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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 16:11’

 

You know the verse well, Precious Child:  “In [my] presence is abundant joy” (Psalm 16:11).  One day you will know the full abundance of My joy, when you arrive in heaven and experience the totality of My absolute perfection.

But today I invite you to meditate on the abundance of delight available to you here and now.

Do you know it is possible to greatly expand your joy–just by sitting with Me in solitude and silence?

It’s true.

So come away by yourself to a quiet place. Close your eyes, slow your breathing, and simply acknowledge My Presence. When you come near to me, I immediately come near to you and we become as close as a vine is to the branch. There is no separation between us (1).

 

 

Visualize My strong arm of comfort and protection around you. Remember: I will never let you go. You are perfectly safe and secure in My omnipotent care (2). Lean on Me, Child.

Note My right hand holding yours, infusing you with sustaining power that upholds, encourages, and affirms. In addition, My right hand is filled with righteousness (3)—kindness and compassion, provision and protection, wisdom and guidance, grace and mercy—all for your behalf. I am continually giving My best for you.

Do you see how I look at you, My Beloved Child, with love in My eyes and a warm smile of approval? Never will I condemn you; never will My love for you diminish. It is everlasting and lavished upon you day after day (4).

 

 

I am wholly devoted to you, therefore I will supply the wherewithal to overcome whatever you might face. In fact, My perfect love can drive away your every fear (5), because “all that you need is found in all that I am” (Unknown).

Never forget how important you are to me.   I love you so extravagantly I sent my only Son to die for you (6).  No one loves you or cares about your welfare more deeply than I do.  I will help you, hold you steady, and keep a firm grip on you.

Hear my soothing words of comfort, encouragement and peace, listen as I share great and hidden things you haven’t known before, open the ears of your heart to the trustworthy instruction and hope-filled promises of My Word, and you will find the joy of your heart amplified (7).

 

 

Can you perceive how intently I listen to you? My ears are open to your every prayer. In fact, before a word is on your tongue, I know what you’re going to say, because I’m perfectly in tune with your spirit. You can also take joy in the knowledge I’m already working on the answers to your prayers (8).

All these blessings and more come to you as we sit in companionable togetherness. You’ll soon discover:

 

“The joy of living in My Presence

outshines all other pleasures.”

–Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

 

So come, dear _______________ (Insert your name in the blank). Come into my presence and experience all the joy-filled delights of quiet yet exultant repose with Me.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. John 15:4-5; James 4:8; Romans 8:38-39
  2. Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 121:7-8
  3. Psalm 18:35b; 48:10
  4. Romans 8:1; Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1
  5. 1 John 4:18
  6. Isaiah 41:10 MSG; John 3:16
  7. Psalm 119:76; Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:7; Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 119:137-138, 162; Psalm 119:11
  8. 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 139:14; Isaiah 65:24

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; wwwldailyverses.net; pixabay.com.

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(A personal psalm, based on Psalm 16)

 

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 Oh, God, I praise you for every blessing you bestow (v. 2).

You are the God of all Goodness, the Author of every benefit. Just recently you granted:

  • Timely encouragement from friends,
  • A memorable dinner celebrating four anniversaries—ours, along with those of our three children and spouses,
  • The announcement of a third grandchild, due to arrive in January.

As A. W. Tozer observed: Out of your goodness, Lord, comes your desire for my highest welfare, your wisdom to plan it, and your power to achieve it. What do I lack (Knowledge of the Holy, p. 70)?

It’s also true that anything good within me comes from you. I hate to think where I’d be today if it weren’t for your influence and direction in my life.

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for your godly people living heroic lives (v. 3).

I take great pleasure in knowing more than several, and gain encouragement from their examples—heroes such as:

  • Cheri, who cares for her elderly parents,
  • Buck and Nikki, who faithfully minister in nursing homes,
  • Bill, who soldiers on with ALS–with a sense of humor, no less—after years of paralysis, and
  • Charity, who is battling cancer with great doses of gratitude and praise, in addition to chemo.

These dear ones and more reflect your strength, Lord, your love, joy, peace, and courage. How dare I entertain the slightest bit of self-pity or discouragement?

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for being my grand and glorious inheritance (v. 6).

You possess all power, inhabit all corners of the universe, know all things.

You are all-wise, righteous and holy in all you do—absolutely perfect.

Everything in the universe belongs to you, the Creator of it all.

Yet you care for me.  Out of your unlimited resources, you supply everything I need—and then some. Even in the small matters, you are there. You’ve provided:

  • A woman to guide me through a hallway-maze in a medical building,
  • Two sons who can trouble-shoot my computer problems (!), and
  • Continual reminders that your Spirit is at work, even when circumstances seem stagnant.

You are a reliable God who keeps his promises. Always.

And when I leave this earth, you have reserved for me in heaven an eternal inheritance that will never decrease, including the privilege of living with you, basking in your glory.

Such wonders overwhelm the intellect, and my heart overflows with gratitude.

 

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Oh, God, I praise you for your reliability (v. 8).

All the attributes mentioned above (and more) you bring to bear in my life—not as an impersonal monarch overseeing the general welfare of his kingdom—but as a gracious Father, lovingly guiding my individual course.

You will never leave me alone to fend for myself.

And you will also keep me safe until all the chapters of my life have been written (Psalm 139:16).

 

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Oh, God, I praise you with my whole being (vs. 9, 11). You fill: 

  • My heart with the joy of your presence,
  • My mind with the wisdom and truth of your Word, and
  • My spirit with the glory of your attributes. 

Oh, God, I praise you that these pleasures are available to your children for evermore.

 

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May I keep my thoughts centered on you and on these, your precious gifts.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.dailyverses.net; http://www.biblepic.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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Picture great cloudbanks gathered to the west, blocking the late afternoon sun except for several small openings. Through those fissures, glowing beams of ethereal light stretch earthward.

Have the windows of heaven actually opened so God’s celestial Light could burst forth?

So it seems.

Other glimpses of heaven present themselves, too.

 

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Think of a perfect morning with a cloudless azure canopy overhead, soft, silken breezes brushing against your skin, and birds in every tree praising God with their songs. Heavenly, you might sigh. And no one would argue otherwise.

Consider standing atop a mountain for a long-distance view of God’s majestic creation—ridge upon ridge, as far as the eye can see, covered with countless trees, and teeming with wildlife.

Consider cradling a newborn infant for the first time—peering into a pixie face with Daddy’s eyes and Mommy’s chin, coaxing tiny fingers to grasp one of your own.

Consider embracing that long absent loved one, finally returned home safely, and seeing happy tears in his eyes through tears of your own.

 

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Such euphoric moments surely provide us glimpses of heaven, a preview of the splendor to come that God has so lovingly prepared.

Yet there are more hints, when:

  • We sense God’s presence in the midst of a prayer, the melody of a song or the message of a timely scripture. “Heaven and earth are filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 8:1). Surely one hint of heaven is God with us now—everywhere and at all times.
  • We experience bona-fide God-enhanced moments, and holy God-bumps rise up on our skin. Perhaps you receive a phone call from someone you were just thinking about and praying for, or a thoughtful gift turns up on your doorstep the same day you received disheartening news. These are more than coincidences; they’re God-incidents.
  • We enter a peaceful, uplifting sanctuary with other folks who genuinely care about God’s ways and each other. Just entering the door lifts our spirits and warms our hearts. (The Church ought to offer the most brilliant glimpse of heaven.)
  • We revel in the sheer pleasure of worship, focused on celebrating our gracious God—a hint of the euphoric adoration of our King that we’ll enjoy in heaven.
  • We sing with focused passion and the angels seem to join us. The classic, “Total Praise” by Carolyn Cymbala, inspires just that kind of singing. Do you know it?

https://youtu.be/xCsJyzm83W0

  • We witness a healing. Who has not been moved to joyful tears when the illness abates, the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear?

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  • We join with the Holy Spirit to introduce someone to Jesus, and the person accepts him into his/her life. There. Is. No. Greater. Joy.

These twelve circumstances, some repeated frequently throughout our earthly lives, prove* that “heaven-on-earth” experiences are not rare.

As Psalm 16:11 makes clear:

 

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In God’s presence (here and now) is fullness of joy. In his right hand, (held out to us daily) are pleasures forevermore.

But, these wondrous events we enjoy in the present are just hints of what God has prepared for us in the future, for those who love him (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Just think:

 

What is to come will be 

more breath-taking, 

more joyous, 

more miraculous, 

more exciting

YET!

 

*In my humble opinion!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.outdoor-photos.com; http://www.freebigpictures.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

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“That does sound wonderful,” a young mother says, “but Brother Lawrence was a monk, working in the garden or kitchen all day. He could pray as he went about his chores. I work in a noisy office and then deal with three noisy kids when I get home. How can I experience continuous communion with God?”

Her dilemma is all too familiar, even for someone like me who’s retired!

So I began a list of possibilities to help me live in more continuous communion with God. Perhaps an idea or two will appeal to you.

  1. Begin the day with God–even as I get out of bed.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” the psalmist urged (118:24).  OK, what can I rejoice in and be grateful to God for, as I anticipate the day?

 

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  1. Wear a reminder-bracelet—even a paper one! Write a scripture on it (such as Isaiah 26:3), or an encouraging statement, such as: “He is beneath me as my foundation, He is beside me as my friend, He is within me as my life” (Barbara Johnson, Women of Faith speaker).
  1. Copy a meaningful scripture on a 3 x 5 card. Post it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door, the visor of the car, or the inside of a closet. Move it around every few days so the element of surprise serves to grab my attention.
  1. Sing to God (while driving quiet streets or doing noisy chores!)
  1. Keep my blessings journal more faithfully. (Even though I established the habit years ago, I still allow some precious gifts to go unrecorded. More attentiveness will add more joy to my days.)
  1. Get outside. Find at least one marvelous gift in creation, and praise God for his genius.

 

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  1. Follow this advice from Barbara Johnson (mentioned above): While using a household product, see if the name or its attributes remind me of God and my relationship with him. One example: Fresh Start laundry detergent. While loading the washer I can pray, “Thank you, Father, that every day is a fresh start with you. Your mercies are new every morning.”  (Interested in more products and their implications?  Click on “A.M. Attitude Adjustment.”)
  1. Post a verse on the bathroom mirror. Work at memorizing it.
  1. Each time I sip my coffee or tea, I can also “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) by savoring the blessings of the moment.  Thankfulness opens my heart to his presence and my mind to his thoughts.**

 

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  1. End the day with God, recalling his blessings or reciting his scripture.

 

Now if you’re like me, a bracelet on the wrist or a 3 x 5 on a cabinet door soon become such common sights, I barely notice them anymore. Perhaps if I rotate through some of the suggestions, they’ll retain their impact.

Sunday might be the day for an outdoor respite.  Monday might be Bracelet Day; Tuesday could be Taste-and-See Day.

You get the idea.

Bottom line: I want my mouth filled with God’s praise; I want to declare his splendor all day long, simply because he is worthy of praise (Psalm 71:8; 1 Chronicles 16:24-25).

But how glorious is this:  our all-gracious God chooses to bless us when we seek to bless him—blessings such as:

 

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So…

 

“…For a short time, fly from your business;

hide yourself for a moment from your turbulent thoughts.

Break off now your troublesome cares,

and think less of your laborious occupations.

Make a little time for God, and rest for a while in Him.

Enter into the chamber of your mind,

shut out everything but God

and whatever helps you to seek Him, and,

when you have shut the door, seek Him.

Speak now, O my whole heart, speak now to God:

‘I seek Thy face; Thy face, Lord, do I desire.'”

—  Anselm

(1033-1109, Archbishop of Canterbury, caring pastor, author)

 

   *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What strategies help you to enjoy continuous communion with God?  Please share in the Comments section below!

 

**based on a statement by Sarah Young, Jesus Calling,p. 343

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.azquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.guilford.ces.ncsu.edu; http://www.zazzle.co.uk; http://www.ourdailyblossom.com.)

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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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One evening last week, before a sweltering heat wave arrived, I parked on the back deck to read. The sun had dropped behind the old oak tree to the west. Shadows danced and flickered on leaf, grass and flower; a few birds added soft background chatter.

All of a sudden I had company. A butterfly joined me, landing gracefully on my knee. I don’t remember ever being visited up-close-and-personal by a butterfly. I studied him in wonder.

Orange stripes and white splotches stood out against black and chocolate-brown wings. Along the feathery perimeter, white scallops created a fluted edge.

But what astounded me most were his antennae. Tiny black and white stripes encircled each one. And the tips appeared dipped in fluorescent yellow paint.

I didn’t dare move, anxious to prolong the magical moment as long as possible, to enjoy his presence and inspect him further.

His markings were remarkably symmetrical, and I wondered if, while in the cocoon, butterfly wings grow folded in such a way to produce the effect—much like folded-paper ink blots. (I did check online, but found no answer to this specific question. Do you happen to know?)

I  even studied the vein lines—dozens and dozens of them—some large and pronounced, others barely visible. They, too, appeared symmetrical.

For the duration of his visit, the butterfly remained quite still. I found myself stilled, too, enveloped in a sweet interlude of peace.

Twice my new friend winked his wings at me. “Good evening,” I imagined him saying. “Isn’t our Creator God amazing? ‘In wisdom he made us all. We are both marvelously made!’”*

Oh, yes. This butterfly was marvelously made alright. Stunning, actually. And I felt the beauty of the Lord upon me (Psalm 90:17)—his favor and splendor–as one of his loveliest, most graceful creatures honored me with his presence.

I was also reminded:

  • A butterfly visitation is a God-visitation, as his eternal power and divine nature are magnificently displayed (Romans 1:20).
  • God is a Master Artist. How awe-inspiring to discover such minute details as tiny, even stripes on an insect’s antennae.
  • Just as I delighted in the butterfly’s presence, God offers supreme delight to those who bask in his presence (Psalm 16:11).
  • God’s presence also offers calm and peace, not only for a moment but forever (Isaiah 26:3).
  • God’s blessings sometimes come in surprising, unexpected ways. He even provides unnecessary blessings—like butterfly landings–just because he loves us.

All too soon my delicate visitor departed. But the delight lingers, because a God-visitation is not quickly forgotten.

Psalm.......

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

–Psalm 111:4

Later, on the internet I found this picture, a member of the same family as my winged friend. His kind are known as Red Admirals.  Can you see those tiny stripes?

 

Red Admiral Butterfly

 

What experience in nature lingers in your mind as a God-visitation? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

*Psalm 104:24b; 139:14

 

(Photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.allaboutgod.net; http://www.goodpixgallery.com.)

 

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Girl-praying

Long ago in Sunday School, our teachers taught us proper respect for God. The rules of reverence included:

  1. Be quiet and solemn in worship.
  2. Bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands to pray.
  3. Always treat God’s house with utmost respect. Never run.
  4. Never place your Bible on the floor.

The first rule was the most difficult to keep. I failed many a Sunday. My legs wanted to swing, my hands wished for crayons and paper, my eyes longed for a book. Sitting still in church was tortuous.

Years later as an adult, I came across the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a list of 107 questions and answers that explain the Christian faith.

The first question asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer shocked me.

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

The beginning of the statement made perfect sense. Paul clearly stated: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

But I was caught off guard by the second part.

Enjoy God?”

That was a startling, new idea for me, even though the Shorter Catechism has been in use since 1647. (Yes, that was well before my days in Sunday School.)

That new idea warranted further consideration. Did I enjoy God?

His blessings and benefits certainly brought me joy. But God himself? How could I enjoy Someone who’s invisible and rarely speaks audibly?

As the years have passed, I’ve discovered that, although God deserves the utmost reverence and respect, we need not always be solemn. We can laugh and sing for joy in his presence (Psalm 68:3 MSG).

In fact, enthusiastic praise of God, especially in the company of others, is an invigorating way to enjoy him. We can revel in who he is—our God of goodness, grace, and love. We can celebrate what he has done—supplying our needs, guiding the way, and surprising us with gifts we didn’t even ask for.

While we’re worshiping, we can lift our hands toward God (Psalm 63:4). That simple act alone, symbolizing our openness,  augments our connection to him.

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Even hands placed palms up on the lap can add to our enjoyment of God. Steve and I learned this posture from one of his professors, when he attended seminary. After a teaching session on prayer, Dr. Stanger instructed us to place our hands in our laps, palms up. We sat in silence for a few moments, and suddenly I felt a tingling in my hands! Was the Spirit of God actually holding my hands as we prepared to pray?

Dr. Stanger explained that the pressure on the backs of our hands was causing the phenomenon.   But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch? Yes, supremely delightful.

We can also take the celebration outside and enjoy God as the Creator and King of the universe. Look to the sky and contemplate the galaxies of stars in infinite space. Smile at him in wonder because each one of those infinite celestial bodies is under his control.

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Another way to enjoy God is to take delight in his scripture. We can express appreciation to him for the strength, comfort, and peace his Word provides, as well as those passages that are the joy of our hearts (Psalm 119:111).

Those of us who like to write find great joy in composing journal entries, poetry, personal psalms, and more, addressed to God, as a way of expressing our pleasure in him. Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, has inspired some of us to follow her example and go a step further: record thoughts or impressions we receive from God as we wait in his presence.

In these ways and more God has made it possible for us to enjoy him now and forever.

Psalm 89 15, 16(1)

 “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 89:15-16).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dare I say it?  Is it too irreverent? You are FUN, God! I love spending time with you, rejoicing in you, celebrating your works, reveling in your presence, taking delight in our communication back and forth. What a glorious privilege you have granted us, Father, to nestle close to you and experience fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore.  Thank you for being our ultimate delight!

(Psalm 100:1-2; John 10:27; Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 16:11)

 

What are some ways YOU enjoy God?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.imgarcade.com; http://www.pam-intheshadowof his wings.blogspot.com; http://www.sciencedaily.com; www. specificfeeds.com.)

 

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“Nancy, come here!” Tabbitha called, as she poked her head through the door of my classroom.  Tabbitha taught across the hall from me. It was still early morning, and students hadn’t begun to arrive yet.

“I want to show you something!” she beckoned. Tabbitha’s smile and sparkling eyes gave me a hint that, whatever her surprise, it was going to be good.

Quickly she led me out of the school building and back towards the parking lot. She stopped at a row of low, scraggly bushes that grew along the sidewalk.

“Look!” Tabbitha cried, pointing down at one of the bushes.

I looked but saw nothing. “What am I supposed to see?”

“Right here,” she said, and moved her finger closer to the object.

My eyes finally focused on what she saw: a shriveled brown pouch adhered to a branch. A chrysalis.

 

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I couldn’t remember ever seeing one in the wild before, only in a butterfly habitat.

We studied the chrysalis closely, marveled at the miracle within, and wondered whether the end result would be a butterfly or moth.

“Actually, I have to tell you. I didn’t spot the cocoon,” Tabbitha confessed. “Brooke did.”

