Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Time In Between

The steamy heat of summer is past. But the cooler days of fall haven't quite arrived. Sometimes it's difficult to be caught in between. It's not quite time to switch the thermostat from cool to warm, and it's too soon to pull out my long-sleeve shirts and sweaters . But hints of fall color have me eagerly anticipating a change.

Time to exercise a virtue I have yet to master - patience. From simple everyday events, to life's major stressors, all require varying degrees of waiting patiently. The dictionary defines the word 'patient' as: capable of bearing affliction with calmness; tolerant; persevering. All wonderful characteristics that don't come naturally. That's because patience, also referred to as long-suffering, is a result of the Holy Spirit's work in my life.

Waiting can be hard. But it also offers me an opportunity for growth. I can use this time of waiting to evaluate things. Is there anything I need to change? Something I need to do differently? The Apostle Paul offers some challenging words for me to consider, "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; KJV).

My life is a journey. Others are watching. Times of waiting require patience. Will I give in to my impatience, charging ahead recklessly, or submit to the will of my Heavenly Father who knows exactly what I need? When I make the choice to run life's race with patience, times of waiting become opportunities to point others to the Savior.

On this journey of life, how do you view times of waiting? Do you get impatient? Are you willing to see waiting as an opportunity for growth? Focus on Jesus. Take a step toward patience and make the Savior known!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for times of waiting in my life. Help me to submit to the Holy Spirit, so I can develop the quality of patience. When others see this characteristic in my life, help me to be quick to point them to You. You are worthy of all of my praise. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

At the Heart of it All

The wedding was beautiful. The bride, dazzling in white. The groom, radiant as he stood waiting for his bride. As vows were spoken and rings were exchanged, I had no doubt the bride and groom were in love. In love with each other and in love with the Lord. The Lord was praised for bringing the couple together and He was an integral part of the wedding ceremony.

A wedding signifies the merging of two lives. Marriage was instituted by God himself, and is a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” (Ephesians 5:31-32; KJV). So this translates to ‘happily ever after,’ right? Only when the Lord, hard work, and determination are part of the equation.

Every marriage faces challenges. Sometimes I selfishly want things to be done my way – forgetting my better half. “Oneness in marriage does not mean losing your personality in the personality of the other. Instead, it means caring for your spouse as you care for yourself, learning to anticipate the other person’s needs, helping the other person become all he or she can be,” (Life Application Study Bible, p. 2078). Wow! Now that’s a tall order. But when God is at the heart of the relationship, we put ourselves in a position where He can bless us, and our marriage works.

Remember Ruth and Boaz’s love story? Ruth was a young woman from Moab who was profoundly influenced by her mother-in-law, Naomi. When Ruth’s husband died and Naomi determined to return to Bethlehem-Judah, Ruth willingly left her country, and embraced a new life, “…for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” (Ruth 1:16b). Once back in Judah, Ruth was determined to help Naomi. Gleaning in a nearby field gave her an opportunity to harvest food for the two of them.

Enter the knight in shining armor. Okay, he didn’t really wear armor, but check out his list of qualities and decide if he was a keeper: above reproach, self-controlled, wise, respectable, hospitable, gentle, a godly man, and a good manager of his own household – to name just a few. I’m pretty sure he’s the kind of guy every mother dreams of for her daughter!

In order to marry Ruth, Boaz had to fulfill some legal obligations. He was willing to do everything that was necessary. These two demonstrated a strong love for the Lord as individuals and continued to build on this foundation as a couple. And God blessed! “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,” (Ruth 4:13). That son turned out to be none other than Obed, the grandfather of David! Ruth and Boaz were blessed for their obedience to the Lord by being included in the lineage of Christ.

When we center our marriage on the Lord, we can be sure we will be blessed as well. In fact, any relationship with Christ at its core is headed in the right direction! “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing,” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Evaluate your relationships. Is Christ at the center of each of them? If not, what step will you take today to make Him the emphasis?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the relationships You’ve blessed me with. Help me to build strong relationships where You are honored and glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Holding on for the Impossible

Sometimes I limit God. It’s true. The things I’ve so carefully laid at His feet in the morning have an uncanny way of showing up once again by mid-afternoon. He never intends for me to carry them. But when nothing seems to be happening, I run and pick up my burdens as quickly as I laid them down. I have to admit I have a bad habit of expecting God to work on my time table – and solve my difficulties using my suggestions. When He reminds me to trust Him, I sheepishly relinquish my problems into His more-than-capable hands.

Faith delights God. Faith in Him. He helps me understand, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6; KJV). Faith trusts that God will work the situation out in a way that’s best for me and will bring Him maximum glory.

I can’t help but think of Abraham and Sarah. God had promised them a son. What exciting news! They had been married for quite some time, but Sarah was unable to get pregnant. Surely after giving them the promise, God would bless them with a child quickly. But month after month, year after year, they remained childless.

Sarah reasoned that she had misunderstood God. Maybe God really intended them to have a child through her servant, Hagar. It was a popular custom in their day. Yes, that MUST be it! So Sarah took things into her own hands and presented Hagar to her husband, Abraham. And sure enough, Hagar had a baby. Ishmael.

Thirteen years later, the Lord appeared to Abraham again. He assured Abraham that he and Sarah would indeed have a baby – a son, just like He’d promised. But how could this happen? Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was ninety. Definitely impossible. Or was it? God responded to Abraham’s questions, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14a).

Sarah laughed at the prospect of having a son at her age. I can only imagine her response when she realized she was pregnant! God kept His promise and later that year Abraham and Sarah held their baby boy, Isaac.

Given the choice, Abraham and Sarah would have chosen to have a baby earlier in their lives. But God knew what He was doing. Developing trust. Nurturing faith.

How do you deal with problems? Remember that faith pleases God and make the decision to leave your issues in His hands!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Abraham and Sarah. Although they took situations into their own hands, ultimately they chose the route of faith to receive Your blessing. Help me to choose to live by faith today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's On the Menu?

Fast food. It becomes an option when I haven’t had time to prepare dinner. It’s quick, convenient, and usually tastes good – although I wouldn’t want to vouch for its nutritional value. Just last week, I opted for fast food when dinner time rolled around and I hadn’t consulted my weekly menu plan. A brief glance at the plan reaffirmed what I already knew. There was no way I could make calzones and serve them for dinner, unless we were interested in a midnight snack.

Off to the drive-through. Our order was ready quickly. From the time we got in line, to the time we finished our meal, less than an hour had passed. Whoever came up with the term ‘fast’ food, was definitely accurate!

Advantages of fast food aside, I DO enjoy cooking a meal and savoring each dish at a more leisurely pace. There’s something about preparing things that are tasty and nutritional that leaves me with a feeling of satisfaction. Although fast food has its place when I’m in a pinch, my preference is home cooking every time.

In a lot of ways, time is the currency of our day. With a major emphasis placed on being productive, I can’t help considering what my spiritual ‘meals’ look like on a daily basis. Am I interested in quality ‘food’ or satisfied with spiritual 'fast food'? Am I so busy with the good, that I crowd out the best - the opportunity to spend time with my Heavenly Father?

There are days when reading a quick chapter in God’s Word and praying while on the road is the best I can do. But what truly satisfies? Those days when I open His Word, take time to sit at His feet, and really consider what He’s saying to me. The times when I pray His Word back to Him over the situations that concern me. The moments I’m completely still, reveling in the knowledge that He IS God.

The more time I spend in relationship with Him, the more I desire the things that truly satisfy my spiritual appetite. The Psalmist, David, a man after God’s own heart, put it this way, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb,” (Psalm 19:7-10; KJV).

The spiritual hunger that I experience can only be satisfied by spending time with God. David recognized this when he cried out, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee…My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips,” (Psalm 63:1,3,5).

Spiritual fast food or a real spiritual meal? What will you choose to satisfy your spiritual appetite today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to hunger and thirst for a closer relationship with You. Fill me with the things that will truly satisfy my spiritual appetite. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Small Things, BIG Lesson

The barking started in the wee hours of the morning. The sharp, staccato sounds wove themselves into my fitful sleep. Though not completely asleep, I was unwilling to wake up enough to discover what was causing the commotion.

When the clock convinced me that it really WAS time to get up, I could still hear the incessant barking. The neighbor’s dog had been barking for a couple hours and seemed determined to continue. What could possibly be wrong?

The irritating strains of the beagle’s barks continued to follow me as I walked up the hill to feed our dogs. I couldn’t take it any longer…maybe the poor thing was hurt?! I crossed our yard and peered over the neighbor’s fence. I could only stare in disbelief. The comical scene in front of me brought back memories of the movie, Over the Hedge. The beagle was bravely defending his territory from the takeover of a baby possum! That’s right, a tiny, baby possum. Except, instead of playing dead, the baby possum appeared to be glued to the spot, with its mouth wide open in an attempt to appear ferocious. In reality, it was probably terrified and just wanted its mother to come to the rescue!

The neighbor’s dog continued to bark at the possum as I walked thoughtfully back to the house. All humor aside, the dog was smart, you know. He was actively defending his territory. It didn’t matter how big the predator, he was standing his ground. That back yard was his and he was unwilling to give even a small portion of it away. Wow! There was a BIG lesson here!

The enemy rarely tempts me with obvious sin – stealing, adultery, murder. He tempts me with the little things – wrong attitudes, careless words, discontent, in an effort to seize some of the territory that Christ has given me as a believer.

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, sin has been conquered, so I no longer have to give in to the impulses of my human nature. I can choose to overcome sin by believing and acting on His Word, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13; KJV).

Wise King Solomon said that it’s “…the little foxes, that spoil the vines…” (Song of Solomon 2:15). When I don’t think the little things are very important, I’m not as likely to guard against them. I let them slip into the ‘territory' of my heart while I’m on guard against the bigger things. Joshua warned the Israelites against this same thing. In a very literal sense he challenged them against becoming complacent toward their enemies. He described what would happen if they refused to completely remove the heathen nations from their territories, “Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you,” (Joshua 23:13).

The little things that I allow into the territory of my heart will become snares, traps, and thorns in my life if I let them remain. The neighbor’s dog got my attention! He was barking for a good reason. He was unwilling to give up any of his territory to another. I can do the same. I can apply the truth of the Apostle Paul, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage,” (Galatians 5:1). Today I choose to guard the territory of my heart!

Are you allowing the enemy to move into ‘territory’ that is yours? What step will you take today to reclaim that ground?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for making me aware of the tricks of the enemy. Help me to recognize when I’ve let my guard down and allowed sin to creep in. Forgive me. Help me take back any ground I’ve lost. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Are You Wearing?

The card came in the mail. It announced the big clearance I’d been waiting for. The end of the season sale at the Talbot’s Outlet meant they were slashing prices by as much as 75%. I glanced at my calendar, determined to work this into my schedule. I love shopping for clothes! And who doesn’t enjoy having new outfits to choose from?!

Back at home, I grimaced as I hung up my purchases. I didn’t really NEED these new clothes – in fact, my closet was already packed with things I rarely wear. The sad reality is that I probably only wear a small fraction of the clothes I already own. I tend to gravitate toward the things that are comfortable. The things I know that go well together. You too?

Sometimes I find myself doing the same thing spiritually. I get stuck in a groove, content with my ‘comfortable’ routine. Forgetting that spiritual growth takes concentrated effort, I turn away from challenges that would require a step of faith, and settle for walking the same old path I can see. God’s Word reminds me, “But without faith it is impossible to please him…” (Hebrews 11:6a; KJV).

He desires a vibrant relationship with me. His plan for me is clearly outlined, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection , and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,” (Philippians 3:10). I can sign up for the first part of that verse without reservation. Knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection sounds exciting. But the second part is a bit more difficult. In fact, suffering and denying myself doesn’t sound like fun at all. Trials require faith in my Heavenly Father. Trials help me realize my need for Him. Trials allow me to grow beyond my comfort zone. No doubt about it, trials are difficult. But they’re the prescription for growth.

Time for a spiritual wardrobe change! My clothes for His. My will, doubts, and hesitations, for His truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17). My clothes encourage me to sit on the sidelines, avoiding participation. His armor reminds me I’m in a battle and my participation is necessary. Every piece of armor is necessary for me to be successful against my enemy, the devil. And His wardrobe fits me perfectly and is always in style!

Today, I know what I’ll choose to wear. What about you?

Do you have difficulty walking by faith? Do potential trials cause you to stay in your comfort zone? What will you do today to trade your ‘wardrobe’ for His?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving me and showering me with Your grace and mercy. Thank You for reminding me that faith pleases You! Help me to be willing to leave my comfort zone, put on Your armor, and join the battle. In Jesus' name, Amen.

New Posting Schedule

With the launch of Living by Grace (a devotional Facebook page, designed to foster relationship-building while encouraging a closer walk with the Savior), my posting schedule has changed. Join me here on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a life lesson you can relate to! And visit me and the girls at Living by Grace, Monday through Saturday, for an encouraging and challenging devotional from the Word of God! We'd love for you to participate in the daily discussions! See you there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Launch of Living by Grace

Staying connected with family and friends is easier than ever. Social networking sites have made it ultra simple to keep up with all the latest news and important information. I have to admit I was a bit leery of Facebook when it first got started back in 2004. But a couple years ago, I couldn’t resist my Mom’s invitation to be her Facebook ‘friend’, and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the chance to interact with friends on a regular basis and connect with people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

So why am I plugging a social network service? Glad you asked! On Monday, September 12th, a group of us devotional writers are launching a Facebook page – Living by Grace. Jennifer Slattery describes Living by Grace as, “…a modern-day, gather at the well experience designed to foster relationship-building while encouraging a closer walk with the Savior.”

Designed as an encouraging place to dig into the Word of God, Living by Grace, will offer devotionals, Monday through Saturday, each written by a different blogger. What makes it unique? Living by Grace is so much more than a devotional site. It’s a place for readers to join in daily discussions –posting comments and asking questions. A great forum to study God’s Word!

It’s a true honor to be part of a team of godly women who are seeking to make 2 Peter 3:18 a reality: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (KJV).

Here’s a sneak peek at each Living by Grace hostess, and a look at our posting schedule:

Monday: Joanne Sher - Jewish by birth, Christian by re-birth, and a writer by gift. A native southern Californian, she now lives happily in west Michigan with her husband and two school-aged children. She is a blogger and writer, of both true-life stories and fiction, attempting to ride God’s grace over rough roads.

Tuesday: Maria I. Morgan – an inspirational/devotional writer, whose passion is to share the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She is a regular contributor to Around About Cumming, and Cumming Patch. You can visit her on the web Tuesdays and Thursdays for a life lesson you can relate to. Maria lives in Georgia with her husband, Steve, daughter, Riley, their two dogs and cat.

Wednesday: Jessica R. Patch – grew up in southern Illinois before attending Central Bible College, where she majored in Missions and Bible. She is devoted to her local church, having served as a Biblical Studies teacher, Women’s Ministry leader, Regional Women’s Representative, and volunteer co-pastor with her husband of the Young Adult Ministry. She’s taught workshops and frequently spoken to women’s ministry groups. Her heart is to help women step out into deeper waters of intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Thursday: Lynda Schultz – is a ‘never-married.’ She has served in church ministry as Director of Christian Education in several Canadian churches. For the past thirty years or so, she has been a missionary with a Canadian Baptist mission and has served in Colombia and Venezuela, as well as on the home staff. She is currently Director of Christian Education/Spiritual Formation in Timmins, Ontario and works part time with the mission in the area of communications. Lou Lou Belle and Abby are her Venezuelan cats who live with her in Canada. She likes reading, writing, but definitely not arithmetic, in addition to cooking and plants.,, and

Friday: Patty Wysong – an ordinary girl living the good life, the life God gave her. A home executive with over 20 years of experience, she homeschools three of her five children, but don’t let that fool you. Much of her time is spent working on what God has placed in her hand: her keyboard. From the corner of her living room she writes inspirational fiction, devotionals, blog posts, and teaches online blogging workshops. You’ll also find her drinking kood aid from her china cup, preparing for the ladies’ Bible study she leads, and helping at their church. Through her writing, Patty has found the extraordinary God in her ordinary life.

Saturday: Jennifer Slattery – writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse and Samie Sisters. She loves seeing people experience the life-changing love of Christ. She believes no sin is too sinful, no heart to dark, no wound too deep when placed in the pierced hands of Christ. And she prays daily that her writing will allow others to catch a glimmer of God’s all-consuming love.

So hop over to our Facebook page today and say ‘hello’! And won’t you grab your Bibles and join us on Monday for the official launch of Living by Grace?!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for an opportunity to study Your Word at Living by Grace. I pray for wisdom and discernment for each devotional writer. Bless each one who stops by the site with a desire to grow in the things of You. For Your honor and glory, Amen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day Fun with Labors of Love

A very happy Labor Day to everyone! What an honor to receive the Liebster Blog Award from three fabulous gals, Marji Laine at Marji Laine, Writer, Susan Tuttle at Steps, and Brandi Boddie at Penning Praises. Be sure to stop by their inspiring blogs and introduce yourself. I know you’ll be blessed!

I must say I was humbled and thrilled to be presented with this award. Since I learned some German in high school, I vaguely remembered the term having something to do with love. After a quick search of the internet, I found the official definition for ‘liebster’ – German term for friend or love. Bingo!

The Liebster Award is presented to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. And I think Marji put it best, “It is an opportunity to shine the light on great blogs and their authors in an effort to build readership.”

Just a few rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.

2. Give the Liebster Award to five bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And best of all – enjoy!

I couldn't be more pleased to give this award to 5 writers whose blogs are clearly ‘labors of love’ (listed alphabetically by first name):

*AmeliaVision for a Godly Home – Amelia is a godly lady who is proud to be a wife and mother. Not something we’re used to hearing in our culture these days. Drop by and discover how to make your home a haven!

*Julie JarnaginJulie Jarnagin - Julie writes inspirational fiction and her goal is to share stories that inspire readers through reflecting God’s love. She's a published author starting a new phase of her career. Stop by and get to know her!

*Lauren F. BoydLauren’s Path to Publication – Lauren takes us on her journey as a writer, sharing what she’s learned along the way. Lots of wisdom here and I love the fact that Lauren’s published work addresses several different audiences, children and adults alike. Be sure to say hello!

*Marja MeijersFresh Insights on Ancient Truths – Marja shares her insights on different portions of God’s Word. Always food for thought from the Bible here. Pull up a chair and be ready for a good ‘meal,’ and while you’re there, congratulate Marja on earning the Reader’s Favorite Award for her book Grace of Giving!

*Tammi Yates A Vessel in the Potter’s Hands – Tammi shares lessons she’s learning from the Heavenly Potter, as He molds her into the vessel He wants her to be. Inspiring, thought-provoking posts. You’ll be glad you stopped by!

Happy reading! And a hearty congratulations to each of you ladies – I love your blogs!

Whose blog posts inspire you? Leave me a comment!