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Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Long ago in Sunday School, our teachers taught us proper respect for God.  The rules of reverence included:

  • Be quiet and solemn in worship
  • Bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands to pray
  • Always treat God’s house with utmost respect

The first rule proved the most difficult to keep. I failed many a Sunday. My legs wanted to swing, my hands wished for crayons and paper, my eyes longed for a book. Would the sermon ever end?!

Years later I came across the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a collection of 107 questions and answers explaining the Christian faith. The list began with, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer shocked me.

The first part made perfect sense. Paul made it clear: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  But the second part caught me off guard.

Enjoy God?

His blessings and benefits certainly brought me joy. But God himself? How could I enjoy Someone who’s invisible?

Over time I’ve discovered that, although God deserves the utmost reverence and respect, we need not always be solemn. We can laugh and sing for joy in his presence (Psalm 68:3 MSG).

In fact, enthusiastic praise of God, especially in the company of others, is an invigorating way to enjoy him–reveling in who he is—our God of goodness, grace, and love.

We can also celebrate what he’s done—supplying our needs, guiding the way, and surprising us with gifts we didn’t even ask for.

While we’re worshiping, we can lift our hands toward God (Psalm 63:4), augmenting our connection to him. Even hands placed palms up on the lap can add to our enjoyment.

Steve and I learned this posture from one of his seminary professors. After a teaching session on prayer, Dr. Stanger instructed us to place our hands in our laps, palms up.

We sat in silence for a few moments, and suddenly I felt a tingling in my hands! Was the Spirit of God actually holding my hands as we prepared to pray?!

Dr. Stanger explained: the pressure on the backs of our hands caused the phenomenon.   But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch in this way?

Yes, supremely delightful!

We can also take the celebration outside and enjoy God as Creator and King of the universe. For example, look to the sky and contemplate the galaxies of stars. Smile at him in wonder because of their incomprehensible magnitude and indescribable beauty. Consider too, they’re all under his control.

Another way to enjoy God is to delight in his scripture. We can proclaim appreciation to him for the strength, comfort, and peace his Word provides, as well as those passages that bring joy to our hearts (Psalm 119:111).

Those of us who like to write find great pleasure in composing journal entries, poetry, personal psalms, and more, addressed to God, as a way of expressing our delight in him.

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, has inspired some of us to follow her example and go a step further: record thoughts or impressions we receive from God as we wait and listen in his presence (Psalm 25:5; 85:8).

In these ways and more God has made it possible for us to continually enjoy him.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dare I say it?  Is it too irreverent? You are FUN, God! I love spending time with you, rejoicing in you, celebrating your works, reveling in your presence, taking delight in our mutual communication.

What a glorious privilege you’ve granted us, Father, to nestle close to you and experience fullness of joy forevermore!

(Psalm 100:1-2; John 10:27; Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 16:11)

(Revised and reblogged from March 15, 2015, while I recover from Covid. My husband tested positive last Wednesday; I succumbed on Saturday. Symptoms have been uncomfortable but tolerable for both of us; we’re on the mend! ‘Will try to write a fresh post for next week.)

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Perhaps you’ve also heard these definitions:

  • A pessimist is a person who is seasick during the entire voyage of life.
  • An optimist is a person who goes in a restaurant with no money, and fully expects to pay for his meal with the pearl he finds among the oysters that he plans to order.
  • A realist is a person who does precise guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

M-m-m. According to those tongue-in-cheek definitions, who would aspire to any of these three attitudes?

Truth be told, pessimists often do identify worst-case scenarios and sometimes think God doesn’t care or he’d intervene. Optimists can believe God will always make good things happen, if we just have enough faith. Realists might not focus on the negative, yet still be cautious about expecting God’s involvement in their circumstances.

But what if he desires that we expect great things–things like strength to endure, help to solve problems, provision for needs, and guidance for decisions? Nineteenth century pastor/author Andrew Murray suggested:

It occurred to me that we Jesus-followers might aim past pessimism, realism, or optimism, toward up-timism. No, you won’t find that word in Webster’s. But according to the Nancy Ruegg Dictionary of Words We Need the up-timist looks up toward God, trusting that out of his love, goodness, and wisdom, he will do what is right.

