I Blog For Books

31 January 2009

Peace Within

Think of the feeling you get when everything goes as it should. There is an inner feeling that at times defies description, almost as if a calming wave washes over you and suddenly all is right with your world. You want to smile for no apparent reason (well, to an outsider there is no apparent reason), you are happy. What brings you to that state? (written 20 Feb 2008)

For most of us, the state is not a continual thing. We have our ups and our downs, our good days and our bad days, our highs and our lows. The Max Lucado book I am starting to read, Cure for the Common Life , calls it a "sweet spot." Not having delved deeply into the book, I can't go any further than that. For those of you that are athletes (or former athletes), the term "sweet spot" is probably extremely familiar. There are all types of terms, and many different meanings we could find that would apply.

I wish I could say that every day was like that for me. Actually, I guess I could say that (I would not be truthful, but I could say it). In reality, there are days when I wake up in the morning wondering how in the world I will make it through. The load (nearly 100% self induced) seems intolerably heavy, with a path almost vertical. I wish I could say that I was that perfectly perky person who jumps out of bed ready to face the day with a smile. In reality, I prefer coffee soon after rising. If I have time to just "chill" before starting my day, that's even better. Under the current circumstances, however, I normally sleep as long as possible before jumping out of bed and rushing to do what needs to be done. I tell myself "one of these days ... ", but we all know how that goes. One day at a time, is more like it.

If I look back at my life, I can recall many times when that feeling of inner peace washed over me like a blanket of calm. Many, many of them have to do with family and the closeness we share. I have a picture taken in the hospital shortly after my granddaughter's birth last year. I'm sitting in the rocking chair in the room, holding her. Just a glance at that photograph can bring on that state, even if only briefly, because it reminds me just how very blessed I feel to be able to have her in my life. Looking at pictures of my children, remembering the last time we were together, can bring on that peace. You do not have to have children to know this peace, we all find our peace in different ways.

The one guaranteed way to find inner peace? Ask Jesus into your life. He is the calm at the center of our storm, and can flood our soul with the much-needed balm of peace. Believe in Him, trust Him to bring you through whatever struggle you feel you are facing. He can, and He will.

God, I thank you for the peace you give me. Help me to be an instrument of your peace, and give me the inner light to smile while sharing your love.

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." ~Mark 12:29-31 NIV

I Shall Not Be Moved

In 1950, John Benson, Jr. wrote a song titled "I Shall Not Be Moved." Growing up, going to church on Sundays was not questioned, it was simply done because you wanted to go, not because you had to. Occasionally instead of going to my home church (Circle Hill, Dellwood, then Howard Grove) I would attend services with a friend. One of my best friend Myra's favorite hymns was this John Benson song. For some reason today, the words just popped into my mind when I sat down to write. Because of that, I am drawn to analyze the song and what it means to me. (written 19 Feb 2008)

Throughout the song, Benson repeats the words I shall not be moved. Why is that? Read and think about what he is saying in verse one and in the chorus:

Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved;
In His love and favor, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

Every verse ends with the same two lines. Why would a tree planted by the waters not be moved? I'm not a scientist, but I would think it boils down to nourishment! The water feeds the roots and keeps them hydrated. Does not the love of God and His mercy hydrate our soul? Why, then, would we move from the endless source of nourishment and hydration? When we move from God, it is our choice, not His.

Nowhere in the song does it say that we will always stand upright. There will be times when we stumble, even times when we fall. If we remain close to the life source that is God's love, however, we will have the strength we need to stand straight once more. Verses three and four remind us that He will never fail our trust. That our trust can and will keep us strong and steadfast in Him. If we nourish ourselves on His word, He will lead us down the path that is ours. What an amazing truth!

God, thank you for being my source of life and nourishment for my soul. Help me to be what you would have me be, help me to pass your message through these words. Thank you for loving me and for being my savior. May I stand fast in your strength, and may I never be moved.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved." ~Psalm 62:6 KJV

Standing on Faith

One of the new books I purchased this weekend was Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life. I've not read many of his works before, and am truly enjoying his writing style and the way that he delivers his message. Being the "want an answer" type of person that I am, I did a brief search on Max Lucado, and found his website. There are many links on there to his writings, a place to sign up for weekly devotionals, and too much more to list here. If you are interested in his work, I suggest that you check it out! The reason for the info on Max Lucado? While searching his site, I delved into a few of the works listed (imagine that) and was hit by a quote. It felt as if I'd been literally struck by the power of those words! (written 18 Feb 2008)

The list of topical messages available for web viewing was as appealing to me as a walk through a candy store with an unlimited budget. The title "Tomorrow's Dream, Today's Courage" was underneath the blinking cursor of the mouse almost before I realized it, and the words were appearing on the screen as food to the starving soul. From the introduction:

When you holler for help, sometimes all you hear is your own cry echoing
down a lonely corridor. So what do you do? When your dreams are darkened by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations, or a hardened heart . . . when giving up seems like the only option left . . . what do you do?

There is a source of renewed courage. There is a wellspring of faith just waiting to be tapped.

So, drink deeply . . . it's not too late for tomorrow's dream to become today's courage.

The eighteen pages of this particular writing by Max Lucado will be revisited more than once! Read those introductory words again ... have you been there? I KNOW that I have, and know that I may be there again. In one of the weekly devotions, Lucado tells of stumbling as a new Christian. He goes on to remind us that we are not wrong because we stumble, that we are not less than a Christian, we are more like a baby learning to walk. Just as they don't learn to walk all at once, neither will we learn everything about walking with Jesus. It is a continual learning process, a lifelong learning process.

Why the title "Standing on Faith?" Because I am. I may not always be steady on my feet, but through the grace of God I am upright. It is His strength and power in me that keep me standing through the winds that blow through my life. Even though there have been times, even though there will be times ... times when I feel as if there is nothing left to break, God's gentle hand will touch me to remind me that He is unfaltering in His love and care for me. He is indeed that wellspring of faith from which His children are invited to repeatedly drink. It's not too late to find that wellspring ... just ask Him and He shall provide. The road is rocky, and fraught with perils (doesn't that just sound like a Victorian novel?), but He alone is strong enough to guide me down His path.

God, I thank you for the strength you provide me daily. I thank you for making me believe that it is not too late ... and for believing in me. I thank you for hearing my cry, and ask that you make me receptive to the cries of others so that they can see you in me. Give me the strength and knowledge to be that support.

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." ~Proverbs 19:20-21 NIV

Give and Live

The word give can be defined in many ways. The simplest definition I can think of is just passing something on to someone else. We're all probably familiar with the cynical expression "there's no such thing as a free lunch." In reality, most things are NOT free. Think for a moment, if you will, how it makes you feel when someone gives you something - no strings attached. Examples that come to mind: a hug from your child (or a child), a smile, puppy kisses, a helping hand on a slippery step. Think of your day and consider one way that you can give without considering what you might receive in return. I'm not talking financially, but giving because you can and because you want to. (written 14 Feb 2008)

I'll be the first one to admit that I like to receive things. Before you think I am this incredibly materialistic person (not true), let me clarify. One gift I received this Christmas was from my two youngest children, and was a photo of the two of them. They took it upon themselves to go and have their pictures made as a Christmas gift for their dad, step mom, and me. There is no present that they could have given me that would have been more appreciated! My oldest daughter selected a print of herself, her daughter, and her sister taken in Paris and had it blown up into a beautiful print ... and had it delivered with strict instructions not to open until Christmas (I didn't, but it was certainly difficult!). Before you wonder why I get so excited over pictures, understand that my children (much like their mother) would rather be on the opposite side of the camera. They gave these gifts because they knew what it would mean to me. THAT is giving.

I also very much enjoy giving. There is a reward that I cannot describe in being able to do something for someone who doesn't expect it, or feels they don't deserve it, or just because it feels like the right thing to do! Making eye contact and smiling at people you meet may give that unexpected lift to their day that otherwise would not have happened. Have an extra $5? Buy lunch for the next person in line ... just because. Say God Bless You when someone sneezes. Thinking of a friend? Call them and tell them so. It doesn't have to be an extended conversation ... in this era of instant communication, it doesn't always have to be verbal - send an email or a text message.

When you think you have nothing to give, consider this. Jesus gave to live ... He gave His LIFE, so that we may have life eternal. He does not ask that we give our life in the sense that we must die, but He asks that we give our life to Him and walk with Him. The price He paid is far greater than anything He will ever ask of us ... how can you say no?

Jesus, you gave so that I may live. Help me to give with your spirit, to help and encourage others. Show me the needs that I can meet, and guide me to meet them in your name.

"A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses." ~Proverbs 28:25-27 NIV

The Power of Love

In 1985, the movie Back to the Future featured a song by Huey Lewis and the News called "Power of Love." The chorus of this song delivers a powerful message - secular music or not. I guess what speaks to me the most is that I can see God's hand everywhere, not just in gospel or Christian music. Sometimes the smallest things shout out God is ALIVE! (written 13 Feb 2008)

The first verse of this song says "The power of love is a curious thing. Make a one man weep, make another one sing. Change a heart to a little white dove. More than a feeling, that's the power of love." Think about that for a moment. How can such an emotion cause such a profound change? Look at the chorus, and say the words. "It don't need money, don't take fame, don't need no credit card to ride this train. It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life, that's the power of love, that's the power of love." Speaking of power - visualize the power spoken of! Think of the love of God and its effect on your life once you have chosen to walk with Him - it might just save your life - no might about it ... it WILL save your life!

If you break down the chorus, think of the true statements that it makes: God asks us for no money, He does not ask that we be famous. We are each His creation, and were made by Him for His particular purpose. To God, we are each famous for what He made us to be! You don't have to have a hefty bank account nor an open-ended credit line to ride God's salvation train - this powerful gift is yours free simply for the asking. Imagine those rewards, all yours, just by asking! The only part of the chorus that I might take issue with is the phrase "it's cruel sometimes." I don't see God's love as ever being cruel. Our interpretation of certain events in our lives, even in God's presence, may feel that way at times, but we have to stop and remember and look at the big picture. Let me see if a side note will clarify: as a parent, the most horrifying thing I can imagine is losing one of my children. How would I survive such a thing? I am under no illusion that it would be an easy task, but I would put my trust in God and maintain my faith that He made that decision for a reason that I might not need to know right away. IT WOULD NOT BE EASY, NOR WOULD IT BE PAINLESS!! I can imagine nothing that would hurt more on a long-lasting and visceral level. Having spoken to parents that have lost children, those who have maintained their faith all tell me the same thing: when they realized the gift that they were given by being allowed to be the parent of their child, even if only for a short time, it made the loss somewhat easier to bear. I did not say pain-free, but it gave them a perspective of hope.

Overall, today's realization is this: God's power is everywhere, and in everything. Listen to what He says, and how He says it. The answers you seek may be right in front of you. The power of His love is unfailing, and unending. What greater gift can we receive?

God, thank you for the gift of your powerful love. Use me to share that love and your message through every available means. Guide my life so that you shine through in everything that I do.

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" ~Matthew 22:37 NIV

Satisfying the Hunger Pangs

While this is not specifically directed to females, it seems as if we (females) as a group are those who use that four letter word the most - D I E T. Along with most of the women I know, I fret over my weight. While I don't agonize over every morsel that goes into my mouth (maybe I should!), I am trying very hard to eat right. As a result, certain things can trigger those physical rumblings that we tend to call hunger pangs. (written 12 Feb 2008)

What about spiritual hunger pangs? Today's devotion from Turning Point addressed this issue, and it spoke to me in such a way that I wanted to share it. I won't even try to paraphrase, but the first two paragraphs say:

All of us get hungry, but not all of us know why. Most often, our body says, "I
need food" when glycogen (carbohydrate) levels in the liver and muscles decrease
and energy stores are depleted. That's "actual" hunger. "Perceived" hunger is
when digestion empties the stomach of its last filling and mild cramps (hunger
pangs) ensue as the stomach shrinks.

Everyone knows what it's like to be spiritually and emotionally hungry as well. We may be hungry for comfort or thirsty for love, hungry for forgiveness or thirsty for true love. It takes a certain level of spiritual and emotional nutrition for us to meet those hunger and thirst needs that are common to the human experience. Having those needs met outside of God's provision is like eating a doughnut for breakfast: a quick fix that will shortly disappoint.

How powerful is that? Looking outside of God and His word to fulfill our spiritual hunger is the equivalent of eating a doughnut for breakfast! How much simpler can it get? There is no "quick fix" for spiritual hunger ... that soul-replenishing nutrition can only come from God and His word. Don't shortchange yourself, fuel up by delving into His word. Keep those spiritual fires burning by stoking the flames on a regular basis with continual affirmation from Him. It is yours for the taking, and free for the asking. Don't run on fumes with your emotional and spiritual tank on "E" when He can keep you on "F". How wonderful to be "FULL" of God!

God, help me make each day a FULL day with you. Give me the words and ability to share your love. Thank you for the abundance of blessings that you have given me, and for the peace that I am learning.

"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." ~Luke 6:21 NIV

Coping With Curve Balls

I don't proclaim to be a sports expert of any sort. The slang definition, however, of curve ball listed in thefreedictionary.com simply says "something that is unexpected." In the overall sense, that may not even be totally true, because deep down I had a feeling that the answer I received last night was exactly the one I was going to get. (written 11 Feb 2008)

Some of you know the situation, some of you don't, and in the whole big scheme of things the particulars of last night's curve ball are really irrelevant to anyone except the parties involved. Suffice it to say that I was floored by the response, even though I've suspected for quite some time what the outcome would be. I thought about writing last night, but couldn't clarify my thoughts enough to make anything coherent come from them. Still today, there is a knot of anxiety banked high up in my abdomen coupled with that nauseating feeling of being on the verge of tears. If you ask how I am, the answer you will most likely get is "okay." It is partially true, but breaking down in tears will solve absolutely no problems at all.

Why the discourse? It is a coping mechanism. I have to work through the emotional onslaught, understand why, and deal with the consequences. Sometimes the best way for me to work through things is to write about them (hence this ramble). Putting thoughts down on paper can sometimes clarify the emotional jungle that clouds the view. One of the hardest things to do in reality should be one of the easiest. What is it about the human animal that makes it so difficult for us to relinquish control? Realistically, I know that I could assert my rights and change the situation. I also know that the damage it could possibly cause might never be undone. Emotionally, I want to cry, scream, and rage. Logically, I know that not only will that cause a massive headache, it will also serve no purpose except to frustrate me further.

There was, and still is, serious soul-searching going on. I have to turn this over to God because I cannot handle it on my own. It is scary, and yet not. I know He will resolve things in the way that they should be handled, if I am patient and allow Him to work. Let me see if I can give an analogy that might make some sense of this. If you are a parent, you will know exactly what I refer to (if you don't have children ... think of your pet, maybe). When my children were sick, the hardest thing to do was to turn them over to the care of a physician. Not because I did not trust their skills or abilities, but because the instinctive reaction is to grab and hold close as if the sheer power of parental love can make everything better. Sometimes, it cannot! Trusting the skills that their pediatrician held (and that I did not) allowed me to work with the process of healing my ill child. Trusting in the power of God to resolve the situation to its best end is the only way that I can resolve the turmoil within. I do not have the answers, He does. I have to let go, and let God work.

That is the only way to handle the "curve balls" that life throws at you ... unexpected does not have to be unsolvable. God can handle anything! We must remember that He will never give us more than we can handle ... and also remember that what we think we can handle and what He knows we can handle are not always the same! God, loosen up my glove and help me to learn to catch those curve balls. By opening my life to you, things will fall into place as they should.

"Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety." ~Job 11:13-18 NIV

Begin With The End In Mind

Steven Covey wrote an extremely successful book in 1989 called "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People." Subtitled "Powerful Lessons in Personal Change," this book exploded into the workforce and became a must read for management trainees (and established managers) in many organizations. If you've not read the book, I highly recommend it. Rereading it gave me one of those "aha" moments ... (written 7 Feb 2008)

I could write pages and pages on how Covey's "7 Habits" affected me, both personally and professionally. For some reason today, I picked up the book again and was drawn to habit 2, called Begin With The End In Mind. Page 96 of Covey's work starts you on this journey, and he invites you to find a solitary spot to begin your understanding of beginning with the end in mind. To summarize, envision a loved one's funeral: the location, the music, the surroundings, the attendance. Look down into the casket ... at your own face. If it were your end, what would your eulogy be? Personally and professionally, what would those sending you off say?

The seminar I attended just so happened to be during a three week training period in September 2000. Early on a Thursday morning of my first or second week, my granddaddy passed away. My employer immediately gave me leave to come home for the funeral (I was in Tennessee at the time), and told me simply to return when I was able. It was quite the eye-opener to return for the part of this seminar that emphasized the development of self!

What did I learn? I learned that the only person who controls my destiny is me. The only person who can change or truly influence the way I am perceived, is me. It does not matter what I drive, where I live, how I dress, nor where I worship ... if I do not believe in the power of Jesus to save me and grant me eternal life, there will be no entrance into Heaven. By accepting that Jesus is real and He is my savior, Heaven's doors are open for me. That change could be made by no one except myself. I can't believe for my mom, nor can I believe for my children - accepting Jesus is an individual choice.

How, then, does this tie in to Covey's habits? If I wish to spend eternity in Heaven (the end), I must start my journey with that ultimate goal in mind. By accepting Jesus as my savior, I have opened Heaven's door. To make sure that I stay on that path, I must keep that "end" in mind. Trust in Jesus, believe in His power, and live my life as He would have me do.

Jesus, thank you for the saving grace freely offered to me simply by believing in you. Empower me to share that light, and help me to live my life so that it speaks of you.

"The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him." ~Psalm 37:39-40 NIV

In Unexpected Ways

The beginning of each day is another chance to listen for God's voice. There are times when He whispers, times when He shouts ... and times when He speaks through an unexpected voice. Which will you hear today? (written 5 Feb 2008)

Yesterday started pretty much like any other weekday, except that we didn't have Microbiology (translate that to no class at 8 a.m.!). Ethics gave us one more class day before Wednesday's test, but added one more chapter of information. Zip home for lunch and a quick change before heading to work, only to find the gas tank on fumes and gasping. Dash into work 3 minutes late to find a relatively peaceful waiting room. (Remember, however, that a peaceful waiting room can transform into a mass of patients/family/friends before you can blink twice.)

Settling in at my station, I realized that there was neither a patient waiting to be registered nor one headed toward me. Translation? Pre-time! For those who do not work in registration, a "pre" is short for "pre-registration" or "pre-admission", and is something that we do for our scheduled patients to expedite their registration process on the day of their procedure or appointment. I pulled a list of pre's to work on, and pulled up the screen for the first name on the list. I pulled up the first screen, and picked up the phone. Before you wonder, I am not going to walk you through the entire pre-registration process ... the story just makes more sense this way. Pre's are categorized as either a "phone" pre or a "computer" pre. Computer pre's can be done when the patient has visited within a set period of time and the information is available. Phone pre's must be done when the patient has not been in recently, or has never been to our facility before. Pre-registering (or pre-admitting) a patient is just like the actual registration process except the patient is not sitting in front of you ... they are either already in the computer, or they are on the other end of the phone. Anyway, back to the tale.

The first pre was a phone pre, and I dialed the number on the screen. After a couple of rings (and wondering whether or not it was going to be a "leave a message" day), a pleasant voice picked up the phone. I introduced myself and asked to speak to the patient, explaining that I wanted to pre-register them for an appointment if they had a few minutes available to do so. She stepped away from the phone for a minute, then returned ready to answer questions. Verifying all the information, I was near completion of the pre when the person to whom I was speaking said to me, "we're not sure what this will be, but we're just turning it over to God." She then asked me to lift their name in prayer and I said that I would. She then asked me if I would be at work when they came in for the appointment. I explained to her that I worked in the ER and worked second shift, and that they would be coming in through Outpatient. She explained that she just thought we might have lunch or something! She asked me for my name again, and then told me "you have my number, call me anytime, even if you just want to talk." I completed the pre, thanked her for her time, and hung up the phone.

I can't really even find the words to say how much that simple phone call touched me yesterday. Sometimes the message we are given comes from unexpected avenues. Which avenue will yours come down today?

God, I thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon me. Thank you for the love of family and friends, and for allowing me to help others to the best of my ability. May I never lose sight of You, to whom all the credit belongs.

"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." ~Psalm 34:17-18 NIV

Everyone Should Have

Today I received a few copies of the Maya Angelou poem that is circulating. It tells what "every woman should have" and what "every woman should know." With all due respect to the beautifully written words of Maya Angelou, I'd like to take that a step farther, open it up to both genders, and relate it to walking with God. (written 30 Jan 2008)

Everyone Should Have
the security that comes with knowing that God will meet your every need
even if you think all your needs are met and can't imagine them not being so

Everyone Should Have
the comforting mantle of the love of God
even when you feel cold and alone

Everyone Should Have
a clear and concise picture of the emptiness of their life before God

Everyone Should Have
a way to express the beauty that God's love brings
it may be through words, through art, through performing, or simply through daily living

Everyone Should Have
God's holy word (the Bible), or access to one
if you don't have one, let me know .. He'll help me get you one

Everyone Should Have
the realization that God is always there, no matter what
He hears you always, and is your father and friend

Everyone Should Have
the knowledge that salvation is a gift to be shared
but is at the same time intensely personal
and manifests itself differently in each one of us

Everyone Should Have
the anticipation of sharing eternity with God
and the feeling of joy that His blessed presence brings

Everyone Should Have
the peace that comes with turning your problems over
to the master problem solver

Everyone Should Know
the beauty of God's precious love
because He doesn't expect us to be who we are not

Everyone Should Know
when to let go
and let God

Everyone Should Know
that the past is simply that
and that the cleansing power of Jesus' blood
eliminates all sin

Everyone Should Know
that Christians are not perfect
but that they are forgiven

Everyone Should Know
that God will never fail you
even though the answers He gives
are not always the ones we think we need at the time

Everyone Should Know
that the greatest gift of all
is absolutely free
and is available simply by asking and believing

Everyone Should Know
that God is alive
and that miracles happen every day

God, give me the strength to stand fast in my faith and share the beauty of your love. Allow me the privilege of continuing to write the words that praise you. Make me a light for those who may feel trapped in darkness.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." ~Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV

The Lord's Prayer

It probably depends on where you attend (or attended) church, your Sunday school teacher, or even your parents and/or grandparents, but I would be willing to bet that there is a very large percentage of us that can recite "The Lord's Prayer" (aka Psalm 23) at least in part. What does that mean to you and I? (written 29 Jan 2008)

Let's break it down into parts. Isn't that the easiest way to learn anything? As most of you know by now, I usually use the New International Version for my bible verses. I am a traditionalist, however, and was raised on the King James Version. I loaded both versions, NIV and KJV, side by side to compare. The word changes are minimal, but for me, it speaks louder in the traditional language of the KJV. Now that I've walked around the block to go next door, let's get started.

The first three verses read "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." What is this saying? This is the Denise translation: By accepting God as my savior, I will no longer need anything that He cannot provide for me. He encourages me to rest my soul in the beauty of His creation, because doing so will renew my strength and purpose for Him. He will lead me down the path I should take, walking beside me all the time.

Verse four is probably one of the most misquoted of this short Psalm. I have seen translations from profound to profane. KJV states "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." My translation? There are times and places in my life that I will go where the only thing that can protect me is the loving grace of God. I may have some apprehension, but I will not be afraid, because I will not be alone. God will be with me every step of the way, good times and bad times.

Verse five and six read "Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." Regardless of what I face, I can dine on the majesty of God's grace and love. When I accepted Him as my savior, He made me His own and filled my life to overflowing with the guarantee of an eternity spent with Him. If there are times I stumble, He is there to stand me back up and brush me off, setting me on back firmly on His path. His beauty and love are the cloak that wraps around me.

God, I thank you for the beauty of your creation, and the boundless love you give to all your children. Help me each day to grow in the understanding of your plan for me, and help me trust in your power to make it so.

"Show me your ways, O 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

Amazing Grace

Most of us are familiar with the classic hymn "Amazing Grace." Some of the lines in that song speak more clearly to me than others, and today in particular, "I once was lost, but now am found, twas blind but now I see." The vision is blurry from these eyes ... and I believe only God's visine (aka His grace, love and mercy) can clear it. (written 28 Jan 2008)

Nearly 35 years have passed since I publicly fell to my knees and accepted Christ as my savior. Those years have been filled with many moments of sadness, despair and grief. The happiness, hope, and joy that have come, however, happily outweigh the sorrow. How can I sit here, with all that has gone on in the past couple of weeks, and say that?

Because God's angels, whom most of us call friends, are dispersed among us to remind us of what we have to offer as well as what we have to look forward to. Because God has never-tiring arms of love that rescue even the smallest of the fallen. Because His ears are supremely sensitive to the cries of pain, and his heart smiles with the beauty of love. When my mind is so overwhelmed that the only words I can form are "God please help me," He sees the entire pain and takes steps to heal it. Please don't misunderstand me. I do not doubt that He could instantly take all our pain away and that we would never suffer again ... I do, however, believe that there are times we are meant to hurt. It is remembering that we will never hurt alone that is most important.

It's been almost 8 months since daddy died. For some reason, I was hit on Friday with a sudden longing to see him and talk to him. Even when daddy was in pain, he never stopped looking for a reason to smile. I could hear his voice so clearly! If I'd been at home, I would have been on the phone with Cheryl. Unfortunately I was at work at Wal-Mart and couldn't just whip out the phone and call her so we could have a moment of grief/joy together. When I told her about it and about the urge to call her, her first question was "why didn't you?" I explained that I was at work (and so was she, incidentally). That may seem minor to some, but it is just another example of how I believe God has been at work in my life in the past year. We have gotten close again, and I know without doubt that she will be there for me. Whenever, whatever the reason.

When the despair hits, and personally speaking, I know it does, remind yourself of something that my friend told me again just this morning. When I told him that "no one hears my cry," his response was simple and swift "God does." He's right. God does. I just have to remember to listen and believe.

God, thank you for your unending and amazing grace. Even though I am less than perfect, I am yours. Work your plans for me as you would see fit, and help me to be an example of that grace in everything that I do.

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." ~John 1:16-17 NIV

No Way Out

We've probably all felt this way at one time or another, or if we can't quite admit it to ourselves, we can certainly recall someone who has. You feel as if the walls are closing in on you in a trap that just might be of your own making. It seems the walls are smooth, even damp in places - whatever it takes to make them impossible to scale. The light is above, trickling down into your darkest recesses, but the edge you need to grasp to pull yourself out is just out of reach, and there is nothing to stand on, no support system to get you out of this place. (written 24 Jan 2008)

I forwarded an email just the other day that said "faith looks up." When you are looking at impassable barriers, unscalable walls, and feeling utterly alone, remember those three words. Faith looks up. Why? Remember the definition of faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for, a belief in things not seen. Just because I can't "see" God doesn't mean He does not exist. He exists to me and for me, for each of us.

I've been down the road of pain and suffering, and I know for a fact that we all have in some way and at some point in our lives. There were and are far too many grooves, footprints, and smooth sections in the sometimes painful road we call life for me to have hurt alone. I have so much to learn, so much I want to know about God and the miraculous things He does for us every day - but one thing I know without doubt is that He is here with me, every single step of the way. Don't misunderstand me: I know this, I believe this, but there are still unanswered questions in my mind and heart! God does not yet believe I need those particular answers, He has a plan for guiding me to them that I must follow. When you don't know for sure, you have to step out on faith. God will not let you fall. You may stumble, but rest assured that the best support system ever is yours just by reaching out your hand to Him.

By looking up with that faith, I am putting my trust in God to guide me in the direction that He wants me to go. I may not know why for many miles, I may not know quite why for years - but He does. When you feel like there is no way out, like everything is closing in, like you are drowning even though you think you can swim - remember to have faith, and to look up. You have friends and family that love you and care about you, but you have the power of our most awesome God at your disposal simply for the asking. Never hesitate to reassure yourself of His presence - reach out and He will be there.

God, thank you for reminding me just how very much I need you. Thank you for your generous gift of love and forgiveness, and for your patience. Help me to be a guiding light for others, to express the joy you have given me.

"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.' 'Lord, if it's you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'" ~Matthew 14:25-31 NIV

Pray For Others

Yesterday morning, one of our coworkers here at SAMC was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Because of someone else's carelessness, Desiree is an inpatient recovering from surgery. We are thankful that she is doing well at this time, and I ask that we all keep her on our prayer list. Even though it may bring a question to mind of "why?", I also ask that we pray for the driver that caused the accident. (written 23 Jan 2008)

Each day, the majority of us get into our vehicle at some point in time - whether it be to go to work, go shopping, run errands, serve as a "kid taxi", go to church, visit friends - the list could go on and on. In today's society, and especially in the Dothan area, we are taxed with the complication of transportation if we choose to venture too far from home. Most things in town are relatively spread out, even though they are condensed in little pockets of commerce or community, and public transportation is not a viable option for most of us. When you sit in the driver's seat and fasten your seatbelt, the last thing on your mind is the thought that you could possibly be involved in an accident!

One of the most difficult things I have had to learn, and am still learning every day, is to put myself in the position of the other person. It is hard to do! I know that I want to think or say things sometimes, and I struggle with keeping those thoughts to myself. Take for example Desiree's accident. I wonder why in the world the other driver ran the stop sign, what was he thinking to carelessly endanger himself and others by doing so? Think about that for a brief minute. His state of mind at the time does not lessen the fact that he caused harm to other people by his actions. I realize in the legality of things that lawyers always talk about mitigating circumstances, but those circumstances do not change the outcome! He may have had a bad morning - if that were the case should he have gotten behind the wheel? Put yourself in those shoes for a minute: how many times have you gotten in the car angry? I know I have. I also know full well that I shouldn't.

In a roundabout way, what I'm trying to say is that while human nature is such that we are opinionated (well, 'most everyone I know is), we need to remember two things. First, there are two sides to every story. Second, it is not for us to judge. God will do that, in His time and in His way. It is often difficult to swallow, because there are times when we think that God doesn't move fast enough. Just remember, He is moving according to His plan. When you take those moments throughout the day to pray, pray for everyone involved. We all need God's love and mercy, and He deals with us each individually. How incredibly wonderful is that? I'm not student 23, nor employee 19544 - to God, I am Denise, uniquely His creation.

God, I ask today for your healing power to touch Desiree and the physicians, nurses, and techs that give her care. I also ask for your healing power to touch the other parties involved in her accident. Please give me the strength to depend on your power, and the understanding to realize that you are truly always in control.

"The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." ~Isaiah 60:19-20 NIV

More Than We Can Handle

We've heard the saying, we've parroted the words, we believe the words. God will not give us more than we can handle. Have you ever asked God why He thinks you can handle so much more than you think you can? (written 15 Jan 2008)

I know I certainly have thought that, I've even asked God "how much more?" No, I do not think of it as questioning God in the sense that I doubt His wisdom, although I truly believe that he invites our questions. He wants us to ask, to query, to dig deeper. Why? Because He has all the answers!

Today, our family is struggling. My heart is breaking for Aunt Carol (Uncle Dudley), Sue, Brian, James, Donna, Woody, and Teddy. I can't imagine what Uncle Dudley is going through. I see how mama was and is affected, and I'm relatively certain that Aunt Fay, Uncle Lee, Uncle Robert, Aunt Mary, Aunt Bobbi, and Sissy are reeling from their own reactions to the news that we all received yesterday. The cancer that we thought had been treated has been found in the lymphatic system, and at this point Uncle Dudley's prognosis is pretty dismal when it comes to time left on earth. I am certain that he has made his peace with God and is prepared on that front, but as humans are wont to do, I agonize and fret over the ones that have to deal with the aftermath. My aunt and cousins ... I know first hand the struggle, the pain, the heartbreak that they are going through. So many of us can feel their pain, can empathize. While we rationally can tell ourselves that the pain will be gone, that they are far better off, emotionally we are left to drift on a seemingly never-ending ocean of pain.

