Category Archives: Spring 2016

Handing Down Our Stories

Reflecting on my grandchildren as they grow older, I paused and considered aspects of our family history I’m not communicating to them. book-1012275_640Sure, I’m a good grandma and love to visit them, play with them, and listen to them. And, of course, I delight in surprising them with birthday and Christmas presents. I fittingly describe the towering stacks of children’s clothing at my favorite warehouse-shopping venue as “the grandma trap.” These are all good things, but I want to impress God’s ways—complete with the victories and the struggles—and how His call on my heart has influenced my life. How better to accomplish this then through telling and retelling the tales of my life.

As the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the desert wilderness for 40 years, Moses gives God’s chosen people rules for obedient living. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV), Moses exhorts the Israelites: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The instruction is clear, but are we taking the time to do this? What are we handing down to our children and grandchildren about their family history? Are electronics and our digital age replacing our time for oral stories?

As I open my email first thing in the morning, I have devotions from several different sources staring at me, a couple Christian blogs I subscribe to, along with other assorted Christian newsletters and periodicals. These are a wonderful source of inspiration, and add to my Christian insight and growth, but they constitute an electronic interaction.

Whatever happened to taking the time to discuss spiritual issues face-to-face with those we care about most?

In contrast, in years past, families would gather around the dinner table and contribute to stories or discuss Sunday sermons, events from work and school, and family dealings. We can reclaim these times by looking for opportunities to share, and then creatively crafting the stories.

A good story will contain a moral or inspiration or a lesson learned. And the telling of our tale should involve gestures, facial expressions, sound effects, and emotion as we weave our words. Don’t forget the funny times. We all have countless humorous stories to impart, and we certainly need a good belly laugh now and then.

I desire to commit more wholeheartedly to this. I want to carefully plan and select good stories from my memories, share them, and then pray for my grandchildren to enjoy and remember these segments of their heritage. Will you join me in doing so?

Father God, Please help me remember and retell the stories of my life to my children, my grandchildren, or others in my sphere of influence. Enable me to not only share the victories, but also the shortcomings and the lessons learned. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 78:2-4 (NIV): “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”

Psalm 89:1 (NIV): “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Spring 2016

Just When I Thought I Had It All Together

Seated in church with my husband on one side and a dear friend on the other, I was feeling composed and put together. My mind wandered to why the front of my black, sleeveless turtleneck sweater was bunching up in a funny way.mannequin-312526_640 Next, I found myself scratching the collar around my throat. Then, digging around a bit with my fingers, it occurred to me as I grasped the garment tag, “Oh good grief, I’ve got my sweater on backward!” Well, let me tell you, any feelings of smugness contained within flew right out the window, as my husband rolled his eyes and my friend smothered a giggle.

As I leave my home in the morning, there is a certain confidence which comes from feeling nicely dressed and accessorized, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking too highly of oneself. The apostle Peter, encouraging the early church in connection with themes of Christian living, reminds us in 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV), “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.” Difficult words for today’s woman. Only through Jesus Christ am I properly clothed, as He covers my sin. Only He makes me whole, as my own efforts will always fall short.

His Holy Spirit fills me so I may find completeness and fullness in Him. I lack for nothing. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:19 (NIV), “and to know this love [Christ’s] that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Thankfully, God discerns my heart and knows me; He reads my innermost thoughts. To those around me, I desire to exhibit a submitted spirit rather than a poised shell of nothingness attired in finery.

Only Christ is perfect. Humble yourself, so we don’t become vain or full of self-importance. Above all, though, I’ve learned to keep a sense of humor as God does find unique ways to remind us of our lack and His sufficiency. I need to lay bare my weaknesses because perfection is a myth.

Shortly after the conclusion of our church service, I raced to the restroom to put my sweater on the proper way, thankful for God seeing me how I really am.

Father God, You behold me and know me—all my strengths and all my weaknesses. I’m grateful that through the sacrifice of Jesus I am more than adequate and have no need to present myself in a prideful or vain way. You clothe me in your finery and you are my entirety. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 31:25 (NIV): “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

Psalm 18:32 (NIV): “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

Colossians 2:10 (NIV): “and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Spring 2016

Do We Appreciate God’s Gifts?

Clustered around the kitchen table, we were joyfully celebrating our granddaughter’s fifth birthday. With each present she opened, she exuberantly exclaimed, “It’s just what I wanted!” gift-553143_640After chuckling during each episode, I began to ponder how I regard the gifts God has selected for me. Do I treat my days, which are gifts, with passion? What about talents the Lord has endowed on me? Answered prayers?

Our granddaughter displayed excitement and thankfulness along with a sense of awe and wonder with every single gift she received. What about me—do I do the same?

God’s greatest provision to me is my salvation, which should thrill me every day. After all, it’s exactly what I asked for and I did receive it. Psalm 118 is a hymn of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance and salvation. Verse 14 (NIV) declares, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” and later in verse 21 the Psalmist expresses his thanks: “I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” This is how I want to value God’s gift of salvation. As I purpose to thank my Lord each morning for my salvation, this in turn, enables gratefulness in me for every day He gives me.

As I continue to question how I approach God’s gifts, I want to focus on joyfully accepting and appreciating what the Lord has bestowed on me. God generously supplied me with many talents. Now, granted, I wish He had given me a decent singing voice and the ability to carry a tune since I love music and love to sing, but that one just wasn’t in the cards for me. However, as my awareness of the capabilities God has granted me increases, I enthusiastically want to stretch myself and use those gifts to further His kingdom.

Awe is defined as “a strong feeling of fear or respect and wonder.” (Merriam-Webster.com, 2016) Habakkuk the prophet celebrated God praying, “I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works.” (Habakkuk 3:2a, NLT) One way God shows His marvelous works is by responding to our prayers. Do I regularly pause to reflect on all the prayer needs God has met? This should fill me with awe and wonder, as the vast number of answers is miraculous. I offer God my thanksgiving for answered prayer.

Smiling to myself, I watched our granddaughter continue her joyful and thankful cries of delight. Soon, we discarded the wrapping paper, toys were set free from their impossible packaging, and she was enraptured with all her birthday presents.

Father God, Please transform my heart to one of gratitude for all the gifts you’ve provided me. I thank you and praise you for my salvation, and ask you to enable me to approach each day with a childlike sense of awe and wonder as I view your marvelous works and recall your answered prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Hebrews 12:28 (NIV): “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

1 Timothy 4:4 (NIV): “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:20 (NIV): “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Spring 2016

Postponing Time with God

Here I sit in my office with the best of intentions to spend some time in the Word and praying.  First, I check my email and think, “Just one game of Spider Solitaire and then I’ll spend my time with you, God.”  watches-1204696_640My computer is not a terrible thing, but it is powerful enough to pull me away from God, my Father, and I wonder why I once again fall into this trap.  It’s painful and I don’t like what I see in myself when I repeatedly take this direction.

Distractions that take us away from God may not, in themselves, be bad things.  But, we’re allowing stuff to fill our God time rather than soaking in His presence, His Word, and prayer with Him.

And none of us seem to have enough time anyway, so why are we squandering the time we do have?

Scripture exhorts us to, “Come near to God,” and in return, “He will come near to you.”  (James 4:8a, NIV)  I desire this nearness with God, but some days it’s a struggle releasing encumbrances so I can run into His arms.

Here are several steps I’ve found that will enable us to pull closer to God:

  1. Pray daily for the Holy Spirit to fill you. I actually ask God to fill me to overflowing; perhaps I’m greedy, but that’s what I do.  Even before getting out of bed in the morning, being empowered by God’s Holy Spirit sets the tone for the day.
  2. Get in a routine. It doesn’t matter when you have your time with the Lord, but allot something which works for you and your schedule.  Then, close up the computer and push the cell phone aside, knowing those devices will still be waiting for you after you’ve abided with the Lord who also waits for you.
  3. For real change, though, I also need to address the deeper heart issues. Proverbs 27:19 (NIV) tells us, “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”  My heart needs renewal in order to accomplish what I desire.  Pulling away for a walk in the neighborhood, at a park, or on the beach usually provides the space I need to examine my heart and ask the Lord to reveal which areas need change.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.”  (Psalm 1:1-2, NLT)  I want that joy, and I know meditating on God’s Word and spending time in prayer with Him will provide it.  Desiring His blessings, I must draw near to Him.

Father God, I ask you to enable me through your Holy Spirit to address the areas of my heart which need change so I can experience more of what you have for me.  Please renew my heart and help me not postpone time with you, so I can draw closer to you.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 119:11 (NIV):  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Joshua 1:8 (NIV):  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

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When the Answer is No

It’s solid oak and it’s gorgeous, but it’s formal. Very formal. So describes our dining room furniture. Since moving to the coast, we downsized and have quickly adapted to a more casual lifestyle. I’ve prayed for the last year or so for new dining room furniture which would better fit our lower-keyed lifestyle.girl-1126008_640 What I desire to purchase, even though it’s simpler and more relaxed, is still a substantial sum of money. My husband was not 100% on board with my objective, but was willing.

But God’s answer was, “No.” Maybe another time; maybe not at all. The Lord impressed me to use the funds to protect the investment we already had—our home. It needs a new coat of paint, which certainly isn’t as glamorous as new furniture.

I understand my particular situation isn’t life altering, but what about other petitions we take to the Lord and our spirit hears, “No”?

Perhaps it’s a job change you desire, but after praying about it you feel no peace.

Maybe you feel it’s finally time to move to a new location, but all you’re hitting are roadblocks.

It could be you’ve been dreaming of a big trip or vacation, but nothing is falling in place for it to happen.

Or, possibly it is a big purchase and the Lord tells you to spend the money elsewhere.

During the Apostle Paul’s second missionary trip, he deeply desired to travel into the province of Asia to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit turned Paul and his companions back, and instead, God directed them into Macedonia. “… having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:6b-7, NIV) From there, they traveled down to Troas, bypassing Mysia, and Paul received a vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him to, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9b, NIV) When the Lord reordered Paul’s steps, the result was abundant fruit, beginning with the salvation of Lydia, the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe. From there the gospel spread throughout the continent. God’s plans were definitely larger and better than Paul’s intentions.

What blessings might we miss if we go our way instead of yielding to the times God says, “No”?

Perhaps in the future there will be a good time to donate the dining room furniture we have, and purchase something more practical. However, right now, the house needs painting and there are ministry opportunities which need financing.

Father God, It seems I’ve been praying so hard about a certain desire or situation and I’m impressed it’s not something you wish for me at this point in my life. Help me to yield to your Spirit and realize “No” is not a bad thing, as you have superior plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 32:8 (NIV): “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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Filed under Archived Devotions, Spring 2016