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(a personalized psalm, based on Psalm 143)

O Lord, we are in serious trouble as a nation.  Selfish gain and a lust for power have taken precedence over the common good.  E pluribus unum is deteriorating into tribalism; “In God We Trust” is being replaced by “In US We Trust.”

Have mercy upon us, O God!  Our arch enemy Satan is wreaking havoc across our land; numerous problems vie for attention. Among them: soaring crime rates in our cities, increasing drug addiction and homelessness, failing schools, mounting national debt, escalating inflation, and threats to our national security.

If I focus on these monumental problems, my spirit is overwhelmed, my heart overcome with dismay (2).

BUT!  THIS I KNOW:

You are a faithful God who never leaves his children to fend for themselves.  You never forget, never fail, and never falter (3).

I KNOW you are a righteous God of complete integrity and consistency, always acting in accordance to the perfections of your character, always at the right time.

I KNOW you are a reliable God.  Scripture, history, the lives of present-day saints, and events in my own life provide countless examples of your miraculous care for your children.  As I consider all your hands have accomplished my spirit is lifted, my faith increased.

There is no trouble so great, no situation so hopeless that you cannot resolve it.  If you do not provide rescue, you supply ample strength and courage to endure.  Even more wondrous, during times of distress you grant heightened awareness of your glorious presence, your infinite peace, and radiant joy.

Therefore, I not only cry out for rescue from ruin; I cry out for you.  Like a little child who raises her hands for a loved one to pick her up and hold her close, I desire intimacy with you, the only One who can help me and keep me from falling (4).

I KNOW you are a loving God of never-failing devotion. I can trust you for guidance and support, whatever the future holds.  And as I bask in the warmth of your lavish love, anxiety and fear will melt away.  Your love is active, seeking my good more than my pleasure, working toward my divine transformation more than my comfort. And as your wisdom grows within me, I see the supreme value of the former over the latter.

I KNOW you are my God.  I’m in awe that you, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, are my Heavenly Father! You are the almighty One leading everything to the conclusion you ordained before time began–by the same power, wisdom, and love with which you made it (4). Yet in spite of that power, in spite of your perfection and majestic glory, you desire to be my constant Companion and Friend. 

So I humbly ask:

Hear me as I pray (v. 1). 

Show me the way I should go (v. 8).

Hide me in you (v. 9).

Teach me and lead me (v. 10).

Bring me out of trouble and into the shelter of your refuge  (v. 11; Psalm 46:1-3).

For America I pray we’d corporately look to you for the way we should go. Bring us out of our troubles and rescue us from our enemies, including those that war within the spirit.  Preserve us, I pray (vs. 9, 11).

Amen.

Notes:

  1. Psalm 143:4 AMP and HCSB
  2. A. W. Pink
  3. Psalm 54:4 CEV
  4. Julian of Norwich

Photo credits: http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.depositphotos.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pixabaycom; http://www.dailyverses.net (3); http://www.wikimedia.com.

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You, O Spirit of God, have made me. Your breath has indeed given me life—physically and spiritually. Just as a deep breath of fresh air refreshes the body, so a deep breath of your Spirit and all your benefits rejuvenates my soul:

I can breathe in your BLESSINGS.

“Every day is a treasure box of gifts from you, waiting to be opened”—gifts like wisdom to choose what’s best, grace to forgive all wrongs, and peace that transcends understanding.[1]

I can breathe in your RESTORATION. 

“You are the divine Gardener, perfect at the task of transforming withered trees”—trees withered by discouragement, trouble, and pain. 

You renew me day by day, refreshing my weary soul with your Word and your presence.[2]

I can breathe in the truth of your EXCELLENCIES. 

Attentive living provides the opportunity to discover the golden threads of your perfections woven into common, everyday experience. 

I see your love expressed in a rainbow, your grace in a stranger’s smile, your wisdom on a page, your joy in a butterfly’s dance, your peace in a sunset. [3]

I can breathe in the comfort of your AUTHORITY. 

“[You are] the stage manager in control of all players on the stage.”  You are ordering events to the conclusion you ordained before time began—by your power over all things, your wisdom in all matters, and out of love for all people.[4]

I can breathe in your TRUTH. 

“The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth.  It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, a balm for every wound.”

These statements only begin to name the benefits of your Word.  The more time I spend absorbing its truths, the more time I want to spend.  “I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure.”[5]

I can breathe in your ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. 

All the difficulties of life I can view as slight, temporary distresses that are producing a transcendent Glory never to cease.

“The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth.  This world is but a narrow span, and we will soon have passed it.  Time, how short—eternity, how long!  Death, how brief—immortality, how endless!” [6]

As tensions increase around us and around the world,

may I continually BREATHE in the realities of your . . .

