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Mirth in the Mud

 

Our youngest granddaughter owns the book Pignic by Matt Phelan. Across the pages a family of pigs enjoys a day of outdoor activities until a storm threatens to spoil their fun.

But lots of rain makes lots of mud and the pigs make the messiest best of it.

 

 

Mirth in the mud.

For six months we’ve endured the nasty mud created by a virus-storm. It has washed out travel plans, beaten down get-togethers with family and friends, and lashed against such simple pleasures as shaking hands and hugging.

We need some mirth in this mud.

 

 

Our wise Heavenly Father, the Author of joy, gave us the ability to create laughter—with humor.

And with the pleasure of laughter comes great benefits for body, mind and spirit.*

So in celebration that the worst of Covid-19 is behind us, and the good news that vaccines hover on the horizon, let’s follow the example of the Pignic pigs and enjoy some mirth in the mud.

Take a few moments to wallow in some silliness:

 

 

“Eggs are fantastic for a fitness diet. If you don’t like the taste, just add cocoa, flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and cook at 350 for 30 minutes” (Anonymous).

 

“Tweet others as you want to be tweeted” (Unknown).

 

“To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States” (George W. Bush).

 

 

“Never doubt the courage of the French. They were the ones who discovered that snails are edible” (Doug Larson).

 

“All right everyone, line up alphabetically according to your height” (Casey Stengel).

 

“The Bible contains much that is relevant today, like Noah taking 40 days to find a place to park” (Curtis McDougall).

 

 

“If you’re too open-minded, your brains will fall out” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti).

 

“A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple its value every year. I told him, ‘At my age, I don’t even buy green bananas.’” (Claude Pepper).

 

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it” (Yogi Berra).

 

 

“And remember, laughing is like changing a baby’s diaper. It doesn’t solve any problems permanently, but it makes things more acceptable for a while” (Barbara Johnson).

 

No doubt you remember King Solomon’s wise observation too: “The cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15b). And what compounds the pleasure of a feast? Sharing it with someone.

 

 

So choose your favorites from the bits of mirth above and read them aloud to someone else.  Make a joyful noise of chortles and chuckles together to multiply the pleasure and benefits of laughter.

 

Oh–and please leave one of your favorite one- or two-liners below for more mirth in the mud!

 

*You can read about some of those benefits in this post:  The Most Beneficial Therapy

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.travelchatter.dailymail.co.uk; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

In the Waiting Room

 

I read the poster, then checked my watch—again. It was time to notify.

“Excuse me, but my appointment with Dr. D. was at 10:30 and it is now 11:15.” I spoke in even tones that belied my frustration.

The receptionist referred to the schedule on her computer. “Thank you,” she responded pleasantly. “I’ll check to see what the problem is.”

Returning to my seat, I expected to be called shortly, but it still took ten to fifteen minutes. Another annoyance: no one ever explained the delay or apologized.

 

 

No doubt you’ve endured similar experiences. Waiting nearly always creates nuisance no matter how many magazines they provide. Who hasn’t been stuck in the waiting areas of car repair shops, office buildings, and airports—when we’ve places to go and things to do?

But those aren’t the only forced pauses we face. At one time or another all of us spend time in the waiting room of life—as we anticipate achieving a long-term goal, receiving that long-awaited email or phone call, or seeing an ongoing prayer finally answered.

How are we supposed to handle the interminable pauses in life?

The following truths promise to ease our frustration and offer hope.

 

 

In God’s view, to wait is not to waste.

There is always purpose in God’s delays. King David wrote, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23 GNT). Next to this verse in the margin of his Bible, George Mueller wrote: “And the stops too” (1).

Just what might God be doing during the stops? He often uses wait time to work on our character, transforming pride into humility, doubt into faith, weakness into strength, and impatience into serenity.

 

A time of waiting provides a time for discovery.

