About the author...

Unless otherwise noted, all devotions are written by Lois Lang.  Recently retired, Lois spends much of her time with her grandchildren and is a freelance contributing  writer for jennifercadamore.com.  I know that because of her love for the Lord and study of the Word, you will be blessed by the insights she shares! 

Purposed

--By Lois Lang

 Psalm 17:3...Thou hast tried my heart; Thou has visited me by night; Thou hast tested me and dost find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.

Did you ever buy a nice set of shelving, only to receive a box full of pieces and pocket screws?  (Pocket screws:  those screws you have left over after you assemble the shelves--they probably were supposed to go somewhere in the thing you’ve built, but you just put them in your pocket.)  You set out to build the shelves and follow the directions to the letter.  You are determined to get this right.  Then something doesn’t go quite as the directions and the diagram show.  But you are determined, so you tweak the instructions a bit.  If that doesn’t work, you try something else.  As my husband used to say, “Hit it with a bigger hammer.”  You keep trying, because you are determined.  Without that determination, you would have quit after a try or two and stored the box of pieces in the back corner of the basement.

Or do you make New Year’s resolutions?  Do you pledge to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, read your Bible daily?  Few people (for instance, me) keep their resolutions without a backslide or two.

The Psalmist David was determined.  He “purposed” that his mouth would not transgress. Of course, he erred now and then, but because of his determination, he persevered.  If his lip slipped, he sought forgiveness and tried again.  God really loved David, despite his many falls from grace.  God forgave David, helped him back onto his feet, and encouraged him to try again.  David didn’t quit; he “purposed.” 

I thought of David as I bandaged my boo-boos from the shelf project...and I am now the proud owner of a new set of shelves (and only two screws left over)!

Lord, please help us to “purpose” to follow You, to be determined to live our lives according to Your leading and teaching and commandment.  When we fall, You have said we would not be hurled headlong, because You are the One holding our hand (Psalm 37:24).  Please forgive us and help us to try again.  Thank You for Your patience and encouragement.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, who never gave up:  on His mission or on us.  Amen.

 

Stay Sharp!

--By Lois Lang

 Ecclesiastes 10:10a...If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he [he who splits logs] must exert more strength.

Solomon was a pretty smart fellow.  God really answered his prayer for wisdom!  His one-liners hit the mark time after time.  Some of his admonitions are God-given revelation, but most seem to be just plain common sense.  For example, the truism above--the duller the axe, the harder it is and the more energy it takes to split logs.  Doable, but more difficult.

A memory just popped into my head.  Please allow me to share it with you.  My father was a farmer, who began farming back in the late 1930’s.  A lot of the field work was done by hand.  When it was time to harvest wheat or corn, he took his large scythe to the fields and started cutting.  But he also took a sharpening stone.  Every so often he would stop and run the stone along the blade of the scythe to keep it sharp.  That made the cutting a lot easier.

The wisdom of Solomon’s advice, as well as the memory of my dad, resonated with me.  No, I don’t do much log-splitting or corn-cutting.  But it goes beyond axes or scythes or cutting wood or wheat.  What I saw in this was that if I stay “sharp,” whatever I’m doing is much easier to do.  Sure, I can clean house or cook a meal, but if I am rested and prepared (sharp), those tasks can be done much more easily.  I think it works the same way with life.  I can muddle my way through day to day even if I’m not sharp.  But if I am “sharp”--staying in God’s Word, following His leading, worshipping, fellowshipping with His people, praying--life gets a whole lot easier.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to work any harder than I have to.  So it’s time for me to sharpen my axe and keep the honing stone handy.

 Heavenly Father, thank You for the wisdom You gave Solomon, who passed it along to us.  It’s as real and fresh today as it was when You first inspired it.  Thank You for Your Word, which is “living and active and sharper than two-edged sword.”  Please help us in our efforts to remain sharp.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Word Made Flesh.  Amen.

 

 

Psalm 37 Security

Psalm 37:1-8, 34...Fret not yourself because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.  And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.  Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; fret not yourself, it leads only to evildoing.    Wait for the Lord, and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

 Psalm 37, a Psalm of David, gives a basic course in living a godly life.  Here is a quick summary:

  •  Trust in the Lord.  (Good one to start with!)
  •  Do good.
  •  Cultivate faithfulness.
  •  Delight yourself in the Lord.  (Another good one!)
  •  Commit your way to the Lord.
  •  Trust in Him.  (This must be important, for him to repeat it.)
  •  Rest in the Lord.
  •  Fret not yourself.
  •  Cease from anger.
  •  Fret not yourself.  (Again!)
  •  Wait for the Lord.
  • Keep His way.                                                                                                                                   

And what is the result of following all the above directives?  Verses 39 and 40 tell us.  “But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble.  And the Lord helps them, and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.

Lord, thank You for giving us ways to please You.  And thank You for the reassurance that, no matter what is going on around us, You are ready and willing to handle it.  All You ask is that we trust You and love You.  That’s easy, Lord--You have proven Yourself trustworthy and entirely lovely.  We praise You with mind, body, soul, and strength.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  Amen.

Where Does Your Joy Come From?

--by Amanda Figgins

Psalms 5:11-12But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever.  Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.   For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.”

 Has anyone made you feel worthless or unhappy?  I think we have all fallen into that trap at one time or another.

Navigating life has its ups and downs, and at times we take some life events too serious.  A lot of times friends and family can help us through the roller coaster ride of life, but sometimes we let them jolt our ride to a stop.  All it takes is a simple phone call from a family member saying you’re not a good enough Christian or close enough to God…Or a friend who no longer wants to continue a friendship because of a misunderstanding or the outcome of a situation isn’t what he/she wanted.  It’s amazing how we can dwell on situations like these and let them steal our joy and possibly harden our hearts towards others.

Through these tough times, when words and actions can hurt so bad, we must remember to keep our focus on God.  Our true joy does not come from earthly possessions or our family and friends, but from God.  During these challenging times in life we must remember to take refuge in God’s protection and let Him heal our hearts with His love, mercy, and grace.

Dear God – Thank you for your everlasting love.  Protect us throughout life’s ups and downs, and protect our hearts as we face challenging situations with others.  We ask that you help us to stay focused on You as You are our only source of true joy.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Wrapped in God's Protection

--by Amanda Figgins

 Proverbs 15:3…“The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping an eye on both the evil and good.”

Have you felt the brush of the devil on your skin?  I definitely say I have…

In high school, a good friend of mine at the time had a sleep over with a bunch of girls.  Although I didn’t know the other girls well, I still went hoping to have a great adventure with little sleep (of course).  As was typical for me, I was reserved from the others and did not participate in most everything they deemed as fun.  The one activity that I remember so clearly from that night was the Ouija Board.  As I had heard bad things about the “game,” I decided – once again – to sit this one out.  I was raised in a strong faith family and I was not about to purposely step into what was possibly Satan’s territory.

As this spooky game advanced, and I was the only one in the group not participating, I felt colder and colder along with a random swirling breeze around me.   This wasn’t a constant breeze, or a window was open breeze, but more of a “something brushed against me” and a light drafty breeze.  I mentioned how I was feeling and asked for a blanket – no one else felt the drafty breeze, and everyone was warm.  

Throughout the game, one other girl decided to quit playing for a brief time.  She also got extremely cold and felt what I was experiencing, which made her thrust herself back into the game.   As for me, I was frozen, didn’t feel well, and fell asleep on the couch wrapped up in a warm blanket. 

I knew what I felt around me that night was not right, but no matter what tricks Satan tried on me they didn’t work.  With God as my guide and defender, I knew that Satan truly couldn’t touch me.  He may have tried to scare me, but I want no parts of anything that would make me feel that bad in order for me to join in his games.  As I wrapped up in that blanket, I knew I was also wrapped up in God’s love and protection.  He would never make me feel bad!

We must always be vigilant for any games Satan may try to use to entrap us.  We must also remember that in any situation, even when facing evil, God is watching over us and will protect us against all things bad.

Dear God -  We thank you for your constant and unfailing protection, love, guidance, and grace that we often times don’t deserve.  We ask that you continue to guide us in making the right choices as You help us navigate life, and ask for forgiveness in those times when we did not fully seek You or did not make the right decisions.  We pray that Your continued grace will fall upon us as we try to follow You better.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Doesn't Take Much

--by Lois Lang

Song of Songs 2:15...Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.  [spoken by the Bride]

Doesn’t take much, does it?  The Bride could have said to catch the foxes and left it at that.  But she said, “Catch the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards.”  I can relate to her concern.  Being an avid gardener, I’ve encountered any number of little things that could (and sometimes did) cause great damage.  There were birds that stripped twelve full blueberry bushes of every single berry even though the bushes were covered with netting; a chipmunk ate most of the strawberries one spring, dragging them one by one back to his hole by the phone pole; a single squash borer munched his way into a zucchini plant, killing it overnight.  There were also the groundhogs, and the deer, and the stink bugs (they love raspberries), and even a small black bear.

What do I learn from this?  That I should be vigilant, watching for anything potentially destructive in my life, and removing it.  It doesn’t take much--an unkind word, or a lack of prayer, or being too busy to help a friend, or making a too-hasty judgment.  No, it doesn’t take much to “ruin our vineyard.”

So grab your pruning shears, your protective nets, your hoes and rakes, and let’s protect the vineyard!

Father, the Bride was so right.  Please help us to watch and be ready and willing to remove any little thing that might separate us from You.  We love You, and we want nothing to stand between us and Your love.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, our Sanctification.  Amen.

Mouthguards

--by Lois Lang

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.   Proverbs 17:28

The other day as I read Proverbs, this verse caught my attention.  I thought, “How true this is!”  Sometimes when I spout the first thought that comes into my head, what comes out sounds stupid or foolish or wrong or even hurtful, even to my ears.  If I had kept my mouth shut for just a moment before I spoke, I would have appeared much wiser/nicer to my listener.

God must have wanted to get His message about my words across to me, because in my Adult Bible Fellowship group the next Sunday, our teacher presented a lesson on using our words, and the power of our tongues.  Part of the lesson was a prayer guide, which I have copied from this teacher’s notes, because he did it much better than I could have.  (Thank you, Don Anderson.)  I’m glad he did not include the very convicting words from James 3:5-6:  “So the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”  It’s so true--our tongues can wound, hurt, and destroy.  But it is also true that our words can soothe, heal, encourage, teach, help, and comfort.  I am hoping that the following prayer will help us all in our attempts to “tame the tongue.”

  1. Lord, please make my words and the thoughts of my heart acceptable in Your sight. (Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”)

  2. Lord, please keep me from speaking when what I say could get me in trouble.  (Proverbs 21:23 “Whosoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”)

  3. Lord, help me not to sin with my mouth.  (Psalm 17:3b“I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.”  Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”)

  4. Lord, please keep my words focused on praising You and pointing others to You. (Psalm 71:15 “My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts, of Your deeds of salvation all the day,”)

  5. Please fill my heart with Your Word so that my tongue will speak Your Truth in my conversations. (Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”)

  6. Help me to share Your words that bring eternal life. (John 6:68 “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.’”)

  7. Help me speak words that build up others.  (Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up,”)

    Now, having prayed these things, I’m adding Psalm 39:1:  I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle...”

    Father, words are so powerful.  You used words to speak all of creation into existence.  Help me to use my words to continue to build up Your Kingdom.  May what I speak bring You praise and glory, for You alone are worthy.  Thank You for Your Word, in which I see everything I could ever need.  I find myself struggling even now to find the right words to say to express how much I love You.  I pray in the Name of Jesus, who is The Word.  Amen. 

 

Vanity of Self

(from Lois Lang)  

Ecclesiastes 2:1-26...I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure.  So enjoy yourself.”  And behold, it too was futility.  I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”  I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.  I enlarged my works...I built houses for myself...I made gardens and parks for myself...I planted fruit trees...I made ponds of water for myself...I bought male and female slaves...I had flocks and herds...I collected for myself silver and gold...and singers...and concubines...This too is vanity and striving after wind.  (You can read the chapter in its entirety, but I think you’re getting the gist of what Solomon was saying from these excerpts.)

Solomon (who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes) had it all:  wisdom, riches uncountable, slaves, flocks and herds, concubines.  And he loved God with his whole heart.  But he was depressed.  It’s easy to see why:  his thoughts were solely on himself.  I--I--I--I--I!  The words “I” or “myself” are used thirty-six times in this one chapter.  Because his focus was entirely on himself, he was disappointed and dissatisfied and unfulfilled.  Yes, he “had it all”--but he found it all to be futility, or vanity, or “striving after wind.”  Once he turned his focus back to God, he found the fulfillment and satisfaction and meaningfulness of life he’d lost in his time spent in the Kingdom of Self.

I’ve done what Solomon did, and with the same results.  When I have focused on my needs, my desires, my problems, my possessions, I become afraid and worried and defeated.  But when I turn to my heavenly Father, my Shield and my Help, my Healer, my Provider, my Peace, the God Who Will Never Leave Me or Forsake Me...then everything falls into perspective.  Yes, without God, it is all futility.  But with Him, it is all joy.

O Father, how can I thank You enough for caring about me?  You love me in spite of the stupid or sinful things I do.  You forgive me, pick me back up and dust me off, and encourage me on my way.  And You sacrificed Your Son to save my soul.  What wondrous love this is!  Please help me to keep my eyes on You.  I love You, Lord.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, who emptied Himself in obedience to You.  Amen

Afraid of the Dentist

Mark 4:37-41...And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  And He Himself [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.”  And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, “Why are you so timid?  How is it that you have no faith?”  And they became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Please forgive me, all of you in the field of dentistry.  I fear (to the point of a phobia) going to see the dentist.  I go only when pain or problem drives me to submit myself to this unpleasant experience.  I am more afraid of the dentist than I am of the pain in my jaw.  On top of the discomfort, you have to pay for the privilege!  Don’t write to me--I do go when I have to, sweat pouring and blood pressure elevated.  God bless the person who came up with sedation dentistry.  Knock me out, fix me, then wake me up.

The disciples were a little like me.  Notice that they were “timid” about the storm, enough so that they woke Jesus.  But after He calmed the storm, they were “very much afraid” of this amazing person who controlled the wind and sea.  They were more afraid of this Jesus than they had been of the storm!

After all that this crew had been through together, and after months and years of watching and listening to this unique Man, the disciples still didn’t grasp fully who He was.  With each new miracle He performed, they became more awe-struck, and often fearful of such power.  So don’t feel less “spiritual” if you don’t always understand what God is doing in your life.  His closest followers didn’t even get it sometimes.

Hang in there!  Marvel at His wonders, trust in His power, and lean on His strength.  Oh, and brush twice daily, and floss only the teeth you want to keep. J

Father, You are an amazing, awesome, powerful God.  Help us to marvel at Your works, not fear them.  When our faith is weak, please step in with Yours.  Please calm our storms and ease our fears.  We thank You from the bottom of our timid hearts.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Proven Storm-Calmer.  Amen.

 

 Lois Lang, freelance writer for jennifercadamore.com

Extravagant Lord

...[Andrew said to Jesus] “There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves, and two fish; but what are these for so many people?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about 5,000.  Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.  And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.”  And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left by those who had eaten.  John 6:9-13

As I sat through a class on parenting, one of the speaker’s points really caught my attention and has stuck with me through all my years as a mom.  He said, “Nothing you do for a child is wasted.”

In reading the “loaves and fishes” story, isn’t this just like our Lord Jesus?  He knew the people were tired from following Him around and standing for hours on end, so He provided a soft, grassy place to sit and relax.  He also knew they were hungry, and wanted to feed them.  He was able to take those five loaves and two fish and feed 5,000 men.  After His giving of thanks, He was able to stretch that meager meal into enough food to fill everybody up, with basketfuls left over.  But He did not let the leftovers go to waste--He had the disciples gather up what was not eaten.  Twelve baskets full were left, from what wouldn’t even cover the bottom of one basket!  Jesus was (and still is) extravagant in His giving, but He’s never wasteful.

Yes, our God is extravagant.  Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.”  And we are reassured in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things [food, clothing, life] shall be added to you.”  Extravagant, yes.  Wasteful, no.  Nothing He does for His children is wasted.

Father, thank You for Your extravagance, for the innumerable blessings You shower us with day after day.  And we really don’t deserve a single one of them.  Yet You love us, and through the shed blood of Your Son You see us as perfect.  Help us to recognize and appreciate what You have done for us, and what You continue to do.  Thank You for meeting our needs.  We love You and want to bring You glory, for You alone are worthy.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, our Savior.  Amen.

Wisdom Shouts

Proverbs 1:20-23...Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity?  And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?  Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”

 

How do we miss it?  Why are we not all full of godly wisdom?  I know that almost daily I include in my prayers a request for wisdom.  As I sit quietly at my desk requesting wisdom, Wisdom is shouting in the streets, in the square, at the entrance gate.  It’s like I’m sitting down at table and praying earnestly for a bit of food, when there is already a banquet laid out right in front of me.  Wisdom is not hiding, or obscure, or hard to find.  She is out in the open, yelling to get anyone’s attention, and promising to pour out her spirit on us.

She also grieves for us.  She cannot understand why we prefer naiveté and scoffing and ignorance.  She continues to try to get our attention, to save us from our stupid selves.  She knows the result of living a life without wisdom, and yearns to deliver us from that fate.

Yes, pray for wisdom from God--then get into a position to receive it!  Wisdom “shouts” from God’s Word, from godly preachers, from trusted friends, from prophets and teachers.  Hear the shouts, and respond.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get smarter!

 

Heavenly Father, we do seek Your wisdom.  Forgive us for not hearing Wisdom shouting all around us.  Help us to hear it and live it and share it.  No good gift does the Father withhold from His children--thank You.  Wisdom is a very precious gift, and we are grateful for it.  Thank You for Your patient love.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Faithful Witness.  Amen.

Unless I Had Believed

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13

In chatting with a new friend at church, she (knowing I was a widow) asked when my husband had died.  I told her my first husband died in 2000, and my second husband died in 2008.  She was aghast at hearing that I had suffered the loss of not one, but two husbands, and she asked, “How did you get through it all?”  I was able to answer her that God had been (and still is) my strength and my comfort.  Her husband had just undergone some serious heart issues, and she said she had been faced with the fact that her husband may die and she would be left alone, and she was unsure what she would do without him.  I didn’t have any magic answers for her.  All I could tell her was, “You will do all right.  You love God, and He certainly loves you, and He will lead you through whatever you face, day by day, sometimes minute by minute, gently upholding you.  You will hurt, and you will grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).”  That seemed to reassure her a bit, for which I am so glad.  She is a dear woman of God, and my heart goes out to her as she ponders how to handle what life throws at her at this stage of her life.

I was blessed to have had two wonderful men in my life to love.  Yes, I still grieve, and yes, I still hurt.  But I do not despair, because I believe--in God, who is my strength and my song, and who has become my salvation (Psalm 118:14).

Dear loving Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing us with very special people in our lives, who loved us and whom we loved.  But because the love was so good, it hurts so much to have them gone from our earthly lives.  We know they are safe with You, and for that we are so grateful.  But we miss them here.  Please wrap your strong arms around us and give us comfort and strength and peace.  Thank You that because we believe, we need not despair.  We love You, and worship You, and thank You.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life.

Plow Straight

Luke 9:57-62...And as they [disciples and Jesus] were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  And He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.”  But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I grew up on a farm in northeast Ohio, in the time before women’s lib and equal opportunity became part of our society.  In those days, women did women’s work, and men did men’s work.  My dad ascribed to that for the most part, but he did let us womenfolk do a few of the more “manly” chores--we could feed cattle, run the tractor to rake or bale hay, grind feed.  But there were some tasks that were “men only”:  driving tractor on the road, forking silage, planting crops, cultivating those same crops, and--most important--plowing.  Dad was hesitant even to let my older brothers plow.  The furrows had to be straight, and it took an experienced hand at the wheel to make that happen.  To plow straight, you had to find a spot ahead of you in the distance and aim for it, fixing your eyes firmly on that spot.  If you looked anywhere other than at your target spot, you would jeopardize your straight line.

Jesus knew this.  Even if, as in those days, you were pushing the plow by hand or dragging it behind a horse, you had to focus on what was ahead.  If you turned, your plowing was spoiled.  Look what happened to Lot’s wife, when she turned to look back at the home she was leaving.  She turned into a pillar of salt.  Jesus Himself, just a few verses before these, “when the days were approaching for His ascension, He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  He did not waver, even when tempted to by His own followers.  He had His focus, and nothing was going to cause Him to deviate from His goal.  His furrow was straight.

Lord, we are bombarded on all sides with temptations and diversions.  Help us to fix our focus on You, and to head straight for You.  Help us to forget what lies behind us, and to reach for what You have ahead for us.  Please forgive us when we plow a little crooked.  Help us to get back on track, and to press on.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, who resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem despite knowing what He would have to endure.  Amen. 

I'll Carry That For You

I have a tendency to be extremely frugal.  Okay, I’ll admit it—I’m cheap.  I want to get the most for my money, so I shop    carefully.  For instance, I buy dog food in the 50# bag, because the price is usually much better than buying smaller bags.  This has not been a problem until lately.  For some reason, those 50# bags seem a whole lot heavier than they used to be.  It’s not a problem at the store—there’s always a helpful person who carries the bag out and puts it in my car for me.  But when I get home, it’s just me and a large awkward heavy bag.  I have to get it down the hill to the house, and then to the basement.  Angie, the beloved dog for whom I go through all this, does her bouncy enthusiastic best to cheer me on as I carry/drag/roll the bag to its spot.  I know she’d carry it for me if she could (although she’d probably have it half eaten before she got it to the basement).

Lugging around all this stuff that seems to get heavier and heavier as time passes made me think of Jesus.   He said in Matthew 11:28-30,Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I don’t know about you, but this old lady likes the idea of a lighter burden.

So whether your burden is dog food or despair, He is with you to carry the burdens you cast on Him (because He cares for you—1 Peter 5:7).

Prayer:  Lord, You are so good to me.  You let me cast all my cares and burdens on You, and in exchange You give me love and a lighter burden.  How do I thank You for such a wonderful gift?  I am in awe of, and so grateful for, Your amazing love.  Amen.

 

Grab A Spoon

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”  (The rest of Psalm 34 is pretty good, too—why not just read it all?)

 With summer weather, I enjoy eating cool, sweet, refreshing ice cream.  Don’t you?  But don’t let me kid you—I enjoy ice cream no matter what the weather!  Or the time!  Or the flavor!  My favorite is vanilla, followed closely by butter pecan.  Even more special is a big dish of vanilla with a decadent dollop of butterscotch sauce and a handful of chopped nuts sprinkled on the top.  Maximum yum!  But if I don’t grab a spoon and dig in, that bowl of frozen confection might as well be sawdust.

God’s Word is like that sundae—He’s prepared something wonderful for us, and graciously served it to us, but we have to “grab our spoon,” so to speak, and dig in.  And not just His Word—He’s prepared salvation for us, ready for the asking.  And there is the life He’s promised, and the benefits He’s provided, and the plans He’s made for us—all ours.  Yes, all ours, but useless if we don’t respond.  I don’t know about you, but whether it’s ice cream or God, I’ve got my spoon in hand and my bib tied around my neck, ready to indulge wholeheartedly and enthusiastically!  And gratefully.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do love ice cream, You know that.  But even more, I love You, and I thank You for preparing and “serving” me Your Word, Your salvation, Your blessings, peace, and joy.  Help me to participate fully in all You have provided for me.  It’s all so very good. In the name of Your Son, and my Lord, Amen.

Prayers and Pecans

Philippians 1:3-6I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Each morning I pray after a little Bible reading, and there are certain people, mostly family members, that I pray for every day.  I don’t want to forget any of those folks especially dear to me, so I have memorized the “basic list” of those for whom I pray.  It’s not hard for me to add a name or two as the Lord nudges me.  The hard part comes when a name has to come off the list.  I noticed it after the passing of my mother-in-law.  She was a very special lady in my life, and I miss her dearly.  I’m pretty sure it was her prayers for me that got God’s attention and got me saved!  Plus, she and her husband raised a Godly man with whom I spent nearly thirty amazing years.  Those are just two of the “big” things for which I loved her.  There were also innumerable little ways she demonstrated her love, like how she always had black olives and pecans on hand when I visited, because she knew I liked them.

She’s been home with her Lord for almost a year now, and yet her name still pops up between Kay and Jeanette if I’m not paying strict attention.  When that happens, I just praise God for Mary Ellen being such a positively influential part of my life.  And I’m pretty sure there will be pecans and black olives on that great Heavenly banquet table, if she has anything to do with it!

Prayer:  Lord, You have filled my life with so many wonderful people—people who have loved me and prayed for me and discipled me.  May You reward them all, and bless them all, as only You can.  And I ask that You help me to be a blessing to those around me, whether by prayer or kind words or a hug or even a bowl of pecans.  Thank You, Lord.  In the Name of the One who loved best, Amen.