Category Archives: Blessings

Circle of Life

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  I Corinthians 1:9

Years ago I was introduced to the idea of spending time with God on a daily basis.  Intentional moments carved out of my already busy schedule to focus on the God who sustains me — talk with Him, pray with Him, laugh and cry with Him.  So I pursued these moments with fervor, but the well of time quickly ran dry as life happened.  Projects, deadlines and many other things crowded the once designated time with Him.  It wasn’t long before I was no longer mentioning a quiet time with my Lord, but instead making excuses why I couldn’t afford that time.

And then I heard a dear friend and colleague speak to a group of college students.  I was one of them.  It turned my scripted idea of carving out a time with God each morning on it’s end.  He went on to invite us to explore the meaning of fellowship with our King.  As we are called into fellowship with Christ Himself, what then would that fellowship look like?  We were then encouraged to draw a circle around ourselves and regardless of where we are, invite Him into our circle.  True fellowship with the Savior!

So, no matter the place, no matter the moment, no matter the victory or crisis, no matter the emotion or experience, my circle includes the God of the universe who not only lives within, but does so in full fellowship with me!  As I exercise, He’s there to fellowship.  As I shop, He’s there to fellowship.  As I eat the blessings of this earth, He’s there to dine.  As I pay my bills, He’s there.  As I commute, He’s along for the ride.  As I worship, He rejoices in my joy of Him.  As I stress, He’s there to comfort and relieve.  As I heal, He is there to touch.  As I study, He is there to instruct.  As I doubt, He’s there to remind me of His promises.  As I question, He shows me in His Word an answer.  As I sit and wonder, He sits and loves.

When I draw a circle around me and invite the God of the universe to join me there — wherever that may be — I invite and unlock the very gift of life, love and the power of God to reside and rest within me.  It’s not a circle that excludes the fellowship of others, but the circle of life creates a light that shines and causes others to see Jesus in my circle!

Lord Jesus, may I continue to invite you into my circle — fellowship with me not just in the morning, but noon, day and night.  Now that’s a “circle of LIFE.”

by:  Mark Cruver

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Extraordinarily Ordinary

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.   Ephesians 4:22-24

Children say the most amazing things sometimes.  So much so, a number of years ago Bill Cosby actually hosted a show called, Children Say The Darndest Things.  Sometimes they are like little parrots, repeating those things they overheard their parents say to each other or what they learned on the playground.  These moments can be particularly surprising and in some cases, unsettling.  But how often do children remind us to do what’s right?  They have a nature about them that tends to hold tight to the compass of life by reminding us of our True North.  Today that happened!

In a group setting with hundreds of children, the adult in front spoke to the crowd and asked the following question:  “What did God teach you throughout your summer?”  Little hands stretched to the ceiling to share their moments of truth and revelation.  All were superb, but one student caught my undivided attention.

With a firm voice of confidence rarely witnessed, he says, “I learned how extraordinary we are even though we are ordinary because God makes us extraordinary.”   I leaned back in my chair and pondered the Truth of his insightful summer.  This was not something he picked up on the playground, this was coming straight from the Truth of God’s Word!  We may be ordinary, but we are in fact, extraordinarily ordinary — because God makes us that way!

Lord Jesus, thank you for the Truth  of your righteousness and holiness that resides in those who call you King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  A message often delivered through the honest mouths of children!  May I pause to listen to your voice!

by: Mark Cruver

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Righteousness Rises

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.  And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.  Malachi 4:2

Mornings when the sun shines bright and firm is a morning when I tend to feel refreshed by the warmth of it’s rays.  It’s almost magical, but the truth of those rays, the refreshment and comfort all come from the Creator.  What seemingly exists as another day, the “repeat event” that happens over and over is actually shaped into existence, designed for me, uniquely adorned and set to display the glory of the Lord!

And on those unique mornings when in the field the cattle even turn into the rays of the sun, something happens.  They frolic.  Frolic?  They dance in the sunshine, play in the warmth of the sun and in their youth play in the spirit of who they are!

