Friday, January 30, 2015

Peace Within

Note: I enjoy applying creative techniques to a photo I've taken. Afterward, I crop the photo into a square. Then I add a border and a quote or verse of Scripture. Sometimes I take the creative process a step further by printing the square on photo matte paper to create a folded greeting card. May this project bless you, Dear Reader!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Constant Calm Within

The same message came from various sources this morning during my daily quiet time. I found it in the entire Jan. 29th reading in Streams in the Desert, particularly in these words attributed to R. Leighton:  And when God is the center of a soul, although disasters may crowd in on all sides and roar like the waves of the sea, there is a constant calm within. The world can neither give nor take away this kind of peace.

I found it in the entire Jan. 29th reading in The Listening Heart, especially in these words: In Me are peace and calm and serenity. Be filled with all the fullness of Me. All is well.

And…I’d heard the same message the day before as I listened to Kay Arthur’s podcast, Who’s in the Boat with You?

Oh, how I needed those messages as the storms of life raged all around me, causing me to fear the future! Dear Reader, are you, too, in the middle of a storm—or see dark clouds forming on the horizon? Do you feel like you’re either going to sink or be swept away by the waves of troubles pounding hard against your small boat as you travel on the sea of life?

If so, there’s good news! We are not alone! Our God is in the boat with us. He has the power to calm the storms! He has the power to calm us! And He will if only we will focus on Him, if only we will see Him right beside us.

Let's let Him quiet our hearts as we read Matthew 8:23-27, John 14:1, Philippians 4:4-9, Psalm 65:7, and many other Scripture passages that assure us we can have constant calm within even when the storm is raging.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed [focused] on you,
because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3, ESV

I was very grateful to have a knowledgeable, experienced captain at the helm of the boat headed into the Everglades and a portion of the Gulf of Mexico. I am infinitely more thankful to know Jesus is at the helm of my boat as I journey on the sea of  life. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Face Time

When Jena (my daughter) Face Timed me, my cell phone lit up, and I hurriedly accepted her invitation, although I had no experience with Face Time. Immediately, the screen displayed a large picture of her in her own home some 28 miles away and a smaller (inset) picture of me in my kitchen. (She told me her cell phone displayed a large picture of me and a smaller one of herself.) When we held our phones at various angles and distances, we could also see portions of the rooms and what we were doing. (In our case, we were walking around and around, logging in more steps on our Fitbits. But that’s another story!) As we walked and talked and laughed together, it was the next best thing to actually being in the same room.

Although I had fun learning how to use the Face Time feature on my new phone, I definitely don’t want to Face Time every call. (I only want people to see me when I am at my best.)But if I had to use it every time, perhaps I’d more fully understand the awesome concept that Jesus is with me all the time. He sees me when I’m at my best, when I’m at my worst, and all times in between. He wants me to talk with Him as naturally, as spontaneously, as eagerly, and as freely as I did my daughter. I wasn’t embarrassed that she saw me looking less than my best. After all, she loves me, and I love her. We’ve experienced life together and, thus, feel comfortable in each other’s presence, knowing that our love for each other isn’t affected by appearances.

Dear Reader, Jesus is with you and me all the time, whether we realize it or not. Happy are we when we become so aware of His presence that we talk freely (and often) throughout the day with Him, thanking Him for His goodness to us, admitting our sins and shortcomings, asking Him for wisdom, delighting in His love for us, …. 

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.

~David (in Psalm 139:1-4, ESV)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eyes on Me!

In October 2013, my husband and I spent several days at Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia. Each morning and evening, several deer grazed quietly on the lush green grass outside our room in the lodge. Whenever we opened the sliding glass door, they would come right up to the patio, eager for food. Though they were wary of us, they stayed nearby, watching our every movement, as the doe is doing in this picture I took.

I thought about that experience with the deer as I read (two years later) the Jan. 20th devotional in The Listening Heart by Judy Gordon Morrow.  Each devotional in that wonderful book is a summary of what she sensed God saying to her as she talked with Him each morning about the challenges she was facing. For that day’s devotional, she’d written about how she sensed Him urging her to stay focused on Him, to watch and wait to see how He would help her with all the difficulties she was facing. “…eyes on Me, ears attuned to My voice, hearts willing to obey.”

That, Dear Reader, is excellent advice for you and me. Our Father will help us with our challenges, with our “overwhelm,” just as He helped her! Be glad about that. Thank Him. Watch and wait expectantly. And continue to thank Him for His love and help. 

…fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed,
for I am your God:
I will strengthen you,
I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10, ESV

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dawning of a New Day

Therefore I live for today—
Certain of finding at sunrise
Guidance and strength for the way.
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain!


Friday, January 23, 2015

Sorrow Is One of God's Tool

[When preparing His disciples for His upcoming death on the cross, Jesus said to them:]
…you have sorrow now, but I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy from you.”
John 16:22, ESV

On the very day my heart was particularly sorrowful over several situations, my daily readings took me to the January 20th devotional in Streams in the Desert. There I received new insights (much appreciated ones, I might add) regarding the benefits of sorrow. (Yes, benefits of sorrow.) 

I had to stop frequently as I read, in order to reflect on the meaning of sentences such as this one: Sorrow is God’s tool to plow the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests.

In that reading, I also found this short verse by Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901), a clergyman and writer who also authored hymns (including one of my favorites, This Is My Father’s World).
The dark brown soil is turned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I’ve a lesson learned.
My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God’s sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.
Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain.

My sorrowing heart gladly received those insights that helped me look beyond the sad realities and see the blessings sorrow can bring. For example, sorrow slows us down, causes us to think more deeply and seriously about life and relationships and plans, prompts us to cling even more tightly to our God, motivates us to seek to understand His will and His ways, reminds us of our human frailties and His omnipotence, reveals to us our total dependence upon Him, and much more.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Which Way?

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 
"I am the LORD your God, 
who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”
Isaiah 48:17, ESV

Since I have a difficult time making decisions, even simple ones, I notice (and photograph!) directional signs that offer a variety of destinations, such as this one I discovered on Sanibel Island, Florida in 2009.

Rarely, for me, are decisions as simple as A or B? 1 or 2? Left or right

Instead, I see a myriad of possibilities, as on the sign, and I try to evaluate each one. If I take this route, thus and so might happen. If I choose this, then the result will be….

Because of my angst with decision making, I love Bible verses that assure me God will guide me down the paths He thinks best for me. A particularly favorite passage is Isaiah 30:20-21, ESV, “…but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”

That’s exactly the kind of clear direction I need! Do you need that clarity, too, Dear Reader? If so, let’s learn to listen carefully. He is with us. He is speaking!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Like a Bubbling Brook

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
Proverbs 18:4, ESV

When I read the above words, pictures of bubbling brooks I’d taken through the years immediately flashed in my mind. Although I didn’t fully understand the meaning of the words in that verse, I was strangely drawn to them. So, the following day, I read Bible commentaries to help me understand the meaning. Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible was particularly helpful because as I read that interpretation of the verse, I began to understand why it had captured my attention.

Let me explain. For the past few weeks, I had noticed (and been awed by) the way various writers (of the Bible and self-help books) seemed to be telling me the same thing every morning during the hour or more I spent reading the Bible, reading devotional books, praying, writing, etc.

Even though the Bible and the other books were written by various authors in various centuries, the “message of the day” was basically the same! And, even more astonishing, each one related to what I was experiencing at that time. How is this possible? I wondered. How do they know how to write so specifically to my need on any given morning? How do ministers and hymn writers do the same kind of thing?????

According to John Gill, the famous Puritan pastor, here’s how the process works: The doctrines (teachings) a godly person absorbs and fills his heart with and which his mouth utters are like “waters,” waters that are pure, purifying, and refreshing. “Deep waters” make no noise and cannot be easily plumbed. Out of this abundance of wonderful “water" in a godly person’s heart, his (or her) mouth speaks. And the wellspring of wisdom within such a person is like “ a flowing brook; like a spring of spiritual wisdom and knowledge within him; like “a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life; and from [there] it flows freely and constantly; communicating itself liberally unto others, and ministering grace to the hearers, for their edification” (instruction, enlightenment, guidance).

I am indescribably grateful for such persons. And I long to be one of them.

©2015 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Blessed Life

A member of the camera club volunteered to provide transportation to the site of an upcoming photography shoot. So, a week or so before the group was to go there, I said to him, “Since you’re kind enough to do the driving, why don’t you choose the time you want to leave and get back?”

In that easygoing, polite manner of his, he said, “No. You tell me when you want to leave and when you want to come home, and I will get you there.”

During the three-hour trip to the gardens, he talked briefly about the highly stressful job he had retired from. With a slow grin, he said, “That’s why I try not to make too many decisions now.”

Even the heavy traffic in Atlanta didn’t appear to stress him. He stayed relaxed and kept the conversation going. Throughout the day, he remained calm, unhurried, accommodating of the group’s needs—and grinning, as if he knew a wonderful secret. As I observed his attitudes and actions, I thought, The phrase ‘No hurry. No worry’ describes him perfectly!

When, a few months later, I found the following quote in the Jan. 14th devotional reading in Streams in the Desert, I thought of him--and others who seem so at peace as they go through life, no matter how stressful it becomes.

“This is the blessed life—not anxious to see far down the road nor overly concerned about the next step, not eager to choose the path nor weighted down with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following the Shepherd, one step at a time.”

Indeed, “the blessed life” is that of a calm and quiet spirit that lets the Shepherd choose the path and then meekly follows Him, wherever He leads, one step at a time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Note: I scheduled this to post on Jan. 1st, but (due to some error, probably on my part), it didn't post on that day. Even so, this "recipe" is good on any day of the year!

When my daily Bible reading brought me to 2 Peter 1:5-8, I realized that passage was the “recipe” for a useful, fruitful life. As I thought about all the “ingredients” required, I remembered having read a similar “recipe” in one of the many cookbooks I’ve collected through the years. I located it, typed it, and then thought, Hmmm. I’d like to include a photo when I post the recipe.

I hurriedly gathered some of the things I’d need if I were making something edible. Then, I took the photo you see below. I had a good time “playing” with the setup. Most importantly, I’ve realized that all the ingredients listed in the Bible verse and in the recipe below are necessary. Best not to leave any of them out—if we want life to turn out right!

Recipe for a Happy New Year
Clean thoroughly 12 whole months.
Divide into 365 parts/days; set aside, preparing just one day at a time, as follows.
Mix well into each day:
1 part patience
1 part work
1 part courage
Add to each day:
1 part hope
1 part faithfulness
1 part generosity
1 part kindness
Blend with:
1 part prayer
1 part meditation
1 part good deed
Season each day’s mixture with:
A sprinkle of fun
A pinch of play
1 c. good humor
Pour mixture into a vessel of love.
Cook over radiant joy.
Garnish with a smile.
Serve with quietness, unselfishness, and cheer.
Yield: 1 Happy Year
~~ Unknown

…applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these qualities [faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love] are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless or unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8, New American Standard Bible

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Come to the Light

Upon awakening in a hotel room that was as dark as a moonless night, I delighted to see the outside light shining underneath the pinch-pleated, room-darkening drapes. I smiled as I also noticed the bit of electric light slipping through the space around the edges of the bathroom door. I eased out of bed, reached for my cell phone that was on the nightstand, and took a picture.

Upon hearing the snap of the shutter, my sleepy husband mumbled, “What are you taking pictures of?”

“The light! I love it!”

He groaned and rolled over in the bed. Knowing he wasn’t loving the light as much as I was, I snapped only three or four pictures before entering the bathroom to shower and dress for the trip home. In that room there was abundant light!

I wasn’t sure what the “message” about the light would be, but I knew it would come to me. Sure enough, it came the following morning as I busied myself in the kitchen. It was in the words of an old song, “The Light of the World is Jesus,” written by Philip P. Bliss in 1895. All I could remember of it was the refrain:
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!

I realized anew that by continually coming to Jesus, I can have as much light for life’s journey as I want. Although there’s much darkness (evil, sadness, suffering, etc.) in this world, there’s light available for the journey, if only I will open the door to my heart and pull back the “drapes” of my mind to receive His light. How much light I have to walk by depends on how wide I open myself to Him, how eager I am to walk in the light instead of stumble around in the darkness. Dear Reader, let’s come to the Light. It’s shining for us!!!

©2015 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill