Invisible Barriers

October 9, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith

By Charlotte Riegel –

When cool autumn winds reminded me summer was over I started seasonal cleanup, gathering and cleaning flowerpots and gardening tools for ready use next spring. Once inside the greenhouse, its warmth offered relief from the cold blustery wind and made this chore more pleasant.

A rustling sound coming from one corner of the greenhouse soon distracted me and I desperately hoped it was not a rattlesnake, a creature common to our community. My fears were quickly alleviated as a little bird flew up, hit a window, and fell to the ground. Apparently it had entered through a partially open window and now desperately sought an exit.

“You poor little creature,” I thought. “You see your world out there but you don’t see the barriers of glass preventing you from being there.” Each time it flew up and hit the glass it tumbled to the ground or work bench, lay there a few moments regaining composure and then flew off again, only to repeat the agonizing crash.

I watched helplessly for a while until it fell into a planting tray near a partially open window. Gently picking up the tray I prayed it would stay still long enough for me to move the tray through the small opening. Once the tray was placed on the window ledge, the bird sat there a moment then hopped onto a nearby woodpile and quickly flew off to its freedom.

While continuing my cleanup duties I kept thinking of that precious little bird and how much like it I sometimes am, getting trapped in some sort of prison and then flying madly about in an attempt to regain freedom. I see the freedom I desire but fail to see the barriers preventing me from attaining it. While becoming increasingly frantic in my endeavors to be free, the situation often worsens rather than improves. As I learn to be still, calm and quiet, trusting God, He leads me through the escape, which exists but in a state of franticness, I have failed to see.

Several days later on my final yard cleanup I discovered yet another bird trapped in our greenhouse. This one was dead.

Oh Lord, I desire to be calm and still so You can lift me to the freedom that allows me to be all You created me to be.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart… Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:4, 7).

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

What? It’s Not About Me?

September 24, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Charlotte Riegel –

The audience at the live theatre production of The Book of Jobes, was challenged to consider why bad things sometimes happen to good people. The play was based on the true story of a woman born with cerebral palsy.

It began with the young woman standing before the courts of heaven pleading her case to take her life because frankly, she’d had quite enough of the misery. The various scenes skipped through her life of challenges, and indeed, most of the audience could empathize with her plea to ‘be done already with all this misery’.

Nevertheless, each time she presented another grievance to the presiding judge of heaven, she was reminded of God’s provision for her during that trial. His comfort and guidance usually came in the form of another person….a classmate in grade school, a college professor; and always her mother was there supporting her, encouraging her, and believing in her daughter, convinced God had not made a mistake.

The final ordeal of her life, an assault, brought her to the point of ‘I can’t take any more of this, God. Please remove me from this earthly hell.’ An intruder into her apartment left her body and spirit battered and bruised, lying on the floor beside her wheelchair.

Frequently throughout the story’s telling, the ‘judge’ confronted her with, “You have so much to say and you know so little.” Near the end of the performance he asked, “Whose prayer would you have God answer?” She then silently, slowly, maneuvered throughout the many different characters on stage, not the least being the young man who assaulted her. Quietly she studied all their faces, and finally returned to face the judge not knowing how to answer his question. His final words to her were, “Maybe it’s not about you.”

At his trial, the young man who assaulted her confessed his intention had been to rob and kill her, however, while in her apartment beginning this deed he saw a very bright light and fled in fear. He was caught and sentenced to time in prison. His trial revealed a very troubled childhood including abandonment. He had become a fugitive. Perhaps it was his encounter with this disabled young woman that began his journey to healing and restoration.

Audience members left the play asking questions like, “When I feel hard done by and think God has dealt me a bad hand is He actually wanting me to influence someone else for His Kingdom by shining His light into their world?” “Is God using me for His greater purposes of which I am blissfully unaware?”

Yes, indeed, I often whine and complain and say too much when I know so little about the big picture. Please forgive me, Lord. I desire to shine Your light into the lives of others.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).

Snoopy’s Heading East

September 22, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Charlotte Riegel –

“Snoopy’s heading east,” I told my husband on a recent trip to the city. He was baffled until I pointed to a cloud in the sky. “See, his ears and hair are streaming out behind him indicating he is moving very fast.” I smiled and my husband reminded me he was driving and could not examine the cloud to which I referred.

I love looking at clouds. Living on the Canadian prairies where sky scenes abound offers many delightful opportunities to see cloud formations that resemble dinosaurs, bears, rabbits, funny faces with long hair, warriors, pretty ladies in long dresses, Snoopy and angels.

