Friday, April 24, 2015

Turn It Around: Be Encouraged!

It’s easy to get discouraged. Several months into the year, you’ve probably let a few resolutions slip. If you’re anything like me, failure doesn’t sit well.

If I’m not careful, I let those failures define me. Maybe you can relate:

*I didn’t choose to eat healthy today. I don’t have any will-power.
*I didn’t finish everything I needed to get done. I’m lazy.
*No one commented on my post. I’m not a good writer.

How God sees us

The list goes on and on. But it doesn’t have to. God sees us much differently.

Think about the book of Judges. It’s chock full of ordinary people like you and me. Each one of them had issues and experienced discouragement, but God chose to use them anyway.

Remember Gideon? His family was poor and he viewed himself as “the least” in his father’s house (Judges 6:16, KJV). When the angel of the Lord appeared to him, Gideon must have been shocked by his greeting:

The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. Judges 6:12b

He certainly didn’t feel like a bold, courageous warrior! In fact, he had been threshing wheat by his family’s winepress to hide it from their oppressors, the Midianites.

The plan

But God had a plan. The Midianites would be overthrown by the Israelite army led by Gideon. With 300 men, armed with only trumpets, pitchers, and lamps, Gideon obeyed the Lord and experienced His deliverance.

From a place of discouragement, Gideon was given the opportunity to trust a big God who would bring great encouragement. He made the right decision.

Another man

Jephthah became another judge of Israel. But his family background wasn’t what you’d expect of a ruler: he was the son of a prostitute. As a result, his half-brothers kicked him out of the house. They weren’t about to share their father’s inheritance with him. Imagine how discouraged Jephthah must have been.

Times got tough. The Ammonites were at war with the Israelites. Jephthah was well-known for his ability to fight. Maybe they should call him back and make him their captain so they’d have a chance of defeating the enemy.

God had a plan. He would use Jephthah to overcome the Ammonites. It would have been easy for Jephthah to nurse a grudge. Why should he help these people who had treated him with contempt?

Following the plan

Instead of giving in to anger or discouragement, Jephthah followed God’s plan.

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. Judges 11:32

Once again, encouragement replaced discouragement.

Your turn

Are you discouraged? Know that God loves you and has a plan for you. Follow Him and you’ll be encouraged (click to tweet)


Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the wonderful examples in Your Word of people who experienced the same emotions I do. Help me overcome my discouragement, knowing You have a plan for me. Encourage my heart today. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Maria I. Morgan was born with an active imagination that shows up in her endearing stories for children. Originally an inspirational author and speaker for adults, Maria has widened her circle to include kids. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine Coon kitties – the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

(You can find her devotionals and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking, at www.mariaimorgan.com)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Change


As I sipped morning coffee, and looked out the window from my favorite spot in the family room, the antics of the bird perched on our holly bush caught my eye. She would fly to the ledge of the nearby window, look inside, and flit back to her branch. Back and forth she flew, reminding me of all the ways nature tells us spring is here.

 

 What a ghastly winter it’s been and how grateful I am for sunny skies, green grass, and bird sounds! I especially like to hear our transient Canadian geese honk as they fly low overhead to their summer digs. Ah Spring!  But then, I like fall too, with its cooling days, crisp nights, and jewel colored leaves.

 

I’ve heard it said people don’t like change; that it can be threatening. Personally, variety keeps me from stagnating, which is probably why my favorite seasons are spring and fall. In fact, I think God created us with change in mind, knowing we all need to break through our cocoons of sin and worldly values to become imagio deo, God’s image bearers.


There’s a song we sing in church about God changing us from the inside. I’ve learned self help works only for a short time. Real, lasting change must come from the inside and I need Jesus for that. 
 

I know my Savior calls me to him, even though I am full of sin and foolishness. He will accept me as I am, but he will not allow me to remain the same. His spirit may convict me or show me a better way as I read the Bible. He may throw me into a situation that forces me to view people through his eyes, and not mine. I may need to cling to the gifts of the Holy Spirit to walk through a challenging season of life. I may need to learn to trust in his sovereignty when all I see are bleak outcomes.


 

 Just as I see spring as a time of change, I have faith my Lord will create in me a new heart, so I can gradually become the woman he created me to be.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5: 17 NKJV)