B lessing

R estoration

E xcellencies

A uthority

T ruth

H ealing and

E ternal perspective . . .

. . . so that I’m refreshed and strengthened to be for the praise of your glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).


[1] Psalm 68:19; quote from Joan Clayton

[2] Isaiah 40:29-31; quote from Henry Drummond; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Jeremiah 31:25

[3] Deuteronomy 32:4

[4] Psalm 22:27-28; quote from Alice Mathews in A Woman God Can Use, p. 77; Proverbs 16:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Romans 11:33; John 3:16

[5] Psalm 119:160; quote from Thomas Guthrie; Psalm 119:162 AMP

[6] 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:17 AMP; quote from Charles Spurgeon

Photo credits: http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com’ http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com

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One of my favorite passages of scripture wraps up chapter eleven of Romans.  The last four verses remind me (with authoritative yet beautiful language) that my wise and powerful God is in control of all things. 

Paul concludes with this statement of praise:

The following affirmations provide an opportunity to offer God our Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit the praise he deserves. You may wish to pause briefly after each one for a moment of meditation.

With our incredible triune God, we find:

Every need addressed

Every blessing bestowed

Every promise fulfilled

Every prayer answered

Every sin forgiven

Every shame erased

Every step ordered

Every decision guided

Every circumstance controlled

Every distress redeemed

Every worry calmed

Every fear assuaged

Every pain comforted

Every delight enhanced

Every God-given task empowered

Every necessary truth revealed

Every enemy vanquished

Every injustice made right

Every purpose realized

Every spiritual hunger satisfied

Every moment inhabited by his presence

Every weakness overcome by his strength

Every trouble defeated by His power

Every judgment executed by His wisdom

No doubt the list could continue.

To meditate on God’s glorious realities one after the other increases the wonder for me.  Do you feel it too?

We’re wise to review now and then all that God lavishly provides.

No doubt we’ll find our spirits lifted and our faith increased.

And then let’s not keep the delicious wonder to ourselves but tell others about his marvelous deeds. 

With whom will you share today about the glorious realities of God?


Scripture references:

Section #1—Philippians 4:19; Psalm 84:11-12; Psalm 145:13b; John 15:7 (Every prayer is answered with yes, no, or not yet.)

Section #2—1 John 1:9; Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 37:23; Psalm 23:3b

Section #3—Psalm 103:19; Psalm 25:22; Philippians 4:6-7; John 14:27

Section #4—2 Peter 1:3; John 16:13; Psalm 147:3; John 10:10

Section #5—Matthew 5:6; Romans 8:31; Colossians 3:25; Job 42:1;

Section #6—Isaiah 41:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Ephesians 3:20-21; Deuteronomy 32:4

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

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

a bit later in the morning

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

And I sensed God saying to me:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

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

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

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Retirement:

a time to enjoy all the things

you never had time to do

when you worked.

–Catherine Pulsifer

One of my retirement pleasures is watching the circus squirrels in the strip of woods behind our house.  They spiral the trunks in a speedy game of tag, balance at the tip of a branch without fear, and make dare-devil leaps from tree to tree.

One day I discovered those leaps are part of a habitual route squirrels follow to and from their homes.  Turns out they do not gambol haphazardly from tree to tree but “lay out and follow (probably by scent) pathways through the branches.”[1]

Mammalogists surmise this behavior is especially handy when they’re in a hurry. When danger lurks, the little critters can high tail it home with ease.

Sometime later the Spirit combined what I was learning about squirrels with what I knew about brain research (from teaching elementary school), and taught me an important lesson.

Neurons, confocal flourescence microscopy

First the brain research:  We create neural pathways in our brains with behavior. The more we repeat a behavior, the stronger and more deeply imbedded that behavior-pathway becomes until it is habit.[2]

The lesson?  Like the squirrels that lay out pathways through the trees to their nests, we can lay out pathways in our brains that lead home to the refuge of our Heavenly Father.

The question becomes, what are the branches that can make a habitual pathway to God?

I believe scripture truths form the stoutest limbs.  As we memorize encouraging verses and pray them again and again, the pathways of faith, strength, peace, and more become embedded—not only in our minds but in our spirits.  Reciting them back to their Author propels us into his Presence.

What might be some worthwhile passages to include?  Oh my.  The Bible offers a whole forest of reliable scripture-branches, ready to become part of the pathway into God’s sanctuary.

Here are a few of my favorites, though less traveled than some scriptures. You probably won’t find these on a list of “Top Ten Most Popular Bible Verses”—I checked!  But they’ve proven particularly helpful to me.

