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Archive for the ‘Maturity’ Category

 

Younging. That’s a word coined by author Valerie Burton Bell in her book A Well-Tended Soul.* She says, even as our bodies become less reliable, we can continue younging on the inside, growing more lively in our spirits.

Author and minister, George MacDonald (1824-1905), would have agreed:

 

 

I like the sound of that—younging and ripening with fresh life within. Maybe you do too. (Even if you’re under fifty, you can still determine to choose younging when the time comes.)

The question is: How do we achieve it?

Perhaps the best answers come from those who’ve gone before us who demonstrated lively, spirited living into their eighties and nineties. How did they swell with fresh life within?

 

1. By serving others

My parents modeled this strategy. Even when arthritis caused painful challenge for Dad, he served at the church food pantry, assisted in the kindergarten Sunday School, and read to students every week at my nephew’s school.

Mom also assisted in the Sunday School, lavishing her love on children and parents alike. She sang in the choir, participated in women’s ministries, and volunteered at the church office.

 

Mom and Dad with their first great-granddaughter, 2010

 

“Experts in aging make a distinction between passive aging and purposeful aging. Successful, purposeful aging calls for continued involvement, relationships, discipline, and an attitude of faith” (George Sweeting).

I’m sure Mom and Dad never researched what successful aging entailed. It just came naturally to them, as an outgrowth of their love for Jesus and a desire to serve him.

 

2. By maintaining a positive attitude

Not only do joints get a bit rusty as we age, our attitudes can start to corrode. It’s so easy to let negative thoughts grate in our minds, or respond to “How are you?” with creaking complaints.

But a positive attitude contributes to joy, and joy works like oil, lubricating our spirits. In addition, the oil of gladness tends to overflow, providing positive impact on those around us.

My father-in-law was just such a person. To those who asked him, “How are you,” his stock response was: “If I felt any better, I couldn’t stand it!”

 

Mom & Dad Ruegg, 1983

 

That’s the kind of attitude I want to foster—not for the purpose of reaching my nineties as he did, but to avail myself of the abundant, overflowing joy Jesus provides (John 15:11) and then share it with others.

 

3. By keeping a sense of humor

 

 

A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22a), perhaps all the more so as we age.

And no one had a more cheerful heart than Hazel, a merry senior in the fourth church my husband pastored. She was the one with a bicycle horn on her cane.

One day, in a phone conversation with her adult son, she informed him of her date that evening.

“A date?” Andrew inquired, more than a bit surprised that his widowed mother, now in her late eighties, would be venturing out on a date. “With whom?”

“His name is Michael.”

“And where did you meet Michael?”

“At church.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner.”

“Well, tell me about this Michael.” Andrew prodded.

“Oh, he’s the nicest young man—you’d like him.”

“Young? Just how old is he?”

“In his early thirties, I suspect. He…

“Mom!”   Andrew interrupted. “What are you doing, going out with a man nearly a third your age?!”

Hazel finally admitted to Andrew he had nothing to worry about. Michael was on staff at our church, his wife (a nurse) was on duty that night, and Michael had offered to pick up Hazel and be her “date” for the Senior Sunday School Class banquet.

 

 

Younging—by serving others, fostering a positive attitude, and keeping a sense of humor– certainly contributes to those pleasures.

 

Thank you, Father, for the opportunity of younging as we age,

providing numerous delights as we do so.

__________________________

 

What younging strategies have you adopted in your own life or observed in others?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

*Zondervan, 1996.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.pikist.com.

 

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Ask a group of young adults to name three of their life goals, and many of them will mention: success in their careers, loving families, and good friends.

Few if any will say, “to lead a quiet life.”

Yet God inspired Paul to write:

 

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

–1 Thessalonians 4:11a

(emphasis added)

 

First, I suppose we ought to establish what a quiet life might include—qualities such as:

  • Composure
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness
  • Peacefulness

 

 

Equally valuable?   An understanding of what the quiet life would not include:

  • Boasting
  • Being easily-ruffled or offended
  • Whining and Complaining
  • Bossiness
  • Being argumentative

 

 

It’s easy to see: those who lead calm, kind, gentle lives are the ones we like to be around.  The second group of boasters, whiners, and arguers–not so much.

But there are many more benefits to the quiet life than offering pleasant company for others, honorable as that is. Consider the following:

 

A quiet life produces inner strength.

 

“Strength is found not in busyness and noise but in quietness.

For a lake to reflect the heavens on its surface, it must be calm.”

–L. B. Cowman (1)

 

Have you noticed that those with great inner strength and tranquility are most often grounded in faith?

 

(Grandma Rachel, circa 1910)

 

My grandmother(2) was just such a person.  Her strength through tragedy and challenge came from calm confidence in God and complete dependence upon him (Isaiah 30:15).  As a result, serenity and peace radiated from her life.

She was a 1 Corinthians 13 sort of woman—quietly patient, loving, and kind–not boastful, proud, or easily-angered.  I never heard her raise her voice, gossip, or complain. And she consistently thought of others before herself.

Those qualities of the quiet life Grandma exhibited, still radiate in my heart today.

And that leads us to the next benefit:

 

A quiet life provides resounding impact.

 

 

Sunbeams silently rest on plant and tree, generating photosynthesis and growth. Dewdrops silently form in the night, refreshing the ground. Gravity silently presses all matter to the earth.

Similarly, a life of tranquility provides a quiet, positive influence on others through calm demeanor and gentle speech.

Limited speech is also impactful. We’d never think to apply the adjective quiet to a nonstop talker, would we? Thinking-before-speaking includes this advice:

 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

–Spanish Proverb

 

Columnist Robert Brault seeks to accomplish that feat this way:

 

“I like to think of myself as a finely aged wine,

and one thing that keeps a wine finely aged

is to put a cork in it” (3).

 

A quiet life wins respect (1 Thessalonians 4:11a, 12a).

 

 

Tirades and obnoxious behavior may garner rapt attention, but composure and self-restraint earn high regard.

We’d do well to remember:

 

“The only way to demonstrate

that Christianity is the best of all faiths

is to prove that it produces

the best of all men [and women].”

–William Barclay (4).

 

A quiet life is blessing.

 

1) Composure and contentment result as we grow in tranquility—highly desirable qualities in this world of unrest, discontent, and anger.

 

2)  A quiet life also steers us toward the blessing of maturity, where trivial annoyances no longer infuriate, giving is more fun than receiving, and building up someone else is more satisfying then bragging about ourselves.

 

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1557578/

 

3) The best blessing of all for humble, gentle, and peaceable individuals? The commendation of God himself (Matthew 5:3-9).

 

“How slow many are to learn

that quietness is a blessing,

that quietness is strength,

that quietness is the source

of the highest activity—

the secret of all true abiding in Christ!

Let us try to learn it

and watch for whatever interferes with it.

The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”

–Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

 

“Abide in me and I will abide in you” (John 15:4 ISV).

 

Notes:

  1. Streams in the Desert, p. 450
  2. I’ve written about her before: https://nancyaruegg.com/2013/02/18/1106/
  3. http://www.quotegarden.com/speaking.html
  4. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 234.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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(www.thecove.org)

 

Have you visited the Billy Graham Training Center outside Asheville, North Carolina? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for retreat, relaxation, and renewal.

Ruth and Billy chose the location well, tucked as it is onto a peaceful Appalachian mountainside.

My husband and I visited years ago and reveled in five days of morning-and-evening teaching sessions under Warren Wiersbe. The afternoons were unscheduled—for the relaxation part.

One day we decided to tackle a long trail-hike and walk off some of the scrumptious food (and nightly, all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream!) we’d been consuming.

A staff member promised the mountain view from the lookout point at the end would be well worth the effort.

But in no time the hike became rough going. The miles we were accustomed to walking back home in the flatland of Florida hadn’t prepared us for the unrelenting incline of this trail.

 

 

I started to grunt and groan. My leg muscles begged for mercy until we had to stop and rest—several times.

For the entire distance trees surrounded us—lovely to be sure, but not once did we catch even a glimpse of the vista to come.

Finally we approached the rail of the platform lookout, and my grunts and groans turned to oohing and wowing.

 

 

Row upon row of gentle peaks stood sentry before us, stretching immeasurable miles to the horizon. Cumulous clouds above produced large patches of shade below—a jigsaw of light and shadow.

The staffer had been right. To see such a grand panorama of God’s handiwork was indeed worth the struggle.

 

 

“God has made everything beautiful in his time,” King Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“Everything beautiful” certainly includes the splendorous moments on that platform, especially in contrast to the arduous process to get there.

But equally wondrous, God knows how to create beauty out of difficult life-circumstances—circumstances like:

  • A disturbing diagnosis
  • Ongoing frustration at work
  • A hurtful relationship
  • Financial struggles

How can that be? Because those are the times that push us toward maturity (James 1:2-4)—and maturity is indeed a beautiful thing.

 

 

Our problem is, we crave a smooth pathway through life—level, broad, and full of pleasure. But God knows what spoiled, useless creatures we’d become on such a course.

So he allows uphill climbs as the training ground for developing patience, perseverance, persistence, and self-discipline—important facets of maturity.

All the while we can rest assured the day will come when we finally understand how our ugly struggles fit into God’s great and beautiful plan—“a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight”—Arthur Christopher Bacon (1).

And how do we know that’s true?

Consider God’s attributes, including his

  • Love and faithfulness (Psalm 117:2)
  • Wisdom (Romans 11:33)
  • Rghteousness (Psalm 145:17)
  • Justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 32:4)

 

 

Such a God does not allow useless distress; there is always purpose.

And note the verse says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

Every detail of your life

is fitting together to create

a tapestry of praise.

–Jane L. Fryar (2)

 

Sometimes we do see the details of our lives fitting together in beautiful, praise-evoking ways.

Our stories of struggle-turned-into-beauty can:

  • Inspire someone to start their own journey with Jesus
  • Offer comfort to another who’s struggling on the same stretch of pathway
  • Provide guidance for a wanderer
  • Encourage a hiker-believer to keep climbing to the heights

 

 

But I have a feeling God is saving the best and most beautiful revelations until we’ve reached the lookout of heaven.

For now we can cling to this:

All things are from him—for a purpose (Romans 11:33-36), and we will behold the beauty—when the time is right.

 

Notes:

  1. From Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reimann, Zondervan, 1997, p. 72.
  2. Be Blessed, CTA, Inc., 2009, p. 60.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.thecove.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.bible.com; http://www.canva.com;  http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

 

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Cinematographer Conrad Hall won three Academy Awards during his fifty-year career. His genius produced such classic films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and more recently, The Road to Perdition.

When Hall died of cancer in 2003, his colleagues declared him “one of the great cinematographers and a master of light.”  Yet toward the end of his career, Hall stated, “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Another cinematographer, John Bailey, affirmed the same truth: “A lifetime commitment to learning and studying…is real important.  It’s a constant process…you’re a student for your whole career.”

I wonder…

Might the dynamic of continual learning be important for us as believers in Jesus?

 

 

He seemed to think so.

During one of his last teaching sessions with the disciples (recorded in John 14-16), Jesus inferred they would always be students—even though these men had been under his tutelage for three years (the time it takes to earn a degree in ministry today).  Consider also, their Master was the Son of God.

But even they required more –a Helper to guide them into all the truth (16:13).

And so do we.

Now some might be discouraged by the reality we can never attain full understanding about God or achieve perfection of character this side of heaven.  Even the great Apostle Paul asserted he had not arrived:

 

 

But there is a positive side…

I can imagine that cinematographers Conrad Hall and John Bailey (mentioned above) enjoyed ever-increasing satisfaction in their work, as their knowledge expanded and their competence developed.

We too can enjoy ever-increasing satisfaction in working out our salvation (1), as we expand our knowledge of God and his Word, and develop the competence of a mature believer.

It’s a process that continues as long as we live on earth. The better acquainted we become with God, the more we want to live by his wisdom. The more we live by his wisdom, the sweeter and more satisfying life becomes.

 

 

Just as cinematographers cooperate with their directors to bring characters to life, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and he brings to life the character within each of us, developing a mature person–complete and not lacking anything (James 1:4).

His Word becomes the joy of our hearts, obedience becomes a delight, and peace rules in our minds (2).

 

 

 

So…

“Don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others.

“With these qualities active and growing in your lives…no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus (3).”

You know who wrote that? The Apostle Peter—one of the disciples at that last Passover meal with Jesus. And for several decades after that memorable dinner, Peter did allow the Helper to guide him through the maturing process. He knew the rewards.

Now it’s our turn to learn, study, and cooperate.

Together let’s keep moving forward–and revel in the process as we do.

 

 

This post is based on a mini-devotional written by our son, Pastor Jeremy Ruegg.

 

Notes:

  1. The clause, “working out our salvation” comes from Philippians 2:13: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation (NLT).” By no means can we earn a place in heaven by working hard (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We could never work hard enough to deserve its magnificent riches.
  2. Psalm 119:111, 35, 165
  3. 2 Peter 3:5-8 (MSG)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.com

 

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Along with spring-cleaning of the house, I thought perhaps a purging of the blog-post-ideas file would be worthwhile. Six years of collecting starters has produced thirty-five pages of possibilities.

Some ideas have languished in a notebook nearly the whole six years. It’s probably time to admit they’re never going to amount to anything, I decided.

Then you came to mind! Maybe you’ll see potential where I’ve given up hope. And with a deft question or suggestion you’ll send me off researching and keyboarding with your fresh insight.

Or, you’ll say, “I’d like to know more about that. Keep that one in the hopper!” And the life of that idea will thus be saved.

So what occurs to you about these topics, dear readers? Do you see any possibilities here for a worthwhile post or two?

  1. From Anxiety to Joy. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” What might those consolations be that can bring joy in the midst of anxiety? (That’s quite a feat!)

 

 

2.  God’s ways are an outgrowth of his character—even when tragedy strikes. How can hurt and pain be the outgrowth of God’s beautiful and perfect attributes?

3.  Delight and Desire. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” How do we learn to delight in the Lord and desire what he desires?

4.  The Adventure of Grace. What insight might we gain from the definition of adventure? How is the life of grace is like an adventure, and why is that attitude helpful? How can we embrace the adventure more enthusiastically?

 

 

5.  The power of right attitudes over body, mind, and spirit. What have medical science and psychology discovered about the impact of attitudes? What does scripture have to say? How can we change our attitudes?

6.  “He who keeps one end in view makes all things serve”—Robert Browning.   That statement is true in the Christian life: if our main ambition is to fulfill God’s purpose, then all events will serve equally well.

7.  Goodness is not only good for those around us, it’s good for us.

8.  How do we accept with grace the circumstances that are unpleasant and outside our control?

9.  Turning Boredom into Contentment. Life can be full of mundane tasks that sap the joy right out of our spirits. What’s a person to do?!

 

 

10.  Game-Changers. Our viewpoints of life’s circumstances are perhaps more important than the circumstances themselves. Sometimes all it takes is a pithy statement to change our attitude. Possibilities include: “We obey God, not because we have to but because we get to” (A quote from one of the lay pastors at our church.) Or, how about this statement: “If the Lord does not change the place for the better, he will make us better in the place” (Charles Spurgeon). What other perspective-changers can we apply on a circumstantial rainy day?