When we are at the point of asking ourselves "what else?" it is often difficult to remember that God knows what else, and He knows just what we are capable of handling. It is hard to trust when the emotional upheaval is so strong, but the peace that comes with knowing that we are not in this alone is a far stronger balm than we credit it to be. I leave you today with a request for prayers for Uncle Dudley, and for his wife and children.

God, I trust your ability to know just how much I can handle in my life, even though I don't always see it clearly at the time. You have never failed me, and for that I will be forever grateful. Your continued blessings give me reason to look forward to each new day.

"A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."~Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 NIV

Building Walls

This weekend was a strange journey for me. Without going into nauseating detail, we'll just say that there has been some emotional upheaval in the past few days that has left me shaken and unsure. A story comes to mind, hopefully I can do it justice. (written 14 Jan 2008)

There is a quiet little girl in the classroom. Even though she appears to have many friends, she seems alone. She participates in activities, laughs and runs around at recess, walks from the building in a giggling group of girls, then the smile fades and she walks home alone. On the way home, the bright and beautiful storefront of the candy shop is almost magnetic. She slows down, gazing longingly at the colorful array of sweets. Her steps are almost imperceptible as she drinks in the rainbow vision. She never goes inside, telling herself that it's not the place for her. As she leaves the storefront, her steps are slightly slower than before. Each day, her route home is the same. She never enters the store, just looks at the array and dreams. One day she decides that she will go inside to experience her favorite place. Her steps are quick, a smile flits across her face. When she reaches the storefront, she stops in disbelief. The windows are empty and dark! A big "CLOSED" sign is posted. Silent tears roll down her cheeks as her disheartened feet take her home. The next day finds her seat in class empty.

Have you ever felt that yearning? Focusing on something you want to the point that its loss can make you physically ill should be a wake up call. There will be storms in life, the candy store will close. God alone is the unchanging constant that we can depend on. Trust in Him to bring you through.

God, thank you for being my rock of ages. Your strength supports my weakness, making me strong in you. I trust that you know what is right for me at all times.

"My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love."~Psalm 6:3-4 NIV

Just As I Am

In keeping with the spirit of celebrating each and every day, I'd like to take a moment to wish Desiree a happy birthday! Today's topic, however, isn't about Desiree's birthday, but something that has become less and less important as I grow older (much older than Desiree, but that is a whole 'nother subject!). Almost every morning, usually right after I wake up, I see myself in the mirror. Not by conscious choice, you understand, but largely in part due to the person who decided that every residential bathroom must have a huge mirror over the sink, which is usually in a direct line of sight of the door. (written 9 Jan 2008)

I am who I am. For whatever reason, the DNA that combined to make me stated that I would be this tall and have brown hair and blue eyes. (I don't think my excess pounds have anything to do with DNA but a whole bunch to do with LAY'S.) In my younger years, I stressed far more over what I see in the mirror than I do now. Don't misunderstand me, I want to look professional and neat, but I'm less likely to stress over a bad hair day than I would have been 20 years ago. What interests me far more than a person's outward appearance is the person inside. Think about this: do you spend time with someone because you like the way they look, or because you like the person they are?

Our inner self is of our own making. The most beautiful exterior in the world cannot disguise forever an ugly soul. What makes a person beautiful? As has been often said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I deem beautiful may not be attractive to you, and vice versa. What most people do agree on, however, is the genuine beauty of the loving spirit. When I think of a beautiful person, I have a long list of people whose names I would add. They may or may not ever make the magazine covers, but they are beautiful inside and that shines through to the outside. When what is inside you is beautiful, it will reflect on your external appearance.

One last thought on beauty: it does not mean perfection! Jesus was the only perfect person, and He doesn't expect us to be perfect. What He wants is for us to recognize that with Him, we can become the most beautiful creatures ever. Trusting in Him and allowing Him to guide our lives helps us to shed those dark areas of doubt and fear, and brighten the light that we all carry. In 1835, a young woman named Charlotte Elliott wrote a song titled "Just As I Am" after a conversation with a visiting minister made her question how to find her savior. The minister told her to come "just as you are," and this hymn was born. More than 170 years later, the words still resonate with the simple power of our way to Christ. The lyrics are at the bottom, in case you are not familiar with all the verses.

Jesus, thank you for accepting me "just as I am," for making me realize that you do not expect perfection, just an humble heart and a belief in your power to do anything - including saving my soul. Thank you for allowing me this precious gift.

"Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" ~Psalm 100:3-4 ESV

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come,
I come!

Word Association

As you probably know, spring semester started yesterday. One of the classes I'm taking this spring is Microbiology. As an introduction to the class, our instructor gave each of us a small, blank piece of paper. She called out two words, and our task was to write down the first thing that came to mind after each word. The majority of our responses were just as she expected - negative connections between the words she gave us and the answers we chose. Today I'm going to take a very brief look at word association and how it can be applied to our everyday lives. (written 8 Jan 2008)

When asked to participate in free association, my responses are just as varied as yours would be - yet there may be no connection at all between my line of thinking and yours. Does that make either of us wrong? If I were asked to say the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear "Satan," truthfully, the answer would be "devil" accompanied by the stereotypical rendition of a red creature mostly human in appearance with horns and a forked tail. Remember, though, that Lucifer was an angel before he was cast from heaven! When you hear the word "God" (or "Jesus" or "Christ") what comes to mind? I visualize God as love and kindness, and love would probably be the first thing that comes to mind. If God is love and Satan is the devil, will it always be that clearly defined? Unfortunately no. Satan can take on many forms and faces.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14 "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (NIV). Rereading that verse reminded of a country song called "Somebody's Knocking" sung by Terri Gibbs that was released January 1, 1981. In the song, Gibbs says "Somebody's knocking, should I let him in? Lord it's the devil, would you look at him? I've heard about him, but I never dreamed ... he'd have blue eyes and blue jeans" Puts a slightly different visual into your mind doesn't it? The song goes on to state in the second verse "I'm getting weaker and he's coming on strong, but I don't wanna go wrong." I'm not sure what Edward Joseph, Jr Penney, and Jerry Gillespie were thinking when they wrote those lyrics, but think about them from the perspective of your faith. Satan has been portrayed through the years in many forms and fashions in both literature and entertainment - and one simple fact remains: He will do anything in his power to turn us from God. The happy fact behind that? God is more powerful than Satan can ever be, and will keep you close with His protection if you but ask Him and believe that He will.

God IS love, and loves us all unconditionally. Satan, regardless of the picture you have, loves himself and loves turning someone from God. Be strong, be steadfast, and BElieve. God will do the rest if we but trust in Him. I thank Him for being by my side even when I did not ask Him to. I give thanks for His strength when I am weak, and thanks for His faith when mine falters. Associate yourself with the love that is everlasting!

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ~2 Corinthians 9-10 NIV

Wait Patiently

A few months ago, my cousin Michelle forwarded a devotion to me that she thought I'd enjoy. Long story short, she knows me very well, and I subscribed to receive the devotions in my email. I can truly say that they have been thought provoking and uplifting. Between classes, I was re-reading some of the previous messages, and the theme struck me as something that I need to work on. I suspect that I am not alone ... so any feedback, tips, and suggestions are welcomed! (written 7 Jan 2008)

In his devotion of January 3, Dr. David Jeremiah opens with this quote from eighteenth century English minister Matthew Henry, '"Cast not away your confidence because God defers His performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in His time, which is always the more convenient season. He is not bound to keep our time, but He will perform His word, honour our faith, and reward them that diligently seek Him."'

