Category Archive: Blessings

Home — not a Place, but a Presence

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.

Jude 1:24, NLT

We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”

“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.

What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:

Whereas a few antonyms for presence reflect negativity, anxiety, “apart-ness”: aspects of life when we are not living in God’s presence.

Afraid

Presence of God

The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.

The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.

God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.

In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.

J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine…

-Mercy Me

Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

Sunshiny Sunday

It’s a lazy, sunshiny Sunday. After attending church this morning and enjoying a nap in the afternoon, I’m sitting with my feet up on our recliner couch, looking at the beauty of this day God knew about before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Warmth permeates. Sun shines. Clouds billow.

So I thought today I would share some of my favorite photos of churches, starting with this beauty in the Lexington/Concord area of our nation’s history.

Lexington/Concord

The Fall leaves, a mix of red, green and gold, gave a bright surround to the white steepled church.

And from the gallery below, left to right …

Top Left: One of the original Christian churches on Kauai, set beside the ocean, containing original hymnals, pews and pulpit. Don and I could almost feel the history housed in this building.

Top Center: Springtime blossoms blanket a cement table and benches outside the soda fountain at Mount Hermon in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. I love to retreat here to worship, learn and develop my craft at a marvelous Christian Writers’ Conference.

Top Right: This little, sagging pine green church greeted Don and me as we drove around the island of Maui. What voices has this church heard raised in praise to God over the years? And, since it was being rebuilt the last time we visited the island, what joy will once again raise its rafters in the future?

Lower Left: A replica of a slave church on a plantation in the Southern United States. Hearing about the faith of many of the slaves and enjoying some deep, heart-felt spirituals that gave strength under often horrific circumstances, was very meaningful to us.

Lower Right: To the beautiful words and melody of “The Holy City,” our tour bus entered Jerusalem a few years ago. Seeing the golden dome of the Temple while hearing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing … Hosannah in the highest, Hosannah to your King” was heart-stirring. Knowing our King walked these streets, carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa, died on Calvary and rose from the grave three days later raised chills as we entered the city where Jesus will one day return. And he will take all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, to join him in glory.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 NIV

May you be blessed this week in the love of Jesus Christ.

Rainbows and Turtles

Rainfall was intermittent as we drove down the Hana Highway in Maui (if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes). At times it pelted down, the raindrops driven horizontal by heavy winds.

And then I looked up. All across the sky was a beautiful rainbow with radiant shades of green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. The symbol of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the world with a flood.

Sometimes I forget God’s good promises. I try to work things out on my own, to ‘power through’ on tasks without asking for His presence in all I do. And yet, He has given us great and precious promises:

  • Forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God (Romans 3:23-24, John 3:16)
  • Never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, I Kings 8:57)
  • Abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10, NIV)
  • Eternal life for those who confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10, I John 5:11-12)

And there are so many more promises. Don and I experienced some “abundant life” incidents on our recent anniversary trip.

We stood on the cliff in a bracing breeze, watching a few brave surfers in the waves. Below us a group of people appeared to be looking at us, or at least in our direction. We couldn’t see what they saw because of the cliff. What could they be looking at?

Getting into the car, we drove down the road, parked, and walked to the area where people stood. The beach was covered with large black rocks. I looked again–not rocks, but huge green sea turtles! I gasped at the unexpected, wonderful sight. What a delightful surprise!

Another day we were to meet Rodney, who was going to show us some grass woven handbags. We had walked by his kiosk several times when no one was manning the booth. This particular day we were to meet Rodney at noon in front of the Hula Grill, where he was supposedly setting up a display table. Nothing there. We walked down to the kiosk–no one there–so returned to wait by the Hula Grill. Then my phone rang.

“This is Rodney. I think I see you. Turn around.” Don and I turned from where we were standing and saw a man on a cell phone, about twelve feet away, facing the other way. “You turn around,” I said into the phone. “I think I’m behind you.” As Rodney turned and we looked at each other, we both began to chuckle as we realized we were indeed talking to each other–in stereo now, on phone and in person! Another fun moment.

We came back home to California and yesterday, as we drove to church, saw another double rainbow across the sky. And I thought “isn’t this like life. Sometimes it’s really hard, where heavy winds and rain attack and drench us; and then we have God-moments where, through God’s creative beauty in nature, fun surprises, the love of a partner, or re-connection with an old friend, we feel the grace and goodness and love of God.”

So I’ve seen about four rainbows in the past week, more than I’ve seen in a very long time, especially with California’s drought over the past few years.

Question: What lovely surprises have you experienced that reminded you of God’s creative, amazing love? I’d love to hear about your turtles and rainbows!

Christmas Wonder

Quite the week! Monday Don and I drove back to our former residence to take  items for an estate sale this weekend, which would be set up on Tuesday.  Wednesday we saw and heard the Foto Sisters sing and play piano, violin, viola and cello here at The Villages. Wonderful harmonies and lilting melodies, voices that moved seamlessly from high to low and back again, helped us focus on the joy and good news of the Christmas season.

Friday evening we enjoyed singing Christmas carols with my mother and her church. Last night we attended a client appreciation dinner with our realtor’s company. And new neighbors are coming over for dessert on Monday. (Actually, we’re the new neighbors.)

Meanwhile, I drove to Palo Alto four times to give sputum samples and see my pulmonologist about whether a non-contagious lung infection I’ve had for several years is abating. Looking pretty good, but the challenge continues. I miss being able to sing as I used to. Instead of soprano, I’m usually singing alto or tenor now, and raspily (I know that’s not a real word) at that.

 This season tells the story of hope for all mankind. Of suffering, of sacrifice, of joy and of pain. It tells the story, not only of Jesus’ birth, but leads to His death and resurrection. He sacrificed, that we might be saved. He went through agonizing pain of body and spirit, that we might be redeemed, brought into relationship with God through Jesus’ payment for our sins. There is a cosmic war going on between light and darkness, but God in Christ won the battle at the Cross, and Jesus is Lord!



We are richly blessed in the things that really matter–family, friends,  Immanuel, God with us. Beautiful, centering music. Hearing the name of our God lifted up in the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush.  

Yet in the middle of all the festivities and celebration and joy, there is lots of pain.

  • Families have lost loved ones, homes, towns in California wildfires. Many don’t know where their next housing will come from.
  • Friends have lost loved ones…husband, mother, others…and are facing their first Christmas without that precious one at their side, at their table.
  • Families are stressed because of conflict, finances, illness, and other challenges.
  • Loneliness is heightened during a season focused on love, when many are surrounded by loved ones and others feel like everyone else has it together.
  • Political conflict abounds. Riots in France, questions about integrity and leadership at home, persecution of Christians abroad.

This is a time of challenge, but with challenge, people often look for more, for answers, for something or someOne who can give peace despite circumstances. Life is hard. Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) 

While we still face difficulties, we have a God who has promised to be with us in all, who cares for our pain, and who promises His people a future when justice will reign, illness will be forever gone, and we will live in peace, love and joy in His presence for all eternity.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (Matthew 5:3, MSG)

Will you join me in focusing on moments of joy and gratitude this Christmas season, rather than in the “to do lists” we all have for the holidays? Let’s make more of presence than of presents; of the beauty in our loved ones than in our homes; of God’s good gifts than in our wish lists.

Blessings to you this Christmas!

Kicking and Screaming!

“I don’t want to miss this wedding and time with family; but all I really want to do is stay home and unpack more boxes.”

Don and I had committed to a family wedding months ago. But as I surveyed our new home, I felt overwhelmed with the need to get the boxes emptied and their contents put away. We’d moved just two weeks earlier and the house was still a bit chaotic, as was the state of my mind.

For the past few months I’ve had trouble sleeping every 2nd, 3rd or 4th night. When that happens I get up and work. I’ve unpacked up to 10 boxes during the night before finally falling asleep sometime between 2:30 and 4 am. My awake times are usually quite productive but of course, the following day(s) I’m not worth much.

Fatigued as I get, I still have a choice to make. Will I grumble and grouse, or will I choose to remain positive (perhaps quietly so!), knowing those around love me dearly (and I them); and that the next night offers another opportunity for rest.

So with all that was on my mind I was concerned about attending a wedding with dark-rimmed eyes after a sleepless night or two.

At the rehearsal dinner, I mentioned my need for prayer for insomnia. Several offered to pray for me. That night I slept eight good hours. After the wedding Saturday, I slept eleven hours! I am so grateful for the prayers of others, and for the weekend away. Although I left home kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking), Don and I both needed this total break from packing and moving and unpacking to get some much needed rest. The wedding was beautiful, and we loved the time we spent with family members all weekend–precious time not to be missed!

Moving is stressful. I was interested in the responses of others to my question about the hardest part of their last move. Some were funny, like “getting out of the recliner”. But others talked about the physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of storage, the boxes everywhere and no floor space, and thinking they were finished only to find more boxes to unpack. One mentioned moving an upright piano, and still another, losing their community of friends and prayer partners. Leaving a home you loved, friends and a church community, as well as doctors and other service providers, is a challenge.

We’ve been home from the wedding a week now and I’ve continued to sleep well. I imagine that’s partly because we’re feeling more relaxed. Critical items are unpacked, the house is taking shape, and we can now work at a less pressured rate. My insomnia seems to have been related to having too much on my mind, and having a hard time letting go of those thoughts. And God’s grace, through the prayers of family and friends, helped me let go and sleep. What a blessing!

It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2