Tag Archives: devotion

Devotional Thoughts in the Aftermath of Heart Attack

FINAL design for devotionalsMy husband had a heart attack on December 31st. I’m still processing (with gratitude) the experience, and the first public telling (beyond facebook posts) is published today on Devotionals for the Heart. It was written soon after we got back from the hospital, when I first started sorting things out in my mind, spirit, and emotions. I have more thoughts buzzing in my head that I’m sure will soon find their way onto a blog or into another devotion. But this is the first. I thought you might enjoy knowing where to find it. Devotionals for the Heart is Alexis Goring’s new devotional blog, and I’ll write for them once a month for 2018. She has several wonderful writers. Check it out!

Until Next Time,

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Easter Devotion ~ Suffering and Glory

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Clip art found here

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. ~ I Peter 4:1–2 (MSG)

I don’t like suffering. In fact I try to avoid it. During the lent season someone thoughtlessly attacked one of my most tender places. I’d offered up vulnerability, choosing transparency in an effort to communicate grace. But I was misunderstood and judged. It hurt. A lot.

But Jesus is tender, isn’t He? My little issue of hurt feelings was nothing compared to the suffering of Christ, but He gently tended to my pain, whispering He’d suffered too and issuing an invitation into the fellowship of His suffering.

Jesus was often misunderstood and judged. People thought He was grandiose and self-absorbed when He declared Himself the Son of God. Even those who wanted to believe He was something special didn’t like it when the road led not to power and financial gain, but to the cross.

As Jesus faced His greatest test of suffering, even His friends turned from Him. They didn’t want to hear what He had to say. How dare He talk of pain and death? Peter rebuked Him for such thoughts. Judas gave up on Him rather than let go of his plans and enter the suffering of his Lord.

Yes, Jesus understood the pain of offering up your best only to receive judgment and ridicule in return. Instead of defending Himself and calling down the angels to rescue Him, He walked the road of suffering. He chose obedience to His Father over escaping the pain.

I’ve had much deeper suffering than the incident I referenced. Some of my suffering has been undeserved like Jesus’ was, but often part of the pain in times of suffering was born of my own resistance to hardship, or as The Message says, “that old sinful habit” of expecting to get my own way and trying to get what I wanted instead of surrendering to the more difficult path the Lord asked me to walk.

Each of us has our own journey of suffering. Some people’s suffering is public—especially those who go through serious illness or sudden public loss—like losing a loved one to a car accident. Other people’s suffering is private. Their pain includes abuse or situations they feel they can’t talk about, and for these suffering saints it is difficult to find a safe community of support.

My friend, suffering isn’t easy. Even Jesus asked God if there wasn’t another way to accomplish His will. The Lord isn’t angry with us when we struggle to surrender to hard times. When we face genuine suffering, we have a Lord who is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He understands our pain and validates our struggle. He also demonstrated the way through the suffering. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. He didn’t run from it. He gathered His closest friends around Him and begged them to pray with Him; then He poured His heart out to His Father. When He prayed, He asked God to release Him from such a painful path, but when His Father didn’t, Jesus surrendered to suffering. He laid down His will and chose intense pain, dying a criminal’s death; but in surrendering He also received glory. On the other side of the pain God highly exalted Him, giving Jesus the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:8–9). He was not only restored to His former glory, He was elevated.

As we follow Christ’s example, comforted and supported by a Friend who is well acquainted with sorrow, we too are restored, strengthened, and invited to share in glory. Scripture says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT).

My friend, if you suffer today, remember your Best Friend is well acquainted with your pain. It’s okay to wrestle with Him and to ask for a way out, but if He calls upon you to continue the path of pain for a while, know that He will use the suffering. You will share in the glory of Christ, and He Himself will restore you.

In times of sorrow and grief I look to You for comfort, Jesus. It helps to know You understand, firsthand, what it is like to grieve, to be accused, to face judgment, to be misunderstood. You know physical pain, relational pain, and spiritual pain. You understand rejection and hardship. Thank You for choosing the path of suffering so I am saved. In those last, hardest hours Your friends deserted You, but You never allow me to walk through suffering unaided by Your presence. Thank You that You never leave me. Thank You for empowering me to follow the Father even on painful paths. Thank You for promising to restore me and inviting me to share Your glory.PMApprov2-01

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Week Devotion ~ Blackened Streaks

EASTER-cross-and-crown-smalJoin us each weekday preceding Easter for a devotional focusing on the Cross of Jesus. These devotionals are taken from the bonus week in Soul Scents: Rooted, which just released. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

As the pastor traced the blackened streaks upon my forehead, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service before, but this deep worship touched inner hidden places.

