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.