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Archive for the ‘God’s Provision’ Category

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Steve picked up a card from the restaurant table and exclaimed, “Hey, look! TGIF is going to be open on Christmas!”

We had just discussed what our family of five would do for dinner that year since Christmas was on a Sunday. The fact that Steve was a pastor complicated matters a bit.

Yes, we could have planned a menu around a Crockpot main dish and a wee hours stint in the kitchen to assemble it. But after two Christmas Eve services the night before, that idea didn’t hold much appeal.

In addition, we knew that Christmas Sunday was already going to be plenty busy. Steve and I, the choir director and his wife, were providing the special music—a gift to the choir who was scheduled to sing the night before. Then, of course, Steve would preach again—twice.

So when he saw that card on the restaurant table, sometime in early December, we rejoiced that at least one holiday dilemma was solved.

But when we arrived at TGIF on Christmas Sunday afternoon, a CLOSED sign hung in the window. Sometime between early December and the 25th they had changed their minds. Now what?

It didn’t take too long for another idea to occur to me. “Let’s go to that delicatessen, TooJays, out at the shopping center. I’ll bet they’re open!”

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Off we drove, another few miles to the west. They were closed too.

Now we were in big trouble. Three hungry kids, ages nine to fourteen, sat in the back seat. And it looked like Christmas dinner would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. But when I mentioned that idea, no one complained. That’s how hungry they were. Plus, who could forget what was waiting under the tree?

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On the way home, while mindlessly watching the buildings go by the passenger window, my eye happened to fall on a brightly lit OPEN sign in the window of a strip-mall restaurant. We’d never noticed the eatery before, in the six months we’d lived in that community.

Steve made a quick decision to check it out, turned at the corner, and backtracked through the parking lot to Sun Hai Valley.

Soft Christmas music greeted us inside the door, as did the tantalizing aromas of fried rice, beef teriyaki and Kung Pao chicken. A hostess escorted us into the dining room where large floral fans adorned the walls, pink cloths decked the tables, and a long buffet stretched along the back. Not only did we dine in lovely surroundings, but we enjoyed a delectable, reasonably priced meal.

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Finally, we headed home to the tree, overflowing with gifts from family and friends. Our three children were such troopers, waiting until mid-afternoon on Christmas to open their gifts. But we held to tradition and opened them one person, one present at a time, and taking turns. That way we could all take part in the joy of each gift.

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About four o’clock, Steve’s parents called from out-of-state, ready to ask about the presents they’d sent.

“Guess what?  We’re not finished opening them yet,” Steve told them. “I’ll call you again when we’re done!”

That Christmas was one of my favorites. God expressed his love and grace to us by supplying that surprise dinner, far above and beyond what we had planned. In reality, soup and sandwiches would have sufficed just fine, but he saw fit to provide much more.

God also granted the children angelic grace to accept circumstances outside our control. No one expressed impatience or frustration that I can recall.

Such precious Christmas memories are in themselves treasured gifts to enjoy our whole lives long—especially those memories that unmistakably highlight God’s grace, loving kindness, and generosity.

(Art & photo credits:  www.savingadvice.com; http://www.toojays.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.zomato.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

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Please share one of your favorite, God-enhanced Christmas memories below!

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“Hey, look at this one,” my brother, John, said while passing to me an 8 x 10 of a large family reunion picnic, 1955. He was just a toddler that year, sitting on the lap of our older cousin, Janet. I sat on the opposite end of the children’s row; Mom was next to Aunt Betty in back.

Poor Cousin Greg was hardly visible at all, except for his quintessential cap. Next to him stood Uncle Ralph, pointing at something in the sky and blocking Greg’s face.

“I’ll bet Uncle Ralph did that on purpose.” I commented. “He always was the practical joker.”

John agreed, adding, “Dad counted down to three, and Uncle Ralph probably took it as his cue to act up.” (Dad isn’t in the picture, leading us to believe he was probably the photographer—the one with the expertise and equipment.)

Back and forth John and I passed photos, documents, and memorabilia our mother had saved – two big boxes worth. And while sorting, labeling and organizing, we enjoyed memory after memory.

No doubt you’ve experienced the same:

Remembering the past brings blessing (Proverbs 10:7a).

 

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It was fun to recall with John more than a few of the good old days. In our hands we held again bits of personal history, revisited in our minds the people and places of our youth, and delighted in the happy times of long ago with family and friends, many of whom left positive examples for us to follow.

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7a, HCSB, emphasis added).

 Remembering the past allows us to learn from the experience of others (Deuteronomy 32:7).

 

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Talk to an elderly person about his youth, and you may think he had it a bit rough: one bathroom in the house, one phone, one car, no TV, no computer. Siblings shared bedrooms, hand-me-down clothes, and toys. Everyone had chores to do and Mom and Dad made sure they did them.

Then he’s likely to add: “But it was good for us to have responsibilities at an early age. And even though our family was a bit poor, all of us kids had a great time inventing our own fun. We laughed a lot, too.”

And while listening to such recollections, we realize: three traits of utmost importance a couple of generations ago—responsibility, respect, and resourcefulness—no longer receive as much emphasis. We’d do well to bring them back.

Remembering the past fosters praise and hope today (Isaiah 46:9).

 

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Eugene Peterson wisely wrote: “The before is the root system of the visible now” (Running with the Horses, p. 37).

My brother, John, and I have been blessed by the root system of our family tree that includes: perseverance and patience, humor and humility, wisdom and warm-heartedness.

Even more valuable, though, is all that God has done in the past, providing solid ground for praise in the present and hope for the future, as we:

  • Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles (Psalm 105:5a).
  • Recall how the Lord has led decade after decade (Deuteronomy 8:2).
  • Rejoice in all the good God has bestowed upon our family (Deuteronomy 26:11).
  • Sing for joy at the works of his hands (Psalm 92:4).

 

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*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the blessing of a family tree with sturdy roots. Thank you, too, for the precious memories of your glorious deeds in my life—wonders you performed that I saw with my own eyes. Now may I be faithful to provide a strong, godly root system for those around me, that they may stand stronger yet.

 

(Frequently over the four years of posting on this blog, I’ve included stories of God’s wonderful works in our family—remembrances that foster praise and hope. Several examples include:  The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 1; The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 2; Christmas Afterglow; Signs and Wonders.  I invite you to skim through!)

 

How have the roots of your family tree impacted your growth?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.crosscards.com; http://www.quotescodex.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).    

 

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(a personal psalm)

 

Surrounded by tall, majestic trees,

I rest here on the deck with you, Father,

reveling in the quiet.

The stillness pervades my soul and I sense your peace.

 

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Bright morning sun dapples the landscape and spangles the leaves.

Dewdrops gild the grass.

Such radiant splendor ushers your joy into my spirit, oh God.

“Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun”

(Ecclesiastes 11:7 NIV).

 

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Overhead a crystalline blue sky speaks of your majesty—

its unlimited vastness, a picture of your infinity;

its constant habitation over the earth,

a reminder of your omnipresence.

The heavens do indeed declare your glory (Psalm 19:1a),

and I worship you.

 

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Soft, refreshing breezes brush against my skin,

their arrival unannounced and unbidden.

They are invisible, yet cause leaves to dance and flowers to sway.

Such breezes bring to mind your Spirit—also invisible

yet always refreshing, guiding and encouraging me with gentle whispers

(2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Kings 19:12).

I praise you for such gracious provision in my life.

 

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Leaves on the trees gracefully clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12),

drawing attention to their beauty.

Some of these trees are very old; roots reach deep and wide.

Their strength is a metaphor for your power:

proven over time, reliable, unchanging.

And that strength is available to me—

an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

“Thank you” is terribly inadequate.

 

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Two cardinals provide an antiphonal chorus;

a flicker chatters contentedly.

Other small birds tweet and cheep

in happy celebration of a splendrous morning.

I’m reminded how you care for the smallest,

most common sparrow (Matthew 6:26),

and my soul is comforted by your loving attentiveness.

 

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Flowers still bloom in yards and planters.

How many thousands of flowers have you designed, God?

Surely one type of bloom would be sufficient for bees.

Yet you’ve created a glorious variety.

Your artistry is astounding— delicate petals and intricate shapes,

in numerous sizes from sunflower-grand to umbrellawort-small.

“I sing for joy at the work of your hands” (Psalm 92:4b NIV).

 

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Oh, Lord, how I praise you for the many ways creation reveals your nature.

Daily you touch my soul through the beauty and majesty of your works.

The earth is teeming with evidence of your unfailing love (Psalm 33:5)!

And I stand in awe of you, the Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father.

 

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What attribute of God do you see revealed in nature?  How does his creative work touch your spirit?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.public-domain-image.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.com.)

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Say the word, blessings, and our minds turn to the many ways God continually bestows good things. The more attentive we are, the more blessings we notice.

But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described eight blessings that sound quite bizarre at first hearing. For example:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.” (Matthew 5:3a, MSG).

 

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Surely his listeners blinked in astonishment and thought, There’s no happiness at the end of that rope!

Jesus continued. “With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (v. 3b, MSG). Some may have nodded in agreement at this statement, having experienced profoundly God’s help in time of trouble.

Others may have wondered, More of God sounds good, but if I’m still at the end of my rope, where’s the blessing?

At least a few probably misunderstood the word, blessed. It’s more than happiness; it’s deep down, untouchable contentment. No matter what might happen, the blessed person remains confident in his God, hopeful in his outlook, and peaceful in his spirit—despite the turmoil of circumstances.

 

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In the ancient Greek of New Testament times, blessed was not a word spoken in sedate, pious tones. It was a shout of overflowing joy. And in the Be-Attitudes of Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus announced shout-worthy blessings—satisfying consequences of embracing God’s way of thinking and living.

“You ARE blessed,” Jesus taught (emphasis added). Notice he used present tense verbs. These statements were not hope-filled platitudes for the future; they expressed conditions for the present, available immediately.

Notice, too, that such overflowing joy is not procured through the acquisition of material goods or the experience of pleasure. King Solomon found that out long ago. He had it all, only to discover that everything was meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Countless others have tried the same route; each one has failed.

In the face of so much evidence, why do we expect self-indulgence to provide deep satisfaction?

On the other hand, Matthew 5:3-12 is just the beginning of blessing-instruction, presenting God’s guarantees for soul-happiness. If Jesus had preached another sermon of Be-Attitudes (Maybe he did!), our wise Savior/Teacher might have included these:

 

Blessed are the stretched and overwhelmed,

for they shall discover strength (Isaiah 41:10).

 

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You probably know heroes of the faith who have proven: “God gives unexpected strength when unusual trials come” (Charles Spurgeon). That strength isn’t just for heroes; it’s available to us all.

 

Blessed are the disappointed,

for they shall be transformed (Romans 12:2, NLT).

 

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As God leads us toward a new focus, a new perspective, we find our minds renewed and our spirits uplifted.

 

Blessed are the shaken,

for they shall experience the security

of the Lord, the Rock (Psalm 27:5).

 

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Praise God he is reliable, immoveable, and firm! We can confidently depend upon him now and forever.

 

Blessed are the confused,

for they shall receive wisdom (James 1:5).

 

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God never turns away from a sincere heart seeking his guidance.

 

Blessed are those who celebrate God’s blessings–

even in the midst of difficulty–

for they shall find contentment in gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

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We can follow the example of Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) who said, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

Know this, too: We can humbly and resolutely expect such blessings as these. God doesn’t make such promises lightly; He fulfills what he says:

 

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“God is not a man, that he should lie,

nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Does he speak and then not act?

Does he promises and not fulfill?”

–Numbers 23:19 NIV

 

No indeed.

‘Care to give God a shout-out for joy (Psalm 95:1-3)?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.askideas.com; http://www.lifemoreabundant.me; http://www.pinterest.com (5); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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She was more animal than human – grabbing food and stuffing her mouth, communicating with grunts, and reacting wildly to anything that did not suit her.

A teacher was hired to train the totally undisciplined six-year old, and make her into a mannerly, well-behaved child. To complicate matters, the child could neither hear nor see, the result of a high fever when she was a toddler. You’ve no doubt guessed her identity–Helen Keller, and the teacher’s–Anne Sullivan.

 

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You’ll remember that little Helen was not only wild but willful, too. She balked ferociously at the changes Miss Sullivan tried to initiate, attacking with fists and feet, tearing at clothing, and biting. No one would have blamed Anne if she had given up.

But the young teacher was even more determined than Helen. She would reach beyond the barriers of deafness and blindness. So the two of them moved into a nearby cottage where Anne offered constant support and instruction. With patience and tremendous perseverance, she tended to Helen.

You know the outcome. Helen was transformed into a cultured intellectual, who graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 at age 24, and went on to become an author, an advocate for the handicapped, and even a lecturer. In addition, Helen and Anne became lifelong friends and constant companions.

 

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Their inspiring story illustrates several ways in which our lifelong Friend and constant Companion, Jesus, transforms our lives:

1. Just as Helen discovered life was a much more positive experience when she submitted to the mores of civilization, we too experience a more positive life when we accept God’s ways and purposes rather than insist on our own (John 10:10).

2. Anne took up residence with Helen, ready and willing to transform the girl into a glorious new version of herself. Jesus has taken up residence in our spirits (John 15:5). He, too, is ready and willing to transform us–“into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

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3. Helen balked at change, unwilling to give up her way of life—unsatisfactory as it was. Little did she know what Anne had to offer. I, too, am slow to learn that “when God empties our lives of a treasured love, it is to fill them more completely with the greater treasure of himself” – Herbert Lockyer (1).

4. The relationship between student and teacher developed into a deep friendship as Helen grew up. She said of her beloved teacher, the day Anne Sullivan arrived at her home was “the most important day I remember in all my life.” Those of us who know Jesus as Friend would say the same of the day he came to live within our spirits (2 Corinthians 5:17).

5. As a result of Anne Sullivan’s instruction, support, and perseverance, Helen exchanged:

  • Constant uncertainty for confidence
  • Helplessness for achievement
  • Ignorance for knowledge

Jesus does the same and more. Because he dwells within us, we can exchange:

  • Our uncertainty for his wisdom—James 1:5
  • Our frailties for his strength—2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Our puny efforts for his ability to accomplish the impossible—Luke 18:27
  • ALL our inadequacies for ALL the fullness of God—Ephesians 3:19 (2)

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord Jesus, that the moment I invited you into my life, you began your transforming work—teaching, guiding, supporting, and encouraging. You have granted me newness of life! I am not a condemned sinner; I am a saint! I am no longer bound to the sinful nature; I am a brand new creature in you! I am not a reject; I am a beloved child of the King of the universe! Thank you, oh God, for these glorious realities.  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  But I am greatly relieved and overjoyed that it’s all true.

(Romans 6:6; 6:4, 8:1; Ephesians 2:18-20; Romans 8:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26; Psalm 139:6)

 

Notes:

(1) Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 15.

(2) Henry Blackaby, http://www.preceptaustin.org, Experiencing God Day by Day, “An Exchanged Life.”

 

Photos and art credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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(A personal psalm, based on Psalm 16)

 

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 Oh, God, I praise you for every blessing you bestow (v. 2).

You are the God of all Goodness, the Author of every benefit. Just recently you granted:

  • Timely encouragement from friends,
  • A memorable dinner celebrating four anniversaries—ours, along with those of our three children and spouses,
  • The announcement of a third grandchild, due to arrive in January.

As A. W. Tozer observed: Out of your goodness, Lord, comes your desire for my highest welfare, your wisdom to plan it, and your power to achieve it. What do I lack (Knowledge of the Holy, p. 70)?

It’s also true that anything good within me comes from you. I hate to think where I’d be today if it weren’t for your influence and direction in my life.

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for your godly people living heroic lives (v. 3).

I take great pleasure in knowing more than several, and gain encouragement from their examples—heroes such as:

  • Cheri, who cares for her elderly parents,
  • Buck and Nikki, who faithfully minister in nursing homes,
  • Bill, who soldiers on with ALS–with a sense of humor, no less—after years of paralysis, and
  • Charity, who is battling cancer with great doses of gratitude and praise, in addition to chemo.

These dear ones and more reflect your strength, Lord, your love, joy, peace, and courage. How dare I entertain the slightest bit of self-pity or discouragement?

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for being my grand and glorious inheritance (v. 6).

You possess all power, inhabit all corners of the universe, know all things.

You are all-wise, righteous and holy in all you do—absolutely perfect.

Everything in the universe belongs to you, the Creator of it all.

Yet you care for me.  Out of your unlimited resources, you supply everything I need—and then some. Even in the small matters, you are there. You’ve provided:

  • A woman to guide me through a hallway-maze in a medical building,
  • Two sons who can trouble-shoot my computer problems (!), and
  • Continual reminders that your Spirit is at work, even when circumstances seem stagnant.

You are a reliable God who keeps his promises. Always.

And when I leave this earth, you have reserved for me in heaven an eternal inheritance that will never decrease, including the privilege of living with you, basking in your glory.

Such wonders overwhelm the intellect, and my heart overflows with gratitude.

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for your reliability (v. 8).

All the attributes mentioned above (and more) you bring to bear in my life—not as an impersonal monarch overseeing the general welfare of his kingdom—but as a gracious Father, lovingly guiding my individual course.

You will never leave me alone to fend for myself.

And you will also keep me safe until all the chapters of my life have been written (Psalm 139:16).

 

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Oh, God, I praise you with my whole being (vs. 9, 11). You fill: 

  • My heart with the joy of your presence,
  • My mind with the wisdom and truth of your Word, and
  • My spirit with the glory of your attributes. 

Oh, God, I praise you that these pleasures are available to your children for evermore.

 

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May I keep my thoughts centered on you and on these, your precious gifts.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.dailyverses.net; http://www.biblepic.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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Second grader, Ben, trotted up to my teacher desk and enthusiastically shared his latest news:

“I bought my mom some honeysuckle room spray for her birthday, but it makes the cat sneeze.”

 

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I know what you’re thinking: Ben’s words aren’t particularly noteworthy. You need to know how he spoke them—with a lisp. Try repeating his words, substituting th for s, and see if you don’t start to chuckle:

“I bought my mom thome honeythuckle room thpray for her birthday, but it makth the cat thneethe.”

Maybe you had to be there.   But let me tell you, I deserve a medal for my self-control that morning, holding back the giggles until Ben was out of earshot. Every now and then—like the other day–I’m reminded of that incident, and I still smile.

Now don’t ask me how my brain made the following connections. The neurons were firing way too fast to trace their trajectories. (Of course, after you read the following explanation, you’ll probably say my neurons were misfiring.)

Anyway, my thoughts jumped from Ben’s report of making the cat thneethe to face-lifts*, which, in his endearing lisp would have been faith-liftths.

Ah-ha! Now I was onto something important. Faith-lifts! And I began to ponder: What are some of the most meaningful faith-lifts I’ve encountered?

God is so generous with his encouragement. We find it in scripture, other books, the lyrics of songs, a spoken word , creation, and even the recesses of our hearts as God speaks in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

 

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For example:

 

A Faith-Lift from Scripture 

“He will be the sure foundation for your times,

a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”

–Isaiah 33:6

I praise you, God, for your rock-solid reliability. And as I reverence you through thought, word, and deed, you provide for my every need. Hallelujah!

 

A Faith-Lift from Reading

 “Jesus offers inward quiet in spite of outward trials. Rough winds may ruffle the surface of a lake, but far down in the depths there is perfect calm” – Herbert Lockyer (Seasons of the Lord, p. 89).

 

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Thank you, oh God, for your peace that defies explanation and dwells deep within my spirit.

 

A Faith-Lift from Listening

“Don’t worry that you don’t have strength before you start. God gives strength as we journey” (heard on the radio).

Help me, Father, to step out in faith because my confidence in you.

 

A Faith-Lift from Song

“I see the work of Your hands.

Galaxies spin in a heavenly dance…

“I delight myself in You,

Captivated by Your beauty…

“I run into Your arms,

Unashamed because of mercy…”

–Big Daddy Weave, “Overwhelmed” (2012)

 

Thank you for such glorious contemplations, Lord God!

 

Faith-Lifts from People

 I praise you, Father, for the myriad ways you minister to me through others. Sometimes what they share brings tears to my eyes as I sense your instruction and inspiration coming through their words.

 

Faith-Lift from Creation

 Soaring mountain peaks speak of your power,

Restorative rain, of your refreshing,

The steadfastness of sunrise–your hope,

A gentle breeze–your presence,

Gleaming sunbeams–your glory, and

The teeming stars–your infinity.

 

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“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (Psalm 96:4a)!

 

A Faith-Lift from Spirit-Impression

All was still as I sat on the deck one morning. Even the birds were quiet. But no sooner did I journal my observations, than a breeze began to stir. I sensed an impression simmering to the surface of my thinking—thoughts that seemed to come from God himself:

“When nothing seems to be happening, when prayed-for circumstances remain unchanged, remind yourself that Spirit-breezes of blessing will come when the time is right. Wait with patience and rejoice in the knowledge that I am at work.   Revel in the expectancy and assurance of My arrival” (Isaiah 65:24).

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

M-m-m. I’m thinking: such faith-lifts as listed above actually do produce face-lifts, because worry, fear, and tension are erased in the splendor of his adequacy in all things!

 

“I will lift you up, O Lord, for you have lifted me up.”

–Psalm 30:1 NLT

 

*(Plastic surgery was not uncommon where we lived at the time. Perhaps the connection occurred as my thoughts jumped from student to school to community. That’s as good an explanation as any. I’m sticking to it.)

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pets.thenext.com; http://www.faithgateway.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wisconsintrails.com; http://www.jpl.nasa.gove; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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