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Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

When my son toddled around the house, he’d bring me an A-B-C- book of animals to read to him. It had phrases such as “Birds tweet. Tweet, Bird, tweet. Cows moo, Moo, Cow, moo.” You get the idea. But when it got to the letter “L” the author didn’t choose a lion to roar or a lamb to bleat. The author chose a lizard.

Now, lizards are not known for their sound, right? They are fairly quiet, timid, and skitter away when approached. But they also need to rest. This book said, “Bask, Lizard, bask.” Maybe because the word is not usually found in a pre-k book, or maybe because of the picture of the lizard sprawled on a branch … but we laughed each time. Lizards bask in the sun to get warm, then in the shade to cool off because their bodies cannot internally adjust to temperatures. Trouble is, the shade is illusive. It moves as the sun does. So their rest is interrupted. Over and over again. Constantly on the move seeking comfort, they really never truly bask.

The memory popped up in my grey cells when a friend of mine posted this photo of her dog on Facebook. Dogs love to bask in sunbeams. Let the warmth and the light penetrate their fur, skin, and bones. So peaceful… Now, agreed. the sunbeam will move. My guess is so will the dog, because he wants to continue to rest in the warmth. But unlike the lizard, the dog is secure in its surroundings and won’t likely skitter away. He will seek to stay in the light long as he needs it and his body will retain the warmth.

But notice the statue of the kitten crouching in the dark corner. Which are you? the dog or the cat? Do you bask in the Light of the Son in peace and absorb His Spirit in your life? As the rays of His love move, do you follow, seeking His peace? Or do you cower in the darkness of your situation like a cold, stone statue, afraid to move? Perhaps, like the lizard, you keep moving to find a place to bask on your own. Try new herbs, breathing exercises, and meditations to find a bit of peace.

Lately, I have done all three when a setback and not-so-good news from a doctor gut-punched me. My immediate reaction was “Why, God?” I became depressed, couldn’t sleep (mostly due to the debilitating pain that would not ease up after the last “diagnostic procedure”), and pondered…no wallowed…in my worry. Froze in my fate. Cowered in my circumstance as my mind swirled of ways to cope with my possible new lifestyle. I mimicked Jesus in the garden…alone, weeping – take this cup. Well, I didn’t sweat blood and tears, but almost.

Then the “I can adjust” mode kicked in. Make do with what I have. This is my lot in life. So be it. Make whatever effort I can to adjust. But I still felt restless and didn’t find true peace.

Little by little, possibly because Easter loomed – Hallelujah – I edged into His light and let it soothe me. Let His peace penetrate me and soak into my soul.


But he said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What a difference.

I don’t have to fix things or solve things on my own. I can’t physically pull myself up by my bootstraps anyway. Right now, I can bask, Julie. Bask. Relax, pray, and wait for His guidance to unfold. Feel the warmth of His hands cradling me, knowing He is there and He cares. Let His light guide me and keep choosing to rest in it.

We all have a choice. Be the cat, the lizard, or the dog. Cower in a frozen position, continually try to make things better on our own, or learn to bask in His warmth.

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I have been watching The Chosen … again. Love these episodes, and right now, leading up to Easter, they are being broadcasted live every night at 7:30pm CDT.

If you haven’t seen these episodes that portray the lives of the disciples before Jesus chose them to follow Him as well as their spiritual development as they follow Jesus around Galilee and Samaria, I highly recommend them. They are free on YouTube, or on their downloadable free app. So far there are two seasons (16 episodes.) Five more seasons are planned.

Anyway… I decided I wanted a “Bing Jesus” bumper sticker from the gift store, also on the app. All proceeds go to help fund the actors’ salaries. The show itself is totally crowd-funded. Well, I got my sticker and went to pay. A message popped up – Leave or Cancel.

What? I don’t want to leave. I want to buy my item. And I don’t want to cancel my purchase. Not wanting to choose either, I was stuck. Which do I choose? Is there a third option?

I finally chose to leave, and it took me to my secure check out with my Google pay. Oh, okay. Got it.

Did you get it? When Jesus asked his disciples to follow Him, they had a choice. Leave or cancel. Because in order to follow, one has to leave, right? Leave what is normal. Leave what is comfortably status quo in your zone. Maybe leave preconceived ideas.

Or cancel out on the opportunity and return to what was. Don’t step out.

I had really never thought of how choosing to follow meant having to leave. But it does.

Thank goodness twelve brave men and several women in the first century Judea chose to leave. They walked into the unknown. Not perfectly. Not without hang-ups or preconceived notions. Even so, they took the first steps just as they were because Jesus saw their potential. True, one ended up canceling out and betraying Jesus later. Ten others ran into the night when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus.

But those ten didn’t click cancel. They had followed too long and learned too much to do that. They’d left the old behind.

Soon, after huddling in terror for three days waiting for themselves to be arrested as well and possibly suffer the same fate as their Master, the resurrected Jesus entered their midst again with the same message – leave. Get up and go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:20).

And they did. They left that upper room. They went into all nations.

Billions, perhaps trillions over the past two centuries have been affected by their choice to leave that day. As a result, the accounts of their lives are still read in a multitude of languages. And portrayed in films and streaming videos like The Chosen is doing now. Their choice is shared around dining room tables, on playgrounds, or by campfires. The impact of their choice to leave is still impacting us.

Each of us now has the same choice. Follow or stay put. Leave, or cancel.

Which will you choose? I leave it to you to decide.

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But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 2:14

Manufacturers spend millions on finding just the right scent for their lotions, soaps, and perfumes. One laundry detergent company’s fragrance is so recognizable other products claim to have that aroma in them as well.

The scent of soap or shampoo not only fills our noses with a pleasant smell but lets others know we have just been cleaned as well. That fresh-out-of-the-shower is attractive. Ask any romance writer…

Flowering bushes let off pleasant smells in the breeze drawing people to stop and take a whiff. Air fresheners make our houses smell inviting and clean. They welcome people in. A pleasing aroma can turn a frown upside down.

When we have been cleansed of our sins, we emit a spiritual aroma that is attractive to others as well. People take notice that we are different. There is a glow about our faces. A peacefulness emits from our soul. Love and forgiveness shine in our eyes because we have just received them from our Lord.

Just like the fabric spray or a scented candle, the scent lingers. But on this side of eternity it never lasts, does it? Just as we need to shower often, we need to be cleansed of our sins often. Otherwise, the stench of the world will cling to us. Others won’t be as drawn to us. Our witness becomes stale.

We all need a good scrubbing now and then. Ask any mom of a teenage boy…

Take time daily to let the Lord wash away your sins from your soul, just as you take time to remove the grime and sweat from your body. That way, when you head out into the world, others will notice–IN A GOOD WAY.


Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:2

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Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

At one o’clock in the afternoon on the first Tuesday of the month, the tornado sirens go off…this is a test.

I listen to the radio and a song is interrupted by a whaaa, whaaa, whaaa. “This is a test of the emergency broadcast company…”

A digital sign on the highway tells me if there is a wreck up ahead. My GPS asks if I want an alternate route.

A sign in a commercial building tells me the floor is slippery when wet. My apartment complex puts out a sign saying we are going to have freezing temperatures and to drip our faucets. The weatherman interrupts a television program to tell us bad weather is barrelling down.

Everywhere we look, there are warning signs. Watch out, something unexpected, probably bad, is coming.

And we pay heed, if we are smart.

Except, sometimes in life the unpredictable happens. Without warning. The phone call we never wanted to get. The report from the doctor. The lay off from our boss.

For me, it has been the news that I need two surgeries, which will lay me up for another two, perhaps three months. I’ve had to quit my job, I don’t qualify for unemployment, and I have no short-term disability. I have a meager savings stored up, thank the Lord, that I have been relying upon to make ends meet for two months now. And will for three or so more months. I pray not longer than that.