The liturgy invited the Holy Spirit to search within. To root out sin. To cast down idols. It asked me to speak words of repentance. Trouble brewed inside. I didn’t yet understand, but I gave permission for revelation.

By definition to repent is to feel regret, to rethink, to change.

Repentance in a Christian is an interesting thing. We’ve already made the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, hard earned at the cross. His righteousness covers us and declares us holy. We live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Every fault is already forgiven: today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s.

A painful memory of my childhood is how my precious, sweet Grandma, who knew the Lord and constantly pointed me to Him, didn’t understand this concept. She believed Christ was her Savior and loved Him with a loyalty almost baffling to me as a young child. Her lips moved almost continually in silent prayer. Many times her belief in God and His ability to help in trouble shored up my own young faith.

But Grandma didn’t have the freedom a deeper grasp of grace would have given her. Guilt and fear often held her back.

One time when she tucked me in for a special overnight at Grandma’s house she told me, “Every night I ask the Lord to forgive me for anything I did wrong during the day, in case I sinned and didn’t know it or forgot to ask forgiveness. If something happens to me in my sleep I want to be right with God.”

It still hurts to think of the bondage this kind of thinking held over her. She didn’t understand she was already acceptable to God because of Jesus. “For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:30, TLB).

Maybe a lot of people feel like she did. In church service after church service we sing songs and pray prayers that beg for God’s mercy. Yet hasn’t He already extended mercy?

“But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Ephesians 2:4–6, TLB).

In His grace Christ cleansed us and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then why celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Why repent?

Because we’re like the apostle Paul, who said, “So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:23–25, TLB).

Paul was comforted by the same truth that comforts us today: Jesus moved in, cleansed us by His blood, and now the Holy Spirit convicts, slipping into our secret places and revealing where we’re thinking and living in the old way. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT). The King James Version of the Bible says we are changed from “glory to glory.”

We repent, not out of fear of hell, not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are new creations, citizens of God’s kingdom, and we want to repent—to “rethink” and “change”—anything that gets in the way of becoming more like Jesus.

My friend, as you rethink life and ask the Lord to help you become more like Jesus, you repent from the safe place as one already forgiven and accepted.

Precious Jesus, Your sacrifice changed everything. Thank You for walking the road to the cross, for entering such degradation and pain so I might be cleansed and freed from the powers of sin and death. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me, probing the places where I need to rethink life. I give You permission to reveal any place where I’m thinking in the old ways instead of like a Kingdom citizen. Please change me from glory to glory.PMApprov2-01

(Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Spirit Seeker Sunday – Rise Up!

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photo by Stephen Moldenhauer

“Rise up, do battle with our issues and using the Lord’s strength within us, defeat them.” Lysa TerKeurst

I like the sound of that. Not temporary victory, but full-blown defeat.

I was praying for someone the other night. These people were in crises and the enemy was having a hay-day with them and their emotions. I prayed that the enemy would not be allowed to mess with them, that they could work through their issues without him playing them and escalating their problems and anger.

As I prayed I got a shadowy picture in my head of God’s leg and boot pinning the enemy to the ground so that my friends could have a fighting chance.

It reminded me of something I learned about the famous Bible passage in Ephesians 6, which likened spiritual armor to the armor of the day, worn by the Roman soldiers. The passage says the Christian’s feet are covered with the gospel of peace. The shoes of a Roman soldier were weapons of destruction. They had spikes on the bottom of them designed to literally trample down/over the enemy. At first these two images seem to contradict each other, but as I thought about it, they didn’t. The gospel of peace says that Jesus, the Son of God, gave His live to bring us into a perfect, peaceful relationship with His Father. When He connected us to God He trampled down the enemy, held him back so we could do business with our Father.