As we turn attentive hearts toward gratitude for what is, praise for who God is, and satisfaction in serving him now wherever he has placed us, we’ll discover contentement.  With Paul we’ll be able to say:

 

 

“The heart is rich when it is content, and it is content when its desires are set upon God,” wrote Miguel of Ecuador (2).

On the other hand, a heart cannot be content if set primarily upon an attainment in the future.

 

Waiting is part of the wonder to come.

It’s a basic principle of investment: the longer we wait, the greater our return. Delay enhances delight.

And one day we’ll finally receive the explanation for the pauses in our lives. No doubt our eyes will widen in wonder to see all that God accomplished when in our view, progress stood still.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I thank you, Heavenly Father, that we can trust you during wait times.

You know the perfect sequence and timetable for events to unfold; we do not. You see the whole picture—the lives of others who will be impacted during this wait time; we cannot.

So may we rest on what we do know: You are a God of goodness, faithfulness, and wisdom. The one who trusts in you, whose confidence is in you, is blessed.

  

(Psalm 130:5; Psalm 139:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:24;

Psalm 100:5; Romans 11:33; Jeremiah 17:7)

 

Notes:

  1. George Müller (1805-1898) founded schools and orphanages in Bristol, England, in the early 1800s, providing care for thousands of children.  His testimony of great faith included numerous miracles of provision for the orphans under his care.
  2. Miguel of Ecuador (1854-1910)–teacher and author

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (3).

 

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

 

How it might have been:

Edward’s fingers followed the pick-ax marks carved in a left-to-right direction.  He marveled at the skill and perseverance of long-ago workmen to create a tunnel of such length–a tunnel he thought might be the one ordered by King Hezekiah 2,500 years previously.

 

 

Suddenly Edward drew in a sharp breath. The markings abruptly changed direction. Instead of left-to-right blows, they became right-to-left, and an astonishing thought occurred to him.

“Eli,” he called. “Look at this. What do you make of it?”

His explorer-companion came alongside and fingered the wall as Edward had done. “How strange. All of a sudden the pick-ax marks change direction.”

“I’m thinking there must have been two teams of workmen, Eli—each working toward the middle from opposite ends. That would cut in half the time necessary to create such a tunnel.”

Time would have been of the essence to King Hezekiah as the Assyrians threatened to attack Jerusalem. No water source existed within the city walls. So the king ordered the tunnel be constructed in order to redirect the Gihon Spring into the city, and deprive the enemy of water at the same time.

 

 

Edward Robinson and Eli Smith continued sloshing through shallow water along the twisting, two-feet wide tunnel. Could it be that, behind the silt that had built up for centuries, they had indeed rediscovered Hezekiah’s tunnel, referred to in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah? Curiosity kept them going.

In fact it was curiosity that had brought Edward to Palestine in the first place. His Puritan upbringing in the early 1800s had instilled in him a love for scripture, which he studied with a passion, along with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Now age 44, he was finally exploring the beloved land of the Bible, for the purpose of creating the first systematic survey of biblical geography (1). God had provided Edward with a knowledgeable guide and translator, Eli Smith, a missionary of the region.

After a thirty-minute trek through the underground stream, Edward and Eli found the tunnel did lead to the Gihon Spring outside Jerusalem’s walls.

But the Bible says nothing of two teams working from either end. How could such a feat have been achieved, 140 feet below ground at some points, long before the compass had been invented?

In addition, the tunnel twists and turns for 1,738 feet. A straight line from pool to spring would have shortened the distance considerably, to slightly more than 1,000 feet. Why did the foreman of the crew choose a winding route when an Assyrian invasion loomed at any time?

 

 

Edward Robinson’s idea of two teams working toward the middle remained a theory until 1880 when several boys playing in the Siloam Pool (as it came to be known) decided to explore the tunnel for themselves.

About 20 feet from the entrance, one boy spotted an inscription in the wall. The find was reported to authorities, and Professor A. H. Sayce, a resident in the area at the time, was sent to study the ancient writing. He reportedly sat for hours in mud and water, transcribing the inscription by candlelight (2).

