It's All a Choice (Beyond Our Walls)

When I get up in the morning, there are certain things I do to get started with my day. One of those things, as I’m sure it is for many of you, is to check my email. So, a little while ago, I did check my email and found out there’s going to be a writing workshop in my city. What! I read all the details and got even more excited. While I live in one of the larger cities of a Southeastern state in the United States, it’s not like Atlanta or New York or Chicago or Los Angeles for that  matter. Quality writing instruction was coming to my city. I hastily texted my husband and told him about it. We started going through the logistics over text. Was that the weekend our teenage son would be going to a youth conference? Did I want this workshop for my birthday? Could I go ahead and take advantage of the early bird pricing? Would my 17-year old son be okay handling his schooling for the day? (We homeschool.) It was all…general life stuff.

As we texted and I read my Bible (Yes, I multi-task.), I heard a quiet voice in my head. ‘Have you asked me?’ I had to hear the voice one more time before it got my attention. It was God, using that gentle, fatherly voice He had used many times before. I stopped what I was doing with a pang of guilt. No, I had not asked God. I had just assumed it was okay because the workshop sounded so cool, it was in my city, and it was something that would help me improve my writing ability. But, I hadn’t prayed. I corrected my mistake in that moment. Prayed to God that if the writing workshop was in His will for me that the logistics would work out and the financing as well.

God has had a way of working out writing topics for me this month that relate to the devotions from my church. Today’s topic is Choosing God’s Way which I did not do with this workshop until He reminded me. Isn’t that what we all do? We move forward like a Mack truck with what we think God wants for us until He gives us a gentle reminder to actually ask Him. And if we get stubborn, as I do a lot, He might create obstacles until we do listen. I’m glad I listened as soon as I did.

The author of the devotion asks these questions. Do we choose God’s way or our way? I’m ashamed to say I choose my way much more than I should. She also references two Bible verses about this topic I need to memorize. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Sounds like God needs to be in all my plans. 🙂

The other verse is Proverbs 16:9. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

When we give our lives to God, He wants to be in every part of them, not just in certain parts. He wants us to open our hearts to Him so He can work through us. He wants to be in my writing as much as He is in any volunteer work I do at church or any relationships I have through church.

We become more sensitive to His Spirit and what He wants for us through Bible study and prayer which helps us to get more adept at choosing His way. So grateful that God is always patient with me as I seek His face!

God’s blessings on all of you today!


The Urge to Leave a Legacy (Beyond Our Walls)

It is innate in all of us to want to leave something behind when we leave this world. We want to be remembered and not forgotten. This is the focus of today’s devotion (Leaving a Legacy) and is something I have been thinking a lot about.

There are many ways people try to leave something of themselves behind, and this desire is not limited to Christians either. They make donations to their favorite colleges or charitable organizations. They form charitable organizations of their own to fund causes they care about. Ever since I miscarried my third child five years ago, I have been struck by the number of organizations I have come in contact with that were set up in memory of a child or children that were lost.

It is not just by donating money that people seek to be remembered. People who have a creative bent have a natural way to make sure they’re remembered. This can be through the work they complete during their lifetime. How different would our lives be today if we hadn’t been exposed to Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, or Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? I could name thousands more, but it’s not necessary. We remember all these people because of the work they produced.

Another way people seek to leave a legacy is by their families. If a person has children and grandchildren, they seek to pass all of the stories about their family down to them. It is the way they make memories and then seek to be remembered. This is why stories are told at funerals–as a way to remember the person who is gone and the legacy they left behind.

People also volunteer as a way of leaving a legacy. I’m not sure if they think of it in that way at the time. But the urge to help others and not get any benefit can be nurtured into a growing flame which turns into a legacy when the person is gone.

Then, there’s the church. A chance to leave behind something of eternal significance–not only through monetary contributions, but through volunteering and telling others about Christ. Eternal significance. Leading someone to Christ can change another person’s life forever. I’m not sure we realize that in all the hustle and bustle of our lives. Everything else I’ve mentioned today will eventually be forgotten, but having someone in heaven with you because you told them about Jesus is the best kind of legacy to leave.

I will never have a lot of money to give–to the church or to anywhere else. Buildings will not be named after me. I won’t be remembered because of the amount of money I gave. I am hopeful though that I will be remembered because of the words I share, because of my children, and because I took the time to tell someone about Jesus.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Praying for Healing (Beyond Our Walls)

I looked at this morning’s devotion (Prayers Can Heal) and thought long and hard about what to say. I don’t want to diminish what happened to the author of this devotion. She healed faster than the doctors thought she would, and she believes, as do I, that it was due to the power of prayer.

God has the ability to heal while we are here on this earth. I believe that fully and firmly. James 5:14-16 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

The language in these verses is powerful, but it can also be misunderstood. What if a person isn’t healed? Did they not pray hard enough? Were the right kinds of prayers not offered? Were their sins not forgiven? Were the people praying not righteous enough?

I’ve pondered these questions. I’m sure you probably have as well. Because, you see, I have prayed for people who I considered to be people of faith, and they weren’t healed. God brought them home to be with Him. People who were dear to me and who were dear to friends of mine went to be with their Lord and Savior. Some were taken way too soon, and others were taken after they lived what we consider a long and normal life. They were prayed for though and weren’t healed. How does that work?

What about the people who still suffer here on this earth? The people who suffer from what we would call major diseases–like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Or the people who suffer from chronic conditions like Lyme Disease or Crohn’s Disease. Or the people who suffer from chronic pain. Or the people who are unable to have children. I could name hundreds of other things, but I think I’ve made my point. These people have all prayed for healing, but haven’t been healed. Why? Something else I don’t understand.

I think my heart aches mostly for the children and the young people at the beginning of their lives who have been afflicted with some illness. It aches for my husband who had to take medicine many years ago for his chronic condition which makes him more likely to get sick now as he is today. It aches for my friends whose spouses were taken way too early. It just aches, and I don’t understand.

I think the closest I can come to understanding (until I see Jesus myself) is thinking along these lines. God can heal all who are sick, but He chooses to heal some while they are still here and others when they go to be with Him in heaven. I know this is a hard answer especially for those of you who are missing someone. It’s a hard answer for me.

The one think I do know is that God wants us to pray for healing. He wants us to pray about everything. And He promises to walk with us through it all–the happiness and the sadness.

To finish this post, I want to quote the prayer the author of this morning’s devotion wrote. I think it represents what God wants from us as we pray.

“Dear God, thank you for each day you give us. Help us to learn to pray more often, show your love to someone each day and hug more often. Thank you for answering and hearing our prayers. In Jesus name, Amen.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!


The Prosperity Gospel vs. Trusting God (Beyond Our Walls)

We’re coming to the end of this devotion booklet. Counting today’s devotion (The Looming Summit), there are nine more devotions. I’ve learned a lot about my faith during the last thirty-one days and about this God I serve. I still have questions though. I’m sure I will have questions until the day I meet my Savior.

One of those questions has to do with something called the prosperity gospel. Wikipedia defines it as a “religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical  well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.”

I’m sure some of us have watched the proponents of this on television and might have read some of their books. My point today though is to talk about the philosophy itself. Wikipedia writes another sentence that I think is telling. “Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”

When I was a young adult, I used to listen to people like this and people who believed what these people said. And then, when something set me back, as it would inevitably do, I would think my faith in God was lacking. How could it not be? I was not recovering from my illness or financial setback as quickly as the people who believed in this said I should. I felt inadequate as a Christian.

But, I shouldn’t have felt that way because the prosperity gospel is not true. It directly contradicts Scripture. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I also liked what Matthew 6:34 had to say. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

So, I’m not less of a Christian if I have a financial reversal or if a member of my family is unemployed. I’m not less of a Christian if I have cancer and don’t get well right away. Jesus said so. It’s there in black and white.

Here’s my question though. What’s the difference between the prosperity gospel and trusting God? There are plenty of verses about trusting God too. This is where I am about making a decision about my church’s capital campaign. The author of today’s devotion talked about how God was our strength and that He would give us what we needed. I agree with this. But, how does it work when you need to tell a number? If you tell a small number or no number, does that mean you’re not trusting God enough? How about if you tell a larger number and then your financial circumstances change?

I don’t have answers to this questions. These are things I’ve been wondering about. We’ve talked about making sacrifices to contribute more, but what if there’s nothing left to sacrifice?

I guess that brings me to my final conclusion or question about this whole topic. God has taken care of us each time my husband has been unemployed or ill? Do I believe He will be there for us now?

Dear Lord, help us to keep our eyes on you in the middle of this decision. Help us to listen to you and to trust you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

More than Enough (Beyond Our Walls)

After eating a big meal and spending time with our families yesterday, many of us have gone out today, on Black Friday, to begin Christmas shopping. It has become an annual tradition to see how much money we can spend on Christmas presents. As we have all seen on television, sometimes it even gets to a point where people are fighting over bargain priced merchandise. Due to an aversion to being in crowds, I’ve only participated in Black Friday once, but I’ve still tried to have the big pile of presents under the tree. It didn’t seem like Christmas if there wasn’t one. Yes, I celebrated Jesus’ birth. Yes, I read the Advent story to my kids. But I still tried to have the big pile of presents under my tree.

My thinking about this has changed mainly because of the subject of today’s devotion (Remaining in Him). Life has been tough for the last few years. Illness, hospital stays, unemployment, and the financial concerns that go with it have taken their toll. I had to make a choice. Was I going to go all in with this Savior of mine and experience the calmness and peace that went with my choice?

Reading the verses referenced in today’s devotion helped me make my choice. John 15:4-5 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

It was the best example I could have read. Without Jesus, I can do nothing. He strengthens me when I am tired and weak. He pushes me when I feel inadequate. He sustains me with His Holy Spirit. He is more than enough.

The thoughts of this world can be pushed back with that one sentence. I don’t need a pile of presents under the Christmas tree. Jesus is more than enough. I don’t need a huge house to live in. Jesus is more than enough. I don’t need designer clothes to wear. Jesus is more than enough. I don’t need to travel to exotic destinations. Jesus is more than enough.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Jesus is more than enough for me, and I pray He will be more than enough for you during this Christmas season.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Giving it All to God (Beyond Our Walls)

On this Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I am filled with thankfulness at all that God has blessed me with. I am thankful for my family, for my church family, for my friends all over the world, for this ability to write words God has given me, and especially thankful for my Lord and Savior who carries my burdens when I will let Him.

That is what today’s devotion is about (Peace from Letting Go).  I’m not good at this. I feel like there are things I can go better than God can, and I hold onto them until it gets to be too much.

God doesn’t want that for me as stated in two of my favorite verses from Ephesians. These verses, in fact, are the same verses my church is using for its capital campaign. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,  forever and ever! Amen.”

His way is the best way, and He wants me to release my burdens into His hands–through prayer, through writing, and through speaking–whatever works best. The point is to release them and not hold onto them.

I’ve been able to release a big one on this quiet Thanksgiving morning. One where I had been comparing myself to other Christians in how I gave to God’s work instead of leaving my giving where it needed to be–between me and God. The sense of peace is overwhelming. I had always been taught to compare myself to other Christians in how I gave, and when I couldn’t give the thousands of dollars they could, I felt inadequate as a Christian. No more! I’m just as adequate as the Christian who gives thousands of dollars, and God loves me just as much! Very thankful for this truth today!

As I finish this post, I want to quote the prayer the author wrote in her devotion. I believe it reflects what God wants us to do as we live out our faith here in this world.

“Dear Lord, Help us to know that peace that comes with letting go of our anxiety. Give us strength and guide our paths in good times and bad. Use us to lift each other up and be a blessing to others who are struggling. Thank you for your unchanging and faithful love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Goal-Oriented (Beyond Our Walls)

This is the time of year when you start to hear people talking about their resolutions or goals for the next year. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember and probably even longer than that. 🙂  It’s natural for us to have goals–short-term and long-term. For example, washing clothes or filling out that job application might not happen if someone didn’t set it as a goal to be completed.

Having goals has even crept into the church as evidenced by today’s devotion (Working Towards Our Goal). I have been in churches that have had goals of a certain number of members, a certain number of people involved in ministries, a certain number of professions of faith, and the big one, a certain amount of money collected to fund the church and its ministries. Once more, it is good to plan and to have goals. If planning didn’t happen, there would be no way to know what even has the possibility of being accomplished.

All good things can have a bad side though, and this is especially true in Western society. There are some people who have a tendency to be goal-oriented to the exclusion of anything else. Too focused on the goal to notice the sad and lonely person. Too busy accomplishing the goal to notice their spouse needs them. Too overwhelmed by the goal to notice that God is trying to talk to them. This is why, like everything else in life, having goals can involve good things as well as bad and why we should listen to God through it all.

There’s another reason we need to be careful about setting goals in our churches especially when we are raising money. Once the goal has been reached, some people might say they don’t need to do anything else in the church since they contributed. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Like I said yesterday, God gave us all certain gifts, and He wants us to use them in the body of believers. No, our job is not over when a capital campaign is done. It is just beginning.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Beyond Our Walls)

Psalm 139 is my favorite psalm. When I wonder if God has a point and a purpose to my life, I go back to this psalm, and it points me in the right direction. This is why I was glad to see a verse from this psalm in today’s devotion. (Made for His Purpose)

Verses 13-17 say, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!”

There are many verses in Scripture that speak of God’s love, but I believe this passage does a good job of demonstrating our worth to God. He knew me before I was born. He knew everything that would happen to me, and He still considered me worth enough to send His Son to die for me. This is amazing news for all of us. No matter what we’ve done, He still considers us worth enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for us.

He doesn’t want us to be the same as the people around us even though we might wish we were. The comparison game that we humans like to play is anathema to Him. He wants us to be content with who we are because that’s how He made us, and that’s how He loves us.

God has a job for each of us too. A job that only we can do. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

I used to look at the final verses of this passage and think that certain gifts were better than others just like other Christians considered themselves better than  me. I don’t think that anymore though. The greater gifts are the gifts that God has given to only me. He doesn’t want me to envy others or think I’m better than anyone else. His way is the best way, and His gifts are the best possible gifts for me to have.

My hope is that all of us in the church can realize this and work together for God’s glory and not be at odds with one another to accomplish the work that needs to be done for God’s kingdom.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Eight Years Ago (Beyond Our Walls)

In November of 2008, we were living in Michigan and were two years into our homeschooling journey. We felt blessed. Everyone was healthy. It had been five years since my husband had experienced his last surgery. The boys were enjoying the snow and the freedom to play in it after we had finished school. Ours days were filled with schooling, gymnastics, field trips, and homeschool co-op. In other words, we had a lot to be thankful for.

I never dreamed that God was about to start us on a journey that would bring Him back into our home. There would be untold pain along the way, but there would also be many blessings which is the subject of today’s devotion. (Uncountable Blessings)

Anyway, back to eight years ago. My husband and I had started to have concerns about his mother’s health. She was a widow and lived in the small South Carolina town where he had grown up. Friends had contacted us and suggested we might want to look into things so we were talking. With us being in Michigan, there was not a whole lot we could do personally except for calling her on a regular basis and checking on her. We knew it was getting to the point where that might not be enough.

I heard a whisper. Maybe it was time to go back to South Carolina and be there for her like she had always been there for us. I loved her dearly. She was the mother-in-law I had never expected to have. Willing to listen, always supportive, loving towards my kids, my biggest cheerleader.

The calendar moved from November to December. We decided to travel to South Carolina between Christmas and New Year’s to broach the subject to her. We knew it would be difficult to persuade her. She was stubborn and didn’t like people making sacrifices on her behalf. But, it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

Sure enough, she didn’t want us to move. There were many discussions that week. We talked about my husband’s employment and what homeschooling would look like. And, that was what finally persuaded her. She loved our boys dearly, and the chance to see them every day after we had been gone for four years made the decision an easy one.

We drove back to Michigan and started giving people notice. It was the riskiest decision we had ever made, but we heard a whisper telling us to do it. In February 2009, we watched the moving truck drive away and then climbed into our two cars to drive away from Michigan for the final time. We had enjoyed our time there, but it was time to head home.

After putting most of our stuff into storage, we moved in with my mother-in-law. I began homeschooling again, and my husband looked for employment. He found some good possibilities quickly, and our days were busy as he went on interviews; I schooled the boys; and we helped his mother with whatever was necessary. I felt blessed.

Two months later, I knew why we had heard the whisper. She passed away unexpectedly after having some health complications the week before. We were devastated and felt like we had been set adrift without any moorings. But, God was already working. A few days after the funeral, my husband accepted an offer of employment in our old hometown an hour away. We moved there two months later and re-established relationships with old friends.

We would go through more heartbreak before we let God back into our lives. Illness, surgery, job loss, depression, and a miscarriage. But, I can look back on that time now and see all the blessings God was giving us despite all of the pain. It makes these particular verses from Scripture all the more poignant.

From Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Never Alone (Beyond Our Walls)

I had the privilege of spending several hours yesterday and some time this morning in prayer for my church and the prayer requests that have been collected over the last several weeks. It was a privilege as well as humbling. People trusted those of us who prayed with their hearts and their hurts. God met me there while I was praying for the requests and reminded me of some truths which were also reflected in today’s devotion (Inviting God into Every Day).

We are not alone. Not ever. God is with us even when other Christians reject us. There are so many Scriptures that illustrate this I could never hope to quote them all, but I do want to quote the Scripture that was shared with the devotion.

Psalm 139:7-10 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

As I spoke of last week, I have wounds from my past, many of which relate to money and my worth as a person. God has spoken into each of these wounds and has worked on healing my heart. He has worked on my capacity to forgive, and I’m finally getting to a point where I can. Each time I have invited God into my heart and into my day, my heart has been opened a little more, and God has come into those secret places that I don’t share with anyone.

The opening of those secret places can hurt, but this is where my writing ability comes into play. I can be transparent and honest when I write even when I can’t share my thoughts with anyone else.

This quote from Natalie Goldberg sums up why I’ve chosen to write in this blog as I have for the last few weeks. “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

God wants me to use my words to go into the secret places. By using them, I can show others they’re not alone even if they think they are.  If we, as other Christians, pretend we have no hurts, how will those who don’t know Christ know the Savior who carries all of our hurts if we will only let Him?

Beyond being a homeschool mom, writer, and daughter of God, I am also a sci-fi geek, and I think it only appropriate to end with this quote from the television show Firefly because I think it reflects what Jesus does for us. “When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.”

So thankful that God carries me even with all my wounds! Praying that all of us would be the hands and feet of Jesus this week!

God’s blessings on all of you!