Saturday, December 7, 2013

In the Wake of Greatness

Nelson Mandela has died. He is, without question, one of the greatest figures to have shaped the modern socio-politcal age. He was a figurehead in South Africa, the face of a nation, and the name that is attributed to the end of apartheid. He was a game-changer, a man who literally changed the world through his life and his legacy.

In the wake of his death, I wonder what the impact of my own life, my own legacy will be. I am reminded of Nichole Nordeman's words in her song 'Legacy'. She states,

"I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy."

This is my prayer today. I do want to leave a mark, to leave an offering pleasing to the Lord. I want to bless His name, unapologetically. I want to lead people to the Cross as others have so faithfully led me. I want to leave a legacy of the grace and love and mercy found at the feet of Jesus.

I am so blessed to have grown up in a family and community that embraced these things, and to have found people who encourage me and who continue to live out Christ's message of salvation as I've reached adulthood. I pray that I would continue to embrace the message of the Gospel, and that I would share it with others so that they, too, would understand and grasp the hope to which I am called through Christ. Life is, indeed, too short. However, eternity is long, and I look forward to spending that eternity worshiping my dear Jesus. 

What is your legacy?

Today's Verse
John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in Him would  not perish, but would have eternal life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hairdryers and Vacuums

God provides.

This can be a perplexing phrase, especially given how very big and vague it often seems. God's provision can entail everything from economic miracles to a ride home from college for Christmas. I think I tend to forget the 'smaller' nature of God's provision, especially when He is providing in big ways. I get into this mindset that, when God is handling the really big things, it's only right that I pick up the slack with the little things.

God has been showing me that He has the little things covered as well as the big things, even the things so small that I don't even know they need covering, the things I've never even considered bringing before Him. 

In the last month, God has proven His provision, even in the little things, to me through small household appliances. A dear friend presented me with a new hairdryer, declaring that mine was entirely too heavy for hands plagued by fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel. She was right. The new one is amazing, not only incredibly light but it makes my hair look fantastic. I didn't even know I needed a new hairdryer or that one could be such a blessing, but God new that a new hairdryer would make each morning's routine that much better, that much less stressful and so each time I use it it is a reminder of his blessings in my life. Then, today, another dear friend brought me a vacuum. I've been existing without one for months, painstakingly sweeping the carpet whenever I have the energy (which, I confess, isn't often - that's a lot of work). But, without even the meager stipend grad school offered, the money I do have just isn't earmarked for things like a vacuum. But God knows. And I have friends who had an extra vacuum lying around, perfectly functional, and unused.

So now, as I type this, I have blown dried hair and vacuumed carpets. And while those things are small and often go unnoticed, I am noticing their presence today, and I am so thankful for the way God has provided them.

Today's Verse
Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It is Well

At a recent ministry meeting we sang the hymn It is Well. Now, this has always been one of my favorite hymns, but this week it was such a beautiful reflection of exactly how I have been feeling. Recently, I have been blessed by a period of time where I have been truly experiencing the Lord's provision and grace and presence in my life, and the assurance that it is well with my soul is incredibly real.

I recently heard a quote from Darrin Patrick that states that, "the reason you don't trust God with your future is because you aren't experiencing Him in your present." This is such a true description of my life. In times when my faith falters and I am consumed by doubt and unable to trust God with my future, I am not experiencing God. When I experience God, his faithfulness is real in a way that my circumstances might belie. When I experience God, I know the hope to which I am called in Christ Jesus.

Recently, I have found myself in the strange and new position of knowing that God is entirely trustworthy, that He will be faithful, and still having to accept that I don't know how He will provide. I have been experiencing God in brand new ways, and yet I have had still had to learn that trusting God doesn't mean having all the answers. Instead, it means that, in the absence of answers, I still believe. It means that, when I don't see a way out, I know that there is one, and that God will reveal it in His own timing. It means that, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well, with my soul.

Today's Verse
Psalm 46: 1-3, 7
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fill into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging...The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Caller or the Calling?

During the sermon at church on Sunday, our pastor said something that spoke directly into my life. He said that God places us in situations and circumstances that challenge us in order to discover whether we will love Him more than we love what He has called us to do. One of the biggest struggles of the Christian life can be eliminating our pride in our God-given passions and talents and submitting to the sovereign will of God.

My journey out of grad school was all about this submission. I wanted that PhD. I wanted to prove to the world that the brain God gave me really was top-notch. I wanted to prove that my ideas were stellar and new and impressive. But God didn't care about my ideas, He cared about my heart. He didn't care about whether others thought I was brilliant, He cared about what would bring Him glory. He knew that a career in academia was primarily about me. It was about Him too, but I was the one in the drivers seat.

So He asked me, "Devon, do you love me more than you love your calling?" He kept asking, and kept putting me in circumstances that challenged my thinking and changed my heart, until He got the right answer. Once I reached a point where I truly loved God more than I loved my calling, more than I loved the idea of my own success, my whole life changed.

As I began to do what God wanted and to do those things solely for His glory, my whole perspective changed, and my life became about Him and not about me. I was free to forget about myself and focus on God. I was free to stop worrying about what others thought, and I became concerned only with pleasing an audience of one. I gave my whole self to God and found that my calling matters so much less than my relationship with the One who calls me.

Today's Verse
Colossians 3: 16-17
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

Monday, November 11, 2013

Apart from Him

"God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." - C.S. Lewis
More and more, I am discovering that happiness is not found in my life when I am pursuing God, it is found in GOD when I am pursuing Him. In the past, I have not understood the difference between these two things. The first concept holds that, when I pursue God, it is easier to be happier with my life. This idea tells me that it is easier to find happiness in the things that are occurring in my life when I am seeking God. However, living this way still places the focus of happiness on my circumstances, rather than on the Lord.
Instead, as C.S. Lewis says, happiness cannot be found apart from God. When our circumstances are frustrating, and even when our circumstances are good, our happiness should still be found in God alone.  Rather than our relationship with God helping us to find things to be happy about in our lives, our relationship with God should make us happy simply because of God Himself. 
The Bible is full of descriptions of all the things we have because of God's benevolence. We are adopted as God's children, we are new creations, we are promised that God works all things for good for those who love Him. With all these numerous promises, we needn't look any further than God to fulfill our need for happiness. 
I am so thankful for the happiness and joy and peace that the Lord brings, simply by being Himself. 
Today's Verse
Psalm 37: 4
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Friday, November 8, 2013

It Was Never Supposed to be This Way

We know the world is broken. We are told that this is so all the time but, so often, the broken things of this world become so commonplace, so ingrained in our lives, that we no longer recognize them as things that do not belong.

Death is one of these things that doesn't belong. It happens, and we all know that it happens, but I, for one, like to ignore it. When I come face to face with it, it is always surprising. It always throws me for a loop.

I came upon an accident after an event last night. It was a single person accident, no others were involved. On my first glance, I thought this person was already dead. Thankfully, they weren't, so while someone else called the cops and reported the accident itself, I crouched by the victim's head and told them that help was on the way and that everything would be fine. I don't know if they could hear me, but I wanted there to be a calm presence in the chaos of the scene; if they sensed anything, I wanted it to be peaceful and assured. After the cops arrived, a friend and I stood to the side and prayed for them. I felt good about it all - I had done everything that I hope someone would have done for me, those who were skilled to handle this sort of thing were there, and I was hopeful about the outcome. Now, I tend to be good in a crisis, which means cops like to talk to me after things like this happen. In this case, the cops came back to my house later to get my statement. During my discussion with them I got news I wasn't expecting: they don't expect the victim to live. This person, who was right in front of me not a half hour before, is dying. By the time I right this, they may indeed be dead. And that tells me, in no uncertain terms, that this world is indeed broken.

The other day, I was talking with a wise friend about life and death and about how, in terms of eternity, life is as short as the blink of an eye. Everyone lives, everyone dies. We all know that death is coming, and yet, when it comes, we are still unprepared. We are still saddened. We still grieve intensely. My friend said, "That's because it was never supposed to be this way."

She's right. When God created the world, He didn't originally include the death of man. We were to live forever in community with Him. And then sin entered the world, and the wages of sin is death. And so we die. But we are not meant to die, we are meant to live forever with God, to inherit eternal life through Christ. This hope to which He has called us. We live in a broken world but we are not stuck here forever. To borrow a thought from another wise friend, we are not earthly beings who have spiritual experiences. Instead, we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience. Our experience was never meant to be broken, and through Christ we are reconciled to God. I long for and hope for the day when there is no more death, no more broken bodies, no more pain and I live a life of complete freedom with Christ on high.

Today's Verses
Ephesians 1: 16-20
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Where Does the Good Go?

Today I was confronted with the reality of the ideas that God has good gifts in store for his children and that He works all things together for good for those who love Him.  Too often, these ideas can seem like empty platitudes. These two phrases can seem like things we are told when our circumstances are difficult, statements meant to simply to ease the discomfort and to spark a flame of hope to life within us.  They can seem false, even when they are so incredibly true. I found myself discovering these truths today, particularly the truth that God is GOOD. I realized that, because it is in His nature to be good, and He does not act in ways that are contrary to His nature, that all things that come from Him are also, inherently, good.

The truth of what this idea of good gifts from God really means is much more difficult to grasp than I originally thought. It means that our inability to see the good in our circumstances does not mean that those circumstances are not good. What it means is that, even when we don't think we are benefiting from our trials, God is providing benefits that we may not see see. It means that, when we are living within the confines of His will, all things are good and all things eventually work together for our good. It means that God takes the things that make us feel like we are suffering and makes them good for us.

I do not get to define what is good for me and what is not. Instead, I must subject myself to the Lord's definition of what is good and endeavor to see my life more through His lens. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and everything that comes from above is ultimately good. I am trying to trust in that today.

Today's Verse
James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Move Mountains

I've been thinking about faith that can move mountains and, today at least, I'm not sure what that would look or feel like. Today, faith that strong seems too cocky, too good to be true. I've spent the last two days in bed, in the midst of a fibromyalgia flare up that has been the worst pain I've felt in months. The pain is there when I'm still, it's there when I roll over. The idea of lifting anything heavier than a glass of water makes me want to scream, but the Word says that faith, that amorphous, intangible concept, can move entire mountains. I don't want to move my own body, but faith can move mountains.

On days like today, God seems too big for me. On days like today, even mustard seed-sized faith seems like too hard, too huge, too incomprehensible a task. On days like today, I'm glad that even when my faith is smaller than a mustard seed, I know that God is with me. I know that God is there, patient with me, even when I am not patient. I know that He is not frustrated with me, even when I am frustrated with Him. I know that He'd rather I fight with Him than turn away from Him. I know He'd rather I argue than stop speaking to Him. On days like today, I am grateful for His enduring faithfulness, His unwillingness to abandon me. On days like today, I am grateful for the hope, the possibility, of mustard seed-sized faith.

Today's Verse
Matthew 17:20
"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


We're getting to that period of the year when everyone seems to be sick. I hear sniffles all around me, and they are not the emotional kind. It's so easy to spread germs, and so often the germs we catch are from people we never even make contact with. Door knobs, counter tops, and all sorts of common surfaces hold traces of things others have left behind, things that can have a large effect on our own bodies given the right circumstances.

I've been thinking about how faith can also be contagious. I want to be living a life that points to Christ in a way that draws people to Him. I want to be leaving traces of Him behind me wherever I go, so that others find Him even if they never see me. I want my enthusiasm and my trust in the Lord and what He is doing in my life to be catching.

My prayer is not that I would prosper in my faith but that the Lord and His work would prosper through me. I pray that I would be used to spread His love and grace and that I would leave a legacy of belief and surrender to the Lord.

What is your legacy?

Today's Verse
Colossians 4: 2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I might proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Through the Cracks

This morning I was reminded yet again that God is in control and that I need to submit and surrender my whole life, successes and failures, to Him. I’m operating on a schedule that is more demanding than any I’ve ever had to deal with before, and today I realized that a number of things have fallen through the cracks. Are any of them major, life altering things that deserve panic? No. However, I hate letting people down and I hate that feeling in my stomach that crops up when I realize I’ve forgotten something. It’s so reminiscent of forgetting that an assignment is due and waking up the morning of the due date and saying “Oh no! That’s today!”

My childhood was full of moments like that, and I thought I’d grown beyond that kind of absent mindedness. I thought I’d gotten to a point where I wouldn’t forget things so that I didn’t have to hear that small voice inside me that loves to remind me how often I fail. I didn’t think I’d have to deal with the fact that that voice just gets louder when I realize that things have gone undone or been entirely forgotten.  

The voice tells me that I let people down. It tells me I’m always a few degrees off center and that everyone is disappointed. It tells me that it’s no wonder that God has to teach me so many lessons, because I keep failing to learn and that He is tired of me too. Today I am reminding myself that the voice lies. I’m reminding myself that I am human and as such cannot be perfect. I’m reminding myself that the grace that comes with Christ’s love covers me. I’m reminding myself that I am not so important or essential that everyone could be disappointed in me. I’m reminding myself that humility means admitting when I’ve made mistakes and then letting them go, refusing to beat myself up, refusing to give in to the pride inherent in a defeatist attitude.

Today Verses
Psalm 124:8
Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Powerful Prayer

I’m finding that one of the greatest gifts we have from the Lord is the ability to pray. How incredible is it that we, small and human, can enter into the presence of the Almighty with the assurance that He hears us and responds. The power of prayer is total in that God hears us and responds, but our hearts also respond and change when we pray. Prayer doesn’t just lead to changes in our circumstances, but it also leads to changes in our attitudes.

I’m so thankful that prayer not only has power over my life but also has power over me and my mind. I’m praising God today for His provision in prayer, for his attention to the details of my spirit. I’m coming before the Lord in prayer, not just asking for change in my life, but begging for change in my heart and He is gracious and faithful to provide.

Today’s Verse
Jude 1: 20-21
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What is the Answer?

I have a long to do list. There are a ton of things that I need or want to be doing, situations that need handling, and problems that need solving. What I'm continually realizing is that I can't do those things, handle those situations, or solve those problems alone.

It's strange for me to find myself facing things that I just don't have an solution for. I always have an answer. Teachers ask questions, and I raise my hand. I've been a professional student for years. To suddenly see obstacles in my life that have me saying, "I don't know what to do," is scary. I know that I am supposed to trust God with all of these things, with everything, that I am supposed to simply surrender my whole life to Him, but these are new circumstances that I don't have practice surrendering. I don't know how God will provide. I'm having trouble seeing a way through that doesn't involve some seriously amazing and undeserved provision from the Lord.

And that's the crux of the issue. It's not that I don't think God provides, it's that I find myself unsure that He will provide for me. I find myself doubting whether He will look at me and say "Yes, I will do these great and unfathomable things for her." I know He works in phenomenal ways for others, but it's so hard for me to trust that He will treat me the same way.

So right now, for me, it's not just about surrendering my circumstances. It's also about surrendering to how God sees me, to how He loves me. It's about trusting that He works all things together for my good, even when I'm not good enough to deserve it. It's about recognizing that, on my own, I am never going to measure up or be able to earn the love and care of the Almighty, but that Christ paid the ultimate price so that I never have to. It's about total, all encompassing trust that God knows me, knows my life, knows my future, and will make all His plans come to pass.

Today's Verse
1 John 3:19-20
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Different Role

This week I reread the story of David and Goliath, and I was struck anew by the implications of the story. I discovered that, in the past, I have always read this story and asked, “How can I be more like David?” I tended to cast myself in the role of the hero and attempted to learn how to conquer my giants through their example.

This time, however, I realized that I have been casting myself incorrectly. I have been attempting to play the wrong role. In this story, I am not David, I am Israel. I am unable to conquer giants on my own. I need help to do so. I am not the young, handsome shepherd walking through the army’s camp with confidence that I can bring down Goliath. Instead, I am like the scores of people who cowered in the face of Goliath’s challenge. I am like the king who, even after agreeing to send David out to meet Goliath, tried to lend David his own armor to wear, not believing that David could handle things all on his own.

So often I find myself facing giants that I am determined to conquer on my own, only to find myself unable to meet the challenges and unable to stand up to the accusing voices that boast of their invincibility. When I finally admit that I can’t do it alone and yield to the Lord, I still often try to help, offering Him my ideas and my plans as if He needs my assistance. But in fact, the Lord is like David, fully capable on his own, not in need of any ‘armor’ I may have to offer.

Today’s Verse
Psalm 68: 19-20
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Loving the Unlovable

I encounter a number of difficult people in my job. Offering service to people in high stress times in their lives means that I often speak with people who are at the end of their rope. They don’t necessarily want to hear what I have to say, they just want me to fix things. Explanations about changes taking time and requiring things from them aren’t always well received.

The Bible is clear, however, that we are to love our enemies. Now, ‘enemies’ strikes me as a harsh word, one that describes parties in armed conflict or people who truly hate one another. In order to better grasp this concept and its applicability to my own life, I have been conceptualizing ‘enemies’ as those with whom I experience conflict. Under this definition, the Bible calls me to love those with whom I have conflict.

I have been thinking on this lately, the idea of loving others and treating them as I would wish to be treated and I realized something. When I love my enemies, I tend to stop seeing them as enemies. When I love those with whom I have conflict, I pray for them, I pray for God to change my perspective, and my heart attitude towards those people changes. It does not necessarily solve the conflict, but it certainly changes my emotional state. When I love my enemies, I no longer have enemies.

I see what you did there, Jesus.

Today’s Verses
Matthew 5:43 & 7: 12
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where Can I Go

There are song lyrics running through my head this morning from the song Rescue:

“I need you Jesus
Come to my rescue
Where else can I go?
There’s no other name by which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow you”

When I am in need, there is truly no other place to turn. When I need assurances that the work God is doing is good and that my time and efforts are not for naught, I need only turn to Jesus. When the world around us seems exhausting, chaotic, and out of control, we needn’t wonder how our needs will be met.  He is a counselor and comforter, a peace-giver. Even in the midst of life’s challenges and difficult self-realizations, Jesus rescues.

Today’s Verse
Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Call and Response

Today I find myself examining how I respond when God calls out to me. When He beckons me nearer, I tend to have such a shallow understanding of what that means. I feel Him prodding me, begging me to come to Him and discuss something with Him, so I do, and I am always shocked when that discussion leads somewhere I never expected. The Lord is constantly revealing things about me that I am blind to.

The beautiful thing is that I am not alone in those revelations. He is right there, not condemning me, simply correcting. He cradles me in His arms with love and assures me that, while I am not strong enough to overcome my flaws, He is. He has not abandoned or forsaken me, He is simply teaching me to be better than I am. He is growing me and maturing me so that I might better serve Him.

I want to be a good and faithful servant, one who loves the Lord and loves others well. The road to loving well is paved with difficult lessons, with sacrifice of self, and with humility. Pride and control are things I struggle with, things I come back to again and again, and things that crop up in insidious ways. But the Lord is there. He knows what I need, He knows when to step in, and He knows how to love me through them. I give thanks for He is good and His love endures forever.

Today’s Verse
Proverbs 3: 11-12
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father the son he delights in.

Monday, September 30, 2013

He Does Not Tire

Today I am giving thanks for the fact that the Lord does not tire of me. I am a constant work-in-progress. Just when I manage to let go of one thing, I find I must confront something else in my life that is displeasing to God. But God is never resentful of me or the work that I must do. He does not begrudge me for not being perfect. He's not looking down at me, rolling His eyes at my ineptitude. Instead He looks on me with the benevolent love of a Father, gently guiding me, pointing me in the right direction and assuring me that He has already paved the way for me.

Even when I am frustrated with myself, He is not. I needn't feel trapped by my sinful nature, for He has set me free. I needn't feel helpless and stuck in an endless struggle to save myself because He has already done so. I may slip and backslide, but He is always there to catch me and pull me upright, to support me, to promote me.

I am what He does, and for that I am thankful.

Today's Verse
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Open My Eyes

I read today in Numbers about a time when the Israelites spoke out against God saying, 'There is no food and no water and we loath this worthless food" (Numbers 21: 5b ESV). The Lord sent serpents who bit the people, killing many, until they realized they had sinned by speaking out against God and Moses and pleaded with Moses to intercede for them with God. He provided healing in the form of a bronze snake, lifted up on a pole. Any who were bitten could look at the snake and be healed (Numbers 21: 4-9).

What strikes me about this story is the complaint of the Israelites. They wail that there is no food, and then that the food that they have is worthless. So really, it's not that they have no food, it's that they are not satisfied with what they do have and want something more or different.

I think about the ways I do this same thing. I catch myself ignoring all the good things that God is doing in my life, all that I do have, and focusing on the things I don't have or the things that might go wrong. I have so much, but tend to focus on the one or two things that I lack, and miss out on recognizing the blessings God is providing. A friend mentioned today that God does so many things in our lives each day, countless things, yet we only notice a few. Today my prayer is that I notice more than just a few. I want God to open my eyes that I might see and recognize His benevolence and be satisfied.

Today's Verse
Psalm 34:8
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Number My Days

I am discovering a new meaning for the word busy, but I cannot regret or resent it. I am so blessed to find fulfillment in so much of what I do, and to see silver linings even in the things that are not so glamorous or wonderful. Even when I am bored at work, as training seems to stretch on endlessly before me, I am listening as others offer much needed and greatly appreciated assistance to the people we serve.

I'm able to spend my free time investing in the lives of so many people and being so blessed by them in return. Yesterday I got free home grown vegetables, a relaxing chat over coffee, and a slouchy couch-bound gab session with my roommate all after work and before going to bed.

I am so grateful for the time I have and the freedom to invest that time in what matters to me. I want my life to be worthwhile, for it to have significance beyond my own self, and thus I need to be a good steward of the time I am granted. The Psalmist wrote, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I am seeking wisdom now. The wisdom to know where and in whom to invest my time, and to invest it with purpose and intentionality that I might best serve the Lord.

How do you number your days?

Today's Verse
Psalm 90: 12
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You are Faithful

In my impatience and my too-frequent desire for immediacy, it is easy to forget just how faithful the Lord is. I pray, and when my results aren't in-the-moment immediate, I often become discouraged or forgetful that the Lord even hears me. However, over and over again, I am humbled by the way He so clearly sees my needs, recognizes them, sees value in them, and seeks to satisfy them. We do not serve a God who looks on us as needy, high maintenance creatures. Instead, we are His children, and He desires to meet all our needs in the best ways possible.

Last night in a bible study we discussed Jesus' miracle where he turned water into wine at the wedding in Caanan. What has always struck me about this story is that Jesus didn't simply meet the need, providing the necessary wine. Instead, He provided a wine that was of such quality that the master of the feast complimented the host for saving the best wine for last. Jesus didn't jump into help at the first opportunity in this story, but when He did, He didn't do only what was needed. He went above and beyond the call to serve the guests and to bless the people who were there.

I see Him doing the same things in my life, though certainly not on so miraculous a scale as turning water into wine, when I am patient enough to let Him work. Answers to prayer start as a slow trickle, quickly turning into a deluge, and I soon find myself overwhelmed by His goodness and abundance. He can do so much more than I could ask or imagine, and yet I am so quick to forget His power and His willingness to move on my behalf.

Today I am remembering His faithfulness and praising His work in my life.

Today's Verse
Psalms 27: 13
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cast Away

Control. It's what I want, and it's what I'll never have. This is a reality of life. There is nothing I can do, no effort I can make, to be in control of my circumstances. In truth, at the core, I like it this way. I am so grateful to the Lord that He has a good and perfect plan. However, there is a part of me that looks around me and sees my life and says, "No, no, it would be better if you could control this. It would be better if you could be the one with all the information."

That voice is so alluring, so tempting to listen to. If I were in control, at least I would know exactly what steps were being taken to solve problems, right? Wouldn't that be less worrisome? If I were in control, things might go wrong, but I would know exactly who to blame: myself. Isn't that worth something?

The Lord answers these questions with a calm, firm, "No." I wasn't created for control. I was created for dependence on Him. Rather than seeing my circumstances as struggles with giving up control, I want to recast my vision of them as opportunities to practice trust in His provision and faithfulness. He has yet to let me down, and He promises to uphold the righteous with his right hand. Rather than seizing control from Him, I want to let go even further, to cast all my cares on Him, throwing them away from me like a fisherman casting his line.

What cares do you need to cast away?

Today's Verse
Psalm 55: 22
Cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take My Life and Let it Be

In this weekend's sermon, our pastor told us about the woman who wrote the hymn Take My Life and Let it Be. He told us that she waited upon the Lord with patient anticipation. Waiting did not discourage her, she simply came before the Lord and waited for His voice, time and again, until she heard from Him.

I think about how frustrated I get when I don't see immediate results or get immediate answers to prayer. In the waiting, my fear tends to swell, and I am tempted to seize control and try to arrange things and make them move along by myself. Today, however I am thinking over the words of that old hymn, and letting that be my prayer. That I would submit all to the Lord and wait with patient anticipation for Him to move in my life.

Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Today's Verse
Romans 12: 1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Ask

A friend asked me several days ago, "What do you need?"

I didn't have an answer for her at the time. I wasn't sure. Honestly, I have a hard time identifying what I need and then verbalizing it for fear of being seen as needy or high maintenance. I'd rather grit my teeth and bear it with what I have than need more than people are willing to give. However, this is something that God has been working very hard to rid me of for the last several months. Not only is gritting my teeth and bearing it a sign that I don't trust the people around me to care for me, it's a sign that I don't trust God to place people around me who care for me.

Not long after this friend asked me what I need, I realized that I might not be missing it. I might already have it, I just need to reach out and grasp hold of it.

In the wake of all the transitions in my life, all the new things that I am doing, I haven't lost anything. My old friends are still there - just a phone call away, ready and willing and eager to hear what I am doing and share what is going on in their lives. I have a roommate willing to run to the store for me when I am sick, and who, earlier this week, knew exactly what the perfect end to a long first day of work would be. And, I have discovered, I have new friends, and the potential for great friendships blossoming as well. I want to make space in my life for all these relationships, to build a supportive network, and all I have to do is be open to them.

Vulnerability, getting to know someone, getting support from old friends, all starts with me. If they don't know I need it, how will they know to offer it? But, if I can humble myself and ask, I can trust that God will provide the support I need and that the people who love me will be there for me.

What do you need to ask for?

Today's Verse
Matthew 11: 28-29
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Impostor Syndrome

We talk a lot about impostor syndrome in grad school. Basically, it's the idea that you aren't smart enough to be where you are and, soon, if you don't do everything exactly right, everyone else will realize they made a mistake letting you into their circle. I struggled with that a great deal in graduate school. In reality, I knew I was smart enough to be there, but I looked around me and knew that I didn't care as much or as intensely as the other people around me. I just wasn't as invested, and heaven forbid anyone else find out. Wasn't this what I had promised to do? Wasn't this the plan I had always said I would follow? How could I leave it all behind and start something new?

I started a new job on Monday. It isn't what I want to do long term, as I am hoping to go into ministry, but the great thing is, everybody knows it! I told them so in the interview. I told the interviewers that I needed a job, but that I was hoping for something else to come through later. I told them straight out that I wanted to go into ministry, but wasn't sure when that might happen so I needed a job in the meantime. When the people I meet at my job ask what I'm studying (because most of them think I'm still a student) I confidently tell them that I've graduated from grad school and am working here as I wait for this ministry opportunity to work itself out.

Guess what? They love it! I had multiple conversations just today about campus ministry and what we do and what our goals are. People really seem to want to hear about it! They asked me. All I had to do was stop hiding and stop believing that if people knew what I really wanted they'd laugh me out of the room. Instead, I'm grabbing on to the opportunities that God is opening up before me with confidence and telling the world about it.

Today's Verse
Hebrews 13:6
So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

He Must Increase

One of the key concepts I am embracing in this new phase of my life is that He must increase, and I must decrease. I must increasingly acknowledge my need of Him. I must increasingly practice my trust in Him. I must follow where He leads and not run ahead based on my own whims and desires. I must point to Him and recognize Him for the great works He is doing in my life. I want to share these things with others. I want to give God the credit He is due.

I'm learning what it means to be a good steward of my time, energy, and money. I'm learning new levels of discipline that I never had to learn before. I'm more conscious of what I say and how I say it, and, in many situations, I say less than I used to. I am learning to be more deliberate and intentional in a variety of areas, and in each of those areas, I am learning to trust God to smooth over the discomfort that arises. Tearing down some boundaries and learning where to put up other boundaries is a strange process, but God has been lovingly supportive and faithful as I walk through it.

It's a slow process, often I take two steps forward and then one step back, but the Lord is faithful to continue His good work in me, and for that I am grateful. He is increasing in my life, and I am, gradually, decreasing.

Today's Verses
John 3: 30-31
He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

He is Jealous for Me

Our God is a jealous God. This is something I am reminded of today. He doesn't want my focus, my life, focused on the things He has called me to do or the people He has placed in my life. Instead, He wants me focused on Him. Everything else is secondary.

When I do focus on Him, the tasks still get done and I find life easier to contend with. However, when things begin to seem off-kilter, especially if I haven't changed my behavior, it's often because I've taken my focus off of the Lord and placed it on the tasks and people set before me.

I am refocusing today. I am striving to be less task- and people-oriented and more God-oriented. With my eyes fixed on Him, I know that everything else will fall into place.

Today's Verse
Hebrews 3: 1
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Take Heart

Today is not a good day for me, pain-wise. I've known it was coming; the pain and the exhaustion has been getting gradually worse over the last few days, and today it is full blown, throughout my whole body, including a migraine. It is easy to be discouraged when I'm feeling like this, and it is often difficult to see beyond these immediate circumstances. However, I am reminded of two things today.

The first is that this body and it's ills are only temporary. Isaiah points to Heaven in Isaiah 33:24 where it says, "No one living in Zion will say, 'I am ill; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven." It is a great comfort to me to know that, someday, all this weakness will be stripped away. Like a plant forced to start its growth in a pot too small for the end product, a pot that would never be used to display a beautiful, mature flower, my soul is contained in a flawed shell that is not meant to contain it forever.

The second thing I'm reminded of today is something my aunt said to me recently. She told me that, when things in my life make it too difficult for me to stand, that's ok, because all I really need to do is kneel. This resonated so deeply with me because, while this phrase is beautiful in its figurative implications, I often find it difficult to stand on a purely physical level, simply because it hurts to do so. In addition, for all of us, there are so many things that can drive us to our knees. For me, it's often my pain. For others, particularly on a day like today, the anniversary of 9/11, it is our grief, or our fear, or our weary hearts. But we don't need to see kneeling as weakness. Not being able to remain on our feet isn't an admission of defeat. Instead, we take that opportunity to acknowledge that God has more power than we can ever comprehend. The power to handle not only our pain, grief, fear, and weariness, but also the power to overcome all the circumstances that cause us to feel that way. When I find myself on my knees, I remember John 16: 33 which says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Today's Verse
John 16: 33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your Will, Your Way

There is a song called Lay Me Down, and the lyrics of the bridge say, "It will be my joy to say, 'Your will, Your way, always." I'm thinking and meditating on that today and realizing that the joy may not come when we submit to the Lord's will. The actual submission, the initial act of surrender can be hard and painful and and uncomfortable. But afterwards, when we are living in accordance with the will of God, is where we find joy.

Submitting to God's will can mean so many things. It can mean giving up things we hold dear, it can mean changing our behaviors or reorienting our lives. Those are not easy things to do, and doing them often requires that we conquer our fears and develop a new level of trust in the Lord. In the story of Saul/Paul's conversion we see an extreme example of the struggles associated with submission turning into a deep, abiding joy. Saul spent three days blinded, praying, before the Lord restored his sight. It was only after that time that he began to preach. Now, once he began preaching and living according to the will of the Lord, it wasn't that he never faced adversity, but Paul often wrote of his abiding contentment and joy in the Lord. He gave up everything, totally changed his life, and found true joy in the midst of all his circumstances.

Are you filled with joy today?

Today's Verse
Isaiah 30:21
And your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Only One Thing

Planning and executing those plans is time consuming and thought consuming. It is worthy of our attention, and when God calls us to do things for Him we should do them to the utmost of our ability. We should to all things to glorify Him, to bring Him praise.

However, I have been thinking about the story of Mary and Martha, and their different attitudes when Jesus came to visit them. Martha was so pleased to see Jesus that she immediately went to work preparing a special meal. When Mary's response was to sit with Jesus, not to help Martha with her preparations, Martha was resentful. When she addressed her resentment with Jesus and asked him to support her and to tell Mary to help her, Jesus told her that it was Mary who had made the wiser choice. He said that only one thing was needed, and He would not take it away from Mary simply so she could help her sister.

As someone who likes to plan and then execute the plan, especially when it comes to things like hospitality, this story of Martha hits home. The last few weeks have been filled with welcome events for the new grad students on campus and in our ministry, and in my excitement and desire to make them feel welcome it would be so easy to continue to plan and execute events without actually taking the time to sit down and just be with them. It's easy to do this in our faith, too. When quiet time with the Lord or our time in fellowship with others or going to church become things we check off our to do list and not things that we invest our attention and intentions in, we risk developing the same attitude as Martha. We risk seeing others around us who have chosen rightly and resenting them for doing things differently. We risk losing sight of the one thing that we need.

Do you tend to be like Martha or Mary?

Today's Verse
Luke 10: 41-42
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Unexpected Growth Opportunities

There are so many new faces to be thankful for my life right now and I am so excited that God is growing not only the groups I am involved in, but also my relationships. Unexpectedly, however, I find that I have forgotten one of the most difficult things about meeting new people: revealing my...quirks. There are some things that go along with having fibromyalgia that are so normal to me that I don't really notice them until new people see them. Even my friends get used to them and they become commonplace occurrences, not meriting attention or acknowledgment - it's just me, and we all know it.

I shiver - it's actually really a twitch. Some people shiver when they get a chill, and it's a lot like that. The thing is, I'm rarely cold, so it isn't actually that I'm cold, it's just my nerves firing, making me shake. A lot of the time I wince when I stand up, or when I sit down, or when I shift in my seat. Some times my joints randomly hurt, and I yelp. And yet, despite the weirdness of all of these things, I forget that it's weird behavior until I'm surrounded by new people.

The great part about this, however, is that, while I have been slightly embarrassed that people notice these things, and while I have avoided the rather depressing "I have chronic pain" explanation, I can feel God stretching my comfort zone. I don't like admitting weakness, period. I don't like people noticing the ways that my condition makes me different. But, as more people notice, I have more opportunities to accept myself as I am, as God made me, and embrace it. I have more opportunities to be real with people, to be honest with them about myself, and to glorify God, to have a positive outlook, and to count all the other blessings in my life in spite of my illness.

How is God stretching you?

Today's Verse
2 Timothy 2: 15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Only God Can

Situations where solutions or goals can only be reached through the power of Christ are both exciting and incredibly daunting. I find myself in a number of those places right now and the realization that only He can bring these things to pass is both freeing but also incredibly challenging. I have to be willing to let Him move in me and to let Him place me where I need to be. No matter how much I try, only He can do the work that needs to be done.

I want God to use me, and my Spirit is willing, but so often my flesh is weak. At times my attitude isn't what it should be to begin with, other times I am simply weary of encountering the same obstacles over and over again. Then there are the times when a team needs to come together, so just having myself isn't enough, and I need to trust that God will raise others up as well.

I read a quote today from Tim Keller that said, "Putting our faith in Christ is not about trying harder; it means transferring our trust away from ourselves and resting in him." When I think of all the goals I have before me, this is key. I don't need to try harder, I need to stop trusting in myself, and instead rest in Him. 

Are you trying harder or resting in the power of Christ?

Today's Verse
Phillipians 2:13
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Like He Sees Me

I really dislike self-evaluation. Whenever I do it, I find that there are two parts of me that go to war. First there is the part of me that wants to think well of myself. That part wants to focus on the things I do well, to recognize that there are areas where I can improve, but to generally be kind and loving towards myself. Then there is the other part. The other part of me doesn't think of well of me. It tells me that honest evaluation is evaluation that lists all my flaws. It tells me that the kind part of me isn't kind, it's dishonest. That it isn't give a fair and balanced review, it's giving a sugar-coated and false picture of who I am.

In these situations, I know that what I really need to do is to not focus on how I see myself at all. Instead, I need to ask God how He sees me. I need Him to guide me, I need Him to help me decide what to say about myself. If I leave it up to me, I'll simply end this task saddened or guilt-ridden. Luckily, God sees all of me and knows all of me. I am forgiven for my faults, yet He is just and so I know that any conviction He places on my heart is righteous. I can trust that, with His guidance, evaluation is not a journey of guilt but one of self-discovery and a chance for improvement. When I see myself like He sees me, even as I am corrected, I am safe, valued, protected, and loved.

Are you letting yourself see you as God sees you?

Today's Verse
Ephesians 1: 4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Things that Count

It's a new semester here at Penn State and that brings with it all the usual advice for the freshman. The usual things can be heard around campus, in syllabi, at convocation, from the RAs, all trying to make sure that the freshman understand that they need to make their time count. I remember being a freshman in college and being told that, while graduation seemed very far away, the things I did in classes, the work I did (or didn't) do, mattered. The things I chose to put effort into or not would effect the outcome of my college career. I hear those same things being told now, here.

I, however, find myself so thankful that this is not the message we get from God about our pasts. Today I am thinking over parts of my past, and I am so thankful for the redeeming power of Christ. The things I did, or didn't do, don't count against me in light of the blood of Christ. I don't have a cumulative GPA in heaven, where I am constantly working to balance out my failing grades with some straight A semesters. Instead, my past is wiped clean, and I can trust the Lord to work in my heart to change me so that my future might be different from my past.

I needn't dwell on the past and constantly work to compensate for my mistakes. Christ has taken all of them upon Himself that I might be free. I am free to focus on the things that truly count, to praise and bring glory to the Lord in all that I do.

Today's Verse
1 John 1: 7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Proper Rest

In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes, "You cannot have a proper work theology unless you have a proper rest theology." As a grad student, I clung to ideas like this. I knew needed rest, I would even say I yearned for it. To keep my work in perspective, to keep myself sane, I needed proper, God-centered rest.

Now I am discovering how easy it would be to forget the lessons about rest that I learned as a grad student. I am doing work that I love with people that I love. As a campus ministry volunteer, everything I've done in the first week or so of the semester has been incredible and energizing. I've adored every minute of it.

However, today I realized just how easy it would be to never have rest. The more people I meet and connect with, the more relationships I make, the happier I become, and the more effective I know I am in my job. Along with that, however, comes the opportunity to never be still, to always be out (or in) doing something with people, to never take the time to make sure that I am taking care of myself.

Today I am taking the time for proper rest. I want to spend today reflecting on all that God is doing, thanking Him for His provision. I want to make sure that I am focused on Him, that my life is centered where it should be.

What is your rest theology?

Today's Verse
Psalm 62: 5
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Let Yourself Imagine

I had a meeting this morning that started with a moment of imagination. In that one moment, however brief, I saw what could be. I saw where things could go if God moved, and if we really let Him take hold of us, of our lives, and of our time. It would change a lot of things, and it would require a lot of adjustment, but it would so incredible to see!

The possibilities are a bit daunting. Our current ideas would no longer be entirely adequate, our resources would need to expand. But isn't that what God is all about? Isn't He constantly bringing us to places where we need to stretch ourselves and our beliefs in His ability to provide?

As soon as I embraced the possibility of what the future could hold, the ideas flooded in. Sure, things would be different than they are now, but they wouldn't be too different. The reality is that, when we follow God, when we allow Him to grow us, we can trust that He will also provide us with the space and skills we need to accommodate that growth. Why should we limit ourselves to what we have when God may be waiting to do so much more?

What might God be calling you to imagine? What more does He want to do through you?

Today's Verse
Ephesians 3: 20-21
No to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Praise and Petition

One of the reasons that I love the Psalms is that they are such a real and honest depiction of what a relationship with God is like. David's prayer life reflects his heart, and his heart was often troubled and conflicted, even while he praised the Lord. When I find myself in similar mindsets, I try to remember to look to the Psalms as an example of how to pray honestly. I can bring my cares and concerns to the Lord, but I also want to remember to praise him, to recognize his awesome glory and power. I don't want my prayer life, my discussions with God to be all about me.

I think about my conversations with people and about how few relationships last when conversations are consistently only about one of the people involved. I don't want to inflict that kind of relationship on God when I wouldn't want to stay in one like that myself.

The Bible says we should do all things to the glory of God and that we should pray unceasingly. When I do this, when I consistently have God at the forefront of my mind, and don't confine Him to a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes before I go to bed at night, I am much more likely to bring praise in addition to my petitions. I remember to thank Him for the good things, to recognize the blessings in the moment and point to His goodness. In this way, my cares and concerns don't overshadow the good things in my life, instead, by the end of the day, I've seen so many blessings, that the cares and concerns seem few and small in comparison.

Are you praising the Lord in addition to your petitions?

Today's Verse
Ephesians 5: 15, 20
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learning Contentment

In Philippians, Paul says, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." I love this concept of learning contentment. Contentment isn't something that just happens. We can't simply decide to be content and expect it to immediately occur. It's almost a skill. We have to develop it, practice it, learn how to do it. Becoming content is a process.

My process towards contentment has spanned multiple areas of my life and involved pain, endings, and what has felt, at times, like giving up. I've seen my health falter, I've struggled in relationships, and I've totally changed the course of my career, and that's just in the last several months! But through all of that, I have learned what I do and don't truly need. I have learned what it is to be content with what I have. I have learned what truly matters, what problems are worth my attention and energy, and what it is to be positive and to smile regardless. God has taught me to focus on what He wants me to focus on. He has placed a desire in my heart to see the world and people through His eyes rather than through my own. By changing my perspective and attempting to develop one that more closely resembles His, I find that my personal concerns are much less important, much less overwhelming, and much easier to deal with and then move on.

It is true that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, and with Him on our side, pulling for us, working through us, guiding us, there is no need to let any circumstances steal our joy or contentment.

Are you pursuing contentment?

Today's Verses
Philippians 4: 11-13
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When We Blunder

Yesterday I read a news story about a young, very conservative, Christian family who, taking their two children (both under the age of four), left the United States and set sail for a developing country in the South Pacific seeking religious freedom.  They weren't experienced sailors or navigators, and several weeks into their journey they found themselves adrift in the Pacific Ocean.

Reading this story, as an outside observer, it seems so easy to judge this family for their choices and their interpretations of Scripture. But what really struck me is that, when they were adrift at sea and running out of food, the woman involved stated that she always knew that God would provide for them. And He did. The family was found by a boat and transferred to shipping vessel and taken to a US Embassy in South America. They survived. Their two young children survived.

Even if their journey was a massive blunder, and even if the Lord never intended for them to make it, He still protected them through it. He never abandoned them or forsook them. He was there in their time of trouble. I'm thankful that God is big enough to handle all our problems, but small enough to find us in the middle of the ocean, and direct help straight to us. I am so grateful that I serve a God who is right there with me, even when I make mistakes, and especially when my mistakes are incredibly huge.

Today's Verse
Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Not the First Day

For me, today is not the first day of a new school year. For the first time in 21 years (more, actually, if you count preschool), I won't be heading to a classroom this fall. I won't be buying notebooks and pens or spending an exorbitant amount of money on textbooks. I won't be impressing new teachers or teaching new students of my own.

I thought not doing these things would feel strange, especially since my life plan, the one I'd held since high school, was to get a PhD at the very least, and become a professor myself at the most. I thought I might be disappointed or at least a little sad to know that I'm really, truly, not doing that, and that the Lord has definitely taken my life in a different direction.

But, I'm not. There isn't one iota of my being that is sad this morning. I'm elated. I'm free. I'm filled with joy. I've spent the last week doing some of my best work, my most enjoyable work, and it was work I never thought I'd ever sign up to do as an actual job. I was speaking to a wise friend last night and I expressed to her my amazement that following God's leading could lead to such fulfillment and joy and peace and contentment!

Cheesy as it may sound, today isn't my first day of school, but it definitely feels like the first day of the rest of my life, and that is cause for celebration.

What are you celebrating today?

