By James H. Pence –
There are times when I wonder if God has forgotten about me. Ironically, I rarely feel this way in times of great difficulty or trial. When bad things happen, I am hard-wired to cry out to God. And generally in those times I sense His presence, comforting and sustaining me.
Nor do I wonder about God’s presence in my life when He is tangibly pouring out His blessings.
Most often, I wonder where God is during life’s dry times, when I feel like I’m wandering in a desert. Or when I’m feeling my way through a spiritual fog bank, not knowing which way to go or what to do. Or when life itself seems like an exercise in frustration.
That is when I want to stand cry out into the gray cloud banks surrounding me, “God? Are you still there?”
As I cry, I am often greeted by stony silence. I look. I listen. I cry out again, but He is nowhere to be seen or felt. It is on those occasions that I feel like the psalmist who wrote, “O Lord, why do you reject me, and pay no attention to me?” (Psalm 88:14 NET).
Yet in the midst of that fog, God has not left me without comfort. When the clouds obscure His face, I look to the Scriptures and am reminded of His watchful care. Jesus said “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows,” (Luke 12:6-7 NET).
Even when I cannot feel Him, cannot sense His presence, God reminds me that He is there. For if He does not forget a single sparrow, and he numbers the hairs on my head, He has not forgotten about me.
And so I must put away fear and despair, and trust in the One who knows the location and behavior of every molecule in the universe–even when I cannot sense his presence.
AUTHOR QUOTE: Even when I cannot sense God’s presence, He is still there with me.
“Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7 NET).
Today’s devotion is by James H. Pence. James is an author, speaker, singer, and gospel chalk artist, but prefers to be known as follower of Jesus Christ and a storyteller. To learn more about James and how he draws the stories of your heart, visit his Web site at: www.jamespence.com.
By Nina Medrano –
Just days before I left town for a one-day business trip, the Holy Spirit brought a specific Scripture verse to my attention and prompted me to pray this verse for my life.
It’s my practice to read different versions of a Scripture verse to gain a broader understanding of God’s Word. Proverbs 20:5 (NIV) reads that “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” The Contemporary English version (CEV) reads, “Someone’s thoughts may be as deep as the ocean, but if you are smart you will discover them.”
Next, the Spirit led me to pray Proverb 20:5 for the co-worker who is to travel with me, whom I know only through e-mail. In obedience, I asked Abba Father to “make me a woman of understanding; to give me a deeper insight to the purpose and the deep thoughts of this co-worker; flood my heart with the light of your Word and Spirit so that I may focus clearly and confidently draw out the deep thoughts and concerns of this co-worker; give me godly counsel and advice; don’t let me speak from my own understanding but let every word that comes from my thoughts and heart be totally yielded to your Spirit; give me supernatural favor; let this co-worker sense your Presence in our conversation and let her trust you with the deepest thoughts that trouble her. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
The day of travel we met at the airport early in the morning. Our conversation began with work-related issues. It was not long before our conversation shifted to a more personal exchange of information. This opened the door for me to share my faith in Christ. My co-worker listened and would ask an occasional question but for the most part she remained silent. Our next opportunity to converse was not until the end of the day as we made our way to the airport for our return flight. Our flight was delayed. Silently, I prayed, “Lord, I surrender my thoughts and words to you.”
After sharing several experiences of God’s guiding hand in my life it was now time to board our flight. As we began boarding, my co-worker drew nearer to me and with tear-filled eyes she began to tell me her desperate need for God’s guidance and direction. Currently, she faces a major crossroad and must make some career choices that will impact her life and her family. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit I was able to give her godly counsel and direction to her current situation. In a matter of moments the burden she was carrying was lifted off her countenance and a gently peace settled on her face. Before we went our separate ways, my co-worker expressed a feeling of light-heartedness and an inner peace that she had not felt in a long while.
I cannot stop giving praise to God for sending us His Holy Spirit, who brings God’s word to our remembrance and teaches us all things. I pray that the Spirit will continue to make me a woman of understanding so that I may learn to draw the deep thoughts of the lives He places in my path.
Nina Medrano is a mentor in Transformation Ministry outreach of Church on The Rock in Lubbock, Texas, she resides in the country with her two playful Jack Russell Terriers, Daisy and Pepper Jack.
By Cheri Cowell –
“You’re one of the Myer girls, aren’t you?” the question was more of a statement than an actual question. My sister and I would say with a nod, “Yes, sir.” And then we’d smile inside, because being a Myer girl meant we were raised well, and the question meant we’d worn the name well. I’m not so sure we still teach this principle today, but it is a good one. There is more to carrying a name than just signing it as your last name. Much more. God knows this principle and it is one of His favorite teaching tools.
In this Scripture, John the Baptist was speaking to those who had come for a sort of heaven insurance—wanting to be baptized so they could insure their entrance into heaven, but having no intention of changing their lives. Like signing a name without any intention of carrying the full pride of that name in word and deed. God wants us to feel blessed to be chosen to carry the name Christian, but He wants that decision to change us to the core. If we are to claim we are Christians than it needs to show in how we treat others.
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the example in Jesus of what it means to carry the name Christian. Help me produce the kind of fruit in my life that will cause others to say, “Look at __________! They must be a Christian, because I see the way they treat others.”
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones” (Luke 3:8 NLT).
Today’s devotion is by Cheri Cowell, who writes and speaks on topics of Christian discipleship. In addition to her books and articles, you can learn about her speaking ministry and sign up to receive her daily devotional at www.CheriCowell.com
By Robin J. Steinweg –
I decided one year that Mom needed a break from cooking the whole Thanksgiving dinner. She and Dad determined still to have it at their house. They would provide the big pull-out table and some side dishes, while traveling relatives could bring fresh fruit and relishes. It was my graduation from Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Niblets. I would roast (heavenly choir sings) The Turkey.
In preparation, I watched PBS cooking shows and checked out cookbooks from the library. I even found a video for my husband on how to carve a turkey. Thus equipped, I felt confident. After all, I come from good Scandinavian cooking stock.
We ordered a turkey big enough to feed nearly twenty people. He barely fit in my oven. I took no chances. He came with a pop-out thermostat and gravy pouch, and I stuck him in one of those convenient cooking bags. I glanced over the directions, noting how much time he’d need to cook. After a newlywed fiasco in which I served my husband’s bosses nearly-raw chicken, I thought I’d err on the side of well done. I’d cook it a bit longer, but with a cover over the pan so no moisture would escape. The fragrance soon promised a mouth-watering meal.
Pressed for time at the end, I whisked the food from the oven to a towel-lined box along with some pumpkin pies and Potatoes Supreme. I thought I would burst with pleasure at supplying the main dish for the first time! Mom stood by to help lift it out. My husband stood by ready to carve. My older sister stood by, curious. The guests, seated, seemed to suspend their breathing as I raised the cover to reveal a perfect wreck of a bare carcass. It looked like a bomb had landed in its middle. My husband would not need his carving lessons, with the turkey in bite-sized bits. I’d forgotten to cut venting holes in the cooking bag.
Let’s see; humility? That’s an important lesson. Plan ahead more? Be better prepared? Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds? They say that at such times one’s life passes before one’s eyes. But I took comfort as instead, a verse from 1 Peter in The Message flashed to mind: “Love makes up for practically anything.” Then I obeyed the next verse: “Be quick to give a meal to the hungry…”
AUTHOR QUOTE: Thank God if you belong to a family who loves you whether you succeed or fail (even if they never let you live it down).
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).
Today’s devotional is by Robin J. Steinweg. Robin’s life might be described using the game Twister: the colored dots are all occupied, limbs intertwine (hopefully not to the point of tangling), and you never know which dot the arrow will point to next, but it sure is fun getting there!
By Lori Freeland –
With a sigh, I drop into my favorite overstuffed chair and rest my cheek against the green tweed fabric. Leftover turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes, brown with gravy, litter white plates scattered across the counter. The spicy aroma of warm pumpkin pie floats into the family room.
My boys tear through the room, flashing silver foam swords, my husband on their trail. He scoops them up and plops them down on the couch next to my sister and my grandpa.
“Turn the game up, I can’t hear the score,” My mom yells from the kitchen.
The dishwasher clicks on and I tune out the soft hum and close my eyes. Full of warmth and family, the day seems perfect. Yet, something is missing—the picture incomplete.
Grandma’s absence fills the room.
The smooth scent of vanilla slides over me. A hand rests on my shoulder and I cover it with mine—trace the bumpy veins on loose, spongy skin. I open my eyes.
Grandma kneels beside my chair, dressed in her favorite outfit—blue sweater, matching pumps, and pearl clip-on earrings.
I bite my lip. She’s not supposed to be here.
A smile warms her face. “I just want you to know that I’m okay.”
“It’s not the same without you.” I squeeze her hand and lean my head against hers. “I miss your hugs.”
Her fingers comb through my hair. “I miss yours, too.”
“Mom made your pistachio salad. It was all wrong. She put in the nuts.”
With a laugh, she kisses my cheek.
A harsh buzz shatters the moment. Startled, I sit up in bed. My husband snores softly by my side. I hit snooze on the alarm and fall back against the pillow.
It had only been a dream.
And now it’s too late. Too late to tell her how much she meant to me. Too late to hug her and realize what I had.
My husband rolls over and rubs his eyes. When I take the time to think about it, there are so many things I’m grateful for—like when he takes out the garbage and scoops out the cat litter. He’s made dinner on my tired days more times than I can count.
I roll over and scoot down so I can face him. “I love you.”
With a sigh, he pulls me close. “I love you, too.”
My hand rests against the rough stubble of his cheek and I breathe him in. I want to live in this moment, be grateful for what I have right now.
“Thanks for putting away the laundry yesterday and coming home early to drive Maddy to church.”
Surprise lights his eyes and, after he stares at me for a moment, a huge smile lights his face. “You’re welcome.”
As he holds me, I think of my kids still asleep, under their covers. How many hugs have I pushed off, busy with the drive to finish this or that? How many times have I punished their bad choices and neglected to praise their good choices?
My devotional reading from early in the week drifts through my mind.
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Colossians 3:15 NIV).
Thankfulness. Something I don’t spend much time pondering. It will take a conscious decision, some deliberate prioritizing, and major prayer to make a permanent attitude change. But it will be worth it. My grandma may be gone, but my husband and my kids are here.
After a soft kiss on my husband’s cheek, I climb out of bed to wake my kids up with a hug. I can’t wait to tell them how special I think they are!