Sunday, December 6, 2020

Have We Broken God's Heart?

Hey Friend,

After this week's post, I'm taking a few weeks off to allow myself to reflect on Jesus' coming. My mom will be here with us and bootcamp still calls.  This is the last week for the "Take Heart" devotional and prayer journal GIVEAWAY so make sure you read the rules for entry below.  May you and your family have a peace-filled Advent season!

Have we broken God's heart?

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, "I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, I will destroy every living thing - all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them."  But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-8)

It occurred to me that ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Noah, I had fixed my mind on the fact that God wanted to destroy every living thing.  If you really wanted to sum up the story...I may have told you, "The whole world was wicked and so God wanted to destroy it all." 

The part I kept overlooking was the sentence, "It broke his heart." 

I can think on times as a parent that my children, whom I love dearly, did things that broke my heart.  It wasn't that I was angry with them, it was more that I wanted the very best for them and by their disobedience they wound up doing things that ushered in harsh consequences.  It was at those times that my heart grieved. This wasn't what I wanted for them. I wanted so much more. My heart of love wanted abundance for them.

I am learning that God has a heart...and it hurts.  It hurts with what hurts us.

Perhaps the Great Flood was millions of tear drops of sacred ache.  Maybe the expanses of water that covered the whole earth were slow drips of sadness from the omniscient eyes of God.  Perhaps the floodgates of God's grieving heart burst open and every crevice of the earth filled with the sheer weight of His brokenness. 

The Flood was the flood of God's grief born of love.

God in His love and goodness, had mercy on His creation and so He made a way with the rough hewn timbers of the ark for Noah, his family, and two of every creature He'd created, to find their way to safety and salvation.  

God's love outlasted His grief.

God could have wiped the world clean and washed His hands of the mess, but He chose to keep suffering along with His creation.

God then gave His people the Covenant of the Old Testament.  On tablets He gave His people laws to obey that would lead to freedom.  Keep the ten commandments and be able to live in communion with the Alpha and the Omega.  

But no, His people grieved His heart, not once, but many times.  God, instead of sending an ark, fashioned a cradle of holy timbers that would hold this God-made-flesh Savior in its arms. 

God looked at the world and once again, His heart broke.  Tears fell and He knew He had to bring heaven down to earth.

God chose to come and live among His people as Jesus Christ the Son.  He put on human flesh and He endured human pain and suffering.  As an infant Jesus wept.  He knew pain from hunger and cold.  He grew to know the pain of being ostracized and hated.  When His friend died, Jesus didn't preach...He wept.  

In His ministry Jesus was mocked, betrayed, lied to, forsaken, abandoned, beaten, broken, hated, forgotten...He experienced heartbreak from a complete human perspective.  He cried real human tears.  

God the Father grieved once again.  He had sent His Son, but the world rejected Him.  He sent a Savior and the crowds yelled, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus was stripped, beaten, flogged and inhumanely nailed to the timbers that made the cross.  While His Son died the cruelest death, God wept.  The love that poured down from God's broken heart was like holy water to our parched souls.  The flood of Christ's blood made white our sinful stains.

Ann Voskamp writes, "On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love."  (excerpt from "The Greatest Gift")

In everything God has done, the motivation has always been love.  Love that came not in sparse drips, but in raging and fierce floods.  Because we broke God's heart, He opened up the ark, the cradle, and the cross.  Because He loves us so much He allowed His holy heart to break in two and make a way for us to draw near.

It's a tale of tears and timbers from a God of love who cannot deny Himself.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your heart of love for me.  Thank you for hurting when I hurt.  Thank you for being willing to grieve the loss of your precious Son so that I could be with you forever.  Forgive me for thinking that you are an angry God that keeps score of my sins.  Let me see the God of love that would flood the earth with water and flood the souls of man with Christ's blood so that we would be saved.  From the cradle to the cross nothing can hold you and no expanse is too great to encompass your great love.  Let my own tears remind me of all the tears you've shed over me and lift my head to gaze into your eyes of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about God?  Do you see Him as a God of anger or a God of love?  Do you believe that God grieves over you and all of creation; that He endured the pain of sending His Son for us because of unfathomable love?  How does that change you this Christmas? Will you share?

GIVEAWAY TIME:  To enter the drawing for the "Take Heart: 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay," just SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog (and nothing else).  Go to the SUBSCRIBE tab, enter your contact information, and then be sure to check your email.  In the confirmation email you will have to CLICK THE ACCOMPANYING LINK to confirm your subscription.  You can cancel at any time.  You'll automatically be entered.  Drawing to be held Dec. 12.  Winner will be notified by email.  (US and Canada only...sorry).

Be blessed...

Sunday, November 29, 2020

When There Are Cracks in Your Soul & "Take Heart" GIVEAWAY

Hey Friend,

I'm still clicking away at the keys during publishing "bootcamp."  I am bringing this popular post out of the Archives - it was written in Nov. 2018.  Some things have changed, but others remain the same.  May you find some hope in these words...

I don't know about you, but the holidays, for me, are often bittersweet.  Our Christmas season doesn't resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and I find myself becoming envious of those who seem to have those perfect family holiday Facebook posts and Christmas cards.

Thanksgiving was filled with tears for more reasons than one. Surgery, family illness, unforgiveness, adult child issues, life struggles, then add in missing those who have passed, and a new "normal" has been thrust upon me that I'm not willing to embrace.  I realize I have cracks in my soul that need filling.

But, as I make this pilgrimage toward the birth of Jesus in a manger, I am drawn to the Psalms of Ascent.  These are Psalms, or songs, that the Israelites sang as they made their way back to Jerusalem for the various feasts and celebrations. 

I as read the Psalms, I was drawn to the verbs or actions of those making their way home:

1.  "Call"      Out of the depths I call [to the Lord]... Psalm 130
2.  "Wait"     I wait for the Lord, I wait...Psalm 130
3.  "Bless"    Lift up your holy hands in the holy place and bless the Lord...
                   Psalm 134  
4.  "Trust"    Those who trust the Lord are like Mt. Zion...Psalm 125
5.  "Fear"     Happy are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways...
     "Walk"    Psalm 128.

6.  "Rejoice"  I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let's go to the house of the                        Lord." Psalm 122
7.  "Pray"     Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem... Psalm 122

And perhaps my favorite:

8.  "Lift"       I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come
                   from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and
                   earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

My "help" does not come from better health, restored relationships, lack of struggles and trials, no, it comes from the Lord.  Through it all, I cling to the fact that God is good.  He is faithful, and His grace is sufficient in all circumstances.  He will never leave nor forsake me.  

So instead of looking around me to my circumstances, I lift my eyes to the mountains and I call, I wait, I bless, I trust, I fear the Lord, I walk, I rejoice, and I pray.  

God is gracious and He will fill in the cracks if we simply call upon His name and ask.

God not only fills the hole in our heart, He fills the cracks in our soul.

I think sometimes I get a little greedy and I want it all (all good and no bad).  The rain, however, falls upon the just as well as the unjust.  I need to realize that God has already given me every good thing. I need a renewed perspective.

He has given me Himself and He has given me the gift of salvation and Sonship through the sacrifice of Christ, my brother.  He's also given me the gift of a holy guide and counselor.  I have it all...everything else is just the cherry on top. 

God can take the broken pieces of my life, fill in the cracks with His love and grace, and build a beautiful mosaic of my life that points directly to Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me please to adopt a more eternal perspective as I view life.  Let my joy be in my salvation and in my relationship with You.  Give me the strength to count my blessings with gratitude instead of counting my sorrows.  I give thanks for this Advent season as I wait, with expectant anticipation, to celebrate the good, good gift of Your Son.  Thank you for filling, with love, the hole in my heart and the cracks in my soul.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

IT'S GIVEAWAY TIME!!  Could you, or someone on your Christmas list benefit from the newly released devotional:  Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay??  I'm giving away a copy of the devotional (I'm a contribuing writer) and the companion prayer journal in a TAKE HEART CHRISTMAS DRAWING.  Retail Value:  $32.98

To be entered to win, all you have to do is SUBSCRIBE to my blog (and nothing else) or leave a COMMENT saying "Enter Me!"  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your information, and then be sure to look for a CONFIRMATION LINK that will come in an email to your inbox.  Click on the link to complete your subscription.  You can cancel at any time and I never share my contacts.  Drawing to be held Saturday Dec. 19th - just in time for Christmas.  Share this post and invite friends to enter!  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Heaven's Looking Better and Better with Each Passing Day

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but Heaven is looking better and better with each passing day.  I dug this pre-COVID post out of the archives as it seems increasingly relevant as I look at the world around us. Maybe you've had some heavenly homesickness as well?  So what can we expect?  I did some digging among scriptures and theologians to get a better grasp, and here's what I found...

