Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Maturity’ Category

I remember the moment; I don’t remember when it took place . . . perhaps in young adulthood, during my quiet time. A Bible verse caught my attention–John 17:21–causing my eyes to widen and fill with tears.

First, a bit of context. That chapter includes Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper and mere hours before the crucifixion. He asked his Father to sustain him, to manifest God’s power through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and in so doing, prove that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 1-5).[1] 

Second he prayed for his disciples—for their protection, joy, spiritual growth, and unity (vs. 6-18).

And then (wonder of wonders!) Jesus prayed for you and me, his future followers!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me,” he said (v. 20, emphasis added).

I read on with eager expectation. What did he ask God to do on our behalf? Strength to endure? Guidance for wise choices? Kind and generous hearts?

Those are worthwhile prayers, but it would seem Jesus left those for us to request.

Instead, he prayed for one over-arching blessing to characterize his believers: unity.

“I pray that they may all be one, Father!

May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

John 17:21a GNT

Among all the things we need as his followers, why would Jesus pray for unity? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, we need to understand he wasn’t praying for uniformity, expecting his followers to agree on every issue. The apostle Paul and his co-missionary Barnabas disagreed over their young companion Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and godly men throughout church history have taken different sides of various issues: Martin Luther with Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley with George Whitefield, and John Stott with Martyn Lloyd-Jones—to name a few.

It’s doubtful Jesus expected his followers to grow into one big denomination. What he did desire was a spirit of love and an attitude of grace to bind us together, equipping us to overlook differences of preference and tradition. He’d have us focus on what we have in common.

At the Christian university I attended, all students were required to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks (a very thick one!) was titled, The Protestant Faith. And though the differences between denominations were certainly laid out, I was struck by how much doctrine and theology we share in common—much more than what divides us.

That’s what we need to concentrate on: the foundational truths like those we recite in the Apostles’ Creed, and our purpose of introducing others to Christ as well as taking delight in obeying him and growing more like him.

Even more important? A covering of love—love that admits wrong, forgives grievances, allows for differences of opinion on nonessentials, and doesn’t dishonor others but seeks the best for them.

Last but foremost: we must continually look to Jesus through prayer and worship, privately and publicly.

Perhaps you remember A. W. Tozer’s illustration. If one hundred pianos are all tuned to the same fork, they’re automatically in tune with each other. Similarly, if one hundred worshipers look to Christ, they’re going to be much more in tune with one another than if they focus on other matters, worthwhile as they might be. That would include unity itself.[2]

And now to answer that question, why would unity be so important to Jesus? His reason is revealed at the end of John 17:21.

“May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

John 17:21b GNT

The world is plagued by ugly divisiveness, hatred, and vitriol.

Jesus desired his followers to be characterized by the beauty of unity as we strive to love like him—overlooking slights, sidestepping fights, and giving up our rights.[3]

When people witness such beauty, there will be those who desire it for themselves and come to faith in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, point out those areas where my preferences and opinions interfere with my love for your people. Help me put aside differences and focus on areas of commonality. May I play an active part in the beauty of unity within my circle of influence, drawing others to you.   


[1] Barnes Notes on the Bible, www.biblehub.com.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 90.

[3] Patsy Clairmont, Boundless Love, 236.

Art & photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedi.org; http://www.flickr.com (Long Thien); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Peter Swain); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.rawpixel.com.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

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

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

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

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

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

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

Read Full Post »

Long ago one of my cousins (Alice, I think) knitted her brother a sweater for Christmas, and had almost finished it by the end of November when the extended family gathered for Thanksgiving.  However, the sweater had turned out much too big, and Alice was stymied how to downsize it.

“Give it to me,” suggested Aunt Orsie, the most skilled knitter in the group.  “I think we can fix that.”  As she chatted away the afternoon with the other aunts and older cousins, Aunt Orsie helped Alice take apart the sweater, undo the extra rows, snip, knit, and bind off the shortened rows until the sweater had miraculously shrunk to proper proportions.  (That terminology and order of steps is likely inaccurate—I’m not a knitter!)

Alterations make a significant difference, and not only in the way clothing fits.  As we know, standard counter height can be altered to accommodate those especially short or tall, and the print in books can be altered to accommodate the visually impaired.

Some alterations, however, are much more challenging to accomplish—even more difficult than downsizing a sweater.  Take attitudes, for example.  How do we alter negativity into positivity, a critical spirit into grace, discouragement into hope, or frustration into gratitude?

Here are a few possibilities:

Negativity can be altered by a different viewpoint.

