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Monday, April 22, 2013

Ministry Happens

Today, I am posting a devotion that I read last week. It really hit me right between the eyes, and I felt I had to share it with you. I hope you glean as much from it as I did.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Needing a Nudge?

Mitch is a very smart dog. He picks up on things quicker than most people. Recently, either Jason or I have made the attempt to take him out for a walk or run in the mornings since we're not hiking as much. The idea was to take him out a couple of times each week, in addition to our hiking days, just to help rid him of some excess energy. Evidently, Mitch didn't get the memo that this was not a daily thing.

Every morning (weekday or weekend, rain or shine) Mitch is up around 7:00, hovering over me and staring at me like a vulture awaiting its next meal. His eyes are bright, and his tail is wagging. He is up and ready to begin his day. My eyes, on the other hand, are heavy, and my tail is far from wagging. The last thing I want to do is crawl out of my comfy bed, walk outside into the humidity and jog two miles. It is difficult, however, to sleep peacefully when a 90-lb dog is nudging you out of the bed.

So, I give up and get up. I pull on my running clothes and shoes, grab the leash and try to sneak out the door before Tippy figures out what we're doing. We walk for a little while, then jog for a little while, then walk for a little while, etc. And somewhere along the way, I realize that I'm enjoying myself. Yes, I'm hot. Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I would rather be in bed. But there's great satisfaction in knowing that I'm starting my day with a healthy habit. There's peace in realizing that I'm doing something good for myself. There's joy in discovering that my weight is coming down and my waistline is shrinking. All of this because Mitch is determined to be my motivator. His nudges get me started in the right direction.

You know, the Holy Spirit is pretty good at giving those nudges too. You know that little tug on your heart that compels you to call a friend out of the blue or send a card to a shut in? That's the Holy Spirit. The strong feeling that you really should or shouldn't go somewhere or do something. That's Him. The voice in your head that says, "You know that's not a good thing. Why don't you do this instead?" That's the Spirit seeking to guide and direct in your life. While His nudges may not be as insistent (or frightening) as Mitch's vulture impression, they are no less important.

When you first heed His direction, you may feel a bit deprived, as I do each morning when I have to leave the comfort of my bed. But within a few minutes, you'll realize how much better things are because you followed the Lord's directions. You'll be happier and healthier. It may not seem like it at first, but you'll never know until you try. The next time you get a nudge from the Holy Spirit, follow His directions and see where it leads. I guarantee, you'll quickly go from feeling deprived to feeling blessed.

If you liked this devotion, you'll find it and many more like it in my book, 'Paws'itively Divine:  Devotions for Dog Lovers.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Above and Beyond

 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21

Since the time Jason started working at his current job, we have found it an endless struggle to keep up with our firewood. In years past, we had no trouble storing up enough firewood for our use, as well as taking loads to family and friends. Because of his current job and the crazy schedule it entails, simply keeping up has become a daunting task. For the past few years, we've had to burn green wood because we simply could not get far enough ahead to allow the wood time to season.

We were determined, however, that things would be different next winter. We made plans to work part of every available weekend to cut and stack firewood for the next season. The tricky part at that point was to determine where we could find the wood.  At least, we thought it was going to be tricky, but the Lord had other plans.

First, Jason's boss gave him the number of an acquaintance who was looking to get rid of some firewood that had already been cut into large rounds. We called the man and set up a time we could pick up the wood. We weren't expecting much, but were hopeful to at least get a full trailer load. When we arrived, we were thrilled to discover that the wood had been sitting for nearly two years, and there was far more than one trailer load there. On that one day alone, we came home with two trailer loads of seasoned oak. There is at least one more load waiting for us.

But God wasn't finished. The next day at church, a friend of ours told us that his sister had had some large trees in her yard cut down and was looking for someone to take the wood. Again, we made the contact and necessary arrangements to pick up the load of wood. Nothing could have prepared us for what we found when we arrived. There was not one or even two trailer loads of wood; there was at least five loads of wood. No, it wasn't currently seasoned, but it will be by next year.

Between the two sources of wood, we estimate there is more than enough to get us through all of next winter. But even then, the offers for free wood didn't stop. We have had two more offers of wood that is available to us if we can pick it up. It's gotten to the point that we've had to turn people away, telling them that we currently have more wood than we have time to get. And to think, just a few weeks ago we were wondering where we were going to find the wood that we needed. Isn't that just like God?

I don't know about you, but I'm so thankful to serve a God who doesn't just meet my need, but who goes above and beyond my greatest expectations. As Ephesians tells us, He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. And not only is He able, but He is also willing. He longs to bless us beyond our imaginings. Our God is such a generous God. How about we spend the day praising Him?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Are You a Carrot, An Egg, or a Coffee Bean?

This is a familiar story on the internet, but after hearing it again recently, I felt compelled to share it with you:

Are You a Carrot, An Egg, or a Coffee Bean?
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?"
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
The mother brought her daughter closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the daughter observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma.
The daughter then asked. "What does it mean, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently.
The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.
The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?" 

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? 

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? 

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. 

If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level? 

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Either Live It or Just Be Quiet

Jason and I don't watch very many television shows, but one we enjoy is The Amazing Race.  We delight in the scenery and find great fascination in the various tasks the teams must perform to progress through the race.  Every once in a while, however, something is said or done that makes me mad.  This week's episode was like that.

There were two girls who, at the beginning of this stage of the race, were praising God and claiming that He was everything in their lives.  They stated that they were content with whatever happened because they were sure God's will would be done.  They went on like this for several moments, and to be honest, I had mixed emotions.  I was glad to hear the girls speak so openly about their faith.  However, I also knew that, in the past, the show had made a mockery of those who claimed faith in God.  Somehow, someway, they turned everything around and made the team look bad.  This time, unfortunately, the girls were as much to blame as the show.

Before arriving at their first destination, the girls were pulled over for speeding.  Moments before, the driver had commented that she had no idea what the speed limit was, but when the officer confronted her about her speeding, she claimed that she was sorry and that she thought the speed limit was a certain number.  She then proceeded to brag to her partner and camera man how she was a professional at talking her way out of speeding tickets.  Thankfully, she couldn't talk her way out of this one and was forced to pay the fine.  Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.  The producers of the show didn't hesitate to run the entire event together to where the girls were praising God with one breath and lying through their teeth with the next.  It made me sick!

And we wonder why it's becoming more and more difficult to win souls to Christ!  It's certainly not because God isn't working like He used to.  He hasn't changed.  Instead, it's due to the lackadaisical attitude so many Christians have.  They claim Christ, but they don't live it.  And so, when the world looks on, they don't see anything different.  Why do they need Christ when we act and talk the same as they do?  Where's the difference?  Where's the change?  I've gotten to the point where I just want to stand up and shout, "Either live it or just be quiet!"  In other words, if you've not going to live like a Christian, then please don't claim to be one.  Don't praise God with one breath and lie with the next.

None of us are perfect.  I get that, really, I do.  We all make mistakes.  We all fail to live up to the standard of Christ that is set before us.  But honestly, some folks make me wonder if they even try.  They seem so comfortable with their sin and their conformity to the world.  They don't bat an eye at lying, stealing, cheating and the like.  It's just part of life to them it seems.  I hate to tell you, my friend, but that's not a Christian at all, for the word Christian means "Christ-like".

It's one thing to have the world ridicule us.  It's quite another to provide them with the ammunition to attack.  If we're going to be Christians, then let's act like it.  Let's not be like the Laodicean church who was rebuked for being lukewarm.  It's time to quit straddling the fence.  Either we're Christians, or we're not.  Let's make up our minds!

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:2