Don’t Leave Home Without It

Photo by: suphakit73. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by: suphakit73. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I left without it. After cramming four days worth of clothes, shoes and toiletries into my luggage, no sliver of space remained for a Bible or my daily devotional.

No problem. On the first morning, I breathed a quick “This is the day the Lord has made” prayer and a rambling one in the evening after a long day of meetings as I drifted to sleep.

Each day I strayed further from time with God until the last day of the trip. I sat in the airport waiting for my return flight when the thought assaulted my conscience, I forgot to pray this morning. Without a Bible or devotional to start my day, the undertow of busyness and distractions pulled me further out to sea.

I’ll get back on track tomorrow. I promised.

Tomorrow. Back home. I plowed through email, put in a full day’s work, finished reading a book, and vegged on the couch staring at a repeat episode of HGTV. Only when I shuffled off to bed and reached to turn off the light did it catch my eye — the devotional on the bedside table. Still unopened. Still unread.

Lesson Learned: How easy it is … it took only four days … without the tether of daily time in His presence, to drift from the One who anchors me. How scary it is when I notice I can’t see Him as clearly when I squint toward the distant shore. How quickly I lose the sound of His voice in the winds of activity that whip about me.

Vacation time nears, and I look forward to a week of freedom from the usual routines and disciplines that govern my day. However, daily devoted time with God is not a discipline from which I can take a break. It’s not a discipline. It’s like air and food. It’s a necessity. And I can’t live without it.

Day and night, I’ll stick with God. I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go. (Psalm 16:8, The Message.)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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Waiting In Between

Lisa Burkhardt Worley PhotoI met Lisa Burkhardt Worley at a speaker’s workshop and quickly connected with her heart for Jesus. Lisa is an author and speaker and the founder of Pearls of Promise Ministries, a ministry with a goal of helping women overcome dysfunction and trials in their lives through the strength of Christ.

Lisa, a former national and local sportscaster, has co-authored two books, the Pearls of Promise devotional and a new book, If I Only Had…Wrapping Yourself in God’s Truth During Storms of Insecurity, which will be released in late May, 2014.

Answering a call to ministry, Lisa earned a Master’s of Theological Studies degree from Perkins School of Theology, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2008.  Today, welcome and enjoy Lisa’s devotion about that most difficult place we all find ourselves at one time or another … waiting “in between.”

The question from this week’s Bible study lesson provided an “aha” moment. It asked, “In what ways can waiting make you more like Jesus?” The lesson was all about waiting on the Lord and how God uses those “in between” times to shape us. For me, the timing of the teaching was perfect.

But the question presented in the study prompted another question, “Did Jesus understand waiting on the Lord when he walked this earth? Did he ever experience the emotions and uncertainty that come from being in limbo? Hebrews 4:15 says, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses. Did he comprehend how difficult it is to wait on the Lord?

Then it occurred to me. Jesus’ life was all about waiting.

But it was even more difficult, because he knew what he was going to face. Persecution, mockery, a painful death on the cross. Scripture reveals in John 7 that he was aware of what was ahead:

 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.”(John 7:1-6)

“My time is not yet here…” Jesus was waiting. It wasn’t time for him to die but he knew it was coming. He knew the feeling.

He waited before me.

So back to the initial question. “In what ways can waiting make you more like Jesus?” After the “aha” moment, I was able to answer this question more thoroughly. Jesus waited from birth. He did not let his waiting period paralyze him in any way. He continued to do ministry; he healed the sick, loved the unloved and taught about the kingdom of God. For Jesus, waiting did not mean to come to a total halt. He didn’t worry about what was ahead in the future and sit around complaining that nothing was happening. Waiting meant to carry on until his Father said, “It’s your time now.”

I realized we need to do the same. While in the waiting period, it is important to continue to live out our calling. Waiting does not equal stop. It means to stay closely connected to the Lord so we’ll be able to hear God when he says it’s time to change my direction. Being like Jesus in the wait means to do ministry like Jesus did, and handle the in between with dignity.

Are you waiting? How are you handling it?

Did Jesus ever struggle with the wait?

Prior to his arrest, he prayed on the Mount of Olives and the Word says he was in so much anguish his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. According to medical authorities, under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture, mixing blood with perspiration. Jesus knew his wait was almost over and it was stressful.

But when God said to Jesus, “It’s your time now” he went peaceably. When our wait is over, the direction God calls us may not be exactly what we imagined. Will we fight it?

As in Jesus’ life, the wait is part of the preparation for what is ahead. If nothing is happening, it’s important to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Continue to trust God when he is silent because the wait simply means it’s not your time yet.  It’s comforting to know that Jesus understands.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15, NIV)

 

 

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Does Instant Spell Success?

abcsoupAnd if not, why not?

Check out this week’s story in my guest blog at www.pearlsofpromiseministries.com.

 

 

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The Women In Me

Photo courtesy of Coolfreeimages.net

Photo courtesy of Coolfreeimages.net

Generations of women crowd inside me.

There’s a carpenter, a seamstress, and a gardener squeezed beside a hairdresser, a bookkeeper, a caretaker, and a homemaker.

Women who worked long hours. Mom balanced managing four kids running in different directions, working part-time, and re-planting the family every time Dad’s work called him to a different city. Her mother toiled in the fields of a farm and ironed others’ clothes to earn extra pennies for her family of eight. Dad’s mom worked inside the home, corralling two sons and later nursing an invalid husband after his stroke.

One had a heart for praise music and the church as family. Another had a heart for people and hearty meals gathered around the table. The last for sewing, working in the yard, and keeping her children close by.

All outlived their husbands and fought anyone who messed with their children. Each passed on legacies of fierce independence during times when a woman’s strong-mindedness was frowned upon or misunderstood.

All were survivors. All trusted God to deliver them through their circumstances. Mom did, even while she battled persistent pain that came with health problems.

All these mothers crowd inside me. Collaborating, as women will do, whipping me into shape. Encouraging me to embrace the person He created me to be.

Today, I celebrate their lives. Happy Mother’s Day.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:5-6, NIV)

Who are the women and mothers in you?

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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Where to? Planning Ahead is Over-Rated

Photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher

Photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher

My family vacations started nothing like my friend’s. Her dad piled wife, kids, and family pets into the car. He then drove to the end of the block where he stopped, turned to his family, and asked, “So, where to this time?”

Say what? No reservations? No destination researched and plotted with every rest stop between here and there? Hand me the brown paper bag to breathe into because just hearing her version of a family trip makes me hyperventilate. How could they not plan ahead?

Like I do, especially when I’m traveling unfamiliar territory. I’m armed with my GPS, a Mapsco opened to the page of my destination, and my husband’s directions scribbled on a scratch pad. With all three, and 30 spare minutes built in for getting lost, I should arrive.

Today my Bible reading suggested that planning ahead may be over-rated. The Israelites traveled like my friend. After they left Egypt and slavery behind, they traveled by cloud, the one God provided, and they never knew where they headed except to a land He promised.

His cloud led the way. When and wherever it stopped, they stopped. As long as the cloud stayed, they stayed. When the cloud moved, they moved. Oh, they grumbled along the way because they couldn’t see how things would turn out. (And, I’m sure I would have been among those who groused.) Yet, the cloud was always there to guide them.

Last week, I prayed as I often do, “God, where do You want me now?” This particular morning, He answered, “Just go with My cloud.”

What cloud? For me God has spoken through the cloud of peace that settles in my heart when I am where I need to be and stay, even when circumstances or situations are difficult. Other times, it’s the cloud of nagging restlessness or dissatisfaction that hums through my soul without good reason and says it’s time to move even though life is easy and I’m happy.

But where to and when? God’s answer is to watch for His cloud. He doesn’t always give me the GPS nor hand me the Mapsco of where He’s taking me. And He doesn’t scribble directions on a scratch pad. Instead, He says, “Just follow My cloud.”

When the cloud moved from its place over the Tent, the Israelites moved, and wherever the cloud stopped, the Israelites camped…Sometimes the cloud stayed over the Tent for a long time,…Sometimes the cloud was over it only a few days. (Exodus 9:17-20, NCV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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The Long Road

Photo courtesy of geekphilosopher.com

Photo courtesy of geekphilosopher.com

God called the Israelites to the long road out of Egypt to the Promised Land. He “…did not lead them on the road through Philistine country, though that was the shortest way.” (Exodus 13:17, NCV)

Why not? I would argue that the long road is … well, long. Shortest is fastest. And fastest best. Right?

A few years ago, Jim and I headed to Fredericksburg for a four-day vacation. Ready for a change in scenery and well-deserved downtime, I hopped in the car and leaned my seat back to relax for the five-hour drive. Anxious to make the long trip shorter, we took the shortest route — a straight line from Dallas along Interstate 35S through Austin.

By Waco and two hours out of Dallas, my once resting body now vibrated with agitation. We dodged orange construction cones, crawled forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and narrowly escaped two crashes as fellow travelers drafted the car in front of them within inches of its rear end.

As if that wasn’t enough to shred my nerves, traffic on the outskirts of Austin thickened again and flowed slower than Brer Rabbit molasses that sat too long on a pantry shelf. We reached Fredericksburg tired and tense and one hour later than expected.

The shortest way was not the fastest … nor best. God saw that when He led His people out of Egypt. He avoided Philistine country because “if they have to fight,…they may change their minds and go back to Egypt.” (Exodus 13:18, NCV)

God’s way is the best way, however long it takes. While I hurry to reach my destination, God sees the road ahead. He often steers me away from my short route to avoid obstacles or hazards that await me there. Obstacles and hazards I may not yet be ready or equipped to confront.

Learning our lesson, Jim and I returned home by Highway 281. A scenic route through tiny pin points on the map with stop lights and slower speeds from one edge of town to the next. It was the long road, but we returned home in less time than our short route when going. And more relaxed.

A wise person does the right thing at the right time. For there is a right time and a right way for everything. (Ecclesiastes 8:5-6, NCV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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Bible Trivia: Who Were the First “Property Brothers?”

Who is the Bible’s earliest equivalent to HGTV’s Property Brothers?

Photo courtesy of glamour.com

Photo courtesy of glamour.com

The Property Brothers are that popular twin team who works together, helping first time home buyers purchase a diamond-in-the-rough house and transform it into their dream home.

Drew is the real estate agent who locates potential properties. Jonathan uses fancy CGI (Common Gateway Interface) graphics to create a vision of what the ugly duckling can become with renovations. Then, after four to six weeks of knocking down walls, painting, laying hardwood floors, installing new cabinetry, and adding decorative touches, they take the home from common to the uncommon, from shabby to chic.

The answer to the trivia question? I found them this week in Exodus. Bezalel and Oholiab. Two Israelites filled with the Spirit and tapped to build the Holy Tent exactly to God’s spoken CGI specifications. (Exodus 36:1-7).

With gifts furnished by all of the Israelites — acacia wood, sheepskins, gold, bronze, and fine linens brought from Egypt — these two “Property Brothers” hammered, sawed, and shaped raw materials into God’s first mobile “home” in the desert.

Bezalel and Oholiab may be the first biblical Property Brothers, but not the last. God called — and still calls today — each of us to partner as fellow Property Brothers (or Sisters) to build His church.

God gave each of us a unique combination of knowledge, experiences, wisdom, skills, and resources. And He taps us to put those to good use to build His church — sometimes the bricks and mortar church, but always the body of the church.

With Easter two weeks away, what and how will we contribute to the effort? How will we act as Property Brothers/Sisters who help turn diamond-in-the-rough lives from shabby to chic? How will we go from common to uncommonly faithful obedience to serve and worship the One who provided us a way out of slavery to sin through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus?

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body…God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, NIV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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How Long is a Good Life?

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A long life might not be good enough, but a good life is always long enough.

The pastor for Marcus spoke these words ten years ago at his memorial service. Every year since then, on March 4, friends and family remember the 29 year-old gentle giant of a man. They recall a good life cut short by a bullet fired in a senseless drive-by shooting.

The 6′ 3″ Tennessee Tech linebacker found Christ at 14 years old and never stopped living his faith. He spoke words of encouragement to the troubled and offered acts of kindness for the challenged. He adopted a fatherless five-year-old as his “little brother” and served as a role model in the young men’s ministry.

Even as I packed his desk at work, I found one last note that Marcus wrote. “What do I want to do? Help others turn their potential into reality.”

Marcus did not live a long life, but his good life was long enough. He produced good fruit, unlike a certain fig tree Jesus passed during his last week in Jerusalem.

Looking for something to eat, Jesus spotted the tree lush with leaves. Since a fig tree produces fruit first, then leaves, Jesus walked toward it, expecting figs. Instead, he found the tree barren of fruit.

Leaves covered it. Figs should have been there, ripe for picking. Yet, the tree produced nothing. Jesus cursed the tree. It’s long life was not good enough. (Mark 11:12-14)

Now, every year on March 4, Marcus’ memory calls me to assess … While I added another year to life, have I also added life to my years? Am I living a long life that might be good enough? Or a good life that will always be long enough?

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39, NIV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

 

 

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Lost and Found

Photo compliments of morguefile.com

Photo compliments of morguefile.com

“Uh-oh, where are they? Daddy? Mommy?” Twisting my skinny, six year-old body around to look back down the shoreline, I peer at the footprints scrambled in the sand. I squint to find the ones that are mine and will point me to my family’s blanket.

No, they all look alike. I’m lost in a forest of big people legs.

Panic laps at my feet like the waves that crash on the shore and creep inland, overtaking my toes. Then they recede back towards the ocean, pulling with them my self-confidence — the same self-assurance that pushed me into thinking I was big enough to explore alone.

The towel I carried like a princess cape winged out from either side of my back now droops about my shoulders. They slump forward as prickles of fear inch up my spine. I search up and down the beach for Mom’s white swimsuit with the single teardrop pearl adorning the front. Nothing.

Frantically scanning the crowds, I look for Dad’s sky blue trunks and the cowgirl tattooed on his leg and who winks at me from the side of his calf. I can’t find her anywhere.

“Where are they?” I scream into the breeze when he grabs my arm and whirls me around.

“Daddy!” I don’t even care that he swats my bottom for wandering away.

Minutes later Daddy plants me on a corner of the beach blanket. He tells me to think about what I did. Here is what I think. I’m the oldest but not old enough. I’m a big sister but not big enough. I think I can go it alone but not always. Like today, when I wandered away without paying attention to where I was going.

Then, I realize something huge. If I do get lost, Daddy searches until he tracks me down. He still loves me even though I disobeyed by drifting out of sight. I know because I saw relief in his eyes when he found me. I imagine it’s the same relief and joy as when the shepherd found his lost sheep.

So, I walk over to where Daddy sits in a beach chair. I rest my head on his shoulder and throw my arms around his neck. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Thank you for finding me.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” (Luke 15:3-5, NIV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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Here Comes the Sun

Photo by StarryTrooper. Compliments of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Photo by StarryTrooper. Compliments of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Sadness in the woman’s eyes telegraphed resignation. She groped her way through the dark reality of  life’s hardships. Then, here came the sun.

This story from my friend, Brandy, bears repeating.

I worked for an organization that helped women on welfare transition into the workplace. Some were fourth generation welfare families with no history or concept of living as independent working women.

One day, a 21-year-old single parent with four children walked into the agency. She had birthed her first child at age 15 and never worked. Yet, my counselors recognized how quickly this young woman caught on to new information.

They looked past her circumstances and saw potential. We bought her a business suit for interviews, and she landed her first job as a receptionist. After that, we lost contact.

Five years later, while heading to a meeting on the SMU campus, a professionally attired woman approached me. The now 26-year old mother of four thanked me for opening the door to her first job. She was now married, employed as an administrative assistant to a Vice President at the college and studying for her undergraduate degree. All because we furnished a business suit and someone saw potential.

In the darkness of night, the sun is not seen except through its reflection on the stars.
In the darkness of life, the Son is not seen except by the reflection of His light through us.

Who knows which lives take a different course because someone reached out with a helping hand, a word of encouragement, a touch of kindness, or a charitable contribution. Although we may never have a chance encounter like Brandy to know the difference we make, we are still the hands and feet of Christ.

A fellow college student wrote a reminder I’ve carried with me since graduation…

I stand on a hill
And shout to the wind,
I am free!
I am free!
In my soul, I am free!
Then my gaze falls on one
Slowly trudging the road
And I know,
I am bound!
I am bound!
 ~Margaret J. Zednik

Through us, here comes the Son!

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
(Luke 10:33-34, NIV)

©2014 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.

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