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Archive for the ‘Intimacy with God’ Category

 

Years ago when I taught fourth grade, our reading curriculum included a mini-lesson about A-HA Moments—places in a story where the author answers questions the reader has been wondering about.

Watching for those moments keeps the reader alert (thus improving comprehension), contributes to greater understanding of the plot and characters, and makes reading more fun.

Once our students became familiar with the concept, we enjoyed calling out “A-HA!” to one another (occasionally in unison) as other epiphanies occurred, whether it was in class or at recess. The sharing of A-HA Moments developed our classroom community and added to the joy of learning.

 

 

Our Heavenly Father also provides A-HA Moments, through such avenues as scripture, other reading, comments from others, and observations in nature. Our God is highly creative, providing personal revelations in numerous ways.

And similar to the benefits of A-HA Moments for students, our discovery moments with God augment our understanding of scripture and spiritual matters, strengthen our relationship with him, and add to the joy of learning from him.

For example:

 

 

  • An A-Ha Moment from Scripture

After six delightful years at one church, my pastor-husband received word he’d be assigned to a new congregation in three months’ time. My heart sank. This would be our third such move in thirteen years, and it wasn’t getting easier. As you know, saying good-bye hurts.

In addition, I had just returned that year to full-time teaching, after a long hiatus as a stay-at-home mom. Now I’d face the onerous task of procuring another position.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, we learned about some of the difficult challenges facing the new-to-us congregation.   And I wondered, God, what ARE you doing?

 

 

One afternoon a radio host quoted Jeremiah 29:11—a familiar scripture—but that day those words spoke loud and clear to me from God himself: Nancy, there is no reason to worry. I have already worked out my plans for you—plans to prosper you, not harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a thriving future.

Indeed we did prosper at that new church—for thirteen years—as God brought us and taught us through those numerous challenges. But one problem took care of itself—a new teaching position for me. (You can read that story at After the Fact.)

 

  • An A-HA Moment from other reading

 

 

The fact I’m writing about this topic today is the result of an A-HA Moment in itself. First, the seed of an idea was already on my topic list for 2019, but I had no notion how to develop it.

Currently I’m studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. And just the other day I read this:

 

“I know the Lord is speaking to me personally when I read my Bible

and a particular verse or passage seems illuminated

—it just lifts up off the page,

and I seem to hear a gentle, inaudible whisper

as I have an ‘aha moment’ in my heart.”

–Anne Graham Lotz

 

Anne’s A-HA Moment caused me to have one of my own. God brought to mind the story about moving I just shared above as well as other examples. Then he pointed out other avenues of A-HA Moments, and I knew this was today’s topic.

 

 

  • An A-HA Moment in God’s Living Room

That’s what Michael Hyatt* calls the out-of-doors.  Isn’t that a poetically perfect appellation?   My special corner in God’s living room is our back deck overlooking the treetops.

One morning last October, the deck was surrounded by stillness—no birds trilled, no squirrels chattered—until one lone cardinal began to sing. Enthusiastically he filled our little woods with his voice, and his song made me smile.

I was reminded that God often breaks through the stillness of all our lives, with custom-designed lessons, answered prayers, and out-of-the-blue blessings. As a result, we experience hope, peace, and joy—three commodities that make life worth living.

 

 

Recorded in my journal is the impression God spoke in my spirit:

I do love to surprise My children! And their subsequent celebrations of praise bring Me great pleasure. But in reality I provide more wonders than they often perceive. Some surprises go unnoticed.

Keep watching and listening, Nancy, so we can smile, laugh, and celebrate together all the delightful surprises I bring into your life.

And therein lies the secret for experiencing life-enriching A-HA Moments with God: keeping watch (Micah 7:7) and listening attentively (Proverbs 1:5).

 

 

“Blessed are your eyes because they see,

and your ears because they hear.”

–Matthew 13:16

 

*former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

What A-HA Moment has God presented to you lately? Tell us your story in the Comments section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.kadena.af.mil; http://www.calicospanish.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

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

 

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Wouldn’t that be nice—a deep sea of joy—for the days when the washer breaks down in the middle of a load, a tire goes flat on the way to an important meeting, and a jar of spaghetti sauce slips out of hand, splattering bright red ooze and shards of glass over much of the kitchen.