As I'm certain it was intended to do, it made me think. Many times I have thought that God was taking His own sweet time answering me when I wanted an answer right away. Realistically I know and believe that God answers when the time is right. What it has taken me years to understand is that there are times when I don't hear God's answer to me because sometimes the answer I receive is not the answer I wanted (or erroneously thought I needed) at the time and because of that, I am not listening in the way that I should.

This year, I am making many changes in my life. One important change is to spend more time listening to God, and listening for Him. His answers may not always come in the form that we expect. In today's 'hurry up and wait' society, we need to spend our time wisely. If we listen, God will guide us and answer our prayers. What better use of our time can we hope for?

God, thank you for the gifts that you have so generously given me. May I use these gifts to glorify you at all times. Open my ears, my eyes, and my heart to you so that every day will become clearer.

"Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes."~Psalms 37:3-7 NIV


Today is the fourth day of the new calendar year. My brother and sister-in-law celebrated their 28th anniversary today, and that made me think about how wonderful it would be if each day were a celebration! If you look at it positively, each day is SOMEONE'S birthday or anniversary, a holiday, a vacation, a milestone in some way. In keeping with my resolve to make the most of each day I'm given, I am seeking the good as 2008 passes. If you have a milestone or event that you want me to share with our readers, feel free to email me and we'll share your celebration with you! (written 4 Jan 2008)

Remember when birthday parties were a big deal - the presents, the friends, the cake and ice cream? In our immediate family, birthdays tended to be more of a family celebration than a party and I have tried to continue that tradition with my own children - allowing them to choose the meal, cake of their choice, just generally trying to make the day theirs. Why does that have to be limited to birthdays?

On Tuesday, New Year's Day, our lunch was southern traditional. I cooked black-eyed peas, rice and cornbread (with some pork chops) and made some coleslaw since I don't particularly care for greens. Whether or not it's our favorite meal, we always have some variation of that on New Year's Day. As your year progresses, look for reasons to celebrate!

One of the best reasons I can think of to celebrate is the fact that believing in Jesus and accepting Him as your savior changes your life. Deciding to live life for Him makes every day an occasion worth shouting about! What better reason to be happy than knowing that even the end of your life on Earth does not mean an end, but instead the beginning of eternity in Heaven? Decide that each day will be a celebration of life - life in Jesus. It is definitely a celebration to know that you will be with Him forever!

Jesus, thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life. May I celebrate each day from you as the gift that it is, and share your love with everyone by living for you.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."~Zephaniah 3:17 NIV


As unbelievable as it may seem, 2008 is here. We are three days into the year! I feel relatively certain that I am not the only person who draws their year to a close with a promise or resolution that "next year I will ... " and sure enough, I ended 2007 with a few of those. One thing I've found is that the more people you tell about your plans, the more accountable you tend to be (you have lots of folks to help you out!). Having said that, I'd like to share a couple of them with you. (written 3 Jan 2008)

I ended 2007 with a doctor's visit, and as usual, had to do that thing most of us dread ... step on the scale. Once I picked myself up off the floor from the shock of the numbers I read, I determined that 2008 would be the year that those excess pounds would come off and stay off! For those of you who see me frequently, feel free to remind me of that fact. A telephone call from my doctor on New Year's Day (yes, some doctors DO call their patients) only served to reinforce my determination to drop pounds ... only this time, the loss is not purely for vanity reasons, but also for health ones.

Another resolution I made was to live each day as Christ would have me do. What will that entail? Some soul searching, questioning, and giving more thought to the feelings and needs of others. I believe that in considering someone else's needs before my own will cause my needs to be met in a more fulfilling way. I can preach, talk, or write about how Christ affects my life, but to LIVE for Him will be more effective than any words I possess. I cannot promise that I will never do, say, or think anything wrong - simply that I will take each day and turn it over to Him. Only through Him can I be what He has planned for me to be.

Lastly, but no less important, I have resolved to take each day that I am given as the gift that God intended it to be, and to live life to the fullest extent possible. I want to take the time to smell the roses, to never lose sight of the knowledge that my very existence is due to the fact that God has a plan for me that I have yet to fulfill. I want to make sure that my family, loved ones, and friends know without doubt how very much they mean to me. From the oxygen loss in my incubator after birth to the car accident Nikki and I virtually walked from, God's hand has been there. As I take His hand and walk forward, I invite you to join me. Through prayer, study, and fellowship with friends, 2008 has the potential to be the best year yet, and I am determined to make it so with God's help and guidance.

"... for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."~Proverbs 1:2-7 NIV

20 January 2009

Be Thankful

Christmas Day is almost upon us once again. Remember when you were a kid and it seemed as if Christmas would NEVER get here? Now that I am an adult, it seems as if the time flies by. Just a short year ago, I was planning the trip to Germany for the birth of my granddaughter. In just over two weeks, Samantha will be a year old ... where did the time go? (written 20 Dec 07)

Yesterday mama and I were talking, I don't even really remember what about, and somehow we got on the subject of being thankful for what we had. Instead of complaining about what I don't have, I try very hard to give thanks for the many blessings in my life. I don't always succeed, and yes, there are those moments when I look around and think to myself "why can't I be that lucky"? The thought usually passes rather rapidly, because I have to say that I am blessed. How can I complain when I have so much to be thankful for?

I have a good job, a wonderful family and friends who love me just the way I am, a house to live in and a car to drive. My children are healthy and happy, and so is my beautiful granddaughter. Daddy and my grandparents are all gone now, but I have the joy of knowing that while they were alive, I was loved without reservation. While I don't have much extra money, I also don't wonder where my next meal is coming from. I may look forward to payday, but at least I have one to anticipate!

God has blessed my life in so many ways, and there is no more appropriate time of year to give thanks for those blessings. Each of us has our own blessings to thank God for. He is there for us 24/7/365. He never closes, and you don't have to wait in line to pray. When you think of all the things that you do in the course of your daily routine that DO require you to wait in line, be thankful for the one stress relief that doesn't require you to wait!

Today, we had a mini-family lunch at Blue Plate. Mama, Aunt Mary, myself, Melanie, Michelle, Donna and Dustin all met up on a spur of the moment thing. Uncle Dudley is having surgery today at Flowers to put a rod in his leg because of the cancer. It is in the hands of Dr. DeHaven, and I pray that God will guide Him through this surgery, and bring Uncle Dudley over yet another hurdle. Please add Uncle Dudley (Hall) to your prayer list and ask that if it is God's will that we be blessed with having him for many more years to come.

I realize that the devotions have been rather sporadic of late, and for that I apologize. It is my hope and goal for 2008 to make it daily, not just Monday through Friday. I am also hoping after the first of the year to publish a devotion book, similar to the one Allen just recently published.

God, thank you for blessing me. May I never take your blessings for granted.

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."~John 1:16 NIV

A Sense of Peace

Enter almost any retail establishment this time of year and you find notes or calendars reminding you that there are only 12 more shopping days (as of today) until Christmas. While I appreciate the reminder that I need to get it in gear and think about gift giving, it also saddens me. Is that what Christmas has become? An over-commercialized excuse for excess? When did we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas? (written 12 Dec 07)

As a child, Christmas was family time. We celebrated by having a huge REAL Christmas tree (no holiday trees in our house!) where lots of old glass ornaments mingled with the ones my brother, my sister and I made in school. Christmas Eve was grandmother and granddaddy's anniversary, so we celebrated with dinner at our house. Everybody brought a dish, mama cooked, and we almost always had a cake. Uncle Jimmy usually brought fireworks, and it was a nerve-racking day just waiting for everyone to arrive! There was no going out during the holiday season to eat, someone would have a meal cooked. Christmas mornings were spent at home, then in the afternoon (or later in the morning - depending on how early the three of us got up) we all piled in the car and headed to grandmother and granddaddy's for more food and presents. While I can't really remember the focus being on giving, neither do I remember it being as commercialized as it seems to be today.

In the craziness that the holiday season can bring, I find myself reflecting more and more as I grow older, searching for that sense of peace and love that the holidays always brought as a child. What makes me sad this year is knowing that my oldest daughter is once more away from home at Christmas. There is a special melancholy, I believe, for parents separated from their children at the holidays. The good thing about her being away from home is that she will not be alone - she will experience the parental joy of her daughter's first Christmas. I wish that she and Sami would be able to be home so we could all share in that joy, but I am happy that she will experience that for herself. My love and prayers will be with them both, and with Creighton as he spends Christmas in New York with his dad. Danielle is coming home for Christmas this year, she flies in next Friday and I am anxiously awaiting her visit! I haven't seen her since June!

I find my peace in prayer, in communicating with God. He washes my soul with a sense of peace that I have not found through any other means. He alone has the power to make all things right. If you are troubled at this time of year, take heart in knowing that you are not alone. God is with you always, if you but ask Him. If you feel the need for a human voice, call me at any time. We can pray together, or I will just listen if that is what you need. If you don't have my number and you want it, just email me. For my family and close friends, you know who you are, thank you for the blessings that you have given me through the year. Thank you for being there, for listening, for caring, and for loving me just as I am.

Most of all, I give thanks to God for the joy He has brought into my life. By welcoming me back home with open arms, He has opened me to the inner peace I have so long sought. New doors have opened, new pathways are winding before me. May I be a blessing for someone who needs an extra shoulder, God please work through me to help others find you.

"For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say 'Peace be within you.'"~Psalm 122:8 NIV

Final Preparation

As school draws to a close for the semester, teachers are preparing or revising exams and students are frantically studying. Some are cramming, and some are not. If you look at your life, think of all the times you have prepared for something that you considered important. Baptism (well, if you were baptized as an infant that was more on your parents than you), First Communion, first day of school, first date, first day with makeup, first day to drive ... get the idea? (written 11 Dec 07)

If most of us know anything at all about the Bible, we know this: we don't know when our life will be over here on earth. Whether it ends before or after Jesus comes again, we don't know. We also do not know when Jesus will come again. He tells us in Matthew 24:44 NIV "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

How, then, should one prepare for His return? It is really very simple. In John 14:6, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.'" By believing that He is your savior, by asking Him into your life, the entrance into Heaven is open to you. There is no other way in except through Jesus.

As I look back over the semester, I realize that I have learned even more than I thought this time through school. I have learned that I cannot (and I really never should have) assume that things will come easily academically just because they always have in the past. I have learned that making an effort, attending class, and truly TRYING go a long way when you are asking an instructor to explain something that you just don't seem to get. Last, but certainly not least, I have learned that it is virtually impossible to learn and retain information by cramming at the last minute. The best (and often NOT most used) method of studying for me is to take the information as given, and break it down into something that relates to what I do or use daily (the Golgi apparatus is like the Wal-Mart distribution center). It tends to stick better that way.

What else can I give credit to for my successful semester? Faith. I pray frequently (and of course before every test). I remember to thank God for giving me the tools to complete the course of study that I have planned. It is only through Him that I am able to do this. By His grace, I am preparing to better my future while I am here on earth. My future in Heaven? That is already assured - and I am so blessed because of it!

God, thank you for the gifts that you have so generously bestowed upon me. Help me to utilize those gifts in a way that is both pleasing to you and helpful to those who may not yet know you. May I always be a beacon for someone struggling.

"I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."~Psalm 119:10-11 NIV

Do Your Best

It's crunch time and the pressure is on. Every student in the world knows what this means, regardless of how it manifests itself. Today was the biology lab final, next week is finals week. I freely admit that 99% of the pressure I feel at this point is self-induced. How do I lessen that feeling? (written 5 Dec 07)

I have heard (and said) "do your best" for years. As a child, I knew what my parents expected of me. My siblings and I were all blessed with the ability to do well academically with a minimal amount of studying. Whether or not we chose to perform up to our abilities varied depending on the subject, the teacher, and our particular mood at the time (yes, hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20). We were all also blessed in that we passed those skills to our children.

Every child is different, any parent (and any teacher) will attest to that fact. A student's knowledge may not always show through traditional testing methods. My three children vary widely in academic performance, but they were all excellent students. What a parent expects from a child should never be based on how a sibling performs. The only thing I expected from my children was for them to do their best. Their talents lie in different areas. Nikki is a gifted vocalist and a talented writer, but she will freely tell you that she is not an excellent speller (thank goodness for spell check). Creighton performs especially well academically and is very strong in math, science, and writing, but his weakness is in the arts. Danielle is a maestro with a camera, does well in math and science, but doesn't particularly care to read (depending on the subject matter). What are your strengths and what do you feel is something you need to work on?

If we do the best with the skills that we have, we will shine. Personally, I believe you are never too old to learn. Enhancing the skills that you have, and the possibility of learning something new gives you a goal for each day. I don't know who said (and cannot find through google) "do your best and leave the rest to God," but I feel that it is a fitting phrase for life. He does not expect us to do more than we are capable of, but He is the one who gave us those capabilities - and He knows exactly what they are. If we do the best we can, God will take care of the rest for us.

God, I thank you for the abilities with which you have so generously blessed me. May I never lessen your gift by failing to do my best. Teach me to be what you would have me be, help me to use my gift to praise you always.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."~Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV

A Letter from Jesus About Christmas

Every now and then you get a piece of mail that just says "hmmmm ... this one is worth thinking about." That's how this particular email struck me. In the holiday hustle and bustle, and scrambling around wondering how we're going to get everything done that we think we just HAVE to do, are we really considering the reason for the season? Have we indeed taken the Christ out of Christmas? Thanks a bazillion to Cheryl for sending this to me, I love you much!! I hope that it strikes a chord. (written 4 Dec 07)

Dear Children,
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival, although I do appreciate being remembered anytime. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.Now, having said that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8. If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is My wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nitpicking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary--especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine. Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest.

Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court! And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember: I LOVE YOU.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."~John 15:1-8,12 NIV

What You Leave Behind

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." This quote is attributed to the Greek philosopher Pericles. It made me think of my upbringing, and parenting my own children. What will I leave behind? (written 3 Dec 07)

When I started thinking about what today's devotion would be, a poem entitled "The Dash" came to mind. I searched for further information because I was not familiar with the entire writing, only the last few lines. I didn't even know who the author was! I can now tell you that the author of this much read poem is Linda Ellis, and that the poem was written in 1996. The 239 words that Linda Ellis penned on her lunch break more than 10 years ago make a strong statement and encourage each of us to reflect on the life we live, and the legacy we will leave behind. The last four lines ask a question that begs answering. What will you say? So when your eulogy is being read, with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say, about how you spent your dash?

1964 - God alone knows. Of course, I'm still here. God has not yet informed me (nor do I expect Him to) when I will no longer be on earth. This simple statement is engraved on almost every headstone (tombstone, marker) I have ever seen. Do you ever wonder about the lives of those who went on before? An example that comes to mind is my daddy. I have not been to Grove Hill since the funeral, so I have not yet seen his headstone. I do know his dates of birth and dates of death: June 23, 1940 - June 2, 2007. What does that little "dash" between the numbers signify? It signifies his life. I'm not using this as a descriptive of my daddy's life, but between those numbers were almost 67 years. During those years, Daddy was born, raised in Ohio with 8 siblings, joined the Army, married, and fathered three children. There was a lot of living packed in his years, but one of the accomplishments he was most proud of were his three children. His legacy lives on through Paul, Cheryl, and I, and through the eight grandchildren we gave him. The great-granddaughter he only saw in pictures is the beginning of yet another generation that will be touched by his life.

What are you going to leave behind? Reflecting, I realize what I want to leave behind: I want to make sure that I leave a legacy of love, trust, and faith. It isn't about what you have, it's what you do with what you have. That type of legacy cannot be bought or sold. I love my family and friends very much, and I want them to always know that - but why wait until I am gone? I take every opportunity to tell them how I feel and to let them know what they mean to me. My world was a sad place when daddy died, but it is also a happy place because I know without doubt that he loved me.

The blessing that I am thankful for most of all is God. When I accepted Him so many years ago, I never realized just how much of an impact that would have on my life. It is only through reinviting Him into my life that I have come to know just how much the shelter of His love has protected me throughout my lifetime. I hope that I leave behind a legacy of faith as powerful as the one my grandparents left, as powerful as the one daddy left - one powerful enough to sustain my children, my grandchild, and the grandchildren that follow.

