.

Photo credits: http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.flickr.com; Steve Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com.

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“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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More than 1,000 miles east of the Philippines lies the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of earth’s oceans—so deep it reaches into the earth farther than Mount Everest reaches into the sky.  That’s more than 36,000 feet, or close to seven miles.

Not even today’s sophisticated submarines can submerge to that depth without imploding from the pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch–the equivalent of a full-grown elephant standing on your big toe.

But in 2014 oceanographers constructed a cube-shaped basket, attached it to cables, and dropped it into the depths of the trench.  The descent took four hours. 

They left the basket in place for twenty-four hours, to gather data by camera and hopefully collect samples of life—if it existed at all in such inhospitable conditions.

At the end of twenty-four hours, they used acoustic signals to release the weights that had caused the basket to fall.   With the help of flotation devices, it then rose to the surface.  Against all odds, here is what the scientists found in the trap:

The new species of fish, about eleven inches long, received the name Mariana Snailfish.

Video revealed their activity in the depths—swimming, tail-swishing, foraging—what you’d expect from healthy fish.  They appeared to be perfectly content, unfazed by the bone-crushing pressure of the water around them.

So how do they survive?

God has especially equipped them.  For example, instead of bones snailfish skeletons are made of cartilage that can withstand pressure. These fish also produce certain fatty acids that help cell membranes stay flexible. Even at the molecular level, the muscles of the Mariana Snailfish contain certain enzymes that help them flourish at the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, scientists believe the following characteristics also contribute to their survival: big stomachs,  transparent skin, thinner muscles, and incompletely closed skulls. 

Just as the Mariana Snailfish can withstand extreme physical pressure, we can endure extreme mental, emotional and spiritual pressure—with God’s special equipping.

First, he’ll gladly help us develop resiliency—the ability to handle significant sources of stress. The snailfish manifests several characteristics in the physical realm that can be applied in the spiritual.

A Big Appetite

The large stomach reminds us that those who have a big appetite for God’s truth in the Bible also tend to be survivors; they’re strengthened to withstand the pressures of life.

Abraham Lincoln was just such a person, enduring great pressure from politicians, the press, and the burden of civil war.  He had this to say about scripture:

Transparency

This quality reminds us to be transparent about our concerns–before God and a few good friends. Just telling someone else about our stresses has been proven by researchers to reduce anxiety—a truth scripture has taught all along.[1]

It’s worth noting that just as the Mariana Snailfish lives completely at peace in the midst of physical pressure, we can live completely at peace in the midst of emotional stress as God frees us from worry and trusted, grace-filled friends support and encourage.[2]

Flexibility

These fish are also examples of flexibility—deep down at the cellular level.  You’ve probably heard the maxim, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  The flexible person will look to God for the adjustments needed to handle the pressures of life  and search out his guidance for how to cope.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, would have us remember:

If we allow the stresses of life to accomplish the latter, they will not only be survivable, they will be accompanied by the deep contentment of nearness to God.[3]

Notes:

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

[2] James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 12:25

[3] Philippians 4:11-13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

Sources:

  1. https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/28/theres-a-deeper-fish-in-the-sea/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01158-x
  3. https://theconversation.com/the-deepest-dwelling-fish-in-the-sea-is-small-pink-and-delicate-88991
  4. https://www.natureasia.com/en/research/highlight/12923

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pxfuel.com and http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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In the cool of morning two weeks ago, I sat on our deck before the sun had cleared the distant trees–much less those close by.   Below, the creek bed of lush foliage loomed dark and still, but above me birds chattered happily while one lone cardinal out-sang them all.  Thankfully the cicadas hadn’t started their ruckus yet.

a bit later in the morning

From several blocks away, commuter traffic already rumbled, and high in the sky the occasional jet roared northward.  Yet the serenity of my immediate surroundings superseded the extraneous noise.

And I sensed God saying to me:

Breathe in the stillness, in spite of traffic din and aircraft drone. 

I’m referring to the serenity you feel in your spirit because of what you see around you:  quiet trees unmoved by breeze, the tranquil creek bed, and the peaceful yard to the east where golden light silently presses against deep shadow—portraits of stillness in spite of the noise.

Be mindful that, as the sun faithfully turns darkness into day, my face shines faithfully upon you with the golden light of peace (1).  I push back the shadows of worry and fear while the noise in the world clamors around you—political factions arguing against one another, loud voices contending for self-serving agendas, terrorists, criminals, and thugs wreaking havoc, and more (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Learn from the birds and woodland creatures who find refuge in the thick foliage of bush and tree. You too can find refuge—in me.  In fact, peace grows in direct proportion to time spent with me (2).

