A quiet presence

Before they call, I will answer while they are still speaking, I will hear. ~Isaiah 65:24 (CEB)

Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable than car trouble.

I had had a great day with my Michigan cousins. I went out to my car at the end of the day to find it would not start. “What? (I actually said this as I put my head on the steering wheel) Lord, I had prayed about this, begged You to protect my car from issues while I was so far away from home.” It is hard enough to deal with car trouble in familiar territory but hundreds of miles from home it is overwhelming.

A cousin jump started my car and we talked about what could be the issue. I hoped for the battery but it could be as serious as the alternator. Obviously I couldn’t take the chance of being stranded on the interstate. Sitting in my hotel room wondering what I should do, an answer came to mind. I knew from past experience that someplace like AutoZone could check my battery to see if it needed replacement. Maybe they would have advice about the alternator. I thought that they could probably point me to a reputable repairman if that was indeed what I needed. I looked AutoZone up on my phone to see if there was one in town. According to the phone there was one close by. So I settled in and prayed for a good night’s rest and that my car would start so that I could drive it to AutoZone in the morning.

The next morning, after I had packed our stuff, I went out to try and start the car. It struggled but finally started. I pulled up the address on my phone to the store and headed out. Once I was out on the road I looked up while stopping at the stop sign to see my destination right there ahead of me. Two blocks from my hotel was an AutoZone. I had not noticed that it was there before that moment.

As I suspected, the AutoZone employees were able to help me. They ran tests on my battery, alternator and starter. It was just the battery as I hoped.

At first is seemed to me that God had not watched over me while I was off in a strange territory. I felt momentarily forgotten. Abandoned. When I got into the car to drive my son and I back down to Tennessee, I realized just how much God had been watching over me before I even knew that I was in trouble. There were so many factors that could have made the situation worse. And then there was the location of my hotel, just down from the store that I would need. It began to seem surreal.

God showed me that I don’t have to be on familiar ground for Him to take care of me. He can already have things in motion or in place that I don’t know about yet.  He also will also give me answers as I need them, sometimes not until I need them. When I feel alone and forgotten, I have not been. I just need to hold onto the truth that as a beloved child of God, He will provide for me.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the care You send and the answers You bring. Thank You for not abandoning me. Thank You for Your quiet Presence that warms and calms my heart. May I continue to feel Your Presence as I move through the day ahead. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)Even if you have not grown up in church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way we may be taught that love is based on performance, control, comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 17 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Other times I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

What’s the point of it all

What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3 the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

Labor not in vain

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord you labor is not in vain. ~1Corinthians 15:58 (NRSV)

One time my son and I volunteered at a food drive for a local food pantry. I will admit I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. I knew we would be standing outside Wal-Mart for two hours collecting food donations. This was all I knew. After we were briefly trained I realized that this was going to put me far outside my comfort zones.

When my son realized that we would need to go up to, speak to and hand every single person we saw, a shopping list and verbally encourage them to participate in donating food, he panicked. “I can’t do that”, he exclaimed.” Let’s just go shop and give them some food instead.” I will have to quickly admit I had the same feeling. Going up and initiating conversations with strangers is not my favorite past time. Although I felt the same way as my son, I began to tell him that yes this was hard for us to do. It would be easier to go  buy some groceries to donate than to stand there for two hours accosting people to donate food, but there was just so much food that he and I could donate. In the two hour time we were there asking people to donate we would be able to do more good than we could on our own.

While my son never developed the ability to go up and talk to people and inform them of our purpose that day, he did find that he was good at asking people when they came bringing food out to donate if they needed help unloading their items. Personally, I found that it got easier to go up to people the more I did it, especially if I did it with a smile. We saw many people that we had talked to just leave Wal-Mart without donating anything but the people who did donate were amazing. Some donated just a small bag others much much more. In the two hours we stood in the hot sun we saw at least 6 grocery carts fill up. The generosity of people will stick with me for a long time.

The amount of hungry people is staggering. The food bank that we volunteered with that day was not the only one in our county. Blount County Community Food Connections alone feed on average, 5,000 a month, several local churches have food pantries and Second Harvest serves as a distribution center offering donated and purchased food items to over 500 non-profit organizations in an 18 county service area.

It is easy to be overwhelmed with the needs of others. It is hard to listen to all the needs when they seem to be coming at us from all directions. There were a few people who just walked quickly by us during our two hours of service, not wanting to “hear” the needs. Yes, there is more than just one person can do. God doesn’t expect me to meet every need that I see, but there is enough needs in the world for each of us to do something. If I am steadfast in the work laid out before me, immoveable in the task I have been given, my labor will not be done in vain. Our bag of food combined with everyone’s bags that were donated added up to something beautiful. During the two days of that food drive we participated in, $16,00 in food and cash were collected.

Heavenly Father, help us to be aware of how we can give out of the abundance You have given us. Out of our thankfulness may we be quick to share with others so that Your grace and glory can be seen by all. Amen.

Who’s in the driver seat

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.~Jer 29:11-13 (CEB)While I was using the navigation app on my phone I missed an important turn. Right after I took  a right I didn’t realize my phone was telling me to stay right for another turn. When I realized what the app wanted me to do, it was too late to make the turn. My phone could have said, “Well that’s it. Since you are too stupid to understand what I am telling you, I am going to leave you to figure out what you need to do next.” No, my phone didn’t ridicule me or berate me for being confused. It simple recalculated the road to adjust to where I was at the  moment, leading me to other roads that ultimately got me to my intended destination.

I have seen the Holy Spirit working in my life in the same way. When I think I know the path that I am supposed to be on but then realize that I am lost and confused, I do not find myself abandoned by the Holy Spirit. No. I cannot mess up God’s plan for my life. When I take a wrong path the Holy Spirit simply  recalculates  to adjust to where I am at the moment, continuing to lead me in the way I need to go. Now I could be upset with the detour I have taken or I can sit back and calmly realize that God is still in control of my life. His plan for me includes those times that I take back over the direction I am headed.

There are no words to match the feelings that well up inside me when I realize that there is NOTHING I can do to mess up my God-given-destiny. Despite myself, God will get me where He plans for me to be. That’s kinda humbling.

Father  in heaven, thank You for never leaving me where I am at but taking me on to what You have planned for me. Amen.

A letter written for me

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. ~2Tim 3:16-17(CEB)

One of many things that fascinate me about the Bible is how it can speak to me as an individual. This is what sets scripture apart from all other writing. It speaks to every person from every background and every generation. In order to accomplish this it was written in symbolic language.

“A symbol is a representation of a greater reality. The symbol is not the reality but points to it. In order to grasp the truth of a symbol one must not look “at” it but through it to the greater reality that awaits discovery but the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt 11:15).” ~ Rueben P. Job

Jesus spoke in parables so that his teaching would have universal and singular appeal, and for that reason he taught through parables (Mark 4:33-34). If I carefully search each Bible story it will reveal hidden truth that suits my life’s situation. If I do not take the time to search the scriptures deeply, the symbols will remain nontransparent.

It is important that I take time every day to read scriptures as if it was it was a letter written just for me – as if the writer was thinking only of me when writing. Through analogies, metaphors, parables, I can enter into a personal dialog with God. There are questions that I can ask to help me understand what insights God is trying to speak to me: (1) What is this scripture saying to me about God? (2) What is this scripture telling me about myself? (3) What is the scripture saying to me about how God calls me to be in service to Him?

Heavenly Father, I stand amazed at how You speak to me today through something written over 2,000 years ago. Train me in the way that I need so I may be equipped for Your good work. Amen.

Prayer for the reader

Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. ~Matt 21:22 (NRSV)

Not just in the Psalms can prayers be found but throughout the Bible. They are beautiful and I love when I come across them in my Bible reading. Here is a prayer that I want to share with you. Paul has written this prayer to the Ephesians but we can claim this prayer for ourselves today.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~Eph3:14-21 (NRSV)

Heavenly Father, I embrace this prayer as my own today. Grant strength and power through you Holy Spirit. Allow Christ to dwell in my heart so that I may know that love that surpasses all knowledge. I pray for You to work in me to accomplish abundantly more than I can ever imagine for Your glory and honor. Amen.

I know who holds tomorrow



Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.~ Phil 4:4-7 (NRSV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always” doesn’t end with,”unless you are doing something really important”. No, it’s a command, “rejoice always”. When I am consumed by my problems – my family, my job, my life, I am actually conveying the belief that my circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words I am saying that I have the right to disobey God’s command because of the magnitude of my responsibilities. My focus on my problems puts my problems first. This is a form of idolatry- taking my focus away from God.

Following the command to rejoice always is the command to not worry. Worry implies that I do not trust God with my circumstances. Is not the God who flung the stars into space not big enough to handle my problems? Is not the God who moves continents not strong enough to fix my situation? Is not the God who sent His only son into the world to die on a cross for my sins not loving enough to hear my prayers?

Being stressed says that what I am involved in merits my impatience, lack of grace toward others or my tight grip on control. Worry and stress say that I have forgotten that it is really not about me. God has a big picture and I am a part of it. The picture isn’t about me. The picture is God’s.

The chorus from a song has been running through my mind today, ” There are things about tomorrow That I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.” So what do I gain from putting God first and trusting Him to take care of my tomorrows? Verse seven says that the peace that passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind.

No matter how hard I try to control the situation, I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I do know, because the Bible tells me, that I am to always rejoice, to give thanks in every situation and to not worry. I also know that the One who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).

Heavenly Father, may I live this day trusting that you hold all my tomorrows. When feelings of anxiety creep back in, may that be my signal that I have lost my focus reminding me to look back to you. Amen.

Just a vapor

Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such- and- such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes.~James 4:13-14 (CEB)What if tomorrow is too late? What things am I putting off to tomorrow that should be done today? It is easy to go about thinking this is just another ordinary day. What would I do differently if I knew tomorrow wouldn’t come?On an average day I am caught up in myself. On an average day I don’t consider God very much. On an average day I truly forget that I am just a vapor. “The LORD does indeed know human thoughts, knows that they are nothing but a puff of air.” Psalm 94:11

If I knew that I would not be here tomorrow would I give more? Love more? Would I be more brave to say the things that must be said? What should I do differently today in case tomorrow never came?

Lord, may I not live this day as if I will live forever. Amen.

Hearing Gof through community

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. ~Jer. 3:15 (NRSV)

We were not meant to walk this road of life alone. Jesus lived his life in community. From his childhood to his calling and traveling with disciples Jesus lived in community. A community of faith nurtured him, supported him and informed him (who do the crowds say I am?) We too are meant to live in a community. How else are we to find the strength to live a faithful life without the gifts offered in a faithful community of Jesus? Jesus was known for valuing solitude since he retired to rest and pray, but living in community also marked his life.

It is easy for me to forget the importance of Christian community. Susanne G. Farnham in her book Listening Hearts, states the importance of community, “Although God calls each of us personally, as individuals we see only partially. Individual perception, reasoning, and understanding are always limited. Even a person who feels absolutely certain that a specific revelation is from God may be mistaken as to how it is to be applied. Because God often reveals part of the picture to one person and another part to another person, it is prudent to consult one another to discern God’s counsel, guidance, and direction, even if there is no apparent reason to do so. While circumstances sometimes require us to ask without consulting others, the danger of arrogance and error in proceeding on our own can be great.”

Heavenly Father I thank You for surrounding me with people that help me discern Your will in my life. Without others perspective into my life I would not always understand the picture you have painted for me. I thank You for the counsel, guidance and direction that You have spoken into my life through others. Amen.

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