Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 81 - 33 miners

"I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won"....Mario Sepulveda, a miner in Copiapo, Chili ... October 13, 2010

"Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright."
Psalm 20:6-8

What a drama! For months it was presented before the watching world. Thirty-three miners in a life and death struggle, caught in the dark bowels of a Chilean mine. They were alive, but they had to remain sane. They were alive, but for how long? Each man had to face the possibility of his own death.

For seventeen long days in the dark they could not know they would ever be found. Small amounts of liquid and only teaspoons of food were doled out each day. They knew the small amount of nourishment would not last long.

With the first realization that they were alive, the battle begins. Far more important than food and water was the inner struggle to trust, to believe that there is a God who cares, who hears, who is all powerful. A God who can. A God who is able. A God who gives purpose and life. They could choose to give in to despair...Satan's way, or to hope...God's way.

Mario sensed the battle raging within. His heart saw the devil and God. He saw good and evil. God's hand stretched toward Mario and (praise God!) Mario grabbed it and never doubted from that point that he would be rescued.

God is the Great Victor. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world...1John 4:4. He saves with His mighty right hand. He answers those who cry out to Him.

You also have the same God in your dark moment. Never doubt that He is for you, that He can lift you up from any fear, any trouble, any discouragement. He is greater than what enslaves you. He greater than your darkness. God will always win.

That is good news worth singing about.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 80 - Separation

"No aspect of the created order, nor any event or being within it, can end our enjoyment of the active love of God to us in Christ." Commentary on Romans 8:38, 39

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height not depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38, 39

I found about 15 pink balloons tied with red, white, and green ribbon in the trees across from my house. They had all popped and were hanging limply in the branches. I wondered if there would be a message on them and there was. I brought them home and tried to carefully pull the melded balloons apart so I could read all the writings. Only one clearly stuck out. I give it to you now.

"My fairytale prince and I are still doing amazing.
I love him so so so much! I am going to marry him.
I wish you could be there and be in the wedding.
We will dance for you!"

Whether these came from across town or across the United States, the message was meant for someone else. Someone no longer here. Someone dear to the writer. An event was about to happen of great importance to the sender of the balloons and a loved one would be missing. Was it a father? Was it a mother? Or a best friend who died too soon?

We do not know. But someone was missing. Someone was gone.

Our scripture in Romans reminds us once again that though we lose a loved one and can be separated by death from friends and family, we can never, never, never be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This scripture also reminds me that what I worry about is not of greater importance than the sure and constant love that I have in Christ. I am never alone, never abandoned. This scripture reminds me that even my sin can not separate me from the love of God because I believe and accept that Christ paid for all of yesterday's, today's, and tomorrow's failings.

And this love has a greater ability to bring us peace and joy than any human love on earth! Let us thank Him right now for this inseparable love.

Deuteronomy 31:8 "And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 79 - Women Helpers

"We can do without anything while we have God." Lilias Trotter 1853-1928 missionary to North Africa

"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means." Luke 8:1-3 New International Version

"...and many others (women) who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and His disciples." Luke 8:3 The Message

The women. They were there.They loved Him, served Him, followed Him, gave of their provision.

Jesus could have lived everyday by the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He could have pulled money from the Sea of Galilee out of the mouth of a fish whenever He wanted. But He did the ordinary thing of letting the women He saved cook for Him, go to market, bake the bread, use their own savings to provide for Him and His beloved disciples.

They stood ready to serve. They heard and believed the lessons taught on the mountainside and in the temple. They watched Jesus die and wept for their loss. "Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed Him and cared for His needs. Many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem were also there." Mark 15:40,41

These women felt like Lilias Trotter who could serve on a dusty road, go without the finery, and be misunderstood by their society because after all: "We can do without anything while we have God."

I want to be like those women who gave up to go. Most important to them was to be close to Jesus. He had set them free. Their freedom led them to serve.

How beautiful of our LORD to include us in His world wide plans for ministry. And it may only be by fixing a meal. But that was important enough that it is included in the Bible. God's word deemed it inspired.

Thank You, Father, that You placed women in the scriptures to show us how we, too, may serve You. But also, it makes us feel so loved to see how You ordained works for us to do before the beginning of the world and included us as an important part of Your ministry. Help us to love You so much that we can say "I can do without anything because I have You. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 78- Focus

"Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once ---art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the "good" hiding the "best" even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness." Lilias Trotter - missionary to Muslims in North Africa 1853-1928

"...but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." Philippians 3:13

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "one thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me." Mark 10:21

Jesus said to him, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37, 38

I went to a one day art class. They were teaching us to work with pastels. We were all given the same photo to work on of a black cat, all hunched up and ready to jump. I thought, "This is impossible. I can't draw this. I can't even see the shoulder or the paw. It just looks like one big ball of black."

"Focus." the teacher said. "Look at the outline. See how big the head is in comparison to the rest of the body. Look how his shoulder rises up here. See the paw tucked under his body. This light area indicates an ear."

The more I gave my attention to the photo, the more it became clearer. An outline emerged. An eye popped out. "Oh now I see the ears!"

I focused, and what was going on around me faded into the background and all I could see was the cat.

Indeed this is what Jesus would have us do ...to figure out the one thing. This is what Paul spoke of and lived out. This is what Mary did in Luke 10 when Jesus pointed her out to Martha saying "...one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen what is better..."

One definition of focus is the center of activity, attraction, or attention. This seems to be what we need to be doing with our lives...focusing on Christ, loving Christ, laying every other love for money, or popularity, or beauty, or family beneath the love of Christ. I am not saying we should not love our families, or enjoy the fruit of our labor, or exercise and dress in a pretty fashion. But these loves are always submitted to our great Savior. These other loves can not be the source of our joy. These other loves pale in significance to the beautiful, wondrous love of the LORD.

The more I focus on Christ, the more attractive He becomes, the more attention I give to Him, the more my activities line up with His will.

As Lilias Trotter said in the quote above, there are many good things I can do everyday that take me away from God's best. Let us be women who make decisions based on God. Choose what is better. Center your life on Christ. Pray that He becomes your greatest attraction. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and things on earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

So look at your schedule. Have you prayed about it? Are there things you are doing that are keeping you from Jesus? Ask for His help to change. You know we might both find that the more we look to Jesus the less hectic our schedule.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 77 - Failure

"Not even Samson's failures could prevent the accomplishment of God's great purposes."
Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths ....Leslie Leyland Fields

Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, "O LORD God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!" And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, "let me die with the Philistines!"
And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. Judges 16: 28-30

So Samson, a baby of promise to a barren couple, grows up to disappoint his parents and disobey his God. As I read Judges 14, 15, and 16 Samson reads like a failure. He breaks God's law by marrying a foreign woman, touching a dead carcass, committing adultery.

In the midst of his free-spirited rebellion against God, he was at the same time being used to bring havoc against the enemies of the Israelites. Our gracious God punished the wicked Philistines using the rebel Samson.

Samson's behavior did not go unpunished. The LORD departed from him. (Judges 16: 20) No longer the Spirit empowered strong guy. With his eyes put out, bound in bronze fetters, he was placed in prison as a blind grinder.

And yet, God's great purposes are still accomplished. Samson at the end of his life lifts his heart back up to God and God graciously answers his last prayer and gives him supernatural strength one more time. Ultimately God's perfect will is done for the Israelites and for the Philistines.

So today I was reading about the unselfish church of China, while feeling very selfish. I have work to do on my day off. Our fun day will be cut short because of it....and inwardly (alright, I whined out loud to my husband) I whined.

Here I am wanting to be like the Chinese Christians and when I have opportunity to love others better than myself I hesitate - I complain.

I love myself way better than I love others. And an even bigger failure is that I do not love God with all my heart. These are daily failures.

I take heart in the quote above. Nothing prevents the accomplishment of God's purposes, not even my sin.

And I take heart in God's daily dose of forgiveness. And I take heart in this: Mark 10:27 "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."

Thank God for having a plan for you that can use the good, bad, and ugly. Trust Him. It's going to be okay. Your failure is not final.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 76 - Sovereignty

"...if there is a God in heaven, there is no such thing as mere coincidence, not even in the smallest affairs of life." Desiring God John Piper

Ecclesiastes 7:14 "In the day pf prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him."

Webster's dictionary defines sovereignty as supreme power - unlimited - absolute - autonomous - independent.

The Hebrew for sovereignty is Kol meaning: anyone, anything, anywhere, everyone, everything, everyway, everyman, whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, forever

1Chronicles 29:11-12 "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all."

The sovereignty of God is a sweet message to the parents, to the childless, to the young, to the old, to the poor, to the rich. It teaches us trust. He's here. He's in charge. He has a plan. It will come to pass inspite of me. I can not thwart His hand. He uses all things to ultimately glorify Him and for our good. Even my mistakes, even my children's mistakes, even others' mistakes. Because of His sovereignty we can get over it and move on. We can forgive. He forgives us. We can start fresh today. His mercies are new every morning. No failure is complete because Our God reigns..not me, not my tantruming 2 year old, not my stubborn teen, not our president, not Al Kaida.

