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Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

My last remaining aunt passed away yesterday (at the time of this writing). She was my mom’s youngest sister at 88, but her health wasn’t good. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it always is. This passing. This finality.

The past few years have reduced the family generation above me to nothing. My dad’s been gone for twenty-five years, and even though he came from a large family, all his siblings and their spouses are also deceased.

Marg – Mom (2), Erna (5), Mary (1) Beth (4), Kay (3)

My mom was the second-born of five. The eldest passed a number of years before Mom, the third in line was next, but Mom carried on quite happily until her 95thyear. She passed beginning of November 2017, then her next youngest sister went in December, and her youngest sib left us this January.

And that’s it. The older generation is no more.

My brother and I spoke of this recently. “Everybody’s dying,” he said. I agreed, and added that our generation is next in line. It’s a sobering thought.

Aging is a process best understood, unfortunately, when our time is nearly up! Most of us find a comfortable age and continue to “live there” as long as our bodies allow us to deceive ourselves. Suddenly we are old, and have no idea how it happened.

There are several ways to handle this issue of mortality:

— ignore it…but it won’t go away

— embrace it…but you will age more quickly (I aged a lot when Mom lived with us her last year)

— gain a balanced perspective…we were not made for this world only

To further explain the third option, this life is short, and for many people on this earth, very difficult. I’ve been blessed with love and “more-than-enough” my whole life, and yet I can find things to complain about. But the point is, this life is only a training ground, a weeding out, if you will, for eternity.

Three generations: daughter Wendy, me, Mom

We were made for Eden, but we goofed it up big-time. Then the One who created us had mercy and took our punishment for our sin by sending His only Son—that’s Jesus—so we could be free from the penalty for our failure. And now, IF we accept His unmerited gift of grace, we can look forward to eternity in heaven as a reward for accepting mercy. How cool is that?

Yes, the journey may be unfamiliar, even frightening, but the destination will be worth it all.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

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This morning I sat down at the piano and decided to play through the Christmas section of our hymnal, since my old Christmas piano books seem to have disappeared. The words of a particular advent hymn resonated with me.

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O How Shall I Receive Thee?

(Melchior Teschner [1584-1635]; Paul Gerhardt, trans. by Arthur T. Russel)

Verse one:

O how shall I receive Thee, how greet Thee, Lord aright?

All nations long to see Thee, my hope, my heart’s delight!

O kindle, Lord, most holy, Thy lamp within my breast,

To do in spirit lowly all that may please Thee best.

 

 

Verse four:

Love caused Thy Incarnation, love brought Thee down to me;

Thy thirst for my salvation procured my liberty.

O love, beyond all telling, that led Thee to embrace

In love, all love excelling, our lost and fallen race!

 

How beautiful and all-encompassing is the love of our God in Christ Jesus, our Lord! May thoughts of Him increase your joy this Christmas season.

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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. The following are thoughts gleaned from the second letter.

 

 

 

SECOND LETTER

Concepts:

Thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven and our sins remind us of our insufficiency.

God is our King. And yet this King “embraces us with love, in spite of our many sins,” because he is full of mercy and goodness.

When we apply ourselves continually to the presence of God, who is always with us and in us, we will see that:

— we are not as devoted to God as we wish to be

— we realize the seriousness of our sins

— we know we do not deserve the unmerited favors God continues to shower on us

Although these thoughts may cause us suffering, they need not be discouraging. When we accept the truth, we may rather experience “a profound inward peace.”

“An habitual, silent, and private conversation of the soul with God…gives much joy and contentment.”

“I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul and render me entirely like Himself….When I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit lifted up without any care or effort on my part.”

God treats me as his favorite.

Allow me to add a personal vignette here:

            My father passed away at the age of 76, and we—Mom, my older brother, my younger sister and I—felt a strong sense of loss and grief, as well as joy that he had moved so gently into eternity. On one of the surreal days between Dad’s death and his funeral, my brother took me aside.

            “I feel badly,” he said. “Dad always treated me special and I don’t want you to feel hurt.”

            My response was, “Oh. I always thought I had a special place in his heart.”

            I called my sister. “Bill says he feels bad because Dad always treated him best.”

            She grinned. “No, we all know I was his favorite.”

            What a legacy of love my father left us. Even though he had only come to know the Lord personally later in life, Dad’s love was a picture of God’s love for me. I am His favorite. You are His favorite.

“The soul which enjoys God in this way wants nothing but Him.”

Our Responses:

We need to be real before God, to recognize our failures, shortcomings, sins, and to think on them.

Our hearts can be filled with thankfulness that in spite of our sins, the Lord God loves us and opens His arms to us. Remember the story of the prodigal son.

Practicing continual communion with God results in peace, joy and contentment. I think if we live in this way, we have great influence on the people around us. The blessings overflow.

I personally wish to revel in my relationship with the Lord. I am loved with an everlasting, unfathomable love. One of my favorite quotes from Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is the Father’s statement: “I am especially fond of you.”

These thoughts remind me of a song. Give a listen, if you wish.

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This is the 4th “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

 

FOURTH CONVERSATION

Concepts:

The substance of religion is faith, hope and love, the practice of which unites us to God’s will. Prayer is simply sensing God’s presence.

We must realize our utter worthlessness, accept that trouble is common to man, and become dependent completely on God alone.

The best way to draw near to God is by doing our daily tasks, whether large or small, to please Him (not others).

We should not be discouraged by our sins because:

– our confidence is in God’s grace

– our confidence is in God’s merits (not our own)

– our confidence is in God’s faithfulness

Our Response:

I strive to prove my faith by my works instead of separating faith and works. Paul says that’s organic religion.

In this fourth conversation, Brother Lawrence condenses religion to three simple concepts: faith, hope and love (charity). He suggests that it makes no difference what task or vocation or occupation we apply ourselves to, but that we do it for Christ.

Surely this should remove competition between Christians. But does it? We take pride in our works, when they mean nothing to God. We try to appear godly, when God is looking not on the outward person but on the heart.

Life would be much simpler if each of us were to commit ourselves to following God in our “corner of the world” instead of trying to do more, or better, or more noticeable things for Him.

“All things are possible to him who believes,

they are less difficult to him who hopes,

they are more easy to him who loves,

and still more easy to him who perseveres

in the practice of these three virtues [faith, hope and love].”

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This is the 3rd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

 

THIRD CONVERSATION

Concepts:

About himself…

– When Brother Lawrence slipped up on his concentration on God’s presence, distracted by life’s duties, he immediately confessed his lapse and returned to God with even more fervor.

– Practiced obedience results in “unspeakable pleasures.”

About God…

– God neither deceives nor abandons the person committed to endure for His sake.

– God always provides strength to bear whatever comes, when it comes.

– Our trust honors God.

Our Response:

I’ve discovered over the years that my true disappointment is not with God but with myself. I fail often; I can’t trust myself; I am not dependable. Brother Lawrence confirms that fact, but holds up the reassurance that God never fails and is always trustworthy and dependable. He always provides, never abandons.

If we practice obedience because we are aware of God’s constant presence with us, we will have the strength we need as well as joy in serving Him.

“Many do not advance in the Christian progress,

because they stick in penances, and particular exercises,

while they neglect the love of God, which is the end…

There is needed neither art nor science for going to God,

but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him,

or for His sake, and to love Him only.”

Sometimes all the programs and methods and tools we employ to bring us closer to God actually detract from our true worship, which is always and only to love and delight in God. As stated above, all we need is a heart committed to God. To love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

 

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This is the 2nd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

SECOND CONVERSATION

Concept:

  1. “Our foremost and only business,” said Brother Lawrence, “is to love and delight ourselves in God.” Love was the motive for everything he did. Even when he felt unqualified for a particular job, doing it for God transformed it into a pleasant occupation.
  2. Brother Lawrence did not place any more value on set times of prayer than on the continual prayer in which he lived his life.
  3. “He was sensitive of his faults, but not discouraged by them.” His method of dealing with failure was simple: confess it and forget it.

 Our Response:

  1. My father used to say, “If you can’t do what you like, you can like what you do.” Dad enjoyed life and lived in relative contentment. I think this is what Brother Lawrence is talking about: as we commit our lives and days and minutes to God, we will find pleasure and contentment in what we are called to do. There’s great comfort and peace in that.
  2. The part about set times of prayer surprised me. I expected this man to place special importance on formal prayer times, but he didn’t, because he strove to be in constant communion with His Father. It’s a discipline that, according to Brother Lawrence, becomes easier with practice. I find that comforting as well, and very encouraging.
  3. The most refreshing concept I gleaned from this second conversation was Brother Lawrence’s perception of God’s forgiveness. He suggested that we can’t expect to live sinlessly, but we can expect God’s forgiveness because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So, he says, confess it and carry on. How much less anxiety and stress I would suffer if I were to take this personally. How much less guilt. Guilt can be a great motivator, but false guilt can kill. Let’s take that to heart and let our failures go. Learn from them, confess them, but don’t let them discourage us.

When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it,

saying, I am used to do so:

I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself.

If I fail not, then I give God thanks,

acknowledging that it comes from Him.”

For everyone who reads this, I pray peace in your occupation, an ever-increasing sense of God’s presence (achieved through practice), and freedom from guilt through confession and faith that Christ’s blood is enough.

God bless you!

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The other night I lay awake thinking of all the things I had to do before Christmas. The worrying didn’t help, but I did it anyway.
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You may be one of the many even-tempered, well-organized folks who complete their Christmas shopping in August, who decorate their homes with homemade ornaments in November, who bake and cook until every available space in freezer and cabinet is full of delectable goodies from Pinterest. Who never find themselves backed into a corner created by their own neglected duties. You may well be one of those.

On the other hand, you may be one of “the others,” people like me who never seem to get everything done, who forget to send birthday cards until the day before (why do people insist on having birthdays in December?), who make a hasty stop at the grocery store to buy mass-produced cookies, who mutter as they try to dress the house for Christmas. People like me who feel frustrated every December with all that waits to be done to comply with the status quo.file3341326331749

As I lay awake the other night, I thought of another individual who also must have lain awake those weeks before Christmas. She was very young, in the midst of an engagement grown difficult because of her unexplained pregnancy. Her family and friends, if there were any friends left, regarded her with accusatory glances. Her betrothed tried to understand, tried to walk in faith. And then, a final inconceivable obstacle: an unexpected journey. In those last weeks when she was tired and felt like a plodding camel, she and her fiancé had to travel a great distance to comply with the orders of the Department of Family Status to confirm their pedigrees. Add to this the fact that they were poor. No money for a wagon or even a cart. Just a bony donkey. No reservations to confirm a room at the end of the journey.file000450585184

 

Yet this young woman endured all this because she believed it to be God’s will. She still suffered swollen ankles, possibly dread of what lay ahead, a hard labor in the corner of a warm but smelly barn with only her fiancé as midwife, and unanswered questions about her future. But God was there. In the midst of the chaos, squalor, pain and fear, He entrusted His only Son to that young, very possibly worried young woman we know as Mary.

That first Christmas did not follow the expected script, but it was the perfect one. Which helps me to understand several things:

  1. We can’t expect our lives to follow our preconceived plans
  2. God often surprises but never forsakes
  3. Often the things we think are so important…are not

I pray that as we prepare for this Christmas season, we will concentrate on people and God’s gift to us. Let’s not let those niggling duties interfere with the greatest gift ever given to our world:  Jesus.

God bless, and have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

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