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.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


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)