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.

Posted in Easter, God Protects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Easter, Serving Others | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

 

 

Posted in Abundant Life, Serving Others | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in God's Faithfulness, Repentance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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The Best Defense: A Lesson Learned

Photo by Ambro and compliments of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by Ambro and compliments of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m a sweet girl. How can she hate me? 

Debra heaped jealous anger on me after handing in her resignation. As an inexperienced director, I shrank lower in my chair, hurt by the accusations. Debra wanted degrees she didn’t have, opportunities for which she was not prepared, favoritism I could not give.

I spent an hour giving her my best defense. Yet, the more I explained my decisions, the more she leaned forward to point out flaws in my leadership. Her mind was set. Her heart was closed.

For two weeks afterwards, I replayed old conversations, looking for the truth in Debra’s words. I  re-examined decisions, soul-searched for bias, and said “yes” to any request or idea. In the end, the only thing I accomplished was distracted, unproductive work and confused stares from peers that begged the question, “What is the matter with you?”

Thank heavens for the friend and mentor who finally pulled me aside and said, “People will not always like you or agree with you. And when they’re determined to prove a point, it’s pointless to try proving yours.”

The mentor knew Jesus, who wasted no time with such fruitless debates.

Although he faced persecution and death in Jerusalem, the Son of God “…steadfastly set his face to go…” (Luke 9:51, NKJV)

His journey took him through a village of Samaritans. Because of animosity between Jews and Samaritans, the village refused to welcome him.

Angry with the rejection and treatment of their Master, Christ’s’ disciples wanted to retaliate, calling down fire to consume the villagers. But Jesus rebuked them. He focused forward on the end in mind.

Neither angry nor sidetracked by those who refused to hear the love in his words, Jesus moved on.  He continued his journey to what God called him to do. To where God called him to go.

My lesson learned … Challengers and detractors will always be with us. Once we set our face to follow Christ’s lead, the best defense of oneself is no defense at all.  Just steadfastly continue the journey.

In any case, I must keep going today, tomorrow, and the next day…(Luke 13:33, 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.

 

 

Posted in Leadership, Perseverance | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Long is Temporary?

road sign Temporary_cropThe curve on the sign at the end of Loop 288 warns you. Traffic zipping along the highway at a posted 60 mph must drop their speed to almost a stop to navigate the hairpin turn that leads to Interstate 35W. Below the picture in bold black letters is one word, temporary.

I first spotted this sign when returning home from visiting our daughter. That was seven, going on eight, years ago. Since we moved to the area, I see it every day on my route to work.

Temporary in my dictionary stands for brief, short-term, stop-gap, transient. I measure it in hours or days, maybe weeks at the outside. But not years or decades.

Every morning, I look for orange barrels, cones, or road construction equipment. They grace most roadways around Dallas these days, but none here.  Here, there’s no indication that temporary will change any time soon. In fact, temporary looks pretty permanent to me.

So, just how long is temporary? We don’t always know. The end is often not in our sights. Our timetable is not the one in charge.

The prophet Job lost his home, health, wealth, and family. Was there no end in sight to his losses? David, though promised a kingship, ran for his life and hid in caves without an end in sight to his troubles with King Saul. The Israelites were conquered, exiled, and scattered like pollen in the wind … with no end to their oppression in sight.

Yet, each held on to a promise. God’s promise that He would never leave nor forsake them. That temporary was not permanent. That this, too … whatever hairpin turns they faced in life … would come to an end.

And we can hold on, too. Hold on to the hope in temporary. To the hope that the end is at least in God’s sight.

So, how long is temporary? Somewhere in the city’s vision, a plan exists to fix that hairpin turn. At some point, although I can’t see when, I trust that temporary is not permanent. That temporary comes to an end.

In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. (1 Peter 5:10, NLT)

©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.

Posted in Hope, Perseverance, Trusting God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Give Up or Go On? The Tipping Point

Jeremy AbbottFour years of training and grueling practice came to an early end for Jeremy Abbott in his short program for men’s figure skating.  His dream to stand on the Olympic podium fell hard with him to the ice after he attempted a quadruple toe loop.

Sliding and crashing into the wall, Abbott grabbed his hip. His face contorted with pain.

Seconds passed.

Abbott winced, then stood on his skates. Shoulders slumped in defeat as he glanced toward his coaches. They moved toward the entrance door, ready to support Abbott when he hobbled off the ice, surely unable to finish.

A collective gasp rose from the spectators crowded into Russia’s Iceberg Arena. Then applause. Vibrating, thundering applause for this young athlete’s effort.

Abbott looked up and around the arena.

Then, he did the improbable. With his music still playing, Jeremy Abbott eased back into his program and completed every subsequent move and jump with Olympic precision.

The reward for his efforts? This medal contender earned 72.58 points and finished #15 in a field of 29. Not first, second, or third on the Olympic podium. But first in grit and perseverance after such a devastating experience.

Later in an interview, a reporter asked Abbott, “What happened out there?”

Abbott responded, “I heard the crowd applauding, encouraging me. I didn’t want to let them down.”

Did you hear that?  He was tempted to give up, but then he heard the roars of applause and encouragement. With that wind at his back, he stared at the face of defeat and kept going.

Who do you know reeling with discouragement? Whose face is contorted in pain or shoulders slumped? Who sees no reason to continue their effort?

Hearing our applause and encouragement could be the tipping point between their giving up or going on.

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll al be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 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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My Job is Not to Problem – Solve

I was plunged into darkness so black I couldn’t see the person standing next to me. Even after sixty seconds passed to let my eyes adjust, the cave walls were still invisible. Total absence of light surrounded us, and only the tour guide’s voice reassured the group she was still there.

IMG_0714“Have you ever lost anyone in here?” someone asked. A wave of nervous laughter rippled through the tourists.

“Not to date,” our guide replied. “But stick close. Follow me.”

We had no choice because the problem was no one but her knew where we were or where we were going.

The guide clicked her flashlight on, signaling us to do the same. As she moved forward, I stepped on the heel of the man in front and someone rear-ended me, as we each determined not to wander from the leader. Our guide alone knew the way through the twists and turns, the paths to take and those to avoid in this Colorado mountain cave.

For a few moments, we walked in silence. But, once reassured the guide knew what she was doing, tense shoulders and gripped hands relaxed. We peppered the guide with questions and stooped through tunnels too narrow for us to stand. We admired every point of interest until the tour’s end, where we exited back into the sunlight.

When something is broken I want to fix it. Yet, despite the fact that I like to roll up my sleeves and dig in to solve problems, that was not my role in the cave. And, that’s not my role here in the big picture. It’s God’s.

My role is to follow Him. He knows where we are and where He wants us to go. My job is to listen for His voice in the blackness. To trust that He alone will light the way in even the darkest caves of life. Until, in the end, I emerge into the sunlight.

…his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:4-5, NLT)

©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.

Posted in Letting Go, Listening to God | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Which is Better … More or Less?

Photo from YouTube.com

Photo from YouTube.com

“Who thinks more is better than less?” That’s the question an adult posed in one of my favorite commercials. The kindergartener explains without hesitation, “More! We want more.”

I can relate. Being an ambitious oldest or perhaps just a product of society, I’ve often wanted more… more friends, more house, more clothes, more status, more responsibility, etc, etc. More was an indicator of success. More brought happiness.

As the years fly by, though, I lose more and get less. I am …

  • Less of a targeted consumer for market groups.
  • Less desirable as a patient to doctors. (Like the one who turned me away because of my age … and I’m not even Medicare eligible.)
  • Less likely to succeed at becoming President.
  • Less stressed over details that probably never mattered anyway.
  • Less focused on ME.

And discover, in many cases, less produces more …

  • More time with family and friends.
  • More opportunity to do what I am called to do.
  • More focus on others in need
  • More energy at the end of the day.
  • More of HIM and building His kingdom

Which is better? It’s not complicated. When there is less of me, there is more room for Him. As I become less, He can become more.  And I embrace this moment in time …

“…the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (John 3:30, The Message)

More or less, which do you choose?

©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.

Posted in Abundant Life, Kingdom of God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments