Let Go of Perfection and Find Peace

I always feel lacking in skills as I study beautiful homes decorated for the holidays in popular magazines.  I have attempted to copy ideas from these beautiful pictures. The result has left me feeling worn-out and discontent. Don’t let that happen to you.

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In our home, I am the cook, gardener, laundress, grocery shopper, and house cleaner. I’m often called to babysit my two grandsons (which I love). I also have a full-time job outside of my home, which I enjoy. My to-do list is long, and I’m sure your schedule if full too. For many of us, a normal day is overwhelming, and our budgets are strained. The burden of the holidays can drag us down like Marley’s chain from A Christmas Carol, especially if you pile up credit card debt.

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My home will never be picture-perfect. It may not be acceptable to Martha, Oprah, or Rachel, but that’s their problem. I encourage you to let go of their magazines’ idea of perfection. An imperfectly decorated tree is not the end of the world. A small tree can be perfect.  In fact, there is no law stating you have to put up a Christmas tree.

Little Christmas tree, gifts and candlelight on a white table.

I am attempting to be more selective when choosing holiday activities. Last evening, I joined a group and sang Christmas carols to elderly shut-ins. One sweet widow hugged me with every ounce of her strength. And then she held my hand while others sang. Her embrace filled me up with contentment.

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I adore having a house full of family and friends. No one who loves me will care if my home isn’t magazine worthy. My family has never criticized me for using a frozen pie crust instead of making it from scratch.

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God has given us the perfect gift of His Son. It is not necessary for us to stress out because we can’t find the perfect present; we can’t afford, for someone who probably already has everything they need.

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My wish for you during this holiday season is for you to find the time to enjoy family and friends. If you don’t have “the peace that surpasses all understanding,” my hope for you is that you find it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.

Merry Christmas!

#letgoofperfection #Christmasdevotional #peacethatsurpassesallunderstanding

 

 

10 Free Gifts You Can Give to Boost the Christmas Spirit

Sunday – December 14

Look for people who need a hug, especially widows. The human touch can heal broken spirits.

Daughter hugging her mother and smiling to her.

Monday – December 15

Grab those extra coupons in Sunday’s paper. If you don’t get the Sunday paper, stop by your local library. Most are happy to share the coupons from the daily/weekly papers. Take those coupons to the grocery and tape the appropriate coupon onto the products in the store. Someone will leave the store with extra money in their pocket. It’s an easy way to be Secret Santa.

Beautiful Latina Woman at table in Kitchen with Coupons

Tuesday – December 16

Stop by the nursing home and ask the nurse on duty who could be cheered by a visit. Offer to sing Christmas carols. It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune. End the visit with a prayer.

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Wednesday – December 17

When it’s your turn at the check-out counter, let the person behind you go first.

 

Customers Standing In Line At Checkout Counter In Supermarket

Thursday – December 18

Think of those adults from your childhood who made a difference in your life, perhaps a teacher or Sunday-School teacher and write them an email or note to thank them. Few things cheer me as much as a card from one of my Sunday-School students who are now adults.

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Friday – December 19

When traffic is heavy, look for others trying to get out of parking lots. Yield and let them out and send them on their way with a happy wave.

waive_trafficSaturday – December 20

As you finish your last minute shopping, be on the lookout for elderly or handicapped shoppers that might needs assistance.

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Sunday – December 21

Call an old friend this afternoon just to catch up and wish them a Merry Christmas.

Senior Woman Enjoying Hot Drink Whilst On PhoneMonday – December 22

Scan your email contact list and find someone who might enjoy a note of encouragement. Include a special memory of the two of you together.

old man in eyeglasses working with laptop at homeTuesday – December 23

Think of those you’ve touched within the past ten days of giving. Lift up their names in prayer in secret. Pray for God’s blessings on them.

Stressed young housewife in living room

Wednesday – December 24

Reflect on the gifts you gave through the past ten days that did not cost you a penny and you will discover you gave yourself a precious gift, the feeling of peace and goodwill towards all.

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Merry Christmas!

#10Freegiftsyoucangive

 

Are You Ready for a Storm?

When decorating for the holidays, I love arranging my Christmas village. My grandson, Matthew, discovered the miniature people and buildings last year.

Matthew_village

The citizens of the village experienced a few minor accidents. There was nothing too serious that Super Glue couldn’t repair.

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Repaired_figure

After a visit from Matthew, the streets look like a storm has passed through the little village.

Real life is like that, isn’t it? We have everything arranged and planned just so, and then, BOOM! A job loss, illness, or the death of a loved one, knocks us off kilter. We are all going to face storms. Wouldn’t it be nice if Super Glue worked on our broken lives? I know someone who discovered something better than Super Glue, and I’d like to share her story with you.

I met a young teacher about fourteen months ago. Tiffany Barnes Gray was about five months pregnant and also suffering with a brain tumor. She was the guest speaker at a conference held at my church.

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I’m happy to report that she delivered a healthy baby girl named Rosie.

Rosie

 

But Tiffany had difficult decisions to make regarding further treatment.

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I’ve followed Tiffany’s progress for months and continue to pray for her. A little over two months ago, Tiffany suffered a seizure and was immediately scheduled for surgery. Her walk through this trial has inspired me. If you too are experiencing a difficult time, I hope you’ll be encouraged by her words. With her permission, I’ve listed some of her Facebook posts starting with the evening before the surgery:

October 1, 2014

“O LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. Psalms 30:2

I am so blessed to have so many people on my side and praying for me tonight and tomorrow. I have never felt more love. The word above promises healing. I am crying out tonight, and tomorrow I have faith that I will be healed! I’m so thankful for God’s word which does not fail me.#‎strongerthanbraincancer

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October 5, 2014

“Using a walker today! Praise God!”

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October 6: 2014

“Jesus take the wheel!”

October 10, 2014

“I had a bad day. I felt sorry for myself for a split second. Therapy is hard! I felt like giving up, I’m not proud of myself. Daily reflection: Being a victim simply keeps you stuck, paralyzed and powerless to actually be able to do anything about the situation that you are in. I can’t control my situation, but I can control the outcome. Forgive me lord for losing faith today. Tomorrow is a new day!

On October 31, 2014

“I am a huge believer in blessings, I find the harder I work, the more blessed I am! I used my left arm today! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

On November 28, 2014

“Eight weeks ago I would have never expected that I would be doing this! I couldn’t even get out of bed after brain surgery. Stroke victims rarely recover so quickly, God is so good, all the time! I’ve never been coordinated, but I’m so thankful that I can still walk! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

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November 30, 2014

Tomorrow will mark 60 days since the brain surgery/stroke. In just these couple of months God has shown his presence in my life more than ever. I learned to walk again, I’m using my left arm, and can now make and open a fist with my left hand. There is still a long road ahead, but I’m so thankful to say that I’m returning to work tomorrow! I can’t wait to be back with my LES family; it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

Isaiah 40:31 But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

It’s amazing what a child of God can endure with the strength of the Lord. I stand in awe of what Tiffany has overcome. But then I know, her help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121-2. Tiffany has built her house on the rock. Matthew 7: 24-25 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (25) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Whatever storms come Tiffany’s way, I have no doubt that she will endure with a smile on her face because her joy comes from the Lord. You too can experience this same steadfast love and joy by placing your hope in Jesus.

It’s simple according to Matthew 7: (7-8) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Please add Tiffany and her family to your daily prayers. I pray for God’s blessings on Tiffany and her family. I pray that God will heal her completely and that He will be glorified. I pray that God will use every second of her suffering to turn to His good and to grow His kingdom. I ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

#strongerthanbraincancer

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Operation Christmas Child (Shoebox Ministry)

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta with a group of forty from my church. We signed up to work a shift at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center in Atlanta. Some refer to this as the ‘shoebox ministry.’

It’s always fun to travel with this group of teens. Many of these youth were my students in Sunday-School class in first grade. It thrills me to see them active and serving.

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When we arrived at the hotel, God had arranged a divine appointment. I was waiting for the elevator with our group when a young man asked me, “Where are you from?”

I replied, “Franklin, Ky. We are here to work at the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center.”

His eyes sparkled. “I was a child who received a shoe box.”

I love how God pays attention to details when He arranges divine appointments. The young man introduced himself to us. “I am Renan and I am from Honduras.”  Our ‘Shoebox’ team leader Tammie is passionate about missions and plans to lead a team to a children’s home in Honduras in June.  She and her family served at the BMDMI Children’s Home in Honduras last year.

Tammie works tirelessly through the year to collect items for the shoeboxes. One week, she collected toothbrushes, the next week, a bar of soap. It’s not difficult for anyone to participate. Thanks to her efforts, our church put together over 700 packages.

