COVID-19: Joy in Times of Trouble

March 29, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago I had never heard of COVID-19. Not being good with acronyms, it took me aw hile to figure out that coronavirus disease and COVID-19 were the same thing. I’m a little slow when it comes to acronyms. I just knew it was bad, easily caught, and posed more of a danger than most of us would admit. Finally, I read a breakdown of the acronym that helped:

  • CO: Corona
  • VI: Virus
  • D: Disease
  • 19: The year the virus was discovered in China

Actually, coronavirus itself is not new. It’s been around in one form or another since the 1960s, but the pandemic strain we are currently experiencing can be traced back to 2019 in China. It is definitely a pandemic instead of an epidemic. Epidemics are regional but pandemics spread over continents.

Also it’s good to note that the name coronavirus has nothing to do with drinking beer. Corona is a Latin word meaning crown. When this virus is examined with an electron microscope, the little virions or virus particles give the appearance of a small crown.

Most of us know the main ways to keep our families and communities safe. In addition to coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your elbow, plus sanitizing everything you touch or even think about touching, I found this brief list from Consumer Reports quite helpful, balanced, and not obsessive.

  • Follow federal and local guidance to slow the spread of the virus. Stay home as much as possible, and practice “social distancing” if you must go out.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly—for at least 20 seconds each time. 
  • Don’t hoard supplies, but be prepared for a potential quarantine. Check in on neighbors who might need a hand gathering essentials.
  • Stay informed but be wary of rumors you hear or read on social media.

I’m sure we know the media is not necessarily our friend. We need to ask God to help us differentiate between news reports and political commentaries. If not, we will be in panic mode all the time.

During this time, some of us might be a little more isolated than usual. We can use the time for Bible study, reading, listening to positive podcasts, nature walks, gardening, household projects, etc. Stay as connected as you can to others via email, snail mail, face-to-face internet chats, and telephone calls. Extra prayers are needed—not just for loved ones but for leaders who have to make tough decisions affecting many lives, for those in the food industry keeping us supplied, for delivery people, for hospital staff, for those living from paycheck to paycheck, and so many others.

Always remember you serve an amazing God. Although church doors may be closed due to lockdowns, church attendance is way up due to the online livestreaming of church services. The world may focus on the negative, but we should focus on God. I’m reminded of the following story.  

The missionary Gladys Aylward led 100 orphaned children to safety over mountainous regions in war-torn China in the 1930s. During this ordeal, she was so exhausted she thought she couldn’t go on. One of the children reminded her of the story of Moses she had taught them. Gladys said, “Yes, but I am not Moses.”

The child replied, “Yes, but God is still God.”

Our lives might be in a constant state of flux, but God is still God! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! These thoughts bring me great joy in times of turmoil.

*****

Dear Omnipotent God, Creator of the universe, Giver of life, Protector of my soul, Provider of my needs…how wonderful to know that You are still God. You are the God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m so thankful that You are my God and I don’t have to worry. I can trust You in times of trouble because You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Neat and Tidy

March 22, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Neat and tidy! That’s how I like it! A place for everything and everything in its place! I like routine, order, organization. I like life to run smoothly and at an even keel. Don’t rock my boat. Don’t rattle my cage. Don’t shake my tambourine. Don’t upset my apple cart. Don’t rearrange my stuff. Don’t leave a mess in my pathway. And don’t keep me from marking off a number on my “to-do” list.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t neat and tidy. Unfortunately, they can be in our families. Unfortunately, they can be our co-workers. Unfortunately, they can be our boss. Unfortunately, they are all around us. I once said that lack of organization is killing me – not my lack of organization, but the lack in those who surround me.

And it isn’t just people who aren’t neat and tidy. Life is not neat and tidy either. It’s messy. Life is just one inconvenience after another. Dealing with life’s troubles can be stressful, time consuming, and overwhelming. I know that God is with me whether my crisis is big or small, but for some reason that doesn’t always give me as much comfort as it should.

Here’s the truth. Life is unpredictable. Major tragedies and minor inconveniences will always abound. Disorganized people will always tend to disrupt my life. But more and more I’m realizing that Jesus is not as concerned about my routine, my boat, my cage, my tambourine, my apple cart, my stuff, or my feng shui as I am. He’s more concerned about what I do when unexpected things happen or disorganized people make my organized life chaotic. When I overreact or let things irritate and upset me to the point where I am angry or irrational, I am not reflecting God’s love. So I’m putting that on my “to-do” list of things I need to work on.

However, I won’t lie to you. I cannot contain my joy when I get home from a hard day and find my house neat and tidy!

*****

Lord, my “to-do” list of things I need to work on overfloweth. My loved ones think I’m borderline OCD, but You know I’m really just a highly organized person. Okay, maybe I’m overly organized. So I need Your help to keep things in perspective. Instead of obstacles to my peace of mind, let me see opportunities to show forth Your love.    


Music and Me

March 15, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

I can honestly say I like most genres of music. I enjoy opera, country, worship songs, western, pop, rock ‘n roll, rap, classical, musicals, jazz, the blues, old hymns, and most of whatever else is out there. I’m not saying I like every song in every genre, but I can usually find at least one or two I like.

Music can be powerful and beneficial. Kendra Cherry lists the ways in her December 2019 article for Verywell Mind entitled “How Listening to Music Can Have Psychological Benefits.”

  • Music can relieve stress.
  • Music can improve cognitive performance.
  • Music can improve your mood.
  • Music can improve your memory.
  • Music can help manage pain.
  • Music can help some sleep better.
  • Music can improve motivation.
  • Music can help alleviate depression.
  • Music can increase endurance and performance.

Music can also help teach. When we sing something we remember the words. One of the first songs we teach children ends with, “Now I’ve sung my A-B-Cs, next time won’t you sing with me?” Stroke patients who have lost their speech can be taught to speak again by singing. Those who stutter have been helped through singing.

When my dad had Alzheimer’s he could not remember people’s names. However, he could listen to a CD of gospel songs and sing every one of them without missing a beat or lyric. There were times he couldn’t remember my name but we bonded by singing old hymns together. Then he would look at me, smile, and say, “You know what that song says is true. God is great!”      

God created music and it can be a powerful tool. The Psalms show us that music was used to praise and worship God, but music was used for other purposes in biblical times as well.

Music soothed the soul. When a bad spirit came upon Saul, David played his harp (1 Samuel 16:23). Saul was refreshed and the evil spirit departed.  

Music inspired. When Jehoshaphat was going into battle he appointed singers unto the Lord. As they went out before the army, they sang, “Praise the Lord; for his mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

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

Music released the power of God. Paul and Silas found this out when they were in jail. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s shackles were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26).

Music etched the mighty power of God into memories. In Exodus 15:1, Moses sang a song of praise to God for deliverance from Pharaoh. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord: I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously…” It’s quite long so I won’t quote all of it here. Some say this song of Moses is the oldest recorded song in the world.

Songs were used throughout biblical times to express joy, triumph, grief, relief, celebration, thanks, praise, and so on. Matthew 26:30 tells us that when the last supper had ended Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn before leaving. What a powerful image!

God created music and it is good, even if man tries to pollute it. God put something in me that loves music and I’m so grateful. When I unexpectedly hear one of favorite songs – and I have a lot of favorites – it fills me with joy.  

*****

O Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! How great thou art! Fill my heart and my mouth with songs of praise for You and Your greatness. When music floods my soul let me remember that You created music and it is good.


Metaphorically Speaking

March 8, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry. In school, we studied the poems of Robert Burns, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Eugene Fields, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, etc. More modern poets of the 20th century would be Maya Angelou and one my children loved Shel Silverstein. Poetry allows us to experience ideas with creative imagery.

Many don’t realize that about 30% of the Bible was written in poetic form. Whole books such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Job are poetic. Much of Old Testament prophecy is in poetic form. What isn’t written in poetic form in the Bible still has many elements of figurative language such as similes and metaphors. 

Being a student of literature, I am familiar with similes and metaphors. Both are used to make comparisons. Similes use the word “like” to make a comparison. For example, “life is like a box of chocolates” comes from the movie Forrest Gump. Metaphors just state the comparison. For example, “all the world’s a stage” is from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It.

I enjoy reading modern translations of the Bible such as The Message, but I also love the imagery displayed through metaphors when reading the King James, New King James, or the New International Version. I think God uses metaphors to reach out to each one of us, making it easier to identify with Him individually. The Bible is full of such metaphors. I’m sure you’ve seen these examples:

  • To the architect, Jesus is the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6).
  • To the astronomer, Jesus is the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
  • To the builder, Jesus is the firm foundation (Isaiah 28:16).
  • To the carpenter, Jesus is the door (John 10:7).
  • To the geologist, Jesus is the Rock of Ages (1 Corinthians 10:4).
  • To the farmer, Jesus is the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2).
  • To the jeweler, Jesus is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46).
  • To the herder, Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

This list barely scratches the surface. Throughout the Bible, we find a loving God reaching out to us, breaking down barriers, and trying to give each of us things we can identify with – examples we can relate to that lead us to Jesus. It doesn’t matter what our occupation is, what our interests are, what we are going through – there is something in the Bible we can identify with. God must love us very much to go to this much trouble.

In my personal life, I take it a step further. I imagine God saying, “Come let’s take a walk. You and I have a lot in common. Those flowers are certainly fragrant today. Did you know I am the Rose of Sharon (Solomon 2:1)?  Look at that lovely stream. Did you know I can give you living water to drink and you will never thirst again (John 4:10)? Are you getting hungry? I never get hungry, but I would enjoy eating with you. Did you know I am the Bread of Life (John 3:65)?” 

When I’m sick I imagine God sitting with me saying, “Don’t fret. Did you know that I am the Great Physician (John 8:22)? You need a little rest if you are going to get better and I am the giver of rest (Matthew 11:28). Things look dark for you now but I am the Light in this dark world (John 8:12).”

I love thinking about Jesus being with me. No matter what I’m doing or what I’m going through, He is there. These metaphors help me see Christ in my life all the time. When my time on earth is through Christ will be with me, whispering in my ear, “Do not fret, little one. I love you. I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).”

*****

Lord, thank you for the poetry of Your living Word. Be thou my vision as I read these wonderful words of life. Open my eyes so I can visualize You with me as I walk through life – every step of the way. Let everything I see, touch, or feel remind me of You and point me to You because You, and only You, are the way, the truth, the life.


For Me, It’s Personal

March 1, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…
By Barbara Dahlgren

When we recognize we are saved by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, we become Christians. What exactly does that mean?

The name “Christian” was first given to the disciples in Antioch because they followed what Christ taught (Acts 11:26). Being a follower of Jesus Christ defined their actions. Today, society cheapens the definition of Christian by thinking it is one who merely believes in Christ. Even demons believe that (James 2:19). So being a Christian must involve more.

True Christians realize they have been saved by Christ. They stand for the same principles Christ preached about. Sometimes they suffer for righteousness sake. They serve a living Christ. They love God and their neighbors. They hunger after God’s Word. They have a personal connection with Christ because Christianity is more about relationship than religion.

We won’t find the words “personal relationship” in the Bible so some balk at this concept. However, the principles are there. Just walking and talking with God would indicate relationship.

Personally, I love the concept of having a personal relationship with Christ. Many know Christ died for their sins, but feel as if He is distant or far away, but He is really only as far away as we want Him to be. If we let Him, God will make His home with us (John 14:23). Christ wants to live in our hearts (Ephesians 3:14-17). Perhaps I need to be sure He feels comfortable living in my heart.

Prayer, Bible study, and practicing spiritual principles are not meaningful unless I allow Christ to participate in these things with me. He isn’t somewhere far off. He’s right here with me and in me. He desires a relationship with me and I desire an intimate relationship with Him. I need to trust Him, be honest, share the desires of my heart, tell Him my disappointments, and listen for His voice when I ask Him to guide me through the maze and haze of life.

Now that sounds pretty personal to me!

*****

Dear Lord, I sometimes forget that You desire a relationship with me. You want me to share what I’m feeling and thinking. It’s hard for me to be totally honest with You. I forget how much You love me in spite of my flaws. Help me to trust You. Forgive me when I let the distractions of this world occupy my time and shut You out. Please make Your home in my heart and patiently nudge me back into Your loving arms.


The Lovely Surprise

February 23, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Seeing God do the lovely, unexpected thing brings me joy.

Many years ago, when I was a young teacher’s aide at a Christian school in East Texas, it was my task to have the fourth graders put on a Thanksgiving play. The children were all given assignments. Some were making the sets. Some were coming up with props. Some were in charge of advertising. Some would design the program which would list everyone’s contributions.  

The acting assignments were made and, of course, our theme had something to do with the Pilgrims and Indians. Diana was going to be an Indian princess. She eagerly informed me that she was Native American and her grandmother who lived in another state was a real Indian princess. So Diana phoned her grandmother asking her to mail an outfit she had worn as a young girl. I said, “That’s lovely!” It would definitely lend some authenticity to our little production.

The children worked very hard. The kids really outdid themselves on the set designs. They decided if they couldn’t have one of the coveted acting roles, they were going to make the best sets possible. I was impressed with how well our performers learned their lines and how willing the other children were to prompt them when they missed a word here and there.

Then came the day of our dress rehearsal. Everything was in place. However, Diana still did not have her costume. She was downtrodden. We came up with a makeshift costume for her to use and I tried to prepare her for the worse. It seemed unlikely her outfit would make it by the next day and the show must go on.

I’m not sure there is anything sadder than a disappointed child whose heart was set on something very special. And are we not all children in the eyes of God?

The day of the performance came.

Now this school was not just one building but several small buildings called pods. Each classroom occupied its own pod. Ours had two entrances: one near the back left and one near the right front. Desks had been moved to the sides to make room for folding chairs for our audience. Guests were greeted at the back door, given a program, and ushered to their seats facing the cardboard cutouts of scenery in the front.

I was with our cast who waited outside the front door, ready to make their entry. Diana asked me to wait a bit because her family wasn’t there. We waited about ten minutes but really could wait no longer. We had to go ahead with the performance. I welcomed our guests and the show began. 

First came the Pilgrims who looked the part, wearing their handmade hats and white paper collars. After a bit, the Indians knocked on the door and were invited in. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Before me stood a happy, excited Indian princess in the loveliest, most colorful attire ever. It was like a miracle. Diana was beaming and I was holding back tears of joy.

Later Diana told me she was waiting outside when her mother arrived with the package and quickly dressed her right before her grand entrance. God had made a little girl and her teacher very happy that day. It still brings me joy thinking about this lovely, unexpected surprise.

I think God does the lovely, unexpected thing more than we realize. God delights in us (Psalm 18:19). People use words like coincidence, chance, and serendipity when more than likely it’s God doing the lovely, unexpected thing.

*****

Lord, open my eyes that I may see Your hand in my everyday life. Help me recognize the lovely, unexpected things You do for me and let me never cease to give You praise and thanks. I don’t know why You would delight in me, but You do. Please teach me to delight in You!  


Starting My Day with God

February 16, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

How I admire people who are cheerful in the morning! They irritate me, but I admire them.  

One year my writer’s conference roommate was amazing! It didn’t matter what time we went to bed, she got up each morning dedicated to getting at least an hour of prayer and another hour of Bible study done before starting her day. Four or five or six o’clock! It didn’t matter. I’ve gotten to know this woman fairly well and this is still her normal routine. She’s very consistent – no matter where she is in the world, no matter what her daily schedule holds, no matter what! She’s truly an extraordinary person whom I admire greatly. I almost felt guilty telling her not to worry about the light shining in my eyes when she got up – I could sleep through anything.

Yet, I’m still a firm believer in starting my day with God even when I have difficulty rolling out of bed. My spirit is willing, but my flesh truly is weak (Matthew 26:40). So I don’t wait until I get up each morning to acknowledge God. I do it first thing when I wake up – even while I’m still in bed. I say, “Thank You, Lord, for a brand new day.” It’s amazing what that quick little prayer can do to make me mindful of God’s daily presence in my life.

Sometimes I add, “And thank You for that great night’s sleep!” If I don’t sleep too well, I might say, “I didn’t sleep well last night, Lord, so I’m going to need a little help to make it through the day.”  

If I oversleep, I might say, “Wow! Look at the time. Thank You, Lord, for that extra sleep. Now please help me get moving and stay focused on You!”

