By Elaine James –
“Lord, in the midst of not knowing what is going to come next, I want to know what to do. If I have the answers now, then there won’t be any hurt, pain or surprises involved. I don’t like when others say ‘Things are going to change. Boy, are you not going to be able to handle it!’
When my mom died it was a complete surprise. I got up that day getting ready for Christian camp. I was full of energy praying for the students and the camp. My mother’s health was poor. That day I prayed for her. I even wrote a note to my mom saying ‘I’ll spend time with you when I get back; I love you and will pray for you.’ I felt so confident about going to camp. Driving along about five hours away, my phone rang. I pulled over on the side of the road and answered the phone. My mom was gone.
Lord, You helped me drive to camp. A beautiful lady named Ruth took me in her arms. She loved me. Fed me. Stayed with me. She let me talk about my mom. She was the hands, feet and voice for You. I acknowledge your provision that day. Camp was the perfect place to be. You made things easier so I could deal with the situation.
When I got home I wept uncontrollably. I was saying ‘I can’t do this Lord. I can’t go see my mom with no life in her.’ I looked at my Bible. ‘You say this book gives life and peace.’ I read the words ‘Blessed are those who are mourning for they will be comforted.’
God, I sat and waited. ‘I can do all things through You who strengthens me!’ I can’t! But You can! I got through the next days. I love You. You are God alone. You are all knowing. You work all things together for me because You love me.
Lord, today I plead with You to barricade my mind with this truth. I want to be Your hands, feet and voice like Ruth was for me. Help me to stop doubting and have faith and trust You. I acknowledge Your sovereignty. Thank You for all that You have done and will do to help me. In Your mighty name. Amen.”
Friend, what do you want to say to God today?
By Jarrod Spencer –
Planning in life can have its good qualities but also can have its bad. I have areas in which I am flexible, but there are also parts of life which I might be described as inflexible. I have a side of me that likes to have things go a certain way each day. But there is also a side of me that enjoys some unplanned things. Of course those are subjective, so I may prefer some and not prefer others.
Even though a side of me is resistant to being flexible, another side looks forward to the possibility of interruptions. I have had days where God threw me a curve ball and I had to switch gears very quickly. Those are the days when I look forward to what He might be sending me. There have been some very interesting curve balls thrown at me through the years.
What have you experienced in the “unplanned” department?
This topic reminds me of a quote by Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Trying to hold on to the planned in life can be dangerous and wearisome. It binds us to where we are. If we have our minds ready for the unplanned, then we have a sense of freedom which we can go about life without being confided or holding on to the plans and seeing what God will bring our way.
As you go about today, tomorrow, or next week, you may have to plan out certain parts of your day but be ready for the interruptions and unplanned things that are going to come about. You never know what is waiting for you up ahead…God might have something super exciting for you!
PRAYER: Thank You, Father for teaching me that even when I have plans, Your plans are higher and greater. Help me to submit to what You bring into my life.
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed” (Psalm 20:4 NIV).
By Susan Dollyhigh –
Gathering around the kitchen table at the homeless shelter, we lit the purple Advent candle that symbolizes hope. Hope that this small group of women had long-ago abandoned. Hope that I’d sometimes forsaken as well.
I reminded the women that as Christians we have great reason to hope.
“The prophet Isaiah gave the world hope when he foretold the birth of Christ,” I said. “Jesus gave us eternal hope after He came to earth and promised to return and take us with him. That eternal hope surpasses the condition of our lives here on earth.”
Even the condition of illness.
Even the condition of job loss.
Even the condition of domestic violence.
Even the condition of just being released from jail.
Even the condition of struggling with an addiction.
All of the conditions that lead to homelessness, we concurred.
We made lists of things we hope for: this week, this Christmas season, next year, and for the rest of our lifetime here on earth.
We talked about the hope we have that someday Christ will take us to our permanent heavenly home where there will be no more illness, no more job loss, no more sin, no more homelessness, and no more death. We tried to imagine what our life in Heaven will be like, and how we’ll feel when we see Jesus face-to-face.
As we talked, the peace that passes understanding replaced expressions of worry.
At that moment, an uninvited guest showed up. He loves to steal our joy, and remind us of sins our Father has forgotten. He did just that as he reminded one of the ladies of her past sins.
Shirley’s face drooped with sadness, “I know I’m going to Heaven,” she said. “but I have a feeling I’ll be in the back of the crowd and won’t be able to see Jesus. I’ve just done too many bad things in my life.”
Janice chimed in, “Yeah, I’ll probably be in the back too.”
“You know,” I said, “if all the sinners have to be in the back of the crowd, there won’t be anyone up front with Jesus! He’ll be all alone.”
They slowly smiled. They just needed a reminder, as do we all in this season of Advent. We have hope. We have the good news of great joy that is for all the people. In the town of David, a Savior was born and He is Christ the Lord.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for the hope we have because of the wonderful gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).
By Peter Lundell –
A couple of years ago I said the invocation at a city council meeting. After me came the County Tax Assessor, who told us how well our city’s property values had held up during the recession. As he spoke I wished I were so handsome, could exude such confidence, be so successful, speak with such resonance, and be so debonair.
Then I accepted myself for who I am.
But I still thought it would be nice to be like him.
On the way out we greeted and complimented each other. It felt good.
Then a scandal unfolded during a yearlong investigation. Now this same man has been arrested on charges of conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, bribery, and perjury. The district attorney describes the case as the biggest corruption scandal involving a county official in decades.
It leaves me in silence.
I had been so impressed with the outside. But what did I not see? What was covered up that I didn’t even think to question? Not that I, or anyone else could have known, but I was speechless at how captivated I’d been by the appearance, while beneath the surface there allegedly thrived darkness and conniving.
Will I learn from this? I hope so.
First Samuel 16:7 stung me: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” After all my Bible knowledge and life experience, I still looked at the outward appearance. How much more my eyes, my mind, my heart need to grow!
And what of my own life? Am I looking at my own appearance? God doesn’t. He looks at my heart.
Every day we’re surrounded by attitudes and advertisements that focus on appearance. Lies. All lies. Let’s be wise and focus on the heart—both our own and others’.
PRAYER: Lord, keep me wise to look at what You look at, beyond appearances and ways humans try to impress. Keep my eyes on the heart—both other people’s and my own.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NIV).
By Hally Franz –
One recent rainy day I headed home after taking my kids to school, and crossed paths with my friend at our subdivision’s entrance. She was on her way out, but had stopped for a wet and ragged canine in the middle of the street. The little guy wasn’t budging, and she was on a schedule, so I agreed to take him and try to return him to his owner.
His build and form were that of a Chihuahua. I scooped up his sopping, shivering body and returned home. Once home, I checked his tags and secured him in a warm kennel. Recognizing the name on the tags (a benefit of life in a small town), I started making calls. It turned out that “Paco” had changed owners, and the tags didn’t reflect the new owner information – a slight complication.
As the morning progressed, I released Paco for a potty break. After a lap or two around the yard, I turned to find the dog morsel nowhere in sight. Panicking, I called for him and discovered Paco at my back door. By now, though, Paco was not as cold and vulnerable, and his saucy nature had surfaced. When I attempted to pick him up, he spun around and bit me squarely on the hand. Paco was now testing my patience!
The rest of the day included veterinarian calls to ensure Paco’s shots were current, another disappearing act on his part, more yelling and searching in the rain, and an eventual safe return home for my feisty friend. While Paco didn’t make my day pleasant, I was glad things turned out okay for him and his owner.
Sometimes helping animals and people isn’t easy. Sometimes, it isn’t appreciated. There are times when those whom we reach out to help, feed or simply give a preverbal lift, return the favor by biting us in the hand. Like a child who ignores parental advice, some individuals make it hard for others to help them. They are unpleasant, ungrateful or unable to recognize what might be good for them.
God doesn’t tell us helping and serving others is easy. In fact, we know it often is not. Further, we often make it difficult for our Father to help us. Perhaps we should show grace to those who don’t readily and thankfully accept our gestures of goodwill. Certainly, the Lord has done the same for us.
PRAYER: Gracious God, instill in me the desire to serve others, and, in doing so, You, even when it is inconvenient and unnoticed, burdensome and without thanks. Inspire me to resist walking away when someone is in need, but be glad to help in the opportunities You provide.
“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16 NKJV).