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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 1:6’

 

“Here’s what I’ve been looking for!” My husband propped his walking stick against a forest tree and pulled from the underbrush a straight, stout branch about my height. With his pocketknife he whittled off several small branches and gifted me my own walking stick. “Try this, “ he coaxed. “It really helps.”

I’d been groaning through the incline portions of our hike in the Appalachian foothills. Yes, exercise and walking were part of my routine at home, but we lived in the flatlands of Florida at the time. The upward slopes of this footpath were causing my leg muscles to complain loudly.

What a surprising difference that branch made!  Swinging it ahead helped propel me forward. I felt more stable in the uneven and slippery places with the walking stick to provide balance.  And leaning into it as I hefted myself up steep inclines did take some of the stress off my aching legs.

That experience brings to mind a familiar truth tucked in Psalm 23:

 

 

Your rod and your staff comfort me.”

 

Just as that walking stick gave me relief on the trail, the staff of God’s Word has offered much relief on the path of life.

For example:

As a young wife and mother, discouraged by the mindless repetition of housework, I came across this staff of scripture to propel me forward:

 

 

The realization dawned that taking care of my family was equivalent to serving him. And though it would be a lie to say from that day forward I happily swept, scrubbed, and sanitized, I did carry with me a new perspective.

 

When distraught over my faults and deficiencies, God handed me this walking stick of relief:

 

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you

will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…

For it is God who is working in you,

enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”

–Philippians 1:6; 2:13 HCSB

 

 

What a loving, attentive Father he is, day after day working out his plan and blessing upon our lives, slowly but surely transforming us into our best selves.

 

When distraught over election results, I leaned on the comforting truth of Daniel 2:20-21:

 

 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and

power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and

raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to the discerning.”

 

What a relief to know he is sovereign over the universe, and everything is under his control.

 

When I was heartbroken after a young friend died as the result of a car accident, I desperately wanted to know why. Why didn’t God answer the prayers of countless people and bring her out of the coma?

Shelly was a talented pianist with a short-term missionary assignment pending. Why didn’t he save her?

God gave me the stabilizing staff of Romans 11:33-36, to help me walk through my questions and grief:

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 

 

Those last two statements brought sudden clarity. Everything—even painful eventscome through God first before they touch us. And somehow it all has potential to bring him honor and praise. The answer to my question why isn’t necessary.

 

“Each of us may be sure that

if God sends us over rocky paths,

He will provide us with sturdy shoes.

He will never send us on a journey

without equipping us well.”

–Alexander MacLaren

 

And with those sturdy shoes of equipping, praise God he also provides walking sticks of stability, support, relief, and comfort in his Word–if we keep a watchful eye.

 

 

What walking sticks in scripture have offered you stability, support, relief, and comfort?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

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

 

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Interesting, isn’t it, how the slightest trigger can transport us back through time?

  • A song might remind us of that first date with our spouse
  • The fragrance of lilacs brings to mind a previous home
  • The first bite of a family recipe at Thanksgiving conjures up bittersweet memories of another table long ago

 

 

They say that the memory of everyone we’ve known, every place we’ve been, and everything that’s happened to us is submerged in our subconscious. And the slightest nudge—haphazard as it might be–can bring a memory bobbing to the surface with surprising force.

But there’s another kind of remembering—a deliberate quest to seek truth for our lives—to understand how the hurts, mistakes, and losses, the treasured times, precious people, and lessons learned, reveal God’s work within us and for us, bringing good from it all.

For example, looking back through our memories we see:

 

God has given us strength to persevere.

At times we thought we’d never make it. Friends proved unfriendly and while the sting smarted we struggled to understand why the relationship went wrong.

Circumstances turned our lives upside down and we couldn’t see how to make things right again.

Death claimed a loved one and the pain seemed unbearable, unending.

 

 

But here we are. We survived, because God brought us through each calamity.

 

God has taught us the value of his wisdom.

Most of us have made choices along the way that seemed right but proved wrong.

