• 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.

  • Devotions

    The One

    As I settled into bed, I felt a sense of peace.

    Jonathan was curled up watching Netflix.

    Daniel reclined in his chair playing Madden on his Xbox.

    My husband had already dozed off beside me.

    There is no better feeling than this.

    Joy.

    Everyone was home.

    It’s just not the same when one of them is missing.

    Just knowing they are all in my presence is everything.

    Our heavenly Father feels the same way about us.

    His ultimate goal is to have all of His children in His presence.

    And when we leave this place, He wants us all to come home.

    That is why even if one of us is missing, it is just not the same.

    Even if ninety nine are present, He still pursues the one.

    “Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  Luke 15: 3-7 NIV

    Don’t miss this, friends.

    Our Creator rejoices when one of His lost sheep comes home.

    “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”

    Joy.

    That is what our heavenly Father feels when all of His children are together.

    You.

    Me.

    The ninety-nine.

    And the one.

  • Devotions

    Finding Joy When Your Heart is Heavy

    Gazing at my son walking away with one crutch under his arm, my heart felt heavy.

    He was happy to be with his teammates, even though he would not be able to play this season.

    Truthfully, his attitude is much better than mine some days.

    I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, thinking about the year ahead.

    His senior year.

    Between the surgery and COVID, we both knew this year would look different.

    And even though my words told him we would make the best of this crazy year, I have to confess my heart is not always there.

    Today was one of those days.

    So after an iced coffee and a few more tears, I decided to shift my focus to my shopping list.

    New shorts for school, a birthday present and a baby shower gift.

    I tackled the list in just that order and finally found myself in the baby section.

    And then I heard it.

    The sound was unmistakable.

    One I had not heard in awhile.

    It was the sound of sheer joy.

    While browsing through the baby section, I could not help but overhear a man on the phone with his wife.

    Quickly it became apparent that he was shopping for his infant son.

    He picked up outfits, describing each one in detail.

    It was as if nothing else mattered.

    His excitement was so genuine.

    It was almost childlike.

    Like he was seeing the world in a whole new way.

    And while he looked at onesies and sleepers, I wondered if he even knew how much I needed to hear that sound.

    How much we all do.

    A reminder of all that is good in the world.

    The presence of joy, even when our hearts are heavy.

    I stood there with my 25% off coupon in my hands and my heart in my throat.

    The days of buying baby clothes had long passed for me, except for when I was in search of a gift.

    But this was a gift I was not expecting, one that changed my outlook on the rest of the day.

    As I approached the young father, I told him I could not help but notice his excitement.

    Beaming with pride, he quickly shared that his first son had just been born 3 weeks before.

    Sheer joy.

    I told him to enjoy every moment and handed him my coupon.

    Be blessed, I told him.

    In my heart, I knew he had already blessed me.

    God knew the heaviness on my heart.

    He knows what is on your heart, too.

    “You have searched me, Lord,

        and you know me.

     You know when I sit and when I rise;

        you perceive my thoughts from afar.

     You discern my going out and my lying down;

        you are familiar with all my ways.

     Before a word is on my tongue

        you, Lord, know it completely.”  Psalms 139:1-4 NIV

    God knew I needed encouragement in that moment.

    A reminder of all that is good in the world.

    A reminder that there is joy, even when my heart is heavy.

    God challenges us to encourage each other in different ways.

    Consider this scripture from the Hebrews:

    “So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps His word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” 

    Hebrews 10:22-25 MSG

    This translation really challenged me to think about how I can be inventive in my ways of encouraging those around me.

    That is what we are called to do.

    And encouraging someone else is one way we can find joy, even when our own hearts may be heavy.

    How will you be inventive today?

    A sticky note on a lunch box, a cup of coffee, an unexpected visit?

    A 25% off coupon to a stranger?

    The possibilities are endless.

    Because we serve a God of endless possibilities.

