Thursday, October 27

Practice Makes Perfect

Read Romans 12

The other day, my husband asked an innocent question. Should we invite friends over for dinner. I was 3pm. I glanced around my house. counted to ten, then counted again.

My house doesn’t always look like a tornado blew through, but at 3:00 on a Friday, it definitely sports that lived-in look. And the idea of inviting company over to see the mayhem makes me shudder.

“No. Way.”

I can come up with several reasons the proposition seemed ridiculous, but they all boil down to one: what will people think of me?!

Recently, we were guests in the home of some new friends. We popped into town on a Monday and inserted ourselves into their lives with little time for preparation. They were gracious enough to welcome us with enthusiasm, even as she made up the dinner menu in the car on our way there. When we entered their home, it was to dishes in the sink and toys on the floor.

Had I been in her shoes, I would have suggested eating out. But we were instead welcomed into real life.

I don’t know about you, but I somewhat enjoy doing someone else’s dishes. And it doesn’t seem like so much work when there are four people laughing, talking, prepping and cleaning in one small kitchen. It felt like a way more fun version of home. Comfortable. Easy. No pretence, or facades, just easy cooperation.

And AMAZING food!

And do you know what I thought of her?I want to be more like that. What a gracious hostess to open her home without warning and treat us like family.

In Romans, Paul suggests putting love into action through sincerity: “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.”

Practice hospitality. Interesting way to put that, isn’t it? Practicing something like hospitality. Sometimes we need to lower our standards. The spirit of hospitality is more important than the immaculateness of the host home. Sometimes we need to raise our standards a bit. Just because we all have dirty laundry doesn’t mean it needs to be out for the world to see.

Above all, “Honor one another above yourself.”

Perfect housekeeping is not the goal here. If we allow ourselves to wonder “what will they think?” we are putting ourselves, our vanity and pride above others, and that is NOT being hospitable.

There’s nothing wrong with being Martha Stewart (unless it comes to the stock market), as long as our hearts are to serve, not to receive praise.

I’m trying my best to freak out less at letting people see my real life, but it’s going to take some practice. Good thing practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, October 26

A Thank You That Lasts

Read Psalm 118

"Thank you" isn't an unfamiliar phrase in my vocabulary. My parents taught it to me when I was young, along with "please," "excuse me," and "I'm sorry." "Thank you" is easy to say. I have said it often, felt it often, thought it often. I take "thank you" for granted.

I recently read a book called "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are," by Ann Voskamp. This isn't an easy fiction read like I am usually drawn to, but I highly recommend it. Instead of being taken away by a novel's story, I'm seeing my own story in a different light.

 "Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."

Sarah Ban Breathnach

This morning I was reading the book, a chapter delving into thankfulness, when my 6 year old daughter  came down the stairs. It was 7:02am. Her hair was in a dither and her eyes were scrunched as they decided between sleep and the lightness of  day. Her groggy voice said, "I slept right 'till seven." She has always been our clock-work kid with her self-imposed schedules.

She came close to my chair to look at the book in my hand.

"I'm reading about thankfulness. What are you thankful for?" I asked her, curious about her answer.

Without hesitation she said, "I'm thankful for my mom and dad."

"And I'm thankful for you." I said it with a smile while looking right into her eyes. Instead of looking down shyly like I was sure she would, she stared hard at me. Her eyes asked, "Really? Do you mean it?" It had been too long since our conversations revolved around more than instructions and reprimands.

And I responded back, "With all my heart, down to my toes. My socks are knocked off with how thankful I am for you." Her smile of confidence told me more than words could ever say. She felt safe. She felt love.

"What else?" I probed.

"My brother and sister."

"I'm thankful for our warm house," I said from my snug position near the toasty wood stove. We were off and running on this game of thankfulness.

"I am thankful for the night." She said looking out the window beside us into the darkness. I pointed to the other window across the room where light was pushing through on the horizon.

"I'm thankful for the new day," I said.

It was her turn now and she excitedly said, "I'm thankful for Christmas. But not because of the presents, but because of Jesus' birthday and we get to have a party. Jesus came to save us."

Where did that come from? It's October. But I loved hearing about what was on her heart. What she thinks about. She has never been a communicator. She started speaking sentences at about 4 years old and even now she doesn't share a lot with me. She thinks a lot, I often see her quick mind working. This sneak peek was beautiful.

There in the glow of a new day's sunrise I felt thankful. Really thankful. Most of my life I've felt thankfulness like an aura around me. Like the temperature of a room, sure to cool at the slightest upset. The "thankful feeling" would fade with the draft of everyday craziness.

Ann Voskamp says in the book, "We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to his grace."

Thethankfulness I felt this morning was different. Through my reading, reflecting on the Scripture woven through "One Thousand Gifts," and the short conversation with my sweet daughter, I began to realize I had a lot to learn about being thankful. True gratitude for every single thing is lasting, unlike the passing feeling. This thankfulness that settled over me was like putting on a cozy sweater. No matter if things got crazy and the aura faded in the cool draft, the warmth would be with me all day.

"What if all you had today were the things 

you thanked God for yesterday?"

~ unknown

Tuesday, October 25

The Perfect In Their Lives

Read Luke 15:11-32

Borrowed from Mary Ostyn at OwlHaven

I’ve always known– intellectually, anyway — that it is not my job to be a perfect parent. I’m human and I make mistakes. And as a Christian, I know that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. I don’t have to labor under the burden of needing to be perfect.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize recently. Even though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross released me from that need to be perfect, for years as a mom I’ve been clinging to that burden anyway. You see, I know my actions affect my kids and the last thing I want is to be that proverbial millstone– dragging my kids down because I’m not patient enough or focused enough or wise enough to respond appropriately at various moments in their lives.

Certainly any mom who cares about her kids wants to do the best job possible, and looks for ways to handle difficulty with more wisdom and grace next time. But recently God has been opening my eyes, and showing me how much my endless quest for ‘success’ (whatever that is) has left me living under the law instead of in freedom.

Thinking that my kids’ success or failure is dependent on my ability as a mother is putting myself higher on the totem pole than I belong. Higher than the God who’s got the whole world in His hands. The God who loved my kids to the cross, through the grave, and back. Yes, I play an important role in my kids’ lives. But God is the real worker in their lives, in me and through me and around me and sometimes in spite of me.

I cannot mess up God’s plan for my children’s lives.

Even in my worst, weakest moments, I do not possess that power.

I can’t tell you how freeing that realization is to me.

Because unfailingly my MOST frustrating moments as a mom are when I feel ineffective– when I’m repeating a lesson or dealing with an issue and things.aren’t.working. At least not on a here-and-now visible-to-me level. And when I feel ineffective, I start flailing around in frustration, wondering what I should be doing differently. And pretty soon I’m yelling at my kids, which leaves me feeling even more aggravated and ineffective and hopeless.

What am I focusing on in those trying moments? Results. Or lack thereof.

Somehow I’m thinking if I just come up with the right combination of rewards and consequences, of words and wisdom, of grace and grit, that life will somehow miraculously get all unsnarled.

But here’s the thing. I can’t grow my kids’ souls any more than I can help them sprout new teeth. Sure, I can feed and water and encourage and influence and hug and love.

But the growing? That’s between my kids and their God.

So instead of fluffing up like a ruffled chicken when I’m not having my desired effect on my lil world, I need to put myself back in my place. Chill. Be faithful. Do my little bit. Obey to the best of my frail ability. And leave the results up to the real Worker in my children’s lives.


He is able to do immeasurably more than I can ever ask or imagine.

Monday, October 24

Progress, Not Perfection

Read Psalm 25:4-21

Written by Ashley K. for Drops 

The roof of the church will not cave in when sinners enter. I understand that it is easy to feel like a fraud when you sit at church and you have sinful issues. Additionally, it’s hard not to notice Betty Sue sitting in the front row in her perfect dress with her perfect husband, her well behaved children, her well timed head nods and “I haven’t seen you in church in a while...” comments. Feelings of inadequacy will surely rise. 

The ladies that began this devotional seem to have an endless supply of spiritual wisdom. Me on the other hand, I’m a baby Christian. Perhaps, I’ve graduated to a tween Christian. Either way, I was intimidated when they first asked me to contribute to this devotional. Who am I to offer advice on how to be a Godly woman? For starters, a pregnancy outside of marriage, check. Divorced, check. Colorful expletives, check. An often absent prayer life, check. Sucker for TV shows I know I shouldn’t be watching, check. An attitude that gets me into trouble, check. Shall I go on?

I attended my first Women of Faith conference this year. I wasn’t expecting for two of the speakers to get up and talk about their failed marriages, the low self esteem and depression they experienced as a result of it, and the spiritual revival that eventually changed their lives. They had my attention. These women weren’t perfect either. They were up there delivering their testimonies and preaching God’s love. He took their darkest days and made a divine purpose for it all. They were there as perfect examples of His mercy and grace.

 "Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 

 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

(Romans 7:24-25) 

[Insert sigh of relief] 

I’m not a fraud. God uses my mistakes to minister to others. I’m bringing glory to Him by exposing my imperfections. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:10)

I hear a lot, “I can’t go to church, the building will probably catch fire the second I walk in.” Why is it that we feel like our sins are too big and too scary for God? He has seen it all! Envy, check. Adultery, check. Lust, check. Addiction, check. Murder, check. And guess what, He loves us anyway! If we stop and listen to Him for a second, we’d probably hear Him say, “I don’t care what you have done, you belong with me.”

If you are feeling broken and sinful, church is the exact place you need to be. Don’t wait until you have it all together to get back in that pew. Seriously, how irritating are those people that try to project flawlessness? Don’t be like that! Just remember, you are never too shameful or dirty to approach God.

Jesus was not too good to associate with thieves, liars, and prostitutes. He roamed this earth to deliver good news to all. He was not impressed with verbose prayers or large offerings. He saw the heart and the sacrifice. And that is what God is looking for from you. Take the first step in renewing your relationship with Christ.

Get up and get to church, make an appointment with your pastor, open up your Bible, or whisper a sincere prayer. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect here on earth, He is saving that kind of splendor for when we eternally unite with Him in heaven.

 “Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 

 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” 

 (Psalm 25 20-21)

Wednesday, October 19

God In the Game Of Life

Read Matthew 10:26-41

The game of Life is full of disappointments. There are some good times too, but everything is going along great and then your feet (or car) are knocked out from under you.

Lose a job. Wreck the car. Break a leg.

I’ve never liked that game. Real life is too full of bitter blows (real ones) to make it fun. Plus, it enforces the false sense that our lives are left to chance, that bad things come by an unfortunate roll of the dice or spin of the wheel.

