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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 91:1-2’

A little over two years ago when Steve and I retired, God provided for us a perfect little ranch house built into the side of a hill. A strip of woods and a ravine separate our block from the one behind us, and large windows in the kitchen/family room offer a tranquil view of treetops.

 

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One of the projects we completed before moving in was the addition of a deck off the back of the house. The vista we enjoy from window and deck give us the sensation of living in a tree house, and we revel in the beauty and quiet.

Just about everyone loves tree houses. Even television now offers programs featuring their construction.

Why do they cause such delight?

Perhaps because tree houses provide:

  • A quiet, peaceful refuge, removed from the stressful responsibilities of our lives.  There’s something about being up among the trees that repairs our equilibrium. We breathe easier, the peace of the surroundings soaks into our spirits and tension is released.

 

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  • A respite from the ordinary. Most of us are surrounded by concrete and dry wall much of the time. To experience a vista of trees and sky is sweet relief.
  • A new perspective and fuel for the imagination. Away from daily routines and distractions, we can see our lives from a more objective viewpoint. In addition, our thoughts dance more freely, creativity flows more readily, and discoveries unfurl more frequently. No wonder many tree houses for adults are built as artist/writer retreats.

 

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All of these reasons make sense, but I have one more theory about why we love these structures: Tree houses provide a physical, tangible replica of the presence of God.

Jesus made the way for us to experience his company, like the ladder or staircase to a refuge in the trees (1).

God is always with us, whether we’re aware or not. The key is to draw near to him through prayerful conversation and mindful observation of his glory—in a sunset, a bird song, or the scent of wisteria on the breeze. Then his peace can pervade our thoughts, and God becomes our refuge (2).

 

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With him there’s no such thing as ordinary living. He offers a God-enhanced, abundant life of joy in blessing, comfort in sorrow, sufficiency in trouble, and more (3).

New perspectives open up to us as we sit in quiet contemplation with our Heavenly Father, perspectives such as: contentment is a matter of choice not circumstances; my identity, security and purpose are not the result of events or effort; they are the result of who I am—a beloved child of God; God-thoughts change the atmosphere of my spirit (4).

 

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Tree houses offer much; God offers much more. Best of all, he’s not limited to a small structure perched among the trees.

The high life with God is always available.

 

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Thank you, God of the universe, for the incredible privilege of an intimate relationship with you. Anytime, anywhere, I can turn to you and breathe in your peace, admire the view of your glorious attributes, and experience rejuvenation of my spirit. I praise you, O Most High, for the restful shelter you provide. You are my refuge and fortress in whom I trust (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

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What benefits of the high life with God do you especially appreciate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 18:10
  3. John 10:10; John 16:24; Psalm 147:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. Philippians  4:11-13; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 16:8

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.fellowshipsite.org.

 

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(Fair as in true and good)

 

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Yesterday, our church worship service ended with three baptisms. (Seven more took place at two other services.) What a heart-warming delight to celebrate the symbolism of new life with each participant!

One of those baptized was the pastor’s son.  As he rose up from the water, he smiled broadly and hugged his dad. Tears filled my eyes to witness a young boy committing himself to life with Jesus.

Just as physical life requires shelter, food, water, and clothing for survival, our new life in Jesus requires those same needs be met in our spirits:

 

Shelter

 

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(“The one who lives in the shelter of the Most High,

who rests in the shadow of the Almighty,

will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge, my fortress,

and my God in whom I trust!”–Psalm 91:1-2 ISV)

 

But how do we access a shelter that is invisible? By centering our thoughts on God.

Even amidst the business of each day, we can pause now and then and imagine a personal refuge with him (on a quiet beach, under a sturdy tree in the forest, by a lake in view of mountains–those are a few possibilities).

First, we breathe in the peace of his presence. Yes, just the simple act of taking a deep breath while whispering such words as, “Prince of Peace, I welcome you,” can create a shift from tension to tranquility.

Then, like the psalmist, we reaffirm our trust in the Most High God, the Almighty–the One whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19b), yet he knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

 

Food

 

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 (“Man does not live on bread alone

but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

–Deuteronomy 8:3)

 

A pantry full of groceries is useless unless the food is consumed. Similarly, the great storehouse of inspiration and counsel in the Bible is of no use unless we read it, believe it, and live it out. The abundant, God-enhanced life of contentment and joy comes to those who taste of God’s character, promises, and wisdom—all found within the pages of scripture, ready to put into practice.

