Category Archives: DAILY LIFE

God busies Himself with your details

Little details are BIG. I signed in at the office and walked down the hall, gazing fondly at pages taped to walls, grouped by classroom, thickly-penciled letters sprawling above and below that distinctive blue-lined paper, with red dots splitting each line. The mashed-potatoes-and-baking-bread smell led me to the cafeteria, filled with mostly empty metal folding chairs.

“Whew!” I took a seat on the front row. Waiting for fifteen minutes was a small price to ensure Haskell saw me. I touched the gold-plated spiral pin clipped to the neck of my tank top and tugged my long skort forward to cover more of two pudgy knees. Haskell would think I was gorgeous, that was all that mattered.

I talked with the mom who joined me on the front row, musing that she was about the age of my daughter, who had to work this morning. Then, students filed in, class by class, the principal welcomed everyone to the award ceremony, and called the two kindergarten classes to the stage.

Haskell was the twelfth kindergartner in line. When he turned around, wide eyes searching the audience, I stuck my hand up high and waved. He smiled a tight, close-lipped smile and waved back, lifting his hand just above his waist.

“Had the teacher told them not to wave?” I wondered.

Then Haskell touched his neck, at the spot where I wore the pin and smiled the wide, full-hearted smile I loved. Tears sprang to my eyes as I touched my hand to the clip at my neck, nodded, and gave him two thumbs-up. After he had spotted that clip in Nana’s joo-ree box a few months ago, I had worn it, whenever he asked, which was often, and wherever he wanted, which included the gym and the grocery, and while vacuuming, delighted that he wanted to decorate his Nana.

“Thank You, Lord, that I remembered this little detail. It is huge to him!”

Image result for royalty free clip art of footstepsTeach me gratitude, Lord, for Your daily attention to details of my life. As I drove back home, I reflected on what I remembered of Psalm 37:23, that God busies himself with the steps of the righteous. When I got home, I looked it up:

“The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. (Psalm 37:23, AMPC)

“Oh, Father” I said. “I was overjoyed when Haskell noticed I had worn our special pin. His smiling face said ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nana!’ Father, help me remember to thank You, with my whole heart and a big smile, for the countless details of everyday life You prepare just for me, like songs on the radio, a text from a friend and smiles from strangers, just when I need them. You truly do arrange every detail of the life we share, don’t You, Lord?”

Teach me gratitude, Lord, for Your new mercies that come every day. “And make me more mindful for the big things You give day after day, like the breath of life, food, a home, a loving family, and most of all the privilege of knowing You. Truly, Father, Your faithfulness is great, just like You show us in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

I paused, seeing the dining table of my childhood, Daddy at the head of the table, orange knotty pine wall behind him, lengthening late afternoon shadows visible through the window, the view partly obscured by drapes embossed with turquoise flowers. Daddy taught us to thank Mother for supper, and my two brothers and I did, in our own words, and, as I recall, using the same words each time – “Thanks Mother. It was good.” “Thank you, Mother. ‘ppreciate it.” and “Thank you, Mother, for a good supper.” She had always smiled and given each of us a sincere “You’re welcome!”

“But how much more would she have appreciated our thanks,” I pondered, “If we had said, ‘The meatloaf was great tonight!’ or ‘Your biscuits and gravy are the best!’ or ‘That fried chicken was sooo good!”

She never got tired of hearing us thank her, and You never get tired of hearing us thank You either, do you Lord? So thank You, Father, again, for my family, thank You that I have a car to drive to Haskell’s school, thank You . . . “

Royalty Free Pic of Open Bible

Teach me gratitude that You are the loving Father who teaches us. I sat at my desk and opened the three Bibles I use most often when I write. I wanted to check my memory. As I read verse 22, I saw it was connected to verse 23. Psalm 37:22-23 said:

  • (New Living) “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”
  • (New International) “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD holds him with his hand.”
  • (Amplified Classic) “The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.” (Psalm 37:23-24, AMPC)

As I compared translations, I marveled again at how Holy Spirit deepens our understanding when we focus and try earnestly to understand God’s Words. As I read and reread the verses, cause and effect linkages emerged:

[1] When we live a godly life, God delights in our way, or our manner of life.

[2] When God delights in how we are living, He busies Himself with every detail of our lives,

[3] Because of [1] and [2], even though we stumble and fall, we will not stay down because the LORD holds our hand and supports, sustains, and strengthens us.

At first glance, the NIV and NLT, which said we would never fall, seemed to disagree with the AMPC, which indicated we would fall.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Father And CHILD Walking“Hmmm, Lord? What is the key to understanding this? Well, if I think of a father holding the hand of a little child as they walk together, that child could stumble and fall, but a loving, attentive father, like You are, Lord, would grasp that little hand even more tightly the moment the child began falling so that the child would fall only to his knees and not all the way to the ground, as he would have if the father were not holding his hand and pulling him back up.

Oh, Father! Teach me to always, always, always hold on to Your mighty hand! Let me be grateful You hold my hand. Let me not resist but agree willingly when Your hand tugs me in a specific direction. Keep teaching me to have the same mind as You, to agree with You, so that we can walk together (Amos 3:3). Keep my feet on the paths of righteousness that lead to eternal life. (Proverbs 12:28) What comforting reassurance these verses bring! Thank You, Lord!

Image result for royalty free PICTURE OF SCROLLTeach me to rightly divide Your Word. I closed my eyes and searched for words to express my gratitude. “Thank You, Father, for teaching me to look at more than just one verse. Otherwise, today, I would have missed the connection between verse 22 and verse 23.”

Recently, God had impressed on me the importance of studying out the context of verses I memorized and ones that reappeared in teachings and sermons I heard.

At minimum, I had learned to scan several verses before and after any one verse, checking for connecting words and phrases that indicated cause and effect, words like for, because, therefore, and so that. Ideally, I wanted to know the main message of the book of the Bible the verse was in, the historical, Biblical, and cultural context, a broad outline of the book and a detailed outline of the chapter.

“Well, no, I pondered. “Not just one chapter. I have learned that the original writings were not divided into chapter and verse. I see both missed blessings and danger in letting the thoughts of men, no matter how learned and holy they were, rather than Holy Spirit, determine for me where to “divide” the Truth.

Father, I will study out 2 Timothy 2:15 more but I do believe part of the meaning of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” is to keep the passages that are all of one piece, as one piece in our thinking, rather than picking one or two verses here or there.

However, I do know that just one or two verses or brief passages can accurately be taught if the pastor or Bible teacher has followed 2 Timothy 2:15 and done the diligent, time-consuming study necessary for proper understanding. That is the spoon-feeding I had lapsed into for so long. Thank You, Father, for using fear and depression to make me desperate enough to study Your Word, diligently, for my personal needs.

Thank You, Father, for busying Yourself with the details of my life today by teaching me how to better study Your Word. It feels like You put truths there just for me, just like I wore that pin so that Haskell would know I was thinking about him, and so he could see that what was important to him was important to me. What a loving Father You are, Lord!

Thank You for Your great grace and Your mercies, which are new every morning, as You say in Lamentations 3:23. . . and I see that verse 22 says, “It is because of the LORD’s great love that we are not consumed because Your compassions never fail. And actually, that whole Chapter Three of Lamentations is so instructive, let’s see . . . let’s start at verse one and recall that the author is probably Jeremiah and that he was writing about. . .

Image result for free ;picture of studying the bible

 

Afflicted by an Itch – for My Good! Part Two of ??

Image result for royalty free picture of toy wood rubber band airplaneHelpless, right where God wants us. “Oh, Lord!” I wailed as I looked at the pink spots that had reappeared so fast. “I know my little problems are nothing compared to what millions face every day, but Lord! What if the blood pressure medicine causes a rash, too?”

I rocked in my desk chair a few moments, thinking. Could the medicines I took, over the counter and by prescription, have caused the rash? In coping with Austin’s multiple allergens, I now took three over-the-counter pills each morning and later in the day, depending on symptoms. Lately, worsening asthma had scared me into using the inhaler twice a day.

Thoughts whirred through my mind like the balsa wood airplanes my brothers and I had flown in the back yard, the deluxe ones with a rubber-band, windup propeller that made the little plane zip erratically over our heads for a few seconds before plummeting into lush Bermuda.

Finally, I sat in the rocker by the window, opened my Bible to Psalms, read a few minutes, then prayed.

“Father, I give up. I do not know which medicines and which foods are bad for me. I do not want to try another doctor or medicine and I am getting really scared. I need Your help, Lord. I believe Your promises in Hebrews 13:5 that You will never in any way fail me. I believe, Father, but I am so sorry. Even after all You have done for me, I am still afraid. Help me trust You more and show me what You want me to do.”

Small Child Looking UpGod always, always, always hears and answers us. Fortunately, I knew God would help, even though I felt the sting of fiery darts of discouragement and doubt. I had lifted up my shield of faith the best I could and I made up my mind to learn to continue living a life of active, intentional gratitude to Him, no matter what physical troubles might lay ahead.

Still itching, resisting the urge to scratch, I said, “Well, Lord, as a love offering for all the miracles You have done all my life, let’s pick up where we left off on that little book about affliction. Thank You so much for giving me this work to do. Help me write what You want people to know and teach me as we write.”

I sat down at the computer, opened the file labelled “Affliction, God’s Loving Chastening” and read the last two sentences I had written five days ago, before the storm of physical afflictions.

“During those two years, as I actively sought help and healing for the increasing emotional upset, I read and heard many teachings by Joyce Meyer, Derek Prince, and others who taught about using God’s Word like the medicine it is to heal and renew your heart.”

Image result for Clip Art Free Old Medicine BottleGod’s Medicine Bottle. “Lord, I need to review that teaching and add more detail, right?” An internet search, to my delight, showed that Derek Prince’s little book “God’s Medicine Bottle,” was in the radio archives of www.derekprince.org. The short, but mighty, book taught how to receive healing from the Word of God, based on Proverbs 4:20-22.

For the next hour I barely moved, listening intently to each word, grateful that God had answered my desperate prayer in less than three minutes. Here is a brief summary of that teaching.


While a solider, Derek had severe eczema, like many British soldiers exposed to desert sun and sand. Doctors’ efforts failed, and Derek was left, along with others, to sit in the hospital. A relatively new believer, with nowhere else to turn for help but God and the Word, he began studying his Bible. One day, he read Proverbs 4:20-22.

“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto My sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (KJV)

In the margin of his Bible, Derek saw that an alternative translation for “health” in verse 22 was “medicine”. After repeatedly pondering that passage, he decided to take God’s Word as his medicine. Then God told him clearly, though not audibly, “When the doctor gives a person medicine, the directions for taking it are on the bottle. . . This is My medicine I’m giving you. The directions are on the bottle. You better study them.” (p. 16, God’s Medicine Bottle)

Image result for royualty free clip art of man studing biblw

Following is a summary of Derek’s understanding of the four directions, as given in “God’s Medicine Bottle’.

  1. Attend to My words. God requires our undivided attention as we study His Word.
  2. Incline thine ear unto My sayings. Bend down your head, bow down your stiff neck and listen, humbly, as you study. Let go ALL preconceptions of how God does and does not work. Do not try to figure things out.
  3. Let them not depart from thine eye. The main thought here is to focus and have a single or simple, sincere eye—to see the Bible as it is written and take it as meaning what it says, without trying to explain it away.
  4. Keep them in the midst of thine heart. Just as some medicine must enter the bloodstream to be effective, God’s medicine must enter the heart, which is what God’s first three were about. Further, Proverbs 4:23 can be simply stated “Guard your heart with all of our strength; for all the things in life come out of it.” (p. 52) God says that for His Words and His medicine to do what is promised, we must keep His words and sayings in the center place of our life and heart.

Finally, Hebrews 4:12 teaches that God’s Word penetrates when nothing else will – not a surgeon’s knife nor a counselor’s words.


Derek began bowing his head over the Bible three times each day after meals, which was how people usually took medicine. Within a year, he was totally healthy in every area of his body.

See the source image Ruth “happened” to stop in the field of Boaz. After I listened to the entire teaching about God’s medicine, came a deep, peaceful sigh. “Thank You, Father, for speaking so clearly. I know that just as Ruth “. . . happened to stop in the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3, AMP) so, at this particular hour, I happened to resume our work on the book about affliction at the spot about using the Word like medicine. You  knew that would get me to sit down and listen—attentively–to the entire teaching again.”

This, dear, dear Father, is a new thing for me this taking the Word like medicine, although I have always believed that all Your gifts, including healing, are still in operation today, just as in New Testament times. Thank You that you taught me how to use Your Word like the spiritual weapon it is to heal depression and anxiety. Now I need You to teach me how to take it like the medicine it is for physical healing.

Forgive me, oh Father, for relying on doctors and medicines for healing first, all my life, even after learning about Your healing powers. I have been like the Israelites in Isaiah 30 that we are writing about in the affliction book. They spent all their wealth purchasing help from Egypt instead of seeking strength and protection from You, and consequently they were terrified of and fled from their enemies, just as I have fled from my fear of sickness, rather than standing and leaning on You.

And just as You told them that You eagerly waited, expecting, looking and longing to be gracious to them, and that You lifted yourself up so that You could show them lovingkindness, so You have been eagerly waiting for me to return to You and rest in You so that I can be saved from these afflictions of my body. You have been longing for me to return to You and learn to gain strength from being quiet and from having trust and confidence in You. (from Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)”

I knew that God was showing me the next area of personal growth for me–depending on Him for physical healing.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of String Around FingerHow quickly we forget! I also knew, just as certainly, that He was chastening me about keeping the Word first in my life. In recent weeks, working on the book about affliction had been so exciting that I had, too often, kept writing rather than doing the personal Bible reading and study I knew was necessary for me personally.

Also, God’s presence during the writing so nourished and excited my soul and left such an afterglow that I did not feel the need to quote my basic Bible passages to myself during the in between moments of daily living, as I had done when God was healing me of depression and anxiety. I had also neglected to my commitment to discover and meditate on new Bible passages.

“Forgive me, Father! You warned me. I heard more than one Bible teacher and pastor whose ministry had steadily grown for years and who had not yielded to the sin that wrecked so many well-known ministries attribute their success to maintaining their personal relationship with You. I also knew many saints whose ministries, though behind the scenes nevertheless equally important in the kingdom, had lived long, victorious lives because they put their relationship with You above any work they did for You.

Thank You, Lord, for exposing the ways of the enemy in this. I see that he tries to draw every believer away from the most important thing in life, as You said in Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (NIV). I know that good can be the enemy of the best. If I spend so much time in my personal work for You that I neglect my time with You and our Bible study, I have stepped off the path You have for me. Nothing can come before You.

Is that the lesson of Mary and Martha, Lord, in Luke 10:38-42? I feel like I never understood that story before. Wow!”

I paused. How wonderful, I thought, that God takes such care with His children to show them exactly how to live! And just as clearly as if we heard a human voice. (Isaiah 30:21-23) How wonderful that He does not criticize us when we fail and that He never embarrasses us when we need to ask Him how to do something. (James 1:5-8).

Image result for royalty free picture of phylacteryGod warns us not to forget. On impulse, I searched “how quickly we forget” and found Deuteronomy 4:9, “Only take heed and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your [mind and] heart all the days of your life. Teach them to your children and your children’s children” (AMPC). I knew from having seen pictures that phylacteries were worn during prayer, and that they were highly visible. I also knew, from, pictures that putting them on took time and effort. God obviously wanted His children to think deeply about His Word when they prayed.

For the next few minutes, I skimmed through the first part of Deuteronomy, from Chapter Four on, noting how many times God warned Israel, through Moses, to keep His law FIRST in their hearts and minds, passages like Deuteronomy 4:10, 39-40,5:7, 6:1-25, especially 3, 12 and 24. I would study that out later. The passages in Deuteronomy reminded me of Psalm 107, which tells how God, because of His mercy and loving kindness, again and again rescued rebellious Israel when they rejected Him and His holy ways.

My tummy rumbled, and I drew my attention back to my prayer of repentance for neglecting His Word. I concluded “And, Lord, I trust You to show me what foods to eat that will help heal whatever is out of balance.

Image result for royalty free picture of praying handsGod is very near to us in everything about which we call upon Him. “. . . who has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is to us in all things for which we call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7, AMPC). I walked to the fridge, opened the door, and felt led to eat some spinach. I had read months ago that, paradoxical as it seems, spinach and other leafy greens help the tummy. (In writing this story, I learned that its alkalinity makes it an excellent antacid.) The spinach stayed down, with no burping.

I returned to the farmer’s market grocery that evening, thinking I could try another kind of yogurt instead of one based on soy or almonds. Sure enough, coconut yogurt and some other kinds existed, but at far too high a cost for my regular consumption. Walking out of the store, holding my empty mesh bags, I prayed, “Lord, thank You for guiding me. Help me remember and show me how You want me to take Your Word like medicine. Please keep showing me how to do that. And I think You are saying to try fresh vegetables and fruits that help allergies and asthma. It makes sense that eating foods that You have supplied in nature would be part of Your way of healing.”

Image result for royalty free clip art of grandmother sleeping in bedAs I walked up the stairs, I ignored the dizzy, light-headed feeling, assuming the blood pressure was a bit off, as it often was by day’s end. I fell asleep that night, repeating my basic arsenal of Scripture passages, Isaiah 26:3, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 91 . . . zzzz

 

P.S. I heartily recommend the teachings of Derek Prince, a widely-known and highly respected international Bible teacher. Though he went home to glory in 2003, his teachings are still going forth through the work of his family and others, through many avenues, including www.derekprince.org. Sound Biblical teaching can easily be found, on innumerable topics, through searching the website and other resources, including putting, for example, “Derek Prince on healing” into your web browser. You will be abundantly blessed as you feast on solid food. (Hebrews 5:14).

Afflicted by an Itch – for My Good! Part One of ??

Image result for Free Clip Art Of Quill PenDear friend, I am trying two new things: using a short story form and splitting long blog posts into parts. So, laying aside my earlier hesitations and trusting God, here we go! Woo hoo and go God!

This short story/blog post series shows:

(1) How God used Proverbs 4:20-23 last week to heal me physically when nothing else worked.  Proverbs 4:20-23 in a nutshell is that  God’s Word is medicine for our bodies IF we take it as He says.

(2) A personal experience of the benefits of affliction. As Psalms 119 says (verse  67) “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.” and (verse 71) “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Affliction in body and mind. “You know, Lord, this is going great! In a few more days, we might get this finished. Thank You!”

I rocked gently in my chair. The softest whisper of wind stirred the branches outside the window. Midmorning sun dappled through the top-most branches. Gentle light illumined some leaves a bright, new grass green, leaving shadowed leaves varying shades of jade.

Holy Spirit and I had worked on this  booklet about affliction, which had grown to be a small book, for two months. As I had dug deeply into Isaiah 30, the little book’s Biblical foundation, I had understood more about the message of its working title, “Affliction, God’s Loving Chastening.” The book showed how, through a long season of affliction, God had lovingly healed deep hurts, cleansed me of hidden sins, strengthened me, and made “my feet like hinds feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble.” (Psalm 18:33, AMPC). A peaceful season of energizing work had followed.

Image result for Free Clip Art of Person At ComputerThe dangerous heights of testing and trouble. But now, today, this morning? Seated at the computer, pressing hard to complete that book, I was again standing in the middle of the dangerous heights of testing and trouble.

I paused, lifted the dove gray cotton tank top and frowned at the pink, raised dots covering my tummy. I wriggled my shoulders, resisting the urge to scratch, scratch, scratch the same kind of dots sprinkled over my sides and back. The fan on the bookshelf, which served as a cubby atop my writing table, faithfully whirred. On the other side of the room, the white-shaded lamp cast ovals of light into the corner and onto the vase of white plastic roses and pipe cleaner flowers, the most recent treasure from my two grandsons. Worship music lilted from the radio next to the vase.

I turned my attention to the rash, and, just like that, stepped into the snare of worry.

The snare of worry. “What if it gets worse and the doctor’s office is closed?” I pondered. “This is Friday, nearly noon. Maybe I should call and try to get a walk-in appointment.”

I took the keyboard out of my lap, the ergonomically correct typing position I so carefully used, and stood up. I took three steps and opened the refrigerator, wishing I could just step into its coolness. I was beginning to feel hot and flushed and irritated.

I sat back down, pulled the keyboard back into my lap, popped two cold red grapes into my mouth, and tried to focus on the computer screen. No good. I ran my hands through my hair, grown longer than usual during the coronavirus lockdown, and sighed deeply.

“I just don’t know what to do!” I muttered to myself, tightening the enemy’s snare of worry even more firmly around my mind.

“Things have been going so well! I just cannot handle this. What am I doing to do? It might go away. It might just be heat rash. But what if it is not? I had that anaphylactic reaction a few months ago. What if this rash gets really bad? What if my immune system is hypersensitive now?”

I stood up again, crossed the room to the rocker by the window, and picked up my Bible. Instead of sitting down and reading it, though, I just stood and stared out the window. Another sigh. Another hand-swipe at the hair prickling at face and neck. My whole body felt irritated.

“This reminds me of when I was deep in the depression and walked around the house, starting one thing after another and finishing nothing!” I fumed to myself.

Image result for Free Clipart Of Many ArrowsThe poisonous arrows of lies. Now that the enemy had me immobilized in the noose of worry, he began shooting poisonous arrows of lies. The spiritual skirmish continued.

“If I am staying close to God and doing all I can to serve Him and help others, why doesn’t He keep me healthy? Why did He allow this rash? And on top of a whole week of terrible indigestion and bloating I can’t figure out either! It is just not fair. And maybe I will keep getting more unhealthy. I am, after all, an older person now. What if I get sicker and sicker and . . .”

Finally, pulling myself out of the tailspin, I called and, thankfully, got an appointment. At three o’clock, after the most cursory of questions from the doctor, I sat in line for the drive-through window of the pharmacy. At home, I read the directions, flinched at the thought of taking more medicine, especially such a strong one as Prednisolone, and, after a long rest on the couch, sat back down at the computer, searching out more information on foods and allergies and — rashes!

More confusion! Confusion mushroomed as I read that, apparently, some heart-healthy foods I had consumed in large quantity lately—cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, and turmeric—could cause allergic reactions and digestive issues. Ugggh!

“What am I going to do?” I fairly screamed inside. “I itch, I have this rash, and everything I have put in my mouth today has made me burp like an ugly old toad!”

Image result for Free Picture Of Woman With Grocery CartThe family trait of stubbornness, however, kicked in. An hour later, after more internet browsing, I drove to the local farmer’s market grocery, list of foods that helped allergies and indigestion in hand. Plump blackberries, on sale for five dollars a tiny basket, went into the cart. Without looking at the price, I yanked up a bag of cherries and tossed them in. Next came blueberries, out-of-season slices of watermelon, and almond yogurt, at the exorbitant price of five dollars per container. I shook my head at the cash register total, feeling my shoulders slump over.

“I can’t afford this pricey stuff all the time,” I thought as I slumped my way back to the car in the dusk. The air smelled hot and too dry. Streetlights would soon come on, and I needed to be home, eating supper at my regimented two-hour-before-lying-down-soasto-prevent indigestion hour.

Trying to but failing to feel God’s presence. I drove home, dragged my itchy self and my bulging mesh bags up the stairs, had some blackberries and almond yogurt, then propped upright on the couch for an hour, listening to the worship music from the radio in the corner, trying to but failing to feel God’s presence.

“Still more frustration,” I muttered to myself as I turned off the lights and plodded to the bedroom. Mental exhaustion led to troubled, restless, and late-in-coming sleep.

Saturday, the next morning, I could not feel His presence in my morning devotional time either, as I thanked Him that the rash seemed a good bit better. Sighing, I returned to searching the computer, trying to figure out what else to eat besides high-priced food.

In the list of “Six common food allergens that cause itchy skin” was nuts, including walnuts, a handful of which I had faithfully ate each day to lower cholesterol, and almonds, which I consumed in the almond milk I drank so as to avoid asthma-irritating dairy.

I leaned over, rested my head in my hands, then got up and slammed myself onto the couch.

“Was the almond yogurt bad for me too? What else was I eating that might have caused the rash and indigestion?”

Image result for Free Picture of Arrow FlyingTwang! Whoosh, whoosh, thunk! Twang! Whoosh, whoosh, thunk! went the arrows of the enemy, hitting the target of my mind and heart.

Twang! Whoosh, whoosh, thunk! went the arrow of self-pity.

“I have tried so hard to be healthy, all my life, and now this!”

I stood up, half hobbling back to the computer.

“And now the stinking virus has kept me and everyone else out of the gym and my joints ache, every muscle I had is getting soft, and my feet are getting stiffer without the swim exercises.”

Through all of that, even as the panic rose, I kept trying to connect with God.

“Thank You, Lord, that I got  in to see a doctor on such short notice. Thank You that the rash seems to be better this morning. Thank You that I have the money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Thank You that I know You are faithful and that all You do is good.”

Image result for Free Picture of Prescription BottleI took the afternoon blood pressure medicine I had taken for ten years and sat down to work on the book about affliction. Blissfully, the peace I always felt when writing with the Lord descended.

Ten minutes later, I paused, lifted my shirt and closed my eyes against the pressure of tears. The rash was bright pink again.

What am I supposed to do, Lord? “What am I supposed to do, Lord? I have to take the Amlodopine? People have strokes when their blood pressure is too high!”

To be continued . . .

Image result for Free Clip Art Of Quill PenP.S.: As I did the final editing of this Part One on the computer, getting ready to post it on the website before going to pick up my two grandsons (my reward to myself for a morning of diligent work), I accidentally hit a wrong key or two and . . . the document I had worked on for five hours (actually many more hours before today) disappeared. I stared blankly, mouth hanging open, then frantically searched every way I could think of for five minutes. Then I went online. No luck.

‘Oh, Lord! I wailed. “I know this was a good piece of work! Oh, Father, oh Father!” was all I could say.

Still stunned, eyes wide, I made up my mind to write it all over again, trusting God to somehow help me remember what we had written. I would have to trust Him to help me do that tomorrow. My back could not take another five hours in the chair today.

I looked online again, one more time, and found something that seemed promising. Still barely breathing, I anointed the computer with olive oil, prayed and walked through the steps of using the Task Manager.

Praise God, Who never fails, there the file was! So, dear friend, please do not think you are the only one waiting for the next episode of this story. I am, too!

 

There’s TRUTH in them ‘ thar hills!

Here I sit. . . Here I sit, surprised by a gift from God! As I write the Image result for Free Pictures of Gold Rushfirst draft of this blog, it is Friday, April 17, 2020, the day after President Trump announced his plans to start reopening our country after the coronavirus shutdown. (Finished this today, 4/29/2020 : – )

So, here I sit, with back and shoulders stiff because my home exercises do not help as much as those at the gym and using the gym’s pool. Here I sit, wheezing although I am taking asthma and allergy medicine to fight spring pollen. I am mindful that asthma, and, uh, age, categorize me as high-risk but I am so grateful for God’s protection and knowing that, if I get the virus, He will take care of me. So, here I sit, day after day, like you, struggling to maintain a semblance of daily life BQ (before quarantine), frustrated with weight gained during extra sedentary time, battling negative thoughts more than usual because relationships with family, friends, and usual activities outside my home are changed.

Image result for free clip art of messy lady at a deskYes, here I sit, my hair REALLY interesting, like yours might be since hair salons are non-essential during our corona virus lockdown. Also, my living space is tangled up since I spend so much time here now and asthma has caused fatigue, another good excuse. Besides, housekeeping, much less house fluffing, was definitely NOT my gifting anyway.

Yet I am also, like you, I hope, trusting and relying on God, keeping my heart on Him all day long, proclaiming aloud my gratitude and dependence on His sovereign and loving nature, knowing this will end and that He is turning it for good all over His world.

So, dear reader, today while I sat at my desk, in my distinctly non-glorious surroundings, writing and digging deeper and deeper into the Word about a topic that keeps expanding, doing my writing work for God, Holy Spirit gave me a gift I want to share with you.

Digging deep is a gift. While writing about affliction (a booklet is Image result for free picture of gift with blue bowcoming!) and digging deeply into Isaiah 30 today, I froze and stared out the window. The ding! in my mind as the lightbulb went on was nearly audible. I realized that Holy Spirit had been able to explain what Isaiah 30 meant about despising God’s Word because I had stopped and dug deeply, pondering, meditating, thinking hard about what He meant in those verses, looking up definitions, using other translations, etc.

What a gift this gift was! God confirmed that my way of studying the Word, for myself, and the way I study when I write for Him, is the right way for me! I tend to be insecure, so having that thought as tangible as a white box with a huge Tiffany-blue bow on top was a true treasure.

Image result for Free Clip Art Of Man Digging a Deep HoleSo what is digging deep? I remember Bible study as a new believer. One of the first times I sensed Holy Spirit giving me understanding (little old me!) was late at night, after my daughter had been bedtime-storied three times. Stretching my exhausted, single-parent self on the bed, I resumed my Bible reading from the night before, with Proverbs 2:1-5:

  • My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
  • turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
  • and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
  • and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure (underline added),
  • Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (NIV)

I remember staring intently at verse four. Then I rested the open Bible on my chest, the navy blue New International Version my Mother had given me when I found Jesus. I stared at the ceiling a long time. Thoughts rolled through my mind. “How do you dig for silver? And hidden treasure? Ah! You have to dig and keep digging. You do not find silver or hidden treasure without hard work.” I was thrilled that God would use His Word to speak to me directly. And it is just as thrilling each time, after all these years! How good God is to us!

That night, I understood the passage on a surface level (no pun intended) and have pondered it often, each time, gaining more insight. But today, it was like brand new, as I thought more about it. 

