I Need Help By: Nicki Koziarz

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

I Need Help NICKI KOZIARZ

“When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down.” Exodus 17:12 (HSCB)

We were sitting in gray chairs next to white walls, listening to the hum of the air-conditioning unit. My legs crossed. His arms folded.

The memories of 12 years of arguments flashed before my eyes. The pride, the anger, the selfishness, the cold silence.

How does happily ever after end up like this? And when did we decide we couldn’t ask for help?

I know how and when. It happened when we decided to stuff our feelings and put Band-Aids over deep wounds because it seemed more visually appealing than an exposed injury.

Years had passed, and we kept going until neither of us could take it any longer.

And now we sit in these gray chairs next to these white walls. Our last effort. The words I couldn’t say all those years before spill from my lips … “We just need help.”

Help is offered, and I can finally breathe again. It was almost too late …

A few days later, I got one of those early morning phone calls. The kind of early morning call you know once you answer, your life will never be the same. An attempted suicide from someone close.

A soul who also wasn’t able to say, “I need help.” And I’m troubled by another almost too late cry for help I had no idea was being stifled.

Each day we pass by people who, like Moses, are becoming incredibly weary.

Moses was in the midst of a battle for the Lord. With the staff of God in his hand, he noticed that each time he let his arms down, the enemy advanced. But each time he held his arms up, the Israelite army advanced.

Moses had to keep his arms up for the victory, but he eventually grew weary and couldn’t do it on his own. Two people came alongside Moses to hold up his arms for just a little longer, and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

Two things challenge me from this story:

  1. The ability to say, “I just need help.”

The Bible doesn’t say Moses asked for help, but I imagine he did — either verbally or with a “Come here, come quick!” look or motion with his head. Contrary to what my soul screams, these are not words of weakness, but rather strength. They mean I’m not ready to give up: I want to keep going. I just need a little help. Vulnerability is one of the first things we look for in other people but the last thing we are willing to show ourselves.

  1. The ability to see those around me who need me to help hold up their arms.

Maybe one of the greatest prayers we can pray is to ask God to show us who it is that needs help … our help. Sure it’s risky to stand beside people who are ready to give up, but I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities for our own personal growth. Compassion is a powerful form of strength.

I want to be a woman who lives to see victory in others and myself. When my arms feel heavy, I want to ask for help. And when I see others’ arms falling, I want to quickly look for stones I can place under them.

Dear God, help us to be willing to say those words, “I need help” more freely in our lives … to You, and to others. Thank You for the grace You have given us through Jesus for today, tomorrow and the days to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)

You ARE Accepted By: Jennifer Rothschild

You are Accepted Jennifer Rothschild

“… to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)

Several years ago, my friend Lisa was going through a crafty phase and wanted to make a piece of word art for me. So, she texted this question: “If one word could become a reality in your life, what would it be?”

Girl, this took me awhile! The one word that kept coming to mind was “accepted,” but I was too embarrassed to admit that feeling accepted was what I really longed for.

I was a Christian, so I knew God accepted and loved me unconditionally. Wasn’t that already a reality in my life?

The reality was, I was afraid God accepted everyone but me.

In pondering my one word, God began to show me that I associated my performance with my acceptability.

Here’s what I (wrongly) believed: If I am good, I am acceptable. If I help people … if I am a blessing instead of a burden … well, then I am accepted. But, if I fail, blow it or mess up, then I feel like a reject — not acceptable to me, not to others and certainly not to God.

My skewed belief was I was acceptable only when I was at the top of my game or in the center of God’s will. Clearly, I had not truly embraced my identity in Christ because acceptance is what I already have.

So, I texted Lisa back with my one word that I needed to embrace and believe: accepted.

Lisa’s gift showed up in the mail a week later. It was a wooden ledge with the Scrabble letters A-C-C-E-P-T-E-D glued on it. This is a treasure to me because it is a constant reminder to see what I already have in God rather than seek it in the wrong ways and places.

Lots of us struggle with trusting the truth that we’re acceptable to and accepted by God. We are accepted not because of what we do or don’t do; we are accepted not because of how we succeed or if we’re good. We are accepted not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and to as many as receive Him, He gives the power to be sons and daughters of God (John 1:12). Talk about accepted!!

We are not only accepted “in” the beloved, we are accepted “by” the Beloved Himself!

My Scrabble word “accepted” reminds me I already have what I want. When I am feeling less than acceptable, I hold it in my hand, wrap my fingers around it and the truth it represents, and tell myself, “This is what God gave me. This is who I am.”

Can you take that truth in?

If you feel invisible, it may be because, deep down, you never really embraced the truth about yourself — that you are accepted by God, admired by Him and have His full and unconditional love.

Just like Lisa glued the word “accepted” to a Scrabble ledge for me, ask God to glue the word “accepted” to your heart so that, with every heartbeat, this truth is reinforced and becomes woven into the very fiber of your being.

Oh my friend, you are accepted by God. That is your reality.

When you accepted Christ, He accepted you. You may sometimes feel rejected, but how you feel is not who you are! You are acceptable, accepted — no exceptions!

Lord, please write this truth on my heart. Help me trust what You say about me more than I trust how I may feel about myself. Protect me from the lies that tell me I am what I do or how I feel. Thank You for accepting and loving me without conditions. I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hosea 2:19-20, “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” (NASB)

Do You Have What You Want or Want What You Have? By: Sharon Jaynes

Do You Have What You Want or Want What You Have? Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need (Psalm 23:1 NLT).

Friend to Friend

Flutter. Flutter. Bang! Flutter. Flutter. Bang! Momma and Papa Bluebird danced in front of our sunroom windows, trying frantically to break through the glass barrier. Time and time again they banged their feathered heads against the panes. What were they pursuing? Where were they trying to go? What had caught their eye? Why were they so persistent? I wanted desperately to help them solve their dilemma, but I couldn’t figure out what the dilemma was.

After three days of this featherbrained, frenzied activity, I decided to put myself in their position, get a bird’s-eye view, and examine the situation from their perspective. I stepped out onto the patio, stood in front of the windows, and there it was. In the reflection of the glass was mirrored their birdhouse, some thirty feet behind me.

Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird’s lovely cedar-shingled home with decorative finial, sat on a tall pole nestled under the protective branches of an old oak tree. Their bed and breakfast came equipped with an adjoining spa—a concrete birdbath surrounded by fragrant rosebushes bursting with red blossoms. But instead of being satisfied with their high-rise estate, they were banging their heads against the pane striving for a mirage—a mere reflection.

Amazingly, a few times they turned around, soared to their home, and crawled through its opening for a reprieve. But before long, they were dive bombing into the glass again, trying to gain entrance into an illusion of something better.

This made me think of my own life and the many times I go flutter, flutter, bang—flutter, flutter, bang—striving for something that is just a cheap imitation of God’s perfect provision for my life.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, to prosper you, and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”

And yet I argue, “Yeah, I know that God. I know you’ve provided me with this home and this job and with this wonderful life. But, well, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything, but I reaaaaly would be happy if you’d give me a house like Mary’s over there. And you know Beth? Well I reaaaaly would be happy if you made me a Bible teacher like she is. And you know Teresa? If I could just be as sweet as she is, I’d be satisfied. Then there’s Laura. Now God, she has the prettiest silky hair. Could I just have hair like hers? Don’t get me wrong, Lord. I do appreciate you given me hair, but if I could just have…………….”

Well, you get the picture.

Flutter. Flutter. Bang! Flutter. Flutter. Bang!

The banging birds may have knocked themselves silly, but they also knocked some sense into my hard head. God has provided me with everything I need. As the psalmist wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1 NLT).

I can flutter about looking at the mirage of happiness in other people’s windows, or I can nestle down in contentment and not get my feathers ruffled trying to get more. The way to keep from fluttering around from one mirage of happiness to the other is to stay close to home and be satisfied with my own nest, my own feathers, and my own chicks.

I’ve learned that I’m most content when I’m at home in the Father’s will, nestled in His protective branches, and nurtured by His Living water.

Let’s Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me when I complain about what I don’t have and when I am not thankful for what I do have. Thank You for being my Shepherd who has given me everything I need. I love you so much.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

How to Live a Satisfied Life By: Sarah Mae

AUGUST 18, 2015

How to Live a Satisfied Life SARAH MAE

“Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life.” Genesis 25:8a (NASB)

I was lying in bed one morning, my sweet daughter Caroline tucked in close, as I rubbed her head.

She had come down a few minutes earlier to snuggle. It was early, 5:30 a.m., but the sun shone through my bedroom window, gently easing me awake.

As I stroked her soft hair, I kept thinking about how much I love her and how she is growing up so fast. Six years old now.

Four years ago I wrote about how exhausting it is to tend to little ones, especially at bedtime when you’re spent and just need a break. But how yet, even in the crazy hardness of it all, God made it so that our little ones would need us. Close, and soothing and available. I find that those words are just as true today. She still needs me, pulled in close, surrounding her with comfort and love.

And so I do this. I let her get into bed with me in the early-morning hours because I don’t want to miss it — this precious time, this cuddly, sleepy, warm, tender time. I know it is only for a season, and one day, it will be gone. But I have the here and now; I have today to take it in and enjoy.

And this is how I want to live, taking in these moments so that I can look back on my life and not regret that I missed them.

Every day I get the opportunity to start new. Every day I can begin again. Maybe I missed it yesterday. Maybe I got too busy or I got sucked into Facebook, or I just didn’t want to play with my kids. Those are the moments that keep me up at night. Those are the moments I need God’s grace to cover me so I can start over. I need His help every day.

This loving, this mothering, this living that I’m doing requires sacrifice and work, and I need daily reminders of this truth, or I will let the days carry me off, one rolling into another. I don’t want to regret my days because I don’t want to regret my life.

Here’s the thing about regret: We can’t escape it because we can’t escape sin.

We will have things and times and decisions we will regret over the course of our lives. The key to really living, to living unregrettably, is not to have no regrets, it’s to know and choose to begin again. It’s to be fully awake to our decisions. It’s to choose the direction of our lives the best that we can, with who we are and where we are. It’s to trust God, walking forward in faith, knowing that He delights in us as we delight in Him and the good things He gives us.

We can live in such a way that at the end, we can die satisfied with how we lived.

Satisfied. Not perfect.

Abraham died satisfied with his life, but we know that he sinned and made poor decisions in his life. He didn’t live perfectly, but He followed God by faith, and he lived a well-spent life. He diedsatisfied.

When we sin or fail or botch up something again, we can decide to move forward, learning from it, and beginning again and again and again. This is how we keep on.

This is how we live a satisfied life.

Heavenly Father, thank You that You don’t leave me in my mess. Thank You that Your mercies are new every day, and that I can begin again. Help me to never forget Your grace, and please help me to live a life that is well-spent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is the gift of God.” (NASB)

John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NASB)

We Really Do Need Each Other By: Mary Southerland

We Really Do Need Each Other Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another(Romans 12:5, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Sometimes it’s the little things that really get to me. I spend a great deal of time in front of a computer – with which I have a love-hate relationship. I love the convenience a computer offers when it comes to writing, but there are times when I would like to throw my laptop into the nearest body of water and be done with it.

I can remember the days when I literally wrote out every word of a lesson or devotion because I was terrified of even trying to use a computer. Through trial and error, and the patience of friends who have repeatedly rescued me from more than one cyber disaster, I have evolved into a fairly capable computer operator. I have retrieved lost chapters and lessons, eradicated various viruses, erected firewalls, foiled hackers … and have come through the fray relatively unscathed.

And then it happened.

I was returning home from a speaking event and decided to use the three-hour flight to work on a writing assignment due the next day. It was one of those unusually sweet and highly productive times when the words come easily and eventually form sentences that actually make sense.

I was on a roll – and so was my laptop when the plane suddenly hit an air pocket.

I watched in horror as my laptop caught air, crashed to the floor of the plane, and slid under the seat in front of me. Fortunately, I had saved my work and desperately hoped the laptop had not been damaged in its fall. When the plane and everyone on board regained their composure, I quickly retrieved the computer and breathed a sigh of relief after a quick inspection revealed nothing more than a couple of new, but minor, scratches.

I opened the computer, ready to resume my work. And then I saw it, the now empty space where the “B” key was supposed to be. Evidently, it had popped off in the fall and was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t too concerned. I mean, after all, how important is one little key? There are plenty of other keys from which to choose. They all look pretty much the same. A missing letter or symbol here or there can’t be that much of a problem, can it?

I soon discovered that one little missing computer key could be a very big problem. All of a sudden, it seemed like every other word I needed contained a “B.” My frustration level rose as my finger instinctively kept hitting the spot where the “B” was supposed to be and found … nothing.

I finally decided I really needed that key and went looking for it. The passengers around me joined in the search. Only a couple of minutes had passed when the person seated in front of me shouted, “Got it!” I snapped the missing “B” back into place. I was amazed at how much better the whole keyboard seemed to function now that the lost key was back where it should be.

We all lose our way at one time or another.

An unexpected life storm knocks us flat.

A bad choice causes us to stumble and fall.

We snap under the pressure of a difficult relationship, and no one seems to care or even notice the pain we feel.

But then, like a Shepherd searching for that one lost sheep, God turns to us and hears our cry. He lifts us out of the darkness, gives us a safe place to stand and fills our heart with a new song of praise.

And He uses people to do it all. In fact, God delights in using people to reach out and love other people who are wounded and lost.

God created us to need each other. We are daughters of the King, sisters in Christ, and Girlfriends in God. When one hurts, all of us should feel the pain. When one of us has fallen, we need to reach out, link arms, and hold on until the storm has passed.

Who needs your love and encouragement? Remember the lesson of the missing “B” and ask God to love others through you … today.

Let’s Pray

Father, I know You want me to share the love I have found in You. Forgive me for the many times I have been too busy to see the needs around me. Break my heart for those who are in pain and feel hopeless. Encourage them through me, Lord. Fill my heart with Your love so that I can give it away. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Nobody is a Nobody By: Jennifer Rothschild

AUGUST 11, 2015

Nobody is a Nobody Jennifer Rothschild

“… In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody.” Hosea 1:10 (The Message)

She greeted me as I entered the cafeteria on Parents’ Day, with a voice as warm and sweet as hot chocolate. Our eldest son, Clayton, was a college freshman and this was the first time we’d been back to visit him. We’d met faculty members, the dorm resident director and lots of his new friends. So, when this woman greeted me, I politely asked, “Now, tell me who you are?”

The woman hesitated. Her pause made me wonder if I had said something wrong. Maybe she wasn’t accustomed to being asked this question. Maybe, I thought, I should know who she is. I imagine she looked down and saw my white cane and realized I was blind, and that might be why she answered in such a kind tone: “Oh, Ma’am. I’m nobody. I just clean tables.”

I reached toward her and found her hand. “You are not a nobody! You are not just a table cleaner!” I told her. “My name is Jennifer. What’s yours?” She laughed and told me her name.

As I said goodbye and walked with my son to our table, I thought to myself, That woman is not a nobody! Nobody is a nobody!

And it’s true, isn’t it? Nobody is a nobody, and nobody is just a table cleaner. Or, just a mom. Or, just a clerk. Or, just a housekeeper. Or, just a teacher. Or, just an … anything! But we often find ourselves in places or seasons of life where we feel like a nobody. It can be hard to see our own value if we feel constantly overlooked, or when we associate our value with our virtue. You know, if we are good, we are worthy of being acknowledged. If we behave, we merit attention.

There was a woman who lived back in the 8th century B.C. who probably felt like a nobody. Her name was Gomer. I bet if someone asked, “Who are you?” She’d probably shrug and say, “Oh, I’m nobody.” Or, she might say, “I’m a mess. I’ve got a past I’m ashamed of. I was a prostitute. I’m nobody.”

But her answer should be, “I am not a nobody, I am Gomer. I am loved and accepted and, yes, I am prone to wander.”

Gomer had been a prostitute, but she became a prophet’s wife. Her identity changed when she said “I do” to Hosea. When you declared “I do” to Jesus, you received a new identity, too.

You became God’s somebody! When you are in Christ, you are a new creation!

You are not your current failures or your past mistakes. You are not your successes or your virtues. You are not what you do, what you did, what you haven’t done, what you should have done or what you wish you’d done. You are not what you have gone through. You are not what someone else has said about you. You are not a nobody! You are a chosen, loved woman whom God calls His beloved.

His beloved … that is who God sees when He looks at you. Can you begin to accept the you God sees?

Just like Gomer, you are a somebody — a loved, significant somebody. God chose you even when you felt like a nobody. He loved you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). God didn’t choose to love you because you were some spectacular somebody. He didn’t choose to love you because you were already lovely. He loved you and, then, you became lovely. Your value comes from His inherent value.

You’re already loved, so you just need to embrace how God sees you. Yet, how do you do this … especially on those days when you feel like a nobody?

Here’s one sentence — just one little sentence — packed with big truth to help you when you feel like a nobody. Write it down, memorize it and repeat it to yourself: How I feel is not who I am.

Now, say it to yourself out loud! How I feel is not who I am! Good job! Say it over and over. How I feel is not who I am!

From one somebody to another, let’s remember the truth that we are not how we feel! We are God’s somebodies!

Lord, because You are worthy, I have worth. Help me to find my identity and value in You and You alone. Protect me from the lie that says I am what I do or how I feel. I choose to walk in the truth today with Your strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Titus 3:4-7, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (NIV)

You Can Do This: By Gwen Smith

You Can Do This Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)

Friend to Friend

You can do this.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded. I know I do. Yesterday was a whopper. I rose early, worked hard, was intentional, and still felt unproductive. Been there? On top of that, we got a heavy heap of unwanted news yesterday afternoon. My dad has an aggressive form of cancer.

I cannot believe I just wrote that last sentence.

He has been through so much. To explain the details would take a whole book. All I can say is that when it comes to the distribution of health challenges, my dad has had an unequally large share.

We found out a week ago that his ear was riddled with the c-stuff and that he would be losing it. But I thought it was just an ear. I thought dad’s biggest challenge following surgery would be figuring out how to hold eyeglasses on his head.

The results of his full body scan indicated otherwise.

The presence of disease is more invasive than what the doctors thought last week, so the ENT that my parents met with yesterday removed himself from the case explaining that the scope of dad’s surgical needs are beyond his abilities. Great. Today they meet with a specialist to see if surgery is even a possibility and to map out a treatment plan.

Far from Pittsburgh my family and I share the pain and pray.

As I pray God changes me.

My heart still aches, but a peace holds me. His peace. Him. Jesus, my Prince of Peace. And as He holds me I remember to exhale. To breathe deeply of His hope.

I remember that our days are known and numbered by a loving God who has a plan for each of us. I remember that I am not alone in this and that my Lord knows the agony of suffering. I remember that though this disease is completely rank, that God is still good and His strength is made perfect in my weakness… that His grace is sufficient.

I can do this. Dad can do this. Mom can do this. We can do this. Not on our own, but with God. And no matter the outcome, life goes on because we know Life. The source of life. The way, and the truth, and the life.

We know Jesus, so everything is possible.

No. This doesn’t change the challenge.

It changes me.

It changes how I will face this challenge. Because if I’m really taking faith seriously. If I am really telling the Lord that I want it all and asking Him to be glorified in my life, then I have to want everything He allows to pass through His hands and into my life.

I have decided.

I’ve drawn a line in the sand of my life.

I want everything He has for me… so that.

So that.

It’s one of my favorite phrases in the Bible. “Do this {instruction/directive}… SO THAT… this {desired outcome/goal}.” It seems that the apostle Paul loved the phrase too because he used it a great deal. Look at a few examples from his letter to the church at Colosse.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, SO THAT we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” (Colossians 4:2-3, emphasis mine)

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, SO THAT you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6, emphasis mine)

Yes. I can do this. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13) It’s not just a familiar Bible verse that can be found on a T-shirt, bookmark, or bumper sticker it is a truth that I can cling to. It is a tested truth.

I can do nothing of eternal value without Him, but anything and everything with Him.

You can too.

SO THAT God can show you and your people how awesome He is.

Let’s Pray

Lord, I ask that You would receive the maximum amount of glory in and through my life. Drench me in the power of Your presence and wring me out SO THAT others might be drawn to You. Keep my eyes open to opportunities to build others up in faith and keep my heart firmly rooted in Your love SO THAT I will always be prepared to give an answer for the reason of my Hope.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.