Monday, October 30, 2017



[Photo of infinity symbol

“No one is like you, O Lord; you are great,
and your name is mighty in power …
Among all the wise men of the nations and in
all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”
—Jeremiah 10:6-7

Sometimes I hear people questioning to what the “Beyond” in the chain store Bed, Bath and Beyond® refers. But, it got me thinking about that English word, and two Scripture passages containing it.

Perhaps the first passage came to me in an especially difficult time. From 2 Corinthians 1:8, I recalled:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.

Many will say that God never gives us any burdens we can’t bear alone. I’m not so sure. He wants to grow us to the point in which we have no strength left in ourselves, so that He can show us His mighty power at work in and for us. When we run out of our ability to endure, we can count on His power to take over.

I know this because I read about this power in the Apostle Paul’s words found in Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB):

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Our God gives us trials beyond our abilities to endure so that He can do what goes abundantly beyond all that we could even imagine!

In response, I repeat to you from a contemporary hymn:1

O God beyond all praising,
    we worship you today
And sing the love amazing
    that songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder
    at every gift you send,
At blessings without number
    and mercies without end;
We lift our hearts before you
    and wait upon your word,
We honor and adore you,
    our great and mighty Lord.

The only thing we can do when God shows His “beyondness” over our weakness is to offer Him our thanks and praise in such a way that honors His wonderful name. Amen and Hallelujah!


1 Perry, Michael. O God Beyond All Praising. Carol Stream, Illinois: Hope Publishing Co., 1982.



Monday, October 23, 2017

Clusters of Mercy


[Photo of a hydrangea]

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on
me, for in you my soul takes refuge.”
—Psalm 57:1

One prayer we can always pray and know God will answer is, “Lord, have mercy.” In reading Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great preacher of the 1800s, I came across a devotional that opened up the word “mercy” to me. The definition reminds me of my hydrangea bushes.

When you look at the bush from a distance, you see the clusters of flowers that look like pom-poms, but when you take the time to look up close, you see tiny petals that make up the smaller flowers within the larger blooms. According to Spurgeon, God’s mercy resembles the hydrangea. Perhaps we have to come to the place where we see our need for God’s mercy up close before we truly realize the beauty, power, and depth of it.

Spurgeon first reminds us that the mercy of the Lord is a tender mercy coming from the gentle, loving touch of God. It is a great mercy. Like God Himself, His mercy shows His infinite bigness. God’s mercy is undeserved mercy. We have no right to it. This mercy is also rich mercy. It has efficacy for all our wounds.

God’s mercy is manifold mercy. Here we see the cluster of multitude blessings. God’s mercy is abounding mercy. We can never exhaust it. It is unfailing mercy. God always gives it to us and it will never leave us.1

As Psalm 23:6 tells us:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow thee all the days of thy life.

Why would we not call for mercy? We can never live beyond the beauty and breadth of it. When you come to the end of your own resources and those of everyone you know, remember that God makes His mercy available to you. And, His mercy will never fail.


1 Spurgeon, Charles H., Morning and Evening. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Co., Public Domain. p. 588.



Monday, October 16, 2017

The Player Piano


[Photo of the player mechanism of a player piano]

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
—Psalm 126:5

Before television came to our house, my sister and I entertained ourselves by the hour at an old player piano. This piano had been purchased by my grandfather in 1934 and it came with 85 player rolls for $35.00.

The player piano rolls contained songs from Chopin Polonaises, to Joplin Ragtime, to Gospel hymns, to Sousa marches. My sister would pump the pedals while I “danced” and I would pump while she “danced.”

The rolls were cleverly created by machines that would stamp the holes and slits in just such a way as to play the correct notes in the right rhythm. What an ingenious idea to provide for “live” music in every home.

As I think about the way in which God wants our lives to play forth songs for His glory, I think of the confusing array of cuts and holes that, He allows our lives to experience. The stamping and punching, in a pattern that only He can read, comes from His wise and overarching wisdom and love.

God wants to bring out the music in us! He punches and slices in just the right places and in just the right time to complete in us the song He is writing. Not one extra hole ruins the sound. Not one slice comes at the wrong time.