 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 19, 1995

Photography by Ken Kniskern, K2ProStudio.com
Timothy’s hands were trembling, but resolved as he completed the last step to his plan. He calmly walked away from a delivery truck as its cab filled with smoke coming from the end of a burning fuse.
      The downtown traffic was gradually beginning to subside after the morning rush hour. Coffee mugs were finding their familiar places on corners of desks. Computers hummed in unison as the users typed in passwords and hit the “Enter” keys. Phones began to ring with morning wake-up calls for employees. Downstairs, muted giggles filtered into the hallways.
      Those familiar sounds came to a horrific stop when the force equivalent to three tons of dynamite exploded and became the second shot heard around the world.
      Oklahoma City would never be the same. America would never be the same. The lives of one hundred sixty-eight families, including those of parents who had just kissed the soft cheeks of their precious little ones, would never be the same. The only life that seemed untouched was that of Timothy McVeigh, at least for now.
      What was once a federal office building filled with FBI agents and other employees, local citizens, and a day care center was now a gaping hole in the Heartland. Electrical cables hung like spaghetti, and roofing materials waved like shredded curtains hung from melted and twisted iron. Shards of glass exploded and penetrated unsuspecting bystanders.
      Television screens around the world carried the indescribable wreckage and carnage brought to the Bible Belt by hatred of the most demonic proportion.
      Timothy may have calculated the required amount of explosive ingredients, the best time of the day to destroy the most lives, and the deadliest available parking place in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, but there was one calculation he missed completely: He could never have comprehended what would become the “Oklahoma Standard”.
      Volunteerism had its finest moments in the aftermath of the explosion. Lines formed across the state with people who waited hours to donate blood. Rescue workers from around the state, the nation, and the globe arrived daily for weeks. Specially trained dogs became heroes. Every conceivable need for the rescue and recovery teams was donated, mostly by Oklahomans.

* * * * *

      Twenty years later, in the shadow of The Survivor Tree, a gentle breeze barely skims the still water in the Reflecting Pool. As the sun sets, the soft lights beneath the glass chairs begin to glow. Each chair has been strategically placed and named to correspond with the deceased’s final place in and around the nine-story building. They provide a tangible area where one can rest, place flowers, and even kneel in a quest for comfort and understanding.
      Twin bronze gates stand majestically at each end of the memorial, one engraved with 9:01 AM, the other with 9:03 AM. An inscription on the outside of each gate reads:

 “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived 
and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. 
                         May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

      The peaceful setting that replaced the remains of terrorism speaks to moving on, but never forgetting. Visitors still leave gifts in a 200-foot remnant of chain link fence that will forever be available for special touches of kindness and remembrance.
      In a place as far away as Israel, a large painted mural of a firefighter tenderly looking into the quiet face of the child he is carrying covers the side of a concrete building, an image of an incredible moment in time.
      The web page that hosts the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial now shines with smiling faces of over comers and their stories of restored and victorious lives. They choose to face each new day in the light of a different kind of joy.
      Oklahomans have shown extraordinary resilience through the rough-and-tumble days of the Land Rush, early statehood, the Dust Bowl coupled with the Great Depression, two world wars, and an oil boom that turned into a bust. April 19, 1995 was our biggest devastation. A plaque near the Survivor Tree reads:

                             “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated;
                                            our deeply rooted faith sustains us”

     Out of the rubble came strength and greatness. A state engulfed in mourning but enmeshed in faith as she watches in anticipation for the arrival of the Prince of Peace Who will, once and for all, end the touch of terror.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying,
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men,
and He will dwell among them, and
they shall be His people, and God
Himself will be among them, and
He will wipe away every tear from their eye;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying,
or pain; the first things have passed away.'
And He who sits on the throne said,
'Behold I am making all things new.'"
Revelation 21:3-5a,NASB

Photography by Ken Kniskern, K2ProStudio.com


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Supertaster

When I was a high school teacher, the room across the hall from mine was a science classroom. One day when I was in my room alone, a girl popped her head in the doorway. “Mrs. Ackerson?” she said. “Can I ask you a favor?”

“You can ask,” I said. “What’s up?”

“We’re doing a lesson in genetics, and we’re making a graph of how many people are tasters and how many are non-tasters. I need a few more people in my sample. Could you put this little piece of paper on your tongue and tell me if you taste it?”

I took the paper strip from her. “What does it taste like?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not a taster. But if you are a taster, it’s just a little bit bitter, I guess. To me, it just tastes like paper.”

I shrugged. No big deal. I touched the paper to my tongue.

Have you ever had an aspirin start to dissolve on your tongue before you could wash it down with water? Let’s start with that taste. Try to remember the astringency of those dissolving granules—then multiply it by about 700. Then just for kicks, imagine that you grab something to wash down the aspirin—maybe a bottle of water—only to discover that you’ve grabbed vinegar instead, and you’ve taken a nice big gulp. So now you’ve got a mouthful of dissolving aspirin and vinegar—but don’t swallow. Just swish it around in there for a while. Maybe even gargle.

That’s not even close to an accurate description of how bitter that little piece of paper was.

I am sometimes prone to hyperbole; I’ve never met an illustration that can’t be made better by a slight bit of exaggeration. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that after just the tiniest touch of that paper to my tongue, I could literally taste the bitterness, even in my throat, for three days. Three days. And for as much as a week afterward, if I searched for it, I could find a spot of that bitterness somewhere in my mouth.

As it turns out, there’s another category of people: there are tasters and non-tasters, and then there are supertasters. That’s what I am: a supertaster.

