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Remembering God Once We’ve Found Home

Finding Home“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” –Judges 17:6

I started reading the book of Judges this week. Though it’s one of the historical books of the Bible, it kind of stands alone, covering a period of Israel’s history that’s otherwise mostly ignored—a between time of sorts. Genesis 12 through the book of Joshua tell of God establishing His people: of the Patriarchs they came from, of their rescue from Egypt, of their wandering in the desert for 40 years, of their finally entering and taking the Promised Land. The next big thing after that is the establishment and fall of their monarchy with David, of course, being their most famous king, the man after God’s own heart whose ancestral line led to our King Jesus.

Judges, however, covers the time between the establishment of God’s people and the events leading up to demand for a human king. The theme of the book is found in Judges 17:6, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

But here’s the thing: Israel did have a King. The God Who established them as a people and led them to the Promised Land wanted and deserved to be their King. Yet as soon as they arrived at their destination, the people stopped following God. Instead of conquering all the people He told them to conquer and clearing the land of false gods, they cleared just enough to make space for themselves and starting cozying up to their new neighbors, intermarrying with them and worshipping their gods. Instead of being set apart and living in a way that would draw others to the one, true God, they chose to mingle, compromise to fit in, and worship idols. Judges 1 and 2 tell us all about this. Judges 2:20-22 tells us what God did about it:

“Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.’”

When the Israelites stopped doing their part, God stopped doing His—just as He’d warned them He would. He removed His protection and allowed them to interact with the people who would cause them harm. He let them suffer the consequences of their own decisions. When they eventually remembered Him, He was there, appointing judges to help them out of their predicaments. When they forgot Him again, He watched, but left them, by their choice, to suffer on their own.

The lesson for us is clear: when we’re facing a move or going through one (or struggling with some other trial that makes us feel unsettled in our own land), it’s easier for us to remember to lean on God for guidance, wisdom, and strength. Our need for Him is never more clear!

When the dust settles and the boxes are unpacked, however, we have to work a little harder at remembering Who’s our King—and why. We must, though, because the God Who created us and established our families and homes deserves our worship, our loyalty, and our recognition of His place in our lives.

A few ideas:

1. Keep a journal during “wilderness” times. Record your prayers, God’s answers, and Bible verses that speak to you. Once you’re settled, read over these from time to time and thank God for being there for you.

2. Set aside a specific time of day each day to read God’s Word and pray. Talk with Him about everything! Offer praise and thanksgiving. Present your concerns.

3. Train yourself to practice God’s Presence, talking with Him throughout the day whenever something in your life reminds you He is there. You wouldn’t ignore a friend sitting in your living room. Learn to recognize and acknowledge God’s Presence, too!

Father, thank You for establishing us as Your people through Christ. We love You and are so thankful and awed to know You love us, too. Through good times and bad, help us to remember that You are here and You are King. We serve You alone. Amen.

• What do you do to remind yourself of God’s Presence and help yourself walk more closely to Him each day?

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Romans 1:20 on My Mind

NewOMM“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” –Romans 1:20

I love this verse. It’s actually one of the theme verses for this site. But I’ve never taken the time to memorize it word for word, reference and all. I think I should do that this week. I invite you to join me! Memorize or meditate—just let these words sink into your mind.

What I love about this verse is what it reveals about our loving God. Since the creation of the world, an event orchestrated by Him, He has been making His Presence known. His eternal power and divine nature can be seen just everywhere! Our God is not in hiding; He wants us to know Him.

We have to look for Him, though. We seek Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength as we read His Word, learn what He’s teaching others, and listen for His voice as we go about each day. There’s nothing mystical or mysterious about it. Our God makes sure that those who seek Him will find Him—anywhere!

(We just always have to make sure that what we believe He’s communicating to us about Who He Is and how He wants us to live always matches up with what He’s told us in His Word. If our thoughts run contrary to the clear teachings of the Bible, they are not of God.)

It works like this: the more we study God’s Word, the more clearly we’ll see Him in the world around us. The more we learn to see Him in the world around us, the more clearly we’ll understand His Word. Then, as we all talk about what we’re learning, God helps us to know even more. Bible study, worship, fellowship, and observation: all can work together to draw us closer to God.

On the flip side, Romans 1:21, the very next verse in the passage, tells us what happens when we don’t seek God, looking for the evidence of His power and nature that surround us each day:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

When we seek Him, we’ll find Him. He’ll draw us closer to Himself each day. If we take Him for granted, though, and stop training our thoughts on Him, our thinking will become futile and our hearts dark. Either we’re aware of His Presence and seeking more of this or we are slowly drifting away. Let’s train ourselves to see and hear whatever God reveals.

Loving Father Who wants to be known, we want to know You. Make us faithful—to read Your Word, to hear Your Voice, to be more aware of You each day. Then help us to share what we’ve learned! Thank You for all that You choose to reveal. Help us see more clearly. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Hear It on Sunday; Use It on Monday.

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Climbing Higher

Climbing Rock“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.” –Psalm 94:18

I tried rock climbing once. My senior class in college took a trip to Yosemite National Park where the rock-climbing club from our campus volunteered to give a lesson to those who were interested. It looked easy enough.

It wasn’t.

Swaddled in harness and ropes, I began my ascent, quickly realizing that the strength I needed would have to come from my fingers and arms–every little muscle in each would be required for the task. My legs existed for balance and support as my hands sought a sure grip for lifting myself to the next level. Halfway up the rock face, I thought I could go no further. I felt exhausted, but had to go on. I began to rely on a voice from above.

That’s where my instructor was.

Below, I could hear friends, my fellow first-time climbers, shouting much needed encouragement as I struggled through my shaky situation. But my instructor was giving the advice I most wanted to hear:

“Move your hand a few inches to the left, Janet. There’s a great handhold there. Do you see it? There! Now place your foot in that crevice and push yourself up. Keep going! Now move your other hand to that small ledge just above the other one. You’ve got it!”

I depended on these words and followed them as precisely as I could. Of everything he said, though, the words that comforted me most were:

“Don’t be afraid. If you start to slip, I’ve got hold of the rope. You will not fall.”

Life is like that climb. We lift ourselves up, one handhold at a time, while listening to that precious Voice from Above. Our fellow climbers shout encouraging words as we make our way to the top. God’s voice is the One to listen for, though. He is there to help us find our way. Better yet, He’s got hold of the rope. We can depend on Him; if our feet start to slip, He’ll never let us fall.

Precious Guide, thank You for holding me tightly with the harness and rope of Your love. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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Halloween Prayers for Our Neighbors

PumpkinsI think the thing I enjoy most about Halloween is getting to greet all of our neighbors right on our own doorstep. Throughout most of the year, our quiet neighborhood is, well, quiet! We might get to wave at a neighbor or two when taking out the trash or picking up the mail or while out on a walk, but that’s about it. On Halloween, though, the neighbors all come out and visit each other. I get to greet the children, tell them how cute or scary or beautiful or funny they are, and give them candy which brings smiles to their faces in exchange for the smile they put on my own. I get to say Hi to all their parents and wish them a happy evening. I get to laugh as our dog attempts to go home with every child who comes to the door. (He just wants to join in the fun!) Halloween may be known for the scary stuff, but I think it’s just a great opportunity for everyone to be extra friendly!

As we greet trick-or-treaters this evening, let’s remember to whisper brief prayers for them, too. We may pray for our neighbors in general throughout the year, but, on Halloween, we can pray for them specifically as we see their faces, greet them, and offer sweet treats. If you don’t participate in this aspect of the day, that’s alright. You can still pray for the families you see through your window or hear walking down your street. Your prayers that they’ll come to know Jesus, if they don’t already, and that they’ll grow healthy and strong both physically and spiritually may be the best treat they’ll never know they received.

Father, bless all the trick-or-treaters and their families tonight. Keep them safe and help them have good, clean fun. Thank You for this opportunity to see neighbors who usually stay in their homes. Help us remember to pray for them not only tonight, but throughout the year. May they come to know You well, then grow in Your love each day. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Turning Off the Voices in Our Heads

Words Aptly Spoken“Most of us, these days, spend much of our lives in our heads in a state of preoccupation and self-absorption, wrapped up in our anxieties and harangued by familiar voices that seem to run in an endless tape loop in our minds. We are obsessed with the things we have to do, or with how we can best play the starring role in what one of my students called, ‘the movie of my life.’ We rarely notice what is outside of us, right now, in the present moment.” –Barbara Baig, How to Be a Writer, p. 76

These words challenged me today. I’m all too aware that often they are true. Turning off the voices in our heads which demand we compare, contrast, worry, obsess, meet expectations, have our thoughts and opinions heard, or complete so many tasks in a day—too many tasks if they keep us from hearing others—can be difficult.

So let’s rise to the challenge today. Let’s make every effort to ignore those familiar, but pesky, voices, and use our senses to truly take in the action all around us. Let’s see the smile that’s not really a smile, so we can ask what’s really going on to show we care. Then let’s hear the story as it’s really being told, striving to get inside the talker’s head. Let’s smell Autumn in the air and taste whatever we eat—especially if we’re taking communion at church today! “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a)! And don’t forget to touch. Greet each other with hugs and firm handshakes, being sure to take the time to connect with each other’s eyes. Let your friends know they are loved by offering your senses to them instead of to the voices in your head.

Then don’t forget to do the same for God. As I mentioned a few days ago, He’s all around us, waiting to be noticed, longing to be heard and loved. Make every effort today to listen for His voice, to see His face hidden all throughout this world. He promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Let’s devote our hearts to finding Him this day.

Father, thank You for this day. Help us, please, to live in the moment, noticing all that surrounds us, all You’ve given us to enjoy. Help us devote our senses to finding You and to loving the people You bring into our lives. With grateful hearts and Your Spirit’s help, we’ll train ourselves to live this way, intentionally, all the time. In Jesus’ name, amen.

What are you more likely to notice when you try to live this way? (The Leave a reply button is at the top of this post.)

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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A Place to Nurture Faith and Watch It Grow

Wildflower Collage2It all started in Texas.

I only lived in that state for one year, but that gave me just enough time to discover wildflowers and to learn how to hunt them.

That’s right. I hunt them down and shoot them—with my camera, of course.

The first flowers I noticed were the bright purple tuber vervain, the showy primroses, the bluebonnets, and the Indian blankets. They were everywhere—and so pretty.

One morning, after Mike had left for work and the boys had left for school, I grabbed my little camera and drove to a nearby park where I’d seen some of these flowers blooming. I took all kinds of pictures.

They didn’t come out very good.

But I kept taking pictures. And my husband bought me a better camera. And my son taught me how to use the settings on that camera. And my pictures improved.

My new hobby was born.

It became more than a hobby, though. I started to notice that whenever I would stop to take a picture of one flower, I’d notice others nearby. When I moved to take their pictures, I’d see more—then more. I would think I was stopping to photograph one simple flower, then end up taking pictures of a lot!

I realized that our thoughts about God work like that, too. God is all around us all the time, trying to get our attention, trying to get us to think about Him and to talk with Him, too. Sometimes we’re busy and ignore Him. We carry on right past the thought and miss the message from God.

IMG_3268When something simple from everyday life, though, like a wildflower, catches our attention and draws us to think about God in some new way, His Spirit will bring other thoughts to mind. As we consider these, we’ll remember Bible verses, sermons, and other words we’ve heard or read which reinforce the thought. When we know God’s Word supports the new thought, we’ll realize we’ve learned a new truth. About God. About the way He wants us to live life.

That’s how Wildflower Thinking, my first blog was born.

But this is Wildflower Faith! This is the next step.

You see, thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts about God and His truths are good. Very good! When we learn to apply them to our daily lives in a practical way, though, that’s faith. That’s growing faith!

Shortly after our family moved to Georgia for the first time, the move that followed our year in Texas, my husband planted a few showy primroses in our front yard for me. He thought I might enjoy raising some wildflowers of my own, and he was right!Primroses

Winter came, though, and the flowers died. They do that in winter, you know.

But then came spring and with it came not just a few little showy primroses, but enough to stretch across the whole front of our house. Those primroses where everywhere!

Wildflower Faith is like that. When hard times come, it may struggle or seem to disappear. If we don’t give up on it, though, it’ll come back. Stronger. And it will bring friends!

I invite you to join me here in this place where, together with God’s Spirit and His Word, we can nurture Wildflower Thoughts into Wildflower Faith

And watch it grow!