Luke 22:42 (Jesus praying) Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.

Much to my chagrin I quite often find myself in a conversation with one of my children that goes something like this:

Child: Mom
Child: Mom
Child: MOM
Me: Huh
Child: So can I?
Me: Can you what?
Child: What do you mean can I what? Are you even listening to me?

Sheepishly I must admit to said child that although they are a profound treasure from God's very hand, I was indeed not listening.

This morning I am reading Hebrews 5. I know I have read this passage multiple times on past trips I've taken through the Bible yet today the 7th verse leapt off the page as if I've never even seen it before this morning. "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." Whom better to model my prayer life after than Jesus himself?
  • Passion - "With fervent cries and tears" - Jesus' prayer life was not characterized by repetition or boredom. When he communicated with His Father, He was filled with passion. The word fervent means showing a great intensity of spirit. I have a feeling that Jesus wasn't nodding off in the middle of his prayers the way I do sometimes.
  • Focus - "To the one who could save him from death" - If I found myself pleading for my life, I'll bet I wouldn't start formulating a grocery or errand list in my mind. Somehow the distractions of my day pound their way into my mind when I am supposed to be praying. Yet what is the purpose of praying for my children if not that God alone is able to save them? What is the object of prayer if not to spare my relationships? What is the function of prayer if not to rescue my heart? If I really thought about whom it was that I am speaking, I too would learn to pray with focus.
  • Heard - "He was heard because of his reverent submission" - Jesus was entirely willing to do things the Father's way. He was permanently on God's page. When I pray out of a heart that only seeks to know God more intimately, I pray with a submissive heart. Isn't the whole purpose of prayer that we desire God to hear our prayer? He hears the prayer offered in reverent submission.

Jesus, thank you that You never tune me out. No matter how weary or weak my cry, You hear me. Today when I talk to You, let my voice be passionate. Let my mind remain focused. Let my heart be surrendered. Today I will choose to believe that I am heard.

Beyond Packages and Bows

1 Samuel 16:7b The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

The other morning I was on a run with my sweet friend, Brenda. As we ran, we compared progress on our Christmas shopping and strategized what presents should complete our 2010 shopping lists. Brenda asserted that children should not be given necessities as presents. While I agree with this thought in theory, I must admit I tend too often toward the practical.

Hayleigh (soon 12) would definitely agree with that assessment. When Hayleigh turned six, her birthday presents were housed in boxes nearly as big as she. She ripped the wrapping off the first as folds of fabric peaked out from the box. She squealed with delight and she exclaimed, "It's a sleeping bag!" It was a coat. Never fear. There was another box of equal size. Her enthusiasm not curbed in the least, she tore the paper off the next box. Her excitement could not be contained as she shouted, "It's a Barbie dream house!" It was a lamp.

This morning, my reading is Hebrews 4. This chapter contains the exciting description of God's word as a "double-edged sword" (Verse 12). Its' words penetrate our souls and measure our thoughts. Immediately following this statement about scripture, the author notes that "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight." (Verse 13)

Like Hayleigh, I tend to judge a package from the outside. God sees through my wrappings and evaluates my heart. If I want my insides to evoke squeals of joy from God, I need to expose my heart to God's operating tool - His word. His word can pierce my box and change the contents from the inside out.

Jesus, reading and applying Your word is a necessity in my life. In doing so, You place the precious gift of becoming more like You inside my box. Today, I will let You transform my heart into something far more exciting than a Barbie dream house.

Encouragement: An Oasis in the Desert

Hebrews 3:13a But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.

As some of you know, I was a math major. This designation alone is enough to name me among the "geek" squad. If this were a real instead of theoretical club, I would no doubt be a card carrying member as evidence by the fact that the following circumstances bring me great pleasure:
  • Looking down at my car's odometer and seeing a "cool" number like 43434
  • Buying a whole cart full of groceries and having my total with tax end up being an exact number such as $80.
  • Checking the time twice in one afternoon and having the clock read 1:11 and then 4:44 at the moments of my random glances.
  • Dates that can be made into math equations. For example, in a few days it will be December 2, 2010 or 12/2/10. This can be made into a math equation: 12-2 = 10.

Math interjecting itself brings certain amusement into otherwise ordinary moments of my life.

I have a narrow group of friends with whom I share this simple joy. One friend and I even enjoy wishing each other a happy day on interesting number days. These days pass without notice by the rest of the world but we pause and celebrate. What we actually treasure is the mutual encouragement of common interest. We both love numbers and more importantly we both love Jesus.

For most people, December 2nd will be a totally ordinary day. For me, it will be special because I will think of my friend and be encouraged by her friendship, her love and her love for Jesus.

Today my reading is Hebrews 3. In this passage, the author is comparing Moses as a servant in God's house with Jesus who is the servant over God's house. Moses is one of God's most famous servants. His leadership, courage and intimate communication with God make his story unique.

Moses' life can be separated into three forty year segments. He spent the first forty years of his life in Pharoah's palace living as Egyptian royalty. He spent the next forty years of his life in total obscurity in the desert tending animals. He spent the final forty years of his life leading God's people out of Egypt and to the edge of God's promised land. Twice Moses left everything he knew and began a new chapter of his life.