11. Taking offense at less and less provocation seems to have pervaded our culture. What happened to resilience? Is it important? Does the Bible give us instruction for this attribute? How do we develop it?

12.  Rock Climbing—a metaphor for life. We need the handholds of God’s character when life becomes a difficult climb. We must cling to his attributes.

 

 

That’s enough for today. I’ll look forward to reading your creative suggestions in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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As I left the hospital Sunday evening, my attention was drawn to two little boys cavorting back and forth in the corridor, jackets winging behind them. In their father’s arms nestled their baby sister, barely visible in her hooded pink coat. Mama and Daddy were deep in conversation.

While passing them by, a strange phenomenon caught my eye: Mama was barefoot.

 

 

One of my alter egos, Sherlock Ruegg, began ruminating why a woman who was otherwise well-dressed for a Midwestern March evening, would be without shoes. Did she just receive emergency care for one or both of her feet? There was no sign of bandages.

A few moments later as I loaded my belongings into our SUV, the family of five came into view again. Poor Mama was still barefoot and hobbling along on her heels, no doubt to lessen the impact of freezing cold pavement on her feet.

Then I spied the evidence I’d missed before, and the explanation became clear.  Mama was clutching stiletto heels in her hands.   Obviously, the pain inflicted by the shoes was worse than that of frigid concrete.

 

(Don’t these look comfy for a long trek?)

 

Oh, what we’re willing to suffer in order to look fashionable, glamorous, and beautiful.

“Beauty” became my word of intentional focus for 2019 when I kept encountering such quotes as:

 

Beauty is a fountain,

emanating from the core of our souls

and bubbling outward,

overflowing.”

—Kristen Armstrong,

Work in Progress

 

What lovely imagery Kristen provides for the beauty that begins in our souls and bubbles up to our faces in cheerful expressions, ready smiles, and twinkling eyes. Such beauty overflows into deeds also.

 

 

But an ever-flowing stream of loveliness is impossible to maintain on our own.  We must allow God to do the work within us.

 

“God in his mercy

is shaping us into

what is useful and beautiful.

—Eugene Peterson,

Run with the Horses

 

And what does our Heavenly Father consider beautiful? (I’m pretty sure high heels don’t make his list.)

Thus far I’ve collected these descriptors and scriptures:

 

 

  • Strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25)*
  • Wisdom and kindness (Proverbs 31:26)*
  • Encouragement, peace, blessing, and witness (Isaiah 52:7)
  • Godliness and good works (1 Timothy 2:10)
  • A reflection of his glory (1 Corinthians 3:18)
  • A calm and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4)*

 

 

Such a fountain of beautiful attributes can’t help but overflow into the lives of others. 

 

“Every time we reveal [God’s] attributes…

share the good news of Christ…

reflect patience in the middle of an upsetting problem…

smile from the heart or offer an encouraging word…

we are displaying the beauty

and glory of our God.”

—Joni Eareckson Tada,

A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

That’s the key to effervescent beauty. It’s not about our reflection in the mirror; it’s about reflecting to the world the beauty of our Heavenly Father and his attributes (Psalm 34:5a).

 

 

“Those who look to him radiant,” wrote King David (Psalm 34:5a).

And just what does radiant mean? In part, glowing or emitting brilliance.

Think of a fresh, dew-drenched rose or a multi-faceted diamond glittering on black velvet or the dancing glow of the Northern Lights—all examples of radiance.

What’s our response to such sights? We’re mesmerized, compelled to stare and take in the glory of such luminosity.

 

 

Radiant beauty does that; it seizes our attention.

Just so, there is within all of us the potential to be captivatingly beautiful people—drawing attention to our God of luminous Light who is perfect in beauty (Psalm 50:2).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Heavenly Father, as I strive to take in all your glorious magnificence, may I be open and mindful, allowing such meditation to achieve full effect upon my heart. Then I’ll become transparent, able to reflect your beautiful, radiant Light.

