STOP the Merry-Go-Round

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Cheri Cowell –

Do you ever find you’re talking to yourself? The saying goes, that it’s okay as long as you don’t answer. Well, I think you should answer, and sometimes with a big and resounding STOP! I’m sure you are familiar with the times when that negative voice within just won’t shut up. It seems you’re on a merry-go-round of negative thoughts and don’t know how to get off. The thoughts just keep coming and you are becoming more and more discouraged and despondent. This is when you need to not just talk to yourself, but instead shout, “STOP, I’m getting off this thing.” That will break the cycle, but then you need to follow with steps in a new direction. If you don’t, you’ll end up back on that thing. Begin talking to yourself and take your mind to a new place. Sounds like pop-psychology and not sound biblical counsel?

King David was battling the feelings of depression when he wrote these words. He fought those feelings by reminding himself to be hopeful. David knew God was faithful and He was bigger than any problem David faced. Yet, those overwhelming feelings of depression and discouragement still enveloped him. David fought back by talking to himself. He told himself to look up; though things were bad he had reason to hold onto hope. He told himself to hold onto that hope by looking expectantly for God to do something, and to praise Him while he was waiting. Doesn’t sound like pop-psychology to me, does it to you?

PRAYER: Thank You for being with me in even the darkest of days. Help me to stop the merry-go-round by clinging to the hope I have in You.

“My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,  “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:3-5 NIV).

Today’s devotion is by Cheri Cowell, who writes and speaks on the deep questions of faith. You can learn about her speaking ministry and sign up to receive her daily devotional at http://www.CheriCowell.com

Stringing Along

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

“Son, did you clean your room?”

“Yeah, Mom, it’s all done.”

Funny how when you look into your teenage son’s room, you find that it’s “all done,” yet things still seem to be swarming in there. Personally, I rarely go in without haz-mat gear.

Teen vision is amazing. I’m nearing the finish line in raising five of them and it’s still remarkable to me that a teenager can look directly at the biggest, ugliest, most disgusting mess and totally not see it.

I opened my microwave not too ago and found a big, fat mound of cheese cooked onto the bottom of the microwave. Someone obviously tried to make one of those nacho mountains. But how could a person zap Mt. Nacho and completely miss the fact that it’s doing a volcano cheese eruption kind of a thing a couple of minutes in? And then how could that teen just walk away and leave all the cheese-lava smoldering there? You would think even a teen would notice something was up when he pulled the plate out, got halfway across the kitchen, then realized the plate was still connected to the microwave by a 6-foot stretchy string of cheese. The only viable answer? Teenage select-a-vision.

Of course, it’s also just about as easy to have selective vision in our spiritual lives sometimes. Isn’t it so much more pleasant to find a fault in someone else than it is to notice a weakness of our own? I don’t even want to think about how many nacho-type messes I’ve noticed in others, all the while stringing along a six-foot-long cheese rope of my own.

But Jesus can give us a different kind of vision. It’s vision that’s not so quick to dismiss our own messes. He asked in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus’ kind of vision clears those hypocrisies right up. And His kind of vision is the kind that sees the best in others. His vision is filtered through love. First Corinthians 13:5 tells us that real love “is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

According to verse two in that chapter, even mountain-moving faith gets us nowhere if there’s no love.

Loving according to the Lord’s example will keep us on the right track and help us to consistently see things more clearly. It’s not only better vision, it’s the best vision.

By that mountain-moving faith, I’m seeking to hang on to that kind of love vision through those weird scenes in the microwave. Getting plenty of practice. Last week somebody exploded a dozen or so pizza rolls into a forest-looking scene just before another nacho-cano. Now I can’t see the mountain for the cheese.

Rhonda Rhea is a radio personality, conference speaker, humor columnist and author of seven books, including High Heels in High Places and her newest book, Whatsoever Things Are Lovely: Must-Have Accessories for God’s Perfect Peace. You can find out more at www.RhondaRhea.org.

Gems in the Rummage Heap

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Robin J. Steinweg –

Thrift stores, garage sales, rummage and yard sales—oh joy, oh rapture, their season approaches!  For years I have felt like the Proverbs 31 wife of noble character. She rises while it is yet night (to get to the best sales early) and provides for her family (like-new clothes for my boys, for pennies). She’s not afraid of snow for her household (not when I managed to find warm boots and water-proof mittens in the right sizes). She makes linen garments and sells them (well, at least I repurposed items and sold them at a profit from the scraps and bits I picked up). Her children rise up and call her blessed (“Thanks, Mom!”); her husband also (“Have I told you how much I appreciate all you do to save money?”), and he praises her.

I have combed countless piles of despised, rejected or outgrown cast-offs to find the right style— the perfect size. My car, sans GPS, knows the route to at least ten thrift stores. I’ve recorded the addresses of clean garage sales whose owners have children a year or so older than mine so I could recognize next year’s sale.

Treasure hunting, that’s what it is. Sometimes the items look anything but gem-like. They might need a good cleaning or even a redo. But when I’m through, they are valuable. It takes a sacrifice of time and energy. It takes a practiced eye (or at least a persistent one) to spot them.

My Jesus has such an eye. But He doesn’t choose people who are gems—He makes gems out of the ones He chooses. He has such a loving eye. He calls me His treasured possession. Belonging to Him is what gives me worth. And His sacrifice was not of time or energy, it was His own life-blood.

So I rise up and call Him blessed. I am grateful. He understands what it’s like to be despised and rejected. Praise the Lord! “All my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:1b-2; 4 NIV).

PRAYER: You found me and rescued me, Jesus. Because of Your incredible love, You lifted me from the rummage heap and made me Your treasured possession. Now You have given me a new song: one of praise for You, my Lord!

“You are the children of the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 14:1a, 2b 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!

Diligent Walk

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Carin LeRoy –

As a piano teacher for 15 years, I see all types of students—ones who diligently practice, those who hardly place a hand on the keys from one lesson to the next and ones who struggle to learn but put forth effort. I see some who are half-hearted at practice, and those who hate it but do it because Mom makes them. Over the years, I’ve had several students who had ability to be proficient at piano. They were great note readers, had good finger control and caught on quickly learning with ease. Sadly, after a year or two they quit because they did not have the desire to learn piano. Their potential as a talented musician will never be realized.

To be a good pianist takes years of hard work, diligence and time. I remember many times while my friends were out playing, I sat on the piano bench preparing for my next lesson. I wanted to join them, but a price had to be paid if I wanted to learn.

We can be the same in our spiritual walk with God.

Some are diligent about their faith in following God and being obedient. Others put forth effort, but don’t understand what a real relationship with Christ is and how He can create change in their life. There are those who claim to be Christians but hardly open their Bibles for study, and there is no evidence of faith in their life. Then there are the half-hearted efforts of some who don’t like the constraints of the Christian life and would rather go their own way, and those who feel like they are forced to be a Christian by family tradition or expectation. But the saddest of all is to see those who have the knowledge and ability to make a mark for Christ, but walk away from it all to pursue selfish gain and worldly pleasure.

Where does each of us stand?

It takes diligence, faith and obedience to be the Christian that God wants us to be. I am reminded of the verse in Psalm 119:30-32 when David says, “I choose…I am committed…I hold fast…and I run.”  Even after times of failure, his heart had a desire to follow after God. He was focused on his relationship with God. I hope we will be too.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to be diligent in my walk with You. Give me a heart that is determined to follow after You.

“I choose the path of your faithfulness; I am committed to your regulations. I hold fast to Your rules; O Lord, do not let me be ashamed! I run along the path of Your commands, for You enable me to do so” (Psalm 119: 30-32 NET).

Today’s devotional is by Carin LeRoy, wife to Dale and mother of three grown children and one almost-grown teenager. She has been a missionary with Pioneers since 1982. Her passions are family, missions, piano, and writing to challenge others to live faithful lives for God.

Backward Thinking

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Cynthia Ruchti –

A woman with an often high stress job as a nurse in a small hospital gained a reputation as the town’s go-to person for all things medical that didn’t require a doctor. Decades before the advent of nurse hotlines, she created her own by default.

Before people began to refer to it as 24/7, she remained available night and day. Laboring women showed up at her door to ask if it was too early to go to the maternity ward and what they could do to ease the backache. Phone calls split the night with the question, “What can I try now? Jerry’s cough is worse,” or “The baby has this rash…”

The woman with the homemade hotline attended to every need with uncommon patience and compassion.

That came as a surprise to her children.

After long hours at the hospital and middle of the night ambulance runs and too little sleep, after tending to the needs of others, she was sometimes short and impatient with her own family. She ran out of patience because she’d spent it all on other people.

We know God is able to expand our capacity for patience to meet the breadth of our need for it. But fatigue too often wins out. And too many times the world outside our front door gets first pick of the patience.

It’s clear though that the Lord intended His life lessons to apply to the way we treat one another at home as well as how we treat people outside the walls of home. Not instead of, but in addition to. By His power.

That thought hit close to…home…this week. Am I only patient with my family members if I happen to have some left over after serving others? That can’t be what the Lord meant.

AUTHOR QUOTE: Home is a proving ground—not a scrap heap—for the kindness we show others.

“I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need your help, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should” (Psalm 101:2 LB).

Today’s devotional is by Cynthia Ruchti, whose debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home (Abingdon Press)—explores the “proving ground” of loving when it doesn’t make sense or seem fair. Cynthia writes and produces The Heartbeat of the Home radio broadcast. Read more about these and other projects at www.cynthiaruchti.com.

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