God has perfectly engineered the pains, losses, and disappointments to come together so that they make something beautiful. Praise God! He knows just the number of gashes we need to make the music come through to His glory.

The apostle Paul told the Christians at Philippi, in Philippians 1:6, that he wrote them with joy:

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Though the painful process continues in us, God will achieve the purpose for which He has made and called us—to cause the music of our lives to praise Him!



Monday, October 9, 2017

Use What You Have


[Photo of open hands]

Then the Lord said to him [Moses],
“What is that in your hand?”
—Exodus 4:2

Some music teachers, observing the sparse equipment I had to use, might have wondered how I could teach music with so little. They had the most modern music textbooks and a full range of xylophones and metalophones, as well as the newest electronic white boards and listening devices—even computer programs, which I didn’t have. Yet, it didn’t take much for God to show me that I had plenty of resources to do my job effectively.

One day, while trying to teach a lullaby to an increasingly sleepy kindergarten class (Lullabies work!), I realized I had a square scarf in my drawer I could fold and make into a tiny cradle. When I showed the trick of making the cradle and the “babies” in the cradle, learning these quiet songs became so much more fun and memorable.

Moses didn’t have much when God called him. But, when God pointed out the staff (or rod) in his hand, Moses had just the right tool to convince Pharaoh that Moses had been sent by the Almighty God.

Sometimes God just has to make us aware of what we have. Other times, we need to learn the lesson of contentment with what we do have. Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances … I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.

God sometimes takes us through valleys of poverty in which we long for things we do not have, even things that would allow us to serve Him better. In these times, He often teaches us that He gives us all we really need to serve Him and to live to bring Him glory.

I have mused often on the questions that Joni Eareckson Tada poses in one of her devotionals:1

  1. What do I have?

  2. Am I using what I have?

  3. Am I prepared to lose what I have?

  4. Am I ready to receive what I do not have?

Do you feel that God wants to use you, but hasn’t given you the tools? Let Him remind you of the things He has already given, and be thankful. Ask Him to use what you have. Instead of complaining, become more like the women who Jesus credited with preparing His body for burial by pouring her perfume on His head (Mark 14:3-9), by saying to her critics:

Leave her alone … She has done a beautiful thing to me … She did what she could.


1 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. From the devotional for October 16th.



Monday, October 2, 2017

Fresh Perspectives


[Photo of Willink Farm]

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we
are not consumed, for his compassions
never fail. They are new every
morning; great is your faithfulness.”
—Lamentations 3:22-23.

Have you ever seen something old from an entirely new perspective?

My family farm, well over a century and a quarter old, stays in my memory like no other place. This is where I grew up and spent the first seventeen years of my life.

From all the childhood years of running from one end to the other to my adult life of watching it grow under my brother’s and his sons’ hands, I have seen the familiar driveways and buildings change and expand—all the time with the stable memory of the house and the original barn I knew so well.

Nothing quite prepared me for the perspective of the drone images my nephew captured last spring. I could see the old familiar places, sort of, but the house and old barn are completely dwarfed by all the new buildings. This view gives me a new appreciation for God’s blessing on our family and the legacy of hard work handed down over five generations.

As I live life, I appreciate the Scriptures more and more. Why? I think because my life experiences give me different ways of looking at the words and allow me to learn about my great God from different perspectives. I see this same kind of experience in the story of David. Psalm 18 contains this heading:

Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

This long psalm of praise to God comes from the depths of an experience of God’s rescue and victory in David’s life. Interestingly, though, He quoted this entire Psalm again at the end of his life, as recorded in 2  Samuel 22. I can imagine what fresh praises came to him this second time around as King of Israel.

When we read Scripture, God expects us to read with fresh eyes, new praises, and from a new perspective now changed by the experiences He brings into our lives. I often wondered how we could obey the often quoted admonition of Scripture to sing to the Lord a new song.

I think the answer comes to us as we see God from new viewpoints, new perspectives. If we allow Him to lift us to new heights, He will show us things we have never seen, at least in this fresh way. This will permit us to renew our thinking processes, to read His Word with new eyes, and to sing to Him from our hearts with a new song, even if we use old words!