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Verse of the Day
Wednesday
Jan212015

Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

Around now--mid to late January--you might find yourself slipping up on those ambitious resolutions you made while watching the ball descend one more time in New York City. 

Recently,  I found New Year’s Resolutions that I had made when I was in my early 40’s.  Reading over what I had written then was, well, enlightening.  There were a dozen “challenges” on the list   The first item was the determination to lose weight.  Imagine that!  That was a flop and has been for the last several decades since. Half of the other items had to do with my performance in various roles:  better parent, better wife, better friend, better teacher....  You get the idea. 

Only one of the remaining items was related to my spiritual life.  I was struck by the clear and distinct focus on myself. 

Remember those greedy sea gulls in the movie Finding Nemo?  “Mine!  Mine!  Mine!  Mine!”  Well, that’s what came to my mind when I read over my resolutions. 

It was all about me becoming a better me.  

I have given up writing resolutions for obvious reasons.  Rereading over old ones is painful.  However, I have recently found an old quote by Charles Wesley that has triggered a new resolve in me:   

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” 

These are words worth changing for, worth living for, maybe even worth dying for.  I’m done with writing resolutions, and I’m grateful to Wesley for writing this.  I’m claiming it. 

Instead of “Mine.  Mine,  Mine.  Mine,”  it is “His.  His.  His.” 

A one-fits-all-forever resolution.

Myra

Wednesday
Jan072015

Don't Miss the Beautiful

My devotion this morning revolved around the phrase, "Don't miss the beautiful."  

The writer described an experience of being completely undone by God's goodness and beauty as she drove through the mountains of North Carolina at the peak of the autumnal leaf change season.

As I read her words, I sat on a couch with the gray of winter out the window.  I sat in the midst of extreme sleep deprivation after two weeks of sickness ravaged our household, entailing countless nights spent awake, holding children.  Through my weary and bloodshot eyes, life wasn't feeling particularly beautiful.

And then he reminded me: Sharing in his suffering is always beautiful.  

It doesn't always feel beautiful.

It doesn't even look beautiful most of the time.



But what sweeter gift than to have fellowship with Christ because we share in his suffering.

When I think of suffering, I generally think of persecution and severe hard times, the kind people notice and the kind for which friends send sympathy cards.

Being a tired mom hardly feels worthy of categorizing as sharing in his suffering.

But Jesus was tired.  Jesus stayed up to pray all night.  Jesus was poured out in serving others.

And so whatever your trial looks like today, whether it's the fatigue of full-time parenting or the wear of the daily grind; whether it's mundane or magnificent; whether you've received sympathy cards or no one even knows; whether you're isolated in your silent suffering or you're spending far too many hours in hospital rooms, may you pick it up as a sweet offering to the Lord.  May you be more deeply united in fellowship with the Lord of the Universe because you are sharing in the same suffering he endured.  

And in my exhaustion, I saw it was indeed beautiful.  It's not pretty-leaves-in-autumn-beautiful.  It's a different kind of beautiful.  It's a red-eyed, worn down, poured out beautiful.  May we learn to walk in this beauty, draw closer to the One who has suffered for us all, and savor the sweetness of fellowship with him.

Let's pray for women who are walking in this place right now to be lifted up closer to the Father.  Pray they would see their efforts as sweet offerings, something beautiful.  Pray we would speak truth and life into their lives whenever the opportunity arises.  Pray that we would be known as those who point others back to the Source of all Life and pour out his love.

Stacey

Monday
Jan052015

You Are Invited!

Dear reader,
 
Have you ever read the whole Bible? Or, have you like me, taken more of a McNugget approach, pieces and parts? There are chapters that I've never read, and I want to read them all.  
Hearing our pastor talk about reading the Bible and just taking as long as it takes, without the pressure to read the whole thing in a year, encouraged me. It's been a few years since buying my King James One Year Bible my senior year of college. What was I thinking?! Needless to say, I did not read the whole Bible that year.
 
This is a new day. Will you join me?
 
Here's the plan. We will read one book of the Bible each month. Depending upon the book, it will be about a chapter a day.
 
Supplies: Bible, pen, and a notebook. I am currently using a day planner and writing on the lines for each day. (It has been encouraging because it shows me progress and doesn't set me up to write pages and pages, just the highlights. In fact, you may quickly get ahead of the current day and feel extra-encouraged!)
 
We will "...soak in the Word", as Corrie Ten Boom would say of her Bible reading times. It will give us plenty of time to read, reflect, and listen to what God has for each one of us. This can be started at any time, but here is the general plan for this year:
 
1 Kings January
2 Kings February
1 Chronicles March
2 Chronicles April
Ezra May
Nehemiah June
Esther July
Job August
Psalms September
Proverbs October
Ecclesiastes November
Song of Songs December
  
We will read together, and I will blog each month as we go. If you are able, I'd love to hear what God does through your time in the Word! You are in my prayers. Please pray for me, too, and pray that this would encourage others to read the Bible regularly and enjoy the amazing benefits. May God's wisdom and joy be increasingly ours,

Beth

 

Monday
Dec292014

Equipped in Our Weakness

Speaking in front of a crowd is not my favorite thing to do.  I remember my senior year of high school, when I was asked to speak in front of the entire faculty of the high school during an inservice day.  I'd recently completed my "Senior Project," and I'd learned great things from it.  My great reward was to stand in front of every teacher and mentor I'd had in the past four years and share.  It was intimidating to say the least.

I remind myself of that day every time I'm feeling intimidated by the thought of speaking before an audience.  If I could do that at age seventeen, I can compose myself enough to convey a coherent message nearly two decades later.  

And often, it is when we feel weakest and most limited that God can most use us.  

When we are weak, he is strong.  His power is made perfect through our weakness.

Nestled in the book of Judges, we find a man with a limitation of his own.  God chose Ehud (Judges 3) to deliver Israel from oppression despite his limitations.  What were his limitations?  He was left-handed.  This doesn't seem to be a major limitation to us, but in his time, being left-handed was seen as a significant shortcoming.  The writer of this book points this out so that we may have yet another reminder that God uses the imperfect people before him to accomplish his perfect plans.


Is there an area of your life where you're feeling imperfect or not enough?  Tired and run down?  Lacking the strength?

Let's take this Word from the Lord to heart today.  God will equip us to fulfill what he calls us to do.

For those who are feeling ill-equipped to perform the task God has called them to do.  Pray his power might pour through and enable.

For those who are leading studies, focus groups, life groups, and small groups of women.  Pray God would use these leaders to speak truth straight to hearts.

For those who are reaching out on larger venues.  Pray God would empower these women to speak his words and love with his love.

For those who are in times of transition and do not know what the future holds.  Pray God would shine light on each step of the journey, shining only as far as needed.  And pray we would trust him where the path before us still seems dark.  His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.

For those who are struggling with physical illness during this season.  Pray God would pour out all that is needed to serve him each day.  Pray that resting in his love would be enough.

For those who are in leadership among our ministry.  That God would make clear the paths before each of us as individuals and that we would have his courage to step into the plans he has for us.  

Pray for unity of the Spirit as we work together to advance the gospel, love God, and love others.

To God be the glory!

Stacey

 

Wednesday
Dec242014

Seeing His Way

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
 
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:9-21 (emphasis mine)
 

A friend recently shared with me how she asked God to give her a glimpse of what He sees when He looks at a particularly difficult student of hers. God granted this gift to her and it changed everything. She had a renewed vision for how God saw this child and how she could relate to her in God's love and not purely by what she saw in the outward actions and words of the child. 

Do you find it difficult to look beyond what you see in the people around you? I do. Just keeping it real.
In fact, I find it much easier to see the way God sees when I interact with teenagers or kids than when relating to some adults, who I often thought should be nicer, more refined versions of people. When really, adults can have many of the same insecurities, emotional challenges, and everyday difficulties as teens do. Often, it is just submerged or camouflaged.
 
The apostle Paul wrote, 'Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." -Romans 12:9 Cling to the good. God created people; His creation is good. It is also fallen and sinful by choice. It wasn't part of God's original plan for us to be sinful; our ancestors chose sin out of disobedience to God. So here we have people that were created to be good, but with the free will that allowed Adam and Eve to choose to start the cycle of sin.
We have beautiful possibilities running around behaving badly. We need help to look beyond what we see in the natural.  
 
We can do both...see a vision of the fullness and freedom God has for a person, while hating the traps, entanglements, and disfiguring sin that is ravaging God's ultimate plan for the person. Treating the person harshly or indifferently doesn't help. Getting a vision for what God has in mind for the person and of His vision for his son or daughter's potential changes everything for me.
I am praying that we would see each other differently, that we would see His way.

Beth