The Psalm Project #10

Bible Open to Psalms

The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them (Psalm 25:14 NIV).

Dear God, If You were to confide in me,
what secrets would You tell me?
Would You tell me of Your dreams for me?
Would You share Your plan?
Would You tell me what the future holds?
Or would You tell me not to worry—You have my future well in hand.
Would You tell me about the wonders of heaven, of streets paved with gold?
Would You tell me about fearless saints of old?
Would You tell me about life on other planets?
Would You answer all my questions?

To read more about The Psalm Project, click here.

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The Psalm Project #9

Bible Open to Psalms

Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good O Lord. . . He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way (Psalm 25:7, 9 NIV).

Dear God, give me the humility to see myself clearly.
I need the guidance only You can give.
Teach me to love You more.
Let me follow in Your footsteps.
Forgive me my youthful rebellion and
make me a woman of God in my old age.
Amen.

To read more about The Psalm Project, click here.

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The Psalm Project #8

Bible Open to Psalms

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1 NIV)

Dear God, how terrifying and awful and wondrous
is what Jesus endured and accomplished on the cross.
You had Him mutilated and vilified in our place.
He didn’t deserve this—but we did.
How could You have mercy on me,
but sacrifice the King of Heaven?
I can’t understand my redemption,
but I thank You and praise You for it.
Amen.

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Are You Reading a Daily Devotional This Year? May I Suggest My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers?

OswaldChambersOswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish minister who traveled to England, Ireland, the United States, and Japan to spread the Good News of the Gospel. He also served as principal of the Bible Training College in London, and as a chaplain to British troops in Egypt during World War I. He was the husband of Gertrude (Biddy) Hobbs Chambers, a former court stenographer.

Though he wrote nine books during his lifetime, he didn’t exactly pen My Utmost for His Highest. He knew his Bible so completely that he often gave sermons and lectures off-the-cuff. His wife Biddy would sit in the pews and write down his words in shorthand. Ten years after his death, she published My Utmost for His Highest, a collection of 366 meditations made up of the highlights of the many words she had recorded.

Utmost CDIn 1995 Discovery House released an updated edition of the daily devotional, edited by James Reimann. At the same time, a group of contemporary Christian artists recorded an album of new songs inspired by the devotional. I entered a drawing at a local Christian book store for a copy of the book, the CD, and tickets to a live concert featuring the artists on the album, and was amazed when I won! I took my daughter with me to the concert and played the CD over and over again. Those songs are among my all-time favorites. The book I put on my bookshelf until I got around to reading it.

 

I’m sorry to say it wasn’t until 2018 that I took My Utmost for His Highest down and worked my way through it. This is not a simple book. Chambers was a theological genius, much more spiritually advanced in his 43 years than I in my seniority. I reread many passages in this book, and I do not understand all of it. However, it was well worth my time to read it, and I will reread it again every few years, and hopefully grow in my understanding.

Three of the devotionals touched me profoundly and warranted folding over the corners, the offerings for May 22, October 13, and November 2. If you have a chance, read those, and see if they don’t spur you on to read more.

I’d like to share one passage from each month, sentences I underlined because they were meaningful to me:

My Utmost

  • When we are born again, if we are spiritual at all, we have visions of what Jesus wants us to be. It is important that I learn not to be “disobedient to the heavenly vision”—not to doubt that it can be attained (January 24).
  • If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love of God, no amount of ingratitude will hinder us from serving one another (February 23).
  • A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself (March 25).
  • . . . once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him (April 23).
  • The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power (May 5).
  • If you will give God the right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you—and his experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life. The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh. A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus (June 13).
  • God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision (July 6).
  • As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all—we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same (August 4).
  • Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things—he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil (September 18).
  • We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life—those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength (October 1).
  • My personal life may be crowded with small, petty happenings, altogether insignificant. But if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God (November 2).
  • As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, or with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us (December 31).

For more information about Oswald Chambers and My Utmost for His Highest, go to the Utmost website.

Now it’s your turn. Are you planning to utilize a daily devotional this year? Which one? Have you ever worked through My Utmost to His Highest? What was your experience with it, or with another devotional you found worthwhile? Share in the comments below.

My prayer for you in 2019 is that it will be a year of health, blessing, and growth. Amen.

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Christmas Miracle

Miraculous

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Seasons of Christmas…by ARHuelsenbeck

This article first appeared on ARHtistic License.

When I compare Christmases past to Christmas present (the time frame, not the gift), I’m struck that as we pass through the seasons of life, we experience Christmas differently.

The Elementary Years

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about getting presents. Even though I grew up in a Christian home and loved baby Jesus (what’s not to love about babies?), my main focus in December was toys. I remember my mother sitting me down at the kitchen table with a Sears catalog and a piece of looseleaf paper, telling me to list a few suggestions for Santa. Soon, I’d ask for more paper.

santa-giving-children-presents

“Only write down the things you want the most,” my mother instructed.

“I am,” I insisted, “but there’s more.”

“Don’t you want clothes? Maybe some new underwear?”

“No.”

We lived in a town where many people were well-to-do, but my immigrant parents struggled. I was jealous of my friends, who didn’t have just one doll, but doll collections and wardrobes; they had stacks of games, but I only had a few. I didn’t understand why Santa brought them so many toys. I was an angelic child; my friends were naughty. Shouldn’t I be getting at least as much as they? The inequity of Christmas was beyond my understanding.

High School and College

As I got older, the focus shifted away from receiving gifts toward giving them. In elementary school, we generally made gifts for our parents in class. Now I had to think of gifts on my own. I don’t remember what I gave my parents, but I earned a little money babysitting or from part-time jobs, and I budgeted for my family (including my little brother) and my friends (especially boyfriends). Mostly, I gave inexpensive gifts, but for my boyfriends I bought engraved pewter mugs or cufflinks or medallions (hey, this was the late 60s and early 70s).

Parenthood

As much fun as Christmas is with small children, I remember those years as stressful. Though my five kids loved Santa, I tried to redirect them toward the spiritual aspects of Christmas. I read them books about the birth of Christ. They participated in Christmas pageants at church. I helped them make gifts for our neighbors.

It’s hard to provide multiple presents for five kids on one teacher’s salary. I sewed pajamas and clothes and doll quilts for the girls, and made handmade gifts for my friends and parents. Things my children needed were saved until Christmas. And then we scrambled to find at least one special item for each child, usually charged on a credit card, paid off slowly.

christmas-present

After we moved across the country, my parents started sending us a check in December. They’d always bought gifts for their grandchildren before, but the separation was now too vast to know all their preferences, and shipping presents would have been an extra expense. While I love my parents for their generosity toward us, it also meant we had the extra pressure of shopping for their gifts to the kids as well, or else spending the days after Christmas taking the kids to stores to pick out their gifts (exciting for them but exhausting for us).

And there’s the logistics of wrapping and storing all those presents. I didn’t want to wrap while the kids were up and about and could catch me in the act, which meant I had to wait until they were asleep. I often wrapped presents way into the wee hours of Christmas morning. In the meantime, our closets and dressers and garage and car trunks were stuffed with boxes.

Having five kids in ten years meant that some years we had students in three different schools. Three different schools = separate winter concerts to attend. And I was also in our church choir for five years, and the handbell choir for two. Lots of rehearsals. Lots of performances. Lots of teacher gifts. Lots of running around.

No Snow

Speaking of moving across the country—in Arizona, Christmastime is different than in New Jersey. Our first Christmas here, we were invited to dinner on our neighbor’s patio.

Photo by Kelley Diwan.

Greg and the kids profess to miss the snow. I don’t. I happily admire pictures of snowy landscapes, but I prefer weather I don’t have to shovel. From my current window, I can see green trees and turquoise skies. My view in New Jersey Decembers was shades of gray—bare trees, dead grass, dirty snow along the road (if there was any snow, which didn’t always happen at Christmas), and an overcast sky.

Teaching

The eight years I taught in the twenty-first century (as opposed to the four years I taught before I had kids), Christmas at home had to be drastically simplified. Part of that was because I spent long hours working in my classroom after school. Also, as the music teacher, I produced the musical portion of the kindergarten gingerbread house celebration, as well as two assemblies and a winter concert at the State Capitol with my chorus.

Before my return to teaching, I used to send out a newsletter with my Christmas cards, filling everyone in on my entire family’s activities and accomplishments during the year. With teaching duties I barely had time to send cards—and some years I didn’t.

nativity-scene-1449284453zuy

Retirement

Christmas is so much more relaxed now. With no jobs, we have plenty of unscheduled time to tackle Christmas activities, and time to meditate on the heavenly miracle of God assuming human form to sacrifice himself on our behalf.

With our children grown and living on their own, Greg and I no longer have to hide wrapped packages. Although we don’t have the excitement of kids waking early in the morning to open presents, our four offspring who live nearby come home for dinner or at least dessert, and we exchange our gifts then.

I’ve loved every season of Christmas so far, and I’m very content with our celebration this year. (But I’m looking forward to the season of grandchildren, if God and our children ever bless us with any. Don’t tell my kids—I promised long ago I would never pressure them.)

christmas-baby-1415518373zwu

How about you? Was there a season when your Christmas was especially magical? What is your favorite way to celebrate? Share in the comments below.

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What the Angels Said

Angel musicians

 

What the Angels Said

I bring you good tidings of great joy.
Today in the town of David
A savior is born to you.
Find the babe wrapped in cloths:
This will be your sign.
Glory to God!
Peace to men.
Fear not!
Christ.

Poem © by ARHuelsenbeck

Based on Luke 2:10-14

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