Category Archives: devotional

Light for Dark Days

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13.

It’s four-thirty in the evening and darkness is closing in around me. Staring at the Christmas tree shining from the window makes me miss the ones who loved me best, my parents. I’ve learned the only thing to do when feeling bereft is to draw closer to Jesus, the true light of my world.

Television shows feature designer homes and friends on Facebook seem to have perfect lives. It’s easy to fall into the trap of discontent if you start comparing yourself to others and all they have. We’re bombarded with commercials telling us to buy this and that to make our world complete, but they are lies. The only thing that can truly make our lives complete is Jesus.

If your Christmas gifts are less than delightful, I hope you’ll remember the true reason for the season, The birth of Jesus—God’ perfect gift. Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross, so that we might be saved.

What are your desires for Christmas? Is it a new automobile, the latest gadget, or maybe your only want is to spend time with loved ones? I’ll let you in on a secret. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

If you are feeling overwhelmed, lost, and a little lonely, missing those who cannot be with you, draw closer to Jesus. Seek him. Delight yourself in Him. He is always waiting, with open arms, and he knows exactly what you need.

May God bless you with his light and love through the coming days. Let’s not forget the best gift of all time, Jesus. May we glorify him with all we do so that His light will shine out for all to see.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Shady Grove Baptist Church – Established 1841

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV

It’s become a tradition for me to start the holiday season by attending a Thanksgiving service at Shady Grove, a small country church just a few miles down the road from my home. It was established  in 1841 and I learned last night that the founders first met in a log barn.

When I cross the threshold of this holy place, I am transported back in time.  There’s a special atmosphere in this simple building, and it seems to me, little has changed over the decades. There are four square posts (walnut or red oak) supporting the ceiling. Square panes of antique frosted glass are trimmed in the same dark wood. A six foot wooden cross is anchored behind the pulpit, and it’s adorned with a crown of thorns and draped with a purple cloth.

When I lifted the hymnal last night, the worn covers felt comfortable in my hand. The faithful remnant of about forty sang “Amazing Grace” and “Count Your Blessings” with piano music and it seemed to me the acoustics were perfect.

The fellowship meal that followed the worship service  reminded me of a family reunion. Maybe, this is because my aunt and cousins are long-time members, but I believe I feel this way because all are welcomed as a part of the family of God.

I’m thankful for the settlers who made personal sacrifices to build this church so long ago. It is a sacred place where I always discover peace, regardless of my personal struggles and circumstances. In this timeless sanctuary, I’m reminded of the scripture, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV

My Thanksgiving wish for you is that you too will find a place like Shady Grove, a place where you are welcomed like family, and reminded to be thankful for God’s most precious and perfect gift, His Son.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

To the Gala or Grocery? What would you do?

Ephesians 1:18 NIV: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Last week I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers’ (ACFW) Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It’s exciting to hear award-winning authors teach, heartwarming to catch up with old friends and rewarding to make new acquaintances, but it’s also stressful because writers meet prospective agents and acquisition editors.

On Saturday evening of the conference, there’s an awards gala. Jaws drop at the site of famous novelist wearing exquisite designer gowns. It seems a dream that I spent the evening sitting next to best-selling author Lauraine Snelling a few years ago.

This year, after my last appointment at four o’clock, I was exhausted so I decided to forgo the banquet and head home.

My stomach growled the minute I parked my car, and I realized a trip to the grocery a necessity if I wanted to have a decent meal. Grumbling to myself, I changed into jeans and drove to town. As I looked at the sour faces of the other customers in the store, I realized no one wants to be shopping for food on a Saturday evening.

At the deli, the clerk’s eyes were red-rimmed, and her cheeks puffy.

“Are you okay,” I asked.

She shook her head. “It’s been the worst day ever. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

After she shared all the things going on in her life, I prayed with her. Her husband is in the hospital battling a serious condition and he might lose both legs.

While I waited in the checkout lane, I noticed a nurse’s name-tag that bore the logo of a local nursing home. With slumped shoulders, she leaned on her cart and blew out a long breath.

“You must have had a long day,” I said. “Are you just getting off work?”

She nodded.

“It takes someone with special skills and patience to work with the elderly. I’m sure you’re a blessing to your patients.”

“I lost one my favorites today.” She wiped a tear from her cheek.

All I could do was give her a hug and pray for her.

As I loaded my groceries in the car, I lifted a prayer of thanks for God’s blessings and asked him to forgive me for whining. Who am I to ever grumble about anything?

I may never sell my novels, but maybe the best story I will ever write is the one where no words are used. (Not my original thought, but I can’t remember who said something similar.)

I pray that my life glorifies him. May His will be done in every aspect of my life. There are ministry opportunities everywhere for Christians. I wish I could always see the needs surrounding me with the eyes of His heart.

I’m not sorry I missed the gala banquet because the Lord fed my spirit in the grocery, of all place?  His ways are so much higher than our ways. Hugs and love, until I blog again.

If you have a prayer request, please send me a message.

