Tag Archives: perspective

Bubbles in Bratislava

Europe on a river cruise. Hands up, everyone who’s dreamed of a getaway like this. My husband and I decided to splurge for our 30th anniversary, and the Grand European Tour from Viking River Cruises exceeded all expectations.

Fifteen days on the ship from Amsterdam to Budapest, with daily excursions, plus a three-day extension in Prague at the end. I loved being on the deck watching the scenery slide by. My favourite stop was the charming town of Miltenberg in Germany, and Budapest at night is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

Conversations with our tour guides and with the crew on Viking longship Alsvin gave me a reality check about conditions in some of Europe’s former communist countries. Why had I assumed democracy was some kind of magic remedy that would make things better?

Democracy and freedom are fine things, but like everything else, they have learning curves and weaknesses. New political leaders need time to learn how to govern well (sadly, the corrupt ones seem to catch on faster). With no restriction on travel or occupation, those looking for a better life may forsake the fields for the factories, or their homelands for emigration.

It surprised me to hear that some people long for the “good old days” of communist rule, when “nobody had much, but everyone had something.” Others are thriving, and building a bright future.

These scattered tidbits of information were a minor part of our tour, but in the midst of sightseeing, sampling fine food and learning history, they carved a sense of hopelessness in me. What could I say to someone in this position? “Jesus loves you?” He does, but the words alone don’t sound like much. And they’re hard to trot out in a two-minute conversation with a stranger.

Normal people wouldn’t be affected this way, but although I tried not to dwell on it, my heart-heaviness grew.

Our bus tour through the city of Bratislava discouraged me. On the one hand, we saw a bridge that’s an engineering marvel, as well as opulent villas where international ambassadors live and hold court.

asymmetrical suspension bridge in Bratislava

The Novy Most (New Bridge) is an asymmetrical suspension bridge (also known as the Slovak National Uprising Bridge). Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

We saw a historic castle, still in use for diplomatic meetings. Slovakia’s capital city is poised for growth.

On the other hand, we saw smoke from clusters of factories. We heard about the thin walls in the grey ranks of apartment complexes. The contrast between rich-and-showy and trying-to-survive hurt me.

The bus let us out to explore the grounds of Bratislava Castle. My husband and I wandered, taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere, but I couldn’t shake the sadness inside.

Talking with God wasn’t helping. Until I turned and saw His gift.

A mother blowing bubbles for her child

See the bubbles, in front of the tree to the left of the left-hand lamp post? Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

On a park bench, a mother. Blowing bubbles for her child. Something in the simple act spoke hope to me.

God is still God, and He’s still present and at work.

Looking back now at our photos, I see a beautiful, modern city with green space, cradling a picturesque, cobblestoned historic centre. The older part has quaint buildings, brass statues, and of special delight to my husband and me, fine chocolate and artisanal honey.

Brass statue of a worker peeking out of a manhole

The Watcher. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

How much would I have missed if I only remembered this city through my sad impressions?

Funny, I wrote this post to share how God encouraged my spirit through the mother and child—and the bubbles, which He knows I love—but I see a second lesson for myself: stop trusting my own perceptions, especially the melancholy ones, and pray for clear eyes to see what God sees. (Not that He doesn’t see the hurts. He has perfect perspective.)

Funnier? That’s a big part of the message I brought home from Write Canada: pray to see and hear what God sees and hears. More about that in a future post.

Oh—lest you’re wondering, Eowyn the travel sheep (or “porta-sheep”) came too. Acton the adventure sheep would have needed his own seat on the plane.

Stuffed sheep in the window of our ship's cabin

Eowyn watching the sights. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

Curious about the scrapes in the paint on such a new ship? We passed through a lot of locks, sometimes with bare inches’ clearance on each side. We had a skilled crew, but wave action will jostle a boat while the water’s rising.

What Are You Looking At?

And Moses answered, “Look at me. I stutter. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

God told Moses, “Look at me. I’ll make you as a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.”
Exodus 6:30-7:1, MSG*

God called Moses to a mind-breaking task: to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Oh, yes, and to be messenger to Pharaoh, who had no intention of letting them go.

Poor Moses, no wonder he felt overwhelmed from the moment God first called him. Exiled from Egypt as a murderer, living as a shepherd, and he had trouble speaking. Hardly an ideal mouthpiece for the Almighty.

Good thing he had no idea how the people would behave once he got them out!

By the time he reaches today’s verses, he’s already tried to talk God out of this several times. He’s back in Egypt with Aaron. They’ve spoken to Pharaoh, who responded by increasing the Israelite slaves’ workload. Now Moses’ own people are angry with him.

Moses complains to God, who repeats the command to confront Pharaoh and to lead the people out of Egypt.

Moses: Look at me! Everyone’s mad at me. I can’t even speak clearly! I can’t do this—it’s hopeless!

God: Look at Me.

We likely haven’t been assigned such an enormous task, although sometimes it feels that way. But don’t we respond the same way? Look at me, my weakness… the obstacles…?

Can you hear God’s whisper? Look at Me. (click to tweet this)

I don’t think He shouts it, in anger or blame. I think He whispers it. With encouragement, reaching out His hand to lift us up.

Our God, You are mighty to save and powerful to change hearts and circumstances. We praise You for dramatic miracles like the Israelites saw in the Egyptian Exodus. We praise You for invisible miracles that strengthen our spirits and enable us to serve You faithfully in the day-to-day of our lives. Forgive us for looking at our weakness. Teach us to look at You, Your strength and Your promises. Let everyone see the difference You make.

A good song to keep us focused is Matt Maher‘s “Your Grace is Enough.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


There’s something about a new year that can get us thinking. Here are six good posts that helped me start with a healthy perspective:

At Life So Aware, Jon Rouse encourages us to keep a positive outlook. (Read Perception)

At Beech Croft Tales, Mary Waind points out that our attitudes and expectations have a lot to do with the way we respond or react to others. (Read No Offence Intended)

At Under the Cover of Prayer, Cherry Warrick asks, What is the Size of Our Prayers?

At Other Food: daily devos, Violet Nesdoly  gives three practical tips on how to embrace the new year “with a Caleb-like faith.” (Read A Caleb Spirit)

Bobbi Junior asks “When stuff happens in my life, do I let it take precedence, or do I weigh it in light of all the other things going on…” (Read Top of the Priority List)

And at Captured by God, Jenny shares an example of how to choose to believe God’s perspective instead of our own natural feelings. (Read Spirit of Joy)

Heart-shaped puddle

Will we see the scarred pavement, muddy marks and old leaves, or will we see the heart?

Joy and Security

Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 63:7-8, NLT*

I’ve been reading this psalm daily for a few weeks now, and although it’s short, it’s powerful. David is longing for God, and he’s aware of his enemies pressing in, yet the verses overflow with words like praise and joy and sing. He has his faith perspective in place.

I know about pressing through in prayer, bringing God our fears and troubles. Leaving those troubles with Him. Praying until it becomes about Him rather than about us. Until we’re worshipping. Praising.

I don’t do it nearly as often as I should.

That’s what David’s doing here. He hasn’t forgotten the desert or his enemies’ plots. He’s not denying or ignoring them.

But he sees God. He knows God is enough.

He’s not perching timidly in the shadow of God’s wings, trembling in that strong hand because the danger might snatch him away. He has no thought that God might drop him or fail to protect him.

Our God, You are strong and mighty to save. You are our strong tower, our refuge, our shelter and our Defender. You are our Good Shepherd. We know the words, but so often we don’t act like we believe them. We run to You and keep watching our troubles as if they might break through Your defenses. Faith tells us that can’t happen. Help us listen and be confident in You.

The classic Newsboys worship song, “Strong Tower,” is a good confidence-builder.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

“It’s All in Your Head”

“It’s all in your head.” Doctors say this, maybe family too, and whether or not they intend it, you hear a dismissive tone. A put-down. A message that says “it’s your fault, you caused it, and it won’t go away until you decide to stop it.”

In all fairness, what a good doctor probably means is, “It’s outside my expertise to help you with something that’s generated in your mind.” The tone is probably genuine regret that s/he can’t help.