First:

You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.

John 13:7

Granted, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples the night of his arrest, so some would frown on applying them personally.  But the way this verse turned up during my quiet time one morning, precisely when I needed reminding of God’s wisdom and intentionality, led me to accept it as his confirmation for the moment.  Again and again, he has brought this truth to my mind.

Second:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is

noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy

—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Those negative emotions of worry, fear, hopelessness, and more can be whisked out of the way, as we focus on everything positive and follow this reliable branch to God’s peace and joy.

Third:

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do

good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Each of us was created for God’s glory—to reflect his attributes—and accomplish good works.  Therefore, our lives have purpose and value.  That’s a strong branch to follow back to his affirming Presence when worthlessness wants to knock us down.

The more time we spend traversing such scripture-truths, the more we absorb God’s thoughts and the more secure, contented, and useful our lives become.

Like the squirrels boldly scampering through the trees, we can confidently follow such pathways as these into the joyful presence of our Heavenly Father.

Come run with me!

You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 NIV

What scriptures offer stout branches for your pathway to God’s presence? Please share in the Comments section below!


[1] https://www.berkshireeagle.com/arts_and_culture/entertainment/take-me-outside-squirrels-act-as-arboreal-acrobats/article_401341f4-5787-53cd-952b-218eeea93562.html#:~:text=Squirrels%20lay%20out%20and%20follow,to%20go%20in%20a%20hurry.

[2] https://healthtransformer.co/the-neuroscience-of-behavior-change-bcb567fa83c1

Art & photo credits: http://www.[xhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.recreation.gov; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; www. pxhere.com.

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We’re now six weeks and five days into spring, and evidence of the season abounds:

  • Greenery flourishes from ground cover to tree tops
  • Lilac, lily of the valley, and hyacinth scent the air
  • Birds perform arias of warbles and trills
  • Butterflies bob from flower to leaf
  • Warm breezes dance through the trees

Most of us revel in these signs of spring.  We find our senses highly engaged, taking in each stage of the transformation. Perhaps that explains why many people experience more joy this time of year. 

I wonder:  what if we engaged our five senses in worship and quiet time with God?  Might some of that springtime joy well up in our spirits—all year long?

Christian psychologist, author, and teacher David Benner would have us understand:

The senses are a doorway to the sacred.

The question becomes:  how might these organs help us connect with God more profoundly?

Here are a few sacred sensory activities to get us started.

Sight

Gaze upon the beauty of the Lord while meditating on his attributes, his works, and wonders (Psalm 27:4).  Record the resulting thoughts on a journal page and increase the impact of reflection.

Revel in the glories of nature and write a page of praise, acclaiming God for his creative genius and impeccable workmanship.

Sound

 Play or listen to worshipful music.

Where words fail, music speaks.

Hans Christian Anderson

Or, listen in silence.

Silence is not an absence of sound

but rather a shifting of attention

toward sounds that speak to the soul.

Thomas Moore

Again, keep a journal and pen at hand to write the thoughts and impressions God speaks into your heart as you listen.

Smell

Begin quiet time by lighting a scented candle.  Perhaps reserve a favorite fragrance for this sacred time of day.  As the aroma fills the air, remember that God is with you, surrounding you with his Presence.

Taste

For many of us a mug of coffee or tea sits alongside our Bibles and journals.  What if we recited Psalm 34:8 as we take that first sip?

Praise God for his goodness; thank him for his blessings. Record one or two of his gifts in a gratitude journal. 

The more we focus on him and his wonderful works, the better we can taste his goodness.  So delight in the sweetness of his unfailing love.  Savor the hearty flavor of his strength.  Satisfy the hunger of your heart with the joy and peace of his presence.*

Touch

Years ago in a class on prayer we participants were instructed to put our hands in our laps, palms up.  After a few silent moments I suddenly felt a tingling sensation.  Was the Spirit of God holding my hands as we prepared to pray?

The professor explained that the pressure on the backs of our hands was causing the phenomenon.  But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch?  Oh yes!

That evening began a life-long habit of turning my palms upward to pray, to avail myself more fully to the nearness of God.  It’s a divine way to augment worship.

Harold Best believes:

“Of all people, Christians should have the best noses,

the best eyes and ears,

the most open joy, the widest sense of delight.”

As we engage our senses in worship, we will find ourselves ushered through the doorway to the sacred and into the presence of our magnificent and beautiful God.

Do you incorporate any sacred sensory activities into your quiet times with God? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

*Sarah Young, Jesus Always, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 333.

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; ww.flickr.com; http://www.decaturdaily.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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O God, numerous concerns vie for my attention: the state of our country, family needs, friends going through difficult circumstances, my own personal struggles.

