Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Living in town now, I hear lots of dogs crying their woes. I feel like yelling, “Hush, you puppies, enough already!” At times I will myself to tune them out. In today’s world, we’re often forced to tune out unnecessary, unproductive, and unwelcome noise. Conversely, at times I enjoy noise, like the voices of worshipers in church praising God with everything they have. Now, there’s a good thought—tuning out the unwelcome sounds with our inner words of praise.


Silence is golden

My husband, Don, and I, traveled with another couple to a mountain lake in British Columbia one summer. Because of the exertion of the climb, we hardly spoke. The silence was earsplitting.

After we reached the top and set up camp, we took turns fishing for trout from a small, leaky rowboat found hidden among overgrown brush on the shore. Don and I shared a love for nature, and we reveled in the hushed atmosphere. Later, after our friends had also caught a string of trout, the tenor of the experience changed. As silent as we’d been earlier, now we chattered and laughed and joked with an exuberance and joy that comes from being in the pure air and ruggedness of a private mountaintop.

Conversation is often like that, isn’t it? Noisy at one moment, quiet as the foot-falls of a white-tailed deer the next. Trouble is, living among the din of television, traffic, and I-tunes from a cell phone, sometimes it’s hard to find a spot of quietness. Even the hum of our computers with their jarring, unexpected ads, can be distracting. The struggle to maintain total silence sometimes is downright impossible. Worse yet, many of us actually prefer the noise and find it hard to quiet ourselves long enough to think.

But we hear God’s voice best in the quietness. Quiet places can be out of reach for some of us. For others, quietness is so foreign that we believe we must be surrounded by noise. How can we hear a friend while sitting in a crowded, noisy room? Conversation comes much easier in a quiet corner. Perhaps we all need to start the habit of turning down the volume of our lives, seeking a quiet place without distractions.

I’ve read about people who are so busy, they set aside a daily time on their calendar to talk to and listen to God. That place doesn’t have to be on top of a mountain. It can be in a closet, in a recliner, or over a sink full of dirty dishes. Wherever we choose, our “sanctuary” will be a place where we will learn to know God better, where He will joyfully share His promises, His purposes, and His peace.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Lord, help each of us find our own mountaintops or closets where we can meet you in silence and peace. Give us eyes opened to your purposes, ears tuned to your voice, and hearts softened to receive your love.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Besides keeping a daily “to do” list, I need to keep a “to be” list, a be-like-Him list. Such a list should help me to be still before the Lord, to be aware of His voice as I seek what to include on my To Do list. My To Be list should also keep me from wasting time and allowing life’s distractions from getting in my way as I seek His will. After all, how can any of us accomplish His will unless we’re willing to become—to be—like Him?


Our Faith Muscles                

During our high school years my twin sister and I, along with our neighbor-friend, worked nights at the old Stokely-Van Camp bean factory in Frederic. Around midnight we walked the two miles home. Back then there were fewer houses and more woods. Whether moonlit or dark as coal, we always hurried.

At one corner an old, abandoned house sat back in the woods. We called it the haunted house and ran past like a whirlwind. It’s a wonder we didn’t fall head over toes in our nightly flights.

Arriving at our friend’s driveway, my twin and I always begged her to walk us halfway home, we were that scared. Our brave, generous friend always agreed.

My sister and I were wimps back then – afraid of birds, butterflies, dark basements, being alone, and more. How grateful I am for having lost most of my fears. I can attribute part of that to my faith in God, which has grown considerably over the years.

We adults live with fears, too. Fear of failure, sickness, death, money loss, or rejection. None of us are exempt from situations that can turn our heart to racing. God knows our fears. In fact, some say there are enough “fear nots” and “do not be afraids” in the Bible to fill each day of the year. He offers a better alternative: faith.

Faith is God’s gift to us. When we choose to believe in Him, our fears diminish. But like a muscle, our faith can and should grow stronger. The Old Testament has wonderful examples of God’s chosen people who believed in His presence and became victorious in the midst of seemingly insurmountable problems. In each case, they had developed an intimate relationship with God, and that helped stretch their faith muscles. Yes, they probably all experienced the metallic taste of fear. Nevertheless, their faith guided them through their fears (often on the battleground) to victory. We too find victory over fear and an increase of faith when we take steps to remain close to and obedient to God.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

Lord, forgive us for the times we’ve allowed fear to immobilize us, keeping us from developing stronger faith muscles. Give us the desire and boldness to step out in faith, even as Peter did when he walked on water. Help us keep our eyes on Jesus, our strength and salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, August 12, 2013


How many times have I said that? “I’d give anything to be thinner … a better cook … a better writer …. You probably have your own list of things you’d like to be. But would we really give anything? Our comfortable but not-so-good habits? Our precious time? Our meaningless pursuits? Are we willing to give up anything, everything to live in God’s perfect love and peace? Jesus did. Paul did. We can, when we’re willing.



In Homer, Alaska, I sat on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in mid-May, wrapped in three layers of clothing and a blanket. The flaps on my wool visor cap covered my ears against a biting wind.

Although I shivered with cold, it was one of those miserable times I wouldn't have traded for anything. Snow-capped mountains across the bay glittered in the early morning sunlight. Foamy whitecaps crashed on shore with the incoming tide. Sea otters floated placidly on the waves, their whiskered faces showing like little pups.

Most things in life involve trade-offs. Discomfort for beauty. Sacrifice for reward. Families sit on blankets swatting at hordes of mosquitoes while awaiting the July 4th fireworks display. Busy housewives rise at 4 a.m. to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for their loved ones. Couples buy bigger, nicer homes that cost more and require many more hours of upkeep. Men and women spend long hours at work to better provide for their families. Students sacrifice good times spent with friends in order to graduate college with honors. Gardeners sweat and groan from the work required to keep weeds down, all for the reward of tasty vegetables or beautiful blooms.

God offers a variety of trade-offs, too. We can trade our sorrows, disappointments, and worries for His incomparable peace. We can transfer our dependency on status, money, or family to the assurance of being God's child now and eternally. We can trade our sinful pursuits for the felt blessing of His presence. We can trade our treasures and pleasures for the joy of serving Him in a ministry of His choosing.

God’s trade-offs are the best, worthy of any sacrifice. Jesus, the Son of man, sacrificed everything so we could be reconciled to God. The apostle Paul gave up popularity, respect, and good standing in the church, to pursue Christ. He said, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him…." (Philippians 3:8)

Lord, help us to know the things in our lives we need to exchange for Your blessings. Help us to remember that real riches and joy are in You alone. Our peace and contentment in You cannot be traded for anything better. Your incomparable love cannot be found in anyone or anything else. Thank You, Lord, for Your generous, loving gifts. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 5, 2013


In the midst of an imperfect world, God has blessed us with glimpses of heaven through the beauty of His creation. He gave us flowers and plants and trees of every size, shape, and color imaginable. He gave us an astounding array of mammals, fish, and birds to enjoy, as well as all things celestial. No wonder we often exclaim, “Heavenly!” Yet by comparison, what we enjoy now is but a single taste of the beauty and holiness of eternity spent with Him. Hallelujah!

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair                 

Casual glimpses or close-ups?

During one of my family trips to Alaska to visit my son, we enjoyed the days he took us boating, halibut fishing, and clam digging. Being a commercial fisherman, however, he had to work part of the time we were there. While he worked, we played—played the role as tourists, that is. We visited museums, gift shops, harbors, and parks. We enjoyed eating authentic Russian food in the small immigrant community of Nikolaevsk. We took a bus tour up the mountains in Denali National Park and Preserve. We watched a dog sledding performance on the summer turf. We combed the beaches for shells and other treasures of the sea. We camped in RV parks. We did all the things tourists normally do.

Nearly everything we saw became a photo-op. I often found myself viewing Alaska through a camera lens. With a turn of the camera's zoom lens, the Dall sheep grazing on a mountainside half a mile away looked close enough to touch. A far-away glacier became as close as the starfish we saw littering the beaches.

  Serious campers and hikers, on the other hand, came face to face with Alaska's wildlife. They took their time getting to know nature up close. With all their senses attuned, they experienced a much closer relationship with the flora and fauna around them.    

Casual glimpses of nature give us memories we can share with others through our stories and our photo albums, but not much more. Casual glimpses of God don't offer much, either. When we know God only from the "lens" of a pulpit on a Sunday morning or from a book or second-hand information, it brings little change in our lives. But spiritual camping involves finding the true aspects of God’s nature through serious, quiet, persistent Bible reading and prayer. Only when we seek a close, personal encounter with Him, will we become changed, whole, and fulfilled. And then we will automatically follow Him wherever he leads. Why should we settle for capturing His picture on one-dimensional film when we can know Him and enjoy Him multi-dimensionally—through all our senses? 

John 10:14, 27: "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Lord, we thank you that you allow us to know You personally. Forgive us when we've been satisfied with being mere spiritual tourists. Give us a strong desire to become participants, rather than spectators, in Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, amen.