Category Archives: Devotionals

Scripture based thoughts.

I Got Nothing

fea-nothingHonestly, some days I get so wrapped up in things that are out of my control.  I feel like I have no clear direction, no motivation, no control.  I don’t know where to turn and even though my Christian training tells me that I am to turn to God, I’m not even sure how to do that when I face overwhelming circumstances.  I got nothing. Which as it turns out is exactly where God wants me because when I “got nothing” that is when I solely rely on Him. He’s got my nothings covered because His word says that:

Nothing will ever happen to me that God does not already know about. –Psalm 139:1-4

Nothing will ever happen to me that is a mistake. –Psalm 139:4,16

Nothing will ever happen that I cannot handle by God’s power & grace. — 2 Corinth 1:9-10

Nothing will ever happen that will not eventually be used by God for some good purpose in my life. –Romans 8:28 and Nothing will ever happen to me without God’s presence. –Matt 28:20

As I study more about nothing, I realize that I should Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let my requests be made known to God.–Phil 4:6;

So, when I feel like “I got nothing,” I read those words and realize I have everything.  My mood changes, my focus changes and I can get on with my day.  I can look outward and attempt to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;–Phil 2:3

It looks like I better look for ways to stop focusing on nothing and myself and start doing something for someone else!  Maybe you should too.

 

 

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Never Pray For Patience

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A woman at church overheard me say under my breath, “God grant me patience” as I rolled my eyes and saw my kids were getting into.  She quickly corrected me and said, “Never pray for patience or the Lord will give you lots of opportunities to work on it!”  I tend to believe her and now I have another situation that I think the Lord may be giving me to work on.  Stupid people.  Exasperating people. Annoying people. Frustrating people. In general, People! There are people in my life who I find very difficult to work with and yet, the Lord keeps putting them in my path. (OK, well some are family, so it makes sense that I’d have them in my life, but others seem rather random.) I have asked God countless times why I have problems dealing with these people and it seems the more I ask, the more he grants me the opportunity to work on my problem-solving skills.  This concept doesn’t appear to be a new idea.

Stepping Heavenward by Mrs. E. Prentiss was published in 1869 and the lead character, Katherine, in this book struggles as I do. She asked her older, wiser, friend Mrs. Campbell what she would do about it.  Mrs. Campbell’s response gives us all something to ponder. “If I were living with them and they made me unhappy, I would ask God to relieve me of this trial if He thought it best. If He did not think it best, I would then try to find out the reason. He might have two reasons. One would be the good they might do me. the other, the good I might do them.”

Interesting perspective. The next time you are faced with a person that you find uncongenial or one who misunderstands you, think about what good they might be for you or what good you might be for them.  It definitely sounds like a challenge to consider.  And, our character in the book struggled as well and asked: “what if neither party can be of the least use to the other?”

Wise Mrs. Campbell explains that our friend, Katherine may be missing the point. She claims that disagreeable people do us good by allowing us to practice self-denial and self-control that their mere presence demands.

There you have it. Even if we think we aren’t doing well getting along with others and even if others bother us and cause us grief, we can applaud ourselves for simply staying in control and not killing them! Practice self-denial and self-control and we will learn to live in peace with all. And, the sooner we can master it, the less we will be given the opportunity to practice it!

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 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. — Titus 1:8 

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Why Give Thanks?

IMG_0424I have written about this many times and it seems to be a life’s mission for me.  We are supposed to be thankful for everything.  Last year, I attended a seminar where the presenter suggested that people write down at least 3 things to be thankful for each day.  One woman spoke up and said, “But what if we don’t have anything that day?”  Are you serious?!  Uh, you’re breathing! That counts for one! There is always something to be thankful for!

So, we’ve all seen articles and heard interviews where people share why it is important for us to give thanks.  In the United States we believe we even have a holiday to celebrate: Thanksgiving, so regardless of religion or faith, our nation is to be a thankful nation.  Other cultures and countries also celebrate festivals to express gratitude during the harvest season. It seems this is a great time to be thankful.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the author of Gratitude Works!: A 21-day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity suggests 5 reasons why giving thanks is actually good for you.

  1. Counting blessings boosts your health by lessening depression and lowering blood pressure and creating more optimism.
  2. A daily practice of gratitude even slows down some of the effects of neurodegeneration that occurs as we age.
  3. Positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol which is the “stress hormone.”
  4. Being thankful increases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” so it helps you in your relationships.
  5. Gratefulness is good for the heart and the waistline and may achieve a 10% reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease dietary fat intake by up to 20%.

These are all great benefits of being grateful, but I’d like to add one more reason we should give thanks. In 52 A.D. the apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I think he may have been on to something.  It seems this concept of gratitude has been around a long time. Why give thanks? There are many reasons and benefits, but I do because the Bible tells me to.

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Can I Help You?

IMG_0169Jesus said to me “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28

As a church member entered the building with her cane in one hand and her purse in the other, I offered her help.  She handed me her purse, grabbed my elbow and said, “I never refuse help.” It was such a refreshing response. Many times when we offer help, we are met with rejection. “No, I’ve got it.” “No thanks, I’m good.” And, many times we respond that way when we are asked. Now I understand that sometimes when we are holding things just so, handing one item off would upset our balance, but many times we simply could accept the help and don’t.  So why don’t we?

Most of us would ask for help if we were lifting a refrigerator, but we avoid getting help with the smaller things.  The same may hold true when we are talking about our spiritual burdens. If a real crisis hits, we go to God, but these little pesky everyday burdens we choose to handle on our own.  We all know that if you keep adding pebbles to a bucket, the bucket eventually gets too heavy to carry and I believe the same holds true for our pesky burdens. They will keep adding up until they become too heavy to carry and then we will turn them over to the Lord.  We don’t have to do that. We can share our little burdens with God, just as we can accept help with some of the little tasks we face in our lives. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

So, for your spiritual burdens, give even the little ones to God and for your physical burdens, share them with your friends and family. That way we all get to participate in God’s plan for us.

Thanks, friend, for accepting the offer of my help.  I think it actually helped us both.

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Fall Foliage Prediction

It’s currently mid-October and I am looking out my window at some beautiful fall leaves. The colors are vibrant, the sun is shining and Autumn appears to be gorgeous. This fact is barely worth mentioning, except that I didn’t expect it. Every year I look forward to fall and October is one of my favorite months, but this year, I had a different attitude at the beginning of the month. You see, I was discussing the fall leaves with someone and they said that this year the leaves probably wouldn’t change colors and that as far as they could tell, this year it was going to be “Brown and Down.” WHAT?! Brown and Down? Who wants that? I want the reds, the yellows, the oranges! I don’t want the leaves to become brown and down!

But, when they made that statement, it was pretty much true. In our area, we had the Cicadas which caused many of our trees to lose big clumps of leaves. (Those dead leaves have been plaguing our lawns for a while.) And I must admit that I did see some leaves turning brown and falling, but this week we got a surprise. The warmer September temperatures made the leaves change colors later and it appears that in our area, we aren’t even at peak yet. This fall, I get to enjoy the changing leaves as I always have.

The noteworthy part of this story is that one person’s new clever phrase “Brown and Down” almost stole my joy. My mood instantly switched from looking forward expectantly towards the colors of autumn to dreading the leaves turning brown. Someone dashed my hope. With three words!

It makes me wonder how many times I dash someone’s hope with only a few words. Phrases like “I doubt it, probably not, and It’s always something” could impact someone more than I intend to. Someone could be looking forward to planning an event and they could ask me if I think others would be interested. I may answer, “I doubt it.” Do you think that is a big boost to their morale? What about, “Think this sunshine will last until the weekend?” “Probably not.” Yuck! Who wants to be that person? Not me. However, I find that I sometimes I am that person and sometimes even worse.

Just like weathermen that get the forecast wrong, Fall Foliage Predictions are just that….predictions. No one knows when or how vibrantly the leaves will change colors, but saying something negative doesn’t lift anyone’s spirits. I read a quote that says, “If you can’t be positive at least be quiet.” Scripture says, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” So, to the people who were believing in the Brown and Down Fall, I will say nothing. I will go outside and stand quietly on this gorgeous day and watch the beautiful leaves fall.

Also, to these people, I really didn’t take much offense…I just needed something to write about. I found the new phrase rather clever and I wanted to share it, but I’m glad you were wrong!

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

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Stay CALM

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6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.            Philippians 4:6-8  (NIV)  

 

In this passage, verse 6 has been a favorite of mine for years. In different translations it may say, Do not be anxious, Be careful for nothing, Don’t fret or Don’t worry.  All words meaning the same thing. I have taught this verse to my children and have said it so many times that when they are facing something and I start to share it, they roll their eyes and say, “I know, I know, Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything, tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for the answers.”  Yes, that is the translation that they use.  Is it King James? New International Version? The message? No, It’s the Mom-version.

The Mom version is my attempt to share scripture when I am not really 100% sure exactly how it’s worded but I feel that I have the meaning.  So, in my case, I feel that sharing the meaning of the scripture is important, but the exact wording of it is not.  I oftentimes don’t know where a scripture is found in the Bible, but I know it’s in there.  I don’t know how to quickly find the perfect verse, but I do know some basic themes.

This summer I did a Max Lucado Bible Study titled Anxious for Nothing.  In it, he does his own version of Phil 4:6-8 that I love and wish I could’ve taught my kids.

Stay Calm:

C – Celebrate God’s Goodness

A – Ask God for help

L – Leave your concerns with Him

M-Meditate on Good Things

So, whether you have the ability to memorize scripture verbatim or if you have to create your own version keeping the meaning true, be sure to come up with a way to share God’s message with others. And, remember to Celebrate God’s goodness, Ask him for help, Leave your concerns with Him and then Meditate on Good Things.  That’s what the Bible says (in a variety of different ways.)

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Be Early & Bless

IMG_3213My family and I had scrambled to get ready. We needed to be in Pittsburgh by 4:30 and we wanted to stop and eat before then.  Having appointments and obligations all morning we ran from thing to thing.  Late for our first stop, because I made a cup of tea to take, we arrived, got to work and helped while keeping an eye on the clock because we had to go to a training at noon. We sorted and worked and left at the last minute possible to get to the training.

We arrived at the training, found a close parking spot, stuck our hand into the closing elevator door to make it open and accept us. We rushed past the receptionist, briskly walked back the hall, found our seats and began.

We needed to leave the training which was running late while the speaker was still presenting. We gathered up our handouts & raced out the door.

We picked the kids up, stopped for a sandwich and were finally on our way to our final destination.  Breathing again, but no time for error, we made it to the concert at 4:30.  Aaaaaah, Success.

But, was it? We mentioned the poor unfortunate man along the highway with a flat tire, and we were hopeful that slowing car with their turn signal on was going to assist him but we can’t be sure. We didn’t have time to stop and ask. It made me wish we hadn’t been so rushed that day. And it makes me wonder what other opportunities to share God’s love we missed.

Maybe that close parking spot could’ve gone to someone who had trouble walking and if we had had time, we may have parked further away and walked. We may have spoken to the person on the elevator if our minds weren’t preoccupied with being tardy.

I wish we had greeted the receptionist, made eye contact and smiled instead of rushing past her as if she were invisible. It would have been nice to be at the training earlier and converse with the attendees a bit to share what we have learned and glean from them what they know.

When we are late or rushed we miss out on opportunities to bless others and to be blessed by them. A smile or a short conversation about the weather may be all the other person needs to have a brighter day. A quick conversation may be all you need. I have always been a pretty punctual person. I think it’s in my DNA, but I know people who struggle with being on time. They intentionally set their clocks five or ten minutes fast so they can be on time. (Until of course, they remember their clocks are fast and adjust their schedule accordingly.) I don’t need to play this trick on myself to be on time, but maybe I need to do it so I can be early. So I can maybe have the margin needed for God to use me to do what He wants me to do, not just what I want to do!

Maybe if I had an extra margin of time, I could bless someone by letting them go ahead of me in line. Maybe I would notice someone fumbling with their keys while juggling packages and offer to help. Maybe I could let that car merge first. Maybe I could ask someone how they are and wait for an answer.

I think I’ll change my clocks and change my mindset and give it a try.IMG_3209

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37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’    –Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

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