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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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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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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She Has Suffered Enough

I sat ramrod straight on the living room couch, straining to memorize every word the hospice nurse spoke after assessing Mom.

“The signs are there. She’s transitioning … actively dying. It could be days or weeks.” The nurse’s mouth kept moving, but I heard only the rhythmic hum of the oxygen machine’s motor, pushing out its two-syllable whoosh to drive air into a life now ebbing away.

Seeking comfort, I turned to the only words I recalled. What Isaiah said … 

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry out to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
(Isaiah 40:1-2, NKJV)

What I read …

Comfort, comfort my children, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Chris, your mother, and cry out to her
that her battle with illness and pain is ended,
that her sins are pardoned,
that she has suffered enough. 

As Babylonia captured and exiled the Israelite people, so this world and all its vices can hold us captive … but only temporarily. Still, we are God’s chosen. He never casts us away. He always restores a remnant to Himself.

Though our earthly body ultimately fails us, a remnant of this life … our soul … lives. God reclaims and brings it home. To the true Promised Land, eternity with Him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,…
                                   (Isaiah 40:11, NKJV)                                   

And so He gathered Mama with His arm. And carried her in His bosom.

©2013 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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Setback or Set Up?

disappointmentMy desire to teach suffered a setback. In the last semester of my last year in college, my career plan came to a screeching halt at the hands of a high school Spanish class who cared more about sports and date nites than a foreign language. While I never taught in public schools, the degree did set me up with skills to do what I enjoyed more … lead Bible studies.

My march up the corporate ladder suffered setback when a vice-president rejected my bid for a director role in favor of another. Six months later, that rejection turned into a set up for another opportunity that fit my passions for work to a “T”.

Throughout the years, the same pattern repeated itself. Setbacks became set ups for deeper longings of my heart. While I believed God forgot me, He was preparing the way.

Like He exiled Moses to the desert and prepared him to lead the chosen people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Or like He shaped David for seventeen years before fulfilling his anointing as the next Israelite king. Or as He orchestrated Esther to the right place with the right people at the right time to save the Israelite nation from death at the hands of a jealous and manipulating prince Haman.

Even the nation of Israel suffered setbacks. When God fell silent for 400 years, His chosen believed He turned His back and forgot them. But God did not forget. He was at work, using those years to silently braid together circumstances and events until the stage was set to send the Savior they longed for.

Setbacks? I look at them differently now. Closed doors, disappointments, and rejections could just be God’s way to reboot and reset my operating system. To free me from the oppression of “ought to’s” and failures and redirect me to the abundant life He created for me. A setback to set me up for my long-awaited Savior.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I put my hope.  (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

©2013 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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Celebrate Friendship Day

Friendship with my first BFF lasted a year. We were eleven years old when, like a scalpel, her words sliced through our bond and severed our friendship. She turned to me and said, “I can’t be your friend anymore. I’m friends with Mary now.”

Just like that. In the middle of an elementary school hallway, walking to class. She peeled off and weaved through the crowd, hailing Mary to wait up. As other fifth and sixth graders jostled past me, I strained to grasp what just happened. My friend set me adrift.

Alone.

best friendsUntil a few months later. In that same hallway. Another girl, Sherry, reached out to me. She sat by me at lunch where we laughed at each other’s jokes. Together, we moaned about PE and giggled over our boyfriend crushes. We shared dreams about the future and the nightmare of embarrassing moments bound to happen while stuck somewhere between childhood innocence and womanhood.

When my family moved three states away during the summer before my 14th birthday, Sherry threw me a surprise farewell party. We corresponded through high school, but eventually lost contact during college as life took us down different roads. Nevertheless, for that crucial season when I  needed to belong, Sherry shaped my picture of friendship.

A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.
~Walter Winchell

Today, the first Sunday in August, is Friendship Day. So, I celebrate all the friends who walked into my life. New ones still forming who greet me with a hug. Seasoned ones, who listen while I talk through my joys and tears. Friends like the one who knitted me a frilly boa just because she imagined me wearing one while I wrote my blogs. Or the friend who lives across the country and still handwrites letters despite the pain of arthritis. Letters that always close with, “I treasure our friendship.”

I celebrate these precious gifts. Who do you celebrate today?

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9–1, NLT)

©2013 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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A Legacy Should Not Be Wasted

What legacy have you received? It must not be wasted. So, what legacy are you leaving?

Today, meet my friend and fellow writer, Miriam Bradley. Miriam said her childhood was nearly perfect, marred only by the death of her mother. Her latest book, All I Have Needed, A Legacy for Life, celebrates the legacy and gifts she received wrapped in her parents and grandparents.

I met Miriam at the Christian Communicators Conference a year ago, where her story and  legacy tales captivated me. In today’s post, Miriam shares how God provided her everything she needed, even in the face of a great loss …

I am impressionable. I admit it.

For instance, when I watch the movies made from Jane Austen books I have to make a pot of tea. When I watch You’ve Got Mail, I need a cappuccino.

mugwall3Every morning I choose a coffee mug based solely on my feelings. I stand in front of my wall of mugs and say to myself, “Which one do I feel like using today?” Then, depending on my emotions, who I am missing, what the weather is like, or what day of the week it is, I pick a mug.

Like I said, I’m impressionable.

For this reason—if no other—I am exceedingly grateful for my upbringing. We’ve all seen those impressionable souls who can’t decide what they believe. They can’t make right choices. They always seem to be following the wrong guidance. I really believe I have that potential in me, considering my impressionability factor.