Up-timists also take to heart the promises of scripture, they remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and affirm who he is in all his glorious attributes.

This doesn’t mean up-timists are perpetually giddy with cheer. But even as tears of pain or grief course down their cheeks, they rest in their Heavenly Father with joy. They’ve learned how to be “sorrowful but always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Consider these words from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon: “We ought to be glad and rejoice forever in that which God creates. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brothers and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. . . How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!”[1]

These words were penned when Spurgeon was deathly ill. Though he rallied for a time, the great theologian graduated to heaven six months later.

In the letter to his people excerpted above, he included a main characteristic of the up-timist: hope.

Hope is the confident expectation that God will use our painful circumstances for good . . . it’s what allows us to choose to rejoice amid hardships and to say to God, “I will rejoice in You.”[2]

By contrast, pessimists are often characterized by fatalism, realists by over-confidence in their own perceptions, and optimists by wishful thinking.

But up-timists affirm such confident expectations as these:

  • The Lord preserves those who are true to him . . . Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:23-24).
  • Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6).
  • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114).

Hope isn’t an automatic response in times of hardship, even for up-timists. We have to exercise our determination. One way is to speak truth to ourselves–with conviction. The scriptures listed above offer a good place to start.

Other truths include:

  • I know God has a purpose in this circumstance (Proverbs 19:21).
  • I know God will bring me through (Isaiah 40:29-31).
  • I know God is a good and loving Father, and he’s working toward the eternal perfection of his kingdom, for the benefit of all who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Note how God is at the center of the up-timist’s hope. She expects God to work in her life and in the world, anticipates the fulfillment of his promises, and looks forward to seeing his will unfold.

Note also that “hope doesn’t change what we see, like the lens of optimism or pessimism, hope changes us to withstand the journey this side of heaven with enduring joy, peace, and contentment.”[3]

So–would you describe yourself as an up-timist? How does that point of view impact your life? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] https://www.epm.org/blog/2019/Oct/23/godly-optimism.

[2] Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, 95.

[3] Kim Striver, https://www.coreradiate.com/blog/optimist

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Over the years I’ve prayed for a number of people who didn’t even know I was praying—people like:

  • The family of a toddler with a brain tumor
  • a tollbooth worker struggling to make ends meet*
  • the young wife anxious to become a mother

No doubt you’ve also prayed in secret for strangers, unbeknownst to them.

Rarely do we receive updates concerning these people. But one day in heaven, we just may hear their miracle-stories. And won’t it be thrilling to know we played a part through the privilege of prayer?

Secret Prayers

Sara Hagerty in her book Unseen wrote about secret prayers, but has taken the practice to a whole new level—a level I aspire to. Sara silently prays for strangers she happens to see while going about her day:

  • the man in a wheelchair, that he might experience God’s strength
  • the woman with vacant eyes, that God would fill her needful heart
  • the man running to his gate at the airport, that he would run with God

The anonymity of such petitions gives Sara warm satisfaction, and no doubt puts a smile on her face.

Might God smile also? I think so.

It’s occurred to me that we experience other kinds of secrets with our Heavenly Father, and they too make us smile together with him.

Consider:

Secret Deeds

  • M. often wipes down the sink area in public restrooms and then washes her hands. It’s M.’s secret delight to provide this small blessing for the next person.
  • For years Norma frequently walked for exercise along a busy street, picking up refuse with a trash-grabber, then stuffing it into a grocery sack. After covering about a mile on each side, Norma would smile with satisfaction at the pristine street before turning the corner toward home.
  • My husband will often strike up a conversation with restaurant waiters or waitresses. If they’re not too busy he’ll share a bit about the difference God has made in our lives, how he’s provided for us in amazing ways. Then, before we leave, Steve puts a generous tip on the table. It makes us smile to imagine their looks of happy surprise at first glimpse of those bills. And we pray they see the goodness of God behind the gift and seek him for themselves.

Surely God smiles as well. 

Secret Moments

One category would be those times when one of his wild creatures approaches in holy proximity:

  • The hummingbirds who hover close enough to touch as if to say, “Thank you for the flower buffet in the deck planter!”
  • The doe that stood at the bottom of the deck stairs one morning when I exited the kitchen door. I froze; she froze. We stared at one another for long moments before she gracefully sauntered into the trees.
  • The red admiral butterfly that rested on my knee one afternoon, allowing me to marvel at his colorations, the wingtip scallops and tiny stripes on his antennae.

I can’t help but smile in delight at God’s creativity, artistry, and workmanship—especially when observed up close and personal. And while reveling in such exceptional moments, I like to think he smiles too.

Secret Blessings

  • Our youngest granddaughter recently climbed into my lap and nestled for a minute or so—unusual for a child always on the go. You grandparents out there know the special pleasure of each snuggle!
  • Frequently over the years God has used song-lyrics to encourage me. On occasion I’m overcome by happy tears while experiencing his tender care through music.
  • My husband and I basked together under a dazzling full moon the night of my birthday. While gazing at its soft glow, I sensed afresh the soft glow of God’s love, joy, and peace in my spirit.

Moments like these cause smiles of gratitude as our Heavenly Father expresses his personalized goodness. And I’m convinced God smiles with us.

Finally, there’s one more pleasure not to be missed: Sharing secrets and smiles with our Lord fosters intimacy and draws us closer to him. Our challenge is not to miss them.

What secret and smile have you enjoyed recently with your Heavenly Father? Please share in the comment section below!

*You can read the full story at: https://nancyaruegg.com/2017/10/19/tollbooth-encounter/.

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.

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Many who follow Jesus long for the fulness of blessings he’s promised, like intimacy with God, peace of mind, and life to the fullest (1).

When these blessings aren’t apparent, it’s natural to wonder why. A person might think, I just need to try harder, become more disciplined. Maybe I should severely limit recreation and sacrifice more.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-discipline and sacrifice are part of a dynamic Christian life (2), and actually become delights as we mature in our faith.

But what if:

Intimacy with our Heavenly Father doesn’t require a monk-like lifestyle but stillness and spending time with him in scripture.

“The world applauds achievement; God desires companionship. The world clamors, “Do more! Be all you can be!” But our Father whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

If Bible study sounds like a chore, talk to someone who considers it a joy. Learn from them how to experience the same.

Faith doesn’t require long prayers about inadequate faith, but simply resting in what we know about God.

“If you feed your faith, your doubts will starve to death.”

Debbie MacComber

One way to feed your faith is to keep a journal of events that give evidence of God’s work in your life, his guidance, provision, and blessing (3). I promise, you’ll be amazed.

Peace doesn’t come from distracting ourselves with busyness, but from knowing God, focusing on him through worship, and meditating on his attributes.

Reverend Croft M. Pentz expressed it this way:

“No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.”

Croft M. Pentz

And Ruth Bell Graham discovered:

We’d do well to learn from her experience.

Hope isn’t generated by wishful thinking, but by affirming the Word of God.

Some of you will remember the old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” The second verse offers this encouragement:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
  Standing on the promises of God.

–Russell K. Carter

For every hope—of a problem to be solved, a relationship to be healed, and a need to be met—there are scripture-promises on which to place our hope. To trust God is to trust his promises. 

Contentment isn’t the result of having all desires fulfilled, it’s the result of gratitude for what we already have.

When we begin to thank God for such delights as the friendly wave of a neighbor, the worshipful toll of church bells, the bright lady bug on a stem, we soon realize how many gifts he bestows.    

Add to his daily delights the assurance that God is with us to support, within us to empower, and going before us to lead the way (4).

Most of our wants pale in comparison to the glories we already enjoy. . .

. . . in creation . . .
. . . in relationships . . .
. . . in usefulness.

