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I’ve shared with you that I’ve been taking a little break. A mental vacation of sorts from any and all optional obligation. The beginning of the year through May was crazy busy with different teaching opportunities and at the time, I kept telling myself if I could just make it until summer that I wouldn’t read anything but my daily devos, Beth’s Esther study, and maybe some good fiction during the kids’ summer vacation.  The thoughts of mindless days beside the pool with nary a deadline in sight were what kept me going. It’s not that I didn’t love what I was doing – I just got a little overwhelmed and a lot scared about the pace. My sufficiency issues run deep and I’m also prone to be one who – when a thing seems to be snowballing out of control – will slam the brakes altogether in hopes of a do over. I thought coming to a screeching halt would set things aright.

That hasn’t worked out for me so much.

I’m not trying to be dramatic and there is certainly nothing wrong with me other than I’ve discovered I’m a little heartsick. When I began asking the Lord to show me why exactly, He brought to remembrance this passage in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian is climbing Difficulty Hill and sits down to rest in the Arbor but falls into a long sleep instead. When he continues on his journey, he doesn’t realize for quite some time that he has left his Scroll (The Word) behind. He is greatly distressed when he has to backtrack to locate it. Here’s what happens next:

“He went thus till he came again in sight of the Arbor where he sat and slept; but that sight renewed his sorrow the more, by bringing again, even afresh, his evil of sleeping unto his mind. {Rev. 2:4; 1 Thess. 5:6-8.} Thus, therefore, he now went on, bewailing his sinful sleep, saying, O wretched man that I am, that I should sleep in the daytime! that I should sleep in the midst of Difficulty! that I should so indulge the flesh as to use that rest for ease to my flesh which the Lord of the hill hath erected only for the relief of the spirits of pilgrims! How many steps have I taken in vain! Thus it happened to Israel; for their sin they were sent back again by the way of the Red Sea; and I am made to tread those steps with sorrow, which I might have trod with delight, had it not been for this sinful sleep. How far might I have been on my way by this time! I am made to tread those steps thrice over, which I needed not to have trod but once: yea, now also I am like to be benighted, for the day is almost spent. O that I had not slept!”

I think I’ve told you in the past my favorite devo book is called Daily Light for the Daily Path. Each day has a morning and evening reading of topical scripture strung one after another. Such a wonderful book and it never fails the topic that comes up is dead on. So, as if reading this part of Pilgrim was not enough, my devos for the last three days have been all over being watchful, being awake, being alert for the time that the master will return. Of not being lazy. Of not growing weary in well-doing.

Okay, Lord. I think I get the point. I love you for remembering I am dust and being willing to send the quadruple affirmations I so need.  Thank you for missing me enough to call me back to deep study.  Thank you for commentaries and key word study bibles and blueletterbible.org.  I’ve missed you all so.

I never cease to be blown away by my God, but He put a thought on my mind that I can’t quite get rid of and I wonder if it applies to any of you girls, too. “Lisa, your calling isn’t in the walk. It’s in the run.” And that’s when it hit me. He knows me. He knows I thrive in chaos. He knows when I’m busiest and most obligated, I am happiest and most productive. The long sleep may be what my flesh craves, but my individual Spirit was created to ‘go nimbly’ up Difficulty Hill. That may seem like no big deal to you, but that little piece of self-revelation was just what I needed to wake me from the slumber of the seemingly delightful yet deceptive Arbor.

“But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again?” I can tell because in some small measure, I’m feeling it with him. There’s no time for grieving lost days or thinking how much farther down the road I would be had I not slept. Today, the smile on my face comes from knowing there is a God in Heaven who has asked me to participate in what He is doing in the lives of people here on earth.

And He doesn’t mind pushing me out of bed to get me rolling again.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” ~ Ephesians 5:15-16

Lisa

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I love to tell you stories, but from time to time, I hope you will humor me by joining me in Bible Study.  As tempted as I am to drown you with Hebrew and Greek words, in an effort to keep you from running screaming into the night, I’ll keep it relatively short.  It is a powerful thing for women to gather in agreement over God’s word and I would be honored for you to study and interact with me.  With that said, before you begin today, please read Isaiah 30:1-26. 

Of all the horrifying news we must hear from day to day, perhaps the worst for me to endure is when a child is abducted.  I can not fathom how I would ever close my eyes again without my consciousness continuing to scream, “Where are they?  Who are they with?  What are they going through?”  My mind shuts down at the thought.

I sank in my chair when I heard of the kidnapping of Ben Ownby, an eleven-year-old boy, just a few weeks back.  I have a son who will be eleven next month and the “what if” thoughts of this happening to him sent me into a tailspin.  These stories make us watch our young ones a little closer – guard them a little more carefully.  I prayed for this family every day as I kept up with their saga on FoxNews.  “Let this time be different, Lord.  Find this baby safe and sound.” I know you were as relieved as I when Ben was later discovered in an apartment along with a young man named Shawn Hornbeck.

