Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Turtles in the Fast Lane

The rain tapped a steady rhythm on the car windows as a friend and I talked. The dreariness of the day matched our mood.
As Joann and I discussed what Dr. James Dobson refers to as “fatigue and time pressure,” we realized we how much we had in common. Each of us had been born and reared in small towns where the pace was slow and where people had time for one another. Each of us had had close friends and time to cultivate and enjoy those friendships. Although we had lived in the metro Atlanta area for more than a decade, we still found ourselves longing for the slower pace and the relationships we’d thrived on as children and teenagers.
That’s what we wanted, but not what we had! Our lives were filled with stress as we juggled family responsibilities, job demands, church and community activities, etc. We lamented the fact that our busy schedules allowed little time for relaxation or for being with those dearest to us. We talked on and on, oblivious to the downpour of rain. Suddenly, Joann started to giggle. “Johnnie, we’re just two old turtles being forced to live in the fast lane!”            
We exploded with laughter at her “homey” illustration; and, while I didn’t particularly feel flattered at being compared to a turtle, the truth of her words began to dawn on me. God did not equip turtles to travel safely on interstate highways. Neither did He design people to live in the fast lane. Quite the contrary!

“The Sovereign LORD…says, ‘Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15). Yet, if we stubbornly insist on living in the fast lane, we—not God—will be responsible for the carnage on the highways of life.

Note: I wrote this more than 20 years ago, and it was included in my book Reflections, which was published in 2002.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Shielding. Guarding. Watching.


I awoke well before the alarm would have awakened me at 6 a.m. Immediately, my mind began thinking of two people, unrelated to each other and in very different situations, who were filled with fear and dread over the difficulties that might fill their day. Although I was powerless to help either of them, I knew Someone who could. So, I talked to God about them. I asked Him to comfort them, watch over them, protect them, and give them strength to face the injustices and tauntings they feared would come their way.  


For more than 30 minutes, I prayed exclusively for them, though I had no idea why the prompting to pray had come so strongly—and at that early hour. When I could think of nothing else to say on their behalf, I got out of bed and went to the sunroom sofa where I sit most mornings to hear what God says to me as I read His Word. My daily Bible reading took me to Proverbs 1 and 2. And when my eyes focused on the words I’ve included in the graphic below, a sense of peace and gratitude flooded my mind and heart because I felt confident God would most assuredly shield and guard as He constantly watched over the two people who so needed such care from Him. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Real Strength

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
God takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might.
No, the LORD's delight is in those who fear Him,
those who put their hope 
in His steadfast love.
~Psalm 147:10-11

*****

But the Lord told me:
"My kindness is all you need. 
My power is strongest when you are weak."
Therefore, I will joyfully boast about my weaknesses
in order that Christ's power will live in me.
~the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yes!

When my friend said, “Johnnie, I need to ask a favor,” I laughed and said, “My answer is Yes.”

“But,” she protested, “you don’t even know what I need you to do.”

“Whatever you need me to do, I will do—if it is in my power to do it.”

Even though we were talking on the phone, I smiled anyway as I said, “For you, my answer is always Yes!”

And that was the truth. Because she’s a wonderful friend who’s always doing the sweetest, kindest things for my family and me, I would never think of saying No when she asked a favor.

A few days later, that conversation was still on my mind. As I reflected on it, I thought about two passages in the Bible that show two dramatically different responses people made to God.

In Isaiah 66:4, God says:
I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them,
because when I called,
no one answered,
when I spoke, they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes
and chose that in which
I did not delight.

Isaiah 6:8 records a conversation between God and Isaiah.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send [as a messenger],
and who will go for us?”
And then I said,
“Here I am! Send me.”


The first passage makes me feel sad every time I read it, and I wonder, How could anyone ignore God?  (Sadly, I often do.) The second passage inspires me to always want to say a glad Yes! to God—no matter what He asks because He continually showers steadfast love and abundant mercies on me. How could I even think of saying No to Him?

Logs outside a hotel in Banff, Alberta, Canada

Monday, October 19, 2015

Give Voice

When I sat down at my computer one morning, eager to write blog posts based on verses I’d just finished reading in Psalm 145, an e-mail I’d received from Instagram was still open. So, I took a few minutes to quickly scroll through the list of new posts (one from each person I follow on Instagram). I admired the creative pictures, inspirational words, humor, insights, wisdom, etc. they’d posted.

As I read Ann Voskamp’s post, I marveled (again!) at her ability to express so beautifully deep truths about God and about the insights He gives to her regarding how to live a life that joyously reflects who God is and how knowing Him (and thanking Him!) enables a person to have joy no matter how difficult life’s circumstances.

But as I read her words, I despaired of being able to write anything deep and beautiful. I was tempted to walk away from the message God had given me to share with those of you who visit my blog. Immediately, some words to the old song There Is a Balm in Gilead wafted through my mind like wispy clouds on a windy day and encouraged me to write about what God had given to me to share.

With renewed resolve, I said to God:
I will extol [praise, exalt, commend] You,
my God and King,
and bless Your name
forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You
and praise Your name…
for great are You, O LORD, 
and greatly to be praised… 
(See Psalm 145:1-3)

I will gladly and joyfully use my “voice,” 
which You have given me, 
to praise You.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Pondering and Praising

As I read Psalm 143, I realized, once again, that I have something in common with David, who wrote that psalm. Like David, I love telling (and hearing!) personal experience stories. 

But, unlike David, I often fail to give God praise for His presence felt and His power shown in each of them, whether I’m telling about experiences of great pleasure or grievous pain.

However, I want to learn to conclude my real-life stories with sentences like these, each based on God’s Word:
  • All I needed, God provided. (Philippians 4:19)
  • But God caused everything to work out for His glory and my good. (Romans 8:28)
  • Although I didn’t know which way to turn, God showed me the way. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • I messed up big time, but God forgave me. (1 John 1:9)

Like David, I want to say to God:

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands.
Psalm 143:5

Only then will my real-life stories have true substance. Only then will they encourage and strengthen me, as well as those to whom I tell them.
While standing on the lawn of the Prince of Wales Hotel and looking down at Waterton (in Alberta, Canada), I marveled at all God had created. And I thanked Him for letting me see such beauty and for giving me a heart/mind that likes to ponder and praise the work of His hands in nature, as well as in the life He has given me.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Place of Peace

The morning after I'd gone to a local theater to see The War Room (an inspiring movie about the dramatic difference prayer makes in the person who prays, as well as in the lives of those he or she prays for), my daily Bible reading brought me to Psalm 142, written by David centuries ago. As I read verses 1 and 2, I realized that David was doing exactly what was encouraged in the movie. 

With my voice I cry out 
to the LORD; 
with my voice I plead for mercy 
to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint 
before Him;
I tell my trouble 
before Him.

All throughout the day, I prayed for various people and situations. The following day, I received news that a friend was having serious problems following surgery. I could not go to be with her, but I did pray for her earnestly and repeatedly. Following David's example, I cried out to the Lord on her behalf. I pled with Him for mercy for her. 

Then I decided to sing (inside my house, of course) as I walked from room to room while working toward my daily goal of 10,000 steps. One of the songs I sang was
Near to the Heart of God.* As I walked and sang and prayed and reflected on the teachings I'd received from the movie, from Psalm 142, and from the song, I thanked God for the people He was using to teach me to turn to Him and tell my troubles to Him. As I became increasingly aware of the nearness of God, I found a "place of quiet rest, a place of comfort sweet, a place where all is joy and peace." 

Awesome! Truly awesome! A place far more uplifting than any of the beautiful landscapes I've had the pleasure of visiting and photographing. 

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

*The words in the song were written by Cleland B. McAfee in 1903. To read all of them and see photos taken by others, click here.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Like Gentle Rain

Water Lily; Calgary Zoo
May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the LORD;
ascribe greatness to our God.

~Moses, Deuteronomy 32:3

Hope and Praise

Alberta Rose

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In the Clouds


 As I viewed the tops of the clouds through the window of the plane, I felt such awe over the Creator's handiwork; and then I thought, "The God who made all this wonder made me, too!" That prompted me to humbly ask, as did the writer of Psalm 8:4, "What is mankind...what am I...that You, O God, are mindful of us?" 

#####

God writes the Gospel

not in the Bible alone,
but also on trees,
and in the flowers
and clouds
and stars.

~Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Source of Help

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island, Florida
A little sand between your toes
always takes away your woes.
~unknown

#####
Note: Although I do love going to the beach to relax, it isn't the sand that takes away my woes. It's this assurance found in God's Word, which I've paraphrased just a bit to help me realize this awesome truth applies to me--as well as to those to whom the words were originally addressed. 

My help comes from the LORD
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow my foot to slip;
He who keeps me will not slumber.
Based on Psalm 121:2,3

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tomorrow

Sunset at Fort Bragg, California
God knows all about tomorrow.
He holds it in His hands.

~unknown

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Greatest Truth


John 3:16 and following

An outstanding Bible scholar was asked, "What is the greatest truth you've discovered in all of your years of studying the Bible?"

Without a moment's hesitation, he said, "Jesus loves me; this I know. For the Bible tells me so."

Indeed! The Bible is filled with assurances that we are loved more than we can imagine. For example, in John 3:16, Jesus affirms the great love He and His Father have for us:
For God so loved the world, 
that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, 
but have eternal life.

In John 14:21, Jesus gives yet another affirmation of His love and God's love: 
He who has My commandments and keeps them, 
he it is who loves Me; 
and he who loves Me 
shall be loved by My Father, 
and I will love him, 
and will disclose [reveal, manifest] Myself to him.
John 14:21

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Brokenness



The LORD is near the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
~Psalm 34:18


Monday, September 14, 2015

Declare!



The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and
the sky proclaims the work of His hands.
~David, in Psalm 19:1





Sunday, September 13, 2015

Quiet and Peaceful--Without and Within


I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.
~Helen Keller

#####

...make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business...
1 Thessalonians 4:11


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Luminaries Needed




One Internet website invites certain people, usually those whose names are widely recognized, to share (in 500 words or less) some wisdom they'd like to pass on to others. As I reflected on that challenge issued to those referred to as "luminaries," I recalled having attended a local Relay for Life event. As dusk descended that Friday evening, volunteers placed lunch-size paper bags all around the perimeter of the walking track where the event was being held. On each bag was written the name of (1) a person who had battled or was still battling cancer and (2) the person who had purchased the luminary in honor of or in memory of the cancer patient. 

The darker the night became, the brighter the candlelight shone through the bag. As I strolled around the track, I read the names on each bag. I recognized some of them. Several I knew well, including my mother, my mother-in-law, and one of the charter members of the camera club to which I belonged. I thought about how they had inspired me in so many ways. I thought about their courage, their faith, their endurance... Truly, they were (and still are) luminaries in my life!

I recalled that the Bible says there's a noticeable difference in people who are filled with a God-given inner light and in those who are not:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God
without blemish 
in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,
among whom you shine as lights in the world, 
holding fast to the word of life... 
Philippians 2:14-16a

I also remembered a song I've known since childhood: This Little Light of Mine by Harry D. Loes. As I sang the words, I recommitted to letting my little light shine. Will you, Dear Reader, do the same? Even a little light is obvious in the darkness.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Launch Out!

Nevada

Each day 
we're given 
an opportunity
 to put our boat in the water. 
Take it!
~Gail Lynne Goodwin

And when Jesus had finished speaking, 
He said to Simon, 
"Launch out into the deep water
 and let down your nets for a catch."
Luke 5:4


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

God's Word



Taken in California in the late afternoon.


I noticed these words on a sign at a church that's beside a road I frequently travel:
The Bible will keep you from sin.
Sin will keep you from the Bible.

I remembered those words the day my daily Bible reading brought me to these words in Psalm 119:9-16:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.

With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!

I have stored up Your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.

Blessed are You, O LORD;
teach me Your statutes!

With my lips I declare
all the rules of Your mouth.

In all the way of Your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Your precepts
and fix my eyes on Your ways.

I will delight in Your statues;
I will not forget Your word.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Let It Out!

June 2009 in Idaho
When someone asked Charles Spurgeon (famous British preacher and author, 1834-1892) how he responded to criticisms of the Bible, he said, "I defend the Bible the same way I defend a lion. I simply let it out of its cage."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Exemplary Lives


This award is presented  annually to the photographer who earned the most ribbons in the "Advanced Division" during the competition, which is held each October.
One morning during my shift as a “Pink Lady” at our local hospital, I accepted a beautiful arrangement of flowers from a delivery person, who said, “Will you see that [name] gets these? She works in the dietary department.”
I hurried to the elevator, eager to do my small part in bringing delight to the recipient. When I exited, I saw the cafeteria manager standing in the hallway that led to the cafeteria. “Steve,” I said, “these are for [name], but I have no idea who she is or where I might find her.”
“I’ll be glad to take them to her. She’s washing pots and pans for us today.” He smiled. “She’s happy wherever she’s assigned, but these flowers will make her day. I’m glad someone sent them, for she deserves this special surprise. She’s one of the best employees I have.  Always arrives early for work. Does a really good job wherever we need her. And she gets along well with everyone.”
With a courteous nod, he headed off to deliver them. I was sorry I couldn’t go along and meet the exemplary employee—and see her happy face.
That experience came to mind a few weeks later as I listened to an online Bible study of the book of Titus. The teacher, Dr. Howard Hendricks, emphasized that every Christian has a ministry even if he is not serving on a church staff. No matter where we live and work, we are to be persons of integrity—living exemplary lives, and speaking and conducting ourselves in ways that honor our Lord.
A Christian should be the best employee that a company has, whether he holds a high or low position. That doesn’t necessarily mean he must be the most skilled or receive the most recognition, but it does mean his character should be the finest of anyone in that environment. Or, to borrow the phrase used in Titus 1:6, 7, a Christian should be “above reproach.” In other words, people should find no fault, no flaw, in his character.
As I reflected on that, I recalled a similar truth found in Proverbs 31, a Bible passage that describes an excellent wife. “She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (vv. 10b-12).
The writer of that passage then mentions some of the ways she ministers to/serves her husband and their family. While faithfully doing her work well, she displays strength, dignity, wisdom, kindness, etc.
Thus, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’” (Proverbs 31:29-30a).
Because of her character, her commitment to excellence, and her faithfulness in serving others, she provides an excellent example for us as we relate to our employer, our co-workers, our family, and our friends.
Wherever we are, we have opportunities to show others that, having been born again/anew, we are indeed a new creation; the old things (old ways) have passed away and new ways have come. And now, we’ve been given the awesome privilege of serving as ambassadors for Christ. (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.)
Let’s be good ones—VERY good ones!

Note: This article was submitted for publication in the Sept. 2015 issue of Chapel Hill News and Views, a magazine that's published monthly in the Douglasville, Georgia, area. I've been a columnist for that magazine since Feb. 2008.
                 Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Purposes

A ship is safe in the harbor, 
but that is NOT what it was built for.

The thought above is attributed to various people, including Theodore Roosevelt, John Augustus Shedd, and Theodore Roosevelt. Regardless of the source of that sentence, it is, indeed, a true one.

We, like boats, have been created for a purpose. For example, God said to His people through His prophet, Jeremiah," For I know the plans I have for you...They are plans for good and not for disaster,to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

And to Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt many centuries ago, God said, "I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying My power in you and to spread My fame throughout the earth" (See Exodus 9:16 and Romans 9:17.) 

According to Acts 13:36, "When King David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he died..."

God has purposes not only for royalty but also for everyone else. For example, Ephesians 2:10 says: "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned in advance as our way of life." 

While reflecting on the above, I recalled the song, "Take My Life, Lead Me, Lord," which was written by R. Maines Rawls in 1968. As I read all the words in the song, I noticed that all the requests (take my life; teach me, Lord; send me, Lord; etc.) were made for this purpose: "Make my life useful to Thee."

Oh, Dear Reader, may you and I be willing to let God use us according to His plans and purposes!






Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Welcome Jesus Into Your Boat!

O, God, Thy sea is so great,
and my boat is so small.
~unknown

#####

Then His disciples were eager 
to let Jesus into their storm-tossed boat, 
and immediately 
they arrived at their destination.
John 6:21









Memories


Our memories of the ocean will linger on,
long after our footprints in the sand are gone.
~Anonymous


After reading the above quote, I felt led to add these words:
Likewise, our memories of loved ones linger on,
long, long after they from this life have gone.

Then, I recalled these words, found in Proverbs 10:7:
The memory of the righteous is a blessing....


Those words reminded me of a song I've loved for years:
Precious mem'ries, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Sacred scenes unfold.
J. B. F. Wright, 1925





Monday, August 31, 2015

Look At the Light!


Keep your face to the sunshine,
and you cannot see the shadows. 
It's what sunflowers do.
~Helen Keller

*****

Come to the light, 'tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!
~Philip P. Bliss, 1875




Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Am With You!



I'm sure I've posted this verse before, but I need to be reminded, as perhaps you do, of the precious promises it contains. So...let's read Isaiah 41:10 again and again and reflect on it so that we will not fear--no matter what happens.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Love Like His


Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love is like that.
~Ephesians 5:1-2, The Message

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thank You, God!


Thank You for the world so sweet.
Thank You for the food we eat.
Thank You for the birds that sing.
Thank You, God, for everything.
~Unknown

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Proclaim God's Glory!

Toledo (Ohio) Botanical Garden
I will proclaim the name of the LORD:
how glorious is our God!
He is the Rock; His work is perfect.
Everything He does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
how just and upright He is!

~Moses in Deuteronomy 32:3-4



Monday, August 24, 2015

God's Manifold Works

The whale shark, which is the largest fish in the sea, sometimes grows to 40 feet long.
O LORD, how manifold are Your works! 
In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your creatures.
Psalm 104:24

Jellyfish 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Clean Heart, Clean Speech

Ripe Figs
People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can't draw water from a salty pool.
~James 3: 7-12, New Living Translation


But the words you speak come from the heart...
~Jesus in Matthew 15:18


Create in me a clean heart, O God.
~David in Psalm 51:10

Note: The heart refers to the whole inner man (the soul, mind, spirit, will) that makes a person what he is (a conscious, intelligent, responsible being). 







Saturday, August 22, 2015

His Masterpiece


For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; 
it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, 
so that no man may boast. 
For we are His workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~Ephesians 2:8-10

Friday, August 21, 2015

Benefits of Wisdom


Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed....
Do not lose sight of sound wisdom and discretion.....
Then you will walk on your way securely, 
and your foot will not stumble. 
If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
(See Proverbs 3:18-24)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Be Patient!


Flowers only bloom when they are ready.
People are the same way.
You cannot rush or force them open~
just because you think it's time.
Be patient.
                 ~author unknown                

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watch and Learn!





Life Lessons from a Butterfly


Let go of the past.

Trust the future.

Embrace change.

Come out of the cocoon.

Unfurl your wings.

Dare to get off the ground.

Ride the breezes.

Savor the flowers.

Put on your brightest color.

Let your beauty show.


~author unknown