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Archive for the ‘God’s Refuge’ Category

Martin and Katherine Luther

In 1527, the plague approached Wittenberg, Germany, home of Martin and Katherine Luther. Some say it was this looming calamity that prompted Luther to write one of the great hymns of the church: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” [1]

In fact, our congregation sang the ancient lyrics this past Sunday, although we were accompanied by keyboard, guitar, and drum—not organ. I was struck by the second line of the third verse:

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

My mind wandered a bit. I wonder how many scriptural truths promise the result of triumph through us—verses like “My God will meet all your needs.”[2] There must be hundreds!

A bit of research revealed that Luther based his hymn on these scriptural truths from Psalm 46:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (v. 1)
  • We will not fear though the earth give way (v. 2)
  • The Lord Almighty is with us; God is our fortress (v. 7)

Even though Luther and his family stayed in Wittenberg to care for the sick and dying, he wouldn’t have expected God to spare him or family members from the plague. Luther knew God doesn’t always intervene; he never promised heaven on earth.

But Luther understood: with God as our spiritual refuge, we find the comfort, strength, and support we need through the darkest valleys (Psalm 23).

God will lead us to triumph and provide victory over fear.

Another confidence-building scripture is tucked into the book of Nahum: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (1:7).

If we put our minds to it, every one of us can attest to the truth of those statements, because the Lord is good to all. [3]

Consider a few ways God demonstrates goodness to his people, and see if examples from your own life don’t come to mind.

  • He draws us to himself, gifting us with eternal life as we believe in his Son Jesus [4]
  • He provides mentors and experiences that grow our faith as well as blessings that increase our joy [5]
  • He attentively cares for us and spares us from grave errors in judgment as we obey him [6]
  • He bestows comfort and security during difficult times and augments the delight of happy times [7]
  • His Word guides us in perfect wisdom day by day, year after year [8]
  • He empowers us to accomplish tasks we never could have completed on our own [9]

“It’s important to rehearse the lovely, rich truths and promises that remain when other things change. Keep telling these truths, in all their many-sided glory, and one day, walls already cracked will crumble and fall.”

Jim McGuiggan [10]

Picture your fears cracking, crumbling, and falling in a heap in response to the weight of God’s truths.

That’s a picture of triumph!

“We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thro’ us.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for Your gracious invitation to leave our concerns with you and free ourselves of anxiety. As I affirm your truth, you provide fortitude and peace.

One day, the father of lies who provokes all fears WILL be defeated. As Martin Luther wrote, “One little word shall fell him!”[11] We eagerly look forward to that day.

(1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 16:20; Philippians 3:20)

Addendum: Martin Luther and his family were all spared during the plague of 1527.


 

[1] No copies of this hymn have been found before this date, but a growing number after, leading various scholars to support this theory (https://www.challies.com/articles/hyms-stories-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god/).

[2] Philippians 4:19

[3] Psalm 145:9

[4] John 6:44; 3:16

[5] Proverbs 12:15; 18:15; Psalm 4:7

[6] Psalm 27:10 HCSB; 37:23-24

[7] Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 16:11

[8] Psalm 32:8. However, I must confess to not always being receptive.

[9] Philippians 4:13

[10] Quoted by Beth Moore in Praying God’s Word, 138.

[11] From the last line of verse three, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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Play hide-and-seek with a two-year old and chances are, when it’s your turn to do the seeking, you won’t be looking for long. Their under- standing of true concealment is limited.

Some people play hide-and-seek in life. They’re looking for places to hide from such situations as financial ruin, hurtful relationships, and danger. But their understanding of true concealment is limited.

They may build up a hefty bank account, move from one relationship to another when the first difficulty arises, and purchase every means of protection against physical harm.

But these hiding places still leave a person exposed. Not all problems can be solved with money. Shallow relationships don’t satisfy in the long term, and physical protection can fail.

Just as our granddaughter in the first picture needed something bigger to cover her, we need something bigger than bank accounts, a few casual friends, and state-of-the-art alarm systems to cover us.

In addition, we face a number of monumental problems in America that leave all of us greatly exposed: rising drug addiction, increased violent crime, failing schools, the demise of Judeo-Christian values, inflation, supply chain failures, the national debt, and more.

There is only one place where we’re completely hidden and protected: in God himself.

Not that we’re shielded from every difficulty in this life. God hasn’t promised to prevent all trouble. But he is the One who can provide complete coverage no matter what we face, including the security of eternal life and blessings in the midst of trouble.

When God is our Hiding Place, he makes available to us his:

  • Strength

When tumult rages,

We have in him a strong citadel of calm.

–Herman  Lockyer (1)

  • Peace

The very act of breathing in his presence [is] balm.

Jan Karon (2)

  • Help

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him

and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.

–George Mueller

  • Truth, including his unfailing promises

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word.

–Unknown

  • Hope

God has given no pledge that he will not redeem

And encouraged no hope that he will not fulfill.

–Charles Spurgeon

Rest assured, my friends, once we’ve placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are completely covered—hidden in God. He is our steadfast and reliable Rock of refuge (Psalm 31:3).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for sheltering me in the Rock-cave of your refuge. I’m surrounded by your unfailing love and compassion, your all-sufficiency in all situations, and your empowering presence.

I also take refuge in the truth of your Word that affirms you will put all things right when the time is right. In the meantime, I nestle into the protective shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 32:10b; Psalm 116:5; Philippians 4:1; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; Psalm 17:8b)

Notes:

  1. Seasons of the Lord, 252.
  2. A Common Life, 116.

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.fox19.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.

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The psalmists of old seemed to have a favorite metaphor for God: Rock. You’ll find the imagery used twenty-nine times.  Sometimes the writers included reasons why this was a meaningful comparison for them; sometimes they included synonyms:

  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (18:2)
  • “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my  stronghold” (also 18:2)
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2)
  • “God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe” (62:2 CEV)
  • “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come” (71:3 NASB)

David seemed especially fond of this metaphor, perhaps because he spent months hiding from King Saul in the rocky terrain of the Judean wilderness. Psalm 57 was written specifically when he escaped into a cave. It may have been the characteristics of the rock walls surrounding him that brought to mind descriptors of God—solid, strong, protective, and unchanging.

Perhaps a cave such as this hid David and his men.
Might such a formation as this have provided the inspiration behind
“Be the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)?

Later when he became king, David composed Psalm 18, probably after the numerous battle victories summarized in 2 Samuel 8.  Four times in that psalm he extolled God as his Rock.

In the New Testament we find Jesus’ parable about a foolish man building his house on sand, and a wise man building his house on rock. The point is clear: God is a reliable foundation-Rock on which to build our lives.  He provides:

  • solid, trustworthy wisdom for decisions 
  • strength and power for life’s challenges
  • protection from our arch enemy, Satan
  • unchanging reliability, faithfulness, and love—to name a few unfailing attributes
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24.
(House in Meteora, Greece.)

One of my favorite examples of Bible imagery is found in Philippians 2:15.  To understand the context though, we have to start reading at verse fourteen:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Isn’t that a glorious statement in the fourth line above?  We can shine into the darkness of the world like stars as we allow the Spirit to foster purity within us!

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

Now why would letter-writer Paul choose stars to make his point? Perhaps their beauty reminded him: with kindness, patience, joy, and more we can bring beauty to the world around us–a world darkened by selfishness, greed, and hatred.

Paul would also have known about using stars for navigation.  As far back as 3000 B.C. ancient Minoans were using constellations to navigate the Mediterranean Sea (1).  Perhaps Paul connected the starlight to God’s wisdom shining in mature believers, enabling them to provide guidance to those around them.

But now, centuries later, we know more about stars than Paul did and further comparisons can be drawn:

Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium in their cores.  We shine as the Holy Spirit burns away the dross in our lives—those unbecoming traits like pride, negativity, and ingratitude. That’s when we can become radiant.

One prominent star in the evening sky of Fall and Winter is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), which is 19 quadrillion miles from earth.  The gleam we see left Deneb about 1500 light years ago in 521 A.D (2). The gleam of our lives can also achieve far-reaching effect as one life touches another which touches another, and then another . . . ad infinitum.

Stars not only create beauty but fulfill function.  They manufacture and distribute into the universe such elements as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (3). As we shine like stars in our circles of influence, we too fulfill function, manufacturing and distributing such elements as goodness, encouragement, and helpfulness.

From earth and sky come these two insightful examples of biblical imagery:  rock and stars.

Do you see the connection between the two? As you plant yourself on the firm Rock of Almighty God and shine for him like a star . . .

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

  1. https://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/navigation/
  2. https://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-stars/
  3. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-from-and-evolve

Photo credits: http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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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

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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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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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Up on a knoll toward the edge of her inherited property, Bea Leever sat on the familiar lookout rock, surveying the land they’d named Kerah Farm. The view from this vantage point never grew old.

Off to the west stretched the family’s fields—squat and leafy soybeans; thick, tall corn; and golden-topped wheat rippling in the breeze. Some of the harvest would feed her family and the farmhands, the rest they’d sell.

 

 

Close to the house on the south side, a large garden provided more vegetables, and a dozen hens in the chicken coop produced plenty of eggs.

Beyond the garden stood the orchard of apple, pear, and cherry trees—plenty of fruit for everyone on the farm to enjoy and more produce to sell. To the east, beyond the cow pasture, a large grove of oak and maple trees kept them supplied with fuel for the wood stove.

 

 

And all around the perimeter of Kerah Farm, stout fences and thick hedges provided security.

Yes, from time to time difficulties like storms, drought, and pests presented challenge. And the crops, garden, and animals certainly required much labor, but nothing offered greater satisfaction than watching seedlings become lush crops, blossoms become plentiful fruit, or garden produce become jewel-toned canning jars lined up on shelves.

 

 

Now that Bea Leever had tasted farm life, she would never leave.

Bea remembered the day she first entered the property, and the immediate sense of peace that engulfed her spirit. She’d been so wrapped up in her worries and doubts prior to making the turn at the gate, the complete change of heart surprised Bea. Very soon the farm became her beloved refuge.

