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Today’s Daily Bread ~ The Flower in the Fence

27 May

Romans 8:38 – And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love.  Death can’t, and life can’t.  The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.

As a parent, I am always looking for what I like to call “teachable moments” with my kids.  Things throughout the day that I can use to illustrate something I want them to know.  For instance, we once saw a teen throw garbage out the window of his truck.  “Oh, look kids!” I exclaimed, “Isn’t that awful?  That boy is a litterbug (at their tender age that’s a terrible thing to be).  He’s throwing trash on God’s beautiful earth!”  A lesson that really struck my sweet daughter; we now have to carry a trash bag on our jaunts so she can pick up litter and keep God’s beautiful earth clean (her idea, not mine).

While out on a run, we came across what I saw as another teachable moment: a flower poking through a fence.

I abruptly stopped the stroller with a jolt.  “Caitlyn and Nick, do you see that flower poking through the fence?”  Two small heads nodded simultaneously.  “You know what that makes me think of?” I asked.  “Chicken nuggets?” asked my son?  Laughing, I answered, “No Nicky, not chicken nuggets.  It makes me think of God, and how much He loves us.”

I went on to explain, in their terms, Romans 8:38. 

“God loves you so, so much,” I said, “just like mommy and daddy do.  And nothing you ever do can make God not love you.”

“What if I lie?” asked Caitlyn.

“Nope,” I answered, “He’ll still love you.”

“When Nicky hits me does God still love Nicky?” she countered.

“Yes, honey.  There is nothing you or your brother could ever do that could keep God, or your mommy and daddy, from loving you.  Just like that fence can’t keep that flower from growing; the bad things we do can’t keep God from loving us.”

Satisfied, my daughter leaned back while my son asked, “Can we have chicken nuggets for lunch?”

Romans 8:39 – Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am always seeking those opportunities with my kids, because more than anything else, I want them to know how cherished they are.  I want them to understand, as much as a human being is able to, God’s love for them.  I want their lives to be built on the unshakable foundation of Christ.  Through every storm and every valley, I want them to know that God loves them; and whether they feel it or not, the Holy Spirit is always with them.  They are never alone.  Even when they turn their backs on Jesus and run the opposite direction (and at some point they will), they cannot escape His Presence.  And neither can you.

Ephesians 3:18 – And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.

The English Standard Version phrases the first portion of that verse this way: (more…)

Today’s Daily Bread ~ “I Spy”

24 May

Deuteronomy 4:29 – From there you will search again for the LORD our God.  And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.

My children love a good game of “I Spy.”  If you’re not familiar with it, it goes something like this: “I spy, with my little eye, something blue!”  The participants are then required to guess until they discover the object.

With my almost-4-year-old son, the answer is typically something simple, like “the sky” or “the grass.”  Caitlyn, not wanting anyone else to win, makes it nearly impossible to guess. 

During one particularly nail biting game (tongue firmly planted in cheek), I saw an American flag waving off to my right.  “Ok, kids,” I sang, “What is red, white, blue, and waving in the wind?”

I thought they would know immediately, but after several guesses, they still didn’t have the answer.  So I started in with the hints (a major infraction of the “I Spy” rules and regulations).  “Up in the air, love-bugs.  To Caitlyn’s right.  No honey, your right.  Up, Nicky.  You have to look up.

Finally and simultaneously, they yelled, “the American flag!”

Contrary to my daughter’s cut-throat style of play, I have no desire to win.  I want them to guess.  I deliberately craft my clues to make the object as findable as possible. 

Just like God does for us. (more…)

Today’s Daily Bread ~ Coffee

23 May

Psalm 138:3 – When I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me the strength I need.

I love coffee.

I love that first cup of the morning.  I love the merrily gurgling sound of the coffee maker.  I love coming downstairs to that warm, inviting aroma.  I love pouring the milk and spooning the sugar.  I love breathing in the fragrance as I raise the mug to my lips, and I love the warmth that spreads down to my toes as I take that first sip.

I do love my coffee.                                                

During the 2011 Lenten season, my husband and I gave up caffeine.  Having gone through the detoxification process before, I chose to ramp my coffee intake down two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday.  It didn’t make it much easier.

My body was used to that jolt of artificial energy every morning.  My physiological system issued a painful headache in protest, but still I persevered.  After about a week, I found that I actually felt better.  Without my afternoon pick-me-up, I fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.  Fully rested, I bounced eagerly out of bed instead of sluggishly and reluctantly.  I came downstairs, made myself an herbal, non-caffeinated tea and got to work, eager to meet the day.

