Do Not Fear (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 24, 2015)

I found a roly poly on the sidewalk as I left my office today. You might call them doodle bugs, pill bugs, or – if you’re a real brainiac – Armadillidiidae (thanks, Google). Roly polies are as much a reminder of my childhood as Saturday morning cartoons and drinking from the water hose. My brother and I used to play with them, build habitats in the backyard for them, and beg our parents to let us keep them inside as pets.

 

I was afraid that the roly poly would get stepped on, so I picked it up and started to move it into the grass on the other side of the walkway, where it was heading. Of course, it immediately rolled up into a ball and refused to open while it was in my hand. I’m glad there didn’t happen to be any students or colleagues in earshot, because without thinking about where I was, I tried to coax the little bug with kind words, “Don’t worry, little buddy, I’m just trying to help you.” I set it in the grass and told it bye as I continued walking to my car.

 

As I walked, I thought about how silly it was for the bug to be afraid of me; I wasn’t going to hurt it. Like God is so prone to doing, I felt an impression on my heart whispering, “You are the exact same way, aren’t you?” Touché, Lord. Yes, there have been so many times in my life when I felt like I was being picked up against my will and redirected elsewhere, spiritually speaking. Like the roly poly, it felt traumatic, and I wanted to curl up in a ball and protect myself. Yet, God was trying to speak gently to me the whole time, “Fear not, dear child, I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m doing this for your own good.”

 

Sometimes we’re just walking along the sidewalk of life when it feels like a cosmic hand comes swooping down and carries us off to a strange place. We aren’t expecting grass, because we were just walking on concrete! What’s going on?? It can feel scary when we are so focused on our own footsteps that we don’t notice that God is trying to redirect us for our own good, which is his will (not ours).

 

Did you know that depending on the English translation, there are about 350-500 references to the word “fear” in the Bible? About a third of those references are in the negative (“fear not,” etc.). The Lord told Isaiah (41:10) not to fear for Israel. Boaz told Ruth (3:11) not to fear, because he would care for her. An angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20). Can you imagine how these individuals might have wanted to curl up under the covers and hide from the reality of a new day? And yet, God is so faithful to us. He compels us not to fear, instead, to trust him.

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Eternity on our Hearts (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 5, 2015)

Ecclesiastes 3 is the home of the “time for everything” verses, but if you read a little further, verse 11 is an absolute gem: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (NIV). I love the way the New Living Translation says that God “has planted eternity in the human heart” because it makes me think of how faith grows in our lives over time.

 

I’ve mentioned before that Easter is my favorite holiday, and it isn’t just because of chocolate (although, I saw that York now has a Peppermint Pattie bunny, so I’m going to raid the discounted stash at the grocery store on Monday!). The thing I love most about Easter is the focus on hope and eternity. Hebrews 13:14 reminds us that this world is not our permanent home, and Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven. This brief snippet of time that we call life is just a training ground, a dress rehearsal, a preview of eternity with Christ. The best is yet to come!

 

I’m a planner; I like to know what to expect, and I’m not a big fan of surprises when it comes to things that I feel like I should have control over. That said, I got a chuckle out of the way Ecclesiastes 3:11 implied that we humans try – in vain, of course – to figure out the things of God. It’s true, isn’t it? We want answers for this, a reason for that, an explanation for something else … yet, the Bible reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

 

It’s ok to not have all the answers or everything planned out just-so. Sometimes, we just have to walk in faith and trust that God does have a plan, even if we aren’t privy to it. He has put eternity in our hearts, and I wonder if perhaps it’s to keep us focused on the end goal of our endless days together in Glory, rather than getting bogged down in the worries of this world. This Easter, let your focus be on eternity.

White as Snow (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 4, 2015)

Growing up in the Houston area, snow was something I’d heard about and seen pictures of, but I seldom actually experienced it. Now that I live in the high desert region of southern Utah, I’m learning first-hand about the fluffy white stuff falling from the sky!

 

There is something absolutely breathtaking about opening the curtains in the morning and seeing the yard blanketed in snow. Everything looks so clean and crisp. The sun shines brighter, because it reflects off of the white ground. Sometimes the snow even sparkles! It’s truly remarkable.

 

I remembered a verse from the Bible about snow and sin, so I looked it up, and here’s what it says: “I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool” Isaiah 1:18 (CEV). Let’s talk about that verse. First of all, I love the way the CEV translates the first part of the verse – God invites us to talk to him about our lives. We may be able to put up a front and hide certain things in our lives from everyone else around us, but God knows it all, and he invites us to simply come and talk to him openly.

 

Our sins aren’t hidden from the Lord. The Bible describes our sins as being bright red, like blood. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to wash out a blood stain, but a couple of my kids are prone to nosebleeds, and I can attest that it’s a pain to remove. Sometimes the clothing is permanently ruined. Sin lingers around like a stain that won’t come out.

 

And yet, God describes his amazing grace by painting the imagery of snow. Snow is not only white and clean as it falls from the sky, but it also covers everything it lands on. Fallen branches, the drainage ditch, toys strewn about the yard, and even the trashcan looks pretty covered in snow! God uses snow as a picture of how he can take our scarlet red sin and cover it completely with his grace.

 

You may not live where you see snow often, but just imagine your sin sitting out in the open in your front yard, and then a snowstorm blows through, covering it completely with a thick blanket of clean, white flakes. That’s what God can do, if only you’ll allow him to. That’s grace, my friend!