Mourning & Joy (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 10, 2016)

On our drive down to California over the winter break (while two boys flew to Texas to visit family for a few days), one of the younger ones commented out of the blue, “Mom, I bet you feel normal right now.” Confused, I asked what he meant. He said, “Well, you only have three kids instead of five!”

 

I guess he was kinda right; I suppose we did look a little more “normal” to outsiders than usual. The thing is, though – this chaotic, smelly, loud blend of testosterone, unbridled energy, and a grocery bill that would blow your mind – this is our “normal.” After my world turned upside-down, inside-out, and sideways in January 2009, I struggled for a long while to figure out what “normal” was supposed to look like. Well, this is it.

 

Mourning & joy are odd bedfellows, but they are a recurring theme in the Bible (check out Psalm 30:11, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 31:13, John 16:20). God has a way of turning our darkest moments into opportunities for us to be a light of hope to others. Take this devotional, for example. Many of you have graciously commented to me over the years about different posts that have touched your heart in some way, and I cannot begin to tell you what that means to me. This devotional was born out of grief that was so painful, I had to write thoughts down to force myself to read my Bible consistently and to keep my sanity. My own healing process and spiritual growth have been poured out onto these pages, and you have walked alongside me through it. Thank you for that. To think that some of what I have experienced has also helped others with various trials in their lives is mind-blowing to me, and I’m grateful.

 

I’m not a fortune teller, and I don’t know what the new year holds for any of us. However, I can guarantee that there will be ups and downs along the way. Praise God; he is bigger than our problems! If you hold onto faith and trust in him, then he will light your way through the dark times. You’ll be able to look back days, months, or perhaps years later, and see that he never abandoned you. He even promised he wouldn’t (John 14:16, Hebrews 13:5)! He can help you find joy in the midst of mourning.

 

Advertisements

The Lord has need of ME?? (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 13, 2015)

In a passage frequently referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry” (see Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21, & John 12), we read the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s account:

“As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” (Mark 11:1-3, NLT)

 

If you’re like me, you may have heard that story so many times over the years that it feels very familiar, but let’s look a little more closely. First of all, a lot happened around Bethany in the New Testament, and this story is no exception. Bethany was the hometown of Lazarus, the raised-from-the-dead friend of Jesus (John 11:1); it is also where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6); and, it is the place where Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12). Bethany is also where Jesus blessed his disciples after his resurrection, right before he ascended into heaven! (Luke 24:50-51)

 

Next, Jesus chose a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but I find it interesting that God – in his wisdom and sense of humor – selected an untamed colt as his animal of preference. He could have specified any magnificent creature on earth, yet he chose a lowly, stubborn, beast of burden. (May we remember that little fact whenever we think too highly of ourselves in the Lord’s work – if he can use an untamed jackass … er, donkey … then who are we to think we’re so important?)

 

Lastly, Jesus instructed his disciples to respond to any inquiries by saying, “The Lord needs it.” This word for Lord is the Greek word Kyrios, which is translated “master.” In essence, the Master of the universe is asking to borrow a lowly, untamed donkey so that he can ride into the city where he will ultimately sacrifice himself on our behalf. Let that sink into your heart for a few moments.

 

God always has a reason for why he asks things of us. He does not demand them of us, but he gives us opportunities to partner with him in his work. Sometimes the things he asks of us don’t make any sense right then, and to be frank, they may not ever make sense in our lifetimes. But, one day, all will be revealed in his perfect, eternal timing. In the meantime, we are called simply to obey. The Lord has need of you … are you willing to serve?

Malnourished Sheep (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 22, 2015)

One thing the boys and I first noticed when we moved to Utah was the number of sheep farms. (In fact, Utah has the 5th highest number of sheep in the country!) Our city even has an annual sheep parade, where they shut down Main Street for a few hours to let the sheep meander through downtown.

 

I recently heard someone talking about what to look for when purchasing a sheep for your flock (not that I’m buying any sheep, but there’s a point to this story; I promise). He shared several tips, and one particular comment resonated with me. He described how you need to dig your hands deep into the sheep’s wool and feel its torso. If the animal’s ribs or hip bones jut out, then that is a clear indicator of malnourishment. Underneath all the fluffy wool could be a terribly sick animal!

 

The question for us is this: what is beneath our fluff?

 

Are you healthy, or are you malnourished? If someone could reach through the exterior of your life – your work clothes, your family portrait, your Sunday morning smile – and touch the core of who you are, spiritually, what would they discover?

 

The Bible uses the analogy of sheep and a shepherd repeatedly to describe our relationship with the Lord (check out Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 15, John 10, and 1 Peter 2, among others). I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in case you didn’t already know, sheep stink. Seriously, they smell horrible. They are also pretty dumb and have a tendency to get themselves lost and/or injured.

 

Honestly, I can think of other animals I would rather be compared to, like a graceful bird or sea creature. But since the shoe fits, I am a sheep. Sometimes my attitude stinks, and sometimes I wander aimlessly and get myself hurt instead of listening to the Lord – our Good Shepherd.

 

Let’s do a spiritual wellness checkup this week and be sure that we stay healthy.

Are you an Andrew or a Paul? (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 27, 2015)

Have you ever wondered about your qualifications for serving the Lord? I’d like to share two examples to encourage you. First, we’ll talk about Andrew. He was a blue-collar worker – a fisherman by trade, not a scholar. We are introduced to him in Matthew 4:18 & Mark 1:16, where he is described in both instances as Simon Peter’s brother.

 

Let’s pause there for a moment. I have five sons, and I know that it doesn’t go over very well when any of them are routinely described as so-and-so’s brother. Everyone wants his own identity. Andrew did become one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, which is pretty amazing, but I wonder if sometimes he felt like the also-ran in comparison to his more famous brother. For example, in John 1:40-42, we read that Andrew started out as one of John the Baptist’s disciples, and he even introduced Simon Peter to Jesus. Verse 42 in that passage talks about Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter, yet there seems to be no acknowledgement of Andrew at all. One historical reference I read said that Andrew was actually the elder of the two, so I imagine it felt even more humbling to be overshadowed by his little brother.

 

Then, there’s Saul-turned-Paul. In Philippians 3, Paul tried the “Annie Get Your Gun” tactic of “anything you can do I can do better” to explain how we should not put too much confidence in ourselves, especially when it comes to ministry. Paul described himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews” and itemized a whole list of reasons why he would be considered the cream of the crop. He wasn’t being conceited, though; he was trying to prove a point that no matter how stellar your qualifications, it all pales in comparison to Christ.

 

So, whether you relate more to Andrew or Paul, remember that both individuals were used mightily for the Lord, regardless of their qualifications. After all, don’t you think that Andrew was better suited to witness to the common folk than Paul (especially considering his early career of persecuting Christians)? Paul, on the other hand, was perfectly poised to speak truth to the know-it-all religious leaders of his day.

 

The point is that God calls each of us for an individual purpose, and our callings may not resemble each other in the least. We may have a high-profile role like Paul, or we may work behind the scenes more like Andrew, but as with both of them, God wants to use us in his sovereign plan. Are you willing?