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





Sunday, August 18, 2019

In Need of Chiseling

After reading a portion of a long story* about Jacob, I wrote these words in my journal:
“Thank You, Father, for a rich time in Your Word! I needed to be reminded of Your great grace that is so evident in the life of Jacob.                                          
He was a liar, a deceiver, a schemer...; but instead of obliterating him, You chiseled** away on him year after year in order to remove those sins (and others!) and to reveal the Jacob You saw in him before he was born, the Jacob You intended him to be.

Dear Reader, God will do the same for you and me if we want Him to. So let's let Him. In fact, let's ASK Him to change us.



*Genesis, chapter 25 and following

**A term used by Beth Moore in The Quest, p.128

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Story of Our Lives

I love reading the stories in the Bible, don’t you? I’ve noticed that every story has happy and not-so-happy moments.
Through it all, God was using each person to accomplish His will and to provide examples for you and me. 
For instance, we can learn much from the story of Joseph. (Chapters 37-50 of Genesis tell of his life from age 17 to his death at the age of 110.)
He came from what we would call today a dysfunctional family. His own brothers hated him so much they wanted to kill him. Instead, they sold him to slave traders who transported him to another country (Egypt), perhaps hundreds of miles away from all that was familiar to young Joseph. There, Joseph excelled and received recognitions and promotions. However, he was also falsely accused, which led to imprisonment and continued betrayals.
Was God with Joseph during all these highs and lows? Was He using Joseph all the while? Absolutely!
Looking back on his experiences, Joseph said, “God intended it [the evil done to me] for good.” 
Indeed, God did bring great good out of all of Joseph’s experiences, even the not-so-happy ones.
Likewise, every experience you and I have is an opportunity for God to use us. He may use us publicly or privately, in big ways or little ways, in expected ways or unexpected ways... The choice is up to Him.
Are we willing, even excited, for Him to use us as He pleases and in any place He chooses? To write the story of our life however He chooses? I pray that we are.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Grateful

A birthday bouquet from a friend.
Each expression of love I received on my birthday made me feel extra happy. Phone calls. Text messages. Emails. Facebook messages. Cards. Gifts. Visits. Hugs. Kindnesses. 

Although I felt deeply grateful for each person who remembered me on my birthday, I felt even more grateful to God who has given me so many years of life--and precious family and friends with whom to share it. 

Those feelings prompted me to say "Yes!" when I read these words in a book* a friend sent me for my birthday: "Father...thank you for breath. May I use it only to praise you. Thank you for life. May I use it only to exalt you."  

*Julie Ackerman Link, 100 Prayers Inspired by the Psalms, p. 27

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Like a Watered Garden





If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, 
And your darkness shall be as the noonday. 


The LORD will guide you continually, 
And satisfy your soul in drought, 
And strengthen your bones; 
You shall be like a watered garden, 
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:10-11, NKJV


A section of my neighbor's beautiful garden.
J. Gaskill Photography

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Storms


Christ does not always immediately 
calm the storms, but He is always willing to calm His child on the basis of His presence. We'll probably never learn to enjoy our storms, but we can learn to enjoy God's presence in the storm!
~Beth Moore

See also Luke 8:22-25.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Freedom Is Available!

On a recent vacation, my husband and I stopped at the Maine State Prison Showroom, a store we’d visited on a previous trip to Thomaston, Maine. All the items (over 600 different kinds) in the store were crafted by inmates.

Although I would have loved to buy one of the handcrafted mahogany tables featuring intricate designs and polished to smooth perfection, I could only buy a few items that were small enough to fit into my suitcase: an ink pen with a smooth wooden barrel, a small pad of note paper that had a pen and ink drawing of a lighthouse on the left side of each page, etc.

After we'd left the store, I said, “It’s so sad that such talented people made bad choices that landed them in prison.” 

Indeed, even though some of the inmates were becoming increasingly skilled artisans, the men were still serving time in prison.

I thought of them a few days after we’d returned home when I heard an actor on a TV show say, “No matter how comfortable your prison is, it is still a prison.”

That is so true, isn't it?

We try to hide the prisons our sins put us in, don’t we? For example, if we are in bondage to gluttony, we may dress our bulging body in pretty clothes that hide our excess weight. If we are addicted to shopping, we accumulate clothes or jewelry or furnishing that make us the envy of our friends. But no matter how we camouflage our particular prison/cell/captivity, the truth remains: we are still in bondage to/held captive by a harmful (Dare I say sinful?) habit--with no release date in sight.

But there's good news! Albert E. Brumley (1905-1977) expressed it clearly in the song "He Set Me Free!" Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXi_1SD1UN and/or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajnincfXyZY



Monday, June 10, 2019

Change Your Default?

Although two of the emails I received on the same day came from different people (a photographer and a professional speaker), each contained the same basic advice.  Consider changing your default. 

Those four words lingered in my mind. I was very familiar with the term "default settings," of course, but I looked up the phrase and learned that a default is "a preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer." 

I have a long list of "defaults," don't you? (Things or people that I automatically turn to in certain situations.) For example, I have a "go to" breakfast that I eat most mornings. Thankfully, it's a healthy choice.

But if my regular defaults are harmful to me (or to others) or if they keep me away from benefits provided by other choices, it's definitely time (past time!) to choose new defaults.

Dear Reader, there is one "default," a spiritual one that--once it's set on GOD--should never be changed. The Bible clearly says:

Therefore, He is the One to whom we should automatically turn to every time. If He isn't, then it's time to change that default.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Honor Them!


On the day before Memorial Day 2019, a deep sense of sadness and appreciation swept over me as I watched this video that was shown during the Sunday morning worship service at my church.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKMtoqe9dyA 

Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA.
(c) Johnnie Ann Gaskill, August 24, 2014.
 
I felt similar emotions again that evening as I watched the 30th annual Memorial Day Concert on TV. I realized anew the enormity of the sacrifices made by all the brave men and women (and their families) who served in the military to protect the freedoms you and I cherish today. Many of them died while in active combat. All who died were more than just the names on the headstones standing row upon row in national cemeteries. Each was a real person: someone's child or sibling or parent. Hopefully, all were cherished and loved by family and friends during their brief stay on this earth.

May we honor their memory by being profoundly grateful for their lives and by cherishing the freedoms they died to protect. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

No Greater Joy

Both my daughters have careers that involve working with people all day long. Since they live and work in counties outside the one my husband and I live in, I rarely know any of the people in their workday world. Yet, I like hearing the gist of some of their experiences.

I’m always thankful to hear about situations that went well for my daughters. But even when they talk a bit about some of the difficult people they’ve had to deal with, I’m always thrilled to know about those times my daughters responded rightly (that is, in a Christ-like manner).

Upon hearing about such situations, I immediately think of what the Apostle John wrote in a letter to “the beloved Gaius.” 

After hearing that Gaius was “walking in the truth,” John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

Yes!


Sunday, May 5, 2019

A “God Thing”

 [NAME], a beautiful woman inside and out, and I agree that our meeting each other was a “God thing” since it was a blessing neither of us could have planned.

But as I recall how I “happened” to stop by the restaurant where she works, I can only conclude that God had indeed directed my “steps” there, although my husband and I thought we were stopping there for a quick lunch based on the suggestion I’d received when I’d paused, on the spur of the moment, and said to two men working at a botanical garden we were visiting that morning, “Where’s a good place to eat lunch?”


When we arrived, [NAME] greeted us and seated us at a table bathed in soft light streaming through a big window that faced a whimsical garden—which delighted me and prompted me to grab my cell phone and start photographing as we waited for our food. When [NAME] again stopped by our table, I started a conversation with her, as is my custom, and learned that we had much in common despite differences in our ages and in life experiences.

I learned that God has placed a deep desire in her heart to write, but that she has shied away from it, for several common reasons: not enough time, not enough knowledge how to do it, not enough confidence, etc. I was able to share with her several sources that would inspire her and teach her how to become a published writer.

Our conversation was fairly brief but so deep. We’ve agreed to keep in touch with each other in order to encourage each other to do what the apostle Paul urged Timothy to do: to stir up the gift that is within you, to fan it into flame, to rekindle that gift God has placed within*—for His glory and the good of others.

Only God could have turned a simple stop for food into a stop for the soul.

* 2 Timothy 1:6

Monday, April 29, 2019

Lessons Little Flowers Have Learned

While drifting in and out of sleep as I listened to BBN radio early one morning, I heard  a beautiful song entitled Little Flowers. I immediately sat up in bed so that I could search the Internet for it. Thankfully, I found several links, including this one: https://youtu.be/Du6I_WgrwUY. Thus, I was able to listen to it again and again, as I hope you will, for it reminds us to learn the lessons the little flowers know, including these two: “rain” is necessary for us to grow; the sun will shine again.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tell us to consider the flowers. They do not toil and spin, yet the Father clothes them in such splendor. Will He not do even more for us? Yes! 


Monday, April 15, 2019

His Prayer, My Prayer

Prayer is a conversation with God. He speaks to us. We speak to Him. When I read (or listen to) the prayers of others, I often think, "Yes, Father, that's what I want to say to You, too."


For example, after reading and studying what the prophet said to God in Isaiah 25:1-4, I paraphrased a portion of Isaiah's words to make this my prayer:
"O LORD, You are my God. I will honor You. I will praise Your name, because You have done wonderful things, things You planned long ago and are faithfully accomplishing, one by one.

"You have been and continue to be a strong tower of refuge for the poor, for the needy, and for people in any kind of distress. 

"You are a refuge from the storms of life and a shelter from its heat. I run to You, deeply thankful to have such a much-needed refuge. I can't 'do life' without You!"

Thursday, April 11, 2019

God Be In Me

Note: I found this beautiful prayer in Derek Prime's book, A Good Old Age. Isn't it a good one to pray daily?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Be Content!

I've long struggled to understand these words the apostle Paul wrote centuries ago in his letter to the Christians in Philippi:
I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content--whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need (Philippians 4:11, CSB, emphasis mine).
How did he learn to be content in EVERY situation? How do you and I learn to do that? 

My longing to know prompted me to read Matthew Henry's commentary (originally published in 1706). Here's my "takeaway" on what he said:

Paul consistently chose to accept his situation and to adjust himself to it, whether or not it was one he liked. He did not rant and rave. He simply did the best he could where he was and with what he had. He trusted God to give him the strength he needed to cope with every circumstance. 

Even when suffering, Paul didn't lose his comfort in God. He didn't doubt God's love for him nor God's ability and willingness to take care of him. Thus, He waited quietly for God (not others!) to act on his behalf. 

When Paul enjoyed relative prosperity, he didn't boast or feel entitled to the good things God had provided for him. He humbly thanked his God for them.


How do we learn to be content in any situation? The same way Paul did! 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Need Wisdom? Ask God for It.

Since I’m often unsure which option to choose, I turn to this verse again and again:
One recent morning, I reread that verse and then wrote these words  in my journal: 
If I need wisdom--and I do!--I can ASK God for it. Just come right out and ask Him. He's always generous; and, as the Bible says in other passages,* He  gives good gifts to His children. In fact, I think we honor Him when we seek His counsel. Seeking His thoughts on a matter indicates that we believe He will help us by giving us counsel that is "spot on."
If we turn quickly and often to Him, we won't worry nearly as much. We can go confidently through life, facing each challenge that confronts us because we believe He will gladly and generously give us the wisdom we need. We simply ask in faith and then wait--all senses open--to receive His counsel and then set about doing what He tells us to do.

*Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13; James 1:17

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mess of a Self

I began my March 1, 2019, journal entry with these words:
Off schedule. Frazzled. Ideas popping--way more than I have time to handle. Inspired to write, but too many other tasks, projects, and commitments screaming for attention. Feeling led to write a series of blog posts about some ways to "unpack" the Word. Struggling to find THE BEST way to do that (and just about everything else). Because I'm searching for THE BEST way, I'm delaying doing anything...

I followed those words with these:
O Father, I present my "mess of a self" to You this morning, knowing that You know me fully--far better than I know myself--and yet You love me and are ABLE and WILLING--yes, even EAGER--to transform me.


As I thought about that, the words to the song Something Beautiful popped into my mind. I recognized it as God's way of assuring me that He can and will make something beautiful out of the "mess of a self" that I'm offering Him. He will do the same for you, Dear Reader. Just offer yourself to Him and see what He does!





Wednesday, April 3, 2019

He Leads Us Along

I wish all of life's paths were pleasant ones like the one in this picture, don't you? I long to be able to stroll leisurely through life, feeling comfortable and at ease, enjoying the fellowship of sweet people around me, delighting in the beauty of God's creation... 

But at times life can be unbelievably hard, can't it? So NOT like what we wish it were. Perhaps that's why I love the old song God Leads Us Along. Although published in 1903, it is still so true for today.

For your blessing, I've typed all of the words below. If you click here, you can listen to a young woman sing the song so sweetly. 

May the truth of the words comfort you and encourage you to keep on trusting God to lovingly lead you along paths He knows is best. 


God Leads Us Along
In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water's cool flow bathes the weary one's feet,
God leads His dear children along.


Refrain
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.


Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity's day,
God leads His dear children along.

--George A. Young, 1903, public domain




Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Pray-sing!

Many of the old hymns seem like prayers, and I use them as such. For example, as I've gone about my daily tasks this morning, I've been singing (and praying) all the verses to "Speak to My Heart," which was written by B. B. McKinney and published in 1927.

I, too, am asking the Lord to speak to my heart, to help me hear His voice, to calm all my doubts and fears, to cleanse me from all sin, to help me say or do something to point to the Savior those who do not yet know Him. I'm also offering my heart--in fact, all of me--to the Lord so that He can use me as He wishes.

Now that I've humbly asked Him to speak directly to me, I'm listening eagerly--and carefully--to hear what He will say. And I do believe He will speak to me. Many verses in the Bible promise that He will.


He Will Be There!

Sometimes something comes along that seems more than we can bear. At such times, I find comfort, as I pray you do, in this promise God made to His children centuries ago:
1Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 5Do not be afraid for I am with you (Isaiah 43:1-5, NLT).

As I read those precious promises again and again, especially when circumstances seem so overwhelming, I thank God that He is with me and that He will bring me through the difficulty. 

As I continue to reflect on God's presence and power, this quote my sweet mama shared with me so many times pops into my mind and comforts me, too: 



Note: You may also like this similar post I wrote in 2015: https://johnniegaskill.blogspot.com/2015/02/this-is-my-doing.html

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Be Still and Know...

I love this song! I feel led to share it in its entirety, trusting that it will minister to you, as it does to me. Read the words slowly, letting them sink deeply into your heart and mind. If you have a few extra minutes, listen to it here:


BE STILL, MY SOUL
Author: Kathrina von Schlegel
Translator: Jane Borthwick (1855)
Tune: FINLANDIA
Public Domain

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heav’nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shall you better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Come!

While looking out the window one day this week, I saw a hummingbird, the first one I'd seen this season. The little bird was perched on the feeder and was sipping the sweet nectar my husband had prepared. I'm sure the little fella was thirsty and exhausted after having traveled from Central America or Mexico to where we live in central Georgia.

According to Internet sources, hummingbirds can fly 23 miles a day during the annual migration. Their tiny hearts beat up to 1, 260 times a minute; their wings flap 15 to 80 times per second! Because their bodies require far more fuel during migration than when they are merely zipping around from flower to flower in a garden, the hummingbirds prepare for the arduous trip by gaining 25-40 percent of their body weight in order to have a sufficient supply of stored energy. 

We don't have to beg the hummingbirds to come to the feeder. Their thirst compels them to come and drink. 

Likewise, our spiritual thirst compels us to accept our Lord's gracious invitation that's found in John 7:37, NKJV: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." He also says, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NKJV). 

Jesus invites us to come to Him and find all that we need: salvation, forgiveness, strength, eternal life.... He provides everything in abundance; but it's up to us to humbly come to Him to receive the blessings He has prepared for us. No matter how needy we are, He will never turn us away! (See John 6:37.)







Monday, March 25, 2019

Let Me!

The words God spoke in the Old Testament book of Hosea 11 warm my heart—and break it. 

In that passage, God says, in essence:

As I read that story and many others (for example, Jeremiah 31:3) that tell how Father God continues to love His wayward children, I wonder, How could God’s people be so blind—and stupid? How could they continue to reject the One who loved them so much?

As I fume over that, I hear Him say to me, “Johnnie, dear Johnnie, you do the same thing! You ignore Me much of the time. You go your own way. You listen to the teachings of those who don’t know Me or love Me. You seem to forget that I am the source of all truth and of all wisdom. You often forget that I am the One who gives you the very air you breathe and all the blessings you enjoy.

“O, precious child, return to Me! I love you with an everlasting love. I want to be a Father to you. I want to teach you and guide you. Let Me!”