Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pinwheels



For as long as I can remember Pinwheels were my father’s favorite treats. Large marshmallow cookies shaped like a twirled doorknob and coated all over with a solid fudge shell, my father savored one every night after dinner along with a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

        My father kept his beloved cookies separate from all the other cookies in our house in a special drawer at the bottom of the fridge. These expensive beauties were rarely offered to us kids. They were Daddy’s special treat alone. Heaven help the child who was caught pilfering one of his sacred pinwheels!
        
      Psalm 4:3 reminds me of Daddy’s pinwheels.
“The Lord has set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will hear when I call unto Him.” (KJV)
The Holman Christian bible translates the word godly as “faithful.” 

God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11), He loves everyone just as my dad never met a cookie he didn’t love. Yet just as Daddy had set those pinwheels apart for himself, God sets apart and puts His special seal upon those who cling to Him in love and faith. (Ephesians 1:13)

God’s word says He pays special attention to the prayers of His faithful ones.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17

Those who trust in the Lord with all their heart are exceedingly precious to God.
The Lord looks on the righteous and listens to their cries.” Psalm 34:15

        This verse comforts and assures me that no matter what I am going through, if I am trusting in God and walking in obedience to His word, He hears my prayers and will answer them in His own way and time. He is in control of all that concerns me.
Nothing can happen to me that He does not know about. If I am serving Him, He has set me apart for Himself.  

“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” Psalm 25:14

In fact, God makes this sweeping declaration about those who know and love Him in Psalm 91: “The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

The One who has held the oceans in His hand, who has spanned the heavens with His fingers, who has calculated the dust of the earth in a measure, and has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale, yes, even He who created all the stars and calls them all by name is the same One who created you and me! (Isaiah 40:12)

He is the Everlasting God who counts every hair on your head, collects every tear you cry in a special bottle with your name on it and is recording all your days in His special book that He’s writing about you: 
“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) KJV

King David, was known as a “man after God’s own heart." He wrote many of the psalms in the bible. He was not morally perfect by any standard; he committed adultery and then murdered the woman’s husband. But he loved God with all his heart and soul and mind and being. He worshiped God without a care of what people thought of him. And he humbly confessed and repented of his sins because he would rather die than lose the God he loved.

None of us can be morally perfect in this life. But we can choose to love the Lord our God with all of our being and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

As I studied Psalm 4:3, I discovered that the Hebrew word for “godly” refers to one who loves God passionately in every way, 
as David did, holding nothing back, 
and one who is merciful and kind to one’s neighbor.
And the root word in the Hebrew suggested something even further—the godly is also one who is merciful and kind to oneself.

The definition held even more shades of meaning for it was derived from a root word that meant “brought to shame.” In a broader application, one might infer that the godly, those whom God has chosen out of the world for Himself, are a people 
whom He has rescued from sin, shame, and disgrace. 
These are the redeemed of the Lamb, the ones Jesus Christ paid for with His blood on the cross at Cavalry.

Yes, God has set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will surely hear when those who love Him cry out to Him.
Know that God is for you! No matter what circumstances you might be facing, no matter how dark the tunnel you are in, hear what David, surrounded by murderous enemies, sings:

 “This I know: God is on my side! I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised! I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” Psalm (56:9-10)

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, yet You are also a God of infinite mercy and compassion who gave Your life up for us on the cross that we might live with You forever. Thank You for loving us without measure! Help us to know that You are FOR US, that You hear our prayers and are working out all things that concern us for our good, according to Your will for our lives. We love You. Help us to love You more. For it is in Your name we pray. Amen.

"Pinwheels" © 2012 Suzanne Davis Harden All Rights Reserved. Unto The Least Of These



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Shadow Shelter Of God


I love this Psalm! No one knows for sure who wrote it, but most Bible scholars believe it was penned by either Moses or King David. Some scholars believe that the beautiful shadow image was inspired by the pillar of cloud that hung over the Israelites in the desert by day and the pillar of fire at night.

