Friday, April 20, 2018

My Morning Prayer







"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life."  (Psalm 143:8 NIV)
 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Every Careless Word



I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew this morning, and this is part of what I read: "Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." That's Jesus speaking.


Every careless word. Oh my.


Every careless word. Not some careless words. Not just the words I meant to say. But every careless word. Including the ones that just slipped out of my mouth. The ones that caused me then to think "did I really just say that??!!".

As I have been thinking about that verse, I wonder how many careless words I have spoken already today. 

Or how many careless words have I spoken this week?

Or this month?

And I realize that I can't even begin to keep up! How sad that is.

Every careless word. That's a lot of words. And that's something to think about.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons we were made with two ears and only one mouth!


"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."
(Psalm 139:23-24 NASB)


Saturday, April 7, 2018

An Important Word Too Often Overlooked

This morning Facebook reminded me of a morning when I was forgetful. The day had begun as many Sunday mornings did in recent years, with a stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. After we had finished eating, and while Al was paying for our breakfast, I went to the ladies' room. As I was washing my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror. Something just didn't look right. And then I realized what it was. I had not remembered my earrings! Fortunately, Cracker Barrel sells earrings.  Some rather nice ones, in fact. So, I purchased a pair of earrings to complete my ensemble, and we went on to church.

Earrings are not the only things I'm having trouble remembering these days. I often forget my earrings or my glasses or my phone. I begin a sentence and then forget what I'm talking about. Actually, remembering things remains one of my biggest challenges. That's what happens when a stroke affects the area of the brain that controls speech and memory. But I suspect I'm not the only one with memory problems. Others who are in the same season of life as I am blame our forgetfulness on our age. But we all have trouble remembering. We're so busy and so stressed and so rushed that we just can't remember everything we want to.

Remember.

It's an important word. But one we often overlook.  Remember is a word we don't often remember!

We recently celebrated Easter, a season for remembering.

"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."  (Luke 24:6-7 ESV)

"And they remembered His words."  (Luke 24:8 ESV)

"When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken."     (John 2:22 ESV)

Remember.

That's an important word.  An important lesson for us, wouldn't you agree?

Remember.

It's easy to follow Jesus, to serve Him, to be joyful, when everything in life is good. When there's plenty of money in your checking account and all the bills are paid. When you're healthy. When there's no stress.

We tend to get forgetful when things are not going so well. When the bills are piling up. When there's too much month and not enough money. When there's sickness and stress and anxiety and worry. When relationships are strained. When we're worried about our job. When life happens.

But it's at those times that we most need to remember.

In the immediate context of the passage in Luke, the angel is telling the women not to be worried because the body of Jesus is no longer in the tomb where they expected to find it. Remember what He said. Remember that He told you He would rise from the grave. Remember.

There's a broader application for us as well. Here in the 21st century, just as back in the first century, we need to remember what He said. 

He said He would rise again. And He did. He said He will come again. And He will. We need to remember that. We need to continually remind ourselves of His words. We need His words written on our hearts.

How do we do that? By taking time to be in the Word. The written Word of God is a great gift for us, and we need to treat it as the great gift that it is - the written revelation of God. We need to read it.  To study itTo treasure it.

Knowing the Word, being able to call it to mind, remembering the Word, takes more than a few quick minutes here and there. It takes time. We must be intentional about spending time in the Word.  Intentional about reading it. Intentional about studying it. Intentional about committing it to our memory.

Then, when life gets tough, as it inevitably will, we can remember.

Remember.

It's an important word. One that is far too often overlooked.


"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."  (Psalm 103:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine)

The Painter's Daughter. A Book Review.


I don't know about you, but I have a quite lengthy to-be-read list. Following my stroke, I thinned that list out considerably, but there are still a number of books stacked up near my desk that I hope one day to read. Recently, I picked a selection from the stack and began reading.


Because I read much more slowly than I did in my pre-stroke days, and because the book I selected is long (452 pages in paperback), it took a while for me to get through The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen. But I am so glad I selected it from the stack. I enjoyed this book immensely.


This is the story of Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter. As we meet Sophie, she is in love with another artist, Wesley Overtree, who has abandoned her to pursue his art in Italy. Wesley's younger brother, Captain Steven Overtree, offers to marry Sophie to save her reputation.


More than just a love story, this is a tale of relationships, of family, of misunderstandings, and a little bit of mystery. The tale begins with a marriage of convenience, but develops into so much more. Fans of Jane Austen, and of the regency era, will particularly enjoy this one. One reviewer called it "deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic".


Author Julie Klassen is a Christy Award-winning writer of Christian fiction. This one did not disappoint. Give it a try. I think you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Learning to Rest

"Rest is a necessary part of useful action. It is not something to be overlooked, neglected, or denied." - Alistair Begg 




I came across this quote some time ago and it really struck a chord with me. This idea of rest is one I've been pondering for a while. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have been pondering the lack of rest, or resting or restfulness, that characterizes life in 21st century America. Certainly since my stroke I have done a lot more resting than I ever did before. But taking time for rest is the exception rather than the rule in our culture.

