Quit Focusing on the Handicap

“Wow, you are really beautiful!”

The waitress was looking at me? Stunned, I fumbled for a response. I mumbled, “You must like curly hair.”

“Yes, I really do!”

I went to the bathroom because I wanted to see what she saw. I saw dark circles and not-so-youthful skin.

“I don’t get it, Lord. I don’t see beauty.”

“I see it. You are beautiful to me. You see the cracks, she saw the light coming through the cracks. The beauty is in the light. The Light is Jesus living in you.”

* * * * * * *

Have you ever wondered by some elderly people seem to glow? While others seem to shrivel up? They both sport wrinkles and gray hair. What is the secret?

The Light. After years of serving Jesus, their fire consists of red-hot coals. Coals glow. Coals can cook food without burning it up. Coals can warm a room and start a fire in the dead wood.

We all have “cracks” – weaknesses, scars, or handicaps. If we concentrate on our “cracks” we miss the light shining through them.

“2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. …I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. (10) Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” Martin Luther

* * * * * * *

“If the heights of our joy are measured by the depths of our gratitude, and gratitude is but a way of seeing, a spiritual perspective of smallness might offer a vital way of seeing especially conducive to gratitude. Those child photos, that wonder I experienced firsthand through her eyes – ‘How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it!’ – was that it? I had just held evidence of it. The joy of small that makes life large. Hadn’t I personally experienced it before too, that vantage point that gave a sense of smallness before grandeur? At the lip of the Grand Canyon, peering into the carved earth, the vastness of the hewn and many-hued chasm.” “One Thousand Gifts” Ann Voskamp

  • This is why we go to the ocean. It makes us small in its vastness.
  • This is why men go to sea for years at a time. Seeing only the ocean everywhere they look, makes them small.
  • This is why we hike to the top of a mountain. Seeing for miles makes us small.
  • This is why we love to fly. Seeing people reduced to the size of ants makes us embrace our smallness.

I returned to our table in the back room. We chose this restaurant on a whim. The only available tables were in the farthest room. We had finished our salads and still had not been served our drinks.

I’m sure the waitress complimented me to make up for the lack of service. She apologized. And even left a pitcher of sweet tea because that is what we were drinking.

I told my kids, “That waitress must be a drama student at the local college. It’s Father’s Day, and since I didn’t cook, she assumed I would be paying.” (Why can’t I just accept a compliment?)

But this was not a planned dinner, only two of our children were there for a visit. We decided at the last-minute to go out to eat.

I had offered to cook but we are in a heat wave. David didn’t want to warm up the house anymore with cooking.

The food was not the important thing – the visit was. You cannot put a price on time together. You don’t really appreciate its value until you are apart.

David teased me as he put down the tip. “Hey, didn’t I pick up the tab on Mother’s Day, too?”

I quipped, “We picked up the tab on Mother’s Day and we picked up the tab tonight!”

2 Corinthians 12:14, “Everything is in readiness now for this, my third visit to you. But don’t worry about it; you won’t have to put yourselves out. I’ll be no more of a bother to you this time than on the other visits. I have no interest in what you have – only in you. Children shouldn’t have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children.” The Message

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Live as You Were Meant to Live

I hope my post didn’t wake you last night. I didn’t finish it until 11:30 p.m. I cleaned up the kitchen, started the dishwasher, and dropped into bed at midnight. Waking up at 4:45 am as usual was a shock! Though I am grateful for this discipline.

“Daily discipline is the door to full freedom, and the discipline to count to one thousand [gifts] gave way to the freedom of wonder and I can’t imagine not staying awake to God in the moment, the joy in the now.” “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

* * * * * * * * *

Proverbs 10:17, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” New International Version

I thought my night was short until I read about Paul and Silas! Beaten black & blue and shackled, they were in a dark prison. An earthquake broke their shackles and opened the doors. But it was too dark to see their way out. They shared the gospel with the jailer and stayed up all night!

Acts 16:30-31, “… ‘Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?’ (31) They said, ‘Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you will live as you were meant to live – and everyone in your house included!’ ” The Message

* * * * * * * *

“…God works in darkness. …There may be a great work occurring in your life when things seem their darkest. You may see no evidence yet, but God is at work. …” “Streams in the Desert” June 4th

* * * * * * * *

“…So, if I say, ‘God wants you to win,’ and you’re in a cycle of defeat, that might contradict your experience or your reality, and therefore, you reduce God to a coping mechanism for your losses. …I believe He’s gonna eventually let me see victory…because…God wants me to win.” “This Might Contradict Your Experience…” 1 Min Motivation, Steven Furtick

* * * * * * * * *

“We beat it down a gravel road in a cloud of dust, and I looked over at the billboard that the van Veens had planted back in their woods. I asked Dad why anyone would bother putting a sign up in their woods if no one could make out the words. He looked at me squinting, and my mamma made me an optometrist’s appointment.

Next time we drove by the van Veens’ words in the woods, I wore glasses, horn-rimmed frames. And I saw the words as clear as a bell and I read them plain: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ (Acts 16:31 King James Version).

The woods spell out words. I need a lens to read them.

Every dark woods has words. And every moment is a message from The Word-God who can’t stop writing his heart.” “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

Maybe all I need is a new lens to understand what God is trying to show me. Or just clean off my present lens. Many things cloud our “glasses.” We can’t see because of past hurts, resentment, unforgiveness, etc. There are others around us who have smudged “glasses,” too. We must never give up on them!

James 5:19-20, “My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” The Message

* * * * * * * * *

Acts 17:2-3, “…he preached to them from the Scriptures. (3) He opened up the texts so they understood what they’d been reading all their lives…” The Message

* * * * * * * *

Acts 17:20, “…Explain it so we can understand.” The Message

* * * * * * * *

Dear Father God,

Give us the right words to say when the opportunity arises. May we never give up hope on our friends and family.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Ready to Do as God Says?

Mommy: “Are you glad it’s the last day of school?”

First Grader: “I wish it were the last day of college!”

Grandma: “Then you have to go to work.”

Daddy: “And you don’t get summers off!”

We all want our “learning season” over now! We want the rewards and promises of God today! But God doesn’t work that way.

Psalms 33:11, ‘The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.’  But we must be prepared to wait on God’s timing. His timing is precise, for He does things ‘at the very time’ He has set. It is not for us to know His timing, and in fact we cannot know it – we must wait for it. If God had told Abraham while he was in Haran that he would have to wait thirty years before holding his promised child in his arms, his heart might have failed him.” Streams in the Desert – May 24

God didn’t show Abraham how long he would have to wait. But, He showed Paul exactly what would happen to him.

Acts 9:16, “And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for – the hard suffering that goes with this job.” The Message

Paul accepted the job with all its suffering. Why? This was the job for which God created him. Before he misdirected his burning desire and zeal for God. Until he followed God’s plan for his life, he was always searching. It was an itch that would not go away – an unquenchable thirst. He had to do something!

“…written by a wise man of old, Jean Pierre de Caussade: ‘When one is thirsty one quenches one’s thirst by drinking, not by reading books which treat of this condition.’ If we are dying of thirst, passively reading books about water quenches little; the only way to quench the parched mouth is to close the book and dip the hand into water and bring it to the lips. If we thirst, we’ll have to drink. I would have to do something.” “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

This is why reading books about the Bible do not satisfy like reading it for yourself. Even singing songs from the Bible do not quench your thirst for the Word of God. You have to read and study it. Ask God to show you things in it.

Back to Paul – how could he accept that assignment knowing the suffering to come?

Acts 9:31, “They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.” The Message

Paul was not alone. God treated everyone the same. He strengthens anyone who treats Him reverently.

Acts 10:34-35, “God plays no favorites! (35) It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from – if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.” The Message

We would do well to follow the example of Abraham and Cornelius. They showed us how to wait properly.

Acts 10:31, “He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention.’ ” The Message

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Over Forty Years Old

“I run my hand across the thick of the terry towels. I’m a farmer’s wife. I’m the homeschooling mother of 6 children. There are no fancy degrees, titles, diplomas hanging on these finger-smudged walls. Are there places that must be known, accomplishments that must be had, before one is really ready?” “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp gets me. There are no diplomas on my walls. The artwork in my office is floral, music-related, our wedding picture, and a calendar. (I recently moved the feminine, pink artwork into here.)

And, I don’t feel really ready!

I smiled when I read a post from themerrymomma.com. They celebrated a big birthday.

“…my husband, Levon, turned the big 3-0! …I like to joke that when we met, God turned to Jesus, handed him a bag of popcorn, and said, ‘Watch this, Jesus!’ …maybe…he was exactly what I needed in order to become who God wanted me to be. …we are each sets of puzzle pieces. And we need all the pieces – his and mine – to complete the picture of God’s design for our life together…” “How Marriage is Like a Puzzle” themerrymomma.com

I grinned because I know they don’t have all the pieces yet. I know I don’t! I was sure I had all 4 corners when we started our family:

  1. God
  2. Husband
  3. Church
  4. A job I loved.

Then God yelled, “Plot twist!”

In 3 years, God twisted my puzzle around, leaving the church, friends, and job behind. We started over forming new friendships and doing ministry in a new satellite.

* * * * * * *

Jesus is the most important corner piece – “The Cornerstone.” He is the One that anchors your puzzle, (see Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:19-20). You will deal with several “plot twists” in life, large and small.

A Christian does not fall apart – they pivot.

Sometimes the plot twist is the loss of a spouse through death or divorce. But you get to keep the most important pieces – your children. If God brings a new partner into your puzzle they come as a package. Connected to them are their children.

That corner gets torn apart and everyone gets linked together in a different configuration. There is a lot of turning of each piece. Until you see God’s plan to put your blended family together. Some pieces take longer to attach than others.

The former spouses are still attached to your children. You have to find a way to include them in your puzzle. They are a minor piece and no longer carry the responsibilities of a corner piece.

* * * * * * *

We read of a man whose life didn’t begin until he was in his forties. He was born a cripple. His family set him at The Temple gate to beg. He was not allowed in The Temple.

“Whereas the man’s lameness itself would not necessarily have hindered him, lameness was frowned upon within The Temple courtyards. …Thus the lame beggar remained outside…” Chronological Study Bible Notes.

* * * * * * *

Acts 4:22, “The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old.” The Message

The first thing he did after receiving his healing was to go into The Temple. He was walking, dancing and praising God. The lame man had to do something – he looked up, expecting. He didn’t just hope it would get better.

“When he says, ‘I hope,’ instead of saying, ‘I have hope,’ that makes it a verb and not a noun. …It’s something that you do. …You cannot go into another year of your life hoping it gets better…” “Hoping vs. Wishing” Steven Furtick, 1 Min Motivation

My new job is this blog. But it is not like any other blog. I write a devotion 7 days a week. (Sometimes, like today, it doesn’t get published until the next day.)

God made it clear He will pay the expenses. Every year is a miracle. I don’t use ads, affiliate marketing links, or ask for donations. I actually pay to keep the ads off. Crazy!

I pretty much ignore the stats. Recently, I noticed my “follow this blog” button was missing. I went into the settings to get it back. I found over 500 new followers. I decided to hide the number of followers.

That stat didn’t excite me. What did? The 23 people who clicked on the “Save me, Jesus, Prayer.” Those stats are eternal! They now have the pivotal corner piece for their puzzle.

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Purify Yourselves in Worship

John shrugs his shoulders, looks out across our wheat field. ‘Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop. And when you’re farming,’ he turns back toward me, ‘you are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us.’ He slips his big Dutch hands into frayed pockets, smiles easily. ‘It’s all good.’

‘…How do you know that, John? Deep down, how do you know that it really is all good. That God is good. That you can say yes – to whatever He gives?’ I know the story of the man I’m asking…

‘Tiff just noticed Dietrich had started breathing a bit heavier this afternoon. …they said his lung had collapsed. It will just be a matter of hours. Like it was at the end for Austin.’ His firstborn, Austin, had died of the same genetic disease only eighteen months prior. 

‘…Well, even our boys…I don’t know why that all happened. …But do I have to? …maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.’

…There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.

…I wonder…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually be places to see. …through to God. …that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. …To the God we endlessly crave.

…In our plain country church on the edge of that hayfield enclosed by an old cedar split-rail fence, once a week on Sunday, my soul’s macular holes spontaneously heal.”

“One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 52:1, 2, “Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, …Dress up in your Sunday best… Those who want no part of God have been culled out. They won’t be coming along. Brush off the dust and get to your feet… Throw off your chains, captive…” The Message

* * * * * * * * *

Isaiah 52:11, 12, “Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place! Don’t look back. Don’t contaminate yourself with plunder. Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves in the process of worship… (12) But you don’t have to be in a hurry. You’re not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 54:7, 8, “Your Redeemer God says: ‘I left you but only for a moment. Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back. (8) In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you – but only for a moment. It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you.” The Message

It doesn’t matter where you are on Saturday, brush off the dust and get up. Get out of there and purify yourself in worship. God is leading you and he has your back! You don’t want to miss a chance to have your soul’s holes heal.

You may say, “I don’t want to go back to church. I don’t like (fill in the blank) or I am angry and hurt by (fill in the blank).” 

“If I’m looking for reasons to be offended, looking for reasons to be angry, I should not be surprised when I find myself in a low emotional state. …How can I expect to walk in freedom if I have not chosen to walk in forgiveness? …I don’t forgive you for you. I forgive you because I want to be free.”

“Finding Freedom in Forgiveness” Steven Furtick – 1 Min Motivation

If you don’t have a church, I invite you to mine. You can visit the local satellite or listen to the sermon online at fcoc.net. And visit truelife.org for answers to life’s hardest questions.

I hope to see you there. We would like to introduce you to The Chain Breaker – Jesus Christ!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.