Of course.   Tabbitha’s daughter, Brooke, was four years old at the time–closer to the ground to notice such details as an odd protrusion on a low stem. But Brooke was also an observer. Her little eyes and ears didn’t miss much, and her mind was always active—learning, wondering, connecting,

As for me, I hardly even noticed there were bushes along that sidewalk, much less a miracle taking place among them. My mind was always busy with the to-do list, lesson plans, students needing special attention that day, the emails to be answered, the meeting after school, etc., etc.

Little Brooke taught me a lesson that morning:  Pay attention!

God is revealing himself to me every day—his creative genius, his loving care, and his wisdom. He arranges little serendipity gifts for me to discover. My challenge is to be watchful.

The blessings are there, the joy available–not just in grand rainbows and sunsets that grab my attention, but in the sheen on rain-washed leaves or in the mesmerizing flicker of a candle flame.

 

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Joy is not the result of happy events, a collection of lovely things, or even near-perfect relationships with family and friends.  Joy is experienced in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). And when God and I together enjoy his creation, his people or his engineering of events, the joy becomes rapturous.

However! I have been a slow student to learn the habit of attentive living. I’m still developing a praise-frame of mind.

But when I pause long enough to enjoy a cocoon on a stem, a group of children on a playground, or the smile on the face of a friend, I want to extend that pause into a prayer:

Oh, God, thank you for lavishing gifts of love upon me each day. Thank you for filling me with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11), all day long, now and forever. Yet there is more!  Thank you that, as I celebrate these blessings together with you, my joy is expanded even further. Help me to become attentive like little Brooke. And perhaps, as I express my contentment in you and in all your gifts, your heart will be filled with joy as well.

 

 

(photo credits:  www.princetonaturenotes.blogspot.com; http://www.discovermagazine.com; http://www.brantfordfire.ca.) 

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Years ago, I taught one year of kindergarten before “graduating” to fourth grade.  One aspect of that year proved especially delightful: the humorous things those five year-olds would say.  I started writing them down, to enjoy again in the future.  The future is now!

For example:

Alice and Lisa spent most of recess one day digging a hole in the sandbox.  “We digged so deep,” Alice said, “we could hear the people in China walking around.”

After giving instructions for an art activity, I asked if anyone had a question.  Lee raised his hand to inquire, “What’s the capital of North Dakota?”

Megan was recuperating from strep throat.  She informed me, “I could have gotten dramatic fever.”

Lauren asked me one day, “Mrs. Ruegg, what’s your last name?”

Such moments were pure fun-shine, lighting up my spirit.

Did you know scientific study is discovering that laughter provides a number of health benefits? (Just as research has proven the benefits of happiness, as we considered in the last post.)

You see, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen as you breathe more deeply.  That, in turn, positively impacts your heart, lungs, and muscles.

Laughter releases endorphins in the brain.  Endorphins are one of the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that send electrical signals through the nervous system.  When stress or pain occurs, endorphins are released.  They help reduce the impact of such factors on the brain.  Endorphins lead to a feeling of euphoria, and laughter is a big contributor.

Laughter also…

…reduces stress and generates a relaxed feeling.

…helps dispel depression and anxiety, thus improving our moods.

…fosters connection with other people.

Once again, secular research is proving what scripture has said all along:

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

But there is no need to invest in joke books, watch humorous You-Tube videos, or teach kindergarten!  You’ll receive a healthy dose of cheer in these ways, too:

Possibility #1:  Spend time with positive people.

Research indicates up to 80% of our laughter is not generated by funny movies or comedians on Sirius radio. Most laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations.

Another fact proven by research:  most positive people have a sense of humor.  It would stand to reason that Christians should be the most positive people around.  Spend time with positive, Christian people and you’ll no doubt find yourself laughing frequently.

Possibility #2:  Celebrate the small joys as well as the monumental.

 

Psalm 126:1-3 relates the experience of exiles returning from captivity in Babylon to Israel.  They laughed and sang for joy, feeling as if they were living a dream.

“The Lord has done great things for us,” they cried, “and we are filled with joy” (v. 3)!

Sometimes we, too, laugh and shout spontaneously at the announcement of good news—acceptance to that university of choice, a job promotion, a new baby on the way.

But the Lord does great things for us frequently.  The more I celebrate his goodness, the more joy and laughter I’ll experience.

Just the other day, I was washing dishes (Such a boring, unpleasant chore!) when a large, black and yellow butterfly fluttered by the window.  To be honest, I didn’t laugh or sing out loud, but my heart was overjoyed just the same.  That butterfly felt like a little love-gift from God, making that moment at the sink less burdensome.

Throughout each day, we would do well to follow David’s example:  “I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart.  I’m writing the book on your wonders.  I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God” (Psalm 9:1-2, The Message).

 

Possibility #3:  Revel in God’s presence.

Psalm 16:11 reminds us that God fills us with joy in his presence.  Just conversing with him throughout the day can be incredibly uplifting.

Brother Lawrence, in The Practice of the Presence of God (Whitaker House, 1989), suggests that we tend to stifle joy by spending only brief moments in worship.

“If God can find a soul filled with a lively faith, he pours his grace into it in a torrent that, having found an open channel, gushes out exuberantly.”

That exuberant gushing out of God’s grace, that bubbling overflow of all his glorious riches into our lives—might it take the form of rejoicing laughter sometimes?  I think so.

Karl Barth, that great theologian of the twentieth century, might agree with me.

He said:

 “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”

(photo credits:  www.marciaballestero.com ; www.sciencemadefun.net ; www.positivemindconsulting.com ; www.sallyandsam.blogspot.comwww.powerfulintnetions.org ; www.izquotes.com

 

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1119-hand-of-god

 

See if this sounds familiar:  You’re reading along in the Bible when you come upon a phrase you’ve seen before, maybe even many times.  But suddenly the realization dawns.  You don’t really know what that phrase means.

That was my experience as I read this verse:  “I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).  Can you pick out the two words that caught my attention?  Right hand.  I had to wonder, what is so significant about God’s right hand?

After a bit of research, here is what I discovered.

1) In Bible times, the position to the right was considered a place of honor.  This concept is seen at its finest in Hebrews 1:3 where Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  But according to Psalm 16:8 (above), he is in the place of honor in my life and yours.  With our reverence and obedience we can demonstrate our honor of him.

2) If a man has God at his right hand, it means God’s shield is next to him.  God’s sword arm is free to deal with the enemy.  Visualize yourself walking behind that impenetrable shield.  And in his right hand, God wields His sword, ready to strike down the enemy—Satan and his demons.  “He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him” (Psalm 109:31).  I love that visualization of God on the offensive for us.

3) A bride stands with the groom on her right, symbolizing the groom’s protection.  The Lord Jesus is our Bridegroom and we, his church, are the bride (Revelation 21:1-3).  David proclaimed God’s protective right hand in Psalm 17:7.  “You…save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes,” he said.  God is our undefeated defense.

4) For many of us the right side of our bodies is stronger than the left.  Perhaps David had that idea in mind when he wrote, “Your right hand sustains me” (Psalm 18:35b).  And what does sustain mean?  Uphold, encourage, and affirm.   Imagine God’s right hand upholding you—day in and day out.  Just the warmth and strength flowing from his touch has the power to encourage and affirm.

5) In addition to extra strength on the right, most of us have extra dexterity in our right hands.  We use that hand for writing, drawing, cutting, and other such tasks.  Any good handwork is accomplished with that dominant hand.  So what comes from God’s right hand?  The psalmist proclaimed:  “Your right hand is filled with righteousness,” (48:10).  Everything God does is good and morally correct.  He always gives his best to his work.

I thank you, Father, for the many times I have been protected, sustained, and blessed by your right hand.  If you never lifted your hand again on my behalf I would have no cause for complaint.  And yet you have promised us “eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11c).  I bow before you in wordless wonder.

(Photo credit:  sonfeld.wordpress.com.)

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