I think I had a vision of heaven that many of us, unknowingly, share.  I envisioned that I would be some sort of ethereal, angelic type being with no real human-like features.  I'd be sitting among the clouds, and I would be strumming a harp and singing praises.  Yes, I would be with Jesus and with God which has huge appeal, but beside that, honestly....heaven sounded kind of boring. 

Actually, the final destination of believers is not an ethereal place somewhere out in space.  Our final destination is the renewed heavens and earth that Revelation 21 speaks of.  Heaven will be a very physical and concrete place.  The Bible has over 600 verses that speak to what heaven will be like, but we, too often, get our ideas from movies, literature, and television.

Revelation 21 talks about how heaven and earth will not be brand new, but instead will be this creation renewed.  We forget that when God made heaven and earth, He pronounced it good.  Earth was not just good, it was perfect.  That was, of course, until sin came in and messed it up.  

The type of "newness" that the Bible speaks of in the Greek translation is kainos which means a "newness in quality" - something that is, is made better or different.  It's quality has changed.  

God will renew, transform, improve, and refresh His creation.  It will be a kainos heaven and earth.  

Actually this makes sense to me, because I have seen some things that I have had to believe were glimpses of heaven.  I've seen views from mountain peaks that have taken my breath away.  I've had the unconditional loving licks from my dogs.  I've smelled the newborn heads of my children.  I've seen animals, birds, fish, and flowers - large and small - that just ooze of the creative nature of God.  I've seen colors that have dazzled my eyes, heard music and seen dance and art that have made my heart leap with emotion. I've felt kindness in someone's smile, and love in an embrace.   

I believe that all things good in this world will continue to exist in the next, but they will be transformed and improved in the renewed creation.  It will be THIS creation, renewed. 

So...what can we expect in Heaven?  There will be:

*  Physical bodies (Yes, I'll finally be a "10")
*  Emotions and relationships (joy, happiness, peace, love, but no drama!)
*  Nature with daily cycles of day and night and weather
*  Animals (including pets)
*  Work (Gen. 2:15)
*  Learning (1 Corinthians 13:12)
*  Science
*  Arts (Rev. 14:2-3)
*  Entertainment and Activities

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."  (John 6-39)

So to answer my son's question, from when he was ten, "Will there be ice hockey in heaven?"  I think I would now have to definitely say, "Yes!"

What will not be present:  no evil, no curses, no brokenness (emotional or physical), no more sin, no sickness, no death, no more suffering or sadness, no war, no famine, and no temples.  This last one made me pause for a moment, but in heaven we will be in God's presence continually so there will not be a need for a separate house of God.  

The closeness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit 24/7...Wow!  Most glorious will be that heaven will be a place where Jesus (the very definition of "love") will be present and we will bask in His love.  

So what does heaven mean to me now?  It gives meaning to this life - as in it is a preparation for the life to come. God is about building our character for our eternal life to come.  Therefore, hard times now, will reap future rewards.  It reminds me that in those very hard times, there is more to life than this world.  If we persevere and finish the race, we will receive a glorious crown one day!

It gives me hope for my future destination and strength for life in the present.  It gives me something perfect to hope for when this life is far less than perfect.  

It reminds me that this world, and its present troubles are but a blink of the eye in God's timing.  Heaven (perfection) will be eternal.  There will be no sorrow, or regrets, or guilt.  Rather, love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and other emotions that will be felt with new heights and depths.  Relationships will be all we can imagine and more. 

Heaven, however, is more than just a hope for the future, it is the very heart of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.  It is also at the very center of the human heart. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the plan for creation that you have had since the very beginning.  Thank you that your desire is not to leave us in this sin-filled world.  I bless you for the hope and even the homesickness that lives in my heart and yearns for eternity with you.  Your creation is not evil and we look forward to when you will renew, transform, improve, and refresh what sin has tainted.  What you began in Eden you will fulfill in Revelation.  Oh, what a glorious place heaven and earth will be and how awesome it will be to kneel before you in your presence.  Thank you for this hope that keeps us/me going.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about heaven?  Do you have any heavenly homesickness? What do you most look forward to in heaven?  How does the knowledge of heaven get you through today?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you enjoyed what you've read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to receive my weekly blog posts (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then, in order to confirm your subscription LOOK FOR A CONFIRMATION LINK THAT WILL COME IN A SEPARATE EMAIL IN YOUR INBOX...CLICK ON IT TO CONFIRM.  It's simple...Also, I'd love it if you would share this post on social media.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, November 16, 2020

Keep Sending Out and Receiving Messages of Hope

Hey Friend,

My husband and I were watching some special t.v. programs on Veterans Day.  One, in particular, told the story of veterans of the Vietnam War.  It detailed their journey of being detained as prisoners of war in one of the worst POW camps imaginiable - The Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam.  In this camp, known for its inhumane conditions and its horrific torture, prisoners were kept isolated from each other and were beaten and tortured regularly.  It was enough to demoralize even the hardiest soul.

One prisoner, a US pilot, wanted to keep the hopes of his fellow prisoners alive and to encourage them to persevere.  He began by using his tin-metal drinking cup to tap out messages of hope to his colleagues that he never got to see.  When guards were not patrolling, he softly tapped Morse Code messages on his decaying cement block walls.  G-O-D  B-L-E-S-S  Y-O-U was just one of the messages he sent.  Other inmates, farther down the cell block, would continue tapping out the message until all the prisoners heard.  

Among the other messages the pilot regularly sent were: "Rescue Will Come," and "Hang On."  Eventually, he was able to smuggle messages out of the prison using spy tradecraft. When he received messages back, he would tap out more messages of hope to the then weakened, beaten down, and emaciated soldiers...  H-E-L-P  C-O-M-I-N-G, K-N-O-W  O-U-R  L-O-C-A-T-I-O-N.  The code miraculously met its intended purpose.  It kept the men hanging on until finally most of them were rescued at the end of the war. A simple hopeful message can mean the difference between life and death.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  (1 Peter 5:10)

During these turbulent and uncertain times, we can feel like prisoners in our own homes.  The four walls begin to close in and though we're not being tortured, as days drag on, even the sturdiest of us begins to lose hope that one day things will be better and some sense of normalcy will return. Many are suffering from depression due to isolation and loneliness. Though weeping endures for the night, joy WILL come in the morning.  We need to get to the morning!

I encourage you to think about people to whom you can send out messages of hope.  Here are a few practical ideas to consider:

*  Call friends and family more often - particularly those in nursing homes or those living alone.

*  Send a humorous or uplifting text to several people you know at random times and let them know you're thinking of them.

*  Sit down and write a good old-fashioned "snail-mail" letter or note.  

*  Drop off an unexpected small gift of homemade treats or a potted plant to someone who is struggling.  

*  Pick a day of the week and make it a habit to email 2-3 different people each week.  If contacting older people, ask them to share a favorite childhood memory.  Revive the art of story telling.  When there's not a lot of new news to share, everyone loves telling a favorite old story.

As you continue to send out messages of hope, be sure to take in or receive messages of hope. We can't pour out if we're not being poured into. 

*  Make Bible reading and quiet time a non-negotiable priority each day.  Get up early if necessary.

*  Put on praise music at home or make your SUV a sanctuary in which you sing songs to the Lord as you run errands.

*  Take a devotional with you when you go to medical appointments.

*  Post a different scripture each week, where you'll see it often, and challenge yourself to memorize one new scripture each week. Do the challenge with a friend and share your memory verse for the week. Mine are posted by the coffee pot lol. 

*  Start a gratitude journal in which you write down 3-5 things you're grateful for each day - simple works well! 

Remember that God is not flummoxed or frustrated by what's going on.  Nothing can thwart God's sovereign purpose.  Ask Him what He would have you learn in this "wilderness season."  Look around for blessings you've experienced that will help you "flip the script" on 2020.  It's all there and is ours for the asking.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the messages you send me each and every day - for the way that you answer prayers before they've even left my lips.  I praise you that your will is sovereign.  Enable me to pray that your will, not mine be done.  Help me to be bold in sending out messages of hope to those who need to hear...not just hope for today, but for eternity.  Let me make spending time with you a priority and let me seek to know what you would have me learn from these days.  Grant me your peace, strength, and mercy.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Who do you feel God calling you to send out a message of hope to today?  What blessings are you thankful for in 2020?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you enjoyed what you read here today, might you want to SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog posts (and nothing else)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and then be SURE TO LOOK FOR AN EMAIL THAT CONTAINS THE CONFIRMATION LINK YOU MUST CLICK ON in order to complete your subscription.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

How to be More Inspired by Christ's Birth - Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey Friend,

When I flip the calendar to December, one of my very favorite things is calming my spirit by reading an Advent devotional or doing an Advent Bible study as I prepare my heart for the coming of my Savior.  While I'm still "bootcamping" it, I'm excited to have my good friend and writer, Beth Steffaniak, sharing here today. Will you welcome her, with me, and leave her some lovin' in the Comments?

Beth is a pastor’s wife, empty-nester mom and grandma—“Bebe.” She fills up her days with blogging at as well as authoring, life-coaching, and speaking at workshops. She would love for you to connect with her on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and also hopes you’ll take advantage of the resource library on her blog that offers over 40 free resources to subscribers.

How to be More Inspired by Christ's Birth~

We all could use a little more inspiration in 2020! Wouldn’t you agree?


But even more important than overcoming pandemic fatigue is our need to connect more deeply with Jesus, especially during the season of Advent. It certainly could help usher in a more Christ-honoring 2021, not to mention preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth and birthday.




So, allow me to share with you one resource and idea for preparing your heart for Christmas and the Christmas season. I truly believe that if you put into practice what I’m about to share, you’ll find that your life and relationships will grow stronger and more encouraged as well. You’ll be able to weather seasons of challenge, like what we’ve endured during 2020, better. And it just might inspire you to live more for Christ all year round.


Many years ago, I discovered the powerful impact that studying God’s word had on my marriage and life. Back then, the messes in my marriage were what inspired me to name my blog “Messy Marriage.” Thankfully, my times in God’s word began to correct my distorted motives and draw my heart closer to God, eventually lessening my marriage messes.


Those precious times in God’s word continually transform me into a different person—a better spouse and more devoted Christ-follower.


At some point, the Lord inspired me to develop a Bible method based on the word WORTHY, with each letter representing a particular prompt. This method will remind you to welcome the Lord into your study. And it will also hone your ability to glean truths from the passage, form an application, pray your application, as well as live it out throughout your day.


WORTHY stands for . . .


W – Welcome the Lord.


O – Observe what Scripture says.


R – Recognize what is noteworthy and true.


T – Thought to take.


H – Help from the Lord.


Y – Yield to the Lord.


About five years ago, I began to share my WORTHY Bible studies with others in private Facebook groups, where I found even more inspiration and encouragement from those who studied along with me. One of the studies I wrote and shared there was based on the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2:1-40. Now, you can find that Bible study—Messiah in a Manger—on Amazon, and better yet, buy it while it’s on sale until 12/6/20! The paperback was $6.99 and is now $3.99, with the Kindle on sale for .99 cents—down from $2.99.


Perhaps you’re afraid to dive into a study during the busy Christmas season. If so, this just might be the perfect study for you! That’s because it’s very brief—only ten days-worth of notes/chapters that you can read in about five or six minutes each day. Even though the readings are short, they are also packed with my research and personal insights, giving you the context and depth to understand the text more completely.


If you’ve got the time and motivation, you could also study the passage on your own each day. Then come back to read my notes to compare our combined insights. You might find some truths and perspectives that I didn’t and vice versa.


But if you’re like me and you love hearing other people’s thoughts on the readings, know that you’re invited to join me as I host another Facebook group doing this study very soon. It will kick-off the week of 12/6/20 and finish up on 12/18/20. Click here to request to join and I’ll add you ASAP!


Allow me to share with you one “Thought to Take” from the Messiah in a Manger study . . .


“I’m struck by how many historical details the Lord lined up in order to confirm the prophecies of old regarding the Messiah’s coming. God certainly is the Master Weaver, who orchestrates with great precision every detail—not just since Christ’s coming, but also of every current moment on into eternity. Most likely, Joseph, and many others at this time, could have viewed the requirement to travel for this census as a costly burden and inconvenience. But this passage serves to remind me that God weaves His divine purposes into every circumstance in life—orchestrating them to bring about His best and most redemptive outcomes even in the mundane things we consider problems and/or annoyances. So, I will trust Him with each detail and not grumble or view these inconveniences as unwanted nuisances or frightening threats in my life.”


This entire study will give you an up-close and personal look at all the details God used to weave His story of redemption and love! It will give you a greater sense of wonder for the Father’s plan and will inspire you to love and thank Jesus for coming in such a humble yet profound way, as a Messiah in a manger.