Does my heart see that sun?  Does my spirit taste and see that the Lord is good and dance in the rays of His healing?  I say yes, but is it not dependent on if I see that sun?  What happens on an overcast day when the sun does not touch the ground?  Will my heart sing?  Will I frolic?

God shines with healing in His rays regardless of the circumstances that bring a dense fog to my world.  Knowing this is one thing, but believing this is believing that God is exactly who He says He is.  Further, it’s having faith in that which cannot be seen and knowing in that faith that His healing comes in trusting throughout life — not just when the sun shines bright!  Clouds pass, but the sun shines forever!

Lord Jesus, I praise you not because of who I am, but because of who you are!  You are the everlasting truth and healing in all things.  You have come each morning to kiss the breath of this earth with the healing power of your righteousness.  Through this I dance . . . I dance knowing my spirit is well-fed!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Like Yesterday’s Ragdoll

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  Isaiah 64:6

Not so many years ago, my daughter had for herself a sweet little orange-striped kitty.  Had she been a boy, it would have been a real-life version of Calvin & Hobbes.  Classic adventures and discoveries every inch of her existence and countless moments of conversation and questions with answers.  It was beyond all else the most unique bond in our home.  Without “Two-Sides” (that was kitty’s name), going to sleep was impossible as was going to grandma’s or heading out on vacation.  Two-Sides went with us everywhere.

But as the days checked off the calendar and the whiskers on Two-Sides disappeared, the love my daughter had for her was still ever strong.  It was not a love of youthfulness or beauty, for Two-Sides had grown quite ragged.  Instead, the love my daughter loved Two-Sides with was a love that made Two-Sides beautiful.

It is not very different with me (and you)!  To God we are all rag dolls.  But we were not created ragged, for when God finished what He had fashioned in His own image He said with His own breath, “It is good!”  He loves me (and you) and that does not change over time!

But over time, we have all become like rag dolls, so crooked from sin and guilt that it would only feel similarly familiar to be discarded, forgotten, left to my own demise.  But no!  God changed everything because of His love for me!  Thank God my identity is not found in my raggedness, but instead in Christ who took my raggedness to the cross!

John Ortberg wrote in his book Love Beyond Reason:

“There is such a love, a love that creates value in what is loved.  There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures.  There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation.  This is a love beyond reason.  This is the love of God.  This is the love with which God loves you and me.”

by: Mark Cruver

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Heart That Thirsts

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?   Psalm 42:1-2

It wasn’t but a couple of summers ago that water in our neck-of-the-woods was at a premium.  The hot days came early in the year and seemed to stick around for most of the season.  I could have sworn the earth swung a little closer to the sun that year!  It was difficult on many.  The grass and wildlife suffered, the homeless and elderly were especially vulnerable and life, in general, was spent more so indoors than out.  It was parched!  Water restrictions were placed on just about everything as the local reservoirs reached an all-time dangerous low.  Would it ever rain again?  Those who could . . . and dared, watered their lawns to save their investment.  But no amount of water seemed to revive the crispy lawns . . . nothing like a good rain does for certain!

This year is a bit different.  Actually, it’s over 20 inches above different!!  Things that never turned green are twice as tall, more full and I think, when no one looks, the trees and plants actually spit out the excess water!  Lawns are being mowed every few days just to keep up with the growth.  The liquid “manna” from heaven brings rich nourishment to the land!

The earth cries out much like my own heart cries out.  When I choose to do life separate from Christ, the land in which my heart is rooted becomes brown and dry.  It longs for nourishment and searches for sources that offer something to satisfy.  These false sources of satisfaction come at a great price.  My heart will not grow, will not flourish, will not blossom — it’s fruit will not be that of grace, but will hunt to be filled.  David warns us with how the heart works . . . “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  But with every other source, the thirst for what truly satisfies becomes stronger. And when satisfied with things other than Christ Jesus, that which flows from the heart represents a barren soul.

