When life knocks you down & you feel broken, does it make you bitter, or do you turn to the Lord during those times of frustration?
Pressed on Every Side (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 1, 2015)
I heard a pastor give an illustration about coffee, which resonated with me – perhaps because we’re expecting highs in the low- to mid-40s for the next week, plus up to 2 ft of snow this weekend. A cup of hot coffee sounds fabulous to me, under those conditions!
The pastor talked about how we are the coffee beans, life is the hot water, and the resulting brew is our testimony to the world. We’re supposed to be smooth and refreshing, but unfortunately, many of us turn out rather bitter.
As I mulled over that illustration, a few more thoughts came to my mind. First of all, you don’t make coffee with whole beans. The beans have to be ground up first; they have to be broken. Psalm 51:17 (NLT) talks about offering our brokenness to the Lord. It reads, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Like the coffee bean, we need to be willing to become broken, so that we can be useful. David writes in Psalm 141:2 that our prayer is like incense to the Lord. Think of how delightful a newly opened package of coffee smells; in the same way, our lives can be an aromatic offering to God.
Another step in making coffee (and often in the Christian life) is pressure. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The hot water soaking in and pressing through the ground coffee beans is what gives flavor to the brew.
Lastly, there isn’t a lot that can be done to fix a bad pot of coffee. You can add sugar and cream, even flavors, to try to mask the bitterness, but it’s difficult to balance, and it never tastes quite right. May our lives not become a bitter brew! Instead, may we be a pleasing reminder to the world of God’s goodness.
Prayer prompt for Friday, Nov. 21
Have you ever broken or lost something expensive? Praise God that his gift of salvation can never be taken away! I am his; he is mine. Amen!
Evening-before-last, I pushed the button to close the garage door, which was soon followed by a horrific crash sound. The lawnmower was in the way of the door, but somehow it didn’t trip the safety light to keep the door from closing.
Thankfully, I think the mower is ok. Unfortunately, the brace that holds the garage door to the opener along the track was completely off. What’s weird is that there are holes for three bolts in the brace, but there were no bolts on the ground or anywhere in the vicinity! I don’t know how the brace was attached previously, but I couldn’t make odds or ends of it.
I was too tired to deal with it yesterday, and although my stepdad offered to come over on Saturday when he gets back to town to fix it for me, I decided that since I’m working half-days this week, I could just go to the store this morning and buy some bolts to fix it myself. Ta-da! It works like new.
I’m so tired from sorting, purging, and packing. I haven’t gotten nearly as much done this morning as I intended (obviously, since I’m sitting in my arm chair typing this post!), but fixing the door was a necessary detour.
The mover inventory guy also came over earlier this morning to take notes on all the furniture, estimated boxes, etc. It didn’t take long to walk through the house, garage, and yard, but it was eye-opening to go room to room and realize just how much there still is to do. Ugh. I tried going to bed early (before 10pm) last night, and I slept hard, but I’m still pooped. My summer class starts tomorrow morning, so that’s a few more hours that I won’t be able to work around the house. I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach, and goodness knows that the money will be handy, but zzzzz … I sure would like to sleep in! 🙂
Debbie’s Treasure (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 9, 2014)
How is it that kids move at the speed of molasses when you actually need them to get somewhere, but as soon as you turn your back for a split-second, they can perform superhuman feats of agility? I have found myself in this situation more often than I care to admit, but I’m thinking about a particular instance when one of my sons (about 4 years old, at the time) managed to climb onto a curio table, and the sounds of broken glass and him screaming sent me running back around the corner from where I could swear I had *just* turned.
By God’s grace, he was ok, but my table was demolished. It was the one “pretty” thing I had displayed in the house, and it held my most precious souvenirs from when I lived in China. The trinkets may not have much monetary value, but they are certainly sentimental and irreplaceable – especially a Chinese art book from a friend whose English nickname is Debbie.
I remember going to dinner with Debbie one evening in the city where we lived, and she asked for a fork. I thought she was being polite and offering it to me (though I knew how to use chopsticks), but she said that she had never used a fork in public before and wanted to try it. We had such fun together. The colorful book of ink drawings that she gave to me when I left is all the more special simply because it was a gift from her. I would be devastated if it was ever ruined.
Yet, in that moment of consoling my son and making sure that he wasn’t injured, the table and its contents didn’t matter. That art book may very well be the most priceless possession I own, but it is still just “stuff.” Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us where to place our priorities when it comes to the “stuff” in our lives. It says to not worry so much about stocking up treasures here on earth, where thieves can rob and time can erode (and preschoolers can demolish!). Instead, stash away heavenly treasures – the ones that can never be destroyed or stolen.
I haven’t told you the most special thing about Debbie yet. Yes, we had fun together and I miss her a lot, but she was more than just a sweet friend … she became a sister in Christ. All of the fine art in the world cannot compare to the joy of knowing that even though Debbie and I may never see each other again this side of eternity, we’ll be friends forever in Glory. And that is a treasure, indeed!
But, what about …? (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 12, 2014)
I’ve shared before about a bully in my elementary school who ruthlessly taunted a good friend of mine because she was poor and wore hand-me-down clothes. Between that situation and my own hurtful childhood memories of being called “four-eyes,” I have developed a very low tolerance for teasing. Jesting about your own goof-ups is one thing, but boosting your ego at someone else’s expense is unnecessary and mean. I don’t put up with it from my kids, and I sure don’t appreciate grown-ups stooping to such petty behavior. *Steps off soapbox
The point is, no one likes to be made a spectacle. I can’t think of any situation where it feels good to have my shortcomings highlighted or to publicize my self-doubts. (I have plenty; I just don’t want the world to know about them.) Leave it to God, though, to turn the tables around and make our insecurities something to be valued!
Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 5. He put a spotlight on our spiritual poverty, our grief, our need to be nourished and nurtured … all of the gunk that hinders us from seeing our potential and the hurt that chips away our confidence, and he called it blessed. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need a reminder that God can use the messy parts of my life, just as much as he can use the pieces that are (in my mind, at least) going smoothly.
But, what about this dusty piece in the corner? Yep, that piece. But, what about that broken section that I’ve tried to glue together, but it keeps breaking? Yes, that one also. But, what about that part I buried years ago, because I’m ashamed to bring to light? Yes, even that part.
God can use our messed up lives, when we turn them over to him. It doesn’t really matter if the whole world points and laughs, because where we stand before God is far more important than the approval of others (and I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older: the odds are good that the people who sneer are probably struggling with insecurities of their own).