Rest:  (noun) the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep; refreshing ease or inactivity; relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs; mental or spiritual calm, tranquility.
(verb) to refresh oneself, as by sleeping or relaxing; to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion; to be at ease; to be quiet or still. (definitions taken from Dictionary.com)

Would anyone dispute that people are very busy these days? Over-worked. Over-tired. Stressed. Always in a hurry. In need of some rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, people don't seem to know how to rest any more. And somehow we have come to equate being busy with being productive. Which is not necessarily the case. As a culture, we're always on the go. Always busy. Always in a hurry. Always have too much to do. And if we aren't busy and in a hurry and on the go, we seem to think there's a problem. That something is wrong with us or wrong in our lives because we aren't busy enough. We complain about being too busy and we complain when we aren't busy. When we don't have every minute of every day filled with some activity, we complain that we are bored. And somehow we have convinced ourselves that if we take time to rest, there is something wrong with us. That we must be deficient in some way if we admit a need for rest and relaxation. That we must be terribly lazy if we choose some down-time.

None of that is actually true. But we have convinced ourselves that it is. And so the result is that we don't rest. We don't allow ourselves time to rest. Maybe we don't even know how to rest.

But our bodies were designed to need rest. And not getting enough rest has consequences. Among these consequences, according to webmd.com, are illness, including serious illnesses like heart disease and stroke; forgetfulness; depression; weight gain; aging skin; and a host of other things. So it would seem that this might be something we should pay more attention to!

We need to learn how to rest. I'm not just talking about getting a certain number of hours sleep each night. I'm talking about resting. Relaxing. Building some leisure into our schedules. Being intentional about resting and relaxing. Taking some time to do nothing. To take a nap. Or read a book. Or daydream. Time to rest.

We need rest in more than just a physical sense. We need to learn to rest spiritually as well.

"Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him."  (Psalm 37:7 NASB)

The word that is translated rest in this verse means to be silent, to be still, to stand still. It depicts the state of being motionless. It indicates the absence of emotional distress and the ability to be quiet and relax.

That kind of rest comes from knowing who God is, by having confidence in His character, by not only believing in God, but by believing God. By trusting Him. It comes from a settled assurance that God is who He says He is, that He has done everything He says He has done, and that He will do everything He says He will do.

Rest. We need it. Both physically and spiritually. But it doesn't always come naturally to us. We have to be intentional about resting. 

We have to learn how to rest. The first step is to be still. 

"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Chronic

Like millions of other people, I have some chronic health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis. But that's not what I want to be known for. I don't want to be defined by my health issues. When people think of me, I don't want to be thought of as that woman with chronic health issues.

When people think of me, I want to be known for something else entirely. 

Chronic is defined as constant, habitual, recurring, continuing a long time. When that term is applied, this is how I want it to relate to me:

I want to be known for chronic joy.

For chronic gratitude.

For chronic compassion.

For chronic grace.

I want my life [constantly, habitually, recurring, continuing for a long time] to be a reflection of the One who loved me enough to die for me.

"I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul will make its boast in the LORD......O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together."  (Psalm 34:1-3 NASB)





Thursday, March 22, 2018

Joy Unspeakable

Once again I have a song lyric running through my head. It actually happens to me pretty often, but in this case it's a little baffling. I haven't heard this song for years, and I can't even remember when, if ever, it was actually sung in a church service I was part of. Yet I can't get it out of my head! Joy unspeakable and full of glory, the half has never yet been told.


A couple of mornings ago we were fogged in around here. Literally. Surrounded by fog. By early afternoon the fog had lifted. By midday, all the clouds had lifted and we had beautiful sunshine! Beautiful sunshine, but oh, so cold. What happened to spring? But I digress. The fog was what triggered this song memory. Heavy fog, leading to glorious sunshine.


Life is a lot like that, isn't it? We spend much of our life "in a fog", at least spiritually speaking. Even when we have trusted Jesus early in life, we don't really comprehend all that means. Our understanding grows as we do, in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. And as we grow, the fog begins to lift and we see things more clearly. Continuing to grow in our faith means we see more and more clearly. Now we see things as through a mirror, dimly, as the Apostle Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 13. Eventually we shall see clearly, shall see Jesus face to face. And that will indeed be "joy unspeakable and full of glory"!


But we don't have to wait until then to experience that kind of joy! We can live that kind of joy every day in the here and now. That kind of joy comes when we know that our eternity is secure, but also comes because we live every moment of every day in confident assurance that our God is in control.  When we see everything that comes our way as coming from His hand for our good and for His glory. When we live with grateful hearts for all the gifts He gives, both large and small. When we know that we know that we know that we belong to Him. That knowledge, that settled certainty, that no matter what comes my way, I belong to Him.......that brings a life of joy!


Yes, tough times come. I've been right in the middle of some of those tough times over the last few days. And perhaps that's why the old hymn has come to mind. It's a reminder from God not to give up. That He is in control. A reminder not to let the tough times rob my joy! Yet another reminder came to me in my quiet time this morning as I read these words: "[Jesus prayed], But now I am coming to you and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves."  (John 17:13 ESV)


Joy unspeakable. Not because of circumstances. Often in spite of circumstances. But isn't that what joy is, really? Joy is not dependent on circumstances. Joy comes from a relationship with Jesus. Joy is not an external thing; it is internal. Happy times, grace gifts, tangible blessings......those are just a bonus! Joy is in the relationship. And it is joy unspeakable and full of glory!



"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuiness of your faith - more precious than gold that is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV, emphasis mine)


And just in case you aren't familiar with the old hymn I mentioned at the outset, here it is. This hymn was written by Barney Warren way back in 1900.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KskwIKSHqzk