Poet Langston Hughes wrote:

How altered our attitude could be if we searched for the rainbows and refused to focus on the dust of life.

A critical spirit can be altered by truth.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the family on a beach vacation.  While building a sandcastle their first day, the children spotted an old woman wearing a faded dress and floppy hat, bent over and mumbling to herself as she approached.  Every now and then she picked bits out of the sand and put them in a burlap bag.  

Though the children called hello to her, the woman didn’t respond.  She appeared lost in her own world. The parents watched warily, expressed their doubts about her mental state and a hotel that would allow her on their premises. They warned the children to stay away from her.

Each day the woman combed the beach, muttering and plucking as she went.  Finally the family asked the concierge if he knew about this strange woman.

“Oh yes,” he said.  “That’s Mrs. Thompson, a retired schoolteacher who lives up the road. She’s made it her mission to rid this section of beach of anything that might cut people’s feet, and while she walks, Mrs. Thompson prays for the people nearby.  No doubt she prayed for you!”

Discouragement can be altered by hope.

And in what do we hope? 

  • The promises of God
  • The development of our character, growing us into our best selves
  • The fact that God executes good plans even through our suffering 
  • That for those of us who know Jesus, the best is always ahead*

We know these routes to hope; it’s the determination to take them that requires our diligence.

Frustration can be altered by appreciation.

Sometime during our younger son’s toddler days, he scribbled on several pages of my Bible–splotchy eyesores among my straight-edge underlinings and carefully written comments. 

As the years went by, however, when I’d encounter one of those scrawls, my response completely altered.  “Aw, there’s one of Jeremy’s notes,” I’d smile, remembering the rambunctious and ever cheerful little boy he once was, just trying to be like Mommy and Daddy.

My frustration not only disappeared but became appreciation.

No matter the attitude that needs altering there is a means to transform it.   We can snip away at undesirable attitudes (like negativity and a critical spirit) with proper perspective and truth.  We can bind off the damage of harmful emotions (like discouragement and frustration) with hope and gratitude.

Most beneficial of all, we can invite God to miraculously shrink our erroneous ways of thinking until we’re good and pleasing to him.

What attitude-alteration have you witnessed or experienced?  Please share in the comment section below!  


* See the previous post, Promises Kept as well as Romans 5:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com.

Read Full Post »

On January 25, 1905, diamond mine superintendent Frederick Wells inspected the walls of the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa—as usual.  Suddenly his practiced eye caught a telltale glimmer in the rock.  

Workmen cut free the luminous stone that very day, then took it to be weighed in the office of mine owner Thomas Cullinan.

The miners knew the fist-sized gem was a stellar find, but no one expected what the scale revealed.  Before them lay the largest diamond ever found—3,106 carats worth, and a perfectly clear specimen except for one black spot in the middle.

Frederick Wells with the Cullinan Diamond

Named for the mine owner, the Cullinan Diamond was sold to the Transvaal provincial government and eventually presented as a birthday present to England’s King Edward VII in 1907. 

King Edward hired master-lapidary I. J. Asscher of Amsterdam to divide the stone.  Asscher studied the Cullinan for six months before making the first cut, and subsequently created nine major stones along with ninety-six smaller ones.

Opened in 1854; still in business.

The largest diamond is called the “Star of Africa I” or “Cullinan I” and sits atop the British royal scepter; Star of Africa II is part of the Imperial State Crown.[1]

Star of Africa I is the pear-shaped embellishment atop the scepter.
Star of Africa II, front and center of the crown, just above the band of ermine.

Why did God create diamonds?  For the same reason he created everything in the universe:  to display his glory.[2]

Diamonds offer a magnificent example of God’s creative power, as he applied heat and pressure to simple black carbon and created mesmerizing stones.

Of course, it takes tremendous pressure (50,000 times more than that at the earth’s surface) and severe heat (2000 degrees Farenheit) for the transformation to take place.  Such extreme conditions only occur deep in the ground—at least 90 miles below the surface.

Humans have only been able to drill a little over seven miles into the earth.  So how were diamonds even discovered?  Because of another spectacular display of God’s power:  volcanoes, which spew them up to the surface.

And though raw diamonds do glimmer, their full magnificence is not released until the lapidary cuts the stones on all sides, to maximize the refraction and reflection of light. Today’s popular brilliant cut requires 58 facets. The process takes up to two weeks.

The ancient Greeks believed that a diamond was a chip of star that had fallen to earth.  We smile at their naiveté until we learn astronomers discovered a star in 2009 that has cooled and compressed into a massive diamond—10 billion trillion trillion carats worth!

Imagine the smile on God’s face as the scientists proved lyricist Jane Taylor closer to truth than she knew: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star . . . like a diamond in the sky” (1806).

With Job, we can affirm:

In addition to displaying God’s glory, diamonds also provide valuable lessons—much as he’s used trees, sheep, and ants to teach us.[3]  At least two lessons have been encapsulated in memorable quotes. 

Lesson #1: 

You know what else makes God smile?  Transforming black-carbon lives into radiant diamond-people.  Think of those like Kirk Cameron, George W. Bush, and Franklin Graham, all of whom once lived in dark rebellion and now reflect the light of Christ.

Such transformations require a lengthy process, and most often the heat and pressure of difficult circumstances, but the results are quite spectacular.[4]

Lesson #2:

    

A lapidary reminds us of our Heavenly Father.  He chips away at our self-centeredness and pride until we’re Stars of Heaven, fit for his crown and radiating his glory in brilliant perfection.[5]

So, my fellow stars-in-process, “let faith and patience have their perfect work, for in the day when the crown will be set on the head of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, one ray of glory will stream from you”—Charles Spurgeon.


Notes

[1] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/worlds-largest-diamond-found# and https://www.capetowndiamondmuseum.org/blog/2017/01/worlds-largest-diamond-the-cullinan/

[2] Psalm 19:1

[3] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 23; Proverbs 6:6-8

[4] Hebrews 12:5-11

[5] Zechariah 9:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18

Photo images: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

Read Full Post »

Nicole blinked twice as she stared at the number on the doctor’s scale. She knew a few more pounds had glommed on her midsection, but seven?

 

 

During the ensuing consult with Dr. Ames, Nicole mentioned her knees had started to hurt, she felt tired much of the time, and seemed susceptible to every virus that came along. Dr. Ames then shared Nicole’s blood work, revealing several more concerns. His treatment solution surprised her. “I’m going to send you to a nutritionist,” he said.

Three months later, Nicole already felt much stronger and healthier—energized even. Her knees no longer hurt, and her blood pressure and cholesterol had dropped dramatically. Nicole had learned her diet included too many simple carbs and high-fat proteins, depleting her body of strength, energy, and good health.

It’s a fact: we can’t function well without proper nutrition.

 

 

The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. We can’t function well when our souls are improperly nourished. We need to ingest spiritual vitamins.

For example, consider Vitamin A. As a physical nutrient in our food, it improves our eyesight—specifically night vision. In the spiritual realm, Vitamin A might represent Adoration of God, which improves our “vision” through dark circumstances.

 

 

“When we choose to practice adoration anyway

in the midst of whatever we are feeling,

our words lift us over that barrier

and into a deeper connectedness with God.”

—Sarah Hagerty[1]

 

That deeper connectedness with God results in strength and perseverance for what we face.

 

The benefits of the Vitamin B complex include converting food into energy. In our spirits, the Bible energizes us as we convert the food of truth into the energy of faith.

 

 

“I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day.

I wonder why they deprive themselves

of the strength and the pleasure.”

—Woodrow Wilson[2]

 

Vitamin C enhances the growth of bone, skin, and muscle. Companionship with God causes us to grow in faith, character, and contentment—no matter our circumstances.

 

 

“The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life,

the more likely you are to praise Him in the storm.”

–Matt Chandler[3]

 

Vitamin D plays a role in fighting germs. Delight in God’s blessings fights off the germs of melancholy and discouragement in our souls.

 

 

“Thankfulness restores a healthy perspective about our lives.”

—Valerie Bell[4]

 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Empowerment from God protects against soul damage—from such hurtful emotions as fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.

 

 

“When God is recognized as the One who undertakes for us,

then difficulties are opportunities to trust Him . . .

contentment sings in the heart,

and all things are possible.”

—F. E. Marsh[5]

 

Vitamin K promotes healthy bones which support the body; knowledge of God supports the soul as we affirm his goodness and perfections.

 

 

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;

to seek Him, the greatest adventure;

to find Him the greatest human achievement.”

—St. Augustine

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that as we absorb these soul-vitamins into our spirits, our trust in you will grow. We’ll find our strength renewed, and be able to run the race of life without lapsing into despair. May we be mindful each day to be enriched in your presence, in your Word, and in your power.

(Isaiah 41:31; Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 119:28; Ephesians 6:1)

 

Notes:

[1] Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 151

[2] Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Epson, Inspirio, 2002, p. 40

[3] https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-life/inspirational-christian-quotes-about-love.html

[4] A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 102

[5] Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd C. Cory, Victor Books, 1977, p. 136

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picpedia.org; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixy.com; http://www.hearlight.org; http://www.canva.com.

 

Read Full Post »

 

Our older son and his family enjoy a large magnolia tree in their backyard. Every spring it explodes into a breath-taking mass of pink and white blossoms, each one at least six inches across.

Unfortunately the dazzling display doesn’t last long. The petals soon fall to the ground, and thick, dark leaves begin to take their place. But when summertime heat arrives the family is grateful for the cool shade of that dense foliage.

 

 

In autumn, as the leaves take their turn to fall, the flower buds for the next spring become more visible. Compared to those on other flowering trees or plants, these are already about two inches tall—even in October. To form them, magnolias take full advantage of the sun’s energy during the summer months (1).

 

 

All winter long, those buds proclaim silent promise of the divine flowers to come. And then in March or April, as the days have lengthened and warmed, the furry buds begin to split open, offering a glimpse of their tightly-spiraled petals—a precursor of the stunning transformation just days away.

 

 

Were we to celebrate the magnolia tree for those few days she’s dressed in her chiffon-pink finery, we’d miss out on the joy of her shady embrace in summer and those hope-filled buds through fall and winter.

There is beauty in the becoming—whether it’s magnolia trees or people.

 

 

If those magnificent buds were capable of emotion, they would no doubt look forward to the glorious reveal in spring. Thankfully, we humans can anticipate our desires being fulfilled. And as God’s children, one of those desires is spiritual maturity–the day when we’ll be wise and self-sacrificing, calm and patient, peaceful and contented–to name a few traits we aspire to.

 

 

But if we’re always focused on the future, we’ll miss the wonder of what God is doing now. The question becomes, what can we celebrate as God carries out his beautification process within us? Here are two categories of possibilities to get us started.

1. Celebrate the moments when the fruit of the Spirit are on display.

For example, over the last few days can you think of occasions when you:

  • Spoke kind words or affirmation to others?
  • Shared the gift of smiles and perhaps laughter?
  • Held your tongue when tempted to argue?

Then you brought a bit of love, joy, and peace to others. Hurray for you!

 

 

2. Take note of the times when biblical truths guide your actions.

Again, review the last few days for such examples as these:

  • You found your mind wandering into negativity, then made an about-face when you remembered your goal to focus on everything excellent (Philippians 4:8).
  • You apologized for speaking harshly to someone, instead of pretending the offensive tone didn’t matter (Ephesians 4:2).

 

 

  • A stunning feature of creation grabbed your attention, and your first thought was to worship God for his incredible handiwork (Psalm 92:4).
  • The moment you recognized God’s protection, provision, or blessing, gratitude welled up in your spirit (Psalm 126:3).

 

Celebrate the growth of a renewed mind, humility, praise, and gratitude. You’ll be reinforcing the behaviors that contribute to your beautiful becoming.

 

 

“Growth, though silent as light

is one of the practical proofs of health.”

–Charles Swindoll (2)

 

Note Swindoll says growth is a proof of health—not perfection.

And when we honor God as the impetus behind the progress, we enliven our faith for the next steps of beautification he has in mind.

 

 

“Little by little

as God’s sanctifying grace works in us,

more territory of our lives becomes his.”

–Herbert Lockyer (3)

 

Right now we’re enduring the long winter of our development, but spring will come.

 

 

“He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus.”

–Philippians 1:6 NIV

(emphasis added)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise You, Almighty God, that as we grow in trust and surrender to you, we will become more like your Son, Jesus Christ. Day by day you are engineering experiences to that end. Thank you also we can enjoy the anticipation of that glorious day, when the beauty of becoming will finally be complete.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/ct-sun-0226-garden-morton-20170221-story.html
  2. The Quest for Character, Multnomah Press,  1987, p. 172.
  3. Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 351.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com (2); http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pikist.com.

 

Read Full Post »

 

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.

 

Read Full Post »

 

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.

 

Read Full Post »

(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.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Still Traveling

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

Becoming HIS Tapestry

Christian Lifestyle Blogger

He Said What?!

I'm Patty, and my husband and I are living with our adult son who has autism and epilepsy. I love sharing lessons learned from life around me, especially life with Aaron.

Meditations of my Heart

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Linda Stoll

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Debby Thompson

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Signora Sheila

Learning God's Ways

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living in God's Love

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Heidi Viars

Stories about the Imago Dei and other Holy Moments

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions