A Meditation on the Meaning of Faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
(Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  
for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9)

Compared to some of my past life experiences, I am not currently going through a tough time. Just the normal frustrations of aging. My poem, today, is a reflection of more difficult days.

I wrote it with confidence and joy because I’ve discovered this: what felt like failure turned out to be success; what felt like loss, turned out to be gain, and what felt like losing ground turned out to be a faith-builder.

If this is a challenging day for you, I hope that you will be encouraged by the words of Scripture, as well as my reflective poem.


 He is here when I cannot see him
 Here when I cannot feel him
 Here when I cannot hear him
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when I am not sleeping
 Here when my body’s aching
 Here when I have no words to pray
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when the wind is blowing
 Here when the rain is falling
 Here when I see no rainbow
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when the night is long
 Here when my friends have gone
 Here when I have no song
 Jesus is here.
  
 In these times, when faith is tested,
 I remember his promises 
 I recall his faithfulness
 I review the times he answered prayer
  
 In this way, my roots grow deeper 
 Although the path is steeper
 I do not, in fear, turn back
 Up ahead, I know I’ll see his face
  
 In these times, when faith is tested
 I get up and read some Scripture
 I write down the truth I find there
 I compose a prayer response
  
 In this way, my faith grows stronger
 Although the night is longer
 I do not, in doubt, lose hope
 Up ahead, I know I’ll see his face
  
 He is here when I cannot see him
 Here when I cannot feel him
 Here when I cannot hear him
 Jesus is here.
  
 Jane Ault
 6/6/2019 
This entry was posted on June 7, 2019. 8 Comments

Living in Jesus’ Presence


He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; (Psalm 23: 3 NASB
)

Many years ago, I read the little booklet “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It stirred in me a deep desire to live my daily life with a conscious awareness of Jesus with me.

I believe this is what Jesus was desiring for all of his followers in his prayer to Our Father when he said these words: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

If I wake up in the night or wake early in the morning when the world around me is quiet, it’s a great time to give thanks for Jesus’ presence and open up the ears and eyes of my spirit to any message he has for me.

The poems I’m sharing, today reveal something of what it means for me to live in Jesus’ presence. I hope they stir in your heart a deep desire to establish this practice.


The path of sorrow and grief
 Is turned into joy and relief
  
 When we see Jesus
 Who walks beside us
  
 Our eyes are opened to reality
 We were loved from eternity
  
 That which was crushed in our soul
 Is healed! We are made whole. 

  Jane Ault
  5/31/2019

 If I want to live in Jesus’ presence
 I must not go where he is absent—
  
 Anyplace the devil tempts me,
 Anywhere that the world attracts me,
  
 Somewhere the flesh would coax me.
 I must stop all conversations—
  
 With the devil, he’s a pseud,
 With the world, they are rude,
  
 With the flesh, it is lewd.
 Why would I seek such conversations?
 
 If I want to live in Jesus’ presence
 I must listen to the Spirit—
  
 Always hear what he is saying,
 Always go where he is leading,
  
 Always do what’s wise and loving.
 I must have more conversations—
  
 With the Spirit, he is wise,
 With my Father, he never lies,
  
 With my Lord, he takes no bribes.
 He gives me grace and wisdom.
  
 Jane Ault
 3/18/2019
   

This entry was posted on May 31, 2019. 4 Comments

The “Law vs. Grace” Conflict

“ For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Galatians 5:1 ESV

This greedy little squirrel and my husband are engaged in a conflict. Every morning John fills the bird feeder and scatters sunflower seeds across the deck for birds that prefer to eat it there. This squirrel not only gobbles up the seeds on the deck but also climbs up the pole into the bird feeder and eats the seeds in it.

John keeps chasing him out but he persistently returns. I’m amazed at how many times this happens in one day. It reminds me of another conflict–the conflict Paul speaks about in the book of Galatians. Here, the conflict is between the desires of God’s Spirit and the desires of the flesh.

In this context, the word “flesh” refers to the sin nature passed down from Adam to every human, not to our physical bodies. Our struggle with the flesh continues throughout life. It’s through grace, not law, that we win this battle. As usual, I think my poem conveys this truth better than these preceding paragraphs.


 When we embrace law 
 Instead of grace,
 Life is not easy;
 There’s no smile on our face.
  
 We get stuck in our structure
 And fight with each other.
 Feeling “right” in our ways,
 We wrongly appraise
  
 Our status and worth—
 Thinking it’s based on our work,
 Our wealth or position;
 What God wants is contrition—
  
 A heart that is humble,
 Repentant and thankful,
 A heart of submission 
 Instead of ambition;
  
 A spirit that’s willing
 To follow his calling,
 Unafraid of the pressure
 That this might engender,
  
 From family and friends—
 To whom this change makes no sense.
 Let us not fear it!
 For life in the Spirit
  
 Brings great freedom and joy, 
 Peace that no one can destroy,
 Strength and contentment
 ‘Cause Jesus is present!
  
 What hope this engenders.
 What strength it inspires.
 What wonderful knowledge.
 He shatters all bondage!
  
 Let us never despair
 But with praise fill the air;
 He sees our need and answers our prayer.
 We, his children, are safe in his care. 
  
 5/22/19
 Jane Ault 
This entry was posted on May 24, 2019. 6 Comments

A MOTHER’S DAY PSALM OF PRAISE AND PETITION

 I HONOR YOU, GOD, AS THE DESIGNER OF MOTHERHOOD
  
 Father-God, I praise you for your mothering heart—
 The love which you have for all creation;
 You feed the sparrow and provide a cliff for the goat.
 You send the sunshine and the rain.
 You smile on children of every nation.
 Your heart delights in their praises.
  
 Holy Spirit, I praise you for your gracious disposition—
 You accurately reflect the Father’s heart;
 With joy, you continually honor Jesus.
 With patience, you convince the skeptic of truth.
 With gentleness, you assure the fearful of forgiveness.
 With generosity, you give knowledge and wisdom to the humble.
  
 Jesus Christ, I praise you for your profound obedience—
 The astounding humility which you displayed while on earth;
 You knew the heart of the Father.
 You trusted him without reservation.
 You laid aside your rightful, godly-status.
 You lived as a servant and died as a criminal.
  
 Holy Spirit, produce the heart of the God-head in your church, today.
 So that in union with you we may labor and give birth;
 Give us perseverance in our prayers
 Give us endurance in our labors
 Give us steadfast faith, unwavering hope, and unconditional love
 Give us the joy of bringing many into your Kingdom.
  
 ON THIS DAY SET ASIDE TO HONOR MOTHERS, I ASK FOR THESE BLESSINGS: 
 
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the expectant mothers—
 Those with children in their wombs;
 Show them how to care for their bodies and nourish their unborn child
 Let their hearts be filled with peace so their babes feel secure.
 Give them discernment in their choices so the life they hold flourishes.
 Give them rest when they are weary and protect them from disease and injury.
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the mothers whose children are with them
 Those who are happy, those who are weary, and those who feel teary;
 Show them fresh creative ways to express love to their children.
 Give them insight to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each child.
 Encourage their hearts with your grace so they discipline with kindness
 Let them feel so secure in your love that they never seek their child’s approval
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the mothers whose children are missing—
 Some are prospering, some are staying, and some have been buried;
 Holy Spirit, fill each sad and lonely mother-heart with your comforting presence.
 Banish their feelings of failure and guilt and assure them of forgiveness.
 Give them the faith and energy to persist in their prayers
 And bless them with the family and friends they need to support them.
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the women who don’t or can’t have children—
 Those who may feel left out or may be ignored on this holiday:
 Holy Spirit, heal their broken hearts and fill them with laughter.
 Jesus, bless them so that children are drawn to them as they were to you
 Send them the orphans, the wounded, and the so-called “difficult” children
 Give them honor in mentoring and joy in seeing the Spirit bring forth new birth.
  
 Father, I bring these requests to you in the blessed name of Jesus;
 It is through him, alone, that I have the right to pray.
 Knowing that you will answer me in ways far beyond what I can imagine,
 I leave them at your throne with gratitude and thanksgiving.
  
 May 10, 2019
 Jane Ault 


This entry was posted on May 12, 2019. 4 Comments

Caring for Crushed and Broken Turtles



How many are your works, Lord!
   In wisdom you made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures. O Lord, how manifold (Psalm 104:24 NIV)


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

I don’t usually insert such ugly, sad, and “unpleasant” photos into my blog posts. However, I hope you will not quickly reject this post but read it to the end.  I think turtles are fantastic creatures and tears filled my eyes when I saw this crushed and broken one–a lowly reptile but still beautiful in God’s eyes.

 Out of the corner of my eye I noticed it, on the opposite side of the road, as I walked along the highway. My immediate impulse was to avoid it. Up until that moment, I was inhaling the fresh air, watching the movement of white clouds moving across the blue sky, and admiring a tiny green fern growing in the hillside at the edge of the road.  

So I turned my head and bypassed the turtle on the other side of the road. Then, sensing a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I turned back. At first, I wished I’d kept on walking. The sight made me feel nauseated. Quickly, I realized there was a lesson in this for me. The turtle could not make it across the highway because it was too slow. Whoever hit it did not stop and notice the damage they’d caused.

At first the lesson God had for me came in questions. Who is “not making it” in the world where I live? Who is being ignored, dismissed, run over and crushed because in some way they are “slow”?

These are the people I quickly thought of: those whose skin color is not white; those, who in some way, are mentally or physically challenged; those who are defenseless—the unborn, the abused; those fleeing from persecution and —refugees, those who can’t afford health insurance or the cost of higher education; the elderly . . .

Which of these people are my neighbors? Do I see their pain and brokenness? Or am I so busy counting my blessings, or so absorbed in my own struggles, I don’t see these crushed and broken “turtles” around me? Either the crushed and broken reptile or the broken-hearted human whom God created and loves.

Regarding the crushed turtle—my dear husband removed it from the middle of the road and buried the remains. He is a gentle-hearted man, who notices and stops to care for all of God’s crushed and broken turtles.

I am asking God to open my eyes and my ears to see and hear the broken and crushed turtles (of every kind) in my neighborhood, and to open my heart and hands to love and protect him with the love and wisdom of Jesus.

This story has a happy ending. The next day my husband found another turtle in the middle of the road. He picked it up and carried it to the lake shore, where it crawled away in safety.


This entry was posted on May 10, 2019. 8 Comments

COME to JESUS



Jesus said, “Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father’s knowing it. . . Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows”

(Matthew 10: 29 and 31 NCV).

I’m thankful for the office space I have in my home. On some days, I don’t take time to get dressed before I start writing. Neither do I bother combing my hair. Before I forget them, I want to quickly put down the words that are in my mind. Words of a song or poem which the Holy Spirit has encouraged me with even before I got out of bed!

This morning I did get dressed and while doing so thought about the phrase “put your best foot forward.” In other words “look good.” I’m so thankful that we don’t have to look good when we come before God. What he wants is not our “best” foot but our “bare” foot.

When we come before him like a lowly sparrow, admitting our nakedness, vulnerability, and need, he receives us in his loving arms and clothes us with his robe of mercy. Out the truth of that experience this morning, I composed the following poem/song.


 Come to Jesus with all your need
Hear him before the Father plead
A Righteous Advocate is he
Securing mercy full and free

With deep compassion Jesus prays
He lived for us for many days
Hungry and poor, tempted by Hell
Yet to a Lie, he never fell.
 
Come like a child with trusting heart
Who knows she is not very smart
Rest in your Father’s loving arm
He will protect you from all harm
 
From that sweet place of victory sing
Compose new anthems for your King
When hearing them, all devils flee
They cannot stand such joy and glee
 
Follow Jesus throughout the day
Learn to do things in his way
Feed the hungry and clothe the poor
Receive the stranger at your door
 
Be content with what you have
For fame and riches, do not grab
They will destroy your inner peace
Your love for Jesus soon will cease
 
Come to Jesus with all your need
Hear him before the Father plead
A Righteous Advocate is he
Securing mercy full and free

Jane Ault
5/1/2019

Run with Enthusiasm and Energy



I love this photo because it depicts the enthusiasm and energy we need to run the race God has set before us. (I, also, love it because that’s my grandson out front!)

Sadly, after enthusiastically writing my blog, A Vision for Retirement, on March 8, I posted nothing for 6 weeks. I felt like quitting.

Have you ever felt like that? Had doubts about the calling and work God has given you to do?  I have. For various reasons and at numerous times, I’ve felt discouraged and thought I would write no more.
 
It was partly because of traveling and visiting family, partly because of fatigue, but mostly because of apathy (a feeling that it’s useless) that I stopped writing. On Easter Sunday, the Holy Spirit brought me out of my pit of discouragement.

He encouraged me through Scripture, through text messages and letters from friends, and through the gift of a beautiful violet handed to me by a dear friend.
 
And, today, as I read and meditated on these words: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT), he resurrected my desire and commitment to write.
 
What motivates us to be enthusiastic and immovable? How do we know our work is not useless? That little word “so” at the beginning of this verse refers to the previous discussion of the resurrection of Jesus. Because he rose from the dead that we are assured that he will keep all of his promises. Because he rose from the dead, we have the power to overcome apathy, energy to pursue Jesus, and assurance that our work is of value.
 
Every moment of every day, God’s grace and power are available to us. We simply need to recognize our need and ask for help, as my following poem declares.


Every moment, every hour,
I need your help; I need your power.
 
My spirit is willing; my body is weak.
Help me pray and stay awake,
 
Alert to dangers and to snares.
Save me from the swamp of “earthly cares”—
 
Urgencies, which really are not;
Worries, which weigh-down my heart;
 
Everything that steals my energy and time;
Teach me to kneel instead of climb.
 
Pride diverts me from your path;
Daily, help me conquer that!
 
Especially, now that I am older,
I can’t afford clutter and disorder
 
My memory has enough to do.
It can’t constantly review
 
Where I’ve been or what I’ve done;
I’ve got to put some blinders on.
 
Look straight ahead, not turn aside;
In your words of truth abide.
 
Jesus, be with me every hour.
I need your help; I need your power.
 
Jane Ault
3/12/2019


A Vision of Retirement


Aaseleagh Waterfall. One of my favorite photos, taken when John and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in Ireland. (Sept. 2007)

The picture John and I had of retirement is a little different than what we imaged it would be fifty years, ago. Back then, the thought of retirement was not even on our radar. My plan was, and still is, to never get “old”! Somehow, the years have slipped away and we are there. Retired? After a sort. “Old”? It depends . . .

After yesterday’s overly energetic exercise session, I do feel older; however, as John says, “You are not as old you feel; you are as young as you think.”

Recently, we’ve been reading the book of Philippians, a letter written by Paul during the last days of his life. Because he’d been telling others about Jesus, Paul had been thrown in prison. He was writing from a cold, damp, prison cell. Nothing easy. Not the ideal retirement set up. Yet, his message is one of joy.

We are sharing insights from the life and teachings of this early Christian leader with a small group of people in our church.

I’ve also been reflecting on other New Testament books, authored by Paul, and putting together the story of this devoted Jesus-follower.

I wrote the following poem in honor of that powerful saint. It’s also a prayer response to God of how I want to live in these retirement years. I feel thankful for the strength and health given to me.


 Compelled by love, not pride nor guilt,
Fearlessly pursuing Jesus;
Yet, trembling as he writes a letter
From a frigid prison cell.
 
Formerly a Christian-hater,
Intent on murdering them all.
Struck down by Jesus on the highway,
Blinded to receive his sight
 
Pharisee turned into servant,
Accepting his share of pain and hardship,
Not demanding money, well deserved,
For his acts of loving service.
 
Jesus, this is how I want to live.
Transform my heart; renew my mind,
So that others see your character
In what I say and in what I do.
 
Keep me from retiring, as I age,
Into the luxuries of this era,
Where it’s assumed I can lay down
My skills and my servant mantle.
 
Until my last breath on this earth,
I want to be involved in your work.
Praying, writing, listening, teaching--
Give me strength and courage, Lord.
 
Jane Ault
2/23/2019
This entry was posted on March 8, 2019. 6 Comments

Generous Justice



God is compassionate and generous. He “gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45 NLT).


For the last few weeks, I’ve been attending a class in which we are studying Timothy Keller’s book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. It is an excellent description of God’s character, of what he desires, and how commands us to live.

The theme is giving to others what they deserve. That means treating everyone fairly. On the one hand, not taking bribes from the rich and powerful. On the other hand, not neglecting to help and support the poor and helpless– people who are often abused. Support does not mean “a handout.” It means helping the poor gain the education, jobs, and protection they need in order to live in health, peace, and prosperity.

My husband is part of a group of people who are displaying generous justice. They’ve established a residential home for women who are recovering from addiction. This recent article, written about one of the residents of GRACE HOUSE, testifies to the value of their work.

Keller says that Christians have often focused on inner holiness (which is important) but when we can become overly concerned about ourselves and neglect the needs of others. Or, like the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we can pat ourselves on the back for putting a few pennies in a homeless person’s hand and think God is pleased with our generosity.

When we see our deficiencies, we can either despair or make changes. In the following poems, I express my mind and heart on this topic of generous justice.


When I look at my deficiencies,
I end up in despair.
So, instead, I look at Jesus
And find perfection there.
 
Righteousness and justice
Flow from his throne
Truth is his garment
Mercy is his robe
 
He has no unkept promises,
No uncompleted plans;
Everything he says,
In his time, comes to pass.
 
Righteousness and justice
Flow from his throne
Truth is his garment
Mercy is his robe
 
His eye is on his children
The ones who fear his name
He feeds them in famine
And rescues them from death
 
Righteousness and justice
Flow from his throne
Truth is his garment
Mercy is his robe
 
I will keep my eyes on Jesus
Compose a song of praise
With my voice and life
I’ll tell the world of his ways
 
Righteousness and justice
Flow from his throne
Truth is his garment
Mercy is his robe
 
2/15/2019

To the soul who feels deep agony
About her sin-filled history,
Grace is a soothing melody;
It sets her guilty conscience free.
 
That soul with joyful gratitude
Collects the gold she has accrued
And uses it to purchase food,
Blankets, shelter, new, unused;
 
This she gives without fanfare
To those whose earthly goods are scarce—
Widows and orphans, who in despair
Need to see God’s love down here.
 
God the Father is well pleased
About the righteousness he sees.
He gives her things for which she pleas
And her praises never cease.
 
To the soul who feels no remorse
About her deeply hurtful course,
Grace is a thing to be endorsed
For the folks who need it most.
 
In her gold, she puts her trust
Yet fails to see that hidden lust.
Because her heart is covetous,
Her gifts of mercy are unjust.
 
With trumpet blast in loud grandeur
This soul gives hand-outs to the poor.
Blind to the famine at their door,
She wonders how they could want more.
 
God the Father is not pleased
About the arrogance he sees
Because his justice does not cease
He will bring her to her knees.

Jane Ault
2/15/2019

This entry was posted on February 28, 2019. 4 Comments

Someone Who Matters


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,
and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed.
Psalm 34:18 NCV

Yesterday was Valentines Day. A few weeks ago, my husband announced that he would be preparing for a colonoscopy on February 14th and jokingly said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

We both laughed and I knew he would not be taking me out for dinner. Of course, I would have enjoyed it. But having been married for fifty-one years, my assurance of his love is hardly dependent on how we spend Valentine’s Day!

For some people, Valentine’s Day means tears and loneliness instead of smiles and closeness. Those who live in an abusive relationship, those who’ve lost a family member, those who are retired and/or have lost some of their abilities, those struggling with addiction, those separated from family members and living in a culture with customs different than their own, and those in prison can feel, and be, left out and disappointed on Valentine’s Day.

In addition, there are people who live in an inner prison of fear, pain, and discouragement. They may have a crushed spirit, so even if they have social connections, they feel depressed. There have been times when I’ve felt that way. I’m so grateful for the friends who have taken the time to listen to me and remind me that I have worth.

I feel very sad when I hear statements such as “I don’t feel as if I matter.” Anyone can feel that way. One day, after hearing those words from a friend and empathizing with her, I shared the following poem, which I’d written a few days earlier. Reassured of her worth and the value of her gifts, she responded with laughter.

I hope you will read it, believe its message, and pass it on.


 You Matter to Someone
 
You matter to someone
‘Cause there’s no one like you;
 
And for someone out there
Nobody else will do.
 
No one else is designed
To create, say, and do
 
The magnificent things
So distinctive to you.
 
Please share your perspective
Your unique point-of-view.
 
There’s someone who needs it,
Someone waiting to hear it,
 
Who’ll gladly receive it;
Although others may not.
 
Don’t let that trouble you;
Don’t give it much thought.
 
Do not let your talent
Lie idle; it will rot.
 
Without cultivation
It will rot and decay.
 
With care, plant and trim it
Put it out for display.
 
Then joyfully share it
With someone who needs it—
 
A someone who matters
And needs to believe it.
 
Jane Ault
12/13/18

 Most importantly, remember this: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NCV).

This entry was posted on February 15, 2019. 16 Comments