And yet, the shadow image does not just appear in this psalm. We find it again in Psalms 17:8-9: “Keep me as the apple of Your eye: hide me under the shadow of Your wing.”

Psalm 57:1: “O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge.”

 Psalm 63:7: “Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.”

 All of these psalms using the shadow metaphor were written by King David. All of which suggests to me that psalm 91 was also written by him. But I am not a Bible scholar.

As a visual artist I am always trying to envision the scriptures in my mind as I read because I love to illustrate them. The image of the “shadow of the Almighty” presented a challenge though since 1 John 1:5 says: “God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him.” (NLT) Shadows are clearly dark.

 “Lord, how could Your light produce a shadow?” I asked Him, my mind trying to conjure a literal vision to satisfy my imagination.

The Holy Spirit reminded me that the Psalms are poetry, and that poetry is art made of metaphor, simile, and symbols.
One of my favorite artists, Edgar Whitney, once said that “Art is more concerned with the Truth of a thing than the fact of it.”

The shadow image in Psalm 91:1 reveals a powerful truth about the reality of God that goes far deeper than its literal meaning.
The Psalmist is saying that the shelter of the Most High is God’s shadow. A shadow is similar to a reflection in a mirror in that, although it might be an intangible thing in and of itself, it is always being cast by something that is actually there---a reality on the other side of it.

For King David, known as “the man after God’s own heart,” God’s shadow is the secret place of the Almighty, and that though it is an invisible fortress, a refuge not made with hands, forged of faith, and seen only with the eyes of the heart, it is a Living Truth so strong and powerful that he could bank his very life on it.

Many people love this psalm. We like to claim every one of the verses and imagine we are abiding in the shadow shelter of the Almighty--until the bottom falls out of our lives and we come apart. 

Suddenly we are confronted with a major challenge that reveals to us either a heart of faith as flimsy as the fortress we’ve been trusting in or it moves us closer to the shadow shelter where we come to know that God and God alone is in control and we must be still and trust and wait on Him.

God is asking us to stop trusting in the things we can see—to stop demanding that we be in control of our lives. For that is the very essence of idolatry and it breaks God’s heart.

Our human nature recoils at putting our trust in a shadow fortress. We want a pill to stop our pain, a program to fix the schools, a guaranteed plan to keep us healthy. We want our lives to be predictable.

But what happens when pills no longer stop the pain, when they run out of antibiotics to fight the infection and the doctors can’t fix what’s wrong with us? When schools are falling apart, leaders don’t know what they are doing and no one seems to have the answers?

What happens when all the fortresses we’re trusting in come falling down on us one by one and there is no one to help?
God wants us to know that He is still on the throne; He is in control of our destiny.

He who counts the very hairs on our head and who measures the dust of the earth loves us with an immeasurable love and will never leave or forsake us.

He says, “Be still and know that I am God, trust Me. Come abide in My shadow shelter; all will be well.”

Every single promise in Psalm 91 is true and all are contingent upon our faith in the first two verses. The issue is: do we really believe in them?  

God is very real. A shadow is always an intangible projection of a solid reality beyond itself. God’s shadow is the safest, most comforting place you will ever know.

Prayer: Almighty God of love, thank you for your priceless gift of faith. May you open our eyes to see your shadow shelter and draw us closer to you that we may abide in the secret place of Your heart. In the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.


The Shadow Shelter of God © 2012 Suzanne Davis Harden All Rights Reserved. 
Unto The Least Of These  suzannedavisharden.blogspot.com

*I first shared this message Tuesday, July 17, 2012 on the Encourage 365 Devotional Website; but I wanted to post it on my blog for those who have not had a chance to read it. God bless you!




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where Can I Go From God's Spirit?





It is comforting to know that no matter where I am, God is always with me.
Like the air we breathe, He surrounds us so that anywhere we go in time or space, God is always present. We can never be lost to Him.
 If we are riding high on the heights of heaven and are feeling God’s glorious presence, we have the assurance that He is with us.
But even in those dark times of pain and doubt, God is still there.
 When our spirits have sunk to the depths of hell, and we can no longer feel or see any evidence of God in our lives; He sees us, and He is closer than our breath. His word promises:The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.”(Deuteronomy 33:27)
When our faith is challenged by circumstances, and there is no joy or peace, we may feel as if we are trapped in an endless tunnel of darkness.
But God’s word assures us that He will be with us in the dark times of suffering just as much as He is with us in good times, when there is no pain.
“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You. Psalm 139:11-12
Though pain, suffering, fear, and doubt may have isolated us, He will never forsake us.
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” (Isaiah 49:16)
 If we were to ride to the farthest ends of the earth where we did not know a single soul, God’s Spirit would still be with us, for He cannot lose us. We are ever in His sight.
We need never feel alone. His hand will always guide and support us. May we trust and believe the truths expressed in His word.
 PrayerDear Heavenly Father, thank you that you are always with me and I am never alone. Thank you for your great love for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

© 2012 Where Can I Go From God's Spirit? Suzanne Davis Harden  All Rights Reserved. (Originally Published @ wingsofthemorningpublications.tumblr.com  November 2011)

Monday, July 9, 2012

WHY DO GUYS LOVE INSULTS?



WHY DO GUYS LOVE INSULTS?


“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
    It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
    things far too wonderful for me.” ~Job 42:3

My husband is an enigma. Come to think of it, so is every other man I have ever known. They all seem to share one character trait that has always baffled me.
No matter how much they love God, their wives, their children and their country, when they get around their buddies—and I mean their closest pals—they absolutely LOVE to insult each other.
Now in general, if they are Christians, these insults are G-rated. But they are insults nonetheless and the more intimate these men are in their relationships the more they seem to delight in insulting each other!  
My husband will actually fantasize about how he is going to insult someone he dearly loves. On Facebook I have to watch this man like a hawk because we have a shared page and if he does not put his name beside the comment, someone might assume that I’ve made the remark!

Two of our young married nieces are having a running debate about whose husband is the hottest guy from their county. This has inspired a whirlwind of insulting comments in Mark’s soul! His eyes are positively gleaming as he dreams them up.

 I cautioned him to think before posting anything: “Is it Kind, Is it Helpful, Is it Encouraging?”
Such wifely wisdom was met with the blank stare that gave me to realize that he’d pressed his built in “ignore button;” the one all husbands come pre-loaded with once they’ve signed the marriage contract.

One niece has made a Facebook fan page for a Prized Pig named Mister Pickles. My husband could not wait to compare the "Hottie Husbands" with the Prized Pig!
Have mercy!  I insisted he make it perfectly clear in the comment section that Uncle Mark was making that comparison!

“Oh, Honey, they’ll know it’s me” he grinned—“because I never end MY comments with any of those silly emoticons.”
Every wife comes pre-loaded with certain buttons that a husband learns through trial and error not to push if he wants to maintain peaceful vibes. Mark could tell by my icy stare that he’d just pushed one of those buttons.
A smile, a hug, “Why look, Honey—I’ve added my name, I was just teasing!”

 Of course, he’s also just teasing our nieces about their hubbies and they know it, for all three immediately “liked” his comments; but I worry all the time about my words and how they might affect someone.
The bible says death and life are in the power of the tongue. That is an awesome verse to ponder.
On the other hand, Mark is lighthearted and has fun all the time.

When he and his friends insult each other they remind me of puppies who rumble and tumble all over each other, barking and nipping. Then they settle down, give each high fives or pat each other on the back, like puppies who cuddle after a rough play as if to say, “Aw, you know I really love you!”  
They do not think of scriptures that haunt one’s conscience about the mighty power of the tongue.
Their spirits seem made of glass so that the insults they make over each other have no power to sink in and cause death—they just slide right off. 

