Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Renewing the Mind’ Category

 

Soon-to-be-king David faced big trouble. Some of his own men, who had fought with him for years against enemy tribes and King Saul, were now talking of stoning him.

He and his troops had just returned from Gath to their base in Ziklag, and found their homes burned as well as their wives and children kidnapped by the Amalekites.

David and his men exhausted themselves with weeping (1 Samuel 30:1-5). But note the leader’s response to his anguish: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6). The King James Version says: “David encouraged himself.”

I can imagine him meditating on the worship songs he had written. Lines such as these may have played in his mind:

 

 

  • “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge” (16:1).
  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (18:2a).
  • “The Lord preserves those who are true to him” (31:23b).

 

We too can encourage ourselves when life’s pathways deteriorate into rough terrain. And the psalms are the perfect place to begin.

In addition, God has gifted writers through the ages since biblical times who supply wisdom and inspiration for his people. We’d do well to take note of their words also.

Following are a few encouragement-gems I’ve collected over the years. I pray they lift your spirit too.

 

1. Has your life-path become strewn with rocks?

 

 

“With God’s help the rocks can become stepping stones” (1).

Surely you’ve experienced the phenomenon: difficulties turned into perseverance, frustrations into patience, and temptations into self-control as we learned to rely upon God more consistently (2). And now when we look back on those rocks-become-stepping-stones, it’s with gratitude.

 

2.  Do your days feel dull, repetitious, and ordinary?

God is the Manager on the stage of life, “in control of all the players. In the midst of what seems terribly ordinary, he is doing something extraordinary” (3).

Count on it. Our extraordinary God can do nothing less (4).

 

3.  Are you discouraged because you haven’t already become the person you want to be?

 

 

A radio DJ recently said: God isn’t so much interested in who we are today; he’s looking at what we’re becoming.

And praise God, he doesn’t leave that becoming solely to us. He’s our loving, participatory Father always guiding us along (5).

 

4.  Do the world’s problems seem insurmountable and your prayers insignificant?

On the contrary, our prayers matter very much. “Herbert Butterfield, the Oxford historian of modern history, is convinced that what Christians do in prayer is the most significant factor in the shaping of history—more significant than war and diplomacy, more significant than technology and art” (6).

Such an observation from a distinguished scholar inspires me to be more faithful in praying for our beleaguered country and other nations, to follow more intently Paul’s appeal to “pray without ceasing” (7).

 

5.  Are you uncertain about your future and your ability to handle what’s ahead?

 

 

Remember: God does not equip us in advance. That would cancel the need for faith—a very important commodity to him. Instead God chooses to give us what we need when we need it (8).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God! Your watchful eye is upon each of us, your listening ear bent to our prayers, your strong hand ready to support and guide, your unlimited intellect disposed to teach us truth. I praise you for your acts of power and your surpassing greatness!

 (1 Peter 3:12; Isaiah 41:10; Proverbs 2:1-4; Psalm 150:2)

 

 

What encouraging word have you heard or read recently? Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Barbara Johnson, Pack up Your Gloomies in a Great Big Box, Word Publishing (1993), 83.
  2. James 1:2-4; Psalm 37:7-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13
  3. Alice Mathews, A Woman God Can Use, Discovery House (1990), 77.
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  5. Philippians 2:13; Psalm 139:24b
  6. Eugene Peterson, Under the Predictable Plant, William B. Eerdmans (1992), 98.
  7. 1 Thessalonians 5:13
  8. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers (2004) 123, and Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 6:34; Luke 12:31; Philippians 4:19.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pikist.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

Read Full Post »

 

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

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

 

 

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

The question is: How do we achieve it?

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

 

1. By serving others

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

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

 

Mom and Dad with their first great-granddaughter, 2010

 

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

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

 

2. By maintaining a positive attitude

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

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

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

 

Mom & Dad Ruegg, 1983

 

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

 

3. By keeping a sense of humor

 

 

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

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

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

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

“His name is Michael.”

“And where did you meet Michael?”

“At church.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner.”

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

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

“Young? Just how old is he?”

“In his early thirties, I suspect. He…

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

providing numerous delights as we do so.

__________________________

 

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

 

*Zondervan, 1996.

 

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

 

Read Full Post »

 

In the midst of a pandemic and political turmoil, such a scripture as quoted above offers much needed hope. God’s lavish blessings do extend from A to Z for those who put their trust in him. And if we focus our attention on counting those blessings, we’ll have little time to count anything else (1).

So which of the following are you enjoying currently? Count them on your fingers while scrolling through the list.

  • Assurance of purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3)—including peace, joy, and comfort in the midst of pain and sorrow
  • Contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
  • Direction (Psalm 23:3b)
  • Empowerment (Isaiah 40:29-31)
  • Favor (Psalm 5:12)

 

 

  • God’s Goodness (Psalm 145:9)
  • Help (Psalm 46:1)
  • Inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Joy (Nehemiah 8:10)—in God and his attributes
  • Knowledge for a satisfying life (Proverbs 2:6)
  • Love (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

 

  • Mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  • Needs Met (Philippians 4:19)
  • Optimism (Romans 8:28)
  • Presence of God (Psalm 145:18)
  • Quietness of soul (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • Refreshment of spirit (Psalm 23:3)
  • Spiritual Strength (Isaiah 41:10)

 

 

  • Treasure of Scripture (Psalm 119:159-162)
  • Usefulness—even into old age (Psalm 92:12-15)
  • Value in God’s sight (Ephesians 2:4-7)
  • Wisdom (Proverbs 3:13)

 

 

  • X-pectation (Mark 9:23)
  • Yes, because “all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes’” (1 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)
  • Zion—the eternal city of new Jerusalem waiting for us (Hebrews 12:22-24, Revelation 21 and 22)

 

I’m guessing you tallied twenty or more, because many blessings are ongoing no matter our circumstances. Sometimes we just need to avail ourselves of the joys God has already provided.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. We could undoubtedly name many more blessings as a result of trusting in God.

Take “P” for example. God offers such additional pleasures as: peace that defies explanation (Philippians 4:6-7), pardon from guilt and shame (Isaiah 55:7b), participation with God in his work (Philippians 2:13), and pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

So there you have it, a mere sampling of the joys continually provided by God as we trust in him. Just how many might there be in total? DailyVerses.net lists eighty scriptures that speak of blessing.

Our joys that extend from A to Z do outweigh our sorrows.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God, for your abundant love, kindness, faithfulness, and compassion, expressed every day by your overflowing generosity. How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who trust in you. We will sing your praise for as long as we live!

 

Psalm 86:15; 116:5; 31:19; 146:2

 

Now it’s your turn to make an alphabet of joy. (“Z” might be a challenge; you can borrow the word “Zion” from this list!) I promise, you’ll find the exercise a delightful blessing.

Meanwhile, which joy is especially meaningful to you in this moment? Please share in the comment section below!

 

 Notes:

  1. Woodrow Kroll
  2. https://dailyverses.net/blessing/esv

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.canva.com; Unknown; http://www.pixfuel.com.

 

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »

are you still up?

That was the text sent by son #2 last Thursday evening, close to 10:00 p.m.

An interesting idea had just occurred to him, one that required input from his mother.  Maybe I should say output.

You see, Jeremy is a pastor, and although his church started worshiping together again two weeks ago, their choir is not participating in the services.  His worship leader has been singing solo; Jeremy has offered back-up.

But for May 31st, Pentecost Sunday, he was hoping for more.


First, he remembered a popular praise song released in 1998, Holy Spirit, Rain Down. Jeremy was in high school then and sang tenor on the praise team of the church where his dad (my husband) was pastor.  I sang alto. 

After reminding me of the song, Jeremy wondered if I could record that alto part with an instrumental/vocal track he’d send via email.  He would add the tenor part, and his worship leader the melody.

I reminded him my voice is not what it once was, and it’s been six years since I even sang in a choir.  But I didn’t want to tell him no without even trying.  Besides, how many times must I tell myself, “It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. Perfect!”


So on Friday, with Jeremy as my guide via phone and computer, I climbed the learning curve of Garage Band, an APP for making music with vocals and/or instruments—multiples if desired.  You’ve probably seen the results of such efforts on YouTube.  Perhaps you’ve recorded music yourself. 

Once set up, I could record as many times as needed and send Jeremy the best rendition.  But after practicing numerous times, my voice started to give out.  I had to quit.

Saturday morning was zero hour.  Either I’d be able to send Jeremy a decent alto part, or ruin his plan and tell him there would be no trio.  As I prepared to record, my heart started thrumming audibly and my breath coming faster than normal.

What is wrong with you?!  I scolded.  No one else is here in the study; you can record as many times as you want.  Get a grip!

The problem was clear:  A big cloud of nervous self-consciousness had enveloped me.

All I knew to do was pray.

Lord God, this is so silly.  WHY am I overcome with apprehension?  Even if I sing this twenty times and not one effort is perfect, what difference does it make?!


Calm these nerves, Heavenly Father.  Help me to lose focus on my performance and worship you unencumbered.  Remove this self-centeredness.  I want to be lost in the heartfelt prayer of these lyrics—so appropriate right now—and mindful only of you, my audience of One.*

Even before I’d finished, my heart rate began to slow and my breathing return to normal.  I sang the song twice, and sent the second effort to Jeremy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.


When I confessed to Jeremy my case of senseless nerves and subsequent prayer, he said, “You’ve got a blog post here, Mom!”

Perhaps I do, I thought, since others suffer from self-consciousness also.  I wondered, Are there strategies we could implement to cure ourselves once and for all?

Here’s what a bit of reading revealed:

  • Prayer is the first step.  But we should not expect one prayer to vanquish all self-consciousness forever.  It’s a prayer we’ll likely have to renew every time that nuisance-of-an-emotion sidles up to us.
  • Focus on Who we’re seeking to honor.  The better our focus, the less we’ll be thinking about ourselves.


  • Just as Jesus told Satan to leave him alone (Matthew 4:10), we can tell the author of self-conscious thoughts to leave us alone.

Last Saturday, good enough became good aplenty. God heard my plea, immediately came to my rescue, and helped me calmly and worshipfully complete the task at hand.  I couldn’t ask for more.

_________________________________

Have you ever felt self-conscious?  What helps you to overcome it?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

* “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave, 2002.

  • Kristen Armstrong quote from Work in Progress, 2009, p. 37.
  • Oswald Chambers quote from My Utmost for His Highest, 1935, p. 232.


Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (4).


Read Full Post »

 

“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.

 

Read Full Post »

 

 

And just what might that decision be?

A. Your food choices to stay healthy and energized?

B. The tasks you’ll complete to use your time wisely?

C. The attitudes you’ll adopt to influence your emotions?

Author/pastor Charles Swindoll chose C: “I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude” (1).

Now why would that be? “Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress,” he added.

Zig Ziglar explained the impact of attitude this way:

 

 

Science actually supports such statements.

According to an article in the British Medical Journal, “There is not a tissue or an organ in the body that is not influenced by the attitude of the mind and spirit” (2).

So the question becomes, how do we foster a positive attitude when circumstances conspire against us, or our days are a treadmill of monotonous routine, or we’re just glass-half-empty-kind-of-people by genetics?

The fact is, it’s still a matter of choice. And that choice alone wields great effect because:

“The inward impacts the outward” (3).

This principle is even evident in nature. Did you know that the color of silk can be altered depending on what is fed to the silkworms? Red dye in their food results in pink silk. Even the worms turn pink.

 

 

What we feed our minds and spirits colors our attitudes. We can choose to feast on the delights of God’s grace—his love, provision, promises, and blessings—or we can gorge ourselves on pig slop—disappointments, hurts, injustice, and the failures of others.

 

 

The Apostle Paul provided the perfect example while imprisoned in Rome. He never referred to himself as prisoner of Festus or Caesar or a victim of the Sanhedrin’s unjust treatment. He called himself a prisoner of the Lord (Ephesians 4:1), and saw his detainment as helping to spread the good news about Jesus (Philippians 1:12).

Paul also told his readers to pattern their lives after his (3:17). Years ago I wrote Wow! next to that verse in my Bible. Such a claim. But the book of Acts provides the evidence of his selflessness, integrity, and passion for Christ.

So when he wrote to the Philippian Christians from prison to rejoice in the Lord always (4:4), we can be sure he was choosing the same habit. When he recommended they focus on what’s excellent and praiseworthy (4:8), it’s a given that’s what he was doing too.

 

 

And now neuroscience has proven what God inspired Paul to write centuries ago: think positive thoughts and the brain will produce serotonin, which creates a sense of well being and helps the brain function at is best.

Think on negative thoughts and the brain produces cortisol, diminishing brain function and even causing depression (4).

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/662828

 

But controlling our thoughts is not easy.  Here are several strategies I’ve found to be helpful:

 

1. Keep in God’s Word.

We’ve considered this important step before (5); it’s number one for a reason.

 

2. Keep coming back to the center.

Ever play tennis or watch it on TV? After every shot a player returns to the center of the court, so he’s not caught too far afield when the ball comes back. When you find your thoughts crouched in a back corner, come back to the Center: Jesus. Keep your mind happily occupied on all the ways He is excellent and praiseworthy.

 

 

3.  Keep a record.

We can train ourselves to see God all around us as we keep a journal of God’s faithfulness. I began mine in 1983, in response to a Bible study (6), and now there are over 1300 entries. Just the weight of that notebook encourages my spirit.

How about a gratitude journal, to record at least one thing every day for which you’re thankful? I didn’t start that one until three years ago. It’s a delightful exercise to review God’s gifts of the day and choose one to highlight (7). It’s also fun—and spirit lifting—to look back and remember previous gifts.

 

 

Slowly but surely, the most amazing thing happens. Our joy begins to expand and we start to become transformed into our best selves—with an increased ability to live freely and enjoy God’s presence—just by choosing a better attitude through the way we think (Romans 12:2 NLT).

 

 

Notes:

  1. Strengthening Your Grip, p. 207
  2. Quoted by Selwyn Hughes in Every Day Light, p. 132.
  3. Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 335.
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201108/happy-brain-happy-life
  5. https://nancyaruegg.com/2018/08/23/perfect-trouble/
  6. See  https://nancyaruegg.com/2012/11/12/proving-gods-presence/   for the full story.
  7. The post that started my gratitude journal: https://nancyaruegg.com/2017/03/30/eating-live-frogs-and-other-blessings/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

Read Full Post »

Check out this baby oak tree. Isn’t it adorable, sporting those glossy, miniature leaves on its spindly stem?

 

 

Every other spring or so our yard becomes a forest of miniature oak sprouts, peeping up over the grass. They’re birthed from the thousands of acorns produced by our neighbor’s mammoth oak tree.

Not so adorable by the dozens. They look like weeds. Thankfully most of them stop growing after being mowed down again and again.

But then there are the acorns that squirrels diligently plant among the bushes, plants, and flowers in front of the house—sometimes right at the base. A sincere effort is required to dig them all out, because their taproots grow surprisingly deep for such tiny trees.

 

 

Of course there’s good reason to reach deep. The developing oak must absorb moisture and minerals for the monumental growth that’s ahead (should the sprout be allowed to mature, that is!). The deep root also provides support for the above-ground portion.

Perhaps these two purposes were on Paul’s mind as he encouraged the Ephesian Christians to be “rooted and established in God’s love” (3:17).

But how do those root-tasks of absorbing and supporting relate particularly to God’s love?

Actually, “love” is a perfect choice for Paul’s metaphor because so many of God’s attributes come to us out of his love—such attributes as his mercy, forgiveness, grace, patience, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, attentiveness, and generosity.

 

 

To be rooted in God’s love is to draw sustenance from all that he is, in order to grow into all we can be (Isaiah 61:3b). In addition, God’s love provides stability against the winds of trouble.

Such nourishment and support for our spiritual lives is essentially found in his Word, the Bible. That’s where we learn about the many facets of God’s love:

  • His mercy—so abundant it covers every sin (Psalm 86:15)
  • His forgiveness—so complete it washes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)
  • His grace—so generous it overflows (Romans 5:17)
  • His patience—so extreme, he endures our pride and self-will, waiting for us to come to him (2 Peter 3:9)
  • His compassion—so reliable it never fails (Lamentations 3:22)
  • His faithfulness—so vast it reaches to the skies (Psalm 36:5)
  • His goodness—so great he has to store it up (Psalm 31:19)
  • His attentiveness—so individualized he knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7)
  • His generosity—so magnanimous he supplies every need—and then some (Philippians 4:19; Psalm 40:5)

 

 

Like a far-reaching root system, this network of truths about God’s love supplies nourishing strength and firm support—especially during the winds of crisis like we’re enduring right now.

God’s love also sustains us against fear and uncertainty. Again, his comfort and assurance are found in the Bible—familiar passages like Psalm 23, Psalm 56:3-4, and Philippians 4:6-7.

But there are many more—very appropriate for these days of battle against the coronavirus.

For example:

Are you wondering whether you can endure until it’s over?

 

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,

who daily bears our burdens.”

–Psalm 68:14

 

“You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”

–Psalm 59:16-17

 

(And don’t forget Matthew 6:26-27!)

 

Do worries refuse to budge from your thoughts?

 

“When anxiety was great within me

your consolation brought me joy.”

–Psalm 94:19*

 

Are there difficulties to be overcome?

 

“Lord, hear my prayer,

listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

come to my relief…

…Let the morning bring me words

of your unfailing love,

for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

for to you I entrust my life.”

–Psalm 143:1, 8

 

 

Reach deep into the rich soil of God’s loving assurance, provided among the pages of his Word.

The result will be peace (Isaiah 26:3).

 

*What does that last line mean?  Just what we’re seeking to accomplish in this post:  joyful consolation through the contemplation of God’s attributes, affirmations, and promises.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.peakpx.com.

Read Full Post »

 

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.

 

Read Full Post »

 

“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.)

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

SMALL TOWN STRANIERA

Intentional Faith Living - Italian Style

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

-Wings of the Dawn-

Pondering and poetry by heidi viars

Unshakable Hope

"All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions