Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

Adventures Getting To and From Paradise

Back in 2016 I wrote about flying to Hawaii in January during Storm Jonahs’s record-breaking Snowmeggedon. Despite the terrible weather, Alan and I commuted safely from Michigan to Hawaii. In fact, up until this past trip two weeks ago, Alan and I had never been late for embarkation (or even a tea party) on any cruise, and so we cavalierly assumed the best and made our reservations to minimize any loss of work time for Alan.I might have had an inkling of things to come when I finished packing and had a conversation that went something like this:

(Lord): Did you consult me about how to pack?
(Me, sheepishly): No. 😦  That was dumb. How should I have packed?
(Lord): You should have packed in carry-ons only.
(Me, rather reluctantly): Okay! I will. Thanks for letting me know. I pared stuff down to just the basics. We had trouble both getting down to sunny San Juan and getting home, but it wasn’t until our return flights that I understood the real reason why it was important to pack light. We left during the worst weather of this winter, and our United Airline flight from GR to Chicago got cancelled, then rescheduled through Newark, NJ, but at a time too late to make the ship. In a panic, we called our travel agent, who helped us find different flights via Delta that would go through Atlanta and hopefully get us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in time to board the ship. Gratefully, we clambered aboard the Delta flight. However, the airport didn’t have enough machines to de-ice all the airplanes that needed protection from the severely below zero weather, so by the time our plane was ready to go, we knew we’d never get to Atlanta in time to catch our connecting flight. 😦Our travel agent had gone home by the time we arrived, but a supervisor went to bat for us and found another flight to San Juan, although it didn’t get in until about midnight (four hours after our ship had sailed away that starry night)!Believe it or not, because we’d bought our flights in a package with the cruise, the cruise line (Celebrity) not only paid for our flights but put us up at a hotel during the wee hours so we could get a little sleep before catching an early morning flight to connect with the ship at the next port of call.The flight from San Juan to St. Croix the next morning was beautiful! Alan said it was all worth the bother because it made our trip so memorable! I wasn’t so sure, but hey—doesn’t he have wonderful attitudes?!In retrospect, Alan and I both agreed that this Southern Caribbean cruise was one of the most relaxing vacations we can remember! It was “just what the doctor needed” and a fantastic way to celebrate our 46th anniversary! We slept in every morning, enjoyed delicious breakfasts in the open air on the back deck of the ship, had leisurely devotional times together reading our Bibles, praying, sharing, thinking . . . we even read through an excellent book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children, which gave us a lot of good food for thought.  On top of all that, there was a new jewel of an island to explore every morning (11 ports in 12 days!), and no tenders to contend with (where you have to wait to be ferried to the island), so we could hop off and on the ship whenever we felt like it. The weather was absolutely gorgeous: in the low 80°s every day with a light breeze and warm water. It really did seem like a little taste of paradise, and our only “guilt” was knowing that back home 140,000 friends and relatives in GR were out of power and enduring ice storms and blizzards!  😦               We wished we could transport everyone down to be with us!!  🙂 The return trip home was if anything even more harried, not due to weather, but do to the fact that when we didn’t take our first United flight to Newark, United cancelled ALL our flights, both coming and going. We didn’t know that we should have called to ask them to retain our return trip flights. United had sold our tickets to others and were already overbooked by 5 people! They could get us on standby or at 2:00 am the next morning. Another emergency cry for help went out to our travel agency, who found us 2 seats on a Jet Blue flight that was already in process of boarding. We literally ran from our terminal to theirs in order to make it before they closed the doors. It was too late to check any luggage, BUT, because we had only carry-on luggage, they let us buy tickets and board! Whew!!The rest of the trip was relatively calm, and I had time to reflect on God’s quiet question to me as I packed: “Did you consult me about how to pack?” It was just a still, small voice, the way the Lord usually speaks. Probably if I hadn’t packed so light, I would still have gotten home at some point, but not that day, and not without a lot more hassle! I am so thankful that the Lord invites us to ask Him for wisdom. We have no clue what tomorrow (or even today) will hold, but He does.  If you haven’t invited Him into your thoughts and plans, may I encourage you to pray and ask God to become your God?! There is no One like Him! He knows the end from the beginning, and He is good to those who put their trust in Him. He alone is worthy of being our Savior, our Lord, and our God!

Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me” (Isaiah 45:21).

 

4,000 Days

Last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who converted from Hinduism a few weeks ago. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that if Alan were to die suddenly, it would take me a long time to recover.  She looked at me wide-eyed, and said,”You speak of death so calmly. Hindus are so afraid to die that they don’t even like to use the word. They avoid thinking about it so much that they often won’t even go to the doctor for a diagnosis or treatment if they think they might have a terminal illness like cancer.”   I was surprised! Somehow, I imagined it might be reassuring to think that after you die, you’ll be reincarnated into another being that will live again on this earth, but apparently that’s false, because no matter how hard you try, you don’t know if you’ll come back as a person of similar rank.  You might return instead as someone from a lower caste, or as an animal.  For those of  us who recognize our propensity for failure, the thought of unending cycles of life attempting to attain perfection sounds impossibly difficult, and after visiting the homeland of Hinduism,  I can only imagine the horror one might feel at the thought of becoming an untouchable or an animal in a difficult environment.  In contrast, I believe (as the Bible teaches) that God has given each of us a certain (undisclosed) number of days to live on earth, and then we will depart. For all whose spirits have been “born again” through faith in Christ, their spirits will never die: “Jesus said unto her [Martha], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). In contrast to Hindus, Christians believe that no matter how old or young we are when we die, our spirits will go immediately into the presence of God: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is the great hope of believers and takes away the terror of physical death!  Nevertheless, we all face the prospect of death, and even if we’re not afraid of dying, I’m sure none of us relish the prospect of the pain normally associated with the dying process. At least, I do not! Still, we have to face up to the hard realities of life, the hardest of which is probably that life on earth will end. In that vein, Alan recently remembered that years ago an actuary spun our numbers and came up with the statistically probability of Alan’s dying at age 79. The other day, “for fun,” Alan calculated how many days that would be from the date of his considerations, and it came out to about 4,015 days. That makes today approximately 4,000 days from his  . . . what shall I call it? Expiration date? Due date? Graduation Day!”  Ya, let’s think of it as a day to celebrate our passing from this life into the presence of Jesus! If you’re still quite young, you might not have any known statistical probability for how long you’ll live, but let’s say you’ll live to the same age as your oldest favorite relative. How many days do you have left? For me, that might give me 9,490± days. If you’re 20 today, you might have over 25,000 left! Regardless of how many days each of us actually has left (since I could easily die before Alan despite statistical probabilities), Alan and I have been intentionally trying to make every day very special, and it’s really made us more determined than ever to use each day wisely and well!

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

(All photos taken on our Gate 1 Discovery Tour of “Incredible India and Nepal.”)

 

The Commands of Christ (15): Go Call Thy Husband

Do you have a husband? If not, then maybe this command is not for you . . . or maybe it is, because the Samaritan woman to whom Jesus was speaking didn’t really have a husband either. But, she had a significant other in her life, and Jesus was concerned about both of them. In fact, Jesus is concerned about all of us—regardless of gender, marital status, or even present lifestyle. The woman at the well was coy. She was practiced at the art of deception, even using the letter of the law to her advantage. When Jesus told her to go call her husband and come back with him, she responded, “I have no husband.”This was technically true, but it didn’t fool Jesus. He knew the woman wasn’t really free and single, as she might have hoped to appear. She could have competed with almost anybody in Hollywood for number of marriages attempted and failed:  “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17-18). Busted! If she’d had any hope of alluring Jesus into becoming her seventh man, she realized it wasn’t going to work.However, Jesus had a better type of love to offer, but he wasn’t going to offer it to her without demanding that she share the good news with others. Faith isn’t meant for our own healing alone; God always tells us to go and call those closest to us so they can share in the love of Christ with us!Herein lies the  splendor and severity of Jesus’ command! His holy, healing love—better than any earthly love—isn’t meant to be hidden within our hearts and minds. To be genuine, it must be proclaimed to those nearest and dearest to us. Jesus calls to everyone, regardless of their spiritual condition, but he calls us to come into the light, to walk in the light, and to obey his commands. Then, and only then, can we have true fellowship with him, and with one another!This meant that, in order for the Samaritan woman to find the secret of living water to satisfy her longing soul, she would have to involve her significant other, and together, they would have to come to Jesus. Was she ready to do that?

If you are living in sexual intimacy with someone who is not your spouse, are you ready to come together to Christ and do whatever He asks you to do? I pray that you will. The commands of God aren’t given to restrict us or make us miserable. They are given to teach us how to live in holiness, which will bring true love, joy, and peace to us, to the glory to God. Don’t be afraid of “the best!” It’s better than whatever lesser option we may be clinging to!

Text for this meditation: John 4:16-18. “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”

Other verses to ponder:If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret(Ephesians 5:1-12, ESV).

Twin Talk

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

(—This has been shared and re-shared on Face Book, but I can’t track it down to the original author. If you know who the author is, would you please let me know so I can ask their permission and give proper credit? I think it’s brilliant!  🙂  )

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (13): Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Although they say that seeing is believing, believing isn’t always based on seeing, particularly when we’re wrestling with mysterious things like love and wind. There are both visible and invisible realities, and to fully grasp life, we have to explore the abstract and intangible as well as the physically accessible . . . the black holes in the universe—and in our hearts.

Nicodemus was a religious leader among the Jews who was trying to understand the mind and mission of the masterful new teacher in town. Nicodemus had heard about Jesus and recognized that there was more to him than met his eyes. Who was he really? What were his political intentions? Jesus healed people of physical and spiritual ailments, but unlike modern healers, who could only cure some people, Jesus healed everyone, even those who had been blind and lame from birth. No one before (or since) had been able to heal every single person who came to him for help. Jesus was unique throughout time and history.  But, Jesus was complicated, and many of area rabbis felt wary of him. Nicodemus wasn’t really on a midnight mission to understand healing. (Even though he needed spiritual healing, Nicodemus was blind to his need.) Instead, his mission was to understand what the kingdom of God was all about, and if Jesus was planning to usher it in. Jesus knew this, so rather than wasting time discussing his credentials as a healer, Jesus answered the unspoken question in Nicodemus’s heart: How do I become a part of the kingdom of God?

As a scholar, Nicodemus doubtless knew the prophecy from Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Nicodemus may have heard Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of his public ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Perhaps Nicodemus was even present when the curious crowd heard Jesus’ famous sermon on the Mount of Olives: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

What was this kingdom of God? Do you know? If you could be a part of God’s kingdom, would you want to be? I think Nicodemus wanted to be, although probably he was expecting a literal, physical kingdom that would replace the oppressive rule of Rome, because he didn’t understand what Jesus said. As in so many conversations recorded, Jesus was answering questions before Nicodemus could ask them—proving over and over (as He does for us at times) that He sees into that abstract, intangible, black hole in our hearts. Before Nicodemus had a chance to ask, Jesus answered: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Okay, so where do I go with that? I have no clue what this teacher is talking about! I’m way too old to be born into this world as a baby again . . . so is it too late for me?

I’m talking about spiritual rebirth, not physical. This isn’t something you can see. Spiritual rebirth is like the wind: You can see the results of it, but you can’t see it. Like the wind fluttering in the breeze, so we can understand that the Spirit of God is moving by the way it makes our hearts flutter. God’s heavenly Spirit enlivens our spirits from a sleepless death, so we wake up to the fact that we have been denying His existence and have lived our lives without His love and care! We are overwhelmed by His glory and goodness, and it causes us to grieve over all the years we’ve wasted and the great loss of living without His amazing embrace! We cry out to Him to forgive us for being so blind and dumb. We’re struck blind by His radiant glory and fall at his feet, begging for mercy and healing so that we can see again. He heals us, and we can see again, but it’s with new eyes. A new heart that beats with a pacemaker implanted by God’s own Spirit. New lungs that breathe heavenly air. New lips that only want to sing his praises. New life that feels so much passion for our ineffable God that we want to shout to the world that He is the divine healer who alone is worthy of all honor, and glory, and praise, and worship. We are born again into the kingdom of God. We have become His child. He is our Father. We have a new family with numberless brothers and sisters from ages past to the present and into the future! It’s all too wonderful to explain . . . but we cry out like a baby bursting from the womb!    Okay, so I kind of understand . . . a little. Take it back. I still don’t get it. I like what I hear, but just how can this happen?

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Well, do you remember what happened in the wilderness when Moses was leading the people? They were all grumbling and complaining against God, so God sent  swarms of poisonous snakes that started biting and killing everybody. The people had no cure for their loved ones who were bitten, and in terror for their own lives as well, some of them ran to Moses, begging for help. Moses prayed to God, and God told Moses to make a brass serpent and put it up high in the air on a pole. All the people had to do was look up at the snake on the pole, and if they believed enough to be willing to look, they would live! That doesn’t make sense, but it worked. Remember? You’re not going to completely understand this until after I am lifted up on a cross and die, but this is all you have to do to be born again: Repent of your sins and believe. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, so look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Believeth thou this?

Ye Must Be Born Again
(—William T. Sleeper, 1881, Public Domain)

A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

2. Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.

3. O ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.

4. A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see,
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

                      Text for Today’s Meditation: John 3:1-22
 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

The Uniqueness of God’s Corpse Flower

The Amorphophallus titanum/aka “corpse flower,” native only to rain forests of Sumatra and Java, is among the world’s most fascinating plants. It has a humongous  bract that makes it look like the world’s most gigantic flower. By botanical definition, however, the Rafflesia arnoldii (known as the “corpse lily” and also native to Sumatra) actually holds the world’s record for plant with the largest flower (as opposed to a bract), which can be 3+ feet in diameter.  Still the corpse flower definitely holds the world’s record for the largest corm (339 pounds in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) and the largest “unbranched inflorescence” (a group of flowers arranged on a single, central stem), which can grow up to ten feet high!  These amazing plants became known in the Western Hemisphere about 140 years ago, and since that time, there have been some 100 cultivated blossoms around the world, mostly in botanical gardens.One of the locations is our own Meijer Botanical Garden, here in Grand Rapids, and we enjoyed following the progress of our garden’s corm, affectionately named “Putricia” ( due to the terrible odor reminiscent of rotting meat, which Putricia proudly produces while in bloom to attract unwary carnivorous insects into helping out with her pollination). Putricia was planted at Meijer Garden 18 years ago, and this past July (2018) was the first time she bloomed!  In fact, corpse flowers usually only bloom about once every ten years, and when they do, the full bloom only lasts one day! When I first heard about Putricia, I wondered if one “stinking” flower could be worth all the bother, but after six months, I’m still thinking about her and have decided that seeing the corpse flower was worthwhile . . . and unforgettable!Why? Because it reminds me that no matter how large or small . . . how long lasting or short lived . . . how fragrant or odoriferous . . . I am—and we all are—unique creations of God intended for His pleasure. It doesn’t matter if people come from all over the world to see us . . . or “the world” never takes note of us at all! It doesn’t matter if we’re like an ever blooming rose . . . or bloom like clockwork once a year . . . or if we’re only in full bloom for one day each decade.No matter who we are, we are God’s unique creation, made as He designed us. He takes delight in us, especially as we trust in him. (“The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” [Psalm 147:11].) As this new year begins, may we commit ourselves to resting in being the unique and wondrous blossom that God has created us to be, even though we’re flawed, imperfect, and feel insignificant. Let’s worship Him, reflecting His love and light.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Photo Credits: I took five of the photos on the day we visited Meijer Garden. The photo of the butterfly on an ivory-colored peony was taken in my front yard. The rest were found as follows:

Blooming Corpse Flower photographed at the New York Botanical Garden on June 27, 2018 by Sailing Moose. Found on Wikipedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amorphophallus_titanum_(corpse_flower)_-_2.jpg

Rafflesia arnoldii and black and white photo of corpse flowers found on Wikipedia.

Four side-by-side photos of Putricia courtesy of Meijer Garden’s livestream  found on WOOD TV: https://www.woodtv.com/news/kent-county/meijer-gardens-corpse-flower-nearing-bloom/1290512106

Choosing Joy

She had given up all hope of ever needing to make a blanket for her own baby, it had always been for a friend’s newborn. Just a few more months and she would be holding the son promised to Zachariah, her husband. The angel had appeared to him one day in the temple as he was doing his priestly duties. At first Elisabeth had almost been afraid to believe what the angel had said, yet she fervently hoped it was true.

For years she had suffered the disgrace of barrenness, which to the Jews, was always considered an indication of God’s disfavor. Despite her disappointment of not having any little one to hold in her arms, she and Zachariah had continued to faithfully serve God. Over the years, Elisabeth had learned to find her joy in her Lord, not in her circumstances.  It would have been easy to be bitter or discouraged, instead she had chosen to joyfully serve God.

Smiling again, she carefully stitching the blanket, her musings were interrupted when her cousin, Mary, greeted her as she come into the house. At the same time the baby in her womb seemed to leap for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.

Instantly Elisabeth stood up and blessed Mary, the mother of her Lord, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary stayed with Elisabeth for three months. Elisabeth was one in whom Mary could confide.  Yes, her cousin did understand Mary’s fears. Day by day as they worked together Elisabeth shared her life of joyful service to God. Elisabeth’s long life of trusting God was reassuring to Mary. Elisabeth’s confidence and joy were infused into Mary’s much younger heart.

Elisabeth had learned that her joy was not dependent on circumstances, children, position or wealth but in serving God alone.

What is your response when life isn’t what you had dreamed it would be?  Have you become bitter and angry?  Or have you learned to love and trust God, to obey and serve Him with joy?  Are you able to find joy in Christ alone? Joy is often a choice, it does not always come naturally.

As we study His Word and live in obedience to it, we will understand His character more deeply and find joy in Him.  Then our joy will be contagious to those around us, encouraging them in their not so desirable circumstance or time of trial.

Have you experienced a disappointment and struggling to find joy and peace?  I encourage you to allow “… the God of hope fill you with all joy…”

If you have learned to choose joy, is there someone you can encourage like Elizabeth did Mary, who is struggling in her faith or facing a difficult time in her life?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Romans 15:13.

© Cynthia Wedge 2017 (Cynthia has a wonderful tea shop in Grand Rapids [englishcottagetea.com ]and is also a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers Group. Cynthia writes devotionals to share with her customers at Christmas time and has graciously agreed to share a couple with me because I enjoy them so much! Thank you, Cynthia!)