Making His Music

By |2020-09-10T09:05:02-04:00September 10th, 2020|

Choral director Arianne Abela spent her childhood sitting on her hands—to hide them. Born with fingers missing or fused together on both hands, she also had no left leg and was missing toes on her right foot. A music lover and lyric soprano, she’d planned to major in government at Smith College. But one day her choir teacher asked her to conduct—which made her hands quite visible. From that moment, she found her career, going on to conduct church choirs and serving now as Director of Choirs at another university. “My teachers saw something in me,” Abela explains.

Her inspiring story invites believers to ask, What does God our Holy Teacher see in us, regardless of our “limits”? More than all, He sees Himself. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 nlt).

As His glorious “image bearers,” when others see us, we should reflect Him. For Abela, that meant Jesus, not her hands—or her lack of fingers—matters most. The same is true for all believers. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image,” says 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Similar to Abela, we then can conduct our lives by Christ’s transforming power (v. 18), offering a life song that rings out to the glory of God.

God Understands

By |2020-09-05T09:05:02-04:00September 5th, 2020|

After a recent move, Mabel’s seven-year-old son, Ryan, fussed as he prepared to attend a summer camp at his new school. Mabel encouraged him, assuring him that she understood change was hard. But one morning, Ryan’s out-of-character grumpiness seemed excessive. With compassion, Mabel asked, “What’s bothering you, Son?”

Staring out of the window, Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. I just have too many feelings.”

Mabel’s heart ached as she comforted him. Desperate for a way to help him, she shared that the move was hard for her too. She assured Ryan that God would stay close, that He knows everything, even when they couldn’t understand or voice their frustrations. “Let’s set up a visit with your friends before school starts,” she said. They made plans, grateful that God understands even when His children have “too many feelings.”

The writer of Psalm 147 experienced overwhelming emotions throughout his faith journey and recognized the benefits of praising the all-knowing Maker and Sustainer of all, the Healer of physical and emotional wounds (vv. 1–6). He praised God for the ways He provides and “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).

When we’re struggling to make sense of our ever-changing emotions, we don’t have to feel alone or discouraged. We can rest in the unconditional love and unlimited understanding of our unchanging God.

Irrational Fears

By |2020-09-03T09:05:02-04:00September 3rd, 2020|

It makes no logical sense, but when my parents died within a three-month period, I feared they would forget me. Of course they were no longer on earth, but that left me with a large uncertainty. I was a young, unmarried adult and wondered how to navigate life without them. Feeling really single and alone, I sought God.

 

One morning I told Him about my irrational fear and the sadness it brought (even though He knew it already). The Scripture passage that came in my reading for the day was Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast . . . ? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (v. 15). God reassured His people through Isaiah that He had not forgotten them and later promised to restore them to Himself through sending His Son Jesus. But the words ministered to my heart too. It’s rare for a mother or a father to forget their child, yet it’s possible. But God? No way. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” He said.

 

God’s answer to me could have brought more fear. But the peace He gave because of His own remembrance of me was exactly what I needed. It was the start of discovering that God is even closer than a parent or anyone else, and He knows the way to help us with everything—even our irrational fears.

The Whispering Gallery

By |2020-09-02T09:05:02-04:00September 2nd, 2020|

In the towering dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, visitors can climb 259 steps to access The Whispering Gallery. There you can whisper and be heard by another person anywhere along the circular walkway, even across the enormous abyss some thirty meters away. Engineers explain this anomaly as a result of the spherical shape of the dome and the low intensity sound waves of a whisper.

How we long to be confident God hears our agonized whispers! The Psalms are filled with testimonies that He hears us—our cries, prayers, and whispers. David writes, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help” (Psalm 18:6). Over and over again, he and other psalmists plead, “Hear my prayers (4:1), my voice (5:3), the groans” (102:20). Sometimes the expression is more of a whispered, “Hear me” (77:1), where the “heart meditated and the spirit asked” (77:6).

In answer to these pleas, psalmists—like David in Psalm 18:6—reveal that God is listening, “From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Since the actual temple was not yet built, might David have been referring to God listening in his heavenly dwelling?

From his very own “whispering gallery” in the dome of the heavens above the earth, God bends to our deepest murmurs, even our whispers . . . and listens.

God Our Rescuer

By |2020-08-28T09:05:02-04:00August 28th, 2020|

In the open sea, a rescuer positioned her kayak to assist panicked swimmers competing in a triathlon. “Don’t grab the middle of the boat!” she called to swimmers, knowing such a move would capsize her craft. Instead, she directed weary swimmers to the bow, or front, of the kayak. There, they could grab a loop, allowing the safety kayaker to help rescue them.

Whenever life or people threaten to pull us under, as believers in Jesus, we know we have a Rescuer. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep . . . I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:11–12).

This was the prophet Ezekiel’s assurance to God’s people when they were in exile. Their leaders had neglected and exploited them, plundering their lives and caring “for themselves rather than for my flock” (v. 8). As a result, the people “were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them” (v. 6).

But “I will rescue my flock,” declared the Lord (v. 10), and His promise still holds.

What do we need to do? Hold fast to almighty God and His promises. “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them,” he says (v. 11). That’s a saving promise worth holding tight.

Only Trust

By |2020-08-28T15:38:32-04:00August 19th, 2020|

Three hundred children were dressed and seated for breakfast, and a prayer of thanks was offered for the food. But there was no food! Situations like this were not unusual for orphanage director and missionary George Mueller (1805–1898). Here was yet another opportunity to see how the Lord would provide. Within minutes of Mueller’s prayer, a baker who couldn’t sleep the night before showed up at the door. Sensing that the orphanage could use the bread, he had made three batches. Not long afterward, the town milkman appeared. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. Not wanting the milk to spoil, he offered it to Mueller.

It’s normal to experience bouts of worry, anxiety, and self-pity when we lack resources essential to our well-being—food, shelter, health, finances, friendships. First Kings 17:8–16 reminds us that the Lord’s help can come through unexpected sources like a needy widow. “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug” (v. 12). Earlier it was a raven that provided for Elijah (vv. 4–6). Concerns for our needs to be met can send us searching in many directions. A clear vision of God as the Provider who has promised to supply our needs can be liberating. Before we seek solutions, may we be careful to seek Him first. Doing so can save us time, energy, and frustration.

Forever Love

By |2020-05-05T16:19:56-04:00May 10th, 2020|

Years ago, my four-year-old son gave me a framed wooden heart mounted on a metal plate with the word forever painted in its center. “I love you forever, Mommy,” he said. I thanked him with a hug. “I love you more.” That priceless gift still assures me of my son’s never-ending love. On tough days, God uses that sweet present to comfort and encourage me as He affirms I’m deeply loved...

The One Who Sees

By |2020-04-30T13:48:39-04:00May 3rd, 2020|

“Oh no!” My wife’s voice rang out when she stepped into the kitchen. The moment she did, our ninety-pound Labrador retriever “Max” bolted from the room. Gone was the leg of lamb that had been sitting too close to the edge of the counter. Max had consumed it, leaving only an empty pan. He tried to hide under a bed...

Able to Help

By |2020-04-16T11:55:53-04:00April 17th, 2020|

Joe’s eight-week “break” from his job as a crisis care worker at a New York City church was not a vacation. In his words, it was “to live again among the homeless, to become one of them, to remember what hungry, tired, and forgotten feel like.” Joe’s first stint on the streets had come nine years earlier when he arrived from Pittsburgh without a job or a place to stay...

From Pity to Praise

By |2020-04-14T21:21:58-04:00April 15th, 2020|

At a coat drive for children, excited kids searched gratefully for their favorite colors and proper sizes. They also gained self-esteem, an organizer said, with new coats boosting their acceptance by peers and school attendance on winter days. The apostle Paul seemed to need a coat, as well, when he wrote Timothy, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Timothy 4:13)...

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