Which makes me believe that the spirit in which we speak any negative words surely makes a huge impact on a person’s vulnerability to its destructive forces.
There is also that factor of the condition of the person’s own soul.
And this is something we can never rightly know.
Only God can see into the heart of someone.  We might say something in fun, and the other person could receive it in totally the opposite way we intended. 
Maybe this is why men seem only to insult their closest kin and buddies-- People they feel completely safe with.

 God has made each of us so unique.
Why do so many men love to insult each other? Why do they love contact sports? The more dangerous and physical, the better!
It’s almost as if they delight in being hurt. I asked my son this once after he came home with multiple wounds from playing soccer and basketball. “Why do you keep playing?”
“Because it’s fun!” was his immediate response.  
How can getting torn ligaments, multiple bruises and sprains be fun, I want to know? Men baffle me!

I don’t think men are ever going to stop insulting each other—it’s part of their makeup.  
In fact, when I asked a male friend about this trait, he said, “It’s part of being a man.” 
They’ll do it then laugh like crazy at who can top whom with the worst insult.

Sometimes love does not look the way we expect it to look. It is not always warm and fuzzy, pretty or even romantic. Sometimes it looks like a mean old insult like when guys who are really close friends rag on each other.

Sometimes love looks really bloody and violent. Like when God came down and took on the form of a human in the person of Jesus Christ, allowing Himself to become a sacrifice for our sins on the cross at Calvary. 
He allowed Himself to be insulted, spit upon, beaten, bruised beyond recognition and all because He loved us so much that He wanted to reconcile us—lost sinners—back to Himself. (John 3:16)
In his excellent biography of the life of Jesus Christ, author Charles Swindoll, says that the heart of Jesus literally burst when He died on the cross bearing our sins. That is not a pretty picture, is it? 
But that is how much our God loved every single person He ever created. For as His heart burst open on the cross He was thinking of you and me. He was hoping we would receive Him into our hearts someday. That broken heart of God's Son is what it cost Him to redeem us back to Himself, to forgive our sins.

Prayer: God, You are love. And you have made us in Your holy image. Love doesn’t always look the way we think it should look. May we learn to recognize love in its many forms and not be quick to judge what is or is not love based on appearances. May we receive You into our hearts by faith. In Jesus’ name.

 "Why Do Guys Love Insults?" © 2012  Suzanne Davis Harden All Rights Reserved. Unto The Least Of These

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Overcoming Fear


“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see  ~Hebrews 11:1 (New International Version)



            As I walked my dog one morning, we stumbled over a baby robin.  Apparently not long out of the nest, it sat chirping and frightened in the grass, its mother in the trees above frantically urging it to fly.  Since the bird appeared healthy and un-injured, 
I couldn’t help but wonder if it didn’t believe it could fly and was too afraid to try.  Since our presence was frightening the birds even more, I led my dog away. 
            
The next morning when we went for our walk, we found the baby robin lying dead in the grass exactly where we’d seen it the day before.  Alas, it had never even tried its wings.

 I wondered if we are like that bird sometimes.  How often do we allow fear and lack of confidence keep us from trying to achieve some goal, fulfill some long held dream?  
Like that mother bird urging her baby to fly, God encourages us through his word to trust Him and step out in faith.  
Christ told His disciples that “all things are possible to those who believe.” 
Musician Art Garfunkel once said, “Everything worth doing starts with being scared.”

It’s no shame to be scared; the trouble happens when we allow fear to paralyze us. 
Fear prevents us from realizing our God given dreams, but faith is the key that brings us the courage to achieve them. 

God sows within each of our hearts special dreams and gives us the ability to accomplish them like He gave that little robin the ability to fly, if only we will believe and step out in faith despite the fear. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for the wonderful dreams You have put in my heart! Help me remember that Courage is not the absence of fear. May You never let fear keep me from doing the things I believe you are calling me to do. Help me to respond in total trust and obedience when I hear Your voice calling me to fly even though I may feel afraid. Help me to simply spread my wings and believe that when you say I can do something, to trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2012 Suzanne Davis Harden "Unto The Least Of These" All Rights Reserved.