Saturday, October 12, 2019

Farther Along

When someone is going through a difficult situation, it's hard to know what to say to them, isn't it? While we want desperately to encourage them, we don't want to glibly spout words of wisdom, unintentionally implying that if we were in their situation we'd know how to handle our suffering far better than they are handling theirs. 

However, suffering people find it easier to accept wise counsel from someone who has also suffered deeply and, in the process, found wisdom he or she can pass along to others. For example, while William Buel Stevens, who wrote the song Farther Along, was in his late teens, he suffered two great losses. His uncle died suddenly of heart disease at age 48. A couple of years later, the uncle's 17-year-old son died the same way. Perhaps those experiences prompted Stevens to write the song that shows he understands our grief when the death of loved ones leaves our homes so lonely and drear. 

He understands when we wonder why we suffer while others seem to prosper, when we wonder why we're tempted and tested "all the day long," and when we wonder why we must endure great discomforts. Although it's natural to think such thoughts, Stevens shares a lesson he learned: Cheer up! Live in the sunshine of God's love. 


It's a rocky and steep climb
to the top of Mount Washburn
in Yellowstone National Park.
Elevation: over 10,000 feet
I take that to mean: Let God be the light you need for the journey. Let His light push away the darkness and doubt you feel. Walk steadily onward on the path marked out for you. Know full well that farther along you will gain a better perspective about your path. You will understand more and more that God walks that difficult road with you, that God loves you, and that God never leaves you nor forsakes you. Rejoice in His presence with you and His power to sustain you.

To hear Johnny Cash sing Farther Along, click here

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Three R's of Happiness

As Abraham Lincoln so rightly said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Even if you have already determined to be happy, let me share with you three things I do to increase my happiness. I urge you to try them!

Remind myself that I am loved.
For over 36 years I’ve treasured a tiny rosebud encased in a clear container no bigger than my thumb. Jessie brought it to me the day she visited me during my weeklong stay in the hospital.

Have I kept it because it’s valuable? No. It probably wouldn’t sell for a nickel at a yard sale. Yet, I cherish it since it reminds me of her love for me, a love she expressed in many ways during the years we lived across the street from each other. It also prompts me to express love, as she did.

Reach out to others.
When Mrs. Ruby (a new friend and fellow writer) heard me say I usually put off going for my goals, she reached out to encourage me by cross-stitching and framing this quote for me: “Opportunities are never lost...someone will take the one you miss.”

Does her 5x7-inch gift have monetary value? No. But I treasure it because it reminds me that she loved me enough to make something that would keep those words before me long after she had passed away. It also prompts me to reach out and share wise words with others, as she did.

Dewey, a dear friend who was the Discipleship Training Director at the church we attended, also reached out to me in a meaningful way. One Sunday evening as I left the room where I’d finished teaching a D. T. class, he gave me a tiny gift I still treasure. When he slipped that little scrap of paper into my hand, his eyes sparkled, as did mine when I read what he had written: I appreciate you! What a much-needed uplift those three words gave me.

Is that gift valuable? No. It’s only a scrap of paper! But I cherish it. It reminds me that some people do appreciate me. It prompts me to find a way to affirm and encourage others.

Record my gratitude.
I look around at all the wonderful gifts I’ve been given and list a few of them in a gratitude journal every day. As my list grows, I begin to notice even more things I’m thankful for, including the little things, which often are much more meaningful than I realized.

Dear Reader, do try these three things, especially when life gets hard. You’ll be amazed at how much you are loved—by God and by others. The more thankful you are for the love you’ve been shown, the happier you will be--and the happier you’ll make others feel as you love and encourage them. 






Sunday, September 29, 2019

Definitely Desirable Fruit

People and animals enjoy the fruit trees in our yard. In the springtime, I love to photograph the beautiful blooms on the pear trees. Later on, even before any pears ripen, the deer who forage for food in our yard eat the green ones attached to low-growing limbs. However, the deer have to wait for the persimmons to ripen and fall to the ground from limbs high overhead. Therefore, they visit the tree many times a day, hoping to find the delicious fruit.

As I think about physical fruit, I am reminded that the Bible talks about a different kind of "fruit" that is produced by the Holy Spirit who indwells each believer. Most translations use wording similar to this when listing that fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

However, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language describes the fruit this way:
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Although descriptions of the fruit vary, it's definitely desirable since such fruit honors God and blesses those who partake of it. Oh, may the Holy Spirit produce a bumper crop of fruit in your life and mine!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

SOAPing


Most mornings, I use a Bible study method called SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer).

I handwrite or type one or more verses of Scripture

During the Observation portion, I also read the surrounding verses, look up some of the related verses listed in my Bible, and use the free tools provided by www.blueletter.com and/or the YouVersion app in order to better understand what the passage means. 

During the Application portion, I reflect on what the Scripture and the additional insights I've gleaned mean to me. 

Then, I type/write out a Prayer.

Let me show you an example.


Scripture

Isaiah 29:19, NKJV:
The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Observation

In order to understand the context of this verse, I read the entire chapter and tried to mentally answer the Who, What, Where, Why, When and How questions. The passage itself provided answers to some of them. For example: The LORD is obviously the one who is making the promises in the verse above, as well as other thrilling ones like this one: “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” (Isaiah 29:18, NKJV).

I’m not sure what the “in that day” phrase refers to. A day of reckoning that passed in long-ago times? A future reckoning? (I’ll need to do further study to find that out.) However, the truth is: God will set things right again! When He does, there will be a great reversal. The meek shall increase their joy in the LORD. The poor shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The deaf shall hear the words of the book. The eyes of the blind will see.

Another exciting thing will also occur, just as the LORD promises in Isaiah 29: 23, NKJV: 
But when he [Jacob, Israel] sees his children, 
The work of My hands, in his midst, 
They will hallow My name,
And hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
And fear the God of Israel.

The New Living Translation renders that verse this way: "For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Israel. They will stand in awe of the God of Jacob."

That time, “that day,” will be a fulfillment of yet another one of God's promises that's found in this chapter:

Application

I will wait patiently and prayerfully for God to set things right. How and when He does it is His business, not mine. I trust Him to do a marvelous work--in His time and in His way. In the meantime, I will honor His name and stand in awe of Him for He is an awesome God at all times not just when He astounds me with “miracles.” Every day, I see His awesome work all around me. And those glimpses prompt me to praise Him.

Prayer

Father, I take joy in knowing You are indeed the God who sees and the God who acts. Help me to keep a quiet and trusting heart as I wait for You to set all things straight. 

NOTES: 
  • I don't always write/type this much. But when time permits, I do enjoy and benefit from "digging deeper." However, even a little bit of SOAPing helps me.
  • I encourage you to try this method and then post a comment to let me (and others) know what you think of it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Time Bears Us Away

Although the words in old hymns often seem rather antiquated, I do enjoy the thoughts expressed so beautifully and truthfully by saints of long ago. This morning, for example, I started my quiet time by humming the words to Isaac Watts’ centuries-old song (1719),  “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

Yellowstone National Park, 2019


The words in verse 5 captured my attention:
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op-‘ning day.

Time does bear all of us away, at some point, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s so crucial that we ask God, as Moses did, to help us realize the brevity of life so that we may live wisely and well, so that our lives—brief as they are even if we live until we are advanced in years—will be lives of significance and service. (See Psalm 90:12.)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Precious Treasure

Sometimes old hymns I haven’t sung (or even thought about) for years pop into my mind. For example, one morning after I'd thanked God for the Bible, some of the words to Holy Bible, Book Divine drifted into my thoughts. I remembered all of the first verse (see caption beneath the photo on the left) but could only recall phrases from the other three.

After locating the entire song on the Internet and reflecting on the blessings the song says the Bible provides (comfort in distress, assurances of joys to come, guidance, etc.), I recalled these words Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, Amplified Bible:
All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God's will, both publicly and privately--behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
All that "remembering" reminded me anew that the Bible is indeed a precious treasure, one that contains a wealth of knowledge waiting to be "mined" by you and me as we study it and apply it to our lives.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Set a Good Example!


Day after day, I observed a mama and daddy bird bringing bugs to feed their four hungry baby birds in the nest on our porch. Every time I looked out the window, I’d see one of the parents sitting on a post watching expectantly for an unsuspecting bug to fly by, or I’d see a parent swoop in—bug in mouth—to feed the young ones.

As human parents, we understand the struggle to provide for our offspring, don’t we? We know about the extra—often difficult—things we do in order to meet the needs of those in our care. Although we’re often worn out from working so hard to provide what our children need, we continue to do all we can for them. That’s what loving parents do!

Soon the day comes, as it did for the bird family, when the young ones leave the security of the nest and enter the adult world. Hopefully, they will thrive there. And when it’s their turn to parent, they’re likely to follow the examples we set for them, examples of faithfulness, kindness, dependability, loyalty, love....

And children do model what they’ve heard us say and seen us do. Although some children will behave dramatically different from their parents, most usually follow the example Mom and Dad provided for them. Scriptures such as 1 Kings 22:51-53 (below) confirm that.

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly imprinting our attitudes and actions on others, especially the younger generation whose minds and hearts are as easily molded as Play-Doh.

May God help us to provide good and godly examples.



Ahaziah the son of [King] Ahab began to reign…
He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD 
and walked in the way of his father 
and in the way of his mother [Jezebel]…
[Ahaziah] provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, 
to anger in every way that his father had done.

1 Kings 22:51-53, ESV

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Happy Labor Day!

According to Internet sources, the first Labor Day was held on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. On that day, which was set aside to pay tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers, ten thousand of them marched in a parade from City Hall to Union Square and enjoyed speeches, as well as a picnic and concert. 

The annual federal holiday is now held on the first Monday in September in order to provide a long weekend for the working people who make important contributions to our country's strength, prosperity, and well-being. Can you imagine the chaos we'd experience if those in the workforce failed to show up? 

This Labor Day (and every day!), why don't we make it a point to thank those who are doing their part to provide the goods and services we need? It will encourage them to be even more committed to showing up for work and for doing their work well. 




Sunday, August 25, 2019

Fruit In Its Season

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
   Nor stands in the path of sinners,
   Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
   And in His law he meditates day and night.


He shall be like a tree
   Planted by the rivers of water,
   That brings forth its fruit in its season,
   Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

--Psalm 1:1-3, NKJV

Apples on a tree at Honeywood Farms in Barnesville, GA