    Friends, my prayer is that His promises keep you going in the days ahead and that you are able to find joy, even when your hearts are heavy.

  • Devotions

    The Blank Page

    “I just want to start with a blank page.”

    An expression like this can stir up an array of emotions.

    It can be an exciting prospect for some, the notion of starting new.

    But for others, the mere idea of taking ink to a fresh sheet of paper incites pangs of anxiety.

    Or maybe you are like me.

    The excitement and anxiety are like two parallel streets that are so close together, you are not certain which one you will turn down..

    Today, the road I have chosen is Anxiety Avenue.

    I tend to take detours here when my focus is not clear.

    Clearly on the Author of my life, that is.

    My thoughts go back and forth like a teeter totter, with my shoulds and can’ts.

    The weight of my own insecurities pushes me up and down again and again.

    In those moments, the ones I have more of than I wish to admit, I forget that God has already set out a path for me.

    My short-term memory has nothing to do with my 50 plus years, but my own need for a plan and immediate answers.

    Just like the children of Israel, brought out of slavery in Egypt, I forget seeing the miraculous works of our Creator.

    I see only the blank page before me.

    The unknown.

    Not the history behind me or my faith in the God who has already set a path before me.

    The history that shows me that my God never fails me.

    What can you do when you only see the blank page?

    Remember these scriptures:

    1. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Hebrews 11:3 NLT                                                                                                              

    God started with a blank page.  Our Creator spoke the world into existence.  If He can do that, our faith tells us that He can create a path for us as well. Even if we cannot see our future, God already does.  

    1.  “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:3 NLT

    God is shaping us into who He created us to be.  The shaping of character does not happen overnight. We need to have endurance for what lies ahead.  This tests our faith, but we need to remember that the Author of our lives is giving us opportunities to grow.

    1. “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”  Ephesians 3:12 NLT

    God knows if we are feeling anxious or excited about our future.  He invites us to draw close to HIm and to share our hearts.  We should never be afraid to go sit at His feet.  Go boldly to Father God and ask for wisdom and guidance.  He never withholds Himself from His children.

    Friends, tuck these verses into your heart as a daily reminder of His love for you.

    I do not know what test you are facing right now, but my prayer is that you do not focus on the blank page, but on the One who holds the pen.

    “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”  Ephesians 3:16-18 NLT

  • Devotions

    First Thoughts

    My first steps in the morning are typically toward a large cup of black coffee.

    My first thoughts of the day?

    Well, I would like to say that everyday they rise up to Him with a song of praise or a prayer of gratitude.

    But honestly, that is not everyday.

    And especially these times, when school openings, business closings and the physical and mental health of those around me is constantly in question, my first thoughts tend to be all over the place.

    Maybe you are in that season, too.

    Some days these thoughts swirl around in my mind like a cyclone, picking up anything it can scoop up in its grasp.

    The neverending saturation of news, others opinions, and general chaos loom around me before I have had my first sip of motivation for the day, twisting my first thoughts away from Him.

    So each morning, before I put my feet on the floor and head towards the coffee pot, I need to make a choice.

    Where will my first thoughts go today?

    Friends, as easy as it sounds to choose door number one or door number two, I can say with complete honesty I struggle with this daily.

    My worries and fears sometimes get the better of me.

    And yet, when I choose to let my first thoughts rise to Him, my days always go exceedingly better.

    My perspective of what lies ahead changes.

    I am no longer focused on the world, but on His promises.

    Here are a few verses that help me stay grounded and not swept up in the cyclone of despair.

    1. “He remembers His covenant forever, the promise that He made, for a thousand generations.” 1 Chronicles 16:15 NIV    

    Our God is a covenant keeping God.  The promises He made to His people thousands of years ago still covers you and me today.

    1. “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalms 119:50 NIV God sees us as we struggle.  He knows our daily challenges.  And yet it is our relationship with the Almighty and His promises to be with His people that reminds us we are never alone in our suffering.
    1. “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV 

    Most of us are worried about what lies ahead.  But our heavenly Father goes before us.  If He is already in the days ahead, we can embrace the promise that He is waiting there for us and preparing the way.

    What verses give you grounding?

    Focus on these words.

    Let them penetrate your heart and your mind.

    My prayer is that your first thoughts rise to the One who gave us life.

    Could that be your prayer for me as well?

    Less worry, more peace.

    Not our perspective, but His promises.

    “Look to the Lord and his strength;

        seek his face always.”  1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV

    May each of us find strength in Him today.

    Amen.

  • Devotions

    Cut, Color and Counsel

    My shoulders tightened.

    That is where I typically hold my tension.

    As I waited for the door to open, I could feel my anxiety rise.

    This was the longest I had left my son since his surgery.

    But I really needed a cut and color, like so many other women.

    Oh the joy of finally getting an appointment when our area was given the green light in these COVID times to open salons.

    A small sense of normalcy.

    The days of restriction and isolation felt multiplied following my son’s surgery.

    If I am being honest, despite the amazing support from so many, there were days I felt exhausted, emotionally and physically.

    I longed to feel understood.

    And then the door opened.

    Literally and figuratively.

    I don’t think my friend even knew how she ministered to me as she mixed my color.

    This was more than an appointment for a cut and color.

    It was a divine appointment.

    As she spoke of her own child, who also recently had surgery and was stuck at home, my shoulders relaxed.

    She shared the frustrations and difficulties they experienced, and the things that helped.

    With my mask covering my face, I fought back the tears.

    I needed to be in the presence of someone who understood.

    My son jokingly told me I needed a cut and color.

    But my heavenly Father knew what I needed even more was counsel.

    I am so profoundly grateful for that gift and for His provision.

    It overwhelms my soul.

    Friends, do you really know how much He sees you?

    I don’t know what difficulty you are facing today, but know this: He knows you.

    Listen to these words from the Psalms.

    “You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
    You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
    You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
    Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
    You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
    Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
    How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
    Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139: 1-18

    Whether our movement is restricted or we go across the continent, He is always with us.

    Even when we feel isolated, we are not alone.

    When we think no one understands, He knows our thoughts and feelings.

    That knowledge is too wonderful not to share with a broken world.

    Will you share His love today?

  • Devotions

    Baffled

    As the rain gently falls, I watch out the window at the bird feeders in our backyard.

    An array of colorful feathered friends feast on the seeds my husband has put out.

    But this tasty feast attracts another creature.

    A squirrel.

    In an attempt to deter our furry friend from trying to ascend the pole to the feeders, my husband has put up a squirrel stopper.

    These are sometimes also referred to as squirrel baffles.

    Ironically, these deterrents that do not stop the squirrel from trying to reach the treasure above.

    Over and over again.

    His attempts are in vain.

    The abilities of the squirrel and birds differ.

    A squirrel can climb and scamper.  

    A bird can fly through the air with ease.

    Both God’s creatures, but with different gifts.

    Just like you and I.

    I love how God uses these moments to whisper a message into my heart.

    In a world that fosters competition, we do not always recognize or value the fact that we all have different gifts.

    We compare ourselves to those around us.

    And like the squirrel trying to ascend the pole, we want to put ourselves in someone else’s spot.

    Maybe you have been there.

    I know that I have.

    And when I have tried over and over again to fit somewhere I think I should be versus where God wants me to be, I turn to His word.

    “ For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”   

    Romans 12:4-8 NIV

    Just like the squirrel baffle does not prevent this creature from his attempts, so too our human nature does not prevent us from comparing ourselves with others.

    But take heart, friend.

    God has a special gift for each of us to share with the world.

    When we embrace rather than compare our gift, we can offer it cheerfully with those around us.

    And we can encourage others to share their gifts as well.

    What is the gift you offer to the world today?