Concerned

God sent Jonah to the city of Ninevah to tell them to repent of their sins. Jonah obeyed, but he did not have compassion for the people. God told Jonah that the city had more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who could not tell their right hand from their left. Could this have meant that they did not have a concept of right and wrong? Did this mean that there were thousands of children too young to know left from right? Whatever the meaning, it was a city filled with people that mattered to God. He wanted them to hear the truth and turn from their evil ways. In speaking with Jonah, he asked him this question: "Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

There are so many people–so many cities. So many streets, so many houses. Do they know about the love of God? Do they know about Jesus’ sacrifice made for them? Would they turn and follow God if they knew?

Reach out to show His love to just one person when the opportunity arises. I know that’s what I need to do, and I need to do it more. Should I not be concerned?

 

Watch Expectantly

I remember the old Sears catalogs. Looking through them as a child, I could imagine having so many things for myself. I recall a specific time when I marked certain items with a pen in hopes that my mother would order them for me.  I could picture myself in that navy blue jacket with white stripes; it was almost as if I already had it.

On occasion, an order was actually placed. Expectant days would pass until the happy moment arrived and the mailman delivered a package. With excitement, there before me would be what I had asked for.

Recently, I heard someone say that while in prayer God had impressed upon them to pray as though He had already answered their request. Although God, in His infinite wisdom, does not grant every desire of our hearts, I believe He is working in our lives continually. When we pray, His answer might be, "Yes," as it seems it was in this case.

We might not be aware of an answer for quite some time, yet we should watch expectantly for His response, whatever it may be. There will be times that the "blue jacket" will arrive just as we’ve hoped. Other times, we may find that a heavier coat with a hood has been delivered instead, because God knew it would be getting a lot colder and we actually needed that more.

Whatever our yearnings–those things we have "marked" for God to see, we can trust that He will lovingly hear our petitions and faithfully consider each one.

 

No Root

"He saves, forgives and heals–takes back what the devil steals"  That’s one of my favorite lines from the lyrics of a song by Hillsongs Austrailia. Last night, I placed a scripture with a photo I had taken some time ago. I wan’t exactly sure when I would use it. Today, that became more evident.

This morning, I listened as a speaker taught about forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. It would be difficult to ponder these three without introducing the thought of what is brought about by their lack.  What happens when there is no  forgiveness, reconciliation or restoration? Although there are many such ills birthed through their absence, one stands out to me.  Bitterness.

Key passages to consider about this subject were mentioned, including Ephesians 4:31, which encourages us to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…" I had been looking at Hebrews 8:15 just yesterday: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and many be defiled." 

Is it possible for someone to see a "root of bitterness" in our lives, causing trouble? I believe so. Is it possible for us to recognize such a root springing up in our own hearts? With God’s help, I believe this is also true.

Permeating several minutes of the time I spent considering these things this morning, was a certain scenario. I could see Jesus holding out his hand to someone who needed forgiveness. This person had reached out their own hand to grasp His hand. Next, the forgiven one, while still holding the hand of their Savior, turned around to face behind them, extending their hand in an outward motion—to accept the hand of any who needed forgiveness from them.

Jesus continually reaches out to us in love as He promises to forgive the repentant. His offer is not based on our acceptance; but on His love. We may choose to reject it. Others may choose to reject our outstretched hand as well. Still, it is in the offering of forgiveness that we are to be set free from the bondage of anger and bitterness.

 

 

The Unfolding

We live in "hurricane country." As the season approaches, we will be encouraged at every turn to prepare for the possibility of severe weather. There are many things to consider. If we lose access to electricity, how can we function? How can we protect our home from damage? Those who have planned are better off than those who haven’t.

A few years ago, I purchased a set of small flashlights that were connected to a short chains and pocket clips. During one of our storms in the past, I gave one to each member of the family when our power was out. That way, each of us could sleep knowing that if we needed to be up in the total darkness of our home in the night, all we had to do was reach down and turn on the tiny light clipped to our clothing. We would have just enough illumination to find our way.

The Bible is like that. We know that the "hurricanes" of life will come. How will be find our way in the confusion of uncertainty? How can we see clearly what our direction should be? If we have taken care to have God’s Word in our hearts, we can reach in and find just enough light to find our way, one step at a time.

 

Different Gifts

Anyone for boating? Not in just any boat;  how about those small water craft that have bicycle-like pedals in the floor to insure you of a slow, joyous ride with minimal effort? (Did I say minimal?) While enjoying just such a craft, I was finding several opportunities to photograph my surroundings. A  snow white bird nearby presented itself for a midday portrait. I love these creatures with hook shaped bills. Entire flocks land in our yard on occasion, relentlessly pecking and searching for insects to satisfy their hunger.

Recently, some passages in Romans, chapter twelve, were brought to my attention. Verses 5 and 6a state,  "..so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us."  In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, these ideas are related in this way: "So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t."

I can’t say for sure, but I somehow doubt that my hook-billed friend worries about not being a blue bird,  a sea gull or perhaps even a sand hill crane. He just goes about his business, using that giant combination of nose and mouth to do just what he is meant to do. After all, isn’t white as beautiful in God’s eyes as blue? Aren’t hook bills as lovely as tiny orange beaks?

How many times have I been hesitant to "be what God made me to be" because of fear of rejection or lack of confidence? How could I have ignored the realization that I am happiest doing what God has gifted me to do?

God is a God of second chances and of loving patience as we find our way and discover who He has made us to be.

In All Things

Some years ago, my husband and I purchased a "strip" of marigold seeds to plant alongside our driveway. The soil had to be prepared, then the fiberous material housing the seeds was planted.  We eagerly awaited our crop of blossoming plants. Time passed as we watered the soil frequently.  One day a friend of ours was visiting us. He looked at the ground where the newly purchased seeds had been deposited. Singling out a very tiny green shoot, he said something like, "Now, that’s a marigold plant."

Before long, we had orange-yellow plants running along the edge of the concrete, brightening our lawn. Our friend had been one of the first people to announce their inconspicuous arrival. We were pleased.

I have been praying about something for a long time now. Recently, I have become aware of answers to my requests from God. Today, I was joyous as I discovered yet another aspect of my prayers being answered. Words of thankfulness were on my lips.

After talking to God about this concern for quite a long time, I eagerly awaited the crop of answered prayer. I had planted the seeds of petition in the fertile ground of God’s sovereignty. Only He could grow the desires of my heart.

 Quite without warning, I had been alerted to another realization that God was indeed listening to my burdened heart. It’s as though I had been standing by my barren driveway of concern, looking longingly at the empty soil, hoping to see those first shoots of answered prayer come piercing up from the dirt. Lately, I have become aware of the arrival of several tender green sprouts.

Do I recognize the work of God coming into being when it is surrounded by the distraction of the noise and clutter of the world? Sometimes. Thankfully, today was one of those days. Looking at the spiritual ground where I have safely deposited my requests, I can single out  the distinctive shape and color of what is before me and say, "Now, that’s an answer to prayer!"

 

The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God. It’s not identified by a lofty castle on a far mountaintop. It’s not maintained by earthly wealth. In one definition I found, the Kingdom of God is "used to describe God’s rule over the world through His power and the exercise of it."

In Luke, chapter 12, Jesus tells the disciples not to worry about their lives, what they will eat or what they will wear. He explains that their Father knows what their needs are. In verses 31 and 32 He says, "But seek his Kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."

What do we really need? Food? Clothes? A healed relationship? A job? Our Heavenly Father knows about every need. As we seek after God first in our lives, He is able to provide for us, in His wisdom and in His timing. We are not to be afraid.

 

The Good Man

It was a quiet afternoon. The dirt road not long from our house is seldom busy. I walked along the edge, curious about what I might find. My eyes fell on a plant unknown to me; upon closer inspection, I could see that dark, dry, wrinkled pods had broken open, exposing blazing red berries to the warm sunlight. How colorful they were! Perfectly formed from such an unlikely–and yes, unlovely, pod.

What makes us beautiful? Advertisements proclaim a beauty found in make up or fine clothing. Theatres boast of the movie stars with their glamour and poise. But do any of these things really make us beautiful?

Some of the most beautiful people I know are surely never to be featured on a popular magazine cover. Hair products will not be endorsed with their names. Dolls will not be mass produced in their likeness. If they are truly beautiful, then why not?

It’s a matter of perspective. How does God see us? Does He look at the tired countenance of a loving grandfather and focus on the wrinkled brow and silver hair? Does He view our imperfections and pass us by in favor of others more fortunate?

When God sees us, He sees our hearts.  He sees the beauty of the ransomed berry within the dark and wrinkled pod. He knows the plans He has for us and His will for us to grow closer to Him. He sees us as we grow, storing up the likeness of Christ as we follow Him daily. Those who are looking closely may see the beauty of God and His work in us overflowing from deep within. We are his beautiful and beloved children, purchased by the willing sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

 

 

Arrows

I don’t like to think of war. I’d rather think of the eternal peace that will continue forever after the return of Jesus. However, there are many references to war and to warriors in the Bible. What would it have been like to have marched mile after mile, preparing to confront the enemy with swords or perhaps, arrows? A soldier might be skilled enough to grasp his bow throughout many battles; gripping the bow would be futile, however, if it weren’t for the quiver of arrows to accompany it. From a very basic point of view, the arrows made the possibility of victory complete; They provided protection in the hour of attack, rendering their archer less vulnerable to the unknown. As Christians, above all else, we know the "battles" of this world belong to the Lord. He is our mighty Protector.

The Bible tells us that children are like arrows to a parent. They are a gift from God. With our sons and daughters to come along side us in our walk with the Lord, do we feel God’s protection through the loving care of our children in an hour of spiritual attack? Do we feel less vulnerable to confusion when we realize a clear direction in life as stewards of His precious gifts to us?

I will be forever grateful to God for blessing my life with children. He has given me much.

Fine Pearls

Yesterday was an important day for me. God had planned it to be that way, far in advance–however, it was a special surprise to me. It was only the evening before when I accepted an invitation to attend a local women’s conference. Torn between feeling the urgency of accomplishing mundane house cleaning or spending twelve hours concentrating on my relationship with God, I chose to forego my domestic responsibilities.

To even think, in retrospect, of what I would have missed had I stayed home is a sobering thought. God’s presence was evident at this gathering of precious women from various walks of life. Broken hearts were touched by the healing hand of the Heavenly Father. A sense of unity abounded through every session I had the privilege of taking part in. After a moving drama depicting a young girl’s fascination with a string of pearls, we were faced with the question, "What do you consider your most treasured possessions?"

It was a beautiful day of drawing closer to my Savior and listening for His direction in my life. I am grateful for this special gift from God of time away, of singing His praises and communing with Him in prayer. I could’ve traded it for a stack of washed dishes and slightly cleaner floors. How glad I am to have chosen the gift instead!

 

Flawless

Do you remember growing up hearing "old sayings" from the mouths of family members? I do. Sometimes they were less than complimentary, like this one: "He doesn’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain."

I don’t usually stand out in the open during a rainstorm. I know where to find shelter and I go there. I’ve experienced storms before and I’ve learned to take precautions against harmful things like lightning or high winds.

So what do I do when spiritual storms come my way? I know what I SHOULD do; take precautions against harmful things like temptation and discouragement by seeking the shelter of God and His word. Instead, guess what happens occasionally? There I am, standing out in the storm with my shelter a stone’s throw away. Wet and cold, I realize my mistake.

Oh, to be wise enough to see the dark clouds of spiritual turbulance in the distance and think, "The wind’s really picking up…I think I’d better go inside now, where it’s safe."

 

 

The Mind of the Lord

In my life, there is a situation that I would like to be different. Exactly how different, I don’t know. It’s as if life is slightly out of focus, and I am yearning for the clear, sharp image. I have felt a longing for this change for well over a year. The desire of my heart in this issue comes back into view over and over. It follows me at every turn.

This morning, I was thinking about my current circumstance. I began to think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt. He was thrown into prison unjustly. I’m certainly not incarcerated, so what could I learn from his example? I doubt that Joseph WANTED to be in prison. He made the best of it, remaining a man of integrity, seeking God’s wisdom. It would seem that God was training him for what was ahead. At just the appropriate time, Joseph’s life was transformed.

What am I waiting for? I don’t know. I must trust that God–who knows all things–will be faithful to prepare me and sustain me as He marks the path for me to follow.  I may not understand my present circumstances, yet I need to accept the "training" that will yield understanding in the days to come.

 

 

Wings

Psalm 139:7-12 says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.’"

 

His Purpose

God has blessed me with children. Although our youngest is now a teenager, I still remember their younger days. It doesn’t matter if the big guy with a beard and strong arms looks like just any man to you. I knew him when he was a baby….and that changes my perspective.

With our finite minds, we can only comprehend so much. Yet, even we can remember events from decades past with clarity and strong emotion. What does God see when He looks at us? Because He possesses infinite knowledge and wisdom, I can’t imagine all the possibilities. There is one analogy that I feel gives a hint of only one aspect, however.

As I look at our sons, I view them with a collective understanding of all they have been through—their struggles, their successes. I have seen their pain and their joy.  But not only that; I envision what I see them becoming: strong, sensitive adults with obedient hearts toward their heavenly Father. When they were small, I would think of what they would become as young men. That day has arrived, in God’s timing and in His way.

So what did God see when He looked at the little girl who loved puppies and caught unsuspecting toads in the yard with her bare hands? When He looks at me now, does He see the woman I am to become in the future through His grace and loving guidance in this world?

Psalm 138:8 tells us that God will fulfill His purpose for us. It is comforting to know that as I lovingly consider my children in terms of their past, present and future, God is doing the same for me.

 

 

Three Strands

I can remember as a child I sometimes felt very alone. It didn’t matter if I was truly alone or not. I felt alone sometimes even among a crowd of other children. I can recall a very large, old tree on the campus of my elementary school. Its roots stretched out from its trunk, forming huge "arms" in all directions at ground level. Feeling comforted by the bark covered wood on either side of me, I would sit between two of these "arms" as I waited for the bell to ring, ushering students inside the building.

We all have memories of our childhood that come back to us from time to time. Why did I choose to sit between the over grown roots of a tree that had stood for decades in front of my school? I think it might have been because I sensed a feeling of security or protection as I sat there. I probably felt less vulnerable and perhaps more able to process my thoughts before beginning an academic day of challenge.

Being "all grown up" now, some things have changed. I don’t frequently sit on the ground by a tree anymore. I am no longer a little girl. Some things have remained the same, however. Sometimes, I still feel alone. Sometimes I feel vulnerable and I need to feel a sense of security and protection in order to process my thoughts.

The friends that God has blessed me with have, in some ways, taken the place of that old tree. I know that He has blessed me with the support of others who strengthen me along the way. It’s as if we become a woven cord, stronger when it is stretched because of the distribution of the load.

 

Creatures of Little Strength

 

What do you say when someone asks you to do something? Oh, I don’t mean things like, "Would you take out the trash?" or "When are you planning your next vacation?"  I’m talking about the questions that seem to push an automatic button in your mind marked, "Say you can’t."  You don’t have one of those buttons? Well, I think I do.

Let’s see if any of these words sound familiar:  "Would you be willing to help coach baseball this year?"   "Have you ever thought about playing the piano at weddings?"  "Could you possibly teach a Bible class?’  "Would you be willing to go back to school for that advanced degree if we gave you a scholarship?"

It’s as if a pre-recorded response of fear and self doubt sits poised to be activated at a second’s notice when questions like this are encountered.  It may be time to recognize the place of honor you may have given your lack of confidence. Thankfully,  there have been times that I have trusted God to guide me through the uneasiness of stepping out into the unknown, understanding that nothing is "unknown" to Him. Often, confidence comes with the revelation that God is indeed with you throughout the learning process as we face each new horizon. Thoughts like, "I’m not experienced enough,"  "I’m too old," or "I could never be successful at that, " are replaced with realizations of challenges met and battles won through the strength that God has given us. Proverbs 30:25 says, "Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in summer."

We may be "of little strength," but we can trust God to help us do what we can, when we can do it, while there is still time.

 

Sending an Angel

This afternoon, a special friend surprised me with a gift. Gently placed in a colorful gift sack, cradled within the layers of the wrapping paper was an orchid with beautiful yellow blooms. I carefully positioned it in my car, resting the stems against the seat. Too quick a stop, and the delicate flowers could be broken.

After I pulled into my driveway, I retrieved my new plant and brought it into the house. After removing it from the bag, I placed it near our bay window by the rock fountain. Without delay, I wanted to photograph it.  My camera often sees what I do not; with optical instrospection, it discovers the intricate–and exposes nuances I never would have noticed.

As I looked on my viewscreen to see the image I had just collected, I was startled; the orchid held a great resemblance to and angel with crimson laced wings and a glowing countenance. Only yesterday, I was thinking about angels. Once again I had been reminded of God’s special servants.

Who loves me? God does. Sometimes He loves us through the encouragement of those He places in our lives.

 

 

 

The Joy of the Lord

Years ago, a coworker gave me a beautifully painted, ceramic angel as a gift. Since that time, the joyously contented representation of one of God’s messengers has stood on top of my piano. With thoughts not unlike the ones that are mentioned about the Mona Lisa, it is easy to ponder what emotion the artist was trying to create with the simple smile, the closed eyes and the raised brows.

This particular week has brought with it some personal challenges. Some I expected; some I did not. God has met me at the moments I needed Him, and He has given me strength. There is a calm awareness of His presence in each activity. Might that be the definition of joy? A calm awareness of God’s presence. Perhaps.

As I look into the face of my sculpted angel, I think I see it.  It’s as if she is thinking, "God is in control; I can bask in His presence for eternity. Praise His Holy Name." 

Truly, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

 

The Resurrection

The early hours were cloudy. Not long after the sun was up, I was on my way to purchase flowers. Special flowers. After selecting and purchasing a  bouquet of varied colors, I drove to the Resurrection Garden of a nearby cemetery. Today would have been the 22nd birthday of our son who was killed in a car accident.

After I poured the water I’d brought with me into the memorial vase of the marker,  I lowered the blooming array carefully in its place. Half uttering an audible prayer, yet completely communicating with a God who knows our deepest groanings, I gazed at the images of our son and the scripture verse imprinted in the plate of bronze.

John 11:25a says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.."

It is my prayer that this verse will forever proclaim God’s incredible love and forgiveness to all who stop to read it. For today, the living flowers reiterated this message; their intricate, mathematical perfection of beauty testifies of their Creator. Though we may die, through Jesus, we will yet live–more vibrantly than the petals in a solitary vase on a cloudy morning.

 

YOUR Thoughts, please..

Today I was asked about the possibility of publishing a calendar of photos and scripture from "Picture My Thoughts." I would be very grateful if you would please comment on a favorite photo that you feel would be an appropriate selection for a calendar. You could "vote" by commenting on that particular devotional. To view any of the fourteen pages of photos, simply click on the page number at the very bottom of the set you are currently reading. Thank you so much for YOUR thoughts! 🙂 —Myra

Integrity

Driving to church each Sunday, we see them. Tall and wide, the stately trees stand proudly, sometimes in the morning mist. They have weathered the storms, sheltered cattle from the midday sun and  throughout the years steadily grown to be—-what God intended—very large, strong trees.

As we mature in our walk with the Lord, we change. We weather the storms and care for others during difficult times. Hopefully, we gain wisdom and integrity that comes from God along the way.  His ways become our ways as He guides us toward who He intends us to be.