Jesus, I thank you for the blessings that I have been given. I thank you for loving me enough to give your life for me, and I thank you for guiding me on the path that you would have me take. Help me to be a light for you, and to live each day praising you.

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God."~Romans 4:20 NIV

That's What Friends Are For

In the past few days, I've both sent and received the email titled "Fake Friends vs. Real Friends." It is a lighthearted look at friendship, with some real truth behind the smiles. How do you define a friend, and are friends something you really need? (written 30 Nov 07)

When you call someone your friend, what does that mean to you? In an earlier devotion I wrote about friends fulfilling different needs in our lives. But what is a friend? We have family, we have coworkers, we have acquaintances, and we have friends. Some are fortunate enough to have family that are also friends. I have certainly been blessed in that respect. Back to the subject, however: what IS a friend?

Dictionary.com defines friend as "a person attached to another by feelings or personal regard." On the same site, the American Heritage Dictionary defines friend as "a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts." Regardless of the definition you prefer, it seems to be pretty straightforward. A friend, to paraphrase Cheryl, is someone who can be as close as family. In this day and age where families seem to be more spread out than ever before, friends are very important. I define a friend as someone who always has your best interests in mind. They don't have to be someone you see every day, they don't even have to be someone you talk to every day - but of the number of people I count as friends, I know (not think but know) that I can count on them. A friend listens without judging, and supports you in your endeavors but doesn't hesitate to tell you if they think you've lost your mind :) A friend is not ashamed or afraid to show affection, because they don't care who knows that you means something special to them. A friend holds you when you cry (and sometimes cries with you), and laughs because you are happy. A friend loves you for who you are, not what they think you should be. Amazing, isn't it?

The most exciting part about friendship? We all have a friend in common, if we choose Him to be our friend. Jesus is everything a friend should be, and so much more. All we have to do to have Him as our friend is to ask Him into our life as our Lord and savior. Isn't that amazing? With our other friends, we had to "feel out" the relationship first. We had to get to know one another, and decide that we had a relationship worth pursuing. With Jesus, we have a friend that has known us since before we were even born! In Jeremiah 1:5 he says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart ..." (NIV). How awesome is that?

Friends are a life support system in many ways. They make our day to day life much easier at times, and frustrate us to no end at other times. Through it all, true friends are worth having. I am proud to call Jesus my friend, my savior, my Lord. I am doubly blessed with the friends in my life here on earth.

Jesus, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for blessing me with good friends to help me through my life. Teach me to be a better friend, and to let my friends know that I am there for them. Guide me in the path that you would have me take.

After the Bible verse, the lyrics for "That's What Friends are For" follow. The song was released by Dionne Warwick and Friends (Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Elton John, Gladys Knight). I'm not quite sure if it was written by Elton John or Burt Bacharach (or both) ... Allen?? (help me out on this one!) It defines the topic almost perfectly.

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother."~Proverbs 18:24 NIV

That's What Friends are For

And I never thought I'd feel this way
And as far as I'm
I'm glad I got the chance to say
That I do believe I love

And if I should ever go away
Well then close your eyes and try
To feel the way we do today
And then if you can remember

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me,
for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for

Well you came in loving me
And now there's so much more I see
And so by the way I thank you
Oh and then for the times when we're apart
Well then close your eyes and know
The words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember
copyright 1985 Arista Records

Because He Lives

In 1971, William J. Gaither wrote a song called "Because He Lives." The lyrics are simple statements of fact about the glorious freedom that can be enjoyed because Christ died then rose again. When we accept Him as our savior, that freedom is ours! (written 29 Nov 07)

I remember singing this song as a child, remember Sissy playing so we could all sing. When I look back at my growing up years, many of my memories have music running through them. Most of the memories that revolve around grandmother and granddaddy's house have gospel music soundtracks. Even now, reflecting on that time brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. Grandmother and granddaddy's house was just like home, I guess it was my second home. There was never any question about God's existence, about Jesus as savior, it was just a fact of life. I wonder sometimes how I meandered so very far off the path that I walked as a child.

I wish I had the words to better explain just what peace God gives me. There are those who may turn up their nose at the thought, or decide that they want no part of "that religious stuff," and it hurts to realize that I may never have the words to say to make them understand. God sees my struggle, however, and assures me that living for Him and showing His love through my words is enough. He has helped me to understand that making the decision to follow Christ is a very individual one, as it must be. I cannot "save" someone else, all I can do is show them through my words, thoughts, and actions the beautiful peace He brings. I can talk about His wonder, embrace the joy, offer a shoulder to lean on or share words of wisdom, but the ultimate decision to take up the cross and follow Christ is left to each of us on our own.

Although he may never hear of it, I thank Bill Gaither for those beautiful words of joy that he penned some 36 years ago. "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow," and that statement is so true. I am adding the lyrics in case you may not know the song. I could sing it for you, but I promise that singing is not a gift that God bestowed upon me ... that gift definitely skipped a generation. If I close my eyes, I can hear Sissy playing. I wish you could hear it!

Jesus, thank you for the gift of life. Because You live, I live. Living the rest of my life for you does not even begin to compare to what you have given me. Thank you for loving me. May I live so that I honor that sacrifice.

Because He Lives
words and music by William J. Gaither,

God sent His son,
they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives,
I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives,
all fear is gone;
Because I know
He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold
a newborn baby,
And feel the pride
and joy he gives;
But greater still
the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days
because He Lives!

Repeat Chorus

And then one day,
I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final
war with pain;
And then, as death
gives way to vict'ry,
I'll see the lights of glory
and I'll know He lives!

Repeat Chorus

God's Armor

In 1996, former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank founded Under Armour. The website states simply "Under Armour's mission is to provide the world with technically advanced products engineered with our superior fabric construction, exclusive moisture management, and proven innovation. Every Under Armour product is doing something for you; it's making you better." That gave rise to a train of thought focusing on God's armor. (written 28 Nov 07)

Today's devotion from Dr. David Jeremiah talked about facing down the devil with the armor of the Lord and referenced Ephesians 6:16 which says "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (NIV) That made me think. Just how do I prepare myself for facing my day?

Like most people, one of the first things I do after I get up in the morning is jump in the shower and start getting ready for my day. I wouldn't think of getting dressed without putting on deodorant (anti-perspirant, whatever you call it), so why would I start my day without God? Before you wonder what in the world caused such a seemingly extreme leap in logic, let me see if I can explain. When I was little, one of the last things I did before going to bed at night was take a bath. When I was all clean and freshly "jammied up," it was usually off to bed. What else? Before going to bed, every night for years, I said a prayer. It started as most of us did when we were younger "Now I lay me down to sleep ... ." It would end with a variety of things, blessing my grandparents, my parents, or even my dog. I gradually moved from kneeling by the bed to saying my prayers while actually lying in bed (certainly easier on the knees). I don't recall exactly when that stopped.

Today, however, it hit me. Why didn't I pray like that anymore? It's not a "little kid" prayer! It is a simple, heartfelt request to God. You don't have to say those exact words, as a matter of fact, there isn't a set script that you must use. My prayers are more like conversations with God, and yes, I believe He hears me (even what I don't say) and answers me! Allen's devotion a few weeks ago about starting your day with "OJ - Oh Jesus) made a lot of sense. You wouldn't walk out of your house without being dressed and ready, why face the world without "God's armor?" By wrapping yourself in the power of prayer, you stand focused and ready for whatever you may have to face. Praying is not restricted to early morning or late at night, either. Pray whenever you feel the need! Sometimes, I think my day is a constant prayer! God never gets tired of hearing our voice!

Tonight, before I go to bed, I will lift my voice to God in prayer. I ask for His guidance and wisdom, for His help in making in through this world in a way that would be pleasing to Him. Tomorrow morning, part of getting dressed will be putting on God's armor by praying. Won't you join me?

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes ... And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests ... Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."~Ephesians 6:10-11,18-20 NIV