Our God reigns. I can be content because He's in control and all that He does is good. Even the murdering chaos in the streets, even the threat of war, even the bully at school, does not take away from the sure word that Our God is in heaven and He does all that He pleases. The sovereignty of God teaches me that I don't have to fix everything...He does. That I don't have to have all the answers...He does. I don't have to figure out the future...He does.

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

When you have a great day, praise God He ordained it and gave it to you. When you have a horrible day, ask for His forgiveness and help and move on.. For this day He gave You also.

Devotional Snapshot 75 - Blame

"If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love." Amy Carmichael...missionary to India

"If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love." Amy Carmichael

"Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also your own heart has known that even you have cursed others." Ecclesiastes 7: 21,22

My defenses went up when someone pointed out that I was not perfect! Yesterday I overlooked something I should have attended to, today I was micromanaging to the point that I hurt the feelings of another.

The blame depressed me and I inwardly was defending myself and feeling anger towards my accuser. But just a few days ago I was complimented and I basked in the warm feelings of being "good enough". I inwardly agreed that their good estimation of me was accurate, for I sometimes I have that good thought about myself when no one is looking. Its nice to know others see it, too.

The scripture says in Romans 12:3 "...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of your self with sober judgment..."

Don't take to heart everything people say. What good advice from the Lord! Neither praise nor blame should move me from my sober estimation of who I am before the living God. I am a horrible sinner who daily refuses to trust and follow my Savior. I deserve condemnation and if people knew me as God does they would rightfully have far more complaints than I ever get. If I feel bitter to those who even unjustly condemn me then as Amy says, "I know nothing of Calvary love."

And if I am elated by praise forgetting it is only God who enables me to do one right thing. And that left totally to myself I will always choose to be selfish then "I know nothing of Calvary love."

How do you do with praise or blame? Lets pray for each other today that none of it moves us except to love and serve our Savior more.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 74 - Bonkers

Mad hatter: "I'm frightened, Alice. I don't like it in here. It is terribly crowded. Have I gone mad?"

Alice: "I'm afraid so. You are entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
From the movie: Alice in Wonderland

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." John 12:46

And so, as Alice would say, I sometimes feel I've gone 'round the bend, I'm mad, bonkers, off my head. Isn't it wonderful to know that Jesus came for you and me even in our craziness? As the verse reminds us He came into the world as the Light.

When He enters in nothing stops Him from turning up the lamp of His righteousness and little by little dispelling the darkness of my soul. See what the verse says-- anyone believing in Jesus can not stay in darkness. Christ's life thrusts darkness out. Darkness can not stay where Jesus lives.

Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algerian Muslims from the 1880's till 1928, wrote of a little girl named, Melha. She came with her blind father to see Lilias's pictures of Jesus. One was of the Lord calling a little child to Him.

"Look at Jesus, Father!"

"I have no eyes, my daughter, I cannot see," was the answer.

Melha lifted her father's head and turned her eyes to Jesus and said: "O Jesus, Look at Father." Was that not a bit of heavenly wisdom?

I may be blind to Jesus, but He is not blind to me. I may feel feather-headed and scatter-brained, but Christ clears the cob-webs. I may be as mad and as worried as the Hatter, but Christ assures us that we belong to Him and are a peculiar and special people.

Thank you, Father, that You have promised that whoever believes in Jesus can not abide or stay in darkness. That once we belong to You, You keep us in Your sight and work Your life into ours.

I Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.;"

Do you feel a little bonkers today? Take heart! All the best people are!

Devotional Snapshot 73 - Recluse Quotes

Theophan the Recluse...Quotes...1815-1894...Russian

* "Attention to that which transpires in the heart and proceeds from it - this is the chief activity of the proper Christian life."

* "Mercilessness to oneself, readiness to perform any favor to others and the surrender of oneself entirely to the Lord with a prayerful abiding in Him - these are the creators of the spiritual life."

* "You must kill egoism. If you don't kill it yourself, then the Lord, hammer-blow after hammer-blow, shall send various misfortunes, so as to crush this stone."

* "Self-pleasing and self-pity testify that in the heart abides the ego, and not the Lord."

"He felt the call to devote all his energies to spiritual writing. As for himself personally, he wished to give up all his thoughts to God alone, Whom he loved so absolutely. He desired that nothing might disturb the complete communion with God that was so dear to him. And he left the world to be alone with God." Bishop Theophan, the Recluse of Vysha

"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I John 3:16

Here is a man who left corporate worship...a good man, a sincere man,...to follow God more closely. Not only corporate worship, but he gave up his job as Bishop to live the last 20 years of his life in a one room cell. He built in the corner of his room a little chapel where he held daily services alone. Yes, people did come to him for counsel and he answered from 30 to 40 letters a day. But something strikes me as wrong at removing ourselves from the dirty, crazy world of real people.

Isn't this what people do when they say "I can worship God better in the mountains or while trout fishing, or at home in front of the TV evangelist? People get in the way of God and me. People muddy the picture. Why should I deal with prickly pear people while there is an ocean of God's love to soak in? If I can just get away." Hmmmm, I think I have said the "if I can just get away" speech.

Yes, Jesus, got away. He left the crowd to be alone with the Father. So should we. But Jesus, our supreme example, always came back. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:44

Jesus said to believers in Matthew 5: 13-16 "You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world...let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

So what do I do about Theophan the Recluse? I read the quotes in light of what is Biblically true. I let what he thinks and writes move me towards the Savior and His word. But I can not leave my home and my city and move to a cabin in Colorado because Christ's love constrains me to remain in the world but not of the world. I need the prickly people because I am prickly! They help to expose me and are used by God to refine and reform me.

I go to church...every Sunday, rain or shine, joy or whine. I face my own sin and the sins of others and I cry out to God "Here I am God in all my ugliness, clothed in Your beautiful righteousness, facing others in all their ugliness and yet clothed in Your beautiful righteousness. Now, I pray, let me face my church family with Your courage and love and let me forget about myself and lift up a worshipful heart to you today, no matter how my heart is hurting."

And I can hear the Lord say: "The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17,18

So there are occasions when being a recluse is called for. But we must always carry about the body of Christ to those God has placed around us.

We go up so we can come down.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 72 - Suffering

"In a world that is consumed with peace, prosperity, fulfillment, and comfort, it is a challenging thought to envision yielding our lives to a Leader who may lead us through a measure of suffering." Following Christ Joseph Stowall

Philippians 1:29 "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake."

Look at what has been granted -belief in Jesus- and I know that this is a blessing. But suffering? Suffering is a gift? Huh? No thank you, Lord. I don't want it. Or do I?

I do want to be close to you, Lord. I do want to be the kind of follower who will go anywhere for Your name's sake. You said in Matthew 5: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...". You said there is a joy and rejoicing in my life when I suffer because of You. There is hope of future reward...like a child excitedly waiting for the day to open the present under the tree.

Peter and the apostles saw it as a privilege in Acts 5:40, 41 "...they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." They left their beating rejoicing. That could only be because You gave them a supernatural perspective. You filled them up with Your presence; like You said in Matthew 28, "I am with you always, till the end of the age."

Paul understood the preciousness of knowing You in the midst of suffering. "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death," Philippians 3:10 To know You is a great gift. To be given access to the Living God, Creator of the Universe, Maker of beauty I have yet to experience, is a wonder-filled promise! To know You is a privilege and if it must come with suffering, let it be so, and give me Your mind-set on it.

But let me give a caution to myself and to my readers. As Joseph Stowell wrote in Following Christ: "But there is no place in followership for self-inflicted crosses. Looking for crosses so that we can appear to be more committed is not a virtue. There is no merit in bearing a cross that we have constructed through our own waywardness."

So what do you and I get from these verses? Well, let's not be surprised when troubles come. We were warned. Let us remember, knowing Christ is worth it all. Pray for boldness to follow and speak as even Paul asked the church to pray for him. Relax (don't worry, as our Lord admonished so many times) and enjoy the day the Lord has given us today. His presence is with us now and it will be with us tomorrow.

"Some crosses are fleeting things and quickly gone; some crosses last a lifetime. But no cross lasts forever." Joseph M. Stowell

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 71 - Obadiah

"It is the righteous purpose of God, not the evil will of men, that determines history." NKJV Commentary on Obadiah

Obadiah vs.12, 15 "You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction...The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head."

Obadiah is a very short book. - only 21 verses. But every story in the Bible whether long or short displays the glory, power, and sovereignty of our God.

Obadiah was a man who God used to bring a message of doom to the nation of Edom, and a message of promise to Israel. Obadiah's beloved Jerusalem had been captured and ransacked by the powerful Babylonians. Edom, the neighbors to the east and relatives of the people of Israel, had helped the Babylonians conquer Israel. We see clear demonstrations of this in verses 13 and 14. "You (Edom) should not...seize their wealth...You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble."

But mind you, even the defeat of Jerusalem to the Babylonians was God's plan. Jeremiah 15:6 "You (Jerusalem) have forsaken Me." says the LORD. Jeremiah 21:10 "For I have set My face against this city (Jerusalem) for adversity and not for good," says the LORD. "It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire."

The righteous purpose of God is that His people worship Him in truth and in spirit. This is the way to life and peace. But the Israelites had forgotten God, turned their back on Him and were heading deeper and deeper into Satan's territory.