 

This is a replica; the original resides

in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

 

The inscription included the following information:

    1. While stone-cutters worked toward each other, and while three cubits of rock remained to tunnel through, a workman’s voice was heard, because of a fissure in the rock.
    2. On the final day of tunneling, each stonecutter struck the stone forcefully in order to meet his co-worker. And then the water began to flow toward the pool.
    3. The full distance of the tunnel: 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the stone-cutters’ heads: 100 cubits. (3).

After more than forty years, Edward Robinson’s theory was proven correct.

But Hezekiah’s name is not mentioned.  How can we be sure the tunnel dates to the time of the ancient king?

In 2003, archaeologists implemented modern radiometric dating, based on the decay of radioactive elements. They determined the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel did occur about 700 years before Christ, the era of the Judean king’s reign (4).

As for the winding route, some speculate that workers followed natural fissures in the rock as well as cracks that already seeped water, making the process easier and faster.

Last, how did workmen meet in the middle so far underground? That is still a mystery and source of wonder. It would seem God himself brought the two teams together.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Robinson completed a three-volume work, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea that laid the groundwork for a new realm of study: biblical archaeology. https://www.vision.org/digging-faith-370
  2. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/101-hezekiahs-tunnel
  3. https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/siloam-inscription-and-hezekiahs-tunnel (translated by Christopher Rollston).
  4. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-09/huoj-dok090903.php

 

Other sources:

  1. Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, p. 564
  2. https://www.hopechannel.com/au/read/siloam-inscription
  3. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/Hezekiah_Tunnel
  4. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/node/854

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pickist.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org (2), http://www.canva.com.

 

After the Fact

“This is our daughter, Diane,” explained Betty, a church member where my husband had just become pastor. “Diane actually attends another church in town, but sometimes she visits with us.” Betty smiled up at her daughter and wrapped an arm around her waist. “She’s a teacher, too.”

 

 

That was all Betty needed to say to launch Diane and me into a conversation about all things school. We quickly discovered both of us had taught third grade the previous year.

“Listen,” Diane interjected. “It’s summer; I don’t have anything important going on. Let me help you unpack or wipe down cupboards—whatever you need done.”

And so the following week, Diane and I spent a pleasurable morning emptying boxes, organizing the contents, and getting better acquainted.

 

 

“Tell me about where you teach,” I prompted, while we released china from its bubble wrap at the dining room table.

Diane began to describe her private school—just two classes at each grade level with only twenty-two or so children per room, highly involved parents, strong discipline, and just five minutes from our house. The more she talked, the more delightful her situation sounded.

“Now,” she invited, “tell me about your experience.”

I explained that the week before Moving Day, I’d completed my first year back in the classroom after a long hiatus as stay-at-home mom with our three children. It was no exaggeration to say my learning curve had been steeper than the students’.

Diane commiserated with my circumstances. She was well-acquainted with the process ahead of me, having moved from another state herself just a few years before: the prospect of substitute teaching in order to become known in the district, applying for positions, and interviewing.

 

 

If a position was offered, the next challenges would include absorbing the way another school system worked and mastering its different curricula—likely at a different grade level. No doubt, another steep learning curve loomed ahead.

But my frustration ran deeper than what I confided in Diane that day. The transition to this new community made no sense. We’d been perfectly happy where we were, and the previous church hadn’t wanted my husband to move either.

Such a change seemed counter-productive to us, but the state-level leadership of our denomination considered it necessary. We grieved and prayed; the kids and I cried.  We also wondered: what was God up to?

Before Diane left that day, she offered to submit my name for the substitute list at her school and gave me the address. Sometime later I checked out the location, heeding her warning that the campus was hidden among trees, the entrance on a one-block street. Who knows how long we would have lived there before discovering this school on our own?

