Prayer prompt for Tuesday, March 3

Do you ever feel snowed under? (Not literally, but what about emotionally/spiritually?) Hunker down with God in prayer during those times.

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.

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!

Heading to higher places

Lift my eyes to the mountains

The view coming into Cedar City, UT

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was traveling to higher places (literally, the altitude is 5,800′) for a job interview. Some exciting things have transpired since then, but I needed to wait until I got my ducks in a row and had a chance to inform the need-to-know individuals (like all of the grandparents). Now that they are in the know, I will share with you that I will be joining the political science faculty at Southern Utah University, starting this fall!

Cedar City is a very kid-friendly town with a surprising number of recreational things to do indoors and out. It is a tremendous career opportunity for me, and the boys are ecstatic about living near snowy mountains. I will be teaching classes in the MPA (Master of Public Administration) program, as well as standard political science courses.

There are umpteen bazillion things that I need to do in the very near future, not the least of which include cleaning/purging/organizing and a few minor touch-ups around my house, so that I can put it on the market asap. My realtor is coming over next week, and the house isn’t fit for dinner company right now, much less a tour. We’ll get there, though. I am tasking the older two with making an inventory of larger-than-a-box items, such as furniture, appliances, electronics, instruments, etc., so that we can determine what is worth moving vs. giving away or selling. The younger ones are tasked with purging their stuffy-stuff collections and making piles to give and/or throw away. I used a tub of Play-Doh as an example: if it can be purchased at the dollar store, then it probably isn’t worth packing and transporting. I’ve also instructed everyone to set aside a couple of weeks’ worth of clothes and bag up the rest to save for next school year and/or hand-me-downs (the older 3) or give away (the younger 2). That’s something that I try to do every summer, anyway, but some years seem to work better than others.

I’ve been going through bookshelves and filling boxes to donate to the church library or exchange for credit at the used bookstore in town. (That may sound counter-intuitive, but if I get one new book by exchanging a couple of old books, then I’m still down by one book, right?? 🙂 )  As we get better organized, I’m going to set aside things in one room for a give-away to friends and family: books, DVDs, furniture that we won’t be moving, etc. Maybe I’ll even bribe some girlfriends to help me clean by offering to pay them in wine. Hey, it’s less fragile stuff to pack! 😉 Besides, Utah is one of those peculiar states that regulates alcohol coming across the state line. The more we drink before I go, the less complicated it’ll be. Hmm, then again, I could just put all the kids in one room and turn the basement into a wine cellar. Heehee, I’m kidding.

Maybe just part of the basement. 😉