But when the heart finds and drinks from the fountain of Christ, the well that never dries, it flows with much fruit . . . the fruit of grace!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the quenching of my soul through the streams of living water that flows from you and you alone!  May I graze upon your grace and drink from your brook — all day long!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Life Sucks, God’s There

Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.  The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. . . . Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”   Job 5:7-13,17

One of my favorite characters in The Peanuts Gang comic is little Pig Pen.  For obvious reasons, the poor little boy needs a bath!  Every where he goes a cloud of dust follows him and hovers over all he does.  Rarely do you hear a complaint from any of his friends, they just know . . . that’s Pig Pen.

I’d like to think I resonate with another of those famous characters however.  Maybe I feel more like Linus with his security blanket or Charlie Brown for his lack of self-confidence.  Perhaps Snoopy for his perseverance would serve as a better likeness.  And then of course, there are times I relate best with their teacher . . . mumbling something not worth listening to.  But in reality, more often than not, I relate with Pig Pen.  Not for the smell, but for that crazy dark cloud that seems to follow me everywhere I go at times.  Maybe you can relate.

That dark cloud often gets translated into a phrase we most commonly refer . . . Life Sucks!  When everything goes against us, fighting life becomes exhausting and gaining ground is something foreign.  When it happens enough, too much for our liking, there seems to be an overarching theme that sets into our minds.  It’s a tone we do not like, but nonetheless, listen to.  It says to us, almost unnoticed, that God must not be present since life sucks so badly.  In fact, it is drilled into our belief that if life sucks, then God must or even can’t be present.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Oh, how our hearts are so tender and deceived so easily.  The TRUTH is that even in the midst of life that sucks, God is there!  His heart is ever so aware of our burdens and stands ready to fellowship in our suffering.  The fall of man made life suck and since then sucky things happen each and every day!  But even then, God promised us He would never leave us nor forsake us.  It truly defines what it means to have peace amidst the stress.  All that sucks in our life, sucks to God as well and He desires nothing more than our hearts in middle of life’s valleys and celebrations.

Thank you, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me and most of all, never leaving me.  Thank you for joining me each morning for coffee and riding around town from place to place.  Thank you for sitting at the table with me and my family and resting each evening by my side.  Thank you Lord for hearing my complaints and disgruntlement.  Thank you for smiling and laughing when my heart sings in moments of joy.  Thank you for being there, even when life sucks!

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”   Deuteronomy 31:8

by:  Mark Cruver

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Depths of Discouragement

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.   Psalm 121:1-2

The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:7-8

In those moments when the rain refuses to stop, life begins to appear just as gloomy.  I’m not sure how people who live in the northwest find themselves in sunshine.  While the many drops of rain puddle in the yard and create ponds and sometimes rivers for days on end, I become increasingly more vulnerable to thinking less on encouraging things.  My chin and eyes, fixed on above drop and ponder — wonder — think.  The mind begins and continues to spin and in the world of wonder there is a playground of doubt that is fed by the evil one to discourage.  The cycle is a vicious spiral digging deeper into the muck of all that seems less than fortunate.  And then one dwells.

But David reminds us of the ever present hope in our Maker!  The one who sits upon the throne — rain or shine!  And in this Truth, God defeats discouragement through the hope of His promise to never leave our side — to be the Hope and the Finisher of all He created — including me!  Amen!

It’s more than just a state-of-mind.  It’s a belief, a faith in knowing the truth of His endless and unconditional love for me that changes things.  Bending in the shape of His will results in the shape of the cross!  It’s matchless and unlike anything ever known or understood.  So, despite circumstances, I stand on this promise!

Where does my strength come from?  It comes from the Lord!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

by:  Mark Cruver

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Yesterday Looms Tomorrow

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.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You re a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil.  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  James 4:13-17

Sometimes days are predictive.  At other times the days ahead can be as mysterious and anxious as a haunted house.  It’s amazing how deep our minds can dig into the plans we have for ourselves in looking toward tomorrow.  Unfortunately, our culture, perhaps our bent, is to gather from yesterday and build a structure of our own tomorrow.  While there is a place to look back to learn from history, it is a dangerous practice in trusting the Lord and living for Him each day.