Whether we like it or not, suffering turns us around, stops us short, and makes us despair of ourselves turning us to God for help. So God sent an army (the Babylonians) to conquer His people (the Jews) and Edom rejoiced in their destruction. But God does not leave His people without hope and promise. The Jews would repent and return. Jeremiah 30:10 "Therefore do not fear...says the LORD, "Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar," "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness..." Jer.31:2

Back to Obadiah - Edom is now going to get his 'come-uppings'. Judgment time! God does not forget. As Edom had done to Israel now God promises the same treatment will happen to them. And it did. In God's great plan He was able to punish His own people in order to restore them and at the same time punish the nations in order to remove them. What God is doing in the world is always right, always just, always on time.

You know why I need Obadiah? Because I just finished reading about the torture of some men, women, and children who are my Christian brothers and sisters in a Muslim country. I put down the article and cried out: "God, why aren't you doing something? Bring judgment on those wicked men!" I was angry and sad. Obadiah reminds me, He will! There is not one moment in the day where God is passive. He is causing His perfect plan to progress second by second throughout the world. Nothing escapes Him.

Give thanks to God that we live under His mercy. When an injustice happens to us His plan is still being accomplished.

"When the church suffers at the hands of God's enemies, she needs to return to the prophecy of Obadiah and renew her faith in the just God revealed there. He cares for His persecuted people, and behind their present circumstances He is always at work for them." NKJV Commentary

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 70 - Idolatry

"If you look too long at others or yourself, you commit the sin of idolatry." Carol Totten

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. but Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him, and asked, "Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not by taken away from her." Luke 10: 38-42

I have always taken this section of scripture to be referring to our tendency to be too busy. But just this morning as I awoke and my mind continued to meditate on yesterdays concerns the Lord brought these verses to mind.

I had just finished a wonderful weekend with family and friends. It was busy, but beautiful. Nevertheless, after it was all over I began to fret about some things I should have said differently, or not said at all. Why did I do this at an inappropriate time? Why didn't I consider this one's feelings or that one's feelings? Did I make someone uncomfortable? Did something pop out of my mouth that hurt someone I loved and I didn't even mean it that way?

I asked the Lord's forgiveness, but couldn't shake the sadness at failing others. Yesterday I chewed the cud of disappointment in myself and worry for others happiness and this morning I awoke and began to do the same again. Then my Mighty God broke through with His word.

He brought these verses to mind and I noticed it was not about the "serving" the Lord rebuked Martha for. Look! It is about chewing the cud of discontentment and worry about others. She was worried about making her guests happy and discontented that Mary was not joining her in the urgency to do it. "Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things.."

"Carol, Carol, you have been focused on yourself enough, One thing is needed, choose what is better! Sit at my feet and listen."

Now if I refuse to obey this clear word spoken to me and continue to worry I will be committing idolatry. Another love replaces my Lord when I spend too much time thinking of me. If I can not lift my eyes up to heaven and praise His wonderful name today than I have a real sin to confess!

Is there a worry consuming your thoughts today? Have you considered that if you can not let it go and give it to God and worship Him, you are committing idolatry?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 69 - Sin Boldly

"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world." pastoral advice of Martin Luther, 16th century Christian reformer

"Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!" Romans 5: 9, 10

Isn't this a little shocking? Sin and sin boldly! That's not what we preach or teach. I didn't raise my children this way. I don't speak to myself like this or my Christian sisters. The exact opposite. "Be good." "Do what is right." "Be like Jesus...love like Jesus...pray like Jesus...speak like Jesus."

But something about that quote lifted my spirits today. I was stuck in muddy self pity. I hadn't been good. I hadn't done what was right. "Oh why can't you be like Jesus? You fall short. Everyday in someway you blow it." Self reprimanded me.

Be a sinner and sin boldly, BUT believe...BUT rejoice. In who? In Christ. Why? For He is victorious over my sin! This reminds me that I am not justified by being a good girl today. What I do or don't do today does not negate one drop the power of Christ's blood to declare me righteous...NOT MY OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS ("that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ..." Philippians 3: 9)

This justification by Christ's blood is far more gloriously sufficient than I live by. I say, "yes, I am going to heaven, but I need to prove myself worthy and fit to be there now that Jesus has saved me." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! None of us can be worthy, ever, in ourselves to earn heaven. We are free! Free to make mistakes. Free to take risks. Free to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Free to be imperfect. Free to say "no". Free not to introspect. Free not to blame. Free to let go. When we were God's enemies he saved us, how much more are we saved by His abiding permanent life living in us?

Martin Luther goes on to say: "As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin....It is enough that by the riches of God's glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small?"

We are not to seek to sin (Romans 6:1), but when sin happens we come boldly to the throne of grace. When sin happens we believe and rejoice in the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) When sin happens we thank God that it is not by our efforts but His mercy that we are loved for eternity by Jesus Christ.

Believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 68 - Poverty

"How is it, Father Gerry, that Haitian people have such a deep faith in God? When there's so little food and few jobs and no doctors or running water, I'd think that after a while, a person might reject the idea of God, or at least a loving and just God."

He smiled. I could tell he liked this question.

"God is the first and the last resource here. We feel God's presence more and more, because there is nobody else some days who can sustain us to allow us to survive. It's only God..."
On That Day Everybody Ate Margaret Trost pgs. 53-54

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death..." Philippians 3: 8-10

Poverty stricken people around the world may not be the poorest. There is a poorness of spirit in America. We are rich in every comfort and yet, poor in trust, poor in hope, poor in joy.

Today I got up from a soft, clean bed to a hot shower. I made a pecan carmel cup of coffee, sprinkled blueberries and walnuts over my oatmeal. I turned on the TV and casually watched the mayhem in the dangerous world while I sat safely in my bermed home. I washed the clothes by merely pushing buttons. My drinking water is sterile and comes at a touch into my dish washer cleaned glass. My cabinets are full of food and my stomach rarely feels hunger pangs.

With all of this at my disposal, I still envy the faith and utter dependence...the absolute necessity for God to show up in their lives or they will not live... of my Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Losing all things to gain Christ is more than a fair trade.

Is it possible to live with a lot of stuff and still be living with wild, loving dependence on our Maker?

Teach me, dear Lord, to trust You more. Teach me to praise You. Teach me to consider everything a loss except for the precious knowledge and fellowship of You.

What do you think? Are we missing something?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 67 - Self Living

"The treason of our souls is savoring self over God." John Piper

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." James 3:13-17

How do we savor ourselves? Simple..by living for self, to please self, be proud of self, feed self, make self happy through whatever means, pray about self and even when I pray for others it is to some degree about making self happy, do good to others to pump self up. Self must be recognized as a good person and when not self is hurt. Self must have so many fun things to do that self won't have time to quietly reflect on what self weaknesses must be changed. Self avoids all pain. Self likes easy friends. Self protects her time, her rights, and her reputation. Self is self-conscious. Self is quick to criticize others and slow in asking forgiveness. Self compares herself with others. Self wears us down, ensnares us, and drains us of energy so we can not run the race set before us with endurance.

"The treason of our souls is savoring self over God." John Piper

How do we free ourselves from self? Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus... Col. 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Looking unto Jesus. Moment by moment we lift our eyes upward and the more we gaze at His beautiful face the more we love Him. The more we love Him the less Self consumes our inner space. We leave little room for self and her selfish motives while we are taken with another. Be smitten with Christ.

Beth Moore quote: "We become like the object of our focus. If our focus is on our needs, we become more needy. If our focus is on the harm others have done to us, we become harmful and angry people. If our focus is on material things, we become grasping and greedy. And, praise God, if our focus is on Christ, we become more and more like Him."

Let's pray for one another today that we enjoy our Savior. Savor the Savior. Less of us, more of Him.

Devotional Snapshot 66 - Truth

"Ever since that day in the garden when the serpent tempted Eve, he has relentlessly attacked the truth with lies, using the same strategies over and over to sow doubt and disbelief in the human mind." The Truth War by John MacArthur

Be well-balanced ---temperate, sober-minded; be vigilant and cautious at all times, for the enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring (in fierce hunger), seeking someone to seize upon and devour. 1Peter 5:8

Satan devours you by using self thoughts to bring fear, anger, discouragement. Satan lies to you and you believe him. He walks around like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. We need to do like Jesus: use the Word of Truth to defeat the word of the liar. Here are some lies I have believed.

1. God cannot love me like He loves Beth Moore, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyers, Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, Or (you fill in the blank with some Christian of fame) because I am not as godly as they, I am not as good.(Example: I am very fearful of people's disapproval because I think that's the best love I'll get. I constantly struggle with feeling unlovable when I fail.) THAT'S A LIE. THE TRUTH: Nothing, nothing, nothing separates us from the love of God...Romans 8:39

2. I can not share the message of Christ with others until I get it perfectly right myself, or until I lose weight, or until I grow younger, or until I no longer struggle with sin.(Example: I have a young beautiful neighbor that I feel inadequate to love for Jesus because I fear she will not see anything in me to draw her) THAT'S A LIE. THE TRUTH: "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus....we possess this precious treasure in frail, human vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves." 2Corinthians 4:5,7 The Amplified

3. After confessing,I still feel guilty therefore I am guilty. (Example: even now I bring up past mistakes in my parenting and cry). THAT'S A LIE. THE TRUTH: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse from all unrighteousness." 1John1:9

4. God has failed me. (Example: when I gave up my free time to homeschool, to do the best I could to raise my children in the Lord, and then watched them struggle and give in to the same sins as thousands of other teens, I thought God had failed me, failed to keep His part of the bargain.) THAT'S A LIE. THE TRUTH: Isaiah 43:2-5 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...When you walk through the fire,you shall not be burned...For I am the Lord your God...I have loved you... Fear not, for I am with you..."

