Archive | April 2017

Appreciating God Through the Beauty of Flowers

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love flowers. Right now, as look out the window in my kitchen where I stand washing dishes, I can see bright yellow daffodils blooming.  As I drive toward the garage, brilliant purple hyacinths make me feel cheerful. Although, they have not yet opened, I can smell the fragrance of lilacs that line the edge of my driveway.

 

                    

 

With joy I breath the morning air,
Deliciously gulping the
Fragrance of sweet clover,
Curiously poking my
Nose into yellow buttercups.

The flowers dance around my feet,
Excitedly calling my
Name, begging me to
Join them in their song, to
Celebrate Majesty.

With a smile, I join their ballet,
Laughingly skipping down the
Grassy path, capturing
In my heart, the picture
I will reproduce.

 

 

This entry was posted on April 28, 2017. 6 Comments

How I Respond to Sadness and Happiness

Giant sequoias rising 300 feet into the blue sky; water, as clear as glass, flowing in mountain streams; California poppies, Purple vetch, Lupines, Chinese Houses, and other wild flowers blooming along the banks of the Sierra railroad; radiant smiles and spontaneous hugs from grandchildren I adore; walking and talking, playing games, taking photos, cheering for my grandson at his Little League game, the happy chatter of children seeking hidden eggs,  the grandeur and beauty of the Gospel message on Easter Sunday, roast leg of lamb and all the fixings attractively served for dinner–these were some of the joys I saw, touched, and felt last week.

Leaving family members that I love; experiencing a bit of indigestion; losing my phone and my glasses; finding, at home, letters from friends with news of an untimely death and complicated health issues; receiving a phone call from a friend who’s depressed–these were things that brought frustration, disappointment, and sadness to my soul.

Life is a mixture of sadness and gladness; in either situation, I’ve learned to respond in the following way.  Doing so results in inner stability and peace–peace that, as the Apostle Paul declares, “exceeds understanding” (NLT). 


When there’s sadness in my soul,
I compose a song of hope—
Reminding myself of this:

God is faithful and true—
A constant in times of change—
So forgiving and full of grace!

Every memory of him
Brings sweet comfort to my heart—
And my sorrow is assuaged.

When there’s sadness in my soul,
From the treasury in my mind,
I compose another verse.

For the Scriptures I’ve imbibed—
They’re my source of hope and life—
Of these truths the Spirit speaks.

And I rise above my pain;
I conquer fear and shame—
Soar beyond sadness in my soul.

When there’s gladness in my soul,
I compose a song of joy—
Reminding myself of this:

God’s the source of every good—
He deserves my gratitude—
So generous and merciful!

Every memory I have,
Of things lovely and pure,
Summons my heart to sing again.

When there’s gladness in my soul,
From the treasury in my mind,
I compose another verse.

To the Scriptures I return—
Lest I forget what I’ve learned—
That’s where I can find perspective;

I’m dependent totally
On the grace God gives to me;
He creates gladness in my soul.

4/20/2017 Jane Ault 

This entry was posted on April 21, 2017. 8 Comments

What God Does For Doubters

Although I have been a Christian for many years, at times, I still struggle with doubt. Not doubt about who Jesus is and what he accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection, but doubt about myself. Doubt and anxiety about my progress and performance as his follower.

A few weeks ago, I was again wrestling with this doubt. In the middle of the night, the Holy Spirit brought these words to my mind: “It is God who justifies.” I knew immediately where these words came from. They are part Paul’s comforting words given to followers of Jesus in the 8th chapter of Romans. To be justified means to be declared innocent and made acceptable.

The message to me was that I needed to stop worrying about my “performance” and instead of focusing on my failures focus on Jesus’ faithfulness.

This is the confidence that Paul said he had about followers of Jesus: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (Philippians 1:6 MSG).

Among the greatest doubters, in Jesus’ day, was Thomas. He was not present with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after being resurrected. When they told him that that had seen Jesus, he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25 ESV).

What was Jesus’ response to this doubting disciple of his?  He loved him so much that he gave him the evidence that he needed. To me this is immensely comforting. It tells me that my doubt is one-sided. God has no doubt about what he will accomplish in and through me. And even my faith is a gift from him.


It was only a one-sided doubt

It was only a one-sided doubt.
The Father was not surprised when Jesus rose from the dead.
From before creation, He had planned that great event.

It was only a one-sided doubt.
In Jesus’ mind there was no question about who would be the Victor
He had never allowed Satan to over-power him.

It was only a one-sided doubt.
The Spirit was not amazed on Easter morning when the SON arose
He was completely prepared to fulfill Christ’s promise to his Church.


Today, I choose to relinquish doubt. 

I place my confidence not in my record of “perfect” faith but in his record of proven faithfulness.

I declare that I was saved by his death and  that I live by his life.

I reaffirm Christ’s victory. 

 


In Honor of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Moss and land and rock and tree,
Do you know Christ’s victory?
Do you know that death is spoiled?
Do you know that Satan’s foiled?

Birds and flowers, things that creep,
Awaken now from your sleep.
Rise and sing in joyful song.
To Jesus Christ, praise belongs.

Sun and moon, stars in the sky,
Do you know who reigns on high?
Do you know who conquered sin?
Do you know where God has been?

Mountains, clouds and rivers deep,
Let praise echo from your steeps.
With angelic hosts above
Witness to redeeming love.

Men and women, children all,
Will you heed creation’s call?
Will you seek God’s kingdom now?
Will you too, before him bow?

 4/1984 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on April 14, 2017. 3 Comments

What It Takes to Give Others Grace

When I hear verbal stone-throwers while listening to the media, I feel distressed. Yet, if I am honest, when I am under fire, I—like the rest of humanity—have a tendency to condemn others. My desire is that I would increasingly possess the character of Jesus Christ. 

I woke up this morning, recalling the words that he spoke to a crowd of angry stone-throwers:”Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone” (John 8:7 NLT)! What a marvelous expression of truth cushioned in the gentleness of grace!  

In this story, a number of religious leaders, who hated Jesus and wanted to charge him with being a law-breaker, found a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  They dragged her in front of Jesus and asked him if he was going to comply with the Old Testament law which required that she be stoned.

After his response, one-by-one, all of the woman’s accusers walked away, apparently realizing that they had no right to condemn this woman. Jesus remained, but he did not condemn the woman; instead her offered her the power to change her behavior.

In this story, I found some beautiful insights on what it takes to give grace to others.

Our “right” to condemn others decreases with age.

The oldest of the woman’s accusers were the first to walk away. When I was younger,I tended to be more judgmental; I proudly assured myself that I would not error in ways that I saw some older people doing.

I now know that I am just as vulnerable as they were; I have made errors that I thought and vowed that I would never make. Assuming that someone else’s sin is worse than ours does not give us a right to condemn them. It indicates how ignorant we are of our own hearts. 

All of the woman’s accusers, the young as well as the old, eventually acknowledged their failures and walked away. According to the Apostle Paul, “We all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).

Instead of condemnation, Jesus—the only one who has the right to condemn us—offers us grace.

The fact that he did not walk away from the woman proved that he was not guilty of any sin–of any error.

According to the Gospel of John, “God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV). The longer I live the more I realize my need of grace and the more appreciative I am for it.

Receiving grace doesn’t mean we overlook our errors, and acknowledging them gives us the power to make changes.

By telling the woman that she was not condemned, Jesus set her free to live a different life. His forgiving love and accepting grace, if she chose to receive it, would empower her to do so–

Neither by denying my failures nor by focusing on them can I overcome them; Both of these choices leave me powerless. I’ve discovered that self-condemnation can be as destructive as that which comes from the mouth of others.

It’s when we have received love that we are able to give love to others.

Likewise, it’s when we have received grace, that we are able to give grace. Whenever we lack either of these, we need to avail ourselves of the opportunity to receive them. 

Jesus’ offer still stands!

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16-17 in The Message).

 

 

This entry was posted on April 7, 2017. 6 Comments