A rich and satisfying life doesn’t come through self-centered gratification, but through obedience to God’s ways.

“God’s commands are designed to guide us to life’s very best” (5), including the qualities we’ve considered in this post: delightful intimacy with God, restful peace, constant contentment, and more. That’s a life overflowing with joy.

Pursuing this kind of rich, satisfying life is a bit like making soup! Every ingredient that goes in the pot impacts the flavor of everything else in the pot. In the spiritual realm, everything we do, say, or even think impacts the flavor of our faith.

Gratitude produces contentment but also impacts our worship and quality of life. Faith grows our knowledge of God, but also grows contentment and spiritual strength. Scripture study instills peace, but also nurtures hope and tightens our connection to God. The list could continue but you get the idea.

The bottom line is this:

The question becomes, what actions will we pursue to genuinely impact the flavor of our faith?  


1. James 4:8; John 14:27; John 10:10

2. Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:2

3. “Christmas Afterglow” includes several examples.

4. Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Deuteronomy 31:8

5. Henry Blackaby

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In 2 Peter 1:17 the apostle calls God, “the Majestic Glory.” Isn’t that an inspired name for God?

This week I chose to use each letter as a portal into aspects of his majestic glory—other names that reveal his Personhood. With each one, my awe for Almighty God expanded.

See if your spirit responds similarly, as you consider God as the:

Maker of All Things (Nehemiah 9:6)

He is responsible for every star in the heavens (200 billion trillion of them, thereabouts), every tree on our planet (all 3 trillion, give or take) and every fish in the seas (among 34,000 or so species)!

A rchitect of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10)

Here on Earth we marvel at God’s handiwork in the towering mountain peaks, delicate butterflies, and far-reaching rainbows. Try to imagine the fresh beauty, new wonders, and absolute perfection he’s prepared for us in heaven!

Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

God’s jealousy is simply passionate eagerness to protect what belongs to him, what is precious to him—you and me. He doesn’t want us following after such false gods as greed, self-gratification, or popularity that will never satisfy. Only he can.

Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)

In contrast to this ever-decaying world, our God’s perfections never change and his mercies will never end. He is always and eternally available to us.[1]

Song (Psalm 118:14 ESV)

Think of song as a synonym for joy. He is the Author and Giver of joy, even in difficult times. In fact, “He uses troubles to show where true joys are to be found—in him.”[2]

True God (John 17:3)

He’s the one and only Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Yet, as holy, powerful, and awe-inspiring as he is, God invites us to know him—to pull up a chair to his table and talk with him.[3]

I AM (Exodus 3:14)

With this name that encompasses all his glorious complexities, God makes clear: “I AM the God of absolute power and sublime perfection, abiding faithfulness and assured reliability, unfailing love and generous benevolence.” Of course, these descriptors just scratch the surface of his infinite glory!

Comforter (Isaiah 51:12)

We can take comfort in the knoweldge that, even in the dark pit of emotional pain., we are not without hope. God always comes alongside to help us endure until it’s time to bring us out of those depths. And then, when we stand at last on the solid ground of restoration, we experience the exhilaration of greater faith and the enrichment of wisdom-from-experience.

Gardener (John 15:1)

Jesus often used figurative language in his teaching. One time he compared himself to a grapevine and called his Father the Gardener/Vinedresser.

Of course, our God knows intimately what we–the branches–need.  He supplies streams of living water to continually nourish and refresh, and he provides optimum conditions for growth, in order to produce the best yield of the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Light  (Psalm 27:1)

His Light reveals the way on the dark path ahead, lifts the shadows of hurt and despair, and guides us through “the grayness of doubt and uncertainty.”[4]

Only Wise God (Jude 1:25)

Yes, there is darkness and confusion in our world. Wickedness seems to be winning in the battle between good and evil. BUT! Our all-wise God knows what he’s doing—in our personal lives and in the world at large.

When the time is right he’ll dispel the darkness with his dazzling light and bring order out of confusion. One day he’ll rid the world of evil once and for all.

Revealer of Truth (John 16:13)

Our God is the “possessor and giver of all truth. Truth is not men’s discovery; it is God’s gift. . . At the back of all truth there is God.”[5]

And the more we avail ourselves of his truth in scripture, the more we treasure it.

Your Very Great Reward  (Genesis 15:1)

How rich we are because God is in us and with us, wielding his glorious attributes for our best good. How poor we are without him.[6]

Look upon God in all his MAJESTIC GLORY. This is your Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love!

Breathe in the wonder.


[1] Lamentations 3:22; Isaiah 41:10

[2] Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, Songs of Jesus, 200.

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:16; Colossians 1:17; Jeremiah 33:3

[4] Iris Hesselden, quoted in Grandma’s Inspirational Recipes, 40.

[5] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 229.

[6] MacLaren’s Expositions

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You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

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Thomas Jefferson gave us this bit of wisdom:

 https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/brevity.html

Note how the following authors demonstrate this most valuable of all talents:

  • “It is good people who make good places.”—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
  • “Trials come to prove and improve us.”—St. Augustine
  • “Change always comes bearing gifts.”—Price Pritchett

Conciseness contributes to effectiveness, agreed?

In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote a magnificent but concise blessing for the Christians in Rome. He brought together five key concepts of our faith—hope, joy, peace, trust, and power—in just thirty words or so, depending on the translation:

Whole books have been written to expound on each concept. But since this is a blog post, not a treatise, I’ll try to keep it short—and concise!

HOPE

Our Christian hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident reliance on the sacred certainties of our Heavenly Father.

Paul calls him our God of hope because of his glorious attributes manifested in our lives—his omnipotent power, gracious mercy, continual patience, lavish kindness, and absolute reliability—to name a few.

And with statements of faith we can bolster our hope—statements such as these:

  • “God is kind and good, wise and powerful. All his attributes are always at work for my benefit.”
  • “God is accomplishing purpose in these circumstances, just as he always does.”
  • “He will bring me through this situation, and I’ll be a better person for it.”

JOY

Joy is not the absence of all misery and the presence of every whim; joy is found in the presence of God.

Sound silly? Talk to an old saint who has walked with Jesus many years—who’s felt the Lord’s presence surrounding him, heard God’s whispers in his heart, and experienced his guidance and provision again and again. 

This saint will tell you: the pleasures of this life don’t begin to compare to the soul-delight of intimacy with God.

PEACE

Peace is not found in circumstances; it’s found in a Person, the Prince of Peace. The better we know him, the better we know peace.

Tension decreases as we affirm:

  • He is completely trustworthy.
  • He knows everything; he’s in control of everything.
  • He takes pleasure in blessing us with all that we need.
  • He is with us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
  • Even in the midst of difficulty, we can experience his peace. In fact, it’s a promise.

TRUST

It’s God’s part to work all things for good; it’s our part to trust.

The question becomes, What can I do to grow in trust?

The answer: express gratitude. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness”[1]

So thank God, even in the midst of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain. “There’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust”[2]!

POWER

The power to thrive does not come from within ourselves; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do circumstances appear impossible to rectify? Think on the power of God. He scatters the stars in space. He breathes life into every creature. He provides everything necessary to sustain our little planet.

It’s that kind of absolute, unlimited power that will see each of us through every crisis until we’re home with him.

And so, in one concise verse Paul majestically highlights five pillars of the abundant life.

When we embrace the hope, joy, and peace that God offers, when we trust in him with expectancy and resolve, when we pray for his power to be released in and through us, our lives and outlook will become radiant and alive[3]!

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live?

Scriptures for further reflection:

Hope–Psalm 145:8-9; Daniel 2:20; John 5:17; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4

Joy–Psalm 16:11; Psalm 71:5-8

Peace–Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 3:20b; Jeremiah 31:3; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 40:29-31; Philippians 4:6-7

Trust–Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; 28:7; 112:7; Colossians 2:7; Psalm 110:4-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Power of the Holy Spirit–1 Corinthians 8:6; Psalm 8:3; Job 12:10; Psalm 46:1

Notes


[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24.

