Browsing "Devotional"
Jul 10, 2013 - Devotional, My Story    1 Comment

Magyar Vagyok, Nem Turista!

A friend of mine is in Budapest right now.

She asked for my recommendations on sightseeing and eating and I got this dreamy far off look in my eyes as I wrote her back remembering my numerous trips to this gem of a country. I have such fond memories of Hungary. Teaching English, devouring delectable food, committing cultural faux pas, living with naked hosts. Each could be a post by itself! Below is a post I wrote after my last Mission trip to Hungary reprinted here for your enjoyment and my nostalgia!

“I’m sitting here at a restaurant in Budapest sunburned, dehydrated, exhausted, sweating, coughing, and covered in mosquito bites… and life is good.”

orlando grace church IMG 3968 300x225 Magyar Vagyok, Nem Turista!

The Hungary Team 2010

My trip to Hungary was exciting, beautiful, and bursting with laughter despite the numerous circumstances which could have made it a rough trip. We were spoiled Americans stuck in an air-conditionless nation in the middle of a record setting heat wave with temperatures near 100 every day. I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for two weeks. I struggled to communicate with both my students and my host family. I haven’t been able to take a real shower since I left the states.  I ingested a few unidentifiable meats. And yet somehow none of this seems to matter. I am normally not this resilient, but today I am a part of a team – an integral part – and that knowledge trumps every other circumstance trying to pull me down right now.

orlando grace church IMG 0826 300x225 Magyar Vagyok, Nem Turista!

Kelly and Laurie showing off their buttons!

The title of this post means “I am Hungarian, not a tourist.” It was on a button which my host family gave me in 2008. I chose it as my title because I was more than just a tourist on this trip; I experienced something which transcended a mere two week stay in a foreign country. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of calling. In my mind I’ve always thought of calling as something distinct from the rest of life and significantly long term. Such that if someone was called to missions, I wouldn’t see them for several decades! Since I graduated from RTS last year I’ve wanted to receive my calling as if I was in a holding pattern just waiting for God to reach down and tell me how to really start my life. My ideas about calling have slowly changed. I have thought more and more about the one truly long term calling – to be faithful. My calling is to obey my Lord in whatever situation I find myself, to be just as faithful in the everyday as I am in the big things, like mission trips. The following is an excerpt from my journal entry as I processed my mission trip to Hungary.

“My job is to be faithful where you have me, Lord, that is my true calling. Jobs may change and I may move. Marriage may find me someday, but my calling, my big calling will stay the same. To be able to know why I’m here, why I came, how I contributed. This is such a gift! All too often we don’t get to see the big picture or know how we helped the cause. But I was given a peek, a glimpse into my part in the big plan – and for that moment it was beautiful. My calling may not be showy or spectacular to everyone else, but there will be times that the curtains will be pulled back for just a moment and I will see the tapestry that You are weaving instead of just seeing my own individual thread. That happened tonight as I sat amongst my fatigued, sunburned, and dehydrated fellow soldiers and felt your goodness to us.”

orlando grace church IMG 3618 300x225 Magyar Vagyok, Nem Turista!

Jun 14, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    5 Comments

Know Why You “No”

I hate saying no.

I really stink at it. I detest feeling like I’ve let others down. I have to work myself up to near-frenzy to get the words out and I typically feel remorse about it afterward as if I’m single handedly crushing someone’s spirit through my negative reply. I struggle with this. It’s a constant battle for me not to overbook myself, feel totally overtaxed, and want to retreat from the world.

I was complaining to my mom about this feeling and she said something which totally blew my concept of saying “no” out of the water.

She quoted Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Then she went on to exegete the passage saying, “Kelly, God prepared for you good works, specific good works, and you should walk in those working at them mightily. Other works may present opportunity, and they may appear good from the outside, but if they’re not the good works that God prepared for you specifically, then they won’t be good if you say yes.”

Mind blowing truth! What beautiful freedom!

orlando grace church Graduation Kyle 055 225x300 Know Why You No

If I say “no” to everything, I’m being disobedient by failing to walk in the good works God has prepared for me. If I say “yes” to everything, I’m not being a good steward of myself! By stretching myself too thin I’m failing to give enough energy, time, and attention to the specific works which have been chosen for me. But perhaps even more frightening than that is the fact that by saying “yes” to everything I could be inadvertently usurping a work meant for another and thereby denying him of the opportunity to walk in the good works prepared for him!

I’ve found myself praying my own version of the Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity to say “no” to the works not prepared for me.
The courage to say “yes” to the works which are prepared for me.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Amen.

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:

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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.

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