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Archive for the ‘God’s Refuge’ Category

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

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pxfuel.com and http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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In the cool of morning two weeks ago, I sat on our deck before the sun had cleared the distant trees–much less those close by.   Below, the creek bed of lush foliage loomed dark and still, but above me birds chattered happily while one lone cardinal out-sang them all.  Thankfully the cicadas hadn’t started their ruckus yet.

a bit later in the morning

From several blocks away, commuter traffic already rumbled, and high in the sky the occasional jet roared northward.  Yet the serenity of my immediate surroundings superseded the extraneous noise.

And I sensed God saying to me:

Breathe in the stillness, in spite of traffic din and aircraft drone. 

I’m referring to the serenity you feel in your spirit because of what you see around you:  quiet trees unmoved by breeze, the tranquil creek bed, and the peaceful yard to the east where golden light silently presses against deep shadow—portraits of stillness in spite of the noise.

Be mindful that, as the sun faithfully turns darkness into day, my face shines faithfully upon you with the golden light of peace (1).  I push back the shadows of worry and fear while the noise in the world clamors around you—political factions arguing against one another, loud voices contending for self-serving agendas, terrorists, criminals, and thugs wreaking havoc, and more (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Learn from the birds and woodland creatures who find refuge in the thick foliage of bush and tree. You too can find refuge—in me.  In fact, peace grows in direct proportion to time spent with me (2).

Picture yourself surrounded by my protective, calming presence and affirm:

  • I will never stop caring for you or supplying your every need (3)
  • I will never leave you to struggle alone (4)
  • I will never fail you, no matter how the future unfolds (5)

Focus the eyes of your spirit on such promises. Feel their truths calm your heart (6).

Even as the noise of this world grows louder because the end of time draws near, breathe in such peace-generating realities often.  Let them usher you into my Presence, surround you with comfort, and encourage your soul (7).

I long for you to live within the tranquility and protection of my Presence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Father, for even wanting to be my shelter. Thank you for your loving care expressed in countless ways over the decades.

I know you are trustworthy. I praise you for your unfailing love that will see me through whatever the future holds. In addition, you will provide quiet refuge within my spirit where I can rest in you.

Help me keep focused on you, to live in the shelter of your love no matter the noise of the world.

(1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 32:10;

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

  1. Numbers 6:24-26
  2. Isaiah 26:3
  3. Philippians 4:19
  4. Isaiah 41:10
  5. Hebrews 13:5c
  6. Psalm 119:50b
  7. Psalm 119:165

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; www. heartlight.org.

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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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“Let all who take refuge in you be glad;

let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name

may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

you surround them with your favor

as with a shield.”

–Psalm 5:11-12

 

Thank you, Father, for each line of encouragement here, presenting truth worthy of contemplation and celebration. To that end this is my prayer:

 

 

I praise you, O God, for being my unfailing refuge—my protector and sanctuary.

Year after year you have:

  • Supplied my needs, like the three teaching positions you provided–each one a miracle (1)
  • Brought me through difficult circumstances, including moves to new communities that initially I wanted no part of
  • Surprised my husband and me with delights we didn’t expect, such as a generous check enclosed with a note, suggesting we enjoy much-needed R & R at our favorite getaway

 

(Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL)

 

I’m not just glad you’re my refuge, I’m elated! My heart sings in celebration of your perfections, sovereignty, and kindness. You provide unending delight!

You have been my protection, preserving my life:

  • In dangerous circumstances, including that narrow mountain road outside Quito, Ecuador
  • From near accidents, such as that red-light runner who could have sent me spinning into heavy traffic
  • Through natural disasters, like those hurricanes during our forty years in Florida

 

(Hurricane Charley damage, 2004)

 

You have been my protection emotionally, carrying me through:

  • The incomprehensible, like the senseless death of a young friend
  • Hurtful circumstances, when those we trusted proved unreliable
  • Disappointment, as certain hopes were not realized

I thank you, Father, for every time you’ve limited our ordeals so we could endure; and when necessary you’ve given us your strength to withstand every difficulty (2).

 

  

I praise you, O God, that the righteous are not those who always say and do the right thing. Such a standard would disqualify me. Rather, the righteous include those who trust in you and love your many names–Shepherd, Counselor, Helper, and more.