 

 

 

 

Feed My Sheep

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, Do you love me?” Peter was hurt because he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17 NIV

While passing through a busy intersection, I zipped past a Walmart Super-Center and noticed a man holding up a sign. He had two, maybe three children standing next to him and I think the sign read, “Hungry.”  I don’t know what else was written because I sped by too quickly. I was in a hurry to get home, it was hot, and it’s dangerous to stop amid traffic. That’s what I keep telling myself.

The truth is, I could have turned around. What if I’d done so and offered to purchase a cart of groceries for this family? Sometimes, I don’t have the extra cash, but on this particular day, I did.

This morning, I thought of the family in need and I did the only thing I could do to help them— I lifted a prayer and asked the Lord to meet their needs, to send someone to help them, and to forgive me for failing to literally “feed His sheep.”

Every day there are choices to make, moments to react. In my haste, I missed the opportunity to be a blessing to someone, and therefore, I missed being blessed.

In America, no one wants to answer a door when a stranger knocks. But I’m sure, if I’d fed this family, if I’d let them see Jesus living in me, I could have been a witness any maybe had the opportunity to share the “bread of life.”

It seems I’m always in a hurry. Do you recall any story of Jesus rushing anywhere? Even when he heard Lazarus, whom he loved, was ill, he took his time.

What about you? Did God give you an opportunity to “feed his sheep” this week?  I hope you responded better than I.

Not Yet

Have you ever been waiting and praying for something to happen, and finally, just when you think it’s going to become a reality, it doesn’t? Instead, you’re told, “Not yet.”

One of the most exciting days of my writing career was the day I signed a contract with a well-respected agent. Last summer, she decided to leave the business of being an agent and my heart felt the same as it did the first time a boyfriend broke up with me. I knew I’d recover from the heartache, but for days, I walked around with shoulders slumped, sighing.

I met several agents at the ACFW conference last September and four requested proposals, but I didn’t have a clue as to which professional would be the best fit for me and my work.

When you have appointments with agents at a conference, it’s sort of like speed dating.  You have fifteen minutes  to get to know each other, and then it’s the writer’s job to convince the agent that publishers will be clamoring to buy his/her manuscript.

The relationship between an agent and a writer must be built on mutual trust and respect, and it’s impossible to develop that in one brief meeting.  I want a long relationship with my next agent, so I’ve been researching the Christian publishing industry and praying for God to lead me to the right person.

Last month, I finally sent material to three agents. Two replied immediately and said they would give my proposal a serious look. Their prompt, professional reply narrowed the field down from three to two but still, I tossed and turned.

Most rejection emails have only one sentence and it start with, “I’m sorry, but…” However one agent explained that he asked a fiction expert to review my manuscript. Her credentials made my eyes bug out. The critique included paragraphs explaining what I did well, and what I need to do to get one of the larger publishing houses interested in my work. To sum it up, the fiction expert thinks I have potential, but the response from the agent was, “Not yet.”

A successful author told me a critique like this is a rare and wonderful gift.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, which agent I want to represent me. He’s already made an investment in my success, and I’m going to do my best to ensure he receives a return by listening to his advice. My prayers were answered even though I haven’t been offered a contract (yet).

You might think I’d be disappointed with the response, but God prepared my heart.  I’m currently working through Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s book Live a Praying Life. Consider these words I read on the morning I received the email.

God has good, loving, and productive reasons for scheduling waiting periods into the prayer process.  When He has called on you to wait, it is because what He is doing during the waiting time is necessary for the best outcome.  If He didn’t need the incubation time, it would not be there.”

This weekend, I’ll be visiting Lake Couer d’Alene, Idaho to attend a writing workshop  which is being taught by award-winning, Christian author Brandilyn Collins. To be a guest in this prestigious author’s home seems like a dream, and to have the opportunity to be her student is an amazing gift from God. (He provided me with a free airline ticket.) I’m going to  enjoy every step on my writing journey. My goal is to glorify  God with my very best effort. I know God has a good plan for the words I write.  

What about you?  Have you been working on a goal that seems impossible? Have you been waiting for an answer?  Don’t give up. Pray and seek wisdom. God will provide you with exactly what you need, and when the time is right, when your heart is right, he’ll give you your heart’s desire.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23.

How to Anchor Your Marriage

On Monday, my husband and I celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Most days have been wonderful, but sometimes… not so great.  Through it all, I believe prayer has anchored our marriage. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. The couple that prays together, stays together.

Praying with your spouse can be one of the most intimate experiences you can share. It’s impossible for newlyweds to imagine the dark, turbulent days they will face. No one wants to walk through the valley, but it makes us stronger, and it can be the same for marriages.

If there’s one word of advice I could give any couple, it’s to commit to pray for your beloved throughout the day? When you do this, you are being a helpmate to each other. It will be impossible for Satan to threaten your relationship with lust for others or worldly desires if you are both focusing your attention on God and each other’s needs. You can weave a mantle of protection woven of love around your darling and your marriage through prayer. This collaboration will help you live in a manner that is worthy of the Lord.

Pray without ceasing so that you may come to know God and each other more intimately. Each petition will be like another bolt that anchors your marriage to the rock that will not be shaken.  Prayer has protected our marriage for thirty-five years, and it can do the same for you.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6.

 

A Weed by Any Other Name…

Last week, I walked beside our wheat field with my husband and I stopped to snap a picture of a pretty purple flower hidden among the green stalks.

“That’s a weed,” my husband said as he yanked it out by the roots and tossed it aside. Then he explained the blue cornflower is invasive and can destroy a crop by choking out the wheat. Through the week, I’ve removed the blossoms I noticed while walking on the trail.

When I drove by our neighbor’s farm this morning, I noticed the rolling hills of wheat have waves of indigo. It seems the blue cornflower invaded several areas.

Sin can be like that in our lives. Maybe it starts with a simple “white” lie that needs another to support it. We ask ourselves, “Is it really wrong to watch the popular television show?” Or maybe we justify reading that book because a friend recommended it, and after all, she’s a good person.  Bit by bit, we compromise and hardly notice sin is choking us.

As Christians, we have been commanded to go out into the world, but we must not be of the world. My life is not free of sin, but by spending time studying the Bible and in prayer, it’s like yanking the blue cornflower out of the wheat field daily.

The blue cornflower will always be a weed, no matter how pretty, and sin will always be sin, no matter what the world tells us.  Let us strive to live in such a way that others will recognize that we belong to Jesus.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth.” John 17: 15-17 ESV.

A Welcome Song

Today, I woke up about an hour earlier than normal. Rather than toss and turn, I brewed a pot of coffee and wandered to the porch.  A few lightning bugs still hovered over the wheat field next to my home, but there was silence. As I savored my warm drink, a mourning dove cooed, then a cardinal lifted a greeting. Minutes later, the air was filled with birdsong.  Somewhere in the distance, a wild turkey gobbled and a crow cawed. Before I’d finished my mug of coffee, a symphony of warblers serenaded me.

It’s overcast today, and storms are predicted, but the birds rejoiced as the darkness gave way to the gray light.  Whatever I face today or tomorrow, I hope and pray  I can be like the birds and welcome each day with rejoicing. I am thankful for the birds reminding me to be filled with cheer, even as I await today’s storms.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 ESV

 

 

I Love Fireflies

The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Last night, I saw the first fireflies of the season. I enjoyed the sunset, then night swallowed the shadows. A blinking orb appeared, hovering in the leafy canopy above me. As it grew darker, I noticed a multitude of fireflies and my heart lifted.

The fireflies had been there all along, but in the sunlight, I hadn’t noticed them. It took the blackness for me to discern their presence.

Sometimes, perceiving the light of Jesus requires a dark period. During my teen years, when the world seemed to be my friend, I took His presence for granted. Occasionally, I’d lift a prayer, but I lacked a close, personal relationship with Him. A crisis came, and the threads of my life unraveled in an instant. In fear, I ran to Him and I am thankful for His open arms.

The fireflies’ glow reminds me that the darkness can never overcome me, because Jesus lives in my heart. I pray others may see His light in me – whether there be light or darkness surrounding me.

Prayer: Father, Help me to be like the firefly and shine your light with every breath I take.

 

Sowing in Hope

Show me your ways,  Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 NIV.

Spring arrived late this year in Kentucky. It’s been unseasonably cold and has rained for weeks. My Daddy used to say, “Rain makes grain.” As a child, I’d roll my eyes when he said these words. It seems I’ve matured  little as I’ve grumbled about the cold wet days.

As I walked next to the wheat field this morning, the truth of Daddy’s words filled my vision. The lush green landscape was stunning and I lifted a prayer of thanks and asked for forgiveness for my complaints.

Oh, how I wish my friends who live in Niger could see our wheat field. The landscape in Niger is extremely dry most of the year. It reminds me of the song “Always  Enough.”  In a dry an weary land, Lord, you are the rain…”  It still amazes me that God would take me from the red-clay paths of rural Kentucky to the dusty trails of Africa. Who would have imagined the little girl who ran barefoot in the shadow of Pilot Knob, would have the chance to travel to such a far-away place? And now I am planning my seventh visit to Africa. This is a miracle only God could produce.

As I studied the wheat kernels, my thoughts rambled to the seeds I’ve sown. Last night the kids at church were full or energy, and I was skeptical that anything I said was heard. But then two of the students quoted scripture from memory and I felt encouraged. Sometimes I doubt the seeds I sow on Wednesday nights or in Africa will take root among the thorns and thistles, but that’s where God comes in. Just like my Dad, the farmer, it’s my job to sow the seeds in hope, and trust God to provide the living water that will produce a harvest.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am the most pitiful person to be on the mission field at home or in Africa. But I’ve come to understand that it is because I am so weak and helpless, God’s power shines through. I’ve been studying Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s books about prayer and she teaches “prayer is opening our lives to God, acknowledging our total dependence on Him.” That’s why I am asking you to be a part of my mission team by praying for us. I can’t share the travel dates or the location of where we’ll be going in Africa due to security issues. Please let me know if you would like to be a part of our private Facebook group.

Prayer transforms an inadequate missionary into something powerful, and makes an impossible mission, possible. Prayer will ensure the seeds we sow will reap a harvest. I am so thankful for those of you who are already praying. Thank you!