 

 

From then on, when fear tried to overtake her, Bea would climb to this rock on the hill and survey the beautiful inheritance bestowed upon her. She praised God for the more-than-adequate provisions offered within the farm’s boundaries, the gratifying work it afforded, and the security within its borders.

In no time, that comforting sense of peace would return.

_______________________________

 

Like Jesus’ parable of the sower in which various types of soil represent various responses to his message, this parable-of-sorts includes various blessings of every believer (“Bea Leever”).

Did you find them, hidden among the imagery?  For example:

Bea inherited the physical blessing of land; we believers inherit the spiritual blessings of God (1).  She enjoyed the provision of crops and animals; we enjoy God’s provision of every need.

 

 

Bea found joy and satisfaction in her work; believers find joy in their work for God and the development of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (2).

She experienced great peace within the security of Kerah Farm; we experience great peace within the shelter of the Almighty (3).

Her life changed forever upon entering the farm gate; believers’ lives are also changed forever upon entering the Gate—Jesus—and into relationship with their Heavenly Father (4).

Just as she often visited the rock on a hill, a place that strengthened her spirit, we also go to our Rock—the Lord Most High–who is perfect and just, faithful and upright.

 

 

Bea thanked her Lord for the blessed life of Kerah* Farm; believers thank him for the blessed and abundant spiritual life Jesus provides (5).

And just as Bea Leever prayed, so do we:

Gracious Father, in spite of challenging events that sometimes overtake us, we thank you for your beautiful and bountiful provision.  We also praise you for your gracious goodness, all manifested in your wonderful deeds. Who, oh Lord, can compare with you?!  

(Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 113:5)

 

 

*Kerah is the ancient Hebrew word for provision.

 

What else might you envision on Bea Leever’s farm that coincides with our lives in God? Share your imaginings in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 16:6 NET Bible; Ephesians 1:3-14
  2. Colossians 3:23-24; Galatians 3:23-24
  3. Psalm 4:8; Psalm 91:1
  4. John 10:9
  5. John 10:10

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.repo.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com.

 

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Sad Reba

 

She was a pitiful sight, the pit bull/Labrador/terrier that our son, Jeremy, and his wife, Nancy, adopted from the Humane Society.  Her head hung down, and her tail did not wag.  Even her eyes conveyed great sadness.  She never barked and did not know how to play.

Jeremy and Nancy decided to keep the name given her by the society staff:  Reba.  No use adding confusion to the poor dog’s problems.

When they first brought her home, Reba wouldn’t  eat.  She also suffered from anxiety, shaking uncontrollably when faced with uncertainty.  (She still does, sometimes.)

Reba’s symptoms aren’t much different from those of humans when we experience extreme stress.  Depression and anxiety can quickly take over.

Jeremy and Nancy adopted Reba the summer of 2010. That December when we saw Reba again, it was as if they had adopted a new dog.  Now her head was up and her tail wagged merrily.  She could run and jump to catch a tossed tennis ball in mid-air.

 

Happy Reba

 

If Reba could talk, she would undoubtedly have abhorrent stories to tell of her past.  But I have a feeling Reba would finish by saying, “My new life with Jeremy and Nancy is completely different.  I love it here!”

Reba has found a sanctuary—a place of refuge and protection where she feels safe.  Her life has been transformed.

We, too, have a sanctuary available to us (Psalm 9:9).

 

 

When David composed that psalm, the tabernacle tent-church was the sanctuary for the Israelites.  God had told Moses centuries before, “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

For over fifteen hundred years, the tabernacle, and then the temple in Jerusalem, represented God’s presence among his people.

 

 

But that was only temporary.  God provided an even better way to be with his people, through his son, Jesus.

Those of us who know him now experience his sanctuary within. 

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

At the cost of his Son’s life, God bought us as his dwelling place.

We don’t have to go to Jerusalem.  We don’t even have to be in a church building to experience the sanctuary of our God.  His love, peace, and comfort are available wherever we are, whatever we’re facing.

Now that is life-transforming news. 

But I must avail myself of its truth.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for being a sanctuary within me.  At any moment I can turn to you, and you are attentive to my cry.  As I focus on you—your wisdom, power, and benevolent care, my concerns deflate. 

I know you have a plan for my life, for those of my loved ones, for my country and the world. You are in control.  I imagine you taking hold of my hand, giving it a pat or two and reassuring me, “Don’t be afraid.  I will help you”.

You are incredibly good to me, O God, my refuge.  I reaffirm my trust in you.

 

(Psalm 34:15; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 9:7-8;

Isaiah 41:13; Nahum 1:7; Psalm 91:2.)

 

Photo & art credits:  Jeremy Ruegg, http://www.en.wikipedia.org; needpix.com.

 

Reblogged from 1-16-14.  I’m recovering from a reaction to a shingles vaccine, but on the mend.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

For example:

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

(Space Nebula)

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

“He suits himself to every varying circumstance in life.

He becomes what the exigency of the moment requires.

And as the psalmist well says,

he withholds no good thing

from those that walk uprightly.”

—F. B. Meyer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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