 

(Psalm 19:14; Colossians 3:1; Philippians 2:14-16)

 

*Yes, Proverbs 31 highlights the virtuous woman, and 1 Peter 3:3-4 also addresses women, but such qualities as strength and dignity, wisdom and kindness, composure and gentleness, are mentioned elsewhere in scripture and are just as attractive in men.  Am I right, ladies?

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pexels.com (Daria Shevtsova); http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com (Javcon 117); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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There are those who would say the sweetest time of life is childhood, when we carry few responsibilities and enjoy hours of play.

Others will say the teen years are best, when the freedoms to go, do, and become are gloriously opened before us.

Ah, but then come the years of building a career and perhaps raising a family. Maybe that’s the sweetest time, as we pursue success in our vocations and witness the achievements of our children—from first steps to last graduation and beyond.

As a retiree of almost seven years, I would chime in with Vance Havner who said:

“The last chapter of life can be the best.”

 

 

Yes, aging has its downside. The person we see in the mirror has changed drastically. Joints refuse to bend and twist like they used to. And though we wish our waists would thin out, it’s our skin that has.

But that’s just the outside—the least important part of who we are.

The golden years offer much sweetness to savor. If you’re not there yet, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. The gift of memory

The older we get the more memories we have to enjoy. And just about everything reminds us of something else. ‘Ever try reading street signs and billboards to see if the names conjure up people or places from the past? It’s a game guaranteed to make you smile.

Cindy Lane reminds me of a dear friend in Florida (Hi, Cindy!), Barbara Circle conjures up a valued colleague from my teaching days, and Harrison Avenue takes me back to my childhood, riding my bike on the street of the same name in my small hometown.

Shared memories are even more delightful. Not long ago in church, the pastor asked if we could remember a time when low expectations generated poor output. Steve and I made eye contact and simultaneously whispered the name of a union-controlled company he worked for years ago.   We almost laughed out loud amidst the silent congregation. Such fun.

 

 

  1. The wisdom of experience

Experience with God teaches us the wisdom of his perfect ways (Psalm 18:30). Life is enhanced when faith, kindness, and gratitude characterize our days–just as he’s said.

Occasionally our wisdom-from-experience may be sought by others. But actions speak louder than words. To live wisely and make prudent choices—that’s the best way to impart wisdom. They’ll remember what we did better than what we said.

 

  1. The expansion of certain abilities

Research indicates that as we get older our abilities to reflect, create, and analyze can actually improve. The reason may be “we bring experience to knowledge and then add wisdom to our result.” Of course, we must continue to “cultivate our mental acuity as we age”.*  We must never stop learning, evaluating, and thinking about new ideas.

 

 

  1. The time to be present in the moment

We can savor such luxuries as watching raindrops make momentary rings in puddles and checking for signs of burgeoning spring that were not noticeable yesterday.

Now we have more time to express our gratitude for every good gift God bestows. And since gratitude begets joy and contentment, we can make these years a season of delight.

We also have more time to stop and listen—to the frustrated store clerk, the struggling waitress, the overwhelmed young parent. At our disposal are the benefits just listed–the gift of memory, the wisdom of experience, the enhanced abilities of reflection and evaluation—all useful for offering beneficial (but brief!) encouragement.

And as we lighten the burden of others we find our own spirits uplifted.

 

 

  1. The faith to persevere 

We’ve lived long enough to see God bring us through sadness, difficulty, distress, and more. We know he will provide for every need to the end. And such confidence overflows in perfect peace.

__________________________________

 

For these reasons and more, our latter years can be the sweetest time of life.

 

(http://quotefacy.com/quote/758763)

 

“For age is opportunity no less

Than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

In that we can rejoice!

