Mike&Sarah

Tag Archive: devo

The Whole Story

“the whole story”… there’s a sense of freedom in that, isn’t there? I’m glad you focused on this part Staci. The idea of Jesus wanting to hear the details, the parts that I think are important and pertinent, the moments that stick to my brain, that’s powerful. That communicates love, kindness, tender involvement. It says “I love you,” without using those particular words.

This was my response to this morning’s online New Testament in a Year devotional written by my friend Staci on Mark 5.  (I love having this online community with whom to read the Bible!)

The devotional was written on part of Mark 5, the story of the woman who suffered through 12 years of hemorrhaging, having visited medical “experts” who took her for every penny.  This woman believed that if she could just touch the robe of Jesus, she’d be healed of this chronic condition which made her an outcast in her culture.  After touching his robe, she could feel the bleeding dry up and she knew she was healed.  But Jesus wanted to talk with her.  Trembling, she told her story after which Jesus blessed and honored her.  It’s a beautiful story of a faith-filled risk.

I wonder…

  • What did Jesus’ face look like while the woman shared her whole story?
  • What did it feel like for the woman to unburden herself from the shame of her 12 year bleeding issue and to actually tell her whole story?
  • What did the woman do next? After 12 years of bleeding, of being “unclean” and an outcast in society, what was in the next chapter of her story?

Then I wonder…

  • What prevents me from telling Jesus my whole story?

This is where I’m stuck today. I’ve felt such overwhelming stress in the last two weeks. It’s come out through unkindness, short-tempered flare ups at Hubs, and general high-strung up-tightness.

When I’ve read my Bible, it’s been to check it off my list or to catch up with the reading group. But now I’m challenged to pause and consider why I’m not sharing my whole story with Jesus: He’s here. He sees my immature outbursts, He knows my thoughts better than I do. Sometimes I use that reasoning as an excuse to not talk with Jesus.

Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son

But there’s something transformational to confession: confess, admit, bring to light, stop hiding.  For years I’ve counseled students that when we confess our sin to Jesus, we are simply agreeing with God about our inability to live up to perfection and holiness on our own, and that confession highlights our need for a Savior.  These are very good things.

Confession also gives me an opportunity to “own” my choices which are demonstrated in my attitude, behavior, and words (as well as the ongoing conversations in my head).

Saying “I’m sorry” acknowledges a wrong has taken place, but asking “Will you forgive me?” is a humble invitation to the injured or offended party to move towards you with mercy.  That’s the powerful moment!  That’s when relationship can be restored.  “I’m sorry,” slaps a band-aid on a gaping wound.  “Will you forgive me?” invites a spiritual healing.

Jesus, I’ve been worried and distracted by many things.  I’m so sorry that in response to Your goodness, gifts and blessings I’ve been short-tempered, unkind, hurried, gruff, exacting and impatient with Hubs.  I’ve ignored You, simply rushing through my day to check obligations off of my list.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?  Thank you for forgiving me.  Your Word says you always will.  Whisper in my ear “This is the way, walk in it,” when I veer off path.  Remind me that You are with me for each step.  Thank You for the sweet gifts you pour into my life.  May my heart be renewed and restored today! I love you Jesus, and I need you.  Amen!  

Room to Breathe

Wide Open Fields in Wauseon, OH in 2010

Have you ever walked into a room or a situation and felt like you suddenly had room to breathe?  Perhaps you’ve experienced the feeling of being led into wide open spaces as your burdens were taken from you, like when an over-eager sky cap takes your weighty suitcases at the airport?  That’s how I felt when I read Psalm 9.9-10 while on the subway today.

Psalm 9.9-10 (The Message):

9-10 God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked.

These words made me so happy. I reread them several times.  They’ve floated in and out of my mind, returning like a balm when my anxieties and worries reappeared.

There are three things that keep coming up in my thoughts; three situations where I feel powerless and am in need of God’s compassion and action.  All day this triad of trials circulated in and out of my mind, jumping to the forefront at inconvenient times.

But these words of grace, rest, and peace speak of God’s kind involvement in daily life while reminding me that I can trust Him.  Aspects of God’s character like His sovereignty, omniscience and mercy come to mind.  These verses seem reminiscent of one of my favorite Hebrew words which is often translated “hope.”  That word actually means “confident expectation, not constant anxiety… knowing God won’t pull the rug out from underneath you.”

As I get ready for bed, my “triad of trials” (hello drama) hasn’t been resolved, nor will these situations be resolved in the foreseeable future.  I have to walk by faith, trusting in God and His unfailing character and love.  I can relax in Christ, finding sanctuary in Him.

Constant Conversation

While riding the F subway home last night, I read the evening devotional from Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening. One of my dear friends, Beth, sent it to me a few years ago, and I recently downloaded it for FREE on the Kindle app for my iPad. (Did you know that there are a TON of FREE books for the Kindle and for the iPad Kindle app? I’m reading all kinds of classics on the train! Thanks Amazon!)

I stumbled over this last line from the January 12 reading:

[Silent] children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Thy children’s tongues.    – Charles Spurgeon

That got me thinking, reflecting, and meditating as the train arrived at my subway stop and I filed out of the train into the old station. Climbing the stairs and thinking about this quote, I emerged from underground and discovered a crisp, beautiful, snow-covered world. Few people were out at our normally busy intersection where Prospect Park meets Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.

I walked by the movie theatre and thought about parenting. I’m not a parent, but one friend shared with me how difficult it is for her to get her daughter to open up to talk about her day. Another friend confided to a group of us that his son is silent and full of anger, making the home reverberate with tension when he returns from school.

These parents long to talk with their children. They want to hear from them, listen to stories, share memories, interact together and build a relationship. But their children are silent. These children offer very little by way of communication.

Writing “communication” brings to mind words like “community,” “communion,” “unity.” What wonderful longings we have! And how hard for these parents to feel so separated from their children; the children they love, provide for and protect.

Then I began to understand what Spurgeon was saying. How like a silent, morose child I have been when I rush through or forget to pray! What delight it must bring my Heavenly Father when I talk with Him throughout the day, sharing insights, hurts, embarrassments, observations, and asking questions and for forgiveness! The communion, the unity, the community with God comes from our communication with Him!

Now verses like Ephesians 6.18, Luke 18.1, Colossians 1.3, Colossians 4.2 and the more succinct 1 Thessalonians 5.17 “pray without ceasing,” seem like encouragement from a loving parent to communicate about even the mundane in life, and certainly the big issues.

Yes Lord, unloose all thy children’s tongues!

Jonah in October

Are you up for it? Now that it’s October, it’s time to start reading another book of the Bible.  In August I read Romans and September’s book of the month was Galatians.  Now that October is here, I’m diving into Jonah.

The goal is to read the entire book of Jonah everyday for the month of October. That’s ideal.  I don’t always live up to my ideals, so if I miss a day, or don’t make it all the way through Jonah on a certain day, I won’t give up or quit.  I’ll start again the next day.

What’s been really fun over the last two months is to see what “sticks” after reading the same book of the Bible over and over again.  I observed similarities and parallels between Romans and Galatians which I never saw before.  In Romans, I noted the word “expectations” three times, and I saw it in Galatians as well. I wonder if that word will show up in Jonah, too.  Seems like God is highlighting a theme for me.  I read from the Message or the English Standard Version.

So… are you up for it?  Will you join me in reading Jonah during October?

Galatians

Have you ever spent a month reading and re-reading one book of the Bible? Ten years ago one of my girlfriends introduced me to the idea with what she called “the Romans Challenge”.  As she explained it to me, the goal is to read the whole book of Romans everyday for a month.  One of the benefits is a change to your worldview due to the theological arguments in Romans.

In the 10 years since Daniela and I took that challenge while staffing the North Myrtle Beach Summer Project in 2000, I’ve gone back to Romans to change up my devotional reading and study times, to soak into a good book, and to refresh my perspective.  Last month I went back to the Romans Challenge to reinvigorate my love for the Scriptures.  I didn’t read the whole book everyday, but I did spend more time in Romans than I had in the recent past.

This month, after a discussion on facebook, I’m reading Galatians – this is the Galatians Challenge.  One of the former youth pastors at the church I grew up in is also taking it with me.  He’s in Kentucky, I’m in NW Ohio right now.  Another girlfriend said she’d try to do it, too, and another friend is doing her own Challenge with the book of Philemon.

We’re about a third of the way through the month and I really like Galatians.  I smile as I discover more parallels between Galatians and Romans.  Just like last month, I’m reading from The Message, a version of the Scriptures using modern language to capture the ancient Greek rhythm and idioms Paul used when he penned with original letters.  I find The Message refreshing for devotional reading.

Just read how this passage on the classic “fruits of the Spirit” is described:

But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit happens in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Sticky, part 4

Sigh.. more from Romans (my current “happy place”).  Excerpts from Romans 9 (The Message):

“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.  In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.”…

…”If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled ‘chosen of God,’ They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection.  God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.  Arithmetic is not his focus.”

I love this!

Sticky, part 3

More from Romans 8 (The Message):

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning.  He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.  The Son stands first in the line of  humanity he restored.  We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.  After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name.  After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself.  An then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the ed, gloriously completing what he had begun.

I love the part about God calling people by name (emphasis MINE).  Another part of Romans talks about how God calls us by name, and that we aren’t just a number to God.  (I’m sure I’ll quote that another day!)  Personal, intimate, real.  Luke 12.7 tells us that God has numbered the hairs on our heads – He knows us that well!  I love it.

Sticky, part 2

Some sticky words from Romans 8 (The Message):

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved.  Those who enter into Christ’s being-there-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.  A new power is in operation.  The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death….

…Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.  Focusing  on the self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.  That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn’t pleased at being ignored….

…So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent.  There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all.  The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on this your new life.  God’s Spirit beckons.  There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greating God with a child-like “What’s next Papa?” ….

I’m cheering as I read these words!  And sometimes I get goose-bumps!  Hooray!  Amen!