• Devotions

    Pause, Ponder and Pray

    Thanksgiving is almost upon us.

    And while many of us are planning out our meals or our travel plans, we often miss the essence of the holiday.

    Giving thanks.

    Thank you : two simple words, sometimes said casually in passing or quickly in a text to a friend.

    But how often do we consider the things that someone has done for us; pause and really thank them for what they’ve done?

    My friend, Dawn, is someone who takes the time to pause, ponder and pray.

    She never misses an opportunity to stop, reflect and write a note of gratitude to those around her.

    This is one of the things I cherish about her.

    Each week as I write, she takes time out of her schedule to proofread and offer me feedback.

    I cannot tell you how much her support and time have meant to me over the past year.

    Every time I think of her, I give my God thanks.

    Jesus had a busy schedule, but He always made time to pause, ponder and pray.

    “But the news about Him was spreading farther, and large crowds kept gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their illnesses.  But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (in seclusion). “ Luke 5 15-16 AMP

    Jesus was deliberate.

    He made it a priority to pause.

    As the busyness of the holiday season is quickly approaching, my challenge to you is this:

    • Pause .  Take a breath and be still.
    • Ponder.  Consider those around you and how important they are in your life.
    • Pray.  Thank God for this person and pray for them.

    As I pause today, I ponder who may be reading this blog.

    Know that I am thankful for you, and pray that God’s love and peace overflow in your life.

    Take the time today to pause, ponder and pray using this free download from God2Share.

  • Devotions

    The Best Place to Be

    Today is the day.

    She will have the test.

    I cannot be with her, this beautiful woman forever connected to my soul.

    I wish I could sit by her side.

    Gently hold her hand.

    Offer her some kind of peace as she walks through this storm.

    There is a helpless feeling that goes along with watching someone we love so dearly go through something so painful.

    Maybe you know that feeling.

    Maybe the person you love isn’t facing a health crisis.

    Maybe they are going through a divorce, the loss of a loved one, financial problems or addiction.

    The pain we face takes many different forms.

    We want to be with those who are connected to our souls.

    Sit by their sides.

    Gently hold their hands.

    Offer them some kind of peace as they walk through the storm.

    But even when we cannot sit with those we love, we can lift them up to the One who never leaves their side.

    The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

    Philippians 4 : 5 -7

    I am grateful that when I cannot be there, I know that He always will be.

    My feelings of helplessness turn to hope.

    Father, I know today you are with her.

    You are connected to her soul.

    May she feel You sitting by her side,

    Gently holding her hand.

    I pray she feels the peace You offer as she walks through this storm.

    May the love and prayers we offer to those we love and hold so dearly carry them through the storms of life.

    Pray to the One who never leaves their side or ours.

    Amen.

  • Devotions

    Afghans and Prayers

    It is a rainy October morning 

    There is a chill in the air.

    I pull out the afghan my grandmother made me and curl up on the couch with my coffee.

    This treasure is over 30 years old.

    When Tootie was still alive, she crocheted afghans for everyone.

    Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.

    She made afghans for my friends, and even made matching ones for me and my roommate when I went to college.

    When she had enough money, we would go to Newberry’s so she could buy more Wintuk yarn to make more afghans.

    She did not have much, but she offered whatever she had.

    Her afghans and prayers.

    And she offered both until her last breath.

    This was her way of showing love.

    We do not always recognize the ways others show love.

    To some, this covering is just simply a blanket.

    But for me, to know what went into making this love offering makes this afghan a timeless treasure.

    Jesus recognized how others showed their love for Him.

    Now when Jesus was [back] in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper,  a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume and she poured it on Jesus’ head as He reclined at the table.  But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant and angry, saying, “Why all this waste [of money]?  For this perfume might have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware [of the malice] of this [remark], said to them, “Why are you bothering the woman? She has done a good thing to Me.  You always have the poor with you; but you will not always have Me. When she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, wherever this gospel [of salvation] is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her [for her act of love and devotion].”  Matthew 26: 1-13 AMP

    To some, pouring this expensive perfume from the alabaster vial onto the head of Jesus was seen as wasteful.

    But for Jesus, He knew what went into bringing this offering.

    This was her way of showing love to Him.

    An act of love and devotion.

    One that would be told about for many years to come.

    As I look down at this worn afghan, it reminds me that love is shown in different ways.

    May God give us the eyes to see the many ways love is offered to us.

    May He also help us to find the ways we can offer our love to a broken world.

    Even if it is through afghans and prayers.

  • Devotions

    Made to Order

    Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do.

    Having a variety of choices appeals to both me and my family.

    And if I get out of being the resident short order cook for one evening, that is always a bonus.

