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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

 

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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Interesting, isn’t it, how the slightest trigger can transport us back through time?

  • A song might remind us of that first date with our spouse
  • The fragrance of lilacs brings to mind a previous home
  • The first bite of a family recipe at Thanksgiving conjures up bittersweet memories of another table long ago

 

 

They say that the memory of everyone we’ve known, every place we’ve been, and everything that’s happened to us is submerged in our subconscious. And the slightest nudge—haphazard as it might be–can bring a memory bobbing to the surface with surprising force.

But there’s another kind of remembering—a deliberate quest to seek truth for our lives—to understand how the hurts, mistakes, and losses, the treasured times, precious people, and lessons learned, reveal God’s work within us and for us, bringing good from it all.

For example, looking back through our memories we see:

 

God has given us strength to persevere.

At times we thought we’d never make it. Friends proved unfriendly and while the sting smarted we struggled to understand why the relationship went wrong.

Circumstances turned our lives upside down and we couldn’t see how to make things right again.

Death claimed a loved one and the pain seemed unbearable, unending.

 

 

But here we are. We survived, because God brought us through each calamity.

 

God has taught us the value of his wisdom.

Most of us have made choices along the way that seemed right but proved wrong.

Perhaps it was a relationship with someone whose habits provided troubling warning signs, but we ignored them and later suffered heart-rending hurt.

Or, perhaps we pursued an appealing, self-serving dream, only to discover its fulfillment did not produce the satisfaction we expected.

Some of us had to learn the hard way: God’s wisdom in scripture is truth after all, including his warning against relationships with fools (Proverbs 13:20) and the emptiness of selfish gain (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

 

 

But he also promised blessing for those who follow his all-wise guidance:

 

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

–Proverbs 16:20

 

God has demonstrated his faithfulness in countless ways.

Consider the categories listed below and allow your memory to plumb the depths, bringing to the surface people, places, and events from the past that reflect God’s faithfulness:

 

 

  • Nurturing family members
  • Loyal, supportive friends
  • Secure places of contentment
  • Health issues resolved
  • Knots of circumstances untangled
  • Necessities miraculously provided
  • Blessings bestowed, not even asked for

 And what can we anticipate as the result of this kind of remembering?

Peace.

Because we realize for all our yesterdays, God has…

…enabled us to power through on his strength,

…provided his wisdom to guide us through murky circumstances,

…and been at work in our lives for our benefit—sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes in the form of lessons.

 

 

Such reassurances can settle fear, doubt, and worry, allowing peace to flourish today and into all our tomorrows.

This kind of remembering intentionally entwines past and future so memories become woven into faith-filled expectation.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.needpix.com; dailyverses.net.)

 

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“Be still and know that I am God (1).

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

It starts with ‘be.’

Just be, dear one.”

–Shauna Neiquist (2)

 

Moments of quiet, contemplative silence are rare for many people. We’ve been swept up in the cultural norms of productivity: use time wisely and stay on task. Better yet, multi-task.

But there is tremendous power and blessing in stillness.

Quietness of spirit:

  • creates space for us to hear God’s voice
  • builds bonds of trust between us and God
  • accelerates our understanding of God
  • revitalizes our spirits
  • brings the peace of God to our hearts

Surely these are desirable outcomes that warrant a few minutes each day to just be—in the presence of God.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we achieve such a goal when other responsibilities clamor loudly for our attention?

Like any priority, we must make time.   Begin with five minutes; you’ll soon be craving more.

Choose a secluded place. For years I sat at our kitchen table early in the morning, before anyone else in the house got up. Now I enjoy the luxury of a private home office. But when the weather allows, I revel in sitting on the deck with God, surrounded by his creation.

Not everyone has such options. I know one young mother who has chosen the bathroom as her place of stillness!

Put your God-given imagination to work. We considered the gift of imagination a couple of weeks ago, in a post titled: Oh, What We’re MissingYou can borrow my visualization if you like–the one I use if quiet time must take place indoors:

 

 

Picture a peaceful lake shrouded in morning mist.  On a dock are two Adirondack chairs, one for you and one for Jesus. He’s already sitting in his, because he loves to spend quality time with his children.  As you settle in your chair, reach out your hand for his. Just sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Another option: picture a place where you’ve experienced Jesus’ peace before, and imagine yourself there with him again.

Be physically still.  Relax.  The original Hebrew word translated “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” Take several slow, deep breaths, and prayerfully set aside the to-list and concerns.

Focus on Jesus and contemplate his attributes. When distracting thoughts pop up (and they will!), add them to the to-do list or the prayer list as needed (keep them handy!), then turn back to Jesus.

Remember:  He understands how hard it is for us to sit quietly with him; he does not expect perfection. What he does treasure is our persistence to seek him (3).

 

 

Listen. “Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we will enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)” (4).

You may wish to keep a journal and pen nearby as God reveals impressions in your heart.  Perhaps it will just be one word or a single thought at first. Write it down. From that starting point you just might grow a paragraph, or even a page of God-thoughts.

But don’t worry if you hear no whisper. “In God’s presence is peace (Isaiah 26:3), joy (Psalm 16:11), and strength (Proverbs 18:10)—whether words are exchanged or not.

