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Does that title sound familiar? It’s an old Christmas carol—my maternal grandmother’s favorite. Sadly it never occurred to me to ask her why.

Perhaps it was the lilting tune that dances up and down the treble clef, with leaps from low notes to high. (You can listen to the carol here: There’s a Song in the Air.)

Perhaps Grandma especially enjoyed the expressive lyrics since she was a poet herself. I found this Christmas poem in her journal.  (Keep scrolling for a typed version–easier to read.):

 

 

FOR CHRISTMAS 1955

Star of the East that shone for men

To guide to Jesus’ side,

Shines in the Christian heart today

Where the Lord Jesus abides.

For he’s the Bright and Morning Star,

Turning darkness into light.

He died on Calvary to save,

To remove sin’s dark blight.

Baby Jesus was born a King,

A Savior to die yet to reign.

He left His home in heaven above

And chose instead earth’s pain.

–C. E. M.  (Clara Edna Mensinger)

 

Perhaps “There’s a Song in the Air” appealed to Grandma because her creative soul responded to such artful lines as these:

 

 

  • And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing
  • And that song from afar has swept over the world
  • In the light of that star lie the ages impearled
  • Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring

 

“The Angel Appears to the Shepherds”

by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740-1812)

 

I wonder if Grandma ever became curious about the origins of the carol? Did she know that the composer of the tune, Karl Harrington, discovered the lyrics while reading the works of one of his favorite authors Josiah Holland?

Holland was a novelist, poet, and editor of the popular Scribner’s Monthly. In the 1870s he reprinted his Complete Poetical Writings. This was the book in which Harrington found the poem “There’s a Song in the Air.”

At the time, the summer of 1904, Harrington was struggling through an overwhelming assignment: to compile a new hymnbook for the Methodist Church. Even for someone with his background as a highly trained musician, choral director, and composer–the task proved difficult.

 

Karl Harrington (1861-1953)

 

While taking a rest one hot afternoon, he picked up Harrington’s book, came across the poem, and immediately felt inspired to set the lovely verse to music.

He went to his organ and as he read the words aloud, let his fingers drift along the keys. A melody soon began to form. Harrington included the carol in the new hymnal.*

Perhaps like Harrington, my grandmother appreciated the fresh wonder stirred up by such inspiring lines as:

 

 

  • The manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
  • There’s a tumult of joy over the wonderful birth
  • We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song, that comes down through the night from the heavenly throng

 

Grandma didn’t know Jesus until her mid-thirties, and up to that time had endured several painful traumas. (You can read a bit of her story in the post, The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara Part 2.) But her newfound relationship with God brought peace and strength.

 

(Grandma Clara, years later, 1968.

P.S.  Those glasses were the height of fashion back then!)

 

Perhaps a carol about joy, light, and song reminded her of the transformation Christ had brought to her life.

Grandma would want these lyrics to speak to our hearts too, refreshing our wonder in a Savior once cradled in a manger, destined to be King, who comes to us with “the lovely evangel” (verse 4, line 3)–the good news of God’s gracious plan to rescue us.

Hallelujah and a blessed Christmas to all!

 

*Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001) 164-166.

 

What is your favorite carol and why? Please share in the comment section below!

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.pixy.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.hymnary.org; http://www.pixy.org; Nancy Ruegg.

 

Mary’s Joy/Our Joy

(One of Wilson Alwyn Bentley‘s photos)

 

Remember your first glimpse of a snowflake under a magnifying glass and your reaction to its tiny intricacies? I’ll bet your eyes grew wide and you leaned in for a close-up view. You probably uttered Wow! or Look at that!

And perhaps while gazing at such infinitesimal beauty you learned:

 

Only when we examine something closely

can we begin to appreciate its value.

 

Scripture urges us to magnify God.

 

 

To magnify God is to look closely at him and take careful notice of his actions and attributes. Mary, the mother of Jesus, did exactly that. We read an example in the account of her visit to Cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56).

Elizabeth was much older than Mary, well beyond child-bearing age. But like Sarah of the Old Testament, God had intervened for her. Elizabeth would soon be the mother of John the Baptist.

 

 

When Mary first arrived and offered her greeting, Baby John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41). (Can you imagine how that would feel, to have a baby jump inside you?)

Elizabeth responded with a blessing for Mary and the holy baby her young cousin carried. Then Mary became overcome with joy and incredulity herself, and burst into praise. Her song is called the Magnificat, Latin for magnifies.

For ten verses (Luke 1:46-55), Mary magnifies the Lord, examining the reason for her joy (vs. 46-49) and looking closely at God’s attributes and actions (50-55). Never mind her relative poverty, the misunderstanding and derision of others, or the uncertainty of the future. Mary focused on God who was working a miracle within her.

 

 

If your Bible includes cross-references you’ll notice Mary quoted bits and pieces of seven psalms. In addition, she included fragments from Isaiah, Habakkuk, Exodus, Genesis, 2 Samuel, and Jeremiah.

It would appear Mary wove such far-spread scriptures into this beautiful prayer–on the spot! She must have been an intelligent young woman.

Perhaps she grew up in a godly home where the Law and Prophets were highly esteemed. Her parents may have taught her or, if she had brothers, Mary listened as they recited their lessons, and she too learned the ancient scriptures.

Now as Mary and Elizabeth greet one another, the young woman rejoices in God her Savior. She highlights his mercy, might, faithfulness, holiness, and saving power.

 

 

And yet in spite of his awesome greatness the Mighty One has been mindful of her—a humble, peasant girl. He has done great things on her behalf. Notice she prays in past tense, as if the events Gabriel announced had already taken place (v. 49).

Then Mary itemizes specific ways God benefits his people:

  • He extends mercy to those who reverence him
  • He performs mighty deeds
  • He has scattered the proud
  • He has brought down rulers, but lifted up the humble
  • He has filled the hungry, but sent the rich away empty
  • He has been merciful to Israel

We too are God’s people, if we believe in his Son, Jesus. And he benefits his people in these same ways today just as he has through all the eons of time.

No doubt God has been at work in your life too. He’s been mindful of you and blessed you (v. 48); he’s done great things for you (v. 49) and extended his mercy to you (v. 50).

 

 

View the activity of God in your life through the magnifying glass of meditation. Take note of his actions and attributes on display in the events of your life. And then please share with us an example in the comment section below.

Let us magnify the Lord together for his awesome deeds!

 

(Revised and reblogged from 12-20-2012.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.metmuseum.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

 

‘Recognize that line of lyrics? It comes from verse three of “O Holy Night.”

“His holy Name” is expressed 256 different ways in the Bible, from Branch of the Lord (Isaiah 4:2) to bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). Why so many?

“I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express,” evangelist Billy Sunday once offered.

Just within the birth accounts of Bible books Matthew and Luke, we’ll find seven names for Christ. And these alone provide plenty of reason to praise him. Granted, these names are well-known, but let’s not allow familiarity to numb us to their splendor. As we unpack several of them below, may you find renewed wonder in his Personhood.

 

 

Jesus, Savior   (Luke 1:31, 2:11)

Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would have called him Yeshua. Ya as an abbreviation for Yahweh, one of the names for God (Exodus 3:14), and yasha, which means rescue, deliver, or save in Hebrew.

A savior rescues or delivers from danger or harm. He preserves or guards from destruction or loss, keeps one from being lost to an opponent, maintains and preserves.

But why would God send his Son as Savior for paltry creatures like us, who require saving from the harm sin causes in our lives?

It’s so simple, some people miss it: God made us, he loves us, and wants to be in relationship with us—forever. So he sent his Son Jesus “to fit us for heaven to live with him there.” (1). All we need to do is say yes to him.

 

 

 

Son of the Most High, Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35)

Such names emphasize his majesty and supremacy over all (Ephesians 1:19-21).

Mary and other devout Jews of her time would have known this name for God because it’s found throughout the Old Testament, from Genesis (14:18) to Daniel (7:18).

When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her child would be Son of the Most High God, he was declaring Jesus would embody the magnificent essence of God (2).

 

 

Messiah (Luke 2:11)

Messiah means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” Christos (Christ) is the Greek equivalent.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ time knew the ancient prophecies concerning their Messiah. They expected Jesus to deliver them from the Roman occupation, to set up his own kingdom in which they would be rulers, not understanding that the Kingdom of God is spiritual, not political.

Even today people look to Jesus for rescue from problems and pain. They want him to make everything right, not understanding that perfect bliss in this world is an impossibility because of humankind’s sin.

However!  “Our troubles have always brought us blessings and they always will.  They are the black chariots of bright grace” (Charles Spurgeon).

 

 

Immanuel   (Matthew 1:23)

Matthew made clear:  this Hebrew name means “God with us”—not in a general sense, like an out-of-state business owner who asserts unity with his distant employees, but in a one-on-one personal sense. He sits beside us in our homes, accompanies us to work, watches over us as we sleep, and deeply cares about all our concerns (3).

In fact, he not only cares about every disappointment, every pain, and every calamity, he suffers with us (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

And as we avail ourselves of his comforting presence we find the stability we need (Psalm 46:1-2).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O Son of God, for crafting us with the capacity to know you as our Savior, Messiah, and Immanuel, to sense your presence, receive your comfort, and experience your peace. Through this Christmas season and always may we praise you for your magnificence, reflected in every aspect of your holy Name!

You deserve nothing less.

(Colossians 1:16; John 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17; John 14:27)

 

Notes:

  1. John 3:16 and the last line of “Away in a Manger,” as originally written
  2. https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B151218/son-of-the-most-high
  3. Matthew 28:20; Psalm 121:2-5; 1 Peter 5:7

 

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

 

 

No doubt about it: Christmas is going to look different this year. Some folks (like me) will opt to scale back the decorating. Church and school programs won’t be presented, parades won’t be processing down Main Street, and fewer families will be cozied up at Grandma’s house for gift giving and feasting.

As if mocking the disappointment already rooting in our spirits, Andy Williams comes on the radio singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”—about friends coming to call, parties for hosting, and caroling out in the snow.

 

 

But wait. Perhaps this year could become a different kind of wonderful. Perhaps with less holiday preparation to complete and fewer activities to attend, we’ll have more time to revel in the preparation of our hearts.

How might we do that? According to pastor/author Handel H. Brown:

 

 

An attitude of expectancy includes an outlook of hope—hope in God’s provision for the here and now, and hope for what is to come. Even as we celebrate Christ’s first appearance on earth, we look forward to his second coming when he will “take us to heaven, to live with him there” (1).

 

 

Too often I’ve counted down the days until the Christmas tree is glowing, or the family is gathered, or the gift-exchange can finally take place. Those are all superb delights, but they quickly fade into wisps of memory.

We Christians can revel with expectant hope in a countdown of more substantive delight and importance. Peter called it a living hope, based as it is on our living Savior (1 Peter 1:3).

This hope is not just a feeling that fades like the euphoria of Christmas—once family members have departed and decorations are boxed and shelved. No, this hope is absolute certainty, placed in our faithful, eternal God . Everything he has promised he will deliver.

 

 

So how do we muster expectant hope? By immersing ourselves in God’s Word.

 

Hope is living constantly, patiently,

expectantly, resiliently, joyously

in the word of God.

–William Stringfellow

 

Here’s one scripture that fills me with expectant hope. See if these words don’t lift your spirit as well:

 

 

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death.

“This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.

“They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time–1 Peter 1:3-5 GNT (2).

 

Praise God for his mercy!

Praise him for the new and abundant life he provides!

Praise him for all the blessings of past, present, and future!

Praise him for the perfected life yet to come–with him in heaven!

 

 

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas by immersing ourselves in such scriptures, expectant hope is bound to well up and produce wonderful results.

In addition:

 

“Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.”

–Unknown

 

So let’s put the WONDERFUL into Christmas 2020 with renewed, expectant hope in our glorious Father.

Let’s create the atmosphere for miracles!

 

What scripture fills your spirit with expectant hope?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

 

Notes:

  1. The last line from “Away in the Manger,” based on John 14:2-3.
  2. Other scripture passages to explore that foster expectant hope:  a) Isaiah 9:6-7 (See also a previous post, “His Name Shall Be Called.”) b) Isaiah 40:28-31, c) Ephesians 1:3-13, d) 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pixy.org.

 

A. P. Gratitude

 

The Advanced Placement Program launched in the 1950s. Perhaps you took advantage of A. P. classes as a high school student. Though more challenging than standard secondary courses, they provide a substantial payoff–up to a semester’s worth of college credit.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought of A.P. classes upon encountering a Charles Colson quote about gratitude. He presented a whole new level of challenge concerning this quality.

Instead of giving thanks for the goods received, Colson suggested we express appreciation for who God is—his character. Colson said such an act of faith provides evidence the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s life (1).

 

 

So, in spite of self-isolation and lockdowns, distress for our country and world, as well as the personal concerns we all carry, let’s aspire to A. P. gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day by reflecting upon:

 

God’s grace

 

God is . . . a personal Father who cares,

and not a God who merely wound up the world with a key

and then went away to let it run by itself.

God’s grace is a certainty, even amid the turmoil of today’s world.

–Unknown

 

 

God’s faithfulness

 

No matter what we are going through, no matter how long the wait for answers,

of one thing we may be sure: God is faithful.

He keeps His promises.

What He starts, He finishes . . .including His perfect work in us.

–Gloria Gaither (2)

 

 

God’s goodness

 

Of all the things our minds can think about God,

it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most

and brings the most profit to our soul.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

God’s compassion

 

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow;

the same everlasting Father who cares for you today

will take care of you tomorrow and every day.

Either he will shield you from suffering,

or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, put aside all anxious thoughts

and imaginings, and say continually:

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart has trusted in him and I am helped.

He is not only with me but in me and I in him.’

–St. Francis de Sales

 

 

God’s love

 

All shall be well, all shall be well . . .

for there is a force of love moving through the universe

that holds us fast and will never let us go.

–Julian of Norwich

 

 

With these eternal gifts bestowed upon us—God’s fatherly care, promise-keeping faithfulness, ever-reliable goodness, soul-strengthening compassion, and never failing love, we surely have everything we need.

 

 

Notes:

  1.  http://www.crosswalk.com/faith-spiritual-life/inspring-quotes/30-christian-quotes-about-thankfulness.html 
  2. Quoted in Values for Life, Walnut Grove Press, 2004.

 

Art & Photo Credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.pixy.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

Just for fun I Googled “strategies that lead to a satisfying life.” Of course numerous articles popped up, offering a multitude of suggestions. One article listed twenty ways for achieving fulfillment.

But researchers have determined it takes sixty-six days on average to develop a new habit (1). That means twenty new habits would require concentrated effort for nearly four years. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it.

However, as you’ve already noted from the title of this post, it is possible to turn a humdrum life into exceptional with just one strategy: gratitude to God.

 

 

But how can one simple act make such a difference?

I’ll explain in a moment. First, let’s identify the key word in that statement above: God. Without someone to thank, gratitude is pointless. And he is responsible for every good gift in our lives. By thanking God for his blessings, we unlock the fullness of life (2).

Here’s how it happens:

 

Gratitude fosters joy and contentment.

When we aim to thank God for the benefits he bestows, the delightful encounters he provides, and the beauty he’s created, we soon realize our days overflow with his gifts. And each one gives reason to smile.

 

 

Gratitude leads to peace.

Remember Isaiah 26:3?  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (ESV). Gratitude to God is a delightful way to stay focused on him and thereby calm our hearts into serenity.

 

Gratitude contributes to resiliency.

Researchers Tennen and Afflek (2002) found that when people express gratitude even while suffering adversity or trauma, they tend to persevere with greater strength than those who don’t practice thankfulness (3).

John MacArthur beautifully described the phenomenon with this bit of imagery:

 

 

“No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

 

Gratitude increases our trust in God.

We can begin with grateful remembering of his marvelous deeds in the past, to form a foundation of faith for the present. Also, by expressing thankfulness in difficult circumstances and gratefully acknowledging God’s support and supply, our perspective is transformed.

 

I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

–Psalm 12:5-6

 

And when all of these results-of-gratitude are present in one person—effervescent joy, sublime contentment, luminous peace, buoyant resiliency, and unshakable trust—we see an exceptional life.

 

 

It all begins with gratitude.

 

When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether

you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

–G. K. Chesterton

 

And how do we learn to take things with gratitude?

Researchers have studied that too, and found gratitude journals to be highly effective (4).

 

 

 

They suggest keeping a record of pleasurable observations and positive experiences such as:

  • Happy squeals of neighbor children as Daddy pushes their swings
  • An overcast day made cozy with glowing candles, simmering soup, and rain thrumming on the roof
  • Being taught by a seven-year old granddaughter how to add two-digit numbers in a new and clever way
  • Those places where God has brushed all of autumn’s colors in one swath

 

 

Gratitude bestows . . .transcendent moments of awe

that change forever how we experience life and the world.

–Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

So instead of wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving Day, blog-friends, I pray for you an exceptional life–of gratitude!

 

____________________________

 

If you keep a gratitude journal, please share your experience in the comment section below. How has it contributed to an exceptional life for you?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit#takeaway
  2. James 1:17 and https://melodybeattie.com/gratitude-2/
  3. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-happiness-research/
  4. https://www.pointloma.edu/resources/counseling-psychology/what-good-gratitude-role-thanksgiving-personal-development

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (3).

 

 

Up on a knoll toward the edge of her inherited property, Bea Leever sat on the familiar lookout rock, surveying the land they’d named Kerah Farm. The view from this vantage point never grew old.

Off to the west stretched the family’s fields—squat and leafy soybeans; thick, tall corn; and golden-topped wheat rippling in the breeze. Some of the harvest would feed her family and the farmhands, the rest they’d sell.

 

 

Close to the house on the south side, a large garden provided more vegetables, and a dozen hens in the chicken coop produced plenty of eggs.

Beyond the garden stood the orchard of apple, pear, and cherry trees—plenty of fruit for everyone on the farm to enjoy and more produce to sell. To the east, beyond the cow pasture, a large grove of oak and maple trees kept them supplied with fuel for the wood stove.

 

 

And all around the perimeter of Kerah Farm, stout fences and thick hedges provided security.

Yes, from time to time difficulties like storms, drought, and pests presented challenge. And the crops, garden, and animals certainly required much labor, but nothing offered greater satisfaction than watching seedlings become lush crops, blossoms become plentiful fruit, or garden produce become jewel-toned canning jars lined up on shelves.

 

 

Now that Bea Leever had tasted farm life, she would never leave.

Bea remembered the day she first entered the property, and the immediate sense of peace that engulfed her spirit. She’d been so wrapped up in her worries and doubts prior to making the turn at the gate, the complete change of heart surprised Bea. Very soon the farm became her beloved refuge.

 

 

From then on, when fear tried to overtake her, Bea would climb to this rock on the hill and survey the beautiful inheritance bestowed upon her. She praised God for the more-than-adequate provisions offered within the farm’s boundaries, the gratifying work it afforded, and the security within its borders.

In no time, that comforting sense of peace would return.

_______________________________

 

Like Jesus’ parable of the sower in which various types of soil represent various responses to his message, this parable-of-sorts includes various blessings of every believer (“Bea Leever”).

Did you find them, hidden among the imagery?  For example:

Bea inherited the physical blessing of land; we believers inherit the spiritual blessings of God (1).  She enjoyed the provision of crops and animals; we enjoy God’s provision of every need.

 

 

Bea found joy and satisfaction in her work; believers find joy in their work for God and the development of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (2).

She experienced great peace within the security of Kerah Farm; we experience great peace within the shelter of the Almighty (3).

Her life changed forever upon entering the farm gate; believers’ lives are also changed forever upon entering the Gate—Jesus—and into relationship with their Heavenly Father (4).

Just as she often visited the rock on a hill, a place that strengthened her spirit, we also go to our Rock—the Lord Most High–who is perfect and just, faithful and upright.

 

 

Bea thanked her Lord for the blessed life of Kerah* Farm; believers thank him for the blessed and abundant spiritual life Jesus provides (5).

And just as Bea Leever prayed, so do we:

Gracious Father, in spite of challenging events that sometimes overtake us, we thank you for your beautiful and bountiful provision.  We also praise you for your gracious goodness, all manifested in your wonderful deeds. Who, oh Lord, can compare with you?!  

(Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 113:5)

 

 

*Kerah is the ancient Hebrew word for provision.

 

What else might you envision on Bea Leever’s farm that coincides with our lives in God? Share your imaginings in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 16:6 NET Bible; Ephesians 1:3-14
  2. Colossians 3:23-24; Galatians 3:23-24
  3. Psalm 4:8; Psalm 91:1
  4. John 10:9
  5. John 10:10

 

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

 

The Beauty of Becoming

 

Our older son and his family enjoy a large magnolia tree in their backyard. Every spring it explodes into a breath-taking mass of pink and white blossoms, each one at least six inches across.

Unfortunately the dazzling display doesn’t last long. The petals soon fall to the ground, and thick, dark leaves begin to take their place. But when summertime heat arrives the family is grateful for the cool shade of that dense foliage.

 

 

In autumn, as the leaves take their turn to fall, the flower buds for the next spring become more visible. Compared to those on other flowering trees or plants, these are already about two inches tall—even in October. To form them, magnolias take full advantage of the sun’s energy during the summer months (1).

 

 

All winter long, those buds proclaim silent promise of the divine flowers to come. And then in March or April, as the days have lengthened and warmed, the furry buds begin to split open, offering a glimpse of their tightly-spiraled petals—a precursor of the stunning transformation just days away.

 

 

Were we to celebrate the magnolia tree for those few days she’s dressed in her chiffon-pink finery, we’d miss out on the joy of her shady embrace in summer and those hope-filled buds through fall and winter.

There is beauty in the becoming—whether it’s magnolia trees or people.

 

 

If those magnificent buds were capable of emotion, they would no doubt look forward to the glorious reveal in spring. Thankfully, we humans can anticipate our desires being fulfilled. And as God’s children, one of those desires is spiritual maturity–the day when we’ll be wise and self-sacrificing, calm and patient, peaceful and contented–to name a few traits we aspire to.

 

 

But if we’re always focused on the future, we’ll miss the wonder of what God is doing now. The question becomes, what can we celebrate as God carries out his beautification process within us? Here are two categories of possibilities to get us started.

1. Celebrate the moments when the fruit of the Spirit are on display.

For example, over the last few days can you think of occasions when you:

  • Spoke kind words or affirmation to others?
  • Shared the gift of smiles and perhaps laughter?
  • Held your tongue when tempted to argue?

Then you brought a bit of love, joy, and peace to others. Hurray for you!

 

 

2. Take note of the times when biblical truths guide your actions.

Again, review the last few days for such examples as these:

  • You found your mind wandering into negativity, then made an about-face when you remembered your goal to focus on everything excellent (Philippians 4:8).
  • You apologized for speaking harshly to someone, instead of pretending the offensive tone didn’t matter (Ephesians 4:2).

 

 

  • A stunning feature of creation grabbed your attention, and your first thought was to worship God for his incredible handiwork (Psalm 92:4).
  • The moment you recognized God’s protection, provision, or blessing, gratitude welled up in your spirit (Psalm 126:3).

 

Celebrate the growth of a renewed mind, humility, praise, and gratitude. You’ll be reinforcing the behaviors that contribute to your beautiful becoming.

 

 

“Growth, though silent as light

is one of the practical proofs of health.”

–Charles Swindoll (2)

 

Note Swindoll says growth is a proof of health—not perfection.

And when we honor God as the impetus behind the progress, we enliven our faith for the next steps of beautification he has in mind.

 

 

“Little by little

as God’s sanctifying grace works in us,

more territory of our lives becomes his.”

–Herbert Lockyer (3)

 

Right now we’re enduring the long winter of our development, but spring will come.

 

 

“He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus.”

–Philippians 1:6 NIV

(emphasis added)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise You, Almighty God, that as we grow in trust and surrender to you, we will become more like your Son, Jesus Christ. Day by day you are engineering experiences to that end. Thank you also we can enjoy the anticipation of that glorious day, when the beauty of becoming will finally be complete.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/ct-sun-0226-garden-morton-20170221-story.html
  2. The Quest for Character, Multnomah Press,  1987, p. 172.
  3. Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 351.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com (2); http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pikist.com.

 

Get Ferocious!

 

If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

Incontrovertible Truth

(azquotes.com/quote/56292)

 

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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