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Posts Tagged ‘Meditation’

 

It’s been said, St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the love of Christ until he caught the glow of His Spirit, which he went about radiating (1).

The operative word for me is contemplated, which means to look at pensively, to ponder or consider thoughtfully, to meditate on.

In St. Francis’ case, he chose to thoughtfully consider a simple subject: the love of Christ.

And the result was quite astounding. Francis glowed with the Spirit—so profoundly that others took note of his radiance.

By contrast, it stands to reason that worry and unrest are the direct result of misdirected or insufficient contemplation. In addition, no one can glow with the Spirit if thoughts of discontentment predominate.

For some, the love of Christ might seem too simple a subject and difficult to contemplate for very long. But if we challenge ourselves to scan the New Testament, we’ll discover many worthy thoughts to ponder about Jesus’ love.  Thoughts such as these:

First, his love for humanity compelled him to leave the perfection of heaven for a life of poverty on earth. Ultimately, he laid down his life so that we might become children of God and heirs of his immeasurable, heavenly riches (2).

 

 

While here on earth, Jesus made it clear he loves everyone, including:

  • Those whom others ignore, like blind beggars and penniless widows (3)
  • Those considered unimportant, like children (4)
  • Those whose sin tends to be concealed beneath the surface, like the rich young ruler (5)
  • Those no one else will go near, like lepers with ulcerated and decaying flesh (6)
  • Those who make mistakes, misunderstand truth, and bicker among themselves—like Jesus’ disciples (7)
  • Those who commit crimes, like the thief crucified with Jesus (8)
  • Even those who would try to kill him (9)

 

 

His love compels him to:

  • Seek after those who stray, never giving up until each one is safely home  (10)
  • Knock gently but persistently at the doors of our hearts, because he dearly wants us to enjoy fellowship with him (11)
  • Offer God-enhanced, blessing-abundant living now, with eternity in heaven to come (12)

 

 

Because he love us, Jesus wants to:

  • Draw us into his protective care, like a hen gathers her chicks (13)
  • Enjoy our company forever (14)
  • Reveal himself to us (15)—not in physical form (just yet!), but in the evidence of his loving kindness, righteousness, power and glory.
  • Protect us from fear by teaching us how to let peace stand guard over our hearts (16)
  • Fill us with all the fullness of God–his perfect attributes, generous blessings, and hope-saturated promises (17)

 

 

Nothing we say, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us can separate us from the love of Christ (18).

And “we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement of his unspeakable love” (19).

No wonder St. Francis glowed.

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *   *

We do stand in awe, Lord Jesus, of the sweeping landscape of your love as revealed in scripture. And just as St. Francis of Assisi practiced careful contemplation centuries ago, may we continually ponder the expanse of your love—its breadth, length, height and depth.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Ralph W. Sockman, The Higher Happiness
  2. 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:7
  3. Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 8:16
  4. Mark 10:13-16
  5. Mark 10:21
  6. Matthew 8:3
  7. Acts 1:6; Mark 8:14-21; Luke 9:46
  8. Luke 23:39-43
  9. Luke 23:34
  10. Matthew 18:11-13
  11. Revelation 3:20
  12. John 10:10; 3:16
  13. Matthew 23:37
  14. John 14:3
  15. John 14:21
  16. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-7
  17. Ephesians 3:19
  18. Romans 8:35-38
  19. John Owen (1616-1683), English theologian

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

What contemplation of Jesus’ love makes your heart glow?  Share your thoughts in the Comment section below!

 

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 (Photo from http://www.trulia.com.)

“There it is, Mom, “ Steve remarked, as he pointed to a little white house in the middle of a city block. “That’s where we lived when I was growing up.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied. But did Mom really remember?

We were on an excursion through Columbus, Ohio, taking Steve’s mother past the landmarks of her life. Alzheimer’s disease had already stolen away much of her vibrancy and warmth, and, of course, her memory.

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Steve drove by West High School and continued his commentary. “That’s where we all went to school, you, Dad, Karen, and me. You were the very first homecoming queen.  How about that?  No wonder Dad asked you out.”

She murmured assent to Steve’s comments, but added nothing of her own.

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We drove past the brick ranch they built out in the country in 1966. Horses used to reside beyond the back fence. Just a few houses had dotted the area back then. By this time, however, they had been swallowed up by dozens more. The saplings Mom and Dad had planted were now tall shade trees.  And the glorious flower beds and window boxes that Mom had tended were gone. She registered no recollection.

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But when we approached her childhood home, a white Dutch Colonial on a quiet street, all of a sudden she perked up.  Pointing to a second-story window, Mom stated firmly, “That was my room, right up there.”

In the midst of the fog that is Alzheimer’s, one memory–one glimmer of light–shone through that morning. Steve and I almost gasped at the wonder of the moment. Mom remembered!

And the rarity of her memories pointed to the preciousness of this ability. Memory is a gift to be treasured. The older I grow, the more I appreciate the miraculous power of the brain to store millions of memories—with astounding detail–and yet access a particular one in a mille-second.

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Not only do sights trigger memories, but also smells. Researchers say this sense is the most powerful memory-inducer. For me, the aroma of fresh-baked bread always takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Sounds trigger memories as well—particularly music. Tastes and textures work the same phenomenon.

But surely God had more purpose in mind for giving us memory than the pleasant pastime of reminiscing.

Indeed.

Memories foster gratitude, as we contemplate God’s goodness to us in the past:

  • His countless blessings (even when we haven’t been a blessing to him).
  • Those times he led us through the shadow of death, so that we might experience more completely the glory of his light.
  • Moments when we almost gave up hope, and God surprised us with his creative, abundant provision.
  • Leaving behind what we once were and celebrating what we have become, solely because of his Son, Jesus.

Memories foster faith, as we remember how God has met our needs in the past. See if each phrase from Psalm 103 doesn’t trigger a memory in your mind, and a song of praise in your heart:

“Oh, my soul, bless God,

Don’t forget a single blessing!

He forgives your sins—every one.

He heals your diseases—every one.

He redeems you from hell—saves your life!

He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.

He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal…

…God makes everything come out right.

He puts victims back on their feet…

…God is sheer mercy and grace;

Not easily angered, he’s rich in love.

He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,

Nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.

(Psalm 103:2-10, The Message)

Memories inform the present and provide hope for the future. As we meditate on all those times God has wrapped us in his goodness (v. 5), we are strengthened for what we face today. As we consider the many times he made everything come out right (v. 6), we can trust he will continue to make our paths straight.

Of course, there are some memories we would like to erase—those that generate sadness, hurt, or regret. How do we deal with those? Here are a few suggestions I’ve collected over the years:

  1. We must resist self-pity—even in our thought life. Nowhere in scripture do we read that rehashing the negative is therapeutic. God’s way is to focus on the positive (Philippians 4:8).

Phil-4-8

 

  1. We can follow Paul’s example. He forgot what was in his past and pressed on to what lay ahead (Philippians 3:13). Not that amnesia had set in. Paul simply did not allow past failures to cripple his relationship with God and his service for God. God had forgiven and forgotten; Paul did too. No doubt he applied Philippians 4:8, not only to self-pity, but also to guilt. 
  1. We can leave the past in God’s hands. Oswald Chambers said it so well:

 c6d7d32bbdc18d2507a48f8aefa26359

(“Leave the irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him”

–My Utmost for His Highest, Dec. 31.)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *    

Father, I do thank you for the gift of memories—the ability to remember with joy and appreciation the people, places, and experiences of the past. I even thank you for the not-so-good memories, knowing that you use every difficult situation for the development of my maturity (James 1:2-3). And may I take advantage of the wisdom gained in the past to guide me in the present, and lead me into the Irresistible Future with you.

 

Art & Photo credits:  www.trulia.com; http://www.westhighalumni.com; Steve’s photo collection; http://www.allrecipes.com; http://www.god.com; http://www.pinterest.com.

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(“You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!  I sing for joy because of what you have done” — Psalm 92:4 NLT.)

