Hope Rising

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

God Rest Me, Please

God Rest Me, Please
"God rest you merry, gentlemen..."
and in these pressured days
I, too, would seek to be so blessed
by Him, who still conveys
His merriment, along with rest,
So I would beg, on tired knees,
"God rest me merry,

Ruth Bell Graham

Working in ministry at this time of year is exhausting...this is my prayer for those of us who are recuperating and receiving rest in our spirits and bodies this week.  Blessings and love, T

Forgiving and forgiven.

A couple of days late, but I love this thought:
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, December 22, 2011

His First Coming

A facet of the Christmas story that has always intrigued me, especially as I have gotten older, is the part where THE King was born into a dirty, probably smelly, most definitely humble, holding place for animals. That His first bed was a feeding trough--again, dirty, far from pristine--not the picture that we so want our King to be born into--a place that is sterilized, and glowing, and warm, and perfect.  This aspect of the Story has captured my attention as I've gotten older because I have seen the ugly, non-pristine, dirty places in my own heart, and even of my own circumstances, and the need for a Redeemer has become so evident in my life.  I love how this quote captures all my scattered thoughts on this subject, and ties them together to remind us that God chose His Son's humble entrance into the world to make a point:

When you celebrate Christmas, think about the importance God places on your life, even if you don't feel that who you are or what you do makes much difference in a busy world.  The Incarnation tells us that we are special and unique and that God wants to dwell in our hearts. In God's eyes, there is no place too humble, no corner of the world that is not worthy to dwell in.  He comes as a child to our hearts, not demanding or conquering.  He comes as a baby to hold in our arms.  It is not whether or not He is here with us. It is whether or not we decide to welcome Him into our lives.
Candy Paull

Monday, December 12, 2011

Believing in a God bigger than the burdens.

When hearts are fragile, that’s when they may be most faith-filled — believing in miracles before life makes sense.

Believing in the miraculous coming –  so there is real living in the moment now.

 Believing in a God bigger than the burdens.
Believing — so there is living.

This is how the fragile are made strong.

Ann Voskamp

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What is faith?

Faith in God is less apt to proceed from miracles than miracles from faith in God.
Frederick Buechner
Listening to Your Life
November 19 reading

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 
Hebrews 11:6

These two elements [believing that He is, and is a rewarder of those who seek Him] seem most simple, but, alas, how many professing Christians act as if God were not living; and how many others, though seeking after Him, are not expecting from Him as Rewarder!
Newell, commenting on Hebrews 11:6

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 
Jeremiah 17:7

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving Prayer.

Thou hast given me so much. Give me one thing more, a grateful heart.  

George Herbert

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A fall party...

In a past life, I was a special events coordinator, and a few times a year,  I get to use that knowledge to plan special events for my church. Last week, we had a fall party with s'mores, hot chocolate, caramel apples, and popcorn for all of our ministry partners.  There was also a bonfire, but somehow I missed getting a picture of it. My brother and sister in law let me borrow their vintage crates and trunks, and I used burlap as a cover on top of the tablecloths...here are some pictures:

Apple Cider accompaniments
Hot chocolate accompaniments

The above picture was taken later in the evening after everyone brought their pies for a pie making contest...it was taken w/ my phone, so the quality wasn't as good, but you get the idea. :)
Napkins, utensils, hand sanitizer, and plates...placed in an upside down box...

We pulled a flat bed truck in for our worship team to lead in a few songs around the bonfire...again, taken with my phone, so not great quality.  

All in all, a fun fall evening!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A favorite.

Makes me think of fall every time I read it...


At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is this beautiful thing 
that just happened?
Mary Oliver

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Lord Jesus, I believe.  Help my unbelief!  Strengthen my weak and flickering faith.  

I know that You are my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption.  Lord, strengthen this faith in me, that I may never fear nor faint in any trial or temptation.  You alone are the Author and Finisher of my faith.  Though my faith be tried by fire, may I ever be found strong and unmovable to the glory of Your holy name.  

Let me firmly trust in Your blood, which cleanses me from all sin, that though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  When I am enticed by sin and the world beckons and my own passions want to yield, help my unbelief, and give me the strength and will to resist.  
When trials, sorrow, and affliction want to rob me of this trust, O Lord, help me to remain steadfast and true.  

Strengthen my faith in Your promises that all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to Your purpose to be Your own in time and in eternity. 

You alone, O almighty Lord, can help;  You, O gracious Lord, will help my unbelief;  You, O merciful God, will strengthen my faith.   

Lord, I believe!  Amen. 

From the Lutheran prayer book
Found Here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It is good to wait quietly.

The true test of a person's spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.  A person's worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight. 
Oswald Chambers

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD .
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-32

Monday, October 10, 2011

Even so, come Lord Jesus...

There is something about hymns--something about singing words sung by generations of Christians before us--often overlooked in the modern church today--that cannot be reproduced in the newest and best worship song.  There is depth and richness to songs sung by those who have gone before us...and something amazing about finding that the longings of their hearts were the same as our hearts.  This hymn in particular has been a blessing to me recently...


Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Words: Charles Wesley, 1744
Music: Rowland H. Prichard, 1830; harm., from The English Hymnal, 1906

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

You can listen to Chris Tomlin's beautiful rendition with Christy Nockels HERE.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A place of surrender...

I find myself praying this prayer over and over each day:

You are good, 
and I trust You.

Because He is  good, I trust Him.

We trust, not because A god exists,
but because THIS God exists. 
C.S. Lewis


"... the LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him."
Psalm 32:10 (NIV)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Remaining Faithful

We have the idea that we ought to shield ourselves from some of the things God brings around us. May it never be! It is God who engineers our circumstances, and whatever they may be we must see that we face them while continually abiding with Him in His temptations.  They are His temptations, not temptations to us, but temptations to the life of the Son of God in us. Jesus Christ's honor is at stake in our bodily lives.  Are we remaining faithful to the Son of God in everything that attacks His life in us?

Are you going on with Jesus?  The way goes through Gethsemane...the way is lonely and goes on until there is no longer even a trace of a footprint to follow--but only the voice saying, "Follow Me" (Matt. 4:19).
~Oswald Chambers
My Utmost, September 19 reading

Friday, September 16, 2011


Found this picture on Pinterest--I literally still have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

You are the source of my strength, You are the strength of my life


Total Praise

Lord, I will lift my eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace you give me,
In time of the storm.
You are the source of my strength,
You are the strength of my life.
I lift my hands in total praise to you.
Lord, I will lift my eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You.
Your peace you give me,
In times of the storm
You are the source of my strength,
You are the strength of my life.
I lift my hands in total praise to you.

Words and Music by Richard Smallwood
1996 Universal (Admin. by Harry Fox)

This song means so much to me...it's what's currently on repeat around our house.  Praising Him today!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The tooth fairy comes to visit....

My "baby" lost his first tooth last night! I saw this idea on Pinterest just last month, and he enjoyed it so much...

Mini letter and gift from the Tooth Fairy
Opening the letter

All smiles!
Our new picture face--gotta see that gap! :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The pause in the song is a rest...

God's grammar lesson: Don't put a period where I have a comma.  I have a plan for every life I create.
(thoughts from Sheri Rose Shepherd)

The Bend in the Road

…And together we stand at life’s crossroads
And view what we think is the end
But God has a much bigger vision
And He tells us it’s only a bend.

For the road goes on and is smoother,
And the pause in the song is a rest.
And the part that’s unsung and unfinished
Is the sweetest and richest and best.

So rest and relax and grow stronger.
Let go and let God share your load,
Your work is not finished or ended,
You’ve just come to a bend in the road.

