Thursday

When Someone Else's Joy Makes You Sad

Mother’s Day—smiling women surrounded by adoring, healthy, happy children. Your arms are empty, or your children are prodigals, absent, or angry. 

Wedding Day—filled with promises, hope, and beauty. Your bed is empty and your heart is cynical, or your grown children—the ones you prayed for every day of their lives—are stealing the benefits of marriage without bothering to make the commitment. 

Graduation Day—diplomas, job prospects, and a bright future. You dropped out, or maybe your child did. Maybe they never made it to college in the first place, or an expulsion, probation, or too much partying delayed or destroyed their hope of graduating. 

Easter Day—new life, fresh starts, and the resurrection. You see only death, hopelessness, and the tomb. 

Scripture tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but what do we do when someone else’s joy reminds us of what could have been, should have been, and might never be? When we plaster on a fake smile and make an excuse to leave early? When we feel petty, selfish, and small in light of such great rejoicing? What do we do when they are rejoicing and we are crying inside? 

We do what Hannah did. 

 Hannah was a childless woman. Beloved of her husband yet barren, she lived in a household where a second wife bore child after child when her womb remained empty. 

“Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” her tenderhearted husband said one day in an effort to make her smile. Instead sorrow made her heart ache and grief stole her appetite. 

I hesitated to use Hannah as an example because her story ended the way she had hoped—she received not only one son, but many. Your story may not end this way, but regardless, the truths of Scripture still apply. Hannah was a godly woman, and she wrestled with her sorrow and disappointment in a godly way. 

There are six steps to Hannah’s example: 

1. She allowed her sorrow to drive her to God, not away from him. She visited the temple and spoke to the priest: “I am a woman who is deeply troubled,” (1 Sam 15). 

2. She sought God in prayer. “In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord” (v. 1:10). 

3. She was honest with God about her pain. “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. . . . I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief” (v 15). 

4. She submitted her request and trusted God with the outcome. By prefacing her prayer with the word IF, she left room for God’s will. “IF you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me . . .” (v 10). 

5. She accepted God’s comfort. “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (v. 18). 

6. She worshiped the Lord. “Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord” (v. 19). 

Some may argue that it was easy for Hannah to honor God in her sorrow because she ultimately got what she wanted. If we read the text closely, however, we see that Hannah responded in faith during her darkest days—long before God answered her prayer the way she had hoped. 

If you’re struggling with sorrow, disappointment, or grief today, I pray Hannah’s example will challenge and encourage you. Guard your heart and “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). Whether God answers your prayers the way you hope or not, trust him. You’ll be glad you did. 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). 

Personal Note: Today is my BIRTHDAY! 
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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. 

Monday

I've Wasted a Lot of Money

I’ve wasted a lot of money in my lifetime. 

This may surprise you, because I’m naturally very frugal. Anyone who knows me knows I hate wasting time, and I hate wasting money. Time and money are too precious to be misspent. 

This is why I’ve lived frugally all my life. I set my thermostat too low in the wintertime and too high in the summertime. I dry laundry on a clothesline. I hand wash dishes instead of using a dishwasher. I clip coupons, shop sales, and reduce, reuse, and recycle. I do anything I can to save money. 

But I also love wasting it. 

Mary did, too. 

Martha and Lazarus’ sister, Mary had a bottle of fragrant oil worth an entire year’s salary. In today’s terms, it was worth forty thousand, sixty thousand, or maybe one hundred thousand dollars. She’d probably saved for years to purchase this outrageously expensive perfume. 

And now she was preparing to waste it. Fritter it away. Blow it. 

“And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as (Jesus) sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on his head” (Mark 14:3). 

Her friends tried to talk her out of it. They “criticized her sharply,” and lamented among themselves, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?” She could have sold it for lots of money and given the money to the poor. Instead of doing something practical and responsible with her treasure, she wasted it. WASTED it by lavishing it on Jesus. 

My husband and I have been married for over 30 years. Over the course of three decades, we’ve similarly wasted more money than we can count. This is shameful, really, since for most of our married life my husband has been a blue-collar worker, and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job. Of all people, we shouldn’t be wasting money. It’s too dear and hard to come by. 

If we’d kept our hard-earned money instead of wasting it, we might not have driven the older van that embarrassed our children so badly. Or lived in the house that was smaller than all their friends’ homes. Or gone to Disney World more than once. We might have had nicer clothes, newer electronics, and a country club membership. 

Instead we wasted our money by giving to our local church, supporting missionaries, and sending poor kids to camp. We’ve helped rebuild a church in Mexico, feed the hungry in Nicaragua, and bring Christian education to Spain. We’ve helped dig wells in Afghanistan, buy mosquito netting in Kenya, and care for the homeless elderly in Romania. 

Like Mary, we realized early on that there’s something much more precious than money, and that something is Jesus. And Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus’ work, and Jesus’ church. 

I’m not sharing this to brag, except to brag on Jesus. One Easter long ago, Jesus gave the most precious gift imaginable—his physical life in exchange for our spiritual life. His mortality for our eternity. 




What is money in light of so great a sacrifice? 

As his children, we have the privilege of giving back, in very small yet sacrificial ways, to the One who gave his all for us. 

And Mary? 

“Let her alone,” Jesus said. “Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me . . . . wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (v. 6, 9). 

If you haven’t experienced it already, I pray you discover the joy of wasting money for Jesus. 

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.


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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. 

Thursday

My friend the judge -- it's all in who you know

Sam was in a pickle. 

Newly married, he and his wife were days away from a mission trip when they realized they didn’t have a vital document necessary to allow them to enter the country. He called my husband and me in a panic, unsure what to do. 

Thinking furiously, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “I have a friend who is a judge. Maybe he can help.” I’d known Clyde for years, worked with his wife, and prayed for his kids. “I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can.” 

A quick phone call confirmed that Clyde was, indeed, willing to help. 

Unfortunately, willingness wasn’t enough. 

“I’m a family court judge,” he said when I explained Sam’s dilemma. “His request is out of my jurisdiction. I have no power.” 

Disappointed, I phoned Sam with the bad news. He thanked me for trying, impressed I was willing to go to bat for him. “I’ve never known anyone who had a judge’s phone number in her contacts,” he said. “I’da been scared to death to call him.” 

Sam's mission organization intervened, he received the documents he needed, and he and his wife left for the mission trip as scheduled. As I breathed a sigh of relief, I thought back on my attempt to help him. 

I wasn’t afraid boldly to phone my friend the judge because I had a relationship with him. I was confident he'd hear my request and do everything within his power to help. Unfortunately, Judge Clyde didn’t have the power or the authority to intercede on Sam’s behalf. 

I remembered this experience when I read Hebrews 6:16: 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

I called an important man to ask him to advocate on Sam’s behalf because I had a relationship with him. How much more should I feel the freedom to approach God, my Great High Priest, on the basis of my relationship with him? 

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,” Romans 6:15 says, “but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are . . .” 

My friend Clyde sympathized with Sam’s predicament. My friend Jesus sympathizes with mine—my woes, my heartbreaks, my fears, my struggles, and my weaknesses. He, too, was tested and tempted, but because he was sinless, he earned the right not only to sympathize, but to advocate for me. 

Judge Clyde didn’t have the authority to act on Sam’s behalf. His jurisdiction was limited and his power was narrow. Jesus Christ, however, has full jurisdiction and all power necessary to help me. 

“Was my arm too short to ransom you?” God asked Isaiah. “Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert” (Isa. 50:2). 

On the basis of my relationship with my Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, I can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that (I) may receive mercy and find help in time of need” (Heb. 5:16). 

What about you? Are you struggling with something today? You may feel hindered, helpless, and hopeless, and you may very well be. 

But God is not. 

I encourage you to call upon him today. I believe you’ll find mercy, grace, and help in your time of need.


If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.



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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. 

Monday

When Past Failures Threaten Future Success

John Mark had failed. Big time.

As the understudy to the apostle Paul, he had begun well, but something went terribly wrong. The Bible doesn’t give us the details, so we can only speculate. Maybe the journey was too hard, the pay was too little, or the hours were too long.

Whatever the reasons, John Mark quit. Packed his bags and went home. Abandoned the work, the workers, and the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul was so hurt and disappointed by his defection that, years later, when John Mark asked for a second chance, he said No. No way. Forget it. You blew it, Buddy (Acts 15:38-39).

Thankfully, God never says No to our requests for second chances. When we come to him in humble repentance, he forgives and restores us.

In this biblical account, John Mark even earned back Paul’s trust. In the days before his execution, the apostle called for him, saying John Mark was “useful to me” (2 Tim. 4:11).

But what if John Mark hadn’t accepted God’s (and Barnabas’ and Paul’s) forgiveness? What if he allowed his failure to marginalize him for the rest of his life? What if he hadn’t picked himself up, made peace with God and his fellow men, and begun again?

The most obvious answer is, we wouldn’t have the gospel of Mark. 

Why is this significant? After all, there are three other gospels.

Most Bible scholars agree the gospel of Mark is the earliest written of the four. It’s the closest document to an original source—an account written by someone who walked and talked with Jesus. The time of its writing (prior to AD 70) adds indisputable credibility to the entire New Testament. Scholars also believe the book of Mark is the source document for the gospels of Luke and Matthew.

When we consider the additional fruit of John Mark’s ministry—his and Barnabas’ evangelization of Cyprus and his ministry to Paul shortly before his death, his value to the Lord’s work is indisputable.

He lived a fruitful, godly, productive life despite his youthful failures. 


Which brings us to ourselves. What happens when we can’t move past our failures? When we don't live in light of God’s forgiveness? When we continue to crucify ourselves because of our past sins? When we allow our past shortcomings to sear a scarlet letter onto our futures?

We miss the work God has planned for us to do. Significant work. Life-changing work. Eternal work.

So I ask you, what sins lay buried in your past? What regrets nibble at the edges of your confidence? What forsaken actions still hinder your wholehearted service to Christ? What failures whisper words of doubt and accusation every time you consider speaking out for the Lord?

“If we confess our sins,” John wrote, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

Do you believe it? Will you act on it? Kingdom work may be awaiting your answer.

*This piece is inspired by a Key Note address Bob Hostetler gave at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Advance Boot Camp) called “What If John Hadn’t Written?"


Tune in to Christian Communicators LIVE blogtalk radio program tomorrow as I talk with hostesses Vonda Skelton and Carolyn Knefely about life as a magazine editor. If you can't listen live, the program will be archived for your listening pleasure :)

 March 17th Insights from an Editor

Listen online at http://www.blogtalkradio.comchristiancommunicators at 1:00 p.m. EST to Lori Hatcher, editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine. You can also dial in to Christian Communicators Live at (347) 843-4920 to ask Lori a question.

Lori is an author, women’s ministry speaker, and a writer's conference faculty presenter. She will be sharing her perspective and experiences in a writer’s world.


If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

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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. 

Thursday

When You Can't See the Mountains for the Freeway--A Cure for Worry

I had worked myself into a tizzy.

Credit
You know how it goes—a concern arises—health, wealth, or relationship trouble, usually. The thought pops into my head and instead of taking it captive, I allow it to run free. One anxious thought leads to the next, and fear spreads its worry poison like jellyfish venom after a sting. My heart begins to race, my breathing quickens, and before long I am paralyzed—unable to reason, act, or pray.

My heavenly Father, armed with the antidote, waits in the wings, but I refuse to sign the consent form. “I’ll handle this myself,” I mutter feebly, waving him away.

And behind the spiritual veil, Worry smirks silently and scratches another notch in his belt. My old nemesis has gotten me again.

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live in Roanoke, Virginia, and we visit often. It’s a beautiful city. User-friendly, easy to navigate, and moderate in climate and cost of living. The city is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and I never grow tired of seeing their cobalt peaks on the horizon. Everywhere we go, they are there—stately, silent, and strong—distant sentinels hedging us in. 

On a recent visit, my husband and I were trying to cram many activities into a short amount of time. Playing with our granddaughter, visiting with friends, going to church. Helping with chores, grocery shopping, and wedding planning with my eldest. The list was long, and we stayed busy.

It wasn’t until our final day that I realized something—I had forgotten about the mountains. 

Consumed with my To Do list, I’d plowed my way through one task after another without ever lifting my eyes to the horizon. I’d missed sunrises, sunsets, and beautiful cloud formations. I’d missed shades of brown, blue, and grey. I’d missed the beauty that gladdens my heart and brings color to my sometimes monochromatic days.

My eyes were so focused on the freeway that I had missed the mountains. When I finally lifted my eyes, there they were, where they’d been all along, the strong and silent guardians of our weekend.

When I allow fear to plunder my heart and mind, it’s much like my mountain-less visit to Roanoke. I become so focused on the problems in front of me that I forget there is help on the horizon. Help that surrounds, protects, and shelters me.



 “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” the Psalmist writes. “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber” (Psa. 121:1-3).

With what worry are you struggling today? I encourage you to lift your eyes to the hills, and to the Lord of the hills. His help is waiting there.


If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

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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.