By the end of Lent, both Mike and I were toying with the notion of saying goodbye to caffeine forever. 

And then I caved. 

We still enjoy our morning cup of coffee, but not wanting to rely on it quite so much, we’ve switched to half-caff.  I do my best to limit my caffeine to the morning, so I can continue to enjoy the benefits of a long, restful night’s sleep.

Nothing can take the place of a solid eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.

I can make it on seven.  I can survive one day on six.  Anything less and I’m absolutely ineffective.  Caffeine gets me through for a few hours, but once the effects wear off I’m more tired than I was before.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I recognize just how much I need Him.

Jeremiah 31:25 – “For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.”

Although many might argue the opposite, God did not make us self-sufficient.  Our bodies need rest to function at their fullest potential.  Our souls need Jesus to do the same.

We were created purposely incomplete, with a void inside of us.  The void is the shape of a cross.  People will live their entire lives trying to fill the emptiness with other things, only to find that nothing fits.  Nothing works for long.  Just like the temporary burst of energy from caffeine; you feel better for a while, but then you need more.  And more.  And more.

I find myself comparing my need for Jesus to an iPhone.  (more…)

Today’s Daily Bread ~ No Worries

20 May

Matthew 18:2-4 – Jesus called a small child over to Him and put the child among them.  Then He said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

My husband and I both have family in town, and consider ourselves fortunate that the in-laws get along so well.  Last year, we hosted the Thanksgiving feast, with my parents and Mike’s mother.  We eat around two, so we can be all wrapped up with the gluttony by the time the Cowboys kick off.

Two o’clock, of course, is right smack in the middle of naptime for my two small children, and that makes for a long day.  By the time the game hit the fourth quarter, my son, who’d been whining and grumpy since 2:30, was in quite a state.  So I pulled him onto my lap, rubbed his back, and tried to soothe him.  It took about ten seconds for him to sigh and snuggle in.

“Isn’t that sweet?” My mother said.  “He just needed you.”         

“It’s so simple to be a child,” she continued.  “They haven’t learned how to worry yet, they truly just live in the moment.”  I turned and looked at her.  “You’re right,” I said, impressed by her wisdom.  “I wonder when that kicks in.”

“I’m not sure,” she answered.  “But children Nick’s age don’t have the capacity to contemplate the future like we do.  They just live on a moment by moment basis, trusting that their mommy and daddy will meet their needs.”  Wow.

Her words rattled around in my head all night, and they resurfaced the next morning, shortly after I opened my prayer journal and put pen to paper:

My mom made such an interesting point yesterday, Lord: how we, as children, don’t have the capacity to worry.  How perfect that You tell us that, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be reborn, and come to You with the faith of a child.

I want to be honest with you; the idea of “childlike faith” has puzzled me through the years.  I thought it meant parking our brains and blindly believing in Jesus like children believe in Santa Clause.  But as I continued to write and seek God’s wisdom, He spoke to me:

Daughter, I don’t want you to suspend your intellect…on the contrary…I gave it to you.  Look at your two beautiful children, both gifts from me.  What is the word they use more than any other?  “WHY?”  They cling to you, feel safe with you, and they believe, above all else, that you and Mike can fix everything.  Cling to me.  Seek me.  Ask me.  Rest in me, as your children rest in you.  

God wants us to seek Him; He invites us to question Him!  Jesus says, in Matthew 7:7, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.”  There are several words in the Greek for “ask.”  One is punthanomai, which means to ask or inquire; it implies casually seeking information.  The word used in this text, though, is aiteó.  Pronounced ahee-teh’-o, it means to ask and keep on asking, to ask continuously.  It is the same word used for beg, crave or deeply desire.  Imagine a small child, pulling on their father’s pant leg, “Why, daddy?  Why can’t I go?  Why?”  To put it simply, God is inviting us to pester Him.

The notion that God is removed from us and watches from a distance is completely inaccurate.  One of His many names is Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  Psalm 37:22 says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD.  He delights in every detail of their lives (emphasis mine).”  He desperately desires a relationship with you, and wants you to seek Him: “In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.  I will be found by you,” says the LORD (Jeremiah 29:12-14a).”

I was watching my children play the next day.  (more…)

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