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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Blessings’

(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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It was a grand summer evening to be at the park. Not too hot, not too crowded. Mom, Dad, my grandparents, baby brother and I were just finishing a picnic supper. Through the trees a nearby vacant swing beckoned.

Come ride with me! We’ll fly up to the sky!

I had just learned how to pump and was anxious to try my new powers on the ten-story park swings. (OK, they weren’t that tall. But compared to most playground swings, these were colossal.)

No sooner were the last bites of hot dog and potato salad consumed, than Mom and Dad said it was time to pack up; we needed to leave.

“But I want to go on the swings,” I protested.

“We’ve got something better planned,” Mom replied.

What could be better than flying up to the sky?

Reluctantly I climbed into the back seat of the car. Dad stowed the picnic paraphernalia in the trunk, and drove us through city streets to the countryside where fields of corn stretched to the horizon.

 

 

And then, miracle of miracles, Dad turned into the parking lot of…

…Kiddie Land!

Some clever farmer had carved out a corner of his field and installed a number of carnival rides: a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, kid-sized motorized tractors, small boats that rotated in a large tub, and more.

 

(Another visit the following year,

when my brother, John, was old enough to join in the fun.)

 

We had passed this Kiddie Land at least several times on our way to visit my great-aunt and her large family. And though I would beg to stop, we never had time.

“Not today, Honey,” they’d say. “We have to get to Aunt Hester’s.

That summer evening, however, turned out to be the occasion of my first visit, and in a cloud of euphoria I flew up to the sky on the Ferris wheel instead of an old playground swing.

 

 

My plans for the evening didn’t begin to compare to what Mom, Dad, and my grandparents had in store for me.

Someone else also designs delightful plans that far exceed my child-sized ideas. My Heavenly Father.

One experience on top of another begins to construct a good foundation of things already seen, so I can trust him for what is not seen. (A number of previous posts have highlighted some foundational experiences. See: “After the Fact,” “Progress,” and “The Greater Plan.”)

The psalmist, Asaph, knew about this foundation for faith and built one of his own. “I will meditate on all your works,” he declared, “and consider all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12). He affirmed there is no god as great, who performs miracles and displays his power among us all (vs. 13-14).

 

 

Ah, but what about the potential for trouble or pain in the not seen of the future? Even then, God will produce good effect (Romans 8:28). And a bedrock foundation of trust will provide the necessary fortitude to endure, even thrive.

With Job we’ll be able to say, “Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).

I have no idea what God is planning for tomorrow, next week, or next year. But just as my parents set a reliable example of parental care and blessing, so has my Heavenly Father–only infinitely more so. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17), and they are plentiful.

I have seen enough evidence to know I can trust his all-knowing, all-wise, all-sufficient ways. Especially because all he does is motivated by perfect love.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

 

Thank you, Lord of Joy, for every good and perfect gift you bestow, many of which exceed our expectations. We delight to see your creativity and marvel at your generosity. Day after day you pour forth your blessings, building a strong foundation of experiential evidence. And each blessing demonstrates your compassion, grace, patience and love.

“Your righteousness reaches up to the skies, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?”

 (Psalm 103:2-5, 8; 71:19)

 

 

What great things has God performed in your life that have built your foundation of faith?  Please share an experience or two in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.nps.gov; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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While waiting for the coffee to brew Monday morning, I peeked out the kitchen curtains. To the east, a glowing red band rimmed the horizon. Slightly to the west, a clear, dark sky provided backdrop for a gleaming crescent moon.

 

 

Thank you, Father, I prayed, for prompting me to look out the window just now. Your handiwork never ceases to thrill me.

I wondered what further delights God might present as the day progressed? I decided to begin a list, just for the fun of seeing how many moments I could record. The glowing horizon and bright crescent moon became #1.

#2.  A completed workout.   Thank you, Lord, for helping me eat a live frog–yet again!  (Yes, that’s a perfectly logical prayer for those who know what Mark Twain said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” For me, exercising is about as distasteful as eating a live frog!)

Moments later, as a bowl of oatmeal spun slow circles inside the microwave, I chose to window-gaze again. This time a squirrel caught my attention as he scampered along a treetop branch, then leapt across a wide chasm to the next tree.

 

 

How do squirrels jump like that without falling? Such astounding abilities you’ve given some of your creatures, Lord.  

#3 became:   A gravity-defying squirrel.

#4.   Oatmeal—with cinnamon, berries, walnuts, and milk. Thank you, Father, for the endless combinations of ingredients we can put together to make our taste buds happy! 

#5.   Coffee.  The most exquisite flavor to start the morning.

 

 

I was on a roll now as the praiseworthy moments continued:

#6.   A dropped contact found.

#7.   Sunshine pouring through the windows.

#8.   The drive to our son’s house along the edge of Mount Airy Forest. Spring is in evidence: bright green undergrowth portends the imminent leafing of trees.

 

 

#9.   Clear, rain-washed air–fresh and crisp. Just breathing is a supreme pleasure.

#10. Holding four-year old Elena’s soft little hand as we climb the stairs together.

#11.  Snuggling two-month old Maarit on my shoulder while taking her on another slow, bouncy tour of the living/dining, and kitchen area. Her bright eyes seem to study every object, any sign of movement, every play of light.

#12.  Reveling in Maarit’s smiles, each one a delightful surprise.

#13.  Making her laugh for the first time.

#14.  Watching Elena complete a 48-piece puzzle, with very little help.

#15.  Catching one of Maarit’s smiles on camera–well, almost.

 

 

#16.  Listening to a symphony of birds upon arrival home, as I walked from car to house.

#17.  Soaking up the warmth of sunshine on the deck while reading my Bible and journaling a bit.

#18.  Enjoying a refreshing salad, all the more delicious because Steve made it.

 

 

#19.  Receiving blessing and challenge while reading posts from bloggers I follow.  (See the list in the right column!)

#20. Resting with a pleasurable book.

 

    *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

It may not be practical to record such moments every day, but I can see great benefit from keeping a list now and then.

It’s grateful eyes that get to see God’s goodness and glory everywhere–all day long.

 

 

(“It is good to praise the Lord…

…to proclaim your love in the morning

and your faithfulness at night…

…For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord,

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

–Psalm 92:1-2, 4)

 

What commonplace moment brings you uncommon joy? Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.farm7.staticflickr.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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“Let all that I am praise the LORD;

with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name…

may I never forget the good things he does for me.”

–Psalm 103:1-2 NLT

 

So begins Psalm 103 (one of my favorites), written by David the Shepherd-King.

I imagine him–seated at a large table, a blank parchment spread before him, and a sharpened reed in his hand. Close by sits a small pot half-filled with a mixture of soot, gum, and water–his ink.

David’s gaze drifts to the view of Jerusalem outside the palace window. His thoughts carry him back in time to the hillsides of Bethlehem, just a few miles away. There he had tended his father’s sheep as a boy. But oh, the wonders God had performed during the years since. The humble shepherd boy became a giant killer, then a fugitive from jealous King Saul, a courageous warrior against Israel’s enemies, and finally after many years, the crowned king of Israel.

I can sense his heart filling with gratitude and praise, his eyes filling with tears as he considers all the “benefits” God has bestowed.

And David begins to write, extolling the Lord for his forgiveness, redemption, love, goodness, and more (vs. 3-6).

 

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His pen needs more ink. As he dips the reed, David’s gaze is once again drawn to the window. He begins to contemplate God’s goodness expressed to his countrymen long ago:

 

“He revealed His ways to Moses,

His deeds to the people of Israel” — v. 7, HCSB.

 

Through the laws outlining his ways, God had revealed his holy character. Through his miraculous deeds God revealed his power, faithfulness and…

…David’s mind shifts to the days when the Hebrews were brought out of slavery in Egypt and led back to the land of their father, Abraham. How compassionate God was.

David marvels at the provisions God engineered, so his people could escape: the gold, silver, and clothing Egyptians gave them as they prepared to flee (Exodus 12:35-36); the food and water necessary for survival (chapters 16 & 17).

 

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David recollects God’s patience with the Israelites—grumbly and rebellious as they were (Numbers 14:18).

And David contemplates God’s love (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)—caring and protective—in spite of the Israelites’ ingratitude and disobedience.

David picks up his reed once more and continues to write:

 

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(“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger and rich in faithful love — v. 8, HCSB.)

 

Those words beg the question: When have I experienced God’s benefits of compassion and grace, patience and faithful love?

A few examples follow:

 

  • The Lord is compassionate.

Time and again God has tended our family through the loving kindness of friends—friends who have prayed with us in the midst of trauma and who have provided for our needs (like a place to stay, furniture, a contribution to our children’s college funds—the list is very long!).  God has benefited us with numerous blessings—even a car one time.

 

  • The Lord is gracious.

He cares about all our concerns, big and small. 

This past winter I lost a scarf at the local bookstore. It wasn’t an expensive one, just soft and warm, the perfect size. A thorough check through the aisles and an inquiry at the information booth proved futile.

A couple of weeks later I returned to the same shop. Although I doubted the scarf would turn up (After all, my search two weeks prior had been very thorough.), I decided to ask again. Sure enough, the girl behind the counter produced my scarf.

 

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  • The Lord is slow to anger.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to know Jesus my entire life. But I still suffer from bouts of sin—sins like fretting, negativity, lack of faith, low self-esteem, pride, selfishness…must I go on?!

Yet he patiently forgives me and removes my offenses as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He even understands my frailties (v. 14). How gloriously comforting is that?

 

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  • The Lord is rich in faithful love.

Every day, with his provision, protection, and presence, guidance, goodness, and gifts, God expresses his unwavering love for us.

And with David, my heart overflows.

You, too?

 

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(“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being,

praise his holy name” — v. 1, NIV).

 

How has God demonstrated his compassion, grace, patience and love in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (2), http://www.lds.org; http://www.pinterest.com;  www.poshmark.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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No doubt many of you know the name, Jan Karon. She’s the author of the Mitford series, named after the fictional village tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains where most of her compelling stories take place. Within the pages of these thirteen books live Father Tim, an Episcopal priest, and a delightful cast of eccentric, endearing characters.

One of Mitford’s residents is Dooley, a foster child who is eventually adopted and the recipient of God’s generous, providential care.

In volume #11 of the series, In the Company of Others, Ms. Karon writes of Dooley: “While most people understandably took family for granted, he took it for grace.”

Isn’t that a wonderful quote? I copied it down with the thought, I want to be like Dooley and take all gifts for grace—never for granted.

Gifts such as:

  • A praise song that causes my heart to overflow in joyful, reverential tears.
  • A word of instruction or encouragement that speaks to a need in my life with uncanny accuracy.

 

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  • Participation with God in his creation–even if it’s just in the yard.  Gardening offers great pleasure and a sense of his presence in the beauty of leaf and flower; the concert of bird song as I putter; the aroma of soil, grass, and blooms; the delicate softness of petals–all gracious gifts of my Heavenly Father.
  • Holy beauty in a writer’s words (even in a secular work)–words like: “Lingering as long as it could, sunset’s sad joy filmed over the day with a delicate blush…” (Susan Vreeland, Lisette’s List, 355).

To “take all gifts for grace” can produce ethereal joy.  For a moment we experience the transcendent, as if the veil between heaven and earth is parted ever so slightly, and a single beam of God’s shimmering glory pierces through the dullness. Suddenly we’re basking in the warm euphoria of his presence.

We never want the moment to end. But inevitably the splendor begins to fade and we’re left reeling like Jacob—as though we’d been transported to the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:17).

 

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And we’re anxious to repeat the experience.

Is it wrong to desire frequent glimpses of God’s glory?

I don’t think so. Yes, on the one hand we’d be misguided to try and evoke such moments (“Come on, tears! FLOW!”). On the other hand, surely God wants us to live aware, alert to receive those gifts of grace when he sees fit to grant them.

Like Micah, the prophet, we can affirm:

 

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(“As for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,

I wait for God my Savior.”

–Micah 7:7, NIV)

 

Surely watchfulness is part of seeking—seeking to know him more intimately, to experience him more profoundly (Jeremiah 29:13).

 

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And as we grow in our awareness of these glory-infused moments, we begin to realize how often they really do occur.

Just in creation alone we:

  • See him in the towering mountains and trees, the powerful oceans and rivers. There is glory in the grandeur.
  • Hear him in a pounding waterfall and crashing thunderstorm. There is glory in the power.
  • Feel him in a soft breeze and gentle rain. There is glory in the whisper.
  • Take in his aroma from the pungent pine tree and sweet honeysuckle vine. There is glory in the refreshing.

 

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In fact, his glorious gifts of grace are all around us.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, oh God, for the gracious display of your splendor throughout each day. You fill my heart with wonder and joy every time I catch a glimpse of your glory—from an early morning bird chorus to a liturgical dance performed by children, from the encouraging word of a friend to the warm welcome of strangers. I praise you that your gifts of grace are bestowed with such delightful creativity! May I never take them for granted.

 

What gift of grace has filled your heart with euphoric gratitude lately?  Tell us about it in the Comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.goodreads.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.doityourself.com.)

 

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In a list of meaningful but “minor impressions,” beloved columnist/author, Joe Bayly, wrote the following for Saturday, July 28, 1962:

“Rode the merry-go-round tonight with happy David and worried Nathan, while Mary Lou looked on and waved each time we passed. Timmy kept up with us, running, for three times around”(1).

 

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And then Joe included this familiar scripture:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17–NIV, emphasis added).

That means everything good in this world comes from God—even a delightful ride on a merry-go-round.

Sometimes, however, the goodness of God’s gifts isn’t immediately recognizable.

Scripture offers a number of examples, such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh. The exact nature of the problem was never revealed, but we do know it was chronic and debilitating. Who would call that a good and perfect gift?

Paul did.

“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift,” he said.

Then God told him, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.”

 

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“Once I heard that,” Paul explained, “I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” (vs. 7-10, The Message).

I, for one, have never had to deal with a long-term thorn in the flesh. But difficult, shorter-term circumstances have turned into tremendous blessings. For example:

  • A particularly exhausting week of teaching, family responsibilities, and other pressing matters was followed up by a weekend music retreat at church. How could I muster the energy to attend and complete a long must-do-by-Monday list? While visions of PJs and pillows danced in my head, I dragged myself to church. But through the funny and inspiring retreat leader, the uplifting music, and the invigorating camaraderie of music ministry friends, I left Friday evening highly rejuvenated, looking forward to more blessings come Saturday and Sunday.
  • Our son was not accepted into his first choices of graduate schools, and we wondered what God was doing. Was Eric proceeding in the right direction? Those trying days, however, turned into lessons of trust and spiritual maturity for him, which he humbly took to heart. As for the university that did accept him? That’s where Eric met his wife.
  • Into every life a few challenging people must fall, right? And with them often come discouragement, stress, and hurt. Where’s the blessing in all that? For starters, God uses such relationships to train us in turning our thoughts to the positive (Philippians 4:8), so we can experience renewal and peace. We also develop perseverance and maturity (James 1:2-4)—traits that lead to a calm and steady life anchored on Jesus.

God gives only good and perfect gifts. Sometimes they come as small but delightful surprises—like a perfect merry-go-round moment.

Sometimes they come wrapped inside trying circumstances.

But those are some of his best gifts–when negative is transformed into positive.

Because that’s downright miraculous.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Have you ever received a good and perfect gift out of difficult circumstances?  Tell us your story in the comments below.

 

(1) Joe Bayly, Out of My Mind:  The Best of Joe Bayly, Zondervan, 1993, p. 41.

 

(Photo credit:  www.elcivics.com, http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

 

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(Reblogged from May 30, 2013)

 

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I placed my Diet Coke on a nearby table and settled into one of the front porch rockers. The book I had brought with me remained closed on my lap. Instead of reading, I gazed at tall pines, listened to birds chirping good-night to each other, and breathed in cool mountain air.

What a stark contrast to home, I thought. My husband, two sons, and I had escaped the oppressive summer heat of our Florida home, and were vacationing in a North Carolina rental cabin.

Not long after settling, I noticed an enormous Luna moth perched on the porch railing. He appeared to be sleeping soundly. His shapely sea-foam wings stretched out primly, in a perfect display of shimmering symmetry. Not even an antenna moved.

 

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In the sweet idleness of that moment, I had time to wonder:

When do you suppose moths wake up? Is it at dusk, or does it have to be completely dark? And what will be the first part to move? Will his wings flutter a bit in warm-up? Or will those long antennae flicker, checking his surroundings before he ventures into the night?

My knowledge of Luna moths was sorely lacking.

I made strong attempts to read my book, but kept distracting myself for updates on that moth–especially as the sun dipped lower in the sky and shadows deepened.

Eric, our older son, came out on the porch. He stood with hands in pockets, watching the sunset. “What’s up, Mom?”

“This is going to sound silly,” I began, “but see that moth over there? I’ve gotten curious about when they wake up. Is it at dusk or only when it’s completely dark? And as if that isn’t enough, I’m wondering what part of him will wake up first. Do you suppose it will be his antennae that move first, or maybe his wings?”

Eric chuckled slightly—not sarcastically, but in good humor that once again his mother’s curiosity was taking an interesting turn. I thought he’d turn and go back inside the cabin. To my delightful surprise, he chose to sit in the rocker next to me.

 

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Together we kept vigil over that moth as the sunlight diminished to an apricot glow on the horizon, and the landscape turned dark gray. Still that moth did not move. And soon we were enveloped by the night.

Suddenly, with barely a testing of his wings, the majestic moth was off the railing and fluttering away. Eric and I barely had time to say, “Oh! There he goes!” before the moth disappeared into the darkness.

We sat quietly for a few moments longer, listening to the crickets chirping cheerfully. With a contented sigh I reveled in the moment: the cool, peaceful surroundings and my satisfied curiosity. Most of all I savored that Eric had chosen to share with me this rather inconsequential moment.

 

I am new to shooting at night but one of the things I loved about shooting at night in the forest is how camp fires light up the trees. The orange glow on these trees is from a camp fire about 200 meters away.

Just a few years earlier, if I had asked Eric to sit with me and watch a moth, he would have said, “BOR-ING!” and loped off to other pursuits. But that year he was twenty-four. We were starting to relate to one another differently, share more common interests, and communicate on a similar level. Eric was still my son, but he was also becoming a friend.

‘Reminds me a bit of what our Heavenly Father offers. As we mature in him, our relationship grows into a loving, familial friendship, characterized by common interests and heart-to-heart communication. But such a relationship develops only as we spend time with him and his word.

Those who say, “Time with God is BOR-ING!” and lope off to other pursuits are missing out.

On what, you ask?

• The joy of His presence (Psalm 16:11)
• The goodness he bestows (Psalm 31:19)
• His strength (Psalm 138:2-3)
• Rest, in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)
• Perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *

Such precious gifts, Father: joy, goodness, strength, rest, and peace. I praise you with all my heart for being a God who pursues a warm, loving relationship with his children. May I seek your face in return. Always.

 

(Photo credits:  www.wallpaperfo.com; http://www.corlinanature.com; http://www.dcr.virginia.gov; James Wheeler.)

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