Yup. That’s what we need: a deep sea of joy. We could jump right in and be swallowed up in delightful mirth while everything else conspires to dump us into despair.

But according to that wise preacher of long ago, Charles Spurgeon, that’s exactly what we do have:

 

 

“Our God is a deep sea of joy.

My soul will dive therein

And be swallowed up

In the delights of his companionship.” *

 

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Such sweet relief. But how do we do that? How do we delight in the companionship of an invisible God?

Actually, the relationships we enjoy with our (visible) loved ones give us many cues.

 

 

For example, just last weekend we enjoyed three days at Red River Gorge, Kentucky, with our older son and his family. You might recall Eric and Hilja (Hill-ya) have two little girls, ages four and four months. Needless to say our activities at the gorge were limited. No zip-lining, horseback riding, or long treks through the forest. Not this trip.

But we still took great pleasure in interesting conversations on the deck (especially in the evening after the girls were asleep), a short, scenic woodland hike, superb dinners prepared by Eric, reminiscings through some family history, frequent laughter**, and simply basking in the joy of being together.

God offers us similar joys as we delight in him:

 

  • Conversation—in the form of “simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, 55).

 

  • Common interests, such as impacting the lives of others–opportunities to participate side by side with God in his work (John 15:5).

 

 

  • The splendor of creation–all the more magnificent as we revel in his artistry and genius (Psalm 33:6-9).

 

  • Celebration of who our God is and what he does (Psalm 145:7, 92:4).

 

  • Humorous moments–created by God just like everything else, so that with Sarah each of us can say, “God has brought me laughter” (Genesis 21:6).

 

  • His ever-present, ever-attentive companionship–itself a source of lavish joy (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

Oh, but there are still more ways to delight in God as we…

Trust.

Consistent contentment is possible as we affirm, “He is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4).

Thank.

Honoring God with our gratitude is uplifting to us and pleasing to him (Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 69:30-31).

Praise and sing.

If God delights in us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17), how much more should we delight in him with an expressive, lyrical heart?

 

 

Charles Spurgeon was right:

 

Our God offers a deep sea of joy–

if only we dive into his delights

frequently,

all day long.

 

 

*from Morning by Morning by Charles Spurgeon, updated by Whitaker House, 1984.

 

**Maybe it was only funny to us, but I have to share what four-year old Elena said after her first fishing excursion. She’d been warned to stay out of the greenery along the side of the road in case of poison ivy. Upon returning to the cabin she announced, “I stayed out of the weeds so I won’t get poisonitis.”

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpictures.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.uk.pinterest.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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When I was a young girl, my family lived near Chicago in a three-bedroom, one bath home. One car parked in the driveway; there was no garage. My brother and I dreamed of owning an in-ground swimming pool but had to settle for the crowded, over-chlorinated conditions of the community pool.

 

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If someone had told me, “Nancy, when you grow up you will get married, have three children, and live in Florida for forty years. Every home will have two bathrooms and a garage. You’ll eventually own two cars, too. But, best of all, three of your homes will have a swimming pool in the backyard.”

 

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(Sometimes we enjoyed a bigger pool — the Gulf or Atlantic.)

 

I would have thought, Unbelievable! When all those heavenly things happen, then I’ll be happy and content.

Ah, but during those forty years in Florida I remember thinking on more than one occasion: If only this heat and humidity would let up. It’s like a furnace out there. Or, Why can’t these kids just get along with each other and give me some peace? Or, Houseguests are coming; gotta clean those bathrooms today. Ugh.

Contentment can be an elusive quality. No sooner do we possess one long-desired item, we discover another acquisition to wish for. No sooner have we achieved one level of success, we’re already reaching for the next—with a sideways glance at our neighbor who’s acquired or accomplished more than we have.

We know what scripture tells us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 

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Our spirits sense the truth of it and recognize the gain to be had when craving, grasping, and unrest give way to peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

But how?

Contentment is a choice of perspective. I can choose to affirm and celebrate my:

  • Possessions.  I have more than enough.
  • Position.  I have experienced more than enough.
  • Personhood.  I am more than enough the way God made me, with my particular personality traits, gifts, and abilities.

Like Paul, I can learn to be content by choosing again and again the proper perspective (Philippians 4:11).

 

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However.

There is one area where contentment is not desirable: in the spiritual realm. I never want to become content with what I already know about God or be satisfied with the current level of intimacy between my Heavenly Father and me.

