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Churchill would have us understand:  truth is not determined by what we believe to be true.

Consider:  I can strongly believe that a coin tossed in a fountain will cause my wish to come true, or that a kind, friendly salesperson has my best interest at heart, or a sad, desperate plea for financial help is legitimate.

But such beliefs can result in misplaced trust and even trouble.  As we all know, there is no factual basis for believing in superstitions, or trusting every winsome person or assuming every heart-breaking story is true.

No, beliefs worth holding must be based on fact and reality.

On November 3, what we believe to be true will guide us to make critical choices— choices that will greatly impact the future of America.

 

 

Each of us needs to honestly assess:  Are my beliefs about each candidate based on verifiable fact and not just hearsay? 

We must also consider the essential matters facing our nation: bringing the country back to the pre-Covid prosperity of 2016-2019 (once the vaccination becomes available), ending the domestic terrorism in our cities, providing better alternatives for healthcare coverage, and lowering the national debt—to name a few.

Valid information about each of these concerns is paramount.  We must be alert to broad statements that include no facts, promises that include no plan, and accusations that include no proof.   

But gathering accurate evidence has become more difficult in recent years.  Some media outlets cannot be trusted to present facts.  Their long-term dissemination of misinformation has been exposed in recent months and most have offered no apology.  

Perhaps the answers to the following questions will lead to the wisest choices:

  • What kind of leader does our country/state/county need for this position?
  • What does each party’s platform uphold?  How do their beliefs and plans coincide with what scripture teaches?
  • What are the most pressing concerns? Which candidate addresses those concerns with realism, clarity, and insightful solutions?
  • Which party aligns with the truths I consider most important?
  • Which candidate has a proven, verifiable track record for addressing local, state, or national needs?

 


 

If you’re not sure how to answer those questions, may I recommend you ask for advice from people you highly respect, people who are knowledgeable about current events and have demonstrated wisdom in the life-choices they’ve made. Who are they voting for and why? What sources of news and information do they trust and why?

In addition:

  • Be responsible, cooperative, and supportive citizens, as the Apostle Paul laid out in Romans 13:1-7.

 

 

  • Be realistic about the outcome of this election. Our pastor pointed out in 2016 during that election season:  much as it may disappoint us, we don’t have to live in a Christian nation in order to thrive as Christians.   Throughout the centuries, the church has actually strengthened and grown under persecution.
  • Be prayerful–not only for which candidates to choose in the various races but for the welfare of our nation after the election.

 

 

Again, Paul offers wise advice:

 

 “I urge then, first of all,

that requests, prayers, intercession and

thanksgiving be made for everyone—

for kings and all those in authority

that we may live peaceful and quiet lives

in all godliness and holiness.

This is good and pleases God our Savior

who wants all men to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

–1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIV)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pickpic.com.

 

(This post is a revision of the post for October 27, 2016.)

 

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Five samples of red wine sat before the young man, each labeled with a price tag ranging from $5 to $45 a bottle. He tasted one, cleansed his palette with plain water, then tasted the next.

“Which one tastes better to you?” the researcher asked.

“Oh, definitely the $45 bottle,” responded the participant.

Most everyone who tried the wines agreed. The more expensive vintage was clearly superior. What they didn’t know: the wines labeled $5 and $45 came from the same bottle (1).

The preconceived idea that more expensive wines taste better had greatly influenced the participants. And it makes one wonder, what other preconceived ideas influence what we value?

 

 
Do we choose our clothing based on the logo? Are we more likely to accept certain invitations based on the importance of the host? Do we take great interest in the rich and famous?

In today’s world, people value:

  • Influence, power and authority, little realizing its downward pull. “Power intoxicates men,” asserted James F. Byrnes. “When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power he seldom recovers.”
  • Self-reliance, assertiveness and drive. Charles W. Eliot isn’t the only one who’s believed “the efficient man is the man who thinks for himself.” But that discounts the value of knowledge, wisdom, and creativity of others–including God’s.

 

 

  • Wealth and material possessions. By contrast, St. Augustine would have us “soar above our worldly possessions. The bee does not need its wings less when it has gathered an abundant store; for if it sinks in the honey it dies.”
  • Fame and privilege. But “what is Fortune, what is Fame? Futile gold and phantom name—Riches buried in a cave, Glory written on a grave” (Henry Van Dyke, “The Talisman”).
  • Physical attractiveness. “The most highly respected and valued attribute in our culture is physical attractiveness, “ wrote Dr. James Dobson (2). But of course beauty fades over time. What then?

 

 
It’s all chasing after the wind.
 

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

and then is heard no more;

it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 
And yet, if you exhibit at least several of the elements listed in bold print above, you are deemed successful in this world—even though those who reach the pinnacle of such success often experience loneliness, boredom, and dissatisfaction.  What kind of prosperity is that?

Still, men and women through the ages have been fooled into believing that pursuit of these values will bring happiness–in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
 

 
Praise God he offers a better, truly fulfilling way to live. And since he made us, he knows exactly what will satisfy.

To an outside observer, the values of his kingdom must appear upside down. Note how opposite they are from the world’s values listed above:

  • reliance upon him (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

  • humility (James 4:6)

 

 

  • generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7)

 

 

  • a servant’s heart (John 12:26)

 

 

  • inner beauty based on character (1 Peter 3:3-4)

 

 
These are the qualities that provide a solid foundation for wise choices.  And it’s wise choices that contribute to peace, contentment, and fulfillment.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Lord God, I know the world’s ways lead to futility, yet I can still be drawn in by the lies. Give me strength to choose your way and make wise choices based on your Word. May I be mindful how blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied. I praise and thank you for the full satisfaction you freely give!

Ephesians 4:17-24; James 1:5; Matthew 5:6 ISV

  

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080126101053.htm
  2. https://www.drjamesdobson.org/blogs/dr-dobson-blog/dr-dobson-blog/2018/10/15/sources-of-self-esteem-in-children-part-1-society’s-infatuation-with-beauty

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com’ http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.pixnic.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

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Some of our excursions through town take my husband and me past a fountain called The Muse. In summer, water gently spills from the lovely maiden’s hands while a ring of water-arches play at her feet. But even in winter her graceful form draws attention.

 

 

Downtown a much grander, three-level fountain, Genius of Water, doesn’t just draw attention—the size demands it. In place of the mild flow of The Muse, streams of water plummet from the outstretched hands of a nine-foot woman. Below her, fountains shoot plumes of water upward, and lower yet streams cascade into a pool.

 

 

I love fountains, don’t you? Perhaps it’s the “calming call of splashing water reminding us to relax and breathe amidst our busy days’ distractions” (1).

Perhaps it’s their appeal to four out of five of our senses, beginning with their sound of peaceful, liquid-music. But fountains are usually lovely to behold as well:

 

(Buckingham Fountain in Chicago,

often listed among the most beautiful in the world.)

 

And who can resist wading in a fountain’s pool—if allowed—which includes the sense of touch?

 

(The Pineapple Fountain, Charleston, SC)

 

Sometimes on hikes through state and national parks we’ve discovered cold, natural-spring fountains. Nothing tastes sweeter after a long trek.

 

 

And because of their delights, it’s not surprising that a psalmist turned to fountains for a lovely metaphor:

 

 

Perhaps he chose plural form because we enjoy a constant flow of so many wonders :

  • God’s attributes into our lives—his love, grace, mercy, and goodness
  • Countless gifts—like peace, joy, comfort, and blessings
  • Empowerment from God, including strength to persevere, patience to endure, and the Holy Spirit to guide

All that refreshes is from God.

And then he offers us a gratifying privilege. We get to be revitalizing fountains in the lives of others.

 

 

What might that look like—or in this case, sound like? No doubt, encouragement, comfort, and wisdom should be included.

 

Words of Encouragement

 

“Correction does much,

but encouragement does more.”

–Johann Wolfang von Goethe

 

One day after school, the father of one of our previous students stopped in the classrooms of my fourth grade colleagues and me.  His purpose?  To tell us we were the dream team. His fifth grade son was flourishing and this dad wanted to thank us for the sound preparation the boy had received.

We hung onto his statement from that moment forward. Every time we became overwhelmed, distraught, or discouraged, we’d remind each other: “Wait a minute–we’re the dream team!”

Just four words, but flowing with life.

 

Words of Comfort

 

 

What an honor God’s given us to speak his comfort and contribute to that overcoming Helen Keller spoke of—words such as these:

  • “I am so sorry.”
  • “I wish I knew the perfect words to ease your pain, but please know I hate that you are facing these circumstances.”
  • “You are constantly in my thoughts.”
  • “This is my prayer for you…”

It doesn’t have to be profound; just heartfelt.

 

Words of Wisdom

One time when I hit a rough patch, God brought to mind a friend who’d endured cancer—twice. The words, “Why me?” had never left her lips. Instead she asked, “Why not me?” and trusted God to bring good out of the suffering.

My circumstances didn’t begin to compare with her cancer diagnosis. If M. could trust God through her trial, I could certainly do the same.

 

There’s another phenomenon that occurs as we become fountains of life to others:

 

 

As God pours himself into us, we pour ourselves into others, and he receives honor and praise.

In the end, that’s the greatest satisfaction of fountain-living: to be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12).

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew Williams, https://ndsmcobserver.com/2017/08/why-are-we-fascinated-by-fountains/
  2. Longfellow quote taken from “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie.”

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.maxpixel.net; wwwlflickr.com; http://www.needpix.com (2); http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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While Steve and I savor the last few days of family gathered in one place, I hope you’ll find wisdom to savor, among these seven quotes:

 

The bad news is time flies.

The good news is God is the pilot.

–Unknown

 

I wish, my brothers and sisters, that during this year you may live nearer to Christ than you have ever done before. Depend upon it: it is when we think much of Christ that we think little of ourselves, little of our troubles, and little of the doubts and fears that surround us.–Charles Spurgeon

 

REFLECT. REVIEW. REPENT. RENEW.

–Unknown

 

Renewal is rooted in faith, not in resolutions! They are made for New Year’s and forgotten on an average of thirteen days later, say the surveys. Faith is the result of a decision about Christ. I cannot make a new me or a new you, but Christ can make you new and me new, as well, if we decide for Him.–Frank Harrington

 

If this is to be a Happy New Year,

a year of usefulness, a year in which we shall live to make this earth better,

it is because God will direct our pathway.

How important then, to feel our dependence upon Him!

— Matthew Simpson

 

Trust an unknown future to a known God.

–Corrie ten Boom

 

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all the specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing—don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution.

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of humor.—Anonymous

 

___________________________________

 

Which quote was most meaningful to you?  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

 

May 2020 be a year of increasing spiritual strength and prosperity of soul for us all!

 

Photo credit:  http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

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Interesting, isn’t it, how the slightest trigger can transport us back through time?

  • A song might remind us of that first date with our spouse
  • The fragrance of lilacs brings to mind a previous home
  • The first bite of a family recipe at Thanksgiving conjures up bittersweet memories of another table long ago

 

 

They say that the memory of everyone we’ve known, every place we’ve been, and everything that’s happened to us is submerged in our subconscious. And the slightest nudge—haphazard as it might be–can bring a memory bobbing to the surface with surprising force.

But there’s another kind of remembering—a deliberate quest to seek truth for our lives—to understand how the hurts, mistakes, and losses, the treasured times, precious people, and lessons learned, reveal God’s work within us and for us, bringing good from it all.

For example, looking back through our memories we see:

 

God has given us strength to persevere.

At times we thought we’d never make it. Friends proved unfriendly and while the sting smarted we struggled to understand why the relationship went wrong.

Circumstances turned our lives upside down and we couldn’t see how to make things right again.

Death claimed a loved one and the pain seemed unbearable, unending.

 

 

But here we are. We survived, because God brought us through each calamity.

 

God has taught us the value of his wisdom.

Most of us have made choices along the way that seemed right but proved wrong.

Perhaps it was a relationship with someone whose habits provided troubling warning signs, but we ignored them and later suffered heart-rending hurt.

Or, perhaps we pursued an appealing, self-serving dream, only to discover its fulfillment did not produce the satisfaction we expected.

Some of us had to learn the hard way: God’s wisdom in scripture is truth after all, including his warning against relationships with fools (Proverbs 13:20) and the emptiness of selfish gain (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

 

 

But he also promised blessing for those who follow his all-wise guidance:

 

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

–Proverbs 16:20

 

God has demonstrated his faithfulness in countless ways.

Consider the categories listed below and allow your memory to plumb the depths, bringing to the surface people, places, and events from the past that reflect God’s faithfulness:

 

 

  • Nurturing family members
  • Loyal, supportive friends
  • Secure places of contentment
  • Health issues resolved
  • Knots of circumstances untangled
  • Necessities miraculously provided
  • Blessings bestowed, not even asked for

 And what can we anticipate as the result of this kind of remembering?

Peace.

Because we realize for all our yesterdays, God has…

…enabled us to power through on his strength,

…provided his wisdom to guide us through murky circumstances,

…and been at work in our lives for our benefit—sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes in the form of lessons.

 

 

Such reassurances can settle fear, doubt, and worry, allowing peace to flourish today and into all our tomorrows.

This kind of remembering intentionally entwines past and future so memories become woven into faith-filled expectation.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.needpix.com; dailyverses.net.)

 

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Remember the in-crowd at your high school–the cool kids who wore the latest fashions, knew the latest songs, and seemed more attractive, confident, and important than everyone else?

‘Truth is, research has established “those who cared most about their social standing [as teenagers] often grow up to have difficulties with their interpersonal relationships years later.” Their fixation on status stays with them, and they are the ones most likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and problems with substance abuse (1).

Now I’m thankful to never have been a part of that group.

But another in-crowd beckons–one that everyone is invited to join–that offers satisfaction in life and purpose.

It’s God’s in-group.

 

 

And just what does he have to offer?

God’s in-crowd is in their right minds (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

They strive to focus on the positive, and turn their attention toward God himself—His attributes and works. People in their right minds are Presence-focused, remembering the almighty, all-wise God is with them. They’re also promise-fortified, affirming that God WILL keep their minds calm because they trust in him.

Such trust requires effort, since we often lean toward the negative. But like a wrangler who captures and subdues a wild horse, the in-crowd takes their problematic thoughts captive, and tames them with the bridle of God’s truth (2).

They also pray—perhaps like Selwyn Hughes: Lord, “I give You my mind—so that You can give me Yours” (3).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in balance.

The Apostle John wrote to Gaius: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).

That’s quite a compliment. If John had written such a greeting to me, he may very well have reversed his statement, praying that my soul might prosper as well as my physical health.

Of course, both are necessary for overall well being. So just as proper diet, exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary for the body, the in-crowd keeps their souls healthy through a steady diet of God’s Word, the exercise of obedience, and rest in him.

 

 

God’s in-crowd is held in his hands.

King David wrote about the phenomenon in a prayer song to God: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15a). Those hands are powerful and mighty, open and generous, protective and secure—even when someone faces difficult challenges like the Apostle Paul.

While imprisoned in Rome and anticipating his execution, Paul affirmed the strength God provided him, the generosity of God to supply all needs, his contentment in spite of circumstances, and the security of knowing all would be well whether he lived or died (4).

The in-crowd faces their challenges with the same affirmations.

 

 

God’s in-crowd lives in God’s ways (Psalm 25:8-10).

Wisdom would have us know this: “Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:32-33, 35).

Critics may say, “Oh, but the Bible is so out-of-date. Times change; morals shift. What was once considered wise has been replaced by post-modern sensibilities.”

They need to observe God’s in-crowd, who delight in his Word because they find instruction for a life of purpose and meaning, preservation of life in his encouragement, and peace of mind in his truth—things post-modern sensibilities do not offer (5).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in unity with one another, just as he desires (Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:13-14).

They remember: all God’s people belong to each other (Romans 12:5). So they focus on common ground and find ways to support one another rather than fuss over non-essential differences.

And as a unified group, God’s in-crowd is a force to be reckoned with.

Like snowflakes:

 

 

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things.

But just look at what they can do when they stick together.”

–Vesta M. Kelly

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father, that as we trust in your Son Jesus for eternal life, you also provide in-crowd status with all its privileges and spiritual blessings—to every believer. You are the God of surpassing goodness to your people!

(John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-8; Psalm 84:11)

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cracking-the-popularity-code/
  2. Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5.
  3. Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, 1997, p. 121.
  4. Psalm 118:15-16; 145:13b-21; John 10:29; Philippians 4:13,19, 11-12, and 1:21-24.
  5. Psalm 119:24, Philippians 2:13; John 10:10; Psalm 119:50 MSG, 93, 165.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com (2), http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.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 1983 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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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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A number of years ago and for the span of a decade, I commuted a half hour each way to and from the school where I taught.

Needless to say I saw all kinds of drivers: the speed demons and poke-alongs, the weavers and squeezers, the distracted and multi-taskers—each one an accident waiting to happen, each one confident that he or she was not.

One day a young man on a motorcycle whizzed by, darting between vehicles left and right in search of the fastest lane. This was not in near standstill traffic; it was on a stretch of Florida Turnpike where the speed limit is seventy.

Oh, Lord, I thought. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. That boy has no idea the danger he’s creating for himself and everyone else in his path.

 

 

A few minutes later I reached my exit and gasped aloud. Lying in the grass in the middle of the cloverleaf turn-off was that young motorcyclist, far separated from his twisted bike.

A few people were already hunched over him, perhaps from the nearby tollbooth area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his leg move.

Every now and then that scene comes to mind. I imagine that young man as he straddled his cycle that morning, anxious to be on his way for another exhilarating trip of engine revving, speed, and clever maneuvering.

No doubt a trip to the hospital never even crossed his mind.

The young often do live in a fantasy world of invincibility. And those of us with a bit more life-experience shake our heads at their carelessness.

But fast-lane living isn’t the singular domain of speeders and teenage boys on motorcycles.

Even a retired schoolteacher like me can forget: life is fragile.

 

 

Not that I drive recklessly or take foolish chances.

But I am very capable of rushing through a to-do list and missing an opportunity to provide joy in someone else’s life. I can breeze right past the blessings-of-the-moment because I’m focused on something down the road.

I can even forget the values I hold dear, including attentiveness to God and loving compassion for others.

It is downright foolish of me to live in a fantasy of invincibility, as if there will always be plenty of tomorrows for attentiveness and compassion, while cruising along in the fast lane of frenzied activity.

Instead, I’d rather cup my hands around each day and:

 

 

  • Find the wonder in the common. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribable, magnificent world in itself” (Henry Miller).
  • Take note of the everyday miracles. “Looking is the beginning of seeing” (Sister Corita Kent).
  • Hug often. “Hugs are one of the reasons God gave us arms. So stretch out your arms to someone today…It will warm the heart of the giver and give light to the soul of the recipient” (Unknown).
  • Laugh easily. “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” (Karl Barth).

 

 

  • Value every person. “The way we treat others is more about who we are, not who they are” (Unknown, emphasis added).
  • Forgive quickly. “Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about keeping the hooks of bitterness from getting into you” (Gabrielle Bernstein).
  • Avoid negativity. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity” (Unknown).
  • Choose joy. “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it” (G. K. Chesterton).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord God, I have so much to be thankful for, including this cloudy, cozy day and the welcome chill in the air. I thank you for this moment, complete with winking candle, hazelnut coffee, and soft music to keep me company as I write.

Thank you also for the designated purpose you ordain for each person.   Because I am still alive, you still have plans to fulfill through me, especially to bless others. And for that I am grateful as well.

Keep me mindful, I pray, that fast lane living is not only foolish, it is dangerous to my soul.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 2:10)

 

What will you cup your hands around today?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.lawofficer.com; http://www.medienwerkstatt-online.de; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.quotesvalley.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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Yes, the title is a bit of word play, generated by the discovery of this quote:

 

0725d644e0e4eb43f7a1c2e9904a02e5

 

(“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books.

Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.”

–St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

M-m-m. Spiritual lessons in the woods are relatively easy to extrapolate.  The Bible offers several inspiring metaphors/similes from trees (1).

But stones—lifeless, drab stones? What can we learn from them?

 

stones-02

 

So began my query into stones, and a bit of research turned up the following:

There are at least 120 different sub-categories of rocks, within the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic groupings. Another thirty-one types make up a group of their own, not fitting those three common categories.  One website stated there are over 700 varieties of igneous rocks alone.

Geologists and rock collectors will tell you:

There is delight in diversity.

b026da66a1f291b4419c2c747dd4c56d

(Beach stones washed in the surf of Lake Huron

near Kincardine, Ontario)

 

That goes for people, too, doesn’t it. A planet inhabited by identical beings would be painfully boring.

But even similar, ordinary stones can generate interest. For example, take this little pebble:

 

med_ap025s5408

 

Rather dull and ordinary, right?

But what if you put it with numerous, similar stones? What then?

 

water_landscapes_rocks_pebbles_ocean_beaches_cool

 

We discover that:

Many ordinary stones together can provide breathtaking beauty.

Within the church that truth applies to people. Regular folks become remarkable as we join together and serve under the power of God. Someone put it this way:

When a river sings, it is thanks to the stones.

 

 

Now some stones appear dull and plain on the outside. The casual observer passes them by. But the trained eye detects a hint of the splendor within.   And when such a rock is split open, a colorful, gleaming wonder is revealed.

 

LagunaAgate1

(An agate)

You have to open up some stones to discover their treasures.

Agates of a different nature are all around us—in our neighbors, coworkers, church acquaintances, etc. What if we reached out with a friendly question or two and gave them opportunity to open up? Perhaps gleaming treasure awaits.

Beauty in stone can occur in other ways, too.  For example:

A stone in the hand of a master sculptor becomes a new creation.

 The genius of Michelangelo gives us a glimpse of such transformation. Out of nondescript marble he chiseled exquisite, life-like statues.

 

Michelangelo-pieta-detail-2

(Madonna from the Pieta)

 

Praise God that even dull, ordinary people of stone can become works of art when we give ourselves over to him.

God, our Rock, is Lord of stones. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

I praise you, oh God, for being a Rock of constancy, stability, and protection. You graciously build us into a spiritual house—individually and corporately– where the Holy Spirit can reside.  As “living stones,” we too become everlasting and durable, united together with the One Living Stone, your Son, Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

 

(1) For metaphors/similes of trees, see Psalm 1:3, 52:8, and 92:12; Jeremiah 17:8; Micah 4:4.

 

Photo Credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.free-pictures-photos.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.freephotosbank.com; http://www.hdwallpapers.com; http://www.bhmpics.com; http://www.d.umn.edu; http://www.italianrenaissance.org.

 

 

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