Friday, November 30, 2012

"Anticipation . . ."

Matthew 25:13
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

December 2nd is the first Sunday of Advent.  In honor of this sacred season, I am posting, with few changes, the devotion I wrote last year.  Enjoy!

The season of Advent is a time of preparation.  Our minds and hearts are once again on the road to Bethlehem.  Our destination?  Christmas Day and the joyful welcoming of our Savior into the world.

But, Advent is more than the Christmas story.  It is also a time to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for the day when the Lord will return.

The Second Coming.

It is a time of watching and waiting.  Of expectation and anticipation.

We know not the day nor the hour . . .

It could be a thousand years from now.

It could be tomorrow.

It could be now . . .

Are you ready?

I hope you will take time this season to reflect, to pray, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
~
Will you make room in your heart for Jesus today?

Will you pray with me?
During this season of Advent, Father, let us not succumb to the distractions of the secular world.  Help us to focus on Your coming into the world to redeem us.  Let us meditate upon Your promise to come again.  Create within us clean hearts where there is plenty of room for you.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are YOU in my PEW???

Psalm 122:1
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord."

We humans are most certainly creatures of habit.  Whether we are gathered at our dining tables, weekly business meetings, and, yes, even at church, we tend to sit in the same place.  And, when we find our comfort zone, we don't want anyone interfering with our space.

Pastor Wallace tells of a time when a neighboring Methodist Church burns to the ground.  A new one is erected on the same site, and Wallace is invited to speak at the dedication.  He can't help but notice an elderly lady standing at the back of the church, counting the pews before she nods satisfactorily and strides up the aisle to the fourth pew on the right.

When he is greeting the members of the congregation at the end of the service, he can't help but ask the woman why she was counting pews.

"My family has always sat in the fourth pew from the back," she states in a no-nonsense tone.

"But," Wallace protests, "this isn't even the same church!"

"No matter," she says, "it's my pew and that's that!"

Wow!  I would not want to be the hapless visitor who dared to plunk herself down in that lady's spot!

Sadly, in another church, Wallace tells us, one woman makes that very mistake . . .

She is sitting by herself in the second pew, perusing the bulletin.

"Excuse me!"  The voice is harsh, authoritarian.

The woman turns to meet the haughty gaze of a dowager with a passel of children and grandchildren in tow.

"You'll have to move.  This is our pew!"

Maintaining her composure, the woman gathers up her purse and Bible, and departs without a word.

As it turns out, she is the wife of the visiting pastor.  The man this church is seriously considering for a permanent position.

A position this pastor will, based on this incident, turn down.

And, I'm left to ponder . . . How many visitors in how many churches have been treated this way?  Ousted instead of welcomed?  All because a pew is more important than a person?

Instead, shouldn't we be rejoicing with this newcomer who decided to enter the house of the Lord?  Gladly, make room for them?  Greet them as we would like to be greeted?

For, how will a seeker come to know the Lord Jesus and His great love for them if we don't demonstrate that love first?
~
How will you greet and treat a visitor at your church next Sunday?

Will you join me in prayer?
Grant us, Father, the grace to love others as Jesus taught us.  May we welcome the visitors always, making room for them on our pew, making room for them in our church family.  Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Comfort in the Cross

Luke 7:12-13
As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out - the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

My friend, Kelly, and her husband endure the nightmare all parents dread:  Losing a child.  Their son, Tyler, is killed in a car wreck not long after getting his driver's license.  The tragedy consumes the family with overwhelming grief.

As the slow, painful days and weeks unfold, Kelly finds comfort and solace in taking fresh flowers to the site of the crash.  She talks to Tyler.  She prays to God.  

She weeps . . .

And, she returns faithfully, week after week, to replace the wilting blooms with new ones.  In loving memory of the son she so desperately misses.

It is on one of these routine visits when Kelly gets the surprise of her life.  Where there should be a bouquet in need of removal, she sees this:


A simple, yet elegant cross standing at the spot.  An eternal reminder . . .

Kelly is dumbfounded.  Her tears flow.  Who of her friends was so thoughtful, so caring, to place a permanent memorial here for Tyler?  She has to find out!

Call after call.  E-mail after e-mail.  Friends in the neighborhood, at work, at church.  Everyone agrees the placement of the cross is a generous, loving gesture, but not a one takes credit for it.

Kelly is baffled, but finally resigns herself to the fact she may never know who did this for Tyler.  For her.  That she may never have the chance to thank this person properly.

Years have passed since the accident which claimed Tyler's life.  Kelly still has days when she feels heavy in her heart.  It is on one of these when a conversation she has with two friends from her Cross Fit training takes an unexpected turn.

"Are you going to vote early, Kelly?"  Ann asks.  Linda listens in.

"You bet!"  Kelly says.  "Voting is a freedom my family never takes for granted.  It's something my Tyler so looked forward to be able to do.  I so wish he had had the chance . . ."

Her voice trails off.  Ann knows the story.  Linda doesn't.

"Kelly, if I'm not being too intrusive here, what happened to Tyler?"

With tears welling, Kelly recounts the story of the car accident and how a day doesn't go by when she doesn't miss him.

"I still visit the site of the crash," she tells the women.  "It might sound strange, but I get such comfort kneeling before the cross someone placed there."

"Someone?"  Linda asks.  "You mean, you don't know who put it there?"

Kelly shakes her head.  "For months, I asked every friend I could think of if they were the one to do such a kind thing.  No one admitted to having done it.  I guess I'll never know who this angel is."

Linda looks at Kelly intently before posing another question.

"Kelly, where did you say this crash happened?"

"I didn't.  It was on Mars Hill Road near The Hermitage."

"Kelly!"  Linda gasps.  "I know who put the cross there!"

"You do?"  Kelly is incredulous.

"Yes!  Yes!  I know for sure!  It was my mother.  For weeks, she watched you bringing flowers there.  Saw how great your grief was.  And, she wanted to give you hope."

Now, the eyes of all three women are brimming with tears.

"And, she did, Linda," Kelly tells her, "more than anyone could ever know.  Oh, how grateful I am to finally be able to thank my angel!"

~

Have you ever given or been given an anonymous gift?

Will you pray with me?
Today, Father, we pray for all parents who have lost a child.  Surround them with Your grace, Your comfort, and Your peace.  Let them rest in the blessed assurance that one day they will be reunited with their loved one in Heaven, where Jesus will wipe away every tear.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Give Thanks to God for All He Has Done . . ."


1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner.  For most, it is a day filled with family and friends, feasting and football.  Forgotten by too many is the real reason we celebrate this holiday:  To honor and thank the Lord as a nation for all His gifts and blessings.

But, if you, like me, are a practicing Christian, we realize that giving thanks to God is not an activity confined to one day.  It is a 365, 24/7 commitment.  In all times and in all places and, as St. Paul tells us, in all circumstances.

Really?  In all circumstances?  Isn't this a bit much to ask of us?  After all, we are only human, and we go through some pretty troubling, frightening, and devastating experiences in our lives.  How are we supposed to thank God when bad things happen to us or to those we love?

I'll be the first to confess; there have been many times in my life when I found being able to thank the Lord impossible.  And, I dare say, we've all been in those deep, dark, dungeons where wallowing in sorrow or self-pity is perceived as more desirable than reaching out to God.  Or, letting Him reach out to us.

And, being thankful in the midst of our misery is the last thing on our minds.

When it should be the first . . .

If you are in a place today where giving thanks to God seems out of the question, there is a way out.  Start by remembering you are not the center of the universe.

He is.

Then, tell Him you are grateful for:

  • His love
  • His mercy
  • His forgiveness
  • His friendship
  • His sacrifice . . .
These are unsurpassed gifts the Lord has given to you and me.  Ones for which we can never thank Him enough.
~
Whatever the circumstances you find yourself in today, will you give thanks to God?

Please join me in prayer:
Create in us, Father, a loving and thankful spirit.  Help us to remember all the mighty deeds You've done for us and the blessings You have given.  May our attitudes ever be ones of gratitude.  Amen.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Can't Fill Papa's Shoes

Psalm 18:31
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, never says "never" when it comes to attempting feats which are really too much for her.
Whether it is cramming both fists full with her special rocks to transfer them from sofa to table . . .


Or, piling her shovel too high with them . . .


Or, toting an armload of unique toys kept in Papa's closet from the bedroom to the living room . . .


I worry she will stumble and fall, and forget to let the objects loose so her hands, not her head, hit the floor first.

So, it comes as no surprise to us that, when she spies Papa's heavy-duty winter boots tucked under an end table (why they are there is a long story for another time), she wants to try them on.  To say I'm just a bit concerned is the understatement of the decade.  Because, knowing Virginia, she will not be content to simply stand in them.  She will try to walk.

Her mom, Sarah, helps Virginia get into the boots and stands her on her feet.


We hover close to her as, sure enough, she begins clomping around in those over-sized giants.  The shoes are weighty, indeed, and I am amazed that Virginia can maneuver in them at all.  That she lasts as long as she does.

Finally, growing weary of the "trudgery", she plops herself down on her behind and motions for us to remove the unwieldy burdens.  Of course, we happily oblige.

Her feet set free, a relieved Virginia breaks into a run around the dining room table, stopping only long enough to gather two fistfuls of rocks, and race with them back to the couch.

Sarah turns to me and smiles.  "I think Virginia taught us something about God today."

"Really?  Do tell!"

"She can't fill her Papa's shoes, and neither can we."
~
Our God, our Lord, our Abba, our Papa . . . How many times do we try to fill the shoes which are His and His alone?

Will you pray with me?
Dearest Father, no one and nothing compares with Your majesty, wonder, and glory.  No one but You can fill Your shoes.  When the burdens of life make it hard to place one foot in front of the other, remind us to give our troubles over to You, our Comforter, our Friend, our Rock.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Time Flies

2 Peter 3:8
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

"Time Flies" is the name of the cabin where Danny and I stay on our most recent trip to the Nantahala Mountains.  It is our first visit to this particular cabin as it is almost always booked year round.  You can see from this spectacular view why this is a coveted place to vacation.


We make our reservations in June just to be sure we can have it for our November trip.  Quite a long while to wait!  Time certainly doesn't seem to fly during the summer and early fall months as we as we anticipate our visit.  But, once we arrive at the cabin, try as we might to savor and relax in the moment, time sprouts wings once again.

Nowhere is this more evident than on our first clear morning when Danny wakens me before dawn.

"The sunrise is going to be spectacular, I just know it!"  he assures me.  I don't want you to miss it!"

Groggy, and just a tad grumpy, I stumble out of the warm bed and into my robe and stocking cap.  I can see from the rime on the deck that the air is cold.  Extremely cold.

I sleepily pour a cup of coffee and join Danny outside where he already has camera in hand and tripod set to go.

At first, as I gaze at the horizon, it seems time is standing still.  The dimness of the sky remains steady.  Unchanging.


And, then . . .

Incrementally, the brightness grows.


And, grows . . .


And, grows . . .


Until the moment we long for arrives to the joyful alleluias of birdsong.


Sunrise!


One I will always remember.  One I will always treasure.

And, a gentle reminder that while time might not always fly, it definitely marches on.  We cannot stop its passing.  But, we can enjoy each day, every moment, of this life which the Lord has given to us.

Until the day when we, not time, fly away . . .

~

Are you spending your time wisely?

Please join me in prayer -
In this time You have given us here on earth, Father, let us do Your will and walk in Your ways to the honor and glory of Your name.  Teach us to appreciate every day You give to us and make the best of every moment.  Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Give It Your All!


