Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

Sweet Thoughts from Face Book Friends

Face Book is mainly a joy to me because I love to see photos of my friends and their families and hear all the news, but it’s also just plain fun at times, because there are so many crazy jokes going around, and it’s also uplifting to read the encouraging thoughts that friends share. Today I want to share some of these inspiring thoughts with  you: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15).

Everywhere You Go There’s a Zacchaeus Up a Tree

I think everybody needs to keep a book handy in their purse or pocket…or at the very least, on their cell phone.  🙂  On our recent trip to India and Nepal, I kept Everywhere You Go There’s a Zacchaeus Up a Tree: Small Town Faith and Words of Wisdom tucked away for quiet moments while waiting at the airport for flights or at the hotels for folks to gather for meals or meetings. The book contains a dozen dozen (as in 144, but not a dirty dozen, a clean and uplifting dozen dozen) pithy devotionals—quick and easy to read, but with a punch that refreshed me like a glass of…well…punch! The stories where lovingly edited by Timothy Campbell from the portfolio of his father, Roger Campbell. Roger left a lifetime legacy of stories and thoughts as a pastor, author, radio broadcaster, and newspaper columnist who was published in over a hundred papers.  The book starts with “Five to Help You Thrive” (which I found right on) and “Leaving That Old Baggage Behind” (pretty apropos for someone on a trip, huh?).

If you’re looking for a devotional book not quite so old-fashioned and classic as  L.B. Cowman’s beloved Streams in the Desert, but something that still carries the aroma of small town America and the quiet joys of life from yesteryears, you might really enjoy the honeyed heartbeat of Roger Campbell as he explores life, faith, and love through the past 30+ years with an ageless wisdom that still rings true in 2017.

In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me (Psalm 56:10-11).

Rise Up, My Love (254): What Are Some New and Old Fruits We Can Give?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “…and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.” The term translated “pleasant fruits” in the KJV is the Hebrew word meged which means “costly” or “precious,” and the idea of fruit is interpolated, since it is not in the original text. (So, do you suppose it was really sushi? Just kidding!) Sapan is the Hebrew term translated “laid up” and means “to hide or to conceal.”*

Since the phrase “pleasant fruits” used in 4:16 is most often thought to be alluding metaphorically to marital bliss, most commentators interpret these costly delicacies—so carefully hidden away by the bride for her husband—to be the offerings of her own personal affections. As a wife, I can easily imagine that a husband would prize the offerings of love more highly than gifts of fresh and dried fruits, but—whether taken figuratively or literally—the invitation is a triple delight!  🙂

First, Solomon’s wife offers all types of that which is pleasantly appealing. Second, she offers both old and new delights. And third, she offers fruits which she has lovingly stored away just for him. “All manner of pleasant fruits…” All—every—not just some or a few favorite, but some of each of those that delight. Nothing held back; nothing excused; nothing missing. Oh, that our hearts might produce and store up for our beloved all the fruits that will delight him!  “New and old…” Here is a woman who knows what her husband loves but who continues to be freshly creative in finding new ways of pleasing him. Based on her experience of what he has loved in the past, she prepares for him a wealth of his “old favorites,” but that isn’t enough to satisfy her! She has experimented with new fruits that she believes will delight him also. Isn’t that the true nature of love? It is ever constant, yet constantly expanding…ever soothing by its familiarity, yet ever fresh and refreshing.

And spiritually, what could the new and old fruits be? Well, it has been said that “love is the golden thread that binds all together,” so surely it is a new fruit as well as an old fruit. Love is the first fruit, and the last fruit. It is the first work, and without it, any other work becomes “tinkling brass” without meaning or “a sounding gong” without melody. The bride has certainly demonstrated love in her plans and preparations.

What else? New fruits…old fruits. If I were thinking literally about my household, I would say that new fruits are mangoes and kiwis and old fruits are dates and raisins. Do you think that’s what the Bible is talking about? Let’s think beyond the literal story to its possible allegorical, spiritual meaning. New fruits…new efforts, new converts brought to Christ, new zeal and deepening commitment, fresh understanding about who he is and what his Word means, new enthusiasm to serve him, new appreciation for all his blessings and protections, new awareness of how much his presence means to us, a new sense of reverence for the majesty of his person, which rises in us like a great tidal wave sweeping over our souls.

Ah, how he longs for us to go on in our faith, learning new things about him and recognizing the new mercies that he lavishes on us morning by morning! How he wants us to conquer new territory, praying with Jabez: “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain” (1 Chronicles 6:10, NIV). New surrender, new courage, new hope, new strength, new confidence, new endurance. How our Lord longs for us to prepare such gifts for him!

And, what about old fruits? What might they be? Old honors and successes…not clinging to them in pride, but instead recognizing that it is not we ourselves but rather Jesus who does all things well and works through us to perform his good pleasure… looking ever forward to Christ alone as the goal and prize for which we strive. Old forgiveness…taking the sins that he’s forgiven and casting them behind our backs forever, refusing to ever speak or even think of them again…not only the sins that we’ve committed but the sins that others have committed against us.   Old saints, ripening for heaven, and old parents (whether saved or unsaved) who brought us up…do we truly give them the place of reverential honor that they deserve? Or, do we tend to blame them for our failures and despise their ever-increasing frailty and need for help? Wow. I believe God wants us to honor our earthly fathers and mothers as a reflection of the honor we feel for our heavenly Father. That’s a big one, but that is certainly an “old fruit” that we could store up to please our Lord!  Not only is it the cup of cold water given to a child in his name that pleases our Lord, it is the cup of kindness poured out to the elderly…that extra sacrificial time we take to bring them into our homes, to read to them, to talk to them, to pray with them, to bring them into our confidence. I had two very aged and needy parents when I wrote this (years ago now), and there was nothing that meant more to my father than just having me sit at his bedside, hold his hand, and spend some time with him. If we try to minister to our parents with the same tender love with which we’d attend Christ…that is a gift for him!

Indeed, in all of life, may the good that is produced in and through us be “laid up” all for Jesus, and for him alone.

“Thou God and I, none other:
Oh far from men to be!
Nay, midst the crowd and tumult,
Still Lord alone with Thee.
Still folded close upon Thy breast,
In field and mart and street.
Untroubled in that perfect rest,
That isolation sweet.”
(—L.M. McPhee, in The Romance of the Ages)

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.

Learning to Accept~This is Where I Leave You

(-By guest author, Jane Anderson)

It’s been a while now, but I still remember the effect. My breath caught as I heard the title of a new movie showing in theaters. This Is Where I Leave You.

How often has my mind wandered the void of an empty room, sensed the hollow feeling trailing a wave, felt the finality of a closed door? Have you ever spent time with someone you love, seizing every moment before their journey takes them one direction while yours takes another?  You knew the words were coming but couldn’t bear to hear them, “This is where I leave you.”

If you’re breathing, you know the hopeless feeling of saying goodbye, or maybe you avoid the goodbye, choosing instead the softer, “See ya later.” I recently talked to a friend whose youngest child went off to college leaving her with nobody to drop off or pick up at school, no sporting events claiming every weekday evening and a pretty lonely dinner table. There will be holidays and long weekends, but this season has brought new colors to the landscape – not the colors she is ready for.

Four years ago when my grandson joined the Marines we said goodbye to him as he left for 13 weeks of Basic Training. He insisted on no tears and we bravely complied … up until he said, “Well, this is where I leave you.” There are too many events in our life where the only option demands a deep breath and courageous goodbye. Our lives occur in such a blur that looking back we see short vignettes of what used to be. We preserve snatches of remembrances as a salve to soothe our aching hearts in moments when we feel regrettable loss. Life happens when we aren’t looking and we call it memory. We would be wise to honor our present moments and continually ask ourselves, “How do I want to remember this moment?”  Sometimes it isn’t goodbye that rocks our world, but it’s our habits, lifestyle, and what we are accustomed to. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? Just when we feel comfortable, when we seem to be on the right track, at the time we’re most confident and we’ve achieved consistency in our routines – something changes! We can dread change. We can even be afraid of change because we know how it feels. Routine is comfortable, it means stability.  God gives us some insight into how futile it is to dwell on fear of change. One observation is shared in Lamentations 3:19, “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable.” You know? Life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, gain and loss. Yes, there is also the dreaded goodbyes. But we choose our attitudes. We can be miserable or we can choose to believe what God said in 1 Samuel 12:22, “The Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.”   We all know someone who has been through change after change in their life yet their faith has not faltered. We admire people who have suffered through fire and emerge with their joy intact. Faced with changes and an uncertain future, what separates the joyful from the joyless? Maybe it starts with believing that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. Then deepen your faith and believe that God keeps his promises. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Life is a contact sport and sometimes we really get beat up. Sometimes tightly gripping what we had in the past only creates defeat in our present and trouble in our future. We need to let go – to relinquish what was. We need to say, “This is where I leave you.” Believe the words of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

New perspectives don’t magically materialize, nor do problems evaporate. There will always be changes we disagree with, challenges we can’t wish away.  Our tender hearts will be broken by the dreaded goodbye; we will lose parts of us we know we can’t live without, but in these times we must trust in the God that is bigger than all our terrifying problems and wider than the hollow left vacant by changes we didn’t want.  I’ve heard that the Bible commands 365 times to “Fear not.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. We know from 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God didn’t give us a fear of failing, or fear of change, or fear of loss. Be courageous. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

 So this is where I leave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you” (Contemporary English Version).

(Amen, and thank you, Jane!)

Even in Crisis

(Used by permission of a young friend awaiting her wedding day, Debbie R.)

I’ve been wanting to write down some of my thoughts from these past couple weeks, but I’ve always found writing to be a difficult thing for me. For anyone who knows me, I’m not a writer, I’m a… yeah, that’s right, a talker. Been teased about that my whole life, but here I go…

Since my surgeries two weeks ago I’ve had a hymn from childhood and a few verses continually on my mind.
“The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell…

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.”

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35‭, ‬37‭-‬39 ESV

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬11 ESV

Life certainly took a turn a few weeks ago when I got sick. There I was just six weeks from getting married and so excited to get all the final pieces together and just finally marry my love, mi vida, the man who is God’s best for me.

And then it happened; the realization that I had to go in to emergency because something was terribly wrong. After a couple days of tests and switching hospitals, we heard some of the hardest words to hear a doctor say, “We have to do surgery.” At this point I hadn’t eaten in days and had gone below 100 pounds. I looked completely out of it, but I still remember so much of what was going on around me. I remember starting to think about the fact that I was really, truly going to go through surgery again. After ten years, it was happening again. While my very first surgery was also an emergency, this one was different. The surgeon didn’t know what he would find when he opened me up. “What is gonna happen? I’m in a different country; I don’t have my doctor here.” I had this feeling of, “I really might not make it. Surgery is surgery after all.” And then a sense of overwhelming peace came over me. God makes no mistakes. His word will accomplish it’s purpose. If I went to sleep in surgery and woke up in the presence of my Creator, that would be in His plan. And I would be glad. But God, in His mercy guided the surgeons hands in painstakingly untwisting the tangled intestine they found. And when I woke up I was instead in recovery and shortly later saw the faces of those I love. God’s purpose for me here is not finished yet. And I am glad.

Recovery in the hospital after the surgeries wasn’t easy. There were ups and downs. The biggest low was hearing the surgeon say that an October 7 wedding was too soon. But I was fine. I talked with Wilmer and we decided to postpone it for December 2. Emotionally I was handling everything incredibly well. What happened to the extremely passionate person who overreacts to literally everything? Well, let me tell you something. These past few months have been difficult for me. Little things with health and wedding plans and legal paperwork for getting married in Colombia had been hitting me left and right. I would get so frustrated and at times even mad at God for how things were going. And yet, with everything God had it in His control and proved His faithfulness to me in these smaller things one after the other. He was preparing me for what was coming next. And because He did, I could trust Him and I knew of His love for me. I could only be grateful that He spared my life.

My uncle just wrote me very encouraging words this morning, “Nothing is wasted nothing is by accident all by His design to draw your real heart into His … run for Him and never stop.” Are you running for Him? Are you drawing close to Him? Are you living every single day of your life for Him? Please don’t wait for a crisis to happen to realize what is important in life. God has you here for a purpose. Share the love of God to those around you. Don’t waste your life. And ultimately, God’s purpose for you is to conform you into the image of Christ. Let Him do it; don’t resist it. The road can be tough at times, but it is so SO worth it. He will never leave your nor forsake you. He who promised is faithful.

I hope you have been encouraged by these words. I write them with love for all of you in my life. Thank you so much for the prayers, the encouragement and the visits. Thank you to my fiance, who though hasn’t said any vows to me yet has proved to be there “in sickness and in health.” A huge thank you to my parents who have always been there for me, took turns spending the nights with me in the hospital, asked questions and made sure they knew everything that was going on, and who have loved me more than words can express. Thank you to my brother, Mark, for also taking turns being with me and spending some nights in the hospital. Thanks also to my boss, Shawna, who spent one night with me to give my parents a break. And lastly, to the surgeons, doctors and staff at Hospital Universitario Nacional de Colombia for their expertise and care. (Thank you, Debbie, for letting me share your story! May the Lord bless you two with a long and fruitful marriage…soon!!! 🙂 )

Please Share With Us!

I’ve noticed that our fellowship of Summer Setting readers includes members from around the world representing  many different nations and occupations, including ministers and those retired from ministry, students, professionals, moms and dads, and many people who are writers, poets, or otherwise enjoy writing. Every once in a while, someone writes to ask if I ever accept essays for my blog written by others, and I want to assure you, the answer is a resounding: Yes! If you’re a reader and have something you’d like to share, please send it to me!

The parameters are:
1.  The material needs to be true to the Bible and hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.
2.  Submissions can be any length, but unless it’s a short poem (which can work fine), most posts are between 250-600 words.
3.  If you have a photo (or photos) to illustrate, please include them.
4.  Because the goal of Summer Setting is to uplift and encourage people in their faith, it would be ideal to have a scripture verse that relates to your topic. If you can’t think of one, I’ll try to come up with something appropriate.
5. Send your text and photos to me as an email. (My address is my entire name written out as one word [kathrynwarmstrong] at gmail.) I’ll proof it and send it back to you for your approval. We can work together until we’re both happy.  Interested? Please don’t be shy! Take up your pen and share with our fellowship! The mysterious Body of Christ is both local and universal, and as such, we can all minister to each other without degrees or credentials! It’s not who we are, but what the Lord is teaching us!!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

A Little Thought About Being Thankful

Last year for Christmas I received a beautiful, velvety fleece blanket that matches our bedroom colors perfectly and is about as soft as a cloud. I keep it over the back of my favorite reading chair and snuggle into it every chilly morning when Alan and I settle in for our devotional time. Even in the summer it’s been a particular source of comfort, since my chair is next to the window, and often early morning temperatures are quite cool.  I’m sure I thanked Dan and Brianna when they first gave it to me, but almost every morning I think to myself, “I need to write them a note just to let them know how much I love their blanket!” However, every morning after rearranging the blanket, I’d hurry off to make breakfast and promptly forget my good intentions. Until today. Today I finally remembered to do something about it! Ten months later!!

Is there anything in your life like that? Any kindness that you often remember but never take time to acknowledge? I read the story of the ten lepers and wonder why nine of them failed to return and thank Jesus for healing them, and yet—I’m no different! But, they were excited! They wanted to share the good news with their loved ones. They were busy—they needed to go to the temple to be declared “clean” again. They were…just like me! So caught up in the routines of life’s business that I fail to stop and just express my gratefulness to those who are blessings in my life. Even more—I fail to thank God for the daily abundance He gives me. May I (we) become people whose hearts overflow with gratitude, and who take the time to thank God and those who bless us!

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
because his mercy endureth for ever
” (Psalm 118:1)