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In March of this year I began a new journal, A Celebration of Small Things, in an effort to become more aware of God’s daily gifts.  But after discovering the quotes below it became clear: my gratitude list is missing whole categories of blessings.

See what you think of these statements.  (Note that with each quote I’ve included my own prayer-response and a corresponding scripture.)

 

QUOTE #1

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Just be thankful you have a glass!

—Jack Wellman

 

You’ve given me a beautiful glass, Father—a life overflowing with loving family and friends, days filled with purpose and pleasure, surprise blessings that satisfy my heart with joy. The words “thank you” seem trivial for such gracious gifts.

 

 

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

Psalm 92:4 NIV

 

QUOTE #2

Give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said,

‘Our disappointments are but his appointments.’

—A.W. Pink

 

I thank you, Father, for the doors of opportunity you’ve closed, the challenging moves to new communities you’ve ordained, and the wishes of my heart you’ve withheld. Each disappointment I know was for my benefit and your glory. Thank you for hindsight to understand in part, and the promise that one day I’ll understand in totality.

 

 

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

John 13:7 NIV

 

QUOTE #3 

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;

second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life;

third, although they took my all, it was not much;

and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.

—Matthew Henry,

on the night he was robbed

 

Thank you, Father, for Henry’s example of grateful positivity. No doubt he lifted his own spirit with such a prayer, and I can imagine your smile of approval as well. When trouble assaults my life, may I be as grateful and positive as Matthew Henry.

 

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

QUOTE #4

There’s one thing for which you can be thankful—

only you and God have all the facts about yourself.

—Dub Nance

 

Oh, Lord, thank you for being a God who delights to show mercy, lavishes compassionate forgiveness, and understands well my frailty. Thank you also for molding me day by day into the image of Christ—in spite of my shortcomings (Micah 7:18b; Psalm 103:12-14, and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

“But God is so rich in mercy that,

on account of His great love with which He loved us,

He made us who were dead in trespasses,

alive in unison with Christ.”

Ephesians 2:4-5, Berkeley Version

 

QUOTE #5

The best things are nearest:

breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes,

flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,

the path of God just before you.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Oh, yes, Father. Thank you for numerous “best things” close at hand such as: a spontaneous hug, the chortling giggles of a grand baby, a carnival of birds frolicking in the backyard trees (at least six species at once), and savory chicken/sausage soup—made by Steve—for a bleak and blustery day.

 

 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house.”

Deuteronomy 26:11 (emphasis added)

 

Indeed, ALL the good. Thank you, Father, for bringing to mind these new blessings to count.

 

And now, precious readers, which quote especially caught your attention? I’d love to hear about it. Please share your choice and thoughts below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.com; http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

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The time:  1892

The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

 

Lucas_gusher

 

I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

 

 

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

 

 

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  We must keep watching and listening!

 

 

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly. One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

 

 

(Revised and reblogged from February 13, 2014.)

 

Photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; Art4TheGlryOfGod on http://www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com;  http://www.pinterest.com.au.)

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A lot of people in our area woke up with great anticipation yesterday morning.  A local Christian radio station began playing Christmas music. Every year they jumpstart the season with carols and holiday songs, drawing attention to Jesus’ momentous birth.

 

 

Actually, 93.3 FM Cincinnati is not the only entity to begin the celebration in November. Have you seen the first Christmas commercial yet? The first store decorations? The eggnog in the grocery dairy section?

Even as Thanksgiving barely comes into view we welcome this season of well-loved customs, heightened joy, and delightful anticipation. But many of us will also experience exhaustion and frustration. We overextend ourselves in order to provide…what? A Norman Rockwell Christmas presented by Martha Stewart?  (I’ve certainly been guilty of striving for that.)

 

 

Author and friend, Jody Collins, has a better idea.

In her book, Living the Season Well, she suggests: simplify and savor.

 

 

Simplify the to-do list; savor the wonder.

And then she offers creative, common sense ideas for doing just that.

Her book is not a prescription, as in, “Here’s what you need to do in order to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.” Instead, Jody presents a buffet of possibilities and recommends we start small, start now with those ideas that stir our interest and seem doable.

For example, call a family meeting to discuss setting limits this year.  You might decide to:

  • Hang fewer lights–maybe even no lights–on the front of the house.
  • Purchase a pre-cut Christmas tree nearby instead of at the U-Cut lot miles out-of-town.
  • Brainstorm ways the children can help, such as stuffing and stamping the Christmas cards.

 

 

Such changes will make more room for “Finding the Heart of Christmas” (the title of Jody’s introduction).

Possibilities include:

  • Adjust our views (and the views of our children) about giving and receiving presents.  After all, she reminds us, “it’s not the presents but his presence that matters (p. 109).”
  • Turn off the screens—phones, tablets, televisions, and computers–for an hour each day in December. Savor the quiet; cuddle up with a good Christmas book to enjoy as a family. Jody lists worthy titles to choose from.
  • Mark the weeks before Christmas with an Advent wreath. Jody gives basic instructions, but also includes a list of resources, especially helpful if this custom is not part of your tradition.

 

 

Another of Jody’s recommendations: Slow down the celebration. Instead of the huge climax of December 25, followed by an equally huge let-down the next day, ease through the descent by observing Twelvetide—from December 25 to January 5. Jody offers delightful ideas for “savoring the moments” as the Christmas season wanes.

In just over one hundred pages, Jody takes us from Thanksgiving to Epiphany, showing us how to “tune our hearts to look for Jesus throughout the Christmas season, as we intentionally hold a space for him to come” (pp. 29-30).

Her suggestions lead the way to a Christmas of more joy and less busyness, more delight and less stress.

Sounds awfully good to me.

 

(Living the Season Well is available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.  Check out Jody’s blog, too, at www.jodyleecollins.com for more of her faith/life discoveries. You won’t be disappointed!)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.flickr.com;  http://www.amazon.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.geograph.org.uk.

 

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Tuesday evening I returned from an out-of-state visit with family. Steve picked me up at the airport.

“Where would you like to go for dinner?” he asked as we walked toward the luggage carousel.

“How about the Korean restaurant?”

Just thinking about their savory dishes made me even hungrier than I already was.

 

 

Minutes later my suitcase was stowed in the trunk.  We drove out of the parking garage and approached the exit tollbooth.

Steve rolled down his window. “Good evening!” he called to the female attendant.

“Hello,” the woman responded dully, without even a hint of smile.

“Hard day?” Steve asked.

She reached out to take the ticket from his hand.  “I’m just frustrated,” she responded.

A quick glance out the rear window assured me no other vehicles were in sight. I felt compelled to engage with the hurting woman; Korean stir fry could wait.

“Nobody’s coming,” I said to the woman. “Would you like to tell us about it?”

After a slight pause she began to share.

“I am a college graduate, but since I’ve become disabled, this is the only job I could find. It’s just three days a week, too, and people are so RUDE!”

 

 

We nodded our heads in agreement.

“What’s your name?” Steve asked.

“Ginny*,” she replied, and indicated her nameplate on the booth.

Oops. Steve and I had both missed it.

“Well, Ginny,” Steve continued, “we are people of faith and have seen God answer many prayers and provide many blessings. We’re going to be praying for you.”

Her first blessing was instantaneous. Steve handed Ginny a generous tip, and she smiled.

 

 

“You don’t need to do that.” She tried to give the money back.

“No, no. You keep it,” Steve persuaded her. “Maybe it’ll make up a little for the rudeness you’ve dealt with today.”

“Well, thank you SO much! And may God bless you, too!”

“Oh, he does!” I assured her.

Steve pulled away from the booth before other cars approached. And I offered my first prayer for Ginny.

Thank you, Father,  for the opportunity to provide encouragement. What a delight to see Ginny smile. I pray she experiences strengthened hope in you and saving faith in your Son, Jesus.

Yesterday morning, I happened upon Proverbs 13:2a and was reminded of our tollbooth encounter the night before:

 

 

“From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things.”

 

Oh yes, Lord. We did enjoy good things last night with Ginny.

In our effort to lift her spirit, we too were uplifted. What a privilege to draw Ginny’s attention to you, relieve her stress a bit, and boost her morale. There’s also the joy of anticipation, knowing you will honor our prayers for her (1 John 5:14-15).

Then my imagination kicked in. I pictured us driving up to Ginny’s tollbooth sometime in the future. We’ll tell her how we’ve prayed for her.

Steve will ask, “How’s it going?”

And an effervescent Ginny will share that God has blessed her life in jaw-dropping ways.

In reality, however, it’s likely we’ll never see Ginny again. Part of God’s plan may be to graduate her from that booth into more fulfilling employment, long before we have opportunity for another encounter.

Oh, but wait. Perhaps we will get to hear Ginny’s story one day. And we won’t have to watch for cars approaching from the rear.

I’m picturing a picnic—Ginny, Steve, and me—seated by the crystal river in heaven (Revelation 22:1).  We’ll chatter away like old friends, celebrating God’s glorious blessings and miraculous ways.

 

 

Now that will be a very good thing to enjoy.

 

*Name changed.

*     *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

What good things have you enjoyed lately from the fruit of your lips? Please share your story in the comments below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (3); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.primobibleverses.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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Conventional wisdom teaches that success comes to those who work hard to achieve their goals.  And to a point that’s true.

But.  Success can quickly crumble when tragedy strikes.

Ask Job; he’ll tell you.  He was an extremely wealthy man and the greatest among all the people of the East.

He enjoyed a large, loving family.  His children liked each other so much they partied together.

Job was blameless and upright—totally undeserving of what happened to him (Job 1:1-4).

Stripped of everything.  All his wealth.  All his wonderful children.

 

 

Some of the recent hurricane victims know the magnitude of such horror. Home and all contents, gone.  Family members, gone.  I can’t even imagine their emotional pain and heartache.

And what was Job’s reaction to his tragedy?

If you had asked me that question a couple of years ago, I would have answered:  Job was incredibly accepting; he didn’t even blame God (1:22).

But there’s more:

“He fell to the ground in worship” (v. 20b).

 

 

WHAT?!

How can a person possibly worship at a time like that, when his whole world has collapsed around him?

All Job had left was his foundation—a foundation of faith in God.

And worship was his expression of that faith, declaring God’s worth to him—in spite of horrific calamity.  For Job, God was enough.

From Job we learn that true worship is not reliant upon circumstances.  In fact, a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) is surely very precious in God’s view.

 

 

Second, true worship is not reliant upon emotions.  We don’t have to be filled with joy in order to worship.  We can worship God with our tears, expressing our trust in spite of the pain.

Job couldn’t rely on answers that would give meaning for his suffering.  God gave him none.  What Job did rely upon was God’s character:

  • “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast” (9:4a).
  • “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (9:10).
  • “If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!  And if it is a matter of justice who will summon him?”  (9:19).
  • “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (10:12).

 

 

  • “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his (12:13).
  • “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest” (21:22)?

In the end, knowing God was more important to Job than knowing answers.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I shake my head in wonder as people of faith such as Job neither blame you nor give up on you in the face of calamity.  Instead, they rely upon you all the more tenaciously.  They worship, affirming that you are still their sovereign, loving God; they testify of your strength and peace. 

Thank you for being a God who comes alongside us with your wisdom and grace, especially when we’re hurting.  Thank you for powerful examples to follow such as Job.

 

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

 

Revised and reblogged from June 17, 2013.

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If you’re looking for spectacular views of fall foliage this year, do not come to southwest Ohio where we live. It would appear the wetter-than-normal weather of 2017 has contributed to early, lackluster color and quickly dropping leaves.

By contrast, last year offered an autumn extravaganza:

 

(Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum,

Cincinnati, Ohio)

 

Just what causes the rich jewel tones of color in the fall?  I recently relearned the answer from one of my granddaughter’s picture books (!).

In early fall, due to fewer hours of sunlight, cooling temperatures, and less rain (usually), the leaves no longer receive sufficient light and water. They start to separate from the tree, the chlorophyll fades, and the green color begins to disappear.

Now the yellows and oranges, present in the leaves all along, become visible. Some leaves make new pigments from the extra sugar stored inside. These leaves turn red, rust, pink, and purple.

 

 

The variety of hues represents some of the most vibrant shades on the color wheel.

And each hue, you may recall, has been assigned a meaning.

Red symbolizes power and strength;

Yellow, energy and intellect.

Orange represents joy and happiness;

Green, stability and safety.

Purple signifies royalty and power;

Pink, love and friendship (1).

M-m-m. Every one of those attributes describes our God.

As we ooh and aah over the wonder of autumn (even if only in small patches!), what if we allow each color to inspire worship?

For example, the brilliant red of the sugar maples can be a reminder he is tireless, never even needing a nap (Psalm 121:4).

 

 

He can accomplish anything–like create human beings and a complex, life-sustaining planet for them–because he is the one and only Lord, strong and mighty (Psalm 147:5).

Creation also demonstrates his superior intellectual abilities (Romans 11:33-36) since mysteries still abound in the universe–even after centuries of human inquiry. Gaze at the luminous golden ginkgo trees and affirm: our God knows all and never makes an unwise decision.

 

 

A fiery orange serviceberry tree is sure to make you smile with delight. Turn that smile toward your Heavenly Father, the source of all joy (Romans 14:17).

 

 

Evergreens provide a continual reminder of our ever-present refuge in him (Psalm 46:1) and his enduring faithfulness to us (Psalm 100:5).

 

 

Sweet gum trees don robes of purple in autumn. This color of royalty since ancient times can remind us of our Ancient of Days, the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7).

 

 

Last, the pink leaves of the burning bush can signify the loving friendship he offers (John 15:15), “practical and down-to-earth, yet saturated with heavenly glory” (2).

 

 

Whether or not we live in an area where these splendorous colors are on display, we can remember: God’s glory surrounds us just as autumn blaze can envelope a region.

 

After all, the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3, emphasis added).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Lord God, that every facet of your character is on display in your creation, giving us opportunity to “see” you. Even the changing leaves of fall call attention to your magnificent attributes. But even more wonderful—you manifest these qualities in our circumstances and in our hearts. Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, and always working wonders?  We praise you, O Lord, now and forever!

Romans 1:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 145:1  

 

Notes:

  1. colorwheelpro.com
  2. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 260.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.

 

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Each time before you intercede,

be quiet first and worship God in his glory.

Think of what he can do

And how he delights to hear the prayers

of his redeemed people.

Think of your place and privilege in Christ

and expect great things!

Andrew Murray

 

We can EXPECT great things?  That news gets my heart beating a little faster. How about you?

I also find Reverend Murray’s affirmations raising important questions–questions like:

 

How do I quiet myself?

 

My thoughts can jump from one thing to another until they’re on another continent from the subject of my prayer. What’s a scatterbrain like me to do?

I researched solutions for that problem a couple of years ago, and six suggestions became a blog post, “The Drift into Distractions.”

Since then I’ve encountered two more ways to still my mind:

 

 

1. One, shut the door.

Sounds a bit silly, I know. But that simple action can alter my mindset, reminding me that unimportant concerns and the ever-present to-do list can wait until later—outside the door.

2.  Two, breathe a breath prayer.

With a slow, deep inhale I might whisper, “My hope is in You, God.” On the exhale I can conclude with, “I am trusting you.”

A few repetitions help focus my mind on the Almighty One to whom I pray and the anticipation of serious, life-changing intercession.

 

How do I “worship God in his glory?”

 

First I need to understand that God’s glory includes all his splendorous attributes: his creativity and power, goodness and mercy, wisdom and love and more.   Taking a moment to remember who my God is, prepares my heart to pray with confidence.

 

 

One such prayer might be:

O Lord, the magnificence of your Personhood renders me speechless with wonder. You are all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful.

You perfectly attend to the immense totality of your creation, and with compassionate love you care for your children.

“Your splendor is above the earth and heavens” (Psalm 148:13b)!

 

 

Why is it beneficial to think about what God can do?

 

Reviewing God’s miracles and wonderful works of the past is like a warm-up before working out. It prepares our faith muscles to pray with conviction and endurance.

 

Does God really delight to hear our prayers?

 

Oh, yes!

“The Lord…delights in the prayers of his people” (Proverbs 15:8b NLT). Can’t get much clearer than that.

 

Why should I consider “my place and privilege in Christ” before praying?

 

First, I am in Christ because I accepted his offer to pay for all my wrong thoughts, attitudes and actions—a supreme, sacrificial payment he made on the cross. God the Father made that exchange possible so I might have the gift of eternal life with him in heaven.

Second, Jesus’ painful sacrifice also provided a place and privilege in God’s family, with access to his presence anytime, anywhere. (Ephesians 3:12).

Prayer is a precious privilege; I’d be foolish to ignore it.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Jesus my Advocate. Because of you I can approach our Father, the King of the universe, and receive his mercy and grace to help in my time of need and that of others.

I praise you for all your scripture promises assuring us that high expectations in you are not misplaced.

Help me to wait in patient confidence upon you, the only One who can accomplish great things—even above our expectations.  

 (Hebrews 4:16; I John 5:14-15; Ephesians 3:20)

 

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixel.freegreatpicture.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picquery.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

What helps you expect great things as you pray?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

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