If you read the account of Moses' life in Exodus, you'll read about many people who complained about him and grumbled to him. You will read about those who opposed his leadership. What you'll read precious little about is those who encouraged him. Exodus 18 records one of those rare instances of an encourager in Moses' life. His father-in-law, Jethro, pays him a visit and with him brings loved ones (Ex. 18:6), affection (Ex. 18:7), fellowship (Ex. 18:12) and sound advice (Ex. 18:19-23).

The author of Hebrews seemingly goes "off-topic" in chapter 3. Just after his comparison of Jesus and Moses, he exhorts his readers to encourage each other "as long as it is called Today". Moses story though was short on encouragement. It is Jesus' desire that ours aren't. Since every day is a "Today", that means every day is an excellent opportunity to encourage others.

Scott and I have just completed our first year here in Memphis. We followed God's plan for our lives and it took us to a "foreign" land where encouragement has been a rare commodity. In the last year I have come to be so grateful for the "Jethros" in my life who pay me a visit via email, Facebook or text and bring with them invigorating, life-giving encouragement.

Jesus, thank you for the "Jethros" You've sent my way this last year to revitalize my soul. Whether it's a goofy text celebrating neat numbers or a kind note that inspires my heart, You've sent Your servants to encourage me. This day I will speak...or type...or text when You prompt and send on the comfort You've sent me.

The Taste of Death

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. As a symphony of tastes danced on my tongue, I relished every bite. The sweet potatoes were savored as they tangoed with their mashed cousins. The twang of marinated green beans waltzed with the turkey. It was a veritable flavor fiesta and believe me a good time was had by all. Eaten individually these foods are actually quite ordinary but when combined they form a banquet Conga line that dances down to your stomach.

This morning's passage is Hebrews 2. This chapter addresses the absolute miracle we have been given through Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for each of our sin. The author states that Jesus suffered death so that by the "grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Verse 9) He swallowed death so that we might taste life. Savor with me the flavors Jesus' death offers each of us.
  • Freedom from Captivity (Verses 14-15) - Sweet friend, what holds you in bondage? Emotional pain? Financial burdens? Past blunders? Jesus took your chains. Choose to taste freedom.
  • Release from Fear (Verses 14-15) - Fear cripples. Fear incapacitates. Jesus emancipates. Not only did He die to remove our fear of death, but also our fear of life. He died so we could live to the fullest. Choose to digest liberty.

Jesus, Your delivery is the most resplendent of tastes. You died that we all might experience unspeakable joy that makes Thanksgiving dinner bland by comparison. You tasted the bitterness of death. You offer me sweetness of life. Today I will, with thanksgiving, unshackle my life and taste Your freedom.

Jesus: My Thanksgiving Feast

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Today is Thanksgiving. A traditional Thanksgiving celebration is distinguished by two acts: verbal expressions of thanks and the consumption of a feast. I choose to partake in both. Before I heat the oven or set the table though I will enjoy these quiet moments feasting on the King of kings.

Today I begin the book of Hebrews. Hebrews has a certain mystique about it that I find fascinating. No one knows for certain who authored this book and its' language and theming distinguish both in style and form. It is a book that celebrates Jesus, through whom the universe was made (Verse 2) and earth's people redeemed (Verse 4). This first chapter of Hebrews, sets Jesus in His rightful place of preeminence. He is above all things.

Two verses stand out this Thanksgiving morning:
  • Jesus is God's Word - "In these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus)." (Verse 2) On this day where some hearts muster up words of gratitude perhaps for the first time since the calendar turned, I am reminded that every worthy word comes from Christ. He is God's living word to all mankind.
  • Jesus is my Sustenance - "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Verse 3) On this day where a banquet of turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables and dessert will be consumed, I am reminded that every morsel I receive comes from the hand of Jesus. He is the sustainer of every person.

Jesus, thank you for these peaceful moment with You. You provide everything I need. Thank you for being the Living Word who sustains the world. Every breath I take is a gift from you. Every word of praise that falls from my lips is made possible by You. Every morsel I receive is from Your very hand. You are my Thanksgiving feast.

Have I Got Somethin' to Tell You

Matthew 28:19-20 (Jesus Speaking) Go and make disciples...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

It was the first session on the first day of my first college class. Lucky me - that first course was calculus. My nerves were only intensified when the professor strolled into class, stated his name and the course title and immediately began instruction on the first day's lesson. By the end of the hour-long class, my hand ached in direct proportion to the mountain of notes I had taken.

While I may have been initially intimidated, that professor became my favorite in the entire department. His passion for math was evident in his desire to use every moment granted him to pass to his students his lifelong love of his chosen field of study. As I neared the end of my college career, I inquired one day how he had come to be so knowledgeable about math. His response, "I gave away everything I knew. The more I gave. The more I came to know."

Today I am reading the book of Philemon. Philemon is one of two books (Jude is the other) in the New Testament that has no chapters. It is so brief that it is a mere twenty-five verses long. The major subject of this passage is the slave Onesimus who is returning to his owner, Philemon. Paul implores Philemon to receive him with love and forgiveness. He also shares with Philemon the content of what he has been praying for him (Verses 6-7).