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“Every shoebox represents a person,” said Renan. “When I first opened my box, I saw a note and it said, ‘I love you.’ I lived in a village surrounded by people controlled by alcoholism and poverty. Because of the shoebox, I learned about Jesus and his love.”

hand“Don’t worry about what to put in the box,” said Renan. “Go to Walmart or the Dollar Store and pray as you shop. God will lead you. And pray over the box that a child who receives it will receive Christ.”

Today Renan is married to a missionary and lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I am thankful that God allowed me to be standing by Tammie’s side when he arranged for us to meet Renan.

I encourage you to make a shoebox for a girl or boy. Popular items to place in the shoebox include: a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, comb, soap, washcloth, pencils, notebook, rubber balls, toothpaste, metal spoons, hard candy (candy that will not melt), plastic cups, sewing kits for older girls, and tool sets for older boys, knitted caps, ponytail holders, and small toys. I hope you’ll follow Renan’s advice and wander the aisles with a shoebox and pray as you fill it. For more details about how to build a box, check out this link: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoebox-with-uncle-si/

allison

There are nine processing centers across the United States. If you would like to volunteer or organize a group for next year, check out: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/

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It’s easy to work at the processing center. First they train you. It takes about 10 minutes. There are six positions on the team. The warehouse is large but well organized. On Saturday, the entire center processed about 108,000 shoeboxes. Just imagine 108,000 thousand faces lighting up with joy.

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While we were working last Saturday, the entire processing center took a break to hear the testimony of a young woman who had been a shoebox recipient. She too was from Honduras. She had grown up in an orphanage when she received a shoebox, and was thrilled to get a toothbrush. Before she had her own, she’d had to share one toothbrush with 25 other children. She also had a package of 10 pencils in her shoebox. A treasure, because she was given one pencil a year, and it was expected to last her through the year. She hid her pencils in fear that someone would take them. It was through this shoebox that she realized that someone cared about her and that Jesus loved her. God has big plans for this little girl who lost her family. She earned a soccer scholarship and attended college in the U.S. Today she is enrolled in medical school. She is the one standing on the ladder in the picture below.

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My niece, Terra, is serving as a missionary in Niger, Africa this semester. She has participated in the shoebox ministry for several years at home. She was delighted when the children she was working with in Africa received shoeboxes. They were chosen because they were attending her Kid’s Club and learning about Jesus.

terra_operationchristmaschild

I hope you’ll consider putting together a shoebox next year. You will bless someone and you too will be blessed. Remember each box is for a child who has next to nothing. But the most important gift he or she might receive is Jesus.

I’d love to hear from others who have participated in the shoebox ministry. Please leave a comment.

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#operationschristmaschild #shoeboxministry #samaritanspurse #missions

A Thanksgiving Tribute to Judy

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Thanksgiving lunch will be a bittersweet celebration this year because it is the first holiday without my mother-in-law, Judy. She loved the holidays and had a flair for cooking and decorating. Judy was devoted to her family, and she spoiled us rotten. Everyone’s favorite recipes have always been on the menu. My preferred side dish is oyster casserole, and my father-in-law loves dressing cooked so long that it appears to be almost burnt. My brother-in-law insists on corn and coconut cake, while my husband favors pumpkin pie. No one’s special request has ever been ignored.

holiday_table1My parents both passed away a decade ago and so I realize our bruised hearts will never completely heal. When the savory flavors of Judy’s recipes melt into the tender places of our hearts, it will be difficult to swallow. I know Judy would insist that we maintain traditions for the sake of my grandchildren and then for the next generation. And so I will do my best to honor my mother-in-law and offer her favorite foods to our family with the help of my daughter. She grew up cooking by Judy’s side, and I am positive she can replicate her grandmother’s menu better than I.

Judy_Jacob1

Although we’ve suffered a great loss, we’ve been given the gift of my grandson, Jacob. He arrived on Palm Sunday. It was upon his birth that I realized how severely Judy’s health was failing. For years, she struggled with diabetes and heart disease. In May, we were informed that she was suffering from congestive heart failure and that our time with her was coming to an end.

Judy_Matthew

I sorted through hundreds of family photos searching for just the right one highlighting Judy wearing a beautiful apron, cooking in her kitchen. I failed in this endeavor because Judy was usually the one taking the pictures. This is a snapshot of her last Christmas with my oldest grandson Matthew. The two were enchanted with each other.