When disappointments come we must cling to a greater truth. Is God who he says he is? The God of the Bible doesn't play games with those he loves. "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

I have a big disappointment sitting in my lap right now. This doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, it just makes me human. And I'm talking about more than "someone ate the last piece of strawberry pie" kind of disappointment. Things that make us sad, grieve, feel let-down, abandoned, frustrated, and lost are what make our souls ache in true disappointment.

What do we do with these normal life’s let-downs? I know hauling around this disappointment of mine isn’t going too well. It is heavy and I’m tired. When I sit down, my mind tediously fumbles to find an answer. The emotions of it all are so huge they crush my chest. I doubt God's plan and my hope is buried in confusion.

If you look up, “dealing with disappointment found in Scripture,” you’ll find many of the same verses I did. These verses comfort:

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the hornof my salvation, my stronghold."
Psalm 18:2 

"Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Psalm 30:5

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him."
Nahum 1:7

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[; trust also in me."
John 14:1-4

(Try this source for a whole list of Scriptures)

God’s word has accounts of many people who dealt with tremendous disappointment. This isn’t a 21st century emotion. While I appreciate the comfort, I am still the child asking “why?” Why God, did you allow this to happen in my life? My why’s cause such doubts that I’m much happier reading Ecclesiates' “meaningless” passages than Psalm’s words of encouragement. Maybe this life really is a game. Does God even care?, I am tempted to think.

But God’s plan is bigger. Isn’t it easier to trust Him when everything is going smooth-sailing? When we are winning at the game of life. Dealing with the hard stuff, the saddening set-backs that make us want to quit must be faced differently as a Christian. It comes down to one thing: we must believe God is who he says he is.

Is God trustworthy? God... cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)

Is God faithful? Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1Thessalonians 5:24)

Is God loving? God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Is God just? He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. Exodus 34:6

Is God merciful? Gracious is the LORD and merciful. Ps 116:5

Is God good? His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering. Romans 2:4

Studying the attributes of God inforces what we know to be true. A trustworthy, faithful, loving, just, merciful, and good God does not play games in our lives. Disappointments do not come from a roll of the dice, chance, or bad luck. Each sadness in our lives is known to God, felt by God. Even when "why" seems to come back without an answer, we can trust that God will fulfill a purpose in our lives.

"Ignorance is worst when it amounts to ignorance of God, and knowledge is best when it exercises itself upon the Name of God. This most excellent knowledge leads to the most excellent grace of faith. 

O, to learn more of the attributes and character of God. 

Unbelief, that hooting night bird, cannot live in the light of divine knowledge, it flies before the sun of God's great and gracious name. 

...By knowing his name is also meant an experimental acquaintance with the attributes of God, which are everyone of them anchors to hold the soul from drifting in seasons of peril.

~ Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, October 18

Mighty to...

Contributed by Melissa Howell, pastor's wife and Mommy of two boys. 

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Last week I smashed the window of my car with my own fist. Well, with my own
fist…and a rock. My baby was trapped inside the car, you see – it was kind of a freak thing that happened. The two of us were driving home from church and the poor little guy was screaming his head off. I turned on music, drove fast, reached back and patted him, but nothing would soothe him so I finally just pulled the car over.

As I stepped out of the car, closed my door and reached for his, the automatic locks of my very smart car suddenly flashed and locked on me –with all doors closed, and my keys and cell phone inside. There’s a feature on my car that’s
NOT supposed to allow this, but there I was – in a church dress and heels, stranded on the side of the road, with my desperate, screaming baby trapped inside the car.

I tried all the doors. I tried the windows. I tried to flag someone down to use a phone but then became afraid of what type of person might stop for me in a dress and heels.

Then something came over me – I can’t explain it really – call it Mom-instinct? Fear? I decided I had to do whatever it took to get my panicking baby out of that car. Without hardly even thinking (maybe that was the problem), as if I was temporarily without reason, I picked up a rock and began frantically pounding on my own car windows. It took 6 or 7 hard hits before the glass made a terrible popping sound and then shattered, and I found my hand inside the car, glass imbedded, and bleeding profusely.

Instantly I picked up my sobbing child, wrapped his shaking little body in my arms, and sang to him until he was quiet.

Someday, when he asks me about the strange scars on my left hand, I will tell him this story.

I haven’t always understood what the Bible meant when it calls God “mighty to save,” but I did that day. I felt pretty mighty breaking a car window and rescuing my baby, but think of God’s might – He is able to save us from ANYTHING: He breaks through our struggles, our habits, our depression, our pride, even the separation of sin itself.

What’s more, He is mighty enough to save our children, which I sometimes find myself wanting even more than my own salvation. He is mighty enough to break through their walls and their stubbornness and even the parts of them that are so very much just like…us.

It’s not hard to be saved – God makes it happen! He is mighty! Even as we cry and scream in anger, He is already on the way to help. And when He gets to us, there won’t be scolding or head-shaking – look above. He will not only quiet you with His love, but He will actually rejoice over you with singing. He cheers for you! He celebrates and delights in you!

And He will do whatever it takes to save you – just think of His own scarred hands.

Monday, October 17

What Are Friends For

Written by Ashley

Read Ruth 1:8-18

I’m a wife.  I’m a mom.  I’m a friend?

With all of the roles I’ve taken on, I’ve become a pretty vacant friend.  I read in the bible all the time about how important it is to have friends and how important it is to be a good friend.

 “A friend loves at all times...” -Proverbs 17:17

 “Do not forsake your friend...” Proverbs 27:10

I was challenged by a devotional that I read to send a card or a letter to a friend every couple of weeks.  Can you believe that?  A challenge to send a card?  After I got over how ludicrous it sounded, I realized that it had been months, maybe even a year, since I had mailed out a card or letter to a friend.  Talk about humbling.

The story of Ruth and Naomi is encouraging.  Naomi’s husband died leaving her with their two sons.  They each married and Naomi was very close with both of their wives.  About ten years after the death of her husband, Naomi lost both of her sons.  She instructed her son’s widows to return to their families because she was just an old lady that couldn’t take care of them.  But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, refused to leave Naomi’s side.  Together, they went to Bethlehem.  Ruth could have complained about her circumstances but instead she worked hard and remained a loyal friend.

Ruth would never neglect to send her friend a card.  She would never settle for a simple text message or worse, a facebook post, wishing her friend happy birthday.  She would never forget to add her friend to her prayers each morning.  Ruth had it going on.  I want to be a friend like that.

I’ve been satisfied with shallow friendships and haven’t fully committed to being a great friend.  The excuse of being a wife and a mother seemed to make that okay for a while, but I can only handle so many “subliminal” messages from God telling me I’m going the wrong direction!

It is so easy to get caught up in our children and our husbands and leave no room for anyone else.  I understand that they take top tier, but God would not have designed friends for us if he didn’t think we needed them.  Sure, as Mom’s we now have to make more of an effort to maintain friendships, but if it’s what God wants then we know that it has to be worth it.

Don’t feel guilty for going and grabbing a coffee with a friend instead of emptying your dishwasher.  Our friends are a fantastic outlet for us.  Your husband will probably appreciate it too.  Let’s be honest ladies, he probably doesn’t want to hear all about your new frown lines or your latest couponing quest, but your girlfriend does.

Make time.  Call just to chat, send a card, bring her over a dessert.  Do something that lets her know you are thinking about her.  Think about how much you would appreciate a gesture like that.  You have permission to go out and be a good friend!

 "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 

For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. 

But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!"

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Friday, October 14

Signature Of Divine

Read Psalm 8

Cathedrals have tried in vain
To show the image of your face.
But we are, by your design,
The signature of divine.

We'll always sing your name.
Forever and today.

The fortunes of kings and queens
Are wasted chasing what we've seen.
Cause we are, by your reprieve,
The beauty framed by your suffering.

Take me, and pull me through.
Cause I can't move without you.
I won't leave you alone, you say.
It will be okay.

Yahweh, Yahweh...
Great is your glory when you go before me
Oh, we sing...
Holy, Holy...
Your ways are lovely. So high above me.

By needtobreathe

Thursday, October 13

Only Heaven Knows Why

Written by Ashely (our newest contributor)

Isaiah 55:8-13

 Sometimes when a door closes, the idea of what God is going to end up revealing is almost exciting. But let’s be honest, other times we fall to our knees and cry out of fear of the unknown. God sometimes lets us in on the “why” and the big picture, but other times he makes us sweat it out.

 My best friend got married on a beach in Florida. It was God’s plan all along. She had three dates in mind and she presented them to the pastor and he said, “I happen to be in Florida on March 31 so let’s do it then.” Out of all of the days, that was the one.

 Things were falling into place. We arrived in Florida and the weather forecast was perfect, every day but March 31. Severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning. Great.

 My friend, with her unwavering faith, knew that God wouldn’t call all of us down there for a rained out wedding. The morning of March 31, it was literally raining sideways. I have never seen a storm so bad. The streets were flooding and you couldn’t walk two feet without becoming completely drenched. My friend was being pulled in so many directions and everyone had an opinion about what to do and how to fix the situation. Finally, she and her fiance announced that they came to get married on the beach that day and that’s what they were going to do.

 At first I questioned God and why He allowed the weather to be so horrible. I was begging and pleading with Him all day for a burst of sunshine at just the right moment. But as I walked down the “aisle” and I saw the large group of people huddled together on the stormy beach it all made sense. Those people weren’t conditional guests. They didn’t commit to only attending the ceremony if the weather permitted. They were there to show their unending love and support to this beautiful couple. No one cared about getting completely and unrecognizably soaked. We all laughed and cheered and clustered together to celebrate the predestined union of the couple.

 Other times, He doesn’t let us in on the why. I had a condition called placenta previa when I was pregnant with my second boy. It meant that I had to have a c-section. I was scared of the idea of it, but I convinced myself to be positive by saying, “It’s great that we get to pick the date since my husband travels for work and his schedule is unpredictable.” I thought I had God’s plan all figured out. But before the date of my scheduled surgery, I went into labor and my husband was eight hours away. Fortunately, he made it in time but I still to this day question the why.

 What’s the why you are searching for today? Why can’t my husband find work? Why is my child acting like a bully? Why is my marriage falling apart? Why am I not building strong friendships? Why is my car breaking down again? Why is someone close to me sick? God has all the answers for you. He just may not reveal them to you.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways...” (Isaiah 55:9). God doesn’t need to give us a why. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. But we owe him our undivided loyalty and faith whether He wants to let us in on the why or not. Give it to God today friends. Give Him your worries and your doubts. Know that He is doing everything to prosper you and to brighten your future. Trust him with your life. It’s hard to demand a why when you are resting faithfully at His feet.

 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace...” 

(Isaiah 55:12)

Wednesday, October 12

What Are Friends For?

Read Isaiah 40:26-31

Plain and simple, my feelings were hurt. It was what was implied as much what was said and I left the encounter wanting to cry. My thoughts and feelings whirled around in my head at every available opportunity. My emotions were a wreck. Errands, tasks, and chores kept me occupied only for a moment before the sadness swelled up again and I ruminated once more on those feelings.

Several times throughout the rest of the day I tried to call my short list of people who will listen to me vent. I wanted some comfort for my hurt feelings and someone to say, “That person is so mean! They have no right to treat you like that. You are really wonderful.” But every call either went to voicemail or I was interrupted before I could share any details.

I eagerly waited for my husband to come home so we could talk. I just needed to talk. To vent. To express my feelings. Maybe it wouldn’t change a thing, but I would feel better… right? And then my husband called to say he wasn’t coming home until very late because he needed to get a bunch of work done before the forecasted rain. I went to bed alone… nursing my hurt feelings and heavy heart.

Not only did I hold tight to my hurt feelings from earlier in the day, I now carried frustration over not being heard by anyone else. I was having a pity party because no one cared about little, ol’, me. I am not making light of the feelings that were so strong at the time, because we all have them. Women are powerfully emotional. The need to ruminate, mull things over, and talk through issues is part of our DNA. It is what we do with those feelings that is important.

Alone with my thoughts, a song came to my weary heart. An old hymn we’ve all heard a thousand times, What A Friend We have in Jesus [Joseph Scriven, 1855].

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

So I prayed. I bared my heart giving out all the details.
I was saddened and frustrated and Jesus listened to my prayers.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

My burdened seemed lighter and I felt.... Heard. Loved. Comforted.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.

Take away the “thees” and “thous” and these are very beautiful words, “In His arms He’ll take and shield you. You will find solace there.” What a comfort to have a friend like Jesus who longs to hear our pain. Our anxieties and worries never get sent to voicemail or get dropped or interrupted. Jesus cares for our every sorrow.

Sleep came easier than it would have had I vented to anyone else. Venting so often stirs up bitterness instead of peace. As the thoughts of hurt feelings and sad emotion welled up again and again in my ever racing mind, I squelched them with thoughts of a true friend. Can we find a friend so faithful? Take it too the Lord in prayer.

Tuesday, October 11

So You Had a Bad Day

Read Lamentations 3:22-33

Borrowed from Kristen Welch at (in)

I snuggled down deeper in the quilt. I was sound asleep, in that dream-place that feels good from head to toe.
I was oblivious to clock and sun and in a calamity of events, neither did their job.

The frantic doorbell woke me. I sat straight up to blinking digital numbers and jolted to the kitchen, dumbfounded that I had overslept an hour. My kids were still asleep, now late for school.

I sent my carpool, doorbell-ringing friend on and my kids stumbled down the stairs, grumbling and frustrated.
I pushed them to brush teeth and hair and barked orders that come with the hurried life.

Rush. Hurry. Push. Fret.

I dropped each off at school, hoping the quick prayer and apology calmed their abnormal morning.
Pulling up the driveway, I turned the car off and took a deep breath. Still pajama-clad, with messy hair, I sat still, trying to remember if my kids ate breakfast in our haste.

Guilt hung heavy and I bowed my head in defeat. Four words flashed: It’s a bad day.

The clock didn’t even read 8:30 A.M. yet and my day was doomed with unspoken thoughts.

I tried to find my routine, but failure clung through the quick shower. I dressed and sat down at my desk. The house was quiet, messy, accusing.

But then my day turned completely around.

It wasn’t good news that cleared away the bad morning blues. It wasn’t something witty I read or said on Twitter or any one thing I can blame.

It was a simple choice.

To turn a bad day into a good one.

I started over-with simple thanks, a word to My Father, a call to my hubby (spilling it all out), a reminder to myself that I’m only human and that maybe we all needed that extra hour of sleep.

I was feeling better with each thought.

And the Scripture I rehearse, His mercies are new every morning. . .I changed to every minute. Because they are. New, all day long.

I used to think when I tried to diet and failed, I’d have to wait for an entire revolution of the the clock to start calorie-counting again. And I would just keep failing

But a bad moment or hour can still be a day we give thanks.

How we turn a bad day around:

     Recognize it for what it is
     Look for the lesson
     Make a conscience choice to be thankful
     Give it to God and ask for a restart

We are all going to have bad days, it’s just a part of the good life.

But we always have a choice to turn the bad into good.

Monday, October 10

The Source On Parenting

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

The Bible lays the basic ground rules for parenting. But the specifics aren't always apparent. I gain a lot of my parenting strategies from other Christian moms. We talk and suggest this or that worked for us. Christian radio, tv, movies, and blogs are also helpful. I learn a little here and a little there. It feels safe to take this guidance from other Bible-believing people. We all just want what is best for our kids. I can't go wrong when the advice is from a trusted source, right?

It was a few years ago and I was sitting in a Christian women’s group, excited to hear a speaker talk on “Sibling Rivalry.” My two girls are 3 years apart and so different and fought constantly. I was very eager to hear what the speaker, a Christian Psychologist with 4 children of her own, had to say that would help me find peace between my kids.

Her basic concept was that siblings will fight, it is normal and healthy. Don’t interfere unless they are causing botily harm to one another. I remember her saying, “I don’t break up fights unless there is blood.” Everyone in the audience chuckled. The children need to figure out conflict on their own because mom picking sides will hurt their feelings, she said. I also remember this quote that was immensely encouraging (at the time), “Your job as a mother isn’t to make your children be best friends, it is to help them get through childhood without killing each other.”

Whew! I could deal with that. It was such a relief to know my kids were normal. The fighting was normal. The screaming was normal. The bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were all normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on in the termoil. Amazingly, or not so amazingly, the outcome didn’t change in our house. There wasn’t any peace.

I still longed for children who got along. Their 3 year age difference didn't seem like a good excuse when I knew they were capable of kindness. I wondered if there was a way to teach my children to be nice and maybe, just maybe, treat one another with love. I opened my Bible and what I saw confirmed this:

"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 
I Timothy 1:5

"And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us...".
Ephesians 5:2

"Let your love be sincere: hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good."
Romans 12:9

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus' words!
John 15:12-13

As I was reading, this sounded nothing like "Your job is to help them get through childhood without killing each other." In fact, the above Scriptures encourage us to love like Christ. No fighting, screaming, bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were described.

My growing convictions were enforced when I read a friend's blog post (published here on Drops in November) about Sibling Love. She said just what I read in the Scripture, children can be and should be taught to love each other!

My specific parenting method had strayed far from the Biblical basics I desired. So I changed everything. I broke up my children's fights. I listened. I punished any un-loving behavior. Christ-like behavior became the goal. I highly praised kindness and encouraged generosity. Aggressive actions were not allowed at all (keep in mind I have girls I'm dealing with in this scenario, check out Bringing Up Boys for ways to handle aggression in boys).

Yes, this method is lots of work for the parents. It takes more time, but adds more peace. I'll take peace any day over the un-Christ-like turmoil of my previous strategy.

I have seen many changes in my girls. Sure they still have rivalries, but far less often. I see more kindness and more love! They are 6 and 3 and call each other "best sisters." Helping them solve problems and talk through differences is maturing them and growing them into individuals who follow Christ.

As for the "Christian advice" I listened to a few years ago on siblings.... I wish I would have tested it with the Bible. Her advice did not line up with the love Christ desires in our families. I was naive like Romans 16:17-18 says, "I urge you to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.... By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."

The Bible doesn't just lay the basic ground rules for parenting -- it gives specifics too. Great advice can be gleaned from trusted Christian sources, but it will always line up with what the Bible says. We must remember to constantly check well-meant ideas with the best Source.

Thursday, October 6

Knock, knock

Read Proverbs 8

She would hide when he started drinking. He had never been a violent man, but experience had shown her that mixing testosterone and alcohol resulted in very bad things. Two step fathers had given her little reason to trust men in general, and drunk men…

Drunk men hurt little girls.

In many ways, she was still a little girl. Alone in the dark, she would resent the man she was forced to marry at only 16. It didn’t matter then that her mother had likely saved her life or better by insisting on the union. What mattered was that life would never be better or different for her. Ever.

She had hope for a moment. On that glorious day she fell in love, she felt free. Perfectly, gloriously free from the horrors of her past. She knew love and love would take her away. At that summer revival meeting, she met Jesus in a way so real, she knew she would spend her whole life serving him; striving to be like him. She would go to Bible college. She would be a missionary. She would share his love with natives in Africa or orphans in South America.

But only a few months later, her dreams died as she shackled herself to a man who did not love the Lord she had so recently given herself to. He was a nice enough guy. One she might have fallen in love with given the time, and if she had not fallen head over heels in love with a jealous God. Caught between “honor thy mother” and “do not be unequally yolked,” she did what she had to.

And then there was the drinking. He was still a nice enough guy. A gentle drunk, even. But to her, alcohol smelled like fear, so she hid. She thought about what might have been, what should have been. And she felt misery, bitterness and depression winding themselves around her once soaring spirit.

Her love had not saved her. Was he even there? Did he really love her at all? She had been so sure of his call. Like Samuel, she had heard him calling her our of this life, but here she sat. Alone. Abandoned.

There was no such thing as AA or AlAnon back then. Medication for depression was barely a dream in someone’s imagination. Connecting with people in the outside world was difficult in rural communities where everyone knew your business and had something to say about it. (Reminds me of Facebook). And women like her were not exactly welcomed into the church with open arms.

She certainly had the right to feel sorry for herself. She had every right to succumb to self pity. And for a while, she did. But then she heard his voice again.

He didn’t tell her to rise up and flee, like she hoped. He didn’t send an earthquake to free her from her prison. Instead, he whispered, “I am here. I am still here. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice…”

In her own words, “I finally started inviting Jesus to my pity party of one.” She stepped aside and invited him in. And he met her in the dark.

Her life on the outside did not change in that instant. She surrendered, because she could not do anything about her situation other than change her own attitude about it.

Her home became her mission field. Her husband became a man God loved enough to die for in even her eyes. Even drunk. She devoted herself to winning him over through her gentle and quiet spirit (which was far easier said than done since gentle and quiet we not a part of her nature).

God filled her with courage she didn’t know she had.

You don’t know my great-grandmother. But if you did, you would wonder about me suggesting that she ever hid from anything. You would also wonder how I could possibly suggest that she had ever felt uncomfortable in a church building. You wouldn’t be able to reconcile crippling fear with that radiant peace.

Over the next sixty years, her husband and children-even the prodigal-would find Jesus. Her grandchildren would grow up in Godly homes. Her great grandchildren would as well. Countless women would be touched by the testimony of this fearless woman speaking at women’s events state wide. She would take in orphans, widows, and homeless. She would meet someone once and pray for them forever. She would travel to the Holy Land as a retiree, walking where Jesus walked.

It must have seemed eternal as she waited in the dark, praying. It must have seemed, even then, as if life would never change. Indeed, it took decades.

But “he makes all things beautiful in his time.”

Listen. Do you hear him knocking? Open the door. He will come in. Just be advised, he’ll start working on you first J        

Wednesday, October 5

Rest Secure

Written by Ashley, mom to 3 boys (#3 to be born next month), husband to one boy, and new regular contributor to Drops!

Read John 15:9-25

Cat Attitude “Mean people suck.” Oh man, I love that bumper sticker. I couldn’t have said it better myself. You undoubtedly have someone in your life that the second they open their mouth that “wa wa wa” sound effect plays in your head. Negative. Critical. Borderline rude. It’s hard to remember that it’s the devil inside of them that makes them that way.

I started a blog about six months ago to expose the blemishes of my everyday life. So far my most read blog post is about the day I woke up and discovered I had a muffin top. Go figure.

Recently, I got some not-so-good feedback about my blog. It was a damaging blow that I tried to brush off, but the comments made me reconsider posting anything else. Even though I’m confident in who I am, because of the relationship I have with Christ, the words still hurt.

A few days later I worked up the courage to write out and publish a post titled, “Your Grace Has Found Me Just As I Am.” It was all about God and his unfailing grace. A gal that I barely know responded to the post by saying, “Ashley, I am not a religious person...but this was an awesome post and it’s refreshing to see someone put something into perspective in a way that anyone can grow from.”

Wow. What I had to say was what someone needed to hear. God always puts people in my life at the exact time I need them. I never imagined he would use me to be someone else’s "person."

A dear friend of mine is a part of the worship team at her church. She shared with me that one Sunday she was singing and she noticed a couple of women looking in her direction and laughing. She feared they were laughing at her and she told me she didn’t want to be up there anymore. Instinctually, I wanted to know the names and addresses of these ladies so I could go offer them a piece of my mind. 

Instead, the Holy Spirit poured into me and we had a great conversation about how Satan uses situations like that to prevent us from sharing the truth. Satan is a crafty little booger. He knows our weaknesses. He knows what is going to make us cry. He takes advantage of our human nature. The second he senses that we are up to something good, he tries to sever whatever confidence we’ve got. Whether it’s a feeling of judgement from an acquaintance, a snide comment from a friend, or downright mean criticism from a family member. He uses looks and words from others to tap into our insecurities.

God’s word says, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long...” (Deuteronomy 33:12).  The Lord has equipped each of us with special gifts. He carefully crafted us and designed specific ways to allow us to serve and bring glory to Him.  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us...” (Romans 12:6).

Some people in life are joy stealers. Just as some people are put in our day to brighten it, some people are put in our day to cast a grey cloud. Girlfriend, we need to be ready with a mighty prayer to conquer these joy stealers. (Do you like that last little “girlfriend” bit? I’m channeling my inner Beth Moore and I gotta say, I like it).

“What is gained if I am silenced...?” (Psalm 30:9).  Don’t let harsh words silence you and prevent you from fulfilling God’s destiny for you. Pursue His dreams for you without any hesitation. Seek God’s will above all else and refuse to settle for anything less. You may get some unpleasant feedback here on earth, but let me assure you, God will have the last and the sweetest words for you!

Tuesday, October 4

Warning: Demolition in Progress

Read Proverbs 14

Several years ago, our city paid a contractor millions of dollars to build a transit plaza. It was just lovely. The complex housed offices and provided a safe and comfortable hub for bus transfers. Less than 10 years after the ribbon cutting, the complex, comprising an entire city block it closed and fenced in by chain link. Modular trailers house the necessary on site management. People linger on the sidewalks and busses stop traffic to pick them up.

The builders cut corners. They skimped on concrete, and the integrity of the entire place is compromised.

Proverbs 14 tells us, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Endeavoring to attain the gold standard of Christian womanhood as charted in Proverbs 31, we tend to focus on the building of the house. But what are we doing, even in the process of constructing that is compromising the integrity of our house.

We don’t often think of the book of Proverbs containing a cast of characters, but two main characters appear throughout the book. Solomon personifies Wisdom and Folly by characterizing them as women (should we be offended?). Not every reference to wisdom and folly is a direct characterization, but there are enough of them in there that it’s pretty easy to make the connection.

So how exactly does a foolish woman tear down her house? Here are a few (just a few) examples of how it can be done.

“Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing” (9:13).

Ignorance is bliss? I guess not. We tear our houses down by not being informed or educated about what goes on under our own roofs. Our child has a problem with lying. We don’t know what to do so we ignore bad behavior. Bad behavior does not go away on it’s own. Pray for wisdom, ask advice, read books, (did I mention pray for wisdom?). Educate yourself and act out of knowledge rather than ignoring out of ignorance.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (14:8).

Manipulation, which many of us are quite skilled at, is just a fancy word for deception. In the end, it’s bad policy. There is a difference between manipulating and sampling knowing your partner well enough to know how to approach him. This applies to children as well. It’s impossible to keep hearts close through manipulation.

“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (14:29).

I had to be selective here. There are scads of verses that remind us to check our tempers at the door. Angry words put cracks in the foundation quicker than anything.

“To answer before listening— that is folly and shame” (18:13).

In school, my son has been learning the difference between hearing and listening. As a grown up, I need the reminder. Not listening is just plain rude. It’s also a good way to get people to not like you. People including the man who vowed to love you. Love comes a lot easier if he still likes you. Let’s try to be easy to love.

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (26:11).

When we leave a bad habit behind, we should leave it behind for good. Revisiting it is just a terrible idea. I just can’t get more descriptive than Solomon did on this one. Let it go! Leave it be!

“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (12:16).

This one reminds me of that hard to abide by 13th chapter of Corinthians: “Love…keeps no record of wrongs.” Easier said than done. I find it so easy to fly into a righteous rage over a careless word. Once the dust has settled, I generally find I have misunderstood, and then I have to eat humble pie, which is gross. Not as gross as 26:11, but since it keeps happening… Yuck. Anyway, generally we are better off assuming the insult was an innocent grammatical or tonal blunder and move on. Sometimes assuming this takes quite the imagination, but why not try?

“The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down (21:20).

 Waste not want not, so they say. Well placed frugality goes a long way to building a home, while wastefulness—of money, things, or time--all weaken structures significantly.

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (28:26).

Not much I can add here.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes see Proverbs 31 as the impossible “to-do” list. Well, the list we just went over is not something to add to our impossible pile. Rather, it’s a to-stop-doing list. If it’s all we get done is to STOP ignoring, manipulating, retorting, snapping, wasting, and trusting in ourselves, our building project will go so much more smoothly.

Monday, October 3

Trusting God With My Children

Read Mark 9:14-29

Like the scary part of a city, there are topics my brain avoids thinking about. Or maybe it is my heart avoiding things. Too scary, too many unwanted emotions.

 Losing a child is one of those topics.

As a devout Christian I know my children are a gift from the Lord. They belong to Him and are treasures to care for, but not to own. I can neither control the breaths that pass from their lungs or the beating of their hearts, God numbers our days (Job 14:5).

Since I do everything I can to not think about trusting God with the lives of my children, it took a sweet lady picking blueberries next to me to bring up the subject. I knew this woman from my former church. A decade had passed since I talked with her last, but she talked with ease and grace. Jesus' peace emanated from her and I found myself smiling as she chatted about her life and asking about mine. She delighted in my children and remembered fondly the days when her 5 children were young.

 As we talked, she mentioned 3 children, not 5.

"Where are your other 2 children?" I asked naively.

"With the Lord dear. Our God is so good. He allowed us to have them for a time and those moments were so precious." She told me that one of her daughters died at age 17 from a terrible illness and another daughter died in middle-age from a painful disease.

I left the blueberry patch, the scary topic I avoided was swirling relentlessly through my mind.

Could I trust God's goodness like that? Did I want to? I felt as though my vigilant worry over my children belonged to me -- the right of a mother. My heart argued with this new idea. How to trust God with my children's lives.

I shared lunch with my husband the same day and I told him about my revelations, more like struggling thoughts. "I want to trust Him, but I just can't." I saw his eyes mist too. He shared my sentiments. These children, OUR children, were too dear to let go of. Even into the arms of an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God.

I got ready to leave and go to our home about 4 miles away from the main farm. I gathered the precious children who consumed my thoughts. One, two..... where is three? I searched the farm yard yelling her name for a few minutes. My father-in-law joined the search, then I made frantic calls on my cell phone to everyone else working in the area. "Have you seen her? Where is she?" 

Absolute panic mounted as the minutes passed. Did she go on the road? Is she hurt? Did someone take her? The prayers whirled franticly. "Jesus no! Don't take her. Let us find her safe. I can't live without her. Jesus no. Jesus no. Jesus no." There were no thoughts about trust. No peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). Just carnal fear that I was completely out of control and needed my little girl.

It was less than 15 minutes until we found her. She was standing in our driveway, 4 miles away from where we last saw her, next to a stranger's car. A 6 year-old's impetuous decision to walk home led a mother of 2 girls to stop on the side of the road and offer her a ride.... just as she saw a man in a pick-up stopping from the other direction. The understanding woman said it just didn't seem right and she was frightened for my little girl's safety.

My hysteria took quite awhile to calm. My girl in my arms, our angel stranger thanked and hugged, I finally realized I was a million miles away from trusting God with the lives of my children.

"How do I trust you?" I asked a benevolent Heavenly Father. Where was the peace and trust the older woman who spoke of while picking blueberries? I didn't have it. I knew that for sure.

Probably 40 or 50 decades older than me, this woman had not come to her resolutions in an instant. She probably had moments of panic and desperation as she saw not only one, but two of her children suffer and then die. Her doubts were comforted by the loving arms of a Savior. In her long life, God taught her, molded her, and guided.

I realized many things on the day when my daughter was lost. First, that I am not in control, even when I've taken every step to lectured ad naseum about stranger-danger, given my children swimming lessons, bubble-wrapped the coffee table corners, provided carseats, and driven under the speed limit since they were born. My vigilance is useful, but not omniscient.

And secondly, trusting in God for my children is a daily decision.

I no longer avoid the tumulus topic of trusting God my most precious little ones. When my thoughts wander there, when my heart threatens to seize up in its normal controlling nature, I thank God for His goodness. I thank God for the treasured blessings He has given me to raise. I also pray for my lack of faith. I need help learning to trust. This is daily, moment to moment. Trust and growth, "Help me Lord. Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

A friend just gave me Mary Beth Chapman's book, Choosing To See. On my journey to embracing God's goodness and trusting Him with everything, including the lives of my children, I know this book will be inspirational -- I'm on page 5!