[2] Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 155.

[3] The last clause is based on Touchstone’s revised version (1995) of the J. B. Phillips’ translation for Romans 15:13.

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(in celebration of Poetry Month)

Inside us all exists a place

unique in space and size.

Just one thing can fill this space;

it’s nothing money buys.

Some people try to fill the void

with work and busy-ness.

They think that to be well-employed

will bring true happiness.

Others try a different route—

they seek recognition.

But all too soon they learn about

the failings of ambition.

But inside me there is no void—

it’s a marvelous sensation!

Inside me grows peace and joy,

defying explanation.

The future holds no fear for me,

sleepless nights I don’t endure.

There’s no need to fret continually,

because my destiny is secure.

Even when problems come my way,

a sense of joy pervades.

From an inner strength, fears are allayed,

and anxiety begins to fade.

This peace and joy inside me

come from one amazing Source.

It’s Jesus Christ—he’s the key,

the almighty, empowering force!

The Lord alone can fit that space;

nothing else will ever do.

While following his excellent ways,

I experience his blessings too!

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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Most everyone knows her name and a bit about her work. But few know of the discouragement and self-doubt she faced, the depression during her early twenties that led to suicidal thoughts, the criticism she endured, her ruined health, and collapses from overwork.

Yet Florence Nightingale, Mother of Modern Nursing, persevered through it all.

Coloured lithograph by H. M. Bonham-Carter, 1854.

Even as she suffered, Florence wrote, “It is such a blessing to have been called, however unworthy, to be the handmaid of the Lord” [1].

We marvel at her determination and strength, yet such endurance is available to us too. God has provided numerous ways for us to endure all circumstances.

Especially in this time of turmoil and uncertainty in our world, we’d do well to build up a nest egg of intentional faith deposits—deposits that include:

STANDING firm on the Bible

Psalm 119 in particular celebrates the benefits of immersion in God’s Word. A short-list would include: delight (v. 16), counsel (v. 24), understanding (v. 32), hope (v. 49), comfort (v. 52), wisdom (v. 99), truth (v. 160), and peace (v. 165).

Who couldn’t use more of these qualities in their lives?

TIME with God

Turn your mind to worship throughout the day, and in the process of being worshiped . . . God will communicate his presence [2]. Awareness of his presence then leads to strength, and strength leads to quietness of spirit.

TRUST in God’s character

Those of us who’ve known God for awhile can attest to his unfathomable grace, unwavering faithfulness, never-ending compassion, supreme goodness, infinite wisdom, over-arching power, and perfect love.

Meditating on his attributes also replenishes our spiritual strength.

.   

APPROPRIATION of what God has provided

Think of the value of such God-given gifts as forgiveness, prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and contentment.

Why would I ever say, “No thank you, God!” to such glorious gifts?

DETERMINATION to stay in the fight

You might remember that composer Ludwig van Beethoven became deaf, beginning in his twenties. Yet he declared, “I will take life by the throat” [3].

May we exercise such determination and embrace our life in Christ with the same tenacity, no matter the circumstances. Strain contributes to strength.

AWARENESS of the evidence

How has God provided for you? Protected you? Guided you?

Contemplate the examples and you’ll find yourself echoing the psalmist: “You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” [4].

And joy in the Lord also fosters strength [5].

ENJOYMENT of God’s blessings

To keep the joy flowing, remember his magnanimous blessings—those gifts beyond necessity and surprises beyond dreams.

More joy; more strength.

FELLOWSHIP with God’s people

Praise God for family and friends whose winsome ways make our lives a little lighter, whose compassion makes our troubles easier to carry, and whose love and encouragement enable us to press on.

They infuse strength when ours begins to wane.

SINGLE-MINDEDNESS on the goal

With the Apostle Paul we can focus on one thing: forget what is behind and do our best to reach toward what is ahead, “which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above” [6].

All of these deposits . . .