5. You cannot trust God to take care of you. You must do it yourself. THAT'S A LIE. (Example: I tended to go to books and man's advice on how to raise my children.) THE TRUTH: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6

6. God is not really intimately involved in every moment of our day. THAT'S A LIE. (Example: the pearl earring, the brown scarf, the phone call, the money. These mean nothing to you, but the very small details involved in these stories demonstrated the particular involvement of God in my life. You, yourselves have thousands of moments God displayed His watch care over you.). THE TRUTH: Matthew 10:29-31 TLB "Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't worry! You are more valuable to Him than many sparrows."

7. I have been saved by grace, but now I must keep my position by doing good works. THAT'S A LIE.(Example: I compared myself to a pastor's wife in a previous church ministry whose church was growing while ours was not. If only I prayed more, served more, witnessed more.) THE TRUTH: Galations 3:3 "Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun your new life spiritually with the Holy Spirit, are you now reaching perfection by dependence on the flesh?" The Amplified Bible Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Today will you let only true thoughts take hold of your mind?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 65 - Persecution

"God works with souls like a jeweler works with gems. Once he finds and brings them to the Light, they are cut, polished, and placed in a setting of His choice." Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come Lois Hoadley Dick

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," 2Timothy 3:12

I am so ill prepared for persecution. Are you? My life has been one of ease and comfort. Don't get me wrong. I like ease and comfort. I like being praised. I like being surrounded by friends who are easy to love. I like teaching Bible lessons to women who basically agree with me. I like having my children safe in their homes. But scripture says if I want to lead a godly life I will suffer persecution.

So I need to ask myself some hard questions. Do I really want to live godly? Can Christ ask me to do or say a hard thing that will not be popular but will be Biblically true? Will I release with my blessing my children or grandchildren to a dangerous mission field in a foreign country? Will I go witness to my neighbor about the only way to heaven when I know she believes that concept to be an intolerant viewpoint? Will I disagree with the modern tolerant stand on a woman's right to her body [meaning abortion], and the right of any two people who are in love to marry [meaning homosexuality]? Is it a sign, dear Lord, that I am not following you very closely since I am not suffering persecution?

Yet, I am sure of this thing. I am Your child. I belong to You. And You know when and where and how to bring into my life what is needed to follow You more closely and love You more deeply. I am Yours, Lord, and I submit today to what You bring into my life. Only help me to obey You. When persecution comes help me not to shrink away.

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus...Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 2Timothy 2: 1, 3

Devotional Snapshot 64 - Women Retreat

"Maybe you're busier than Jesus because you haven't yet identified the number 1 priority." Grace Notes Ruth Koch

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28, 29

The women's retreat at Red Rock Ranch was a gift from the Father. The gift was the time to pause, reflect, breathe, listen, praise, learn.

The Kansas country home beckons me to slow down and rest. I sit on an airy front porch, shoes kicked off, gently rocking back and forth in the broad cushioned swing. The light breeze carries the smell of newly mowed grass, tiger lilies and roses. How I love to hear the illusive morning dove coo her song of peace. Robins, orioles, cardinals, all with their clear distinct sound, break into chorus.

I breathe deep and listen long. Slow down and reflect. As Mary did in Luke 10, choose what is best and learn from Jesus. Sit at His feet. Rest a while. God gave us Matthew 11 because He was absolutely certain we women would become weary and burdened. And the clear and obvious solution is to carve out some "coming together time" with Jesus. Nothing else gives rest for the soul.

For you busy career women, baseball moms, you "stay at home" mothers with multi-aged children, time with Jesus may seem like a luxury for retirement. But for you, more than ever, you need Christ's teachings and the Spirit's refreshment.

Here's one idea on how I did it when I was a homeschool mom of two children. My husband [or hire a babysitter] watched the children and gave me a couple of hours every Saturday to have time with the Lord. I left the house so as not to be distracted or pulled in by the needs of the home. I would go to a cafe, or the lake, or a friend's home who was away [with her permission of course], or the empty church, or the library. My Bible, a journal, a hymn book, Bible study or Christian discipleship book, a prayer journal, verses to memorize on recipe cards, were all ready to go in my back pack. This kept me from wasting precious time trying to find what to read or where my Bible was. I would ask the Lord's help for anything that burdened me and asked Him to teach me through His word how to love Him better.

Somehow, someway each of us must find the time to commune with Christ. Life does not slow down on its own.

"[God said] 'This is the resting place, let the weary rest';...but they would not listen. So the, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do...." Isaiah 28:12, 13.

If you are offered the opportunity to attend a Christian women's retreat, pray about it and go if you can. Don't miss the time to engage with Jesus and your sisters in Christ.

Devotional Snapshot 63 - He provides

"Every day will have no more trouble than you can bear; and every day will have mercies sufficient for that day's stress." Future Grace John Piper

"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old." Isaiah 63:9

Look at the verbs used in this verse...saved redeemed, bore, carried. Whether young or old you have a God watching over you with concern, love; yes, and even pity.

I ordered a box of homemade gifts from a friend in another town. I had sent her money and said "Surprise me! Send me whatever you like."

So, on a Thursday the box arrived. I opened it and laid all the goodies out on my kitchen counter. There were homemade chocolates in brown & pink striped boxes tied with ribbon, bright pink crocheted slippers, felt bags that looked like snowmen filled with carmel corn, and a brown crocheted scarf with little tan loops of yarn throughout to give it a textured look. In my mind I began to determine who to give the gifts to, all except the little brown scarf.

Friday morning I went to our early breakfast and a friend came in sad that day. We listened to her tale of woe. We sympathized as she expressed the pressures she was feeling this week. Suddenly she paused in the middle of her unloading, and out of the blue she said: "And I want a brown scarf!"

What a delight it was to tell my friend the Lord had sent her scarf the day before in a package to me from a woman she had never met. God knew exactly what she needed to be encouraged. He knew ahead of time and sent it days before. How personal and intimately He cares for us, even down to the brown scarf.

Look for how God is caring and providing for you today.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 62 - Confident Love

"Someone who knows what Christ has done for him will live confidently in the present..." Dr. Kim Riddlebarger - senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church

" The Lord says, 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.' " Jeremiah 31:3

When my nephew was four years old his mom and I were sitting on the front porch visiting while he was running about the yard in abandoned play. Suddenly he stopped, looked at his mom, ran over to her, placed his scratched dirt-stained arms on her lap, looked up into her face and exclaimed with joy: "Here I am, Mommy, the little boy that you love!"

Now my nephew did no good deed worthy enough to illicit the response he got. He did not clean his room, or feed the dog without being told. He did not finish his breakfast or remember to brush his teeth. In fact, he came to his mother having done nothing but enjoy the sunny day, and he came dirty. But my sister took her little boy, wrapped him in her arms, smothered him with kisses and enthusiastically replied: "Yes! Yes! You are the little boy I love!" Strengthened and refreshed by those kisses, he straightened himself up and ran off to play, secure in loving and being loved.

Do you see the message from God in this? God doesn't need for us to come all cleaned up first. Our Father doesn't need to hear our list of good deeds and bad deeds. He already knows and loved us anyway. Remember Romans 5:8? "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (dirty, scratched up hearts), Christ died for us."

I have issues. I start beating myself up because I don't pray enough for people. I didn't remember to call "so and so". I didn't empathize with someone's pain. I didn't do my devotions today. I should be organizing "this or that". Then I feel like a failure to God. I must stop this negative thinking and like my nephew just come! Come to Jesus. Come as I am. Just speak to Him about how awesome His love for me is and tell Him I love Him. Doesn't that simplify it?

Tomorrow before your feet hit the floor running, before your mind begins to list the things that need to be done, before the coffee is perked or the baby is changed, pause and lift up your voice: "Here I am, Father, the little girl that you love!" Then we, too, can straighten ourselves up; secure in loving and being loved.

Devotional Snapshot 61 - Sovereignty

"He is in the control room of the universe. He is the only Ultimate Cause; all the sins of man and machinations of Satan ultimately have to enhance the glory and kingdom of our Saviour." Operation World - Patrick Johnstone

"When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved." Acts 27:20

"...since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." Acts 27:34

Now think about this promise in Acts 27! Words like: tempestuous, drive, running, difficulty, fearing, run aground, driven, exceedingly tempest-tossed, neither sun nor stars, given up hope, rocks, broken up by the violence of the waves, swim. These set a picture of a furious killer storm except for the fact God had promised no loss of life. The ship would be totally destroyed, all supplies and cargo lost, but they would all survive - swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

Probably unheard of in such a storm that no one drowns, not even sickly weak prisoners.

But the remarkable part of this story is that God is not content to save their lives only, He assures them He will keep every single strand of hair on their head.

Amazing! Wonderful! I laugh! I admire! I sigh with awe! What a God! Would that He would do that when I shower or brush my hair. You should see the dozens of strands falling into the tub after a gentle shampoo. Now picture this terrible storm again. The furious wind, ferocious waves, the knocking about to and fro, the falling on board the ship, the tangled ropes; now in the water, up and down, under, out, wave after wave pounding your body, your head, your hair. But not one strand is lost by all 276 men...not one.

His power, His sovereignty - they are too much for me to understand. But He is so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, tongue can not confess the full extent of praise, honor, and glory that is due to His name. Because my God knew the exact number of each hair on those 276 passengers (Matthew 10:30). The number at the beginning of the storm was exactly the same as the number at the end. Because God so decreed.

Now tell me again He does not micro-manage the universe.

Think about times God displayed His sovereignty in your life. Thank Him and praise Him.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 60 - Joy

"...a pastor who does not seek to do his work with joy does not care for his flock." Desiring God John Piper

"Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely." Acts 16:22, 23

In the book of Acts we study the beginnings of the Church, and I feel a weariness to it all. Paul worked day and night. When he wasn't tent making he was teaching and training. In any spare moments after that he was writing. In between that he was deserted, beaten, hated by various individuals and groups.

When I think of emulating Paul I am sadly not attracted to his way of life. I sigh, feel tension in my neck, and start thinking about a change of occupation. Every time Paul made converts, saw progress for the gospel, there was negative angry protests right along side of it.... and I'm supposed to want this?

But he had a joy in his relationship to our Lord that so surpassed it all. It must be similar to Hudson Taylor's (19th century missionary to China) comment: "I never made a sacrifice. Unspeakable joy all day long and everyday, was my happy experience. God, even my God, was a living bright reality, and all I had to do was joyful service."

Paul would concur as he speaks for the last time to the Ephesus church in Acts 20:23, 24. "...the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy...". There it is again. That word....joy.

Lord, I am seeking to do my work with joy...the kind of joy I see in Paul. I want serving You to be my pleasure. Help me to find my place in the church and the world just like You directed Paul. Acts 23:11 "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

Are you finding joy in your life because of Jesus?

Devotional Snapshot 59 - Suffering

"It was a happy-hearted fact: God always seems bigger to those who need Him the most. And suffering is the tool He uses to help us need Him more." When God Weeps Tada pg.21

Psalm 119:71 "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes."

While I was complaining to my adult son over the phone about my little cup of suffering, he interjected: "Mom, you and Dad are on a great adventure." It's interesting how that one comment changed my perspective of what we were going through.

Before my husband's resignation at his second church everything was pleasant and normal and routine. I knew what to expect each day and thought I knew what to expect from God; and very often I left Him alone to run the world while I quietly ran mine. But I wouldn't call it an adventure. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was drying up inside.

So in 2004 my husband resigned and God sent us to China. He pushed us into the unknown by His decree; painfully, tearfully, adventure returned. Everyday there was warfare to wage -to be unselfish, to love, to give up my way, to hope in the midst of rejection. My need was greater so my pleading was greater also.

In my bleating I find the Shepherd near. His rod and His staff comfort me.

I need the comfort, for every morning when I rise, a little fear, a little doubt, a little anger raise their ugly heads with the morning sun. I am not sure of tomorrow and because of that, I need you more today. The greater the adventure; the greater the affliction; the greater my God!

Does it help you to remember that what you may be asked to suffer is actually a great adventure with God? May our Lord help us all to draw closer and have more intimate fellowship when difficulty comes. I don't mean to sound glib about the pain you may be dealing with now. The Lord does not take your suffering lightly.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1Peter 5:7

Devotional Snapshot 58 - Beauty

"Long more and more to see Jesus." Daily Help Charles H. Spurgeon December 20

Isaiah 53:2 "...He has no form (stately form) or comeliness (splendor); And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him."

1Peter 3:3,4 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward -arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel--rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

No stateliness, no splendor, no beauty. The NIV says "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him; nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."

For all the people who feel ugly; for too short men, and too tall women, for too fat, too skinny, for the big nose, the bald head, the big feet, the big thighs, the flabby arms, eyes too small, eyes too big, wrong cheek bones, wrong eye brows, acne, crooked teeth, no teeth...wrong, wrong, wrong!

Think about Jesus, our Lord-- the God of heaven was not handsome! The scripture tells us so. There was nothing about Him that, upon seeing Him only, physically drew us to Him.

Our pictures of Him are soft and warm. Rich brown hair falling thickly around His masculine face. A big smile, teeth white and perfectly straight as if braces had been applied as a child. He seems tall, muscular, and slender. His skin is clear, His eyes are beautiful. But this is a false picture. We are told nothing about His appearance, except He was not handsome.

This is important because to God it is so unimportant -the way we look!

He tells us over and over it is not the outer it is the inner beauty He values. He said it with Saul. He said it with David. He said it to the white washed Pharisees and He said it in 1Peter about submissive Sarah and all women who would follow in her foot steps.

When will we stop looking in the mirror and comparing? When will we stop being fascinated by models, movie stars, quarter backs, and homecoming queens?

Jesus is the desire of all nations and it was not because of His good looks, but because of the perfect God centered life. The power of the Holy Spirit breaks through the skin as beautiful.

When will you and I live free of the world's chain of beauty and embrace our Lord's cord of glory?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 57 - Omnipotence

"Omnipotence may build a thousand worlds, and fill them with bounties; omnipotence may powder mountain into dust, and burn the sea, and consume the sky, but Omnipotence can not do an unloving thing toward a believer...a hard thing, an unloving thing from God toward one of His people is quite impossible." Daily Help Charles H. Spurgeon Jan. 6

Jonah 1:1-3 "Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD..."

You know why I love this story? Because God had a plan for Jonah's life and even though Jonah was unwilling, the plan happened anyway!

There may be something You ask of us and our flesh is unwilling to do---ask for funds from people for missionary work, work in a small non-growing area, be a church planter, go to Africa, love the unlovely, speak about Jesus to a stranger or a friend. This story gives me confidence that You will work Your will out in our lives even if we purposely go another direction.

The Lord sent wind, the Lord determined the lot, the Lord prepared the fish. His great good purpose would be done.

He displayed His love to Jonah; He would love Nineveh.

Jonah 2:1,2 tells us it was Jonah's affliction that caused him to cry out to the Lord. "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly. And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction..."

Even in Jonah's running away he never denied the reality of God and His powerful control of events. Jonah 1:9 "...I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Jonah 1:12 "...For I know that this great tempest is because of me." He knew who he was running from but forgot how determined God was to bring His decrees about in an individual life.

We so often say "I am expendable. Help can come from another place," as was said in Esther 4:14. But we can not dismiss God's leading lightly. For if it is His will to do it through me, unrest and trouble will be my lot until I turn in submission to His plan.

Sometimes I am the only one who can accomplish a specific will of God because God has so determined it to be this way.

Are you running away? Stop and fall into His loving hands and say "Yes". He will do it in you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 56 - Sovereignty

"It is sometimes supposed that God knows the future but does not control it; that He upholds the world, but does not intervene in it; or that He gives general direction, but is not concerned with details. The Bible emphatically rules out all such limitations of His providence." NKJV Bible pg. 957

Ephesian 1:11 "...being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."

This word never seizes to amaze me. I can not grasp its immensity. It sweeps around my brain and I can ponder it but a moment before tears come to my eyes. Sovereignty means in all, for all, above all, holding all, knowing all, providing all----all, all, all! The "all" is too big for me to understand.

Proverbs 16:4 "The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom."

Psalm 33:15 "He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their work."

Colossians 1:16 "For by Him (Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth...All things were created through Him and for Him."

Colossians 1:17 "And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

Colossians 1:18 "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."

So whatever happens to me, whatever is said to me, whatever hurts me, whatever gives me joy; all under His control, all with a purpose by a good and loving God.

So whatever happens to you, whatever is said to you, whatever hurts you, whatever gives you joy; all under His control, all with a purpose by a good and loving God.

Devotional Snapshot 55 - Sovereignty

"When the clouds hide the mountains they are as real as in the sunshine; so the promise and the Providence of God are unchanged by the obscurity of our faith, or the difficulties of our position." Daily Help Charles H. Spurgeon May 5

"The idea that God could know, and foreknow, everything without controlling everything is not only unscriptural but illogical." NKJV Bible commentary pg. 952

Amos 3:2, 6 "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities...If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?"

Your election ("You only have I known..."), Your sovereignty ("...calamity...will not the LORD have done it?"), chooses one, destroys another. Disciplines one, comforts another.

There are calamities going on in the world. I can not think about them too long. I move my mind away from the atrocities going on--the beheadings, the buried alive, the molestations and torture. I choose to forget them because they make me sad and mad. Bombs went off in London, killing over 40, injuring 700. A plane crash in Turkey, a hurricane in New Orleans, the burning alive of a missionary father and his two small sons, our two flat tires, the leaky roof--from the terrible to the mundane--all God's sovereignty. Your sovereignty makes me fall hard on You for understanding. The questions come fast and furious. Not all are answered.

Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things." But let us be very clear that God is not the author of sin or the author of evil. Evil is the wicked "I", the merciless "ME". We are still held accountable for our actions, be they good or bad. And yet, all for His glory; all for a cause; all with a meaning.

It is too wonderful for me to grasp. It is too high, out of my reach. It is fearful and comforting at the same time. Without a Sovereign God all would be chaos. With a Sovereign God who is Good, all cosmic chaos has a great, eternal, good plan. Nothing out of or beyond Your control. Your Word tells me You are everywhere; in the air I breathe, in the atoms that hold me together, in every beat of my heart. You are the cause of it all.

Today's paper said a five year old girl drowned in an Iowa river. Job cried on the death of his ten children: "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21

Teach me to believe Your goodness and trust in Your sovereignty everyday, at all times, with any news. Help me to think rightly about You when calamity comes and forgive me when I fall into angry questions.

This is hard to think about, I know. Lean in on Jesus for understanding. Ask the Spirit to speak truth to you. Be willing to hear even the difficult. God is always good. Always right. Always Sovereign. Don't you find it a great comfort that God never loses control?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 54 - Grudges

"It is impossible to risk your life to make others glad in God if you are an unforgiving person. If you are wired to see other people's faults and failures and offenses, and treat then roughly, you will not take risks for their joy. This wiring--and it is universal in all human beings--must be dismantled. " Don't Waste Your Life John Piper

Ephesians 4:32 "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

We were disagreeing once again. While the arguing was in process a number of old offenses popped up easily in my mind. Since the brain is so close to the tongue, it did not take long for one of those offenses to snake its way out. As soon as the fang of unforgiveness released its poison in the one I loved she was stunned into silence. The momentary quiet filled me with remorse. My true self had surfaced and I hated what it was. After a few long seconds she said tearfully: "I thought you had forgiven me for that years ago."

O, Lord, I thought I had, too. I had said the right words at the time. I had wore the right mask. Lord Jesus, my heart is so hard to change. My outer can wear a smile and sound warm and loving as quick as I put on lip stick, but the inner remains a cold stone pot filling up with "injustices" done to me and today some of the simmering grudges spilled out. My hot words burned us both.

I'm sorry, God. I'm sorry, loved one. To be a forgiving person as Christ is forgiving--that would be refreshing, freeing, a release! To keep that simmering pot of grudges on the front burner takes a lot of time and heat energy. One must stir it constantly and then other joyful activities are neglected. Going to bed at night becomes a time to mull over the list of wrongs. Sleep will not come easy. Free me, Lord, from the poison of unforgiveness.

Take time to ask God if you are harboring old grudges and ask Him to give you the strength to let go. Pray the Lord will help you to not bring it up even when you are angry at the person.

Devotional Snapshot 53 - Control

"...service takes on its true character when we do things with others. This is never an easy road to travel. It is the slow road requiring much patience and care. We find it easier to do things for others. We can then be our quick and efficient selves. We can then set the terms and conditions. We can then be available or withdraw when it suits us...a slow job done together is better than a fast job done alone." Dare To Journey Charles Ringma #39

Proverbs 15:30 "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones."

(Years ago my husband and I were homeless...in between jobs and in between homes. So we were living on the graciousness of others.)

I needed some place to cry. I am not in my home so I can't cry here because I don't want my in laws to hear me. They would ask why and I wouldn't be honest---adding sin to sin.

I'm embarrassed to say I'm crying because I'm mad; mad at my husband for not supporting my viewpoint around the kitchen table, mad that I can't have my own way---cook when I want, how I want, what I want. I am mad that I don't have my own nest to ruffle my feathers in and cluck about proudly. I'm a momma bird swooping around the trees looking for home and having to share a nest with another momma bird. Even though it is not my nest I brazenly strut my will about the kitchen as if I am Queen hen of the roost. It doesn't take long for my clucking to start the other patient and contented ones into a cluck of their own. I have stirred the roost.

So what did I do after saying harsh words to my husband and polite silence to my kind and generous in-laws (I am no easy daughter-in-law)? I should have grabbed my husband and hugged him and told him I was sorry. I should have kissed my parents and thanked them for their generosity in offering their home to us without financial obligations. I should have blessed the Lord for His provision to us through them while we are jobless.

No. After thirty-five years of conferences, retreats, scripture memory, perfect church attendance, daily quiet times...I got up and left. Passive-aggressive I believe they call that. Fifty-five years old and I still act like a child. When will I grow up? That is what my father used to say when I was 12 and I'm still saying it to myself today.

What was my verse for today? A cheerful heart brings joy and health. Well, I've blown that verse today. Lord, help! I need a change of attitude!

And you know, the Lord didn't slap me around. He could have. I deserved it. No. He gave me these verses instead. Psalm 90:1,2,12 "LORD , You have been our dwelling place in all generations (I don't need a home, I have Him), before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (my clucking stops when I remember who is God)...So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I'm learning, I'm in process, I can start over, I will say sorry. I will appreciate today. God help me to gain a heart of wisdom and to live obediently.

I could not be in control so I sinned out of control. What about you? Are there some issues that make you easily irritated? Confess, receive His forgiveness, and tell the person you are sorry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Short Story - A Necessary Mistake by Carol Totten

"The world is not necessary to God in the same way God is necessary to the world." - William Temple

* * *

The neighbors in the apartment began to whisper about him the first day he moved in from the farm. He was a plain man made uglier by age and the constant scowl on his face. He walked slightly stooped. His calloused hands shook.

His clothes were wrinkled and seemed on the verge of dirty. The stubble on his face added to the suspicions that he might be a dangerous man. Of course, it didn't help that his third floor neighbors were all elderly single women who had been subjected to many years of TV murders and crime.

The ladies tried once to meet him, but he only opened the door a darkened crack and stared at the floor. He mumbled when he spoke and shut the door. This sent the ladies fluttering back to their secure, well lit cages, locking the doors behind them.

* * *

She was a busy homemaker. Generally a cheerful woman with the usual bouts of sad days and mad days. Her air was even lighter- it was Christmas. The tree stood stately in front of the window glittering with red and gold. It scented the small living room with pine. Freshly baked gingerbread lay on the blue gray marbled counter ready to be eaten by the eager children who lived in the home. Karoline kept the Christmas music on while she wrapped the presents in multi-colored shiny paper.

This was a particularly special holiday, for it would be their first Christmas in their new home. She would often pause in her day and stroll through each room thanking God for this gift. Her husband had always liked the idea of a brick, bermed home. She had wanted three bedrooms and two bathrooms so children and guests would feel comfortable. Kerwin had a place to plant flowers and a manageable lawn to mow. Karoline loved the easy to clean windows and the real maple wood cabinets.

They had enough money to pay their bills and make Christmas special. They were not rich, but they had enough.

* * *

He, in his dark, lonely life had never had enough. He needed more, but got less. The farm he was forced to move from had been his life, but farming was hard. The weather, the thistles, the insects, the economy, eventually sent him out of business. If there was a God, God did not take notice of him or hear his vague pleas for rain. Farming made him bitter and he pushed all away who tried to offer hope. No one had the courage or cared enough to break the shell around his growly heart. People thought he liked his anger, so they left him to it.

He really needed more of love, but got less.

* * *

The Barclay Box Company earned its highest profits at Christmas, of course.

The management prided itself in having the finest gift boxes in America. Each year a new design for the boxes would be developed. There were all shapes and sizes. No matter what vibrant color they used there was a splash of silver on every box. Boxes were sent all over the country filled with a delicious assortment of nuts, candies, cookies, fruit, cheese, ham rolls, biscuits, teas, coffees. The variety was up to the buyer.

It was an easy way to send love.

* * *

Uncle Hal had always enjoyed sending the four box gift set to his sisters who all lived in three different states---Kansas, California, and Oregon. He chose white boxes, splashed with silver, that had green leaves outlined in gold. The four boxes were piled on top of each other and held together by a large gold ribbon cascading over it like a waterfall. The largest box was filled with soft ball sized pears, oranges, apples. The second box had cookies- shortbread with strawberry filling, chocolate pecan, peanut butter toffee, and brandy balls. Box number three- an assortment of light and dark chocolates. The last, smallest box on the regal tower contained roasted almonds and cashews.

This Christmas he sent an extra box to the one sister in Kansas, whom he knew had extra bills with their first new home. The second tower of purple and blue striped boxes, splashed with their trademark silver, included ham, cheese, crackers; with a Christmas tree shaped box of cocoa for the children, Janine and Andy; flavored coffee for Karoline and Kerwin. With that order he sent a message of celebration for their new home. He was satisfied as the orders were made. Christmas shopping was done for him. He enjoyed picturing the squeals of delight as his gifts arrived to each of their destinations.

Nevertheless he always wished he could do more.

* * *

The glow of the TV was the only light penetrating his darkened room. He was not heartened by the reminders that it was the Christmas season. It had done nothing for him, except remind him how empty his life was and fueled his resentment for the smiling, jovial programming coming across the screen. "Hypocrites!" All these happy-ending stories were not reality to him.

The apartment manager occasionally tapped on his door to remind him to empty his mail box. The task was easily forgettable. There was never anything personal in it anyway. But it irritated him to see the growing Christmas decorations appearing on his neighbor's entry ways. "What a waste of money and time," he muttered to himself. Isolation had aged his heart, made his bones brittle. His miserable life would soon end either from neglect or by his own purposed plan.

* * *
The children were home for Christmas break and kept a steady watch for the mailman. Their enthusiasm added to the festive feeling. Every morning Karoline lit the scented candles and turned on the Christmas lights, so when Janine and Andy crawled out of their warm beds they saw and smelled the glow of Christmas. The baby Jesus sat in a prominent place for the children to look at and touch. Karoline allowed them to play with the nativity scene. They made up little stories and moved the pieces accordingly. They were being carefully taught that Christmas was more than the gift.

The day before Christmas the children were so excited none could sleep, or that's what they told their mother. But one by one they quieted down and drifted off.

"The boxes are running late this year," Karoline said to her husband.  "But then what if he didn't send them this year? After all, Hal is self employed and business has been down for him. Should we call Hal and ask?"

"Let's wait," Kerwin replied. "They may come after Christmas."

* * *

But even the throw of the dice is ordained. "We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall." (Proverbs 16:33)

The boxes were not lost. With planned precision they were approaching their divine destination.

* * *

The day before Christmas was a perfect Kansas Christmas. It was snowing. Puffy, soft, white flakes floated from the sky. Not the blowing blizzard wind the Kansas plains are famous for, but the gentle glide from sky to ground that thickly coated the dirty streets and black trees with milky silk shimmering magic.

Most saw beauty but as the winter sky began to darken early he saw coldness. He shivered. He would not even turn the TV on tonight. He seemed to freeze into his chair, no heart to eat, or read, or watch. Even breathing became a chore. His hands gripped the arm rest, his eyes stared into the black room, willing himself not to think --- a gray, dripping mind.

* * *

He knocked once --- no answer. It was Christmas Eve. Almost done with his deliveries, he wanted --- needed to get home. His family was waiting. But the faithful postal service was feverishly working all over the nation this night so as no little child would be disappointed on Christmas morning. One more knock, then he would leave the boxes by the door and go on to his last delivery.

"What was that?" It startled him. A noise, in the hall? No it was at his door. Someone was knocking. "What does the apartment manager want on this night? Leave me alone," he thought. But out of duty he rose from his chair and shuffled to the door. The light from the hallway momentarily blinded his eyes as he peeked through the crack.

"Good evening, sir. I have a delivery for you. Please sign here."


"This is for you, would you please sign here?" The delivery man was trying to remain civil, but really felt impatient. He slid the two towers of elegantly ribboned boxes toward the door.

The farmer had only seen shadows for days. The sudden color and sparkle of the gifts made him squint--- royal purple and blue , tied with wide silver ribbon; green gold ribbon sweeping over the second tower, all splashed with silver. The cost of this would be extravagant.

"No, I did not order this! You must have the wrong address."

"Is this 115 Palms, apt. 3?"

"Yes, but......"

"Are your initials K.K.J.A.?"

He gasped. There could be no mistake. His parents had named him with pride. They often told him as a child how he was named after Kenneth Kirby, his two grandfathers; and James a follower of Jesus in the Bible...his mother had insisted; and Ankleman, their family name for which as a child he suffered abuse from his peers.

There it was in clear letters: K.K.J.A. It was no mistake. These boxes were meant for him. But from who? He pondered for a moment. The right address, the right name, but still he was sure he was the wrong man.

"Just sign here, sir, and I'll be on my way." The delivery man placed the receipt and pen in his hand. Kenneth Kirby signed.

"Thank you," cried the delivery man as he hurried down the hall. He could almost taste the hot cider that would be waiting for him when he got home.

He stood there in the doorway staring at the beauty. He had not ordered it or paid for it. He pulled the boxes into his empty room and turned on the light.

Shuffling around them, he gently touched the ribbons. He certainly would not give a gift like this to anyone. Questions began to flood his mind that he had formerly refused to consider. But there was one question he had spent a lifetime protecting himself from. It was such a simple question. He felt childish to have it.

"Does anybody care for me?"

Cautiously he reached for the card. This would be the explanation to unravel the mystery. He held his breath as his hand pulled the little cardboard message out of its ivory envelope. He read.

* * *

When Hal learned several days after Christmas of the undelivered gifts to his sister he called the Barclay Box Company. They had delivered the boxes to the old address and they had been signed for, so the company offered a free gift from anything in the catalogue. In the following discussion with Kerwin and Karoline they decided to let it be.

"You know, Hal, we have been trying to teach sharing with the kids and this will be a perfect opportunity to let go of one of the gifts. They got enough for Christmas. I believe your generous gift was still put to good use in someone's life. Are you okay with that?" asked Karoline.

"Yes, well alright. I'm sorry. I want you to know I ordered extra for you this year, sort of a house warming/Christmas gift. I didn't even sign the card. You always know who it is from. Let me tell you and Kerwin my message. I remember how difficult it was to buy your home--- whether it was God's will, the finances and all, so I sent you this message...."

* * *

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,39)

"He will always be there for you.”

It was uncharacteristic for the tough as leather farmer, but Kenneth's eyes blurred with moisture and his throat tightened. He read it again. He recalled the question he had asked: "Does anybody care for me?"

Gripping the card, he sat down in his worn chair. He leaned forward, put his head in his hands. "Thank you," he whispered.

The dark stranglehold that held Kenneth's heart in a tight stony mass began to loosen and crumble. He stood up and walked to the window. Opened it and filled his chest with the crisp air. He could not see it before, but now he stared in wonder at the crystalline splendor.

Later he would begin the delightful process of opening each gift box and tasting their contents. It dawned on him that there was more than enough, maybe he should pass some on. This would be the beginning of new relationships.

* * *

"I wanted to do more," Hal sighed, "instead I did less."

* * *

Not less, Hal, more. You did far, far more. -- Only heaven will tell how one misplaced gift changed a man. God working all things according to the counsel of His will, broke a stony heart and loved a lonely, abandoned farmer back to life.

* * *

Short Story - Edith by Carol Totten

Too big and too shy to be pretty. In the third grade she was already six inches taller than the other girls. Something was wrong with her. Why did God let her grow big? Why couldn't she be small and petite like Annie? Annie, with the red, brown shiny curls and blue eyes. Annie with the bouncy dresses and attentive friends, whose mother dropped her off with real meat sandwiches in her tiny white lunch sack.

“Annie, Annie”. Edith would repeat her name. It seemed to float - light and airy. It wrote so pretty on her paper. And her name was Edith Lu. It sounded awkward as she heard it roll off the tongue of her classmates. It was heavy to say, heavy to write. Uncle Harold called her “Yankee Lanky Lu”. Grandma Lucy said it angry. Her beautiful raven haired ma'am (also called Pearly) said it resignedly. Her adored brother, Robert, only screamed it, "get out of my way." Her fathers, there were eight, never spoke it.

Most little girls are tucked into bed with a book, or a song, or a prayer, and a hug. Edith was glad for the swallow of beer her ma'am gave her and Robert right before she hurried out the door to run the tavern next door. She didn’t mind the hurriedly made onion sandwiches, but was embarrassed by the large brown grocery bag she had to carry it in…too big for the sandwich, like Edith.

Next to her curvy, full-lipped stylish ma'am Edith was an ugly duckling. She loved to slip into Pearly’s closet and wrap herself up in a pink lace layered party dress. Her Pearly ma’am was so beautiful in it. She knew others thought so, too, because there were always men coming and giving Pearly gifts. And her ma’am had the most up to date fashions. It never occurred to Edith to notice the scuffed shoes and outgrown dress she wore to school. After all, new clothes were for pretty girls.

Edith did not see the terrible World War II storm beginning to stretch over her sky. She could only feel the lightning word attacks and hear its thunderous message in her own darkened home.

Grandma Lucy should not have been in charge of the children when Pearly was gone, but who else was there? Grandma Lucy lived life with bigness...big head, big shoulders, big hands, big feet, big voice, and big anger. And she did not like to see the big little girl slinking around the house. She did not like clumsiness. She did not like coddling of big girls.

Edith's great grandmother was affectionately called "Grammy". She came to visit when Edith was eight. Grandma Lucy had made breakfast for her mother and granddaughter...a rare treat. Grammy reached over and began to butter and cut Edith's pancake for her. Of course, she was too big for this, but oh how hungry she was for this touch. "Grammy must think I am special," Edith thought. She observed that Grammy’s pancakes were sitting cold on her plate while she fussed over her's. Her fragile, cobbled heart began to smooth over with kind attention.

Grandma Lucy, horrified, questioned her petite mother, "What do you think you are doing?"

"Oh, nothing of any consequence," Grammy replied, "just giving a little lovin'." She chuckled and patted Edith's hand.

Like a hawk sailing out of the clouds with claw feet extended to grab its prey Grandma Lucy landed on Grammy with screeches and howls of protest. Grammy gave a calm defense. The Lucy hawk lashed back with her taloned hand striking Grammy on her soft, thin cheek.

Edith was stunned, than terrified. "What had she done! Oh, what had she done!" Edith jumped up from the breakfast table, raced out the back door, over the summer lawn to the farthest bush by the fence. She crawled under its branches and folded her knees up tight to her chest and wept and rocked, wept and rocked.

The screaming stopped but it continued to echo in her head. Whisperings of badness began to fill the spaces. "You are a bad little girl. If it weren't for you this never would have happened." How could she face her beloved Grammy now? She must hide from her love embrace, it could be dangerous. So Edith became estranged from Grammy. She could not face what she had done to her.

Another chance at happiness came that winter in a little golden ball of fur. He purred and mewed. "Meow, meow, meow. Here I am, love me," he seemed to say. Without hesitation she swooped him up in her long coat covered arms and buried her nose in his baby fine fur.. striped yellow, brown and white. The prettiest thing she ever saw and he didn't mind being with her.

Without telling Pearly and escaping the notice of Grandma Lucy, she raced to the kitchen for a bowl of cream. Together she and Golden sat on the back porch steps, he slurping and she breathing deep of the happy feeling of belonging to each other. When the cream was gone -wonder of wonders- Golden did not run away. No, indeed, he moved in quickly to Edith's leg and rubbed his head against her and purred warm and long. She gently gathered him in her arms. "I will love you forever. You are mine. I will take care of you."

She could not hear the distant thunder or see the lightning. But it was coming.

The cold wind confirmed that Golden could not stay outside. Finding a bucket in the shed, she sheltered Golden in her coat and slipped through the kitchen and up the stairs to her bedroom, quickly but quietly shutting the door. She took her dolly blankets and lined the dirty bucket. She cushioned and fluffed the bottom by adding some holie socks and her mittens. She could not hide the kitten long from her Pearly ma'am.

It was Sunday when Golden was discovered.

Golden was discovered at the same time an artic cold front moved in, bringing sharp, stinging blizzard-blown ice and snow. The Kansas blizzards are brutal. There were not the usual hills and pine trees fitted closely together to slow the attack. It hit the rural town and Edith lived on the edge.

"Take him out to the shed." Pearly demanded.

The tears started before she spoke. "Please Ma'am! Let me keep him in my room. He'll get sick outside. It's too cold! He won't bother a thing. I promise! I'll take care of him." Her pleas boiled out and burst on deaf ears.


"Ma‘am! Ma‘am! Please, Ma‘am!"

Grandma Lucy stepped in. "Get ready for church, child!' Sunday was church day. All humans would vacate the premises and make their formal, lifeless showing to the unknown God, for proprieties sake. "A home is no place for animals", she spat, voicing the opinion of her father and his father, and many generations back. "Now take that thing to the shed like your mother said."

Standing small with the two giants of terror towering over her, Edith demonstrated an unusual amount of courage for her shy nature. Looking at them with rebel eyes, she cried, "I won't go to church!"

Edith first saw Pearly's face change, but she did not see the lightning hand that flew through the air landing accurately on her cheek, knocking her breathe and her feet out from under her.

"There, that serves her right!" thundered Grandma. "Hit her again!"

Gone! It was gone! Her courage evaporated lying in the shadow of hellions, drowning in a stormy sea of pain. Self preservation overtook her need to protect her new-found friend, and she hated herself for it. Hated, hated, hated herself. Covering her head she gasped, "Don't hit me ma'am. Don't hit me. Trembling she cried, "I'll do it! I'll do it."

"Don't sass me again. Get up, get dressed, take that thing to the shed." Pearly nudged the back of the child with her hard pointed black shoe.

"Yes, ma'am."

Her stringy, shoulder length hair fell over the fire swollen streaks of her left cheek as she rose to her feet. "Hurry up", the two captors spouted as they turned in unison and left. At that moment Golden hopped off the tousled bed, padded softly to the shivering legs and purred and rubbed, in and out, gentle warmth against empty coldness. She picked him up. Shut the bedroom door. Ran to the bed. Carefully holding Golden next to her heart, she lay with her pillow across her right cheek and sobbed as quietly as possible. Her chest was bursting with sorrow, her stomach so knotted it hurt, her throat constricted so she could not swallow. Every opening drained sadness...eyes, nose, and mouth...wetting the pillow.

Fear told her she did not have much time to mourn. The inner clock said "hurry". Smelling him, kissing him, she kept his contented purring close to her face as she found the bucket. Placing him in, he rose up on his hind feet, front paws shadow boxing the air. The mewing began.

Edith obediently put on her coat, swiftly stuffing her best sweater under it. Trudging out the door, carrying her bucketed treasure to the shed; the wind howled, the cat mewed, and the child wept. Placing the bucket on the dirt floor, she searched for any rags, or straw, or dead leaves to add insulation. She placed her sweater on top of the crying Golden while he kept surfacing to see his beloved again.

It was time now to leave. Is heaven watching? Oh, guardian angels do you see? Where is the great cloud of witnesses to intercede for the child?

"I don't wanna leave you. I wanna take care of you. Please stay in the bucket, Golden. I'll be back as soon as I can." She petted his head and pushed him down. "I love you. I love you, " she sobbed.

Ediiiiiiith ! screeched the wind. She panted, rose quickly, and fled the shed. Grandma Lucy made Edith wear a hat with flaps and since it was so precariously cold, no one would wonder. She cried all the way to church and was threatened before leaving the back seat of the smoke-filled dilapidated Ford.

She would stop crying, but she could not smile, and hid her face while Grandma Lucy gossiped and Pearly breezed from woman to woman socializing and making merry until the traditional service started. Edith was not sure about God, but as a child she had no where else to turn. With bursts of whistles and shrieks the shrill wind pushed through the cracks of the hollow church while Edith prayed...begging God to spare her kitty, to save Golden.

The service could not end soon enough. Edith remained deathly quiet, but inside she was burning with desire to get home, to run to the shed, to gather her living bundle into her arms and warm him next to her body.

"I'm back! I'm back!" she yelled as she careened into the decaying wooden structure. The bucket was empty. "Oh no." Anxious eyes darted from corner to corner. "Oh there you are!" Just enough light to see his yellow white fur in a tight little ball. "Golden! Golden!" But he did not move or meow. Edith stood still, staring. The terrible thought tumbled around her head. "God did not hear her. No, worse. God did not care." The furious scream blended with the wicked wind, then the eerie wailing. She had pleaded and beseeched the Almighty for life and He had given her death.

"What is taking Edith so long?" Grandma Lucy had put the coffee pot on and was setting the table, while Pearly was slicing the cold bologna and cheese for the simple Sunday dinner. "Edith!...Edith!" No answer. Pearly wrapped her coat around her.

"That girl needs another whipping," stated Grandma handing Pearly the fly swatter from the wall. Pearly grabbed it and was swept out the back kitchen door disappearing into the frantic swirls.

"Edith!....Edith Lu!" Still no answer as she arrived at the tattered opening of the retched hut. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Pearly was stunned to see her stone still daughter standing silently. She followed the vacant gaze to the fur ball in the corner on the frozen mud floor....and she knew. She dropped the swatter and walked slowly to the crusted beauty. Picking Golden up she solicitously placed him in his safe house amongst the leaves and mittens and Edith's best sweater. Then she apprehensively turned to face this forgotten child. And suddenly she remembered. The memories came in a trickle at first and then began to flood her soul with regret, remorse...a gnawing guilt. The painful memories of her own molestation and abuse marched before her in vivid color. Pearly was a child once who had been forgotten. She had been raged at, unheard, in the way, the scapegoat, the punching bag, the disgusting play thing.

She knelt down and cupped her child's stiff, icy arms in her hands. Pearly looked into the far away eyes of the tear stained swollen face. "Lord! Lord! Is it too late to love her back. Lord! Help me! Help her! O' Lord Jesus give me another chance with Edith." She pulled Edith's still beating heart to her chest and she stroked her mousy hair. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I'm sorry."

Balancing the bucket in one arm, with the other Pearly draped her coat around Edith and plodded and pulled the granite child back to the house. Trance-like Edith stood in the middle of the kitchen. Pearly quickly laid Golden down on the warming plate above the stove. Miracles could happen. She hurried to the living room and drug the antique cherry wood rocker to the kitchen. She placed it in front of the stove and pulled Edith down on her lap. She rocked and waited. Miracles could happen. Rocking and waiting, patting and stroking, and praying.

"Eat! Eat! Let's eat!" Grandma Lucy complained.

"I don't care." whispered Pearly


"I have only one concern now and it is not you. Get out." Pearly spoke so softly that it screamed.

Lucy silently backed out of the kitchen. The pecking order was about to change.

"Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so . Little ones to Him belong. Yes, Jesus loves me.“ So sang the mother gently to the child as the rhythmic squeak of the handmade chair brought peace.

Edith's arm ever so slightly slipped around her mother's waist. "He died, Ma‘am. He died", Edith whispered.

"Yes." Pearly's arms tightened around Edith's shoulders.

"The only one who ever loved me."

An hour passed, the kitten remained cold. Mother warmed the child, rocked the child, purred to the child. “Edith Lu, my dear Edith Lu,” murmured Pearly. “Did I ever tell you that your name means “warrior for good”. Isn’t that lovely. And I discovered that Lulu means Pearl in Arabic. I named you, my love. after me.”

“Mama! Mama!”

Years later Edith Lu would point to this moment as the awakening.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24