Today's Verse
Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brothers only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love to serve one another.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Days, Drifting Away

As summer comes to a close, and the new school year begins I've been reflecting on all that I have learned and seen God do. I am overwhelmed by His grace and provision in my life, by His attentiveness to my needs and His willingness to deal with me on a personal level. I've learned how amazingly trustworthy He is, how ready and willing He is to satisfy me, and how desperately He longs for me to rely on only Him.

As I move into this new chapter of my life, I am so excited to see what He has in store! I am already seeing Him open opportunities up for me to join Him where He is at work and to make a difference in the world around me. I am praying that He will continue to do these things and will continue to provide the means for me to succeed in those endeavors.

What did you learn this summer? What are you looking forward to as fall approaches?

Today's Verse
Psalm 74: 16-17
The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fill Me Up

In recent days I have begun a new strategy for finding satisfaction in the Lord alone. I have stopped waiting for the end of the day to pray about the ways in which I felt insecure and the ways in which I felt that my needs weren't met that day. Instead, I am starting the day by telling the Lord what I am fearing, where I feel a lack, where I need Him to meet me that day. I have been asking Him to meet my needs, to fill up my emotional gaps, my spiritual holes, before I ever get out of bed.

I have found that, by doing this, my encounters with people have become less central to my emotional well-being. My emotions are less effected, less variable, when I rely on God to fill me up first. If I am supported and affirmed by my friends and acquaintances, that is fantastic. However, if I don't get exactly the right words from them, that is ok, too. When I need other people to fill my cup before I turn to God, I will always come up short, but when I rely on God to affirm and support me first, when I let Him fill my cup, anything else is extra, and my cup runs over.

Are you letting God meet your needs before turning to others?

Today's Verse
Psalm 90: 14
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Monday, August 19, 2013

God With Us

When the angel appears to Mary and tells her that she is to have a baby, one of the names he calls the child is Immanuel. Immanuel translates to "God with us". Today I am reminded that, regardless of where we are or what we are going through, because of Christ, God is with us.

There are many definitions of the word 'with', and it seems like such a little, simple, common word. I don't think I've ever given it's meaning much thought before today. But, when I realize that "God with us" means that I am accompanied by God himself, that God is a participant with me in my life, that He is on my side, that He is present with me, I find hope and strength. Everything else seems, if not small, at least not overwhelming in the face of his presence.

I am not alone, and neither are you.

Today's Verse
Psalm 23: 1-4
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Practical Things

Now that I am a 'real' adult, I am finding that there are practical spiritual lessons to learn along with the more intangible ones I have become used to. As I exercise self-discipline, developing spiritual self control, I encounter practical opportunities to engage in spiritual practices. The lesson I learned today? I don't need a new dress.

Now, yes, that is overly simplified. In reality, what I am learning is that I need to be a good steward of my money. Could I have bought have bought a new dress today? Sure! I could have rationalized it, I could have made excuses. There wasn't anyone there to stop me, and I do have an event I'll be going to where I will need to wear a dress. However, I want to actually act like a 'real' adult instead of just saying that I am one.

I actually want to learn to be a good steward of my money. I realized today that I've never really done that before. I've never quite had to. Sure, I've had bills that had to be paid, rent that needed to be sent in on time, but the nature of being a student, of being my parents' dependent, was such that true stewardship of my money is something I've neglected to develop. Now that I have the opportunity to develop those skills, I want to take full advantage. I want to grasp the chance that God has placed in front of me to grow, even though it may be difficult, even though it stretches me beyond my current skill set.

How is God stretching you?

Today's Verse
1 Corinthians 4:2
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Live On

When I think of how the Lord answers prayers, even small ones, as we simply live and abide in Him, I am filled with joy. It amazes me that He can answer us with what seems like so little notice! When I want to make something happen, I need to plan, to prepare. I often need a schedule and a game plan. I need to know what small steps need to be accomplished first so that other, larger things can fall into place later. However, the Lord knows all things before we ask, and He is laying the foundation for His plans before we are ever aware of them.

I found myself awake early this morning and spent the time in prayer. I prayed for things that I had sadly neglected over the last several months, but as I sit here several hours later, I find that God didn't need me to be praying all that time. While I may regret my own forgetfulness and lack of diligence, God didn't need my reminders. I didn't have to spend months of prayer time laying the groundwork for the answers to prayer I received today. I simply needed to live my life according to the grace and faith to which God has called me, and for that I give thanks today.

What are you giving thanks for today?

Today's Verse
Colossians 2: 6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Humbled by Ease

I am intimately aware of the truth that, just because God wills something, doesn't mean that it will be easy to accept or accomplish. However, I often find myself struggling to balance this truth with  when I find myself blessed by surprisingly easy things.

I know what to do when things are difficult. I know the stages of acceptance that I go through. I know that I resist God's prompting, that I have to deal with my fear, that I have to struggle to submit. I know that I have to remind myself of His sovereignty, His goodness, His faithfulness. I know that I need to be looking for small blessings, for silver linings. I know that acceptance and accomplishment is often an uphill battle, and that I may slip backwards numerous times before I reach the summit.

However, when things are easy, I find myself floundering. I don't have a formula for response when it feels like I am simply handed something. I find myself backing away, consumed with the need to be extra cautious. Even if I do move forward, it feels like walking over creaking ice, just waiting for it to break from underneath me. Surely it is too good to be true? Surely things are supposed to always be hard?

Today I am simply humbled by the way God makes some things easy for me. There are many things I struggle with, but God makes other things incredibly easy in very unexpected ways. I am blessed to not have to struggle in all areas of my life. I am not deserving of His favor, and surely there are others who could benefit from those blessings as well, but I am thankful that He has seen fit to provide them for me, even when I have not earned or even attempted to earn them.

How is God unexpectedly blessing you?

Today's Verse
Psalm 32: 11
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

All Dressed Up

I read a brief description of fear today that I found rather profound. It said that we don't face a whole list of fears, long and varied, but merely a few fears that dress themselves up so that they appear to be numerous and different. I think this applies to many of the enemy's strategies for undermining us and the plans God has for us.

Whenever I attempt to move forward, I know I have to be on guard against fear. I know that each step of faith I take will be met by God as He wills, but that it may also be countered by the enemy. Adversity is to be expected; things are not easy just because God asks us to do them. Part of walking in faith is recognizing when our fears are dressing themselves up, attempting to look bigger and stronger than they are.

The reality is that, because of Christ, we are so much stronger than fear. We are stronger than anything the enemy can throw at us. But we must own that strength in order to overcome. We must claim it, and rely on God to help us wield it. We must know that it is ours, belief we have received it, and not shy away when fear rears its ugly head.

Do you recognize when your fears are just dressing up?

Today's Verse
2 Timothy 1: 7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Monday, August 12, 2013

God's Question

On Sunday our pastor presented us with an interesting concept. He said that it is likely that the most common question that we ask God is, "Can I trust you?" but that, if God had one question He could ask each of us, it might be the very same question. Can He trust us?

I know that I constantly fall into the trap of seeing God's faithfulness over and over in my life, and yet still asking Him, "Can I trust you?" I beg and plead for Him to show me again, intimately aware that my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. Now I have this other image in my mind, this image of God looking at me, and wondering the same thing.

Unfortunately, I am not constant as He is. I am not the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. My faithfulness, my trustworthiness is not a certainty. When I look back on my past, there isn't a single moment or example where God proved himself unfaithful or unworthy of my trust. But when God looks back on our relationship, on the times He asked things of me, my record is not nearly as clean. I can only imagine the number of times I took advantage of blessings, squandered opportunities, turned gifts into points of pride, and worked for my own benefit instead of others.

As I now, officially, enter a new phase of my life and as I ask God for provision and blessing and guidance I want Him to be able to trust me with those things. I want Him to be working in my heart, to be renewing my spirit, so that I can be trusted to work for Him and not for myself, to do His work as He wants it done. I want a better record going forward than I have left behind me.

Can God trust you?

Today's Verse
Luke 16: 10
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sickness of Selfishness

I read a fascinating speech today that has been making the rounds. You can read it here if you so desire. I am unused to hearing graduation speeches about our humanity. In my experience those speeches say, "go do things", "go excel", and "go work". This speech was a bit different in that it basically said to go be a better person, a kinder person, a less selfish person. It said that success in work can take a long time to achieve but we can start being kinder, being less selfish, right now.

I love the selflessness that we are called to through the Gospel, yet the lack of selflessness that I often see in the Church, in Christians, is one of my biggest discouragements. I know that I myself am selfish and unkind much too often for comfort. Intellectually, we know that we are not the center of the universe, and that no one should treat us as such. But how often do we behave as though God and Christ come first, and we come second, just after them?

This is not how we are called to think. Loving others as we love ourselves means putting them first. Doing for them before we do for ourselves. It doesn't mean being a doormat, but it certainly means not being a diva. It means being a team player. It means each person plays their role and is there to pick up the slack when the others falter, supporting them and making sure they have what they need. Everything still gets done, tasks are still accomplished, but we do them together rather than at the expense of others.

Are you attempting to give up selfish things today?

Today's Verses
Philippians 2: 3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Gift of Sleep

Today I am gifting myself. In the large scheme of things, it's a small gift. It costs me nothing. I don't even have to leave the house to get it. I don't even have to leave my room. Today, I give myself the gift of sleep.

Sleep has become oddly conceptualized in US culture.  It's not something we give everyone. We don't think about it as something we deserve. We certainly don't treat it as something we need. In fact, in many arenas (I have found that graduate school is particularly guilty of this) going without sleep is a badge of honor, something to be proud of, proof that you are working harder, striving longer, doing better than your peers.

For me, however, sleep is another facet of living with fibromyalgia. Living with chronic pain means never being comfortable, which means never quite relaxing, which means never quite resting as well as I should. This means I don't get good sleep. This also means that I reach a point where my body is too tired to go through its daily tasks and, instead, needs to catch up on its sleep. My sleepy days are all about giving up control. They are all about admitting my body's limitations. They are all about admitting that I'm not as healthy as others, that I don't have it all together, that I can't manage on my own. They are about admitting that I need God.

On the numerous days when I do get out of bed, it isn't my own strength that makes it possible. It's His. On the days when I can't get out of bed, it isn't my own strength that keeps me from feeling like a failure. It's His. Everywhere I turn, it is Him, not me, who gets me through.

Who is getting you through today?

Today's Verse
2 Corinthians 12: 9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Community Lessons

One of the greatest things about living in community with other Christians is the way I am consistently encouraged to do better and be better than I am. I love seeing God work in other people's lives and hearts, inspiring me to let God do similar work in my life and in my heart.

I have a friend, wonderful, sweet, and gracious, who has recently faced an unexpected measure of interpersonal conflict. She shared this struggle with me, and I was able to encourage her, and inform her just how petty I thought the others involved in this conflict were being. Instead of joining me in dismissing their concerns, however, she expressed a desire to at least try to address the things they had brought up to her. She wanted to make an effort, to potentially open doors for future communication, future congeniality between herself and these others who had hurt her. I jokingly offered to confront them on her behalf (quite the joke given my own avoidance of conflict) and, even as she laughed good-naturedly, she said the most beautiful thing. She said that she had been praying for these people before this happened, and she didn't want to stop now. She knew where they were spiritually, knows that there are still areas where they need God to work in their hearts and lives, and she doesn't want to stop caring and praying about that. She said that when she remembers to pray for them, she isn't as hurt, and she isn't as angry about the conflict.

I find myself so inspired by her heart for these people. How often do I encounter conflict where, rather than praying for the person or people involved, I imagine and practice the confrontation over and over in my mind, stirring up my own emotions, anticipating and expecting the worst. Even if I choose to forget about the conflict, and shove it under the rug, bottling it up or attempting to let it go, it comes back later twice as strong when the same thing crops up again. She has shown me another situation, another opportunity, where prayer is the answer. When we lift others up in prayer, we invite God into the situation and into our hearts and feelings about the circumstances we face and the other individuals involved. When we manage our conflict through prayer, it doesn't mean we don't have to deal with issues or talk things out, but it may help us conquer our emotions and keep ourselves from being ruled by hurt and anger.

I'm learning a lesson in conflict from the members of my community today, what lessons are you learning from yours?

Today's Verses
Matthew 5: 43-48
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Right Response

When we face situations where we have questions about what we should do, I think we often struggle with what our response to the unknown should be. We tell ourselves that we don't know what to do. We worry about the potential outcomes of any course of action. Sometimes, we are stalled, unable to see a way out, a way that doesn't cause us intense anxiety and worry. Other times, we pick a course of action and go full steam ahead, forgetting to be grateful when things go well. And then, even when things go well, we often find ourselves in new places saying, "Well, ok, but now what?"

"I don't know what to do!"I think this thought is one of the enemy's most insidious and effective weapons.  It underscores our lack of confidence in ourselves. It highlights our anxieties and insecurities. It shows us that we don't have all the answers, even for our own lives. And it offers nothing in return. It strips away all our comforts and support, and leaves us there, blowing in the wind, unable to stand alone.

But this is where God comes in. Because, in uncertainty and in triumph, the Bible is clear. The right response to this kind of thinking is always prayer. In times of uncertainty and worry we are to call upon the Lord. In triumph and success we are to praise Him. These are two sides of the same coin. When we don't know what to do, or where to turn, or how to process where we think our life is going, we need to pray. When we can't contain our joy or when happiness is abundant, we need to praise God. Prayer provides the answer to the enemy's destructive thought. When we say, "I don't know what to do", God says, "It is what I will do that matters". When we don't know where to turn, God says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." When we don't know where our life is going, God says "I know the plans I have for you."

What is your usual response when you aren't sure what to do?

Today's Verse
James 5: 13
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

Friday, August 2, 2013

So Long Status Quo

As all my school things have wrapped up and I have found myself with very short to-do lists I have kept telling myself that things will feel different once I establish a routine, once I find the new status quo. Lurking in the back of my mind is the thought that scheduling myself, finding that rhythm of work/play/relax, is the answer to this feeling that I'm not doing enough, not being busy enough, not pulling my weight in the grand scheme of things.

Today, however, I had a new thought. What if I just...don't? What if I avoid that kind of scheduling? What if I avoid busy-ness? Not in a sleep all day, never leave the house, watch trashy television kind of way, but in a way that leaves me open and available? What if I get up each day, do what I must, and then go looking for God and the opportunities He might open up for me so that I can invest in something other than myself? What if I say no to conventional wisdom that says scheduling is where logic is, and embrace something much less tangible, much more elusive, but potentially much more fulfilling?

At Bible study last night we asked ourselves, "What keeps us from saying yes to God when He calls us?" My answer? That I always want to finish the task I have in front of me before doing what God is calling me to do. My graduate schooling was the perfect example. God kept calling me to leave, and I kept saying, "Ok, I will, just wait a bit, I have to finish this first!"

I want to stop putting my tasks, my concerns, my chores, before Him and open up my life so He can truly move.

Are you making room in your life for God to move?

Today's Verses
Matthew 8: 19-22
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."