 

Sustained

This past week our son attended a memorial service for someone he knew– a young man who had died as a result of an illness. The service was held  in the early evening, outdoors, near a peaceful lake. The sunset was so captivating with brillant and vibrant colors.

It is a somber thing to be reminded of your own mortality. Perhaps more so if you are a teenager, as many of the those who attended the service surely were. The glowing sun, the broad clouds–these composed the back drop of the ceremony, created by the Giver of life.  He is our sustainer, from the beginning of life to the end.

The lyrics of a song performed by Lincoln Brewster read, "You paint the morning sky with miracles in mind."  I cannot fathom the mind of God, yet I’m sure He knows what the skies look like to those on earth. He must delight in painting a dazzling scene on the horizon, reminding us of His presence, even on a day when many are mourning a great loss.

 

He Wraps Up The Waters

The weather has been very interesting lately. Numerous thunderstorms–lightning, wind and heavy rain. With all of these ingredients, there is no wonder that the sky would become unstable looking; ominous, yet beautiful.

God is in control. The currents of the wind, the currents of the sea. The ice that hardens, the mist that rises and the clouds that form above us do so at His bidding. The elements of the weather point to a heavenly Creator, One who maintains His creation.

Clouds move and rise into the atmosphere, on a journey to return to the earth. Though we see them in the sky and consider the coming rainfall, do we ever think about the weight of the millions of drops that will soon be falling to land?  He holds the water suspended above us. At the right time, the clouds release their moisture and the ground absorbs the life sustaining liquid. This entire process speaks of His faithfulness and power. The same God who holds the water in the skies is holding you throughout every struggle you may encounter.

 

Tree of Life

What can we take to heaven? Actually, nothing.  We can, however, be witnesses to others about what God has done. We can live lives that point to Christ and speak words relating  to His plan of salvation. Those then who believe on His Name will be citizens of heaven with us. How wonderful it will surely feel to see someone there and remember that it was you who shared God’s message of forgiveness to that once lost soul.

 

The Earth Is Full

Our son wanted to go camping for his 13th birthday. As I stood by the lake, it was quiet and peaceful. A natural spring produced the clear, cold water surrounded by lush, green foliage.  Gazing out into such beauty, I saw it; a very large, yellow and black butterfly, flittering this way and that, over the water, back to the land and out to the water again. I tried to take a picture of this meandering creature of the sky, but it was futile. I couldn’t keep up with its erractic movements in the air.

Although I don’t quite remember the exact words I prayed, I asked God to have the butterfly come to me so that I could take its picture. I really wanted to photograph it up close.

I stood at the water’s edge, having spoken to God about my desire to photograph this beautiful butterfly, waiting to see its next move.  It began a fluttering path toward the ground near me. As it landed, I took a step, ever so gently; then a step or two more, until I was standing over it. With almost every click of my camera I was saying, "Thank You, God!"  I moved the extended lens of my camera within only inches from this lovely creation. It opened its wings and sat still as I took picture after picture. It was as if it was obediently posing. After awhile, it lifted its wings and took to flight once again in the afternoon sunshine. I hurried back to tell my family of God’s answer to my prayer.

Do the little things in our lives matter to God? I think so. I know He knew I wanted to photograph one of His butterflies. When I asked Him, He said, "Yes," by instructing  the exact one that I wanted to come to me. What an encouragement to be reminded that God is ever present in every facet of our lives, watching over our needs and the desires of our heart.

 

 

An Appointed Time

Recently, I heard someone speak about the seasons of life. Not just childhood, adulthood and retirement—but a beginning and an end to specific sections of our assignments. Assignments? Yes. A beginning and an end to different assignments by God. Go here, do that. Leave here, go there. Speak to them; stop speaking.

Actually, I struggle with that. It’s not so much that I resist entering a certain season, but exiting is another matter. I doubt; could I have done more, said more? Is it really time to move on? Is this assignment really over, or am I just weary of the task at hand?

These are questions I must ask myself. How about you?