Sign up to receive these devotions in your inbox daily!
* indicates required

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Tapestry In Progress

In yesterday's post, we discussed how Naomi's bitterness turned her heart against the Lord, and how she chose to view her circumstances as the Lord's mistreatment of her rather than choosing to believe that God was working all things for her good, as He had promised.  Today we'll examine the details of God's plan and the intricacies that were involved to bring it about.

 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. - Ruth 2:1-3

The Bible tells us that Naomi had a good connection--a family member that was a mighty man of wealth.  Too bad she didn't seem interested in being around her family.  And poor Ruth probably didn't know anything about the man.  All she knew was that they were going to go hungry if she didn't get out in the field and try to find some food, even if it was the few pieces that were left behind.  Notice what verse 3 says:  and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.  In other words, of all the places she could have gone to gather food, she just "happened" to pick Boaz's field.  I love it!

As I've told you many times before, I don't believe in coincidences.  Ruth didn't happen upon the field.  She was led there by God, whether she realized it at the time or not.  At this point, for the sake of time, I'll skip ahead in the story, but I urge you to read through the entire book of Ruth.  It's very short, but quite intriguing and worth the time.  Anyway, Ruth meets Boaz.  Boaz agrees to be Ruth's kinsman-redeemer and to take care of her and Naomi.  And in the end, Ruth and Boaz get married.  Then look what happens:  So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. . . And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

If you flip over to Matthew 1, you'll find the lineage of Christ, and guess what?  You'll find Ruth and her son, Obed and his son, Jesse and his son, David.  Do you see what God did?  Not only did He save Ruth by bringing her back to His people where she could know and serve the one true God, but He used her to bring about the Savior of the world.  If her husband and father-in-law hadn't died, none of this would have happened.  There would have been no marriage to Boaz and therefore, no children of their union.  Who knows what would have happened if God had allowed Elimelech and his sons to live.  What we do know, however, is that God worked something beautiful out of something that seemed so horrible and tragic.  He had a plan, and He was working it out all along.  I don't know if Naomi ever realized that.  The Bible doesn't tell us.

We can know, however, whether we will accept that truth or not.  God has assured us that He has a great plan for our lives.  Some days, it's easy to see that and accept it.  Other days, not so much.  But it is on those days that we can look back to this precious story of Ruth and say, "You know, Ruth didn't know what was going on either.  She didn't understand how God was working in her life.  In fact, to her, things seemed pretty bad.  But she hung in there and followed the Lord's leading, and in the end, she recognized the masterpiece that God had been weaving all along.  I can learn from that."  

Your tapestry may not look like much right now.  In fact, it may seem like a tangled mess of frayed threads and dark patches, but it's not finished yet.  The design has been fashioned and is currently a work in progress.  But I can guarantee you it will be beautiful and definitely worth the wait.  So, in the meantime, be like Ruth.  Do what you know to do, and leave the rest in God's hands.  He took care of her.  Don't you think He'll do the same for you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Can't Go Wrong With Worship

And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance. - Genesis 43:26-29

I encourage you to read through the entire story of Joseph, for it holds many golden nuggets, but for now, allow me to set the scene.  Joseph's brothers have returned to Egypt to buy food, this time bringing their youngest brother, Benjamin, as Joseph had commanded them.  Upon arriving, they are sent not to the court but to Joseph's house.  Fearing they are about to be enslaved because of the money that had been in their sacks after they had come to buy food the first time, they strive to explain their predicament to the steward, who assures them that all is well.  When Joseph arrives, they present him with a basket of the finest fruits and spices that they could muster up during the famine (which I imagine was a pretty pitiful offering) and bow themselves.  After he asks of their welfare and that of their father, they answer his question and then bow again and worship him.

These men had been through it when they visited Joseph the first time.  They knew him to be a hard man (or so they thought).  At this point in time, they are each wrestling with a sea of emotions.  They are afraid.  Why are they being brought to his home?  They are confused.  Why had the steward placed their money back in their sacks?  They are dealing with guilty consciences because they had already attested that all their troubles were due to their poor treatment of Joseph.  But when Joseph appears before them, they don't protest.  They don't argue.  They don't question.  They don't beg or plead their case.  They answer his questions and then do the only thing they can think to do--they bow down and worship.

Oh, what a powerful lesson for us today.  How many times do we wander through life tossed about by many questions and uncertainties?  How will we make ends meet this month?  How can I juggle everything I need to do and still have time for the things that are the most important?  Why is this happening to me?  What is God doing?  Like the brothers, we are afraid, confused and plagued by doubt.  So when we appear before God, what do we do?  I don't know about you, but typically I whine, cry, pout, question and accuse.  But what should I do?  The same thing the brothers did.  I should bow down and worship.  

When I don't have a clue what's going on, that's okay.  I can worship the One who does.  When I don't have the answers, that's not a problem.  I can praise the One who does.  When I can't seem to find the way, I needn't be afraid.  I can lift up the name of the One who is the Way.  No matter how hard the trial, God is always worthy of my praise.  Always!  In fact, I believe it is through this worship that we find true peace and joy in the midst of our troubles.

James 1:2 says, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.  Joy?  Seriously?  How can I possibly be glad to being going through this dark valley?  By worshiping God anyway.  By giving Him praise and honor.  By taking my eyes off of myself and my circumstances and placing them on Him.  By remembering that He is working something good in me and through me.  How many times have I missed the joy that was waiting just on the other side of worship because I failed to give God the glory He deserves?  How many times have you?

My dear friend, in the midst of the trials, when you don't know which way to turn or what else to do, worship God.  Praise His name, even if it feels a bit insincere at the time.  Don't let that stop you.  Just keep praising, keeping in mind that He is worthy.  There's no need to whine, cry, pout or explain.  Let's learn this valuable lesson from Joseph's brothers.  We simply can't go wrong with worship!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Recipe of Life

I am an average cook. Nothing bad, but nothing grand. I can cook on the grill, on the stove, in the oven, or even in the crockpot. Most of my meals come out good while others tend to be a bit bland. For the most part, I am happy with my cooking skills, though I'll never be Betty Crocker. One thing I can't do, however, is cook without a recipe. If you want it to resemble food, you'd better let me see the recipe.

I envy my husband. He's one of those "grab it and add it" chefs. A sprinkle of this. A dash of that. How about a little of this? The funny thing is that it always comes out delicious. That's just not fair! I've experimented a few times with the "grab it and add it" process, and let's just say that we had to order pizza on those nights. I just don't seem to have the knack for it.

I wonder, then, why so often in life I try to do things with my own recipe. God has given me a recipe (the Bible) to follow, yet so many times I think I can do better with the "grab it and add it" way. The result? The same as it is in the kitchen. A complete and total disaster. When will I learn? How many more "meals" will I ruin before I give in and follow God's recipe for my life? I pray not many. I don't know if my stomach can handle it. . .and I know my heart can't.

In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. - Proverbs 3:6

***Excerpt from my upcoming book, Lilting Laments of a Looney Lass***
Coming Soon!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Waltzing With the Mutant Ant

Okay, I'll come right out and say it--I don't like bugs!  I'm scared of them.  I think they're gross.  And just the thought of those creepy critters makes my skin crawl.  That being said, you can imagine my trepidation this morning when a ginormous mutant ant interrupted my shower.  There I was, minding my own business and enjoying the hot water, when out of the folds of the shower curtain marched this mut"ant."  (Understand, this is a really, really big ant.  Don't judge me!!!)  Thankfully, rather than marching further into the shower, he made his way up the wall.  Unfortunately, from there, he crawled onto the ceiling.

Okay, here's the bug rule in my house.  If you can reach the bug and kill it without harm to yourself, by all means, do so.  If you cannot reach the bug, keep your eyes on it at all times lest it disappear and leave you wondering if it's crawling around somewhere on your person.  With the ant on the ceiling, there was no way I could reach it.  So, I kept my eyes on him, which, I might add, was very hard on my neck.  When the ant moved one direction, I moved in the opposite direction.  I was determined that the creepy ant never find himself directly above me lest he lose his footing and fall.  That would have been very ugly for both me and the ant.  (That is quite enough snickering from the peanut gallery!)

But that stupid ant seemed just as determined as I was.  I moved left, and so did he.  I moved right, and he followed.  Back and forth, side to side.  It was like some sort of weird ant waltz.  Realizing that I was not going to be allowed to enjoy my shower, I finished up, turned the water off and stepped out onto the rug.  Would you believe that stupid ant marched himself right over my head once again?  It was only after I left the bathroom that I could escape the frustrating critter.  And now, my neck has a major crick in it!

You know, it seems like a good idea to keep a close eye on the enemy, doesn't it?  After all, as long as you can see him, you know what he's up to.  But that's not really the lesson the Bible teaches, is it?  We are commanded to be watchful, but we are specifically told to keep our eyes on Jesus.  Sure, watching the enemy has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages.  For one, it consumes our focus and energy.  I was so focused on that stupid ant this morning that I wasn't paying attention to anything else.  It was difficult to complete my task because my focus was elsewhere. 

Secondly, it lulls us into a false sense of security.  We think because we have the devil in our sights that we're unlikely to be hit by his deadly darts, but the fact of the matter is that he's not working alone.  Many times, we're surrounded by his minions, and it's only our focus and dependence on God that will see us through.

Yes, we must pay attention to the spiritual warfare that is talking place around us, but let's not become so focused on the enemy that we see nothing else.  Imagine if I kept my attention on God as well as I did on that crazy ant.  I would never miss a move.  I would always know His location.  I would be aware of His presence at all times.  I would be in step with Him on a daily basis.

Oh, dear friends, I urge you today to follow God's command and look unto Jesus.  He will keep us safe.  He will watch our backs.  And He will even fight our battles if we'll allow Him.  Plus, it's a lot easier on the neck muscles. Trust me, I know!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An Intriguing Question

Last Friday night, our church hosted a singing event at a local auditorium.  The place accommodates over 800 people, and we nearly had a full house.  It was a blessed event.  In addition, I was invited to set up a table as a vendor to sell my books and other products, and the Lord blessed with over $100 in sales for me.  But that wasn't the best part of the evening.  No, the best part took place shortly after the intermission when I was approached by an elderly gentleman who struck up a conversation.

Shortly into our talk, he mentioned that his wife had passed away not long ago.  I replied, "I'm so sorry, but from the way you've described her, I believe she's in a better place."  What he said next caused my jaw to plummet to the floor.  In a truly questioning, non-angry voice, he asked, "Why do people always say that?  How can we know it's a better place since we've never been."  I was shocked.  I've never thought about it, and I've certainly never been asked such a question.  So, I answered with the only words I knew.  "The Bible makes it clear that Heaven is a wonderful place.  It is a place with no more sorrow, no more death, no more pain and no more tears.  That certainly sounds better than where we are currently, doesn't it?"

You wouldn't believe the light that came into his eyes.  It was like nothing I've ever seen before.  He went on to tell me that he had finally read all the way through the Bible and that he wanted to read through it again because he liked what he saw there.  He continued to ask me questions about Heaven and about salvation.  He was confused about the difference between salvation and baptism and was unsure if he was truly saved.  I was able to spend the next several minutes helping him to understand the difference and explaining to him about salvation.  He seemed relieved by what I had to say but also burdened for his family that he didn't believe were saved.  I encouraged him to share the truth of what he had learned with them and to pray that the Lord would draw them to Him.  When we parted ways, he told me that he hoped to visit my church on Wednesday night.  I pray that he will make it!

My dear friends, every day I am reminded that time is drawing to an end.  As the world grows more and more wicked, it is evident that the day of the Lord's return is imminent.  It could be today!  If you are unsure about where you'll be spending eternity, please get it settled today.  Contact me.  Talk to a pastor or saved family member.  But please, don't wait another day before getting things right between you and God.  If you haven't accepted His gift of salvation, please do it right now.  There may not be a later.

For those of you who are saved, there is a multitude dying and going to hell.  It's up to us to reach them, and while it's not possible to reach them all, it is possible for each of us to reach at least one.  I plead with you, take the time, make the effort.  Let's reach out and bring hope to the hopeless before it's too late.  That's truly what the Christian life is all about!

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: - I Peter 3:15

Monday, August 18, 2014

Join the Club

I wonder if the disciples ever had to deal with well-meaning family and friends in regards to their ministry.  After all, they left their "jobs" to follow Jesus, which means they walked away from a paycheck to fulfill God's calling with only the promise that their needs would be met but no explanation of how that meeting of needs would come to pass.  I admit, it's not an easy thing to do.  But even more difficult is trying to explain your position to others.  Here are some typical comments I've received:

"So, you just work from home and write, but you don't make enough to live on?  Why would you do that?"

