Browsing "Devotional"
Jun 10, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Lessons from a Fallow Field

“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow…” Exodus 23:10-11a

Moanings from a Fallow Field:

Dear Heavenly Farmer,

My nutrients have been spent. I’ve fed a family, clothed a village, provided for so many, given freely of all that is in me. I am tired. I am spent. Like Bilbo who could relate with this feeling when he said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.”

But I am necessary for their well-being. How can I be expected to abide by your commandment to grow nothing for an entire year? How will they survive without my contributions, aide, expertise, and work? How can I ask for a break, even though I feel my energy growing thin?  I long to rest, to soak up the sun and the rain. I long to feel replenished, but I don’t know how. I’ve worked and provided for so long… it’s who I am. Will I still be valued if I don’t perform?

Somewhere inside of me I know that my nutrients are spent and that if I keep going I will only produce poor fruit, but the drive to produce, to perform, to do is so strong. I’ve done it for six years- I’ve been tilled, sown, and harvested. I’ve faithfully produced year after year. It is a paradigm shift to think of myself as valuable not for what I can do, but for who I am. I am valuable not first and foremost for what I can contribute, but for who I am. I am your field, Father. You call me to work and to rest. Help me to actively rest in this year of fallowness, not just to passively loaf. Help me to seek replenishment. Let my soil be filled to overflowing with nutrients not just for my own health, but so that I can provide again in the future. I am lying fallow in order to produce more fruit.

Learning the Importance of Lying Fallow,
Your Faithful Field


“Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.” Henri Nouwen

orlando grace church San Felasco and SR 241 009 300x225 Lessons From a Fallow Field

Jun 8, 2013 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

Grant Perseverance

This is Grant Perseverance.

Percy eating, high chair

But we like to call him Percy! He is a chunky, playful, ovary-twitching-inducing ball of fun! I got to visit with him and his family a few weeks ago. He holds a special place in my heart because, although he’s just turning one today, I’ve prayed for him for much, much longer. I have a Christmas ornament from 2011 when John and Abby learned they were expecting reminding me to pray for their little one. This family, although longing for a house full of children has experienced loss. They had one child, James, pass away as a toddler and two others miscarriages later in the pregnancies. I loved James and remember his curly hair and crooked smile. I didn’t get to meet Dora or Carolina. I didn’t get to hold them or play or see their burgeoning personalities begin to emerge. I mourned with this family as they longed for children and were met dishearteningly with repeated blocked goals.

But having gone through such loss with this precious family, made my time with Percy even sweeter. I prayed for John and Abby to get pregnant and I prayed that the child would be vigorous and would endure to his birth, I prayed that he would be healthy and playful. I prayed that he would learn and grow and would be a source of immense joy. And he is. Each prayer was answered!

Even though I prayed fervently, I can’t take credit for his little personality and his love of balls and his voracious appetite, but I did get to play with this little guy and experience a bit of the joy he brought with him just by being born. His name, Grant Perseverance, embodies this family and their story. They have been granted strength through suffering and now they get to hold and rock and snuggle and kiss little Percy. Though my prayers, I got to be a part of their story and a part of the joy. And that is a beautiful thing.

Happy Birthday, little guy! You are so loved!

For more ovary-twitching cuteness:

IMG_0389

 

IMG_0420

 

Percy and Abby

 

Percy Stroller

Jun 2, 2013 - Devotional    1 Comment

The [Gluten-Free] Bread of Life

What happens when health prevents you from fully partaking in a church service? What if you are bed-bound and unable to attend a service? What if you are deaf and cannot hear the sermon or the music? What if you cannot partake in communion because of a gluten allergy?

How does the church love you then?

Several of my friends are on gluten free diets due to Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy. They were unable to take communion. The very bread and cup which were designed to nourish their souls was poison to their bodies.

They tried to modify the Eucharist. Bringing their own safe “elements” like almonds. Something bite-sized that could be eaten with the rest of the congregation. It was better than sitting in silence, but I’m sure it felt isolating each time the basket of glutenous bread passed through the aisles acting as a reminder of the difference between “them” and “us”.

These precious members talked to our pastor and told him of their trials. Many of them had been unable to take communion for years. He was grieved and asked how the church could help. That Sunday, as he helped prepare the hearts of the congregation for the Eucharist he said, “My job is to bring people to the table, to take away barriers and bring people to Jesus, the Bread of Life.”

orlando grace church art communion hands1 300x248 The [Gluten Free] Bread of Life

It was then that I began to cry.

Our pastor asked all those with a need for gluten-free elements to come to the front row and receive communion for the first time in years. He then knelt down in front of each person, blessed the cup and gluten-free cracker and handed it to the grateful participant. I sat several rows back, holding my gluten-filled bread and cried. Cried that these people were finally seen, loved, and provided for. I cried that it was not too much trouble to provide gluten-free elements even though it affected only a handful of people. I cried because this meant that to my pastor and my church, these people were worth the  inconvenience. I cried because that meant I was worth the inconvenience.

This is not meant only to show everyone how great my pastor is [though he’s pretty rad], but rather to show a time when we got it right. When we as the church pursued people who were overlooked and isolated and invited them into the party. That was, and is, a powerful picture to me.

We all have barriers blocking us from enjoying and experiencing the table fully. Yours may not be a dietary issue, but rather one of spiritual malnourishment. Do you struggle with bitterness? Unbelief? Unresolved conflict? Anxiety? Indifference?

Come to the table. Eat and drink fully. Experience the Bread of Life.

May 14, 2013 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

Why I Write

This is all out stolen. Not plagiarized. Just stolen.

But at least it’s referenced. I’m giving credit to Leigh McLeroy, one of my all-time favorite authors. I got this email from her recently and I loved every word.

It describes why I write– because I must.

 

Why I Write   

From my first Big Chief tablet with its pale blue, alternating solid and dotted lines, I’ve long been smitten with empty pages.

I can think of few things more inviting than a pristine, buff colored piece of paper–except perhaps the same page, filled with words.

I started writing young–a word nerd from the get-go–and I never stopped. I was writing poetry at eight. Short stories to entertain myself at 10. I wrote out my prayers and filled up journal after journal through high school and college, where I was….wait for it…a journalism major who took literature classes for easy A’s.

I’m often asked now, as someone who writes for a living, “How do you become a writer?” My answer is always the same: Writers write. They don’t simply dream of writing, or plan to write someday, or talk of writing, or read books about how to get published or “build a platform.” They sit down before an empty page or screen and paint with words whatever insistent image beats its wings against the mind and heart, fighting to get free.

They write because they have to. Need to. Must.

If I never sold another piece, or landed another book contract, or received another assignment, the sight of a Big Chief tablet (or its grown-up cousin, the Moleskine) and the smell of a few sharpened pencils would still make my heart beat faster.Why wouldn’t it? I follow a God whose story never gets old. The sky-wide arc of creation–fall–redemption–restoration lies at the heart of every true and beautiful story, because it’s the echo of His story. He makes all things new, and in Him, all things hold together.

And let’s face it: all the Big Chief tablets in the world set end-to-end cannot contain the ways to say “He loves you” to a world that needs to hear. So I write.

There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books. (John 21:25, The Message)

© Leigh McLeroy, 2013
Mar 30, 2013 - Devotional    1 Comment

Easter Saturday?

I love books.

Just one visit to my house will confirm that fact. I love re-reading and re-living a beloved novel. I love the pages which have become wrinkled with interest and vigorous page-turning. I love the crease in the spine which allows the book to lay flat, opened to my favorite scene. I love knowing how the story will end.

I’ve found that as much as I enjoy experiencing books for the second or third or fourth times – there is something special about a new novel. I read it differently because I cannot anticipate the ending. When I don’t know the ending, I live the highs and lows of the characters a little bit deeper. When I can see the finish line so clearly, I read a little bit faster to get to the “happily ever after.”

I do the same thing with the Bible.

I think we all do. When we’re familiar with the stories, we can skim past the painful times of waiting to get to the good parts, the periods of resolution, celebration, and praise. The intention is good, but I think we miss out of the fullness of the story and all the emotions when we skip to the end.

As I thought about this tendency, I remembered a Max Lucado book that I read a few years ago. He discussed the crucifixion and resurrection and how we celebrate them today. We have Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services to focus our hearts and soak in the mourning and darkness of the death of Christ. But then, reading the Scriptures like a well-loved and well-known novel, we jump straight to Sunday and celebrating the resurrection.

orlando grace church easter2007 Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. But What About Saturday?

But what about Saturday?

We have to stop and think about the familiar story, not just skip to “He is Risen!” (As amazing as that knowledge is!) What did the disciples feel on Saturday? Sorrow? Numbness? Disbelief? Hope? Did they intuitively know of the grandeur coming on Sunday? Did they think the past three years of their lives were a loss? Did they yearn for a miracle? I think there is something healthy to think of Saturday- to know of the sorrow and the disappointment and, above all, the waiting.

For in a larger way, we live in Saturday.

We have experienced the mourning and the grief of the brokenness of the world in many ways and we know that God wins in the end! We have an amazing hope beyond all that we can think or imagine (Eph 3:20). But today, in many ways, we are waiting for the miracle, waiting for the resolution, waiting to see and understand the larger story. In this life we get glimpses of heaven and glimpses of life without God as well. This is our Saturday as we live in constant sadness for the state of the world and hope that it is not going to remain in such a state!  We are challenged and refined on Saturday in the midst of the waiting. It contains truth and encourages me in the midst of my Saturdays to continue to wait on the Lord who is constantly at work!  May you too experience an ever-present hope of the coming Sunday, the eternal Sabbath, as you wait in the Saturday circumstances of you life today.

“Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”
Psalm 27:14

Wishing everyone a very happy, and hopeful, Resurrection Sunday.

Mar 25, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Before I Give Sleep to my Eyes…

“I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Psalm 132:4-5

Whoa.

I’ve continued on my trek through the Psalms each month and this one caught my eye in a big way. First of all, I love sleep. I’ve had a cold last week and slept for fifteen hours – consecutively. That’s right, I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at noon the next day. (You can be jealous.)I am a champion sleeper. If sleeping was an Olympic sport, watch out Michael Phelps, I might just dethrone you in medals earned!

So, I love sleep. I love feeling refreshed. I love starting a new day. I love to “give sleep to my eyes and slumber to my eyelids.”

sleeping-girl

So these verses caught my attention. Finding a place for the Lord is more important than sleep. If I had to guess, since this is a Psalm of Ascent (one Psalm per step was said whilst walking up the stairs to the Temple), the author of this Psalm was talking about finding a literal, earthly dwelling place for the Lord in the Temple. But I think we can apply it to our lives today. That is, “I will not sleep until I have had time to pray, read the Word, or in some way spend time with the Lord.” This application works because the Lord dwells within His Beloved, His new covenant Temple (See I Corinthians 3:16).

So I want to go to bed the right way, having enjoyed my time with Jesus, so that I can readily give sleep to my eyes, and sleep well knowing that He is in control.

Good Night!

 

Mar 24, 2013 - Devotional, My Story    2 Comments

Lonely Sundays

I have attacks of loneliness.

They almost always happen on Sundays.

I am not sure why. I love and am loved by my church body. I can sit with many different friends and families. It looks as if I’m included. But I often have this fear when entering the worship center. My eyes dart wildly, looking for someone who will want me. Looking for an open seat. Looking for a home.

It’s like I’m back in middle school, just exiting the lunch line with my tray, scanning the cafeteria and looking for a spot. Each table is full or seems unwelcoming. Everyone already has their friends, their home, their belonging. I begin to panic.

I say these things NOT to get my congregation to fight over each other to have me sit with them, but because I’ve realized I’m not alone in this feeling. A few weeks ago I entered late and asked to sit next to a friend. After the service she thanked me for sitting with her and confessed that she had been tearful throughout the first part of the service because she felt so lonely. When I shared my experience and feelings, she was shocked! It appeared to her that I always had a home. And I would have said the same about her.

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling.

I’m determined to fight these feelings. Instead of being focused on who will fight over me or where I should call home each Sunday. I choose to focus on who I can move toward. Whose loneliness I can alleviate, if even just for an hour.

Maybe then my own attacks of loneliness will cease.

Mar 19, 2013 - Devotional    1 Comment

The Courtroom of Comparison

No one wins in the courtroom of comparison.

We women are terrible at this. We constantly compare, weight, size, fashion, prestige, money, kids, houses, on and on, ad nauseum. I suppose men are guilty of comparison too, I just don’t see it as easily.

But no one wins. I might win one battle against one woman — because I dropped some cash on the latest fashion trend– but I always lose the war. In every category there will be people better and worse than you.

So I’m happy to know that the verdict has already be settled, I can exit the courtroom of comparison. Consider this excerpt from The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller

The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness

Some days we feel we are winning the trial and other days we feel we are losing it. But Paul says that he has found the secret. The trial is over for him. He is out of the courtroom. It is gone. It is over. Because the ultimate verdict is in… He says that it is the Lord who judges him. It is only His opinion that counts. (p. 38-39)

So get out of the courtroom where you are constantly on trial with yourself and others. The trial is over. In Jesus, the prosecution rests.

Mar 11, 2013 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Time Change Woes

I don’t want to do anything.

I want to sit and relax and be selfish with my time. I don’t want to be an adult. I don’t want to pay bills or set alarms or go to meetings. I want to feel refreshed and ready for a new week. I want to re-create and not just amuse!

I feel tired. Partially because of the time change, partially because I rest so poorly. I overslept yesterday and missed church. I felt like I was owed a down day because I didn’t return home until after midnight on Saturday. I felt entitled to rest, but didn’t receive it. I spent the day struggling with wanting to do so much in a finite amount of time.

What do I want?

I was a relaxing, productive, lively, restful life — shared with someone perfect who always loves and never annoys. I want it to be without any disturbance or wrinkle in my perfect plan.

What do I want?

I want to trust in Jesus, to know Him well, to love His plan and His timing — to take, in stride, whatever comes my way!

But those two don’t seen to mesh well together.

What do I want?

Perhaps I should be asking, “Lord, what do you want for me?”

I sit, awaiting the answer.

%d bloggers like this: