Shelter in the desert

Jacob left Beer- sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. Suddenly the LORD was standing on it and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” ~Gen. 28:10-15

Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance and his blessing. Esau was so angry at Jacob that Jacob feared for his very life. So he ran away. This scripture starts with Jacob running for his life; he is scared, tired, lonely, and feeling guilty for what he has done. He knows that he has really messed things up.

When night came, Jacob was tired so he just laid down on the ground using a rock as a pillow. When he fell asleep he had a dream. In his dream he saw a ladder reaching from the earth all the way to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending the ladder. At the top of this ladder was God.

God reached out to Jacob through this dream. I think God spoke to Jacob in his dream because Jacob knew he had messed up pretty badly, he had little hope for his future and he was scared for his safety. He was in need of some good news.

In the dream God told Jacob a few things:
-God told Jacob that the land Jacob was laying on was for him and for his children (hope).
-God told Jacob that his children and his children’s children and his children’s, children’s children would spread all over the earth and all the families of the earth will be blessed through them (future).
-And this is my favorite part—God said these words to Jacob, “know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (security).

I make many mistakes living in this world. There are times I wonder how God could ever forgive me. But this story reminds me that God does love me even at my worst. Even more, God keeps his promises. They are not dependent on my actions. And despite the mistakes I make God can still use me.

O Lord, You alone are my hope, my future and my security. I place my trust in You. You are my rock of refuge where I can always escape. My praise is always about You. 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.

Free to love

Your faithful love is priceless, God! Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings. ~Psalms 36:7

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (Matthew 1:22-23). Jesus came into the world to be with us and to guide us with his example for living. During his time on earth Jesus was in no way influenced by human blame or praise but was completely dependent on God’s will. Jesus was able to have deep compassion because his life was guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. In reading my Bible, Jesus is with me guiding me through the examples shown to me in the Bible. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love others.

When it is no longer about “me”, about my trying to get human approval, I am free to love. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love as He wants me to love. When I find my security through Jesus, the love, peace, joy and hope that He pours into me overflows to others (Romans 13:13). We are to be rooted in Jesus. With our roots firmly planted in his truth and established in faith we won’t be enslaved by foolish deception (Colossians 2:7). Loving God with all my heart and all my strength and loving my neighbor is the most important thing that I can offer to Him (Mark 12:33).

Heavenly Father, I struggle daily with “self”. I want to love those around me with the love Christ has shown me. May I honor you this day through showing Christ’s love to others. Amen.

Unexpected help

But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? Jesus replied, A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs. ~Luke 10:32-35 (CEB)

While visiting my parents one weekend, my dad shared with me a perspective from the parable Jesus told to help us understand the question, “who is our neighbor?” Usually when we hear a lesson or sermon about this scripture we hear thoughts on the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. My dad shared with me some ideas from the perspective of the man who was injured.

Jesus probably intended the hearers to think of the injured man as a fellow Jew since the traveler was coming from Jerusalem. What could the man have been thinking laying there injured and vulnerable? When I have heard the story before, I imagined in my mind’s eye that the man is lying there unconscious and oblivious to the Priest and Levite passing him by. But what if he wasn’t? Can you imagine how he felt when his fellow Jews passed him by? I have heard theories of why these men may have passed by this man lying there… they didn’t want to break any laws that would make them unclean and then not be able to participate in the temple duties, they didn’t want to fall for a setup that then put themselves in danger. How frightening might it be to see your chance of help walk on by?

Then here comes the Samaritan. Is he going to finish off the job the robbers started? This is the last place he expected a helping hand. After the Samaritan has not only saved him and cleaned his injuries, he also brings him to an inn.  What costs is the injured man going to incur while he lays there helpless? But then further surprise of surprises the Samaritan pays his bill. When you pray for help, you never know who God might send.

Heavenly Father, sometimes You send me help from the last place I expect help to come. May I always be open to Your care no matter from where that help comes. Amen.

A mosaic piece of work

 

A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

I once was lost. Even though I had grown up in a Christian home, brought up in church and believed in God with my whole heart I still found myself lost one day. Life’s circumstances can do that sometimes. Whether it is bad choices or not paying attention we can find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be. After a 3 year journey, I began to realize it has not been so much my obedience to do His will that God had in His plans when He came after me. He wanted to heal my broken heart along the way. Who knew?

Today I am a mosaic pieced back together by the Master Creator. So often we think when something has been shattered that there is no value left. When I allowed God to mend what I had deemed beyond repair, I found that there could still be beauty. It is a different kind of beauty. I am not what I once was, but with the Light shining through me, I am more beautiful than even before my heart was shattered. Not only am I whole again but I find that I still have value in God’s eyes.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for seeking me, for relentlessly pursuing me. I thank you for going into the depths to pull me out. You not only sought me out, You healed me. May I always remember to be thankful. Amen.

Called to be gentle

He won’t break a bent stalk, and he won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until he makes justice win. And the Gentiles will put their hope in his name. ~Matthew 12:20-21 (CEB)

Even though Jesus speaks out against all forms of hypocrisy and is not afraid to attack deception, vanity, manipulation and oppression, his heart is a gentle heart. He won’t break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick. He responds to people’s suffering, heals their wounds, and offers courage to the fainthearted. Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus considered others in all he says, and thus he reveals God’s immense compassion.

As a follower of Christ I am to have his compassion for the world. Jesus charged us to go out declaring the good news to everyone. (Mark 16:15) To a world that may know more about fear, harshness and misunderstandings by my gentleness I can bring hope. Jesus came into the world to give hope to the world and as his hands and feet we are charged with continuing his work to all corners of the earth. (Luke 24:47)

In my ordinary dealings this day may I remember to show Christ’s compassion to those around me. May I consider others in all I say and do remembering that I may be the only Christ others see. My actions can bring someone to Christ or it may turn them away forever. Today I want to have Christ’s gentleness.

Father in Heaven may I learn to have Your gentle heart showing your compassion to those I meet this day. Amen.

To live a life of love

For those who want to love life and see good days should keep their tongue from evil speaking and their lips from speaking lies. ~1 Peter 3:10

 

The words we speak can be a blessing or a curse. Once words are unleashed they can never be retrieved. We can ask for forgiveness for the words we have said but we can never take them back. How differently would we live our lives if we thought about this fact before we ever said a word? If I thought ahead how hurtful my words might be before I say them would I ever say them in the first place? Often I think I would not. What is said out of anger or carelessness many times brings regrets and deep sorrows.

I want to live a life of love. I want to see good days. If this means that I need to slow down my own reaction to situations before I respond, if it means that I need to not take offense so quickly then I want to work harder on my part of the picture. I want to take that deep breath before I let words fly. I want to think about the reason the other person may have acted or said what they said. I want to be a solution not an aggravation to the problem.

I can think of a relationship or two that I have lost because I did not slow down and think ahead. Misunderstandings can have disastrous results. Some bridges can never be mended. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets or long for relationships that could have been different. I want to live and love as Jesus would have me do.

Heavenly Father, help me to guard my words. May the words that I speak be carefully thought through. May I be known as a reflection of your love even in the things that I say this day. Amen.

Simple things

So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10 (CEB)

A smile and a kind word, I would say that this is my mother’s ministry. I grew up with my mother always smiling at those she met and giving a kind word. It seems like such a simple thing. It seems that it couldn’t really make a difference, but I have seen many eye light up when my mother smiles.

Often I forget that we are called even in the little things of life to serve Christ. If I put on God’s eyes and look around, His ears and listen, He is calling me to reach out every day even in the little things. Acknowledging a cashier and asking them about their day, holding open the door for someone, letting someone ahead of me in line who only has a couple of items, a smile, these are all things that I can do to serve Christ. Sometimes these “small things” can impact someone greatly. I will probably never know how my small actions may impact someone’s life this day but I am called to be Christ even in the small things that I do.

Lord may I not be so caught up with my own life that I forget to look out beyond myself. May I notice those around me with a smile and a kind word today. Amen.

The gift of ourselves

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. ~John 10:11 (MSG)

Part of being a Christian is following Jesus’ example. Even to lay down our life for other people. We are called to be Christ to others and here we see in this passage that Jesus is willing to put his life on the line for those He is in relationship with. When we are willing to share with others our sorrows and joys, our despair and hope, our loneliness and experience of intimacy it makes our lives available to others as a source of new life.

It can be easy to be overwhelmed with all the pain and suffering I see around me. I have to remind myself not to put on blinders of protection. I am not here to solve the problems of the whole world, but I am here to be a helping hand to those God has put me in relationship with.

In his book Bread for the Journey, Henri J.M. Nouwen says, “One of the greatest gifts we can give others is ourselves.  We offer consolation and comfort, especially in moments of crisis, when we say:  ‘Do not be afraid, I know what you are living and I am living it with you.  You are not alone.’  Thus we become Christ-like shepherds.”

Father in heaven,  may I not be so busy in my life to notice the pain and suffering of those I have been called to be in relationship with. Help me to be willing to share out of my life in order that someone else might be able to fine hope in You. Help me to be a light pointing to Your love. Amen.

Singleness of heart

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. ~Luke 10:27 (CEB)

Lord, may neither time nor circumstance alter your call to me. Lead me through storm and trial, times of ease and times of diffiuclty, and grant grace that I may always be faithful to you and to your call. May I go gladly where you send me, even to that task so difficult and unappealing that no one else will go. All I ask is that you do with me and remind ethat I am where you have asked me to be. And one more thing, if it is possible, may some good some of my call, not to me, but to your people, your kingdom, and the world you love. Amen. ~Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for all Who Walk with God.

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