 

 

The first call to substitute came one morning just as I began my work out. “Can you be here within the hour?” asked the secretary. In record time I was showered, dressed, out the door and down the road, playing “Farmer in the Dell” with preschoolers.

For lunch I expected to purchase something in the cafeteria. Silly me—still in public school mode. Here the kids and staff brought their lunches from home. When one of the other teachers learned I had no lunch, she scrounged up an instant cup-of-soup, crackers, a box of raisins, and a tea bag.

 

 

“I’m sorry that’s all I can offer you,” she apologized. But I was greatly impressed by her effort to take care of a woman she didn’t know. And first impressions count.

The school called often, offering me experience at various grade levels, familiarizing me with their curriculum, and allowing me to become acquainted with the friendly faculty and staff. I began to pray God would open up a position for me at this school. But as the months passed, full-time employment seemed unlikely. No one was close to retirement; no one was leaving.

In April, however, the headmaster offered me a position. One of the fourth grade teachers had just been elected mayor of her community. Trying to fulfill those responsibilities and teach was more than she wanted to tackle. I would start that August, which gave me the summer to prepare. An added bonus: my classroom would be right next door to Diane’s.

 

 

When that job opportunity opened up, it was as if God turned a spotlight on His plan. After the fact I could see how he’d miraculously arranged the whole sequence of events—from the moment Betty introduced me to Diane, to the headmaster’s offer of employment.

The disappointment over leaving my previous position had turned into a God-ordained appointment at my new school, a much better situation, and one that lasted twenty-two years.

 

 

Have you experienced a spotlight moment?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.asan.af.mil; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere; http://www.flickr; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com.

 

Fountains of Life

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).

 

 

If you’ve ever weeded an early spring garden, you know how tricky it can be to sort seedlings from weedlings.

In the garden of the mind mentioned in the above poem, the weeds of lies can be particularly difficult to recognize—such lies as these:

 

1. God can’t possibly love me because I mess up all the time.

The problem is we think God sees us the same way critical people do—like the spinster great-aunt who looked down her nose at energetic children, like the teacher who frequently criticized, or the boss who was never satisfied.

That’s not God.

He knows we’re incapable of perfection and looks upon us with the compassion of a loving father.  No matter the sin, God is always ready to forgive (1)–and forget–as we repent:

 

 

 

Take this to heart: “Our God has a big eraser!”–Bill Zeoli (2).

And we can use that big eraser of love, compassion, and forgiveness to erase Lie #1.

 

2. I am insignificant.

God would have us know:  “There is no such thing as an insignificant person or an insignificant place or an insignificant position” (3).

Take a refresher course on your status:

  • The Prince of Peace died for you.
  • The King of glory is always thinking about you.
  • You have been adopted into his royal family.
  • You can enter his throne room whenever you like.
  • Your work has been specifically commissioned by the Sovereign Lord of the universe (4).

 

 

We run into trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. Here’s what we need to affirm: “My significance is not based on what I do; it is based on Whose I am.”

 

3. It’s obvious my prayers don’t matter…

A.  …because there’s been no answer. 

Here’s a thought:

 

 

But there are a number of possibilities why prayers seem to go unanswered, including:

  • Unbeknownst to us, the answer has already come. A young man praying for a wife may already have met his future bride; he just doesn’t know it.
  • Sometimes God gives us what we need, not simply what we ask for. A young teen might pray that her family not have to move across state, but five years later, ends up earning a much-needed college scholarship from their new church.
  • We benefit from the spiritual discipline of asking, growing in faith, and persevering as we wait.

If our God is 100% good—and he is—then it follows:

 

 

B. …Almighty God doesn’t need me to accomplish his plans.

 You’re right; God can do anything he pleases—without us.

But he instituted prayer as a way for us to come alongside him and participate in the good purposes he’s ordained. He allows us to share in the release of his power as we intercede for one another.

Lord Tennyson spoke of the power of prayer in his poem, Idylls of the King:

 

 

One day we’ll know the magnitude of the exact number. And won’t it be satisfying to have participated in God’s monumental work?

 

_______________________________________

 

Now that we’ve removed these three weed-lies from the gardens of our minds, we can enjoy to the fullest these flowers of God’s truth:

He remembers our sins no more.

We are precious in his eyes.

He always responds to our prayers (5).

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 103:13-14, 3, 10.
  2. Quoted in Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Press, 1977, 121.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz, The Vision, of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996, 77.
  4. Isaiah 9:6; 1 John 4:9-10; Psalm 139:17; Ephesians 1:5; 1 Peter 3:12; Ephesians 2:10.
  5. Isaiah 43:25; 43:4; Psalm 102:17.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com.

 

 

“Want to take a ride?” a friend asked from astride his motorcycle.

Nineteen-year old me was hoping he’d ask. So off we went—but not before L. shared an important instruction: “When we come to corners and curves, just lean into them. Follow my lead.”

The physics of a two-wheel bike require such a response. Otherwise riders will end up at the curb or in a ditch.  But leaning into the curve feels counter-intuitive to many first-time riders.

 

 

The journey of life also presents curves to navigate: physical setbacks, emotional trauma, and problematic circumstances. At such times, some of us default to responses that do more harm than good—reactions such as self-pity, anger, despair, and fear. If not corrected, these emotions will throw us into a ditch of distress.

But just as motorcyclists learn to navigate curves in a road, we can learn to navigate curves in life.

How?

 

1. Stay aligned 

 Wheels out of alignment cause instability—especially dangerous on a tight curve.

On the road of life, we travel best when our spirits aligned—with regular times of Bible study and prayer. To the uninitiated, that may sound boring. But as the habit is established, participants begin to crave that quiet time when God speaks encouragement and instruction, and we share gratitude and concerns.

 

 

To start, you might choose an earlier bedtime and rising time. But it’s worth it. Awaiting you are wonderful things (1)!*

 

2. Lean in with positivity

Leaning into the curves with his body weight allows a cyclist to maintain balance. Leaning into the curves of life with faith and optimism keeps our spirits balanced, and out of the ditch of worry and complaint.

David of Old Testament times certainly earned the right to grumble and fret. Throughout his life he faced obstacles, enemies, and even death. But he learned to lean into such curves—with God.

One time after David was seized by his enemies, the Philistines, he wrote the following: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise…What can mere mortals do to me”(2)?

 

 

How could David be so confident in the Lord? He knew God well, as protective, righteous, loyal, loving, and good (3)—among other attributes. David focused on his gracious God, not his troubling circumstances.

A steadfast, positive attitude begins with faith in God.

 

3. Remember the curves of the past

Once a novice cyclist has maneuvered a tight curve, the next one is a bit easier, and the next easier yet. Soon she sails around those bends with confidence, based on her experience.

The psalmists allowed experience to provide confidence on the twisting road of life. They remembered the Lord’s wonderful deeds and miracles, his acts of power and surpassing greatness (4).

 

 

And though God certainly deserves every breath of praise we offer, there is benefit for us in the remembering also. Meditation on all his kind deeds of the past sets a tone of confidence for the curves ahead—confidence in God (5).

____________________________________

 

Every day we travel the road of life into the unknown. But with our spirits aligned with God’s Spirit, a positive attitude grounded on faith, and confidence in God based on his flawless record, the unknown does not have to be a source of fear.

It can be an open road of sublime adventure.

 

 

*However! If you are parenting a newborn and/or little folks, caring for an elderly family member, etc.—if exhaustion is your constant companion and time to just breathe is in short supply—be kind to yourself. Listen to a Bible-centered podcast while folding laundry; pray while loading the dishwasher. God will smile with pleasure at any effort to connect with him. And in-depth Bible study can become a priority for the next stage of life.

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 119:18
  2. 1 Samuel 21:10-15; Psalm 56:3-4
  3. Psalm 5:11; 7:17; 9:10; 12:5; 25:8
  4. Psalm 9:1; 105:5a; 150:2
  5. Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 103:2 BSB

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.uihere.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com.

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

Notes:

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

 

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

 

Younging

 

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

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

 

 

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

The question is: How do we achieve it?

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

 

1. By serving others

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

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

 

Mom and Dad with their first great-granddaughter, 2010

 

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

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

 

2. By maintaining a positive attitude

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

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

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

 

Mom & Dad Ruegg, 1983

 

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

 

3. By keeping a sense of humor

 

 

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

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

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

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

“His name is Michael.”

“And where did you meet Michael?”

“At church.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner.”

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

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

“Young? Just how old is he?”

“In his early thirties, I suspect. He…

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

providing numerous delights as we do so.

__________________________

 

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

 

*Zondervan, 1996.

 

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

 

(Brown Caterthun, Scotland)

 

As you know, paleontologists dig up dinosaur bones; archaeologists dig up ancient ruins. I aspire to be a chesedologist. That’s a word I made up, splicing together chesed*, the word for loving kindness in ancient Hebrew, and –ologist, a suffix referring to someone who deals with a certain topic or subject.

As a chesedologist, I aspire to specialize in the subject of God’s loving kindness, searching for his gifts–especially in hidden places. And though the gifts themselves are precious treasure, their value is increased because his glorious attributes are represented in each gift.

Last week we meditated on a list of God-given delights that stretch from A to Z, creating an alphabet of joy. This week, let’s add a few more, but focus on those blessings that may be hidden from view at first glance. For example:

 

 

The blessing of surprise

 

No doubt you’ve experienced astonishing incidents like this one that only God could have engineered:

As the coronavirus swooped down upon us, I received a call from my brother John. He just happened to have a whole box of N95 construction masks that a friend just happened to leave behind when he moved out of state.

John sent us a carton of thirty, knowing that my husband would need such protection, given his compromised immune system. We shared the bounty with our daughter-in-law, a physician, when even hospitals were in short supply of the specialized masks. She shared with vulnerable colleagues.

Some would say, “What a coincidence!” That’s a misnomer. Such occurrences as these are God-incidents, proving his propensity to bless us beyond what we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

 

 

The blessing of wings

 

No, not wings for us. Maybe God will issue those when we get to heaven. For now we are blessed to take refuge under his protective wings (Psalm 91:4) as he tucks us next to his heart—especially during times of hurt, discouragement, or fear.

When my husband underwent a liver transplant in December 2018, I waited mostly alone more than eight hours for word of his prognosis. But I felt those protective wings around me the entire time, providing inexplicable calm and peace.

 

 

The blessing of uncertainty

 

In February I received a summons for jury duty. Just getting to the courthouse presented challenge: 1) navigating a traffic-jammed, downtown district with one-way streets, 2) finding a parking garage with an open spot, 3) finding my way out of the garage and to the courthouse, and 4) finding the jury room.

In the afternoon, the challenges were reversed: 1) find my way out of the courthouse, 2) find the garage again, and 3) find the car.

That first day I had to pray myself through every step. And God turned every apprehension into blessing. The first garage I pulled into had open spaces starting on Floor 7.  The courthouse was not far away, and a kind woman on the street gave me directions. In the afternoon, no mishaps or mis-turns occurred. All went well.

It’s foolish of me to fret about the unknown. Nothing is certain—except our God. And he does not fail (Job 42:2).

 

 

Uncertainty becomes blessing when viewed through the lens of adventure.  It builds our trust muscles, and sets the stage for miracles.

 

Perhaps you too are an aspiring chesedologist and have found blessings hidden in unusual places. Please share in the comment section one of your discoveries.  Reach out with your story and offer the chesed of encouragement to others!

 

*chesed is pronounced with a guttural “ch” and two short “e’s.”  The accent is on the first syllable.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pickpik.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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