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Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

A friend of mine is an avid urban gardener. She and her family plant beautiful flowers and raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the flowering vines and tomato vines. The cages also protect them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.

It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)

Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65-speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that tempting brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know?

Then there are those little white lies…

However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like tomatoes or flowering vines. Otherwise, we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.

My friend also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These creepy-crawlies as much as the so-called destructive ones so, the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.

This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that. For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.

Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats!  Plus, my apartment complex underwent new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.

Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection, and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!

cropped-storm-clouds-2-134981298598261vgu1.jpgOftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control and has a use for us right up until the end.  Even in the midst of sorrow, there can be joy, like a single sun ray bursting through the storm clouds.

This blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wondrous ways. His lessons are all around us.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

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You have probably seen them. Little sprigs of green eking through a concrete crack. Seeds were blown in the breeze, landed there, and somehow, despite the odds, grew into plants.

I saw these while stopped at a traffic light before entering the highway. Pretty blossoms decorating a Texas urban domain during the scorching summer heat. Amazing.

I am reminded of the lesson from Jesus’ story of the seeds. Some land on rocky ground, others in fertile soil. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:5-6).

However, these bunches of foliage are thriving and spreading and blooming. Perhaps the roots are short and so they exist all right in shallow soil. Maybe this flora used to the Texas sun. I think they are a wild variety of verbena.

Anyway, these plants were a “God whisper” to me that we should never predetermine the potential of the seeds we believers spread by our actions and words. Those we think may never take root may end up blossoming because at that time, the conditions we could not see where just right. The crack in their wall of doubt just wide enough. The questioning in their heart just deep enough.

Our job is to sow…kindness, love, justice, forbearance, mercy, and grace. The seeds of the fruit of the Spirit that have begun to ripen in us. Especially now when so much of people’s worlds are upturned and confused. Let the seeds fall where they may. The rest is up to the Creator, Savior, and Guide – our Triune Lord.

There is a saying on my fridge. “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.” Remember that the next time you encounter a frustrated stressed person who has had a bit too much of the negative news absorbed into their brains.

Let us cast our seeds of God’s love far and wide. We might just see our land blossom in beauty and majesty again.

 

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But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Psalm 22:19

Rabbi David Wolpe tells the story of a father and son walking along a path. They come across a huge rock in the road. The son flexes his muscle and asks if his father thinks he can move it. The father answers, “Of course, if you use all of your strength.” The son tries and tries, but it barely budges. He gives up, exhausted. “You said I could move it if I used all my strength. You were wrong.” The father crouches down to his eye level. “But you didn’t use all of your strength. You didn’t ask me for help.”

When I heard that my heart crunched. How often have I relied on my own strength thinking God prepares me for whatever comes along so I can handle it myself? True to my Anglo heritage, I put on a stiff upper lip and soldier on. Then alone in my room, exhausted and frustrated, I admit my weakness and cry out as tears flow.

When did I forget that I can only do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not because Christ has given me the strength to do it on my own? (Philippians 4:13). He prepares me by teaching me to trust Him. He comes alongside and adds His power to my powerlessness. In my weakness, I am made strong because I lean on Him through faith in Him, not in my abilities.

Paul knew this. He told the Corinthians in his second letter- But he [Christ] 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (12:9).

Life has a habit of dropping boulders in our path. Illness, job loss, divorce, death, betrayal. Instead of asking for God to give us the strength to endure, let us ask our Father to use His strength to help us. He will help us find a way around it, under it, over it, or to move it away.  We were never meant to battle this world on our own. Our faith is not weak if we cry out for help. Our strength is multiplied when we apply faith to our situation and ask Dad for help.

Lord, teach me to lean on You more and less on myself. As I get older, there are more and more things I can’t do on my own. I need Your strength. In my weakness I am becoming stronger because You are right there with me, helping me. Thank you, Dad, for coming each time I call on You. May I return the favor and come each time You call on me to be Your example of love to the world.  Amen.

 

 

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“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

We read this passage in Luke today in church. The last phrase became clear to me in a new way. If not, it will return to you. 

In other words, be at peace no matter what happens. You cannot control other’s reactions, only your own. Don’t let their negativity infect you.

Christ teaches us to pray for our enemies, even love them. We are to forgive others because Christ has forgiven us. We are to be the peacemakers, peace distributors, and peace dwellers.

There is a skit on Christian radio. A policeman pulls over a lady and is surprised to discover she is the owner of the car because it has a Christian symbol on the bumper. “The way you have been driving and acting, I thought it was stolen,” he says.

Recent events in the United States have produced hideous violence that is spreading like wildfire. I saw this happening in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement and in the 1970s protesting the war in Vietnam. What started as peaceful demonstrations voicing opinions turned into angry, destructive mobs. Those proclaiming that lives mattered and love was the answer soon forgot that was their message and became just the opposite in behavior. History repeats. It is sad to see.

I also am seeing a great deal of hate and slander being spread on social media. Much by so-called Christ-followers. This is not the way Christ wants us to act. He was not a rabble-rouser. Christians, let us be the ones who spread peace, not violence. Those who spread love, not hate, and forgiveness, not blame.

We have all sinned. None of us are righteous, except in Christ and through Christ alone. The writer to the Hebrews reiterated this: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Everyone, even those with whom we disagree.

Please join me. Be a pebble that begins the ripple of peace in your community. Stop the hate. Stop the slander on social media and in conversations of those with whom you disagree politically.

Yes, we have a right to express our opinion and preserve our freedoms. Many are in danger of dissolving. That is what the ballot box is for. But honestly, if I am set in my ways and you are set in yours, there is very little we can do to change each others’ minds.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Let’s not block Him from flowing in, though, and from us into the world. Anger rarely resolves anything. Instead of badmouthing them, pray for them.

Spead love and peace and let it return to you. Pray for those who need Jesus in their lives. Yield to those in authority because God has placed them there for a reason (Romans 13:1-7). As Paul warned, You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10).

We all will answer to One person in the end. What we give, we will receive once again. The boomerang effect. Whatever we send will be returned to the sender.

 

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Sometimes it just jumps out at me from the Bible. Today, I found a message from our Lord in Psalm 47:

For God is King of all the earth; sing praise with all your skill. (verse 7)

We praise God by doing what He has designed us to do. All of creation does. Trees praise Him by leafing out each spring and providing shade in the summer, then becoming colorful in the fall, and losing their leaves as the sap drops in winter. Birds praise Him by singing. The sun and moon praise Him by rising and setting.

We praise Him with the skill He has designed in us. We each have one. A gift that He slowly develops in us the way a piano teacher trains a child prodigy to play his best.

Maybe it is patiently raising active children. Maybe it’s writing, like me. Maybe it is extending hospitality to others, or giving grace to the invisible in our society. Perhaps you are a super organizer, a motivator, or an empathizer. You are good with your hands, skilled with mechanical things, or can see inside people and help them see themselves.

Each time we use our individual skills, we glorify the Creator who provides them. True, we can try to claim the glory, but that will eventually lead to our downfall. Even then, God will be glorified when we are redeemed from self-centered sin and brought to repentance.

Never think you have nothing to contribute. Someone somewhere needs your skills. God made you for a purpose. Yield to Him and let Him bring out the best in you. Then praise Him with your life.

 

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I hung up a bird feeder to see if I could attract birds, now that I no longer have cats. I poured in easy pickings especially blended for songbirds.

However, I am not sure I will attract any birds because the AC units are right outside of my apartment patio. One, in particular, services my neighbor upstairs. It is rather noisy. And he likes his place to be kept cool, so it kicks on all day and night.

This situation made me think about how many times the noise in my life keeps me from hearing the still, small voice of my loving Father as relayed through the Holy Spirit. How often do I miss out on His blessings because I am not intuned to His holy whispers?  When have I been so distracted seeking what I need that I have not seen what is right in front of me?

Will I fly by as I search for something else, or will I stop and perch in His presence, tasting that the Lord is good?

I hope little sparrows, cardinals, and finches find my feeder chock full of seeds. I’d even enjoy seeing a bushy-tailed squirrel precariously dangling on it trying to get the corn and sunflower husks. I hope they will find the good things and decide to partake, and not be distracted by the rattletraps humming below.

I also hope the same for you and me. May the noise of our world never drown out the wonderful, loving messages from our Lord.

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. Psalm 78:1

 

P.S. Four days later: Three sparrows and two finches have found my feeder!

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 2:6-7

Three years ago I posted the saga of my now 45-year-old corn plant. Back then, at about 3 1/2 feet tall, it had pretty much stagnated in growth. Today it has grown to 5 feet high.

Why am I telling you this?  First, in my new space, it has a more constant, diffused light. Southern exposure provides it a soft, strong source of continuous sunrays. And it has taken off.

I recently did something else to it. My son and I transplanted it into a much larger pot. It had become root-bound. Poor thing. One bag of enriched soil later, it was safely settled into its new surroundings and place back by in the southern exposure window it loves. NOw it has stretched its leaves to a full, luscious green canopy.

So, why am I telling you this??? Are we not the same? We all love our comfort zones, but we don’t grow well in familiarity. Life is about change. If change doesn’t occur, how will we grow? How will we expand our thoughts, stretch our imaginations, and flourish in our faith?

Sometimes I think God puts us in new situations for our own good. We have become root-bound, wound up in our own little world. We need to have fresh fertile soil and new boundaries to reach out.

One thing I know from experience is that God always makes good out of difficult situations. I see a lot of good coming out of this pandemic. People have reevaluated what is important. Many have turned back to God for answers, support, and comfort. Neighbors who barely knew each other are pitching in to help each other, even if it is at six feet distances. Folks are more “other conscious” and friendly. There is a bond that grows from shared experiences that strengthens cities, communities, and people. It is like the mortar joining bricks in a wall.

Maybe we’ve just been transplanted into a larger situation right now. It may feel uncomfortable to unwind from our tightly-balled comforts, but as we extend out, we will grow…stronger, better, and more beautiful as long as we dig our roots into the One who gave us life, and by His merciful grace extends it into eternity for those who believe.

And the more we bask in continuous soft and nourishing Light of The Word, we will grow in the right direction.  Standing tall in our faith, rooted in Christ.

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We read the Scripture passage of 1Peter 1:3-9 in our online service this week.  What hit my heart anew was verse seven: These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I always took that to be somewhat apocalyptic. But today I see it in a new way.

They say hindsight is 20/20. I often do not see Jesus moving in my life until after the fact. Perhaps I am concentrating too much on the “now” to see the eternal. But suddenly the light dawns and I see He was there all along, steadily working out His plan in the background. I see how He purposes good from what seemed distressful and even evil, like the proverbial silver lining at the end of a storm. Then I  “give thanks in all circumstances”, as Paul reminds us to do in 1Thessalonains 5:18.

What we are living through now definitely fits the definition of a trial by fire.  Perhaps during this time, we are being purified by God’s holy furnace. The dross of our modern world, which once captured our attention, is melting away. We are hopefully drawing closer to God and, even though we can’t be physically together, we are more together because we realize how important our friends and family are and we miss them so dearly. Our values have been readjusted.

My prayer is that during this time, Jesus will be revealed in your heart, mind, and soul. I pray you will, by your testimony of the “great things He hath done”,  reveal Him to others who so desperately need to “see” Him revealed in their lives. Especially now.

May we all give Him the praise, glory, and honor.

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You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. Jonah 2:3

It was an unpleasant experience, to say the least.  The room spun so fast I lost all sense of balance, like a bug on a ceiling fan at high speed. I couldn’t walk. I had no bearings. I had to clamp my eyes closed, deciding that the swirling darkness was not as nauseating as seeing the room whirl backward.

After about an hour, it was not calming down. I crawled to my cell phone and called 911. The EMTs got there quickly but I had to trust these strangers to lead me to the gurney, into the ambulance, and head off to the ER. Then wheel me out, push me backward down the hall, and into an exam room. I also had to trust the nurses, CT tech and ER doctors to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it.

For the next three hours, I spun in darkness until the meds kicked in. All due to an inner ear infection. Tiny crystals in one of our smallest organs got out of whack and sent my world into turmoil without warning. How amazing!

Life can do something similar to us. We can lose our bearings. We grope for answers. Illness, economics, tragedies, and pandemics whirl us around to where we don’t know what is up or down.

But in the midst of all of this is one fact. God is there. My prayers were my anchor that day. I held on tight, trying to keep calm until His peace waved over me instead of panic. Jonah, swallowed into the belly of the whale, was saved from drowning.  I, strapped to a gurney, was saved from falling. We both learned a vital lesson anew. God has a purpose for everything. Even in the direst of circumstances.

I realized that I can depend on Him, and those He sends to assist me. I am not alone, even though I live alone. This too will pass. He continues to be my stronghold. I won’t spin out of control. Help is available.

I hope you have discovered the same thing during all the chaos of social distancing and isolation. I hope you have drawn closer to God and realized that the things that matter in life are not the material ones. We all need each other, and we need Him.

I pray you stay safe and hang onto the Rock. He is our sure foundation. That is a promise we can stand upon, no matter how wobbly we feel.

 

 

 

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We all have our comforts. I love soft things and warm things. Curling up in a fleece throw with a cuppa warms my body…and my soul. And right now, we could all use some comfort.

But, the cup of hot tea or coffee soon disappears or grows cold. The throw needs washing. Neither is lasting.

Paul talks of another comfort. God is comfort. He never promised His children would be comfortable, but that He would provide comfort. Jesus warned his disciples (and us) that in this world there would be trouble. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33  And wow. Is there ever trouble in the world!

Jesus tells us that even in the midst of trouble we can have peace. We can take heart. He’s got this. He not only knows what is happening but He knows what tomorrow will bring and is already preparing our hearts for it if we let Him. We can find comfort in that fact.

Paul agrees, but he doesn’t stop there. He tells the Corinthian Church, and us, to take that comfort and go comfort others. In this time of isolation, you’d think this modern “me society” would retreat even further into the world of “I”. But more and more we hear stories of people stepping out to help others, to be considerate and keep a safe distance from others, and to wear protective gear. To check on elderly neighbors, and to thank those who have essential jobs and risk exposure.  We are discovering creative ways to connect without touching. People are rediscovering that we need each other, and more than that, we need God.

Each day, as we become more and more isolated, let us not forget to receive comfort from God and then pass it on to others. Perhaps they will pass it on to another person and that person will feel encouraged to do the same. Soon, instead of anxiety and fear, there will be a blanket of peace cloaking our neighborhoods. A warmed cup of camaraderie to ooze the souls in our cities.

A comforting thought, isn’t it?

 

 

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