God lavishes his gracious kindness upon us in countless ways, doesn’t he?

In appreciation for all he’s done, I have a suggestion. Let’s each write him a personal psalm for Valentine’s Day.  A love gift, on a love-focused holiday, for our loving God.  (You have more than a week to prepare your gift!)

Is that an overly sentimental idea?

Perhaps the timing is, but the matter of creating personal psalms has nothing to do with sentimental poetry.

I can hear some of you already. “Me—compose a psalm? I struggle to put a personal message on a birthday card!”

If that sounds like you, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you” (Joshua 1:9)!

God waits with eager anticipation for you to enjoy an intimate Father/child relationship with him (2 Corinthians 6:18).

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 And what parent is not overjoyed when a son or daughter shares his/her innermost thoughts and feelings?

Remember, a psalm is simply a heartfelt prayer or song.  Key word: heartfelt.  Our psalms do not have to rhyme. We don’t have to use fancy literary devices like metaphors, imagery, or parallelism unless we want to.

These psalms are for our Heavenly Father.  He takes great pleasure in the sincere, unpretentious efforts of his children, just as all parents do.  We can even ask for his help to string the words together that will express our hearts.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting started—that first thought. An easy solution is to use a biblical psalm as a model.

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To begin, you might choose a favorite verse. Read it slowly, several times. Rewrite it in your own words.  These questions might help to push your thinking further:

  • Is there a phrase or word that stands out?   Explain to God why it is important to you.
  • Do you feel a connection with this particular verse?  Add a personal experience when God’s activity in your life made this verse especially meaningful for you.

Following is one way to create a personal psalm, based on Psalm 3:3a: “You are a shield around me, O Lord.”

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1.  Choose a key word.  “Shield” is an obvious choice.

2.  Use the question-words who, what, where, when, why, and how to jump-start your thought processes.  Not all of them will spark an idea, but several will.  For example:  How is God a shield for me? What is he shielding me from? Why is it important for me to remember that he is my shield?

3.  Prayerfully and thoughtfully answer your questions. Meditate for a moment, then begin to write. One word can become the basis for the first sentence. A word or idea from that sentence can be expanded upon and become another sentence.

Before you know it, a psalm is born!

 

I praise you, oh God, for being like a shield

when disturbing thoughts are hurled my way.

You deflect those poisoned-arrows

with your shield of scriptural truth

and tender compassion.

Help me remember

you are all-powerful and all-wise.

There is no circumstance or emotional battle

that you cannot handle.

Your strong shield protects me

from the assault of Satan and his cohorts—

those negative, discouraging thoughts

that try to attack the peace and joy you’ve given me.

You are my almighty Warrior-God,

unsurpassed in power.

Satan cowers in your presence!

Help me avail myself of your protection

at every onslaught.

 

Once your psalm is complete, it’s time for presentation.  Read your psalm out loud to God. You will sense his presence as he comes to listen! How do I know?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(“Come near to God and he will come near to you” — James 4:8.)

Keep your journal or notebook handy. Further thoughts may occur to you as you read, or afterward as you reflect. One more question to consider: In what ways has your relationship to God been impacted through this composing process?  You may wish to write about that, too.

I must confess, I’ve written a number of personal psalms. But recent reading on the subject has inspired me to pursue new avenues of this form of worship.

In future psalms I want to increase my reflection time, be more specific, add more detail, and actually read my psalms out loud.  I’m looking forward to expressing the depths of my heart more openly and discovering new depths of my Heavenly Father.

If you already write personal psalms, or should decide to write one, I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.healthcentral.com; http://www.dwellingintheword.wordpress.com.)

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“Advent:

the time to listen for footsteps –

you can’t hear footsteps

when
 you’re running yourself.”

Bill McKibben

 

Are you caught up in the Holiday Hurry yet? I’m talking about the decorating–baking– card-writing—shopping—wrapping—parties—rehearsals—event-participation and attendance. No doubt I omitted a few items on your list.

Perhaps you’re craving a bit of quiet this Christmas. Time to enjoy the presence of your Savior. Time to reflect on Bethlehem blessings—those gifts we enjoy as a result of Christ’s advent into the world.

But how can we stop running long enough to hear our Savior’s footsteps? How can we avail ourselves of his peace and strength when our days are doubly-busy?

May I recommend the devotional book, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room (Barbour Publishing, 2014), by my good blogger-friend, Jean Wise?

First, the soft, leather-like cover is a pleasure to hold. The thick, gilded pages are a delight to turn. And the subtle, star-studded border on each page adds beauty to the text.

Jean has provided four weeks of quieting devotionals, offering a perfect start for each day. Each week has its own theme: 1) Preparation, 2) Pause, 3) Ponder, and 4) Promise.

Each reading includes a brief devotional, appropriate scriptures, well-chosen quotes, suggestions for a more meaningful Advent season, and a closing prayer.

I’ve just begun reading and internalizing this book myself. But already my spirit has been calmed by Jean’s soothing words. For example:

“We drink in His presence and linger in His light for warmth and nourishment. We quench our thirst at His well” (p. 27).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing and rejuvenating? So “take a deep breath and enjoy the journey,” Jean recommends. Embrace moments of stillness, thank God for the gift of His Son, express gratitude, and rest.

Jean also provides gentle challenge. She well knows the tyranny of the to-do list at this time of year. A pointed question steers our focus in the right direction:

“What are we clinging to so tightly we can’t reach out to God” (p. 16)?

And then there are those readings where God’s wisdom flows through Jean’s words.

In the devotional entitled, “Advent Assignments,” she reminds us that our role in the Christmas season is not to be the perfect hostess or flawless decorator, and not to portray the ideal family.

“Preparing our hearts for the Lord implies knowing our boundaries and acknowledging our limitations…Focus on the manger in the center of the stage of our hearts (p. 32).”

Each day Jean encourages me to “reduce the clutter.” Her words bring me to the center of the stage of my heart, to “spend less time on busy work and more time with God” (p. 12).

Time to reflect. Time to listen. Time to savor the presence of my Savior.

Won’t you join me?

(You may order the book on http://www.barnesandnoble.com or purchase at a Family Christian bookstore and at Christian Book Distributors.) 

 

 

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blog-prayer-woman

 

How would you finish this prayer: 

“Oh, Lord, what I need most right now is ____________________.”

What word would you put in the blank?

Guidance?

Provision?

Strength?

Purpose?

One glorious Bible verse tucked into Isaiah presents four comforting promises that cover each of those needs:

 

Isaiah58.11 

“The Lord will guide you always;

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

And will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

Like a spring whose waters never fail” (58:11).

Lots of truth packed into five short lines. Each phrase warrants careful consideration. For example:

 

1.  The Lord will guide you always.

 

He’s not a life coach, counselor, or psychologist. The almighty God of the universe promises to be your guide—free of charge! And he’s available 24/7. Think, too, of his astounding attributes that make him the perfect guide:

  • God is omniscient—He knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), including every detail of your situation and the people involved.
  • God is righteous—Everything he does is good (Deuteronomy 32:4). He can be relied upon to lead you down a perfect path.
  • God is merciful—He responds in loving compassion (Psalm 116:5). He’s your understanding Father, your strongest ally.
  • God is truthful—All that he says can be trusted (Titus 1:2). He will not lead you astray.
  • God is faithful—He keeps his Word (Psalm 33:4). God does not lie or forget what he said. Neither does he change his mind.

Notice that first phrase says God will always be your guide. Not every once in a while when you’re really in a quandary, but always. You are never left alone to your own devices—unless that’s the way you want to live. God is a gentleman; he leaves the choice up to you.

 

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

 

Not he might satisfy your needs if he feels like it. He will. 

No matter what the landscape of your life looks like, God will see that your needs are met.

Have you ever been surrounded by sun-scorched land, perhaps a desert or wilderness where no life is visible?

Steve and I visited Israel a number of years ago. One of our tour stops was in the Judean wilderness—a desolate and foreboding sight to behold. Not a single tuft of grass. No bushes or plants of any kind—not even cactus. Only two things are visible when standing in the midst of this desert: sky and pale gray-brown mountainous rock, as far as the eye can see.

 

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Should you decide to live there, you’d have to bring with you everything necessary for survival: all your food, water, and clothing. For shelter, you might find a cave.

Ah! But what if there was Someone there ahead of you? Someone who already had at his disposal the supplies you required? And they would never run out? That’s the life-giving, unfailing provision of your Heavenly Father.

Let’s you and me rest in the assurance that the essentials—and even many delights!—will be generously supplied. If something is meant to be, he will take care of it—just as he’s been doing since each of us was born.

Think how he has led you through the wilderness of broken relationships and difficult circumstances. His grace has been sufficient for every challenge (2 Corinthians 12:9), right?

Now project that assurance into the future. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear. Our all-powerful God is with us (Psalm 23:4)–guiding and providing.

(Please remind me of that when I come to a wilderness-patch, will you?)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you that day by day, moment by moment, you are delighted to guide us in perfect wisdom. You generously provide for our needs and lovingly care for us body, soul, and spirit. Thank you for your compassion, your faithfulness, and grace to see us through the wilderness valleys. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands.’” (Psalm 31:14-15a).  

 

Please come back on Monday. We’ll meditate on the second half of Isaiah 58:11.

 

(Photo credits:  www.hischurchwomen.com; http://www.freerepublic.com; http://www.biblestudytools.com.)

 

 

 

 

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Woman with piggy bank at rainy window

 

“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mri-scanner

 

My brother had to get an MRI last week. The technician warned him the machine was very loud—similar to a large motorcycle.

“I like motorcycles!” John told her.

Nevertheless she gave him earplugs, to block the noise as much as possible, and a set of headphones, through which he could listen to the music of his choice.

Earplugs and headphones. That’s what I need to drown out the devil’s loud voice.   Sometimes he can be incredibly persistent with his irritating chatter in my spiritual ears, saying things like:

  • “You are past your prime. Why bother trying to accomplish anything?”
  • “Look how blessed your neighbor is. You must have upset God in some way or you’d be blessed like that, too.”
  • “Can you believe how insensitive Ms. __________ is? How can she be so hurtful and not even realize it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if God handed out earplugs and headphones for our spiritual ears?

Maybe God wants us to develop some worthy habits in the process of manufacturing our own auditory devices.

And how might we do that?

Earplugs could be fashioned out of gratitude. We can occupy our minds with continual rejoicing in the blessings of this moment. Then we won’t be able to hear the devil’s negative and critical comments.

Let’s see…I wonder if I could name a blessing for each of the five senses, for what I am experiencing right now?

  • Thank you, Lord, for books and the gift of sight that allows me to read and enjoy them, as well as learn from them.
  • Thank you for soft breezes that create a cheerful rustling of fall leaves.
  • Thank you, Father, for the cozy warmth of my fleece jacket.
  • Thank you for the nutty goodness of hazelnut coffee,
  • And thank you, Lord, for the homey aroma of vanilla, coming from a nearby candle.

 

candleflame

 

Oh! That was fun, and I didn’t have one negative thought during the exercise. No wonder Paul told us to rejoice always.

Alright–earplugs are in place. Now it’s time for the headphones—something worthwhile to pay attention to, that drowns out the noise of negativity and criticism.

And what could be more worthwhile than scripture, where God offers reassurance, encouragement, and strength? The psalms are a perfect place to begin:

  • “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).
  • “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).
  • “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:13-14).

And one of my favorites:

 

Ps.89.15.16

 

(“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength” (Psalm 89:15-17).)

Notice: We are blessed when we acclaim God. Disparaging ourselves or others, bemoaning our circumstances—even just in our thought life—is counter-productive.  It is worship that transforms our minds and spirits.

So let’s insert those earplugs and pop on those headphones! The difference will be remarkable.

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.cancerresearchuk.org; http://www.cozyhearthcandles.com; annemateer.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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