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Miracle Worker

23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

Father in Heaven, you are a God of miracles.  You bring light when I am in darkness through your healing powers and in ways I can never fully understand.  Help me to see even the tiniest miracles that you perform throughout my day so I can lift up my voice in glory to You. Amen

If you were asked if you believe in miracles, what would you say?  Your answer would probably depend upon how you define a miracle.  Some might call it a rare event.  What if instead, you changed your perspective and recognized that God works miracles in our lives every single day?

A standard definition of a miracle is  “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”  And again, how would you define “extraordinary?”  As I’ve grown closer to God and understanding His ways, my view of the world has certainly changed.  When seen through the lens of creation being the work of God, we can find any number of impossible things made possible.

37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

I’ve been blessed with being pregnant and giving birth twice.  Each time I marvelled at what was occurring in my body.  A tiny human being built from microscopic pieces of the universe in a body that itself is the perfect factory for human creation.  The parts all fit perfectly, just about every single time for thousands of years, millions upon millions of instances.  You don’t need to know statistics to grasp how impossible that should be.

Many say “that’s just science.”  Of course it is!  Science is the study of God’s amazing work – where the impossible happens all the time.  But let’s set human biology aside.  I can state for a fact that miracles happen regularly because I have experienced them.  Oh, if you had only known me 30, 20 or even just 10 years ago. You wouldn’t have seen Christ in my life.  You would have seen a woman desperate for peace.  Longing for joy.  Fearful of not being loved or appreciated.  A couple of years ago, a friend who has known me for some time commented how she could now see the work of Jesus in me.  Truly a miracle.  I’ve seen the same work in a few friends.  Ones I thought would never change.  And the change that has occurred is one that only the hand of God could’ve accomplished.

When you think “miracle” do you only think of cancer being healed?  A death avoided?  A financial windfall?  If so, you need to rub the scales from your eyes.  Just the fact that the sun rose again today was God’s miracle of creation.   His glory is revealed in so many ways.  Some include our continuous acts of human creation.  While other times through the medicines He has placed here for us to “discover.”  His miracle work is revealed each time a sinner recognizes their sin and asks God to change her and He does.  And yes, whenever we are blessed financially when we need it most. 

Friend, God’s glorious miracles are at work right now in your life.  Like our future Eden, He doesn’t need any outside source to cause the light to shine because He makes impossible possible.

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Promise Keeper

“Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

Faithful Father, you have never lied and you never will.  I believe you.  Amen

I had a Christian woman tell me this once: “I know God has forgiven me.  But it’s hard for me to believe it.  It’s too hard for me to forgive myself.”  That’s why I nodded along when I heard a Christian teacher once say that there’s too many of us out there that have accepted our Lord as Savior but we just aren’t living our lives like we believe His promises.  It’s even hard for me sometimes when I look in the mirror to see what God sees.  To believe He loves me, blemishes and all.  It’s hard to believe He will take care of me without my striving and worrying.  But He will.

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

He has never, ever lied my friend.  He never, ever will.  What might happen, however, is that He will fulfill a promise in ways you didn’t expect.  Or in ways you may not agree or understand.  In fact, when I was doing a bit of research about God’s promises I found a blog that refuted God fulfilling promises.  In truth, the person sounded very wounded.  He also sounded poorly educated about God’s character and His ways.  His first example was of Genesis 2:17 when God admonishes Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, “…for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  The blogger explained that not only had they eaten the fruit but they went on to live for more than 900 years.

What he missed is 1) their immediate death was a loss of the close spiritual relationship with God and their sinlessness and 2) they did, in fact die.  You see, when we look at God’s promises without a knowledge of Him and through our own broken lenses we can miss God at work.  If we, instead, believe that God is the only perfect being to exist and His ways are always right then we ask better questions and submit to Him in trust.  

I recently had a conversation with a godly woman about women as pastors.  Having become more educated about scripture I felt confident in holding my own – as she said the Bible has conflicting lessons about this topic.  My first comment was this: “God’s Word is never in conflict.  If you see conflict you are either misunderstanding context, historical meaning, or having translation issues.  Understanding that parts of God’s will and God’s promises may be difficult to accept also helps us to realize our sinful desires rarely line up with God.

Friend, if you are struggling to accept that God will not back out of a promise to you, turn back to His Word.  He is faithful.  More faithful than anyone will ever be in your life.   And for that we can celebrate with glory to Him!

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A Time of Rest

“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”  Romans 16:27

Thank you, Lord for a good night sleep.  As I wake today I recognize the wisdom of the gift you gave us of sleep.  So that I may be re-charged each day to serve you, to spread your message of love and to give you all glory. Amen

When I woke up this morning my first thought was of God’s perfection and wisdom.  His perfect plan for us and all the animals that roam the earth.  It wasn’t an accident that there was night and day.  There first was the darkness and then God created our alarm clock – the light.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." Genesis 1:2-3

God’s plan for us has always included a time for re-charging.  Haven’t you ever contemplated on the fact that we have a world-wide understanding that at night the majority of the world sleeps?  If there’s anything that we have all mostly agreed to do as part of His plan is to tuck ourselves in and give it a rest. 

The restless nights, worried-filled staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning are not, however, part of His plan.  He tells us over and over in His Holy Word to turn it over to Him so we can be at peace.  So we can rest.  So we can sleep.  

Friend, we can be so thankful to God for giving us the night.  For weaving into His plan a time of rest.  When you lay your head down think on what He has given you as the light turns to dark.  And when His alarm clock rises, give Him glory for another day to serve Him well.

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Everyday Glory

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11

Holy Spirit, whatever decisions and choices I make today help them to be in service and glorification of God. Amen

I read an Instagram post the other day that asked this question: “Are you doing what makes you happy or what glorifies God?”  I would venture to say on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis we probably lean toward what makes us happy.  Sure, when it comes to bigger more difficult decisions, we may seek God’s counsel.  But how often when we are choosing what to eat, what to do with our free time, when we go about our chores and errands, before we open the door to enter work or school do we think, what’s God say about this? What could I do in this very situation that would make God happy?  What could I say to my spouse/friend/adult child that would sound like a word from the Lord?

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

We can take this piece of scripture and use it as a sort of “out” when it comes to our everyday lives being aligned with God.  We can never know all that God is thinking so we just go about our lives as best we can, right?  That may be true if we never study scripture or pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom.  Because when we do those two things, God will constantly be on our minds and lips.  He may even want that mundane day you have planned turned into something that glorifies Him.

We will never be fully satisfied with making our own choices about our lives.  It may appear that some people who have fame and fortune without God “have it all.”  As Christ followers we know true satisfaction, however, comes from the only constant thing in the world – God.  He knows what’s best for us.  He knows what will work in our lives to glorify the kingdom.  

Friend, when we change our daily thinking to God’s plan, not ours, we will also enjoy the fruits of the spirit – peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. And that sounds a lot better than anything I might’ve planned for my day.

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Beauty In The Battle

"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to our holy name and glory in your praise."  Psalms 106:47

Holy God, the heavens are your battleground!  You fight against the cosmic forces over darkness.  Your power and majesty are at work all around me through the unseen world of the spirit.  And through my earthly worship I take up your sword each day to withstand any evil, in your Son’s name.  Amen

One of my favorite lines by Jesus in the Bible is, “Get behind me, Satan!” as He rebukes Peter for having the wrong mindset about Jesus’ work. His exact words are repeated in Matthew 16 and Mark 8.  Jesus also uses similar words in speaking directly to Satan in Matthew 4:10 with “Be gone, Satan!”  I jokingly use these phrases when donuts appear in front me.  Recently, however I heard teaching about spiritual warfare and I realized I had the completely wrong approach to it.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7

We so often talk about rebuking Satan or fighting our “Goliaths” when in reality we shouldn’t be speaking to the devil at all.  It’s dangerous work that I would venture to say most of us are not prepared to withstand.  Even the archangel Michael used God as his shield rather than his own words.  Instead, we should be relying on the incredible power of the Trinity to fight our spiritual battles.  

Along this same line I once told a friend we shouldn’t be asking, “What would Jesus do?” but rather what would Jesus want me to do? We are not fully man and fully God.  We are just man.  And we need to acknowledge that alone we only have the power given to us through the Spirit.  God, through His great love for us, will take care of the rest.  Isn’t that beautiful and amazing?

So what do we do?  We enact the famous lines from Ephesians 6 and put on our armor of God.  We stand firm in God’s truth.  We fit our feet with Jesus’ gospel of peace.  We arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word.  In other words, we allow God to fight His glorious fight with the devil while we do the seemingly mundane acts of worship, studying our Bibles, praying for intercession, baptizing in His name, and spreading His Word of peace and salvation.

Friends, we need to start saying, “Get behind my Lord and Savior Jesus, Satan.”  He is the blinding shield, the kryptonite against evil.  He is the most powerful weapon we could ever imagine to ward off the arrows lobbed at us.  Each time we open our Bibles, go to church, show love to a stranger, speak the Gospel truth into a friend we place that shield firmly in place for God to enter into battle.

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Hope Eternal

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."  Luke 2:14

“Glory to you oh, God, for through you I have hope and peace!  The world cannot give me peace but only unfulfilled desires and longings.  The world relies on the seen and external for their hope but faith is through the unseen and eternal! Today as the world spins out of control I place my peace and hope in you, God. Amen”

I promise myself each day that I won’t check in with the chaos of the world and yet time and again I find my fingers creeping over my keyboard to read the latest news.  As a Christian and a citizen of this world it’s been difficult to find the balance of my responsibility as a “not yet.”  By that I mean I’ve been saved but not yet home with God.  I long for the day to see Jesus’ face and be free of this chaos.  But Jesus clearly wants us doing God’s good works while here on earth.

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12

So that means we have a responsibility to be good citizens of our communities.  Spreading God’s Word through deeds and words.  It means we need to know what stresses and pains our world is experiencing so we can be God’s message of hope and therefore glorify Him.  

In the book of Jude he admonishes to take steps to help those who are new believers and not yet believers.  It’s important to note the danger he warns of by getting too close to the fiery chaos of the world.  

“…save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Jude 23

Mixed with fear.  I think sometimes we Christians like to dabble in the world of chaos thinking a little bit is ok.  But each time we turn on the news or start discussing politics we should first give thanks to God for where our eternal hope lies and then proceed with a bit of Jesus’ Teflon surrounding us.  He let the Pharisees ignorance and at times evil ways bounce off Him.  Because He knew who He belonged to.  And He consistently gave glory to God when speaking back into the chaos.

Friends, it’s not wrong to be actively informed or involved with the goings-on of the world.  Jesus and the apostles jumped in with both feet to tell the world about the Father.  They didn’t turn away from the troubles of the world, they came to spread hope and glorify God.  But we must always remember the Kingdom awaiting us. 

 

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A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.  A time to be born and a time to die.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

As a kid living in southern California, I had the opportunity to go to Disneyland a number of times.  Before each visit my brother and I would plan out how to strategically use our tickets – yes, back then we had ticket books for rides.  That’s where the saying, “It’s an E ticket ride” comes from, meaning the best ones.  In the ticket book there’d be loads of A tickets for the kiddie rides and shows.  But only a few, valuable E tickets.  I imagined how much fun I was going to have spinning around the tea cups and travelling through the Haunted Mansion.  But when I got to Disneyland all I could think of was the next ride.  And the next.  When we would leave, I felt a sense of disappointment.  Like I hadn’t really been there at all.  So, I looked forward to the day we could go back and begin the process of yearning for something better around the next bend all over again.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverb 27:1

That has been a lifelong problem for me – always looking for tomorrow to bring me joy and peace.  It’s also brought me a lot of worry.  And although God wants us to be good stewards of our life, planning and preparing, He doesn’t want our hearts and minds to be absent from today.  Or worse, trapped in the past.  During difficult seasons we can so easily project our life to what we hope it to be or catastrophize our life to what we are worried it will be.  We often also wish we could just go back to the way things were.  Back home, back to a perceived better or safer time.  

On my rides home from the Magic Kingdom, I would wish I could go back.  Go back and relish each ride, each experience to its fullest.   And while I was doing that, I was probably missing out again on what was happening right then and there.  I can only imagine Elijah, a quiet, rugged mountain shepherd on day 50 or 100 or even 200 in Cherith Ravine letting his mind wander back home to Gilead.  Being just a man, he probably once or twice longed for his old way of life where kings and queens weren’t threatening his life.  Where he could pick berries and drink fresh goat milk each day instead of relying on ravens for food.  But God needed him right there, right at that time paying attention.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

It’s a hard lesson when we are in pain, suffering through bad news, or being persecuted.  We are admonished to trust in God for tomorrow and not yearn to go backwards to home.  And yet, in the midst of my Cherith I found myself doing just that.

Both my children had returned to their own homes after saying their final goodbyes to their beloved grandmother.  My husband too had returned back to a job that needed his presence.  That next day, after a particularly hard few moments and, to be honest, watching my brother-in-law’s little family gather closely together, I needed to escape.  I felt so alone and incapable of the task of helping shepherd my mother-in-law through her final days.  I took my eyes off the Lord and placed them back on myself.  A phone call home had me crying out to my husband, “I can’t do this.  I’m not strong enough.  I want to come home right now.”

I wanted to go back to before the cancer.  I wanted to envelope myself in my comfortable routine back home.  Fear and loneliness wrapped around me like a heavy blanket.  And then I remembered Elijah.  I looked toward the majesty of the Colorado Rockies and remembered God can do all things.  And He needed me right there, right now.  Not longing for home or better times.  Not worrying about the future. Instead, paying attention to the beautiful moments and lessons He had placed before me for today.

22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

I still will battle looking for the next “better thing” around the corner.  But the time between that search and remembering to enjoy this day has reduced to mere moments as I pull my thoughts back to looking for Jesus right now.  There is a time for everything. To prepare and to sow, to cry and to laugh. To keep and throw away. To mourn and to dance. When we step outside God’s timing we find ourselves at odds with His plan. But when we live in His moments, His seasons, we find ourselves in harmony. That is God’s promised peace.  And that my friends, is exactly where the joy is.

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Peace

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

For many years I was in search mode with my faith.  I kept searching for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  At first, I thought it was to be accepted.  Then I turned to searching for joy.  I finally landed on the underlying need for all my searching – peace.  I  realized what I wanted each and every day was to wake up with sense of peace, go through my day with peace and lay down my head at night peace-filled.

In a recent Bible study I did by Christian teacher Jackie Hill Perry on the book of Jude, she explained the two different types of Christian peace.  1) Peace with God  and 2) Peace from God.  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

During the Christmas holidays one of the great misunderstandings or misuses of Bible words are “peace on Earth.”   So many non-Christians (and probably many self-identified Christians) think this means no war, no strife.  But the “peace” we can be so thankful for is the peace we now have WITH God after we repented and entered into a life of submission to Him.  In effect, our relationship, which was fractured, is now repaired.  Secondly, the peace with get FROM God is the knowledge that He is in ultimate control of this world and we know our final place will rest with Him in eternity.  

Although it’d certainly be awesome if this world were to stop being at war with each other, if violence wasn’t an everyday occurrence, I know that the unrepentant man will always act for the passions of the flesh.  

Now that my search is complete, I am working every day to live in God’s gift of peace.  I  can easily fall into the well-worn paths of the world that I created but I’m forging a new road with His help. 

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Our Quarrelsome World

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general.  These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts.  Conflicts used to be among countries.  The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.  

We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties.  One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:

  1. Don’t point
  2. Don’t curse
  3. Dress to impress
  4. Stick to tasteful topics
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough
  6. Avoid private conversations in public

All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment.  But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.  

The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her.   He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.”   His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask.  Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store.  It’s about his approach and her response.  This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman.  If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman.  Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping.  It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.  

What does this have to do with being a Christian?  What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ?  Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.

In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone.  To teach gently without resentment.  We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.”  That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee.  This man was being a Karen.  And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive.  Yet the new social norms say this is ok.  We are to vilify those with whom we disagree.  We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members.  I’m talking about in public and social media.  I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.

And the woman?  She wasn’t successful either.  She just kept arguing with the man.  She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk.   So many choices for both.  But they chose the least peaceful route.

I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith.   And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target.  I ask myself which person in that video am I?  The Harasser?  The Victim?  The Bystander?  In fact, I’ve been all three.  But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us.  He wants us to be the peacemaker.  He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people.  Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.

When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently.   He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6).  He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful.  Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.  

I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears.  I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace.  This isn’t just about these current large issues.  It’s how we respond in all life’s situations.  Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel?  Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment.  It’s easy to blast a comment at someone.  The devil loves an angry Believer.  But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.

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His Grand Orchestra

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

The other morning my husband and I were out for an early morning walk.  The clouds were building to the east and I commented that I hoped it would rain.  You see, living in Southern California we don’t see a lot of rain.  And I love the rain.  I love the sound of it hitting the pavement, especially when it wakes me in the middle of the night.  We get up just to watch it rain.  I even love the sound of the water hitting under my car as I drive down the road.  There are so few times when the rain becomes a long, monotonous affair where I live that I never get tired of it.  At my daughter’s house in Missouri, I could sit for hours watching and listening to the thunderous rain come down!  

The sound of rain is just one instrument in God’s beautiful orchestra.  The music of His creation is so glorious!  And that’s what I praise today.  

I’ve been praying the last few days for God’s direction for these last few days of praise.  And on my way to have lunch with my parents – which typically is a difficult visit – my playlist of Christian music came on.  A fun and almost silly song began playing which put me in just the right frame of mind for my impending encounter with my parents.  And I praised God for His music.  And then I praised God for putting this entire line of thought in my head!

When I think of all the beautiful instruments in God’s orchestra what also comes to mind are the voices of some of my closest friends.  Their laughter and warmth.  Their sarcasm and wit.  I told one of them, in preparation for her day at a school office, that no matter what is thrown her way I know the office will be blessed with hearing her joyous giggle.

During the stresses of the last year and a half I started doing a sort of mediation technique to help me rest in God’s peace.  When I’m at our local park with my dog I sit down on the grass and do a centering countdown.   It goes like this:

  1. What 10 different things do I see?
  2. What 9 different things do I hear?
  3. What 8 different trees can I find?
  4. What 7 different smells can I smell?
  5. And so on..

It’s amazing just sitting and listening to the music of God’s creation.  The breeze rustling in the trees.   Birds chirping. Children laughing.  Moms talking on their phones.  Cars driving by.  Airplanes overhead.  Bees buzzing.  My dog panting.   So many sounds, some of which are exactly the same as at the time of creation others unique to this very time and place.

And of course, there’s what we traditionally call “music.”  I marvel that since the beginning of time we humans have been creating new types of music and songs.  When you look at a music book there seems to be a limit to what can be created.   There’s only a certain number of notes to use, right?  And yet day after day,  year after year someone creates a new song or even a new sound!  How else can this happen than by some glorious design by a being who loves music and who loves the sounds of the earth?

Praise God for music that speaks to us when we need it most.  Praise God for the sound of crashing waves.  Praise God for thunder and chickens squawking and the crunching of gravel under my feet.  Praise God for his magnificent orchestra of life!