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Friday, January 28, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Well, God finally opened up a door, and Jason and I were able to get our new phones. . . for FREE! That's the good news. The bad news is that the phone company, in all their intelligence, went ahead and transferred our numbers to the new phones. The phones aren't scheduled to arrive until late Friday afternoon. In the meantime, our current phones don't work. We can't make calls or receive calls. I feel completely cut off from the world!

The ironic thing is that yesterday Jason was having trouble with his work phone. He could receive calls but couldn't make any. He couldn't even send a text. He got a different work phone from the owner of the company he works for only to discover that that phone was having the same issues. Come to find out, the phone company was doing some work on the account related to those phones, and until the"issues" were resolved, the phones would not work properly.

Jason was frustrated as he couldn't make any calls to clients because not only did neither of his work phones work, but he couldn't even use his personal phone. It made for a long, frustrating day. That evening as we lay in bed discussing the difficulties we had each experienced with not having a phone, Jason made a comment that caused me to laugh until I cried. He said, "I carried around three phones with me all day, and I still couldn't make a call." For whatever reason, that comment struck me as hilarious. Even as I type it now, it makes me giggle.

The entire process, while frustrating, has reminded me of a glorious truth: God is never out of reach. I don't need a phone to call Him up. It is never necessary for me to send a text. Whether my phone number is tagged to my current phone or to one in a box in a UPS truck somewhere in the country, I can still get in touch with God, and He can get in touch with me. I'll never receive a busy signal or a voice mail. I don't even have to pay for long distance. Yes, it's such a thrill for me to know that whenever I need Him, all I have to do is call His name. He knows my name. He hears my prayers. He's listening, and He's speaking. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eating My Words

Our pastor was out of town last weekend, so we had the opportunity to hear preaching from some of the preachers in our church. The sermon on Sunday morning was on anchors in the storm, a message I definitely needed to hear. The funny thing was that on two separate occasions the preacher referred to my book, Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to swallow your words when they're preached back at you?

The first mention of my book was just a brief comment that my devotion on being still was a comfort to him because he realized it wasn't just him that had trouble letting go of problems. The second comment, however, hit me right between the eyes. He was speaking on the anchor of God's promises and how we don't need to worry or wonder if God will come through for us. He has promised that He will. Then he made this comment: "Dana got it right in her book. She said it plainly. Worry is a sin." OUCH!!!!

Chewing on those words at any time would have been difficult, but Jason and I had just had the same discussion about worry on Saturday. My tendency to worry not only affects my spiritual health, but my physical health as well. As a good husband should, Jason was reminding me that I need to take my problems to God and leave them there. He reminded me that worry solves nothing.

As we discussed the "irony" of the timing of the message, I told Jason how difficult it was to swallow my own words. But, I also told him that it proved to me that I know better. I know that worry is a sin. I said it myself. I know that it doesn't help. I know that it only hurts. I know that my lack of faith has cost me many blessings. I know, so why am I still doing it? As we continued the discussion, we came to one conclusion. Turning my problems over to God is a simple matter, but it is certainly not an easy one. It also is not a one-time deal. No, it is something I am going to have to work on day after day. Thankfully, I serve a patient Savior who will guide me through the process and forgive me when I fail.

The moral of the story? Choose carefully what you say, for you may have to chew on those words later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Missing Out on a Good Deal

Jason and I have been considering getting new phones for several months now. The initial plan was to use our Christmas money to make the purchase. Unfortunately, other needs arose around that time, so the phones had to be put off a little longer. Still, we've kept our eyes open for good deals. Basically, we have it narrowed down to two phones (each from a different carrier).

One day last week, I came home from walking the dogs, and Jason had made an important discovery. One of the two phones we had been watching was now available for free. It's normally a $200 phone. He was excited, but I still had some reservations. "Let's not rush into," I said. "Let's pray about it and make sure this is what the Lord wants us to do." He agreed, we discussed the pros and cons into the evening, and then we both pledged to pray about it separately and discuss the matter further the next day.

When the next day arrived, I pulled up the website of the phone carrier to find out a little more information about the phone. The price tag of that particular phone read "$99." A phone call to the company revealed that they had just run a 5-day special on that phone. The sale had ended the day before. The phones were no longer available for free.

At first, I felt bad. I was the one who had said that we should wait. I had no idea the deal was such a limited offer. But after a while, I realized that we had done the right thing. We prayed, and God answered. The deal was no longer available, and we weren't willing to spend $99 a piece for a phone. Case closed! Being in God's will is far more important than having new phones.

The more I thought about the missed deal, the more I realized how many people were missing out on an even greater deal. Salvation! How many people are waiting, not realizing that salvation is a limited time offer? How many times do people put it off? They desire to "live a little" before resigning themselves to God's service. How many refuse to acknowledge their need for salvation? In their eyes, they've gotten where they are by their own strength and determination. Unfortunately, their best characteristics fall short of meeting the price for salvation.

I missed a phone deal because I waited one day too late to call. Millions will enter hell for the same reason. They will acknowledge Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but for many, it will be one day too late.

If you are one who has not yet made the decision to give your heart to Christ, I plead with you, don't wait another day. This is a deal you can't afford to miss! Call on Christ. Surrender your life to Him. Spare yourself an eternity of torment.

If you are part of the body of Christ, I implore you to reach out to the lost. Explain to them the cost of waiting too long. Invite them to church. Share the gospel with them. One way or another, please make an attempt to win someone to Christ. Imagine if you could be the one to prevent a soul from calling on Christ one day too late.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Friday, January 21, 2011

Using Your GPS

Last Saturday, after being cooped inside for a week due to the wintry weather, Jason and I decided to take the dogs on a long hike. Tippy was restless, and Mitch was practically climbing the walls. Yes, a hike was what they needed.

Let me first say that hiking in snow is much more taxing than hiking on solid ground. My legs are still sore from the constant action of slugging through the snow and engaging my stabilizing muscles. Nevertheless, the view was breathtaking, and the day was pleasant. All in all, we had a wonderful (albeit tiring) journey.

On our way back out, we met up with a man who was standing to the side of the trail. He was shaking and beating on his hand-held GPS. During our discussion with him, he told us that the trail was longer than he had expected, and he was looking to find a shortcut back to the parking area. He was trying to use his GPS to route a path through the woods, hoping to cut some distance off his return journey. Unfortunately for him, the batteries in his GPS were dying. Being certain he was headed in the right direction, he decided to risk the shortcut without his GPS. I'm happy to say that we met up with him at the parking lot. He emerged from the woods at the exact same time we did. Apparently, his shortcut was not that short. What a lesson!

Many times in life, we are certain what God wants us to do, so we set off in that general direction hoping that we'll find a shortcut to get us to our destination sooner. There's nothing wrong with shortcuts, mind you, but shortcuts without a GPS can be risky and dangerous. The same is true with shortcuts in our spiritual walk. We mustn't rely on our own plans, ideas, or directions (especially those of us who couldn't find our way out of a paper bag). We need to rely on our GPS: God's Positioning System.

When traveling, it's not enough to know the destination. We must have directions. Often, we feel we know a better way of reaching our spiritual goals. God's ways can seem unclear, confusing, and sometimes, just plain wrong. So, we forsake His directions in favor of our own. The outcome? Disaster. Yes, shortcuts without a GPS tend to not be short at all. In fact, they usually lead to trouble. Trouble that could have been avoided if we had just followed the Lord's will.

I read a powerful quote in a devotional this morning. It read, "God has taught me that He wants my spiritual ears more than my spiritual efforts." In other words, God wants me to listen to Him and follow His directions for my life instead of trying to plot out my own course. He knows what's best for me. He knows which shortcuts are safe and which ones are trouble. He knows the plans He has for me, so who better to direct me?

Are you struggling down the path today looking for shortcuts to reach your spiritual goals? If so, stop struggling. Turn to your GPS, and follow it's guidance. I assure you it will never lead you astray, and you'll not need to concern yourself with dead batteries!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Diary Entries for Psalms

As I read through my morning devotions today, I felt as though I were reading an entry in my own personal diary. I often feel that way when reading through the Psalms, but today's passage was entirely too familiar.

Due to the snow last week, Jason was out of work for three days. He receives an hourly wage, not a salary. So no work means no pay! After the Christmas holidays, no work is not a good thing. With that financial strain already on me, I found out that due to budget cuts, another small bit of our monthly income was no longer going to be available. The strain increased, but still I was determined to trust the Lord and not worry. Unfortunately, my faith departed quickly after my grocery store trip this morning.