I try to have the philosophy of my favorite cartoon character Maxine who says, “Any day on this side of the flower bed is a pretty good day.”

Each day is one the Lord has made and we are told to rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). That means every day is a brand new gift from God. Each new day is full of opportunities and possibilities. It’s another chance to hold loved ones near, to enjoy creation, to praise and worship God. And we are encouraged to rejoice and be glad IN it – not in spite of it or after it’s over – but IN it!

What a joy to go through each day with God! Starting the morning by acknowledging Him is a little gift I give myself that sets the tone for the day. It helps me focus on the spiritual, not the physical.

There’s no denying that some days are good and some are not so good, but God is with me through them all. I don’t want to rob myself of appreciating today by living in regret of yesterday and fear of tomorrow. Let’s face it – yesterday is gone and there is no guarantee for tomorrow. Today is all I have, so I better make the most of it.

*****

My Heavenly Father, what a comfort to know I never have to go through a day alone. You are always with me. Saying hello to You each morning reminds me of that. Some days are harder than others. That’s when I need to feel Your presence so I can make it through. And please help me not to take the good days for granted because they are a blessing from You.  


The Faithful Four

February 9, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

By Barbara Dahlgren

One of my favorite Bible accounts is about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I’m sure you are familiar with this story found in the third chapter of Daniel. Here’s a little background.

When Babylon conquered Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar required all the brightest and best young men of Judah to come to Babylon (Daniel 1:3-5). After three years of training, they would be given prominent positions in his court. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among those chosen. The hope was that after being indoctrinated in the Babylonian culture, they would embrace these new habits and customs, but that’s not what happened. Although they were dedicated servants of the king, their hearts remained loyal to God.   

Later, King Nebuchadnezzar made a huge idol of gold and required everyone to bow before it when the music played (Daniel 3). Those who did not bow would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow down. When the king found out, he was furious and said, “If you do not worship the image I’ve made, you will be thrown into the midst of a fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3: 15).

Now here comes my favorite part…

These men basically said, “Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us from your hand. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the golden image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

You see, they knew their God could deliver them, but if for some reason God chose not to – that was okay with them. They were still going to worship God. Even if God allowed them to die, it would be a form of delivery from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

WOW! That’s the kind of faith I want to have – the kind of faith that trusts God completely even when He doesn’t give me what I want, what I think I deserve, or what I think I need.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound. In the king’s anger, he had the fire made hotter – so blazing hot that the flames killed the men who tossed them into the furnace. However, when the king looked in to see what was happening, there weren’t just three unharmed men walking around, but four (Daniel 3:25). The fourth one was the Son of God! Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!” (Daniel 3:28). You see, this was all done for God’s glory, not theirs!

What a joyful time that must have been!

Here’s the deal… Sometimes God delivers me from pain and suffering, and sometimes He doesn’t. Do I still praise and worship Him? I hope so. One thing’s for sure, in my fiery furnace it isn’t just me walking around, the Son of God is walking with me.

*****

O God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! Sometimes I forget Your power and might. I forget how You delivered our biblical forefathers and that You can deliver me. But if You choose not to deliver me or give me what I want, help me to always be faithful and trust You. Regardless of circumstances, let my life be lived for Your glory.


Snow Is Amazing

February 2, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…
By Barbara Dahlgren

I love snow!

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like to shovel snow. I don’t like to drive in snow. I don’t like to snow ski. I don’t like building snow forts or having snow ball fights. I don’t even like to be cold – although Lord knows I can take cold weather better than hot.

So what do I love about snow? Well, I love to see it drift to earth. I love to watch it land on lawns, trees, and hillsides. I love to look at different snowmen – each formed with loving hands. I love the sound of children’s laughter when they find out school has closed for the day. I love to remember past snow moments.

Here are a few that come to mind.

I grew up in St. Louis, but the rest of our family lived about three hours away in the foothills of the Ozarks in southeast Missouri. We are talking dirt and gravel roads. So we would affectionately say, “Let’s go to the country.” When I was ten we took one such trip on Christmas Eve to Grandpa’s house. It was a typical stark winter. Grandpa lived on a hill and from the upstairs bedroom where I slept, I could see the countryside for miles around.

My parents tucked this tired little girl into bed to sleep so they could do the “Santa” thing. They decorated a tree, put presents under it, and hung my stocking by the fireplace. I woke earlier than everyone else. Instead of creeping downstairs, I looked out the window and was amazed at what I saw. For miles and miles and miles, over hill and dale, there was a soft blanket of white, like a picture postcard. I still remember that feeling of wonderment. Sure, I had seen snow before and played in it, but this was different. It felt like I was in a fairy tale.

Another time, while I was in college, I had an early meeting. It was still dark as I stepped out of my dorm and found myself surrounded by virgin snow. Trees were laden with layers of fluff and reflections from the streetlights made it all sparkly. My wonderment returned.

Last year our family decided to rent a cabin in Tahoe for Thanksgiving. My ten-year-old granddaughter Sophia was hoping for snow but none was forecast. However, Thanksgiving morning we gazed up at the chalet windows above and saw tall fir trees supporting layers and layers of snow, and more was coming down. The day was spent with Sophia sledding, building snow people, and having snowball fights with the family. Not with me, though! I enjoyed it all through the window sipping hot cocoa. But I loved it!!!!

I think snow is one of the most amazing phenomena in God’s creation. Each time I see snow floating down from heaven, I smile. God made the snow to fall to the earth (Job 37:6). God made winter and summer (Psalm 74:17). And there are lessons we can learn from each season.

Scientists say no two snowflakes are alike. Each little snowflake is one-of-a-kind, designed by God. Likewise, each person we meet is one-of-a-kind, formed by God’s design. No two fingerprints, DNA, or voice patterns are alike. Each person is unique and so is each snowflake. That gives us a little something to think about when we’re scraping it off our windshield or shoveling it off the walkway. It doesn’t make the task easier, but it does reveal God’s glory.

*****

Lord, thank you for snow. How I love to see it fall to earth! How I treasure the memories that fill my soul when I think of snow! Each season exposes me to different facets of Your wondrous creation. You made summer and You made winter. Each has a purpose. Help me not to miss the lessons I can learn from You as I live through each season in life.


Visualizing Heart-Hands

January 26, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…
By Barbara Dahlgren

When our church started allowing contemporary Christian worship music, it seemed to inspire a more demonstrative form of worship. Although our church had never forbidden raising holy hands in worship, we certainly had not encouraged it. Now we wanted people to respond the way their hearts felt led by the Holy Spirit.

As one of the worship leaders, I’ve always found it interesting to see our congregation sing together. Worship is a corporate activity at church, but it also an individual one. I had long ago learned that what touches one person’s heart during worship does not necessarily touch another’s. I remember sitting in church while another worship leader led some of the most boring songs imaginable – at least I thought they were. However, two rows ahead of me was a lady so moved by the worship that she was crying.

As a worship leader, it could be discouraging to look out at a congregation who didn’t appear to be responding the way I wanted – especially with certain songs. Some might be lifting holy hands above, but many did not. They appeared to be disinterested but, oddly enough, they would be the very ones to come up after church and tell me how much the music meant to them.

I was puzzled. Then I thought of a Christian principle I could apply to this situation. God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). Just because these people didn’t appear to be wholeheartedly worshipping didn’t mean they weren’t. I knew most of these people and you couldn’t find more love-filled, dedicated servants of God. God looked at their hearts and that’s what I needed to do.

After that, when I led worship I would visualize each person’s heart having little hands reaching up to God. I called them “heart-hands.” No longer did it matter to me if people were clapping to the music, lifting physical hands, or swaying back and forth. I could see their “heart-hands” reaching up to give God glory and praise. This gave me joy!

Only God knows a person’s heart (I Kings 8:39). Only God knows a heart’s intent (1 Chronicles 28:9). For me to evaluate someone based on appearance is folly. God looks at my heart and I must look at the heart of others.

*****

Lord, help me to look at people the way You do. Where I might see a beggar I want to avoid or an old woman taking too much time in the fast checkout lane, You see someone who needs my compassion or patience. Create in me a heart that does not turn away. Give me the vision to see others through Your loving eyes.