 

*Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years, p. 96.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.afgsc.af.mil; http://www.Canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

 

 

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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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No doubt it’s happened to you too: a shift of life-circumstances occurs in an instant and suddenly your world is shattered. Maybe it’s a job transfer or termination. Maybe it’s the break-up of a long-term relationship or marriage. Maybe it’s an accident or life-altering medical diagnosis.  Your thoughts wrap around the event and its consequences with such ferocity, you can think of nothing else.

We know focusing on “what ifs” and “if only-s” is counter-productive. And as people of faith we know God has our best interests at heart. But we hurt, and we wonder what God is up to.

The next time cataclysmic circumstances overtake me, I want to be better prepared, starting with a new perspective.  I want to view obstacles as opportunities:

 

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity?

Our attitude toward it.

Every opportunity has a difficulty,

And every difficulty has an opportunity.”

–J. Sidlow Baxter

(pastor, theologian, author, 1903-1999)

 

The trouble is, attitudes are not easily adjusted. How do we change our perspective? Perhaps such strategies as these will prove helpful:

 

  1. Be intentional about word choices.

We can call our situations opportunities as Reverend Baxter suggests. Challenges are adventures as we live out God’s plan for this circumstance. And we can change the D of Disappointment to an H for His appointment*—an appointment to learn, grow, and mature (James 1:2-4).

 

 

  1. Consider the circumstances from God’s point of view.

According to Charles Spurgeon, what seems a crushing burden to us is a matter of small dust to God. I need to focus on how great he is compared to the smallness of my problem.

 

 

(“Great is our Lord and mighty in power,”

His understanding has no limit.”

–Psalm 147:5)

 

Such scriptures need to be front and center, posted in attention-grabbing places like inside the refrigerator, on the steering wheel, or in the sock drawer.

 

  1. Let purpose impact perspective.

When our daughter was in high school, she joined the track team one spring. Heather never won a single race.  But she didn’t consider herself a loser, because instead of running against the competition, she ran against the clock. Every tenth of a second she shaved off her time, she considered herself a winner.  Her purpose for running was not to become a track star; it was simply to be with friends and get a good work out.  Her purpose impacted her perspective.

 

 

God has purpose in our circumstances—to produce tremendous benefit in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We can choose to embrace his purpose (even though we may not know what it is) and allow it to impact our perspective.

 

  1. Look for the blessings.

 

 

(“When I am in the cellar of affliction

I always look about for the Lord’s choicest wine.”

–Samuel Rutherford–

pastor, theologian, author, 1600-1661)

 

Rutherford wasn’t referring to material blessings, although God certainly bestows those, even in the midst of pain or trouble. The Lord’s “choicest wines” include his peace (Isaiah 26:3) and joy (Psalm 16:11) that defy explanation as difficulties assault.

But, we must look about. Will the blessing arrive through a special scripture or other reading? Perhaps through a song or the comment of a friend? The possibilities are endless because our God is infinitely creative. Our part is to be attentive.

 

  1. Focus on God himself (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

By his power the whole universe functions as a cohesive whole. Out of his infinite wisdom, every creature is provided for. And because of his loving compassion, every person may enjoy eternal life through his Son, Jesus. God is able to do all things! He will not fail to see us through all our troubles (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 

 

One of the first explorers to sail around the southern tip of Africa experienced whipping winds and driving rain during that portion of the voyage. He named the area Cape of Storms.

When Vasco de Gama traversed the same promontory in 1497, he renamed it Cape of Good Hope. His focus was not on the turbulent waters under and around his ship but the treasures of India ahead.

 

Vasco de Gama

 

In life, we can focus on the storms of difficulty and pain.   Or, we can center our hearts and minds on the life of good hope Jesus provides here and now, as well as look ahead to the glorious eternity of heaven.

The choice of perspective is ours. Will we choose to view our challenges as obstacles or opportunities?

_____________________________

 

What helps you achieve or maintain a positive perspective when adversity strikes? Please join the conversation in the comment section below!

 

* His Imprint, My Expression, Harvest House Publishers, 1993.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2).

 

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