"I thought that maybe since you don't have a job, you could help me out next week."

"I know of a place that's looking for employees if you want some part-time work to help with the financial side of things.  I could get you the information."

Even this past week, I had someone offer me a job (more than once), and when I turned it down, the woman replied, "I know you're busy, but I just thought I'd ask."

Please understand, I'm not criticizing or complaining.  I understand that these people mean well and are trying to look out for me, and for that, I'm truly thankful.  I'm also not referring to those who ask a favor of me every now and then because my schedule is flexible.  I'm happy to help whenever I can.  What gets me is how many times I have to explain that I'm not just "busy."  I have a job!  No, it doesn't pay great (when it pays at all).  No, it doesn't sound grand to some.  No, it doesn't come with a company car and health benefits.  But on the plus side, I can work in my yoga pants and tee-shirt.  Can you say the same for your job?  LOL

My point is that my writing and speaking ministry is just that--a ministry, but it's also my full-time job.  Just as He did with the disciples, the Lord has called me to be a fisher of men.  He has made His wishes clear and led me to abandon the security of a weekly paycheck with nothing but a promise that He will meet my needs.  And you know what?  He hasn't let me down.  Sure, things have been tight from time to time.  Yes, there have been times when I wondered how in the world we were going to pay our bills.  But God has always seen us through.  I can't explain it.  It's just the way He is.

Perhaps you feel God calling you in a certain direction, but you fear others won't understand.  Well, join the club!  But you know, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or understands.  What matters is that you follow the Lord's leading for your life.  It may not make sense (in fact, it rarely does), but you'll know it's the Lord prodding you to make a change.  Don't be afraid of how you'll meet your needs or what others may think or say.  Just follow God's guidance and bask in the indescribable peace that comes from doing His will.

And if you know some place that's hiring, please don't ask me.  I love my job and wouldn't trade it for anything!

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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 12:1-2

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Call to Prayer

In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light. For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.- Job 24:16-17

As I read through these verses this morning, my mind conjured up images of what is currently happening in the Middle East.  The talk of marking houses reminded me that the homes of Christians in Iraq are being marked for slaughter by ISIS.  Women are being enslaved.  Children are being beheaded.  Other Christians are being threatened.  All of this from a people who claim to be involved in a "religion of peace."  The terror.  The shadow death that plagues the land.  It both sickens and angers me.  My heart goes out to these people who are suffering so much for the name of Christ, and at the same time, I commend them for their faithfulness.

Today, rather than posting a devotion, I would like to issue a call to prayer for all those around the world who are suffering for the name of Christ.  I urge you to set aside a few moments today to pray for the needs and strength of those who are being persecuted for their faith.  Your words don't have to be eloquent, nor do they have to be many, but please make them sincere.  James 5:16 promises us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  In other words, prayer works!

So today, may we get our eyes off our own trials and place our focus of prayer on those around the world who may not see tomorrow because they have taken a stand for Christ.  Every prayer makes a difference.  Imagine what a multitude of prayers can do!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's the Point?

Jason and I were invited to go hiking yesterday with his parents and some long-time friends of the family.  We met in Easley and drove to Highlands, NC to meet the rest of our hiking party.  The selected hike of the day was Whiteside Mountain, a moderate two-and-a-half-mile loop that ascended and descended the peak.  When I say "moderate," I mean for people who are used to hiking regularly.  While Jason and I still do a decent amount of hiking, our hikes have become shorter, easier and slower due to Tippy's age.  This fact became very evident within the first ten minutes of the climb.

Another thing that became evident in short order was the fact that, within the group, there were two different motives for the hike.  Some were there to hike--nothing more, nothing less.  They set their sights on the trail, put their feet to the path and took off.  They stopped for nothing.  They talked little.  They noticed even less.  They just walked.

Others of us were there for the view and fellowship.  We stopped to admire the busy bees as they worked around the beautiful yellow flowers.  We explored the outcroppings and paused to hear the rippling brooks.  We chatted.  We gushed over the breath-taking views.  We commented on the fresh, cool air.  In short, we took stock of our surroundings.

I'm not saying that either way is right or wrong.  It's a matter of personality how each individual decides to tackle a hike.  In life, however, God intends for us to do more than simply walk the trail.  Yes, He wants us to finish our race, but He also wants us to find joy and peace in the journey.  He wants us to enjoy the hike. 

John 10:10 tells us, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  Did you catch that?  Jesus came to this earth so that we could do more than just "hike the path."  He came to give us the gift of the journey.  He desires for us to have not only life, but life more abundantly.  Not just the finish line, but the invigoration of the race.

Too many people today are living their lives simply going through the motions.  They wake up, go to work, come home, watch television, and go to bed.  The next day, the routine begins again.  There is no joy, no excitement.  They're "hiking the trail," but are they taking the time to appreciate their surroundings.  Do they notice the view?  Do they stop and smell the flowers?  Sure, they're enduring life, but are they enjoying it?  Better yet, are you?

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So, Are You Thankful or Not?

A song has been rolling around in my head this morning.  That, in and of itself, is not unusual.  Songs are always playing in my mind.  The trick for me is usually getting them out.  Not that they're bad, but that my mind has a tendency to replay a song until I'm almost sick of it.  Enough already!  Unfortunately, the song echoing through my mind this morning is not only annoying because of its repetition, but I also find the song itself bothersome.  It's a song that frustrates me every time I hear it, but because of its catchy tune, my mind refuses to let it go.

I first heard the song about a month ago on the radio.  It started off pretty good, and I thought it would be an encouraging song, but after listening to it straight through, I found myself aggravated rather than blessed.  The message of the song is about thankfulness, and on the surface, it sounds great.  But the lyrics to the verse discuss going through a trial and finding deliverance from it.  Then the chorus proceeds to claim that the person is thankful like Daniel after the lions, thankful like Paul free from the jail, thankful like Noah back on dry ground, thankful like Lazarus finally unbound, etc.  So if you listen to the song carefully, what the writer is saying is that he/she is thankful after the trial is over.  Well, duh!  Who isn't?  I mean, seriously, is there anything really commendable about that?

In my opinion, what the song is lacking is the fact that each of those Bible characters mentioned were thankful in the midst of their trials, not simply when they were over.  Daniel gave praise in the lion's den.  Paul sang songs of worship in the jail.  These men didn't just thank God when it was all over.  Their gratitude remained constant.  Isn't that the message we need to hear?  Shouldn't we be reminded that our gratitude should not be dependent on our circumstances?  That God deserves our praise no matter what we're going through?

Perhaps I'm being too picky about the song, but it really bothers me because I feel it is giving people the wrong idea.  In my mind, it comes across as "praise God when things are going well, and when they're not, whine and cry about it."  It misses the whole point of the stories in the Bible--stories of faithfulness and devotion, despite stormy circumstances.

If you want to sing about thankfulness, then by all means sing, but choose your words carefully, for they may lead others astray.  Are you truly thankful or simply glad that the trial is over?  One is lasting; the other is fleeting.  So which one is it?

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, August 11, 2014

Too Close for Comfort

For the sake of money and convenience, Jason and I have learned to cut each other's hair.  With a $30 clipper set, I've been trimming Jason's hair for a couple of years now, and so far, there haven't been any major catastrophes as far as ugly cuts or gouges.  Some time after I began cutting his hair, I wondered if it would work out for us to do my own hair as well.  So, I decided to give it a try and told myself I could always buy a hat if things didn't go well.  I trim the front and sides, and Jason comes in after that and trims the back.  With that done, I thin it (I have very thick hair), and voilĂ , we're done (and we've saved a lot of money).  There have been a couple of times that it was a bit short or uneven, but overall, it comes out very well.

Yesterday, I decided it was time for another haircut, and since Jason had a break in the middle of the day, it worked out great.  After I trimmed the front and sides, he came in and began whacking at the back.  (I really needed a haircut!)  Unfortunately, one of those whacks took off a little more than hair.  In a brief instant, the very end of the scissors caught the back of my ear, and I yelped.  Who knew the back of the ear was so tender?  Well, I know now.  Jason felt bad and apologized several times.  I knew he hadn't done it on purpose and told him not to worry about it.  After all, what's a little blood!  I did joke with him that my ears are already pierced so he didn't need to try to do them again.  We had a good laugh, and the matter was forgotten. . . until I rolled over on that ear last night in bed.  OUCH!