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a Christian Writer’s Conference in New Mexico. Three other ladies from my church also attended and we travelled together between airport and conference grounds and return, a two hour trip each direction. On that return trip we stopped at the edge of the conference grounds for some final pictures of a rustic homestead and the breathtaking scenery around us. While sharing a prayer for safety in our travels and gratitude for the amazing time we had experienced at the conference, I looked up (I often pray with my eyes open) and saw a cloud that looked like an angel. After the ‘amen’ I pointed to it and said to my companions, “Look, there is our guardian angel for this trip.” They looked, and teased me, having gotten used to my cloud pictures, but not totally convinced it looked like an angel.

About thirty minutes down the road one lady asked the driver to stop so she could get some better pictures. While she was out of the vehicle I looked to the sky and saw the guardian angel cloud, still keeping watch over us. I also saw the face of a woman in that cloud and drew the other’s attention to it. They all saw the face and were in awe.

I have learned it’s possible to train someone else to see things I see when at first they don’t. My husband used to tease me as I pointed out cloud pictures to him. It delights me now to have him drawing my attention to cloud pictures he sees before I do.

In the same way we can train others to focus in on God and a relationship of faith and close communion with Him by repeatedly drawing their attention to His work in our lives and in the world around us.
“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG).

Praying

September 2, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Charlotte Riegel –

How do you pray? Do you talk to God as if He is the Big Daddy in the Sky, holding a switch and just waiting for you to step out of line? Do you pray to God as if He is the heavenly Santa, giving you everything you ask for if you’ve been nice? When you receive a ‘lump of coal’ in your stocking of life, do you grumble, complain, and pout, “It’s not fair!” Do you pray to God as if He is a close friend, sitting in the chair beside you, or walking along the road of life with you? Is He someone you can chat with for a long time? Can you spend time with God in silence just enjoying each other’s presence?

Our prayers often reveal superstitions, or preconceived/subconscious notions we have about God. Do you fall asleep while praying, like the disciples who could not watch with Jesus during his time of agony prior to the crucifixion? Do you argue with God while praying, like Jonah or Job did? Perhaps read the stories of these two men to be reminded of God’s responses.

The disciples watched Jesus pray and asked Him to teach them how to pray. His model prayer in Luke 11:1-13 encourages us to acknowledge God as holy and honored and to ask for our daily sustenance. We are challenged to recognize that God’s forgiveness of our sins is directly connected to our forgiveness of others. Are you holding a grudge against someone? According to God’s Word, your relationship with Him is contingent on your relationship to others here on earth.

In this model prayer we are told to ‘ask’, ‘seek’, and ‘knock’, and keep on doing so. When we choose not to, what does this indicate concerning our view of God, or the view we have of ourselves?

Jesus prayed with confidence based on His relationship with His heavenly Father. Yet He also said, “Thy will be done” because he understood God the Father comprehended the bigger picture to which He was submitting.

When life seems confusing or troublesome, remember you are only a small piece of a much bigger picture. Determine to fulfill your role in the Kingdom even if you do not see the bigger picture because you trust the ONE who does.

“Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.
Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One” (Matthew 6:9-13 GNT).

Breaking Chains That Bind

September 1, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Charlotte Riegel –

“I wonder when I’m going to make something of myself?” asked my husband after yet another setback in his fight to succeed. I had heard this statement off and on for too many years. He had attempted several careers and always hit a wall, or seemed to climb ladders only to discover they were leaning against the wrong wall, if they were even leaning against any wall at all. He was discouraged and I was tired of hearing the negative put-downs of himself.

I felt as if he had done amazingly well to keep our family of 7 protected from the elements, fed and clothed throughout the many challenges we encountered. It occurred to me that perhaps the power of his words was part of the problem. I confronted him about the phrase he absentmindedly spoke all too frequently.

We agreed to invite a trusted, highly respected friend for dinner to discuss ridding my husband of this bane and then praying for the bondage to be broken. He graciously agreed to participate.

After considerable discussion over dinner about the futility of how life seemed to be treating my husband, we shared various scriptures then placed a piece of plastic chain links around one of his legs and a leg of the chair he was sitting on to symbolize how these words of failure were binding him. After praying for God to break the power of these words over his life, he took scissors and cut the chain to emphasize God’s power to set him free from the bondage he had been in.

I never heard him say those words of failure ever again. He increasingly felt more accomplished and much happier as the years progressed.

“Thank you, Lord, for vividly showing us the power of our words. Help us to choose wisely what we say each day.”

“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.” Henry David Thoreau

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