• Devotions

    Trusting When We Don’t Understand

    It’s unusual for me to get a call from my friend this early.

    Or at all to be honest.

    She is more of a texter.

    But when I saw her name pop up on my phone screen, I took a chance that it wasn’t a pocket 

    dial and answered.

    Much to my surprise, I heard her voice on the other end.

    And before even saying hello, she asked this question:

    Did that just happen?

    In an instant, I knew what she meant.

    For the next few minutes, we talked about the events that unfolded in our nation’s Capitol the day before.

    Disbelief, fear, sadness, horror.

    So many emotions brim to the surface of our souls.

    Then another call from a friend experiencing an incredible loss.

    And another question.

    How do you move forward when you feel so much pain?

    A pain that penetrates us to our core and rocks our foundation.

    On these days, I struggle with what I can offer those around me who are hurting.

    So I listen, offering what Dharius Daniels calls “the ministry of presence.”

    “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT

    When I cannot find the words, I can go to His Word to find comfort.

    “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.

     He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding..” Ephesians 1: 4-8 NLT

    When I cannot trust in the things of this world, I can trust in His plan.

    “God has now revealed to us His mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill His own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan.” Ephesians 1: 9-11 NLT

    There seems to be so much pain and confusion in our world right now.

    Some days it may feel difficult to take the next step.

    Friends, on those days remember the Creator of the Universe loved you before the world began.

    That is something you can trust even when you don’t understand the plan.

  • Devotions

    As It Should Be

    It wasn’t as it should be.

    Every year at this time, our family piles into the car to journey to Beck’s tree farm.

    The boys take turns using the saw to cut down the perfect tree.

    Once the tree topples down, my sons would drag it to the car and secure it on top.

    Afterwards, we travel to Hot Dog Johnny’s to feast on hot dogs, fries and birch beer.

    But this year looked different, as everything does.

    Because my husband still did not feel well enough to join us, the boys and I decided to adjust our plans.

    Instead, we purchased a pre-cut tree from our local fire department.

    As the boys and I stood in line for take out, we fondly recalled the many memories we had performing our yearly ritual.

    It wasn’t as it should be.

    I’m pretty sure that this was Joseph’s thought when he found out Mary was pregnant.

    They were to marry first, and then start a family.

    Everything looked different than Joseph probably imagined.

     “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”   Matthew 1: 18-19 NLT

    Can you even imagine being in Joseph’s shoes?

    But God knew exactly who He wanted to be Jesus’s earthly father.

    “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.”

    All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

      “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

        She will give birth to a son,

    and they will call him Immanuel,

        which means ‘God is with us.’”

    When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and 

    took Mary as his wife.  Matthew 1: 20-24 NLT

    The plan in Mary’s head probably did not come close to what our heavenly Father had in store for her as well.

    But just like Joseph, God knew who He wanted to bring His son into this world.

     “Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

    Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!”  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1: 28-34 NLT

    In a year that has brought things most of us could have never imagined, I am reminded of the unimaginable birth of our Savior.

    I am encouraged by Joseph’s obedience and Mary’s trust in God.

    The birth of our Savior could have looked very different.

    Maybe He would have not been born to an unwed teeanger in a stable.

    But gratefully, He was.

    And it was exactly as it should be.

    May this most unexpected story of His birth bring light and hope to your souls today.

    We need it now more than ever.

  • Devotions

    Today Is the Day

    Today was the day.

    The day that my son was supposed to finally take his SATS.

    But they were cancelled for the third time.

    Today was the day.

    The day that we were to continue with our yearly family tradition.

    Going to Beck’s Tree Farm to cut down our Christmas tree together and then to Hot Dog Johnny’s to grab lunch is something we look forward to every year.

    But instead we are waiting for test results to see if my husband is positive for Covid.

    As I write this, I am watching him sleep on the couch (socially distanced of course).

    If I am being honest, it is hard not to feel discouraged.

    And not because we can’t go for our tree or my son cannot take his exam.

    It’s because there is just so much brokenness everywhere.

    My heart is heavy for my brothers and sisters who are suffering.

    For those who are separated from or have lost loved ones.

    For those who are struggling with finances.

    For those who are not certain if their business will survive or if their jobs will still be there in the new year.

    For those who are battling the dark days that accompany mental health and addiction.

    For those who feel isolated and alone.

    For those who have lost hope.

    So I go to the place where hope lives.

    In His Word.

    A place where I find encouragement and comfort as I wait.