I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

 

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That’s an opportunity for a lifetime. Think of it: we never reach the end of his magnificence and influence. There is always greater knowledge to understand, more wonder to explore, more splendor and growth to experience.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord, God, may I not look right or left at what others have, or what others have accomplished, or what gifts and talents they display. Keep me mindful of my utmost desire: to know you more intimately, follow you more closely, and live in the contentment of your sufficiency for everything.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ancestory.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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A common, ordinary day in mid-November

Overcast and chilly, just like yesterday

Tomorrow promises to be the same

No breeze to make leaves dance

no birds to add lyrical songs

Few trees remain bannered in crimson and gold

Dullness and grayness predominate and

joy seems unwarranted.

 

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But wait—gentle wonders abound

Soft light filters through windows

Candles glow sprightly on tabletops

Hazelnut coffee in a favorite cup

Offers cozy familiarity and

A colorful afghan created by a friend

Wraps my lap in warmth and

My heart with her love.

 

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These quiet wonders provide the perfect backdrop to stilled time

Sublime moments of solitude to experience God’s presence

To receive revelations from his heart to mine

Time to wonder, time to ponder

Time to turn to God and listen

Allowing his Spirit to mend my brokenness

Tend my worriedness and bend my self-centeredness

To his way of contentment.

 

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Ordinary moments on an ordinary day suddenly become holy

Sacred and separate

As attentiveness leads to discovery

Discovery ushers in joy

And joy results in gratitude

I exult in you, Heavenly Father!

You reside among the commonplace as well as the astounding

There is great glory in the ordinary after all.

 

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

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A little over two years ago when Steve and I retired, God provided for us a perfect little ranch house built into the side of a hill. A strip of woods and a ravine separate our block from the one behind us, and large windows in the kitchen/family room offer a tranquil view of treetops.

 

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One of the projects we completed before moving in was the addition of a deck off the back of the house. The vista we enjoy from window and deck give us the sensation of living in a tree house, and we revel in the beauty and quiet.

Just about everyone loves tree houses. Even television now offers programs featuring their construction.

Why do they cause such delight?

Perhaps because tree houses provide:

  • A quiet, peaceful refuge, removed from the stressful responsibilities of our lives.  There’s something about being up among the trees that repairs our equilibrium. We breathe easier, the peace of the surroundings soaks into our spirits and tension is released.

 

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  • A respite from the ordinary. Most of us are surrounded by concrete and dry wall much of the time. To experience a vista of trees and sky is sweet relief.
  • A new perspective and fuel for the imagination. Away from daily routines and distractions, we can see our lives from a more objective viewpoint. In addition, our thoughts dance more freely, creativity flows more readily, and discoveries unfurl more frequently. No wonder many tree houses for adults are built as artist/writer retreats.

 

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All of these reasons make sense, but I have one more theory about why we love these structures: Tree houses provide a physical, tangible replica of the presence of God.

Jesus made the way for us to experience his company, like the ladder or staircase to a refuge in the trees (1).

God is always with us, whether we’re aware or not. The key is to draw near to him through prayerful conversation and mindful observation of his glory—in a sunset, a bird song, or the scent of wisteria on the breeze. Then his peace can pervade our thoughts, and God becomes our refuge (2).

 

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With him there’s no such thing as ordinary living. He offers a God-enhanced, abundant life of joy in blessing, comfort in sorrow, sufficiency in trouble, and more (3).

New perspectives open up to us as we sit in quiet contemplation with our Heavenly Father, perspectives such as: contentment is a matter of choice not circumstances; my identity, security and purpose are not the result of events or effort; they are the result of who I am—a beloved child of God; God-thoughts change the atmosphere of my spirit (4).

 

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Tree houses offer much; God offers much more. Best of all, he’s not limited to a small structure perched among the trees.

The high life with God is always available.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, God of the universe, for the incredible privilege of an intimate relationship with you. Anytime, anywhere, I can turn to you and breathe in your peace, admire the view of your glorious attributes, and experience rejuvenation of my spirit. I praise you, O Most High, for the restful shelter you provide. You are my refuge and fortress in whom I trust (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

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What benefits of the high life with God do you especially appreciate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 18:10
  3. John 10:10; John 16:24; Psalm 147:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. Philippians  4:11-13; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 16:8

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.fellowshipsite.org.

 

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