In A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her Uncle Vince, who had constructed a prayer room complete with fake paneling, some stained glass from an old church, and a couple of old, musty tapestries. The only furniture was a small prayer kneeler and a Bible stand.

 

 

Joni remembers thinking it was stuffy and tacky. Years later she realized how wise Uncle Vince was to have a special place where he met Jesus. That was undoubtedly the reason he prayed on the golf course and on his hikes with Joni and her family.

“Uncle Vince encountered God every place, because he had one place,” she wrote (5).

How we need such a place…

…to just be.

It starts with be.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 46:10
  2. Shauna Neiquist, Present over Perfect
  3. Sarah Young, Jesus Always
  4. L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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“I made soup,” she says.

I peer into the pot to see a chicken leg, a whole apple, a cluster of green beans and an ice cream cone.

“Eat some!” she coaxes.

I spoon a bite and assure her, “Oh, this is delicious.”

She smiles broadly. “I make dessert.” And two-year old Maarit (Mah-rit), our granddaughter, trots back to her child-size kitchen to bake a plastic cake or pie.

 

 

It’s such fun to watch little ones enjoy their vivid imaginations, and it comes so naturally to them. No one has to teach toddlers how to pretend; they just do. But as we grow and leave childish things behind, most of us abandon our imaginings.

Oh, what we’re missing.

In a post a couple of years ago (Oh, Say Can You See), we looked at three ways an active imagination can positively impact our faith, helping us to better understand God, add insight to Bible reading, and see more in this incredible world he’s created.

Today let’s consider three more ways. 

  1. With an active imagination, we are more likely to see people and situations the way God sees them. 

In his Word he calls us to see people for what they could be and will be as they avail themselves of his transforming power. We’re also called to see situations with forward-looking faith in God’s ability to do far more than we can imagine (1).

By contrast, our thoughts too often veer to the negative. We forget what the Apostle Paul told us in Philippians 4:8—to think on excellent and praiseworthy things.

 

 

C. S. Lewis helped a woman do just that in a letter he wrote as she lay in a hospital contemplating the possibility of death:

“Think of yourself,” he said, “just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But the cock-crow is coming” (2).

Surely Lewis’s words stirred fresh hope in her heart as he awakened her imagination to a new perspective. In your mind’s eye, can you see excellent, praiseworthy events unfolding in the situation that most concerns you? Allow such imaginings to provide fresh hope for your heart.

  1. With an active imagination we can envision the kingdom of God that exists here and now, even though hidden from view. 

The very nature of faith requires imagination, because the kingdom of God cannot be perceived by the senses. It exists invisibly among and within those who invite King Jesus to rule in their lives (3). But our imaginations can help us access the invisible through the visible as we contemplate:

 

 

  • The glory of God in the splendor of creation
  • The rule of God in the organization of the universe
  • The goodness of God in our numerous blessings
  • The wisdom of God in his precepts that usher in abundant life
  • The power of God, as he transforms misery to joy, trouble to triumph, and even bitterness to forgiveness
  1. With an active imagination we can experience God more fully. 

For example, what if we:

 

 

  • Imagine God sitting with us as we pray, our hands pressed between his, his head leaning in close to hear our every word. Would it be easier to sense his presence, stay focused, and pray with more intensity?
  • Imagine God at our right hand as we work through our days (Psalm 121:5). He is our ever-present Protector, Guide, and Help. Might such visualization reduce stress? Could mindless tasks become sublime opportunities to enjoy his presence and access his strength?
  • Imagine God on his throne as we worship, with his dazzling radiance signifying splendor, and his voluminous robe representing power (4). Might the joy and passion of our worship-experience be enhanced as we contemplate his magnificence?

 

 

You might remember that Jesus held children in great regard. He suggested that adults become like little children to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-5). Granted, his emphasis was upon trust, loyalty and humility. But responding to him with the imagination of a child as well will help us fly beyond the stars.

 

 

I don’t want to miss that. I’m guessing you don’t either.    

 

Notes:

  1. Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 3:20
  2. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963, [2007]
  3. Hebrews 11:1; Luke 17:21
  4. Ezekiel 1:27; Isaiah 6:1-2

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.edwards.af.mil; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com.; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

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The summers of my childhood included a blend of games and activities with neighborhood friends, afternoons at the community pool, bike rides to the library, and a few weeks spent with Grandma Clara and Grandpa Henry who lived four hours away in Iowa.

No doubt some would describe our summer experiences as mundane, not realizing the joy hidden among the ordinary:

  • The delight of lazy Monopoly marathons
  • The wonder of fireflies in a jar
  • The satisfaction of a big bowl of buttery popcorn–after biking to the park and spending several hours of nonstop cavorting in the pool, then biking home again
  • The pleasure of tucking ourselves under the willow tree to read
  • The fun of an evening bike ride with Dad

 

 

It’s the small, happy moments—not the grand events—that contribute to satisfying days and a joy-filled life.

 

The joy of small…makes life large.