Image result for free clip art of man digging a deep holeDigging deep takes time and effort. You do not search for silver or hidden treasure  by digging one scoop of dirt, flipping it to the ground, then walking 10 yards and digging another shallow scoop, and so on. Neither do you find treasure by walking over the land and scuffing the surface with the toe of your boot. You find treasures in God’s Word when you do like He says and search for it because it is covered up, hidden, and you cannot even see it, much less pick it up and claim it as your own and profit by it, until you do a lot of digging. And! You will not dig deep unless you have faith that something is there, waiting for you, lovingly prepared by God. And! you will not even be there trying to find treasure unless you have faith. It is all by faith!

God has an abundance of truth treasures stored up for each of us. Proverbs 2:7 says, “He hides away sound and godly Wisdom and stores it for the righteous (those who are in right standing with Him); He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and with integrity.” (AMPC)

How to search–DIG DEEP– for wisdom. Many beloved pastors, Bible teachers and other mature saints  have found God’s gold and silver and shared it with us. How do they tell us to mine for wisdom in the Word? Below is a composite of suggestions that have helped me greatly.

[1] Before you begin, pray and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8) and commit your study time to God.

[2] Find a list of Scriptures about your biggest area of personal need.

[3] Dig deep and keep thinking and talking with the Lord as you dig.

[4] Meditate on and memorize the verses that Holy Spirit emphasizes for you the most.

[5] Collect your personalized verses in one place and review them regularly.

Five steps to dig deep. Below are details of the five steps that work well for me. If you have used other methods and want to share them, please email me by using the “Email me” tab on the website, or the comments section below this blog post.

Step 1: Before you begin, pray and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) and commit your study time to Him. If you “commit to the Lord whatever you do. . . He will establish your plans, (Proverbs 16:3, NIV). As the NLT phrases it, “. . . your plans will succeed.”)

Image result for free clip art of a list Step 2: Find a list of Scriptures about your biggest area of personal need (e.g., worry, anger, faith, etc.) To make your list, use a concordance, the alphabetized index in the back of most Bibles. You can also use the internet to find a list of Scriptures by typing into the search window, for example, “Bible verses about anger”. But BE CAREFUL! Your search results will include several internet addresses to click on that, in addition to listing Bible verses about your topic, also give someone’s ideas about that topic. Unless you know or can easily see that the individual shares your faith in the God of the Bible, just write down the book and verse and move on with making your list. Even if you do know that person is sound in the faith , it is far better to get your list, then go directly to the Word, God and you alone, and let Holy Spirit speak to you, personally, through the Word.

I also recommend that, unlike the dude in the clipart above, you make just a short list and then dig into the Word. Do not obsess about the list! 

Trust God’s ability to communicate with you more than you trust your doubts about yourself. God will lead you to find just the verses you as an individual need. He is the same One who led Israel, who numbers the hairs on your head, who has written your name on His heart and Who holds the universe in place. If you seek Him with all your heart, He promises you will find Him. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13).  God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

Image result for free picture of person sitting with a bibleStep 3: Dig deep and keep thinking and talking with the Lord as you dig. 

  • Read your first verse or verses slowly, over and over, and the verses before and after it that seem connected. Pay attention to connecting words, like: therefore, because, for, since, for example, that, then, in order that, so that, so, etc.
  • Then, be still and just think about what it means. Ask God to show you. Take time for just you and God and His Word.
  • After, and only after, you have paused to think, with God, about what the text means,  use other tools. Look up cross references noted in the text. See what a Bible dictionary and an English dictionary say. Look up not only the definition but also synonyms and plug those words into the verse. Look up antonyms. If God uses figurative language, like comparing the work of Holy Spirit to the wind, as in John 3:8, pause and ponder what you know about wind or look it up. Ask God to explain, and He will, just as Jesus explained His parables to His disciples.
  • Use commentaries and other study aids, but again, use caution because all  writers are  human.  Commentaries and Bible handbooks can be a great help because they describe cultural context, customs, geology, archeology, church history, etc. So, do use them. I recommend the highly respected Halley’s Bible Handbook, which has sold more than 6 million copies. However, there is no substitute for trusting the God of the Word of God to speak directly to you. Ensure that you spend the bulk of your study time in the Word, rather than any other book, no matter how good it is. Use other non-Bible time to read those supplemental writings. 

 God obviously is The Supreme Teacher, He loves to teach, and He loves to fellowship with you, to be close to you. He wrote you a love letter, and He is longing to explain those parts that you do not yet understand. Why? It helps you, helps others, and it brings Him pleasure to be closer to You. And do not worry that the enemy might lead you to misunderstand. If you make mistakes, God will correct you. Imagine a young son asking his carpenter father to teach him how to build a bench. Would that not give both father and son great delight? And would not the father show his son the best way to hold a hammer and saw a board?

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  • Keep chewing on your thoughts about those verses, just like a contented cow in a field, working on her cud. Keep thinking and asking Holy Spirit to help you understand. If you seek wisdom, you will not be disappointed. In Proverbs 8:17 wisdom is personified as a woman who says “I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me. Proverbs 8:17, (AMPC)
  • And I urge you, dear friend, please do not say that this will not work for you because . . . you are not studious by nature, not able to hear God, lack time or self-discipline, not smart enough or any other flaming arrow of untruth (Ephesians 6:16) the enemy might shoot at your mind! Holy Spirit will show you personally how to dig deep into His truth, and you will know it when He does it. He will use whatever things are available to you and work for you.

Image result for Free Clip Art of Cow in a fieldStep 4: Meditate on and memorize the verses that Holy Spirit emphasizes for you the most. Digging deep is part of meditating, pausing, taking time, thinking about, pondering, and exploring what God means in a Bible passage or a word or a phrase so that you can apply it to your own life. Meditating brings blessings (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 105:2)

Meditating on God’s Word is part of loving Him with all our being. Deuteronomy 6 in the NLT is labelled “A Call for Whole-hearted Commitment.” I urge you to read the entire chapter. Moses reminds Israel that they are to follow God’s laws carefully so that things would go well with them and their children. Moses reminds them that the LORD alone is their God, then he says, “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (verse 5)

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Notice that right after Moses tells them that, he then tells them to meditate on God’s Word all day long. That says to me that doing so is part of loving God with all my heart. Moses said the people must commit themselves wholeheartedly to God’s commands. They were to “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Verses 7-9). Then Moses goes on to talk about the blessings God will pour out on them.

Writing some of your personalized verses on index cards, taping them around your house and car and carrying them with you sounds, to me, similar to how Moses instructed Israel to keep God’s Word visible to their eyes all day long. Doing so tremendously blesses me and lots of others I know. Notice the picture of the hand and arm phylacteries above. They were certainly visible reminders, to the person wearing them and to others who saw them.

Image result for free picture of college classroom[5] Collect your personalized verses in one place, and review them regularly, so they do not fade away. I like to think of Bible study as the privilege of being in  school with God as my teacher, for all my life. Throughout a school year, teachers lead students step by step through the basics of a subject, often pausing to repeat and review what was just taught. Why? Review and repetition imprints new knowledge more deeply into the mind. Quizzes and tests serve the same purpose because students are required to recall what they have learned, thus making a deeper neural pathway in their brain. Part-way through the school year, students have reviewed the basics so often that they know them. They can then build more knowledge on top of that solid foundation imprinted in their minds.

Digging deep brings innumerable blessings. Chapters 1 through 9:12 of Proverbs explain the benefits of wisdom and how to obtain it. Can you hear the earnestness of God’s heart? This discourse begins with God pleading “Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (Proverbs 1:23, NLT). Halfway through, God says “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgement.” ( Proverbs 4:7, NLT). God summarizes this discourse on wisdom by saying:

“And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But those who miss me injure themselves. All who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:32-36)

One last observation. Proverbs has 31 chapters. Each month has 31 days. Hmmm. . .

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God is so, so, so, so good to us!

Image result for royalty free picture of a rose

God does great things beyond our understanding (Job 37:5)   God is so so so so so good to us! Who but God could show me a wild red rose, growing up a corner wall, as I walk around the building, just to get out of the house? Who but God can make me just happen to look in that direction at the right moment? Who but God can let me see that the red of the rose is far, far deeper and richer than the most costly cloth ever made by the hand of man? Who but God can make me know that only the softness of a baby’s skin—also made by God—can rival the softness of the petals?

Who but God can pause my feet and arrest my thoughts, causing me to know that every hue of every color, every fabric, every building, every microscopic-sized invention, every application of knowledge have all sprung directly from one of His blueprints?

How can I not pause and consider the heavens, so high, so blue, that He holds lovingly in place over the whole earth, while we humans scramble to understand one tiny virus? How can I not know that the peace in my heart– in the middle of the biggest changes our modern world has seen–comes from Him? How can I not praise Him, admire and respect and applaud and lavishly thank Him? How can I not honor and worship this One who deserves all the glory?

Image result for royalty free pictures of majesty in natureAs I consider who He is. How can I not give Him all of my heart, all of my soul and all of my strength when He has done such awesome things for me and the whole world? How can I put anything else before Him in my affections? I simply cannot, when I consider who He is and who I am. I can only confess my weakness of fear and doubting and rebellion and lift grateful hands to heaven and my eyes to the hills, where my help comes from, from this Holy One of Israel, this Yahweh, this great and high and holy one, the Great I AM, Who was and is and is to come, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the firstborn from among many brethren, the risen Savior and our soon-coming KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!

Image result for royalty free picture of jesusAll glory, all praise, all honor to the Lamb that was slain, Who alone takes away the sins of the world, Who dwells in unapproachable light, but also in the hearts of those who love and obey Him, this One who sets eternity in the heart of man but dwells with the meek and the lowly!

I will not fail to praise Him, lest the rocks cry out! (Luke 19:37-40). How can we fail to praise the One Who, out of love, made us so that if we love Him and keep our minds on Him, our hearts are steadfast and strong? (Isaiah 26:3) How can we fail to trust, lean on, rely and be confident in the One who makes obedience lead to blessing? (Deuteronomy 11:13-32) Hw can we fail to rely on this compassionate, kind, gracious and everlastingly loving One who promises to give us all that we need, and to never, never, no, never fail us in any regard? (Hebrews 13:5)

HE IS all we need. (Philippians 4:19) How can we not turn to Him and rely on Him, with confident trust, when He is the One who made us, the One who gives us life through His breath, the One who chooses to dwell in human hearts, the One in whom we live and move and have our very being, this One who rides through the heavens to come to our aid, this One whose touch melts the mountains but Who whispers His love to us in the darkest night? How, I ask, can we fail to love such a One as this? He is:

  • Elohim, God My Creator
  • El Shaddai, God Almighty
  • El Elyon, Most High God
  • EL Olam, God Everlasting, God Eternal
  • El Roi, God Who Sees
  • Adonai, Lord, Master
  • Yahweh (YHWH), GOD
  • Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Provides
  • Jehovah Nissi, God, My Banner
  • Jehovah Sabaath, Lord of Hosts
  • Jehovah Mekeddeshem, Lord Who Sanctifies
  • Jehovah Shalom, The Lord our Peace
  • Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There
  • Jehovah Tskkenu, the Lord our Righteousness.

(from Names of God Study for Kids, https://rachellarkinblog.wordpress.com)

This Most High and Holy one, is our God, and He says:

“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 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)

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How much does God love you?

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Grand PianoA few notes into the pianist’s prelude, and I knew what the choir would sing. Eyes closed, shutting out all distractions between me and God, Holy Spirit was right there with me. I felt I could almost touch Him. With the rich harmony of many voices, the familiar melody and words rippled along:
“How many times must I prove how much I love you?
How many times must I show my love for you?
How many times must I rescue you from trouble
for you to know just how much I love you?”
(from “So You Would Know” by Al Hobbs.)

Smiling, I lifted my face upward and raised my hands, murmuring, “Oh, Father!” as tears trickled down. God’s voice continued . .

“Didn’t I wake you up this morning?
Were you clothed in your right mind?
When you walked in on a problem didn’t I step right in on time?When you got weak along life’s journey My angel carried you,
so you would know just how much I love you.”

I shook my head slowly as I recalled how many times God had miraculously come through for my daughter and me during ten years of single parenthood. God’s voice continued. . .
“How many days must I be a fence all around you?
How many nights must I wipe your tears away?
How many storms must I bring you safely through for you to know just how much I love you?”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of CrucifixionAfter giving my heart to Jesus, three years into single parenthood, the lifetime loneliness had greatly lessened as I sat alone with Him, after Sharon was asleep, looking out the window at the stars. I was so grateful I could feel His love, so grateful He showed me how to take good care of Sharon. God’s voice continued. . .
“Didn’t I put food on your table?
Show up when your bills were due?
When the pains were racking your body didn’t I send a healing down to you?
When you were lost in sin and sorrow, I died to set you free,
so you would know, just how much, I love you.”

I stood, hands lifted, face upturned, as more tears poured down. How many times had God sent an unexpected check for us? How many times had family and friends bought clothes for Sharon, taken us out for dinner, and paid for school activities? How many times . . . That was decades ago. All these years have only added more times to remember how clearly God has shown how much He loves me.

 God reassures us of His love, so many times. The powerful song “So You Would Know”, written by Al Hobbs, trumpets God’s gentle reminder of His love for His children. The melody and words show God’s gentle patience, like a father answering his child, “Yes, sweetheart, how many times do I have to tell you. . .” Why does God reassure us so often, in so many ways?

God knows how we are made. God knows that we, being human, would like to actually see and hear Him, especially during trials, and especially during times like the whole world now faces. Psalm 103:14 reminds us “For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” That says that God, seriously and with intensity, always remembers our humanity. He knows we need constant reminders of His love, His presence, His provision, and His power. Let’s look at some things God wants us to know about His love, presence, provision, and power.Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Sunrise

Reminders of God’s love. How loving He is to inscribe into nature itself two visible reminders of His love for us: the height of the heavens and the distance between east and west. “ for His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as high as the heavens are above the earth. He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:11-12, NLT). Step outside and selah.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Jesus Holding PersonReminders of God’s presence. Isaiah 41:10 says “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. (AMPC) When I remember that the God of the universe is right here beside me and living in me, when I remember that I have, indeed, made Him my God by loving and obeying Him, His peace descends like a warm blanket over my troubled soul.

Reminders of God’s provision. Hebrews 13:5b tells you and me to “. . . be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support; [I will] not,[I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]. Dear fellow believer, let us take God’s Word like the medicine it is and read this verse, out loud, to ourselves, 10 times or more until we feel His peace, right in the midst of this trial!

Image result for royalty free picture of earthReminders of God’s power. In Jeremiah 32:27 God says, “Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?” Let us imprint this fact about the nature of our divine God on our hearts, just as He has imprinted each detail about our human nature on His heart. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), He holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17) and God says, “I am the LORD: there is no other god.” (Isaiah 45:1, NLT)

NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR GOD!!!

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD” Psalm 150:6,NIV. Choirs give a glimpse of what praise will be like in heaven. There is nothing so powerful as the sound of many voices, singing in harmonious praise to God. Search the internet using the phrase “So You Would Know” and worship and honor God along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle and the Radio Angels, right there in your home, with Holy Spirit.

As you worship, put fear to flight (Joshua 10:10-11), glorify God (Psalm 96), enthrone Him on your praises (Psalm 22:3), worship our mighty God, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, (Revelation 19:16), Who alone sits encircled above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), Whose plans never fail (Psalm 33:11), in Whose presence the mountains quake (Nahum 1:5), and in Whose name demons flee (James 4:7). This Holy One of Israel, this Wonderful One Beyond Words, He is our God, the One we serve, the One Who cares for us each moment, and the One who will bring us home to live with Him for all eternity! “Let everything that has breath Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6, NIV)

“The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7, AMPC)

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Are you affectionate with God?

Image result for royalty free clipart of affection“I love You, I love You, I really just love You! Thank You again, Father, for a wonderful day!” I paused a moment, eyes closed, face tilted upwards. “I simply just love You, Lord!” Then I resumed typing.

That was the evening of Day Four of our President’s guidelines to quell the coronavirus, a truly wonderful day. Up at six to feed Barny and have devotions; then shopping for things I might need for two weeks, like allergy and cough medicine; finding Reese’s Easter eggs and Hershey bunnies for the grandsons’ Easter baskets and other little delights to surprise them with when they spent afternoons with me while school was out; then, finding new nuggets in the Word as I worked on a booklet about worry.

I sometimes touch my grandson’s foreheads with mine, make googly eyes, and say, “I love you, I love you, do you know I love you, don’t forget I love you, did you remember I love you. . . etc.”

I am affectionate with my grandsons because I have an intimate relationship with them.

Should we be affectionate with God? The short answer? YES!!! In the Amplified Classic Bible (AMPC), verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 134 tell us:

“Behold, bless (affectionately and gratefully praise) the Lord, all you servants of the Lord [singers] who by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in holiness and to the sanctuary and bless the Lord [affectionately and gratefully praise Him]!”

Notice the parts I underlined. One of many reasons I love the AMPC is that it spells out what people living in Bible days would have understood as implicit, or taken for granted, when they heard a word. Words in both Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was originally written, have more shades of meaning than English, like the word snow means more than just one thing to Eskimos.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of The BibleGod’s Word tells us to be affectionate with Him. A searchable, on-line Bible website, like Bible Gateway, shows 23 times in the AMPC when the word affectionately is used to amplify the meaning of “bless the Lord.” Look them up.

Start each day by taking time to be affectionate with God. Notice that most of the findings for the word affectionate in the AMPC are in the psalms, which are so often used for daily devotions. Psalm 145:10 tells us, “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your loving ones shall bless You [affectionately and gratefully shall Your saints confess and praise You!]”

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of Cat Looking upThink about it. Can you be affectionate with someone if you are in a rush? It just does not work. Your actions say “I love this thing I am rushing off to (work, the kickoff on TV, an errand) more than I love you.” No, with affection, you give the object of your affection your full, focused attention. You cannot even give your dog or cat a really affectionate pat on the head if you zoom by.

Be affectionate with God as you go about your daily life. Another instance where the Bible talks of affectionate love for God is when Mary gave Jesus her very best as she kissed His feet, washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with costly perfume.

Image result for royalty free picture of mary washing jesus feet“… and as she stood behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them.” In verse 45, the AMPC says that Jesus told the Pharisee that Mary had, from the moment He came into the room not stopped kissing His feet “tenderly and caressingly.”

Reading the whole story as recorded in Luke 7:36-50, shows us that Jesus obviously approved of the affectionate way Mary demonstrated her love for Him. Today, you and I can likewise show God our affection by giving our best effort, for Him, all day, in whatever we are doing. (“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10a, NIV). We also give Him our best by loving Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5).

An awesome reason to be affectionate. Next, notice that, in 1 Corinthians 11:24, during the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread, and said “Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” And He repeats His request when the wine is taken, in verse 25. “Similarly, when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.” Every time I take the Lord’s Supper, Jesus wants me to remember Him with affection.

I knew that believers in Jesus observe the Lord’s supper to honor and respect Him by remembering His incomprehensible sacrifice for us. However, until I read this verse in the Amplified as I wrote this blog, I did not know that Jesus specifically asked us to remember Him with affection.

He could have, very appropriately, said to call Him to remembrance with respect and awe and fear. This is certainly part of the way we should approach God and it is the most basic, foundational way to think of God. But He clearly wants us to think of Him with affection, too. If you have deep respect and awe and appreciation for Who God is and what He has done for us, if you know Him well and pursue a close relationship with Him, eventually your love for Him will also include affection.

See the source imageI believe that Jesus was, as always, putting us above Himself here because He knew thinking of the agony He endured for us could make us sad. I understand that because I would, if he were alive, affectionately kiss and hold my earthly father’s hands, hands roughened by years of operating heavy equipment, covered with sun-bronzed skin and scars. I would gaze with fondness at the tan lines on his forehead and arms, acquired through decades of loving labor for his family. I would do the same for my mother’s soap roughened hands. And so, when I think about what Jesus did for me, I am affectionately grateful, and privileged to come so close to Him.

We are only affectionate with those we know intimately. Synonyms for intimate include private, personal, secret, innermost, cherished, familiar, dear, devoted, and deepest. Help us, Father, to be more intimate with You!

Being affectionate with the Lord did not come naturally at first for me. As a new believer in Jesus, I had an overly formal attitude toward Him. I had the proper reverence and fear (Deuteronomy 13:4, I Chronicles 16:25, Psalm 2:11) but I also had an unhealthy subconscious fear that I was not doing enough, fear that I was not worthy, and fear that God would one day abandon me because of that. Those wounded attitudes were caused by events in the past, obviously the work of the evil one, but God (whose power no foe can withstand, Psalm 91:1, AMPC ) brought those hurts, with the shame and guilt, into the light of His love and forgiveness. Over time, He helped me learn to ask Him into each moment of my day, including the undignified times (like exercising or scrubbing the bathroom) and times when I fail Him (like in traffic or when I lose patience with someone.)

Image result for royalty free clip art of a little bookMy search for closer closeness with the Lord led me to read the little book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, written in the 17th century by a friar called Brother Lawrence. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It helped me overcome the last remnants of over-formality with God. In this dynamo of a book, Brother Lawrence talks about chatting with the Lord while he worked in the monastery’s kitchen, for example. Brother Lawrence said “. . . during any daily duty, lift your heart to Him (God), because even the least little remembrance will please Him. You don’t have to pray out loud; He’s nearer than you can imagine. . . We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (page 36).

Slowly, I began talking to God more and more during the day, finding that as I drew near to God, He drew near to me (James 4:8) and that He was with me when I was with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2).

This will work for anyone. It took a long time, with countless failures and trying again. However, continually seeking His moment-by-moment presence as Brother Lawrence suggested has brought deep settled peace and the confidence that my loving Heavenly Father will always, always, always help me run into His presence and regain my peace, no matter what I do or what happens around me.

Fellow seeker, we can be confident He will come closer to us as we try to come closer to Him. He reassures us in I John 5:14-15 that:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that HE hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” (NIV).

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If there is any doubt in your mind about this, it is a thought arrow of the enemy designed to keep you from your rightful place with God. Lift up the shield of faith and take the sword of truth in hand. Keep pressing on and pressing in until you reach the promised land of delighting yourself in His presence!

God is affectionate with us. Finally, beloved, God says He “. . . cares for us affectionately and cares about us watchfully.” I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and He cares about you watchfully.”

This is not the only place in the Bible where God clearly shows His affection and the depth of His love for us. As you pursue your daily personal Bible study, make note of these places and imprint them on your heart, i.e., memorize them! Some of my favorites include particular verses in Psalm 139, Psalm 136, John 3, John 14, Joshua 1, Isaiah 26, 2 Chronicles 14, and Ephesians 3. . . The Bible overflows with God’s love. It is, indeed, God’s love letter to us, as someone once said.

Ponder God’s affection for us. Would a baby in Jesus’ arms have a single worry or concern—ever? What a wonderful thought as we all walk through the challenge of the coronavirus. God Himself is with us. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob, and us: “And behold, I am with you and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you where 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.”

Ask, seek, and knock. If you ask, God will show you how to love Him more affectionately. The Bible tells us so!Image result for royalty free picture of jesus holding a child

 

The riptide of His love

Image result for royalty free picture of child in father's arms “You will be safe in His arms.” “You will be safe in His arms, you will be safe in His arms. The hands that hold the world are holding your heart. This is the promise He made. He will be with you always. When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms.“ (Lyrics by Phil Wickham)

As I listened, I curled into the corner of the couch, next to the lamp and the radio, pulling the cotton throw over my bare feet, as I sipped my coffee. The air was pleasantly cool as a gentle rain washed the trees and bushes and grass outside in the darkness.

“Thank You, Lord. That is exactly what I needed this morning, to remind myself that You love me, that You listen to me and that You will take care of me.”

Yesterday had been an all-day, all-out fight for faith as a dear, dear friend was re-admitted to the hospital, my beloved Barny cat and I waited four hours in the veterinarian’s office, and I pondered the latest foot problem. All day, by grace I prayed and quoted Scriptures to myself. All day though, I felt shaky. I kept reminding myself that God would, in time, calm the storm in my heart.

Last night, still feeling shaky, I went to bed and by grace slept well. This morning, that song stirred the undercurrent of His love running deep in my heart. Emotions settled and thoughts about God and His countless instances of tender, loving care took over. Then, like a soft blanket, came that blessed, unutterable peace (Philippians 4:7).

We all need an undercurrent of His love. Because life is filled with troubles, we humans need the awareness of His love as the bedrock of our hearts and minds. We need that awareness as our default mode, a network of interconnected thoughts and feelings to which our mind automatically returns when it is not specifically involved otherwise.

Three hearts stay on my kitchen countertop. The words written on them say “God made me, and He loves me. God listens to me, and He loves me. God takes care of me, and He loves me.” These truths remind me of Scripture passages about God’s love that I have meditated upon for many, many weeks. This undercurrent of feeling loved and cared for, personally, by God has become my default mode of mind. It is one way Jesus helps me overcome the troubles in my world. (John 16:33)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Laptop How to change your default. How do we get to the place so that even when life thunders, we remember God’s love and remain secure? By doing the hard work of renewing our mind, in other words, by changing our default mode of mind and heart (Romans 12:21).  It is a simple process.

[1] Look diligently into the Word for ourselves to find the truths we personally need. (Proverbs 2:1-11)

[2] Keep those truths in our thoughts constantly (Deuteronomy 6:7).

The process is simple. However, it takes hard work, and it takes time. So be patient, like a farmer tending a crop. (James 5:7) In due time, you will be rewarded. (Hebrews 11:6)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Crashing WavesHow does an undercurrent work? In reading about undercurrents, I learned that they are currents flowing under the surface of a large body of water. A riptide is a powerful, fast-moving undercurrent flowing at right angles to the shore. I like to think of God’s love as a powerful undercurrent, a riptide, that we can, by choice, dive into and that will carry us out to clear, open water, far from the crashing waves. Once we have stored up His truth within our hearts, that undercurrent, that default mode of mind and heart, is firmly established (Deuteronomy 28:9). In darkest trial, we will feel safe, in His everlasting arms.

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you. He drives out the enemy before you, saying, “Destroy them!” So Israel will live in safety, prosperous Jacob in security, in a land of grain and new wine, while the heavens drop down dew. How blessed you are, O Israel! Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword! Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will stomp on their backs.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-29, NLT)

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Under His wings


Image result for royalty free picture of grandmother hugging grandsonWhen we need a refuge. A woman in gray sweatpants stood, talking with another in skinny jeans and a green hoodie. Next to the orange pole bearing the sign “First Grade – Ms. Jones” stood two women and one man. Small children, siblings of the ones being waited for, ran circles around the twenty or so standing adults. I sat on the bench under the big oak, with another grandmother.

Then I saw him, walking toward me, head down, bravely struggling with tears. I opened my arms. Without pausing to meet my eyes, he burrowed his head hard into my chest. I closed my arms, entirely encircling him, and gently squeezed, then rocked a little back and forth. I just held him a few long moments, knowing he needed comfort, whether there was a justifiable reason for the tears or whether it was just an endofthedayimtiredmelt-down, typical for first graders.

As I held him and rubbed his back, he kept pressing his head against my chest, seeking safety and comfort and love, shutting out the troubles in his little world.
“Just like I do with You, Lord,” I reflected.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip art of Cause and effectThe if/then nature of promises. These last few months, in my pursuit of closer closeness with our loving heavenly Father, I regularly sought the comfort, reassurance, and safety of the many truths in Psalm 91. I printed the entire psalm and marked up the two pages like I did in school, with a textbook. I used the Amplified version, because it includes more of the connecting words, like then, for, and because, than some other versions.

Through coming to the point where I could do nothing but depend on God alone, I have thoroughly learned that everything we receive from God is by His grace alone, not our effort. But, in searching for Him in that desperation, I also learned that we obtain the fruit of His promises when we do our part. There is a cause and effect. An if/then is involved.

For instance, Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You.” That tells me that God will keep me in peace if I keep my mind fixed steadfastly on Him and He does that because I trust in Him.

Regarding the promises in Psalm 91, if I want to remain stable under the care of God, if I want to know God as my Refuge and my Fortress, and to have Him rescue me when I have fallen into the snare of, for example, self-pity, I must do my part. Look at the links (underlined) in the first four verses of Psalm 91.

1. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].
2. 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!
3. For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. [Then}
4. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler. [Then] . . .

In other words:
IF I dwell in the secret place,
IF I say … , lean … , rely… and confidently trust —
THEN God will deliver me,
THEN He will cover me, and I will be able to trust and find refuge.

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When you cannot feel the trust . . . yet. The sequence of thoughts in verses 1 through 4 helped me tremendously but what helped most was verse 4. Verse 4 says to me that, once He has covered me with His pinions–which is after I have “said . . . , leaned. . . , relied . . . and trusted”—once He covers me with His pinions, once I am under the shadow of His wide-spread wings, I am able to trust and find refuge. In the first three verses, I trust the best I can, then God responds by covering me and helping me trust so that my soul, my feelings, indeed find refuge.

Someone once related trust to sitting in a chair. I can say I trust the chair to hold me up, but I prove my trust when I actually sit. I can say I trust the Lord but I prove it when, for example, I choose to read my Bible and sing to the Lord when feeling anxious rather than always calling someone. I can say I trust God for finances, but I prove it when I pay God’s tithe to my local church.

Knowledge of His faithfulness helps me trust Him. My darling grandson trusted me, as soon as he saw me today, because I have comforted him numerous times before. His little heart was enabled to trust with all its strength and so find refuge, in the shelter of my arms, as he leaned into me.

If my human love for my grandson is so powerful, how much more will the love of the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe do for us, beloved? Let us run into His loving arms and cast all our cares and fears and worries on Him and trust Him, because He cares so much more than we know for each of us. (I Peter 5:7)

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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