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!

A Time for Everything (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 9, 2014)

I have a confession to make: There have been a couple of years in the not-so-distant past when I didn’t feel like decorating for the holidays. I didn’t really want to do anything for Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t bring myself to start thinking about Christmas. In fact, if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have even bothered to put up a Christmas tree. It’s not that I dislike Christmas (although, the older I get, the more frustrated I feel about how ridiculously we’ve commercialized it), but I just didn’t feel like celebrating anything. Christmas break 2008 was the last time I saw my brother alive, and the holiday season always makes me feel melancholy.

 

One reason I like the book of Ecclesiastes is because it was written by the wisest man alive (King Solomon), which might make you assume that he had it all together, but apparently he had days just like the rest of us when he was at his wits’ end. In Ch. 3, verses 1-8, Solomon lists several opposites as a way of explaining the balancing act of life. Verse 4 (NIV), for example, says that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

 

Solomon went on to explain in verse 11, “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.” Those years when I didn’t feel like celebrating? There was a time and a reason for that. I still mourn, of course, but this year feels like a new beginning. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air and the prospect of snow on Christmas, but I’m eager to decorate this year. I’m actually looking forward to the holidays and the turning of the calendar.

 

God is at work, exchanging our ashes of mourning into lovely crowns (Isaiah 61) and making the darkest day beautiful again. We need only look around us to see his masterpiece.

Soar! (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 16, 2014)

I had the privilege once of riding shotgun in a private plane. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Flying is a completely different experience from the co-pilot’s seat! I got to wear a headset and listen to the pilot communicate with air traffic controllers, and he toggled between channels so that we could talk to each other, as well.

He shared that people often have the misconception that planes can just fall out of the sky like a rock. On the contrary, even in an emergency situation, a pilot can usually glide the aircraft to the ground. A plane doesn’t flap its wings like a hummingbird; it soars like an eagle. With little adjustments here and there, it uses the wind to its advantage and flies high and far.

In Isaiah 40, the author shared some insights with the pooped-out Israelites. The people were feeling weary and began murmuring about whether God even cared about them at all. In v. 30, Isaiah reminded them that even young people get tired (Amen from any college students subsisting on Red Bull & Ramen?) Later in v. 31, he says: “But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired” (CEV).

We can’t go through life frantically flapping our wings, y’all. Believe me; I’ve tried. (Anyone else a do-it-yourselfer besides me? If I just try harder, then maybe I can make it work …) We need to learn when it’s time to exchange our hummingbird tendencies for eagle wings (by letting the Holy Spirit lift and push us forward). God doesn’t want us to be weary and barely able to function.

Now, don’t take this analogy to mean that you’ll never experience turbulence when you put your trust in the Lord. There will certainly be times when we, like the pilot, must make adjustments and maneuver through the storm, but as Matthew 5:8 reminds us – our needs are no surprise to God. He saw the turbulence coming before you even encountered it. Hold your course and keep trusting him. “The Lord gives strength to those who are weary” (Isaiah 40:29, CEV). He wants you to soar!