    “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.” 

    Romans 15:4 NLT

    A place where I am reminded of His promises.

    “And in another place Isaiah said,

    “The heir to David’s throne will come,

        and he will rule over the Gentiles.

    They will place their hope on him.” Romans 15: 12 NLT

    I remind myself that today is the day that we have hope.

    Hope that came in the form of an infant who would become the Savior of all.

    The day that despite the struggles belongs to Him.

    Friends, it is hard even in this season to not feel discouraged.

    Take heart.

    The source of our hope is always available to His children.

    Today and every day.

    “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13 NLT

    Today is the day to embrace that hope.

  • Devotions

    Have You Ever Seen Anything Like That?

    In your life, have you ever seen anything like that?!

    An awestruck sports commentator posed this question after witnessing Tiger Woods win his fourth green jacket in a playoff against Chris DiMarco during the 2005 Masters.

    He had witnessed greatness.

    Cheers could be heard by spectators as this famous golfer made his final shot.

    A touchdown in the final seconds of the game, sinking the last putt, a buzzer beater during a playoff game.

    Moments that leave crowds filled with awe.

    During this pandemic, it feels like these moments are far and few between.

    Many sports seasons have been delayed, shortened, or cancelled altogether.

    There is a limit to how many, if any, spectators are permitted at events.

    It is a discouraging and sad time for so many.

    We are limited in so many ways.

    But there is one thing to remember, especially now.

    There is greatness all around us.

    And not one of us is restricted from viewing the wonders of His creation.

    “The whole world is filled with awe at Your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, You call forth songs of joy.” Psalms 65:8 NIV

    If we allow ourselves to pause and look, there are moments of awe that He can fill us with every day.

    A sunrise or sunset.

    The sounds of the birds chirping outside your window.

    Watching a child smile.

    Even during this challenging time, there are still moments that can fill us with awe and wonder.

    Moments that if we shift our focus to Him, we can still ask with awe:

    In your life, have you ever seen anything like that?!

    My prayer for you my friend is that you are left awestruck by the greatness of our Creator.

    Amen.

  • Devotions

    Always the Same

    2020 has been the year of changes.

    That is putting it mildly, some of you are probably thinking.

    The ways that we work, shop and go to school have been altered.

    Curve balls are thrown at us on a daily basis.

    Yesterday was no exception.

    An eerie feeling came over me as I entered the building for my yearly appointment with my oncologist.

    The center that was once bustling with activity now felt like a ghost town.

    No walks where breast cancer survivors and supporters could gather this year.

    In person activities and gatherings have shifted to virtual.

    It has been almost 10 years since my diagnosis.

    Connections with others were the very things that helped me through my own journey.

    And as I made my way back the empty hallway after getting my temperature taken at the door, 

    I ran into a staff member who had helped me through my treatment years ago.

    We sat and chatted about the change in the atmosphere.

    Limitations in how the staff interacts with patients and how the patients interact with each other left a heaviness on my heart.

    Everything just feels different.

    And when everything feels different, this is the verse that I hold onto:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NLT

    He never put limitations on how He interacted with His people.

    Not if they were considered unclean.

    “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.” Matthew 8: 1-3 NLT

    Not if they were considered unworthy.

    “Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

    The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

    Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  John 4: 7-10 NLT

    Jesus knew that they craved connection.

    Connection with the One who brought hope into their brokenness.

    The same hope that is available to us today.

    The only limitations that are placed on how I interact with our Savior are the ones I put there myself.

    He is always available, ready to listen to our hearts, whether they are joyful or heavy.

    He never withholds Himself from us.

    And in a world that is constantly in flux, my heart is grateful that He is my constant.

    My prayer is that you allow Him to be yours as well.

    That is putting it mildly, some of you are probably thinking.

    The ways that we work, shop and go to school have been altered.

    Curve balls are thrown at us on a daily basis.

    Yesterday was no exception.

    An eerie feeling came over me as I entered the building for my yearly appointment with my oncologist.

    The center that was once bustling with activity now felt like a ghost town.

    No walks where breast cancer survivors and supporters could gather this year.

    In person activities and gatherings have shifted to virtual.

    It has been almost 10 years since my diagnosis.

    Connections with others were the very things that helped me through my own journey.

    And as I made my way back the empty hallway after getting my temperature taken at the door, 

    I ran into a staff member who had helped me through my treatment years ago.

    We sat and chatted about the change in the atmosphere.