 

Water

 

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“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him.”

By this he meant the Spirit.”

–John 7:38-39

 

With the refreshing of the Holy Spirit we become like trees planted by a stream (Psalm 1:3):

  • Strong—though not all at once, any more than a tree reaches maturity overnight. Growth occurs day by day, bit by bit, as we cooperate with the Spirit.
  • Green-leafed—radiant with health, reflecting the Lord’s glory, his goodness and character (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Full of fruit—a natural by-product of the Spirit’s presence. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:17). Examples include humility, purity, and selflessness.

 

Clothing

 

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Familiar to many of us is the spiritual “armor” that Paul described (Ephesians 6:11-17). A worthy addition would be a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Like a favorite sweater worn at every opportunity, praise of our Father should accompany us everywhere.

 

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This is certain:  God is more than able to provide for our every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

All possibilities for our lives exist within this one truth:

The almighty God rules from his throne in heaven, a throne he established before the beginning of time (Psalm 103:19a).

He’s got this–and everything else.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.cornerstonelife.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.projectinspired.com.)

 

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(“There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.”

–Brother Lawrence)

“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)

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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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Group of sparrows.

Group of sparrows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29, 31).

Why did Jesus choose sparrows for this illustration?

They’re so small and common.  (Have you ever felt unimportant and ordinary?)

Sparrows were of such little value in Jesus’ day, they were sold two for a penny.  The poor would buy them to eat—a cheap source of protein.

Nobody much cared about sparrows in Bible times; most folks still don’t care today.  They’re just drab little birds we see every day—hardly worth our attention.

But the smallest, drabbest sparrow doesn’t slip by God’s attention.  Not one can fall to the ground without God knowing.  And if he knows and cares about the sparrows, he certainly knows and cares about each of us.  Verse thirty-one makes it clear:  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”

There’s a modicum of comfort in the knowledge that God sees our situations.  To be honest, though, the fact that he just knows isn’t all that helpful.

Better yet is the news that not one sparrow can fall without God’s consent.

Nothing happens to us that hasn’t first received the stamp of approval from God Almighty.

“Wait a minute,” you might say.  “If a sparrow falls, he’s likely to die.  Not much comfort in that either– knowing that God gave his OK!

Here’s what I want to embrace:  we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16b), right?  When it’s my turn to fall off the branch, I want to be able to affirm, “Yes, Lord.  Whatever you think is best is A-OK with me.  I know I can trust you because you love me.  And I rejoice in the promise that whatever happens, you will bring good from it.”   (Remind me of that truth when I start to wobble, will you?)

But here’s the best news:  Notice that Jesus didn’t speak of God as some detached, omnipotent being.

He said, Father.

It is our gracious and kind Heavenly Father who tenderly watches over his little sparrows.

Red Bike

Red Bike (Photo credit: swanksalot)

Think of a loving mother who witnesses her small son falling off his bike.  When he gets up with a scraped knee, she won’t just say, “Oh, I saw that happen, Johnny.  I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”  Small comfort in that.

No, that mother will run to her son, hold him in her arms, talk to him reassuringly, take him to the house, and patch him up.  That’s just what a loving parent does.

When trouble comes, our loving Heavenly Father is right there with us, just like that mother.

He holds us.  Isaiah wrote, “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (40:11).

He talks reassuringly to us, especially through His Word.  With the psalmist, we can pray, “Strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28b).

God is our refuge and sanctuary; he is our home, our dwelling place. (Psalm 91:1-2).

And God patches us up; he restores our souls (Psalm 23:3).  He renews our energy, purpose, and hope.

So, “Don’t be afraid,” he says. “If I take care of the sparrows, I will most certainly take care of you, because you are worth more than many sparrows.”

See? You’re not small, unimportant, and ordinary–not at all!

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Thank you, Lord, for not playing favorites.  What glorious news that each of us is precious to you!  Thank you also for being an attentive God who tenderly watches over us.  And especially thank you for being an involved God, always acting on our behalf, and always for our good.  We are in awe of you, our loving, gracious Heavenly Father!    

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