The holidays are a tender time for those of us who have lost loved ones. I am comforted by the fact that Judy knew Jesus and accepted him as her savior. I do not doubt that she is feasting at the King of King’s banquet table. Close your eyes and attempt to imagine it. The crystal, the food, the wine and the light. Judy loved to savor good food, and I’m sure she’s taking delight in tasting creamy mashed potatoes with butter and tiny sweet peas. I can smell the yeast rolls smothered in butter. The turkey is moist, tender and roasted to perfection. And the coconut cake is something out of this world. She is not worried about diabetes and blood sugar levels. Her suffering is over.

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I know I’ll never be able to offer a meal as delicious as Judy’s because she had a gift for the art of cooking and entertaining. But I’ll do my best to practice the lessons she taught me. She valued family and traditions and cherished time spent together enjoying good food. My turkey will probably be dry, and my rolls won’t come close to being as tasty, but I will prepare every dish with love.

I give thanks to the Lord for Judy. I mourn her loss, but I am comforted by the knowledge that someday we will be reunited, and we will enjoy a feast together again with other family members who have gone on before us.

Psalms 30:5… Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

#FamilyThanksgiving #Weepingmaytarry #joycomesinthemorning

 

Book Review: All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

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I  recommend All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti. I’ve searched my mind for an author of similar style but have failed. My heart ached for Becca Morrow as she struggled with the baggage of her family’s sins. I loved getting to know Becca’s one friend, Geneva, a wise Christian lady who paves the way for Becca to start fresh in a new city, in a beautiful home. But there’s a catch. Becca is hired to be the caregiver of Geneva’s sister, Aurelia, who is suffering from dementia. You can’t help but love Becca and her sweet temperament as the she deals with the ever changing mood swings and personality changes of her charge. Aurelia can be sweet one moment and caustic in the blink of an eye. Anyone who has dealt with a loved one suffering from this debilitating disease would be thrilled to find such a compassionate caregiver as Becca. There’s romance as Isaac, Aurelia’s son, falls for Becca and there’s more than one surprise plot twist that will keep you turning the pages. You’ll cheer for Becca as she overcomes the obstacles to finding love and happiness.

#allmybelonging #Cynthiaruchti #dementiacare

Blessings or Woes

I am the third child of four and often wonder how much influence birth order has on my personality and instincts. When I was a child, I didn’t instigate conflict. However, if one of my siblings punched me, I would strike back. I’m an adult but the rebellious child still lives within me. I know my weaknesses and recognize my sinful nature.

On Sunday, there was a vote at my home church that has caused much controversy. Many from our congregation, including me, are struggling with self-control. In an effort to remove myself mentally from the situation, I opened my ESV Bible, and the pages fell to The Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3. There is no doubt that my spirit is weak and that I need the Holy Spirit for guidance.

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mathew 5:4. I grieve that my heart is unruly and regret grieving the Holy Spirit.

Stressed young housewife in living room

 

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Few friends would describe me as meek. It will take a miracle to make me meek. It’s a good thing I know Jesus can perform miracles. I pray for faith to trust God’s will to be done, not my will.

Two lambs on the green grass. Horizontal shot

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6. I yearn for righteousness and pray for my character to reflect Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus is the only righteous one. If I had to stand before God on my own, I would have to borrow words from Isaiah  “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a woman of unclean lips;”

Stained glass depicting Jesus holding a lamb

 

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7. May God give me a heart to love, forgive, and show mercy to all, just as Jesus has shown mercy to me.

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 I ask that God purify my heart, soul and mind and to refine me by the fire of the Holy Spirit. This prayer scares me because I know how much work God still needs to do to mold me into the servant I need to be. But I pray this prayer because I trust Him and I know that He loves me.

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9. I pray for discernment to encourage peace. I pray for the ability to avoid conflict.

Bible Group Praying Together

I wish I could live out the Beatitudes.  I know that if I follow God’s word, then I will have a blessed life and so I will try harder to live in peace with everyone. I cannot serve two masters, and the choice is mine. I can choose to have a blessed life or suffer the woes of Matthew, Chapter 23. Anytime I see a ‘woe’ in the Bible, I know that I need to “whoa’ and consider my life, my thoughts, and actions. I am thankful that God reminded me of the Beatitudes on Sunday and for reminding me that it’s not important that my will be done but that His will be done.