~Helen Steiner Rice

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psalm 18:19

Psalm 18:19
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

He brought me forth also into a large place. After pining awhile in the prison house Joseph reached the palace, and from the cave of Adullam David mounted to the throne. Sweet is pleasure after pain. Enlargement is the more delightful after a season of pinching poverty and sorrowful confinement. Besieged souls delight in the broad fields of the promise when God drives off the enemy and sets open the gates of the environed city. The Lord does not leave his work half done, for having routed the foe he leads out the captive into liberty. Large indeed is the possession and place of the believer in Jesus, there need be no limit to his peace, for there is no bound to his privilege.
He delivered me, because he delighted in me. Free grace lies at the foundation. Rest assured, if we go deep enough, sovereign grace is the truth which lies at the bottom of every well of mercy...Why Jehovah should delight in us is an question without an answer, and a mystery which angels cannot solve; but that he does delight in his beloved is certain, and is the fruitful root of favours as numerous as they are precious...
Charles Spurgeon

Monday, August 15, 2011

In silence, you leave the many to listen to the One.

Bonhoeffer writes, "Real silence, real stillness, really holding one's tongue comes only as the sober consequences of spiritual stillness"...Only when we learn to be truly silent are we able to speak the word that is needed when it is needed.
...Catherine de Haeck Doherty writes, " All in me is silent and...I am immersed in the silence of God." It is in solitude that we come to experience the "silence of God" and so receive the inner silence that is the craving of our hearts. 
Richard Foster
Silence your body to listen to your words. 
Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts. 
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating. 
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.
In silence, you leave the many to listen to the One. 
Maggie Gobran
Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound?
Not here, there is not enough silence.
T.S. Eliot  

"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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

For those we love

Almighty God,

We entrust all who are dear to us to thy never failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From The Book of Common Prayer

Before me, even as behind,
God is —
and all is well.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Oh, to have this kind of faith in my Father...

"If all the angels in heaven were to march by me in a file, and assure me that God would keep his word, I should say, 'I did not require you to tell me that, for the Lord never fails to be as good as his word.' God is so true that the witness of angels would be a superfluity. If my father were to make a statement, I certainly should not call in his servant to confirm it."
Charles Spurgeon

My Father, 

I believe.  Help Thou my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

All that I have and all that I am is Yours.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good word.

Salvation is not merely a matter of eternity, getting to heaven, "getting saved" from eternal separation from God; it is a way of life in community.  The "saved" are those we deal with, give leadership to, these baptized, image-of-God men, women, and children.  We are "a chosen people, eager to do good." Salvation is not just a matter between the soul and God; it is the soul and God and house and kids and work and play--the works.  The saved life is a way of life in which God is both the present and the eternal substructure.

Eugene Peterson
in The Unnecessary Pastor

The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness.  God's life in us expresses itself as God's life, not as human life trying to be Godly.

Oswald Chambers
My Utmost, June 28

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayer of Self-Dedication from the Book of Common Prayer

Praying this prayer today...

Almighty and Eternal God,

So draw our hearts to Thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly Thine, utterly dedicated  unto Thee; and then use us, we pray Thee as Thou wilt, and always to Thy glory and the welfare of Thy people, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


I know the language is old, but there is something powerful about praying a prayer of surrender to God that so many have prayed before us.  Love the heart of this prayer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry.

And the parched ground shall become a pool. 
Isaiah 35:7

We always have visions, before a thing is made real.  When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on.  Instead of the vision becoming real, there has become the valley of humiliation.

...God gave us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way.  Every vision will be made real if we have patience.  Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry.  We are always in such a frantic hurry.  In the light of the glory of the vision we go forth to do things, but the vision is not real in us yet; and God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality.  Ever since we had the vision, God has been at work, getting us into the shape of the ideal, and over and over again we escape from His hand and try to batter ourselves into our own shape.

The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be.  Let the Potter put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision.  Don't lose heart in the process.  If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you.
Oswald Chambers
My Utmost, July 6 Reading
as quoted by Jan Karon in A Continual Feast

Monday, July 18, 2011

Faith is armor upon armor, a grace that preserves all other graces.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O LORD , you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11,12 (NIV)

I was reading Psalm 5 last night, and these two verses spoke to me.  As I studied them this morning, I came across a description of what was meant by a shield in the time that these words were written.  I had heard it before, but it spoke to me in a new way this morning.  

The shield was a large piece that was as tall as a man.  It not only covered the length of his body, but it was able to be moved in order to protect the warrior from an incoming blow of a sword or an arrow.  This part struck me this morning:  if the warrior was in battle, his armor was not just the shield--he  was in full armor, from head to toe, and his shield was used as further protection.  

Charles Spurgeon quotes William Gurnall in his Treasury of David:  
The shield doth not only defend the whole body, but it is a defense to the soldier's armor also; it keeps the arrow from the helmet as well as head, from the breast and breastplate also. Thus faith, it is armor upon armor, a grace that preserves all the other graces.

Again, note that as we take refuge in him, he protects us with armor upon armor, and a grace that preserves all the other graces. 

Father, today and every day, help me faithfully take refuge in You alone--whose favor is my protection and my shield.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


An evening of good things...

Good: My little guy building soldiers in the sand to guard the castle we just made together.

Good: Watching him face big waves with reckless abandon. 

Good: Capturing a look of trust and love that only a child can give you. 

Good: watching my "all-boy" boy smash his sand castle moments after building it.

In each of these precious moments with my son, my heart rests in knowing that our heavenly Father is with us.

That He is for us.

That He loves us
That His timing is perfect.

That He will do what's best for us. 
Thou hast given me so much...give me one thing more, a grateful heart.
George Herbert

A song that has been on repeat in my house and car this weekend: You Have Been So Good to Me (Paul Baloche)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hope is a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do.

We are persuaded that God's way is redemption and that redemption, not suffering, is ultimate.
Hoping does not mean doing nothing.  It is not fatalistic resignation.  It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions.  It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality.   It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying.

And hoping is not dreaming.  It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain.  It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.  It is imagination put in the harness of faith.  It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.  It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it.  That is not hoping in God but bullying God.  "I pray to God--my life a prayer--and wait for what he'll say and do.  My life's on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning." (from Psalm 130)

...[Suffering] is...a powerful demonstration that our place in the depths is not out of bounds from God.  We see that whatever or whoever got us in trouble cannot separate us from God, for "forgiveness is your habit."  We are persuaded that God's way is redemption and that redemption, not suffering, is ultimate. 

The "bottom" has a bottom; the heights are boundless.  Knowing that, we are helped to go ahead and learn the skills of waiting and watching--hoping!--by which God is given room to work out our salvation and develop our faith while we fix our attention on his ways of grace and resurrection.
 Eugene Peterson


Monday, June 27, 2011

Giving thanks in the little things

These words have been speaking to me in an uncomfortable (but good!) way for the last several days: 
Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.  We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.  We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.

We pray for the big things, and forget to give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
in Life Together

"To love at all is to be vulnerable"

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. 

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Father, keep my heart open, soft, and, yes, even vulnerable. Help me not to close my heart and in so doing become "unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."  As I keep my heart open to Your will and Your ways, help me to guard my heart, and to show Your love to those You put in my path.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reminding myself of His sovereignty

This week has been difficult for me...my heart has been troubled and frustrated by an ongoing season of waiting.  There are several areas in my life that seem to be open-ended and in need of His completion.  I've been praying a prayer of relinquishment that a friend sent me, and I've been reminding myself once again of Psalm 46:10: 
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Here are some notes by Jonathan Edwards on Psalm 46:10, as quoted by C.H. Spurgeon in his Treasury of David:
Be still, and know that I am God. The sole consideration that God is God, sufficient to still all objections to his sovereignty. 
Jonathan Edwards
I am God.
  1. In that he is God, he is an absolutely and infinitely perfect being.
  2. As he is God, he is so great, that he is infinitely above all comprehension.
  3. As he is God, all things are his own.
  4. In that he is God, he is worthy to be sovereign over all things.
  5. In that he is God, he will be sovereign, and will act as such.
  6. In that he is God, he is able to avenge himself on those who oppose his sovereignty.
Jonathan Edwards

A reminder I'm preaching to myself this morning: for those of us who are experiencing a season of waiting in our walk with Christ, daily confession is so important.  Let Him search your heart, listen to His voice, and obey the changes He asks you to make.  If you find that there is not unconfessed sin, then rest in His sovereignty...He is God, and He is working out His kingdom purposes in His children--those who believe in His son, Jesus Christ.  His ways are higher than our ways--thank Him and praise Him before the answers are clear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord. Tomorrow, let me love You even more.

When my son was only a few days old, I was listening to a Fernando Ortega CD and heard Jesus, King of Angels for the first time.  I began to play the song for my baby every night starting that evening.  It's six and a half years later, and I'm still playing it every night...tonight the words struck me new once more as I laid him down to sleep.

Jesus, King of Angels

Jesus, King of angels, heaven's light,
Shine Your face upon this house tonight.
Let no evil come into my dreams;
Light of heaven, keep me in Your peace.

Remind me how You made dark spirits flee, 
And spoke Your power to the raging sea.
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man;
Remind me, Jesus, this is what I am.

The universe is vast beyond the stars,
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls, 
And mindful of the anxious thoughts 
That find me, surround me, and bind me . . . .

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord.
Tomorrow, let me love You even more.
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name 
Until I close my eyes and sleep again.

Jesus, King of angels, heaven's light,
Hold my hand and keep me through this night.

Listen to Jesus, King of Angels here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons from a Hike

*See below for an explanation of this picture
 It was a summer in the late 1990's (I can't remember the year!), and I was blessed to be on a 3 week missions trip to the islands of the Philippines. 

Our team was there to encourage the local missionaries and church members, so we often traveled in a van (sometimes riding on the top of the vehicle as the locals did) from village to village, where we met many wonderful Christian people.  At each town, we would gather in a one room wooden church to sing for the people, and our team leader or the local missionary would give a sermon (usually with dogs or chickens running freely through the church).  After the service, we would talk with the locals and play with the children.

In the middle of the trip, we went to a Wycliffe Bible Translator compound, which was an oasis to us.  The grounds were simple, but well kept, and after the oppressive heat, the large shady trees and the coolness of the stone floors and walls of the buildings were delightful.  There were missionaries there from around the world--I remember specifically people from Switzerland and America, and they were so kind to us.   

We were at the compound to begin the part of our journey from which I would learn the most. There was a helicopter pilot based at Wycliffe who flew us in groups of 3 or 4 into a little village so high in the mountains that trucks and vans could not get to it.  You either had to fly in or walk in to this village, because the roads leading up to it were narrow and dangerous.  We got to do both—we flew in by helicopter, and walked out a few days later, up and down muddy, often slippery, trails. 

A bridge that we crossed during the hike-can't believe we walked over this now.
Throughout the physically demanding 10 hour hike from the village to the nearest bus stop, I found that the best way to keep going was to watch the heels of the hiking boots in front of me.  If I looked beyond the boots to the trail in front of us, I could get discouraged about how far we had to go, and if I looked behind me, I could get discouraged about how little ground I had covered. If I looked beside me, I would see the narrowness of the trail or the steepness of the incline below me. So, for the majority of that long hike, my focus was only on one thing—the mud-covered boots in front of me.  What a feeling of accomplishment when we made it to the bus stop at the end of our hike!

I’ve often looked back at that trip with mixed emotions. It was very complicated in many ways. The unfamiliar culture, an oppressive heat, and the traveling conditions all proved to be difficult at times.  On the other hand, the kindness of the people, in spite of their poverty, always comes to the forefront in my memory, and seeing firsthand the plight of so many in our world was priceless in changing my world view. 

 But the most important lesson I learned was the one from the hike. Focusing on the boots before me got me through a lengthy and physically demanding hike.  Someday, my journey here will be done, but as I've experienced the inevitable difficulties of life on this earth, the principle in Hebrew 12:2 always comes to mind:  “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of [our] faith…”, and I remember the muddy boots from that long ago hike.  

*These beautiful children were at a tiny church in one of the remote mountain villages we visited.  They had never seen light skinned, light haired people before, and they kept running their fingers through our hair in amazement. I also have a vivid memory of one of these little boys literally scampering up a banana or coconut tree to get the fruit. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An evening walk

Enjoyed the contrast of an old tree and queen anne's lace on a walk this evening.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

He makes me smile.

