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Posts Tagged ‘James 1:17’

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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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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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).

 

merry-go-round

 

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.

 

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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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Scripture is full of promises that speak of precious gifts God is willing to give us:

  • Unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39)
  • Overflowing hope (Romans 15:13)
  • Wise guidance (Psalm 32:8)
  • Courageous confidence (Psalm 56:3-4)
  • Compassionate comfort (Psalm 34:18)
  • Peaceful rest (Matthew 11:28-29)

And that’s not a complete list by any means. The question is: Are we willing to receive all these blessings?

Or, are our minds full of:

  • Doubt?

“God may love me in a general sense, but personally? I doubt it. After disappointing him so many times, I don’t deserve his gifts.”

  • Negativity?

“Look at all these challenges in my life. I’m not seeing very many blessings.” 

  • Timidity? 

“That promise can’t be for me, can it?” 

These kinds of thoughts originate with Satan, the father of lies, who’s delighted when we don’t embrace God’s blessings.

For most of us, accepting gifts—even from God–can be more difficult than giving them. Gracious receiving is an art.

So how do we develop the art of receiving? 

  1. Reject those lies of the devil.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can take such thoughts captive and cast them out of our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5). The next step is to…

  1. Fill our minds with uplifting thinking.

“Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Such glorious categories on which to focus! And undoubtedly our hearts will fill with gratitude as we contemplate God’s magnificent gifts.

  1. Practice. 

Any art form—music, writing, painting, etc.—requires practice. So does the art of receiving. God has not chosen to instantaneously transform our attitudes for us. He almost always takes a gradual approach, providing numerous opportunities for practice.

The art of receiving is no different, developing over time through faith and self-discipline. We affirm that God loves and blesses his children—despite our feelings–and discipline our minds to counter doubt, negativity, and fear with trust-statements from his Word.

  1. Spend time in God’s Word. 

The more time we spend reading the Bible, the more scripture-gems we discover that speak of God’s gracious character, his promises, and blessings. And the more we learn, the more we respond, “Thank you, Father, for all the blessings of the abundant, God-enhanced life with you!”

  1. Receive graciously, even enthusiastically, from others. 

Too often, we’re uncomfortable at the receiving end.  We feel embarrassed or unworthy and worry about repaying the favor.

We need to remind ourselves: gracious, enthusiastic receiving is in itself a gift of: 

Affirmation.  Every gift bestowed with good intention is meaningful—whether it’s a compliment, a favor, or an object. Granted, we may feel awkward when complimented, we may not need the favor or desire the object, but the thoughtfulness can be affirmed just the same.

Pleasure.  God has engineered us so that when the receiver expresses pleasure, the giver also experiences pleasure—usually more so.

Gratitude.  Thoughtful gratitude shows honor and esteem for the giver.

So let’s grit our teeth and be gracious receivers!

No, gritting won’t be necessary if we remember: All gifts originate in the heart of our Heavenly Father (James 1:17). He is the One bestowing the blessings, frequently using people as his agents.

Our highest privilege is to bestow pleasure and honor upon God, by passing the praise and gratitude on to him

In doing so, the art of receiving comes full circle.

(Photo credit:  www.familyconnect.org.)

 

 

 

 

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One steamy July afternoon, Steve, Jeremy (our younger son), and I headed to a wedding at our new church. We’d only lived in the community about a month; it was the first nuptials my pastor-husband would perform there.

Jeremy was in college at the time and close to the age of the bride and groom.  He’d already become acquainted with them since our arrival.

The service was simple and relaxed, the gathering intimate. Afterward, a reception was held in the large foyer of the church, providing us an opportunity to visit with members of the congregation.

One young lady chatted with the three of us for quite some time. She laughed easily, and listened well. Her strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, and warm smile added to her charm.

On the way home, I was thinking about our pleasant conversation and said to Jeremy, “I think that cute girl likes you. Otherwise, why would she have talked to us for so long?”

“Oh, Mom.  That would be so weird,” he countered.  “I could never date a girl with the same name as my mother!”

Yes, her name was Nancy. And to make matters worse (as far as Jeremy was concerned) it was Nancy Ann, the same as mine. I had to agree; it was a strange coincidence.

“Besides,” Jeremy continued, “I happen to know she’s dating someone else and, of course, I am going out with Jennifer.”

But guess who broke up? And six or seven months later, Jeremy did ask Nancy out. Eighteen months after that, they were married.

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Now we have two Nancy Ann Rueggs in the family.  And it’s been great fun.

First, we joked through the process of creating different nicknames or titles or something so we both wouldn’t swivel our heads or come running when our name was called at family gatherings. We rejected Junior/Senior, the Younger/the Older, and derivatives such as Nanny. We didn’t care for Nancy One and Nancy Two either.

