Something More Important Than Schedules

 



Time management has always been challenging for me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve designed and redesigned schedules. I  don’t stick to any of them very long. A schedule feels like a straight-jacket. A restriction that blocks my creativity.  Yet, I know my time on earth is limited.

The Psalmist said, “the days of our life . . .  contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years”(Psalm 90:10). God has blessed me with eighty years. I want to make the best use of whatever years, days, hours, and moments my generous God continues to give to me.

If schedules don’t work for me, is there a different way for me to manage time? 

Part of the answer to my prayer/question came this week in the words of Dallas Willard. In his book, The Allure of Gentleness, he talks about the concept of redeeming the time, a phrase used in the book of Ephesians.  To redeem something means to cash in, by back, make useful. How can we make the best use of time? Willard’s answer: “by interacting with God where you are”!

Interacting with God means having a 24/7 conversation with Jesus. Isn’t that exciting? It’s another aspect of practicing the presence of God. By keeping that conversation going, I’m able within the boundaries of time to love God and love my neighbor as myself. Is there any better use of time than that? 

Does this mean I can forget about schedules? No. I still schedule my various activities, but as the following poem says, I  don’t watch the hands of the clock. I watch Jesus. 


The clock moves on . . .
but God is still.
Hurried flesh knows not his will.

Like Mary, we must turn aside,
deny ambition,
give up pride,
leave our projects,
choose to wait.

We cannot love unless we hate.
We cannot live unless we die.

God will not rule
while we still try.
He will not force us to repent . . .
but soon our days
will all be spent.

Jesus waits . . .
time hurries on.
Choose Jesus now before time’s gone.

2002 Jane Ault
 


Time

Time is for loving
Time is for caring
Time is for doing God’s will.

Time is for learning
Time is for growing
Time just never stands still.

Time is for daring
Time is for risking
Time is for choosing a yes or a no.

Time is for hoping
Time is for dreaming
Sometimes, time seems too slow.

Time is for singing
Time is for dancing
Time is for praising the Lord.

Time is for sowing
Time is for reaping
Time is for saying a word.

Time is for crying
Time is for weeping
Time is for healing my pain.

Time is for now
Time is for using
Love, done in time, remains.

1995 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on October 12, 2018. 6 Comments

What Does “Being Perfect” Mean?

 



This week several people told me that when they made mistakes, they were very hard on themselves. They wanted to be perfect and they condemned themselves for failures. To live with someone who expects 100% in everything can be very difficult, especially if that person is yourself. 

I know. For years I lived with that self-expectation. The belief that I must be perfect came from a misunderstanding of Jesus’s words, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV). With the help of my theologian husband, I learned the true meaning of Jesus’s words.

Perfection Redefined

The word used by Jesus (that in English is translated ‘perfect’) comes from the Greek word ‘teleios’. Teleios means mature.  When Jesus said, “you must be perfect”, he was talking about inward character change. 

 Character change requires time. There’s no quick fix. No 30-second cure. We don’t become butterflies overnight. We must remain in the cocoon of God’s protective and nourishing love. Taste his goodness. Receive his instruction. Saturate ourselves with his beauty. In doing so, we become like Jesus.

Gradually, we are transformed.

  • We learn to love what Jesus loved (righteousness) and learning to hate what he hated (wickedness). (Hebrews 1:9NIV)
  • We learn to honor our heavenly Father as Jesus did. People rejected him, but he did not care about his own honor. (John 8:49, 50NIV)
  • We learn to value Jesus did. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being . . . he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 New Living Translation).
  • We learn to respond in every frustrating, difficult and painful situation like Jesus did. He consistently displayed what the Bible calls the fruit of righteousness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV)

As we are learning (growing toward perfection), we will make mistakes.

We will fail. When that happens, these are the choices we make:

  • We face the truth or we deny it.
  • We accept responsibility or we blame others
  • We receive forgiveness or we condemn ourselves

The following poem describes the choices God makes.


God is patient with us when we’re learning new skills.
He gently instructs us to wipe up our spills.
He does not berate us or call us cruel names
But speaks with kindness, remembering our frame.

He shows us the way when knowledge we lack,
He explains by example. He never attacks us,
Because of our ignorance or because of our fear.
He surrounds us with love and fills us with cheer.

With hope, we continue to flourish and grow.
Empowered by faith, we conquer each foe!
Strengthened by grace, our hearts feel secure.
Because of God’s goodness, we can mature!

Jane Ault 

 

This entry was posted on October 5, 2018. 8 Comments

Becoming a Gracious Woman

 



Yesterday, a friend of mine gave me a very kind comment. She said, “You are a gracious woman.” I appreciated the affirmation and thanked her. Is this true? Am I a gracious woman?

When I got up this morning I started thinking about what it means to be gracious. I reviewed the story of Joseph written in the book of Genesis. What an example of graciousness! He suffered abuse and he was falsely accused. Yet, he was neither revengeful nor bitter.  Where did he find the strength to overcome these natural tendencies? He experienced the grace and goodness of God.

God blessed him with a wife and two sons. He named them in honor of God and as a reminder of God’s goodness to him. This is how the story is recorded in the book of Genesis:  

“Two sons were born to Joseph before the famine came. Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, was their mother. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, saying, “Certainly God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.” He named the second child Ephraim, saying, “Certainly God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:50-52 NET)

God has been as gracious to me as he was to Joseph. He’s given me a compassionate and gracious husband, a precious family, and many dear friends. More than that, he’s given me the companionship and of the Holy Spirit, the Friend whom Jesus said he would send to all of his followers.

Because of his gracious blessings, I am not bitter and angry. I am not focused on inner pain. I am free from shame. I have self-worth. I can look beyond myself and reach out to others.

Does this mean I am a gracious woman?  Sometimes, I am. Sometimes, I am not. God, alone, is gracious 100 percent of the time. My desire is to continue growing in grace, each day to become more and more like Jesus. In the words of this song by BJ Thomas, I want to be more and more like Jesus.

 

This entry was posted on September 29, 2018. 2 Comments

Who is a Safe Shepherd and Who is Not?

 



It’s been distressing to watch the Supreme Court justice nominee’s hearing and the events leading up to it. Issues of personal safety certainly are at stake. I feel very sad. However, I’m not stating my position regarding the people questioned because I want you, my friends and readers, to think for yourselves. I hope you will not stop reading but consider my criteria for making wise decisions about leadership in general.

As the following proverb states, we must all learn to be discerning.  

“A naive person believes everything,
but the shrewd person discerns his steps.”- Proverbs 14:15 NET


Naïve is not a word that I often see on Facebook. I think it deserves some consideration. What does it mean to be naive? This is one dictionary definition: “having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information”.

As the above Proverb tells us, there’s a danger in being naïve.  We have a tendency to take shortcuts and to make quick judgments and hasty decisions without thoughtfully examining evidence and asking pertinent questions.

We can be tricked into believing safe people are dangerous and dangerous people are safe. How do we know who is safe and who is not? Jesus gave us an important clue when he said, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” He did not say, “Beware of sheep in wolves’ clothing” because a sheep never wears a wolf’s clothing. Sheep are not out to deceive people. They’re just set on following a path and they need guidance in order to find the right path. They need a shepherd.

When Jesus looked at the crowds of people in the world around him, he said that they were like sheep without a shepherd. I don’t think much has changed since his day. The world is full of sheep. Sheep can easily be deceived. They need a shepherd.

That shepherd needs to be a safe person. A safe person is someone with integrity. Someone who never deceives us. Someone who always tells the truth. Someone who is patient, kind, and good. Someone who does not expect perfection. Someone who does not condemn us when we fall down. Someone who walks beside us and helps us recognize dangers, not only points them out but teaches us to recognize the dangers ourselves. Someone who teaches us how to have discernment.

We need to have knowledge and discernment. We need to ask questions. We need to know what questions to ask. Appearances can be deceiving. A safe shepherd does not go around comparing one sheep with other sheep. They are all equally cared for and protected. He or she does not condemn sheep. He or she does not go around causing divisions among the sheep. A safe shepherd brings sheep together and teaches them to live in peace, unity, and understanding.

Because his or her self-worth is settled, a safe shepherd confidently makes decisions. He or she is not looking for approval or even acceptance. Nor is a safe shepherd hungry for power or control. A safe shepherd has control of his or her own life, shows us how to gain control of ourselves, and assists us in escaping the control of abusive shepherds.

When I look at the world today, I’m concerned. I see a lot of naïve sheep and very few safe shepherds. Yet I do not despair because Jesus is still alive. As we look to him, listen to his words, and follow the guidance of the Spirit he has given us, we will gain discernment and not be deceived by wolves dressed as shepherds.  


Prudence and naivety were walking down the road.
Soon they met a stranger who offered them some food.

Naivety just swallowed it; she thought all things were good.
But prudence first examined it; she wisely understood . . .

Appearance can deceive us; we must be very shrewd.
Things, which at first taste sweet, can turn sour when they’re chewed.

Jane Ault 2002 

This entry was posted on September 28, 2018. 8 Comments

The Dynamic Dance of Choosing Grace

 



As followers of Jesus, how do become like him in character? What is our responsibility? Do we actively participate or do we passively receive his grace? In the process of developing spiritual, mental,  and emotional integrity, what is the balance between responsibility and grace?  It’s helpful for me to picture this relationship as a dance, which I’ve not yet perfected! I’m continually learning new versions.

This how I describe it in my book, Emotional Freedom

The Dance  of Choosing Grace

 Jesus does not compel us to obey him. He empowers us to overcome evil and destructive passions, but it does not happen automatically. It’s a shared effort. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, uses the phrase (Matthew 11:28–30) to describe the shared relationship that Jesus invites us to have with him.

I love that “unforced rhythms of grace” phrase. It reminds me of a dance. I’m not a great dancer. My least well-developed intelligence is kinesthetic. When I was in college, I had to take beginning swimming twice in order to pass it. Kinesthetic intelligence is one of my husband’s highest developed abilities. He loves to dance. I love watching him dance. We do it as a part of our worship on Sunday mornings. I managed to dance with him at our daughters’ weddings without crushing his toes.

The concept of dancing with God delights me. I call this dance with Jesus “Choosing Grace.” It has two basic steps—grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward God. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love” (John 15:10 MSG). 

Choosing grace is about dancing in such a close relationship with Jesus that his nature becomes a part of us, motivating our decisions and empowering our behavioral changes. Here is a clear Biblical statement describing the interaction between grace and responsibility: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13 NIV).

Choosing grace is about acting on our decisions so that our behavior will change. However, it’s much more than a how-to-do list for selecting and practicing new behaviors. Through this dynamic dance with Jesus, we are transformed, and we become like him. How do responsibility and grace work together to bring about character change and freedom from destructive desires and emotions? There are two common misunderstandings.

Problems on the Dance Floor

Some of us focus entirely on God’s grace, and others of us focus entirely on our responsibility. Some of us depend on God to do all the dancing, while others of us leave him standing on the dance floor and take off in our own independent rhythm.

When we place responsibility—as well as grace—totally in God’s lap, our slogan becomes “let go and let God.” God did not design us as robots, and he does not bypass our will. We have the responsibility of choosing whether or not we will rely on God’s empowering grace.

When we place responsibility on our shoulders and forget about grace we take up the “just-say-no!” slogan. Our program of self-reform does not usually work very well or last very long.  The only way we can be successful by just saying no to our destructive desires is by lying to ourselves—overlooking our slip-ups.

On any day, I may deceive myself into thinking I can stay away from the chocolate ice cream which gives me digestive problems. Perhaps by God’s grace, I’ve been successful for a few weeks. Now, I think my willpower is sufficient. I no longer need God’s assistance. What happens? I’m so focused on my performance that my craving takes over.

I tend to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. Sometimes, I act as if God is totally responsible for my growth. In passive irresponsibility, I refuse to take initiative. I don’t anticipate problems, and I don’t plan how I can obey. I sing “I want what God wants” while waiting for him to exercise the will he gave to me. What’s the result? Nothing happens. Why doesn’t this work?

God will neither take over my will nor override the choices I make. His freedom of choice gift includes responsibility to act and accountability for our action or failure to act. 

Questions for reflection:

On which end of the responsibility/grace spectrum do you tend to swing?
Do you need to take more action steps or do you need to focus on God’s grace?

 

This entry was posted on September 21, 2018. 6 Comments

An Appeal for Graciousness



The conflicts within our nation deeply grieve me. How can blaming, name-calling, and other techniques of evasion affect healing in any of us? There’s no easy and simple solution. As others have notably recognized, it’s only by conquering the enemies within us that we can conquer the enemies outside of us.

When facing an angry crowd of self-righteous people bent on stoning an abused and “sinful” woman, Jesus declared, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one the accusers dropped their stones and left.

Who in our day is willing and able to balance truth and grace so effectively? For deep and lasting conflict resolution, both are essential. In his book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud offers valuable insights and practical help for gaining and maintaining this truth-grace balance.

Cloud’s description of the “wise”, the “foolish”, and the “evil” person is outstanding. While he points out the necessity of ending some relationships, he does not advocate unnecessary endings. He gives clear guidelines for conflict resolution so that we can cultivate healthy seeds in our souls–gentleness, kindness, goodness, peace, and love.

Neither grace nor truth standing alone can save us from destructive seeds within us, such as arrogance, hatred, revenge, envy, greed, and apathy. 

 Truth, by itself, denounces and destroys persons, yet does nothing to empower healthy change. Grace, by itself, overlooks seeds of destruction and falls prey to its own and others unhealthy tendencies.

In today’s poem, I’ve tried to express my concern in a positive manner. It’s not my intention to name names or take sides in the political arena. It’s my desire and hope that we will all choose to become the kind of citizens that promote greatness in the entire world.


We often hurt each other in unexpected ways;
We don’t mean to do it; disease makes sad our days.

An invasive cancer resides in every soul and spirit;
We may refuse to see this; yet, it is inherent.

Self-righteous denial blinds us to the truth
And foolishly we trust those evil and uncouth.

When arrogant defiance is enthroned in our land
How long can we survive? How long can we stand?

Reconciliation will come when to this we agree:
We all chose foolishness and error to some degree.

Humility is the grace that empowers leadership;
It saves us from harshness; yet, strengthens our grip,

Giving us the courage to remove all cancerous growth;
Let us not resign in despair but retain faith and hope.

9/7/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on September 7, 2018. 4 Comments

What I Learned Through My Summer Scripture Memory Challenge

 



Thanks to all of you who’ve continued to follow my posts during the summer. The challenge I made was more difficult than I expected. I did memorize some Scripture but not as much I expected to. These are the lessons I learned.

I must adjust my challenges to the demands of reality. Being a senior citizen means I can’t memorize something as quickly as I did when I was a teenager. Neither can I retain it as well. It’s information overload. It’s unhelpful when I am traveling and visiting family, to make Scripture memory as much of a priority as it is when I’m at home.  If my focus is on the amount of Scripture I must memorize for the day, I won’t hear what God is saying or doing in a conversation with my family and friends.

The Holy Spirit won’t let me forget the lines of Scripture he knows I need hear. Each moment of the day, he alerts me to the word of comfort, correction, or understanding I need. While my husband and I traveled crowded highways, this phrase that I’d memorized from Psalm 121 kept me from becoming anxious: “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Often during the summer, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this Psalm 15 phrase (referring to the behavior of those who have the privilege of his company): “whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others.” In several situations, it helped me to keep my mouth shut!  

Meditation is more valuable than memorization. Mediation is a way of internalizing the truths of Scripture. I discuss them with the Spirit. I make them my own.  I put them into action. Rather than focusing on how much Scripture I can memorize, I need to focus on how well I’m aligning my heart and will with the Scripture I’m memorizing.  How am I responding to God’s messages?

Living according to Scriptural truths is a bigger and better challenge than memorizing it. That’s what will bring me a lasting and satisfying reward. For Jesus said,  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash” (Matthew 7:24-27 NLT).


Will I continue memorizing Scripture? Yes, but in smaller chunks. My focus will be more on responding to what I read. In the last two weeks, I did not memorize any of Psalm 40. Instead, I meditated on it and wrote the following response. It concludes the poem I started a few decades ago. 


A Psalm of Gratitude

Lord, you’ve heard my prayer. I no longer live in the pit of self-destruction. Although at times I still feel depressed, I no longer live there. You’ve freed me from cycles of deep depression. 

Not in the way I wanted, imagined, and expected. Your wisdom is far greater and your ways are far superior to mine (Isaiah 55:9)

I wanted an instant deliverance. You took me on a journey. A journey that will not end until the day you call me home. Every day you teach me something new.

I wanted quick and simple answers; you gave me understanding. You showed me where my patterns of negative thinking began—deep in my heart. You worked with me to uproot firmly established beliefs–lies! You continue to do so. In that way, my mind is being changed for good–transformed!

I wanted you to do all of the work. You were respectful of my personality and gave me choices. You showed me what it means to be responsible. I learned that my freedom is not a passive gift. It must be received.

Jesus, how kind you are! Your words are like gentle raindrops. How patient and humble you are! You do not push and shove me when I’m slow to understand. How merciful and gracious you are! You forgive me for the same error, over and over again.

You do not allow me to remain in bondage to lies! I am a blessed woman!

I want to tell everyone how amazing you are! My heart overflows with joy. Poems and songs fill my journals. If I wrote millions of them, I would only express a tiny fraction of your love, goodness, wisdom, and power.

I want to share the words you’ve given me. Show me how I can best do this. I want many more people to see your magnificence and worship you.

You’ve been constantly paying attention to me, patiently and persistently loving me–for eighty decades!

Take every word of Scripture I’ve memorized and work within me so that I, like Jesus, “delight to do your will”.

8/31/2018 Jane Ault 

This entry was posted on August 31, 2018. 6 Comments

Why I Chose to Memorize Psalms


As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

(Psalm 42: 1-2 NIV)


I am a voracious and fast reader. The problem is: Sometimes, I don’t absorb enough of what I’ve read. I don’t think about it. I don’t ask questions.  This summer, it’s helped me to read less and spend more time thinking about what I’ve read. In particular, it’s been helpful to slow down so I can think about the Psalms I’ve been memorizing. Ask questions. Tune in to the voice of the Spirit. Respond to corrections. Receive comfort.

Psalms have been my go-to source of wisdom, encouragement, and comfort for many years. 

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says this about them: “If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life. . .  We drink in God and God’s world from them. They provide a vocabulary for living Godward, one inspired by God himself. They show us who God is, and that expands and lifts and directs our minds and hearts”(TDC p. 65).

Beyond, reading, memorizing, and meditating on the psalms, I invite you to take another step this week. Respond to the psalm you’ve thoughtfully and prayerfully read (and possibly memorized) by writing out your personal prayer. 


Psalm 40, verses 1-8, is the one that I’ve chosen to memorize this week. Here it is as written in the English Standard Version:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, OLord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”


 Years ago, I wrote the following prayer based on the first two verses of Psalm 40. 

A Plea for Deliverance

Lord, lift me out of my pit of destruction.
Free me from the cycles of depression I so frequently experience.

Rescue me from a condemning conscience;
It fills me with doubt and despair.

Change my patterns of negative thinking;
I habitually fall into distrust, worry, and fear.

Stir me from the bog of apathy into which I frequently sink.
Shed your light on my pathway and give me firmness in my footsteps. 


The Lord heard my plea for help; so this week, my plan is to memorize Psalm 40: 3-8 and respond to him with a written prayer based on verses 3-8.

What will you challenge yourself to do?

An Unexpected Blessing Due to Memorizing Psalm 19



My husband suggested that I chose a shorter Psalm to memorize this week. Since I haven’t yet completely memorized Ps 19, I agreed with him. 

Even though I was still stumbling through parts of Psalm 19, I remembered the last verse, and that brought me an unexpected blessing.

In the middle of the night, a nightmare woke me up. Instead of panicking I wrote the following prayer, based on words from the Psalm.

You are my Rock and you’re my Redeemer
I will not cling to fears of tomorrow

No nightmare, sickness or terror attack
Can cause me to panic; you have my back

I’ve determined to please you in all that I do
With the help of your Spirit, I’ll follow through

You’re my Redeemer and Sheltering Rock
Of you I will write, of you I will talk.

I love Psalm 15. I’ve read it many times over the years and have always been challenged by it. It describes the kind of integrity and reputation that I desire to possess–the kind of life that pleases God.

I hope that you, too, will be inspired by it.


1Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

6 Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Continue reading

This entry was posted on July 21, 2018. 6 Comments

Motivation for Memorizing Scripture



I’m wondering how those of you who accepted my challenge to memorize Scripture are doing with that task.

It took me longer to memorize Psalm 8 than it did for me to memorize Psalm 121. I’m not sure why. I had already memorized parts of Psalm 8. Maybe that was the problem. I choose to memorize Psalm 8 in a translation that was less familiar to me. The words of the older and more familiar text kept getting entangled in my mind with the words of the new translation.

This problem turned out for my benefit because I had to focus on the meaning of the words I was memorizing. I could not unthinkingly repeat them like a parrot. If we only want to improve our ability to remember, why choose Scripture? We could choose anything.

The Psalm that I picked for this week, gives us numerous reasons to memorize Scripture. I”m thankful that God chose to tell us what he is like through creation through Scripture. 

Dividing Psalm 19 into couplets so that all I need to do is memorize 2 verses every day does not seem as intimidating as looking at the entire psalm.


The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.

There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.

Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber;
like a strong man it enjoys running its course.
It emerges from the distant horizon,
and goes from one end of the sky to the other;
nothing can escape its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect
and preserves one’s life.
The rules set down by the Lord are reliable
and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.
The Lord’s precepts are fair
and make one joyful.
The Lord’s commands are pure
and give insight for life.

The commands to fear the Lord  are right
and endure forever.
The judgments given by theLord are trustworthy
and absolutely just.
10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.

11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there;
those who obey them receive a rich reward.
12 Who can know all his errors?
Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.

13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins;
do not allow such sins to control me.
Then I will be blameless,
and innocent of blatant rebellion.
14 May my words and my thoughts
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19 (NET)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 14, 2018. 4 Comments

Singing Scripture



What a great time I had this week memorizing Psalm 121! One thing that works for me when I memorize something is to sing. So, during my early morning walks this past week, I sang Psalm 121. I did not have it all memorized on day one. Each day I added a few more lines to my song. Sometimes, I recorded my singing on my telephone. If I ever lose my phone and someone finds it, I hope that they listen to the Scripture songs that I’ve recorded.

If you’ve never tried it before, I hope that some of you will start singing the Psalms. After all, that is what they were written for. The word “psalm” means song. It doesn’t matter what our voices sound like. I don’t think that’s important to God. What’s important to him is the condition of our hearts. Let’s just be like children and not worry about what our voices sound like or whether or not we can carry a tune. 

(My husband gave me permission to use him as an example here. He said that he can’t carry a tune, but he can imitate. He imitates whatever singer he stands next to. That works for him most of the time. It’s a bit of a problem when he’s standing next to me and I’m singing a high soprano note. )

This week, I am going to memorize and hopefully come up with a new tune for Psalm 8. I’ve copied it below. I hope that you will join my summer challenge

It’s not too late! If singing helps you to memorize, do it. If it doesn’t interest you, try another technique. Come up with your own creative way of memorizing Scripture and, if you want to, share it!


Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 (NIV)

This entry was posted on July 6, 2018. 4 Comments

Summer Plans



I’ve been thinking and praying about my direction for the summer and wondering what to do about my blog posts. I decided that it might be helpful for me to go back and read what I’ve previously written. 

As I reviewed some of the posts that I’ve written in the past couple of years, I discovered this one  and knew that, once again, I needed to heed my own advice. If you are feeling stressed and hurried, today, you might like to check it out.

 I’m planning to visit members of John’s family and my family and don’t want to be stressed and hurried while with them.  In order for this to happen (in addition to practicing the principles in the above-mentioned post), I am choosing to cut back some of my activities.

For example, my husband and I did not plant a large garden. We will purchase more of our veggies from the local farmers who grow wonderful crops and bring them, freshly picked, to the markets. 

An activity which I’ve decided I will return to is Scripture memorization. This practice reduces my stress level. As I shared during the worship service at New Hope Community Church this morning, the words of Scripture that I’ve memorized over the years have literally kept me alive.

In times of deep depression, failure, and disappointment, the Holy Spirit has faithfully brought back to my mind the word of comfort, encouragement, and wisdom that I’ve needed.

These are the words that bring joy to my heart and peace to my soul. These are the words that Jesus lived by. In referring to Scripture he said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NLT). 

So, my plan is to memorize a portion of Scripture every week. I hope that you will join me. I’ve picked a short Psalm (usually 6-9 verses) for each week. 

Psalm 122 is the one that I’ve picked for this week. Though I’m familiar with and remember certain lines of this beautiful poem, I’ve not memorized it. I chose it because the Holy Spirit reminded me of this line as I was waking up: “the sun shall not strike you by day!”

That was exactly what I needed to hear on this hot morning. I was thinking of staying home from church so that I could stay cool in front of my air conditioner. The Holy Spirit has a sense of humor.

Below is the entire Psalm, as written in the New King James Version. Feel free, of course, to memorize it in another version.

I like that translation because at my age my soul needs a lot of preserving.  (See verses 7and 8.) Instead of the word preserve, other translations use the words protect or keep. The idea is that God is our personal security guard. A great thing to know when we are traveling!

Again, I hope you will join me in memorizing Scripture. I’d love for you to share what God is saying to you through it. Others, also, will be blessed by your words. 


I will lift up my eyes to the hills—

From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 121

 

 

 

Physical and Spiritual Rest: A Dynamic Combo

 



I did not write a blog post last week. I felt too tired and stressed. I needed rest. God is patiently teaching me to take care of my body in a way that honors him. Physical rest goes hand-in-hand with spiritual rest. In the last few days, when I lacked sufficient sleep, my anger level rose. My tongue could easily have become a sword of destruction.

Amazingly, during this time, the Holy Spirit gave me songs and poems to build up my faith and to share with others. I also have a patient and loving husband who listens as I struggle to get to the place of faith and rest. 

Does that mean that it’s okay for me to neglect physical rest? No, indeed. That would be presumptuous–doing something I, because of the limits of my body, have no right to do. At times, it’s okay for me to go without sleep in order to perform a task God’s called me to do. He provides grace for that.

Most of the time, God’s plan for my day includes physical rest. When I provide for physical rest, I cooperate with the Holy Spirit, as he works to produce spiritual growth in my life.  When I neglect physical rest, I resist the work of the Holy Spirit. Not a good idea! 

Making every effort to “supplement your faith with virtue,[e]and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV), includes making the effort to secure my physical rest.

Neglecting to do so could mean that I will needlessly go through another dark valley. 


How many dark valleys of the soul
Must I go through before I find peace?

How much longer must I experience
Bouts of guilt, fear, shame, and unbelief?

Lord, I want the rest which you promised
To give to your weary sheep

I feel ashamed of my struggles
Fluctuations of faith bring me grief

Fluctuations are unknown to you
Always and forever, you are the same

I will cooperate with your Spirit
My hope is the integrity of your name.

I will continue pursuing you
Adding to my faith, goodness;

Adding to goodness, knowledge;
Adding to knowledge, self-control;

Adding to self-control, perseverance;
Adding to perseverance, godliness;

Adding to godliness, mutual affection;
Adding to mutual affection, love

Lord, whatever the future holds
Whatever pain, fear, or affliction

I know you will never desert me
I will rest in the truth of your affection

1/30/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on June 22, 2018. 4 Comments

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Oversleeping and Skipping Church


 


Last Sunday, my husband and I slept late and skipped church. That might not have seemed like a big deal to most people, but it could be a very big deal if you are one of the pastors of a church. Fortunately, John was not scheduled to preach. In fact, he asked to be excused from his usual duties so that we could celebrate our wedding anniversary. 51 years is a big deal.

Surely then, out of gratitude to God for blessing our marriage, shouldn’t we attend church? I could have chosen to feel guilty for skipping church. I considered that option—but not for long.


 

Instead of binding myself to the restriction of a self-imposed, you-must-never-skip-church law, I chose to live in the freedom of God’s grace.

 

Does that mean that I think church attendance is unimportant? No. It simply means that I can live in the freedom of grace, as Jesus did. He understood what the purpose of the Sabbath was and is.

Something designed to bring rest for our bodies, refreshment to our souls, and renewal to our spirits. Not something to be used for attaining performance points.

 


Rest, refreshment, and spiritual renewal come to us when we simply receive God’s grace and live in his presence.

His presence is not limited to the square-foot dimension of any church building. Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of every universe is present everywhere in it.

As John and I walked among the trees and flowers of the arboretum in Ottawa, we knew that God was with us. 

Our bodies, souls, and spirits were refreshed and renewed. Will we go to church next Sunday? Yes, indeed! We seldom miss a service.

 


When we worship with like-minded brothers and sisters—having the eyes of our hearts focused on Jesus and desiring his presence—he comes in awesome ways to teach, comfort, strengthen, and heal us.

Why don’t I feel guilty for oversleeping and skipping church? Because I don’t go to church in order to earn brownie points from God. He doesn’t like me better when I go.  I’m free to go or not to go. He respects my choice. Most of the time I chose to attend church. Not because I have to. Because I want to.

I hope that’s the same for you.

     

 

 

 

 

   

This entry was posted on June 8, 2018. 8 Comments

How to Feel Sorry Less Often

 



“If you were really sorry, you would never do that again!” Has someone ever said that to you? Or have you ever said to yourself, if I were really sorry, I would never do that again! In many ways, I’ve vowed that I would not make the same mistake and then stumbled in the same old way. I wish this were not true. 

Last week I volunteered to help a neighbor who is moving pack her boxes. Then, I got busy with other things. My husband and I made a decision that required unexpected time and energy. Consequently, I forgot about the promise I’d made to my neighbor.

My husband also made a promise to our neighbor. When she appeared at my door on Monday morning to receive the help he had promised, he came through with it. I asked her if she needed help with her packing. “No,” she said,” I’ve finished. I only need help to move the larger things. “

I felt sorry that I had not provided the help that I’d earlier promised. I scolded myself for not keeping a commitment that I’d made. And I realized, once again, I’d made a promise and not kept it.

How can I break this habit? How can I change any unhealthy pattern of behavior?
These are some of my choices:

1. A) I can live in denial, pretending there’s no problem, or
    B) I can honestly look at how my behavior pattern affects others, as well as myself.

2. A) I can live in regret, allowing a condemning conscience to beat me up, or
    B) I can humbly confess my failure and accept forgiveness.

3. A) I can demand instant and complete perfection, telling myself I will never do that, again, or
    B) I can recognize that change is a process and find out what that process involves.

4. A)  I can blame my failure on circumstances, the devil or others, or
    B)I can accept responsibility for making changes in my life and learn what the causes are.

5. A) I can place total reliance on my ability to change, or
    B) I can admit that I need the help of a power higher than myself and rely on my Creator.

6. A) I can struggle with the same old problem year after year, or
    B) I can secure accountability that will help me address the issues that lie behind my destructive habit, give me encouragement, and rejoice with me over victories I gain. 

7. A) I can focus so much on my performance (am I making the right choices?) that I’m consumed with worry, or
    B) I can focus primarily on who God is, trust in his power to transform me and rest in his grace.  

In regard to choice number 7, I  quit worrying about my performance when my neighbor said, “you are the best neighbor I’ve ever had.” 

Sometimes, the “A” choices that I’ve listed attract me. They’re the default mode of operation of the sin-nature. They feel so right. Why would I want to make the more difficult and less attractive “B” choices?

This is my motivation: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 4:11 NLT).

I want more of the peace that comes from right living. I want to feel sorry less often. My intention this week is to make more “B” choices than “A” choices. I hope that you will join me. 

Questions for reflection:

1. Which “B” choice is most challenging for you?

2. Which “A” choice do you make most often?

3. What other “A” and “B” choices do you have to suggest?

This entry was posted on June 1, 2018. 4 Comments

Enjoying Lilac Blossoms and Letting Them Go

 At the edge of my driveway stands a row of lilac bushes. I’ve been watching the blossoms develop, waiting for the day when I could take a good photo. Finally, the day arrived. The blossoms were almost in full bloom and the sky was overcast—perfect for taking a picture. I grabbed my camera and headed out the door.  I was not pleased with the first few photos that I took.  This is one of them: 

New lilac blossoms are barely visible. They’re hidden behind dead branches and dried stems of previous year’s blossoms.


I put down my camera, took my branch cutter off its hook in the garage and sniped off last year’s dried stems and dead branches. Then, I took a few more photos. This is one that I like:

The dead branch has been cut off and the beautiful new blossom is visible.


Last year, one of my friends told me that if I wanted to have lots of lilac blossoms every year, I must cut off the stems of each year’s blossoms as soon as they quit blooming. Well, I didn’t bother doing it. I don’t know why I would want to hang on to an old, dead branch. It’s never going to bloom again. Still, I hated to snip it off.

I thought about my life. What “branch” that once produced fragrant and beautiful flowers in my life is now unneeded, dead, and must be trimmed off?  As I hesitate pruning my lilac bushes, so I reluctantly prune the unneeded “branches” in my life.

Each season, God has new gifts of grace. In order to make room for them, I need let go of the old, familiar, comfortable things. Maybe I don’t recognize them as dead branches. I remember the joy that they brought me and try to revive or resurrect what I was given in the past. What happens if I don’t cut off the dead branches? They distract me from seeing the new growth that God wants to produce in my life.

Jesus knows we are reluctant to give up the old. He said,”No one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:39 NLT).

Yet, I can’t have any passion for the new thing that God wants to develop in my life unless I give up that old thing.  


Questions for your reflection  

What new (blossom) dream or vision has God given to me?

What once beautiful but now unneeded or dead branch must I prune from my life in order to pursue it?

What choice will I make? Keep the dead branch or cut it off?

 

This entry was posted on May 25, 2018. 8 Comments

Chicken Broth and Chocolate-covered Mints ???

 



Chicken broth and chocolate-covered mints. Doesn’t sound like a good combination.  Why would I even think of it? I did not think of it until one morning this week when I found it in the bottom of a mug.

Wanting a mid-morning snack, I pulled a large coffee mug from the cupboard and poured into it the contents of a pouch of concentrated chicken broth. I was about to add water to the mug; thankfully, before I did so, I glanced into it. To my surprise, I saw six chocolate-covered mints swimming in a pool of chicken broth concentrate.

I assumed that my husband, who usually makes a mug of hot chocolate in the morning, had forgotten what he started to do. He put the chocolate-covered mints in his mug and absent-mindedly placed the mug back into the cupboard. Or maybe earlier in the day, I, myself, had put the mug into the cupboard, assuming that it was empty.

I love chocolate-covered mints. I also love chicken broth. But I was not risky enough to try chocolate-covered mints mixed with chicken broth. So, I picked out the mints, rinsed them off in cold water and set them on a paper towel to dry. Maybe they would still be good. What can I learn from this I wondered?

Hmm. What happens when we don’t look into our “cup”? The one we’ve been given in life. Do we wrongly assume that our cup is empty? Might there be unseen sweet treasures in the bottom of it? Perhaps some unfinished project that we’d enjoy completing, an unanswered letter or a photo that stirs up a happy memory. Maybe some good desire that we’ve set aside and quit pursuing.

Could we take these sweet things out of the bottom of our cup and give them some attention? Like those chocolate-covered mints in the bottom of my mug, that desire, goal, project, or memory might have the potential for placing joy in our lives. And bringing joy to others.

What do we fill our cup with?  Chicken broth? Satisfying work. Chocolate-covered mints? Rewarding play. Always one? Never the other? Maybe we unsuccessfully try to work and play at the same time. I enjoy my work but trying to play at the same time does not prove very satisfying to me. On the other hand, if I never take time for play (my tendency), I become drained by my work.

Chicken broth and chocolate-covered mints. What’s the balance? Although the two don’t mix well, separate portions of each can fill our cup with satisfaction and joy.


 

This entry was posted on May 18, 2018. 6 Comments

The”D” Word We Prefer to Deny



During my vacation, along with walking in the California sunshine, taking photos of flowers, and relaxing with my children and grandchildren, I read several books. One of them was Thoughtful Dementia Care: Understanding the Dementia Experience by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller.

You might be wondering why I would read such a book while on vacation. Wasn’t it depressing? Who wants to think about dementia at any time? Not many of us.  It’s not my favorite topic of conversation. Probably not yours, either. But I hope you will keep on reading.

I chose to read this book not because I am greatly worried about my mental decline (although I do have some short-term memory loss) but because I want to understand the challenges that some of my friends and family members are going through. I want to understand the process of dementia so that I can be helpful to them.

Jennifer Ghent-Fuller points out that most books about dementia are written with the family and caregivers viewpoint in mind. That’s why she wrote hers differently. It’s written from the viewpoint of those who are experiencing dementia–people she taught, supported and cared for during 25 years of her life as a nurse.                 

This book was difficult to read. I could not read it straight through. As I began to see dementia through the eyes of those who have it, tears came to my eyes. I had to stop reading for a few hours. Why? Because I discovered that people with dementia are very emotionally sensitive.  I have not understood that fact and lacked compassion.

As Jennifer points out, understanding their experience and viewpoint can help us see beyond their behavior problems, which might be our primary focus, and act with patience and kindness instead of anger and irritation.

I’ve tended to get impatient with them, as well as with myself when I forget something.   I’m changing my attitude. I want it to match God’s attitude. He does not devalue those with a loss of brain power. From his point of view, who among us is not in some way lacking? 

We might be children learning skills or we might be seniors losing skills. Either way, God loves us. We are spiritual beings not just physical bodies. Our spirits can connect with his Spirit even when our minds cannot.


God, give me a heart that beats like yours
When friends of mine stumble in this course–

Can’t find the pathway to their door,
Can’t reason as well as they could before.

Give me patience while they are losing some skills.
May I gently help them wipe up their spills—

May I never berate them or call them cruel names;
Help me speak with kindness, remembering my frame.

Help me gladly supply what they lack—
Explain by example, never attack;

Bear with their ignorance, their slowness, their fear;
Help me act wisely and do it with cheer.

Give me grace to stay, as their minds fade away,
For I might walk in those shadows, someday.

Because my spirit is alive . . .

 



During the last part of April, John and I spent some time with family members in the California sunshine. We brought back many good memories and photos. The above photo is one of many that I took during an evening walk through the Sacramento Capital Rose Garden. The roses were in full bloom. I wish I could have included the fragrance in my photo. 

According to rose growers, in order to thrive roses need lots of sunshine, at least six hours a day. If I were a rose, I would not do very well during April in the north country!  Thankfully, even in cloudy, rainy, and windy days, I can thrive. How? By replenishing my inner self, my spirit, in the overflowing warmth of Jesus’ love. 

That’s what I was reminded of when I opened my Bible this morning and read these words of Jesus: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11 NLT).

How is your spirit, today?  Thriving or wilting? Full of joy or weighed down with the cares of the day? l hope that you will spend some time soaking up Jesus’ love. Then, no matter what your circumstances, you will thrive like a rose.


Because my spirit is alive
In the midst of pain, I can thrive.

Thriving is more than surviving;
It’s resting instead of striving.

Resting in the fact I am loved;
Greatly loved by the Father above,

Father of Lights, giver of life,
Who protects my soul day and night

From the Evil One’s devices.
I have learned God’s ways are wisest,

Though they include some suffering.
Despite the suffering, I can sing.

Because I see the joy ahead
And by the Spirit, I am led

Into places that I’d never go.
It’s in those places that I grow

Stronger, braver, wiser, kinder.
My lack serves as a reminder

That I have something more to learn;
So, with humility, not scorn

I’ll receive a kind correction.
And if it’s not gently given

Be willing, still, to learn a lesson–
Make a needed thought-revision,

With gratitude, not resentment.
That’s the pathway to contentment.

If I do these things, I’ll thrive
My spirit will be kept alive.

5/3/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on May 4, 2018. 6 Comments

A Psalm of Hope and Joy

 



 I love the Book of Psalms! Within its pages, every life situation is encountered and every human emotion is expressed. All of the struggles and all of the victories of life are recorded.  Through reading it, I find encouragement, insight, and wisdom.  the Holy Spirit often inspires me to write a psalm of my own. 

I hope that you will enjoy it and, then, consider writing a psalm of your own. Don’t think that your poem must be structured like mine, with every two-lines ending in rhyming words. I just do that naturally. Your poem doesn’t have to be a long one. There are very short and very long psalms in the Bible. Everyone’s psalm, like everyone’s prayer, is unique to the person who writes or speaks it.

A psalm is simply an expression of our heart-song to God. Sometimes it’s joyful and sometimes it’s not. So, whatever is in your heart, I pray that, along with reading mine, you will read one of the 150 psalms in the Bible and respond by writing one of your own. If you want to share it, that would be lovely!                                                             


A Psalm of Hope and Joy

I bless you for the morning light
For protection through the night

For sweet assurance you are here
And knowledge you won’t disappear

Because of this, my spirit sings
Like a bird, I lift my wings

And fly above this earthly pain
From sin’s tug, I will abstain

Jesus, you’re so beautiful
You are precious to my soul

I bless you for your saving grace
What joy ‘twill be to see your face

Walk with me throughout this day
And fill this body, made of clay,

With power that I may fulfill
Your plan for me, do all things well

I bless you for the morning light
For protection through the night

For sweet assurance you are here
And knowledge you won’t disappear

Because of this, I have hope
Because of this, I can cope

With difficulties of this day
Annoyances that come my way

Jesus, you are wise and good
Oh, that the whole world understood

The meaning of your life and death
Your love for all you’ve given breath

Walk with me, Lord, on the street
Use my mouth, my hands, my feet

Through this body that I own
May your truth and grace be known

Jane Ault 2/8/2018

This entry was posted on April 13, 2018. 6 Comments

A Good Friday Meditation

 

 



He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,
crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well;
because of his wounds we have been healed. (Isaiah 53: 5 NET)

___________________________________________________________________________

Disfigured and ugly because of our sin,
He bore hell’s full rage, as we lashed out at him.

Jesus laid down his rights, as Creator and King—
Because he so loved us, he said not a thing.

Bleeding and mangled, just took up the cross,
While loudly we mocked him; it should have been us.

But we in rebellion and arrogant pride
Spit in his face–and our guilt we denied.

Our sin was not simply a slip or mistake,
We made it a habit to lie and to hate.

We earned all the judgment of death and of hell.
Yet, Jesus was wounded so we could get well.

Yes, Jesus was wounded; he stood in our place
And felt the rejection when God’s turned his face.

My mind cannot fathom such love and such grace.
He cleansed me from shame and my guilt he erased.

What can I offer him? What can I give?
He suffered in agony that I might live

Devotion and gratitude–all that I am.
Jesus is worthy—the Glorified Lamb.

Jane Ault 3/25/2018

This entry was posted on March 30, 2018. 8 Comments

What Am I Chasing After?

 



Recently, a freak accident killed the 33-year-old son of some friends of ours. It happened on an ordinary workday. He did nothing unusual. I felt not only grieved but shocked. This event made me seriously think about how I am using my time.

Being a senior citizen, it’s clear to me that the number of years I have left on this earth is less than the number of years I’ve already spent. Yet, at what age, can we confidently assume that we will not be the victim of a freak accident or the flu virus or a terrorist’s bullet?

How crucial, then, that we think about our values and our direction in life! What gives us the most joy? Lasting joy!  In what ways do we, or can we, intentionally design the minutes and hours of our day to pursue that joy?

Jesus’ apostle Paul clearly knew what would bring him ultimate and lasting joy, and he pursued it with all his heart, mind, and strength.  For him, the value of knowing Jesus Christ surpassed everything else in life. He wasn’t talking about the intellectual knowledge of Jesus–historical facts, although he considered them important; he was talking the kind of relationship with him that is secured by faith. That was what he chased after. (Philippians 3:7-10) 

As a follower of Jesus, I asked myself the following questions. Perhaps you might consider them.


What am I chasing after?

What am I chasing after?
What am I running toward?
Is it something I can capture?
Will it bring me a reward?

Is this prize worth pursuing?
Is it substance or wind?
Is it a venture God will bless?
Will I want it in the end?

What is the risk I’m taking?
Have I counted the cost?
Am I doing what I need to
So my days and years aren’t lost?

What will make me a winner?
Where must I never go?
By what things am I distracted?
To which friends must I say “No”?

Can I succeed by myself?
Or do I need support?
Am I willing to secure it?
To whom will I report?

In making my decisions,
Do I engage my mind?
Or go with whatever impulse
Delights me at the time?

When time for me is over—
This body’s laid to rest—
With what words will I be greeted?
Will my faith have passed the test?

What am I chasing after?
What does my soul crave for?
The righteousness of Jesus Christ—
This alone; nothing more!

3/16/2028

This entry was posted on March 23, 2018. 6 Comments

Like March, I Can’t Make Up My Mind


March is typically thought of as a month of transition from winter to spring. So far, there’s not been much evidence of spring. The occurrence of three snowstorms, with one so quickly following the other, has caused much distress in this country. I long for sunshine and warmer temperatures. I wish like in the movie “Frozen” that spring would instantly and magically appear. I wish that this same kind of instant transformation would take place in my transition from an imperfect-performing follower of Jesus to a perfect-everyday-in-every-way saint.

What I wanted and hoped for, years ago when I committed myself to a relationship with Christ, was instant perfection and a problem-free life. I thought that these would be automatic benefits which would be granted to me without any effort on my part. These are not the promises that Jesus made.

He said,” In this world, you will have trouble”; his next words were “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He also says to us in the words of his follower Paul, “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12 ESV).  We do this through what I call the “dynamic dance of choosing grace.” 

As I said in Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, this dance with Jesus “has two basic steps–grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward him”. 

 Jesus is not a magician. He does not mysteriously and instantly transform his followers from foul-smelling skunks or fearful, hiding, turtles into loving and courageous creatures. Character transformation does not occur in a straight, steady, upward line of progress. It’s marked with ups and downs, yet who I am today is significantly different than who I was yesterday. 

Like the month of March, I’m still in transition and my performance varies from day to day. I believe that God will keep his promise to complete the work of transformation that he initiated. (Philippians 1:6) Therefore, I live in confidence not shame.


Like March, I can’t make up my mind
Some days I’m cold; some days I’m warm
Fluctuating temperatures
Eventually, produce a storm

In this season of transition
Sometimes I laugh; sometimes I cry
I want to move into the future
It’s tough to tell the past goodbye

Although winter means restriction
Familiarity feels safe
In the spring of growth and freedom
Will I know how to navigate?

Like March, my days are limited
Someday, the storms I face will cease
So, I will heartily pursue
Ways that advance both love and peace

I will uncover roots of fear
And with God’s help detach my mind
From the constraints which block my joy
Through truth and knowledge, I will find

Ways to manage anger and pain
So they do not control my frame
Strengthened by grace and acceptance
I am no longer owned by shame

Jane Ault 3/8/2018

This entry was posted on March 16, 2018. 4 Comments

Inspired by Billy Graham’s Scripture-reading Habit

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
    I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.”

(Proverbs 8: 12 NLT)


The recent death of Reverend Billy Graham, who became known as “America’s pastor”, brought back special memories to me. While a teenager, I attended one of his early crusades in Minneapolis, MN. I choose Northwestern College,  a school which he founded, for my first year of study beyond high school. Years later, my husband and I heard him speak at a conference for Christian leaders in Boston. 

The thing that most impressed me about Billy Graham was the quality and depth of his character.  He displayed integrity, wisdom, and compassion. He practiced what he preached. He was truly honest and, yet, deeply humble. I believe he well represented the Christ whom he recommended. 

Billy Graham’s handbook for life was the Bible. I heard that he read the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Psalms every month. Proverbs, a book of wisdom, contains 31 chapters, so he would need to have read one chapter every day. Psalms, a bo0k of song lyrics and prayers,  contains 150 chapters so he would need to have read 3 chapters every day. I’m sure that he, also, read other parts of the Bible on a regular basis.

Although I’ve read the Bible through more than once, in recent years, I’ve chosen to read shorter or favorite parts of it. Inspired by Billy Graham’s practice, I thought about reading both Proverbs and Psalms during the month of March. But reading both of these books in one month would not be a realistic goal for me, so I decided to limit myself to one of them.  On March 1, I began reading the book of Proverbs. 

I’m freshly motivated to diligently practice the principles of wisdom that I’m reading about. One principle is prudence. Now, prudence (not to be confused with the word “prude”) is not a word that we commonly use, today.

These are dictionary definitions of prudence:  1) careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger and risks. 2) caution with regard to practical matters; discretion.  The opposite of prudence is naive. This is a dictionary definition of naive: having or showing a lack of judgment, knowledge, and experience.

I think that a poem might offer an interesting, as well as an informative definition and comparison of these two concepts. I just happen to have one.


Prudence and naivety were walking down the road.
After a while, they met a stranger who offered them some food.

Naivety just swallowed it; she assumed all things were good.
But prudence first examined it; she wisely understood

Appearance can deceive us–unless we’re very shrewd.
Things which, at first, taste sweet might turn sour when they’re chewed.

(p. 101 in Heart Connections: Finding Joy through Openness with God, by Jane Ault)


Questions for reflection

  • How can caring too much about our appearance affect our integrity?
  • How can caring too little about our appearance be unwise?
  • Do prudent people care at all about their appearance? Why or why not?

 

 

A Poetic Snapshot of Simplicity


In this season of life, there are days when I feel frustrated about my limitations. I want to have as much energy as I did when I was in my 30’s and 40’s. Living in simplicity and being content is my desire.  According to  Jesus’ follower, Paul, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV). 

Godliness, according to Richard Swenson, author of CONTENTMENT: The Secret to a Lasting Calm is “an attitude whereby what we want is to please God”. Contentment is an inward quality of my heart and simplicity is the outward lifestyle I am able to develop because of that contentment. 

The following poem describes the kind of simplicity and contentment I desire to enjoy. On some days, it’s a reality. 


In God’s presence, find delight
Receive his blessings; live my life

Make a house into a home
Plant a rose and write a poem

Invite a friend to come for tea
Listen as she shares with me

Laugh and cry as we connect
Treat each other with respect

Don’t solve a problem that’s not mine
Assure my sister she’ll do fine

Practice daily what I’ve learned
Only speak when it’s my turn

Remember that I’m God’s employ
Do what brings us mutual joy

Write a letter or a note
Include a verse that brings some hope

Write a chapter in a book
Now and then, take a look

At the chipmunk on the deck
Watch the Cardinals as they peck

On the seeds that I’ve thrown out
Put away my fear and doubt

Trust the One who made the birds
Believe my prayers have been heard

All day long, compose a song
Remind myself that I belong

Don’t go back to where I’ve been
And revisit pain again

Believe that I have done enough
Don’t get entangled in more stuff

Go to bed and be content
About how my time was spent

Whatever happens in the night
Know that I am in God’s sight

Keep looking for that happy day
When He will wipe all tears away

When every battle has been won
And my work on earth is done

Delight, for eternity,
In God’s profound simplicity

2/21/2018 Jane Ault

 

Busy but Not Hurried

 



The six-week study of John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping, which I’ve been participating in with a small group of like-minded people has ended. The insights I gained and inspiration I received while doing this study were profound. With renewed determination and fresh energy, I’m pursuing God’s call to love him with my entire heart, mind, and strength.

I’m especially thankful to Beverly Ewart and Courtney Kissam who prepared for and led this group, helping us to more clearly understand what it means to have a healthy soul. 

The following poem/song, “Busy but Not Hurried”,  describes the kind of soul I desire to possess. “Hurried” refers to anxiety and worry located in our inner life. “Busy” refers to activities in our outer life. We can be very busy, yet not hurried. 


Busy but Not Hurried

PRACTICING GOD’S PRESENCE

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am living
In the presence of my King

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am singing
And giving thanks for everything

LIVING IN FEARLESS OBEDIENCE

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’ve stopped thinking
About what other folks might do

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am doing
Works my Father called me to

CONNECTED AND FOCUSED  

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am moving
In rhythm with the Spirit

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m avoiding
Things that have no merit

 HOPEFUL AND INTENTIONAL

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m preparing
For the day when he returns

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m not working
For the money I could earn

MAINTAINING WISE BOUNDARIES 

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m refusing
Loads not meant for me

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m accepting
My responsibility

UNTROUBLED BY DIFFICULTIES

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when I’m not sleeping
I still have inner peace

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when I am hurting
God’s comfort will increase

FAITH AND CONFIDENCE

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m receiving
God’s acceptance of me

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m still sharing
My songs and poetry

STABILITY AND CONTENTMENT

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when life is shifting
I know that God’s not distant

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means my soul’s not drifting
‘Cause God is all sufficient 

2/19/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on February 23, 2018. 13 Comments

Finding Time To Be Loved By Jesus

 



When I was a college student, someone gave me a little booklet with the title, Quiet Time. Quiet time meant having quality time with Jesus–telling him about my struggles, asking him my questions, learning what his thoughts were, and most of all receiving his love. 

In order to do this, it was necessary to find a place where I could be alone, and I needed to put aside anything that distracted me. Then, I could focus on learning what Jesus had to say to me through Scripture and respond to him through prayer. 

When I was single and going to college, it was fairly easy for me to get up early and have an extended quality time with Jesus. I developed a daily habit of reading Scripture, journaling and praying.

After I got married and had children, it was NOT easy for me to continue that habit. They always seemed to wake up before I did. As they got older and slept longer, it still wasn’t possible for me to stick to my early morning habit all of the time. I experienced days of depression when my head felt too foggy in the morning to concentrate. In that condition, it was a struggle to read  Scripture. 

For years, I felt guilty if I did not have my early morning quiet time. I thought my whole day was ruined. One day, God reminded me that there’s no law stating: you must have a “Quiet time” first thing in the morning. It’s not one of the ten commandments.  It was a law which I made for myself.

I often compared myself with well known Christian women of the past or present, who seemed to be able to do this under circumstances more difficult than mine. Such comparisons were unhelpful. They filled my heart with unnecessary guilt.

I discovered that Jesus welcomes me with joy whenever I come to him. Although time management is a helpful skill (and I need to grow in it),  he is more concerned about my heart desire than my capacity for keeping track of time. 

In this stage of my life, I can, again, get up early and enjoy quality time with Jesus.  But my desire is much bigger than that. It’s to experience his love, grow strong in it, and let it flow through me throughout the day and night.


I’ll think about God when I awake,
Give thanks for mercies of the night,
Listen for his word to me,
Rise up and follow him.

Throughout day, I’ll search for time
Where we can talk, just he and I;
In my day I’ll find a place
For Jesus, my best friend.

I’ll tell him all that’s on my heart,
Then search in Scripture for his thought;
With his Word, I will agree.
I know he cares for me.

I’ll think about God and who He is,
Think about God and what He did,
Think about God all day long,
Think about God and live.

(Poem reprinted from Heart Connections: Finding Joy Through Openness with God by Jane Ault)

 

This entry was posted on February 16, 2018. 8 Comments

Finding a Personal Tempo of Joy and Productivity

 



When I was younger, one of my dreams was to run a marathon. That dream never materialized because I did nothing to prepare myself for running. Marathon running was not a heart desire. It was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking works like this: (1) I close my eyes and in my imagination see a picture of what I want. (2) I open my eyes and pouf! there it is!  No effort on my part is needed to make this happen. 

While I admire runners and regret that I had not chosen to be more physically active when I was younger,  my preferred tempo is walking. I am at peace with my decision to walk rather than run because I believe it’s the most beneficial exercise for me in this stage of my life.

I’ve discovered that walking is the tempo that brings me joy and makes me most productive. Now, I’m  using the word “walk” as a metaphor for the tempo which best facilitates my growth toward emotional and spiritual maturity. What makes walking so beneficial? It requires me to slow down and pay attention to my soul. My soul, according to John Ortberg author of Soul Keeping, is that invisible part of me that is designed for and longs to connect with God. 

I’ve been reading Ortberg’s book and participating in a group study of it. He emphasizes the importance of living an unhurried life. “Hurry”, he points out is a quality of our inward life. To be hurried is to live in a climate of inward stress. To be unhurried is to live in a climate of inward rest.    

An unhurried life is the kind of thing that John Greenleaf Whittier longs and prays for in these lines from his poem The Brewing of Soma, which is quoted in the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. 

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace

I love this word picture of peace and beauty–the result of living an “ordered life”. God has a prize for each one of us at the end of life’s “race” but we can only attain it if we “walk” according to the tempo designed for us.

We can never discover our best tempo by comparing ourselves with other runners (or walkers) but only by listening to the voice of the Spirit. He, our patient coach, remains with us throughout our earthly journey, assuring us of ultimate victory. Still, we must choose to follow his instructions.


Questions for your reflection:

Describe the condition of your inner life?

If you feel hurried and stressed, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what step(s) you could take to find rest.

In your stage of life, do you need to move at a slower tempo or a faster tempo?

Ask Jesus to show you what it means for you to  “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV).


This poem is my prayer.

Jesus, show me the tempo that I must run
To win the prize when the race is done;

Release my soul from self-centered ambition;
Teach me how to slow down and listen

With an intention to obey your command—
To follow through with what I have planned.

1/23/18 Jane Ault

 

This entry was posted on February 9, 2018. 8 Comments

Comfort for Imperfect Performers

 



 

My husband’s favorite snack mix is a mixture of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and raisins, which he mixes with olive oil and peanut butter and then bakes in the oven. When he takes it out of the oven, it smells so good. I could eat quite a lot of it. He’s glad to share it with me, but sometimes I eat more than my share. 

This morning, I noticed that the snack mix was almost gone, so I put what remained of it in a cup, walked downstairs, sat in the rocker beside my husband, and said,”I’m eating the last of your snack mix.” (Pause) “But that’s okay because I didn’t eat much of the last batch; you ate most of it.”

“There, you justified yourself,” he said. We both laughed.

What does it mean to justify ourselves? It means that we try to cover up an action that we feel guilty about by making a legitimate (good-sounding) “reason” for our action. 

Did I need to prove to my husband that it was okay for me to finish off the snack mix? Not really. He’s very generous and willing to share. There must have been some doubt in my mind about my motives.

Although I’ve been a follower of Jesus for many years, I still tend to struggle with doubt. Not doubt about who Jesus is and what he did for me by his death and resurrection. Just doubt about me. Doubt about my performance as his follower. I want to be the “perfect” follower. 

When I feel impatient with my progress toward perfection, I might silently scold myself with these kinds of comments:

“By now, I should have learned that!”
“God must be disappointed in me.”

What does this self-accusation do for me? Nothing good!  It stirs up despair in my soul, it makes my body feel tense, and it causes me to become self-centered–so preoccupied with my performance that I can’t see the needs of those around me. 

One night, I was restless and could not sleep. These words of Scripture popped up in my mind: “It is God who justifies.” They were the comforting words given to followers of Jesus in the 8th chapter of Romans. To be justified means to be declared innocent and made acceptable.

God’s message to me was that I needed to stop worrying about my “performance” and put my confidence in his performance. Perfection is his work. The following Scripture verse states that so beautifully!

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.  All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 24 and 25 NLT)


Suggested Activity: Reflect on the above Scripture and the following poem. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Then, write your thoughts in a journal entry. 


Jesus, thank you for this day
Holy Spirit, help me stay

On the pathway you mark out
Shield my soul from fear and doubt

In your love, I will remain
By your power, I’ll refrain

From doing what in the past
Kept my soul from peace and rest

Quickly, show me when my mind
Receives a lie—any kind

Help me reject and replace
Deception’s voice with your grace—

And love-filled Truth! Patiently
You shepherd me—faithfully,

You’ll persist until that day
When before you I display

The perfect work you have done—
Most Holy God, Glorious One!

1/29/18 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on February 2, 2018. 8 Comments

The Mirror of Truth

 



I haven’t thrown away my hand mirror. It’s beautiful antique given to me by a friend, but I’m spending less time looking at my face than I used to do. At first, it was because I did not want to see the wrinkles there.  I’m not uptight about them, anymore.  I’ve accepted them as a normal part of aging. Hopefully, smile wrinkles outnumber worry lines.

More importantly, I finally understand the truth that “skin-beauty” is not nearly as important as what I call “heart-beauty”.  God sees beyond the condition of my face to the condition of my heart. I’ve learned that an unhappy, angry, or worried heart cannot be hidden behind beautiful skin. Whether I like it or not, the expression on my face reflects the condition of my heart.

God’s mirror of truth is Scripture. I love Scripture. When I look in this mirror the Holy Spirit shows me exactly what I am like. He shows me the wrinkles and blemishes in my heart—things such as worry-lines, anger-pimples, and ugly-acne–caused by my reaction to hurt. Sometimes it’s painful to see the truth about myself; I feel ashamed and want to hide.

I don’t hide because the mirror of Truth is held in the hand of a Loving Savior. Jesus does not condemn me. He simply wants to give me the kind of loving, generous, and good heart that he has. When I receive his words of truth, he heals the hurts in my heart and cleanses it from all ugliness.

Why do I spend more time in front of God’s mirror than I do my bathroom mirror? It’s so much more rewarding!


Suggested Activity

Reflect on the following Scripture and poem. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Then, write out your thoughts in the form of a prayer. Share it with a friend, if you want to do so.


Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. (Psalm 19:12)
Search me, O God, and know my heart. (Psalm 139:23a)

Just as I am
I come to you, Lord.

I don’t understand the confusion within.
(Of what am I guilty? How have I sinned?)

Search my heart
Not, in a condemning
Introspective way, as I have done.

I’ve taken too many painful trips into the past,
Discovering only despair;

With the power and sweetness of your Grace,
Correct my distorted vision.

Cut my attachment to falsehood.
Bond my soul with truth.

1/23/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on January 26, 2018. 8 Comments

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit for Personal Transformation

 



I grew up in a traditional church where every Sunday at the end of the service, I joined the rest of the congregation in singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. Yet, I had no idea of who the Holy Ghost (another name for the Holy Spirit) was. He seemed, indeed, like a ghost, hiding somewhere in the church. In some mysterious way he was related to God, but  I did not think of the Holy Spirit as my personal teacher.

However, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that that is exactly who the Spirit is for those who follow him. These are his words: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name . . . will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26) 

Over the years, I’ve gradually learned to recognize the Holy Spirit’s voice, and I’ve discovered that he is an amazing teacher, wonderful friend, and ever-present helper. It is impossible for us to develop the character of Christ without his assistance. 

With his x-ray vision, he sees the abscess of unhealthy thoughts and destructive behaviors that we hide from ourselves and others. A true friend, he loves us enough to speak the truth even when it’s painful for us to hear it.  A compassionate physician, he offers help but does not overpower us and force us to comply with his directions. A wise counselor, he does not do for us what we can do for ourselves, but he gives us the power to do impossible things. 

In my book, Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, I describe cooperation with the Holy Spirit as a dance and I describe it in this way:

The concept of dancing with God delights me. I call this dance with Jesus “Choosing Grace.” It has two basic steps—grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward God. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love” (John 15:10 MSG). 

Choosing grace is about dancing in such a close relationship with Jesus that his nature becomes a part of us, motivating our decisions and empowering our behavioral changes. Here is a clear Biblical statement describing the interaction between grace and responsibility: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13 NIV).

My poem, today, is a tribute to the Holy Spirit and an expression of gratitude to Jesus for this wonderful gift.


The Holy Spirit is your gift
He helps me so I do not drift

From the pathway you’ve laid out
Into lanes of fear and doubt

He tells me things I do not know
And he’s patient when I’m slow

Allowing me to try once more—
When my performance has been poor

Never does he leave my side
From his eyes, I cannot hide

For this, I’m thankful everyday—
Here I laugh and here I play

Songs of joy and hymns of praise
Reflecting on your splendid ways

Jesus, you are purest Light
In your presence, I delight

Of your goodness, let me tell
In every virtue, you excel

Beyond measure is your grace
How I long to see your face

Lord, in my remaining days
May what I do reflect your ways

May who I am resemble you
Holy Spirit, keep me true

1/12/2018 Jane Ault


Questions for Reflection

  1. In your “dance of choosing grace”, which step are you stronger in? receiving grace or accepting responsibility
  2. If you have difficulty receiving grace, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what the barriers might be.
  3. If you have difficulty accepting responsibility, ask the Holy Spirit to show you who he might have in mind to help you. 

 

 

This entry was posted on January 16, 2018. 3 Comments

What is God Calling You to Create in 2018?

 



“I’m not creative like you are; I could never write a poem.” 

When someone says something like that to me, I feel very sad. Not because I expect everyone to love writing poetry or to have the ability to do so, but because of what that statement implies.

At the very least, it implies these two things: 1) creativity is a genetic trait, which a few people inherit and most do not. 2) In order for me to be creative, I must be like some “recognized” creative personality and mimic what that person does. God makes no clones.

These are self-damaging and God-dishonoring lies. They keep us from developing the creative gift that each one of us has been given. And they keep us from connecting with the supportive people we need in our lives in order to receive affirmation, instruction, and not become discouraged. 

I’m immensely grateful for the teachers, counselors, mentors, and friends that God has given me over the years. Without them, I would never have written much. Without them, I would not have had the courage to publish anything. Without them, I would have thrown out valuable manuscripts. 

Without their help, I would not have recognized my own creative gift or even believed that I had one.  I hope that this year you will believe that you are a creative person and that you will develop your creativity for your own enjoyment, for the blessing of others, and for the glory of God. 

As usual, I can best say these things through the words of a poem. The word “poem” is a metaphor for who you are–a magnificent creation of God.


God took a simple speck of dust
And with his breath, fashioned us.
With joy, he viewed his finished task—
created beauty, pure, unmasked.

Though we’ve fallen from that place
God forms anew, with saving grace.
In hope, our wounded spirits rise
as he with faith anoints our eyes.

Oh, hallelujah, praise the Lamb
God’s happy poem of love, I am.
He gives us each a special name.
We are alike, yet not the same.

Each one of us is one of His.
May we know unhindered bliss,
God’s fellowship throughout our days,
His holiness, in all our ways.

He stamped his image on YOUR soul.
May you reach his chosen goal
that when before His throne you stand
with joy, you’ll touch His pierced hand.

And hear him say, “My child, well done!”
“You look exactly like my Son.”
“I like your work, your finished “poem”.
“Come in my child, welcome home.”


Questions for your reflection:
1) What is your creative gift?
2) In what way(s)have you developed it?
3) What is God calling you create this year?
4) Who are the people that you will look to for affirmation, support, and accountability?

This entry was posted on January 12, 2018. 6 Comments

How to Not “Lose Heart”


My husband and I have back problems, and it’s been a challenge to find a bed in which we can comfortably sleep. For several months, we’ve been playing “musical beds”–similar to the game of musical chairs.  Finally, I think we’ve come up with the solution that will enable both of us to sleep with relative comfort.

We also are renewing our commitment to walk and to do the exercises we must do to strengthen our bodies. Maintaining physical fitness not only benefits us but also honors God. Nevertheless, the reality is that our physical bodies are “wearing away” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

This could cause us to become discouraged–lose heart. But we need not do so, for at the same time “our inner person is being renewed”  . . . This is our focus: “we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18).

Focusing on the unseen but lasting treasures of God’s kingdom rather than the temporary displeasures of aging motivates us to continue doing the work that God has called us to do. It’s making a difference in how we spend our retirement years, as reflected in the following poem.


When the beauty of youth has diminished
And the strength of my back is gone;
When my reaction time is slower
And my eyes can’t read the fine print;

When my children are standing above me
And they no longer need my help;
In the challenging years called “retirement”—
Is there something God’s calling me to?

There are words yet to be spoken
Of wisdom, of comfort, of hope;
There are songs yet to be written
Of encouragement, love, and praise;

There are prayers yet to be uttered,
For those lost, those tired, those weak;
There are promises yet to be kept
Unto him who strengthens my days.

When reading and learning take longer
And I can’t remember some names;
When my joints have lost some cushioning
And my diet is somewhat restricted;

When the world around me is different,
And I don’t understand all the words;
In the challenging years called “retirement”—
Is there something God’s calling me to?

There’s a world needing forgiveness—
Those dying who still haven’t heard;
There’s a world needing God’s mercy—
Those lonely, those weary, those hurt.

There’s a world bent toward destruction—
Those lost who need to come home;
There’s a God waiting in heaven
For a church to obey his command.

So whatever may be my calling,
I will pursue it with all of my heart.
With my eyes focused on Jesus,
I will finish that chosen work.


Questions for Reflection:

  • What has God gifted you for and called you to do?
  • In the stage of life that you are now in, how can you best accomplish that work?
  • In what ways are you renewing your spirit so that you do not become discouraged?
This entry was posted on January 5, 2018. 10 Comments

Not Yet Sages . . . a Challenge to Keep Learning

 


 

 


You will understand it better by and by was one of my father’s favorite expressions. Now, I understand more clearly what he was talking about. Hopefully, I’ve gained a bit of wisdom. The Old Testament saint, Job,  said, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” 

Unfortunately, wisdom is not automatically connected with aging. Nor is the number of megabits of information stored in our brains an accurate measurement of the wisdom we possess. Wisdom is not necessarily related to IQ. The kind of learning that makes a difference is not how much we know but what we do with what we know. 

 Wise people, according to the Gospel of Luke, are the ones who are just, righteous or godly.  (Luke 1:16,17) And, according to Jesus, greatness is related to being childlike. (Matthew 18)

Yet, keeping up with the changes and understanding how to navigate my way in an ever-changing world is still brings me some anxiety. Apparently, this is a common fear. (My post with the most views for 2017 was Freedom From the Fear of Aging. )

My plan for 2018 is the keep on learning, to gain a wisdom by diligently putting into practice the knowledge that I, by diligent study and God’s grace, have been given. I do not want to be included with the leaders whom Dallas Willard, in his book The Great Omission, says “do not finish well”. 

In the following poem, I express something of what that means for those of us who are seniors. In future posts, I will share more about what it takes to “finish well”.


 Lord, as we face many changes
We need help; we’re not yet sages.
We can’t assume that we’ve made it
And need no more to be aided.

When our bodies don’t feel as strong,
We find that we can’t get along
On just your word for yesterday;
We need fresh insight for today.

Might there be new ways we could think;
Yet with the old remain in sync?
Could we adapt and learn to say
What still is true another way?

Before we judge the younger folk
We need for you to take a look
At us! Is our journey complete?
Assuming so would bring us defeat.

Perhaps there’s more than just our spine
That can get swollen—out of line.
Oh Lord, we greatly need your grace—
Your hand to help us in this space—

This short gap between birth and death
In which we’ve been given breath.
We thank you, Lord, for all of life–
Love, laughter, hardship, strife.

You’ve brought us safely through each storm,
And we will trust in your strong arm
To keep us in our senior years
Steadfast in faith and free of cares.

10/5/2017 Jane Ault

Christmas Irony

 


My husband John has written some amazing poems. He graciously agreed to let me share the following one, today.

It’s one of my favorites, portraying a more realistic concept of the birth of Christ than what most of our Christmas cards and programs depict.

More of his poems can be found here


 Christmas Irony

Shepherds
Palestinian rednecks, society’s repugnant rejects with reputations so revolting they were 
forbidden to testify in courts of law.
Unlikely witnesses, chosen by God to catch a glimpse of His Glory
And testify in the world’s court to the birth of His Son.

Magicians from Iraq
Hated and feared by Jews then as much as now.
Following stars, not controlling, simply confessing a king is born.
Signs engraved in the expanding explosive universe. 
Trajectories targeted together and mapped out by the Creator Designer billions of years ago,
So that ants walking on this speck of dust could look to the heavens and know
That God, not Hallmark, cared enough to send the very best.

Herod
Puppet King, arrogant, pompous,
Filled with greed and lust for power. 
Matched only by his fear. 
Fear that what he had stolen from others would be ripped from his own hands
By someone more wicked and crafty than himself.
Having killed his wife and three of his sons, unjustified paranoia,
Caesar said, “It’s safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.”
Nothing would stop his blood-stained conscience from killing dozens of babes
In hope of destroying the coming Messiah.

Caesar Augustus.
Ruler of the Empire
Satisfying his every whim,
Conducting a world-wide census to appease his desires for more power and wealth.
All the time, not knowing that the Real Emperor was channeling Caesar’s greed–disrupting the schedule of everyone, simply to guarantee the birthplace of this coming 
King.

Joseph
A just man, but just a man.
Torn between his love and pain.
Unwilling to find revenge,
Equally unwilling to parent someone else’s supposed one-night stand.
He accepted the unacceptable. Believed the unbelievable,
And faded back into anonymity
Faithfully playing out his bit part to honor Divinity.

Mary
A young woman mature in faith far beyond her years,
Accepting the Eternal Seed that would fill millions of hearts with hope and joy,
And hers with pain.

The Innkeeper
Unfairly maligned, providing what he could.
Even his nice rooms being more like a stable than a Holiday Inn.
Helping satisfy God’s sense of humor and irony:
The Savior and King of the Universe, born in a stable.

This entry was posted on December 15, 2017. 8 Comments

What Would Happen if Christmas Meant . . .

 



What would happen in a world like this
If we stopped cursing and started to bless

Those who have hurt us, those we fear?
Who would do this? Who would dare?

What would happen if we took a stand
Against injustice in our land

By looking first at our own hearts?
Who could then throw judgment darts?

What would happen if we de-cluttered our homes,
Sang more songs and wrote more poems,

Listened far more and said far less?
What would we gain? What would we miss?

What would happen if we were less prepared
For our own emergency and we shared

Half of our stash with those who had none?
How would we feel when we were done?

What would happen if we took down fences,
Stopped looking through distorted lenses,

Saw every child as God’s creation?
What would happen in our world and nation?

What would happen if Christmas meant
A lifestyle change instead of an event?


Christmas Gift Suggestion

During Christmas season, at least for a day, many people set aside anger, temporarily let go of grudges, and forgive those who’ve hurt them.  Making this a lifestyle change is more challenging. 

It requires cooperation with God.  My hashtag “choosing grace” refers to the effective combination of interaction with God’s grace and personal responsibility which brings about lasting change. 

Chapter seven in Emotional Freedom (“A Dynamic Dance with the Gardener”) explains what it means to “Choose Grace.” 

When we are choosing, day-by-day, to live in a close relationship with Jesus—relying on his favor, depending on him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and trusting him to meet our needs—God’s grace empowers us so that we can overcome our destructive and addictive desires and emotions. (p.51 Emotional Freedom)

This book would be a great gift for those who want to start the New Year by learning how to habitually

(1) choose self-control instead of destructive anger,

(2) move from resentment into joy and 

(3) extend mercy instead of clinging to unforgiveness. 

Buy here.

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 4, 2017. 6 Comments

Our Ultimate Hope

 



Around Thanksgiving Day, I asked my grandchildren to send me a Christmas wish list. They have great expectations and hope to receive everything on their list. I’ve been working to fulfill some of their desires. Hopefully, they will not be disappointed.

Guess what! By next Christmas, they will probably be tired of or have outgrown this year’s gifts and want something else. The best gift that I can offer my grandchildren is the gift of myself.

The gift of himself is what Jesus brought to the world at Christmas.


Around 2000 years ago, near the time of Jesus’ birth, the world was about as messed up as it is today, yet the people of Israel had great expectations. They were waiting for a promised Messiah—a King who would make life easier on this earth, according to this O.T. promise:

“The heir to David’s throne will come,
and he will rule over the Gentiles.
They will place their hope on him” (Romans 15:12 NLT).

Their hope was that Jesus would overthrow the corrupt government and set them free them from poverty, unjust taxes, and bondage to the Roman Empire.

Guess what! He could have given them these things but that would not have brought them ultimate joy. 

Instead of a King who would change the world around them, Jesus came as a Savior to change the “world” within them. This is reflected in the angel’s word to Joseph concerning the Virgin Mary:

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”(Matthew 1:21 NLT).

Today, Jesus still offers to change our inner world—to set us free from our own destructive urges which make us slaves to the devil and the world.

When we put our hope in him, we will not be disappointed. As Jesus’ follower, Paul said,“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5 NET)

Jesus’ disciple John tells us that when we invite him to rule our lives, he transforms us so that we become like him. He said, “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3 NET).

This motivates us to action. And even though we are imperfect in our behavior, we know that when Jesus returns or we go to be with him, he will finish the work that he’s started in us. 

Jesus came once as Savior to change our inner world, and he is coming again as a King to transform our outer world.

When we participate in communion, we are reminded of this: He said,“ For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Cor. 11:26 NLT)


OUR ULTIMATE HOPE

No more sorrow, no more pain
No more failure, no more shame

No more sickness, no more death
No more robbery or threat

No miscarriage or stillbirth
No pollution on the earth

No more tears, no depression
No slavery or oppression

No abuse, no betrayal
No government, unstable

No injustice, not one liar
No treacherous advisor

No more struggles with the flesh
No more thoughts, devilish

This our hope and strong assurance
Christ will return and keep his promise

11/28/17 Jane Ault
This entry was posted on December 1, 2017. 6 Comments

Gratitude for Hearing

 



In her nineties, my husband’s grandmother was still in fairly good health. But she had did not hear very well. Feeling frustrated about this one day, John said, “Grandma, you need some hearing aids.”

                “I have some,” she said.

                “Where are they?”

                “Right here in my pocket,” she said, as she pulled them out.

At the time, I felt annoyed at Grandma for not wearing her hearing aids. Now, I understand why she put them in her pocket. A few years ago, I did the same thing. Not long after purchasing a set of hearing aids, I discovered they were not the “magical” solution that I thought they would be. So, I quit wearing them and stored them in my jewelry box.

Sometime later I flew to California to visit my grandchildren and sadly discovered that I was probably missing 75% of what they said. I felt very sad–isolated like a lone heron on a rock in the wilderness.

After talking with a friend who has hearing loss and discovering that well-fit hearing aids made a huge difference for her, I decided to try again. With updated hearing aids my hearing, although not perfect, is much improved. This brings me joy because participating in conversations is much easier.

Even if your hearing is perfect, I hope that you will read my blog so that you can encourage your friends or relatives who do have hearing losses to accept the reality of it and seek help.

And if you do have some hearing loss, I hope that you will not feel embarrassed about it. I admit that I have been; that’s why it’s taken me a year to publish this blog. I’ve decided to no longer hide the truth. It’s no different than wearing glasses.

Hearing loss is quite common. These are the statistics.  About 30-35 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years have a hearing loss. It is estimated that 40-50 percent of people 75 and older have a hearing loss. 

These are the symptoms of hearing loss

  • The speech of others seems mumbled or slurred.
  • High-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th” are difficult to hear and tell apart.
  • Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise.
  • A man’s voice is easier to hear than the higher pitches of a woman’s voice.
  • Certain sounds seem annoying or overly loud.
  • Tinnitus (a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound in one or both ears) may also occur.

These are potential effects of hearing loss.

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Social isolation
  • An increased risk of dementia

As a senior, I am doing all I can to avoid these effects of hearing loss.  While I believe that God still performs miracles and he could restore my hearing, he hasn’t instructed me to throw out my hearing aids. I’m thankful for them.

I’m thankful for the knowledge and understanding that he’s given to physicians and hearing specialists, and I’m wearing my hearing aids so that I can participate in conversations with my neighbors, friends, and relatives. 

If you think you have some hearing loss, I hope that you will admit it. You might even add “hearing aids” to your Christmas wish list. If you have perfect hearing, you might assist some friend or relative in purchasing hearing aids.


Owning hearing aids does not automatically mean that I can hear well. I must choose to place them in my ears. Although I’ve been known to put them in my pocket like John’s grandma, most of the time I put them in my ears. 

Still, my hearing aids will not work if they blocked by ear wax. I must keep them clean.

It’s wonderful to be able to hear with my physical ears, but there’s another kind of hearing that’s much more valuable–the ability to hear with my spiritual ears. That too is a choice. Jesus indicated this when he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 4:9)

Later in this conversation, Jesus said that our spiritual ears can also become blocked–not by hardened wax but by a hardened heart. According to the writer of Hebrews, the primary cause of a hardened heart is the unbelief that causes us to distrust God; consequently, we get stuck in cycles of destructive (sinful) behavior. (Hebrews 3:12, 13)


When we chose spiritual hardness of hearing and hardness of heart, we often get stuck in bitter resentment. But God who is merciful and forgiving offers us freedom and joy.

In Emotional Freedom, there’s a  simple diagram which describes how to find this freedom. It’s available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on November 17, 2017. 4 Comments

Back On Track

I confess that during the past three weeks, I fell a bit behind in my goal to memorize a Psalm every week. My husband and went took an extended road trip. We traveled to Michigan to visit his siblings and then to Texas to visit my siblings, making various stops on the way to see other friends and relatives. 

While in Texas, I celebrated my birthday, which is at the end of July, with my twin sister. The thermometer registered  113 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived in Texas. I said to John, “I wish that my mother would have waited until September to give birth to my sister and me; that’s when we were supposed to be born!” 

“It wasn’t her fault; it was yours!” he replied. “You came out first!” 

First I was in being physically born, but first I was not in experiencing a spiritual birth. When my dear sister heard the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, she quickly believed it and urged me to place my faith in him. She had a voracious appetite for Scripture, memorized much of it, and has retained it in her mind. Now, she has some problems with vision and is especially thankful for the Scripture she has memorized.

The Scripture I’ve picked for this week is the first 10 verses of the 34th Psalm. I copied it and am memorizing it in the New Living Translation, which has some very beautiful phrases. I’ve resumed my usual morning walk and discovered that this is the best time to meditate and memorize. 


I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
    he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

This entry was posted on August 11, 2018. 14 Comments