Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder by Tracie Miles

OCTOBER 10, 2014

Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder TRACIE MILES

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, “Awww. I wish we could have seen her.” My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: “Mom, she is ugly!”

Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, “Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary.” Little Michael was too stunned for words.

We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else’s opinions would change that.

As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God’s eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God’s love for them was immeasurably more.

Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I’ve made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Just Call Me Pauline By Mary Southerland

Just Call Me Pauline Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I hate depression. It is an all-too-familiar foe in my life. I know. I am a grounded Christian and have walked with God for many years. I am a pastor’s wife … a Christian author and speaker. According to many people, I shouldn’t struggle with depression, but I do. It keeps me on my face before God. It keeps me broken and desperate for Him.

Thousands – seriously – thousands of people have prayed for me to be delivered and set free from this battle.

I continually search my heart, mind, and soul for some un-confessed sin.

I have sifted through my past and dealt with every painful memory God has brought to mind.

I have tried dozens of nutritional “cures.”

Exercise? Do it. It helps … but the darkness never quite goes away.

I have had two sleep studies, been given a light box, taken I don’t know how many different anti-depressants, and seen countless psychiatrists and counselors, searching for an answer. They don’t seem to have one that I like – you know, the one that takes away the darkness altogether.

I have come to the conclusion that my real name is Pauline.

No, I am nowhere close to the faith level of the apostle Paul, but we do have one thing in common. A pit. I’m not sure what Paul’s personal pit was. It doesn’t matter. When Paul begged God to take away his pain, the answer was a resounding “no.” God then proceeded to use Paul in amazing ways – because of and through the broken places in Paul’s life.

I want to be like Paul. I want to be okay with just being okay some days. It’s funny. On those days when I want to give up … I invariably receive an email, a phone call, a Facebook message, or a text telling me how God has used something I wrote or taught to change a life. I am just flat out amazed to think God can use me in such a way! That’s when I truly thank Him for the pit, knowing that He is working through my brokenness to encourage other broken people.

We are all broken in some way. We all have pits.

A pit is slimy. It is impossible to get a grip on anything because of the slime. You can’t climb out. I tried. But I kept sliding back down to the bottom. Evidently, God thought I needed to learn how to sit, be still, and know that He really is God.

And the bottom of my pit was just lovely – covered in mud. As I dredged through that mud, I came to a startling realization. I was a pig. I evidently loved wallowing in the mud of my messy past. I discovered that I had spent a lot of years burying a lot of junk in that mud.

Emotional junk that was just too painful to face.

Physical junk that I simply didn’t have the strength to master.

Mental junk that forged faulty thought patterns and nasty habits in my life.

Spiritual junk I desperately tried to hide as I attempted to find my worth in performance, human approval and effort.

I wish I had known then what I know now – that God loves me simply because He is love and He just can’t help Himself. I wish I had known that nothing I do or don’t do will ever change His love for me, and that no one – absolutely no one can take my place in His heart.

But it took the pit of clinical depression for me to learn those truths.

So today, I embrace the pain. I celebrate the fact that even in the darkness, I know He is there. God is with me. He is faithful. Jesus loves me, and He is for me.

Yes, the pit of depression is never far away and keeps me on my face before God. And that is a good thing.

Anything or anyone that makes me desperate for God can be counted as a blessing. Honestly, I hate that truth – but I also love it. God has used it to make my life a living illustration of the wonderful horrible certainty that His power shines best through the broken places. He is drawn to broken people. Broken people are why He came.

Did you know that my given name, Mary, literally means: “bitter, but when broken, sweet?” I guess I will keep it. After all, it is the perfect picture of who I really am.

Let’s Pray

Father, thank You that You are my strength and my joy. I turn to You in faith and seek Your forgiveness for the pride that blinds me to the hope I find in You. Please help me see Your hand at work in my life, and even when I can’t, give me the power to walk by faith and not by sight. Right now, I lay the broken pieces of my life at Your feet and am counting on You to come through for me.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Read and memorize Psalm 40:1-3.

Record these verses in your journal.

When the darkness comes, remember each promise and count on God’s grace

Investing Time By Mary Southerland

Investing Time

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom (Psalm 90:12, NLT).

Friend to Friend

I once read an African proverb, “Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.” The first time I read those words, I immediately thought of my husband who often says, “Honey, it really is okay for you to sit down and rest.” I tend to work myself into what my mama called a “tizzy.”

I have back problems … but sometimes pride myself on how much pain I can handle … instead of doing what I need to do. Rest.

I struggle with clinical depression every single day … but have been known to ignore the warning signs that it is time for me to stop, be still, and rest.

I have to admit that I struggle with the idea of rest. For years, I measured my worth by how much I did and how well I did those things. Then I crashed and burned. God simply shut the door, turned out the light, and said, “Enough!” For two years, I sat at the bottom of a deep dark pit of clinical depression. I learned many important lessons during that time, and discovered countless valuable truths – one of which was my innate need for solitude and rest.

Solitude is deliberately and diligently setting aside time to “sit down” at the feet of Jesus. It is in those still, quiet moments of solitude at His feet that we can more clearly hear God speak. There we find strength and direction for the journey ahead. I also learned that in order to practice solitude, I needed a new perspective on time. In short, I needed to learn how to budget my time and invest it wisely – instead of carelessly spending it.

We are all responsible for how we spend the time God has given us. Time is a precious gift. Every morning we are credited with 86,400 seconds. No balance is carried into the next day, and every night erases what we fail to use. If we use it in the wrong way, that time is lost forever and cannot be reclaimed. Un-budgeted time gravitates to our weaknesses, is stolen by others, or wasted on the unimportant. We must budget time, just as Jesus did.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52, NIV).

At the age of 12, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with His parents for the annual Passover Celebration. When His parents began the long trip home, they did not miss their son. When they realized Jesus was not with them, they assumed He was traveling with friends. He wasn’t. Jesus was teaching in the temple. My first reaction would probably have been pride in the fact that religious scholars and teachers were actually listening to my young son. I would most likely have encouraged Jesus to continue, basking in the looming recognition and acclaim. Instead, Jesus returned home where – for 18 to 20 years – He simply grew and matured mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Then He began His ministry, the most powerful ministry ever known. In other words, Jesus Christ budgeted His time wisely, resulting in a balanced life of fulfilled purpose. We can live the same kind of life – if our priorities are right.

We need to set priorities and make sure they line up with God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that “there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.” If we don’t set life priorities, other people will.

We need to schedule priorities – setting aside chunks of time for the important things in life. Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 warns, “For a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight.” Solitude – time alone with God does not just happen. We have to make it happen.

We must also stick to our priorities. The apostle Paul teaches us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). Every challenge will either wreck our priorities or affirm them. Right priorities stand firm in the face of change.

One day, we will all stand before the Father and give an account of how we invested our time. Today, examine your time management habits in light of eternity. Initiate schedule changes that honor God. Make a new commitment to invest your time wisely.

Let’s Pray

Father, I recognize my need for time alone with You. I lay down my schedule, my agenda, and anything else in my life that would keep me from that time. Please forgive me for the way I often squander away the minutes, hours, and days of my life. Give me the power to invest time wisely.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough By Renee Swope

OCTOBER 1, 2014

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough RENEE SWOPE

“Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him …” 1 Peter 5:8-9 (GW)

Have you ever gotten that awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling after finding out you let someone down? It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me as I read through an email from a client, sent to my manager and forwarded to me, describing how I had let some details fall through the cracks on a project.

A horrible sense of discouragement and embarrassment moved in for the kill.

In the past, I would have welcomed my uninvited critical thoughts to stay a while, resigned to the fact that I must be unable to do anything right!

But not this time; too many hurtful experiences had taught me to recognize failure as an opportune time for my opponent, the devil, to devour me with feelings of inadequacy and shame. This enemy is bent on making me believe that when my best isn’t good enough, I’m not good enough.

Fortunately, times of pain have also included hours of poring over God’s promises, gathering wisdom to deal with this unwelcome intruder. I have learned to be alert to the devil’s schemes and ready to stand against them. In today’s key verses, Peter tells us how:

“Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

After reading the email and letting my thoughts run wild for a few minutes, I knew I had to clear my mind. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me unclutter my thoughts with the clarity of truth from logistical, circumstantial and spiritual points of view.

1) I jotted down a list of logistical truths: facts about what happened, what I did right, wrong or forgot to do at all.

2) I also wrote a list of circumstantial truths: factors of my “reality” during the project.

In six months time, a close friend died of cancer, our family adopted a baby from Ethiopia, my mom was hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs and moved in with us, and my father underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Although I cut back on some things, I tried to push through on a few commitments I made before the bottom fell out. Exhausted and completely overwhelmed, I couldn’t keep up. But I hadn’t admitted or communicated my limitations to our client.

3) Finally, and most importantly, I made a list of spiritual truths. Turning through my Bible, I found and wrote down promises to remind me of these facts:

  • “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26, NIV).
  • “The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Psalm 138:8, NASB).

Listing logistical, circumstantial and spiritual truths helped me quiet my mind to see all that was going on. Suddenly, I was aware of what God wanted me to do versus what my opponent was trying to do — devour me with discouragement.

God wanted me to humble myself before Him, be honest with my limitations and make more cut backs in my schedule. After apologizing to our client and explaining what happened, she understood and things eventually worked out.

Although I had done the best I could, my best wasn’t good enough. But it didn’t mean I wasn’t good enough. It just meant I needed to make some truth-filled assessments and wisdom-based adjustments!

Lord, some days my best isn’t good enough, but it’s all I have to give. Help me remember that my best is all You expect. Guide me with Your grace as I make truth-filled assessments of my life and wisdom-based adjustments as needed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 90:17, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.” (NIV)

When Your World Falls Apart By Mary Southerland

When Your World Falls Apart

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Friend to Friend

A father was trying to take his Sunday afternoon nap but having little success because his young son kept waking him up with the complaint, “Daddy, I’m bored.” The father knew he needed to come up with some kind of plan to keep the little boy occupied, or there would be no nap. He glanced at the newspaper lying on the coffee table and had what he thought was a brilliant plan to keep his son busy and give him more time to sleep.

The father picked up the paper and pointed to a picture of the world on the front page. “This is a picture of the world, but it is also a puzzle,” the father explained. He then ripped the picture into about fifty pieces, handed them to his young son and said, “I want you to put it all back together.” He lay down to finish his nap, thinking he would get at least another hour of sleep.

In about fifteen minutes, the little boy woke him up saying, “Daddy, I’ve got it finished. It’s all put together.” The father could not believe it. His son was too young to know much about geography. “How did you do that?” he asked in amazement. “Dad, there was a picture of a person on the back page of that newspaper, and when I got my person put together, the world looked fine.”

Pain can rip our lives apart. We frantically try to find some way to put it all back together, but the broken pieces don’t seem to fit anymore. What then?

Trust God. Like the children of Israel, just stick your toes in the water, and watch God part the raging sea before you.

You may be desperately clinging to the broken and mismatched remnants of your life, wondering how you can go on. Whispers of the enemy creep into your heart, soul, and mind, taunting you with the lie that you are just too dirty and too broken for God to love or use. You might as well give up.

No! That is a lie from the pit and smells like smoke!

God is drawn to broken people, choosing the most broken to do His highest work. His light shines best through broken people.

There are no accidents with God, nor is He surprised by anything or anyone in the life of His child. God uses even the most horrendous circumstances for our good. Every circumstance comes to us for a purpose, bound by God’s love and plan, and faithfully delivered with His permission.

Only God can take the broken pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for you to let go … and trust Him. And you really can trust God.

No one loves you like He does.

You may not always understand or even like His process, but you can always trust His heart of love for you.

Let’s Pray

Father, I choose to believe You are faithful and will do what You promise to do in Your Word. I believe that when I lay my pain and hurt at Your feet, You can and will transform it all into something beautiful. I choose to believe You will turn the broken places of my life into living illustrations of Your sufficiency and healing power.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Read the following verse about the good that God can bring out of the difficult times in life. Record the verse in the journal. Then write it in your own words as it applies to your life.

Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

Letting Love be my “Go To” Outfit By: Lynn Cowell

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

Letting Love be my “Go-To” Outfit LYNN COWELL

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience … Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Colossians 3:12,14 (NASB)

Traveling sure can be hard on us girls! Trying to cram everything we’d like to bring into a space that’s just a fraction of what we’re used to. What a challenge!

Airline travel is especially hard. In the interest of saving money, I often choose carry-on luggage only. Which means there’s only one small bag to hold everything I need.

Since space is limited, when I pack I have to take my time. I’ve got one shot to make the right decisions. One chance to be sure I have the perfect outfit for each scenario I’ll find myself in. Dress or pants? New shoes or comfortable ones? Cute purse or functional?

How I can struggle with deciding something as simple as how I should dress!

Yet there are times when I don’t just struggle with how to dress on the outside. I struggle with dressing my inside, too!

Like the decision between wearing my new shoes or the broken-in ones, my heart-choices easily gravitate toward what “feels” comfortable.

In a conversation with my husband, my mind naturally thinks of what I want to say rather than listening to the words he is speaking.

When dialogue with my kids becomes heated, I can slip into demanding respect, before I fully hear what they are trying to say. I’m sad to admit it, but caring about my own needs, my feelings, my desires and my agenda often comes first.

I want to change that.

Just like when I’m packing, I want to slow down, carefully choose the words I say, the attitudes I have and the actions I take. Each day, I’ve got one shot to make the right decision.

Today’s key verse tells us the first step in making these right decisions is choosing the best “outfit” to put on our hearts each day: “… put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience … Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12b, 14).

I want love to be my “go-to” outfit, my first choice, my initial reaction. But getting to the place where love becomes completely natural can be a bit uncomfortable, like breaking in a new pair of shoes. However, by daily pushing past the messages of our me-first culture, love can become my favorite “go-to” choice. Instead of overreacting to situations that arise in my family, at work or in my friendships, I ask God to help me respond in love knowing I have the power of Jesus working through me.

No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing today, I can confidently put on love — exactly the choice I will be most beautiful in!

Dear Lord, as You know, loving others isn’t always the easiest or most natural choice for me. Before I go any further today, help me to put on love, putting others needs and wants before my own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” (NIV)

Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” (NLT)