    One of my friends cannot just order off the menu.

    I will refer to her as Sally.

    If you have seen When Harry Met Sally, this will make perfect sense.

    For those of you who have not, suffice to say that she will customize her order, adding or deleting this or that, or making substitutions.

    It always makes me chuckle.

    She deconstructs her meal every time.

    This dining out experience got me thinking about how we try to make our faith “made to order”.

    We deconstruct our faith.

    With the free will God has given us, we sometimes try to order it just the way we would like it.

    I will have God on Sunday, with a side of Christmas and Easter.

    Please hold the small groups or Bible studies.

    Can I substitute reading the Bible for a movie with an uplifting message instead?

    Before we know it, we have watered down our relationship with God into an ala carte experience.

    Friends, I am not throwing stones here.

    I need this message.

    Maybe you do, too.

    God wants us to be fully filled and satisfied.

    Our Heavenly Father nourishes us through the Word.

    But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only. Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’”  Matthew 4:4 NLV

    We cannot hear the words He speaks to us if we are not spending time with Him.

    Going without eating for days leaves us feeling weak.

    Going without being in His Word and presence also leaves us weak.

    And just like we are more susceptible to illness when we are undernourished, we are also more susceptible to the enemy when we are only filled on Sundays and holidays.

    We take in food and drink to strengthen our bodies.

    In the same way, we take in the Word to strengthen our souls and prepare us for whatever life brings our way.

    Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”  Ephesians 6: 13-18 MSG

    God wants us to have a daily diet of His love and grace.

    When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6 : 11 AMP

    But God is not only referring to bread that fills us, but also to the Bread of Life that sustains us daily.

    “Jesus replied to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually].” John 6:35 AMP

    Made to order : our way or His way?

    Which way will you order today?

  • Devotions

    Qualified and Accepted

    It was a heartbreaking post.

    A woman who for decades dedicated her life to military service, was deployed multiple times overseas and sacrificed so much was told she did not qualify for a particular program that offered the care that she needed.

    What does it take to be qualified?

    My mind wandered to others areas where this word qualify stands out.

    The Boston Marathon immediately came to mind.

    Having some friends who are runners, I know that you have to achieve a certain time in order to  qualify for this prestigious race.

    The dedication it must take to prepare for one of these marathons, the daily training and commitment amazes me.

    But even with all of the training and sacrifice, it is still possible to be denied a spot.

    According to the Boston Athletic Association, there were over 30,000 applications received from qualified runners for registration last year.

    Just over 23,000 were accepted.  

    Due to field size limitations, over 7,000 people, despite being qualified, were not accepted to participate.

    It does not seem to make sense.

    Qualified but not accepted.

    Can you imagine the heartbreak of knowing you have sacrificed so much only to be told you are not accepted?

    Yet some of these runners made the sacrifice anyway.

    So did Jesus.

    Because of Him, I am both qualified and accepted.

    And I know that I am not qualified because of anything I have done.

    “By ourselves we are not qualified in any way to claim that we can do anything.  Rather, God makes us qualified.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 GW

    I am not sufficient by myself, but through Him I have what I need to be qualified.

    The sacrifice that makes me accepted was not my own.

    It was HIS.

    There are no field size limitations that take me out of the race.

    There is a spot for everyone.

    “My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?”  John 14: 2

    Everyone who believes qualifies to be a part of His kingdom.

    Qualified and accepted.

    Amen.

  • Devotions

    Blessed Union of Souls

    This morning I woke up and thanked God for the blessed union of souls.

    No, not the 90’s rock band.

    We will talk about them in a minute.

    21 years ago today God joined my soul with John’s.

    Happy Anniversary to my hunky husband.

    I can still feel the weight of the beaded train of my ivory wedding dress as if it were yesterday.

    I can still feel his hands holding mine as we said our vows in front of our family and friends.

    To stand by your side and sleep in your arms.

    To forgive as we have been forgiven.

    It was a picture perfect autumn day.

    But married life is not perfect.

    After you cut the cake and toss the bouquet, you begin the journey of living out your vows.

    For over two decades, we have stood by each others sides during some of the most painful and vulnerable moments we have ever endured.

    Raising children, the illnesses and deaths of parents, my battle with cancer, job changes –

    Our love has endured through many changes and seasons.

    We have found refuge from the world sleeping in each other’s arms.

    We have had to forgive each other many times since we said “I do.”

    Cue the 90’s band, Blessid Union of Souls.

    In their song, I Believe, they tell listeners that “love is the answer.”

    And they are correct.

    But it is how love is defined in His word that is the answer.

    This passage of scripture is read over and over again at weddings.

    It was read at our wedding.

    Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

    It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

    1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NLT

    We forget when we get married, that we are joining two flawed and human souls together.

    Our feelings get in the way of the promises we make to each other.

    We forget to be patient and kind.

    There are days we want our own way.

    There are days that we are irritable and rude.

    There are days that we keep a tally list of the things we think our spouse has done wrong.

    And then we are reminded of this verse.

    Love does not have to have its own way.

    Love is not irritable or rude.

    Love does not keep a list of wrongs.

    Love forgives quickly.

    God shows each of us this love.

    I need a daily reminder of this definition in all of my relationships.

    I am grateful for a husband who understands the meaning of love.

    But it is because He first loved us that we are able to continue to love each other through this crazy thing called life.

    Love is the answer to all of the questions we have.

    Today I am thankful for this blessed union of souls.

    And I am forever grateful to the One who joined these two flawed and human souls together.

  • Devotions

    Seasons

    Today is the first day of October.

    These past few months have included a season of firsts.

    First child graduating high school.

    First child going to college.

    First time for me checking the “50-59” box.

    Joyful and celebratory moments.

    But this particular week on the calendar takes me back to a season of lasts.

    Even though eight years have passed since Dad’s death, these moments continue to be raw as if they happened yesterday..

    Fall marks the end of one season and the beginning of another in many ways for me.

    My body is flooded with memories and emotions as I enter the room where Dad and Mom lived out their last years.

    The green leather couch remains and my body settles into the place where Dad last sat.

    It is in this room where Dad ate his last meal from the Snydersville Diner.

    How I miss going there for lunch with him, eating at ‘the big table,” as he liked to call it.

    It is here we had our last conversation and he smiled at me for the last time.

    How I miss our talks about anything and everything.

    How I miss his smile.

    In this room, Dad drew his last breath.

    How I miss his presence each and every day.

    His last night is not something I talk about often.

    To see the shell lying in that rented hospital bed that was once a strong able body, knowing that as each moment passed, Dad was slipping further and further away was a painful image.

    His last hours were so restless.

    He could not seem to get comfortable.

    My mother stroked his head.

    My sister rubbed his arm and held his hand.

    I curled up beside him to try to calm him.

    We spoke softly to him, prayed over him.

    At one point, he raised his arms and said :

    “Lift me up, lift me up.”

    My mother, sister and I were at a loss of what to do.

    And then we knew.

    We were all holding onto him.

    The husband and father could not let go.

    He was between two seasons.

    One at a time, we quietly left his bedside.

    We all remained in the room, keeping watch from a distance.

    His body began to relax.

    And just as the leaves fall from the trees, there was a gentle letting go.

    A change of seasons.

    As I reflect on those last moments with him, I know deep in my heart he was getting ready to enter a season of firsts.

    First time in his new body, free of pain or discomfort.

    First time being reunited with family members and friends who had gone on before him.

    First time seeing Jesus.

    Joyful and celebratory moments.

    Friends, there will be many seasons of firsts and lasts.

    But God reminds us in His word that there is a season for everything in our lives.

    “For everything there is a season,

        a time for every activity under heaven. 

    A time to be born and a time to die.

        A time to plant and a time to harvest.

    A time to kill and a time to heal.

        A time to tear down and a time to build up. 

    A time to cry and a time to laugh.

        A time to grieve and a time to dance.

    A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

        A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 

    A time to search and a time to quit searching.

        A time to keep and a time to throw away.

    A time to tear and a time to mend.

        A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

    A time to love and a time to hate.

        A time for war and a time for peace.”  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 NLT

    Friends, I do not know what season of life you are in at this moment.

    Some seasons are joyful, others more painful and raw.

    But in every season, He is with us.

  • Devotions

    Favorable Conditions

    Exercise?

    Not always on the top of my to do list.

    Probably because it stretches me and takes me out of my comfort zone.

    But knowing its benefits, I half heartedly commit to move in some small way.

    Typically, the gym provides the kind of security I am looking for when exercising.

    It offers a controlled environment.

    The speed on the treadmill?

    Steep inclines or extra weight?

    Obstacles?

    All controlled by me.

    Watching TV or listening to music brings a welcome distraction to the strain I feel in my body..

    If I dare to go even further outside my comfort zone, and into the great outdoors,  I like it to be under “favorable conditions.”

    Sunny.

    Light breeze.

    Flat terrain.

    Secretly, I have always been envious of people who run outdoors in all kinds of conditions.

    They choose to be completely exposed to the unpredictable elements.

    Some days are sunny and the road is clear.

    Others the rain comes down so hard, you can barely see the path in front of you.

    Some days a gentle breeze washes over you.

    Others the gusts of wind are so strong, you feel like there is a wall pushing against you with each step.

    Somedays the terrain in flat and easy.

    Others the hills are steep and the road is anything but smooth.

    Jesus came to earth as a man, out of the comforts of heaven.

    He knew the benefits of His sacrifice, and fully committed to move for us..

    Walking among men did not offer Him security, but it offered us eternity.

    Jesus chose to live in “unfavorable conditions” so that He could remove the obstacles for all mankind to be with our Heavenly Father.

    “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied HImself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.  And being in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 

    Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

    It was not a sunny day when Jesus was crucified on the cross, but the road He had to take was clear.

    There was no gentle breeze that washed over our Savior; instead the scornful and hateful comments of man surrounded him.

    He did not adjust His burden, but carried the full weight of our sin on His torn and bloodied back, just as was foretold in the Old Testament.

    He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

     Isaiah 53: 3-5

    Jesus was completely exposed.

    There was nothing to distract Him from the pain and anguish He felt as He hung on that cross.

    But the pain of spending eternity without us was greater.

    So Jesus did not choose the easy path or favorable conditions.

    He chose us because of His great love.

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

    This promise remains, that He will walk with us no matter the conditions we face.

  • Devotions

    Immeasurable

    Math has never been my best subject.

    But If I had to choose, my favorite types of problems are greater than, less than or equals questions.

    5 > 1.

    3 < 4.

    2 + 2 = 4, nothing less, nothing more.

    That’s my speed.

    These problems have always made the most sense.

    So I am fairly sure all the math lovers like me were completely confused when Jesus began His lesson on how one is greater than ninety-nine.

    Look at it this way.  If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one?  And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put?” Matthew 18: 12-13 MSG

    One celebrated more than ninety-nine?

    In a world that promotes more is better, how could this be correct?

    It was almost as if Jesus was speaking in another language.

    And He was.

    Jesus spoke in the language of love.

    The Great Teacher also included math when teaching lessons on the subjects of grace and forgiveness.

    “ At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven? Hardly.  Try seventy times seven.”

    Matthew 18: 21-22 MSG

    If this had been a multiple choice question, I probably would have thought the seventy times seven number seemed a little high.

    It didn’t make sense.

    But if we want to follow Him, than we need to recheck our math.

    Jesus wants us to learn to forgive others as many times as He forgives us.

    I don’t know about you, but I am sure the number of times He has forgiven me goes well beyond seventy times seven.

    Jesus does not use the same textbooks or lessons that the world offers, but invites us to study His word so we may begin to understand His great love for each of us.

    And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should how high, how wide, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to fully understand .” Ephesians 3: 18-19 NLT

    No formula will ever be able to compute His infinite love for us.

    It is immeasurable.

    We will never be able to fully understand it .

    But as His children, may we never stop trying to learn about it and share it with others.

    His love is too great not to share.

  • Devotions

    Remembrance

    30 minutes had passed.

    A parent of one of my students had not yet arrived for our conference.

    Feeling slightly annoyed, I dialed the number to her house.

    The voice on the other end of the phone sounded shaken.

    I had no idea what was going on outside of my classroom walls.

    “You don’t know what is happening, do you?  We are waiting to hear if my husband is ok.”

    We turned the television on in our room.

    It was the morning of September 11th.

    As the tragic news of the day unfolded, a number of staff came to use the phone in our room, attempting to reach loved ones who commuted into the city.

    One moment changed the landscape of lives forever.

    My eyes kept shifting to the clock.

    All I could think of was my 10 month old son.

    I could not get home fast enough to wrap him up in my arms.

    As a parent, I wanted to shield my child from the evil that had just crashed into our world.

    There was an innocence and purity in his eyes.

    He had no knowledge yet of good and evil.

    Adam and Eve did not have this knowledge either as their story unfolds in Genesis.

    There was an innocence and purity that existed in the Garden of Eden.

    And just like a parent, God wanted to shield his children from the evil that existed in the world.

    The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.  But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2: 15-17 NLT

    One moment changed the landscape of lives forever.

    The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God made.  One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”  “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees of the garden,” the woman replied, “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God said, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”   The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some fruit and she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at the nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves.”  Genesis 3: 1-7 NLT

    It is hard to remember a time when evil did not exist.

    Daily, we are bombarded with news and images that evil is ever present in this world.

    Sometimes it comes crashing into our lives.

    Others, it slithers in the door quietly.

    But God promises to those who believe that there will come a day when all that evil brings will be gone forever.

    I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying “Look, God’s home is now among His people!  He will live with them, and they will be His people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All of these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21: 3-4 NLT

    Especially on this day, I am grateful for that promise.