In the book of Genesis, Lot’s family was granted a pardon by God to flee the city of Sodom.  But as they did, they were to not look back.  They were to remain focused on where they were going, not where they had been.  And as God rained down fire upon Sodom, Lot’s wife could not help herself and turned back to look.  It was a costly mistake as she turned to a pillar of salt.

Granted, people aren’t turning to pillars of salt for looking back on yesterday, but there is a lesson (many lessons actually) here, demonstrating obedience, a pursuit of God’s will, a focus to things to come, the plans He has for me!

And it may be true that my yesterday looms today, but God has gone before me and built my tomorrow!  It is today that I live in yesterday’s tomorrow God made just for me!  And today, well, He is shaping my tomorrow and whispers in my ear — “Just wait and see what I have planned for you!”

May I not boast of my tomorrow and blame yesterday for it!  Instead, may I lift my eyes to the Heavens, in front of me and rejoice in knowing that today was yesterday’s stage for my tomorrow!

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.  Psalm 118:24

by:  Mark Cruver

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Rest In Victory

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.   Psalm 19:8-9

For trials and crisis, it can often seem as though joy has somehow become caught in the drain hole of life.  And when the essence of joy has been removed from the soul, when purpose and hope have appeared to have run for the exit, that which remains feels deflated — defeated — discarded.  But this victory is skewed!  This victory gives the impression that the “other side” claimed for itself the ownership of the battle.  And while the evil one would have us think this is true and both in our hearts and minds establish this paradigm, it is the furthest from the actual state of affairs.

My mom loves to keep things.  More specifically, she likes little phrases, old books, articles and references to scripture jotted down on a napkin or notebook paper.  It is not uncommon for me to visit and for her to hand me this old program from an event with a “saying” on it that she feels would inspire or lift you up.  She doesn’t just share the words, she’ll give you the whole thing!  So, in true form, during my recent visit home she grabs her four-inch thick genealogy binder and pulls out this half-page piece of paper.  On it is typed — not from a computer — typed from an old typewriter.  I would sincerely suspect it was from her manual typewriter I remember from my childhood that I actually used to type my triplicate carbon copied papers on for high school.  On the paper was a six or seven line prose from, well, “unknown” was at the bottom.  I searched the internet to find it’s true author and found the same short document, but instead of “unknown” at the bottom it referenced “Alan Redpath (stroke victim).”

Below I’ve shared his words because it describes perfectly of this battle of which I’ve spoken above.  It is the truth in victory!  It is the rest of victory!  Amen!

There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing — that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disarm me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is.  That is the rest of victory!  (unknown)(Alan Redpath (stroke victim))

by:  Mark Cruver

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Unseen

The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:16-19

I’ve been doing quite a bit of walking in recent days touring college campuses. With guides and groups its easy to settle back, enjoy the company and hear about great things taking place on the various campuses. Much as life, becoming complacent toward the presence of Christ in me is worth being particularly mindful.

It’s easy to think that Christ is walking or sitting or sharing in fellowship with others through my conversations. But the evidence of the reality of His presence is difficult to find at times, and not just on these tours. But for instance, when walking alone on the beach and taking a glance behind to see only my footprints. Or as I talk in the garden and listen for His voice I hear only the sounds of my neighbors mower. Or more lonely, I stand in line at the bank and wait for the next teller and no one is standing with me.

Imagine what it would be like to walk in the garden with Him or stand in line at the bank with Him. And what would it be like to pick a flower with Him or repair a hole in the wall with Him or have Him help me clean the garage. Oh how it would change my thoughts if I could see just one of His footprints in the sand.

But the joy of The Lord in His strength is found not only WITH me — but the fact that He can be found IN me! There is comfort in not questioning His presence, but believing through faith in the promise of His presence in me. God has promised to reside in my heart as I have also “hidden His word in my heart.” And John states that that “the Word was with God and the Word was God!” This means God in me!

Thank you Lord for taking up residence in my heart — in my life. Thank you for the moments of unexpected fellowship as well as moments of planned conversations. Remind me in the tough moments when I neglect your presence and your inescapable longing to spend time with me to ping my spirit back to you!

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