Category Archives: Devotional
Since I no longer have kids in school and no longer work outside the home, my daily schedules have deteriorated, and my morning devotion time has suffered. I’ve been more concerned lately about getting on the internet before our data cap begins than I have been with consistent prayer and Bible reading. Sometimes my devotional time has been in the evening, sometimes in the morning, and sometimes not at all.
I confess–I talk the talk better than I walk the walk.
So today I’m preaching to myself. If you need a little nudge to create or restore a regular habit of morning devotions, join me in visiting some scriptures that will remind us what we might be missing.
Listen, God! Please . . . I need your help . . .
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend. Psalm 5:1-3 MSG
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8, 10 NIV
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Psalm 143:8 MSG
[Wisdom says,] Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
don’t squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
awake and ready for me each morning,
alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
to say nothing of God’s good pleasure. Proverbs 33-35 MSG
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. Isaiah 50:4 NIV
What if devotions in the morning just won’t work for you? Is God displeased? I don’t think so. For years I had a spiritual “quiet time” when my kids had their afternoon physical quiet time (naps). You are so precious to Him, He wants to hear from you and spend time with you, any time, anywhere.
But for me, in the season of life I am now enjoying, morning prayer and study time is where I should be. I need to form a consistent habit that will work for my current set of circumstances.
What about when we forget or when we willfully spend those allotted minutes on Facebook instead of Philippians?
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:22,23 MSG
I’ve been humming the hymn based on these verses today:
“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see.”
My prayer for us all:
May the clear light of the Scriptures and a consistent time of prayer with God brighten our days and burn away the mists that cloud our thoughts.
Ragged pieces of dry, chopped corn leaves swirled in a dust devil’s tight embrace at the edge of the paved road, but this dust devil carried no dust. The only evidence of the turbulent wind was the debris it had picked up in the newly combined corn field.
Perhaps you’ve never seen what those of us from the Midwest call a “dust devil.” Imagine a tiny tornado on a warm, sunny day.
The whirlwind I saw was maybe a yard across and only fifteen or so feet high (less than a meter across by five meters tall). Since it was swirling over the grassy ditch, only the lightweight harvest debris was captured by the dust devil. Without it I wouldn’t have known that the air was rapidly rotating.
* * * * *
You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” John 3:7,8 MSG
Here on the plains we hear the wind rustling through grass, and we watch it rippling like waves over green fields. We see the wind turning the blades of windmills that are relics of the homesteaders’ water pumps as well as the modern-day giants that are generating electricity.
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I have been attending a series of courses on creativity, and on the day I saw the dust devil the speaker had explored the topic “Inspiration” and shared his personal journey with creativity. This is a community course, not church-sponsored, so I wasn’t surprised that neither the speaker or audience mentioned a Creator as a source of creativity or the work of the Spirit in inspiration.
As a believer, however, I am convinced that the Spirit exists. Although I do not see the Spirit (or the wind), I see its effects in nature, in my life, and in the lives of others.
But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. Romans 1:19,20 MSG
Our English word “inspire” comes from a which means toword
The Hebrew word ruach (from the Old Testament) means breath, wind, or spirit. In medical usage “inspire” means “to draw in breath or inhale.”
The product of the invisible Spirit’s presence in our lives may be in echoing God’s creativity. He is pleased to share that part of His character with us.
Despite the dust devil’s regrettable name, the little whirlwind has taught me a lesson about
- looking for the visible signs of an invisible Spirit and
- the source of and inspiration for God’s creative work in my life and my creative response.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. John 3:8 NIV
Autumn has arrived dressed in gold and lavender. Aster blossoms explode in tiny, purple fireworks. Black-Eyed Susan’s chocolate-colored heads droop under clear, azure skies.
Fall is here. The last red raspberries of the year plump up, sweet and juicy. Red apples hang heavy and low, warmed by the October sunshine.
The long, growing days of summer have faded. The cicadas’ raspy love song has stilled. The afternoon sun, now more smolder than blaze, no longer clears the top of the ancient cottonwood tree.
The time for harvest has come. The last hay bales of the year–dried summer days–sit huge and round, waiting to fuel bovine, winter dreams.
Dust roils up from the bean head as the combine harvests soybeans, and tractors pull wagons filled to nearly overflowing.
Farmers must harvest many acres in the next weeks in the days between rains, in the hours before the dew condenses, making the stalks tough and difficult to combine.
Jesus understood harvest time. He recognized the size of the task, how much grain needed to be gathered in and how few there were to do it. Right after he had talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, He spoke to His disciples about the harvest of souls.
I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time! John 4:35 MSG
Is God calling me to help with the harvest of souls? Where? How?
Is it in a place or among a people I didn’t think would be receptive to the Gospel?
“What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” Matthew 9:37,38 MSG
Have I prayed for more people to help with the harvest? Have I prayed for those who already are?
Do you remember what happened in Samaria after Jesus talked with the woman at the well?
The spiritual harvest was a bin-buster, full and overflowing!
Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman’s witness: ‘He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!’
They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, ‘We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world!‘ John 4:39-42 MSG
The teaser for a feature segment on a local TV station promised a story about a monarch butterfly, a meteorologist, and super glue. It worked–I was curious, and I watched the story.
I knew that this is the time of year monarchs are preparing for their migration south. They are enjoying the nectar of the last, ragged zinnias; braving prickly lavender thistles; and resting in the clouds of purple aster blossoms before they fly to Mexico.
Except the butterfly in the news. Her wings weren’t working, and she wasn’t going anywhere.
The meteorologist in this story is also a pilot and has repaired airplane wings, so he has a special set of skills. He carefully glued the butterfly’s wings back together–twice. He and his girlfriend had compassion for the monarch and showed mercy.
What if our wings are broken, and we can’t fly? What if life injures us so badly that we can’t do the things we were created to do? We need someone who knows how to rebuild our lives, someone who knows how to fly, someone with skill, someone with power . . . and lots of super glue.
We need a mighty Savior who is the great Healer.
When John the Baptist’s messengers came to Jesus and asked Him if He was The One (the Messiah), Jesus answered with the prophetic words of Isaiah.
Go back to John and tell him all you have seen and heard here today: how those who were blind can see. The lame are walking without a limp. The lepers are completely healed. The deaf can hear again. The dead come back to life. And the poor are hearing the Good News. Luke 7:22 TLB
Jesus was The One. The one with the skill, the knowledge, and the power to heal us, body and soul.
In Jesus we find more than just the ability to help us–He wants to help us.
He is gracious and kind and extends mercy and grace to each of us. Even if physical healing isn’t His best plan for us in this world, he offers healing for our sin-damaged souls and compassion to comfort our broken hearts.
But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord,
Jeremiah 30:17 NIV
God, pick up the pieces.
Put me back together again.
Jeremiah 17:14 MSG
I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me. Psalm 103:1,2 TLB
He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. Psalm 103:3,4 TLB
He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. Psalm 103:8 TLB
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 2 Corinthians 4:17 MSG
So even if your wings are splinted and super-glued together, the Lord is healing you.
You will fly again.
That butterfly in the news story, perched on the woman”s shoulder–do you remember her name?
It’s “Grace.” Her name means “kindness, love, mercy.” The little monarch received mercy and grace, and so can we.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV
All photos (except zinnias) by Barb Briggs
Did you know that these photos of bumble bees in flight were “impossible?”
Barb Briggs, the photographer, described the craziness of the hours spent trying to photograph the bees in flight.
In fact, someone . . . suggested I stop trying, that bees were too small to photograph successfully with my equipment. But I didn’t take the advice, and so glad I didn’t.”
Barb searched for ways to carry out God’s plan instead of looking for excuses as to why it couldn’t be done.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 NIV
Out of the question.
Has God ever placed a task in front of you, and your response was more “fight and flight” than obedience? I have all kinds of excuses (reasons, I tell myself). I can’t. I haven’t. I don’t. I’ll fail. I’ll fall. It would take a miracle. It’s just impossible.
Then I remember the impossible bumble bees. Didn’t a scientist “prove” that their wings don’t have enough lift for the size of their body and the weight of the pollen they carry? The calculations said they shouldn’t be able to fly.
Except bumble bees do fly.
The impossible is possible. Sometimes we get the explanation of how this comes to be, as we do with the bumble bee, and sometimes we rest in the belief that we will understand someday.
I remember Abraham and God’s impossible promise to him, and how Abraham’s faith led him to believe that God was able to do what He’d promised: to give him a son who would become a nation.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:18-21 NIV
I pray for that kind of faith. When God calls, I want to say, “Here I am,” the way Samuel did. I want to look for ways to carry out God’s plan instead of looking for excuses that it can’t be done. I want to be “fully persuaded” as Abraham was, so that when he was asked to give up his son, he believed that God could do the impossible.
I found a poem I’d written many years ago, called “Abraham,” and thought it fit today’s theme.
I peer over the edge of the precipice
at grazing sheep, insect-like below,
wondering if I dare
take the first step and walk
on the breath of the warm winds that brush my face.
Or will I plummet, arms flailing, cursing my foolishness?
All the plans, the God-breathed promises
for the future of my children
and my children’s children . . .
Did I imagine Your voice?
Was it just a dream, a nighttime fog
that evaporates in the scorching sunlight of reason?
Questions plague me like gnats,
doubts like biting flies.
What kind of God do I serve,
to ask this foolish sacrifice,
to bid me to take a fateful step in faith?
But You were good yesterday.
You are good today,
and I believe You will be good in all my tomorrows.
So I will take the step
and, upheld by the very air of Your breath,
I will fly.
My prayer for us all:
that we answer “Here I am” when God calls and that we learn to “fly” in faith.
- photos by Barb Briggs
- thanks to E. Wright for the inspiration and reminder of the verses in Romans https://asonebeingtaught.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/gods-choice-and-ordinary-people/
I learned today that September 6-12, 2015 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I am revisiting this post originally published in July, 2014.
Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls. The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats. All sounds were muffled: sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.
An open casket was centered against the fourth wall. We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye. As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery. I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time. Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?
Our hearts are broken: every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend. We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding
To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough, but in this way . . .
We are left with nagging questions and regrets: the should haves and could haves and would anything have? I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice. I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.
I answer my own question: Nathan, what have you done? You became ill.
At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover. Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.
We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing. We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.” He was. He is. We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn. Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best. After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.
If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains. Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,” but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.
And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.
Nathan, age 10
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If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone. I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help. Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor. Find a doctor or a counselor. You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.
If you know someone who is despairing, reach out. You may need to direct them to professional help. Offer to go with them to an appointment. If you have serious concerns, you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.
If someone you love has taken their own life, you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow. You may benefit from support groups and counseling .
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV
. . . weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 RSV
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When suicide strikes in the body of Christ — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.
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bleeding heart flower photo by Heather Johnson of truelifewithgod.com
The pain was real, even if the cause is now forgotten and buried in the dust of twenty-some years’ passing. But I do remember the heartache I felt that day–
pain that made me wonder if God cared,
pain that prompted me to cry out for assurance that I wasn’t alone in my sorrow.
God, listen! Listen to my prayer,
listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
just when I need you so desperately. Psalm 102:1,2 MSG
Later that morning as I passed a window on the west side of the house, I saw three birds perched in the tall shrubbery: a male cardinal, a male goldfinch, and a male indigo bunting.
Was it a coincidence that these three birds, arrayed in primary-colored feathers, should be sitting
. . . in the same bush
. . . at the same time
. . . on the side nearest the window
. . . soon after I had prayed for comfort?
What are the odds?
Call to me and I will answer you. Jeremiah 33:3
I called. God answered.
* * * * *
Sometimes He answers our prayers in a vibrant, multi-colored “yes.”
But what if God answers differently?
Sometimes, for our own good and the good of others, He must say “no.”
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:2 NIV
Sometimes the answer is “wait,” and we learn to lean close to our Savior and rest, however impatiently, in his grace and loving-kindness.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, Psalm 130:5,6 NIV
* * * * *
The cardinal, goldfinch, and indigo bunting’s appearance was an avian trifecta of reassurance during a painful time in my life.
God hears and answers our prayers with the trifecta of replies: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” Each is a successful outcome of the prayer process.
My prayer for us all:
May we continue to turn to the Lord with our heartaches and thankful hearts. May we seek, recognize, and accept God’s answers to our prayers, confident in His great love for us.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm17:6 NIV
What I do, God, is wait for you,
wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
I wait and pray. . . Psalm 38:15 MSG
Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
“Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
Don’t hide from me now! Psalm27:7-9 MSG
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! Matthew 15:22 NIV
Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1 NIV
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers. Psalm 13:5-6 MSG
goldfinch and three sunflowers photo by Barb Briggs
indigo bunting photo by By Dawn Scranton from Cornwall, Ontario, Canada (Indigo Bunting) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
As I wash the copper-bottomed saucepan in the warm, soapy water in the kitchen sink, I gaze out the window at the apple trees in the back yard. The branches are bent low, nine-months-pregnant heavy, full of crimson fruit. I sigh, thinking of all the work those bushels of apples will be. How should I prepare and preserve them?
As the dishes dry, I search cookbooks with worn spines and splattered pages:
Apple pie, baked apples, apple juice, apple dumplings;
faded, dog-eared, recipes on 3″ x 5″ index cards:
apple cake, apple roll, apple bread, dried apples, apple bars, pickled apples;
canning and freezing instruction booklets, bookmarked to favorites:
apple sauce, apple jam, apple jelly, apple butter;
and recipes, only a click away on the internet:
apple cider, caramel apples, apple fritters.
Should I freeze or can or dry or bake? There are so many apples . . .
What I should do is be content and thankful for the bounty God has provided. Usually I am discontented when I lack something, but today I am complaining about abundance. Paul experienced these extremes, too, and learned how to deal with them.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12,13 NIV
I sigh again, this time with whispers of “Thank you” and “Give me strength.”
I know what it is to have plenty.
I think I’ll bake an apple pie, and while it’s still warm I’ll get the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer for those who like it à
But my slice? I’ll have a scoop of contentment, please, maybe two.
“May we dig up dandelions in your yard?”
My grandmother always asked permission, and, of course, we always said, “Yes.” Who wouldn’t be happy to have someone uproot weeds from your yard?
Grandma and Grandpa weren’t offering to help because they were embarrassed by the weedy condition of our lawn–they planned to cook and eat the dandelion greens. I assume they acquired a taste for them from their parents and grandparents. I, however, found it hard to believe any part of a dandelion could be flavorful until I read Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus and experimented with a spring salad of dandelion greens, lambs’ quarters, and violet leaves.*
The secret is to gather the dandelion greens before the plant blossoms (before the leaves turn bitter), so you need to be able to identify the dandelion by its jagged, incisor-tooth-shaped leaves. The French phrase “
So is the dandelion a weed or desirable plant? Do you consider it a nuisance in your grassy lawn or see it as a nutritious food source?
The dandelion was certainly more highly thought of in the past. It was so prized that Europeans intentionally brought it to the New World. Imagine a time before neighborhood grocery stores were stocked with spinach and kale, when there were no bottled vitamin supplements. Those who were feeling ill in late winter due to vitamin deficiencies were advised to eat the vitamin-rich dandelion and often improved. Europeans also used the plant to treat a wide variety of ailments, from fevers to fluid retention, from warts to the plague, and so the common dandelion was given the botanical name taraxacum offincinale, meaning “the official remedy for disorders.”
We live in a world today that has rejected the dandelion and considers it a wild and unwanted weed.
We live in a world that has rejected more than just dandelions. It dismisses Jesus as an unwanted weed. Our post-Christian world has rejected the God who is Himself “the official remedy for disorders” and who has the ultimate healing power over our sin sickness.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; Mark 12:10 NIV
We live in a world that has (in part) rejected God because He comes with “teeth.” We cannot contain or always explain Him. He is not a “tame lion.”
Look—the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered. Rev. 5:5 MSG
In the C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the tiresome, dragon/boy Eustace tells Edmund about his encounter with the huge lion, Aslan.
I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. . . . The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the [dragon] skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy — oh but it is such fun to see it coming away. . .
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off. . . And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.
Our God, like Aslan, is the lion who roars, the lion with sharp teeth and claws. And he is the Lion who heals.
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Psalm 103:3-5 MSG
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* If you decide to try a new-to-you food like dandelion, be careful of allergies and drug interactions. Be sure to correctly identify plants and find out whether the area has been sprayed with chemicals. Wash greens thoroughly.
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also linked with Words With Winter at Me,Coffee and Jesus