Put On Gratitude

Father, I acknowledge that I often approach life with a deficiency rather than a sufficiency point of view. I realize that when I fail to acknowledge Your many tender mercies, I lose my joy and contentment and slip into ingratitude. Help me to see that when I grumble and murmur, it is not ultimately about my circumstances, but about You and Your provision. Teach me that gratitude must not be left only to spontaneous moments, but must be chosen every day. May I review Your many gifts and blessings in my life, including those I have too long taken for granted. Teach me that gratitude relates to trust and obedience, for I cannot trust You when I am murmuring and grumbling about my life and circumstances. I choose this day to thank You for Your innumerable kindnesses to me, because I have done nothing to deserve them.

(from Ken Boa’s Daily Growth 8-7-21 https://kenboa.org/daily-growth/)

Colossians 3 tells us to set our minds on things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Like the prayer above, Colossians 3 goes on to admonish us to put to death the earthly things in our lives. This is not an easy process, it is a growth journey made from daily, moment by moment decisions not to grumble, not to complain, to put on gratitude, to remember God’s mercies and graces in our daily lives.

I encourage you to take a few moments today to read and reflect on Colossians 3:1-17:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Of Cell Phones and Malongs

Seeing God In The Ordinary – Part 5

Seeing God In Cell Phones and Malongs

Something I’m rather sure each of us has on our person at almost all times is a cell phone. I’d never really used a cell phone much until we moved to the Philippines, which is known as the texting capital of the world.

In the Philippines, people text rather than call because it is less expensive to do so.

Many mission organizations required (and I’m sure still do) that their missionaries had a cell phone with them at all times in case of emergencies.

It really is the best way to get hold of people.

So what spiritual significance does this cell phone have for me, for us?

A cell phone/smart phone can be a visual reminder to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Martin Luther stated that prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian. It is. Continual conversation with God. Prayer is not some ritual, formulated order of words but a daily, moment by moment conversing with God about everything, every moment.

I highly recommend reading, A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller. Developing a praying life is a life-long journey. Prayer really is interconnected with every part of our lives.

I highly recommend reading this book!!

As Paul Miller states in his book, …a praying life isn’t something you accomplish in a year. It is a journey of a lifetime. The same is true of learning how to love your spouse or a good friend. You never stop learning this side of heaven. There is far too much depth in people to be able to capture love easily. Likewise, there is far too much depth in God to capture prayer easily.

It is a daily choice to remember and meditate on the fact that “the Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)

A praying life actively chooses to focus on God and His way, to set my mind on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable. If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, I will think about these things (Philippians 4:8). Living thankfully is a mindset. Choosing His way, to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18); even in the hard times, choosing to see the graces. This is the treasure of joy in the darkness (Isaiah 45:3).

God is always listening. There’s no fear of not getting through due to cell phone tower connection issues. He tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He longs for relationship with His people. He rejoices over us with gladness, quiets us with His love (Zephaniah 3:17).

So next time you use your phone, remember to pray.

What’s a malong you ask?

I’ll let Wikepedia explain : The malong is a traditional Filipino rectangular or tube-like wraparound skirt bearing a variety of geometric or okir designs. The malong is traditionally used as a garment by both men and women of the numerous ethnic groups in the mainland Mindanao and parts of the Sulu Archipelago. They are wrapped around at waist or chest-height and secured by tucked ends, with belts of braided material or other pieces of cloth, or are knotted over one shoulder. They were traditionally hand-woven, with the patterns usually distinctive to a particular ethnic group. However, modern malong are usually machine-made or even imported, with patterns that mimic the traditional local designs.

The malong can function as a skirt for both men and women, a turban, Niqab, Hijab, a dress, a blanket, a sunshade, a bedsheet, a “dressing room”, a hammock, a prayer mat, and other purposes. A newborn is wrapped in a malong, and as he grows this piece of cloth becomes a part of his daily life. When he dies, he is once again wrapped in a malong. Among traditional tribal peoples, the malong is used in everyday life. Even in areas where people wear Western-style clothing during the day, the malong is commonly used as sleepwear. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malong)

In short, a malong is a covering in many ways.

Psalm 5 reminds us that God is our covering. He spreads His protection over us, He covers us with His favor as a shield. There are Eight Redemptive Names of God. He is our:

  • Jehovah-Jireh – which means “The Lord our provider” – (Gen. 22:14).
  • Jehovah-Nissi – “Our banner, a banner of love and protection” – (Ex. 17:15).
  • Jehovah-Shalom – “Our perfect peace” – (Judges 6:24).
  • Jehovah-Tsid-Kenu – “The Lord is our righteousness” – (Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16).
  • Jehovah-Shammah – “The One Who is with us everywhere for He is Omnipresent” – (see Ezekiel 48:35, Isaiah 60:19-20 and Revelation 21:3).
  • Jehovah-Sabaoth – “The Lord of Hosts, our Protector.” (Psalm 46:7).
  • Jehovah-Raah – “Our Shepherd Who tenderly leads us, loves us and will keep us safe.” (see Psalm 23).
  • Jehovah-Rapha – “I am the Lord Your Physician or I am the Lord Your Healer” – this name especially was a Name God prophetically spoke about Himself, not one that someone gave Him. Exodus 15:26.

Source: Holman Bible Dictionary and the book All the Divine Names And Titles In The Bible by Herbert Lockyer.

Malongs are not used much in the United States, but next time you cover yourself with your bedsheet or put clothing on your body remember that you are always in His care.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Of Candles, Moth Balls, and Soap

Seeing God In The Ordinary – Part 4

Been feeling a bit blocked in my writing and weary in body and soul from working

First off let me apologize for the length of silence on my blog. I started back to work and time and energy have been lacking for working on writing.

But

I have not forgotten the series I started on finding God in the ordinary….so here is part four….

Electrical power was not always a consistent thing in the Philippines.

Often times we’d lose power during storms. And sometimes it seemed to us it went out just because.

Studying by candlelight and flashlight in the Philippines

In the kitchen of our rental home in the Philippines I always kept a big plastic storage bin filled with matches and candles. They were always in the same location so when the power went out it was easy to go to that spot in the dark, get the box and light a candle.

Our stash of candles and matches for power outages

The glow of candles reminds me that God’s Word is my light and lamp. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

Dark times of soul and spirit are part and parcel of life, especially the Christian life. Jesus Himself tells us that we will face tribulations but to be of good cheer because He is always with us (John 16:33). He is our light – John 12:46  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

In the many dark times of soul and spirit I have gone through I have clung tenaciously to the light and stability of His Word. Psalm 18:28-29 says For it is You who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.

Jesus is the light of this world (John 8:12 and John 1:1-5). And in Him we can shine. 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We do not need to lose heart, He is working in us and through us to spread His light (Read 2 Corinthians 1 – 4). So, the next time you use a flashlight or light a candle, remember our Saviour, Jesus, who is the light of the world (John 1:1-18).

A cockroach…..yuck…..

When most people think about the tropics, they think bugs. Yes, there are sizeable cockroaches but the mosquitoes in Michigan are far more viscous than the mosquitoes in Davao.

I don’t like cockroaches, so if you’d come to visit us while we lived overseas you would’ve smelled the faint scent of moth balls and/or soap in my kitchen cabinets. This is because one moth ball or one small bit of scented soap in each cabinet keeps the cock roaches away. They don’t like the scent.

mothballs
soap

As Christians, what sort of scent do we leave?

2 Corinthians 2: 15-16 reminds us we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

That scent can be smelled in the fruit of the Spirit – in the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control we share with others (See Galatians 5: 16 – 26).

That scent is developed in the putting on of compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forbearance, forgiveness….and the taking off of selfishness, greed, anger, lust…

That scent is developed as we let the word of Christ dwell richly in us, as we teach, study, encourage, sing Psalms and live thankfully……see Colossians 3: 1 – 17

While moth balls and soap can drive cockroaches away, I pray my Christian aroma drives others to His Throne.

Covid Reactions

April 10th I received my second covid vaccine. Within minutes I was feeling a bit dizzy, blurry eyed and tired. I came home and slept an hour or so, took tylenol, and had no energy for the rest of the day.

During the night my left arm that had received the vaccine became extremely painful and I had a severe headache. I took more tylenol.

Today, April 11, my 61st birthday, my arm aches, I feel headachy, and like I have the flu. But, I am thankful to have the vaccine and I know this will pass in a day or so.

Like most others, I have ‘covid-fatigue’ and am ready to start going out and about more, visit friends and family, spend more time out doors now that spring is here, try to ‘get back to normal’, though I think we are all looking at a new normal.

What about you? Have you gotten the vaccine? What reactions did you have?

I really hadn’t planned on getting it because it’s been created so quickly but after my heart issues of late December and three doctors plus others telling me I should get it, I decided to do so. Other than the day or two or three of not feeling great, hopefully it’s worth it. I’m ready to go visit my sisters on the East coast and in Texas.

Stay healthy and seek Him first in all your ways!

Beth

Of Water Bottles and Sweat Rags

Seeing God In The Ordinary – Part 3

Water Bottle

An essential item while living in the Philippines was to have a water bottle with me at all times. The heat was intensive. And being dehydrated can make you feel sick, cause heart racing, dizziness, kidney failure.  I still carry a water bottle with me almost every where I go. The heart issues I have flare up more if I get dehydrated so I make sure to drink plenty of water everyday.

Water is life sustaining.  

When thirsty and drinking water, Psalm 42 came to my mind often; “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” 

And Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that we are blessed for hungering  and thirsting  for righteousness, for we shall be satisfied. His Word is to be our food and drink day and night. 

He is our water of life.

John 13:14 “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Davao, Philippines averages 90 degrees F on a daily basis along with high humidity levels.  Sweating is just part of daily life. 

It was always hand to have a sweat rag with you whenever going out and about.

In the Philippines I almost always had a sweat rag, water bottle, and umbrella in my purse; along with hand sanitizer.

Using a sweat rag can remind us that while the rag wipes physical sweat away from our bodies, God’s love and Saviour, Jesus, removes our sins from us.

Psalm 51 declares “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me form my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”

How wonderful to dwell and meditate on “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103)

Seeing God In The Ordinary – part 2

Umbrellas

Seeing God in the Ordinary – Jesus taught us many parables using common items and experiences to teach us His timeless truths.

Parables – lost coin, lost sheep, sowing seed….

Umbrellas can remind us He is our covering.

In the Philippines it was normal to carry an umbrella with you all days due to the intensity of the sun and the rains that came:

– an umbrella offers portable shade protection from the sun as well as protection from rain.

While holding my umbrella I often think of several passages of scripture about God being my covering and my shield:

Psalm 121: 5 – 6 The Lord is your keeper;the Lord is your shade on your right hand.The sun shall not strike you by day,nor the moon by night.

Psalm 91:1-6 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions,and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night,nor the arrow that flies by day,nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Umbrellas can remind us that our Refuge and Shelter provides us His protection as we face trials, hardship, and suffering. And in this we can rejoice, knowing that our sufferings produce endurance, and that endurance produces character, and that character produces hope, and that hope does not put us to shame because God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5).

Our loving Father tells us to lift our eyes up to the hills, that He is our help and He will not let our feet be moved. He never slumbers and sleeps; He is our keeper and He is our shade! (Psalm 121) He ordains the path I take (Job 23) and as I stay sheltered in Him, in His Word, the storms and heat will not destroy (Psalm 46).

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

So next time you are using an umbrella, let it be a reminder to you of God’s love, grace and watch-care. He is our covering.

Seeing God In The Ordinary

Hand Sanitizer

I am starting a series of blogs based on a talk I’ve given about how the ordinary teaches us God’s extra-ordinary!

All around us are reminders of God’s love for each of us. He makes Himself known to us in the ordinary, seemingly mundane aspects of life. Just as Jesus taught in parables about lost coins, lost sheep, bread, water, so, too, daily objects and events from life now teach us unfathomable riches of His grace and love.

Parables, the use of ordinary, teaches extraordinary.

Take hand sanitizer for instance………………………

Hand Sanitizer and Dangerous Blood Alcohol Levels ...

When we first arrived in Davao, Philippines, the guest house manager gave me a small bottle of hand sanitizer and small packet of tissue. “Carry these with you always. The Crs do not have tissue” she advised me. (CR [comfort room] is the Filipine term for bathroom).

And it was true. Most of the public Crs did not have tissue. And while there was probably water to wash hands with there was no soap or towels to use.

So I got in the habit of leaving the public CRs without washing and just used the hand sanitizer in my purse. After 12 years in the Philippines, it became so habitual for me to have tissue and hand sanitizer that I continued that habit once we moved to the USA in 2018. Which has come in very handy with the pandemic. Now when I leave a grocery store or public building of any kind, I sanitize my hands.

Often, while using either hand sanitizer or washing with soap and water my mind wanders to Psalm 51….Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…..Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…..

Where is my heart with God? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to wash over me, to wash me whiter than snow?

Psalm 51:7 “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Just like this alcohol and tissue can help keep my body clean, my Father’s Word and working can create in me, in each of us who believe in Jesus, a clean heart and a right spirit.

Something very deep and mysterious, very holy and sacred, is taking place in our lives right where we are, and the more attentive we become the more we will begin to see and hear it. The more our spiritual sensitivities come to the surface of our daily lives, the more we will discover—uncover—a new presence in our lives.

Henri Nouwen

1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:25-27 says Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…

  Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Take time to reflect on any or all of the above verses, or look up other verses that reference washing. It’s important for us as Christians to allow God’s Word to soak into our souls, for His Word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and able to pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

Take a few minutes to present yourself before God in silence and surrender. Allow His Word, His love to wash over you! And the next time you wash your hands, may you offer worship to Him who cleanses us from all our sins by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, our blessed Saviour (1 John 1:7).

Winter Morning

Job 37: 5 – 6a God thunders wondrously with his voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’……

Psalm 19:1 The Heavens declare the glory of the Lord, the sky above proclaims His handiwork….

Walking outside this morning in snow up to my knees, I was praising God for His handiwork, thanking Him for snow and seasons.

There is a peace-filled calm in the early morning outside in freshly fallen snow.

A quiet hush that stills one’s soul, and a song of praise that arises to my Abba God, maker of Heaven and earth, provider, redeemer, and friend (Isaiah 51:13; 47:4; Psalm 25:14; John 15:14).

May this winter morning find you praising Him.

Isaiah 55: 10 – 11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth;
    it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Psalm 96: 10 – 13 “The Lord reigns!  Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for He comes,  for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness,  and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Relocate

I’ve been mulling over the “gospel third way” as Tim Keller calls it to deal with life, to deal with feelings. David shows us how in the Psalms. Praying our feelings. Praying our doubts. Praying our fears. Praying our tears. Praying our praises. Praying our joys. Praying our sorrows. The Psalms are replete with all of this. Every moment we are to seek Him, pray all of life to Him. Continually seek His face, seek Him.

The heart of the matter as a Christian is to seek Him first in all things – seek His Kingdom. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. I am so thankful that shortly after becoming a Christian at the age of 16, God gave me this verse to be my life verse. It has been and continues to be the foundation of my life, my guiding star, my prayer, not only for me, but for each of my children, that they seek Him first in all their ways. This precept is laid out for us in the Old Testament as well:

Deuteronomy 4: 29 – But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Psalm 27: 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Recently, while in the hospital for heart issues, I was thinking on Psalm 27, especially verse 8. No matter what we are going through our hearts should be seeking Him first, seeking His way.

Truly God is our light and salvation. There is nothing to fear. He is the stronghold of our lives. He hides us in His shelter in the day of trouble, in our troubles; He conceals us under His cover, He lifts us up and lifts our heads, provides hope and endurance for whatever trial we are dealing with. He teaches us His way. Ours is to wait for Him, to be strong, to take courage, and yes, wait for Him (see all of Psalm 27).

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire (meditate) in his temple.

And as I was preparing thoughts for this blog, I opened up the daily meditation from Henri Nouwen and felt it apropos to share. Henri’s thoughts echoing my own…

Jesus’ response to our worry-filled lives is quite different.

He asks us to shift the point of gravity,

to relocate the center of our attention,

to change our priorities.

Jesus wants us to move from the “many things” to the “one necessary thing.”

It is important for us to realize that Jesus in no way wants us to leave our many- faceted world. Rather, he wants us to live in it,

but firmly rooted in the center of all things.

Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change of contacts, or even a change of pace.

He speaks about a change of heart.

This change of heart makes everything different, even while everything appears to remain the same.

This is the meaning of “Set your hearts on his kingdom first . . . and all these other things will be given you as well.”

What counts is where our hearts are.

When we worry, we have our hearts in the wrong place.

Jesus asks us to move our hearts to the center,

where all other things fall into place.

Henri Nowen

Taste This Wisdom

“Wisdom is not to be found in the art of oratory, or in great books, but in a withdrawal from these sensible things and in a turning to the most simple and infinite forms. You will learn how to receive it into a temple purged from all vice, and by fervent love to cling to it until you may taste it and see how sweet That is which is all sweetness. Once this has been tasted, all things which you now consider as important will appear as vile, and you will be so humbled that no arrogance or other vice will remain in you. Once having tasted this wisdom, you will inseparably adhere to it with a chaste and pure heart. You will choose rather to forsake this world and all else that is not of this wisdom, and living with unspeakable happiness you will die.”
― Nicolaus Cusanus

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Hebrews 12:2

Ephesians 1:16 – 18

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,