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Last night we listened to a short devotional podcast about a horse that ran in the Preakness Stakes and won against all odds, in spite of a stumble. The jockey clung to the horse’s neck, thinking every moment might be his last in a fatal fall. But he hung on and the horse kept running. If either the jockey or the horse had given up, they would never have won the race, and might well have been severely injured or killed.

The podcast reminded me of an incident in my life from at least fifteen years ago. We had invited friends over, and *Rose and I, both horse-lovers, decided to go for a ride. I hadn’t been riding much in the previous years, so my skills and flexibility had declined. Use it or lose it! But we had a lovely start to the trek across recently harvested fields bordered by shrubs in their autumnal glory.

However, when we turned out horses back to the yard, mine decided to run directly home, as fast as he could. He disregarded my tugs on the reins, so I grabbed one rein to turn him in a circle. My attempt was successful in slowing him down from his headlong dash, but in the meanwhile, I had unseated myself and begun to slip from the saddle. My arms and legs were quaking with the effort of holding on, and I considered just letting go and falling to the soft earth. But then I thought of the repercussions of such a decision: the ground might not be as soft as it looked, I might fall underneath instead of beside the hooves, I might land wrong and break an arm…

The short version of the story is that I decided I could not risk a fall. As difficult as it was to hang on, I did. *Rose managed to grab my horse’s bridle and hold him while I pulled myself upright, still shaking in every muscle.

Life can be a headlong dash, and often we are tempted to take an easy way out, too tired or discouraged to hang on. But if we consider the implications of letting go, they are often worse than the current struggle. With the love and encouragement of friends—and the odd blogger—and faith in the God who has it all planned, we can persevere, hang on, finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith…”

2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

*name has been changed

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I started reading the book of Matthew on January 1, using the theme: with new eyes. I want to see God’s Word in a fresh way in 2019.

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Matthew 11:3 features John the Baptist’s question to Jesus: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John had obeyed God, and was now sitting in a cold, dank jail cell, his earthly future bleak. Perhaps—and I’m speculating here—he’d expected something entirely different from the Messiah he had prophesied about. The Jewish traditions handed down through the centuries may have created another expectation in his mind.

Jesus’ reply to John’s messengers (verses 4-6) was curt. “Go back and report to John what you hear and see…Blessed is the man who does not fall away because of me.”

As I read the first few verses of chapter eleven, I was reminded of a podcast my husband and I listened to recently by Ron Hutchcraft. The idea was that if we live life with expectation, we sometimes miss the freshness of a brand-new message. But, if we live with expectancy, we can be open to God’s surprises.

How often do my limited expectations get in the way of experiencing the newness of living in God’s Kingdom? If I live in expectancy, I am watching for whatever God has in his creative mind.

So, one of my goals this year is to live in expectancy of all God has for me, in all areas of my life. That’s definitely more exciting than my own expectations.

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51rZl2XpoxL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_A Traveler’s Advisory is a collection of fifty-two warm and encouraging anecdotes with spiritual messages and faith-based applications, one for each week of the year.

In this collection of devotional stories, Marcia shares some of the fascinating lessons she has learned over the course of her life, which has included many travels to places as diverse as the Yukon and Papua New Guinea. She records the vignettes in a simple, easy-to-understand manner so the reader can identify with the thoughts and feelings, the sights and sounds of the author’s experience.

The stories are divided into chapters with common themes:

* Chapter One: In the Air

* Chapter Two: On the Road

* Chapter Three: On Vacation

* Chapter Four: Faraway Places

The topics in this delightful book touch on God’s care, awareness of God’s daily gifts, Jesus as our source of joy, preparation for eternity, realization of who is in control of our lives, exposing our sin to the light of God’s forgiveness, and true security that is found only in God, to name a few.

For consistency, the book follows a simple format: first a story from Marcia’s cache, then a spiritual application, followed by relevant passages of Scripture to affirm her message.

The only thing I might wish for is a brief Table of Contents for chapter and story titles.

A Traveler’s Advisory is available in both digital and print copy. I would recommend it to any reader of any age, at any spiritual stage, and it would be an excellent gift.

Check out Marcia’s website for other books.

 

 

 

 

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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letter. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his sixth letter, and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

SIXTH LETTER

Concepts:

* Topic: encouragement to persevere

* “It is better late than never” to pursue our connection with God. We cannot live satisfied lives “without the practice of the presence of God.”

* We must keep our souls centered on God, never turning away

* The process of concentrating our souls on God will require self-sacrifice and the laying aside of certain pleasures that, while good in themselves, interfere with our devotion to God.

* As often as our minds wander from God, we should recall ourselves to His presence

* Sometimes it is advisable to withdraw from some of our “means” of spiritual exercise in order to concentrate on the “end,” which is God Himself

* Persevere in practicing the presence of God by any means you can invent (praise, adoration, desire, resignation, thanksgiving)

* As difficult as the process may be, persevere “to death,” no matter the difficulties

 

Our Responses:

* Heretofore, Brother Lawrence’s pleas for us to center ourselves on God have been gentle. This sixth letter employs strong encouragement to make the sacrifices necessary to practice the presence of God

* Today is the day to take up our sincere pursuit of God’s presence, no matter our situation or our age

* How often is my devotional time a race to read a certain number of chapters and pray for the people on my list so I can go on to other things? How often do I miss any true devotion to God during my quiet time?

* If we are to persevere “to death,” there is nothing that is more important than practicing the presence of God

* I find it amazing that God wants so much to be in relationship with us. To walk and talk with us. To bless and guide us. Why do we—more specifically, why do I—so often put Him off?

 

Favorite Quotes from the Sixth Letter:

“We must serve God in a holy freedom…recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find it wandering from Him.”

“…we may continue with Him our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence…”

 

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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. Below is the essence of his fifth letter, and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

 

FIFTH LETTER

Concepts:

* Firmly resolve to be wholly devoted to God.

* If you continually practice the presence of God, you will soon become spiritual.

* The first step to practicing the presence of God is to empty your heart of all else. This is what God requires in order to work in your life.

* Practice of the presence of God involves a continual conversation with Him.

* This continual conversation with God is sweet and delightful, but we do not seek devotion to God for the pleasure it will give us. We do it because of love.

* The delight in God’s presence can’t be adequately explained to those who haven’t experienced it.

* We often have no idea how much we need God’s grace and assistance in our lives.

* Commit yourself now, never lose sight of Him, “spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence,” even if this commitment requires great sacrifice.

 

Our Responses:

* We have to want to commit to spending my time in the presence of the Lord. We may see the need, the necessity, the comfort and delight, but still avoid the commitment. Why?

—perhaps I see the effort as too great

—perhaps I don’t think I can manage it

—perhaps I think it will interfere with my life

—perhaps I think I’ll miss something if I empty my heart of all else

—perhaps I feel I’m doing fine as I am

Note the “I” in each of these hesitations. Brother Lawrence has continually encouraged us to think on Christ, not on ourselves. Our society influences us strongly in favor of self. It’s a hard habit to break, but that’s the only way we’ll ever make the commitment to practice the presence of God.

* We may have a misconception of the purpose of life. As a very old song states: “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room.” Yes, God blesses us and wants us to enjoy His blessings, but those are bonuses. This life is short and I need to continually focus on what’s important.

* Those brief soul-bursting insights into close companionship with God—I call them glimpses of Glory—should overwhelm us and inspire us to practice His presence daily, hourly. Yet we give up so many opportunities of walking closely with Him.

* We may forget how very much our Father loves us, and how much He wants us to return that love. But there’s always a new starting point. That would be now.

* We often forge ahead on our own instead of seeking and accepting help from Almighty God. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but He always has our best interests in mind.

Writes Brother Lawrence: “Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be assured that you will soon find the effects of it.”

 

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Practice of the Presence of God

 

Besides 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. Below is the essence of his third letter—a short one—and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

THIRD LETTER

Concepts:

* God is infinitely gracious

* He knows all our wants

* He comes in His own time, often unexpectedly

* He does favors for us (such as giving us our every breath, sez Jan)

* He cares for us

* He allows/sends affliction and suffering in order to teach us

* He welcomes our prayers, whether short or long

* He is our comfort

Our Responses:

* Accept who God is (and don’t remake Him in our likeness)

* Hope in Him

* Accept His will for our lives (God does what He does; read the book of Job)

* Learn from the difficulties and trials that come our way

* Accept that trials are part of life and we shouldn’t run from them

* Accept God’s timing

* Pray continuously, in all times and circumstances

* Be thankful in all things and at all times

* Think of Him often

* Practice the presence of God

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A couple of weeks ago our community celebrated the life of an amazing woman. I’ll call her Molly. We knew each other mostly through the friendship of our daughters.

Molly came here from the Philippines some thirty years ago, on her own, to find a job and a home. Two years later the love of her life followed and they were married and eventually blessed with four daughters.

Molly and her husband both had successful careers, but you’d never notice it in their clothes or their home. They kept enough to live on and sent the rest back to their homeland to support their extended family, and to establish organizations for the needy. After Molly and her husband retired, they spent six months of every year in the land of their birth working with the institutions and missions that had become so important to them.

Then, quite suddenly, Molly was called to her heavenly reward. We rejoice with her but also mourn with the family and friends left behind. It’s one of the inevitable emotional rollercoasters of life.

What impressed me most about Molly’s life was her selfless generosity. She didn’t hoard finances for herself or her home. She didn’t look for praise. She just did what God asked of her. I believe Molly had a balanced perspective on life. She realized that life wasn’t about her, but about what God had for her to do. She had the wisdom to know that any wealth she and her husband had attained did not belong to them anyway. It was a gift from God to be used where it was needed.

I pray that we, in our society where everything is available, may recognize the difference between what we need and what we want. To learn, as did Molly, as the apostle Paul did, to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. To practice generosity in our daily lives in order to bless others as well as to obey God. And to recognize the brevity of life and that what we need to do should be done now.

Thanks for your example, Molly.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” I Timothy 6:6.

 

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