Monthly Archives: March 2012

Experiencing God with All Our Senses

How long has it been since you stopped to thank God for your five senses? (Or however many you still have, though their strength may be waning?)  Hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch were given to us for a reason. Do you realize that God gave us these amazing sensing devices to enable us to connect with Him and the rest of His creation?

Sometimes we get so caught up in work of the day, like writing-projects or preparation for the tax lady (my “work” for today), that we don’t take the time to enjoy the beautiful sights, sounds, and fragrances of things around us in our environment.

I grabbed twenty minutes on our deck today to soak-in the sunshine; closing my eyes to experience my senses more fully. I both heard and felt the wind and was warmed by the sun, despite the 45-degree air temperature registered on the thermometer. I savored the sweet taste of my glass of carrot juice.

Shutting out sight, I listened for other sounds besides the swoshing wind in the budding deciduous trees and the towering pines. I heard the tinkling of the wind chimes hanging beneath our deck, the piercing call of a blue Jay, the delicate music of a songbird, the caw of a crow, the barking of a dog at the local SPCA, the metallic sound of our bird feeder swinging on its post, the swinging wind-directional gizmo affixed to the deck rail, voices of young children, and the sound of light traffic in the distance.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the bright yellow sunlight which added a glow to the rather barren early spring landscape and highlighted the reddish leaf buds on the maple tree. I also spotted our dog, LeeRoy, enjoying a lounge in the sun, which made me smile; he likes the sun as much as I do.

Why do you think God made the symphony of bird songs, the wind to blow, brooks to babble, the colors of a sunset, the sweetness of  a ripe strawberry, the softness of a baby’s skin, the fragrance of a rose, if not to be enjoyed? Yet we spend little time in the enjoyment of the created order around us.

If everything around us came from an explosion in the universe, what accounts for the various colors, shapes, fragrances, sounds, tastes and almost innumerable varieties of animals, insects, fish, plants, rocks, and landscapes?

What came first, sounds or ears to hear the sounds? The beautiful array of colors and shapes, or eyes to see them? The sweet, bitter, salty, tangy, and savory flavors, or the taste buds to enjoy them? The myriads of hard, soft, squishy, smooth, rough or prickly things, or the sense of touch to experience each one and to distinguish one from the other?

Our God is a relational Being who designed a world to be enjoyed by His human creations.  He wants us to take the time to relate to this world, to each other, and to Him. And He gave us the fine senses to enable us to do so.

Quite a few years ago I watched a movie entitled The Miracle Worker, which starred Patty Duke. It was the story of Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, who was taught to communicate through the sense of touch, even learning to speak aloud. It’s an amazing story of dedication and human courage and the strength of will. But the “miracle” could not have been brought about without the God-given sense of touch. Touch freed this young girl to receive messages from the world around her and to learn to relate to others living in her world.

There is another “sense” that God gives to people who desire to experience Him; this is a spiritual sense.  We who were “dead in our trespasses and sins”, as the Apostle Paul states in Eph. 2:1, came alive spiritually when we were Spirit-born.  As Paul continues in Eph. 1:4-5

“ . . because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ . . “

This spiritual 6th sense gives us an in-depth relationship with God, and an ever deepening relationship with other people and the created world in which we live.

1 Cor. 2:9-15  “But, as it is written,

‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”

 —10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (ESV)

Are you functioning fully in all your “senses”? Are they moving you to a greater awe of God?

Try this week to sense God with all your sensing facilities; draw close to Him as you observe the wonders of His creation which surrounds you. Stop each day to think God, to thank God, and to experience God’s presence.

©2012, Marcy Alves

He made everything that is pleasing to man’s senses. | Transient Reflections

2 Books to Challenge and Encourage You

How important are books in your spiritual formation? Do you enjoy reading books that challenge you?

We were watching an episode of the TV reality show “Hoarders” recently that featured a married couple with an unusual “hoard”. They were book hoarders. Only a few years into their marriage the building of a personal “library” took off. Just 7 years into married life, when they made their first move from an apartment into a house, they had accumulated about 5,000 books. At the time of the recording of the Hoarder program, the couple had more than 200,000 books in their home – there was no room to move about, sit at a table, entertain guests, even to sleep together.

I am not bibliophilic, as this couple obviously was, but I do like to read. In fact, I usually have 2 to 4 books going simultaneously. I really can’t see the purpose in owning books if I don’t read them, use them for research, or resell them for profit. I read novels for relaxation, especially detective stories; health-related books that reinforce God’s plan for health; biographies; and books that encourage my spiritual growth. These are my favorite kinds of books.

There are two books which I have recently read for spiritual and personal growth that I would like to recommend to you:

1.  Whatever Happened to Worship? by A. W. Tozer

What an awesome book! This book is a compilation of messages preached by Tozer in a series to his church in Toronto in 1962 . Tozer’s desire was to write a book on worship before he died. Although he did not live to accomplish this, his sermons on worship were edited and put into book form. The book covers such topics as the necessity of the new birth for true worship, what is not true worship, being awed by the presence of God in worship, how feelings fit into worship, entering into worship through observing God’s creation, and the effects of Sunday worship on your life on Monday.

I’d like to share an excerpt from Tozer’s book, page 56:

In Europe many generations ago, the dear old saint of God, Brother Lawrence, was on his deathbed. Rapidly losing his physical strength, he witnessed to those gathered around him: “I am not dying. I am just doing what I have been doing for the past 40 years, and doing what I expect to be doing for all eternity!”

“What is that?” he was asked. He replied quickly, “I am worshipping the God I love!”

Worshipping God – that was primary for Brother Lawrence. He was also dying, but that was secondary. He knew why he had been born into this world – and he knew why he had been born again.

Tozer’s book has been a spirit-stimulator for me for the past couple of weeks.

2.  I Dare You to Change! Discover the Difference Between Dreaming of a Better Life and Living It, written by Bil (yes, the spelling is correct ) Cornelius, pastor of Bay Area Fellowship, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Cornelius’ book gives readers ten steps for achieving success in life through goal-setting. It deals with such things as breaking the cycle of failure, adopting a new attitude, being willing to change directions and plans, learning to face challenges, setting goals, etc.

Using insights from Gideon’s life-story in the Bible, this book is interesting reading. It offers practical application at the end of each chapter through an Action Plan page. On this page, readers are guided through a series of 3 questions relating to the chapter, to help them move ahead on each of the 10-steps. This book would be good to use as the basis for a support group, which could also offer a platform for outreach to un-churched people of almost any age.

Cornelius’ book challenged me as I read it while walking bi-weekly on my treadmill over the past month or so. My daily life is full of details that relate to our church (I’m a pastor’s wife – and as such my husband’s ancillary memory bank, a life-group leader, a worship team member, women’s prayer group facilitator, etc.), to my outside speaking commitments, to my home and marriage responsibilities, and to my writing vocation.

I am attempting to enter into Cornelius’ 10-step plan by completing little jobs that I have procrastinated on finishing for far too long, but which must be done to clear the way for concentrated focus on more important things – like completing at least one of the three books I’ve been writing.

I hope you will find these two recommended books to be helpful to your spiritual walk and encouraging to your personal development. There is also a piece I’ve written on putting-things-off (my personal challenge) which might help you to get moving while you still have time. See my post entitled: That’s the Thing

What are some books that you have read which have challenged and/or changed your life?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Recycled or Re-created?

I am unashamedly a “recycler”.  Not on the order of a hoarder who holds onto things for possible re-use that get buried under a pile of stuff, destined not to see the light of day again until after the funeral, when family members, kind friends, or hired hands begin to clean out the years of collected debris. No, I recycle weekly, monthly and for the “good stuff”, yearly at a summer yard sale.

We’ve been in “people ministries” for years, and much of what gathers dust at my house has been given to us by friends or grateful ministry recipients. Years ago I used an illustration in my spiritual re-birth testimony about having been a frog that was kissed by the Prince of Peace, which changed me into a princess in God’s kingdom. People began to send me frogs – ceramic frogs, cloth frogs, metal frogs, etc. But I’m digressing here.

Being an adamant recycler, I’m always amazed how frequently both technological and simple practical inventions, geared to make life “simpler” turn out to produce clutter – both in our lives and in our environment.

For instance:

  • Styrofoam cups, bowls and plates are not recyclable;
  • old computers (which really don’t have to be “old” by antique standards and are up-graded or outdated within two or more years) have a recycling charge at the dump, and are not biodegradable;
  • K-cups for one-cup coffee makers (which at the current rate of use will fill up most local land-fills in about a half-generation) are not recyclable unless you first dump out the used coffee grounds and pull out the fabric liner.
  • Cell phones, CDs, DVDs – what do we do with them? We bury them in our garbage bags, which are now mandatory in NH and color coded – no more familiar green garbage bags or lose trash in big trashcans. These bags are purchased from the state of NH to cover the cost of getting rid of our trash.
  • Auto oil containers (both plastic bottles and metal cans), old car batteries – the list could go on and on – are hard to get rid of for free.

Do you ever wonder why the manufacturers of such products as I listed above, don’t seem to have a plan for recycling? Why aren’t the producers of high tech and low tech products held responsible for getting rid of the “stuff” after it’s broken or outdated? Do you wonder how many more generations can inhabit planet earth and continue discarding un-recyclables, before there is no more space for the “stuff”?

I hope others will catch the vision to take care of what God made for us to enjoy – the beauties of natural wonder – a green earth and a blue sky; clean water to drink, wash with, and swim in.

I suppose a totally cluttered earth won’t happen in my lifetime, but I will remain a recycler until the end of me or the earth, whichever comes first.

There are some things that I have made a conscious decision not to recycle, such as bad attitudes, unkind behavior, bitterness, anger, revenge, hopelessness, meanness, despair, and discouragement. And I want to be responsible to clean up any of this stuff that I inadvertently spew into the atmosphere around me. Because, just as I care about my physical environment, I care about the spiritual environment around me.

Even though I’m into recycling, I’m so glad that God didn’t “recycle” me, causing me to come back in one form after another and go around for time after time. He “re-created” me through a spiritual re-birth: He gave me a new way of thinking, a new desire to make things around me better, a new zeal for life without all the clutter and clamor, and a clean heart and conscience – without guilt over old mistakes and sins.

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

One day, when His work in me is complete, I’ll look like Jesus. As it says in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . .”

I only wish the creators of all the gadgets we are convinced we need to buy had a way to gather the discards and re-create them into something more useful than landfill. They should take a lesson from the Master inventor.

So what’s your story – are you recycled or re-ceated?

©2012, Marcy Alves

When to Hold ‘Em & When to Fold ‘Em

How’s your poker face? I am pretty good at bluffing in certain games, but the “game of life” takes more than a bluff to end up with a winning hand.

A framed embroidery wall picture which hangs in our guest bedroom reads: “Life is a balance between holding on and letting go”. And this balance is not always easy to maintain. Sometimes we need to hang-in-there when we feel like quitting, and other times we need to let-go when we just don’t want to give-up.

There is an old song recorded by Kenny Rogers called The Gambler; the chorus says:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away, Know when to run.

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

To “give-up” or to “hang-on”?  can play like a mental Ping-Pong game in the brain, until we get direction to bring us to a decision, and peace to keep us there. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

We recently visited an elderly woman in a nursing home, who had been in hospice for a few days. She had not eaten or taken in liquids during that time. When we entered her room, we expected to see an IV in her arm, but there was none. She was awakened by a nurse so that we could visit and pray for her. She breathed open-mouthed and her lips and tongue were very dry. Her eyes were fixed on whatever or whoever was directly in her line of sight.

Because she had asked not to be kept alive if her mind and body began to fail, she was not hooked up to an IV. When the nurse moved her head to adjust her pillow, the patient gave a little cry, so we know she could feel pain.

It was very difficult to see this once energetic old saint in such a condition. A few years back she had been my once-a-week prayer partner, meeting with me at the church office, and afterward sending out postcards to the specific families or individuals for whom we had prayed; she included words of encouragement and a Scripture on each card.

I have heard several reports of elderly people who seemed to be on their way out, who were merely dehydrated.  Even though my elderly friend had asked not to be kept alive artificially, everything in me wanted to hook-up an IV line and hydrate her frail little body to see if she would regain “presence” like the others had. But there is a time when you have to fold ‘em.

Not that I would want to keep anyone alive indefinitely – but I hesitate to surrender people to death, which the Scripture refers to as an enemy:

1 Corinthians 15:26 – “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Life is important to protect – the right to life is a God-given right. That’s why I cannot accept the philosophy of some religious or political ideologies in which suicide that results in the deaths of other people (so called “enemies”) is to be glorified or rewarded. Also, I cannot support cultural mores which permit destruction of unborn life. No god worth following would ask his followers to arbitrarily destroy life – neither their own lives, nor the lives of innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In such a culture of death, God continually calls us to life. The fragrance of Christ is the perfume of life that never loses its scent. Jesus came to conquer death. Maybe that’s why we fight to hold-on to life and not to give-in to disease, death, and the killing of the innocent. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em.

However, fighting to hold on to what appears to be “life” is what keeps many people from entering into real Spirit-breathed life. We have met many people during our lifetime who have held-on to death, mistaking it for life; who, when they finally gave-up and died to self, discovered that they had not really been alive at all, until they received the life of Christ. When the hand you’ve been playing is continually a losing one, it’s time to get out of that game. Know when to fold ‘em; discover what’s really worth holding onto.

When it comes to the battle against evil forces in the unseen world, we need to suit-up in the spiritual armor, submit to God, resist the devil and learn to stand – stay in the game and hold the line.  We also need to recognize a bluff and to say to the enemy of our soul, “Game’s over.” Because when it comes to spiritual war games, Jesus has dealt us the winning hand.

Are you holding on to the a hand that will keep you from experiencing life, or are you letting go and allowing God to take over your game? You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

©2012, Marcy Alves

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