I left out early to do my grocery shopping because I know that our local grocery store does major discounts over the weekend. Usually, if I go in there first thing on Monday morning, I can get meat and produce for 50% off or more. Since we were very low on groceries (especially meat and produce), I was looking forward to the great deals. You know where I'm going, don't you? There were hardly any deals this morning. I don't know if the weather caused the problem or what, but there was hardly anything marked down, and the stuff that was marked down wasn't reduced by much. I nearly cried.

I came home with fewer groceries than I had hoped and still spent more money than I had planned. I was discouraged and confused. "What's up, Lord?" I asked. "Is it not enough that we're pinching pennies? Did you have to take away the good deals too?" Please understand that I wasn't speaking in anger. I was truly seeking an answer. And that's when I read today's devotions. For sake of time and space, I won't quote the entire two psalms, but I will pull out the verses that spoke to me.

But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. . . For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. . .In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. . . I am so troubled that I cannot speak. . .I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? - Ps. 73, 77

Sound familiar? Yea, it did to me too. Fortunately, the passage does not stop there. It continues on with instructions on how to deal with my fears and lack of faith.

And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

I will remember. I will meditate. I will witness. How about you? It has to be better than the alternative!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Many or Few

A Devotion by Marybeth Whalen

"Jonathan said to his young armor bearer, ‘Come let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.'"

I Samuel 14:6 (NIV)

One woman has meager resources to fund her family's needs. She operates in the few.

One woman has so many opportunities to serve she feels overwhelmed. She wants to do what God wants, but she can't figure out how to handle it all. She operates in the many.

One woman wants to pursue a dream she's been secretly harboring but there never seems to be enough time. She operates in the few.

One woman has lots of extended family members who need her attention and time. She operates in the many.

One woman's husband has all but stopped talking to her. She misses the love they once shared, even took for granted. He has no time for her and hardly ever looks at her. She operates in the few.

One woman has fears that grip her. She worries about her future, her children's health, the economy, her marriage. She operates in the many.

What about you? What's your circumstance? What in your life needs to be saved? You might not be facing a deadly battle like Jonathan and his armor bearer, but one thing I can guarantee, we all need to be saved from something.

Here's the great part: This verse tells us that nothing can hinder the Lord from saving us in all circumstances—whether we are operating in the category of many or few. We can count on Him to move on our behalf.

So many times I look at my lack and throw up my hands. I only see the limits. Jonathan and his armor bearer were just two men. They knew their limits but they didn't let that keep them from trusting the Lord to move on their behalf.

Likewise, I can look at my abundance—of demands, of needs, of people, of financial responsibilities—that I need to attend to and let that overwhelm me. I only see the crushing load.

Jonathan chose not to look at the many men facing them, but to turn his eyes to God. He knew God is not hemmed in by earthly circumstance.

Many or few, it matters not. Our security can not come from our situation. Today as you face life's challenges, look for the few and for the many. Then tell God exactly what Jonathan said: Perhaps You will act on my behalf. I trust what You choose to do. Nothing can hinder You from saving, whether by many or by few.

Dear Lord, I am so grateful that You are not hindered by my circumstances. Help me to look past my lack or my abundance, straight into Your eyes. Help me to realize that You are at work in my many and in my few. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Visit Marybeth's blog for more encouragement today!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Know, I Know!

It's the time of year for making big changes in our lives. Yes, the dawning of another new year causes us to step back and examine our lives. Have we accomplished what we set out to do? Have we made a difference? Are we satisfied at where we are physically, financially, spiritually, etc.? And then come the resolutions.

This year I'm going to lose ten pounds.
This year I'm going to conquer my addiction to chocolate and caffeine.
This year I'm going to accomplish all my writing goals.
This year I'm going to spend more time in prayer.

And on and on the list goes, but in the end, it usually stops there. It becomes a list and nothing more. It reminds me of a line in the movie, Princess Diaries II, where Mia says, "The concept is grasped. The execution is a little elusive." That statement, I feel, sums up my resolutions. I know what I want to do. I know what I need to do to accomplish those wants. I've grasped the concept. The execution, however, is another story. For a multitude of reasons, I never seem to reach my goals.

Could it be that my goals are not God's goals for my life? And if they are, could it be that I don't reach those goals because I'm acting in my own strength instead of His? Yes, I'm bad about that. I'm bad to examine a situation and then rush in with my claws raised and teeth bared, only to limp away licking my wounds. After a few times like that, I determine that the task is impossible and quit trying. Yes, the concept is grasped, but the execution is faulty.

The Bible is quite clear in these matters. It says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all theses things shall be added unto you." If we truly want to meet our goals this year, we only need one resolution: seek God first. After that, everything else will fall into place. He'll give us the strength we need to succeed in all areas of our lives. He'll make our resolutions a reality.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Understanding God's Purpose

As Christians, part of life is valleys. Some say that Christians shouldn't have to go through trials because God promised we wouldn't have to. These people need to study their Bible a little more closely. Trials are part of the Christian life. Jesus said so in John 16:33 when he said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Never once in the Bible did God promise that He would guide us around trouble. Instead, He promised that He would go with us through the trials. He didn't lead the children of Israel around the Red Sea, but through it. He was with the three Hebrew children as they went through the fire. David said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Through the valley, not around it.

Are you facing trials today? If so, then you're in good company. All Christians face trials. The important thing to remember is that God will be with you through the process. He will not leave you to face your hard times alone. He is with you, and He will see you through to the other side.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Moving Mountains

There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "You can move a mountain one stone at a time." I came across a similar quote this morning, and it got me thinking. How many times do I turn my back on a situation because I feel I can't make a difference?

There are tasks set before each of us that seem overwhelming. The thought of moving the mountain is discouraging to say the least. But God doesn't intend for us to tackle the entire mountain. He urges us to take one step of faith at a time. Move one stone, and then another, and then another. Before we realize it, the mountain will be gone, and we will have made a difference.

Feeling worthless today? Battling feelings of insignificance? Doubting that anything you do in this life could make a difference? If so, this post is for you. Every helping hand makes a difference. . . even if you only move one stone.

What do you say? Let's start moving some mountains.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tim Hawkins - Hedge of Protection

A man in church prayed for the offering on Sunday, and he used the phrase "hedge of protection." I immediately thought of this clip, and from the giggles I could hear throughout the auditorium, so did others. In fact, after the prayer, our pastor told the congregation about this video to help explain why so many of us were laughing during prayer. Oh, the things that stick in our heads! Anyway, enjoy!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Too Busy for Our Own Good

Does anyone else have a hard time getting everything done? No matter how early I get up or how late I go to bed, there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to do. I feel like a juggler that is always adding one more ball to the mix. Is it just me or does anyone else feel that way?

A big problem I've noticed recently is that I have so many things going on at one time that I make stupid mistakes. For example, I put a load of clothes in the dryer but forgot to turn it on. I came back later and wondered what in the world was wrong with my dryer. Oh, and get this one. While loading the dishwasher, I put my husband's travel coffee mug in with the lid on. Guess what? It was still dirty after the wash cycle finished. Go figure!

Some days I feel like I'm losing my mind. Other days I wonder if I ever had one to begin with. It's just so hard to slow down and enjoy life. It's even harder to make certain that I'm spending time on the right things. I read a passage talking about that this morning.

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. - Luke 9:59-62

Here Jesus is inviting others to join Him. He is challenging them to follow Him and to serve. Each man has the same answer. "I will, Lord, but not now." "In a minute, Lord!" "No problem, Lord, but first. . ."

Ouch, ouch, and double ouch!!!! Those verses hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. Why? Because I'm guilty of doing the same thing. I sometimes feel the Lord impressing me to send a card to someone, but I have so much to do, so what do I say? "Later, Lord." Tuesday morning I saw a woman leaving the grocery store. She was leaning on a crutch, trying to hold her bag and her umbrella, and scrounging in her purse to find her keys. I felt the Lord whisper, "Help her." Did I? I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't. My mind was on the many things I needed to get done and the fact that I didn't want to spend any more time in the rain. So, I ignored Him. It didn't take long for regret to set in. Would it have really been that hard or taken that long to help the woman? No! Oh, how I wish I had.

No matter how busy we get in our daily lives, let us not grow too busy to hear and obey the voice of God. May we not put if off. May we not ignore His heeding. May our answer be, "Here am I, Lord. I will obey."