As the story began to unravel, we learned that Shawn had been held captive for over four years and that he was often left alone later in his imprisonment with many opportunities for escape.  Experts attribute this behavior to Stockholm syndrome which causes the victim to form a bond with their captor.  For others, fear itself can be enough to serve as chains. 

Spiritually speaking, there are many of us who suffer from what we will call the “Stronghold” syndrome.  Much as the original abduction in this case, Satan orchestrates a “chokehold” event which leaves us feeling as if his hands are clamped over our windpipe and we are sucking desperately for our next breath.  This could come in the form of loss, victimization, poor financial choices, betrayal, deceit.  The list is endless.  It is important to note that sometimes these things are perpetrated against us and we have no control over when they come into our lives.  Other situations are the results of our own sin.  In either case, where we turn for deliverance will determine how long we remain in captivity.

Isaiah 30 describes a time in Israel’s history when they were threatened by invasion from Assyria.  The chokehold was on.  However, instead of calling to the God of their fathers to rescue them, they formed an alliance with Egypt who had been the source of their original bondage!  Israel chose to trust in a self-controlled deliverance instead of allowing Jehovah to guide them.  “Speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions” but “let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel” (vs 10-11).

A stronghold can be defined as a state of mind that colors every decision we make from how we relate to others to how we carry out our daily routines.  It is the first thing we think of when we wake up and the last thing before we sleep.  How many of us when confronted with our bonds simply do not want to deal with it?  To hear God’s counsel is to be forced to act; unfortunately, the bizarre thing which often happens next is that Satan slowly releases his grip and trains us to replace his hand with our own.  We don’t know how to live without the pain.  We can control it.  We can stuff it down.  Pink Floyd said it well, “I have become comfortably numb”.  (Can I quote Pink Floyd in a Bible Study?)  I can just imagine Satan walking smugly away, “On to number next…my job here is done.”  He can do that when we pick up where he left off by choking ourselves with fear, self-condemnation, or perhaps the false belief that we are protecting someone else by keeping our pain to ourselves.

What God says is that there will come a day when we have dammed up so much sin and/or pain that a breach will come.  The wall will come tumbling down and when it does, there will not be one piece useful to either ourselves or anyone else.  This is absolutely Satan’s design for our lives.  There isn’t a day we are not fulfilling either God’s plan or Satan’s.  Satan may not be able to occupy a believer’s soul but he certainly can occupy our time thereby rendering us ineffective for the Kingdom we so desperately want to impact. 

Gratefully, there are verses 18-26 as a remedy for the first 17.  My favorite part comes next, “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitants in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer.  He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”

All God is waiting to hear is our cry for mercy.  Just like Shawn Hornbeck, freedom is never further than a conversation away.  Girls, it is time.  We do not have to live one more day in the grip of Satan.  It may take some truth-telling, some repenting, and some revelation.  It may feel like we are dying instead of actually breathing again.  Rejection is the reality we fear most.  Take heart – though we can not always trust the reactions of others when it comes to laying ourselves bare, no matter the circumstance, there is One we can rely upon and He will “in no wise cast us out.” (John 6:37).    

During his captivity, Shawn sent an email to his own parents’ website set up to aid in his search. “How long are you planning to look for your son?” he asked.  The answer: “As long as it takes.” 

“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it, ” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.  And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold.  You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, “Be GONE!” (Verses 21-22, emphasis mine) 

How long will God watch and wait for His children?  As long as it takes.  It is time to come home.  He’ll guide us….all we have to do is ask.

 Father, I know I’m far from home.  The dying I can stand, it’s the living I don’t know if I can do.  Show me the next step in my path back to You.  Help me to have the courage to obey You, especially when it hurts.  Please walk me through these days when I don’t know what will happen next.  O God, build my faith.  Amen.

Ya’ll, I have been given Biblical permission to shop. 

For Valentines, My DARLING preacher bestowed a Blessing From the Family Headship that I could go actually buy myself a little something!  I don’t mean from the clearance rack at Wal-mart either, no way honey, I get to go to the “Big City”.    Even better than that, he arranged for me to be accompanied, “childless”, by one of my bestest buddies.  What is totally hilarious is that her husband gave her a Valentine card giving her Biblical Permission to go with ME!  Isn’t that the greatest that us girlfriends were given as a gift to one another??

Oooohhh, wait a minute.  I feel a sermon illustration coming on.  Get back again T.D.Jakes, I’m stepping to your pretty glass podium.  Did I hear an organ??

 I love The Message take on this Ecclesiastes 4 concept,  “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”

Girls, the things we can face as long as we have the “Sistahood”!  However, none of us could make it in the same room a pair of minutes without “The Third”, that being Jesus Himself.  There is nothing sweeter than a  relationship where Christ is the bond. We are much less likely to snap when we’ve been betrayed, rejected, riduculed, or disappointed if we realize our “others” are not responsible to hold us all together.  There is but One who can fill our needs.  Let Him be your delight and let everyone else off the hook!

Ya’ll will excuse me if I have to go now?  Kohl’s is calling, and they want their best customer back!

     

  

Seeing how it is Sunday and all, I felt compelled to share something spiritual that God has impressed upon me this week in response to the recurring theme of, “I really don’t feel God is using me right now.” If you are feeling this way, take heart in Paul’s words to Timothy:

“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work”.  2 Timothy 2:20-21

My mother-in-law can cook like nobody’s business and one of her specialties is good ‘ole southern potato salad.  She has this special Strawberry Bowl that the potato salad goes in.  Always.  There was a period of time when the Strawberry Bowl went missing, but that is a story for another day. 

Point being, special occasions warrant special dishes and spiritually speaking, you are God’s best china.  The thing we always don’t understand is why God seems to overlook us for periods of time while someone else is being “used” on a regular basis.  The same way we pull out a round cakestand for a carrot cake or a platter for the turkey, God will use us when we are the perfect fit.  We all have our set of issues God has used to shape the women we have become.  It is not enough, girls, to keep all that grace to ourselves.  When He chooses to pull us out, we have to be prepared.  So what does that really look like?

         *  You have a co-worker who is not a Christian.  She asks you why you are always smiling.  What do you say?

         *   A woman in your church has suffered a miscarriage.  You went through the same tradgedy.  What do you do?

         *  A friend is in an abusive relationship.  She confides this in you.  Where do you turn?

 The key words here are:  your co-worker, your fellow church member, your friend.  We are each given a circle of influence to work within.  Only when we are faithfully circulating amongst those God has entrusted us with will He break down and expand our current boundaries.  

Be ready!  When He knows and, just as importantly, you know He can trust you with more He’ll be faithful in giving it to you.  Look for those opportunities to be the china He pulls out of the cabinet.   

In response, how is God using you lately?  If you don’t feel He is, will you commit to look for the opportunity?  If you will, I can promise you He will not leave you on the shelf. 

Please know I am having a blast meeting so many new friends and keeping in touch with the many God has blessed our family with.  Have a wonderful week!  

Okay, so for those of you who don’t know, hubby and I have a small janitorial service.  Only stupid people clean buildings.  But that is for another post. 

Anyway, so I’m cleaning an office today and taking some trash to a dumpster when I see this animal on top of the fence which is laced with barbed wire.  The sun was reflecting in such a way as to make it clear this was an animal with a large, shiny, orange head.  I mean metallic shiny and the head – very large.  My first thought is this thing has been eating out of the dumpster way too long and it is now a pitiful mutant creature.  I was ready to take a picture with my cell phone so I could send it to those Saskwatch people. 

I got close enough to finally see it was a cat and it had its head stuck in a Frito’s bag – nice and tight.    It was trying to take a step but every time it did its little paw landed on a barb so it was just standing,  mo-tion-less.  I went to the cat and carefully took the bag off its head and I have to tell you all I could see was that thing jumping on my face and clawing my eyes out…but, I have lived to tell the tale.  At that moment though, I felt so sorry for that little thing and I almost would have taken it home.  I said almost.  My compassion has limits. 

When that cat’s head came out of that bag its eyes were huge as saucers.  It looked around and dashed into the woods like greased lightnin’.  Goodbye kittykat. 

 Here’s the spiritualizin’ part.  The phrase that hit me when I saw that cat was, “Friendly Captivity”.  Just think about the hunger, the desire that drove her to stick her head in there just looking for something to satisfy.  I’m thinking that kittykat was pretty happy in there until she realized she couldn’t get that thing off her head and found herself sucking air, blinded to her next step, and ultimately paralyzed. 

Don’t we do that?  That outfit looks great until we have to pay the credit card bill and the Krispy Kreme Donuts are divine until it’s time to pay the piper on the scale.  When do we finally realize that God is enough – that He is the fuel that our spiritual engine was designed to burn?  Anything else that pretends to meet our needs will only keep us long enough to leave us like poor kittykat.  Blind.Breathless.Bloated.

Isaiah 55:2, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does no satisfy?”  Trying to fufill ourselves is way too much work.  He wants to rescue us…rip the bag open and love on us a little because thankfully, His compassion is not limited.  Let HIM be enough…   

 Oh, you can find a sermon illustration in anything…:)