I need go no further than the first line of Paul's prayer, to hear God whisper into my heart. "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." There are many reasons someone might be hesitant to share their faith but here are a few:
  1. I'm Unqualified - Many people, myself included, feel unqualified to share with others about their faith. I do not have a seminary ph.D. I can not read the Bible in it's original languages. Therefore, I am unqualified, right? Wrong! This verse tells me that it is in the sharing of my faith that I gain greater understanding. Like my college professor, God just wants me to give away what I do have. It's in the giving that I continue to learn.
  2. I Have to Be a "Weirdo" - If we have the impression that sharing our faith only means donning a sandwich board marked John 3:16 or shouting at passerby from a street corner, we may be overlooking a few opportunities. Sharing my faith can be as simple as telling a friend about a meaningful verse or taking a moment to let someone I'm praying for know that I am.

When I first started this blog, my biggest fears were feeling unqualified and being thought of as a weirdo. I'll bet you'll never guess who's life has changed the most these last few months. Right. It's mine. The more I've given away, the more I've had to give. And while some of you might find me a bit odd, I promise I've never typed in a sandwich board. Not even once.

Jesus, I've so often heard it said that "you can't out give God." That statement is made in reference to money. Today You've helped me see that it is also true of my faith. The more I give my faith away to others, the more faith You give me in return. I'll likely never attend seminary, but today I will pass on what I learn, remembering that tomorrow I'll know more than I do today.

Give a Hoot...Don't Pollute

John 14:26 ...The Holy Spirit...will teach you all things and will remind of everything I (Jesus) have said to you.

I was walking around the living room frothing and working myself up into Threat Level Red mom fit as I picked up a trail of candy wrappers that would cause envy even in the likes of Hanzel and Gretel. It was a just a few days past Halloween and my home had been converted to a candy wrapper trauma center. As I huffed, puffed and picked up wrappers, I flashed back to a Christmas over a decade ago when I had "graciously" provided the candy wrapper pick-up duty for my nieces and nephews. As I did so, I thought to myself what a great mom I was to my solitary child whom I had in my watchful eye at all times. She would never be so inconsiderate because I was after all a superior mother and wouldn't raise a child with such poor manners. I was absolutely correct. I didn't raise a child with sub-par candy wrapper manners; I raised four of them.

Immediately my candy wrapper pity party evaporated as I considered my heart - past and present. My heart had once been filled with judgmentalism and a harshly critical spirit. Now it was showcased with an attitude of wanting to be served instead of serving others. God has transformed my life one hundred percent but in that single moment I was reminded just how much further I have to go. My heart can still be polluted by sinful thoughts and attitudes as easily as litter flutters to the floor.

This morning, I am finished the book of Titus by reading the third chapter. In the first verse my heart is captured. Paul opens, "Remind the people...to be obedient." This statement struck me as odd. Perhaps even out of place. Certainly a mature, growing believer does not need to be reminded to be obedient. However, just as my children are still leaving wrappers lying about, my heart still tends toward selfishness. My packaging may even appear to contain a treat but inside my wrapper sometimes there are attitudes more bitter than sweet. I need to be reminded to be obedient.

Jesus, You never grumble when I drop candy wrappers or any of my other garbage in Your lap. No matter how many times You've taught me a lesson, You just gently remind me of Your truth once again. This morning Your word is a "Post-it note" to my heart of how important it is for me to stay tuned into You. Today may Your patience with me be reflected in my dealings with my kids, my spouse and anyone else who happens along my candy-wrapper ladened life.

Plumbed By God

1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace sanctify you through and through

Several nights ago in the midst of the fog associated with the deepest sleep, I could faintly hear a dripping sound. The incessant cadence slipped through thick fog to implant itself in my conscience mind. I considered the possibilities. The sound could just be imagined. More likely, a faucet might be slightly "on" and occasionally splashing its' alert to me. Surely something so faint could not cause more harm than a bit of extra padding to the water bill. I ignored the quiet plea from my bathroom and continued my meandering journey through the subconscious playground called sleep.

The next morning, the validity of my nighttime evaluation was tested as I stumbled up to my bathroom cabinet to brush my teeth. My feet registered the sensation of dampness. "One of my four little blessings was a bit careless during last night's bedtime ritual and baptised my floor," I mouthed to the sleepy reflection. Then a momentary flash of distant dripping flashed through my mind. I crouched in front of the cabinet and realized to my horror that the cabinet was dripping water on top of my foot. My cupboard was flooded as was the surrounding flooring. That "harmless" little drip had been a warning long ignored that a pipe was leaking under my cabinet.

Today I am reading Titus 2. This chapter is brimming with practical instruction. Included in these thirteen short verses are guidelines for a variety of life stages for both genders. My personal favorite is Titus 2:3-5, where Paul lists some topics in which older women are to train younger women. I'm partial to any scripture that indicates there's a possibility I might still be able to be classified as a "younger woman".

This morning my heart is drawn just a few verses farther down the page to these words: "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Verses 11-12) I so desire to be taught to say, "No" to behavior that does not glorify God. These verses tell me that grace is my instructor. God's grace doesn't just woo me into relationship with Him, it instructs me in the path of righteousness.
  • Grace Warns Me - The whisper of the Holy Spirit may be as faint as ping of my leaky faucet. Ignoring His correction and guidance allows a drip of sin into my life that results in a flood of damage to my reputation and relationships. I need to familiarize myself with His early warning system and respond to the drips before any real structural damage is done.
  • Grace Sustains Me - The power of the Holy Spirit allows me to keep the faucet in the off position. My inclination is to wipe up the floor of my sin over and over rather than allow God to turn the shut-off valve. God's grace imprints the word, "no" over my lips and empowers me to utter those words when otherwise I'd be mute.
  • Grace Transforms Me - Once I learn to hear His voice and give Him control over my faucets, God changes my plumbing. He replaces leaky joints like my mouth that talks out of turn with one that is pleased to keep silent. He refurbishes my tubing by replacing my negative thoughts with His gratitude.

The best thing about my Plumber is His services are free...they don't cost me anything but the willingness to rid myself of my old, rusty pipes. My bill and yours was stamped "Paid in Full" over 2,000 years ago. The Plumber's son pre-paid all our services. We just have to sign the bottom of the statement accepting His payment on our account.

Jesus, You are indeed the handiest of men because You are God become man. I will never fully understand the mystery of Your trek to earth and home but I know Your trip was worthwhile. You stayed just long enough to satisfy my account that was long overdue. Now Your skillful hands change me one leak at a time. Today, Jesus, I will remember Your grace that warns, sustains and transforms.

From Alone to Overseer

Titus 1:7 ...An overseer is entrusted with God's work.

An overseer. This is a term that a few years ago I honestly never thought would apply to a member of our household. Yet here we are in Memphis where a year ago Scott came to lead the largest church in the state of Tennessee.

Today I am reading Titus 1. As in 1 Timothy 3, Paul covers the qualifications for someone to serve as an elder or overseer in a church. As my thoughts turned to my husband, I received an email celebrating his first anniversary at Hope. It is here for you to read in his own words.
Today is the one year anniversary at the church in full time ministry. I wanted to thank you for (your) prayers and say how much we appreciate your friendship and support. It's been an amazing year for our family and I can sum it up by saying that God has blessed us over and over again and I'm thrilled and humbled to be serving in ministry. It's much harder than I would have imagined personally and on the family but also more rewarding as well. I still pinch myself and say how did this happen that I went from focused on self at age 40 with no family or faith, and 7 years later a follower and servant of Christ with a beautiful, loving wife and family. Grace...

Scott's note says it all. All the Biblical qualifications in the world could be met but in the end it is by God's grace alone that we are saved and used for His glory alone.

Jesus, today I am so overwhelmingly thankful for your grace. Your grace has given me a second chance at life, a husband who loves me, leads our family and now oversees Your church. Amazing!

What's Your Season?

2 Timothy 4:2b Be prepared in season and out of season.

The Christmas season at the Milholland household has officially commenced. Today I wrapped the first seven packages. Four will be given to my children on Christmas Eve. One is Hannah's gift to her daddy and two are Hayleigh's gifts to her younger sisters. As the pile of presents builds so will my anticipation. It is almost as if the preparation for the season is as delightful as the actual season itself.

This morning I am reading 2 Timothy 4. As Paul concludes his final letter to Timothy, he is aware that the dusk of his time on earth is drawing nigh. In many ways, it makes these last remarks more meaningful. Have you ever thought about what you would say to your spouse, best friend, parents, children or siblings as you entered the twilight of your life? Would you offer advice or choose to reveal a deeper layer of your heart? Paul chooses one theme for this final chapter - preparation. He admonishes Timothy to be prepared and asks for his logistical help in equipping Paul to be more fruitful in his final days.

I find it interesting that Paul advises Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season (Verse 2). Just a year has four seasons, every life a natural rhythm of unique seasons. In what season do you find yourself?
  • Winter - Winter is a time of cold and barrenness. It could be a time of loneliness, mourning or simply a period of nothing seeming to go your way. In winter, your heart can grow as frigid as the circumstances which swirl about your life.
  • Fall - Fall is a time of transition. Kids go off to college or perhaps are born. Jobs or occupations are switched. Relationships change. Change is difficult for most people. Like the class business book, "Who Moved My Cheese?", most of us would prefer our cheese and everything else about our lives to remain as we are familiar. In autumn, a whole pendulum of emotions can lead us to make poor decisions out of a desperate attempt to keep things as they are.
  • Summer - Summer is a time of intense heat marked by lengthy days. Heat comes in many forms - financial distress, marital conflict, child rearing woes and job loss just to name a few. The stress of these events often lead to worry, anxiety and sleeplessness - hence the long days. In this season, our natural inclination might be to attempt to control people and our environment or simply to check out of life for a bit.
  • Spring - Spring is a time of hope and renewal. It is the honeymoons of our life. In this season relationships bloom and achievements blossom. As we experience the euphoria of success, we may be tempted to believe our good fortune is attributable to our talent rather than the goodness of God.

In every one of the seasons, God word to me is the same - be prepared. God finds us useful in each season of life. It is up to each of us to be prepared and available.

Jesus, on any given day the season I'm in could be a combination of all those above. In whatever season I find myself, I know with certainty that You are with me. You long to use me and all your sweet children to impact this place, this time and this generation with Your love that endures through every season of life. Today I choose to be prepared.

Say What?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the (woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

"Mommy, you would be so proud of us. We told that man how much we love Daddy and that he's the best Daddy in the whole world.", Hannah and Hayleigh bubbled as they got into the car. We were embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with my ex-husband over the terms of our divorce nearly three years after it had originally been finalized. I knew the my sweet daughters were saying those things about my current husband, Scott, whom they called Daddy. I also knew the psychologist would misinterpret their statements in favor of my ex-husband. The psychologist's mistake was perfectly understandable as I might have drawn a similar conclusion had I not known my girls better.