 

#Woeisme #mercy #blessed #beatitudes

 

Treasure

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I was putting my house back in order following an afternoon of keeping my three-year-old grandson, when I discovered his jacket in a chair. I picked it up and frowned at the heavy weight. Then I noticed an ear of corn protruding from the pocket and laughed. My fingers dug into the depths of the pouch and pricked my finger. “Ouch,” I cried and pulled out a turkey feather. I remembered my grandson’s cry of delight when he had discovered the plume on the walking trail. He had snatched it up and examined every strand on the spine. Then he ran the black wisp across the bridge of his nose and smelled. I smiled as I recalled his study of the simple turkey feather.

My investigation of the recesses of the pocket also disclosed two soybean pods along with hickory nuts and acorns. The most surprising find was a single cone-flower that should have been destroyed by the early frost.

I gathered up his treasure in a plastic bag and placed it inside his barn where I found shelled corn his miniature wagon, hitched to his pocket-sized tractor.

I sighed as I remembered the time when my son had played with these tiny toys. I regret that I can recall few Sunday afternoons when I took the time to walk the woodland path behind our house with my children. I was too busy with housework that had piled up during the week, planning meals, or organizing the calendar for our many scheduled activities. We used to have a dog who would run in circles chasing her tail. Around and around she would go at a dizzy pace. That was my life.

Puppy dog on green grass

I realize my mistake of chasing after things that were not important. And I will not spend precious time mourning the loss of moments I cannot reclaim. Instead, I will be thankful for learning the lesson to take the time to collect treasure: sweet memories of time spent with people I love, and serving the Lord.

As you reflect upon today’s pursuits, what one memory stands out as a treasure? If you can’t recall a precious moment, then I hope you’ll be intent on creating one for yourself tomorrow. My hope for you is a better future, a future filled with treasure that will not fade.

Womanhood With Purpose

Missional Women

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A Lesson from the Persimmon

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Have you ever tasted a persimmon? I pass an old persimmon tree thriving in the fencerow every day as I walk my dogs. I’ve been watching and waiting for the fruit to mature for weeks. Two weeks ago, the persimmons looked ripe to me. The skin was yellow. We’d had a light frost, and the smell of decomposing leaves was on the breeze, so I plucked a round orb and studied it. Carefully, I peeled the skin off and plopped the fruit into my mouth. I spit it out faster than a fly fleeing the fly swatter. I wanted to scrape my tongue. Both of my dogs sat on their haunches and looked at me as if to say, ‘Dumb.’

I knew if I waited long enough, my reward would be sweet. Last week I picked another smooth fruit, expecting a reward. Again, my tongue blanched at the bitter taste, and I rushed to the spring to rinse my mouth.

I’ve learned that a persimmon is ripe only after the form is soft, almost mushy. Today, I picked a fruit that looked ugly, almost withered. I hesitated and studied the split skin. Should I try again? I looked down at my dogs; both were sniffing the ground for fallen fruit. I carefully, slowly, peeled back the skin and tasted the sweetness I remembered from my childhood.

Was this fleeting reward worth the bitterness I’ve suffered? Jesus may wonder the same about us. True spiritual maturity takes time, storms, peaks and valleys. My shell may be worn out and withered before my spirit is all pleasing to God.

The persimmon has a beautiful flavor when it reaches maturity. I pray that God will have the same patience with me as he did with his disciples. In the last days of Jesus’ life, they were arguing about who would be the greatest. I’m sure he sighed in disappointment as he must surely do with me. With so many people waiting to hear of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, I cringe as I consider the petty things that cause me to stumble. Like the bitter persimmon, I am still green. I pray that God will remove all bitterness and sin from my thoughts and action and replace them with love.

“You shall love the Lord your God withal your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31

#LovetheLord #spiritualmaturity #persimmon

Book Review: > Greater Devotional: A 40-Day Experience to Ignite God’s Vision for Your Life by Steven Furtick

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I rcommend this devotional for anyone stuck in a rut of mediocrity. Each daily devotional features scripture, Bible reading, and prayer focus. Mr. Furtick encourages the reader to listen to God and his plan for you. This little book is full of simple truths that we often overlook. I underlined many passages, but I my favorite is from day 15, “Everybody wants a miracle, but few want to do the work to prepare for the miracle.”

Another passage that caused me to pause and reflect was on day 21. “And what He has put inside of you is all you need to accomplish all that He’s called you do to do.”

Greater Devotional is not a ‘feel good’ book. Many passages will leave you feeling uncomfortable if you have a ‘bare minimum’ or ‘good enough ‘attitude in your service to God. This devotional encourages you to give it all you’ve got and then some.
#Greaterdevotional #Stevenfurtick #devotional