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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Prayer for the New Year

A New Year Prayer

Author Unknown

Holy Father,

God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.

We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.

Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.

Help us in Your new year, Father, to fret less and laugh more.

To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.

To teach others to love by loving them.

Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.

So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.

That we could share Love with others.

Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,

in the chriping of sparrows in our backyards,

in the stories of our old folks, and the fantasies of our children.

Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,

so that we may know You better and better.

We rejoice in the world You loved into being.

Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.

We pray for peace, for light, and for hope, that we might spread them to others.

Forgive us for falling short this past year.

We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.

We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what's ahead, depending on You to help us do exactly what You want..

I say it again, we rejoice!

In Jesus name,


Thursday, December 30, 2010

There's Always Something I Can Do

Today's devotional is a guest post by Glynnis Whitwer.

"Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties."

Mark 6:39-40 (NIV)

Worn out. Hungry. Without resources. Needs on every side. That's what Jesus' disciples faced at the end of a long day of ministry. Even Jesus was ready for a rest. So He suggested they go by boat to a solitary place. Great idea, right? Well, it didn't work out that way.

By that point in Jesus' ministry, people followed Him everywhere. In fact, they were so desperate for His touch, they ran around the lake, and actually got to the other side before Jesus did.

Imagine the disciples' response seeing all those needy people. I imagine they felt empty. Have you ever felt that way? … exhausted by the demands on you … emotionally bankrupt … at the end of your resources with nothing left to give?

Just when the disciples wanted to curl up and rest, Jesus started to teach to the people. Didn't He notice they were exhausted? They wanted to do nothing, because that's all they thought they could do.

The disciples even tried to stop Jesus from teaching, and send the people away so they could do nothing in peace. They said, "This is a remote place ... and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat" (Mark 6:35b-36).

So not only were the disciples exhausted, they were in a barren place with NO resources. I know what that feels like. There have been times in my life when needs faced me at every turn, circumstances and people thwarted my best efforts, and hope flickered like a weak flame. At those times, "nothing" seemed like all I could do.

On that day when the disciples felt they could not take on one more task, Jesus gave them a biggie. Instead of allowing them to send the people away, Jesus said, "You give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37).

Jesus then asked the disciples to present what food they had. It wasn't much, but they handed over five loaves of bread and two fish. Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups (v. 39).

While the disciples did that, Jesus thanked God for the food and gave it back to the disciples to pass around. Jesus worked a miracle that day, all the people were fed, and there were 12 baskets of food left.

I've read that story many times in my life, but recently something stood out to me. Why did Jesus ask the disciples to have the people sit? And why did they sit in groups? The most obvious answer is that in the face of an overwhelming situation, Jesus knew everybody needed order.

What if there was more than a need for simple order? What if Jesus wanted the disciples to shift their focus away from what they couldn't do, to what they could do? Then, Jesus did what only He could - He performed a miracle.

The disciples were so focused on their own lack, and how they couldn't possibly meet the overwhelming needs, they decided to do nothing. Worse than that, they forgot they were standing next to the One who could help. But Jesus put them to work on the practical task right before them, to prepare for the miracle He was about to perform.

As I face hard times in my own life, there is wisdom in this for me. Sometimes, all I think about is what I can't control. I focus on the problem and the unfairness of the situation. Even though I've prayed, confessed my needs and presented my resources to Jesus, I stay focused on what I can't do. It's a pretty limited view of the situation.

I somehow forget that I'm standing next to the One who can feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish ... and have leftovers! Sometimes, instead of doing what God has placed in front of me, I do nothing.

Perhaps, instead of wringing my hands with worry, I need to get busy with what I can control. There's always something I can do to bring order to my situation. It's not a distraction technique ... it's an act of faith. Jesus is still in the business of miracles, and I definitely can't do those.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I focus more on my own limitations rather than Your power. There is nothing too great for You. Help me to turn my thoughts away from what I can't do, to what You have placed in front of me. I trust You to do the rest. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do You Know the One Who Can Meet Your Needs?

Visit Glynnis' blog for ideas on what you can do in overwhelming circumstances

The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land by Priscilla Shirer

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can God Use You?

Happy. Stressed. Overjoyed. Overwhelmed. Do any of these words describe you this time of year? If so, you're in good company.

When people looked at Mary, they didn't see anything special. After all, a young, poor Galilean girl didn't stir much interest. And although the Bible doesn't speak much of Mary's childhood, we can assume that it was a very ordinary life. Just like the other young women, Mary took care of the chores around the house. She sewed, cooked, and drew water from the well. No one knew the future that was awaiting her.

When God looked at Mary, he looked beyond her gender and her poverty. God looked straight into her heart, and from what Gabriel tells Mary, God liked what he saw. He saw a heart of trust and a spirit of obedience. He saw a young girl who was willing to do whatever was necessary to please God. He saw a useful vessel, so He used her in a way that could have never been imagined.

Picture a young Mary, probably in her early teens, as she stands before Gabriel. First of all, I would imagine the shock of seeing an angel was overwhelming. Add to this the fact that the angel is showering her with praise. I'm sure Mary was speechless for a little while. I'm sure she was honored and that she felt unworthy of such an important role, but did her thoughts stop there? She could have been so overwhelmed at the time that she didn't think about much of anything. It could have been later that thoughts began to bombard her.

By accepting such tidings, Mary was risking a lot. Think about it, she was an unwed woman, set to be married and now carrying a child that does not belong to her intended spouse. Imagine the shame, the ridicule, the gossip. What would it be like to have your friends and family think the worst of you when you had, in truth, done nothing wrong? Was carrying the Son of God worth all of that? Mary seemed to think so.

As soon as Gabriel is done speaking, Mary opens her mouth. Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Mary declares, “I am the Lord's servant, and I will do whatever he asks of me.” Are we as willing to obey? When we see what our obedience will cost us, do we make excuses? A better question still is do we have enough favor in God's sight that He would ask a favor of us. When He looks at us, what does He see? An obedient servant? A heart full of faith? Or a partially devoted follower who turns the other way when the going gets tough?

Mary learned that when you obey and trust, God will work out all the details.

- This devotion was an excerpt from a new book I'm working on. Lord willing, Footprints on the Water will be available in a few months. I hope you enjoyed this "sneak peek."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Schroeder - Jingle Bells

I actually did this once at choir practice. I can't remember what the song was, but the director said I was playing it too "fancy," and he couldn't figure out where to come in. I don't know what got into me, but I began playing a one-finger melody with my right index finger. The pastor burst out laughing and said, "She did it just like on Snoopy!" Anyway, enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Messed Up Again!

I've been making my way steadily through the Old Testament in my Bible reading. This time through, I decided to implement a plan that will take me through the Bible in chronological order. It's been very interesting. I'm currently in the book of Judges, and I've noticed quite a trend.

It seems like every other chapter (sometimes more), I'll come across this phrase, "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord." Over and over again! God delivers them, and they're happy for a little while, but then they turn back to their false gods. Hard times come, and you'll find Israel right back on their knees, pleading for God to deliver them and promising that they'll be true to Him this time. But it never lasts. This has been going on for generations! When will they get the point. Better yet, when will I?

As much as I want to find fault with the children of Israel, I have to admit that I'm just as guilty. If God was writing down my story, I have no doubt that every other page would read, "And Dana did evil again in the sight of the Lord." No, I don't worship Baal, but I do turn to chocolate for comfort instead of turning to God. I trust in my own knowledge instead of trusting in God's. I fail to give Him the praise He deserves. I stumble and fall every single day. Then I accuse Him of not taking care of me as He promised in His Word. I go on to plead with Him to deliver me from the mess I've made and promise that I'll listen to Him from now on. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, I am no better than the children of Israel, and it really convicts me when I read through these many passages. My first thought is to condemn them for their hard hearts, but then God touches my heart and helps me to see that I act the same way. The process is eye-opening and heart-breaking.

I'm so glad I serve a merciful God! There comes a point when God says, "Fine! I've had enough!" like in Judges 10:11-14. And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Was God being cruel? Absolutely not. He was giving them what they wanted. They wanted to worship other Gods, so God said, "Fine, call on them!" He certainly showed them more patience than you or I would have. But even after all they had done, and even after He had spoken these words, look at what verse 16 says, And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.

God still felt sorry for them. He still answered their prayers. He gave them another chance. What a loving and merciful God! With such a wonderful God, why would we long to serve another?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Endure and Enjoy

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I love this time of year. Trees decorated with lights and tinsel. Nativity scenes. Wreaths on the door. Stockings by the fireplace. Parties. Plays. Gift exchanges. The story of Christ's birth. All in all, it is the most wonderful time of year.

The one part that I dislike is the cinnamon. Honestly, people, give me a break! I'm allergic to cinnamon!!! The stores are so overwhelmingly fragrant this time of year that people who love the smell of cinnamon are gagging at the stench. Me? Well, I'm crying, gagging, and trying to hold my breath so I don't throw up in the middle of the store. Cinnamon candles. Cinnamon candy. Cinnamon potpourri. Cinnamon cakes and pastries. And the worst -- cinnamon brooms! I can smell those things a mile away. Our local grocery store (bless their hearts) places them ever so lovingly in front of the bathrooms. Don't they know that's the first place I'm going to go when entering a store? Good grief!!!!

So, with the season of joy comes the perfume of hardship for me. I can't go to stores. I can't go to other people's homes. I even smelled some cinnamon when we were out walking the dogs the other day. (So much for fresh air!) It's a joyful season, but it can be difficult. While there is plenty for me to enjoy, there are also a few things I must endure.

You know another thing I have to endure? Bumps in the road. Yes, just as Christmas is a time of joy, so is Christian growth. But just as Christmas doesn't come without cinnamon, Christian growth doesn't come without trials. We don't like them. We don't enjoy them. Sometimes it's even hard to endure them. But they are a part of the Christian walk. Growth and tribulation go hand in hand.

Now, I could allow my dislike of cinnamon to completely ruin my holidays. I could allow it to cause me to hate the season and everything about it. I could pout and cry and complain. Or I could enjoy the time while enduring the cinnamon.

Similarly, we can allow the bumps in the road to dishearten us, or we can enjoy our Christian growth as we endure the trials of life. The choice is ours. What will it be?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The "W's" of Christmas

Mary wept.

Joseph wondered.

The animals watched.

The angels welcomed.

The shepherds witnessed.

The wise men worshiped.

And what about you?

What will you do with Jesus?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. Searching for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad’s (a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.

Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they’ve decided to bring together.

This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers’ best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?

Ms. Paul has done an excellent job of putting together a Christmas tale to remember. Her enjoyable story is a modern-day Christian fairy tale, a combination rarely seen. Her whit and charm make the story come alive, and the unusual occurrences throughout the tale give the reader a sense of Christmas magic.

Cora Crowder is a hard-working Christian who comes from a horrible family. Their disagreeable nature prevents Cora from finding the true Christmas cheer. But all that is about to change! Cora is a lovable and realistic character. She is a Christian, but she still fights those daily battles with bad attitudes and hateful thoughts. While reading about Cora's past home life, the reader can't help by sympathize with her. This sympathy soon turns to cheer and encouragement as Cora faces the decision of whether or not to allow her fairy tale to take place.

Simon Derrick has the family Cora has always dreamed of, but come to find out, it is his devotion to his family that is keeping him from pursuing a relationship of a deeper kind. Strong in his Christian faith, Simon doesn't want to settle for just anyone. He wants a good Christian woman who will accept not only him, but his family as well. Simon is the knight in shining armor who sees himself as nothing more than a geek with an eccentric family. His attempts at "courting" are nothing short of hilarious, but one can't help but cheer him on in hopes that he will soon win his true love.

I simply could not put this book down. From the very first page, I was drawn to the characters and into the story. Who are these people, and why are they so distracted? What's up with this street that only appears at certain times and for certain people? Donita Paul has written a true page turner for readers of any age!

I read and reviewed this book as part of the Blogging for Books program by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Groups. I was not required to write a positive review. The views expressed are my own.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?

A few days ago, my computer froze up. . . again! The really bad part is that I was at the end of the process of creating a Christmas gift on a website at the time that the computer froze up. I hadn't come to the place yet where I could save my work. I had spent the entire day on a project that was lost. I shut down my computer, reloaded it, went back to the website, and behold, nothing!!!! To say I was upset would be an understatement. I was livid!!! I whined. I cried. I fussed and complained. When Jason called, I vented my frustration to him. Believe it or not, my friends, I had a very BAD attitude, and frankly, I didn't want to let it go.

The next day, I logged on to the website to start the process over. I was determined to not get mad this time. No matter what, I was going to keep my cool. As my page came up, there was my project sitting there just as pretty as you please. I opened it up, and it was all there. All I had to do was put in the finishing touches. So what was my response? I said a quick, "Thank you, Lord" and went on with my work. Oh, and I did mention to Jason that somehow my work had been saved after all.

What is wrong with this picture? When things didn't go my way, I acted in anger, frustration, and bitterness. I let everyone know of my predicament. I complained and threw myself a royal pity party. However, when things did go my way, I shrugged it off as though it's just the way life is supposed to be. Where was the praise? Where was the rejoicing? Where was the true thanksgiving instead of the obligatory "thank you, Lord"?

Do you find it easier to complain than to rejoice? To be mad instead of happy? To rant and rave instead of pray and praise? Why is that? Why don't we make a big deal out of the good things and not just the bad? Why, oh why?

I don't know about you, but my recent behavior was an eye-opener for me. There's nothing wrong with being angry as long as that anger doesn't lead to sinful actions or attitudes. However, if I'm not going to take notice when things go right, I have no right to notice when things go wrong. In other words, I need to whine a lot less and praise a lot more. I have so much to praise Him for that it shouldn't leave me any time to complain.

Will you join me, or would you like some cheese with your whine?