I read in the Bible to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5), that His ways or not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), that He won’t forsake me (Psalm 9:10), and He will provide so not to be anxious (Mathew 6:25-33). He is my help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and not to be shaken because He is at my right hand (Psalm 16:8).

My brain goes there, and my tongue expresses those verses in reassurance. But my heart hasn’t quite absorbed it yet. So, I keep speaking into it.

Yes, this is a test…

There is a newer song by CAIN that pierces my soul. “Yes, He did so Yes, He can.” My local radio station, KJRN 88.3FM plays it often at the moment (thank you, The Journey!) so when it comes on I ask my smart speaker to crank up the volume. It lifts me back into the attitude my faith calls me to embrace.

God has always been faithful in the past. He will be now, such is His gracious nature. He knows all, and He’s got this. My part in all this?

T-R-U-S-TTotal Reliance Under Stressful Times.

No matter what is tumbling down the road toward you, trust. Despite the odds, trust. When you can’t see the road for the fog, trust.

Someone’s eyes are better than yours. He sees the future. He looks into your heart. The Lord knows how and when to show you through tiny serendipities that HE IS THERE AND HE CARES.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10).

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I have often heard, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” But, once I learned I’ve got to battle some pretty tough times ahead, I grabbed onto my social media friend, Jo Ann Ruth Prevatt’s idea:

She wrote that God’s grace keeps pace with what we face. I like that. God gives us what we need to handle life. In other words, He provides just what we need when we need it.

I recall the monkey bars on my elementary school playground. I had to dangle several feet off the ground and grab the handle in front of me. Once I became sure I had a good grasp, I’d let go of the one behind and swing to grasp the next one. The goal was to make it all the way across to the ladder on the other side.

co wayfair

In life, I don’t always see the ladder at the other end, but I can see the next handle. God doesn’t ask me to “let go” before I grasp the next one. There is security each step of the way, and my faith tells me there will be an end to whatever I am to handle. And if I slip, my LORD is there to grab me, then hoist me up to the next handle. And can almost hear his encouraging whisper, “It’s okay. You’re doing great. Keep going.”

His grace keeps pace…

What do you need to grasp onto today to keep from giving up and falling hard? Whatever you need to handle, know that there is Someone who doesn’t want to leave you dangling in midair. He will give you the strength you need to move forward, and handle one “handle” at a time. Keep going. There is an end. You will be victorious.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory (Psalm 73:24).

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Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I remember it all too well. Dad, grumbling, down on his hands and knees, moving along the wires of Christmas tree lights strewn across the floor. He had to test each one to see which one had burned out, causing the rest to not shine. Rarely did the culprit appear in the first ten or so bulbs. And once he found the burnt-out one, replacing it presented its own challenge. No two red ones next to each other. Heaven forbid! Mom had a strict pattern — red, blue, yellow, green, white. We used to hide the replacements in a small box behind the garland on the mantle just in case …

However, in a way, I think it describes the individualistic attitude that has become so prevalent in our society. We claim to not need each other. We want to do our own thing and if we don’t follow the norm, it’s okay. It is the way we are wired.

Today, the tree lights are individually wired so if one, or two, or ten go out, it doesn’t affect the rest of the strand. Modern technology at work. I am sure many folks appreciate the invention. I have to admit it is a time saver!

There is an old saying that states, “Christ unites, Satan divides.” From the Garden of Eden on down to today, it has been proven to be true. There is a reason believers are called the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to exist independently but are united in His love. It binds us together and flows through us so we can shine brightly into a dark and cold world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, ESV).

When life happens to one of us that makes our light dim, we need the energy of the others to help us shine again. We need that connection of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. Not everyone can be strong and positive all the time. We are not wired that way. We humans need each other, rely upon each other and naturally band together in groups. John Donne had it correct when he wrote over 400 years ago that no one is an island.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world … (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)

As long as we live on this broken planet, darkness will linger on the edges, slowly seeping in. This season, be the light of love that points to Jesus the same way the star over the manager pointed people to Him 2000 years ago. May this darkest time of the year (Winter solstice) be the brightest one in your heart and gleam into those around you, be it the widow next door, the frenzied store clerk, the moody teen, or the grouchiest person in the office.

Uphold those who believe, and encourage those who do not. Shine the love of Christ into others’ lives and you might find yourself shining a tad brighter as well.

Now everyone, join hands and sing, “This little light of mine…”

Have a bright, shiny, beautiful Christmas season.

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I sat on my sofa and stared at my room fan. It softly whirred as it oscillated back and forth. The steady white noise lulled me into a peaceful state. It didn’t complain. It kept doing it’s thing. Backadn forth, back and forth, spreading welcomed coolness.

My apartment faces west and in Texas summers the bank of off-cenered bay windows in my living room can make things a tad toasty. Thus the fan. I could train it to blow directly on me. But by letting it shift the airflow around the room in a steady pattern it ends up cooling four times as much space. Just takes a bit longer.

What type of fan am I? How about you? Do we focus on one thing and blast at it? Do a agreat job but perhaps could do better if we fanned out our efforts?

Or are we an oscillating fan which spreads our talents evenly over several areas, providing relief and service to many others?

Do we stay super focused on one point in our lives, or do we easily shift from one to another?

As I look at the life of Jesus on earth, His mission was focused on one thing, but the acting out of His mission spanned many lives from outcasts to Pharisees, from tax collectors to zealots, from women to men and small children. Each one He touched. Each one he blew the breath of love upon evenly. Each one He shed His blood for. No exceptions.

What about our evangelsitic efforts? Do we concentrate on the people we are more comfortable speaking with? Aim our efforts at someone who dresses and smells like us? Or do we span out, equally treating all with the same grace, love, and respect? Tough question.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul told his followers he tried to be everything to everyone so he would not be a stumbling block to anyone. (See 1Corinthians 9:19-23. He wasn’t being fake. Just the opposite. He was being real. He saw what the other peson needed and offered it in a way they could relate to. He found common ground. How?

One One Way – The Way- through the love of God in Christ Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What a difference we could make if we fanned out and, by living our lives day in and day out, emilating the fruit of the Spirit, we blew peace and love on all we see? We were more kind, gentle, patient, fore-bearing, loving…

A worthy goal. Sure, we will mess up if we try. Humans do. But the more we oscillate instead of standing still, the wider our reach will become. The more we use God’s eyes to see others, the better we can spread His goodness.

It’s a hot, hellacious world out there. Let’s be a fan, quietly influencing others wherever God turns us and cooling their anxiousness with His refreshing grace so freqently bestowed upon us.

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Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1

Years ago, I accepted a challenge to become a devotional editor for an international missionary society. Trouble was, I had to raise my own salary, as most missionaries do. But the fact I worked remotely at home meant my mission field was only as wide as my keyboard, though in truth it spanned worldwide. People couldn’t grasp the concept that I was not headed to Africa or Cambodia even though amore read our devotionals daily tahn most missonary with boots on the ground would come in contact with in a lifetime.

I tried every way I knew to glean financial support. I never became fully funded and couldn’t make even a decent poverty-level living. It tied my guts in knots. I’d cry in my sleep. I whimpered on my knees. I so wanted to serve in this way. My heart ached to keep doing this.

Finally, after five years of stressful existence and waning joy, I caved. I accepted a job offer from a Christian boss who appreciates my efforts and now I am able to support myself comfortably enough to help support other missionaries and my church. My faith-based novels are taking off as well, and I am under contract for 6 more of them.

But I felt as if I had let God down. I had failed…

But did I?

“No,” God whispered into my soul. While readership didn’t skyrocket, it increased and remained steady. I mentored over 35 writers, many who went on to write books. Even more have graciously volunteered their works each month for years, God bless them. And though I lived in low income housing, I never starved.

He used me where He needed me at the time. He is still using me, just differently.

I felt my Lord smiling and saying as He did to Isaiah, “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called her. I will bring her, and she will succeed in her mission” (Isaiah 48:17- gender changed.) I learned a great lesson. Never compare myself to others using human standards of measurement. Success to God is simply obedience and persistance.

Wherever you are in life, God can use you. Stay obedient, even if that is picking up trash in your elderly neighbor’s yard or singing in the choir and never being asked to solo. Be it speaking to thousands at a religious rally or changing the diapers on two babies in the church nursery every week.

We all have a mission field but we need to let God define it and then rejoice that we are doing His will His way.

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The saying, Carpe Diem, or seize the day, became popular again a few decades ago in the movie Goodwill Hunting. Originally found in Horace’s writing in the century before Christ, it suggests that we should make the most of the present and not worry so much about the future or fret over the past.

Jesus seemed to echo this sentiment in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34 when He told His listeners not to worry about tomorrow or be anxious about today because, like the lillies and the birds, God will care for us.

But today, carpe diem epitomizes the “me society” attitude that what I do when I feel like doing it is all right and you have no right to judge me or stop me. Live for the moment. Do it what it takes to satisfy my own needs.

I doubt this is what Our Lord meant. Underlying His advice was the unerstanding that God is sovereign and in control, not us. He alone can see into the future so He shapes destiny. We obey.

So I propose we all get T-shirts or bumper stickers wth a new saying – Karpos Diem. The Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is karpos — “that which originates or comes from something.” And the karpe of the Spirit originates from obedience to God’s will: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we strive to live each day following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and produce the fruit that stems from these qualities, wouldn’t we then not worry so much? Our lives would be less stressful than chasing after fleeting dreams of fulfillment, worth, and happiness. When we know it all comes from God, who has our best interests at heart, then life makes sense. It has purpose, and a future.

I think it purposeful that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride led to the fall after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to live life their way. Carpe diem.

But through Christ’s sacrifce and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, we can now digest the attributes that restores us into the right relationship with our Heavenly Father, and then produce its fruit in our lives!

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily practice on digesting the fruit of the Spirit into our attitudes will help us to not only grow into the potential God created us to have, but spur others to seek this peace that a passes all understanding as well.

So, Karpos Diem my friends. Be frutiful and multiply!

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One letter can make a huge difference. Mean versus moan. Bad vs bed. Dog vs. dig.

Take the words son and sin. The letters that are different are the letter I and the letter O. But there is so much more to that observation. Hidden in it is a great truth.

 

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10:24

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

 

When “i” is in the middle of our thoughts, we are self-centered.   S.I.N. = See, I need.

Replace that with “o” and you have changed your focus to others’ needs.  S.O.N = See, others need.

Here’s why.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth not for Himself but for others. He died for us so we could have a bridge of reconciliation back to the Father in Heaven who loves us. We, in our sinful nature with our “me first” attitudes, separate ourselves from that love. Christ shows us a better way.

Christ calls us to act the way He lived on earth — to be other-focused. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “– the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12. Time again He rebuked His listeners for not caring for others first and foremost. John, Paul, and Peter reiterated this many times in their letters to the faithful. They understood what a servitude attitude was all about. They lived it.

By humbling ourselves and putting others as our priority, God sees our motive as an act of love for Him and what He created. Serving others, praying for others, and loving others takes our minds, actions, and hearts off ourselves. Then, we begin to realize we have something in common – we all need love. We need each other. We need God.

We are not an island floating in a vast sea alone. We are part of creation as a whole, dependent upon the Creator.

Yes, of course, we should love ourselves…as creations of God. But when that love of self becomes the main focus, then sin sets in and pushes out the Son from our hearts, minds, and soul.

Prayer can reverse the order. It can replace the “i” with the “o”. Ask God to help you be more other-centered. He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you away from self into selflessness. Peace and happiness will flow from you as a result.

 

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