Let’s not get into the debate over whether it truly is generated in your mind. Doctors have been known to write off tangible physical responses to environmental and food sensitivities because the tests don’t show any proof. And other things actually are products of the mind.

The fact is, we’re still stuck with the problem until we get help. If a medical doctor can’t help, perhaps a naturopath or counsellor can—or a prayer warrior.

Today I’m thinking of the kind of thing that actually is all in the head: the lies or worldviews that we internalize and believe that limit and damage us. The garbage that needs taking out.

Cover of "Battlefield of the Mind: Winnin...

Cover via Amazon

For me some of that is self-pity, self-focus and just plain self. I found Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind a very effective removal tool, and I need to read it again.

It’s important to recognize the mental crud, agree with Jesus that it doesn’t belong there, and then cooperate with Him to replace it with wholesome, holy, healthy thoughts.

If it’s all in my head… that means it’s not a tangible disease or limitation. Real, but it doesn’t need a scalpel, drugs or a prosthesis to fix. It just needs realigning my mind to God and cooperating with Him.

I find that liberating and encouraging.

God bless Peter Furler for his song, “All in Your Head,” where I first heard the encouraging tone and the assurance that “it’s all in your head” means “nothing’s really holding you back” and I could push through the blockage.

To Praise the Lord

It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night.
Psalm 92:1-2, NIV*

Thinking about some of the reasons it’s good to praise the Lord:

  • it’s right and fitting, and He deserves it
  • those who don’t know Him may hear and learn
  • it makes us stop and notice what He’s done and who He is
  • it restores our perspective on our “light and momentary troubles
  • it encourages our faith
  • it encourage others’ faith
  • it restores our hope
  • it causes us to flourish, to stay fresh and green, to bear fruit

The header for this psalm says it’s “For the Sabbath day.” As Christians we’re invited to live in the Lord’s rest day by day, moment by moment, but there’s still something special about taking a Sabbath break.

It’s a chance to stop, breathe, and renew. To spend some time with God and remember who—and how big—He is. To regain perspective.

Holy and magnificent God, it does us good to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Your glory, and the more we look at You the more we see to praise. How great is our God, and how blessed we are to be Your redeemed people! Please open our eyes to see You more clearly, and soften our hearts to adore You.

To help us praise, here’s Robin Mark with “How Great Are You, Lord.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Lord Will Fulfill His Purpose for Me

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Psalm 138:8, NIV 1984*

Not everyone has a large and visible calling-type of purpose, but we’re each called to the “long obedience in the same direction,” to the faithfulness and openness to God that lets us touch many people’s lives in small ways.

And it’s His purpose, not my plans. Oswald Chambers writes, “We have to maintain our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and not muddle it with our own intentions.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Sept. 21)

This takes the pressure off. Instead of trying to keep track of everything and move it forward, I need to be looking to see what He’s going to do in any situation. What He might want to do through me.

I’m under authority. I’m neither the strategist nor the victim of circumstances. I’m a vessel the Potter has made, to fill and pour out as He sees best. And I believe on the other side of this life we’ll look back from His perspective and see that He has done all things well.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”

Simple. Straightforward. I think I can hold onto that today.

Father, help me keep perspective and balance. Help me not get too self-absorbed or take too much responsibility for my own usefulness. Help me trust and obey You.

Here’s Robin Mark with “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”. (Note the line “The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures…”)

* The 2011 NIV says “The LORD will vindicate me…” New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Unless the LORD

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127:1-2, NIV*

We need God in it—in each day, in each part of it—at a foundational level. Or there’s no point in what we’re doing.

I know that, but somehow this psalm reminded me in a fresh way. Then Jan Cox’s post, “First,” from A Better Way, showed up in my inbox.

Jan challenged me to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and she quoted the previous day’s entry for My Utmost for His Highest, which I’d only half processed. Oswald Chambers had written:

So often we mar God’s designed influence through us by our self-conscious effort to be consistent and useful. Jesus says that there is only one way to develop spiritually, and that is by concentration on God. [My Utmost for His Highest, May 18]

Concentration on God. Seeking Him first in the day and in each endeavour.

A comment at the end of the “First” post led me to the Pursuing Heart blog, where Cherry  had posted “The Source of Beauty.” She also referred to that same Oswald Chambers quote, and she said:

How often do we put our focus in the wrong place? …Forgetting that all that is needed is to let our roots go down deep, and our hearts to reach up to Him… I am called back to this simplicity over and over again.


All our running around, self-directed and self-powered because we’ve forgotten to let God be God, in first place in our lives. We’ve complicated it. And added stress.

In vain.

Father God, our Creator and Sustainer, forgive us for the times we run ahead of You. Quiet our spirits to seek You first. Remind us we’re never too busy not to pray. Root us deep in Your love. Show us where You’re working, and how we can best work with You.

Here’s a new-to-me but classic hymn, sung by the Antrim Mennonite Choir: “Day by Day.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God’s Work

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
John 4:34, NIV*

Monday I had a wonderful visit with two friends whose day jobs are in Christian social ministries. They’re involved in helping people through Opportunity International and the Salvation Army. It can be exhausting, but it fulfills them. When they share their stories, you can hear their passion.

Sometimes we can think of doing God’s work only in terms of recognized, organized ministry. We dismiss our regular lives. But I think the type of work Jesus talks about in today’s verse happens anywhere: on the job (sacred or secular), at home, in a chance encounter at the grocery checkout.

In context, the verse refers to Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. It wasn’t a planned teaching time or public event. Not on the group’s ‘official’ agenda. But it was part of God’s agenda, and it was His work.

Our days come pre-filled for the most part: work, home, appointments, whatever. If that’s where God has us, then that’s where He wants us to work with Him, however mundane the task. Or however inconvenient the interruption He allows.

There’s something about the routine and the everyday that dulls my attention. Meal preparation and household chores, even conversation around the family table, feel like the same-old-same-old. But shouldn’t each thing I do for my loved ones—for my employer if I’m working—be truly done for God? Isn’t each conversation a chance to show His interest in the other person?

In that case, it’s all God’s work if I can only see it. God’s work, an offering to Him. Even if it’s peeling potatoes or scrubbing toilets. Or taking a coffee break with a friend.

Father God, who sent Jesus into the world to do Your will and who has sent us to do the same, take us out of ourselves and make us mindful of You and Your ways. Help us live for You, and teach us to be on the lookout for Your leading in our daily lives. Feed us with the satisfaction of serving You.

This week’s song is “Jesus, All for Jesus,” from Robin Mark.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Not We Ourselves

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Psalm 100:3, NIV

When life gets busy, responsibilities crowd, do you feel pressure to keep pace, to meet every demand on your own? Like Moses, when the people in the desert complained again about thirst and he cried, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?

God told him to speak to the rock, but Moses was so angry he struck it—twice—and although the water came, Moses lost his chance to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 20:1-13 tells the whole story.)

After all Moses’ obedience, this seems a trifling thing, yet it was clearly a big deal to God. I think it’s because of the “Must we” that took responsibility—and therefore credit—for the miracle.

Moses hardly intended it that way, but that’s how it came out. And sometimes that’s how I feel when the pressure’s on and there’s not enough of me to go around. I forget there’s enough of God.

Somehow today’s one verse from a short psalm puts it all back in perspective for me. I’m not the real authority. Everything does not rest on me, no matter how it feels. (A footnote in the NIV says and we are his can be translated and not we ourselves. “It is he who made us, and not we ourselves” – that makes it even clearer.)

I can trust in God, because He is good. His love endures forever. (Click that link and you’ll see the NIV declares this phrase 41 times.)

Renewed perspective gives me a quietness and a confidence—from a psalm that tells us to shout to God.

Father, forgive me for getting distracted and relying on myself. You are God, and greatly to be praised. Help me trust You not to overload me with more than You want to accomplish through me. Help me stick with what You give and not to ignore it and try to do my own thing—or to cram my own interests in there with what You say is enough. You’re the Shepherd, I’m the sheep. And You are the Good Shepherd. Keep me close to Your side.

Here’s a good, soul-quieting song from Steven Curtis Chapman: “Be Still and Know.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.