So, what made the difference?

I have been given—by God no doubt—a precious and valuable gift. It came packaged in my parents and grandparents.

For an impressionable child there was nothing more valuable than a world filled to the brim with mature, loving, consistent, Godly examples of the fruit of the Spirit. I’m not exaggerating here, folks. My parents and grandparents taught me everything I need to know to succeed in life. I have been wrapped in a cocoon of positive influences.

I have seen—lived out in full color—self discipline, the value of hard work, a vibrant prayer life, patience, forgiveness, wonderful marriages, meekness, goodness, faith, moral excellence, determination, humor, and the list could go on and on.

My spirit was overwhelmed yesterday as I drove to work. Why me? Why did God bless me with this amazing life? So many people struggle through life, overcoming their surroundings and yet I am given this amazing opportunity. Why? I’m reminded of a Bible principle my Daddy taught me. With great opportunity comes great responsibility.

My prayer is that I would seek to use the opportunities God gives me to make the best use of this legacy. It must not be wasted.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, yea I have a goodly heritage. (Psalm 16:6, KJV)

Front Cover 130424 (small)Want to read more? Then, grab your glass of tea, lemonade, or wine. Settle into your favorite cushy chair and enjoy Miriam’s stories.  Just click on the book cover to buy it on Amazon:

And may Miriam’s stories inspire you to identify your God-given legacy and to Pass It On … like my dad did in this earlier story.

©2013 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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I Can’t Forgive Him

 

That was the plea Corrie ten Boom lifted in prayer as the man extended his hand to her.

We know Corrie ten Boom as the author of The Hiding Place, the true story of her family who Nazis imprisoned for hiding Jews in Holland during World War II. Her father died in jail 10 days later. Her sister died in the concentration camp. Only Corrie survived to tell the story.ten-Boom_Corrie

One evening after she finished speaking in a church, a man approached her. He extended his hand and said, “Will you forgive me? Since the war, I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. But, will you forgive me?”

Corrie ten Boom looked at the offered hand. Her eyes traveled to the man’s face. Before her stood one of the German guards who tortured her and her sister so cruelly in the concentration camp.

“Lord, I can’t. No, I can’t forgive him, Lord,” Corrie ten Boom pleaded in silent agony.

“Will you forgive me?” the man pressed.

“Lord, I can’t. But I will do my part, if You will do yours,” she prayed.

Then, with peace that surpassed any understanding, Corrie ten Boom clasped the gentleman’s hand and said, “I forgive you.”

Ten Boom’s words answered a question for me. How can she or anyone pardon the mountain of pain and hurt caused by another? The answer is that we can’t. We can’t do it alone. Only God’s Spirit can transform our hearts so that we can say as Corrie ten Boom said, “I forgive you.” Only as Jesus said from the cross,

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV)

Today, July 7 is Forgiveness Day, established in 1994 by the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors. A day to reflect and put aside differences, move beyond hurts and start fresh. Yet, sometimes, we are not capable of pardoning someone who wronged us or caused much pain. We, like Corrie ten Boom, can only ask God to do His part first. Then, we can do ours.

Click here to read about the day I saw The Look of Forgiveness.

And, the Spirit works in mysterious ways.  It is a week of Forgiveness… my writer friend, Jeanne Doyon, posted a blog about Corrie ten Boom on Saturday, July 6 without either of us realizing our subject was the same this week.  Click here to read her post and learn more about this hero of the faith.

 

 

©2013 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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Who Sets the Pace?

exerciseSeveral fellow bloggers quickly declared their 2013 word as the ball dropped on this new year. For a decade mine was Surrender. What can I say, but I’m a slow learner.

For the last two years His word for me was Wait. That was hard, too, as patience has never been my virtue. I prayed for my 2013 word, hoping I was done with Wait.

I climbed into bed and opened my Message Bible for a close-of-day devotional. I finished Acts last week and moved into Romans, quickly skipping through the first two chapters without pause. But I couldn’t move beyond Romans 3. The undertow of  Romans 3:27-28 pulled me back as I repeatedly tried to push into the next chapter.

We finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting Him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. (Romans 3:27-28, The Message)

This year, God gave me a phrase. Let Me set the pace. After waiting for two years and now that I’m moving again, God wants me to let Him set the pace? He certainly knows my Achilles heel! My thoughts retreated to an earlier exercise routine.

“Lower your knees. We’re starting to cool down.” My exercise video friend warned that we approached the end of our workout.

After the millionth time together, I’d memorized the routine. With my eyes peering somewhere outside the window, I lost my concentration on the exercise. I heard — but didn’t hear — her voice. I saw — but didn’t see — her march. My thoughts already ran to the next things — what I would wear to work, the communication I needed to craft for my group, and how best to arrange my new desk and bookcases in the study.

As my thoughts raced ahead, so did my excitement. As my excitement raced, so did my pace. I marched to my own beat. By the time I re-focused, I was four or five steps ahead of my video trainer. She slowed while I speeded forward. If we had been in a parade, I would have marched right past her.

That’s what happens when I take my eyes off  of Jesus, too, and head toward what I think needs to be done. Then, before I know it, I’m neither in synch nor on pace with Christ.

So, I ponder the phrase God gave me this year. And brace myself for lessons ahead. The ones that teach me to acknowledge He is in charge. To let Him set the pace.

What word has God given you this year?

©2013 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 , , , , | 12 Comments