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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

(Cincinnati Music Hall)

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

We were bonded together in a unity of gratitude.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Note:

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

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

 

 

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

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

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

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Mr. Yamaji, I am.”

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

“From Mr. Yamaji,” he said.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

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

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

 

Sources:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Imagine God on the sixth day of creation, surveying the work he’s accomplished.

Craggy mountain peaks reach upward toward cerulean skies.

 

 

Undulating oceans teem with thousands of different kinds of fish and sea creatures—from protozoa to humpback whales.

 

 

Flat lands and rolling hills, some covered with grass, others with trees, also abound with life—from pixie cups that can only hold one drop of water…

 

 

…to elephants that can drink 80 gallons per day.

“And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

But he wasn’t finished yet. God created one more being capable of deep thought, complex interaction, and an array of emotions. He called the creature “man” (vs. 26-27).

 

 

And the Lord Most High endowed man with abilities similar to his own. For example:

  • God is creative; people have the ability to produce new works and ideas.
  • God is linguistic; people can communicate with words.
  • God is logical; people are capable of reason.
  • God is interpersonal; people have the capacity to develop relationships.
  • God is wise; people can develop wisdom.
  • God is gracious and compassionate; people are capable of responding to one another with patience, kindness, and encouragement.

 

 

Just like our Father, each of us is (to some degree) capable of all these abilities. We can creatively solve problems, retell events, weigh the pros and cons of a decision, make friends, choose wisely from the grocery store shelves, offer a compliment.

But evidence would indicate God chose to endow each of us further, with a particular intelligence in which to excel. Our own family includes:

  • Two creatives—an artist and a graphic designer
  • Two linguistics—both pastors
  • One logistic—a tech support manager
  • Three interpersonal types—a teacher, school psychologist, and psychiatric/family doctor

 

 

Each person also has secondary and even tertiary strengths, in various combinations.

Yet God didn’t stop there. In his image he made us spiritual beings as well. Within each person is an invisible, eternal soul, a place where we can experience his presence (Ephesians 3:16-19). And he gave us a conscience to know right from wrong—not to spoil our enjoyment of life but to enhance it (Psalm 128:1-2).

 

 

As wondrous as all these gifts are—individually designed strengths, eternal souls, and the compass of a conscience–God chose to bequeath us with one more extraordinary privilege. He made us to be reflections of his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God chose not to confine his grandeur to the throne room of heaven. He allows us to make his radiant image visible in the world, as we reflect his multi-faceted goodness. No other creature was given such honor.

King David experienced the wonder. He marveled that God made us just a little lower than the angels and—get this—crowned us with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).

 

 

Think of it: The God of all glory who deserves all honor desires to share his magnificence in the world through us.

Just this week, I glimpsed the image of God as:

  • Steve thoughtfully brought me a cup of fresh coffee—as he often does.
  • Trelene kindly gave us a book she thought we’d enjoy.
  • Micki shared her wisdom.
  • Cheri offered a word of encouragement.
  • Four-year old Elena gifted us with a sample of her artwork—accompanied by hugs.

 

 

In such ways, God’s loving kindness, wisdom, inspiration, creativity, and affection are made visible. How dark our world would be without the sparkling splendor of God’s perfections reflected through his people.

So take note:

You are irreplaceable.

No one has your particular set of gifts, strengths and traits.

God designed you specifically

to achieve pre-designed purpose (Ephesians 2:10)—

just the way you are,

in the glorious image of God.

_________________________

 

What God-given attributes do you see among your family members? Where have you glimpsed the glorious image of God this week?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.mnn.com (Leonard Turner); http://www.mybible.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.freestockphotos.biz.; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.believers4ever.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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A common, ordinary day in mid-November

Overcast and chilly, just like yesterday

Tomorrow promises to be the same

No breeze to make leaves dance

no birds to add lyrical songs

Few trees remain bannered in crimson and gold

Dullness and grayness predominate and

joy seems unwarranted.

 

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But wait—gentle wonders abound

Soft light filters through windows

Candles glow sprightly on tabletops

Hazelnut coffee in a favorite cup

Offers cozy familiarity and

A colorful afghan created by a friend

Wraps my lap in warmth and

My heart with her love.

 

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These quiet wonders provide the perfect backdrop to stilled time

Sublime moments of solitude to experience God’s presence

To receive revelations from his heart to mine

Time to wonder, time to ponder

Time to turn to God and listen

Allowing his Spirit to mend my brokenness

Tend my worriedness and bend my self-centeredness

To his way of contentment.

 

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Ordinary moments on an ordinary day suddenly become holy

Sacred and separate

As attentiveness leads to discovery

Discovery ushers in joy

And joy results in gratitude

I exult in you, Heavenly Father!

You reside among the commonplace as well as the astounding

There is great glory in the ordinary after all.

 

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(Photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.keyword-suggestions.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.dailyencouragement.net.)

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Three-year old Elena (our granddaughter) had much to report about preschool last Thursday:

“Firemen came and they brought their fire truck! We got to hold the hose!”

Later Elena recited what to do if a fire occurred: 1) Don’t open a hot door, 2) To get out, crawl along the floor under the smoke, 3) Stop, drop, and roll if clothes catch fire, and 4)…

 

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“…CALL 9-1-1!” she announced loudly and firmly.

Isn’t it a comfort to know that with three quick taps on our phones we have access to emergency help almost anywhere at any time?   The process to develop such a system, however, was not quick. It took forty-some years to fully install the Emergency Call Answering System, from its inception in the 1950s to almost complete coverage of 911 service across all America by the 1990s.

On the other hand, Pastor Arnold Prater pointed out years ago in one of his sermons that King David of Bible times called 9-1-1.

Did you know that?  I didn’t.

David recorded his call in Psalm 91, verse one – 911:

 

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(“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”)

 

Notice his call was not characterized by panicked fear. Instead his attitude is one of calm faith.  David affirmed several important truths about Who he was calling and what the Almighty had to offer to those who dwell in His shelter.

Wait a minute. DWELL? How do we dwell in the presence of an unseen God?

By bringing our thoughts back to him throughout the day with praise, worship, and gratitude. We can:

 

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  • Say his name to center our attention. He has dozens but to get us started, he is God Almighty, Maker of all things, The Lord Who Provides, and our Helper. Let who he is impact how we function.
  • Breathe out the stressful, worrisome thoughts; breathe in the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4). Listen for his voice.
  • Pray, recite scripture, sing, even shout (Psalm 47:1-2)!

 

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David says we dwell in the SHELTER of God. Bible writers used the word, shelter, or synonyms like refuge and sanctuary, more than 40 times. In Psalm 91, David alludes to several details of God’s sheltering protection. He is trustworthy (v. 2), faithful (v. 4), watchful (v. 11), attentive (v. 15), thoughtful and compassionate (vs. 15-16).

These traits are just a few examples of our Heavenly Father’s character—which he brings to bear in our lives. He never responds out of character; he is always motivated by love and goodness. Take shelter in such glorious thoughts!

In addition to those mentioned above, the MOST HIGH is another meaningful name of God. One of the ancient creeds described him as “a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” No one can claim to be of higher capacity or higher worth.

 

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And in him we can REST. How? I like Spurgeon’s advice: “Use the Lord’s words as your pillows. Lie down and [rest] in Him.” We can collect pillow after pillow as we prayerfully read our Bibles, asking God to speak comfort and strength into our weary souls.

And in the SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY we find:

  • Security (Psalm 17:8),
  • Love and Kindness (Psalm 36:7),
  • Refuge (Psalm 57:1),
  • Satisfaction and Joy (Psalm 63:7).

 

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Now some readers of Psalm 9-1-1 might assume David was promising a delightful, problem-free life of ease. But his own life proved otherwise as he ran from murderous King Saul, lived as a fugitive in enemy territory, fought numerous battles, dealt with problem sons, and more.

No, David would be among the first to tell us that God doesn’t rescue us from all difficulty; he uses difficulties to nudge us closer to him.

In the shelter of the Most High.

In the shadow of the Almighty.

 

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What better place to be?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.pinterest (4).

 

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