Now for a fun GIVEAWAY!!  SUBSCRIBE to my blog before Nov. 20th and automatically be entered to win a FREE Kindle copy of Messiah in a Manger!!  To SUBSCRIBE, just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above.  Enter your contact information and then BE SURE TO LOOK FOR THE EMAIL THAT CONTAINS THE CONFIRMATION LINK YOU NEED TO CLICK in order to confirm your subscription.  I never share my contacts!!

Be blessed...

Saturday, October 31, 2020

A Personal Story of Gratitude Rediscovered

Hey Friend,

As we head into November, I would like to share a popular post from around this time last year.  We hadn't yet experienced a pandemic, but we probably took some things for granted that we'd love to have right about now.  I'm still working hard in book publishing bootcamp...hope you enjoy this post!

The last thing I could remember was the bright lights of the operating room almost blinding me, even though it was ten o'clock at night.  The room was sterile and cold. The two kind nurses were running through the drill of what was going to be happening.  It was a drill I'd heard many times before.  

The next thing I knew, as I tried to wake up and somehow shake off the fog I was in, was that two different nurses were looking at me, hovering, and talking.  My eyes followed my arm to my hand that was holding the warm hand of my husband standing at my side.  The lights were low and all was quiet around us.  

"It's 2:30 in the morning, Bev," my husband whispered to me.  I scrunched up my face in disbelief.

"Can I get you some water to drink?" the one nurse asked gently.  "Do you want some crackers with it?" Even though I hadn't eaten anything for over 20 hours, my throat was parched and scratchy.  All I wanted was water and to sleep.

When the aid came in my room the next morning, boy was I happy to see her.  "I've got your coffee and some eggs and hungry?" she chirped as she whipped off the metal cover keeping it warm, and smiled.

"You bet," I replied.  I held the coffee in my hands.  It felt warm to the touch, but I didn't smell the usual coffee aroma.  I sniffed it again...nothing.  One of my very favorite things is cradling a hot cup of coffee in my hands, early in the morning, and inhaling its distinct, somewhat nutty aroma.  

I couldn't smell the eggs.  I couldn't smell or taste the orange juice.  The nurse reassured me that losing your sense of taste and smell could be a side effect of the anesthesia and that it would probably wear off soon.  It didn't.

For three weeks, I gagged on what I ate and drank because it tasted like metal nothingness. I didn't even want my beloved coffee because it actually made me start to cry because I couldn't enjoy the whole "coffee experience."  It was gone and I didn't know if it was ever coming back.  

How could I have taken the simple gift of smelling and tasting for granted?

Each day I hobbled around smelling things with distinct and powerful odors, hoping and praying that my senses would wake up.  Perfume, garlic, flowers, vinegar...nothing. I began to lose weight because there was no joy in eating.  I ate only to sustain myself.

Days passed, and I still couldn't taste, or smell, anything.  Depression crept in like a gray fog and settled over me.  How could I have been so ungrateful for these simple pleasures?  I didn't like my new normal.  I wanted those gifts back.

Then, one morning, heading into the fourth week, I clutched my coffee in my usual pretend routine and I made my husband jump when I shrieked with excitement, "I can smell it!!!  It's not real strong, but I can smell hints of coffee!!!"  You would have thought I'd won the lottery.  I sat there, wiggling my nose, like a bunny in a field of clover, inhaling between sips.  Tears ran down my cheeks.  There was hope. The blessing was being renewed.

Slowly but surely, over the next several days, my sense of taste and smell returned.  I scurried around smelling and tasting everything I could stick under my nose or put in my mouth.  It was enchanting getting reacquainted with the senses I'd desperately missed.  

I remember praying - O, Lord, you are so good to me.  Please don't ever let me take the gift of taste and smell for granted ever again.  Don't let me take any gift you give me for granted ever again.  

I wish I could say that I was forever grateful for everything from that moment on. But much like the Israelites who mercifully came through the parting of the Red Sea, it wasn't long before I was whining about something I didn't have or that wasn't going how I thought it should.

A writer friend of mine queried in one of her recent posts, "What if we lost everything we hadn't thanked God for?"

That stopped me in my tracks.  I thought of all the people, places, things, joys, experiences, miracles that I had failed to thank God for.  

In my exuberance I had run off skipping, like the healed lepers, and I had failed to go back and thank the Healer. 

Lord, let me make Gratitude a priority in my life because it honors You and in doing so, it ushers in joy.  In order to make Gratitude a priority:

1.  Let me thank you God, in advance, for what You are able and about to perform.

2.  Let me pause, in the moment of blessing, and praise Your holy name. Don't let me hurry to move on until I've fully taken in Your blessing.

3.  Let me go forward in confidence and courage because I have looked back, with gratitude, to all the times You've been faithful to me, Lord.

Let praise for You, O Lord, always be on my lips...Amen.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  (1Thessalonians 5:18)

What about you?  Are there any blessings in your life that you have taken for granted?  Would you lose a lot or a little if what you hadn't thanked God for suddenly disappeared?  How can you make gratitude a priority in your life?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

Want to do some early Christmas shopping?  The newly released devotional "Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay" (in which I am a contributing writer) makes an excellent Christmas gift for friends and family as they embark upon a new year.  Available on Amazon and most booksellers.


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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Jesus Knew Social Distancing

Hey Friend,

Social distancing is not new.  When Jesus was walking the face of the earth, teaching, ministering, and performing astonishing miracles like changing water into wine and making the lame walk, there was a man who had leprosy.  Leprosy was believed to be an airborne disease that could easily be contracted and it ate away at one's flesh.  Lepers lived alone, isolated in colonies, and waited for death to take them.

As Jesus and His disciples were making their way to the next town, a leper began to approach them.  According to Mosaic Law, lepers had to wear torn and ragged clothing and not cut their hair so that others who saw them would know, from a distance, that they were "unclean."  The one with leprosy also had to declare him/herself as unclean to passersby.  

As the leper began to approach Jesus, I can just see every disciple covering their nose and mouth with their tunic and telling the leper to stay back a distance of four cubits, as was the law.  After doing some research, I was amazed to find that four cubits is exactly six feet.  Anything sound familiar?

The leper tells Jesus that his relative, who was a server at the wedding in which Jesus turned water in to wine, shared, with awe, the miracle that Jesus performed.  Read the scripture that details how Jesus reacted as this sore covered man in tattered and filthy clothes approached Him.

On one occasion, a leper came and threw himself down in front of Jesus, pleading for his healing, saying, "You have the power to heal me right now if you only you really want to!"  Being deeply moved with tender compassion, Jesus reached out and touched the skin of the leper and told him, "Of course I want you to be healed - so now, be cleansed!" 

Instantly his leprous sores completely disappeared and his skin became smooth!  Jesus sent him away with a very stern warning, saying, "Don't say anything to anyone about what just happened, but go find a priest and show him that you've been healed.  Then bring the offering that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a living testimony to everyone.

But no sooner did the man leave than he began to proclaim his healing publicly and spread the story everywhere of his healing.  Jesus' growing fame prevented him from entering the villages openly, which forced him to remain in isolated places.  Even so, a steady stream of people flocked to him from everywhere.  (Marek 1:40-45 PTP)

Perhaps COVID-19 is our modern day leprosy.  What do you think you would do if Jesus drew near to you as you struggled to take every gasping breath that coronavirus inflicted upon you?  What if He walked toward you, not wearing a mask as others backed away, and gently touched your sick and tortured body?

Even though Jesus firmly asked the healed man to show himself only to the priest to be declared clean, wouldn't you be like the healed leper? Wouldn't you want to go running, skipping, and dancing into the city to tell of the man who does miracles and saved you from a death sentence?

Jesus HAS saved you from a death sentence.  When you repent, ask for forgiveness, and accept Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, you've been saved from a fate worse than COVID-19...a fate worse than leprosy. 

Don't you think this miracle is worth not just telling, but shouting to the world?!  If you have been healed, don't you want others to be healed as well?  We need to be the healed ones declaring Jesus' mercy so that people will go flocking toward Him.

I challenge you to make a point this week to talk to one person who doesn't know Jesus and tell them what He has done in your life. People cannot argue with your personal testimony. Tell of His saving miracles and blessings in your life.  If you are a writer, write about it.  If you are a singer, sing praises. If you are an encourager, encourage someone else that even in these times there is great reason for hope.  For by His stripes we are healed.  

What about you?  Who, in your life, is God calling you to witness to?  If you are not a believer, is Jesus calling you to repent and live?  What's stopping you from accepting His invitation?  Would you share one thing you can do this week to share how Jesus has personally saved and blessed you? 

 Need help sharing hope in these times?  Take Heart - 100 devotions to seeing God when life's not okay is available now on Amazon, DaySpring, Barnes & Noble, Lifeway and other book sellers.  Get yours today!

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