Day Thirty-Three: God’s Track Record with Me

READ: 2 Samuel 7:18, 20-23, 28-29

 

(18, 20-21) King David went in, took his place before God, and prayed: “Who am I, My Master God, and what is my family, that you have brought to me this place in life?…What can I possibly say in the face of all this?  You know me, Master God, just as I am.  You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are – out of your very heart! – but you’ve let me in on it.

(22-23) “This is what makes you so great, Master God!  There is none like you, no God but you, nothing to compare with what we’ve heard with our own ears.  And who is like your people, like Israel, a nation unique in the earth, whom God set out to redeem for himself (and became most famous for it), performing great and fearsome acts, throwing out nations and their gods left and right as you saved your people from Egypt?…

(28-29) “And now, Master God, being the God you are, speaking sure words as you do, and having just said this wonderful thing to me, please, just one more thing:  Bless my family; keep your eye on them always.  You’ve already as much as said that you would, Master God!  Oh, may your blessing be on my family permanently!”

 

THINK:  Read the passage even more slowly and deliberately, considering every word.  Listen for the line that resonates with you and read it again after you finish the passage.  Pause.  Consider any of the following issues, letting God nudge you.

 (1) In what ways has God changed you that you can be grateful for?

(2) What has God brought you out of?

(3) How has God been heroic regarding you (“performing great and fearsome acts, throwing out nations and their gods left and right”?)

(4) What would you like to ask God for regarding the future?

 

I don’t know if I would immediately use the word “changed” so much as I would use “changing” because I can tell that God is changing me.  And not just me, but my husband and kids too.  Amazing, isn’t it, how being in the middle of a crisis in which your hands are tied, that you find you have to let God do all the heavy lifting, while you do all the kneeling and praying?!  I also find it personally fascinating how I can keep falling back into old habits of wanting to take care of everything myself when I know that God’s plan has to be better for me than mine.

 

God has brought me out of many things over the course of my life.  And though he has delayed in bringing me out of my current uncomfortable situation, I know that my deliverance is coming.  I don’t know when it will be, but I do know that it is guaranteed, even if that means the Jesus has returned. 

 

There have been plenty of great and fearsome acts performed on my behalf over the course of this ordeal, I am sure, but I don’t think that I will ever know – this side of Heaven – what they all are.  I don’t need to see all that God is doing just to know that He has been working.  He is always working.  But, when I get to Heaven, I would like to ask God for the chance to see just how this ordeal we’ve been going through has helped others. 

 

There are many things that I would like to ask God for regarding the future, but aside from releasing my husband so that he can come home to his family, I don’t know where to start.   So many things hinge on his being home that it’s hard to even know what to ask for.

 

PRAY:  Pray through the above passage, innovating and personalizing your prayer according to the questions in the Think section.

 

LIVE:  Give this a try:  Consider the line from the passage that caught your attention and put it into a tune from a song you already know (or make a tune up, if you wish).  Sing that line and then sit in the quiet.  Sing it again and sit in the quiet.  Sing it one more and sit in the quiet.

 

I don’t know how many of you that read this actually do the activities laid out in this book.  But this one would be neat to do.  God inhabits the praises of his people, so just imagine how much closer to him you could draw if you were willing to drop your guard, your defenses and worship God the way He deserves.

 

In order to pray effectively, you have to be willing to drop that guard too.  It takes guts to ask God for things most people don’t want, or don’t think or know they want.  You are entering into brand new territory when you do that (new territory for you, but not to God).  So take a chance.  Pray the Prayer of Jabez and ask God to bless you so that you can be a blessing to others.  And then, go be a blessing to people who really need it.  Then, be willing to hold up your end of the bargain.

 

On a more personal note:  The line in this passage that really stuck out to me was:

 

“You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are – out of your very heart! – but you’ve let me in on it.”

 

When our ordeal started, I was mad about the accusation that was made against my husband.  We had taken this person into our home, poured out our hearts and did everything we could to make this individual welcome and safe.  Then, we were betrayed.  My mother suggested that maybe God was wanting to do a work in this person’s life, and all I could think was:

 Did it have to be at our expense? 

Her response to that was:  Is He working at your expense or is He working through you?

My response:  “Well, it feels like it’s at our expense since we are the ones suffering. 

I don’t know what the other individual was going through at the time.  I do have a pretty good guess, but a guess is all it is, and mostly likely that’s all it ever will be.  And that’s fine. 

 

But as our situation goes on, I can’t help but wonder what it is God is doing that He’s not ready to let us see yet.  I know He has a plan and that He is working on it even as I write this.  My nearly insatiable curiosity prompts me to ask Him everyday for a glimpse into what He is doing so that I can “really know” that there is a point behind all of this.  Then, my faith reminds me that I don’t need to see what God is doing to know that He is doing something and that it will be for my good, for my husband’s good, for the good of our children, and their children, and everyone we come into contact with from here on out.  But…you know, I still want to know.  I still want to see.  But…if I did see, I know what I would do.  I would try to get my hands all over whatever it is He is doing.  I would try to rationalize and call it helping, but really it would be trying to exercise some control over the situation, and likely, in the hope that people would praise me for what I’d done.  I am convinced that is why God has let most of my grandiose plans fizzle before they ever really have a chance to get off the ground.  He intends to get ALL the glory for ALL the good that comes out of this situation, and He wants me to know that and come to terms with it. 

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Day Thirty-Two: Pain, Disappointment, and Heartbreak

READ:  2 Samuel 1:24-27

 

(24-25) Women of Israel, weep for Saul.

              He dressed you in the finest cottons and silks,

              spared no expense in making you elegant.

     The mighty warriors–fallen, fallen

              in the middle of the fight!

              Jonathan–struck down on your hills!

(26) O my dear brother Jonathan,

              I’m crushed by your death.

        Your friendship was a miracle-wonder,

              love far exceeding anything I’ve known–

              or ever hope to know

(27) The mighty warriors–fallen, fallen.

              And the arms of war broken to bits.

 

THINK:  Sometimes pain and suffering are the central emotions of our hearts.  We cannot avoid pain and suffering, but we can control how we respond to them.  David’s reaction is to be honest and open about the pain rather than avoid it or pretend it wasn’t there.

               What is your response to the heartbreak?  Do you think David’s response is healthy?  Why or why not?  What thoughts and feelings go through you as David’s honors the evil king in death?

 

My response to heartbreak is to question my worth.  I wonder if God just didn’t love me enough to answer my prayer the way I wanted is answered.  Did I do enough?  Was I good enough?  Did I behave well enough?  Those are the thoughts that run through my head.  I’ve been advised by several people:  “Tell God what ‘s wrong.  He already knows anyway.  He’s big enough to take it.”  That’s wonderful advice, but if it doesn’t change the situation, sometimes it feels more like God’s not really paying attention. 

 

PRAY:  Think of the pain and heartbreak you have experienced in your lifetime.  Maybe that pain is a current reality.  Though doing so may be difficult, spend time expressing your pain in a lament to God.  See him alternatively listening to you and reaching out to comfort you.  What does it feel like to be comforted?

 

Sadly, I do have some current pain.  In the sense of:  I do not really want to be in the middle of the situation I am in.  It is uncomfortable for me and I don’t want to mess with this anymore.   But God has heard my prayers of lament and He has shown up and blessed me, just right when I needed it most. 

 

LIVE:  Live knowing that God is loving enough to listen to you and big enough to care for you in your pain.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for anybody reading this right now, who feels like they might never be good enough, or like they might not ever be able to obey enough or do enough for you to love them.  I pray that you would send people to them that would show them that while those things are true, they are not the end of the story.  The story continues with the coming of Jesus, and his death, burial and resurrection, so that we might be able to have a way to come back to you.  Because, the truth is, we can’t ever be good enough.  If even one person could be good enough, or behave enough, to get to Heaven, then everyone would have the ability to do so, and we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.  But we do need Jesus.  And we aren’t good enough.  But the best part about that is:  We don’t have to wonder about what it takes to get to Heaven because it isn’t based on our own merit.  Help whoever may be reading this and wondering about their position with you to really see these words and let them sink in.  Help them to experience the freedom that this kind of life can bring, even when it is hard.  And then, grant them the courage to take that next step of faith, and trust You, to take you at your word and do whatever it is you are asking them to do.  

I ask these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

Day Thirty-One: Honoring and Valuing Others

READ:  1 Samuel 26:7-11

(7) So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was–Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his speak stuck in the ground hear his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.

(8) Abishai said, “This is the moment!  God has put your enemy in your grasp.  Let me nail him to the ground with his spear.  One hit will do it, believe me; I won’t need a second!”

(9) But David said to Abishai, “Don’t you dare hurt him!  Who could lay a hand on God’s anointed and even think of getting away with it?”

(10-11) He went on, “As God lives, either God will strike him, or his time will come and he’ll die in bed, or he’ll fall in battle, but God forbid that I should lay a finger on God’s anointed.  Now, grab the spear at his head and the water jug and let’s get out of here.”

THINK:  Earlier in 1 Samuel, God anointed David to be the future king of Israel, even though Saul was still on the throne.  This man, overcome with cruelty, jealousy, evil, and insecurity, then repeatedly attempted to take David’s life.  For many years, David hid from Saul’s army.

          One night, David and Abishai sneak into Saul’s camp, and there Abishai notices the perfect opportunity to kill Saul.  But David refuses.  David is so certain of God’s sovereignty that he refuses to kill Saul.

          We all have enemies, big or small, and desire for them to come to ruin.  Yet ponder the interchange between Saul and David in verses 21-24.

PRAY:  Think of the people you consider your enemies.  Pray for them and ask God to help you honor them, even though doing so may seem impossible.

LIVE:  Seek out intentional opportunities to honor those who dishonor you and to value the lives of those who do not value you.

At this time in my life, I believe I am fortunate to be able to say that there is nobody that I hate.  I have had a hard time dealing with people who have made false accusations against us.  I have had a hard time dealing with the people who did not really defend my husband.  But, I cannot say that I hate them.  I do not wish ill upon them.  I do not hope that Jesus comes back before any of them should become saved (if they aren’t already).  I do not even really wish for a retrial.  For as much as I want vindication, I do not really want it as someone else’s expense, even though they didn’t mind getting their false vindication at our expense.   But…that has not always been the case in my life.  There have been plenty of times when I have wanted the person who hurt me to pay for what they did to me.  But all that ever did for me was keep me in bondage to the person who hurt me and to the event that happened.  What it did was kept me from living a life of freedom that God calls His children to live. 

I wish I could say that everyone I knew was sitting in this same boat with me and that there weren’t people in my life who felt the same way I do, but that would be foolish.  There are plenty of people who would take up our cause for us, and seek out the people responsible for our current situation.  I know because they’ve told us that they are merely waiting for the word “GO.”  That word, I assure them all, will not come from us.  No good purpose is going to be served by our seeking revenge.  Vengeance belongs to the Lord.  So, regardless of how badly I’ve been hurt, I have to believe that God knows what He’s doing better than me, and that He has an ultimate plan for this thing in our lives.  This plan, I am convinced, is one that will, if at all possible, end up with all possible parties being reconciled back to Himself.  Sometimes that means He has to bend us.  Sometimes that means He has to break us.  Sometimes he just breaks off a shard and glues it back into place.  Sometimes, He throws down the whole jar and so that He can be the one to put all the pieces back together.  BUT, He always puts everything back together and, when He’s done, the piece is stronger than it was before.  And I know that, if I try to handle things, this will not be the base. 

I don’t always understand.  In fact, I think I don’t even understand 1/4 of the time.  But, the longer I walk this path, the more I realize that I don’t have to understand it.  I don’t have to explain it.  I just have to walk it.  And keep walking.  And keep walking, until He takes me home.

Day Thirty: And God Help You!

READ:  1 Samuel 17:31-40

(31) The thing David was saying were picked up and reported to Saul.  Saul sent for him.

(32) “Master,” said David, “don’t give up hope.  I’m ready to go and fight this Philistine.”

(33) Saul answered David, “You can’t go and fight this Philistine.  You’re too young and inexperienced–and he’s been at this fighting business since before you were born.”

(34-37) David said, “I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father.  Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I’d go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb.  If it turned on me, I’d grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it.  Lion or bear, it made no difference–I killed it.  And I’ll do the same to this Philistine pig who is taunting the troops of God-Alive.  God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.

          Saul said, “Go.  And God help you!”

(38-39) Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor.  He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor.  David tried to walk but he could hardly budge.

          David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me.  I’m not used to this.”  And he took it all off.

(40) Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.

THINK:  What one particular event, character, or feature of the story stands out to you?  Take time to concentrate on that.  Are you drawn to David’s courage?  Are you repulsed by Saul’s disbelieving “God help you”?  Maybe you’re surprised when David rejects Saul’s armor.  Consider what your own reaction would be, and then consider how the characters in the story reacted.  As you meditate, allow God to show you more about yourself, him, and the way life is.

Of course, David’s courage intrigues me.  But to be honest, what stands out to me in this passage is what he tells Saul.  “I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I’d go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb.  If it turned on me, I’d grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it.”  Not many weeks ago, our newest Pastor – Mr. Ryan Cox – gave a sermon on James and referenced the part of David’s life he spent as a shepherd.  He was “just” a shepherd.  So unimportant in the ways of the world that when Samuel went looking for a man to replace Saul – who had fallen out of favor with God – David’s father, Jesse, didn’t even bother to call him from the field.  He was the youngest of 8 and only tended sheep.  But, from this passage, we can tell that “only tending sheep” had served him pretty well. 

Many times, I overlook what I’ve been through, thinking that it’s “just” me.  If I can do it, then anybody can; so, what’s the big deal.  But, I’m coming to realize that the things I’ve gone through have prepared me for my life so far, and they will continue to do so for the rest of my life, if I learn the lessons available at each stage. 

I’ve always been surprised that David rejected Saul’s armor.  Why on earth would anybody do that?  But, mostly that reaction stems from the fact that I have always tried to hedge my bets and make my life as safe as I possibly can.  Why…when you have a perfectly good set of armor, would you walk out onto a battlefield without it, to fight a person – a giant – who has slain every soldier that has ever come up against him.  What I’m learning about God, the longer I walk with Him, is that there is NO ROOM for a Plan B.  God’s way is the plan.  Period.  He is THE WAY.  Putting on a suit of armor in order to satisfy some “just in case” notion is the same as telling God, “Yes, I know you SAY you’ve got this, but I think I should help you out some.”  What arrogance!  What pride!  To think that God has so little control over a situation He placed us in that He would need us to help Him.  And if we needed to help him, would He be a God worth worshipping?  Couldn’t we just find someone strong enough to help us if we couldn’t do it ourselves? 

PRAY/LIVE:  Priest and author Henri Nouwen wrote, “Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from [the] waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, ‘It’s me.  Don’t be afraid.’…Look at him and say, ‘Lord, have mercy.’  Say it again and again, not anxiously but with confidence that he is very close to you and will put your soul to rest.”  (To read the rest of the story, see John 6:16-21)

          What do you feel anxious about, if anything?  What might happen if you shifted your attention” away from [the] waves” and “to the One who walks on them”?  What concrete thing could you do to help redirect your attention?

Admittedly, at this point in my life, I feel like I have plenty that I could be anxious about.  Oftentimes, I am, or rather, I have been.  FREQUENTLY.  At times, I have given in to the helplessness that threatens to overtake me, and I have spent the day (or two) whining in my bed about how much I can’t stand the way things have gone for me, for my husband, and for our children.  But…God has been faithful.  We are not just making it.  Given the circumstances, we are thriving.  It’s hard to make sense of it.  It’s hard to believe the words coming out of my mouth even as I tell people that we really are fine, that we are making it.  But that’s the truth.  God has not left our sides.  He has led us through this and we are finally to a point where none of us feels like this thing is going to define our lives.  Change them?  Yes, absolutely.  Change us?  How could it not?  But, define us?  No.  Defeat us?  Absolutely not.  So, when I’m done whining, I remind myself that I have been through hard times before (none harder than this), and I made it through, and had plenty of strength and faith to draw off of for later hard times.   I am convinced that this time will be no different.  But, this time, it won’t be because I have gritted my teeth and just endured.  It will be because I have put my faith in the One who has been leading us through this ordeal and who will continue to see us through to the end.

Day Twenty-Nine: Is God Enough?

READ:  1 SAMUEL 8:1, 3-7, 9-10, 19-22

 

(1, 3) When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel…. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get up for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.

(4-5) Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah.  They presented their case:  “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps.  Here’s what we want you to do:  Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”

(6)When Samuel heard their demand–“Give us a king to rule!”–he was crushed.  How awful!  Samuel prayed to God.

(7, 9) God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking.  They are not rejecting you.  They’ve rejected me as their King….So let them have their own way.  But warn them of what they’re in for.  Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”

(10) So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king….

(19-20) But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel.  “No!” they said.  “We will have a king to rule us!  Then we’ll be just like all the other nations.  Out king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles!”

(21-22) Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God.  God told Samuel, “Do what they say.  Make them a king.”

Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel:  “Go home, each of you to your own city.”

 

THINK:  The Israelites wanted God, but they were afraid they’d miss out if they didn’t have a king like the other nations.  They wanted to fit in with the other nations by having a king lead them and fight their battles for them.  Read the passage again, this time deeply feeling the determination of the Israelites and the disappointment of Samuel.

(1) Who do you resemble most?  (a) Samuel – being confronted by people asking him to make changes he believes are wrong, or (b) the Israelites – wanting him to be like others?

(2) If you chose a, converse with God about this as Samuel did:  What would you like to say to God regarding these demands?  If b, how would you finish this sentence:  I want to be like ____________.  If you continue wanting to be like a certain person, how might it cheat you out of what God wants for you?

(3) What would your life look if you trusted God to give you what you need, regardless of how odd that may seem when compared to other people’s lives?

 

Personally, I have wanted to be more like Samuel but, in practice, I have behaved more like the Israelites. Many times, I’ve said that I wanted to be distinct, to have the kind of faith life that screams “I trust God more than I care what others think.”  But the reality is: as soon as it starts to look like my life be heading in an unfamiliar direction, I get a little scared when my life starts to take a trajectory that I can’t figure out, or if I can’t make sense of it for myself or others.  I have wanted a life that I was different, but I’ve also wanted to be able to understand it AND explain it to others.  The longer I live, the more I am being shown that those two things are rarely going to coincide!  I am trying to be okay with that!

 

I don’t know what my life would look like if it were someone else’s.  I don’t know what I’d be cheating myself out of either.  The problem is: I can be a little short-sighted when it comes to things like that.  I have a hard time being eternally minded.  I make plans for eternity, certainly.  However, I can’t imagine what I would be missing out on.  That being said, I know that there are many things in my life that I would be missing had my life gone the way that I thought I wanted it to when I was younger, before I realized that sometimes it can be painful to follow God (like when you pray and pray for something and the answer is “no”). 

 

As for what my life would look like if I trusted God to give me what I need:  well, pretty much like it does now.  I’ve been put in the position of not being able to do anything about the position I’m in.  We were obedient to God, and it got us into a position that is unlike anything I’ve ever been in before, and the only thing I have to operate on is faith.  The only other alternative is to take matters into my own hands and grab back control of my life from God.  But I’ve gone too far down this road of faith.  I know where it leads, eventually.  I know that this is the only path of true reward.  So uncomfortable or not, I’m gonna keep walking this path.  I will come out on the other side.  I know that God did not lead my into the desert to let me die out here.  He just doesn’t do that!

 

PRAY:  Be honest with God about any frustration of wanting to be like others or frustration with those who do.  Ask God to show you the advantages of trusting him more with these things.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, I know you hear the prayers of those who pray to you believing that you are God.  I know that I was praying to that same God when I asked you to spare me from the spot I’m in now.  And I know that you heard me, even though you did not grant my request.  I also know that you are faithful to deliver those who love you and are obedient to you.  Help me to remember this when I am tempted to complain that my life doesn’t look like what I thought it would, or like everyone else’s.  You have chosen this path for me, and me for this path.  Help me to walk it with grace and dignity and integrity, trusting you for every step, every decision.  Help me to remember that anxiety and worry and confusion are tools used by Satan to try to derail me from this path, to entice me to step away from your will and pursue my own path, my own way, my own will.  I pray that when I am feeling anxious, I would remember that you did not put that feeling there, that you did not lead me this far to leave me to figure the rest of it out myself.  Help me to remember when I am worried that you are not taken by surprise by anything that I am confronting or am about to.  When I am confused and striving to figure things out for myself, help me to remember that you are not a God of confusion, but of perfect order, and that all things work together for the good of those that love you and are called according to Your Will.  And help me to remember that, even though it is painful, I am smack dab in the middle of Your Will because I was obedient, and the only way to get through this is to continue being obedient.

 

LIVE:  While you sit in a quiet place, practice feeling okay being different from other people.  If you can, view that difference as special or chosen.  Relax with a sense of God’s hand on you.

Day Twenty-Eight: Reflections from Week 4

This has been quite a week.

 

I fell behind in my work on the devotional, which had me feeling rather guilty.  But just guilty.  I know I could’ve picked it up and just kept going, but I wanted to keep a system.  Sometimes, being so particular gets in the way of being obedient.  I need to learn to overcome.  As I tell my friend, Cristina, “there’s ideal, and then, there’s what you’ve got.”  Of course, ideally, I would’ve just stayed in my room and worked on my devotional before I started my day.  When the week started, I could’ve caught up.  But playing catch up usually leads to feelings of condemnation or it makes me rush through what I’m doing and I don’t really get much out of the time I spend.  Besides, God deserves better from me than just my obligatory “gotta get this done” attitude.

 

Then, there’s the news of Robin Williams’ suicide.  I didn’t know the man but, like many people, I grew up watching his stuff and having his comedy reach into my home.  But suicide is one of those things that just breaks my heart.  When I was in the. Navy,we had GMTs (general military training) every month.  One of the first ones I ever conducted was on suicide prevention.  My life has been largely untouched by suicide, though I do know someone who attempted to take her life once.  It was definitely a cry for help.  And shortly thereafter, she started getting help.  She had all kinds of demon as to deal with and, hopefully, she is still dealing with getting those demons under control.

 

But what about Robin?  I don’t know.  I have watched the news.  I’ve read the statement his wife put out.  But those words don’t sum up the man.  How could they?  They aren’t his.  Working on my Master’s in Christian Counseling, I would love to have had the chance to talk with him and see what he was dealing with and how he was dealing with it.  But mostly, I would’ve loved the chance just to get to know him and let him tell me his story in such a way that he KNEW he had been heard and really understood.  Did he have that?  Was there anybody who was there for him in that capacity?  I sincerely pray there was.  And I sincerely pray he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

But today is supposed to be my time for reflecting on this week.  So, what does the suicide of a man I’ve never met and likely never would’ve, have to do,with me?  Well, folks, we are all connected.  Apathy on the part of one affects the whole.  We’ve all heard the catch phrase “Random Acts of Kindness.”  This week, I had a chance to do something I do everyday.  Not really so random.  However, the response I got shocked me.  A young man waiting on me at local.pizza place asked me how I was doing.  I answered, with a smile, and asked him the same question in return.  I do this all the time.  But, this guy was surprised that I was returning his kindness.  It made me wonder if I was the first or only person all day to return that kindness.  Why is that?  What has happened to common courtesy?  Or manners?  Or etiquette?  Why should people be surprised when some one holds a door for them?  Or returns a smile or a kind word?  What have we become that we are so self-centered or self-absorbed or busy or jaded to be polite?  To be kind?  To smile?

 

So…here’s a challenge!  To borrow from one of Robin Williams’ movies, Patch Adams, find someone you see everyday, someone who maybe seems to be having a hard time of things, and smile at them.  Every time you see them.  Whether you get the smile back or not.  See what happens!

 

Countless stories have been told by people who did not  commit suicide be cause, they said, someone was nice to them the day they were contemplating committing suicide.  Because someone asked them how they were.  Because someone smiled at them.  You never know if you might be the difference in that person’s life that day!

 

How about this:  spend the entire week just doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  See how it works.  See how you feel after a week.

Day Twenty-Seven: Deciphering God’s Word

READ:  1 Samuel 3:8-10

(8-9) God called again, “Samuel!”–the third time!  Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes?  I heard you call me.  Here I am.”

          That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy.  So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down.  If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God.  I’m your servant, ready to listen.'”  Samuel returned to his bed.

(10) Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel, Samuel!”

          Samuel answered, “Speak.  I’m your servant, ready to listen.”

 

THINK:  At the beginning of 1 Samuel, Hannah wanted to give birth to a son, but she was barren.  She prayed earnestly, crying out to the Lord.  God heard her prayer, and she gave birth to Samuel.  She dedicated him to the temple, where he ministered under Eli the priest.  Scholars believe Samuel was a teenager when the events of this passage occurred.

          Does hearing God so clearly seem possible?  How do you decipher between his voice and the other voices in your life?  Samuel needed Eli’s guidance for this.  What people around you could help you discern when God is trying to communicate with you and what he’s saying?

 

 Satan condemns ushttp://proverbs31.org/pins/20140709_Renee.pdf

 

This is basically how I’ve felt all week.  Why?  Well, I’m a week behind on this blog.  The truth is:  I’m only behind on the blog because I’m behind on my devotional.  And I’m behind on my devotional because I’ve not been making it a priority since I’ve been home like I was when I was away and was leaving the television off.  I’ve been getting up in the morning, coming out to watch the news with my morning cup(s) of coffee, while checking Facebook & Pinterest on my iPad, until I get hungry.  Then, I eat, and find something to do.  Since my classes start next, I’ve been loafing this week, trying to avoid unpacking my junk from a summer of house-sitting.  (Oh!  How I hate to put laundry away!). It’s amazing & annoying to me just how easy it is to get distracted with day-to-day recounting stuff at home.  I was not bothered by these things while I was away.  But, I had also made up my mind to leave the television off & devote my spare time to God while I was away.  I came back from those classes so refreshed.  Since I’ve been back from class, I’ve not felt that refreshed.  Obviously, there is a correlation.   And this is why the above picture spoke to me!  Once I’ve gotten behind, it’s just too easy to stop because Satan is good at trying to subvert or derail anything I’m doing that could potentially bring glory to God or benefit my relationship with him or others.

 

PRAY:  Often the most effective way to hear God’s voice is to still our minds and quiet our hearts for a considerate amount of time.  Set aside twenty minutes in a quiet place and make yourself comfortable.  Invite God to communicate with you.  Don’t read or pray.  Just listen and be, brining your mind back if it wanders.

 

This week, I’ve not been very diligent to take this time,  but I’ve had plenty of times of being in the car undisturbed, and I find that God speaks to me when I’m on the road, in the car, by myself.  The prevailing message I’ve been hearing this week has been:  you’ve not been spending time with me.  You’re worrying about things and getting anxious. Things have happened this week that have had my stomach in knots, things that I have allowed to rob me of peace and joy.  And things that have made me want to go into self-protective mode and wrench control of my life back out of God’s hands.  This can only be because I’ve not been making my devotional time a priority.  I’ve not even been trying to.  What I have done is let the guilt & condemnation I feel over falling behind pull me farther away from God.  And because I don’t know how many people actually read this, I’ve entertained the thought that it really wouldn’t matter if I just stopped posting.  But…I knew when I started this that if I didn’t post everyday it would be way too easy to get out of the habit of doing the devotional, which would mean that I would fall back into my normal routine and would – once again – not be spending individual alone time with God.  I’ve spent so much time there this past year, and have been a worried, anxious mess. It’s not healthy.  And that leads to me not being healthy!  It’s a vicious cycle, and I knew that when I decided to make this my daily routine.

 

 

LIVE:  Sometime in the next week, schedule another twenty minutes of silence and once again listen and wait for God to speak to you.  Don’t give up.  Your practice will pay off.

 

So, all I’ve got to say is: my hank God for His Grace!  If you’ve been keeping track, you will see that I am nearly two weeks behind on this blog because of getting sidetracked.  The sad thing is: I’ve only been home from Lynchburg a month.  But, rather than choosing to dwell on how big a “failure” I am because I have not performed well, I am going to use this as motivation to draw closer to God this week.  I know that. God cares about what’s in my heart more than he cares about how well I perform.  If I remember to dedicate this work to Him and remember that I am doing this to better my walk with The Lord, then it will become what it is supposed to become.  If I choose to use is blog as a platform for my own glory, it will fall woefully short.  I pray that people have been blessed by this.  And I do enjoy waking up to check my mail and see that I have a new follower.  It makes me do a little happy dance.  BUT, that cannot be why I do this everyday. 

 

I would love to think that this will be the last times am going to get sidetracked and get behind.  I pray that it is, but I doubt it will be.  But, I know that there is merit in getting up 8 times after falling down 7.  I pray that everyone reading this realizes that, and finds the grace God gas made available to stand back up that 8th time. 

 

God Bless You All!

Patty

Day Twenty-Six: Welcoming the Stranger

READ:  Ruth 3

 

This passage covers Ruth and Naomi.  Shortly after Naomi’s sons married, they and her husband died, leaving Naomi with two daughters-in-law and not much else.  She told her daughters-in-law to return to their people so that they could be married again, since they were young.  One agreed.  One refused.  The one who refused was Ruth, and she vowed to make Naomi’s God her god and Naomi’s people her people.  With that, she and Naomi traveled back to the place where most of Naomi’s family lived so that they could find Naomi’s kinsman redeemer to fulfill a family obligation to Naomi (in this case, by marrying Ruth).  The one who was first in line did not want the job.  Enter Boaz.  He satisfies the kinsman redeemer law by marrying Ruth, ensuring Ruth and Naomi would not have to live the lives of beggars or starve to death.

 

THINK:  Here, the book challenges us to reread the passage, thinking about who we might identify with:  Naomi – the one who belongs in the land; or Ruth – the younger, foreigner.  And it goes on:

“Imagining you are the person you identified with, how does it feel to hear or say the term daughter?  (Again, this was unusual because of their differences in nationality.

 

What might God be saying to you about the “strangers” in your life?

What might God be telling you about the places in your life where you feel like a stranger?

 

PRAY:  Thank God for how he provides for those who are strangers and aliens, that he isn’t partial to just one group.  Ask God how you might partner with him in this.

 

LIVE:  In the quiet, consider God’s attentiveness to all people.  Is there someone specific he brings to mind?  Today and in the next few days, look for opportunities to pay attention to the stranger in the same way God does.

 

I know this post is late.  While I was reading it, I was having a hard time thinking of what I would say.  I should’ve known better than to think that I had anything to say that would be of any benefit.  I should’ve just been obedient and sat down to write, because, then, I’m sure, the lesson God needed me to see would’ve come into glorious clarity.

 

There have been many times when I have felt like the stranger, like the outcast who didn’t fit in.  From 8th grade until I graduated, I felt like that in the church & youth group I attended.  By the end of my 11th grade year (if I remember correctly), I had finally gotten so fed up with watching other kids come to our youth group and then leave because they felt the same way I did, that I decided to do something about it.  I started introducing myself and asking the kids to sit with me in the section where the youth group sat during church.  Up until then, I had refused to sit with the youth group since they seemed to have no use for me.  But, apparently, I seemed to realize that there was no way I could hope to make these new folks feel welcome and like they were a part of the group, if I didn’t place myself IN the group along with them.

 

I have to admit that I only started this because I wanted to show everyone that it really wasn’t a big deal to make someone feel welcome.  I thought, surely, if they saw how easy it was just to go up and introduce yourself to the new person, they would catch on.  Apparently this was not to be the will of God for my life at this point in time because one day, I decided to test my theory.  I decided that, it didn’t matter if someone new showed up that day at church, I was going to stay glued to my seat and not say a word. 

Ya wanna know what happened?

Everyone speculated that there must be something bothering me since I didn’t get up and introduce myself.

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown:  AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

Why didn’t they just do it themselves!?!?!?!

 

I would like to say that, since then, I have not fallen into the trap of allowing new people to go unnoticed.  I could say it; but I’d be lying.  Sometimes, I’m just distracted by my own business.  But that is a lame excuse.  Our church is also a pretty decent size, so it’s easy not to be able to get to all the new people all at once.  However, that is just an excuse, too.  Sometimes, I just want to come in and see who I want to see and talk to who I want to talk to and not have to try to  be so welcoming or go through the awkwardness of finding out that the person I thought was probably new had actually been coming for several months and that all of my friends had talked to them weeks before I got around to them.  In short, I allow my own insecurities and convenience and comfort level get in the way of being obedient to a call God placed on my life back when I was in high school. 

 

I also think that seeing this about myself is probably the reason why I’ve had so many things come up since I was supposed to publish this entry.  If I don’t address this issue in my life, or if I just try to take it at face value by saying, I don’t know any strangers…, then I don’t have to worry about having to do something with what God has shown me.  But then, if God has already shown me, but He just needs to remind me and I keep ignoring Him, then I have to admit that I am just being rebellious and choosing not to obey.  Either way, I am in the wrong and have to ask forgiveness.  UGH! 

Makes me wonder why I had to try so hard to learn the lesson from high school about fitting in. 

Why did I try so hard to learn what God was trying to show me about my time of outcast in high school?

What was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking.  I was thinking:  there has to be a reason for all this, that all of this is still going on, and I have to get to the bottom of it. 

 

So, here we are!  Let me encourage you:  take the challenge.  See if you can recall a time when you felt like the stranger, like a foreigner.  See if you can remember how good it felt to know you were being brought into the fold.  Then, ask God for a chance to let someone else feel same feeling because you decided to make that stranger into a friend.

Day Twenty-Five: Let Me Be Avenged

READ:  Judges 16:25-30

 

(25-27) Then this:  Everyone was feeling high and someone said, “Get Samson!  Let him show us his stuff!”  They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them.

          They had him standing between the pillars.  Samson said to the young man who was acting as his guide, “Put me where I can touch the pillars that hold up the temple so I can rest against them.”  The building was packed with men and women, including all the Philistine tyrants.  And there were at least three thousand in the stands watching Samson’s performance.

(28) And Samson cried out to God:

          Master, God!

               Oh, please, look on me again,

               Oh, please, give me strength yet once more.

          God!

               With one avenging blow let me be avenged

               On the Philistines for my two eyes!

(29-30) Then Samson reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them, one with his right arm, the other with his left.  Saying, “Let me die with the Philistines,” Samson pushed hard with all his might.  The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it.  He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life.

 

THINK:  What stands out to you about Samson’s dramatic action and the ending of his life?  Do you resonate with his deep desire for justice to be served?  What do you observe about how he acted on that desire for revenge?

 

PRAY:  Read the passage a second time, looking specifically for a word or phrase about Samson’s desire for revenge or justice that is meaningful to you.  Maybe his act angers you, or you feel a similar desire.  When you finish reading, close your eyes.  Recall the word or phrase and sit quietly, mulling it over.  Let it stimulate you into a dialogue with God.

 

LIVE:  Read the passage a third time, watching how God interacts with Samson and with the Philistines:  Although God does not directly act or speak in the passage, he grants Samson’s request to avenge himself, and he allows the Philistines to lose their lives.  What stands out to you about God’s involvement (or lack of involvement)?  Talk with him about your perception of him in this passage.  Be open to what he may be showing you through what you read.

 

 

I am not going to do much with this passage.  To be honest, I feel rather ambivalent about it.  On one hand, I want to pray for vengeance and that our family would be the ones to be able to make it come about.  On the other hand, Samson lost his own life in the process.  And he had been disobedient to the point of getting himself into the position he was in, whereas we have not.  How can I pray that God would allow us to have vengeance if it would cost us our lives?  How can I pray that God would allow us to have vengeance when it is likely that the vengeance we would seek might prevent those against whom we want revenge might not turn to God?  I must have faith that God will handle this in the manner that will restore our family and bring about justice at the same time.  I do have that faith.  I know that He is the only one that can do that kind of work.  And because He is, I will leave the vengeance-taking to God, trusting that I will be taken care of in the process.

Day Twenty-four: Talking with God

READ:  Judges 13:1-20

 

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so theLord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the Lordappeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11 And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”

15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeingit is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works[a] wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching,and they fell on their faces to the ground.

 

From <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+13&version=ESV>

THINK:  Read the passage aloud slowly again, taking note of the back-and-forth conversation between God and this couple.  It forms a picture of what an interactive life with God might be like.

          Notice the conversational interaction:  who listened; who asked questions.

          Would you have asked the question Manoah asked (“What’s your name?”) or a different question?

          How would it be to talk to God when lying facedown (see Verse 20)?

PRAY:  Try this:  Lie facedown on the floor or the ground as Manoah and his wife did.  Ask God for further instructions about something in your life.  Notice what it’s like to talk to God in this position.  Don’t get up too soon.

LIVE:  Rest your forehead on the ground with your arms above you.  Just “be” before God this way.

          I did do this this morning for several awkward minutes.  Part of the problem was that my head was stopped up a bit, so I couldn’t breathe with my forehead on the ground.  That was my initial preoccupation.  Then, I started thinking about yesterday and the list of huge things I DID NOT write out to God.    For me, I believe those two things are connected.  In the PRAY section we were challenged to notice what it’s like to talk to God in this position. 

Yesterday, I had no idea where to begin with the list.  Today, I had no idea where to begin to pray.  This is not to say that I don’t have big things that I would love to request of God; I most certainly do.  The thing is:  I’ve been asking God for a pretty big thing for a little over 3 years now, and have been told “not now” for three years.  It’s kind of difficult to put down on paper the huge thing that I want from God, because that gives it a life of its own (for me) and, then, I start to get my hopes up for them. 

I’m a mother.  I’ve tried to raise my kids to understand that just because they say “Please” does not mean they are guaranteed to get what they want.  Putting my huge requests on a piece of paper feels like me begging God to “Please” let me have it, and being told “no.”  I’m tired of being told no.

Is this a place where any of you find yourself?  I believe it is absolutely necessary that we have an accurate appraisal of our standing with God.  I felt small lying there on the floor.  Indeed, compared to the majesty and splendor of the Creator of the Universe, I am small.  But that does not mean that I cannot come to the Father with my requests, even though they seem bigger than I ought to ask. 

Lying on the floor should merely represent my willingness to surrender to the Creator of the Universe, whether I physically lie down or not.  Personally, I know there have been plenty of times when I have placed my body in that position, but have never gotten there with my will or my heart.  And if I am unwilling to submit my will to that of the Father, then I might as well never write down my list of huge requests, and I certainly don’t need to worry about praying for what’s on the list, because all I will really care about is getting my way.  Not about glorifying the Father. 

I have struggled with that reality many times over this past year, and there’s just no way around it.  I must decrease; He must increase.  I must get to the point where I can say, as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine.”