Redirect my focus, Father, from what I’m yearning for to what you’ve already given, including:

  • your Spirit of wisdom and revelation
  • your enlightenment to experience hope
  • the riches of your glorious inheritance
  • your incomparably great power*

Each of these gifts is a priceless treasure and more than worthy of meditation and praise.  And so . . .

 

 

. . . I praise you for your spirit of wisdom to guide my thoughts, to equip me for perceiving reality accurately and applying truth correctly.

Help me to trust your all-wise ways and not play the fool, ignoring the treasure of your wisdom that’s always just a prayer away.

 

 

I praise you that year by year, you reveal more and more of yourself to me so our relationship can become increasingly intimate. Never will I tire of learning about you and experiencing you more fully.

 

 

I praise you for your gift of enlightenment to experience hope—complete and calm assurance that you will be victorious in the end, and we’ll live with you forever in the paradise of heaven.

That enlightenment also includes perspective for today. As I focus my thoughts on all you’ve done in the past, my confidence and expectation is affirmed for what you will do in the future.

 

 

I praise you for the riches of your glorious inheritance that we enjoy as your children: your mercy and grace, love and goodness, power and strength–all these and more provided to those who choose to do life with you.

And then there’s the staggering truth we are your inheritance. You look upon your children—even me—not as a liability but as part of your glorious wealth.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that with your incomparably great power, you can take every negative and turn it into a positive. In addition, your dynamic, eternal energy is within me and always available.

No circumstance intimidates you—not the problems of our country, the needs of our family, the difficulties faced by friends, or my own personal struggles. The tougher my day, the stronger your power will flow through me—as long as I stay close by your side.

 

 

I pray for the resolve, holy Father, to avail myself of all this you’ve already given, and may I do so with godly wisdom and constant diligence.

In the name of your Son Jesus who makes such wealth accessible, amen.

 

 

*from Ephesians 1:17-19a.

 

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

 

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“It is not mere reading, but meditation…

…which extracts the sweetness and the power out of Scripture.”

—James Stalker

 

I like the sound of that, don’t you—extracting all the sweetness and power out of Scripture?

To that end, I chose to follow a suggested psalm for meditating, #116, allowing those verses that apply to speak sweetness and power to my spirit. Then I framed my response as a prayer back to God.

Following is part of the result. It’s my hope you’ll find your heart responding too. You can add your own verse of personalized psalm in the comment section below!

 

PSALM 116:1-5, 7,

PERSONALIZED

 

 

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy” (v. 1).

Time and again you have heard my voice, O God as I’ve cried out in need. Your answers have flowed in countless mercies of provision, guidance, protection, strength, wisdom, and more.

 I remember: 

  • Your provision of a short-term assignment my seventeenth summer that turned into employment, enabling me to pay a good share of my college expenses.
  • Your guidance to marry Steve, even though he was headed toward the pastorate (and becoming a minister’s wife raised serious apprehensions in my heart).

 

(Just a few years ago–August 1, 1970)

 

  • Your protection from relationships that wouldn’t have been good for me, which I only recognized in hindsight.
  • Your strength to withstand stormy circumstances now and then–like the uncomfortable and stressful moves to new churches.
  • Your wisdom slowly but surely seeping into my soul over the decades, one discovery or lesson at a time—an ongoing process.

How can I not love you, my generous and attentive Heavenly Father?

 

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (v. 2).

Why would I turn anywhere else? You are the only One who can truly help in every situation.

At the first whisper of your name you draw near–such a precious reality. And just as you’ve promised, you give strength and bless me with peace in your presence (Psalm 29:11).

I’ll never forget that morning during a particularly difficult time, when I randomly opened my Bible first, before turning to the day’s assignment in the study guide. 

To my amazement, the first instruction directed me to a Bible verse already on display, at the top of the page no less.  I could almost hear your voice saying, “This verse is for you, Nancy”:

 

 

Granted, that understanding may not come this side of heaven, but one day I’ll know. In the meantime I trust you, my loving, sovereign Father.

 

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow (v. 3).”

Remember the time we rushed Heather (1) to the hospital, after severe pain awakened her in the middle of the night?

Few distresses cause anguish like seeing your child suffer and being helpless to stop it.

 

“Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save [us] (v. 4)!’”

 

 

All the way to the hospital I prayed, “Jesus!  Jesus”  Jesus!”  That was all my troubled spirit could muster.

But even such a simple prayer wields power, because your name, O God, represents your character. To call on your name is to trust you will work on our behalf.

By 9:00 a.m., we were heading home, with Heather sleeping peacefully (2).

 

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (v. 5).

