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Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

 

Just for fun I Googled “strategies that lead to a satisfying life.” Of course numerous articles popped up, offering a multitude of suggestions. One article listed twenty ways for achieving fulfillment.

But researchers have determined it takes sixty-six days on average to develop a new habit (1). That means twenty new habits would require concentrated effort for nearly four years. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it.

However, as you’ve already noted from the title of this post, it is possible to turn a humdrum life into exceptional with just one strategy: gratitude to God.

 

 

But how can one simple act make such a difference?

I’ll explain in a moment. First, let’s identify the key word in that statement above: God. Without someone to thank, gratitude is pointless. And he is responsible for every good gift in our lives. By thanking God for his blessings, we unlock the fullness of life (2).

Here’s how it happens:

 

Gratitude fosters joy and contentment.

When we aim to thank God for the benefits he bestows, the delightful encounters he provides, and the beauty he’s created, we soon realize our days overflow with his gifts. And each one gives reason to smile.

 

 

Gratitude leads to peace.

Remember Isaiah 26:3?  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (ESV). Gratitude to God is a delightful way to stay focused on him and thereby calm our hearts into serenity.

 

Gratitude contributes to resiliency.

Researchers Tennen and Afflek (2002) found that when people express gratitude even while suffering adversity or trauma, they tend to persevere with greater strength than those who don’t practice thankfulness (3).

John MacArthur beautifully described the phenomenon with this bit of imagery:

 

 

“No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

 

Gratitude increases our trust in God.

We can begin with grateful remembering of his marvelous deeds in the past, to form a foundation of faith for the present. Also, by expressing thankfulness in difficult circumstances and gratefully acknowledging God’s support and supply, our perspective is transformed.

 

I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

–Psalm 12:5-6

 

And when all of these results-of-gratitude are present in one person—effervescent joy, sublime contentment, luminous peace, buoyant resiliency, and unshakable trust—we see an exceptional life.

 

 

It all begins with gratitude.

 

When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether

you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

–G. K. Chesterton

 

And how do we learn to take things with gratitude?

Researchers have studied that too, and found gratitude journals to be highly effective (4).

 

 

 

They suggest keeping a record of pleasurable observations and positive experiences such as:

  • Happy squeals of neighbor children as Daddy pushes their swings
  • An overcast day made cozy with glowing candles, simmering soup, and rain thrumming on the roof
  • Being taught by a seven-year old granddaughter how to add two-digit numbers in a new and clever way
  • Those places where God has brushed all of autumn’s colors in one swath

 

 

Gratitude bestows . . .transcendent moments of awe

that change forever how we experience life and the world.

–Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

So instead of wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving Day, blog-friends, I pray for you an exceptional life–of gratitude!

 

____________________________

 

If you keep a gratitude journal, please share your experience in the comment section below. How has it contributed to an exceptional life for you?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit#takeaway
  2. James 1:17 and https://melodybeattie.com/gratitude-2/
  3. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-happiness-research/
  4. https://www.pointloma.edu/resources/counseling-psychology/what-good-gratitude-role-thanksgiving-personal-development

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (3).

 

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(A journal dialogue between God and me)

 

ME:

I love temperate mornings like this, Father, when I can spend moments on the deck with you, reveling in your creation. Thank you for this little island of quiet amidst urban commotion.

Dark clouds of yesterday have given way to those that artists love to paint: cotton puffs of white, some breeze-pulled into wisps.

The black walnut tree already wears many golden leaves. Occasional leaf showers create a dazzling parade of drifting sunflakes. Summer has acquiesced to fall.

 

 

Our squirrel friends have picked up another game of tag. They dash at alarming speed from tree to tree, and sometimes spiral up and down the trunks. Familiarity may contribute to their surefootedness, but such dare-devil antics still amaze.

At least several hummingbirds have visited the feeder since I settled in my chair. No doubt they’re fueling up for migration.

Some hover as they drink, wings and tails a blur of motion. Others rest briefly on the bar, take a quick sip, then fly up and back to warily scan their surroundings. A few partake from one opening and then another. Perhaps they’re hoping for different flavors?

 

 

 

Still others rest on the bar and take long gulps. When this latter group pauses, they remain still. Their glances about appear relaxed, as if they’re simply enjoying the view.

 

 

GOD:

Let the habits of the hummingbirds inform yours.

You are one of my little hummingbirds—small and practically defenseless. But you can fly! In your spirit you can fly at hummer-speed to me, your Provider and Protector.

In me you find all you need, just as the nectar in flowers or feeders provides for the hummingbirds all that they need.

 

 

Let the hummers who rest be a reminder to you. There is no reason to be in constant flight, hovering over this task and then on to the next in a flurry of hurry.

Take note of the birds who rest on the bar and enjoy their surroundings between sips. How can you do the same?

The occasional worship-pause at the kitchen window is a good start.

 

 

And your daily gratitude journal offers more moments of reverent respite.

 

 

ME:

You just gave me another idea, Father (1).

As you lead me to scriptures or quotes that inspire praise, I can copy them to tuck here and there as reminders.

 

 

GOD:

And when you come across one of those cards, quietly rest a moment in its truth. Look around and within for reasons to thank and praise me, as prompted by that scripture or quote.

And what will be the result? Refreshing restoration.  Renewed energy.  Augmented joy.  Deeper peace (2)—in spite of the troubling political and social climate and concerns surrounding Covid.

 

 

Fly with confidence into the days ahead, little bird—strengthened and refreshed in me.

 

Notes:

  1. James 1:17. All good gifts come from God—even good ideas.
  2. Psalm 23:1-2; Psalm 19:7-8; Psalm 119:111; Psalm 119:165.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.needpix.com.

 

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In a matter of minutes, our next-to-last exam of junior year would begin.  The room of high schoolers included a few serious students with heads in notebooks, but most of us chatted with one another, just anxious to be done.

“Hey!” cried one friend to a group of us girls sitting together.  “Let’s switch one shoe with somebody else for good luck!”  Giggles ensued as we tried different looks and different sizes, until each of us sported mismatched footwear.


After the exam, imagine our surprise when we were summoned to the office.

Someone thought the shoe-exchange was a means of cheating.  Thankfully our principal dismissed us immediately when we explained our silly scheme for good luck. 

Of course, certain shoes—or any other particular piece of clothing–have nothing to do with success.  Even those who’ve experienced a triumph or two while wearing a certain hat, jacket, or tie eventually find Lady Luck has left the building. 

One high school basketball coach in Indiana wore the same patchwork pants for every game, and his team won twenty-seven times in a row.* 

But then came Game #28.

Much more important than a basketball game or even a high school exam, God has prepared us clothing for life.  Granted, the apparel he provides is metaphorical and made for the spiritual realm.  But it creates much greater impact on our lives than mismatched shoes or patchwork pants.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the armor that Paul described in his letter to the Ephesians, including the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and more.


But our Designer God is ready to provide another article of clothing, mentioned in Isaiah 61:3—a garment of praise.

Now some might wonder, Isn’t that self-serving of God—to offer us a garment of praise so we’ll applaud, admire, and honor him?

Not at all.   Just as we enjoy giving pleasure to others through accolades of their character or actions, we find joy in acclaiming God for all he is and does. 

Praise takes our focus off problematic people and circumstances, and draws our attention to the One who has brought us through every dark valley in the past, and will continue to do so until our life-journeys are complete. 

So what might this garment of praise look like—if it were visible?  I’m imagining a velvety-soft, lightweight cloak stretching all the way to our shoe tops and including a hood—for total coverage.


But in order to enjoy the supreme comfort of this robe, we have to get rid of the irritating clothing we sometimes wear:

  • The scratchy scarf of negativity
  • The constrictive shirt of fear
  • The hot collar of anger
  • The heavyweight coat of worry

We can’t savor life to its fullest in such uncomfortable clothes as these.  In contrast—as research on positivity and gratitude has proven–the garment of praise produces feel-good endorphins, uplifts our mood, and offers hope.

Of course, we have to put it on.  Too often we leave home without our praise-cloaks or it slips off our shoulders somewhere along the way.

Perhaps we could tie it on each morning with prayer and check the knot with prayer throughout the day. 

Perhaps something like this:


Lord, I thank you for my garment of praise—to keep me aware of your presence, happily occupied with thoughts of your attributes and blessings. Help me to always keep my praise-cloak in place.

Thank you that when I’m wrapped in my garment of praise I can experience your highest joy May I never leave home without it.

(Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 112:7, 43:4 GWT)


*Kathlyn Gay, They Don’t Wash Their Socks, Walker and Company, 2013.


Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flicr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pilist.com.

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As I begin drafting this post, it’s Monday afternoon, May 11, and the temperature outside is forty-eight degrees. No, we do not live in the far north where such weather might be normal for mid-May. Our home is in Cincinnati, right across the Ohio River from the South—Kentucky to be exact.

Nonetheless, this spring has been a chilly and wet one for us (including parts of the South, I have to admit). Tomorrow morning meteorologists have issued another freeze warning for parts of our area. And the ten-day forecast includes five days of rain.

 

 

Sooner or later, however, summer will defeat winter. And while anticipating sunshine and short sleeves, I remember the Bible verse, “The Lord God is a sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11).

Perhaps I can keep myself cheerfully occupied, even on a damp and cloudy afternoon, by contemplating God’s sun-like qualities.

For example:

  • The sun is ever-present. No matter how gray the sky, the sun’s rays penetrate, supporting life on our planet. Praise God he is always present, always supporting us–especially on the dark days of pain, sorrow, or hardship (Psalm 46:1).

 

 

  • The sun is perfect in size, brightness, temperature, and even distance from the earth, in order to sustain life on our fragile planet. Praise God he engineered such perfection and breathes life into every creature (Job 12:10).

 

 

  • The sun is big, its mass making up 99.8% of our solar system. Most of the final .2% comes from Jupiter. Earth is a mere speck by comparison. Yet our God is bigger than the entire cosmos, filling heaven and earth with his omnipresence (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

 

 

  • The sun’s gravitational pull keeps all the planets of the solar system orbiting around it. God the Son proclaimed that he would draw all people to himself. And within the orbit of his love and care we can thrive (John 12:32; Hebrews 11:6).

 

 

  • The sun provides remarkable beauty at sunrise and sunset. And to the far north, solar wind creates the mesmerizing light patterns of the Aurora Borealis. Of course, God is responsible for such displays and countless more across the planets, the galaxy, the universe (Psalm 104:24).

 

(Space Nebula)

 

  • As already mentioned, the sun offers life-changing benefits such as: 1) light, symbolic of God’s enlightenment, guidance, and goodness (Daniel 2:22, James 1:17), 2) warmth and comfort, reminding us of our contentment in God (Proverbs 19:23), and 3) good cheer when it breaks through stubborn clouds, a metaphor for the face of God shining on us with blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).

 

 

Of course, the comparison of God to anything else eventually breaks down.

For example, we can never have too much of God, but too much sun is detrimental to plant life and humans. That’s when it’s valuable to remember the second part of Psalm 84:11 (the verse where we began this exploration):  our God is also a shield.

 

 

 

I’m thinking of my brother’s and sister-in-law’s vegetable garden—carefully fenced to keep out critters, and also outfitted with a removable screen roof. They live in south/central Texas where summer temperatures can top one hundred degrees for days at a stretch. That screen does an excellent job of shielding the plants from scorching heat.

And the images of both sunshine and shade depict another aspect of our all-proficient God: He provides exactly what we need when we need it. Sometimes it’s abundant blessing, sometimes its opportunity for challenge and growth, often it’s both at the same time.

 

 

“He suits himself to every varying circumstance in life.

He becomes what the exigency of the moment requires.

And as the psalmist well says,

he withholds no good thing

from those that walk uprightly.”

—F. B. Meyer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise You, O God, for your splendor like a glorious sunrise—when rainbow hues dance among the clouds. I praise you that every attribute contributing to your glorious splendor is also at work in our lives—your creativity, wisdom, power, and faithfulness.

 But when we’re overwhelmed by the heat of difficult times, I thank you for being like a shield. You are our Protector who attentively watches over us with your unfailing love. You are our safety, our eternal hope.

Thank you for your promise that through cold or heat, rain or shine: “Blessed is the one who trusts in you.”  

(Habakkuk 3:4; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 3:3, 8; Psalm 33:20-22; Psalm 84:12)

 

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

 

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“Let all who take refuge in you be glad;

let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name

may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

you surround them with your favor

as with a shield.”

–Psalm 5:11-12

 

Thank you, Father, for each line of encouragement here, presenting truth worthy of contemplation and celebration. To that end this is my prayer:

 

 

I praise you, O God, for being my unfailing refuge—my protector and sanctuary.

Year after year you have:

  • Supplied my needs, like the three teaching positions you provided–each one a miracle (1)
  • Brought me through difficult circumstances, including moves to new communities that initially I wanted no part of
  • Surprised my husband and me with delights we didn’t expect, such as a generous check enclosed with a note, suggesting we enjoy much-needed R & R at our favorite getaway

 

(Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL)

 

I’m not just glad you’re my refuge, I’m elated! My heart sings in celebration of your perfections, sovereignty, and kindness. You provide unending delight!

You have been my protection, preserving my life:

  • In dangerous circumstances, including that narrow mountain road outside Quito, Ecuador
  • From near accidents, such as that red-light runner who could have sent me spinning into heavy traffic
  • Through natural disasters, like those hurricanes during our forty years in Florida

 

(Hurricane Charley damage, 2004)

 

You have been my protection emotionally, carrying me through:

  • The incomprehensible, like the senseless death of a young friend
  • Hurtful circumstances, when those we trusted proved unreliable
  • Disappointment, as certain hopes were not realized

I thank you, Father, for every time you’ve limited our ordeals so we could endure; and when necessary you’ve given us your strength to withstand every difficulty (2).

 

  

I praise you, O God, that the righteous are not those who always say and do the right thing. Such a standard would disqualify me. Rather, the righteous include those who trust in you and love your many names–Shepherd, Counselor, Helper, and more.

I praise you that your favor includes adoption into your family, freedom from the eternal consequences of our sin, and freedom from guilt—when we ask Jesus into our lives (3).

You graciously give us access to your presence. And when we come you are always ready to listen, uplift, and advise (4).

 

 

You’ve designed us for purpose, to give us glorious satisfaction in life, and day after day you lavish blessing (5), including:

  • The privilege to watch children grow—from first steps to first race, from mere sounds to sentences, from making scribbles to writing stories
  • The delight of old friends we know well and new friends we want to know well
  • Your creativity all around us, whether it’s azure skies or smoke-like clouds, sunbeam ribbons or raindrop jewels, verdant treetops or bare filigree branches

 

 

Your shield of favor also stands between each of us and the evil forces on every side. You are beneath us as a foundation, over us as a shelter, at our right hand as security, before us to lead the way, and within us to provide strength (6).

Keep me mindful of all these glorious truths, O God—truths that make me more than glad. And as this new year begins, may my days be laced with praise to you, my choices motivated by gratitude to you, and my faith be strong in you until that day you take me home.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Two of those miracles are detailed in other posts, After the Fact and The Greater Plan.
  2. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Isaiah 41:10
  3. Ephesians 1:3-7
  4. Ephesians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Psalm 145:14; James 1:5
  5. Ephesians 1:11-12, 2:10; John 1:16
  6. Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 73:23; John 10:3b, 4b; 1 John 4:4

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; naplesnews.com; http://www.bible.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.)

 

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“Would you look at this?” my friend exclaimed. Her outstretched hand waved over a selection of magazines in our favorite place to meet, a local bookstore/cafe.

 

 

Do you see what caught Cindy’s* eye? That word “Mindfulness” or “Mindful” shouted from nine different periodicals.

After the initial surprise, we realized why mindfulness is such a hot topic.  These days many adults are under great pressure to push themselves hard, move faster and accomplish more each day. All the while electronic devices are demanding their attention.

Add to that the worries rasping in their minds: the mistakes and failures of yesterday, the tight schedule and uncertainties of tomorrow, and fears for the future.

The pace, stress, and anxiety take their toll in the form of health problems, sleep disorders, and relational strain.

 

 

As a result, many have embraced mindfulness—a pleasurable time-out to capture the joy of now–like pausing to savor the tart, crisp, juiciness of an apple, stopping to listen as small bare feet patter down the stairs, or taking a moment to study a chipmunk collecting acorns.

And according to the research, just a brief interlude of mindfulness can calm the nerves, reset one’s emotional equilibrium, and foster contentment—all to positive effect upon our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

But I wonder, how many people know God offers even more–if we augment mindfulness with gratitude and praise?

 

 

For example, while doing the dishes I can focus on the hot water warming my hands, the clean scent of soap, the rainbowed bubbles floating in a bowl, the burbling water cascading over glasses and cups–then add a short prayer:

Thank you, Father, for giving us five senses

with which to enjoy your world.

 

 

While traveling in the car I can take note of the late summer haze clinging to the hillsides, today’s cloud exhibition, and the leaves on the roadside performing pirouettes on the breeze–then honor the Lord of all things:

I praise you, Father, for your creative genius

on display everywhere I look.

 

 

While reading a book with my two-year old granddaughter, I can pay attention to the sensation of her little body snuggled into my side, the sweet sound of her toddler-voice “reading” some of the words, and the dimples on the back of her hand as she points to a picture–then express gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts:

Thank you, Father, for the delights to be found

beneath the surface of ordinary experience.

 

 

Each day I can pause to observe the rose-pink tint of dawn, the dappled treetops in the noonday sun, and the slow glide of shadows at sunset–then rejoice in God’s power and glory.

My mouth is filled with your praise, O God,

declaring your splendor all day long.”

–Psalm 71:8

 

 

Mindfulness may prod us to notice God’s gifts in the moment, and that’s good.

But mindfulness plus gratitude and praise prompt us to treasure him, and that’s transformational.

God’s presence becomes palpable (James 4:8), joy sings in our hearts (Psalm 92:4), contentment settles in our spirits (Isaiah 26:3).

And the Giver of all good things surely smiles with pleasure in response.

 

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; ww.canva.com.)

 

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Generations ago, an ancestor of pastor Fred Craddock suggested that Sunday afternoons be spent on nature walks to find and admire God’s handiwork. He called it, “going marveling (1).”

That phrase brought to mind the old Christmas carol, “Here We Come A-Wassailing.”  ‘Remember the first few lines?

 

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a-wand’ring

So fair to be seen.

 

If we’d accompanied Pastor Craddock’s forbearers on one of those woodland hikes, perhaps we would have sung:

 

Here we go a-marveling

Among the leaves so green,

All around creation charms;

Such fairness to be seen.

 

Indeed, our God of wonders provides fairness (as a synonym for splendor) in countless ways:

 

from the majestic…

 

 

…to the minute,

 

 

From the firm…

 

 

…to the fragile,

 

 

From the colorful…

 

 

…to the camouflaged.

 

 

“Wows come in all shapes and sizes.”

–Anne Lamott

 

But there are many more sources of jaw-dropping awe that deserve our attention.

We can go a-marveling at the wonder of us.

Consider these wows:

  • Approximately sixty thousand miles of blood vessels course through the human body—enough to wrap the earth more than twice (2).
  • Blood travels 12,000 miles per day through the vascular system.  That’s equivalent to the distance from coast to coast across the U.S.—four times (3).
  • Human hemoglobin that makes our blood red is made up of extremely complex molecules. Each contains 9520 atoms of various elements, hooked together in a precise pattern (4).

 

 

Hemoglobin Molecule

 

Astounding, isn’t it?  And with King David we can certainly affirm:

 

 

We can go a-marveling through our memories. Perhaps you remember such delights as these: 

  • Coming in from the cold to be warmed by thick, hot soup and familial love around the table
  • Almost floating down the sidewalk on the first warm day of spring—with no coat or boots to weigh you down
  • A board game with friends—complete with popcorn and laughter

 

 

Even such ordinary events as these inspire wonder, because they point to a God who orchestrates satisfying moments into all our days.

We can also go a-marveling through the memories of miracles.

No doubt you’ve experienced spectacular moments such as these:

  • A new job provided just as the old one was terminated
  • The cost of a new refrigerator covered by a surprise check in the mail
  •  A baby born dangerously premature that not only survives but thrives

 

 

And while marveling at the miracles…

…We can go a-marveling at the wonder of prayer, which often precedes God’s astounding works.

First, our all-powerful God allows mere humans to come alongside him as he engineers events and accomplishes his good purposes.

Second, and even more marvelous, his Spirit comes alongside us as our partner in prayer, helping us pray as we should.

 

 

How wondrous is that?

Finally, we can go a-marveling through scripture.

The Bible was written by at least forty authors from different walks of life, over the span of 1500+ years, on three continents. No other book has come into existence out of such wide-reaching diversity. And yet the reader can’t help but notice the unity of its content.

Within the pages of scripture we find wisdom and inspiration for living, strength for difficulty, comfort for pain, and peace for unrest.

It’s true:  those who know their Bibles best, marvel at its truths the most. They notice “wonder after wonder, and every wonder true” (St. Brude).

 

 

And where might all this marveling lead?  To still more wonders:   stronger faith, deeper contentment, and greater joy.

 

*     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *

 

Who is like you, O God—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, continually working wonders? Our lives are FULL of marvels, O God!  May we be lost in wonder, love, and praise, just like the old hymn writer proclaimed. 

(Exodus 15:11; “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley)

 

What are you marveling in today?  Tell us in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, ed. Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, p. 65.
  2. https://my.cleveleandclinic.org>health>articles>17059
  3. https://iheartintelligence.com/35-incredible-facts-about-the-human-body-that-might-surprise-you/
  4. John Phillips, Exploring John’s First Epistle, Kregel Publications, 2003, p. 36.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.usafe.af.mil; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com.

 

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The summers of my childhood included a blend of games and activities with neighborhood friends, afternoons at the community pool, bike rides to the library, and a few weeks spent with Grandma Clara and Grandpa Henry who lived four hours away in Iowa.

No doubt some would describe our summer experiences as mundane, not realizing the joy hidden among the ordinary:

  • The delight of lazy Monopoly marathons
  • The wonder of fireflies in a jar
  • The satisfaction of a big bowl of buttery popcorn–after biking to the park and spending several hours of nonstop cavorting in the pool, then biking home again
  • The pleasure of tucking ourselves under the willow tree to read
  • The fun of an evening bike ride with Dad

 

 

It’s the small, happy moments—not the grand events—that contribute to satisfying days and a joy-filled life.

 

The joy of small…makes life large.

–Ann Voskamp (1)

 

However, I have to admit: my childhood-self took those lovely moments for granted. I lived unaware of God’s glory pervading my everyday experiences: his creative genius on display—even in the backyard, his love, peace, and security within a family grounded on Christian values, and his goodness to provide joy-filled moments that shimmer in my memory with holy perfection.

Now, as the decades have passed, I’m learning to identify more of the transcendent moments God provides, including:

 

 

  • A cardinal filling the silence of the woods with his hope-inspiring “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!”
  • A toddler wrapping her arms around my neck and crying, “I love you!”
  • A devotional that speaks exactly what I need to hear
  • An opportunity to encourage a waitress and see her concern turn to hope
  • A small gathering of family and friends quickly ballooning to twelve—with much laughter, camaraderie, and delightful conversation

 

 

God’s glory is on display right “in the middle of our minutes” (2).

 

So each night before falling asleep, let’s measure the moments of our days:

  • Taking note of God’s blessings and the delights of his creation; singing our praise for his breath-taking handiwork (Psalm 92:4; Job 5:9).
  • Thanking God for the camaraderie and conversation, hugs and support among family members and friends who keep us strong (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Counting the riches that result from abiding in God, beginning with peace (Isaiah 26:3), stability (Psalm 16:8), and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).
  • Celebrating the honor of ministering to others in Jesus’ name (Matthew 25:40), giving us purpose and cultivating fulfillment in our spirits.
  • Delighting in the opportunities to smile, laugh, and find moments of joy—even in the midst of trouble or frustration (Proverbs 17:22).

 

“Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.

It won’t take the potholes out of the road,

but it sure makes the ride smoother.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

 

And just as inches are measured into feet, so we can measure meaningful moments into satisfying days and a joy-filled life–because God is in them.

 

What meaningful moments are at the top of your list for today?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 167.
  2. Sara Hagerty, Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 109.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.geauxguard.la.gov; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although H., our daughter-in-law, and a physician at the same hospital, sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to our daughter-in-law. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4:  H. insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the hospital staff.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

On Saturday, H., our five-year old granddaughter, and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because our son could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by her. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

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No doubt about it.  Our senses are bombarded with stimuli during the Christmas season.

Decorated trees, wreaths, and garlands; figures, swags, and fairy lights festoon building after building, home after home.

 

 

Carols and holiday songs accompany every errand run and shopping excursion.

The scent of cinnamon, pine, and gingerbread; peppermint, vanilla, and clove urge us to breathe deep—frequently.

 

 

Velvet dresses, satin bows, and cloud-soft batting; feathery bird-ornaments, and fuzzy teddy bears beg to be touched.

Grandma’s stuffing, Butterball turkey, and squash casserole; Wassail, snowball cookies, and cranberry coffee cake all tantalize the tongue.

 

 

Some days, however, we practically drown from total immersion in everything Christmas. What is a worn out sensory system supposed to do?

If you Google “strategies for stress relief” you’ll be presented numerous options from the experts.  Some suggestions require more time than many of us can sacrifice during December. Examples include working on hobbies, getting a massage, or taking a vacation.

 

 

I can hear you through my computer screen: “NOT gonna happen this month!”

But there are other strategies we can weave into our days no matter what the to-do list requires. And SURPRISE! The experts often echo what scripture has taught all along.

We can calm ourselves through:

 

 

Meditation

Not mind-numbing exercises that supposedly elevate us to euphoria, but meditation on scripture, God’s works and mighty deeds (Psalm 119:97; 77:12). For me, that includes starting each morning with him and his Word, to set the tone for the day.

And as we fix our thoughts upon him, God has promised to keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He is our source of equilibrium and tranquility, prosperity and contentment of soul. Daily he supplies what we need to accomplish what is necessary (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The rest we can let go.

 

 

Music

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him” (Psalm 147:1, emphasis added).

Sometimes that means a loud and majestic “Hallelujah Chorus.”

But when nerves are frazzled, the experts recommend slow, quiet music. And many of our favorite carols offer just such repose.

So, when tension rises, be ready to select “Silent Night” or “What Child Is This.”  Save “Ring Christmas Bells” and “Sleigh Ride!” until the stress subsides!

 

Prayer

We can allow all the sensory input to turn our minds toward Jesus “by praying continually–simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment” (Romans 12:12 and Sarah Young, Jesus Calling).

Sentence prayers such as these:

 

 

Thank you, Jesus, for the laughter of children that opens my heart to your joy.

Thank you for the power of delectable aromas—like clove-studded ham, vanilla sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls–that conjure up sweet memories of Christmases long ago.

Thank you for the family and friends represented in this stack of Christmas cards, who’ve left their love stamped upon our hearts.

 

 

Thank you for the familiar carols, reminding me of that wonder-filled first Christmas.

And thank you, Jesus, for lights that glimmer and candles that glow, celebrating you, the Light of the world, our Emmanuel.

 

 

They say it takes just three weeks to learn a new habit. With all the sensory reminders around us, this may be the most opportune time to become continual pray-ers.

And as we seek to turn everything Christmas into gratitude and praise, the joy of the Lord will surely follow.

 

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.doncio.navy.mil (photographer:  Diana Quinlan); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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