I praise you that your favor includes adoption into your family, freedom from the eternal consequences of our sin, and freedom from guilt—when we ask Jesus into our lives (3).

You graciously give us access to your presence. And when we come you are always ready to listen, uplift, and advise (4).

 

 

You’ve designed us for purpose, to give us glorious satisfaction in life, and day after day you lavish blessing (5), including:

  • The privilege to watch children grow—from first steps to first race, from mere sounds to sentences, from making scribbles to writing stories
  • The delight of old friends we know well and new friends we want to know well
  • Your creativity all around us, whether it’s azure skies or smoke-like clouds, sunbeam ribbons or raindrop jewels, verdant treetops or bare filigree branches

 

 

Your shield of favor also stands between each of us and the evil forces on every side. You are beneath us as a foundation, over us as a shelter, at our right hand as security, before us to lead the way, and within us to provide strength (6).

Keep me mindful of all these glorious truths, O God—truths that make me more than glad. And as this new year begins, may my days be laced with praise to you, my choices motivated by gratitude to you, and my faith be strong in you until that day you take me home.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Two of those miracles are detailed in other posts, After the Fact and The Greater Plan.
  2. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Isaiah 41:10
  3. Ephesians 1:3-7
  4. Ephesians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Psalm 145:14; James 1:5
  5. Ephesians 1:11-12, 2:10; John 1:16
  6. Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 73:23; John 10:3b, 4b; 1 John 4:4

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; naplesnews.com; http://www.bible.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.)

 

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“Here’s what I’ve been looking for!” My husband propped his walking stick against a forest tree and pulled from the underbrush a straight, stout branch about my height. With his pocketknife he whittled off several small branches and gifted me my own walking stick. “Try this, “ he coaxed. “It really helps.”

I’d been groaning through the incline portions of our hike in the Appalachian foothills. Yes, exercise and walking were part of my routine at home, but we lived in the flatlands of Florida at the time. The upward slopes of this footpath were causing my leg muscles to complain loudly.

What a surprising difference that branch made!  Swinging it ahead helped propel me forward. I felt more stable in the uneven and slippery places with the walking stick to provide balance.  And leaning into it as I hefted myself up steep inclines did take some of the stress off my aching legs.

That experience brings to mind a familiar truth tucked in Psalm 23:

 

 

Your rod and your staff comfort me.”

 

Just as that walking stick gave me relief on the trail, the staff of God’s Word has offered much relief on the path of life.

For example:

As a young wife and mother, discouraged by the mindless repetition of housework, I came across this staff of scripture to propel me forward:

 

 

The realization dawned that taking care of my family was equivalent to serving him. And though it would be a lie to say from that day forward I happily swept, scrubbed, and sanitized, I did carry with me a new perspective.

 

When distraught over my faults and deficiencies, God handed me this walking stick of relief:

 

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you

will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…

For it is God who is working in you,

enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”

–Philippians 1:6; 2:13 HCSB

 

 

What a loving, attentive Father he is, day after day working out his plan and blessing upon our lives, slowly but surely transforming us into our best selves.

 

When distraught over election results, I leaned on the comforting truth of Daniel 2:20-21:

 

 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and

power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and

raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to the discerning.”

 

What a relief to know he is sovereign over the universe, and everything is under his control.

 

When I was heartbroken after a young friend died as the result of a car accident, I desperately wanted to know why. Why didn’t God answer the prayers of countless people and bring her out of the coma?

Shelly was a talented pianist with a short-term missionary assignment pending. Why didn’t he save her?

God gave me the stabilizing staff of Romans 11:33-36, to help me walk through my questions and grief:

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 

 

Those last two statements brought sudden clarity. Everything—even painful eventscome through God first before they touch us. And somehow it all has potential to bring him honor and praise. The answer to my question why isn’t necessary.

 

“Each of us may be sure that

if God sends us over rocky paths,

He will provide us with sturdy shoes.

He will never send us on a journey

without equipping us well.”

–Alexander MacLaren

 

And with those sturdy shoes of equipping, praise God he also provides walking sticks of stability, support, relief, and comfort in his Word–if we keep a watchful eye.

 

 

What walking sticks in scripture have offered you stability, support, relief, and comfort?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org;  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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