“The Nests of Red Barn”, a worship poem by Linda Willows

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from L.Willows- I remember peaceful times, hearts filled with dreams; hopes and promises of tomorrow. There is still a peace that reigns beyond all circumstance. We can live in the fullness of God’s Grace. His promises are eternal. All seasons of our lives and of the world that we live in belong to Him. I trust God who loves and reaches to each of us with care and comfort.- June 2020

The Nests of Red Barn (L.Willows 2016)

Winter’s green fields come round full of grace.
Valleys run deep to catch the sun’s lace.
Hills and mountains run full yonder cast
a lavender grey mist woes deep from the vast.

Nearby farmhouse stand upright, straight and red
held generations are warm, bred and well-fed.
And as the horses, goats, cows all graze in the fields,
it seems that they know of a treasure there sealed.

Peace lies in the whispers and the hallows of red Barn;
In the huddle of chickens and cat nesting in hay yarn.
Here is the core of all life on the farm,
All rest on the eve of a home next to each,
each creature sweet nested, with Farmer in reach.

© 2016 Linda Willows
Photograph by Maleah Torney

“Drawing Near to God”, The Saint’s Happiness by Richard Sibbes

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Richard Sibbes ~ Drawing Near to God
The Saint’s Happiness adapted in Voices From The Past
Puritan Devotional Readings

Worldly reasoning will tell you that God does not see or govern, but has left the earth. But as we go into the presence of God we learn that all things are beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). All of God’s ways are merciful and true though we might feel much forsaken at the present.

The Holy Spirit teaches us to see that God is our best friend, and that he will never forsake us. God fills the whole earth and heaven with his presence. He is always present in power and providence by his Spirit in supporting, comforting, and strengthening the hearts of his children. God alone can fill every corner of the soul of man. God is a fountain that will never run dry.

If it is good to be near God, then the nearer we are to him, makes it even better. Man must not neglect God for any reason, and it is good to lose all for God. Why? because we have riches in him, liberty in him, and all in him. A man may be a king on earth, and yet a prisoner in himself. If we lose anything, even our own life for God, we shall save it.

Taste and see how good God is! (Psalm 34:8). How excellent is your loving-kindness, which you have laid up for them that fear you! (Psalm 36:7). ‘How precious to me are you thoughts, O God!’ (Psalm 139:17).

Labor to be near to him. God is near to all that call upon him. There is not a minute of time in all of our life but we must either be near to God or we will be undone. We must grow in our understanding and fill our thought with him. The soul is never at rest till it rests in him. The soul grows in the Spirit and finds sweet communion. Our affections mount up in prayer as in a fiery chariot to hear him speak to us, seeking comfort in our distresses.

Draw near to him in praise. This is the daily work of the angels and saints in heaven. Let us lift up our hearts with joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8).

David’s Conclusion; or, The Saint’s Resolution (1639) on Psalm 74:28 “But it is good for me to draw near to God.”

God’s children are swimming upstream and live contrary to the course of the world. They are living among men, and live as men do, but are moving in a different direction than the world, and are carried along by the Holy Spirit. Others may take whatever course they desire, but let us take this course: to draw near to God.

Drawing near to God is our chief good. It is our happiness to seek him. The nearer anything is to the principle of something, the better off it is. Nearer to the sun, the more light; nearer to the fire, the more heat; nearer to goodness, the more good; nearer to happiness, the more happiness.

“It is good”; that is, it puts in us a blessed quality and disposition. It makes a man to be like God himself; and, secondly, it is good, that is, it is comfortable; for it is the happiness of the creature to be near the Creator; it is beneficial and helpful. To draw near. How can a man but be near to God, seeing he filleth heaven and earth: “Whither shall I go from thy presence?” Psalms 139:7. He is present always in power and providence in all places, but graciously present with some by his Spirit, supporting, comforting, strengthening the heart of a good man. As the soul is said to be total in Toto, in several parts by several faculties, so God, is present to all, but in a diverse manner.

Now we are said to be near to God in diverse degrees:

first, when our understanding is enlightened; intellectus est veritatis sponsa; and so the young man speaking discreetly in things concerning God, is said not to be far from the kingdom of God, Mark 12:34.

Secondly, in minding: when God is present to our minds, so that the soul is said to be present to that which it minds; contrarily it is said of the wicked, that “God is not in all their thoughts,” Psalms 10:4.

Thirdly, when the will upon the discovery of the understanding comes to choose the better part, and is drawn from that choice to cleave to him, as it was said of Jonathan’s heart, “it was knit to David,” 1 Samuel 18:1.

Fourthly, when our whole affections are carried to God, loving him as the chief good. Love is the firstborn affection. That breeds desire of communion with God. Thence comes joy in him, so that the soul pants after God, “as the heart after the water springs,” Psalms 41:1.

Fifthly, and especially, when the soul is touched with the Spirit of God working faith, stirring up dependence, confidence, and trust on God. Hence ariseth sweet communion. The soul is never at rest till it rests on him. Then it is afraid to break with him or to displease him; but it groweth zealous and resolute, and hot in love, stiff in good cases; resolute against his enemies. And yet this is not all, for God will have also the outward man, so as the whole man must present itself before God in word, in sacraments; speak of him and to him with reverence, and yet with strength of affection mounting up in prayer, as in a fiery chariot; hear him speak to us; consulting with his oracles; fetching comforts against distresses, directions against maladies.

Sixthly, and especially, we draw near to him when we praise him; for this is the work of the souls departed, and of the angels in heaven, that are continually near unto him. The prophet here saith, “It is good for me”. How came he to know this? Why, he had found it by experience, and by it he was thoroughly convinced.

God will be near those who are careful to hold communion with him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). Near to bless, to comfort, to give life, to guide, to support them. Let this encourage us to come to God—indeed, to run to him.

The father ran to meet the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20). God will be first with loving-kindness: “You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Isaiah 58:9). God says, in effect, “What have you to say to me? What do you want from me? Here am I to satisfy all your desires.” Elsewhere it says, “Before they call I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24).
When we apply ourselves to seeking God, he is near to counsel, to give life, to defend—ready with blessing before our imperfect desires can be formed into requests.

I add this these words to keep in your heart…

Dearest Jesus, draw Thou near me,
Let Thy Spirit dwell with mine;
Open now my ear to hear Thee,
Take my heart and seal it Thine;
Keep me, lead me on my way,
Thee to follow and obey,

E’er to do Thy will and fear Thee,
And rejoice to know and hear Thee.

Underneath Thy wings abiding,
In Thy Church, O Savior dear,
Let me dwell, in Thee confiding,
Hold me in Thy faith and fear;
Take away from me each thought
That with wickedness is fraught,
Tempting me to disobey Thee,
Root it out, O Lord, I pray Thee.
(Dearest Jesus, Draw Thou Near Me)

“Prayer transforms us by God’s Presence”, from Ben Patterson author of God’s Prayer Book (The Gospel Coalition)

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“What is Prayer” by Ben Patterson

from “God’s Prayer Book; the Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms”

Prayer is more than a tool for self-expression, a means to get God to give us what we want. It is a means he uses to give us what he wants and to teach us to want what he wants. Holy Scripture in general, and the Psalms, in particular, teach us who God is and what he wants to give. When the members of his synagogue complained that the words of the liturgy did not express what they felt, Abraham Heschel, the great philosopher of religion, replied wisely and very biblically. He told them that the liturgy wasn’t supposed to express what they felt; they were supposed to feel what the liturgy expressed.

To be taught by the Bible to pray is to learn to want and feel what the Bible expresses—to say what it means and mean what it says. Those who have practiced this kind of prayer over time make a surprising discovery: As they learn to feel what the Psalms express, their hearts and desires are enlarged. They find that what they once regarded as strong desires were really weak, puerile little wishes, debased inklings of what is good.

Of course! Would not the God who made us in his own image understand better than we ever could what we really need? And shouldn’t we ask him for it? As C. S. Lewis put it, God Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The best part of prayer is who you pray to. Answers to prayer are wonderful, but the Answerer is better. Spend enough time with Jesus, and you’ll start to look and think and act like Jesus. Seeing is becoming. The church father Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” It’s true: God is never more glorified than when we come alive to the vision of God. Prayer is anticipation and preparation for the great day promised in Scripture when we will see Christ fully and “will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”

Augustine prayed,
How shall I call upon my God, my God, and my Lord, since in
truth when I call upon him I call him into myself? Is there any
place within me where God can dwell? How can God come into
me, God who made heaven and earth? O Lord my God, is there
any place in me that can contain you?

Is there any place in us that can contain God? No, there is not. Something must expand us for that to happen. The Psalms are God’s gracious gift to us to do that very thing. How sweet and kind of God to give us a book of prayers in his Word. This Word “is alive and powerful . . . sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
This is the very Word he gives us to pray in the Psalms!

Paul coined a word to describe the character of Scripture: He said it is “inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek is literally “God-breathed.” The breath of God permeates the Bible. The breath of God is the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who spoke light into darkness and turned dust into living beings made in the image of God. This is the Spirit who God speaks to us in the Bible, making it “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.

It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16). With this thought, no doubt in mind, the poet George Herbert described prayer as “God’s breath in man returning to his birth.” The same Breath that gives us breath to pray comes to us through the God-breathed Scriptures. What we inhale in the Word of God, we exhale in prayer. Like language, what comes in comes out, changing us in the process.

Certainly, God invites us to pour out our hearts to him. The Psalms, which John Calvin called “an anatomy of all parts of the human soul,” can help us do that. All the joys, pleasures, hopes, fears, despairs, doubts, heartaches, terrors, and longings of which we are capable are mirrored, clarified, sanctified, and transformed in the Psalms, as are all the ways we may pray: supplication, intercession, praise, thanks, lament, and meditation. The Psalms, as many have said, are a mirror; they will reveal you. Yet they are much more. Read them and they will read you. Pray them and they will change you.

Prayer is better than a tool for mere self-expression, unless the self being expressed is the self being shaped by the Word of God into the image of Christ. And who is Christ, but the new Adam, the true human, the faithful Son who lived as we were all created by God to live? When we sin we are apt to excuse ourselves and say, “I’m only human.” But Jesus knows better. He points to himself and says, in effect, “When you sin, you are less than human.” We say, “Just be yourself when you pray.” Jesus says, in effect, “You need to be a self, a true self, before you can be yourself.”

To be in God’s presence is to be transformed. At the end of The Divine Comedy, Dante writes of passing through the levels of hell and purgatory before ascending through heaven into God’s very presence. He tries to describe what he saw when he looked into the face of God. Words fail him, for human language cannot express such a sight. But he does describe the effect gazing into the face of God has on his will and desire: But now my desire and will were revolved, like a wheel which is moved evenly, by the love that moves the sun and other stars.

The same love that moves stars and constellations and nebulae moves you. The apostle Paul said that to be in the presence of God is to have a veil lifted so we “. . . can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

Source: God’s Prayer Book, The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms by Ben Patterson by Tyndale House Publishers

Reverend Ben Patterson is the Campus Pastor at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California. He served previously as the founding pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church (California), senior pastor of New Providence Presbyterian Church (New Jersey), and Dean of the Chapel at Hope College from 1993 to 2000. He is a contributing editor to “Christianity Today” and “Leadership Journal,” and the author of several books; his most recent work, a “Prayer Devotional Bible,” was released this past spring. Ben earned his bachelor’s degree from La Verne University in 1966 and his master’s of divinity from The American Baptist Seminary of the West in 1972.