Matthew 7:2
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Pastor Wallace recounts the story of Pastor Dave who is invited to preach an evening service at a small, country church.  Dave is more than happy to oblige, and decides to bring his young son, Timmy, with him.  The long drive, to and from, will allow ample opportunity for them to converse and share.  

They arrive at the wood-framed, whitewashed church early, just as the sun is beginning to set.  There is plenty of light remaining for them to admire the bucolic surroundings.  They gaze at the sprawling fields of stubble dotted with gigantic, barrel-shaped bales of hay.  Observe the massive oak trees which surround the church and its modest grounds.  

Dave imagines the welcome shade these giants must provide in summer's unrelenting heat.  He longs for warmth . . .

"Let's see if the door is open," Dave tells his son.  "I'm getting cold standing out here."

"Me, too!"  Timmy agrees.  His cheeks and nose have turned ruddy in the chilly air.

To their relief, the door is unlocked.  It is dark inside the church.  Pastor Dave fumbles for a switch.  Presto!  The church, now bathed in light, is quaint, yet comforting.  Welcoming.

As Dave's eyes peruse the interior, they fall upon an old-fashioned wooden box with the letters "Collections" printed on its side.

"Maybe it's for donations to help keep this building in good repair," he tells Timmy.  "Let me see what I've got."

Timmy watches his father thumb through his wallet.  He skips the $20, the $10.  Finally grips two one-dollar bills which he quickly stuffs into the slot on the top of the box.

"Howdy, Pastor!"  Dave and Timmy jump, startled by the jovial greeting.  "You sure are the early-bird, aren't you?  Planned to be here to greet you, but glad you let yourself in."

The elderly gentleman introduces himself as Joe, and shows the two around the church as the congregation begins to trickle in.

The service goes as smooth as glass.  Pastor Dave is pleased with his sermon delivery and feels confident his message has touched the gathering.

When the service is over and the people are leaving, Joe approaches Dave again.

"This is for you, Pastor," says Joe.  "Came straight from the collection box out yonder."

Dave stares in disbelief at the money Joe presses into his waiting hand.  $2.81.  $2.81???  

"And, we thank you kindly for coming out tonight."

All Dave can manage is a nod and a weak smile.  He wastes no time getting to his car with Timmy hustling at his heels.  As soon as they get in, Dave tosses the bills and coins into the glove box.  Closes it with a fierce snap.

"Unbelievable!"  he snorts in disgust.  "That's the best they could do?  And, on top of it all, those are my own two dollars!"

Timmy is quiet.  Lost in thought.  Finally, he turns to his father.

"Dad, maybe if you'd put more into it, you'd have got more out of it."
~
"And, that," Pastor Wallace concludes, "is true in the worship experience.  The more you bring of yourself, fully present and engaged, to the service, the more you will get out of it.  And, the more you can take home with you and out into this hurting world which needs the Good News of Jesus' saving love and grace.  When you worship, will you give it your all for the Almighty?"

~

How about you?  Will you give it your all the next time you worship the Lord?

Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, You deserve nothing less than our undivided attention and our hearts bowed in thanks when we worship You.  Help us to be present and mindful in our prayers and praise.  May we always give our all to You.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who's Going to Get Your Vote?

Romans 13:1
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.

It's finally here!  Election Day!  And, if you haven't voted early, as my husband, Danny, and I have, you are planning ahead for a long line and a long time at your polling precinct today.

That's just the way it is with presidential elections.  Voters who haven't darkened the door of a voting booth in four years emerge vigorously from the woodwork.  I know if I were a politician, I'd want to be running on the presidential ballot.  Who doesn't want a fantastic turn out?

And, that's exactly what will happen today.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm so ready for the hype and hoopla, the jarring and sparring, to be over and done with.  I've had it up to my eyebrows with television and radio ads, calls for campaign donations, and the never-ending stream of political opinions espoused on Facebook and Twitter.

Enough is enough, already!

Will we be watching the election returns tonight?  Hmm.  Let me see . . .

