Peace for the Day

Devotions for our daily angst.


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Love

 Flag of FranceIn light of the tragedy in Paris, I want to recommit myself to living life on God’s terms, in love. Not sexual love (eros) where I am the center of the universe. Not kindred love (storge). Not brotherly love (phileo) where I do for you and you do for me. But, God’s kind of love. In the Greek, His love is translated agape. It is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, and the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.

In John 13: 34, 35 (The Message) Jesus tells the disciples, “Let me give you a new command: Love (agape) one another. In the same way I loved (agape) you, you love (agape) one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love (agape) you have for each other.”

In the same way I loved you –

How did He love me?

For God so loved the world, he gave…

He died so I could live.

Father God – I cry out to You for the hurting, the wounded, the shocked in Paris. If ever we needed You and your love, it’s now. Comfort those who mourn. Bring healing and healers to Paris. Expose those who would continue to harm us. Help me to walk in Your love and to bring Light and Life to this world. I chose to love. In Jesus’ name I do pray. Amen. It shall be so.

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Trust

Trust

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 Msg)

Trusting God, after knowing Him thirty-one years, should be easy. After all, I have the advantage of hindsight. I look back to see His steady hand leading me here, guiding me there, meeting needs beyond what I could hope, ask, or dream.

But…

For me, there always is a “but”.

Here’s the scenario. A dear friend is stuck in one of those boxed-in, no way out, through, under, over, despairing, dark, and hopeless times life brings us. He can’t fix the situation. He can’t kick, yell, scream, or buy his way out. The people who love him don’t have the means or ability to help. It hurts to watch knowing all we can do is, well, pray. I want to fix this. Now. I want to raise my fist in the air, storm the gates, and make this horrible situation right.

I decided to write him a note. I’ve been in the exact place, a dark tunnel with no end in sight, just different circumstances. I contemplated what I would share.

And then it came. The thought.

Yeah, but, what if God doesn’t do anything? What if God doesn’t come through for him?

That’s the question, isn’t it? What am I going to believe? Who am I going to trust?

Do I trust God enough to tell my friend God will take care of him? Will be with him through this long night until the light of day pierces the darkness?

My husband says, “Once you tell him, it is God’s problem not yours.” Nothing is ever that easy for me. I struggle with faith, trust, believing. I feel guilty that I’m even wondering. God has been faithful to me all these years. Why wouldn’t He work in my friend’s life? I cling to God for dear life. Does my friend? Does it matter?

Father! I can’t believe I’m even wondering. I’ve walked with You long enough that I should trust You implicitly. But, here I am back at square one. I’m sorry, Lord. Help my unbelief. Help me to share all You have done in me and my life with this precious friend and, then, let go to let You work. Father, I commit the situation to You, the God who is able.

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Honor

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier GuardsThese people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me. Matthew 15:8

Instead of a donkey (Numbers 22), God used a television show to start me thinking about honor. (Such an old fashioned notion.) The use of cursing God’s name as a basis for the majority of the dialog caused me discomfort and led to intense internal discussions. I cringed every time I heard the characters swear but, in truth, I didn’t want to stop watching. It took me a few weeks and a lot of wheedling with myself and God to finally conclude I could no longer watch the show. By doing so, I was not honoring Him.

About the same time, I stumbled across Mark 6:4-6 NIV. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The wonderful thing about reading the Word is that no matter how many times I’ve read one verse, in a moment of clarity, I understood it in a totally new way. I noticed a link between honor and faith and miracles. The people in his hometown did not honor Jesus; therefore, He could not do any miracles there.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines honor this way – “to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one’s life”.[i] We hear about very few miracles across the church in America. Could it be, I wondered, connected to our lack of honoring Him? We don’t grant him the position of respect and authority that we once did. Bringing it closer to home, I examined my life. Do I honor God?

Honor is not an idea to be worn like a badge. It’s a core value that requires action. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, the Honor Guard protects the tomb 24-7 365 days a year. The maid of honor helps the bride prepare for the wedding. Medal of Honor recipients acted valiantly beyond the call of duty. Students elected to the National Honor Society maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average and participate in extracurricular activities.

I want to honor God, in practice. I yearn for the Holy Spirit to nudge me when I’m not. Like Chris Tomlin sings in the song Amazing Love “It’s my joy to honor You. In all I do, I honor You.” That’s my prayer.

[i]  http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/honor.html


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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

I love my family and the friends who are as dear to me as family. I treasure each and every one of them and the time we spend together. For my 60th birthday, they gave me the grandest gift – all of them all together for an entire day. We gathered at my daughter’s home for an afternoon of laughing, talking, playing, and, as it developed, singing around a blazing fire pit late into the night.

God gave me this treasured gift before I knew to ask. Ephesians 3:20 tells us He is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams]. This He did with His usual extravagance.

One day a brown-haired young man with twinkling green eyes and a quirky sense of humor walked into my life and my heart became his. Who knew the blessings that would ensue because the Air Force recruiter was closed for lunch and the Navy recruiter was open? This “happenstance” brought him to my little part of the world at the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. Who could foresee the day we met we’d be blessed with a wonderful family woven together over a lifetime with dear friends into a beautiful tapestry?

Not me, for sure. I didn’t even know I needed one. But God did.

The Bible is peppered with familial stories of deception, lies, cheating, manipulating, controlling, disdain, forgiveness, love, and grace. Cain killed Abel. Joseph’s brothers hated him. Isaac and Rebekah, playing favorites, pitted their sons against each. John and Andrew’s mother pushed Jesus to promote them above the other disciples.

In families, whether immediate or the greater community, we rub each other like sandpaper smoothing out the rough edges. We strengthen and hold each other up. We stretch one another to the limits. We learn to depend on God because, sometimes, it all goes wrong and we break.

I’m grateful God knew what I needed before I even asked. I would have missed out on the greatest blessing – joy, love, heartache – family.


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Fret Not, The Anxiety Cure, God’s 3-Step Plan to Peace of Mind

Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6, 7 NIV)

Worry

Anxiety knocked.

I opened the door.

“Welcome,” I said. “I sensed you might stop by today. Have a seat. I’ll put on the tea kettle.”

Even before she sat down, Anxiety jumped right in. “What are you going to do about money?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.” I wrung my hands. “I could work. I want to work.” My thoughts started spinning. “Not really full time and not at a retail store. But I’ll do – whatever.”

“It’ll run out – eventually – and then what?” Anxiety goaded. “It’ll be too late then.”

I agreed wholeheartedly as the whirlwind accelerated.

We sipped our tea.

“Your husband,” Anxiety whispered knowing she treaded on thin ice here, “he doesn’t really get it. He’s oblivious.”

“Or,” I quickly countered, “He knows God will care for us.”

Anxiety smiled that smug “as if” smile of hers. “You should look for a job now. Push ahead. Don’t wait.”

The whirlwind spiraled.

“Yes,” I said. “I will. I am. I have.”

She finished her tea and drew back for the sucker punch. “You probably won’t even find one, you know.”  Anxiety pummeled me. “It’s your age. Your experience. You cost too much. Why hire you when they can get someone much cheaper?”

“I’ll accept cheaper.”

Ignoring me, she continued. “Plus your skill set is too broad. You worked all those years and for what?”

As I added my own accusations, the tornado force winds spun me off the ground. “It’s a shabby, gray, just-get-by existence for you. You should know better. Hasn’t God always taken care of you? Oh you of so very little faith.”

And so it was I spent a day bemoaning my existence and worrying about the future, my husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their children, retirement, and the country. Also, my dog, at eight, might have only five or so more years to live, love, and enjoy.

Eventually, it occurred to me that I hadn’t glanced at my Bible in over a week let alone hung-out with my best friend, Prince of Peace. Hmm. With those thoughts, the tornado dispersed and I dropped to the floor

Anyone who lives with anxiety, that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, knows how easily it sneaks up and how difficult it is to quiet. Some of us have lived with it so long, we think it’s normal.

Telling me to stop worrying, like my husband tries to do, is meaningless. If I could stop being anxious by obeying an order, I would. I don’t want to live in this fretful state. I just don’t always remember how to make the spinning stop once it’s started.

In the Amplified Bible, the phrase “fear not” appears fifty-six times, “fret not” and “do not be anxious” four times each. God instructed Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man and conqueror of the Promised Land, to fear not and to be strong and courageous three times in the first nine verses of the book of Joshua.

God knows us, knows how we’re anxious and fretful, so he developed a plan. It’s found in Philippians 4.

Step 1 – Eyes up. Communicate. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests).  Prayer is simply talking to God. Whether I talk, write, or think the prayers, God tells me to bring all of my anxieties, worries, and concerns – everything, no limitations, no conditions –  to Him for He cares for me affectionately and watchfully (I Peter 5:7).

Step 2 – Eyes out. Develop gratefulness. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving.  Thankfulness forces me to look up, around, and outside of myself. It changes the focus from me, myself, and I to the world around me and to the God who made it.

Step 3 – Eyes fixed. Stand firm. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. It’s not a one-time prayer, at least not for me. We’re in a battle and we need to stay the course, to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking (Matthew 7:7). Before worry starts to assail me, I need to determine in my heart that God has my back and stay focused on Him when the attacks come.

God’s promise in Philippians 4:7 says as we bring our cares to Him, thank Him, and continue in Him, His peace which passes all understanding will garrison and mount guard over our hearts and minds. Isaiah 53:5 says it this way. The chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has already paid the price so that we can have peace, His peace. He said in the world we’ll have trials and tribulations but be of good cheer, He’s overcome it.

Father, – Oh, how I need my heart and mind guarded these days. When anxiety knocks, remind me of this teaching. Help me to immediately turn to you, to trust You will care for me. I give You the specific cares on my heart today and am determined to leave them there. Let your praise be ever on my lips and bubbling over in my heart. You are so good, Lord. Keep my eyes focused on you. Eyes up, eyes out, eyes fixed. Amen. It shall be so.


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I Have Decided to Love

Multicultural Arms

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does. (1Corinthians 14:1MSG)

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend. Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

Excerpt from his (Martin Luther King Jr.) August 16, 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here” speech.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.

I was on a crowded bus once headed for Norfolk when an interesting discussion occurred between my fellow passengers. What follows is a fictional version of the conversation. The story centers on a beautiful elderly woman. While her name is not Eulalie, her words spoken over thirty years ago, ring true today. Especially today.

Educat’n Eulalie

Miss Eulalie Lisbeth Purdee picked up her worn carpet bag, black pocketbook and prepared to board the already crowded bus. It was slow going. She took a step and stopped. One foot up. Stop. She leaned on the handrail and shifted her weight. Lift. Another step. With a hoist­ing motion, she pulled herself and her bags up the Greyhound stairs. Behind her, impatient people shuffled in line.

“Here, ma’am, let me help.”

Eulalie looked up. A tall white man wearing faded jeans with a frayed jeans jacket leaned toward her from the top step. His arm reached out to her.

“It’s the arth-a-ritis, you know.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Gets to my knees someth­ing bad. Makes ’em all stiff like.”

The stranger smiled as he helped her up and reached for the bag. “Here. Let me take that for you.”

She pulled back. “You won’t go to fool’n an old woman, would you?”  Eulalie held on tight. “My medicines and my homemade divinity is in that bag.”

“Now, ma’am, you know my mama taught me better than that. I’m just going to put it up here for you. Would that be all right?”

Eulalie nodded and released the bag.

She found the first empty seat about four rows back and sat down. She wiped her brow with a hand-stitched embroidered hankie and patted her heaving chest. Traveling wore on her and she’d just started the trip.

“Phew,” she said as she waved the hand with the hankie back and forth across her face.  “It’s heating up in here.”

Her stiff bent fingers, joints enlarged with age, struggled to undo the buttons of her black wool coat. She strained to pull off the heavy winter coat. There wasn’t enough room. She angled forward in the seat.

“Here. Let me help,” said a deep voice.

Eulalie looked up to see who had spoken. She saw a strong dark face hidden behind mirrored glasses. She saw herself in them looking up at him. He was large and black, a “dude” her grandson would have called him. She thought he was young, maybe twenty. Even though it was November, he wasn’t wearing a jacket. Eulalie noticed his arm muscles were bigger than the top of her legs. He looked like the weight lifters she’d seen on the television set.

He held the coat for her as she pulled out her arms.

“Thank you,” she told him.

Carefully, he laid the coat over the back of the seat. His head was covered in small tight braids with red, yellow, green, and blue wooden beads woven in. They clicked when he dipped his head toward Eulalie. He smiled and walked on.

Eulalie settled the coat around her shoulders. The purse was still sitting on her lap. She decided to tuck it in the chair beside her.

“You all settled, ma’am?”

It was the kind jeans man. Eulalie nodded yes. “You’re not from around here.”  She stated. “No offense,” she said, “but when you get my age, you’ve earned the right to be nosy.”

He laughed. “None taken, ma’am. I’m from Texas. Traveling to D. C. for the holidays.”

“I thought as much.” Satisfied with his response, she answered his question. “I’m comfortable. Thank you.”

“Your bag’s right up there.” Tex, she decided to call him that, pointed to a compart­ment over her head. “You need anything from it, you let me know.”

“Well, I don’t mean to be a bother, but I could use my Bible. I meant to get it out before I sat down. It’s right along on the outside pocket. If you could just reach in and pull it out for me, I’d be much appreciated.”

“No problem.”

She watched him feel for the book.

“Eulalie Lisbeth Purdee,” he read. “Well, Miss Purdee, seems like this book’s seen some use.” Tex handed her the Bible.

She ran a finger over the worn gold letters.

“Twenty-two years’ worth. I’ll be 72 come spring.” She fluttered the onion skin pages, soft and yellow with age. “Now this Christmas past, my grandson, – I’m going to spend the holidays with him and his family.” She was proud of this fact. “He gave me a brand new Bible.  Large writing. It’s a fine, handsome book.”

Eulalie smoothed down the leather cover and laid her wrinkled creamy coffee brown hands on top. “But it’s not this book. My husband gave me this one. It was on my fiftieth birthda­y and our thirtieth anniver­sary.”

“That’s something in this day and age, Miss Purdee. Seems to me that book’s been good to you.” Tex was forced to sit down to let people pass. His seat was directly across the aisle from Eulalie’s.

She smiled to herself. “It certainly has.”

The bus pulled away from the curb and the trip began.

Eulalie was just starting to doze when she heard, “I’m telling you Johnson had Kennedy killed…”

She looked up wondering if she could see the face belonging to such a young voice. It had a crackle in it like it hadn’t properly aged yet. Yes, she thought. There he was hanging over the seat talking to Tex. His dirty blond hair was slicked. She could see pimples still dotted his pockmarked face.

“He had him killed I’m telling you.”

It wasn’t eavesdropping, Eulalie thought. They were talking loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Johnson did not have Kennedy executed,” Tex said. “Why would he go and do that?”

Eulalie watched his blue-jeaned arm emphasize each word as he talked.

“To be president!” Spittle spewed out of the young man’s mouth. He wiped it away with the back of his sleeve without a thought. “All vice presidents want to become presidents. It’s only natural.”

The kid, Joe College she thought she’d call him, was mouthing off again. Couldn’t be a day over nineteen but talked as if he’d been around forever. Just like the young, she chuckled.

“Well, they sure as heck don’t make good ones. Just look at Nixon.”

That was a different voice, Eulalie thought. She poked her head into the aisle but couldn’t see who was talking. The new voice must be sitting next to Joe.

“And Agnew.” Joe College sat on the arm of the chair with his butt perched against the window. Eulalie was certain he was going to fall.

“Take a history class,” Tex said. “Agnew was never president.”

“Well, he did time, didn’t he?” Joe College was on a roll now.  “And I have studied history and that’s what I’m telling you, man. Johnson plotted against Kennedy. He wanted the dude out of the way.”

“President Johnson was a good man, a good president.” Eulalie couldn’t help herself.

“Listen to the woman.” Tex winked at her. “She knows her stuff.”

“It was an awful time, just awful,” Eulalie said. “President Johnson did all he could after President Kennedy was shot.”

“That’s right.”  It was the new voice talking. The man swung around into the aisle so he could look at Eulalie and Tex. “All he could to get us deeper into Nam. Man! That war was a crock.”

He had thick mousy brown hair hanging halfway down his back and couldn’t have been old enough to even be alive during the Sixties.

“It’s the end of November,” she said. “How can you be so tan?”

“Surf’n and ski’n. Ski’n and surf’n, ma’am. I live to do both. On my way now to my old man’s place in Denver. Gonna stay there a while and hook up with a resort. Earn some big bucks teaching the yuppies to ski.” He pulled his hair out of his face and smiled at her.

Eulalie couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen such deep blue eyes. They twinkled at her like they were dancing. She returned Denver’s smile and felt the need to pat her black pillbox hat.

“And then there’s Ford.” Joe couldn’t get off the subject. “If he wasn’t tripping at a golf course, he was tripping down stairs.”

Everyone laughed.

“Who’d ever thought a good old boy from Arkansas would be president?” Tex asked.  “Will wonders never cease?”

“Should’ve left that hillbilly redneck back in the hills for all the good he’s done this country.” Denver picked lint off his corduroy pants.

“Nothing but trouble since he was elected.” With a wave of his hand, Joe College blew away all presidents, past and future.

“What’s a redneck?” Eulalie asked.

The men turned to look at her. They were quiet for a moment. It wasn’t that easy of a term to explain.

Tex decided to give it a try. “Well,” he rubbed his chin while he thought. “You know, a country boy, a hick, a hillbilly. Something like that.”

“Do you mean nigger?” she said. Her voice was quiet, intelligent.

“No, not that, ma’am.”

Eulalie explained to them, “Now you don’t have to be black or white to be a nigger. Just low. It’s not about color, you see. It’s about type.”

“Man!” Joe College said. “You know!  Redneck! A country jerk. Drinks shine. Has a riffle rack in the back of his truck. Like that. Wears flannel even in the summertime.”

“Well, we don’t mean a spick.” Denver added.

“Or a kike,” Tex said.

The men spewed racial slurs like pellets out of a scattergun.

“Now hold on just a minute!” The bus driver yelled over the talking and engine. He looked at his passengers in the large overhead mirror. “There won’t be any of that kind of talk on my bus! I don’t want any trouble!”

Except for the sound of wheels on asphalt, the bus was quiet.

Eulalie opened her Bible. After a few long minutes, she spoke into the silence. “We all God’s creation, you know, black, white. It don’t matter to Him. He made us all. My blood runs red. Your blood runs red.” She closed the book. “We all be His.”

Father, Heal the brokenhearted. Proclaim liberty to the captives and release from darkness for those who are in prison. Comfort those who mourn, grant consolation and joy to those who mourn in Charleston. What the enemy meant for evil to destroy us, to destroy our country and the lives of those who died, turn it for our good. In Jesus’ name. Amen. (Isaiah 61)


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Take Time to Make Time

Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Median. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God. Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this. Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?” God saw that he stopped to look. (Exodus 3:1-4 AMP)

Look!  I can’t read this verse without wondering what God would have done if Moses had not stopped to look at the bush. He didn’t glance at it. He observed, examined, and contemplated the fact that the bush before him was burning without being consumed. That’s not something you see every day. If Moses ignored the bush and walked on by, would God have found another leader for Israel? Or would He have taken an even bolder move by knocking Moses over the head to get his attention?

We think we live in the busiest times ever, but even a shepherd has pressure. Moses could have been in a hurry to get home or to move the flock to a more secure location. Maybe he was distracted by hunger or an upset stomach or thinking about a fight with his wife or fretting about his children. There could be a hundred reasons why Moses might have walked right on by that burning bush.

So I ask myself, how many burning bushes have I power walked by too distracted or too busy to notice? I don’t necessarily mean monumental burning bushes where I learn I’m going to rule a nation, but smaller moments when God wanted my attention to show me some little tidbit or to let me know He loves me in a special way. I don’t how many times I’ve passed someone in a store so focused on the shopping goal that I didn’t notice the person trying to say hello. (I’m sorry. I’m not a snob. Really.) My husband will tell you, “Lots!”

Father, I don’t want to miss anything You have for me, not one burning bush. I can be dense and preoccupied. Please help me to see, to really see, the world around me. Amen. It shall be so.