S  tanding firm

T  ime with God

E  njoyment of God’s blessings

A  ppropriation of what God has provided

D  etermination to stay in the fight

F  ellowship with God’s people

A  wareness of the evidence

S  ingle-mindedness

T  rust in God’s character . . .

. . . will contribute to the kind of STEADFASTNESS that propelled such people of faith as Florence Nightingale and Ludwig van Beethoven through the adversities they faced.

And do you remember what happens when perseverance finishes its work in our lives?

We become mature, complete, and lacking in nothing [7].

Ready for anything.


[1] https://www.christiantoday.com/article/god-has-spoken-to-me-and-called-me-to-serve-12-inspiring-florence-nightingale-quotes-to-mark-her-birthday/108984.htm

[2] C. S. Lewis, quoted by Linda Dillow in Satisfy the Thirsty Soul, 17.

[3] https://bible.org/illustration/life-throat  

[4] Psalm 92:4

[5] Nehemiah 8:10

[6] Philippians 3:13-14 GNT

[7] James 1:4 HCSB

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wkikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com.

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Fitness experts will tell you, strong core muscles of the mid-section greatly enhance your physical well-being, contributing to stability that prevents falls, minimization of strain that causes pain, as well as effective breathing that optimizes oxygen flow.

When core strength is absent, a person is likely to:

  • have difficulty getting up from a chair without leverage
  • struggle to bend down and tie his shoes
  • find himself slouching
  • lose his balance
  • experience back pain

But it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Those same fitness experts recommend exercises: crunches, planks, and bridges—to name a few—although just a brisk walk engages core muscles and contributes to strength.

Of course, even more important than our physical fitness is spiritual strength, which raises a new question:

How strong is your core–of the soul?

Just as we can identify symptoms of physical weakness, we can identify soul-weakness when challenge mires us in such thoughts as: Why me? This is so unfair. If God cared, this wouldn’t be happening.

However, it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Our spiritual Fitness Expert, God himself, has provided exercises to strengthen our souls, including:

Bible Meditation

More than just reading a passage, meditation includes taking to heart God’s Word and responding personally.

For example, how might you respond to Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit?”

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

I praise you, O God, for your omnipotent power. Nothing is impossible for you (Luke 18:27)! Just that knowledge alone can settle my anxious heart and foster sweet hope.

I praise you also for your unlimited understanding. You are a God of infinite wisdom and you generously offer to bestow wisdom to me–if I just ask (James 1:5).

Thank you for coming alongside, ever-ready to expend your power and wisdom for my good. You are a gracious God beyond what anyone could hope for!

Such an exercise develops the muscle of faith, contributes to stability of soul, and helps prevent falls into worry and fear.

Positive Prayer

Even the tone of my prayers can impact soul-strength. If I focus on the problem, the emotional pain is likely to remain:

Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I keep trying various scenarios in my mind but there seems no way out of these circumstances. You’ve got to help us, although I don’t see how. What a mess!  

On the other hand, if I focus on God’s attributes at work and his promises that apply, the strain of the situation diminishes:

“I praise and thank you, Father, that I have no reason to fear. You’ve given our family the promise that you’ll fight for us; all we have to do is stand firm and see your salvation (Exodus 14:13-14). YOU are our strength, providing the wherewithal to rectify this situation. YOU are our very present help in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

As positivity is expressed in our prayers, the spiritual muscle of hope develops.

Gratitude & Joy

It stands to reason: if we focus on the problems surrounding us, discouragement will weaken our spirits.

But if we focus on all the good things flowing to us from God’s loving heart, we’ll find plenty to be joyful about. It’s just a matter of engaging our praise and gratitude muscles.

Most sets of the physical exercises I do each morning include twenty repetitions. I wonder if we could name twenty of God’s attributes, providing twenty reasons to be joyful in him?

Skim through the psalms with me, and let’s see what we find:

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

We did it—and long before reaching the end of Psalms!

Do you find the strain on your spirit relaxing, just in reviewing his surpassing greatness?  Is renewed strength, stability, hope, and joy flowing into your soul?

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; pxhere.com.

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