You know, when we flirt with sin, the result is the same as the mishap with my haircut--we find we've gotten a little too close for comfort.  What started out as harmless quickly became much more than we ever dreamed.  An exaggeration here.  A moment of pride there.  A flicker of envy.  A wisp of bitterness.  Unfortunately, our reaction to these "minor" things is a shrug of the shoulder or shake of the head.  Why don't we heed the commands in Scripture?

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - II Timothy 2:22

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. - I Corinthians 6:18

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. - I Corinthians 10:14

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, - Hebrews 12:1

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. - James 4:7 

I think the Bible makes it pretty clear.  Resist.  Lay aside.  Put away.  RUN!!!!!  Don't shrug at it like it's no big deal.  Don't shake your head at it like you don't know where it came from.  Take action.  Get out of there before that "little" sin becomes much, much more.  Don't get too close for comfort, or one night you'll roll over and find that the sting of that sin is still very present.  God's grace is sufficient, and Jesus' blood covers all sin, but that doesn't mean we should go looking for sin.  It will find us easily enough.  Our job is to flee, to resist, to put it away. . . not to see how close we can get without falling all the way in.

I did that once on our frozen pool.  I was just trying to see how thick the ice was, so I placed my toe on the frozen surface and pressed.  Unfortunately, I was too close and completely lost my footing.  I went headfirst into the pool. . . clothes, shoes, coat and all.  As I struggled helplessly to pull myself from the icy water, my friends lay crumpled on the ground, making themselves sick with laughter.  Some friends!  But I will never forget that day, and I've learned my lesson.  

May we learn the same about sin.  Stay away, or you could find yourself in a situation far worse than a bleeding ear or a mild case of hypothermia.  Brrrr!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Ugly Duckling

And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. Genesis 29:16-17

Have you ever been the victim of rejection? Have you ever been a contestant in a game of favorites and lost? If anyone knew the pain of rejection, it was Leah. She was treated differently because she was not as attractive as her sister. Ouch! Can you imagine how much Leah must have hurt knowing that she was not loved as much because of her looks? Rejection is painful!

Maybe you've never faced that kind of rejection. Perhaps your rejection is of a different sort. Could it be that you were fired from a job because "the other guy" was a suck-up? Maybe you've eaten your lunch alone because you weren't popular enough to eat with the "in crowd." Perhaps your loved on walked out on you because he found "someone better." At some point in our lives we have all faced rejection.

Right now, I have a folder in my filing cabinet labeled "Rejections." In the writing world, rejections are just a part of life. My folder is full of letters saying, "Thank you for sending us your manuscript. We regret that we cannot use it at this time. . ." It hurts. Every time I get one of those letters a little part of my excitement for writing dies. Rejection is painful!

The good news is that God knows all about our rejection. He knows how much we hurt. He knows all about our heavy hearts. He knows, and He cares. If you'll read on in chapter 29 of Genesis, you'll see how God dealt with Leah's rejection.

And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. . .And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing. Genesis 29:31,35

Not only did the Lord give Leah children, He gave her Judah, the child that would be the start of the line of Christ. What a gift! True, Leah may have been rejected by her family and friends, but she was never rejected by God.

The same can be said for us. Many times it seems like we don't have a friend to stand with us. At times, we can be brought so low that we wonder if anyone really cares. Well, I'm here to remind each of us that God does care. He will never reject us! After all, we were ugly in our trespasses and sin, yet He still sent His only Son to die for us. Now that's acceptance!

*****Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead by Dana Rongione*****

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death. - Job 12:22

As you've probably figured out by now, I'm reading through Job during my daily Bible reading.  As always, I'm amazed at the tactlessness of Job's friends, and I identify with Job's roller coaster of emotions.  With one breath, he's worshiping, but in the next, he's cursing.  One moment he's defending God, and the next he's accusing Him.  From faithful to faithless, he swings from one end of the scale to the other.  Ah, a man after my own heart. . . unfortunately.

But in my reading this morning, I was attacked by the first phrase in the verse above.  Those poetic words jumped off the screen (of my tablet) and smacked me across the head.  (For those of you who may be new to my posts, this seems to happen a lot.  Does anyone else out there get attacked by Scripture?)  Anyway, after reading that phrase and re-reading it, I had to force myself to continue the chapter, but my mind would not let go of those words.

In chapter 12, Job is talking to his "friends" (and hey, with friends like that, who needs enemies?), and in verse 22, he is referring to God.  God discovers deep things out of darkness.  So, as Christians, who are we supposed to be like?  God, right?  So does that mean that we should try to discover deep things out of darkness?  I believe we should.  In fact, I think that's the very reason we face trials and dark times.

Have you ever noticed how much we learn during our darkest times in life?  We tend to cling closer to the Father.  We spend more time in His presence.  We devour His Word.  And all the while, we're learning things we never knew.  We see verses in a whole new light.  We understand passages that seemed so vague before.  Because of our circumstances and our frame of mind, things look different than they did in the light.

Our dark times are not meant to be a time of desolation or discouragement, but rather of discovery.  They are opportunities for us to see things like we've never seen them before.  They offer us the chance to learn new truths and uncover sweet promises--to discover deep things out of darkness.  And in doing so, we become more like God.

So, in the end, it boils down to this:  do we want to be like God enough that we're willing to spend some time in the dark?  Now there's a sobering thought for the day, huh?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's My Party, and I'll Cry If I Want To

In yesterday's post, we discussed Job's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and his unusual reaction to a situation that would have driven most of us to insanity.  The good news is that Job remained faithful, despite his hardships.  The bad news is that his good attitude didn't last long.  In fact, after seven days with his "friends" (and I use that word very loosely), Job's proper perspective took a drastic turn.  Take a look:

After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. - Job 3:1

Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? - Job 3:11

Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!  Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! - Job 6:8-9

O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good. - Job 7:7

Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. - Job 7:11

This is the same guy who was worshiping just a few days ago?  It certainly doesn't sound like it.  This sounds like a man that has given up.  He's given up hope.  He's given up on life.  He just wants to die and be done with it, and honestly, I can't blame him.  I'm pretty sure his situation would have me crying for relief or release.  However, one his friends has a few words for him, and despite how harsh they sound, he has a point.

Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways? - Job 4:3-6

Could I put that in today's language?  "Job, you've done so much for others.  You've taught others about the grace and goodness of God.  You've strengthened those who had no hope.  You were an encouragement to those who were ready to quit.  You upheld those who were about to fall.  But now that it's your turn to suffer, it's like you've forgotten everything.  Where's that confidence and hope that you had when counseling others through their trials?  Do you believe what you've said to others or not?  Why aren't you practicing what you preach?"

Does that passage hit anyone else right between the eyes, or is it just me?  One of my spiritual gifts is that of encouragement.  That's why I post these devotions and write books and speak at ladies' meetings.  That is the purpose behind my sharing encouraging comments and Scripture verses on Facebook posts.  When someone is struggling, I feel like it is my responsibility to point them back to the Light at the end of the tunnel.

But when it's my turn to suffer, oh dear!  Where are all those encouraging Scriptures?  Where are the precious promises that I quoted to others?  Where is the hope?  In short, I fail to practice what I preach.  I'm quick to counsel others in how to deal with their problems, but for the life of me, I can't seem to handle my own.  And the reason for this?  Well, it's the same reason that Job lost his perspective.

Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me? - Job 6:13

Is not my help in me?  Well, no, it's not.  At least, it shouldn't be.  According to Psalm 121, "my help cometh from the Lord."  Perhaps Job was like me.  He was quick to counsel others on how to deal with their problems, but when it came to his own problems, he depended on his own counsel as well.  Unfortunately, our own counsel, when we're in the midst of personal struggles, is generally not sound counsel.  I think Job was trying to "fix" his problem, and when it didn't work, he was ready to give up.  Sound familiar?

I wish I could tell you that hard times won't find you, but that would be a lie.  Trials will come.  I would love to tell you that you'll always have the right attitude no matter the situation, but that's probably not true either.  But there is one thing I can tell you without a doubt.  Our help does come from the Lord.  He is not only willing but also able to deliver us out or through any circumstances we may face.  He will be our Counselor.  He will be our Guide.  He will be our Strength. 

Don't quit, my friend.  Keep hanging on.  God has a purpose for this pain.  If you must cry, cry out to Him.  He's listening, and He cares.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord. And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. - Job 1:12-19

Talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!  I mean, seriously!  I've had days where it seemed like one thing after another went wrong, but never to this extent.  In a matter of hours, Job lost everything.  His children.  His wealth.  His livelihood.  And his wife, while still alive, seemed to have lost much of herself after such a series of events (not that I can blame her).  Before one servant can finish with his bad news, another is sharing a similar story of tragedy.  And on and on.  But notice Job's response in the very next verse.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle. . . -  Makes sense.  The tearing of one's clothing was a sign of mourning in Bible times. After all the news he'd just received, he was definitely allowed some time to grieve.

. . .and shaved his head. . . - Okay, perfectly understandable.  Again, in that day and age, the shaving of the head was a sign of grief.  Got it!

. . .and fell down upon the ground. . . - Absolutely!  Stressful days will bring us to our knees.  Grief and pain can render us unable to stand.  I have no doubt I would have done the same thing.

. . .and worshiped. . ." - Say what now?  He did what?  In the midst of his mourning, he worshiped?  That can't be right, can it?  Who in their right mind worships in the middle of such crisis?  Who would praise God at a time like this?  Evidently, Job would.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for myself.  I was with him through the falling on the ground, but after that, things changed.  For me, it would probably read, and fell down upon the ground and cried and complained and asked God why He didn't care anymore.  

Evidently, that was the response of Job's wife.  After Job himself is struck down with sickness, she asks him, "Why are you keeping such a positive attitude?  Just curse God and die already."  Lovely!  What a woman!  But in her defense, I feel it was her grief talking.  Job, on the other hand, did not allow his grief to dictate his mood and/or actions and gave her a very good reason why he still felt the desire to worship:  What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In a nutshell, he told her, "God is the one doing the giving, so whether the gift seems good or evil, God is still God.  He is worthy of our praise, despite our problems."

Boy, that's easy to say about someone else's problem, isn't it?  It's easy to dole out advice when someone else is suffering, but when we face the very same circumstances, what happens to that sound advice?  Well, I'd like to talk about that a little in our next post.  For now, may I remind you that no matter what you may be facing today, God is still good and He is still God.  Whether we feel like praising Him or not, He is worthy and deserves our worship.  It's not easy, but it is right. . . even on those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Words I Never Thought I'd Utter

Last night, I came to a startling realization.  Jason and I were having our nightly devotions, and our reading involved Peter, the disciple.  As we discussed Peter's many faults and failures, we also commented how the author of the book we're reading did something few others do--he commented on Peter's good attributes.  After all, Peter dropped everything when Jesus said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  Peter rowed his boat out into the deep at Jesus' command even though he (Peter) and the other fishermen had been out fishing all night and had come back empty-handed.  Peter was the only disciple with enough faith to step out of the boat and walk on the water.  We're so quick to judge poor Peter, but he truly had some good qualities about him.

As Jason and I discussed this topic, the realization hit me, and it was just too startling to keep to myself.  "I'm Peter!" I exclaimed.  Jason stopped and looked at me.  I went on to explain.  "Peter's problem was not a lack of devotion.  It wasn't a lack of love.  It wasn't even a lack of faith.  Peter's problem was simply that he tried too hard.  He wanted to serve the Lord so badly that he did anything and everything he could think of to fulfill that service.  Unfortunately, some of those things were not the right things or were the right things done in the wrong way.  Peter was so eager to serve that he didn't stop and ask the Lord how He wanted to be served.  Instead, he tried to do it in his own way, which often led to trouble.  That's me!"

Sadly, it's true.  If you were to study my faults and failures, you'd quickly see the pattern.  My mistakes don't stem from a lack of love or faithfulness, but rather a lack of submission and surrender.  I try too hard to serve the Lord, and that "trying" often leads to following my own plans and ideas of how things should be. . . just like Peter.

Do you want to hear the good news?  The Peter before the Resurrection of Christ and the Peter after the Resurrection are like two separate characters.  The Peter after the Resurrection is still bold, but it's a different boldness.  He's not bold in himself but rather in the gospel he is preaching.  This Peter has learned to listen more than he speaks and to think before he acts.  This Peter is completely surrendered to the will of God.  This Peter has made a major transformation from what he had been before.  So, if God could change Peter, I know He can change me too.  There's hope for me yet.  And, if you find yourself resembling the old Peter as well, there's hope for you too.  It all boils down to surrender!