This morning's reading is 2 Timothy 3. This chapter opens with this description of a group of individuals:
  • Lovers of Themselves
  • Lovers of Money
  • Disobedient to Their Parents
  • Proud
  • Abusive
  • Boastful
  • Ungrateful
  • Unholy
  • Without Love
  • Unforgiving
  • Slanderous
  • Without Self-Control
  • Brutal
  • Not Lovers of the Good
  • Treacherous
  • Rash
  • Conceited
  • Lovers of Pleasure Rather Than Lovers of God

What group of individuals floods your mind when you read that list? The first time I read it, I assumed God was referring to non-Christians. However, if you read on it says these individuals have a form of godliness but deny its power. (Verse 7) In other words, these individuals are either Christians or people who have been exposed to God's truth enough to have some form of godliness. When I read this list in that light, my heart breaks.

So how can I keep from falling into that company myself? Paul finishes this chapter by emphasizing the power of scripture to not only save but to rebuke, correct, teach and train believers. It is through the learning and application of God's truth that I can have more than a form of godliness and experience all the power God intends for me.

Jesus, thank you for Your word. When I stray off Your path, it gently guides me back to You. Today I will measure my life in light of Your truth and allow Your word to teach, train, correct and even rebuke me when necessary. Your word is truth. Your word is power.


Psalm 119:30, 32 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

One of my all-time favorite movies is "The Shawshank Redemption". The main character, Andy Dufresne, is falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned in Shawshank prison. After nearly twenty years of incarceration, Andy escapes. As his intricate plan of departure unfolds, the audience realizes that Andy had spent many painstaking years chipping away at the prison walls with a tiny pickax he had hidden in the pages of his Bible. The vile warden had quipped years earlier that, "salvation lies within." That certainly proved true for Andy Dufresne.

This morning my passage is 2 Timothy 2. Paul writes Timothy while shackled in prison (Verse 9). He even invites Timothy to join him in his suffering (Verse 3). That is one party invitation I do not want to find in my mailbox. In reality, rain falls into the life of every person. God doesn't skirt storms around the homes of those who love and worship Him. The difference between one walking with God and one who is not isn't whether the storms come, it is how they react to the weather.

As Paul writes from his dank confinement, he relates to Timothy that "God's word is not chained." Power, promise and provision lie in those pages. Andy Dufresne found logistical freedom tucked between the covers of his Bible. It appears, however, that he missed the greatest treasure - what was written on the pages he destroyed while concealing his implement.

God's word isn't chained but all to often we keep it neatly tucked on our bookshelf instead of hiding it in our hearts. When we do so, we render its' life-changing power useless. For many years I knew about the Bible. I even knew all the major stories, characters and passages. Like Andy, I allowed myself for many years to be wrongfully imprisoned. My prison was a joyless life devoid of knowing the pleasure of walking with God. As I began to open the pages of God's love letter I found the secret to handling the storms of life. My rain clouds gave way to sunshine. No the weather did not change but my reaction to it altered dramatically.

Jesus, thank you for Your word that delivers Your people from chains. Salvation truly lies within the timeless pages of Your book. Thank you for releasing me from the prison of keeping Your word on the shelf. I love this daily adventure called life now that I live it with You.

No Resume Necessary

2 Timothy 1:9 (God) who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of...grace.

I spent my teenage years in a small church in rural Alabama. I'm not sure exactly what the content of my pastor's sermons were but I know that I thought I heard the message that a solitary sin post-salvation meant my ticket was repunched in a southerly direction. I decided then and there I was not qualified to be a Christian.

I spent my twenties striving to be the best wife and mother I knew how to be. I tried desperately to kindle a love between my husband and I. We divorced anyway. I decided then and there I was not qualified to be a spouse.

I spent my entire academic and occupational career in the field of mathematics. I attempted to obtain a delicate balance between interaction with coworkers and the peaceful solitude of my cubicle. I socialized with a particular coworker a bit too frequently and he married me. I eventually lost my job. I decided then and there I was not qualified to work.

It will probably come as no surprise to you that when God first began to move in my heart to write, my answer was a definitive, "I am not qualified." I feel no more qualified today then I did that very first day. In fact, in some ways I esteem myself less competent to write now than I did then.

This morning my passage is 2 Timothy 1. Paul has opened his second letter to Timothy with a reminder to be faithful to his calling. It is clear (See 1 Timothy 4:12) that Timothy was young. Based on his youth alone, he likely felt inadequate to fulfill the role of evangelist and church leader with which Paul had charged him. I personally have little trouble imagining the litany of excuses Timothy had ready to recuse himself from his post because I've probably used every one of them myself.

God doesn't desire any one of us to run from our calling. Instead He wants us to run to Him as the competency. Note how Paul describes what our reaction to God's call should be:
  • Fans at the Ready (Verse 6) - "Fan into flame the gift of God." When I see a fire, I grab the closest bucket of water or fire extinguisher I can find. That small spark of the Holy Spirit's prompting isn't meant to be ignored but to be fanned into a fiery inferno as God works through me.
  • Fear in the Garbage (Verse 7) - "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear)." Fear is a call killer. It is fear - fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of the unknown that makes it so natural to say, "I'm not qualified." As we cast fear to the side, power, love and self-discipline take its' place.

Jesus, You have called me not because I am worthy and not because of anything I have done but because of Your amazing grace. Any gift I have is from Your hand. Today I choose to once again set aside my fears and walk in faith. Turns out I am not qualified but You are.

Just Tell Him What You Need

1 Timothy 6:18 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in their wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

I had been married eighteen months when I found out that I was expecting Hannah (now 14). We were not financially ready for a baby but it was the absolute desire of my heart to be home with her. My faith was still relatively new to me but I had learned enough to know that God wants us to pray about our needs. Therefore, I decided that I would not do the typical first time mom thing and rush out to buy this or that for the baby but would instead pray for God's provision for our family.

One Sunday, our pastor preached a stirring sermon on the power of prayer. He ended his sermon with a challenge to gather right there with our family members and pray together for our single greatest need. My husband and I prayed for a crib and changing table. As we rose from our pew a couple from our Sunday School class stopped us and said, "Hey we've been meaning to ask you. Do you perchance need a crib and changing table?"

It was just a few short weeks later that I received stunning Noah's Ark patterned bedding from my sisters and mother. Within days, I was browsing in a home store over my lunch hour when I happened across a precious Noah's Ark light switch cover. It was only $3 but I had made a commitment in my heart to allow God to meet my needs. If I needed it, God would provide it. The next day at work, I found that very light switch cover on my desk. A coworker had stopped by the same store and purchased it for me as a present without my mentioning a single word about it.

Today I am reading the last chapter in 1 Timothy. Paul concludes this chapter by addressing the issue of money. While wealth is not in any way a sin, unfortunately the desire for it and means of attaining it often can be. In this regard Paul makes the following points:
  • Don't believe godliness is a means to wealth (Verse 5)
  • We brought nothing into the world and will bring nothing back out (Verse 7)
  • Food and clothing are all we need to be content (Verse 8)
  • The love of money can lead to much other sin (Verse 10)

My portfolio, home, clothing and vehicle are all testimony that fourteen years have passed since the time I relied on God so heavily to meet my needs. Looking back I realize that kind of dependence on God partners with joy and contentment.

Jesus, I am grateful for the abundant way You have blessed my family. Today help me focus on Your truth. My needs consist of food and clothing. The hearse that hauls my body to the graveyard will not be pulling a U-Haul. If I set my heart on the attainment of wealth, other sin will follow. The rewards You give godly people cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I want Your truth to saturate my heart. I choose to put my hope in You as I daily trust in You alone to meet my needs. You really are all I need.

L is for the Laundry You Do For Me

Mathew 25:40 (Jesus Speaking) Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

As I was beginning my morning routine of trading out the laundry, I noticed the laundry fairy had visited. Some kind soul had taken a moment to hang out in one of the least popular locales in the home and leave me with a surprise. Folded amongst socks, shirts and jeans were kisses and hugs. No one but me could see them but I knew they were there because the hands that folded my laundry did so with love.

This morning's reading is 1 Timothy 5. In the early church it was a common practice that the church body would provide financially for women who were widowed. This chapter clarifies the guidelines for whom should be eligible for this kindness. One of the qualities Paul notes as important is a woman who is known for her "good deeds". He then gives four examples of what he considers good deeds to be:
  1. Raising Children (Verse 10) - Rearing children is a noble task indeed. Mundane tasks such as carpool lines and checking homework can be done for God's glory. Each Christian mother is God's agent to her children as she cares, loves and guides.
  2. Hospitality (Verse 10) - Who knew the barbecue grill was a sacred vessel? Ever since the first century, receiving someone into your home has been an opportunity to serve Christ. The simple act of opening the door can open a person's heart to Jesus or a deeper understanding of what it means to love and serve Him.
  3. Washing Feet (Verse 10) - The practice of washing the dusty feet of foot travelers has passed. Today our biggest foot problem might be the occasional gasoline that splashes our shoes. As I pondered this ancient practice, I thought of the bathtub. When we wash tiny toes, we serve Jesus Himself. But Christ is also served in many other often unrecognized posts held by women. The hands that rock a baby in the nursery so her mama can hear about Jesus. The voice that teaches young teenage girls the important of sexual purity. The lips that pray for the sick, lonely and hurting.
  4. Helping Those in Trouble (Verse 10) - The woman who stops to tie a toddler's shoes and the woman who gives godly counsel to a friend serve the Lord. A godly woman aids hundreds if not thousands during her lifetime. From phone calls made to encourage a hurting friend to the hand-me-down coat given to keep someone warm, small acts of kindness become acts of worship.

Jesus, how amazing it is that You can take the every day moments of my ordinary life and use them to touch hearts and change lives. Today may I see the opportunities for good deeds that lie all around me and not wait for some distant day of being widowed to perform them. Today and every day is a great day to serve You!

Don't Take a Walk

1 Timothy 6:10 Some people...have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Clara's genetic make-up is 50% adventurer and 50% independent spirit. From the time Clara could walk she had a tendency to wander. In fact, we call her the Israelite because just as the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, Clara can float away from her family at any given moment.

On two different occasions she has been misplaced for such a significant period of time that a full-on panic has overtaken me. Both times, I searched the house and yard as my cries of her name grew more desperate by the moment. In each of these incidents, I eventually found her...sleeping peacefully.

This morning my reading is 1 Timothy 4. This passage addresses the issue of teachers who either add to or subtract from scripture with the intent to lead their listeners astray. I want to follow Jesus with a passion and leave no room for my heart to wander. As I read this chapter, I noted two safeguards to help keep us tethered to Christ.
  • Nourishment (Verse 6) - The more I feed my mind and heart on God's Word, the easier it will be for me to recognize counterfeit ideology.
  • Training (Verse 7) - Godliness doesn't just happen; it is acquired through training oneself to be godly.

Jesus, I want to stay so close to You, it would be impossible for me to meander off. Today I nourish my mind by feeding on Your word while I train my heart in godliness. As I do, wrap me in Your arms and let me stay safely nestled on Your chest...sleeping peacefully.

Anchored Faith = Qualified to Lead

Hebrews 6:19a We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.

When Scott was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2009, we had to face the very real possibility that his illness could result in death. I will never know every thought that passed through his head or the substance of the tough conversations he held with God in those days. What I do know is that his life was marked by a quiet assurance that no matter the outcome God would take care of him and his family. His faith was firmly anchored in the goodness and provision of our awesome God.

This morning my reading is 1 Timothy 3. This chapter succinctly lays out the qualifications for someone to be considered for a governing position in a local church.

The overseer which may be titled elder, pastor, minister or priest depending on your faith tradition should be:
  • Above reproach
  • The husband of one wife
  • Temperate, self-controlled, respectable and hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not given to drunkenness
  • Not violent but gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money
  • Mange his own family well
  • Have a good reputation

The deacon which may also be referred to as a lay leader should be:

  • Worthy of respect
  • Sincere
  • Not indulging in much wine
  • Engaged in an honest and ethical line of work
  • Keep hold of the faith
  • Have wives that are worthy of respect who do not gossip and are trustworthy
  • Be the husband of one wife
  • Manage his own family well

These are daunting lists that make it clear those in church leadership should be the finest among those in our church and community. Later in this chapter, Paul notes that church leaders will have "great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." (Verse 13)

When God first began whispering in Scott's heart that He wanted Him to lead, he felt neither qualified or worthy. I suspect most anointed leaders feel precisely the same way. I, however, could witness his unwavering faith in Christ. I knew with certainty he was called and qualified to lead.

Jesus, thank you for church leaders. Today I lift them up to You and pray that You would give each one concrete assurance in their faith. You are the hope that anchors the soul.

Hand-Picked By God

Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

A few days ago mid-term elections were held that resulted in the largest shift in political power in decades. I was fascinated to note the next day on the social networking site, Facebook, that friends on both ends of the political spectrum were calling on God with either praise or petition as a result. As much as it amuses me to visualize it, I'm fairly certain the King of kings is not a card-carrying member of the Republican, Democrat or newly formed Tea party. However in His sovereignty and according to His purposes alone, He not only allows but establishes every authority on earth.

This morning I am reading 1 Timothy 2. As he opens this chapter, he advises Timothy to present requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for kings and those in authority. Frequently I have heard individuals beseeching others to pray for governmental officials but cannot recall a single time that I've been asked to give thanks for them.

Can you imagine how the fabric of our faith communities would change if the morning after every election we joined together in thanksgiving regardless of the outcome? In truth, this should be our reaction. Our leaders are hand-picked by God. Seeing God's work should always result in praise by His people.

Jesus, Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Help me keep my focus squarely on You not only the morning after an election but every morning. You raise up every leader and every leader You raise is according to Your plans and purpose. Thank you, Jesus, for every one of them.

Cast Away

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In the spring of 2002, everything about my life changed. My husband of eight years and I separated and divorced. I moved to a city where I knew not a single soul and became a single mother of two children. My life as I knew it had been torn apart. The pieces of my life were now flotsam and jetsam, floating amid the shipwreck that was my life.

This morning I am reading 1 Timothy 1. Paul considers Timothy his son in the faith and addressed him as a loving father. In this first chapter, Paul is helping Timothy identify the causes and symptoms of a believer who is wandering from his faith. Among the reasons Paul gives for this happening are distractions (Verse 4) and non-Biblical teaching (Verse 6).

As he ends this chapter he categorizes those who wander as having "shipwrecked their faith". I pondered what the life of a shipwrecked Christian looked like and realized it is quite similar to what led to the demise of my marriage. Perhaps both my marriage and my faith can be enhanced by guarding them against shipwreck.
  • Isolation - I associate being stranded on a desert island as the result of a shipwreck but in matters of marriage and faith this is often the catalyst for the wreck. Marriage and the church are institutions designated and designed by God to give us fellowship and encouragement. We are strengthened as we grow together not apart. At home, I must resist the temptation to live a separate life from spouse with divergent schedules and interests. At church, I must step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to live in authentic, Christ-centered community.
  • Difficulty - Storms are quite often the culprit that results in a shipwreck. Whether I choose to react or respond to disagreement and difficulty in life, will determine if I grow towards my spouse and church or away from them during periods of stress. Reacting means allowing my emotions to control me. Responding means allowing my emotions to serve as God-given signals that alert me to my need to further work on my relationships.

In the fullness of time, we know that many maritime disasters could have been avoided or greatly mitigated with proper attentiveness and preparation. If the captain of the Titanic had heeded warnings from other ships. If the ship had been properly equipped with enough life jackets and boats. When my marriage fell apart, I was left pondering the ifs in my life. If I had heeded the warning signals in my marriage. If I had properly equipped my marriage with Biblical truth. Disaster in faith and marriage can also often be avoided by attentiveness and preparation.

Jesus, You desire no person to find themselves shipwrecked. I choose to run toward my spouse not away from him. I choose to live in authentic Christian community, not without it. I choose to press into You when the storms of life hurl around me. You are the unsinkable.

Singing in the Rain

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

Clara (5) has a unique relationship with bad weather. For most of us, the presence of cloudy, rainy day induces a coma-like state best accompanied by a steaming cup of cocoa, a warm blanket and a blissful nap. Not my Clara. Rain inspires her to don her rain boots, grab her umbrella and go romping, laughing and playing in the midst of the storm.

It is raining here today. True to form, Clara is as excited as a bee in field of wildflowers. She has sung, smiled and splashed all afternoon. Watching out my window, I was reminded of a day over 35 years ago when I splashed in the rain with my siblings. We were on vacation in New York City and no doubt had an agenda full of sight-seeing that summer day. Rain may not have been on the itinerary yet the laughter and wonder of those moments have settled permanently in my heart. Other than the Statue of Liberty, I do not recall a single other landmark I witnessed that vacation but I do remember the joy of splashing in the rain.

This morning's reading was 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul is finishing out his second letter to the church at Thessalonica. In this epistle, Paul has equipped the church to face hardship by focusing their hearts on the long-term perspective of everlasting life which waits after this brief stop here on earth. As he closes this letter, he yearns for God to "direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (Verse 5)

God's love is the single most compelling force ever known. God's love drove His only Son to die in my place and yours. It was Christ's perseverance that kept Him on the cross until He could cry, "It is finished." There is no rain that has ever or will ever splash down on my little world that could begin to compare to the agony Jesus endured on my behalf. In fact, Jesus died that I might be able, like Clara, to have joy amidst the rain of my life.

In James 1:2-5, he writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Indeed it is possible to have joy among the rain.

I must admit that when one of my children rebels, or I have an unexpected, unbudgeted expense or when illness befalls my household, my first inclination is not to splash around in the puddles of my storm. Maybe that's because I haven't let God direct my heart to His love and Christ's perseverance.

When I think about it, my response to trials is quite a bit like my response to rain:
  • I Stay Indoors - It seems everything is made more difficult when it rains. My hair looks bad. Traffic gets congested. It is so much easier to just go hide in my house and wait out the storm then to get out in that mess. God doesn't want me to hide from my problems. He is with me. I don't enter the storm alone. It is with His confidence that I can leave the safety of my home and go confidently into the rain.
  • I Use My Blanket - When I pull my blanket tightly around me, I can not even feel the temperature drop associated with the rain. I successfully completely insulate myself from the effects of the weather. I cover myself from the rain because I don't want to have to feel its' impact. It is in the storm not away from it that God transforms my attitude, life and character. This usually requires feeling some difficult emotions.
  • I Take a Nap - Wake me up when this is over. Have you ever wanted to just check out of life until the storm has passed you by? I know I have. When I sleep my way through a difficult time, I miss the lessons God could be teaching me. Like James noted, trials lead ultimately to wisdom. That wisdom is gained in the fiesta of a storm, not a siesta from a storm.
Jesus, You are able to calm any storm. Sometimes You choose not to but instead to use that storm to direct my heart to You. Today if rain falls in my life, may I not go run inside, hide under my blanket and take a nap. Instead, may I go romping into that rain with the joy of knowing the lessons you teach me in that storm will stay in my heart permanently.

The Joy of Re-Gifting

Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put this into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

It was Hannah's first year to go trick-or-treating. She was a few months shy of three and more than a bit adorable in her Scooby Doo outfit. I delighted in watching Hannah's face light up as she went to the first door and received her candy prize. After a shy, "Thank you", she was ready to head to the second house. Once there, she rang the doorbell and spoke her, "Trick or treat" with a greater measure of confidence. She then immediately reached into her bag and asked the homeowner which of her candies she would prefer. She had received and now expected to give away what she'd been given.

This morning's passage is 2 Thessalonians 2. The subject of this chapter centers around the prophetic events covered in greater detail in the book of Revelation. In light of these coming happenings, Paul admonishes them to, "stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you." (Verse 15).

Many theologians believe that Paul was taught by Christ Himself after his salvation on the road to Damascus. Whether it was Jesus or one of His faithful followers, someone taught Paul. Notice he says that he passed those teachings on to them. This implies someone first taught Him.

Do you ever find yourself hesitant to pass on a word of encouragement or something interesting that you learn? You are not alone. Many of us struggle with this very thing. However, it is God's intended plan that we would give away to others what we He teaches us.

Jesus, this morning I have been taught by You the importance of not holding on to what You teach me. Today I will look for others whom I can give encouragement and hope. The lessons You teach are so precious. Far sweeter than the finest candy and of much greater significance. Help me, like Hannah, to give away what I've been given.