Picture yourself surrounded by my protective, calming presence and affirm:

  • I will never stop caring for you or supplying your every need (3)
  • I will never leave you to struggle alone (4)
  • I will never fail you, no matter how the future unfolds (5)

Focus the eyes of your spirit on such promises. Feel their truths calm your heart (6).

Even as the noise of this world grows louder because the end of time draws near, breathe in such peace-generating realities often.  Let them usher you into my Presence, surround you with comfort, and encourage your soul (7).

I long for you to live within the tranquility and protection of my Presence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Father, for even wanting to be my shelter. Thank you for your loving care expressed in countless ways over the decades.

I know you are trustworthy. I praise you for your unfailing love that will see me through whatever the future holds. In addition, you will provide quiet refuge within my spirit where I can rest in you.

Help me keep focused on you, to live in the shelter of your love no matter the noise of the world.

(1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 32:10;

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

  1. Numbers 6:24-26
  2. Isaiah 26:3
  3. Philippians 4:19
  4. Isaiah 41:10
  5. Hebrews 13:5c
  6. Psalm 119:50b
  7. Psalm 119:165

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; www. heartlight.org.

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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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Retirement:

a time to enjoy all the things

you never had time to do

when you worked.

–Catherine Pulsifer

One of my retirement pleasures is watching the circus squirrels in the strip of woods behind our house.  They spiral the trunks in a speedy game of tag, balance at the tip of a branch without fear, and make dare-devil leaps from tree to tree.

One day I discovered those leaps are part of a habitual route squirrels follow to and from their homes.  Turns out they do not gambol haphazardly from tree to tree but “lay out and follow (probably by scent) pathways through the branches.”[1]

Mammalogists surmise this behavior is especially handy when they’re in a hurry. When danger lurks, the little critters can high tail it home with ease.

Sometime later the Spirit combined what I was learning about squirrels with what I knew about brain research (from teaching elementary school), and taught me an important lesson.

Neurons, confocal flourescence microscopy

First the brain research:  We create neural pathways in our brains with behavior. The more we repeat a behavior, the stronger and more deeply imbedded that behavior-pathway becomes until it is habit.[2]

The lesson?  Like the squirrels that lay out pathways through the trees to their nests, we can lay out pathways in our brains that lead home to the refuge of our Heavenly Father.

The question becomes, what are the branches that can make a habitual pathway to God?

I believe scripture truths form the stoutest limbs.  As we memorize encouraging verses and pray them again and again, the pathways of faith, strength, peace, and more become embedded—not only in our minds but in our spirits.  Reciting them back to their Author propels us into his Presence.

What might be some worthwhile passages to include?  Oh my.  The Bible offers a whole forest of reliable scripture-branches, ready to become part of the pathway into God’s sanctuary.

Here are a few of my favorites, though less traveled than some scriptures. You probably won’t find these on a list of “Top Ten Most Popular Bible Verses”—I checked!  But they’ve proven particularly helpful to me.

First:

You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.

John 13:7

Granted, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples the night of his arrest, so some would frown on applying them personally.  But the way this verse turned up during my quiet time one morning, precisely when I needed reminding of God’s wisdom and intentionality, led me to accept it as his confirmation for the moment.  Again and again, he has brought this truth to my mind.

Second:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is

noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy

—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Those negative emotions of worry, fear, hopelessness, and more can be whisked out of the way, as we focus on everything positive and follow this reliable branch to God’s peace and joy.

Third:

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do

good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Each of us was created for God’s glory—to reflect his attributes—and accomplish good works.  Therefore, our lives have purpose and value.  That’s a strong branch to follow back to his affirming Presence when worthlessness wants to knock us down.

The more time we spend traversing such scripture-truths, the more we absorb God’s thoughts and the more secure, contented, and useful our lives become.

Like the squirrels boldly scampering through the trees, we can confidently follow such pathways as these into the joyful presence of our Heavenly Father.

Come run with me!

You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 NIV

What scriptures offer stout branches for your pathway to God’s presence? Please share in the Comments section below!


[1] https://www.berkshireeagle.com/arts_and_culture/entertainment/take-me-outside-squirrels-act-as-arboreal-acrobats/article_401341f4-5787-53cd-952b-218eeea93562.html#:~:text=Squirrels%20lay%20out%20and%20follow,to%20go%20in%20a%20hurry.

[2] https://healthtransformer.co/the-neuroscience-of-behavior-change-bcb567fa83c1

Art & photo credits: http://www.[xhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.recreation.gov; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; www. pxhere.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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I first heard that title-phrase–thin places–from a woman in my writers’ group. (Thank you, Colleen!) It refers to a location or moment in which we’re more aware of God’s presence, where the veil between heaven and earth seems particularly thin, and we experience a taste of how glorious heaven will be.

Someone might say, “But the Bible says so little about our eternal home.  How do we recognize those thin places?”

A few examples may help.  Think of a time when:

  • You encountered a breath-taking panorama of woodland flowers amid greening trees– on a day of sublime spring weather.  Did your heart fill with praise to the Creator for such beauty and perfection?
  • You found your skin tingling and your eyes stinging in response to music.  It may have been a moving classical piece like Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a rousing hymn such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness, or a soul-touching worship song like Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Matt Papa/Keith and Kristyn Getty).  And during the moments those lovely notes lingered, were you carried on wings of splendor into the heavenlies?
  • You received an unexpected gift, a note of genuine appreciation, or a sincere affirmation.  Did a wave of bright euphoria sweep through your spirit in response to this delightful love-expression, and did your heart turn to God with overflowing gratitude as the One who inspired it (James 1:17)?
  • A prayer was answered—more perfectly than you imagined—or an over-the-top miracle unexpectedly materialized.  Were you rendered speechless by the glory and wonder of it all?

Just think: 

If we celebrate astonishing beauty in this world . . .

. . . if we’re carried on wings of splendor by events here on earth . . .

. . . and if we experience euphoric moments within imperfect relationships . . .

. . . what pleasures must await in heaven that Christ was willing to die, in order that we might enjoy them with him?

Let the thin places be a reminder:  Though the earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), heaven offers more—much more.

Let that thought lead to praise.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Father, for those times and places I’ve sensed your intimate presence, when my heart felt strangely warmed as if touched by your holy hand.

I praise you for the fullness of joy you provide here and now in spite of my sins and shortcomings.  How precious is your loving kindness, O Lord! 

With happy expectation (a delight of its own), I look forward to the day when you’ll walk me through the veil and I will dwell with you in your glorious realm forever!

(Psalm 23:4; 16:11; 36:7; 23:6)

When or where have you encountered a thin place? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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“Nancy—kitchen window!” Steve stage whispered, loud enough for me to hear.

And while dashing from the office I cried, “Coming!” because his tone meant Steve had spotted something unusual in the backyard or the strip of woods beyond that.

“Look down in the thicket to the right of the black walnut tree,” he directed. I carefully scanned the undergrowth but noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

“You don’t see four little eyes looking out?” Steve asked.

I did not.

“Stand here,” he directed, and stepped back so I could position myself directly in front of him. Then he leaned in, raised his hand to my eye level, and pointed. “Look up a foot from the base of the trunk, scan two feet to the right, under that diagonal branch, then look for four bright spots close together.”

I directed my eyes down the sight line he gave me and followed his instructions. Sure enough, two little foxes were peering out from thick foliage that provided excellent cover. But with Steve’s guidance, I was able to share with him that exceptional moment. We’ve never seen fox kits since.

God also invites us to stand close to him—not just for moments of exceptional blessing, although he offers plenty of those. No, our Heavenly Father offers us life support in the form of strength, help, serenity and more when we draw near to him. The question becomes how—how do we move in close to God? How do we best avail ourselves of all he has to offer?

Perhaps the best way to begin is:

Say yes to becoming well-acquainted with God.

As Steve explained how to spot the foxes, I never once thought he might suddenly say, “Ha-ha! Made you look!” He’s not one to play silly pranks; he has proven himself trustworthy.

The best place to become acquainted with God and his trustworthiness is in his Word. Years ago a Bible teacher recommended that whatever passage we may be reading, look for evidence of God’s attributes and think how they’re manifested in our lives. It’s a delightful, uplifting exercise.

Some are obvious. In the psalms, for example, we find many statements describing him. He is:

  • A shield around us (3:3)
  • Righteous (7:17)
  • Always loving (13:5)
  • Our rock, fortress and deliverer (18:2)
  • Our Shepherd who provides, protects, and guides (23:1-6)

Other attributes are less obvious to identify. But in the opening verses of Romans, for example, we find evidence that God is:

  • A purpose-setter for each of us (1:1)
  • a promise-keeper (1:2)
  • holy—separated from all other beings because of his perfection (v. 4)
  • gracious (v. 5)
  • our source of peace (v. 7)

And as we consider how each attribute has been manifested in our lives we soon discover: to know God is to trust God (Psalm 9:10).

Say yes to practicing his presence.

Identify stops throughout each day—moments to refocus attention on our Heavenly Father through praise, gratitude and prayer. For me that includes a quiet time each morning, exercising to Christian music, worship at the window while waiting for the microwave, and reciting scripture before falling asleep.

When I taught school, I would use the trips between my classroom and the gym, library, computer lab, etc. for moments of worship.

Say no to more screen time or whatever competes for your attention yet accomplishes little.

Years ago a young couple in our church decided to finish their college degrees—even though both worked full-time and they had two young children. How did they find time to study?

W. and T. went to bed at 8:00 when their kids did, then got up at 3:00 or 4:00 to complete assignments and prepare for tests. With discipline and perseverance they achieved their goal.

We can do the same to achieve our goal of knowing God: make time to stand close with him in his Word, in his presence.

James the brother of Jesus wrote:

Notice God leaves the choice to us; we have to make the first move.

The day of the fox kit sighting my response to Steve could have been, “Too busy—can’t come!” But I would have missed an exceptional moment.

I’m so glad my response was, “Coming!”

________________________

Other posts that address these topics:

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (3).

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As I begin drafting this post, it’s Monday afternoon, May 11, and the temperature outside is forty-eight degrees. No, we do not live in the far north where such weather might be normal for mid-May. Our home is in Cincinnati, right across the Ohio River from the South—Kentucky to be exact.

Nonetheless, this spring has been a chilly and wet one for us (including parts of the South, I have to admit). Tomorrow morning meteorologists have issued another freeze warning for parts of our area. And the ten-day forecast includes five days of rain.

 

 

Sooner or later, however, summer will defeat winter. And while anticipating sunshine and short sleeves, I remember the Bible verse, “The Lord God is a sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11).

Perhaps I can keep myself cheerfully occupied, even on a damp and cloudy afternoon, by contemplating God’s sun-like qualities.

For example:

  • The sun is ever-present. No matter how gray the sky, the sun’s rays penetrate, supporting life on our planet. Praise God he is always present, always supporting us–especially on the dark days of pain, sorrow, or hardship (Psalm 46:1).

 

 

  • The sun is perfect in size, brightness, temperature, and even distance from the earth, in order to sustain life on our fragile planet. Praise God he engineered such perfection and breathes life into every creature (Job 12:10).

 

 

  • The sun is big, its mass making up 99.8% of our solar system. Most of the final .2% comes from Jupiter. Earth is a mere speck by comparison. Yet our God is bigger than the entire cosmos, filling heaven and earth with his omnipresence (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

 

 

  • The sun’s gravitational pull keeps all the planets of the solar system orbiting around it. God the Son proclaimed that he would draw all people to himself. And within the orbit of his love and care we can thrive (John 12:32; Hebrews 11:6).

 

 

  • The sun provides remarkable beauty at sunrise and sunset. And to the far north, solar wind creates the mesmerizing light patterns of the Aurora Borealis. Of course, God is responsible for such displays and countless more across the planets, the galaxy, the universe (Psalm 104:24).

 

(Space Nebula)

 

  • As already mentioned, the sun offers life-changing benefits such as: 1) light, symbolic of God’s enlightenment, guidance, and goodness (Daniel 2:22, James 1:17), 2) warmth and comfort, reminding us of our contentment in God (Proverbs 19:23), and 3) good cheer when it breaks through stubborn clouds, a metaphor for the face of God shining on us with blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).

 

 

Of course, the comparison of God to anything else eventually breaks down.

For example, we can never have too much of God, but too much sun is detrimental to plant life and humans. That’s when it’s valuable to remember the second part of Psalm 84:11 (the verse where we began this exploration):  our God is also a shield.

 

 

 

I’m thinking of my brother’s and sister-in-law’s vegetable garden—carefully fenced to keep out critters, and also outfitted with a removable screen roof. They live in south/central Texas where summer temperatures can top one hundred degrees for days at a stretch. That screen does an excellent job of shielding the plants from scorching heat.

And the images of both sunshine and shade depict another aspect of our all-proficient God: He provides exactly what we need when we need it. Sometimes it’s abundant blessing, sometimes its opportunity for challenge and growth, often it’s both at the same time.

 

 

“He suits himself to every varying circumstance in life.

He becomes what the exigency of the moment requires.

And as the psalmist well says,

he withholds no good thing

from those that walk uprightly.”

—F. B. Meyer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise You, O God, for your splendor like a glorious sunrise—when rainbow hues dance among the clouds. I praise you that every attribute contributing to your glorious splendor is also at work in our lives—your creativity, wisdom, power, and faithfulness.

 But when we’re overwhelmed by the heat of difficult times, I thank you for being like a shield. You are our Protector who attentively watches over us with your unfailing love. You are our safety, our eternal hope.

Thank you for your promise that through cold or heat, rain or shine: “Blessed is the one who trusts in you.”  

(Habakkuk 3:4; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 3:3, 8; Psalm 33:20-22; Psalm 84:12)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainfiles.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

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