Perhaps it was a relationship with someone whose habits provided troubling warning signs, but we ignored them and later suffered heart-rending hurt.

Or, perhaps we pursued an appealing, self-serving dream, only to discover its fulfillment did not produce the satisfaction we expected.

Some of us had to learn the hard way: God’s wisdom in scripture is truth after all, including his warning against relationships with fools (Proverbs 13:20) and the emptiness of selfish gain (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

 

 

But he also promised blessing for those who follow his all-wise guidance:

 

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

–Proverbs 16:20

 

God has demonstrated his faithfulness in countless ways.

Consider the categories listed below and allow your memory to plumb the depths, bringing to the surface people, places, and events from the past that reflect God’s faithfulness:

 

 

  • Nurturing family members
  • Loyal, supportive friends
  • Secure places of contentment
  • Health issues resolved
  • Knots of circumstances untangled
  • Necessities miraculously provided
  • Blessings bestowed, not even asked for

 And what can we anticipate as the result of this kind of remembering?

Peace.

Because we realize for all our yesterdays, God has…

…enabled us to power through on his strength,

…provided his wisdom to guide us through murky circumstances,

…and been at work in our lives for our benefit—sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes in the form of lessons.

 

 

Such reassurances can settle fear, doubt, and worry, allowing peace to flourish today and into all our tomorrows.

This kind of remembering intentionally entwines past and future so memories become woven into faith-filled expectation.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.needpix.com; dailyverses.net.)

 

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English poet, William Blake (1757-1827) penned those words of the title.

We don’t have to look far to see that he was right:

 

 

  • Children pick up mannerisms, inflections, even body language from their parents.
  • Couples who have been married a long time often begin to look alike (1).
  • Transplants to another part of the country frequently pick up the accent of that region.

In addition, modern neurological research has proven Mr. Blake’s statement in ways even he never imagined.

Here’s what scientists have discovered: Thoughts travel along specific pathways to various destinations in our brains. As we consider the same thought frequently, the pathway for that thought becomes more deeply entrenched. The final result? The more often we contemplate something, the more it will affect our thought patterns, how we feel, and how we behave (2).

No wonder God inspired Paul to write:

 

 

According to that research mentioned above, to behold (observe and take in) such things as Paul lists will lead us to become honorable, pure, admirable, etc. In fact, we’ll gradually begin to resemble Jesus.

 

 

But how do we contemplate the Lord’s glory on a day-to-day basis? How do we train our thoughts to etch worthwhile pathways in our brains, so we’re thinking, feeling, and behaving in Jesus-like ways?

To begin, we might check the stimuli for our thoughts:

  • the book(s), magazines, and websites we read
  • the programs and movies we watch
  • the music and podcasts we listen to
  • the kind of entertainment we choose
  • the conversations we participate in—in person and on social media

 

 

Can we describe these activities with the adjectives Paul used in Philippians 4:8? Is our reading material pure? Our entertainment admirable? Our conversations worthy of praise?

 

O God,

 

 

 

Second, we set-aside a quiet time with God each day.

It is surely one of the loveliest and most excellent activities for beholding him, as we immerse ourselves in truth for life from his Word, revel in his glorious attributes, and talk to him about the concerns on our hearts.

 

 

“Look up into his lovely face and as you behold him,

he will transform you into his likeness.

You do the beholding—he does the transforming.”

—Alan Redpath

 

Third, we infuse the hours of each day with praise.

All those descriptors in Philippians 4:8 apply to Jesus. Day in and day out we can enjoy the uplift of praise, celebrating that he is:

  • the epitome of truth (John 14:6).
  • honorable and worthy of all tribute, because he lived a sinless life and sacrificed himself on the cross for us (Revelation 5:12).
  • right in all he does (Jeremiah 23:5).
  • pure in all he is (1 Peter 2:22).
  • lovely, as the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3).
  • admirable, as the only man tempted in every way and yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • excellent in all ways, including his servitude, humility, and obedience (Philippians 2:6-8).
  • praiseworthy, as ruler of all things (Matthew 28:18).

