My Agenda or God’s?

Philippians 2 4
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
After spending a wonderful Labor Day weekend vacationing with my family, on Tuesday I found myself in my utility room, knee-deep in luggage and dirty laundry. I spent part of my day unpacking toys, shoes, pillows, food and toiletries. The remainder of the day was spent washing, drying, folding and putting away the laundry.
Between unpacking and putting the clean clothes away, I must have walked through my kitchen over 100 times. At the end of the day, I looked in the corner of my kitchen where a plant, sitting on its stand, was literally dying of thirst. I had not only forgotten to water it on the Friday before we left, but I had been so consumed with putting my utility room back in order that I didn’t even notice its wilting, brown leaves.
Was I always that busy that I overlooked others’ needs around me? What if it had been a hurting friend I passed by in the store? Would I have noticed if she was dying for a drink of God’s living water, or thirsty for a word of encouragement? Or would I be so self-focused that I wouldn’t see her needs, just as I didn’t see the need of my plant?
That Tuesday I resolved to become more considerate of those around me and less worried about my agenda.
Lord, help me to be mindful of the needs of those around me. Amen.

The Power of Unity

John 17 23

May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. John 17:23

While washing fruit at the kitchen sink one morning, I was feeling great because I was ahead of schedule for the first day of work which was teacher orientation day. Without warning, I heard a loud boom, felt my home shake, and out of the corner of my eye witnessed something fall in the direction of my house.
I screamed, “What is going on?” Frantically, I wondered if there had been an explosion at one of the chemical plants near my home.
My son, Mitch, who had a better view, yelled, “The tree fell down!” Stunned, I went to the sliding glass doors to see that the fifty foot oak tree had indeed fallen down in my backyard. Moments later, I called my husband to tell him. He asked me to check if there was any damage. Miraculously, there was none. The top branches of the tree had missed the kitchen window where I was working by mere inches.
This event took me by surprise because there was no wind or rain to cause the tree to fall. It was a perfectly calm August morning. Perplexed and curious, I walked out to the base of the tree and saw the cause. It was the power of millions of carpenter ants laboring together at the roots of the tree to take it down. WOW! Inspired by the unity of the ants, that day I recognized that no task is too big when we work as one. What a impact Christians could have on the world if we labored and loved each other in perfect unity!
God, I am so grateful that much can be accomplished when we work together for Your kingdom. Amen.
Base of Fallen Tree Window View
Trees By Deck

Garbage Day

1 John 1 9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Today is garbage day. After Sunday this is one of my favorite days. In my community garbage is picked up on Mondays which is so convenient after the weekend. If you were able to peek in on my life on Mondays, you would find me gathering all the garbage around the house that I can find. I visit each of the bathrooms and empty their small garbage cans. I also search through the refrigerator to examine the plastic containers to see if anything is not edible anymore. You know the ones hiding behind the milk on the lowest shelf in the back that we tend to forget are there! I move quickly through the basement and garage to find any leftover wrappers of newly opened items. After breakfast (which of course is the last portion of cereal in the cereal box), I toss all the crumbs and remains in the plastic bag I have been carrying around all morning. At last, the plastic bag is full, and I slip on my shoes to run to the end of the driveway where my husband has already put the garbage can. In goes the rest of the trash collected that morning. The walk up the driveway is always exhilarating! Why? It is because I have just emptied my house of one more bag of debris and junk. Usually, I feel lighter than air because I am walking into a home that is cleaner, fresher, and emptier than it was a few moments ago.
It is similar to the feeling I have when I spend time in prayer especially my times of true confession to God. It seems that when I confess to the Lord the accumulated sins in my life, I immediately feel fresh and clean like my house on garbage day. Sometimes my failures stand out like a piece of litter on my grass. Other times I need to do an honest search to find the offensive ways lingering in the corners of my heart just like the crumbs hidden under my kitchen table. Unlike the garbage man who is only able to pick up my trash once a week, our forgiving Father is always ready and waiting to forgive our transgressions. Sinful habits such as impatience, pride, stubbornness, and worry give us impure hearts. Praise God we do not have to wait to experience His cleansing power of forgiveness! We can have pure hearts when we make every day a garbage day!
Forgiving Father, create in me a clean heart. Amen.

God Our Guide

Psalm 48 14

This is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
Psalm 48:14

One Memorial Day weekend, my husband, Steve, and I loaded up our boys and traveled from our home in Illinois to his parents’ cottage in Wisconsin. Not only did we pack up the usual items such as our suitcases, food, and toiletries, but we also hooked up a trailer with a couple of four-wheelers on it. Part of the vacation was spent driving the four–wheelers on the trails especially made and marked for them. Since I was a novice at driving a four-wheeler and unfamiliar with the winding trails, I followed my husband, who led the way. As I was riding, I savored the beautiful scenery of pine trees, deer, birds, and bushes. I could not let my eyes linger too long because the view could quickly become a dangerous distraction. Had I not kept my eyes on the path in front of me and on my husband ahead, I could have easily run into the deer that crossed the trail or scratched my helmet and arms on the encroaching branches along the path. As we put our four-wheelers and helmets away, I took a moment to give thanks to God who not only has given me bountiful blessings to cherish, but who also gently reminds me not to let them hinder my focus on Him. Even though I sometimes get stuck along the way preoccupied by the scenery of life, this vacation was a stopping point where I acknowledged my need to faithfully focus on the Guide of my path.
Father, forgive me of all the times I have allowed myself to be distracted with the landscape of life. Help me remember to keep my eyes on You, my loving Guide. Amen.

Seeking God

Jeremiah 29 13 hawk

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Driving from our church’s Vacation Bible School years ago with my sons, I observed a hawk resting on a telephone pole. I drove another mile down the same road, and again noticed another one perched on a different pole. “Look boys, a hawk! It is the second one I have seen since we left the church. I can’t believe it! Let’s see if we can find any more before we arrive home!” Sure enough with our eyes on alert, we were able to spot two more hawks sitting on light poles before reaching our house. Later that night during dinner, we each took turns sharing something special about our day. I mentioned our experience with noticing the birds. With a new perspective, I told my family that the hawks reminded me of God. Like our Lord, they had been within my eyesight, but it was up to me to look for them. Thankfully, our unchanging Lord is omnipresent! He is ALWAYS present in my life. I just need to keep seeking Him.
Holy God, thank you for your constant presence in my life. I sincerely seek You with all my heart. Amen.

Love Letters

Deuteronomy 23 5

Getting the mail is one of the highlights of my day. As soon as the mailman delivers my mail, I quickly slip on my sandals and walk outside to see what treasures are hidden in my mailbox. Sometimes I am very disappointed because the mailbox just holds bills that I need to pay. Other times, though, I am pleasantly surprised when I receive a card or package from someone. Whether it is a birthday, a thank you, or a thinking of you card, I feel truly loved because someone took the time to encourage me.
I also feel truly loved when I read Scripture verses. Many passages of the Bible are love letters to us from God. Numerous verses describe the abounding love God has for His children. Throughout His Word, our Father clearly shares how much He cherishes us. In fact, the Bible says that, “God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What lovingkindness! Unlike my mail, which arrives only once a day, God’s Word is available at any given moment. When I am in need of a fresh filling of love, I grab my Bible and dwell on the comforting and encouraging words given to us by God.

Greeting God

Psalm 118 24

This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
When my two sons were little, they would wake up in the morning, stumble down our hallway rubbing their tired eyes, and ask me, “What are we going to do today, mom?” Even though they were half awake, they spoke with anticipation and excitement as they wondered what I had planned for them. Please understand that I did not plan structured, adventurous, and creative activities for my boys each day. In fact, some days all I had on our agenda was for me to catch up on the six loads of laundry piling up on the floor of the laundry room and for them to play with their toys. It did not seem to matter to my children what we did the day before. Whether the previous day was full of chores or fun, they always greeted me each morning with the same question. It was as though they anticipated that no matter what we did, we would do it together and that I had their best interest at heart. Oh, how I wish I had faith like a child! Instead of fearing the unknown happenings of each day, I long to form the healthy habit of greeting my Father in heaven each morning by asking, “What are we going to do today, Lord?” Like my sons displayed their trust in me, their imperfect mom, I want to make a deliberate effort to trust our perfect Lord with each moment of each day.
Glorious God, enable me to greet today with an eager attitude. Amen.

Midnight Miracles

2 Corinthians 1 20

Written by Lisa Schroder

Have you heard the saying that God often moves in the midnight hour?? It’s a really great thought but what happens when midnight comes and goes and still the miracle hasn’t arrived? When we pray, we want God to answer our prayers immediately. He does answer us quickly on many occasions, but then on other occasions He also decides to wait.

There is a beautiful story in the Bible that tells about two sisters, Mary and Martha who were desperate for a miracle. Their brother Lazarus was very sick. Jesus needed to come quickly and heal him. They had seen his power, and they had faith that he would heal their brother if only he would come and lay hands on him. They were holding out for their midnight miracle.

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”” John 11:1-3 NIV

Instead of rushing to his bedside, Jesus chose to wait a few days. When finally he arrived, days later, Lazarus was already dead four days. The sisters where broken-hearted, and the whole town was in mourning.
Martha ran to Jesus saying ““Lord,…if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21 NIV. This was the first time in the Bible that Jesus had “missed it”. His opportunity for the miracle had come and gone, and now it was too late. Her friend and her God had let her down. “If only you had been here Jesus.”

God’s timing is so very different to our own. While we move to human time, He is above time.
You see, circumstances do not limit God. He commands the wind and the waves. He has all power and authority.
There is NO circumstance that God will look at and say… “this one is too hard.” But the other beautiful thing is God is not limited by TIME either. When we think it is too late. God says, “This is where my Glory really gets to shine.”

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:26 NIV
He then walks to the tomb and raises Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:38:43)
God specializes in bringing things to life. He is the master at taking what is dead and bringing life to it. He takes broken marriages and restores them. He takes the abused and puts them back together. He takes the forgotten dreams and lets them live. He takes broken bodies and heals them.

If you think that your midnight hour has come and gone, then be encouraged that we serve a God who gives life. He is not limited by time or circumstance. So today, let your faith rise and say:
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

A Vessel of Joy

Ecclesiastes 3 12

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12 (ESV)
“Ahh!” giggled my young sons as splashed in the water. Many years ago, we were spending Memorial Day watching our boys, Dan and Mitch, dig in the sandy beach of Lake Petenwell in Wisconsin. They had been asking us all weekend to let them play in the water next to the beach area. On Monday, the weather was perfect so we decided to grant them their wish before we packed up and headed back home to Illinois. As my husband and I were relaxing on beach towels, I couldn’t help but notice the variety of watercraft and pleasure craft in the water just beyond the sand-covered boys. Speedboats skimmed across the top of the water. Fishing boats hunted for desirable spots. Pontoon boats gracefully glided through the water. Whether they moved fast or slow, all of the boats created waves in the water that eventually reached our boys who were playing near the edge of the water. Those ripples in the water amused the boys. Thankfully, the ripples in the water were gentle and not dangerous. High-pitched giggles could be heard as they jumped and stomped on the moving water.
Like a little boat in a very big lake, I too can cause ripples in the lives of others. It may take time before my waves of influence reach people, but my words and actions do affect the lives around me. As I watched my boys fully enjoying the waves in the water, I felt a new commitment to bring happiness to others. I would use divine appointments with others to honor God by doing more acts of kindness. Acts such as smiling and saying hello to each person I passed by came to mind. Walking away from the beach that afternoon, I not only felt refreshed from my rest, but I felt motivated to be a vessel of blessings producing joyful splashes in the lives of others.
Father God, help me to be a vessel of joy to your people. Amen.

Hidden Weeds

Psalm 32 5

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

“Wow, the grass looks great!” I excitedly stated as we pulled into the driveway after a full morning of soccer games. There had been an abundance of rain that summer so the grass looked liked a gorgeous, green carpet. Motivated by the warm autumn weather, I began to walk the perimeter of the house putting the river rock border back into place. Working on my hands and knees, I put the rocks that had rolled into the grass back with the others. With my eyes close to the ground, I then observed the baby weeds sprouting between the blades of grass. Hidden from view when we drove up, these tiny weeds were easily seen with my head only a few inches from the ground. As I pulled these tiny weeds, I thought about the concealed transgressions in my life. From a distance like my grass, I look okay. I love God, and I love others. Upon further inspection, deep within my heart, I acknowledged the secret habits such as bitterness, self-pity, and pride that had taken root. With each weed removed, I asked God to forgive me of each buried offense that came to mind. Hours later, the yard truly looked beautiful and so did my heart.
Merciful Father, thank you for your forgiveness. Amen