Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Renewing the Mind’ Category

Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her through that rock-climb. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past,. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com (Noah Berger); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

Read Full Post »

If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.flickr.com (Nicolas Huk); http://www.commonswikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.publickdomainpictures.net; http://www.commons wikimedia.org.

Read Full Post »

Perhaps you’ve also heard these definitions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But up-timists affirm such confident expectations as these:

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

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

Other truths include:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

Secret Prayers

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

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

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

Might God smile also? I think so.

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

Consider:

Secret Deeds

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

Surely God smiles as well. 

Secret Moments

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

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

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

Secret Blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

That title comes from the New Living Translation of Hebrews 12:2:

Isn’t that a strength-infusing image? Picture our Lord Jesus wearing a spotless white robe, sitting tall on a regal white horse, a golden sash encircling his chest.  See his face glowing like the sun, eyes blazing like fire. And in his hands rests a scepter of iron. Everything about him conveys authority, glory, and power.[1]

Statue located in Hendersonville, TN at Trinity Music City. Photo by Brent Moore.

But more important than how he looks, of course, is what he does. And that list is extensive. 

We have a Champion on our side—an all-victorious One—who is ready to help us win this race of life as we stay focused on him.[2]

Scripture reveals remarkable truths about our Champion. The following sixteen statements not only create an acrostic, but offer glorious reasons for praise.  

Our Lord Christ is:

Jesus, the Son of God through whom all things were created and through whom we live.[3]

Everlasting Father, protecting and providing for us now and always.[4]

Sovereign over all, reigning with wisdom, righteousness, and mercy.[5]

Unfailing and unchanging in his personal love for each of us.[6]

Savior to all who believe in him.[7]

Overcomer of our arch enemy, Satan, who’s already been defeated.[8]

Upholder of justice and truth, always acting with integrity, always speaking rightly.[9]

Rescuer from every evil attack, who will take us to heaven when the time is right.[10]

Conqueror of death who brought us the good news of salvation, offering life to us that never ends.[11]  

Hero of impeccable character and omnipotent power, willing to help us every moment.[12]

Alpha and Omega, the all-sufficient One who always was and always will be.[13] 

Mighty Warrior King, coming to earth again to establish his glorious kingdom.[14] 

Perfector of our faith, who will never give up on us.[15]

Intercessor for all believers, continually pleading for us before God.[16]

One and only Word of God—communicating and manifesting the magnificence of God to us.[17]

Name above all names, the result of his absolute perfections and humble sacrifice in our place.[18]

And what will be the result as we focus our contemplations upon Jesus our Champion?

His influence will penetrate to the core of who we are.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

We’ll begin to act and react like Jesus, talk and even think like Jesus.

And in the process we’ll become champions ourselves—victors and conquerors, able to triumph over whatever comes our way.[19] 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for being my Champion. What a glorious relief to know that you—the all-sufficient One–go before me each day, ready to defend, protect, guide, and provide. May I keep my eyes fixed on you to bolster my faith and grow me more like you. I do want to live in confident victory!

2 Corinthians 2:14a; Deuteronomy 31:8;

Psalm 91:14-15; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:4

Scriptural support for this post:


[1] Daniel 7:9; Revelation 19:11-15; 1:13-16; Daniel 7:14

[2] Philippians 3:7-12; Hebrews 12:2

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:6 NLT

[4] Revelation 21:4

[5] Ephesians 1:19b-21; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 42:1; James 5:11

[6] John 15:13

[7] John 3:16

[8] John 16:33; 1 John 3:8

[9] Jeremiah 33:15; Revelation 19:11; 1 Peter 2:22

[10] 2 Timothy 4:18; John 14:2-3

[11] 1 Timothy 1:10 CEV

[12] 1 John 2:1; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 4:13

[13] Revelation 22:13; Colossians 1:13-20

[14] Isaiah 42:13; Psalm 72

[15] Philippians 1:6

[16] Romans 8:34 GNT

[17] John 1:1; Colossians 1:15; 2:9

[18] Philippians 2:6-11

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (Brent Moore); http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

Read Full Post »

Oh—you’ve never heard of yabbits? Not to worry. If I change the spelling and offer a few examples, you’ll instantly understand. Yabbits are the “Yeah, but . . .” statements that create havoc in our minds, much like rabbits create havoc in a backyard garden.

Who–ME?

For example:

  • YEAH, I know worry doesn’t help . . . BUT I can’t seem to shut it off.
  • YEAH, I know the Bible teaches that God is good . . . BUT what about all the evil in the world?
  • YEAH, I know I’m supposed to forgive . . . BUT this hurts!
  • YEAH, I know Romans 8:28 about all things working together for good . . . BUT I’m not seeing it in this situation, and it’s been going on a long time.
  • YEAH, I know some Christians seem to live in a bubble of joy . . . BUT I’m not feeling it!

These yabbits have names: Distrust, Disbelief, Disappointment, Discouragement, and Discontentment. They’re almost as challenging to keep out of our minds as rabbits are from our gardens.

Of course, the first line of defense against rabbits is a strong, deeply-implanted fence. For yabbits, that fence is scripture—promises and truths deeply implanted in our spirits, that can stand guard when those pesky Yeah-but statements come to devour our faith. Scriptures such as these:

For those times when DISTRUST wants to nibble at your faith, turn to Psalm 9:9-10.

Keep out the yabbits of DISBELIEF with Mark 9:24. [1]

When DISAPPOINTMENT tries to invade our thoughts, we need to remember such affirmations from God as Isaiah 55:8-9.

The yabbits of DISCOURAGEMENT can be turned away with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And last, DISCONTENTMENT can be kept at bay when we adopt Habakkuk’s attitude.

We’d also do well to follow Rev. Charles F. Deems’ (1820-1893) recommendation, as we take on these yabbits:

Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.

Most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.”

Of course, the scriptures mentioned above are just a few examples out of many. More scripture planks will create an even stronger fence.

Someone may ask, “How can we know our trust in scripture is well-placed?”

Whole books have been written about the reliability of scripture, but here’s a short, worthwhile article to introduce the topic: “Three Reasons Why the Bible Can Be Trusted.”

We can also bolster our faith with the testimonies of others who’ve embraced the power of scripture:

  • “Every year I live—in fact nearly every day—I seem to see more clearly how all the peace, happiness, and power of the Christian life hinges on one thing. That one thing is taking God at His word, believing He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words that reveal His goodness and grace.”—Frances Ridley Havergal, English poet and hymnwriter [2]
Frances Havergal (1836-1879)
  • “Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man.”—Abraham Lincoln [3]
  • “In the Bible I find a confidence mightier than the utmost evil.”—Helen Keller [4]
  • “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.”—N. T. Wright, Biblical scholar and Anglican bishop [5]
N. T. Wright (1950- ____)
  • “The Bible creates endurance. Its promises lift the heart and its panoramic insights strengthen the will.”—Pastor and author Timothy Keller with his wife Kathy [6]

Of course, the occasional reading of a scripture passage won’t suffice. That would be like trying to build a fence with slices of Swiss cheese–too flimsy and full of holes.

No, it’s Bible study and meditation that creates a sturdy fence.

Sound boring?  Hardly.

The Bible is worth all the other books

which have ever been printed.

–Patrick Henry

(1736-1799)

With faith, diligence, and a prayerful heart, every student of the Bible finds that Henry and countless others have been right. In fact, I’ve never met an earnest seeker of scripture-truth who later regretted the time they’d spent absorbing God’s Word.

And when we follow their example, the yabbits prove much less troublesome.

What Bible verse helps keep the yabbits out of your garden of faith? Please share in the comment section below!


Notes:

[1] The father speaking these words was admitting that doubts tainted his trust, yet Jesus still performed the miracle. We don’t have to be perfect pillars of faith for him to intervene for us!

[2] Quoted in Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman and edited by Jim Reimann, 127.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=owners_manual

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/25-quotes-from-influential-christians-about-the-bible.html

[6] The Songs of Jesus, 310.

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flicker.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pexels.com.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

Maker of All Things (Nehemiah 9:6)

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

A rchitect of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10)

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

Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

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

Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)

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

Song (Psalm 118:14 ESV)

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

True God (John 17:3)

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

I AM (Exodus 3:14)

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

Comforter (Isaiah 51:12)

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

Gardener (John 15:1)

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

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

Light  (Psalm 27:1)

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

Only Wise God (Jude 1:25)

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

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

Revealer of Truth (John 16:13)

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

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

Your Very Great Reward  (Genesis 15:1)

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

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

Breathe in the wonder.


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

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

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

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

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

[6] MacLaren’s Expositions

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flicker.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixnio.com.

Read Full Post »

Stuffed pork tenderloin, prepared by our son.

Our son became interested in cooking while attending university, and he’s been experimenting ever since. Now guests often say his fare is better than what many restaurants offer.

Father’s Day last Sunday was no exception. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner off the grill: perfectly-seasoned, tender steaks; thick, golden, onion slices sprinkled with bleu cheese and slivered almonds; and polenta squares topped with lightly-sauced mushrooms.

The big surprise came skewered: Brussel sprouts alternated with radishes. I’d never eaten the latter cooked, but these were amazing—nothing like their raw flavor.

Our daughter-in-law creates memorable desserts. One time she constructed a rainbow cake—six layers of jewel-toned deliciousness under a cloud of butter cream frosting. All from scratch of course.

H.’s cake looked every bit as perfect as this one.

Now what if E. and H. invited new guests unfamiliar with the stellar meals these two can produce. And what if E. shared that the menu would include onions with bleu cheese and cooked radishes.

These unaware invitees might say, “Uh, no thanks, our schedule is really tight, plus we have other plans.” Later to themselves they’d likely comment, “E. and H. actually eat that stuff?! It sounds awful!”

But they’d miss out on a memorable meal.

God offers us gourmet cuisine too, but of a different variety.

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” he says. “I would feed you with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:10, 16).

God offers fine food for our souls, found first of all in the Bible. Some people believe the Book is out-of-touch and irrelevant, containing whole sections of unintelligible gibberish.

These folks are like those invited dinner guests, turning down a marvelous opportunity because the offerings sound unappealing. If they’d only come and try the dishes new to them, they’d be more than pleasantly surprised.

God’s soul food also includes wonderful surprises: useful wisdom, uplifting encouragement, fortifying support, and sweet comfort. We miss so much if we let a busy schedule and other interests interfere with the feeding of our souls.

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

–Unknown

Just one of my father’s well-read Bibles.
Note the numerous and tiny comments he wrote in the margins.

To make time, we may have to give up something—like those long minutes on social media or watching TV. During my years as a teacher, making time meant getting up earlier than everyone else in the house. And the ten years I commuted a half-hour each way, the alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m.

But it was not a hardship; I just went to bed earlier. The feast each morning was well worth it. (For an example of one feast, you can read from an earlier post, “Down the Aisle of Your Years.” Scroll down to just below the James 1:17 image.)  

Another problem: The Bible looks like a huge buffet to some. They wonder where to start. Add all those puzzling cultural and historical references, and it’s tempting to give up before turning the first page and taking the first bite. What we may need are a few utensils.

Just like a shrimp fork or steak knife make it easier to eat those foods, certain tools help us consume God’s Word. Many are available online. For example, www.biblestudytools.com or www.studylight.org offer word definitions, cultural and historical background, commentaries, and more.

Bible study guides also help us dig into the sustenance the Bible has to offer. A few recommendations include:

  • NavPress LifeChange series, with each study focused on a book or two of the Bible. Luke is a good place to begin, with its many stories and teachings of Jesus.
  • LifeWay Press also produces worthwhile Bible studies, including an overview by Angie Smith, titled Seamless. Others I’ve enjoyed include: Believing God by Beth Moore and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. You can’t go wrong with studies by these women.
  • Another LifeWay Press classic? Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. Millions of people have already benefited from this study.
  • Harper Christian Resources offers 40 Days through the Bible from Lysa Terkehurst and her team. They provide an overview by theme, including: identity, freedom, and fulfillment.

What if, when E. and H. invited dinner guests and shared what’s on the menu, I was there to add, “Oh, you’ve GOT to come. I’ve eaten at their house numerous times, and it’s always delicious!” Might they be more likely to come? Perhaps.

In the same vein, consider this post my affirmation of what God has to offer in His Word. I’m here to say, “You’ve GOT to read it, study it, digest it. I’ve dined at God’s table of truth countless times over the decades and have never been disappointed!”

What Bible study materials or methods have you found nourishing to your soul? Please share in the comment section below!

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com.

Read Full Post »

Raise your hand if you ever created frothy foam with vinegar and baking soda.

OK, hands down. Now, who can name five other common chemical reactions?

M-m-m. Not as many hands. To be honest, I couldn’t have named that many either. But a bit of research turned up these:

  • Plants turn sunlight into energy for growth—photosynthesis
  • Yeast causes bread dough to rise
  • Bacteria in old milk transforms the lactose into lactic acid, creating that sour odor
  • Combustion causes wood to burn; burnt wood becomes ash
  • In a wet or humid environment, iron and steel will develop rust

And just as marvelous turnings occur in the physical world, God initiates and fosters marvelous turnings in our lives—with spectacular results.

For example:

God’s love turns mistakes into miracles. Joseph’s brothers made a terrible mistake, selling their brother into Egyptian slavery and lying about it. They still carried the guilt two decades later, when the brothers traveled to Egypt for grain during a famine.

Little did they know that Joseph had risen from slave to prime minister, was overseeing the distribution of grain, and saving thousands of lives. What the brothers intended for harm, God turned to miraculous good (1).

God’s power turns weaklings into warriors. Gideon felt powerless against Israel’s enemy, the mighty Midianites. He required much reassurance from God to go into battle against them. But with God’s encouragement and enablement, Gideon led his small army to a rousing victory (2).

God’s grace turns devastation into distinction. Saul was a broken man, blind and no doubt confused when Ananias visited him that day in Damascus. But it wasn’t long before he was traveling the region, preaching passionate sermons, and drawing hundreds of people to Jesus (3).

In addition to his love, power, and grace, our Heavenly Father provides ways for us to turn negatives into positives, and dull into delightful.

For example:

Proper perspective turns irritation into exaltation.

“We can learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to [God’s] love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him” (4)?

Wonder turns weariness to WOW!

“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder” (5).

(Who’s the fairest beetle of them all? This one!)
(How many folds on this mushroom, do you suppose?)
(A dandelion dressed in dewdrops)

Are you feeling a bit of reverent WOW right now?

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” (6).

“The bedrock of our contentment isn’t the goodness of our day but the goodness of our God” (7).

Trusting in God turns uncertainty into adventure.

We can lament, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” or we can pray, “Lord, I can’t wait to see how you do this” (8)!

Hope turns apprehension into expectation.

What’s more worthwhile: worrying about what can go wrong or being excited about what can go right, since God is always at work?

Prayer turns anxiety into peace.

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus” (9).

Worship turns turmoil into calm.

“We would worry less if we praised more” (10).

The question becomes: Will we choose those actions that turn negatives into positives and dull into delightful? Or will we live under a dark cloud of malaise, apprehension, and turmoil?  

God has shown us the way to the former; he leaves the turnings to us.

Notes:

  1. Genesis 37-50
  2. Judges 6-7
  3. Acts 9-28
  4. Emmanuelle Gomez
  5. Tierney Gearon
  6. Unknown
  7. Melissa Krueger, Growing Together, Crossway, 2020, 132)
  8. Unknown
  9. Philippians 4:6-7, Phillips
  10. Harry Ironside

Art & photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wpclipart.com; http://www.lookandlearn.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pixahive.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.wikimedia.org.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

How strong is your core–of the soul?

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

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

Bible Meditation

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

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

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

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

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

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

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

Positive Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude & Joy

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

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

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

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

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

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

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

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

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

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

Notes from my Italian Hill Town

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living in God's Love

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Heidi Viars

Taking a closer look

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions