The unseen wind of the Spirit

Image result for royalty free picture of morning in the city“As you do not know the path of the wind”  I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk and into that strange light of predawn, just before orange enflames the edge of gray sky. I hitched the straps to my purse and lunch bag higher on my left shoulder and glanced at the index card in my right hand.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8, NIV)

The cold wind blew open the flap of my coat, partly exposing a bright pink dress, one of three from my Mom. The pink clashed with the burgundy walking shoes, also a gift from Mom, but I was grateful the dress was not frayed and that the shoes were not tennis shoes, which they would have been but for her generosity.

As I walked, the biting wind whipped across the empty lots here at the edge of downtown, chilling my fingers holding the index card. I found myself wishing for gloves. As a single mom, money was spent with care, as was time. Each hour from pickup to bedtime I focused on my daughter. Bible study and prayer came after she was asleep or before she woke. Travel to and from the office was for memory work.

As I burrowed into my coat, I focused on verse 8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“Yes!” I thought, “you cannot see the wind, but you know it is there by the effect it has, like moving tree branches. And the same with God’s Spirit. We know He is there by the effect He has!”

I pondered that nugget all that long day at the office. More often than I can count through the ensuing 30 plus years God has brought that truth to mind, just when I needed it. I am grateful for every bit of Bible truth I have hidden in my heart, but I do wish I had been more consistent with memory work. Why is memorizing the Bible so difficult?

Image result for royalty free clip art of hard workWhy does Bible memory seem so hard? Three obvious reasons come to mind.

[1] The enemy of our souls understands and fears the Word of God, so he attacks with all his might to keep us from getting the Word safely inside our heart, where he cannot steal it and where we have it ready to use at a moment’s notice. God’s Word is a blessed shield and sword in battles where the enemy shoots arrows of thoughts that can lead to negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression.

[2] An “I can’t” mind set. It may take countless repetition (especially if you are older, like me!) but we can do it. You did memory work at one time in your life or else you would not be reading these words. Our minds are not as quick as when we were children, but God will help us as we try.

[3] Making new habits takes persistent effort. Again, God will help if we try.

How to memorize. Hiding the Word in our heart is God’s will so we can ask for help, with confidence. “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” (I John 4:15-16, NLT)

[1] Be strategic. Use a concordance to pick a verse or passage in your area of greatest personal need.

[2] Focus on one phrase at a time. Repeat that over and over until you know it. Do the same with another phrase. Then link the two phrases, repeating them until you know them both. Continue.

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart Of Index Cards[3] Keep the Word you are memorizing before your eyes. Carry your index cards with you and look at them during the day. Post another copy of your verse on your bathroom mirror, over the coffee maker, or the sun visor of your car. This is one modern-day version of Deuteronomy 6:7-9, of talking about the Word all day long and of keeping it visible before your eyes, as a reminder. If you have children, follow God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and talk about the Word with them throughout the day.

[4] Be systematic and keep a record. Begin with your area of greatest need and ask God to lead you from there. Maintain a list of the verses you have memorized and review them regularly.

Benefits of memory work. Again, there are multiple benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart.

[1] You can resist the enemy at the outset of temptation or weakness, immediately and in instances where you cannot access a Bible, like Jesus did in Luke 4.

[2] God will bring verses to your mind when you need them, for yourself or for others. (Matthew 10:19)

[3] You will experience greater understanding in your Bible study, because you will have a bigger foundation of Bible facts in your mind. (Isaiah 28:10)

[4] You are obeying God and He will bless you. (Jeremiah 7:23)

My recent experience with memorizing. God has been so very gracious this past year to help me overcome life-long depression and fear. Diligent studying of the Word in my areas of need has made the biggest difference. I had to dig into the Bible for myself, me and Holy Spirit alone, rather than rely on what someone else had dug out of the Word. Memorizing scriptures has been a key factor as well. During my routine at the gym, while watching my grandkids play in a park, while standing in line at the grocery store, throughout the day I repeatedly repeated phrases from notes I carried with me everywhere.

Image result for royalty free picture of grass blowing in the windHis Word bears fruit in the garden of the heart over and over.   I got the idea for this blog post late one afternoon, while returning home after playing with my grandsons all afternoon. Leaving the warmth of family and facing the empty-feeling condo can be hard. But, I noticed the wind gently bending the lush grass bordering the sidewalk. Suddenly, I remembered that morning, more than 30 years ago and how often that piece of the living Word in John 3 had helped. And I found myself repeating the chain of scriptures I had memorized about God’s love and tender care. With my mind turned back to God–and out of the self-pity snare — the Lord, my Barny cat and I had a wonderful evening together.

I urge you: Persist! Perhaps you are like me, with years of sporadic memory work. Friend, you and I must in this, like Paul, forget what lies behind and press on in our journey with God. Ask God for His forgiveness, avoid that deadly snare of regret, and move forward, knowing that God delights in your efforts to draw closer to Him! He will help you. It may be in ways you do not understand and could never imagine. . .

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the womb, so you do not understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

 

No way? No way!

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Nature does the impossible. The sound of the chain saw ripped the air as savagely as it ripped into the root of the grandfather oak. I thanked God for my friend who was leaning over, holding the chain saw over the exposed root of the tree. That root had travelled ten feet from the base of the tree, under the patio slab and on under the building, finally entwining itself around the water pipe, which had caused my kitchen wall in the kitchen to leak water.

“No doubt” I mused, “The folks who drew up blueprints for this townhome complex thought that they had positioned the buildings far enough away from the oak trees.

But they had not reckoned with the power of nature.

It only takes a little reaching out.  While in a group therapy session for depression, I heard a powerful metaphor about making even tiny efforts.  The illustration was that plant roots have tiny hairs reaching toward sources of water. Growth requires only an almost microscopic root hair reaching out. What a deep spiritual parallel for me!

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart of A Mustard SeedFaith like a mustard seed.  Psalm 103 says God remembers that we are frail humans and that He always keeps that mind. He knows we are weak and that believing things we cannot see is hard. That is why He does not require perfection – just a whole-hearted commitment. (Deuteronomy 6:5; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Micah 6:8). Surely that is one reason why Jesus comforts us in Matthew 17:10 with the promise that, with a tiny bit of faith, no bigger than a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. Sometimes my faith feels about one sixteenth of an inch, but God keeps it alive and reaching out.

No way is there no way with God! The Bible is filled with stories of how God did the impossible for His children. Consider the Red Sea, the fiery furnace, Jericho, and Goliath. God made dry land appear in the middle of the sea, prevented three Hebrews from being burned while in the middle of a raging fire, made the walls of a fortified city fall down, and enabled a young shepherd boy to kill a giant with one small stone in a slingshot.

However—and here is the hard part—the Israelites had to step into the sea before it parted. The three Hebrews had to stand up for God and face the consequences. The Israelites had to march around Jericho a total of 13 times, and David had to step toward what appeared certain death. Likewise, you and I must take steps of faith, though we may feel afraid and though it may look impossible.

God will help us. Beloved, no matter how weak our faith, or how seemingly impossible our situation, God will help. He cares for every detail in the life of His children (Psalm 34:23). That means the same omnipotent God who created and sustains the universe, the same loving One who did all those miracles in the Bible,  is working in our lives. Our victory in Him requires only a tiny bit of faith, and stepping out (James 2:14-26).

And how do we get more faith and strength for that step?  Romans 10:17 in the NKJ says: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Friend, let us study our Bible and so increase our faith that we may reach out to take hold of God’s promises with whatever measure of faith we have.

God is our “Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness” as the song by Sinach says. Click on the link below to see the comforting, faith-building words of this worship song and let your faith arise!

https://sifalyrics.com/sinach-way-maker-lyrics

 

 

 

God will always give us a hug

God knows when we need extra hugs.  “Meeow!” I ignored the sad sound and kept typing.

“Meeow!”

“You’re okay Barny. I’m working. In a minute. . . “

On the third meow, I put my laptop on the table, picked up the cat brush, and sat on the floor, pulling my beloved Tonkinese close, resting my forehead on his. His quiet purr revved up to a louder pitch as I rubbed his ears and crooned to him. When I pulled back and began brushing his coat, he pressed his head into my leg, a posture I had learned meant he wanted more face time, forehead to forehead. I put the brush down, leaned over and crooned “Good boy, Barny. Love you baby. You are my sweet friend.” Then he went back to sit quietly on his corner of my desk. My faithful and loving companion had craved just a few moments of my time and my affection, nothing else.

God’s love is available to us.  Because it has been a topic of recent study and writing, Image result for royalty free picture of child hand reaching to parent handsmany scriptures come to mind about seeking God’s presence. Two stand out: “God is with you while you are with Him.” (2 Chronicles 15:2) and “He earnestly imprints on His heart that we are just dust.” (Psalm 103:14, AMP.)  

God really is with us while we are with Him. 2 Chronicles 15:2 in the Amplified is “God is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” God is clearly saying that if we seek Him whole-heartedly, we will find Him. Unfortunately, I sometimes ignore my beloved Barny’s  whole-hearted plea for the comfort of my love and affection. How blessed we frail human beings are that our God is perfect and knows our thoughts (Psalm 139)! As our perfect Father, He knows when we need that extra reassurance, and the comfort of being especially aware of His presence.

God has imprinted our human frailties on His heart (Psalm 103:14). Psalm 103 is one of my go-to passages when I have stepped into the snares of fear and worry. Verse 13Image result for royalty free picture of parent carrying child reassures me that just like a father has compassion on his children, or loves and pities them, God “. . . loves and pities those who fear Him – with reverence, worship and awe.” Why is that? Verse 14 says because “He [earnestly] remembers and [imprints on His heart] that we are dust.” Human parents will instinctively pick up a tired child, soothe a crying  child, and feed a hungry child. When a nursing mother hears her infant’s cry, her milk is released or “lets down” – by instinct, automatically, with no effort on her part because that response is imprinted on her heart. 

Friend, our needs provoke a far more powerful response from our loving Father. All we have to do is ask and we will receive His mercy and loving-kindess, which endure forever. (Psalm 136:23) 

God hears our every cry. If I can be mindful of the tender nature and needs of my little pet, how much more is my almighty, merciful and kind heavenly Father aware of when I need some extra love from Him? No matter how low some moments of daily life may seem, I can remind myself that God has promised to deliver me out of all my troubles. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles” (Psalm 34:19, AMP.)

The heart of that little drummer boy

 Piano lessons. As a girl, I took piano lessons, which meant practice! I began in fourth grade, when practice consisted of a few minutes a day after homework was finished, before I could go play baseball in the empty lot next door with my brothers and other neighborhood kids. As I grew older, practice sessions grew as did my pleasure in playing. I began getting up early to practice before school. Image result for royalty free picture of upright piano

Like many families in those times, we had a living room we seldom used. It could be, and usually was, closed off by a sliding pocket door that disappeared into the wall. On those early mornings, with darkness still at the windows, Daddy already at work, Mom having morning devotions in the family room and my two brothers still sleeping, I slowly slid that door open, relishing the cooler air of that isolated room, the lemony scent of furniture polish wafting from the piano, and that not quite dusty but distinctive smell of infrequently used rooms.

Youthful dreams of a youthful heart. Some mornings, before I crossed the room to the light switch, I stood in front of the picture window, another popular feature of mid-century homes, and gazed at the few lighted windows in the houses of our neighborhood, the sparse street lights, and the brightly lit convenience store at the foot of the rolling hill atop which our house sat, imagining I was gazing at the night-time streets of New York, where I dreamed of living as a writer. Then I turned to the piano and opened the sheet music, edged with purple, with the profile of a little boy and a drum.Image result for royalty free picture of neighborhood at night

That winter of seventh grade, Mrs. Rich was teaching me how to play with more expression, which was proving to be a much-needed outlet for my overly sensitive, adolescent soul. I leaned over the piano, intent on gently playing, four times, the chord that repeats throughout the tender song. Then I sang quietly while I played, “Come, they told me, pa rum pa pum. A newborn king to see, pa rum pa pum. . . “

The anointing God has placed upon that song calmed my heart, even though I did not know Jesus at that time. I played it so often that the entire family could join in. The love and comfort of that tender melody soothed the simmering emotional storms. Fifteen years later, I finally opened my heart to that awesome King I had been singing about and found His gifts of real love and real peace.

A gift fit for our King. Throughout the Christmas season we often hear that much-loved song. What a stirring thought that the little drummer boy perceived the deity of the tiny baby in the manger and wanted to give Him a gift fit for a king! Sweetest of all is the bashful gratitude the little boy expresses as he perceives that playing his drum has pleased the tiny king. “Then, He smiled at me, pa rum pa pum. . . rum pa pum. . . me and my drum.” Image result for royalty free picture of little drummer boy

I, too, have no gift that’s fit to give the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   However, like the little drummer boy playing his best, I can live my best for our risen Lord. I can fulfill Romans 12:2 which urges “. . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)”

Listen friend! Do You hear His love, do you perceive His smile of pleasure as you offer yourself a living sacrifice, striving to please Him in all that you do? “Pa rum pa pum, rum pa pum, rum pa pum.”

Dear Father,

Thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior. Thank You for showing us clearly in the Bible how to please You. Holy Spirit, teach us how to live our lives as a gift. We love You, Lord! Happy Birthday Jesus!

When Nana (almost) Got Run Over By A Deer

Beautiful mornings. From the vantage point of the interstate, heading into the hill country east of Austin, morning mist lingers in gossamer pockets formed by gently rolling hills visible all the way to the horizon. Just before daybreak, darkness still Image result for royalty free picture of hills at sunriseobscures more than the growing light reveals, creating a sense of solitude. Five years ago, I drove into the hill country two mornings a week, sipping coffee from a go-mug, eagerly anticipating turning off the interstate onto a winding, unpaved road that ended at a house bordered on three sides by small pastures.

A bona fide city girl, with a life-long unsatisfied love of horses, I relished my part-time job doing light housekeeping for Rachel and caring for her two horses, this on the days I was not busy being Nana.

That morning, from her wheelchair by the big bay window Rachel looked out through the mist at the corral where a lone deer was grazing, and grazing on grass meant for the horses.

“Look at that deer!” Rachel harrumphed. “You just can’t get rid of ‘em!”

“You want me to go yell at them, Rachel?”

“Yes!”

I stopped stirring the oatmeal, ran through the side door into the garage and burst through the outer door like a one-woman SWAT Team, albeit not nearly as fast.

Inspired by hard-riding cowboys. You have to remember that I grew up in the sixties,Image result for free picture of john wayne when Westerns ruled prime time television. My brothers and I laid on the floor in front of the television, with Daddy in his recliner, and watched every weekly episode of “Rawhide”, “Bonanza”, “Maverick”, and “The Big Valley”, to name just a few. Western TV shows and western movies, especially ones starring John Wayne, were better than ice cream. So, I had often seen cowboys waving their lariats and yelling, “Yeehaw!”.  It had worked for those hard-riding cowboys as they headed off strays or turned a stampeded herd.

With great intensity, as I ran toward the deer, I now attempted to duplicate that motion, flapping my long arms wildly, and widely, in place of a lariat.

Not my wisest move. Well, several things happened. They happened fast, they happened in slow motion, and they have remained forever frozen in my mind. First, that lone deer that Rachel had seen in front of the house jumped straight up and high-tailed it, literally, toward the larger pasture to the right of the barn and corral. Image result for free picture of cattle stampedeSecond, in the same instant, both horses in that pasture also jumped but, thank the good and merciful Lord, did not bolt toward their fences. Now, the third thing is where things got interesting.

One of the sneaky deer who had been behind the house to the left, hidden from my view, munching on bushes next to the oak tree, leaped and soared within five feet of me on his way to the same pasture as the other one. Fourth, his or her companion, a bit slower by only a nose, ran behind me, this time within three feet of me. It was getting crowded, I guess, on the only pathway away from the obviously insane human.

Fifth, I stood still – for how long, I don’t know. As my racing heart slowed and my breath returned, I reflected on stories I had heard about encounters between vehicles and deer. I concluded that what I had just done was not the wisest move I had ever made.

Finally, still a bit shaky, I turned and went back inside, reflecting how often people had warned me about deer since I had moved to Texas. What would a full-steam ahead deer/human collision look like? Not so great for the human, I was sure.

Rachel and I got a good laugh, but I think about my close encounter when I see a deer or when I hear that song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Only now I don’t laugh quite so much!

Joy in the secret place

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Christmas carols. What is your favorite Christmas carol? Is it “Silent Night”? How about “Away in a Manger”? One of my favorites is “Joy to the World” because the words, the message, and the melody are all uplifting. Just humming the melody revives my spirit.

Carols for Consecration. I recently finished a booklet entitled “Carols for Consecration: Beloved Truths for Singing to the Melodies of Beloved Carols”. It contains new verses, expressing biblical truths, that can easily be be sung to the melodies of well-known Christmas carols. The booklet is available on this website on the Resources page.

One of my favorites in the booklet is “I Dwell in God’s Own Secret Place”. The recast verses proclaim some of the blessed truths in Psalm 91–and they fit the cheering melody of “Joy to the World.” (See below.)

Personally, the last few months have led me to seek God’s presence more than ever before. You may have passed through a similar process. It is indeed a joyful thing when we (finally) learn to abide in the secret place, with our minds fixed on Him! During this busy season, I pray you and I both will remember to “lean, rely, and trust” our loving Father.

“I Dwell in God’s Own Secret Place” for singing to “Joy to the World”

[1] I dwell in God’s own secret place.
He overshadows me.
His mighty power no foe can withstand. Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of a Fortress
In Him I am at rest,
In Him I am at rest,
In Him, in Him I am at rest!

[2] I say of God, He is my Lord,
my Rock, my refuge.
On Him I lean, most confidently!
I lean, rely and trust,
I lean, rely land trust,
I lean, I lean, rely and trust!

[3] He rescues me, from every trap
because I dwell and trust.
He keeps me from all harm and deadly disease.
I live abundantly,
I live abundantly,
I live, I live, abundantly!Image result for royalty free picture of flying eagle

[4] He covers me with His great wings.
I trust and dwell in peace.
His promises my armor, His wings my steadfast shelter.
In Him I say “Rejoice!”,
In Him I say “Rejoice!”,
In Him, in Him, I say “Rejoice!”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, on Him I lean and rely and in Him I (confidently) trust! (Psalm 91:2 AMPC)

Love and prayers,
Freda

One key fact about fear

 Fight off the fretting, the worry, the woe!
Don’t give fear a foothold – not even a toe!

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Resist the devil at the outset. When I first awoke this morning, there was the fear–again!–but disguised this time as vague anxiety. Could I do what I needed to today and stay in the peace of God’s presence?

“Okay, Father. I am going to get up, have our devotions and then write while I wait on the car.” Ten minutes later, Barny’s fur warmed my thigh as he lay next to me in the big rocker while we had chamomile tea and honey. I scanned the yellow high-lighted portions in Psalms, testimony to countless times when I had searched the Word for promises about peace. As I dressed, I repeated my basic Scriptures over in my head. (More about this later.)

Soon, I was out the door and into the fresh, cool smell of the gray, 59 degree morning, driving to the family-owned car repair shop I trusted. I sat in the waiting room on the big black easy chair with its cracked leather back and ripped arm rest, and pulled out my clipboard, enjoying the steady hum of the heater. I began pondering what I had learned about mastering fear.

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How Jesus resisted the devil. In Mathew 4:1-11, Jesus demonstrates how to resist temptations. Three times the enemy talked to Jesus and each time Jesus answered with the Word. Jesus did not engage in discussion or arguing; He simply quoted the Word of God, and the devil finally left him. Jesus did not focus on what the enemy said. Rather, Jesus focused on the truth of God, and spoke those truths.

It took many painful lessons before I learned, for myself, that what you focus on grows. Rather than trying to fight the fear, I gradually learned to speak God’s Word when I felt fear and then keep my mind focused on His truth by pondering it over and over all day, as I endeavored to imprint it on my heart, to memorize it so that it would be ready on my lips the next time I felt shaky.

A father’s caring heart. As I sat in the repair shop, pondering how the Bible said to handle fear, I marveled that there was only a faint whiff of gasoline and rubber, unlike many car repair shops I had sat in over the years. It was clean and tidy, a well cared-for business. I felt a quiet camaraderie with the shop owner and his daughter as they sat just beyond the open door of the waiting room, he at his big desk behind a huge counter and she at a lower table next to his.

Fatherly Love

“Janie, do you want the rest of your milk?” said a low, resonant voice. “No, Daddy” came a soft murmur. “Well, we will put it in the fridge so you can finish it later.” This earthly father was taking care of his child’s needs.

A few minutes later: “Sweetie, you have to put this big puzzle piece in before the little ones.” This earthly father was keeping careful watch over what his child was doing.

A bit later: “We have to remember to take this sweater home with us tonight.” This earthly father was looking ahead to the tiny details of his child’s every need.

Meditate on our heavenly Father’s love. As I reflected on this father’s obvious love for his child, I realized that God’s fatherly love was the theme of four Scriptures I had learned to roll over and over in my mind whenever I felt afraid or worried. Four passages remind me that: God is good and He is near, so I can wait, and not fear.

[1] God is good. “The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So, it is good to wait quietly for the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25,26) (NLT)
[2] He is near. “And behold, I am with you and will keep [watch over you with care, take notice of] you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.” (Genesis 28:15, AMPC)
[3] I can wait. . . “Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 AMPC)
[4] . . . and not fear. “Fear not, [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC.

I can memorize – by grace and hard work! I wrote those verses on folded pieces of paper  and looked at those pages repeatedly– while I cooked, while I exercised, when I sat down to rest a minute on the couch, at stoplights,  and in grocery store lines. Like the velveteen rabbit, those pages are well loved.

After countless repetitions, I had the verses memorized and meditating on them worked every time I did my part and kept them foremost in my mind. But sometimes, I could only remember one of the verses or part of one. Like an actor who knows his lines but needs a little prompting, I needed a prompt for times when I could not whip out my trusty notes.
I learned that if I memorized the headings themselves (God is good, He is near, I can wait, and not fear) I could then repeat all four verses one after another, while I was driving, or going to sleep, or waiting in a doctor’s office. And those four phrases actually spell out another truth: That God is always good, that He is always near us, and that if we keep that in our minds, we can wait and not fear.

By God’s grace, I am learning to use His Word as soon as fear starts and to keep my mind focused on His truth by pondering Scripture over and over. It does take steady, consistent work but being desperate for His peace provides the motivation. Are you desperate for the peace of His presence? I pray God will help you “. . . take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17b, NIV).

Love and blessings,

Freda

Hark! The herald angels sing . . .

 

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(To the tune of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley, music by Felix Mendelssohn)

Look! The Lord my God is near. He will keep me safe from fear.
Though the enemy roar, God is king forevermore.
I submit to God’s great hand. He will lift me up to stand.
Casting all my care on Him, on His love I can depend.
Look! The Lord my God is near. He will keep me safe from fear.

I can keep my self controlled. God Himself indwells my soul.
I’m alert, and I watch out for the devil prowls about.
I resist him, I stand strong though the trial might feel long,
In my weakness, He gives grace, so I rise and run my race!
I can keep my self controlled. God Himself indwells my soul!

My God covers me with peace, all my fears and worries cease!
He will keep me in His rest as I think on what is best.
In my weakness, He is strong. He will keep me from all wrong.
I will walk with Him in love. I will keep my mind above.
My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!

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God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!
He will give me grace to fight. We will win o’er darkest night!
Nothing that attacks me stands, for He holds me in His hand
God is faithful. He will save! This the banner that I wave!
God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!

Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,700 hymns. In his book “Amazing Grace, 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions”, Kenneth Osbeck comments that many of Charles Wesley’s hymns “clearly present biblical doctrine in poetic language.” (p. 374)

I have earnestly prayed that the words I have written to this beloved Christmas carol accurately reflect biblical doctrine. I also pray that the living Word of God will speak to you and have His way with your soul, for we know that His Word is “. . . alive and full of power—making it active, operative, energizing and effective” (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC) May God’s miracle of music help imprint these truths deeply in your heart.

Love and prayers,
Freda

Jesus laughs, ho ho all the way!

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(To the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

Living daily life, in this crazy world,

sometimes is so hard, that my heart grows weak!

but Jesus lives in me, and in His joy I’m strong,

so I say to you, my friend, come laugh and sing alo-ong!

Chorus: Jesus laughs, Jesus laughs, ho ho all the way!

Jesus loves to laugh and play, every single day!

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 When the day starts out dark (A little pun there!) When I woke up this morning, the last thing I felt like doing was laughing. As I thought of the day ahead, and my life ahead, everything felt dim and discouraging. But, as I lay in bed, I repeated several basic passages about trusting God that I have memorized, by virtue of desperately reading them to my anxious heart over and over and over again.  Once out of bed, I sat in the rocker, stroked my cat, and read Psalm 71.

 

“I am feeling a little better,” I thought grudgingly. “Thank You, Lord. Please help me get my attitude right!”

I began texting a dear friend. I stated briefly that I felt discouraged and I intended to indulge my feelings by texting her about my troubles. But, lo and behold!!! I found myself texting that I was going to trust in God and thank Him for this day, keep my mind on Him rather than my problems, and look for ways to bless everyone He put into my path this day. I then texted another friend, who is walking a hard path right now, and that time I managed to only be encouraging and uplifting.

I listened to the bird perched in the tree by the window as the deep blue-black of night began fading to a softer blue. And I just sat and waited on Him, looking out the window at the miracle of a new day.

The Word changes our minds. “Wow, Lord! Thank You!”, I prayed. “All this time of pondering the comforting truths of Your Word really have renewed my mind. It really worked! You have done a deep work inside my heart, I know, because even though I feel discouraged on the surface, You are keeping my thoughts focused on the truth of Your Word and I am not sinking down into despair, like I used to do. You are guarding my heart and keeping me in constant peace as I keep my mind fixed on You! (Isaiah 26:3)

You have lifted me out of the pit, I have your reassurances that You are always with me and will never fail me, and somehow, You are teaching me to truly enjoy each day and to laugh with You, even when things are difficult.

Ho ho all the way! Then I was out and about, taking care of the business of my day, with my mind set to enjoy this day that the Lord had made and prepared especially for me. As I drove through morning traffic, I heard a good teaching on Psalm 71, the same psalm I had been reading earlier. Coincidence? No way! I know Jesus loves to reassure us that He is with us every moment, no matter what we feel like and no matter if we feel we have failed Him, I know He has a sense of humor, and I know He laughs with us –ho ho all the way!

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Finding peace, in a park

Time to stop fretting myself. “Yes, darling, you can run ahead to the playground. I’m right behind you.”

My grandsons, six and a half and almost eight, ran at top speed toward the play equipment in the center of Garrison Park. I swung my big green bag to my left hip, holding the big thermos of cold water in my right hand. The bag—the same type of nondescript, reusable grocery bag I used for years as my “Nana” day bag when I spent weekday mornings with my preschool darlings—contained a snack for the boys, my cell phone and a lime green folder. The folder contained three different bunches of paper, paper clipped together, filled with margin notes, crossed out lines, and numbered points, the fruit of a two-month struggle to write the second in a series of blog posts about seeking the presence of God.

The boys raced over a field of grass lightly browned from lack of rain. Soon, it would be truly brown from the frost of fall mornings. I sighed as I trailed slowly behind them. I was not ready for change, for the boys to continue growing up, and not ready for autumn, my favorite season. I had planned to have so much more writing done by now!

I had been counting my blessings all morning, struggling to maintain a positive attitude as I had struggled at the computer for four hours.

“Thank You, Father, for the idea to take the boys to the park. How sad it would have been to miss this good time with them because I was cooped up, fretting about my work for You.”

I paused in my thoughts. Wow! In that moment, truth shifted my perspective and my feelings. I knew God did not want any of His children to stress about doing their work for Him, whatever that work is. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30. KJV) And God tells us to rejoice always, so that means each minute of our day, which includes work of all kinds.

After seeing that Ben was on the slide and Ansel was on the ramp, I sat on the fully shaded wrought-iron bench. Wind blew, gently, starting at the top of the old oaks bordering the playscape. Like an invisible curtain, the wind swirled around and downward, small brown leaves polka dotting its movement and making the unseen visible.

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Accepting change. Autumn was in process. Change was coming, no matter how much I wished for delay.

Cars whizzed by on Stassney, which bordered the park’s western edge. Swings creaked, back and forth. Creak, c-r-e-a-k. Cool air caressed my cheek. Children shouted and laughed and yelled, each of them all at once, a soothing, happy sound. The hamburgers for the birthday party folks at those three picnic tables smelled tasty. A father in a red shirt goo-gooed at a tiny toddler in a white-laced playsuit as he pushed her on the baby swings.

I ponder. In the last seven years how many memories have I stored up from this park, memories of collecting rocks and acorns, building fairy houses out of twigs, marking our path in the dirt with a stick as we took an adventure hike on the trails. How many? I recognize the distinctive sound of Ansel laughing and wonder how close humans come to the capacity of sheep and other animals to distinguish the cry of their own young from others.

The heart of a child about my work for God. I brought the boys here so they would have a fun outing. I also brought my request to God, a request as tangible as the green folder holding the paper-clipped pages.

“Father, keep speaking to me, as I look at the trees and children and listen to the birds. Speak to me about peace regarding my work for You. Lately I always feel I am not doing enough or doing it well enough.”

I watched Ben huddle with three other boys atop the monkey bars, pointing and, as usual I was sure, giving directions. My eyes roved over the whole playscape, gazing at kids running after each other, jostling to climb up ladder to the slide and sitting on the ground, splitting up a crinkled Hershey bar.

Do these children fret about their work, this task of growing up that they are eagerly doing this moment? No! Why? Because it is in their nature to trust their parents and to enjoy each moment as it comes.

“Okay, Lord, I get it. Thank You! I know our work for You will sometimes be difficult but You never want us to fret about it. You tell us to approach You like the little children we are and to trust You. I do know how often You warn against worry and fretting and I know Your Word is filled with reassurances against fear. Oh, Father! Give me the heart of a child about our work! Help me remember Your many reassurances – that You work everything out for our good, that You busy yourself with each detail of our lives, that You show us the way to go if we ask You, that You make our plans succeed if we commit them to You, and so many more life-giving promises, Lord!“

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Ansel walked slowly toward me,  flushed from running, sweat on the edges of his hairline, face filled with the frustration of being little brother. I patted the seat beside me, handed him the thermos of cool water, and he leaned against me. I took out some clean paper from the folder, drew a tic-tac-toe square, and handed him the pencil. Soon big brother walked towards our bench, sat on my other side, and took big gulps of water. I gave him a sideways hug, and kissed the top of his head, inhaling deeply.

His hair smelled of sunshine, fresh air, and a healthy little body, exactly like his Mother’s at that age. Impossibly sweet, touching memories. Ben took his turn with the pencil next, drawing stick figures and asking how I draw feet for stick figures.

A beautiful dance. I wish I could have a picture of us, an older woman in black shorts and stretched out turquoise tank top, support stocking on her left leg, a young boy with straight brown hair pressed against her right side, his small hand resting on her arm and another boy on her left side resting halfway in her lap, drawing.

I cannot take a picture, but, as I have learned, I can deeply imprint this memory on my heart by being fully present and letting love engrave the sights and sounds, the feelings and thoughts.

I smile, listen to the wind rustling the leaves, and enjoy the treasure of feeling cuddled.

“Thank You, Father! Thank You so much for these precious moments today. Help me remember that You care far more about me than about any work I can do for You. Help me trust and rest in You more. And Father, help me accept change. I know that as I yield to Your plans for my life, like brown leaves in this autumn wind, we will make a beautiful dance. I love You, Lord, and I trust You!”

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