Category: Devotionals

When Fear Is at the Door

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Fear knocked at the door.  Faith answered.  No one was there. Unknown

Fear’s been knocking at the door a lot. Events over which I have no control have hounded me relentlessly this past year, leaving me to feel as if I am bobbing helplessly along in a swift river toward a massive waterfall – something like Bogey and Kate in African Queen. Except I have the drama without the glamour. Each day I have grimly pushed through the day’s challenges as I have tried to ignore the persistent pounding on my spirit’s door by fear.    

Some days I totally give in to it, which was what happened this week. I discovered I had a nasty infection, followed by bad reactions to each of the two different antibiotics prescribed by my doctor. The one last night was particularly frightening. I debated about going to ER but settled instead on going to bed to wait out the night. My family prayed for me, released me from my share of the caregiving duties, and watched protectively as I snuggled under the comfort of my new throw (a Pier One Valentine’s gift from my dear husband) and tried to shut my eyes against the raging storm in my body.

 But the greater storm was the one in my spirit. The physical pounding in my heart echoed the fear that emanated from behind the door of the unknown as it rattled the doorknob and threatened to jump out at me at any moment.

Just then, my husband came up bearing a small container of pure, extra-virgin olive oil from the kitchen.  He slipped to my side and offered to anoint me as he prayed for me. I gladly accepted. He poured a bit out and  touched it to my forehead as he prayed a simple but heartfelt prayer for healing. It was nothing grandiose or commanding – just a request to his God on behalf of his beloved.

The physical storm did not immediately stop, but the spiritual one subsided as that incomprehensible peace only the Spirit can give washed over me. My husband’s intercession was the reminder I needed that God is always in control. It was his faith going to the door for me and opening it to find nothing on the other side.

This morning I am much better. As I recuperate and rest on this Sunday morning, I think of the other doors and storms in my life and am reminded that our struggle is truly not a physical one, but one against the “flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). In this age of sophistication and cynicism, I must never forget I do not war with what I see, but with the “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). For those wars in our lives, we must put on the whole armor of God and walk in complete fearlessness, never forgetting we serve a big God who is alive, well, and fully in charge.

God is real; fear is the shadow.

Today may God strengthen and encourage you for whatever doors you face. As you surround yourself with His armor, my prayer is He will grant us all the courage to open those doors we face and dispel our fears. Who knows what opportunities for God’s service and glory lie behind them?

Not to fear is the armor. Ulrich Zwingli

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

Never Underestimate Jesus

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…truly I say to youif you have faith as a mustard seed, 
you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move;
and nothing shall be impossible to you.”
Matthew 17:20

It was an unexpected vacation of sorts, a rare thing for us.  A weekend opened up, and we were relieved of our home and church duties just long enough to squeeze in a three-day trip to the coast.  We jumped at the chance to see the ocean again.

We had to drive four hundred and eighty miles to our destination, and we soon settled in for the long haul.  My husband set the car’s cruise control on the speed limit, and I cozied into my seat with some music and a bag of Fritos.  It had been a decade since we had driven the Columbia Gorge, but it was familiar territory, since we had family living near the coast.  The landscape had not changed much along the way.

 Only two things marred the day:  our sour attitudes starting out and the smoke from area fires that permeated everything.  The pressure of trying to get everything ready on such short notice and without much sleep had left us both cranky.  It didn’t help our moods that the first part of the trip was accompanied by dense smoke from a large wildfire.  The whole world seemed to be on fire somewhere near the Blue Mountains, although we never actually saw flames.  A stranglehold of gloom enveloped us as we drove on in irritable silence.  The air cleared a bit along the Columbia, but a haze began again as we neared Hood River.

We had forgotten about the mountain.  My husband saw it first, of course, because he had his eyes on the road.  Then I saw it, too.  Mount Hood, magnificent as always, rose up out of the haze as if it were too grand to be found wallowing in the lowlands with mortals like us. I had forgotten how impressive it is.

No matter how many times I travel that road, I always forget to look for it.  It surprises me every time.  Each time it emerges out of the valley just when I have traveled so long along the bottom land I forget it’s there.

Each time it reminds me that surprises do still happen; that God doesn’t have a jaded heart like I do; that He can place mountains where they don’t belong and give a thrill to this poor old valley-dweller.

 A few years back, I had another reminder of that.  Someone very important to us invited God into her life; someone who has been on our prayer list for many years.  We had prayed for her so many times it became a familiar road, well-traversed and worn down in places.  The choking smoke of unseen daily fires kept a dreary haze over the area and limited our vision.  Still we continued on, praying routinely, increasingly sporadically, often faithlessly, more often than not with a sour and unbelieving attitude.

 Then one day we turned a corner and came unexpectedly upon the majesty of God.  Out of the haze of our valley we were surprised by the amazing grace of the Savior.  True to His word, He took our tiny mustard seed of faith and moved a mountain for us.  Right in front of our eyes arose a splendid, lovely, breath-taking spire of faith reaching toward heaven out of the heart of a young woman.  The beauty of it caught us unawares and took our breath away.

 How could I have forgotten?  When will I ever learn?  The next time I travel the Gorge, I will be surprised by Mount Hood.  The next time God answers a prayer, I will be as amazed as if I had never seen such a thing before.  Every time I forget the power, the glory, and the faithfulness of our God.  And still for us, because of His great love, He moves the mountain.

Next week:  A very special guest blog by Samantha Thorson.  We are honored to have Samantha join us next week.  If you enjoyed “Never Underestimate Jesus,” stop by and meet the lovely young woman featured in this post.  She is now serving God in ministry and will be sharing with us.  Expect to be blessed and challenged by her devotion to Christ and her thirst for the deep things of God.

The God of Small Beginnings

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For who has despised the day of small things? – Zechariah 4:10

You would think the King of the universe would love to do things in a big way, like humans do. We love doing things in a big way, and for a big audience. We yearn for the bright lights and those fifteen minutes of fame.

But God, who is fully capable of pulling off the grand show, appears instead to love small beginnings. Unlike His creation, He shuns the spotlight.

He populated an entire planet with two people fashioned from dirt and built a nation with a sheep-herder. He took a man from the dirty water of the Nile and made him a deliverer. He created soldiers from slaves and conquered whole kingdoms with simple acts of obedience.

He flattened tower walls with a shout of praise and sent fire from heaven at the sound of a prayer.

He called a shepherd boy from the hills and set him over an entire nation. He used David’s simple songs of anguish and praise to bring comfort to millions of hurting people for generations after him. He set a man upon the throne because he only asked for wisdom. He sent a Jewish captive to save her people from the plot of a powerful and deadly enemy.

When the appointed time came for the King to set foot in His kingdom, it was not the grand halls of earth that received His Majesty, but a cave. He didn’t arrive to the roar of adoring crowds, but to the wondering whispers of shepherds. He didn’t come in a blaze of glory, but under the light of a shimmering star.

The first Voice the earth heard from its King was not the triumphant shout of victory, but the wail of a baby. The first witnesses of His glory were His parents and some animals. He arrived surrounded by little warmth, light, or comfort. Instead, He brought all three with Him.

Out of prison cells across the centuries and from the cracked lips of suffering, God’s glory has emerged. Beaten, persecuted, despised, and weak, God’s people have always been the lowly canvas upon which He has painted His masterpiece of love. With small strokes of color poured out upon His palette with each life, He produces a work of breathtaking beauty and scope.

God rejoices in small beginnings because it gives Him a chance to work, a chance to be our strength, our comfort, our Deliverer. It offers Him the opportunity to fill the vacuum left by our nothingness. Since He can’t fill us with His glory when we’re already full of ourselves, smallness keeps us empty.

Thank God for small beginnings. May we always be small in our own eyes.

A Continual Feast

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A cheerful heart has a continual feast. –Proverbs 15:15

I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it, the colors, the fragrant chill in the air, the idea of stopping for a moment to give thanks to the Giver of everything else.

It has been a glorious day, especially welcome after a couple of incredibly hard weeks. Today I immersed myself in the heavenly aromas of the season and let my soul take it in like a starving drifter who has been finally invited to the table.

It’s amazing what can heal a person.  After a bruising year in nursing school, I thought I would soon settle back into some semblance of normalcy. Instead, I have been swept into a swirl of heartbreak. A host of hurting family and friends have kept me busy and spent me emotionally these last months.

In the process of fighting for my faith, my friends, and my family, I realized I have been skating near to the edge of the wilderness. Like the children of Israel, I have been doing a lot of grumbling in a dry and thirsty land.

But not today.

Today I remembered my many blessings as I stirred up all our favorite Thanksgiving goodies. Tonight I sat with the people I love and laughed and stuffed myself with the treasure of God’s bounty.

The food was good, too.

It’s amazing how different the world looks through the golden glow of gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I thanks my God every time I remember you!

Spring Always Comes

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Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves
so that we would not trust in ourselves,
but in God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9 NASB

At the dawn of Easter morning each year, I love to open the Bible to the Gospels and re-visit the tomb of Jesus. Every year, I find find it still empty, and Christ’s victory over death thrills me anew.

The celebration of the resurrection of Christ always comes with the first stirrings of nature out of the deadness of winter. This time of year, it is easier to believe that God can make the dead come alive, for the good news of the resurrection is preached with every living thing that bursts triumphantly from the dark winter earth.

I’ve never liked winter. Every year, it overtakes us, killing everything in its path and heartlessly freezing the life out of all it touches. In the dead of winter, we are surrounded by death. I walk through my garden in the winter, and it seems as though nothing will ever grow there again.

But I’m not worried, because I know its emptiness is temporary. Spring will come. It always does. We all know that.

It’s harder to have that same trust through the winter seasons of our lives. When we bury a parent, a child, a spouse, or a dream, we only see the finality of it all. As we face our own mortality, death seems like the ultimate reality.

But one moment in history changed all that forever. It all changed with one empty tomb.

Yes, we still live in the winter season of time. Death still reigns over the physical realm of this planet. But its days are now numbered. It’s just a season.

And God is Lord of the seasons. He is Lord of the past, the present, and the future. Because He knows the future, He is not worried. He’s been through this winter. The Master walks through His garden and knows that this is all temporary. He knows that because He’s been there. He entered the grave and came back with the keys to death and life.

He’s the One who emptied the tomb, and He’s the One who commands the spring that always comes. In the darkness of our winter night, we can rejoice in this:

Spring always comes. 

This is our hope. And hope is a powerful thing.

Is God Tired of Us?

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My son Kevin recently watched an award-winning 2006 documentary called God Grew Tired of Us. At his recommendation, I watched it last night. Kevin told me to be prepared to cry.

I was prepared to cry. But I wasn’t prepared to grieve.

The camera follows the story of three young Sudanese men who emigrate to America from the refugee camp in which they have lived since their flight from Sudan years before. The film backtracks to document the violent events which killed and scattered their families and left them to survive alone. As youngsters, John, Daniel, and Panther joined the thousands of “Lost Boys” who made the long trek across treacherous terrain without food or water in search of safety in another country.

They were among the fortunate ones who survived the journey. After years in a refuge camp, they were eventually chosen to emigrate to America. Through the lens, we watch them live the joy of hope, the bewilderment of being thrust into a new culture, and the determination to build new lives in this country. I laughed as they struggled to learn how to turn on a light and tasted their first potato chips. I flinched when they wondered what Santa and a tree of lights had to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.

I cried as they walked in amazement through grocery stores bulging with food, their new American clothes hanging from their gaunt frames as a pudgy American stared at them with frank distaste. I was amazed at their love for one another, their commitment to care for those they left behind, their simple appreciation for all that we take for granted.

It was painful to hear John, in his measured and thoughtful manner, express the belief that God had grown tired of his country and had allowed chaos and death to consume his beloved Sudan. His humility was touching. I grieve for the arrogance with which we have left behind such simplicity of heart.

And it made me wonder: Is God growing tired of us? Will He weary of bestowing abundance on an ungrateful, unbelieving nation? The group that made the trek across Sudan are called “The Lost Boys.”

But I wonder who is really lost.

An Every Day Thanksgiving

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My husband and I were talking about the world situation the other day. From recent news reports, everything appears to be going to “hell in a hand basket,” as my blessed mother would have said. I’m not sure what the phrase means, but when she used it about any particular situation, we always knew that life wasn’t going to be pretty until some serious adjustments were made.

As my husband and I talked, it occurred to us that, although things around us are bad, we really only know it’s that bad because of the news. We actually wouldn’t even know about it by looking at our lives. Sure, we have a tough situation caring for a quadriplegic son, but our lives are, in many ways (can I really be saying this?) – pleasant. We have much for which to be thankful.

This morning, I was thinking about some of our blessings in these troubled times:

  • I awakened in my own bed this morning. Believe me, this is a blessing. I, as well as the rest of the family, have spent many nights wadded up in a hospital chair next to Kevin’s bed in ICU or rehab.
  • God has granted us another day together. My friend Cindy, who recently lost her battle with cancer, would have been ecstatic to have had a healthy, pain-free day to enjoy with her family.
  • I am in reasonably good health.
  • I have a wonderful family who loves me and who is trying to serve God every day.
  • We still live in a free country.
  • I love my jobs: taking care of those I love and writing about the One I love.
  • I can eat whenever I want, shower in hot water, use all the electricity I need, sleep when I feel like it, and buy the necessary things and a few extra delights like candy, pretty clothes, and home furnishings.
  • My friends are awesome.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Yes, I could make a list of the things that make my life difficult, even pitiful by some people’s standards.

But Thanksgiving is such a great place to live. It really beats the alternative. Since I’ve found myself here this morning, I think I’ll just hang around awhile and enjoy the view. God seems to show up here a lot, and I’ve been looking for Him lately, anyway.

I wonder if He was waiting for me.

Never Give Up

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I awakened this morning to snow…again. This is one of the longest winters I can remember, and as I face the prospect of another gray day, spring seems to be a distant hope.

The morning drudgery is brightened by a steaming cup of coffee and my quiet time. I’m reading about Joseph in Egypt. As a youth, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and unjustly accused of a crime against his master. It appeared that he would be in prison indefinitely, the dreams of his youth dead.

But in a day, his life reversed as God put into motion the events that would free him and bring him into the place for which God had prepared him. Those years in prison taught him humility and the grace of his Lord. Without the gray days, he would have never been ready for the job God had for him.

As I sit by my computer this morning, two dozen robins have flown in from their winter retreat to set up housekeeping. They hop along the ground like popcorn, seemingly oblivious to the cold. It doesn’t look like spring yet, but they know better. It is coming. It’s the great law of nature: Spring always comes.

Recently, the local paper did an article on Song in the Night and the story of our family. When the reporter asked our quadriplegic son Kevin if he wanted to tell something to the readers, he told her, “Never give up.” We can’t give up, because God can reverse any situation whenever He chooses. We never know how close we are to deliverance and victory. Winter never lasts forever.

Spring comes, and with it, new hope.

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