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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 16:11’

Retirement:

a time to enjoy all the things

you never had time to do

when you worked.

–Catherine Pulsifer

One of my retirement pleasures is watching the circus squirrels in the strip of woods behind our house.  They spiral the trunks in a speedy game of tag, balance at the tip of a branch without fear, and make dare-devil leaps from tree to tree.

One day I discovered those leaps are part of a habitual route squirrels follow to and from their homes.  Turns out they do not gambol haphazardly from tree to tree but “lay out and follow (probably by scent) pathways through the branches.”[1]

Mammalogists surmise this behavior is especially handy when they’re in a hurry. When danger lurks, the little critters can high tail it home with ease.

Sometime later the Spirit combined what I was learning about squirrels with what I knew about brain research (from teaching elementary school), and taught me an important lesson.

Neurons, confocal flourescence microscopy

First the brain research:  We create neural pathways in our brains with behavior. The more we repeat a behavior, the stronger and more deeply imbedded that behavior-pathway becomes until it is habit.[2]

The lesson?  Like the squirrels that lay out pathways through the trees to their nests, we can lay out pathways in our brains that lead home to the refuge of our Heavenly Father.

The question becomes, what are the branches that can make a habitual pathway to God?

I believe scripture truths form the stoutest limbs.  As we memorize encouraging verses and pray them again and again, the pathways of faith, strength, peace, and more become embedded—not only in our minds but in our spirits.  Reciting them back to their Author propels us into his Presence.

What might be some worthwhile passages to include?  Oh my.  The Bible offers a whole forest of reliable scripture-branches, ready to become part of the pathway into God’s sanctuary.

Here are a few of my favorites, though less traveled than some scriptures. You probably won’t find these on a list of “Top Ten Most Popular Bible Verses”—I checked!  But they’ve proven particularly helpful to me.

First:

You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.

John 13:7

Granted, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples the night of his arrest, so some would frown on applying them personally.  But the way this verse turned up during my quiet time one morning, precisely when I needed reminding of God’s wisdom and intentionality, led me to accept it as his confirmation for the moment.  Again and again, he has brought this truth to my mind.

Second:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is

noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy

—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Those negative emotions of worry, fear, hopelessness, and more can be whisked out of the way, as we focus on everything positive and follow this reliable branch to God’s peace and joy.

Third:

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do

good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Each of us was created for God’s glory—to reflect his attributes—and accomplish good works.  Therefore, our lives have purpose and value.  That’s a strong branch to follow back to his affirming Presence when worthlessness wants to knock us down.

The more time we spend traversing such scripture-truths, the more we absorb God’s thoughts and the more secure, contented, and useful our lives become.

Like the squirrels boldly scampering through the trees, we can confidently follow such pathways as these into the joyful presence of our Heavenly Father.

Come run with me!

You make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 NIV

What scriptures offer stout branches for your pathway to God’s presence? Please share in the Comments section below!


[1] https://www.berkshireeagle.com/arts_and_culture/entertainment/take-me-outside-squirrels-act-as-arboreal-acrobats/article_401341f4-5787-53cd-952b-218eeea93562.html#:~:text=Squirrels%20lay%20out%20and%20follow,to%20go%20in%20a%20hurry.

[2] https://healthtransformer.co/the-neuroscience-of-behavior-change-bcb567fa83c1

Art & photo credits: http://www.[xhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.recreation.gov; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; www. pxhere.com.

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I first heard that title-phrase–thin places–from a woman in my writers’ group. (Thank you, Colleen!) It refers to a location or moment in which we’re more aware of God’s presence, where the veil between heaven and earth seems particularly thin, and we experience a taste of how glorious heaven will be.

Someone might say, “But the Bible says so little about our eternal home.  How do we recognize those thin places?”

A few examples may help.  Think of a time when:

  • You encountered a breath-taking panorama of woodland flowers amid greening trees– on a day of sublime spring weather.  Did your heart fill with praise to the Creator for such beauty and perfection?
  • You found your skin tingling and your eyes stinging in response to music.  It may have been a moving classical piece like Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a rousing hymn such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness, or a soul-touching worship song like Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Matt Papa/Keith and Kristyn Getty).  And during the moments those lovely notes lingered, were you carried on wings of splendor into the heavenlies?
  • You received an unexpected gift, a note of genuine appreciation, or a sincere affirmation.  Did a wave of bright euphoria sweep through your spirit in response to this delightful love-expression, and did your heart turn to God with overflowing gratitude as the One who inspired it (James 1:17)?
  • A prayer was answered—more perfectly than you imagined—or an over-the-top miracle unexpectedly materialized.  Were you rendered speechless by the glory and wonder of it all?

Just think: 

If we celebrate astonishing beauty in this world . . .

. . . if we’re carried on wings of splendor by events here on earth . . .

. . . and if we experience euphoric moments within imperfect relationships . . .

. . . what pleasures must await in heaven that Christ was willing to die, in order that we might enjoy them with him?

Let the thin places be a reminder:  Though the earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), heaven offers more—much more.

Let that thought lead to praise.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Father, for those times and places I’ve sensed your intimate presence, when my heart felt strangely warmed as if touched by your holy hand.

I praise you for the fullness of joy you provide here and now in spite of my sins and shortcomings.  How precious is your loving kindness, O Lord! 

With happy expectation (a delight of its own), I look forward to the day when you’ll walk me through the veil and I will dwell with you in your glorious realm forever!

(Psalm 23:4; 16:11; 36:7; 23:6)

When or where have you encountered a thin place? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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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.

 

sky-tree

 

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?

https://youtu.be/3m3r5xoYod8

  • 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.

hands raised in prayer

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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IMG_2275

 

“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.

 

chrysalis

 

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.

 

candle_flame_2

 

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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