All I did was ask my son to stand so I could get a picture of him with the Florida panther-- he added the ferocious roar himself just as I was clicking the camera.  ;)

Gotta love the aviators, too. :)

By the way, if you're in our area and enjoy nature, the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is worth your time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thoughts on God's will...

Recently I read Elisabeth Elliot's book, God's Guidance: Finding His Will for Your Life.  There is so much good in the book,  I decided to highlight a few paragraphs that especially stood out to me.  Elisabeth Elliot has such clear, simple faith.


On God's timing 

When I review "all the way which the Lord my God hath led me"(Deut. 8:2)...I realize that nearly all of my trouble with finding out the will of God came because I wanted it too soon.  I like to plan.  I like to have things mapped out well in advance, and uncertainty of any sort puts me on edge.  Perhaps it is for this very reason God has often asked me to wait until the last minute, right up to what looked like the screaming edge, before I found out what he wanted me to do.  My acceptance of his timing was a rigorous exercise in trust.  I was tempted to charge the Lord with negligence and inattention, like the disciples in the boat in a storm.  They toiled frantically until the situation became impossible, and then instead of asking for Jesus' help they yelled, "Master, don't you care that we're drowning?" (Mark 4:38 PHILLIPS) They weren't perishing, they were panicking.  It was not too late.  Jesus got up and merely spoke to the wind and sea.

On that other occasion, many centuries earlier, when the power of God to command water was what was needed to lead his people, the priests of Israel actually had to get their feet wet before God did anything.  Why does he put us to this kind of test? Probably to give us the chance to make a conscious act of faith, often a specific, physical act, a move of some kind toward him. "And when ...the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water.....the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap..." (Joshua 3:15-16 RSV)

 On discerning God's will in light of our relationships 
(p. 82)

I have said earlier that God often isolates a man in order to reveal himself.  It is when alone that a man most clearly recognizes God for who he is.  But it is in relationship with his fellowmen that he comes to know himself.  Seeking the will of God as though it had nothing to do with anybody else leads to all kinds of distortions. 

 On God's will in light of our circumstances 
(pp. 86,87)

Circumstances are without a question a part of God's will.  "We know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good." (Romans 8:28 PHILLIPS) This is a sweeping statement. But if God is in control of the big things, he has to be in control of the little things.  He "pulls strings through circumstances," Jim Elliot wrote.  It is a normal assumption of faith that he will use circumstances to nudge me in the right direction.

But we have to use our heads.  I hope that, in studying the divine principles, we have not forgotten the importance of the human principle of common sense.  The intelligence we have is a gift from God; the circumstances in which we find our selves he controls. Obviously, we have to bring our intelligence as well as our faith to bear on those circumstances.

"I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle." (Psalm 32:8,9 RSV)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thoughts from my journal...

February 6, 2009

I was reading this traditional rabbinic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 to bless a friend who is going through a difficult time, and saw these verses differently tonight.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (NIV)

“God bless you and keep you, God smile on you and gift you, God look you full in the face and make you prosper.” (MSG)

The phrase “the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace” jumped out at me.  Or, as The Message puts it, “God look you full in the face”….I so want that in my life.  I want God to look me full in the face.  I want to experience His gaze, to see the love in His eyes, the reassurance in His direct stare.  I want to feel His eyes upon me—I know He’s watching, because the Proverbs 15:3 declares, the “eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”  But to have His face completely turned toward my face—eye to eye—implies that His full attention is turned towards me.

It also makes me ask myself a couple of questions:

When His face is turned toward me, what will He see?   
When He is looking me full in the face, what else will matter?

And, what a beautiful blessing--to pray for others that the God of the universe would look them  full in the face and give them peace.

When His face is turned toward us, and His full gaze shines graciously upon us, and as our hearts are right with Him, may we experience His full blessing and peace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jesus is Really Big in My Heart

This is a devotional that I was asked to write recently.  I based it off of this original blog post.

Over the last year, I've been teaching my young son how important it is to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart...see if there is any wicked way in me..." every day (Psalm 139:23,24). When he's done praying the prayer, I encourage him to be quiet and to listen with his heart to see if Jesus is telling him anything.

One night as we were ending our day by reading his Bible, I reminded my son again that we should pray the "Search my heart" prayer.  He prayed, and then I began to remind him to be quiet and listen to what Jesus was telling him.

As I was speaking, he interrupted me and said excitedly, "I hear Him, I hear Him!" I asked him what Jesus was saying, and with his hand over his heart, my 5 year old son said, "He's making my heart feel warm, and He's really big in my heart!"

What a description of being right with God.

Although I’ve tried to ask God daily to search my heart for many years, recently I find that God has been asking me to let Him search my heart in ways that I traditionally tried to avoid.  Can I allow Him to look into my heart and speak to me about my selfishness?  Or what about my motives--am I self-seeking or manipulative?  What about my reactions or responses when things don't go the way I think they should? For me, the list could go on and on. 

George MacDonald says, "Obedience is the opener of eyes."  As I allow God to show me the ugliness in the hidden places of my heart, I then must obey what He’s telling me to change, and keep allowing Him to scrutinize my life.  Even though it might initially be hard, there is such peace in allowing Him into those places, obeying Him, and walking in complete harmony with my Father.

As you allow God to search your heart, here is a question worth pondering:

When was the last time your heart felt warm, and Jesus was really big in your heart?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dwelling in His shelter, abiding in His shadow...

This passage has been such a comfort to me as I face a difficult week. He is my dwelling place, and He IS good!

Here are a few of the definitions from the original Hebrew of the two words from this passage that have spoken to me the most:

Dwell: to remain, stay

Abide: to lodge, pass the night, to remain

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 

I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day;  of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. 

You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 

For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. 

No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. 

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down. 

"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. 

"He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will   rescue him and honor him.

"With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation." 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How much they might be...

...most women affect me only as valuable crude material out of which precious things are making.  How much they might be, must be, shall be!... for until aspiration brings humility, people are generally well satisfied with themselves, having no idea what poor creatures they are.
George MacDonald 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Masculine and feminine roles...

Acceptance of their respective positions frees them both and whirls them into joy.
A woman in the presence of a good man, a real man, loves being a woman.  His strength allows her feminine heart to flourish.  His pursuit draws out her beauty.  And a man in the presence of a real woman loves being a man.  Her beauty arouses him to play the man; it draws out his strength.  She inspires him to be a hero.  Would that we all were so fortunate.  ~John and Stasi Eldredge

...men are designed to initiate, pursue, assert, protect, conquer, or whatever you want to call those traits that we refer to as masculine...When asked about their relationships, women talk a lot about desiring to respond, desiring to be pursued, wanted, initiated with, and so forth...a man's strength allows her to be all she is created to be. So guys, wake up.  God gave you testosterone, so use it. Step out, initiate, pursue, and stop being so passive. ~ Henry Cloud

If two people agree to dance together they agree to give and take, one to lead, and one to follow.  This is what a dance is. Insistence that both lead means there won't be any dance.  It is the woman's delighted yielding to the man's lead that gives him freedom.  It is the man's willingness to take the lead that gives her freedom.  Acceptance of their respective positions frees them both and whirls them into joy.~Elisabeth Elliot

Call me old fashioned, but my "feminine heart" would tell you that these statements are quite true. I read each of these quotes within several months of each other, and it struck me how similar they were in their wisdom...good stuff, IM*humble*O. :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

"I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me..."

A prayer speaking to my heart after a sleepless night...
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Written in Tegel prison, Berlin
As much as God has done a healing work in me, there are some nights that are still very hard.  Last night was one of them...when my courage failed me, and my faith was weak.

In those times, I may struggle to praise Him, but I know that is what I must do...so this morning, I lift Him up again, with a thankful heart, knowing that my life is in His all-powerful, all-sufficient hands, believing that His plan for me is good.

***And here's hoping that 4 cups of coffee will be enough to get me through this day... :D