What is your focus today?

Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once – art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on.  And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the “good” hiding the “best” even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.

It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies.  Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning?  Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day?  Does this test not give the clue?  Then dare to have it out with God – and after all, that is the shortest way.  Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focussed on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocussed good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.*–excerpts from “Focussed” by I. Lilias Trotter

Distractions abound these days, even more so than in Lilias Trotter’s time–home, school, family, friends, work, church functions and ministries, books, magazines, and newspapers, music, movies, and television, phones, tablets, and computers, and so forth.

How hard it is in this busy world with all of its noise and news and amusements to stop and sit at the feet of Jesus, to be still and know that He is God, to quiet your heart and mind so that you might hear His voice.

A favorite hymn from my childhood, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, was written when the author, Helen H. Lemmel, read this pamphlet by Lilias Trotter.  The chorus of this hymn is a reminder of how we can learn to focus on the eternal things:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

I pray that you would turn your eyes upon Jesus today and that, as you gaze upon Him and His grace and glory, you would choose the best things, not merely the good.

*To read the entire pamphlet, Focussed, go here.

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Counting my blessings

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One of the ways I have learned to feel the contentment I talked about the other day is to count my blessings.  No matter how difficult my circumstances have been, I can usually find at least one thing that warms my day.  I call them simple pleasures, and if you begin to look for them, you will find that your life is full of them.  You only need to develop the habit of noticing.

I would also sing the hymn Count Your Blessings as a way to remind myself to be thankful and content:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

—Johnson Oatman, Jr.

Today’s blessings are a cup of pistachio almond tea, a batch of homemade applesauce, loaves of oatmeal bread rising in the oven, a new Charles Todd mystery to read, and a rainy Saturday afternoon in which to enjoy them. 

What are your simple pleasures and blessings today?

Like a River Glorious

 

I was thinking about my grandmother tonight as I was driving through town.  An old hymn came to mind and while I was singing it softly to myself, I remembered that it was a favorite of hers.  Her name was Gladys but everyone called her “Glad.”  I think that she was the happiest, most cheerful person I’ve ever known.  We had a joke in our family that when someone exclaimed that they were glad about something, the answer was always, “You’re not glad, Grandma’s “Glad.”  The name fit her so well that no one else could claim it.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that while part of her cheeriness was personality, a lot of her “gladness” was due to her love for Jesus and what He had done for her.  She used to sit at her piano and play and sing hymns, she always talked about how much she loved the Lord, and I believe that He put that gladness in her heart as a result of her great faith and trust in Him.   She was only about five feet tall but while her physical stature was small, her faith was enormous.

It wasn’t until tonight that I paused to wonder if my parents named me “Joy” in part because of Grandma.  I was a bubbly, cheerful child who loved to laugh and play music and sing, like Grandma.  My parents could not have known my personality before I was born and just like Grandma, part of my cheerfulness was due to personality, but I, too, have a depth of joy and gladness that comes not just from my personality but from my relationship with my Lord.  His goodness and mercy and love towards me fill my heart to overflowing with gladness.  I inherited more than my love of music, recipes for “Grandpa cookies” and authentic New England clam chowder, memories of climbing roses, johnny jump-ups and a hillside of sweet-peas, knowledge of basic crochet stitches, and a pin with photos of my father and grandfather; my heritage is a rich one of generations of people who know the deep, abiding joy that comes with knowing Christ.

So, as I sang the old hymn, I remembered Grandma and how she loved this hymn and it reminded me of how much the Lord has given me, not only from my grandmothers and grandfathers, father and mother, and other family members but perfect peace and rest and trust in Him.

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way.

Refrain

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Refrain

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

–Frances Havergal

 

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need

I have lost count of the number of times my pastor has said those words from the pulpit.  Over and over again, he reminds of us our Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us every day, who chastens us to create in us the peaceable fruit of righteousness, and who never leaves nor forsakes us.  What a comfort to know that no matter what the trials we may face, they will only bring about good in our lives because our loving Heavenly Father has us in His hand and because all of His wrath has already been poured out on Christ so that only love and care is left for us.  Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

For those of us in pain, in difficulties, in confusion, in fear, as well as for those of us who seemingly have it all together, here is the hymn we sang this morning:

 

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

by Fanny Crosby

 

All the way my Savior leads me;

What have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy,

Who through life has been my Guide?

Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,

Here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know, whate’er befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well,

For I know, whate’er befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well.

 

All the way my Savior leads me,

Cheers each winding path I tread,

Gives me grace for every trial,

Feeds me with the living bread.

Though my weary steps may falter,

And my soul athirst may be,

Gushing from the Rock before me,

Lo! a spring of joy I see,

Gushing from the Rock before me,

Lo! a spring of joy I see.

 

All the way my Savior leads me;

Oh, the fullness of His grace!

Perfect rest to me is promised

In my Father’s blest embrace.

When my spirit, clothed immortal,

Wings its flight to realms of day,

This my song through endless ages:

Jesus led me all the way,

This my song through endless ages:

Jesus led me all the way.

 

April is Poetry Month – Good Friday

Why is this called “Good” Friday when the most holy, righteous, perfect man who ever lived was cruelly killed?  It is “good” because he voluntarily gave His life so that you and I might live.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

I have a poem and a hymn today to help us meditate on His sacrifice:

 

The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

East Coker, IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we fell
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s, curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. –Isaac Watts

 

 

The joy of the Lord is my strength

This morning as I was driving to church, I was listening to this song based on Nehemiah 8:10:

“Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
And I will not waiver, walking by faith
He will be strong to deliver me safe
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

–Twila Paris

No matter what is occurring in our lives, whether the circumstances are good or difficult, whether there is sorrow or joy, pain or health, weakness or wholeness, the Lord Himself is our Joy and our Strength in the midst of every minute of each day.  That is something for which we can praise Him and be thankful.