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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

(in celebration of Poetry Month)

Inside us all exists a place

unique in space and size.

Just one thing can fill this space;

it’s nothing money buys.

Some people try to fill the void

with work and busy-ness.

They think that to be well-employed

will bring true happiness.

Others try a different route—

they seek recognition.

But all too soon they learn about

the failings of ambition.

But inside me there is no void—

it’s a marvelous sensation!

Inside me grows peace and joy,

defying explanation.

The future holds no fear for me,

sleepless nights I don’t endure.

There’s no need to fret continually,

because my destiny is secure.

Even when problems come my way,

a sense of joy pervades.

From an inner strength, fears are allayed,

and anxiety begins to fade.

This peace and joy inside me

come from one amazing Source.

It’s Jesus Christ—he’s the key,

the almighty, empowering force!

The Lord alone can fit that space;

nothing else will ever do.

While following his excellent ways,

I experience his blessings too!

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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Have you been pillow-shopping lately? If not, be forewarned: the number of options may cause nausea, dizziness, and high blood pressure.

There are pillows made with down, fiberfill, foam, latex, gel, and even buckwheat hulls. Manufacturers also provide different levels of cushioning, and now pillows come in different shapes, depending on your sleep position or special needs such as neck pain.

All they want is for you to get a good night’s sleep, right? Oh, and sell you lots of different pillows until you find the one best for you!

For proper rest though, we need a different kind of pillow—not made from feathers, foam, or buckwheat hulls; not made by Mike Lindell. The pillows I’m thinking of can easily be taken with us wherever we go and never need to be replaced. They’re free too!

These special pillows have been available a long time, but perhaps Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher of Victorian England, was the first to make note of them. He suggested we “use the Lord’s words as our pillows,” and lie down upon them in restful faith [1].

We’d do well to understand:

God wants us to rest—physically (Psalm 127:2) and especially spiritually (Matthew 11:28-30).

In fact, the word rest, when referring to spiritual relaxation, is used over 200 times in scripture [2].

Spiritual rest brings tranquility of soul.

We can experience rest from anxiety and fear—even fear of death—as we place our confidence in God, our all-wise and powerful, ever-merciful and gracious, wholly-trustworthy and faithful Heavenly Father.

St. Augustine was right when he prayed:

The key to spiritual rest is acquainting ourselves thoroughly with God’s Word (Psalm 119:52).

It’s there we find the pillows of encouragement, hope, and peace we need in order to experience rest.

And what might some of those scriptural Word-pillows be? Here are three examples.

Pillow #1

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

–Exodus 33:14

Each moment we can choose to focus on God and his attributes, or on our problems and their difficulty. When we choose the former, He wields his attributes on our behalf.

  • His wisdom offers perspective, and keeps discouragement in check.
  • His power affords strength to endure.
  • His attentive care provides blessing in the midst of challenge.
  • His protection shields us from deep despair.
  • His provision supplies all that we need [3].

Pillow #2

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

— Jeremiah 6:16

The more we know of God and his attributes, the better-equipped we’ll be when adversity strikes.

Pillow #3

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace,

which exceeds anything we can understand.

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Such truths become all the more meaningful when we remember: the apostle Paul was in prison when he penned these words to the Philippians (1:14). From his own experience he wanted his readers to know that prayer and gratitude produce peace, as we depend upon our sovereign God whose ways are always right.[5]

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O God, help me rest in you and upon your Word-pillows of scripture.

 I thank you for the pillows of promise, reminding me of your sovereign power to provide whatever I need.

I thank you for the pillows of assurance, affirming your glorious attributes, always at work for the best conclusion.

And I thank you for the pillows of encouragement, reminding me that with you all things are possible, with you I can stand firm through life’s trials, and with you I am NEVER without hope.

(Psalm 23:2-3; Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 145:15-16;

John 5:17; Job 42:2; Ephesians 6:10-17 and 1:18)

What Word-pillow from scripture gives rest to your soul ? Please share it in the comment section below!


[1] Faith’s Checkbook, January 3.

[2] Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 241.

[3] Proverbs 2:1-11; Isaiah 40:31: Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 33:17-18; Philippians 4:19

[4] Psalm 18:30; Psalm 22:28; Deuteronomy 32:4

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.

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(What follows is an imaginary conversation between God and me as I contemplated the verses above.)

ME:

O God, at face value this proclamation excludes me from your presence. How unthinkable! I can’t imagine life without you actively involved, providing strength, wisdom, encouragement, and more.

But I haven’t led a blameless life, I haven’t always done what is right, nor kept my mouth from lies or insincerity. Any effort on my part to warrant access to your presence would fall horribly short of your standard.

However.  You understand what I’m made of; you know I’m just dust! You’ve provided the Way for me to enter your presence—even enjoy relationship with you—through your perfect and blameless Son.[1]

Jesus’ sacrifice in my place provided a figurative, pure white robe for me to wear, constructed from his uprightness, which is more than sufficient to cover all the stains of my sins.

It’s not my failures and wrongdoing that you see, but that radiant, spotless robe. “Thank you” seem such paltry words for such a precious gift![2]

And yet, even though I’ve been forgiven of all wrongs and no longer stand condemned, I dearly desire to be pure before you, including my thoughts, motives, and desires. 

I want to please you in appreciation for all you’ve done for me. In addition, a pure life of wisdom and goodness will allow me to experience the fullness of your blessings like peace and joy, untainted by any sin, guilt, or shame.[3]

How do I become pure, Father?

GOD:

(Put your name in the blanks.)

It pleases me greatly, __________, that this is your heart’s desire. Remember, just as my Spirit led you to Jesus, he is at work within you creating good.[4]

This is a joint effort, however. You strive toward purity while I strengthen you for the task and augment the outcome. With each step you take, the next one becomes easier as you grow in self-discipline.[5]

Let’s begin with your thought life. I inspired Paul to include eight adjectives that describe the kinds of thoughts that will cleanse the mind of negativity, discouragement, and temptation:

And the purest, most noble truth you can dwell on is my Word.

Within the covers of your Bible you find the guidance you need and the wherewithal to heed it, the encouragement to press on and the strength to do it, the comfort for every wound and the faith to embrace it.

And then pray, dear __________.  Seek the quality of purity as King David did when he asked, “Create in me a clean heart within me, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Thus empowered by noble thoughts, scripture-truth, and heartfelt prayers, you’ll learn to love the sound of your feet walking away from things not meant for you[6] and reveling in the pure things that are.

Then–such wonderful blessings I’ve reserved for you! Remember what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount?

To see me is to enjoy intimate fellowship with me. You’ll sense my presence with you. Together we’ll enjoy my glory reflected in creation, in the events of your life, and in the lives of others.

I’ll open your eyes to see rare splendors of my glory.  From morning till night, __________, you’ll be praising my name and I will smile with delight.[7]

ME:

O Father, grow me in purity so I may present it as a love-gift back to you, and as a means of experiencing the blissful life with you that you so graciously offer.

In the powerful name of your Son Jesus I pray, AMEN.


[1] Psalm 103:14; 1 John 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21

[2] Isaiah 61:10;

[3] Romans 8:1; Romans 12:1-2; John 14:21; Proverbs 2:1-11; James 3:17

[4] Philippians 1:6, 2:13;

[5] 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 5:22-23

[6] Based on quote, author unknown

[7] Isaiah 6:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 113:3; Psalm 147:11

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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While exercising last Friday I listened to a podcast of Pete Briscoe’s sermon, “Every Day Jesus.” He made the point that we can actually see “tangible evidence of his intangible love” if we’re paying attention.

Pete told the story of a man who began looking for hearts, as emblems of Jesus’ love for him. He found them everywhere—heart-shaped rocks, shells, clouds, a heart-shaped stain on his jeans, even a heart-shaped dinner roll.

Pete told Jesus, I’d like to find tangible evidence of you too.  That very afternoon he spotted a pile of grass clippings on the side of the road, shaped just like a heart. He shared a photo on the sanctuary screen, and sure enough, there was no mistaking it.

Oh Lord, I thought, while finishing a set of push-ups.  That sounds like such fun. But I wonder if my emblem might be different than hearts—something personal. What could I look for?

No sooner did I get up from the mat than there it was: a star—a big one—blazoned on the wheel of our exercise bike. (Jesus made sure I didn’t miss it!)

The verse in Revelation came to mind where Jesus calls himself the bright morning star (22:16). And brief research delightfully expanded my understanding, so I’d appreciate more the stars yet to be discovered.

Just as Venus, the morning star, is always present whether we see it or not, so is Jesus. He is FAITHFUL and TRUE (Revelation 19:11), even when there’s no evidence in the moment.

Just as the morning star gives us assurance of approaching dawn, so Christ gives us assurance of approaching eternal life with him in heaven. He is our HOPE (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And just as the morning star cheers the night-weary soul, so Jesus brings JOY to the discouraged soul (John 17:13).

Each star then, would be a reminder of my Savior’s unfailing faithfulness, the confident hope I have in him, and the ineffable joy he provides.

Since Friday stars have been appearing with surprising frequency.

For example:

A friend posted a photo of her snow-covered garden. Right of center stood a small windmill –with a star on top.

While looking for an old photo on my phone I came across a springtime star from our own backyard.

We watched our Cincinnati Bengals squeak a win over the Titans last Saturday night. I’d never paid attention before to the NFL logo—with its stars.

The Titans’ helmets also include stars. See them surrounding the T?

In our refrigerator are a half-dozen stars or so. . .

. . . if you were to cut the apples horizontally, instead of stem to calyx.

A devotional reading this week just happened to be titled, “Star Gazing.”

In my office you’ll find paper clips shaped like stars. . .

. . . and on a table sits a Czechoslovakian, star-topped creche that I leave out all year.

On a shelf in the family room a crystal star adds sparkle . . .

. . . and even makes rainbows when placed in the sun.

With each star discovery, my heart sings. He is here—with us—revealing his extraordinary presence among the ordinary moments of our lives.

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, after less than a week I’m already rich with stars! You’ve scattered them throughout my days with such creativity.  Thank you that each one reminds me: my faith is not misplaced, my hope is assured, and every joy of life is enhanced—because of your loving presence.

Do you find tangible emblems of Jesus’ intangible love as you go about your day? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

P.S. Here’s a link to Pete Briscoe’s sermon: https://benttree.org/sermon/part-1-everyday-jesus/

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.pxhere.com.)

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“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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