Here we are in this gorgeous cabin, 3,000 feet up in the Nantahala Mountains.


Overlooking Fontana Lake . . .


Quiet . . . peaceful . . . serene.

Away. From. Everything.

I don't think so!

That doesn't mean I won't be thinking about the election and praying for the outcome.  But, finding out who wins can wait until the morning.  After I've had my coffee.  After I've admired God's handiwork all around me.  After I have given thanks to Him.

Because, at the end of the day, now matter which candidate wins, I know that my Lord and my God has the ultimate victory.  There is no authority in heaven or on earth that He has not established.  And, I will pray to Him, "Thy will be done," trusting that He, not I, knows best.

Who gets my vote?

God does!

~

If you are a U. S. citizen and registered to vote, will you be voting today?

Will you join me in prayer?
As we cast our ballots today, Father, remind us that voting is not a right, it is a privilege.  Let us pray, "Thy will be done" in this election and in every facet of our lives.  We can rest in the promise, even in times of trial, that the final victory belongs to You and You alone.  Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

" . . . You're an Angel to Me . . ."

Luke 10: 36-37
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Amy stares in disbelief at her car's smoking engine.  The hose has cracked and all the coolant has leaked out.  Her hand trembles as she makes the call to the car repair shop near her home.  Her eyes brim with tears.

"Lord, why this?  Why, now?"

For the past year, Amy's life has been one struggle after another.  When she is laid off by her employer, she manages to string together some temporary jobs while seeking a permanent one.

But, in this economy, these are few and far between.  Every day, is a challenge for Amy to make ends meet.  To keep a roof over her head and the bills paid.  There isn't any wiggle room in her budget.

How will she manage to pay for the car's repair?

"Please, God, please help me figure out how to do this . . . please . . ."  Amy prays over and over while waiting for the tow truck to come to the rescue.

When she finally arrives home, Amy tells several of her neighbors about her car trouble.  They all tell her how badly they feel for her situation.  All show genuine empathy toward her predicament.

But, only one decides to do something about it . . .

The next day, Amy walks the short distance to Scott's Auto Center to retrieve her vehicle.  The bill is a whopping $500.  She doesn't have that much in her checking account and will have to use her charge card.  The one she is trying desperately to pay down.  And, just can't seem to make headway.

"But, if I don't have a car, I can't look for work," she sighs.  "I have to believe everything will be okay in the long run."

Amy approaches the service desk and introduces herself to the attendant.  He smiles warmly and hands her the bill.

Stamped in bold red letters at the top of the sheet, Amy reads the word "PAID".

"What???"  she cries in amazement.  "Who paid my bill?"

"Anonymous," replies the attendant, still grinning.  "It seems you have a guardian angel."

A guardian angel . . . The words repeat in Amy's head the entire drive home.  But, who?  Who is my angel?  Who could it be?

As she pulls into her driveway, Amy spies her next-door neighbor, Michelle, pruning rose bushes.  A devout Catholic . . . always doing things for her family, her friends, and even strangers . . .

In a flash, Amy sees Michelle's wings and halo.  She leaps from the car, bill in hand, and races over to where Michelle is hard at work.

"Thank you, thank you, dear Michelle!"  Amy exclaims as she waves the bill excitedly.  "How can I ever thank you enough for this?"

"For what?"  Michelle asks, looking up.  When she sees the receipt in Amy's hand, she blushes.  "They weren't supposed to tell you who paid."

"They didn't!"  Amy assures her.  "I spied you out here when I drove up, and I just knew!  You certainly didn't have to do this.  Why did you?"

Michelle looks Amy right in the eye.

"Because, my dear, I know you will pay it forward when life improves for you."
~
How have you shown mercy to a neighbor in need?

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for Your guardian angels who give us protection and show us mercy.  Let us show mercy to those in need.  May we always be willing to pay it forward when we are able.  Amen.




The Best Laid Plans

Isaiah 48:17 This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is b...