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Archive for the ‘Seeking God’ Category

 

“Be still and know that I am God (1).

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

It starts with ‘be.’

Just be, dear one.”

–Shauna Neiquist (2)

 

Moments of quiet, contemplative silence are rare for many people. We’ve been swept up in the cultural norms of productivity: use time wisely and stay on task. Better yet, multi-task.

But there is tremendous power and blessing in stillness.

Quietness of spirit:

  • creates space for us to hear God’s voice
  • builds bonds of trust between us and God
  • accelerates our understanding of God
  • revitalizes our spirits
  • brings the peace of God to our hearts

Surely these are desirable outcomes that warrant a few minutes each day to just be—in the presence of God.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we achieve such a goal when other responsibilities clamor loudly for our attention?

Like any priority, we must make time.   Begin with five minutes; you’ll soon be craving more.

Choose a secluded place. For years I sat at our kitchen table early in the morning, before anyone else in the house got up. Now I enjoy the luxury of a private home office. But when the weather allows, I revel in sitting on the deck with God, surrounded by his creation.

Not everyone has such options. I know one young mother who has chosen the bathroom as her place of stillness!

Put your God-given imagination to work. We considered the gift of imagination a couple of weeks ago, in a post titled: Oh, What We’re MissingYou can borrow my visualization if you like–the one I use if quiet time must take place indoors:

 

 

Picture a peaceful lake shrouded in morning mist.  On a dock are two Adirondack chairs, one for you and one for Jesus. He’s already sitting in his, because he loves to spend quality time with his children.  As you settle in your chair, reach out your hand for his. Just sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Another option: picture a place where you’ve experienced Jesus’ peace before, and imagine yourself there with him again.

Be physically still.  Relax.  The original Hebrew word translated “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” Take several slow, deep breaths, and prayerfully set aside the to-list and concerns.

Focus on Jesus and contemplate his attributes. When distracting thoughts pop up (and they will!), add them to the to-do list or the prayer list as needed (keep them handy!), then turn back to Jesus.

Remember:  He understands how hard it is for us to sit quietly with him; he does not expect perfection. What he does treasure is our persistence to seek him (3).

 

 

Listen. “Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we will enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)” (4).

You may wish to keep a journal and pen nearby as God reveals impressions in your heart.  Perhaps it will just be one word or a single thought at first. Write it down. From that starting point you just might grow a paragraph, or even a page of God-thoughts.

But don’t worry if you hear no whisper. “In God’s presence is peace (Isaiah 26:3), joy (Psalm 16:11), and strength (Proverbs 18:10)—whether words are exchanged or not.

In A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her Uncle Vince, who had constructed a prayer room complete with fake paneling, some stained glass from an old church, and a couple of old, musty tapestries. The only furniture was a small prayer kneeler and a Bible stand.

 

 

Joni remembers thinking it was stuffy and tacky. Years later she realized how wise Uncle Vince was to have a special place where he met Jesus. That was undoubtedly the reason he prayed on the golf course and on his hikes with Joni and her family.

“Uncle Vince encountered God every place, because he had one place,” she wrote (5).

How we need such a place…

…to just be.

It starts with be.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 46:10
  2. Shauna Neiquist, Present over Perfect
  3. Sarah Young, Jesus Always
  4. L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Father and son take a walk down the road in front of their farm. The father has long been a nature enthusiast, especially interested in trees. He studies the tall oaks bordering the road that his grandfather planted long ago.

He knows that oak trees are among the longest-living organisms on the planet, that large specimens can consume up to one hundred gallons of water per day, and drop 10,000 acorns in a good year.

The father delights in those stalwart oaks; his desire is to keep them strong. More than once he’s called an arborist for advice on their care.

The son, on the other hand, watches the cars and trucks go by. He guesses every make as it comes into view, and he’s usually right. As far as the boy’s concerned, each one is a work of art.

 

 

He especially hopes a sports car will pass, so he can enjoy the rev of its large engine. And the whole while he’s dreaming of the day he will sit behind the wheel of a car or truck, wind whipping at his hair as he follows the road to his destiny.

Dad hardly sees the cars; the son barely notices the trees.

What a person delights in captures his attention and impacts his desires.

King David asserted that truth long ago, but in matters of the spiritual dimension rather than physical.

 

 

“Take delight in the Lord,” David wrote, “and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

David was not referring to desires for possessions, like sports cars or even healthy trees.  That interpretation doesn’t fit the context of the rest of the psalm.

David stresses that we’re to:

  • Trust in God (vs. 3, 5)
  • Delight in him (v. 4)
  • Commit our way to the Lord (v. 5)
  • Be still before him (v. 7)
  • Wait patiently for him (v. 7)

Those are the signposts of spiritual maturity: 1) to trust God even through the storms of life, 2) to delight in all that God is and all that God does no matter our circumstances, 3) to submit ourselves to his all-wise ways, 4) to remain calm and restful in his care, and 5) wait patiently for him to act.

 

 

As we become proficient in each of these areas (and it is a growing process), we often find our desires changing. Over time God molds his desires in our hearts—desires that provide true fulfillment, contentment, and peace.

However, we can accelerate the growing process and augment our delight in God.

Consider how the father and son grew in their delight of trees and cars. They learned. Each had made a study of their favorite subject. The father knew trees; the son knew cars.

We can increase our delight in God by:

  • Pursuing gratitude as an avenue of delight in him
  • Becoming a sleuth among everyday events, tracing the evidence of his love, wisdom, and power
  • Celebrating his blessings
  • Soaking in the Word of God, discovering his attributes and involvement in the lives of humankind
  • Practicing his presence throughout the day–acknowledging him, talking to him, and listening

 

“If we will let our hearts be filled with God till it runs over with delight,

then the Lord Himself will take care that we shall not want for any good things…

We may have disappointments; but if these bring us nearer to the Lord,

they are things to be prized exceedingly,

for they will in the end secure to us the fulfillment of all our right desires.”

–Charles Spurgeon, Faith’s Checkbook

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

That is my prayer, Heavenly Father, to be filled with the delight of YOU, sensitive to the perfect desires you have for me. Then I will know fullness of joy.

 

There are many ways to take joy in God.  What fills your heart with the delight of him?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Years ago when I taught fourth grade, our reading curriculum included a mini-lesson about A-HA Moments—places in a story where the author answers questions the reader has been wondering about.

Watching for those moments keeps the reader alert (thus improving comprehension), contributes to greater understanding of the plot and characters, and makes reading more fun.

Once our students became familiar with the concept, we enjoyed calling out “A-HA!” to one another (occasionally in unison) as other epiphanies occurred, whether it was in class or at recess. The sharing of A-HA Moments developed our classroom community and added to the joy of learning.

 

 

Our Heavenly Father also provides A-HA Moments, through such avenues as scripture, other reading, comments from others, and observations in nature. Our God is highly creative, providing personal revelations in numerous ways.

And similar to the benefits of A-HA Moments for students, our discovery moments with God augment our understanding of scripture and spiritual matters, strengthen our relationship with him, and add to the joy of learning from him.

For example:

 

 

  • An A-Ha Moment from Scripture

After six delightful years at one church, my pastor-husband received word he’d be assigned to a new congregation in three months’ time. My heart sank. This would be our third such move in thirteen years, and it wasn’t getting easier. As you know, saying good-bye hurts.

In addition, I had just returned that year to full-time teaching, after a long hiatus as a stay-at-home mom. Now I’d face the onerous task of procuring another position.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, we learned about some of the difficult challenges facing the new-to-us congregation.   And I wondered, God, what ARE you doing?

 

 

One afternoon a radio host quoted Jeremiah 29:11—a familiar scripture—but that day those words spoke loud and clear to me from God himself: Nancy, there is no reason to worry. I have already worked out my plans for you—plans to prosper you, not harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a thriving future.

Indeed we did prosper at that new church—for thirteen years—as God brought us and taught us through those numerous challenges. But one problem took care of itself—a new teaching position for me. (You can read that story at After the Fact.)

 

  • An A-HA Moment from other reading

 

 

The fact I’m writing about this topic today is the result of an A-HA Moment in itself. First, the seed of an idea was already on my topic list for 2019, but I had no notion how to develop it.

Currently I’m studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. And just the other day I read this:

 

“I know the Lord is speaking to me personally when I read my Bible

and a particular verse or passage seems illuminated

—it just lifts up off the page,

and I seem to hear a gentle, inaudible whisper

as I have an ‘aha moment’ in my heart.”

–Anne Graham Lotz

 

Anne’s A-HA Moment caused me to have one of my own. God brought to mind the story about moving I just shared above as well as other examples. Then he pointed out other avenues of A-HA Moments, and I knew this was today’s topic.

 

 

  • An A-HA Moment in God’s Living Room

That’s what Michael Hyatt* calls the out-of-doors.  Isn’t that a poetically perfect appellation?   My special corner in God’s living room is our back deck overlooking the treetops.

One morning last October, the deck was surrounded by stillness—no birds trilled, no squirrels chattered—until one lone cardinal began to sing. Enthusiastically he filled our little woods with his voice, and his song made me smile.

I was reminded that God often breaks through the stillness of all our lives, with custom-designed lessons, answered prayers, and out-of-the-blue blessings. As a result, we experience hope, peace, and joy—three commodities that make life worth living.

 

 

Recorded in my journal is the impression God spoke in my spirit:

I do love to surprise My children! And their subsequent celebrations of praise bring Me great pleasure. But in reality I provide more wonders than they often perceive. Some surprises go unnoticed.

Keep watching and listening, Nancy, so we can smile, laugh, and celebrate together all the delightful surprises I bring into your life.

And therein lies the secret for experiencing life-enriching A-HA Moments with God: keeping watch (Micah 7:7) and listening attentively (Proverbs 1:5).

 

 

“Blessed are your eyes because they see,

and your ears because they hear.”

–Matthew 13:16

 

*former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

What A-HA Moment has God presented to you lately? Tell us your story in the Comments section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.kadena.af.mil; http://www.calicospanish.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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In the midst of my harried day

When I seem farthest from myself

A moment comes to me and beckons,

“Let us fly away.”

 

Shutting out the din

Of the never-ending to-do

I close my eyes and begin

To wander in thoughts sublime;

And gather flowers in my mind.

 

–Tara Afriat*

 

Such delightful imagery Tara creates with that last line. But I wonder, what sublime thoughts might be worthy of a bouquet in my mind?  So far, five varieties have occurred to me:

 

1. Humor offers blooms of joy.

 

 

Just recently my husband was hospitalized and underwent a number of tests. When an orderly came to accompany Steve to a procedure he announced, “One CT scan, coming up. Would you like fries with that?”

I’m thinking a new journal specifically for humor might be fun to keep (and savor later).

 

2. Quotes provide blooms of wisdom, encouragement, and beauty.

Isn’t it amazing how a few well-chosen words can suddenly enlighten our understanding or give us eyes to see what was invisible just moments before?

A recent addition in my quote journal offers wisdom, encouragement, and the potential for beauty:

 

 

“Make one person happy every day and in forty years

you’ll have made 14,600 human beings happy

for a little time at least.”

–Unknown

 

Such encouragement gives wise perspective to the impact of small kindnesses, doesn’t it?   And what fun to cause 14,600 beautiful smiles!

 

3. Observations become blooms of refreshment.

 

 

Another journal on my shelf is titled “A Celebration of Small Things.” Each day I record at least one observation worth noting, because:

 

“A grateful heart is one

that finds the countless blessings of God

in the seemingly mundane of

every day life.”

–Anonymous

 

Pages of entries over the last two years remind me of just how blessed I am. For example:

January 10, 2017: “The birds are singing a “Hallelujah Chorus” of their own this morning, in celebration of the sudden balmy temperatures—into the upper 50s!”

 

 

Review of such moments does refresh my attitude.

 

4. Kindness creates blooms of grace.

In 1987 I began a journal to document God’s grace. So far, the record of more than 1300 entries offers sublime flower-gathering in my mind. Again, one example:

1996/97 proved to be a particularly challenging year at the school where I taught. Frustration plagued many of us faculty members. In late September I confessed to my early morning prayer group my difficulty in letting go of annoyance, and Betty prayed for me.

Minutes later as I drove to school, my attention was drawn to bright sunbeams radiating from behind great billowing clouds. It seemed the windows of heaven had been opened, and the glory of God on his throne radiated from just beyond that cloud bank. I could almost hear him saying, “You’re going to be fine—I’m right here to help you!”

 

 

Betty’s kind prayer and that God-given sky-reminder provided perfect affirmation. And now, that entry and many like it remind me: My Heavenly Father has been ever-faithful in the past; I can trust him for the future.

 

5. Scripture provides blooms of truth.

Within the pages of the Bible we find a variety of flowers for the mind, including those mentioned here: wisdom, encouragement, beauty, refreshment, and grace. But the most important is truth. Absolute truth.

We live in a time when relative truth is embraced by many, but:

 

 

(“Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it,

ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

–Winston Churchill)

 

The wise person seeks after truth—truth that revives the soul, gives joy to the heart, and provides insight for a well-lived life. That’s exactly what the Bible provides (Psalm 19:7-8).**

One psalmist who reveled in scripture wrote: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

And no wonder. The Bible is a continual source of flowers for the mind—of the very best, wisest, and most beautiful kind.

 

Where do you gather flowers of the mind? Share with us in the Comment section below!

__________________________________

 

*Quoted from Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Emspon

 

**If you’re not sure whether scripture is reliable truth or not, I recommend Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, or The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense by Mark Mittleberg. It is the honest person who invites God to reveal himself.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.nps.gov;  http://www.pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org; http://www.azquotes.com.

 

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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English poet, William Blake (1757-1827) penned those words of the title.

We don’t have to look far to see that he was right:

 

 

  • Children pick up mannerisms, inflections, even body language from their parents.
  • Couples who have been married a long time often begin to look alike (1).
  • Transplants to another part of the country frequently pick up the accent of that region.

In addition, modern neurological research has proven Mr. Blake’s statement in ways even he never imagined.

Here’s what scientists have discovered: Thoughts travel along specific pathways to various destinations in our brains. As we consider the same thought frequently, the pathway for that thought becomes more deeply entrenched. The final result? The more often we contemplate something, the more it will affect our thought patterns, how we feel, and how we behave (2).

No wonder God inspired Paul to write:

 

 

According to that research mentioned above, to behold (observe and take in) such things as Paul lists will lead us to become honorable, pure, admirable, etc. In fact, we’ll gradually begin to resemble Jesus.

 

 

But how do we contemplate the Lord’s glory on a day-to-day basis? How do we train our thoughts to etch worthwhile pathways in our brains, so we’re thinking, feeling, and behaving in Jesus-like ways?

To begin, we might check the stimuli for our thoughts:

  • the book(s), magazines, and websites we read
  • the programs and movies we watch
  • the music and podcasts we listen to
  • the kind of entertainment we choose
  • the conversations we participate in—in person and on social media

 

 

Can we describe these activities with the adjectives Paul used in Philippians 4:8? Is our reading material pure? Our entertainment admirable? Our conversations worthy of praise?

 

O God,

 

 

 

Second, we set-aside a quiet time with God each day.

It is surely one of the loveliest and most excellent activities for beholding him, as we immerse ourselves in truth for life from his Word, revel in his glorious attributes, and talk to him about the concerns on our hearts.

 

 

“Look up into his lovely face and as you behold him,

he will transform you into his likeness.

You do the beholding—he does the transforming.”

—Alan Redpath

 

Third, we infuse the hours of each day with praise.

All those descriptors in Philippians 4:8 apply to Jesus. Day in and day out we can enjoy the uplift of praise, celebrating that he is:

  • the epitome of truth (John 14:6).
  • honorable and worthy of all tribute, because he lived a sinless life and sacrificed himself on the cross for us (Revelation 5:12).
  • right in all he does (Jeremiah 23:5).
  • pure in all he is (1 Peter 2:22).
  • lovely, as the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3).
  • admirable, as the only man tempted in every way and yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • excellent in all ways, including his servitude, humility, and obedience (Philippians 2:6-8).
  • praiseworthy, as ruler of all things (Matthew 28:18).

 

 

In addition, Jesus was a man of peace, joy, wisdom, kindness, courage and more (3).

And God wants us to be the same, to become like his Son (Philippians 1:6).

Can you think of any greater aspiration?

 

_______________________________________________

 

Notes:

  1. One theory to explain this phenomenon: We unconsciously mimic the facial expressions of our spouses, as we empathize with their experiences and emotions. Over time, repeated expressions shape our faces in similar ways.
  2. https://www.maxanders.com/we-become-what-we-behold.
  3. John 14:27; John 15:11; Luke 2:40; Matthew 9:36; Philippians 2:8.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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