 

 

In addition, Jesus was a man of peace, joy, wisdom, kindness, courage and more (3).

And God wants us to be the same, to become like his Son (Philippians 1:6).

Can you think of any greater aspiration?

 

_______________________________________________

 

Notes:

  1. One theory to explain this phenomenon: We unconsciously mimic the facial expressions of our spouses, as we empathize with their experiences and emotions. Over time, repeated expressions shape our faces in similar ways.
  2. https://www.maxanders.com/we-become-what-we-behold.
  3. John 14:27; John 15:11; Luke 2:40; Matthew 9:36; Philippians 2:8.

 

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

 

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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What do you consider the greatest of all your blessings? Surely at the top of the list would be a personal relationship with Jesus and (hopefully!) your family.

But according to French author, Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680):

 

a-true-friend

(“A true friend is the greatest of blessings.”)

 

Some time ago, a group of people decided that friends were such a blessed part of life, they wanted a day set aside specifically to celebrate these relationships. In 1935, Congress proclaimed National Friendship Day. The observation occurs on the first Sunday of August. That’s this Sunday, the seventh.

Friends do fill our lives with delightful blessings: the beauty of companionship, the joy of sharing experiences and like interests, the warmth of heart-to-heart communication, and the grace of acceptance in spite of faults.

Those friends who share our faith in Jesus provide even more benefits.

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They push us nearer to God by their example, their encouragement, and their prayers for us. When trouble assaults, they remind us of scriptural truth, God’s attributes, and his provision in the past.

 

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Christian friends are “Jesus with skin on.” (That phrase in quotes comes from a pastor in our past who used it frequently.) Isn’t that a delightful way to describe our ministry to one another? His Spirit works through us providing the encouragement, help, and care we all need.

I also appreciate a Native American translation of the word, friend: “the one who carries my sorrows on his back.” That’s a true friend—the one who comes alongside to empathize, assist, and pray.

My heart is warmed as I remember such friends (and family members who were and are like friends), each of whom have played various roles in my life: companion, listener, encourager, advisor, confidence-builder, mentor, role model of behavior, wisdom-bestower, heartache-easer, prayer warrior. These special people have contributed invaluably to my life story and who I am.

 

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Some of my dear friends (including those with family ties) are reading these words right now. And “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:6), not just on Friendship Day.

You are the charming gardeners who have made my soul blossom (Marcel Proust). I am so very grateful for the abundant happiness and joy you all have brought into my life.

But these friendships of faith would not be possible without our most precious Friend of all: Jesus (John 15:15).

 

John-15-15-I-have-called-you-friends-black-copy

 

Because of his love poured out in our hearts, we can love each other.

Because he is our refuge, joy, and hope, we can offer the same.

As we allow his influence to transform us, we are able to reflect that same influence into the lives of our friends. His attributes such as wisdom, understanding, patience, kindness, and goodness, become part of our responses with others.

 

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Best of all, because of our friendship with Jesus, our human “friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off” (Francis de Sales).

How glorious is that?!
 
 
(Art & photo credits:  www.dgreetings.com; http://www.quotesgram.com; http://www.ladycarehealth.com; http://www.brainyquote.com; http://www.bible.knowing-jesus.com; http://www.biblegodquotes.com.)

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Over-the-Rhine-12th-and-Vine

(Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio)

 

One benefit of living in an older city is the interesting architecture to enjoy. Our hometown for two years now, Cincinnati, includes an impressive collection of historic buildings, in a large variety of styles. Below are six examples.

  • Federal:

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(Taft Museum of Art, built 1820)

  • Greek Revival: 

 

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(Cincinnati Observatory Center, built 1873)

  • Venetian Gothic: 

 

Cincinnati-Music-Hall

(Cincinnati Music Hall, built 1878)

 

  • Romanesque: 

 

CincinnatiCityHall

(City Hall, built 1893)

 

  • Beaux Arts Classical: 

 

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(Lincoln National Bank Building, built 1903)

  • Art Deco: 

 

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(Union Terminal, now Cincinnati Museum Center, built 1933)

I, for one, am grateful to enjoy such artistic workmanship and beauty, created by architects and craftsmen long ago.

That’s one of the tenets author and artist, John Ruskin (1819-1900), promoted in his work The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1):

 

Buildings should be beautiful.

 

Ruskin’s seven “lamps,” intended as guidelines for architects, included:

  •  Sacrifice.  Buildings should reflect careful thought and strong effort.  No doubt he would agree:  “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well” (2).
  • Truth.  Ruskin disapproved of faux finishes and trompe l’oiel. Worse yet was shoddy workmanship hidden behind fancy facades. “A building should be honest,” he said.

 

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(Ruskin probably wouldn’t approve of this trompe l’oeil

on a flat building in Cincinnati, at Central Parkway and Vine.)

 

  • Power.  Public buildings should exude strength and permanence. One surprising element to manifest strength: shadow— achieved with towering walls and deep recesses.  Smooth surfaces bathed in light do not achieve the same effect.
  • Beauty.  Ornamentation was important to Ruskin, distinguishing architecture from a simple building. No “voiceless buildings” devoid of expressiveness, he wrote.
  • Life.  Ruskin also said, “The life of the builder must be in the building.” He was “against mass production and any innovation that decreased the skill content” (3).
  • Memory.  Buildings ought to reflect the culture, its history and heritage. They should be built to last. As an architect sets about his work, he must take into consideration not only its current use but its use by future descendants.
  • Obedience.  Ruskin believed each nation should have a distinct style. And in much of the historical architecture of Europe, that’s exactly what we see. English Gothic, French Provincial, and Italianate are examples.

 

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(Italianate, above, as well as other European styles also seen in Cincinnati.

This is the John Hauck House built 1870).

Perhaps you’re noticing that the categories of Ruskin’s lamps illumine more than architecture. They enlighten our Christian experience as well. I wonder if you made similar connections to mine as you read about these seven components:

  • Sacrifice.  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Such sacrifice is a joy, though, as we “serve the Lord with gladness” out of gratitude for all he has done for us.
  • Truth.  Just as Ruskin believed in honest buildings, so we desire to be people of integrity that reflect Jesus.
  • Power.  We also have available to us God’s strength, especially important in the valley of the shadow of death.

 

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  • Beauty.  Ruskin thought buildings should reflect creation, because the most beautiful shapes came from nature.  For example, columns resemble plant stems; pointed arches resemble leaves. Our inner “beauty” of spirit should reflect our Creator.
  • Life. “The life of the builder must be in the building,” Ruskin asserted. Doesn’t that perfectly mirror Paul’s words, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)? 
  • Memory.  Buildings should be constructed to last, useful now and for future generations. Likewise, we should strive to leave a worthy legacy to our descendants.
  • Obedience.  Just as Ruskin wanted each nationality to have its own set of architectural guidelines, we Christians have a set of guidelines from our Heavenly Father—to avail ourselves of a strong foundation (his powerful, attentive presence), and strong walls of scriptural truth for keeping out the elements–like fear, depression, and stress.

Praise the Architect of Heaven!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Architect of Heaven, for exercising your creative and miraculous genius in my life. Sometimes, though, I resemble a big box store or factory—not reflecting your beauty at all. I do not rely fully on you–my Builder, nor follow your guidelines. But, oh how I praise you for never giving up on me! Day by day you are building me into a better version of myself, and you will bring your artistry to a flourishing finish when Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6, MSG). Glory!

 

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  1. Written in 1849. Another author, Ralph W. Sockman, mentioned this work in his book, The Higher Happiness (Abingdon Press, 1950), which I read recently. My curiosity sent me to the internet to learn about these seven lamps!
  2. Philip Stanhope, British statesman, b. 1694, d. 1773.
  3. Joffre Essley @ house-design-coffee.com
  4. However, here in America, with so many nationalities and climate zones , such strict adherence doesn’t seem as important. The wonderful variety in Cincinnati is a case in point.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.taftmuseum.org; http://www.observatoriesofohio.org; http://www.wikipedia.org (2); http://www.wikimapia.org; http://www.cincymuseum.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3); http://www.youtube.com.)

 

 

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Some years ago I started keeping prayer cards instead of a prayer list. A 3x 5 gives plenty of room to record updates and answers. Another benefit: It’s easy to rotate through the stack, praying for six to ten people/organizations per day.

One card in the stack trips me up. At the top is written the name of “a difficult person.” He’s arrogant, dishonest, and unreliable.

I know I need to include him in my prayers, but I hardly know where to begin, except for “God, help this man!”

So I finally did some reading on the subject of difficult people, to find out how to pray for such individuals. Below are several suggestions I found helpful. If you have challenging folks in your life, perhaps you’ll find these thoughts useful also.

First, I need to begin with repentance. Before I pray about the faults and shortcomings of others, I need to address my own (Matthew 7:1-5). In addition, before I look at the person to be forgiven, I must look to God for the power to forgive.*

 

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Second, I can ask God to:

  1. Open the heart of this person to the error(s) of his ways.
  1. Reveal the truth of the gospel to him—that Jesus is the only Way to salvation.
  1. Grant the person self-awareness so he’ll see how his choices and behavior negatively impact others.
  1. Curtail his influence so that innocent people might be protected.
  1. Bring godly people into his sphere, to exemplify the God-enhanced life.
  1. Cause circumstances that draw his attention to God.
  1. Reveal the difference to him between godly wisdom and human foolishness.

 

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Third, I can praise God that:

  • He is sovereign over all—even difficult people.
  • He can cause positive outcomes—in spite of erroneous judgments.
  • “Mistakes” on their part can actually produce God-ordained benefits.

 

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And just how might such a prayer unfold? Perhaps something like this:

 

Oh, God, as I pray for those who

cause great frustration and even suffering for others,

it’s easy to lose sight of my own sinfulness.

I have not lived free of pride, dishonesty or unreliability either.

 

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Forgive me, Father, for the many ways

I fall short of your desires for me.

Thank you for your grace and love that

prompt you to accept my confession and

prod me toward greater reliance upon you,

to become a better version of myself.

 

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Because I fall short

(even though I know you as my Savior and Master),

it is with deep humility I pray for Mr. X.

I am no better than he is.

 

First, may he recognize the truth of your Word

and the reality of salvation through your Son, Jesus.

I pray Mr. X will seek the Light of your wisdom to guide his way.

May your Holy Spirit shed Light on the choices he’s already made,

and reveal to him the full, true consequences of his behavior.

Guide him to change course to your ways.

 

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I thank you, Lord, that every day you are

sending Christians into Mr. X’s life as bearers of your Light,

to draw him to you.

You are engineering circumstances that highlight your power,

and using that sovereign power to curtail his influence.

I thank you for your ability

to produce positive outcomes even through difficult people.

The story of Joseph is one example.

In addition, even mistakes on the part of Mr. X

can actually produce just and righteous benefits.

 

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Oh, how I praise you, Almighty God,

that you have established your throne in heaven,

and your kingdom rules over all—

even over difficult people.

 

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(Psalm 51:1-5; Romans 3:23; Romans 7:18; Ecclesiastes 2:13; John 16:13; Psalm 119:130; Matthew 5:16; Romans 1:20; Psalm 37:17; Proverbs 19:21; Psalm 103:19)

 

*Ralph Sockman,The Higher Happiness, Pierce & Smith, 1950, p. 107.

 

How do you pray for difficult people?  Please share your insights in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.fotosearch.com; http://www.pinterest.com (5), http://www.ourdailyblossom.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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