    Limitations in how the staff interacts with patients and how the patients interact with each other left a heaviness on my heart.

    Everything just feels different.

    And when everything feels different, this is the verse that I hold onto:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NLT

    He never put limitations on how He interacted with His people.

    Not if they were considered unclean.

    “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.” Matthew 8: 1-3 NLT

    Not if they were considered unworthy.

    “Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  John 4: 7-10 NLT

    Jesus knew that they craved connection.

    Connection with the One who brought hope into their brokenness.

    The same hope that is available to us today.

    The only limitations that are placed on how I interact with our Savior are the ones I put there myself.

    He is always available, ready to listen to our hearts, whether they are joyful or heavy.

    He never withholds Himself from us.

    And in a world that is constantly in flux, my heart is grateful that He is my constant.

    My prayer is that you allow Him to be yours as well.

  • Devotions

    You Can’t Make This Up

    You can’t make this up.

    If you have teenagers, you should be well acquainted with this phrase.

    The phrase that was uttered the other night when my son and his friends strolled into my living room on Monday night with ducks.

    Emphasis on the plural.

    Not one, two or even three.

    Eight.

    During the book club that was being held at my home.

    To say that they thought this was a great idea would be an understatement.

    Heat lamps and food were purchased to care for these 3 week old babies.

    These kids were serious.

    But they had missed one crucial step when making this decision.

    No one had asked their parents if they thought this was a good idea.

    The parents were taken by surprise.

    Now, the ducks were adorable.

    We could all agree on that.

    But the impact that decision would have on others was not thought through.

    The who, what, where and how had been overshadowed by the appeal of these cute furry creatures.

    I have to confess I am no different than a teenager some days.

    I do not always consult my heavenly Father first about my decisions.

    My choices do not always line up with what His will is for me.

    The appeal of something that brings me short term joy may have weighty consequences later, ones I have not considered.

    My impulsivity and human inclinations take over.

    And just like buying ducks, I don’t always consider how my decisions might impact those around me.

    Maybe I am not alone here.

    But unlike earthly parents, our heavenly Father is not surprised by anything that we do.

    Even when we rebel and don’t consult Him about our choices, He always takes us in.

    “But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9 : 9 NLT

    After the initial shock of the chirping wore off, our group of parents had a chuckle and knew we would have a story for later.

    Friends, I am certain that Father God has many stories He could share about us.

    Gratefully, the same God who was full of compassion and mercy for Moses has that same compassion and mercy for you and for me.

    “The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,“Yahweh![a] The Lord!

        The God of compassion and mercy!

    I am slow to anger

        and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”  Exodus 34:6 NLT

    And that is something you cannot make up.

  • Devotions

    Under His Feet

    Being hospitalized in COVID times casts a different shadow for families now.

    Surgery for our 17 year old son meant that only one person could be with him : me.

    My husband would drop us off at 5:30 on Wednesday morning and not return until Sunday. 

    That moment he drove slowly away felt crushing to my soul.

    But the weight of my anxiety was replaced by peace as I sat alone in the waiting room.

    And the peace that I felt as I awaited updates could only be explained this way: 

    The prayers of others were carrying me gently through those long hours.

    Like Paul, my gratitude for the faithful was included in my prayers of thanks.

    “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…”

    (Ephesians 1:15 ESV)

    Upon hearing of my son’s surgery, my church family and friends immediately put love into action.  Praying together on Zoom, sending goodie baskets, coming for visits.

    We are a part of a family larger than the one that bears our last name.

    As a body of believers, we belong to each other.

    “ so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5 ESV)

    When we show love to one another, we honor our heavenly Father.

    Paul describes this as “the love shown toward all the saints.” (Ephesians 1:15 ESV)

    In the hearts of those who call upon Him and call Him Lord is the same power that rose Christ from the grave.

    It is that power and that knowledge of the hope that we have in Him that brings us peace.  

    Not the knowledge of what we can see, but of what we cannot see.

    I could not see anyone with me in the hospital, and yet I did not feel alone.

    I felt His presence in a powerful way.

    And that is what Father God desires…for us to be in His presence.

    “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

    When His children draw close to Him, God rewards them with His peace.

    As we call more and more upon God, so our faith and our relationship with Him grows.

     “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 1:18-20 ESV)

    As our faith deepens, our perspective expands and the eyes of our hearts are opened.

    We do not gain worldly knowledge, but rather spiritual knowledge.

    Not only are we able to see hope, but also those around us in need of that hope.

    We see each other through His loving eyes.

    And when we do, we reflect the image of our Creator.

    Knowing that nothing happens to us here that is not under His dominion provides a security that cannot be found anywhere else.

    “And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  (Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV)

    Regardless of our circumstances, there is nothing that happens that is not under the feet of the One who gave His life for you and for me.

    How glorious is the hope that we have in Him, knowing He is always near.

    Brothers and sisters, that is something to give thanks for each day.

    Prayer: Father God, we are so grateful to be a part of your holy family.  Thank you for our brothers and sisters who shine Your light and share Your love in this broken world.  Open the eyes of our hearts that we might see clearly those in need of the hope and peace that only comes from You.

    In Your Son’s most precious name, Amen.

    Are you experiencing a difficult time right now in your life?

    “And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

    Now fill in the blank: ____________________________ is under His feet.

    Pray this scripture over your situation: 

    “Father God, the weight of __________is heavy, but I know that this problem is under Your feet.”

  • Devotions

    The Light is Always On

    During the pandemic, our family ate at home most of the time.

    Some days we would support our favorite local restaurants by ordering takeout. 

    But otherwise, this girl was putting in overtime as the family’s short order cook. 

    If you have teenage boys, there is no further explanation needed.

    Sometime during my cooking and baking extravaganza, my oven light mysteriously would not turn off.

    My husband and I searched the owner’s manual and online for a solution, as no repairmen were permitted to come into homes at that point.

    And when we could not fix the problem, we just concluded that eventually the lightbulb would burn out.

    So the light stayed on.

    And after a while, though I am in the kitchen everyday, I didn’t even notice the light anymore.

    That was six months ago.

    And the light is still on.

    Yesterday, as I walked past the oven for the upteenth time to pour my coffee, I heard this whisper.

    The light is always on.

    I love how our God finds the most amazing ways to speak a message into my heart.

    The meaning in the malfunction.

    His Light is always on.

    There are many times I walk through my day, not noticing that the Light of the world is shining.

    A light that was meant for you and for me.

    “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  

    John 8:12 NLT

    His Light is always on.

    Even when I forget it is there.

    It does not matter how much time passes.

    His light never burns out.

    And His light not only shines for us, but through us.

    As believers, we are called to share that light with a world filled with darkness.

    “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 NLT

    Friends, my prayer for us all today is that we do not walk past the Light, but embrace it and share it with others.

    The Light is always on.

  • Devotions

    That Familiar Feeling

    It was a familiar feeling.

    The conversation flowed like we had just seen each other yesterday.

    But the circumstances for our impromptu gathering were not as pleasant as being seated at our high school lunch table.

    Assembled faces now on a video chat, we were no longer talking about classes or weekend plans.

    Sadly, a friend’s unexpected loss led to a discussion on how to best support her.

    Some of these women I have known almost my entire life.

    Being in their presence was easy and comforting, even if it was on video chat.

    It had been way too long.

    It’s sad it takes something like this to come together.

    In unanimous agreement, we spoke about how we needed to make it a point to get together more often, despite the busyness in our lives.

    As I sipped my morning coffee today, this is the moment I have reflected on.

    How similar this is to my own faith walk.

    Sometimes I will sit down with my heavenly Father to talk about my day,  just like sitting at our lunch table.

    It’s no longer about classes or weekend plans.

    But the content does not matter.

    What’s most important is being in His presence.

    It’s a familiar feeling because the Creator knows me.

    “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

        and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

     Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

        Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

     You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

        as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

     You saw me before I was born.”  Psalm 139: 13-16 NLT

    Being in His presence is easy and comforting.

    But sometimes too much time passes between our conversations.

    Something breaks my routine, and I find myself getting caught up in the busyness of life.

    Then my meeting with Him comes only when a problem occurs or there is a crisis.

    Regardless, His love never changes and He always receives His children.

    “The Lord is like a father to His children,

        tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.

     For He knows how weak we are;

        He remembers we are only dust.

     Our days on earth are like grass;

        like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

    The wind blows, and we are gone—

        as though we had never been here.

    But the love of the Lord remains forever

        with those who fear Him.”  Psalm 103: 13-17 NLT

    Just like my earthly relationships, the time I spend with my heavenly Father needs to be intentional.

    No one knows me better than Him.

    No one loves me better than Him.

    Friends, don’t let the distractions of the world get in the way of the most important relationship you will ever have.

    Spend time in His presence today.