You have been incredibly gracious over the years.

 I remember: 

  • Scholarships and grants provided for our children’s education.
  • Funds arriving at just the right time, like the unexpected tax return–three years late–that paid for the new refrigerator we needed.
  • God-enhanced moments, as I’ve breathed in the glory of…

…your nighttime sky filled with stars,

 

 

or the tiny wonder of a single star hidden within a flower.

 

 

 …the delight of a newborn grandchild in my arms, and the moment months later when those little arms wrapped around me.

 

 

 …friends who are family, and family who are friends.

 

 

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (v. 7).

 I do seek rest in your love and faithfulness, O God, your gracious kindness and wisdom. Even if not one more blessing came my way, I couldn’t complain.

 Glorious and majestic are your deeds, and your righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3)!

________________________________________________

 

Now it’s your turn, to add in the comment section below a bit of sweetness and power you’ve extracted from Psalm 116:1-5, 7.

Remember with me the wonderful works He has done, His miracles (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

Notes:

  1. Our daughter
  2. More details of the story can be found in a previous post, “When Circumstances Spin Out of Control.”

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; Richard Schruel; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pickpik.com; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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During a former chapter of my life, I taught fourth grade language arts and social studies.

One of the reading strategies we emphasized was looking for Ah-HA Moments—places in a book where readers finally receive answers to the questions they’ve been asking—questions like:

  • Why is the main character doing that?
  • Who could be responsible for this situation?
  • How will the main character(s) solve this problem?

The quest for Ah-HA Moments helps keep readers engaged, aids comprehension, and adds more pleasure to the reading experience.

I took great delight in seeing my students internalize this strategy. Even during other subjects, I’d hear “Ah-HA!” now and then, as a student found the perfect verb for her writing or a history research-team discovered why the Erie Canal was abandoned.

Eons ago the apostle Paul desired Ah-HA Moments for his children—the spiritual offspring he’d led to faith in Jesus.

 

(“St. Paul” by Rembrandt, c. 1657)

 

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that his readers would experience spiritual Ah-HA Moments.

No, you won’t find those exact words in any translation. What you will find is a statement with similar meaning:

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart

may be enlightened” (NIV).

 

 

And then Paul chose to highlight three aspects of our Christian experience that can create those Ah-HA moments: 1) Our hope in Jesus, 2) The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and 3) God’s incomparable power.

I wonder what Ah-HA Moments we might discover while meditating on each one?

Consider the following:

 

Hope

 

“Hope is the reality that is being constructed,

but is not yet visible.”

—William Stringfellow (emphasis added)

 

And just what does our reality-under-construction include?

  • God’s good work in us that is never-failing and never-ending (Philippians 1:6)
  • Peace and joy, because we hope in Jesus (Romans 15:13)
  • God’s delight in us—not when we’re finally perfectbut when we put our hope in him (Psalm 147:11)
  • Hope that translates into strength—especially strength to persevere (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Refinement, as the anticipation of Jesus’ return “acts as a purifying hope in our lives” (1 John 3:2-3 and Kay Arthur*)

 

 

Did any of those statements provide an Ah-HA Moment for you?

For me it was the third bullet point. God delights in me, simply because I hope in him. I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect to receive his approval.

 

The Riches of His Inheritance

 

Some Bible scholars believe Paul meant God’s inheritance in us.  

We are his treasured possession, adopted into his family when we accept Jesus into our lives (Deuteronomy 7:6; Galatians 3:29).

As such, he takes care of us, provides purpose for us, and even takes pleasure in us. He enjoys our company and looks forward to the day when we’ll all be together with him for eternity (Revelation 21:3).

 

 

 

Again, any Ah-HA Moments?

I, for one, am astounded to realize God treasures me—sinful and flawed as I am.

 

God’s Incomparable Power

 

Every one of us can relate stories of God’s miraculous work, as he’s provided, protected, and guided in ways beyond human explanation.

But sometimes he produces super-human perseverance, inner strength, and even joy through difficult circumstances.

The Christian who avails herself of God’s power is ready for both kinds of intervention. She knows that God will supply all her needs, including the wherewithal to turn every negative into a positive.

That last statement provides my final Ah-HA for this post; maybe for you too. We can find delight—in spite of distress—as we avail ourselves of God’s power.

 

Of course, these two verses from Ephesians aren’t the only places in scripture where we can experience Ah-HA Moments. In fact, we will never come to the end of them—for which I am very grateful.  You too?

 

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture;

the book widens and deepens

with our years.”

–Charles Spurgeon

 

 

That’s especially true as we invite God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts—with Ah-HA moments.

 

*Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, p. 31.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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