But what does all of this have to do with weight loss? This journey to better health DOES have a spiritual component. The enemy doesn’t want us to live in the body we were created for. He wants us to be tired, discouraged, and held back. But as Lysa said, we CAN rise up, do battle, and win!

A huge part of the battle is simply tackling our excuses head on. I have been the queen of rationalization. As the weight crept on during those 7 years of struggle in my family, I told myself I couldn’t deal with one more thing. Thinking about my weight wasn’t even an option. All my energy had to go into survival and caring for the overwhelming needs of my husband and children. Finally, in the last couple of years I began to acknowledge my weight and cry out for help. I wasn’t ready to tackle it yet, but, especially in the quiet of the night, I admitted I had a problem. I asked God to give me the strength and courage to face it. Then I asked that He would show me how to win that battle.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe it’s all you can do to simply face the struggle, admit your rationalizations, and give God permission to change you.

The beautiful thing about our Lord is He is patient and willing. He brought BENew into my life when He knew I was ready. He answered my prayer for direction and help. I’m still in process, not perfect on this journey to reclaiming my body–but I feel stronger and more victorious than I did 50 plus pounds ago for sure.

Father,
Help me to be courageous enough to face my stuff and surrender to Your Spirit of change.

How about you? Feel like fighting? Playing dead? Giving up? Or socking it to the enemy?!

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Rise up and win the weight battle

Spirit Seeker Sunday~Filling the Empty Place

Spirit 12 stephen

photo by Stephen Moldenhauer

“Somewhere behind all of the numbers, a less measurable force is at work within me. It’s emptiness or lack.” Lysa TerKeurst

I KNOW I have eaten out of exactly what Lysa said in the above quote. She can trace the beginning of this to the day her dad left. I’m not sure I can find such a specific moment when I starting using food to fill emptiness, but I know I do. I’d love to say, “did” but the journey out of old habits can be slow. I’m walking forward, but I haven’t conquered completely.

For Lysa, forgiveness was an important aspect of find the strength to turn from food instead of trying to eat her way out of emptiness. About ten years ago I went through an intense cleansing time of forgiveness. I remember feeling like I’d lost weight because I felt so light inside.

But over the last ten years I put on physical weight, despite the beautiful change inside of me. I KNOW I was different after I forgave (and forgiveness is on-going, not something that only happened back then), but somehow I had a disconnect between my body and the rest of me.

Early in my weight loss journey, when I’d lost about 20 pounds, I was convicted by my daughter’s observation. Sarah said she’d watched me take care of my heart and spirit over the years, but never my body.

Ouch! In her whole life she’d never seen me focus care on the temple where God dwells. Not only did I neglect my body, I’d never given Him permission to deal with the outer me. I just keep sitting, writing, praying, studying, eating, and . . . gaining.

Then Jerry almost died. We went through bankruptcy. Our home was put on the auction block (then rescued, but that’s another story). All four of the kids had surgery or broken bones or both. All four of the kids were diagnosed with learning issues that required intense therapy. Jerry went through depression before and after the heart issue that almost took his life. And I cried out to God. I only got through all of that because of God.

But I also ate my worries, my emptiness, my fears. I ate for energy. I was too tired to care about my body.

While everyone I loved most went through crises, I stayed strong, pushed through, and took care of them. They started coming out of their stuff, and then I had two car accidents. I felt like Job. I was finally personally attacked, and I was done.

The Lord allowed things to get bad enough last summer that I spent much of my days in bed. It got bad enough that I finally had to change. I’ve seen a chiropractor, a counselor, a trauma doctor, and made changes with my health. Some days it’s still a fight to look toward what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

I’m finding that how I treat my body has a lot to do with my emotions. If I try to eat away the emptiness, I am left not only empty, but more discouraged than ever. If I go for a walk and stomp around and eventually surrender to God’s will as I move beneath a blue sky (or even a snowy one), my emotions ease, and I am better able to “park my mind and heart on thoughts that refresh instead of one that depress me, I am filled.” (thanks for the perfect words, Lysa.)

Father,
Help us to taste and see that You are good today. To fill up on YOU instead of trying to eat away our emptiness. Help us to be defined by YOU, nothing else. And help us to receive and experience your love.

Food Doesn’t Fill the Empty Place