Unmasked

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16: 7b NIV

He walked into church, a trained smile upon his lips; one that never seemed to reach his eyes. No one wants to truly know what I think, he thought to himself.  People, even “good” people in church, truly prefer the mask.

Sometimes people endure struggles they think they must keep to themselves. Maybe they have confided before, and had that confidence shattered. Maybe they have bought into the lie that their unique struggle is truly theirs alone.  That no one would understand.

That no one wants to understand.

When our hearts or spirits are in a pile of shattered pieces, what should we do? Should we embrace the mask?

As we witness others in painful circumstances should we encourage, or at least allow them, to find anonymity behind the mask?

Whatever secret struggle you might be fighting today, and however firmly your mask is fastened, there is One who always sees behind the mask.  As our key verse for today reminds us, He not only sees behind the mask, but also sees directly into the heart.

And, He loves unconditionally.

Even the heart that has been reduced to a pile of jagged, painful pieces.

He sees.

He still loves.

And, He wants to help.

Will you allow yourself to be honest with Him?

Reflections:

How can I become more transparent, to dispel the wrong perception that I have it all together?

How can I become more approachable, and sensitive to help others who are hiding behind a mask?

Prayer:

 Thank You God that You are indeed the God who sees me, who knows me, and still loves me unconditionally.  Please help me to be honest with You and with myself about my struggles in this life. Thank You for always loving me, Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 11, for the next devotion.

Servant Leadership, Part I

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Zane stared aghast, his mouth gaping open.  His wife of more than a decade stood before him, confronting him with such grace, you would have thought it was a business transaction.  This, this reaction was the last response he’d expected.  Bracing himself against the door frame to their little yellow house with the picket fence, he now counted what he had chosen against.

She had caught him red-handed and red-faced.  She now knew the truth behind his ‘extra hours.’  He sure was putting in time, but spending it with whom he had no business.

Shockingly, his wife did not scream, cry, or toss him to the curb, where he probably now belonged.  No, she’s offered forgiveness. Forgiveness plain and simple.  He needed to change his ways.

In John 8, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who were maliciously launching an assault on an adulterous woman.  She too had been caught red-handed and probably red-faced.

The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus and make an example of the woman.  They quoted the law to Jesus, imagining how they could bring down this man’s popularity.  He would need to enforce the law, and to do that; he would sentence a woman to death.  Blood on his hands should quiet the crowds, still them from shouting his praises.

Jesus responded with, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus’ simple statement diffused and dispersed a deadly crowd.

But then, after all had had to leave and just the two of them remained, how did Jesus himself react to her?

Jesus was the Son of God.  He was truly without sin.  He could have cast the first stone.  And the next.  And the next…

Instead, he chose 1) to extend her grace and not give her the consequences her crime commanded.

2) He refused to judge her.

3) He commanded her to correct her behavior. “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Not the reaction the Pharisees were expecting but the reaction we should study. What would the world be like if we each extended grace, refused to judge and sought to correct behavior, beginning with our own?

Reflections:

What leadership style did Jesus exemplify here?

How could I implement His example into some of my reactions?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your guidance and wisdom.  Thank You for the example of Jesus demonstrating grace.  How easily we judge one another, yet to be Christ-like, there are times when we need to extend grace. Please help each of us to distinguish when we are in one of those moments. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, March 16, for the next post.

Rejecting the Rat Race

“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 be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41 NIV

 

Staring at the calendar, her heart sank.  Every line was filled.  She began reading. Dentist appointment. Music lesson. Work deadline. Company coming. Clean house.

Nope.

No time for Bible Study today.             

So many things to do, but only one is important: listen to Him.

She was many things: wife, mother, employee, hostess, and housekeeper to name a few. So many roles, but only is important: Child of the King.

Homework to check, cake to decorate, report to read, fresh flowers to find.  So many things to see, yet only one is important: Jesus.

How often does my quiet time, my Bible Study linger on the to-do list, unchecked? The urgent overrides the important. But I still scribble it on there. Why? Not to induce guilt when it is still staring at me at the end of the day. But to remind me of where I can find peace in harried moments. Remind me of where I can turn to “take me away” from the stress of the day.

As I anxiously review my planner at breakfast, it reminds me how to center myself.  Any task I am doing is for the glory of God.  But I don’t have to be, or do, or see anything.  I only need to be what I already am, at no accomplishment of my own: Child of the King.

And to know where to begin my day, I must fix my eyes on Him.  Mary realized the work that needed to be done.  She realized the honor and importance bestowed on her home to have Jesus as a guest. She also realized how easily one could get caught up in the inconsequential details and miss the magnificent moment. While there was work to be done, she had a great opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. To be filled with peace and wisdom. And she wisely took it.

Whether you are male or female, student or parent, or a thousand different roles, pulling you a thousand different directions.  Only one thing is important.  Take a few moments to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Reflections:

At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed, how to I define what is important?

How do I allow myself to become overwhelmed by the urgent that I often forgo the important?

Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, how easily I succumb to the demands of the day.  I squash the dreams of my heart and the yearnings of my soul, until I am overwrought and undernourished. May I recall the wisdom Mary exercised at she sat at Your feet, still and quiet, filling her soul.  May I also make the time to follow her example, on a very regular basis.  Thank you for giving me the only title I will ever need: Child of the King! Amen.

what I have to be

Mistaken Identity

“When the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord- He is God! The Lord- He is God.” I Kings 18:39

Bam! I slammed the door shut and turned on the machine. Screech.

Screech!

Screeech!

In a vain attempt to contain the chaotic chirping, I quickly exited and closed the laundry room door. Outside in the hallway a chorus caught my attention: our parakeets were loudly squawking.  They each were implementing the calling chirp they sounded when separated from one another.  Only a quick glance at the cage confirmed no one had escaped; no, they were together calling a greeting to the squawking ‘bird’ in the laundry room: the old clothes dryer.

Their mistaken identification of a friend surprised and delighted me.  I laughed at them.

But then I realized how we humans are no better than the birds!  We often mistake noises of this world for the voice of God.

In Genesis 16 Abram listened to Sarai as she patiently outlined her plan for how God would fulfill His promise of numerous descendents. Sarai was too old to bear children, so Abram should marry her servant Hagar, and Sarai and Abram would build a family through her. We don’t read of Abram praying over this.  (Do I pray over every detail when the plans appear logical?)

In Jonah 1, Jonah didn’t like his assignment. His feelings were warring inside him.  He had to get away, and get far away fast.  He allowed his voice in his head to dictate his actions, instead of listening to the voice of God.

In I Kings 18, the priests of Baal were completely confident they were worshipping and living for the right god. It was what had always been done.  It was tradition.  It was their culture. Why question it? They later learned they had listened to the wrong voice.

This world is full of noise.  The noise of a bustling workplace.  The never-ending noise of children living in our homes.  The deafening noise of feelings warring inside the head. We hear voices, noises, all the time. Who, what should we listen to?

Our dear birds have flown into the laundry room many times in search of their hidden friend.  They search and call, but unless the dryer is running, they receive no response aside from our family’s consoling words of comfort. They seem to have trouble distinguishing our broken dryer from another bird.

But for us, as God’s children, we have been given instructions on how to distinguish the noise. Next week we’ll explore the how of distinguishing the voices. This week, let’s identify what voices are vying for our attention.

 

 

Reflections:

  1. What are the predominant voices I listen to?
  2. Do I, in my expectant search for meaning, mistake the voice that answers?
  3. How easy is it for me to not question the validity of the voices?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that You promise that You note each sparrow that falls from the sky.  And yet, how much more precious am I to You than that sparrow. Thank you for Your words of true wisdom, and please help me to not only read, and understand what they mean for me, but to mull them over in my heart, and implement them in my life. Please help me learn to listen for Your voice of truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21 The Message

It was warm and sunny, wonderful day.  Much warmer than the day back home.  I stared into the lush vegetation and beautiful blooms surrounding the amusement park. Enticing scents of funnel cakes and French fries wafted through the air. Giggles erupted beside me and I refocused my attention on our three daughters who were enjoying our vacation. It was such a blessing for me to see each one enjoying the moment with her sisters.  A smile etched my face as I noted their matching Minnie Mouse Ears attached to headbands. We should be making memories to last a lifetime.

Happy music played as our queue continued inching forward. “You’re at Disney, the most magical place on earth! Feel the smile you’ve been plastering on your face,” I chided myself.

But my mind kept jumping between prayer requests. I kept recalling the pain dear ones back home were enduring. My heart went out to these wonderful people as I was privy to their current heartache, and I kept lifting them once more to God.

I boarded the ride, sliding into the seat beside my husband and settling back into the warmth of his arm.  The giggles continued in the row before us as we saw bobbing heads converge and the turn to see different displays. Soon, the repeating song of the ride was stuck in my head.

Right where God wanted it to be.

Because yes,

It’s a world of laughter and a world of tears,

It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears

There’s so much that we share

That it’s time we’re aware

It’s a small world after all.

 

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small, small, world.

 

There is just one moon

And one golden sun

And a smile means friendship to everyone

Through the mountains divide

And the oceans are wide

It’s a small world after all.

 

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small world after all

It’s a small, small world.

 

And, God’s got that small world right in His hands.

It’s great to feel empathy and compassion for others.  We are called to love others as ourselves. Yet, our compassion and concern for others and their situations should not control our lives. We can (and should) love.  We should pray. Then, we should go about the business of living the life God gave us that day. We should carry our requests and concerns to Him, and leave them at His feet.

Let go, and let God. Easier said than done. Yet we must strive for just that. As I circled that ride, I experienced a lifting of the dark cloud of concern that had hung over me. I envisioned each of those I loved and prayed for, right in God’s hand.  I envisioned the earth in His hand.  And I could finally settle into vacation mode and enjoy this precious time with my family.

Because it is a small world.  And after all, He’s got the whole world in His hands!

Small World Photo

Reflections:

Do I let my concern for others overshadow what God has for me that day?

How can I practice carrying my concerns to Him, and leaving them with Him?

Prayer: Thank You God, that You are the Heavenly Father who knows.  You see me, and You love me.  You want to take care of everything, and You want me to trust You with everything, from the tiny baby to the nation full of people at war.  Thank You, that You do indeed have our world, right in the palm of Your hand. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, January 26, for the next post.

 

Every Good Gift

878“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17(NIV)

 

Above you see a picture of my favorite Christmas present: a stuffed Olaf. It was given to me by my favorite seven-year-old in the whole, wide, world, my youngest daughter.

When I look at Olaf, I must smile. I love his character from the movie, Frozen. Olaf is always optimistic, always helpful, and always thinking of others. And my favorite line of his, “Some people are worth melting for.”  This simple snowman demonstrates sacrificial love.

Although not a general fan of stuffed animals, I had to keep a gift given by my daughter.  I cleared a special place for him to reside, prominently on my desk.  A glance at him reminds me of how greatly I am loved. He also teases a smile from a stressed frown, and reminds me to love others, and to always expect the best.

God loves to give gifts to His children. I envision Him much like my daughter was Christmas morning, bouncing around with excited anticipation, impatient for mom to open the gift from her. Sometimes His gifts are simply something to make us smile. Something to bring a burst of joy, if only for that moment, to the day. But His greatest gift of all is His Son, Jesus. Jesus shows us how to always remain optimistic or hopeful, how to always be helpful to others and ourselves, and how to always think of others. And if Jesus had a tagline? Maybe it would be, “Because you are worth dying for.” His life is the epitome of sacrificial love.

So now, we are each faced with a decision: What are we going to do with this gift? Will be sit it on a shelf, to look at upon occasion?  Will we hide it in a cupboard, or return it?

.

James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from God above, coming down from the father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (NIV)

God handpicks every gift for each of us.  And whatever it is, we can be sure, it is for our good. Because God Himself is good.  And because God loves us each immensely. That love explains why He gave us Christ.

As I opened the Olaf, I could have happily “misplaced it,” after wondering, “what should I do with this?”

Instead, I chose to embrace the gift of a character that would help me refine my attitude.  And I chose to embrace the love and joy my daughter experienced in giving Olaf to me. Just as God’s gifts reflect the immense love He has for each of us. And the gift of Christ will be the best gift for each of us ever.

Reflections

Do I recognize when God is gifting me?

Do I eagerly accept and unwrap His gifts?

What have I decided to do with Jesus, now that Christmas is over?

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, January 19, for the next post.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Please help me to identify the gifts you place before me.  Please help me to praise You and thank You for those gifts, even the ones I am uncertain of, and wish to return. When I receive a material gift from someone, please help me remember to not only thank the human giver, but to also thank You. And above all, thank You for Your son, Jesus. Because it is through Him that I can approach you, clean and blameless in Your sight. In His name, Amen.

Charged

“Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Rushing, bustling through the season, I grabbed my coffee to jazz me up as I dialed up the volume of my radio. The DJ’s announcement was so unbelievable, I stopped in my tracks. Apparently, an Internet hoax has been circulating.  Unfortunately, quite a few people have actually believed it.

If you need your cell phone charged in a hurry- microwave it.

Hmmm. We all think we have precious little time.  We are all looking for that quick solution.  We want to believe there’s a faster way than sitting the phone on the charger and leaving it there for an hour.

But, microwaving it just won’t do the trick.

It will cook your phone, and who knows what it will do to your microwave!

Do we ever do that with our faith?

Now there is so much to do:  The presents to buy, then wrap.  The food to purchase, then prepare.

The party to plan, then host.

The service to schedule, then attend.

The list goes on and on.  Things will quiet down in January, we console ourselves.

But then if your January is anything like mine, that quiet will explode into a fantastic frenzy about five days in.

Are you looking for that ‘quick fix’ to faith?  Are you trying to microwave your relationship with God?  You want charged, but you don’t want to take the time to get plugged in to His word. To be still, and know He is God.

December is often a busy month for Christians.  But then, so will be January.

And February.

And March.

You get the picture. Each season has its own schedule, but they all seem to keep the same pace: frantically frenzied.  If we wait to slow down before we spend time with God,  the Enemy will just keep us busy.  We must be intentional in our pursuit of Him, just as He is with us.

Christmas is not just celebrating the birth of Jesus, Son of God.  It is also celebrating God’s love for humanity collectively, and for each human personally.  It is recognizing the why of Jesus’ birth.

God loves us so much that He sent His perfect, sinless Son, to pay the ultimate price for us: humans who do not often see our need for a Savior.  He did not wait until we realized it, He authored the plan before sin entered the world.  He loves us that much.

If He loves us that much, we really ought to get intentional about our relationship with Him.  Spend more time with Him.  Stop trying to “microwave” our faith.

Reflections:

  1.       What triggers me to ‘put God off until tomorrow?’
  2.       In the midst of all my preparations, is my heart preparing to listen to God?
  3.       Do I ever tell myself, “I’ll get more spiritual when I have more time?” How has that worked out?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, how easily I can place You on hold, indefinitely. Please help me to be intentional today, and everyday, about making time for You. Thank You for pursuing me with and endless, boundless love.  Thank You for the birth and death of Jesus. It’s only through Him that I can approach You. Amen.

Please watch Downhere’s video “How Many Kings”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9HodA8jUCk[/embed]

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! As always, I am so happy to hear from you, the reader.  If you have any questions or would like to explore Christianity further, please ask.  You may either reply to this post, or feel free to use my email indicated in the contact section.  Anything sent through email will not appear on this site. Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, January 5, for the next post.

Simple Shepherds, Intelligent Actions

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion during the time of testing in the wilderness.'” Hebrews 3:7-8

Are you overwhelmed with how to fit in the time for spiritual activities? Maybe you are a mom with a new baby.  Maybe you are a student facing finals and looming deadlines.

Even when our lives are filled to overflowing with demands, God understands.  He is often the One who gave us these schedules!

In Luke 2:8 we read of shepherds, living out in the fields keeping watch at night.  The shepherds had a job that was also constantly demanding. They must consistently care for the sheep and forever watch their flock for intruders. They must protect them from harm and prevent each from wandering off and becoming lost.

They were diligently doing their job that night God wanted to communicate something very big to them.  So, while they were going about daily life fulfilling their obligations, He met them right where they were.

After they received the wonderful message from the angels and witnessed the wonder of a sky-wide chorus of praising angels, the shepherds revealed their hearts through their next choice of action:  each left his work in search of his Savior.

When God spoke to them, they were ready to listen.  Ready to set aside any other preoccupation, all other responsibilities. They dropped everything.

Then, after they had seen the Savior and reported the miraculous events to Mary and Joseph, they returned back to their jobs. But they returned as changed men. Each allowed the experience to settle over him and penetrate his heart, prompting praises from his lips as he returned to work.

What can these shepherds teach us?

1) They went about daily life, taking their jobs seriously, doing what needed to be done.

2) When God spoke, they noticed and listened.  They did not take their jobs so seriously that they did not have time for a divine interruption.

3) They were ready to move, even from very important responsibilities, when God requested it.

4) They allowed Him to teach and to change them.  When each returned to work, he was a changed man, and not afraid to express it.

5) Although he was changed, he “did not become so spiritually focused that he was no earthly good.” He returned to his tasks but did it while praising God.

God can and does still reach really busy people; we just need to be willing to be interrupted.

 

Reflections:

What have I learned from the shepherds?

On which of these points do I need to work?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for authoring work for me today. And, Thank You for still interrupting my moments today. While there will always be physical needs to tend on this earth, I must allow myself to be interrupted for divine instruction.  Please teach me to discern when I must stop the work You have given me so I can learn more about You. Amen.

Thanks for reading!  Please return next Monday, December 22, for the next post.

I Just Didn’t Know

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105, NIV

Caught up in conversation with my two daughters in the backseat, my teachable moment fizzled as I spied flashing lights in the rearview mirror.

A few moments later the polite policeman asked if I had any idea how fast I was going.

Nope.

Did I know the speed limit on that stretch of highway?

No idea.

He astutely pointed out, I just didn’t know.

In Genesis 20, we read of King Abimelek, a man who fell victim to a scheming prophet.  King Abimelek gazed a pretty foreign woman, Sarah, and appreciated her great beauty. Upon inquiry, he learned she was traveling with her brother Abraham.  So the King treated both Sarah and Abraham well, bestowing upon them many great gifts. Then, King Abimelek sent for Sarah and took her as his wife.

God intervened, communicating with Abimelek in a dream and saving him from sin.  Because Sarah was not just traveling with her brother, but her husband as well.

Verse three of this chapter tells us, regardless of our knowledge, or lack thereof, wrong is still wrong whether we possess a clear conscious or not.

And, although God is gracious, we are held accountable for our actions.

“I didn’t know” is not an acceptable excuse.  Not for a King claiming a married woman as his wife, nor an excitable mom flying down the highway.  There are consequences for our actions and we can be certain God sees us every time.  And He will pull us over!

Reflections:

1) Do I mentally excuse myself from consequences because I had no idea?

2) Is it acceptable, excusable, to break the laws of the country when I didn’t know that law? Is it excusable to break God’s laws when I didn’t know His laws?

3) Spending time in His word is one of the best methods for learning God’s laws.  How can I regularly carve time out with my Bible?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for placing me here, in this time and place.  Here, I have Your complete Word.  I have the education so I am able to read Your word.  I have access to it in my native tongue.  You have blessed me with all those resources plus the ability to own my own personal copy of Your word.  Please help me keep my focus on Your word and not become distracted in my time in it. You gave me these laws to protect me from harm,  heartbreak, and from certain death. Please nudge me, reminding me in the midst of my busy days to stop, take time and rest in Your great wisdom and love, and to focus on Your law.  Thank you for loving me so much! Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by next Monday, December 1, for the next post.

Wanting Wisdom, Part II

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. “ I John 4:18-19

Staring at my planner, the book I live out of, I dipped my head and breathed a prayer, “Lord, please show me how to fit in everything You have called me to.”

The list was long and my patience nonexistent.

I began questioning what I thought had been a calling, and then questioning what I knew had been another calling. My problem: I was trying to make too much happen at once. Everyday I asked the Lord to show me when I was to accomplish these different callings. I truly believed He would show me when and where to perform each item and to succeed in that area.

As I pondered and prayed I focused on the action words in my prayer: perform and succeed.

Was an unconscious search for significance culminating in a desire to perform, even in ministry, to become “successful?”

I didn’t want to entertain that thought, which I have learned probably means I should.

I prayed yet again, this time changing the prayer, “Lord, please show me whatever You have for me today, and if You are calling me to ‘just’ be a wife and mother today, please help me to be the very best wife and mother my family needs. Lord, whatever I do I want to do it to Your glory, and be successful for You.”

“You are my daughter first.” The words were imprinted on my mind.

God doesn’t call any one of us to accomplish great things so He can love us more, just as a loving parent doesn’t push her child into any opportunity so she can have bragging rights. God loves us for who we are in Him.  He loves us because He created us.  His love does not hinge on our actions, thoughts, or even attitude. It does not strengthen with our success. It does not increase with our perceived importance. His love doesn’t diminish with each mistake or misstep.

The only thing that should be written in my daily planner is to simply love and glorify God. Some days, I might have an opportunity to accomplish that with a spoken word.  Some days, it might be accomplished through a published word.  And some days, it might simply be through an off-key song sung in the privacy of my own home. The point is- there is an audience of one, and only one.  And He does not demand an award winning performance.

He wants me to be the person He created, with time to spend with Him and words left at the end of the day to praise Him, and pray to Him. He doesn’t just want my hurried incomplete thoughts as I’m rushing from checked off item to the next on the list.

I’m His daughter first.  That simple thought put everything back into perspective. Now if I can keep that front and center, I should know true success.

Reflections:

How do you feel when you consider God only wants you to live as His child?

Are you searching for significance in the space on earth?

Define who you are. Begin with, I am God’s child.  How does that change your perspective?

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving me without any strings attached.  Your word says you chose me and you love me.  You love me not for anything I do or say, but just because you chose me.  All I ever need to be is your child.  In a world that demands performance and perfection, please remind me of your great love, and from where it comes. Amen.

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, November 3 for the next post!