–Ann Voskamp (1)

 

However, I have to admit: my childhood-self took those lovely moments for granted. I lived unaware of God’s glory pervading my everyday experiences: his creative genius on display—even in the backyard, his love, peace, and security within a family grounded on Christian values, and his goodness to provide joy-filled moments that shimmer in my memory with holy perfection.

Now, as the decades have passed, I’m learning to identify more of the transcendent moments God provides, including:

 

 

  • A cardinal filling the silence of the woods with his hope-inspiring “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!”
  • A toddler wrapping her arms around my neck and crying, “I love you!”
  • A devotional that speaks exactly what I need to hear
  • An opportunity to encourage a waitress and see her concern turn to hope
  • A small gathering of family and friends quickly ballooning to twelve—with much laughter, camaraderie, and delightful conversation

 

 

God’s glory is on display right “in the middle of our minutes” (2).

 

So each night before falling asleep, let’s measure the moments of our days:

  • Taking note of God’s blessings and the delights of his creation; singing our praise for his breath-taking handiwork (Psalm 92:4; Job 5:9).
  • Thanking God for the camaraderie and conversation, hugs and support among family members and friends who keep us strong (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Counting the riches that result from abiding in God, beginning with peace (Isaiah 26:3), stability (Psalm 16:8), and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).
  • Celebrating the honor of ministering to others in Jesus’ name (Matthew 25:40), giving us purpose and cultivating fulfillment in our spirits.
  • Delighting in the opportunities to smile, laugh, and find moments of joy—even in the midst of trouble or frustration (Proverbs 17:22).

 

“Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.

It won’t take the potholes out of the road,

but it sure makes the ride smoother.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

 

And just as inches are measured into feet, so we can measure meaningful moments into satisfying days and a joy-filled life–because God is in them.

 

What meaningful moments are at the top of your list for today?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 167.
  2. Sara Hagerty, Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 109.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.geauxguard.la.gov; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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It happened again. I was reading a familiar Bible passage when a new question presented itself.

Here’s the scripture:

 

 

The first two reasons made perfect sense. Pushing through difficulty does produce endurance, and endurance results in the formation of character–traits like responsibility, self-discipline, and patience.

If Paul had concluded by saying character produced maturity, I’d have heartily agreed and read on. But he says character fosters hope, which led to my question: Why hope?

To begin, we need a clear understanding of what hope means. Which of these definitions do you find most insightful?

Hope is: a) looking forward with confidence and expectation (Beth Moore), b) the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible (Eugene Peterson), or c) happy certainty (J. B. Phillips).

 

 

Actually, instead of choosing, let’s weave them together: Hope is the attitude of looking forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to the reality being constructed though not yet visible.

Author Katherine Paterson would also have us understand: “Hope… is not a feeling. Hope is something we do”–such as:

  • Affirming God’s omnipotent power—power that can accomplish anything (Matthew 19:26).

 

 

When we are facing the impossible,

we can count upon the God of the impossible.

–Amy Carmichael

 

  • Remembering God’s promises of the Bible—promises that never fail (Psalm 145:13b).

 

 

Quit studying the problems

and start studying the promises.

–Ruth Graham

 

  • Practicing God’s presence—presence that instills comfort, encouragement, and strength (Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 41:10; Joshua 1:9).

 

 

Few delights can equal the mere presence

of one whom we trust utterly.

–George MacDonald

 

In the 1980s, retired millionaire Eugene Lang was asked to speak to the graduating six graders of his East Harlem alma mater. He planned to share his story and encourage them that effort and perseverance do produce success.

But when he took the podium, Lang changed his mind.

“Stay in school,” he charged them. “In fact, it is so important, I’m going to make you a promise. You stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

 

 

No doubt some of the students thought, “Yeah, right.”

Most of these kids had already experienced a lifetime-worth of disappointment. Why should they believe this old guy?

Yet even the most cynical among them had to admit: Mr. Lang did have the financial power to keep such a promise—a promise announced in front of numerous witnesses.

Soon Mr. Lang founded the I Have a Dream Foundation and convinced others to add their support. He exercised his own financial power to hire a project coordinator, finance field trips, and provide mentors and tutors for each student.

 

 

Mr. Lang made his presence known by taking students to restaurants and museums. He personally counseled them through crises, and intervened with school officials on their behalf.

The kids responded. They began to work toward the goal of a college education, learning self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility along the way. As those character traits and more developed within them, their hope grew that Mr. Lang’s promise would manifest itself in reality.

Six years after that impromptu offer, nearly ninety percent of the students graduated from high school, and close to half were enrolled for college in the fall. Character did indeed lead to hope—hope that looked forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to a reality under construction.*

 

 

Mr. Lang typified what God does for us, developing our character so we might grow in hope—a hope for every tomorrow based on his power, promises, and presence, and a hope that can see heaven through the thickest clouds (Thomas Brooks).

 

Addendum: As of 2017, approximately two hundred I Have a Dream programs were in operation in the United States and in New Zealand, assisting more than 16,000 students.*

 

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/nyregion/eugene-lang-dead-harlem-college.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.jbsa.mil; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.vaguard.dodlive.mil.

 

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(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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