Wednesday

Thankful for SQUASH?

My husband and I established the habit of saying grace before meals long before our children were born. 

When our first daughter was old enough to sit in a high chair and eat small bites from the table, we included her in the blessing. We would each take one of her little hands in ours, bow our heads, and express our thanks to God for our food. 

As she got older, she’d mimic the way we closed our eyes and bowed our heads, peeking out from under her eyelashes. To involve her further in our “thankful time,” we’d often sing "Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father, for our food . . ." in lieu of a spoken prayer. She caught on quickly, and I’d sometimes hear her singing a blessing as she served make-believe tea to her stuffed animals. 

By age three or four, we encouraged her to pray her own original blessings at meal times. Some days she got quite long-winded as she thanked God for everything from her friends, pets, and family members, to the band aide on her skinned knee. 

One summer evening as we took our places at the table, I asked who would like to return thanks for the meal. My daughter volunteered. Closing her eyes tightly, she began. “God, thank you for the meatloaf, smashed potatoes, gravy, and . . .” She paused to peek at her plate. Scrunching up her nose in disgust, she asked in a stage whisper, “Do I hafta say thank you for the squash?” 

“Yes, Baby,” I replied, smothering a smile, “even for the squash.” 

“In everything give thanks,” reads 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 

Just like I encouraged my daughter to give thanks for squash, God calls us to be thankful for the things in our lives that are good as well as those that are distasteful, painful, or difficult. His motive, like ours in training our daughter to give thanks, is to encourage a grateful attitude and to build our trust. When we regularly express thanks to God for the good things in our lives, we remind ourselves from whom our blessings come. 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above,” James 1:17 says, “coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Instead of crediting luck, good fortune, or random chance, we acknowledge the Lord’s daily care and involvement in our lives. This grows our faith. 

When we choose to give thanks for the sad, bad, and difficult aspects of our lives, we acknowledge that we are trusting God to use trials for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28). This also grows our faith. 

So the next time you look down at the plate of your life and find squash, practice the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving. It will make your faith grow.

If you enjoyed this devotion, may I tell you about my new book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women?

 Today's women want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. You want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but you don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.

You need a resource that answers the questions you’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you. 

 
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Sunday

Stop. Just stop.

Because I live in the Sandhills of South Carolina, I get excited about topography—anything that’s not a flat, sandy stretch of land. Columbia is hedged in by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and whenever I have the opportunity to be in either of these beautiful places, I am delighted. 

 

I recently attended the Christian Communicators Advance conference in Marietta, South Carolina. The training and fellowship with other women whom God has called to speak was priceless. Like a jewel in an exquisite setting, this conference was nestled into the foothills of the Appalachian Trail just past peak leaf season. 

On Sunday morning before worship time, my new friend Jill and I headed out for a walk in the woods. Jill’s from a large metropolitan area also and shares my love for the outdoors—anywhere far from pavement, traffic, and noise. As we hiked into the cool morning quiet, we marveled at God’s handiwork around us. 

The first thing we noticed was how good the air smelled. Crisp and cool, it filled our noses and lungs with the scent of fallen leaves, damp earth, and sunshine. Each breath was delicious, and we couldn’t get enough of it. Like drowning men gulping great draughts of life-giving air, we filled our lungs over and over again. 

When our climb became more strenuous and our chatter slowed, the forest’s profound silence enveloped us like a blanket. Far from roads and people, nothing but our footsteps crunching through the crisp leaves disturbed the quiet. Off in the distance we heard other footfalls, more delicate than ours, and we wondered what creature shared our corner of the woods. The whisper of a stream made the quiet concert complete. 


We focused our eyes on the trail at first, but as the terrain leveled and the path became clearer, we began to look around. Stately elms, like belles at a ball, showed off their golden garb. Dainty maples curtseyed in scarlet, while diminutive dogwoods blushed pink at our attention. 

Lichen edged their trunks like lace. Ground cover studded with red berries invited us to cross a rough-hewn bridge. 















Sunlight, like strategically placed lighting in an art gallery highlighted our leaf-littered way.



To the side of the path we saw a memorial akin those erected by the Children of Israel. Six stones of red clay perched atop a flat rock, and I wondered what gratitude inspired its creation. “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know . . . that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Josh. 4:21-24). 



A fallen oak, once mighty, stretched like a bridge across a waterless landscape. Although there was no stream to ford, Jill crossed it anyway, just for fun. 

John Piper, in his devotional book Taste and See challenges us to make this promise: “I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are, but simply to be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what (C.S.) Lewis calls their ‘divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic’ existence.” 

Quoting his professor Clyde Kilby, he writes, “Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.” May we add our “Amen” to his words. 




What about you? Have you taken time to marvel at the beauty of the world around you this season? If you haven’t, why not do so today—not to celebrate creation, but to celebrate the God of creation.  












If you enjoyed this devotion, may I tell you about my new book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women?

 Today's women want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. You want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but you don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.

You need a resource that answers the questions you’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you.
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Thursday

When You Feel Powerless to Influence Your Children


It wasn’t until my daughters were graduated and out of the house that I truly understood the power of prayer. 

In the days leading up to their moves, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that I could no longer be a daily influence in their lives. How am I going to take care of them? I wondered. How can I continue to influence them when they’re so far away? 

I felt powerless and afraid. Who’s going to stay awake to be sure they get home safely? What happens if they get sick? And the worse fear of all, what if they stop attending church and stray from the faith? These looming dangers easily eclipsed the more minor issues I had worried about when they were children. 

More importantly, they revealed the lie I had believed—that my children were safe as long as I was nearby. And that I had the power to protect them from harm, bad influences, and spiritual apostasy. Without intending to, I had usurped God’s role, at least in my own mind, as their guardian and protector. 

When they moved away, I came face to face with my own impotence. Simultaneously, I rediscovered the greatest power in the world—prayer. 

Stormie Omartian, author of The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, says: “. . . when we take our concerns to the Lord—trusting that God hears our prayers and answers them on behalf of our adult children—it means our prayers have power to affect change in their lives. And that gives us a peace we can find no other way.” 

While I already had an established prayer routine, something shifted significantly in my heart. Prior to their leaving, I’d stick prayer on my conscientious parenting efforts like a bow on a Christmas box. Now the Lord was showing me that the majority of my efforts needed to move away from physically and emotionally parenting my children and toward spiritually influencing my children through diligent prayer. 

He helped me realize that while I couldn't be everywhere my children were, God could. And he cared for them even more than I did. 

Some parents of adult children have the added burden of a strained or hostile relationship with their children. They feel doubly impotent and frustrated. 

Evangelist D. L. Moody spoke to this when he shared how prayer is the stealth weapon able to penetrate even the thickest defenses. "People may resist our advice, spurn our appeals, reject our suggestions, and not accept our help,” he said, “but they are powerless against our prayers." 

Pastor John Piper has often shared how he prays consistent, focused prayers on behalf of his sons. He transcribed one of his prayers in his book Taste and See: “Even in their sleep, Lord, turn their hearts to you.” 

I love this picture—that God can and does work in the hearts of our children, even while they sleep. His influence is not limited by time, space, or daylight hours. His heart desires to draw them into a rich, full relationship with himself and those around them. 

Are your children far away—relationally, physically, or spiritually? Take heart. You are not powerless. You have the greatest weapon in the world available to you. Through prayer, you can continue to affect your children for good no matter where are. 

“The prayer of a righteous (wo)man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). 


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Monday

9 Reasons Why God Might Not Rescue You - Part II

The last time we were together, we looked at five reasons why God might choose not to rescue us. You may read Part I of "9 Reasons Why God Might Not Rescue You" HERE. 

Today we'll look at four more:


6. God is building our faith story so one day we can share what we’ve learned with others.

Second Corinthians 1:3-4 reveals this purpose: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Because of the faith valleys I’ve walked, I can truly identify with and minister to those who have lost a loved one, parented a prodigal, experienced unemployment, and resurrected a stale marriage. Experiencing God’s faithfulness during these difficult times has enabled me to say with certainty, “God will help you.”

7. God is doing something amazing. 

You can’t see it right now, but he is working out his purpose in your situation. Nothing can thwart God’s good purposes for his children. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).


8. God is developing his mind and heart in you.
When circumstances press us hard into God’s Word and force us to seek him for wisdom, faith, grace, and strength, he begins to conform us to his image. We can’t spend large amounts of time in his presence without starting to think, act, and love like he does.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .” (Rom. 8:28-29).

9. God is teaching you that a close, personal, spiritual relationship with him is sweeter and more precious than a happy, healthy, trouble-free, physical life.

I experienced a trial years ago greater than anything I’d ever walked through before. With one phone call, I felt like everything precious to me had been stripped away.

I awakened the next morning feeling like I had nothing left but God. As I cried, and prayed, and cried some more, Jesus met me there. He wrapped his big tender arms of love around me and spoke words of hope into my troubled soul. He spoke words of truth into my reeling mind. He spoke words of love into my broken heart. And he spoke words of courage into my trampled faith.

My encounter with him was so powerful and real that I will never again doubt his love, care, and purpose. “It was good for me to be afflicted,” King David wrote, “so that I might learn your ways,” and I agree. While I would never voluntarily choose to repeat those dark days, I know God used them to grow my love for him in ways he never could have otherwise.

“. . . I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

There are many reasons God chooses not to rescue us from our trials. I’ve listed a few here to get you thinking. What comforts me in the darkness of suffering is the knowledge that God is just, God is powerful, and God is good. I can rest in this, and you can, too.

What about you? Have you come through a journey of suffering only to catch a glimpse of God’s purpose in the rear view mirror? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


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Thursday

Why I'm Glad Granny Didn't Kill Herself

My grandmother suffered from dementia.

During the last year of her life, she couldn't leave her bed, didn't recognize any of us, wore a diaper, and had to be fed every meal she ate. Some people said her life was worthless and non-productive. A waste of resources, space, and energy to care for her.

Every Monday afternoon for two years I'd pack up my two little girls and their school books and drive an hour to visit her. Sometimes she'd be asleep. Sometimes she wouldn't acknowledge me, and she never remembered we'd been there. A whole afternoon and several gallons of gas "wasted."

But we visited, and spooned pudding, and ice cream, and scrambled eggs into her mouth. We kissed her and talked to her and held her hand. We sat by her bed, called the nurse when her diaper needed changing, and pretended we were having a good conversation. I'm sure she suffered in ways we'll never (mercifully) know because she couldn't tell us.

But her suffering wasn't purposeless, nor was her existence. While her life may not have been pain-free or productive from her perspective, it was accomplishing a lot from mine.


Every time I made the long drive to visit her, and care for her, and love her more than I loved myself, and my schedule, and my convenience, I was becoming a better person. More compassionate, more appreciative, more gentle, more unselfish, more humble. Dying to my flesh that sometimes wanted to be anywhere but walking through the doors of that nursing home taught me courage, loyalty, commitment, and love. It taught me that we don't abandon the ones who can no longer care for themselves. That family sticks together no matter what. That we serve each other even when it's not convenient or fun.

And those little girls whom I dragged along at the expense of their school lessons? They were learning the same lessons I was. Some day they'll be taking care of me, and I pray they will have learned the lessons well.

My granny's suffering wasn't wasted. It was invested.



For a wise, biblical response to Brittany Maynard's death, I encourage you to CLICK HERE to read John Piper's blog post,  We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard, and Physician-Assisted Suicide.




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