But the bride from the wedding, where we met our daughter-in-law, came up with a clever idea. Nancy could add “2.0” (Two-Point-Oh) to her name, in honor of the graphics design degree she had just earned. The added humor of “Point-Oh” made the nickname acceptable. We didn’t use it often, but it helped in a pinch.

The problem resolved itself when our first granddaughter was born, and I became Nana. Now that derivative I like!

The year after Jeremy and Nancy were married, our daughter, Heather, and her husband, Tim, were married. Steve, Jeremy, Nancy and I flew out to Washington State together for the wedding. The double take on the face of the baggage handler was quite entertaining as he processed one ticket, and then another with the same name. He got a chuckle out of our unique situation.

And then there were the years while we were still members of the same church that Nancy and I would receive cards on each other’s birthdays. No harm done; we’d pass them along to each other with a hug and a giggle.

Now I tell that story because: number one, I love to tell it. The fact Jeremy was so adamant he could never date Nancy, and now she’s his wife, tickles me every time I think about it.

Number two: It’s proof that God does indeed have a sense of humor. He’s not some stern, sullen Being whose supreme pleasure is punishing people or making life difficult.

No.

He’s the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)—gifts like a sweet daughter-in-law*, a uniquely fun situation, and a humorous story to tell.

Truth is: God designed us to take delight in him, to enjoy his gifts, and even find amusement in those gifts (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

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Thank you, God, for creating humor, and giving us the ability to appreciate the ludicrous, the amusing, the play on words. Thank you, too, for the gift of laughter. I love how a chuckle-inducing story makes us feel good and brings teller and listener together with bonds of understanding. Finally and most important, thank you for coming alongside and augmenting the joy of humor, because “in your presence there is fullness of joy.”

(Proverbs 17:22, Psalm 16:11)

*Actually we have two sweet daughters-in-law, and a delightful son-in-law as well.

(Photo credits:  www.weddingsontheamalficoast.com; Nancy Ruegg, biblepic.com.)

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desert

 

Last Thursday we pondered these promises from Isaiah 58:11:

 “The Lord will guide you always,” and

“He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.”

 Today, more discoveries and encouragement await as we meditate upon the last two promises:

  • “[He] will strengthen your frame.”
  • “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Do you long for strength within your frame, that is, inner strength? Perhaps you’re moving as fast as you can, but never quite reaching the end of the to-do list. And you’re bone-weary from the effort.

Perhaps the stresses of life—difficult relationships, a high-pressure job, financial obligations—are squeezing in hard.

Perhaps boredom or depression surround you in a gray shroud, and you haven’t the energy to fight against them.

“He will strengthen your frame.”

But God doesn’t wave a magic wand over us and suddenly turn weakness into strength. Usually he invites us to be part of the process.   And his solutions are radical.

For example, celebrate anything and everything (Philippians 4:4).

 

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Take joy in:

  • Your cozy robe to ward off the morning chill.
  • That cute tuft of hair sticking up on your toddler’s head.
  • A parking place opening up when and where you need it.
  • Licking the stamp just as the mail carrier pulls up in her truck.
  • An earring lost last week turns up between the counter and stove this week.

You see, joy and strength are closely related. Ezra told the people of Israel, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Those five examples above, and thousands like them, are gifts from your Heavenly Father. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

In the same way we can build up physical strength with exercise, we can build up spiritual strength with praise—by expressing gratitude and joy for every good and perfect gift.

And now, the last promise of this verse describes in metaphor the result of living according to God’s design.

“You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Visualize a flourishing garden, with rich, green plants overflowing with healthy, ripe produce.

Those can be descriptors of you and me.  We are:

  • Rich in God’s grace, which he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:8).
  • Green and flourishing, because we spend time with the Master Gardener and allow him to cultivate our spirits (Psalm 1:2-3).
  • Healthy and prosperous of soul (v. 3). As we soak up God’s Word, we’ll produce actions and attitudes that honor God and bring us inner satisfaction.
  • Ripe and mature, lacking in nothing (James 1:3).

God offers us “a continual source of thirst-quenching, drought-ending, fruit-producing, spiritual hydration” (James MacDonald).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing?  Who could turn down such provision?

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for the precious assurances of these promises: 

  • You are leading me along the path you preordained before time began.
  • Every day of this earthly journey I can count on you to supply my needs.
  • Every day you provide fresh strength. One way is through the exercise of praise.  
  • As I spend time in your presence, I will be transformed–like a garden replenished by hydration. In fact, I can grow into your likeness with ever-increasing glory!

 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too lofty for me to attain.” Yet I know it to be true because these are truths from your reliable Word.  My heart overflows with wonder and gratitude.

(Psalm 139:16; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 139:6)

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.anativegarden.blogspot.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.naturalearning.org.)

 

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