Psalm 34:8 (NRSV) says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”

It is my nature to be on the gloomy side, so that when something goes awry in my life, it’d be easy for me to hold on to that bitterness, to swish it aound in my mouth for a bit—to say that the Lord has been unloving, or unkind, or unfair. But that bitter taste is not from the Lord; it is in my own spirit. Even if time has faded the taste, when I search for it, I can find it again in the recesses of my soul.


I need to be a supertaster of the Lord’s goodness—to taste it so deeply and so thoroughly that the goodness lingers for days, and can easily be found whenever I search for it in times of distress.

ChurchArtPro

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nehemiah's Example

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame. Psalm 119:45-46

Sharing my faith with others - and even just my convictions - has always been difficult for me. I am praying about and working hard to fix it, but I am WAY too dependent on other people's opinions. It's incredible what I will do to avoid getting on people's "bad side," or even getting them a bit irritated.

So, when I spied the verses above, they got me thinking. Mostly, surprisingly, about Nehemiah. Remember him? He was the cupbearer to the king - and not just any king: Artaxerxes, king of Babylon. And if there was anything the Babylonians were known for, it was their many gods. They had a god for everything.
Detail of the Ishtar Gate

Now Nehemiah's job was an important one, and one given only to the most trustworthy of servants. So this cupbearer was clearly respected by the king.

Now, one might think that Nehemiah would have had to compromise--or at least hide--his beliefs to be on such good terms with a monarch who had conquered the Hebrews. But he didn't. When Nehemiah "spoke of [His] statues before kings," requesting assistance to rebuild the walls of Judah (Nehemiah 2:1-9), Artaxerxes was not surprised at the request. He knew Nehemiah's devotion, because his cupbearer had sought God's precepts.

Nehemiah had no care for his impression with the king - only with his devotion to his King.  Despite being in servitude to Artaxerxes, he walked in freedom--the freedom of God's love and adherence to His precepts--freedom from sin.

Shouldn't we all follow Nehemiah's example?


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Friday, April 3, 2015

Resurrecting the Cross

For a few weeks now, I've been missing the wooden cross necklace that hangs on the left-hand corner of my bathroom mirror. Even more so the other day when I wanted to wear it with the outfit I had on. I never really bothered to look for it even though I kept noticing it wasn't there. Then that empty corner became the new norm, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Today I decided it was time to get rid of my birthday flowers. The only blooms still looking halfway decent were the roses, and even they were awfully sorry. I slogged through the long put off task of disposing of the crumbling fauna and the water-logged florist's foam. and I was proud of myself for taking time to move aside some clutter and sweep away all of the dead leaves and debris that had fallen from the once beautiful basket

My eyes lit up when I uncovered my long-lost wooden cross necklace. I blew off some dust, shined it on my shirt and hung it around my neck so I couldn't lay it down and let it get buried again. As I looked down at the old beloved cross hanging over my chest, the Holy Spirit convicted me.

Much like that necklace, I have allowed the Cross of Christ get buried under a lot of debris that should have been removed and the detritus swept away long ago. (It's been 26 days since my birthday. Really? Really.)

So what has kept me from keeping my eyes on the Cross, and remembering to respect and revere the sacrifice and gift God gave us when He condemned His own Son, Jesus, to die in my place?

The Lord is still revealing junk and mess I have buried the Cross under, but there  are a few things that were made immediately evident... and they all have a common theme:  I've let "life" in this world, with it's worries, distractions, and fears overshadow the truth - my God is sufficient. He is the One who gives me life, breath, and freedom from the very things I allow to hold me back from experiencing the peace in my soul that comes from putting Jesus and His Cross first.


Lord, my God, forgive me for letting the trash of my life cover the glory, majesty, and wonder of the Cross of Your Son. Thank you for loving me and calling me Your child. I am unworthy and humbled by Your great Love and Your sacrifice- Jesus, my Savior and King. Help me remember that I live in His strength, that Your Holy Spirit lives through me because of Jesus. The least I can do is keep the way to the Cross clear. 


Catrina Bradley



Thursday, April 2, 2015

You Have a Fork in Your Purse

Our Courthouse has a security system similar to an airport. But I had no worries.  I carried no weapons or drugs, so no problem. My purse, however, seemed to have an issue. The scanner reversed the conveyer belt and looked at the contents of my purse a second time. What on earth do they see in there?

“You have a fork in your purse.”

Of course I didn’t. Who would carry a fork in their purse? So I denied it. Once again they sent my purse through the scanning machine.

“You have a fork in your purse.”

And so began the search of my purse. Sure enough, I had a fork in my purse. Then I remembered the day weeks before when I had leftovers in the refrigerator at work and only needed a fork to eat them. I placed a fork in my purse. I hadn’t worked past lunch that day, so took the leftovers home.

I’ve known people like me…who deny what is obvious to others. Perhaps it’s an anger problem. But if anger is all they knew growing up, they are unaware of how they appear to others. I’ve known parents who believed they were in control, but their children were running the show. When confronted, they would declare adamantly that they had no fork in their purse.

Do you have a fork in your purse?



“It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.” Matthew 7:3 (MSG)

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