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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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.

 

 

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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 , , , , , | 4 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

Don’t Give Up

I ran late this week in writing a blog. In fact, I have not put pen to paper nor strung together a cohesive thought worthy of distribution. Responsibilities and deadlines kept me unusually busy, and I was ready to give up posting anything. That is, until two people greeted me with “You’re story about “x” (fill in the blank with two different stories) hit home for me.”

So, early in this new year, God reminded me that He makes a way for us to keep going when He calls us. And today is no different. Here is the re-posting of the story He brought to my mind:

A couple of years ago, TangleRidge golf course opened right before Christmas. I decided to surprise my husband, Jim, with a round of golf, but TangleRidge didn’t yet have a way to set up the gift by phone. I had to drive there to purchase it. I left work early to pick up the gift and still arrive home as usual without Jim suspecting anything.

Since this was before my Garmin, I relied on MapQuest directions and my out-of-date Mapsco to steer the way. I drove along Highway 67 for what seemed eternity and soon noticed only farmland and cows dotted the roadside. Certain I missed the exit, I turned around and drove in the opposite direction. Still no exit. After three times up and down the highway, I tossed in the towel and swore I’d find a different gift not so hard to locate.

Half way home, frustration gave way to stubborn persistence. I eased over to the shoulder of the road, pulled out my cell phone, and punched in the phone number to the golf course.

“Here’s where I am but where are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know where you are, but I promise, our exit is on the right as you go south on Highway 67,” the man insisted.

I turned around for the fourth time and headed south … again. Sure enough, the exit appeared two miles beyond the furthest point I reached previously … just like the man promised.

God said, “I promise. Don’t give up. Keep going.”

Jacob fled from his home in Beersheba and set out for Haran after cheating his brother out of a birthright. As he slept for the night, God came to Jacob in a dream and said, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…; for I will never leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15, NIV) Generations later, God made the same promise to the Israelites who wanted to give up, turn back to slavery and forego the Promised Land whenever the going got rough in the desert.

Throughout His Word, God’s promises, “Don’t give up. Keep going. I’ll never leave you until I’ve done what I promised you.” Consider that thought in this new year with whatever you face and look forward with expectancy to His Second Coming. Who knows? It might be coming up within the next two miles of our journey.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV)

©2011 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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Your Best Roadside Assistance

Photo courtesy of The Penny Hoarder, July 3, 2013

Photo courtesy of The Penny Hoarder, July 3, 2013

I

Frowning at the red plastic gas can lodged under my front bumper, I mumbled under my breath, “Oh, Lord, what am I going to do now?”

I reached for my cell phone to call my safest and most reliable roadside help … my husband … when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the truck.

It bounced along the dirt road from the opposite direction of where I parked on the grassy shoulder. Blue-green paint faded to the body’s metal, scratches and dents from a hard, long life. Looking like the driver who stopped and stepped out of its cab.

Slim in stature, he wore a rumpled, long-sleeved tan shirt and jeans shredded at the knees. His unshaven brown-grey beard covered a face lined with a road map of wrinkles. Tufts of silver hair peeked out from an oil – stained baseball cap, and I caught the smell of dirt and sweat as he walked toward me.

Oh, Lord, what am I going to do now?

“Need some help, young lady?”

On the verge of dismissing him with an “I Can Do It Myself” retort, I peered over his shoulder. The cars on Highway 380 whizzed past, drivers with eyes glued to the road ahead, as if determined to avoid eye contact with me. I looked at the scruffy-looking man again and released a nervous laugh.  “Yeah, can you lift the car off that red thing?”

The man knelt on his threadbare jeans, grabbed the can with already soiled hands and yanked it free. Standing, he gave it a shake, and we both heard the gasoline slosh inside. “You’re lucky. I’m surprised you didn’t start a fire with all that friction from dragging it on the road.”

Without time for a thank you, this unlikely roadside assistance threw the crushed can in the bed of his pickup, tipped his cap to me, and drove away, turning onto the highway. Mixing in with all those who passed me without so much as a glance in my direction.

I swung my less sassy, tailor-suited self  behind the steering wheel, and took a deep, cleansing breath. Filled with a sense of having been visited unaware by an angel. Not the roadside assistance I expected from his appearance.

Neither did the prophet Samuel expect God to call someone like David as the next king after Saul. Saul was tall and handsome, impressive-looking. David was a scawny shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s sons. Yet, Saul grew self-centered and apart from God. David grew into a warrior with a heart for God. Samuel, like me, judged by outward appearances. God chose according to the inward character.

I thanked God. And asked Him to forgive me for passing judgment when I first saw the man emerge from his truck. God, after all, had sent me His best roadside assistance.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his [Eliab, oldest son of Jesse]appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7, 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 Angels, Serving Others | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Surprise in the Road

image courtesy of rhynecats.com

image courtesy of rhynecats.com

I cruised along Highway 380 at 64 mph, just slightly over the speed limit and within the five mph grace I hoped police still gave. On the way to work, feeling sassy in my new sweater and pants, and looking forward to a calendar only half full with meetings with plenty of free time to focus on people and projects.

Without warning, the car ahead of me swerved. A hard left into the next lane. I had no time to avoid the red box he had spotted lying in the middle of my road.

Thummmp! I hit the object squarely, where it lodged under the middle of my front bumper.

Power forward. It should tumble out the back by the sheer force of the car rolling over it. Wishful thinking. I cringed at the persistent sound of plastic dragging along the cement pavement. A glance in my rearview mirror validated that nothing red ejected from the rear of my car.

I had no choice but to turn off the highway. I veered right to a rutted dirt road and rolled to a stop on the grassy shoulder. Walking on my toes to keep my heels from sinking in the soft soil, I picked my way to the front of the car. There, firmly lodged under my license plate was a red plastic gas container.

Determined to fix the problem and continue on my way, I kicked the crushed box. It refused to budge. I squatted to yank it loose with my bare hands, but only managed to fall backwards into a nest of cockle burrs. Ouch.

Only then did it occur to me … I needed help. I was out of my league in solving this situation. My journey took a surprising turn. One that I was not capable of  plowing through on my own power.

When life is clicking along, I tend to believe I’m holding the controls. I forget God is still present, still involved, still working. I forget until a surprise in the road pops up.

Difficulties naturally drive me to my knees. What I find tough is staying on Jesus when the good times roll. Assigning Him the glory rather than patting myself on the back. Realizing that apart from Him, I can do nothing.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5, 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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