Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Advent Calendar Devotions

When I was growing up December 1st was always an exciting day for me, because my family gave me the annual advent calendar. I remember my grandmother making me a homemade calendar one year - I've always loved them!

So, as a gift to you, I have created an advent calendar at

Just click on the number of the tree ornament that corresponds with the date, and you will have a new little "gift".

Enjoy, and many blessings as we celebrate the season (and Christ, the reason for it).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

Psalm 51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Once upon a time I was in the yard of my Father’s house. It was a beautiful day, and I was just happy playing and enjoying myself. Outside the gate I spotted the cutest little stray puppy. He sat at the gate, and I could see him between the wooden slats. He had big eyes and just whimpered a bit. He was cute as a button, and when I didn’t come over, he barked to get my attention.

I walked over and reached my hand through the fence, and he nuzzled against it and licked me with little puppy kisses. Oh, he was adorable. Now I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the yard, but when I tried to get the puppy to come close enough to draw him in through the slats, he would scamper off just out of my reach. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just open the gate and gather him into my arms, so I went out to get him. Instead of coming to me, he got playful and began to run off, here and there. I took a few steps forward, but he wouldn’t come to me.

By now my heart was set on making this puppy my own, so I ran off after him into the woods. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the thickness, but we came across a grassy open patch, and he sat down. Finally, I caught up to him and we began to play. It was so much fun… until I realized it was getting dark and I should be getting back to my Father’s house.

I got up to leave, but the puppy wouldn’t budge. When I went to gather him up in my arms, he nipped me. I tried again, but he nipped me harder. He looked so cute, though, and so I played a little more, although I knew better. Again, my conscious prodded me, so I got up to leave. As I turned around to try once more to take my sweet little playmate home with me, I realized he seemed to have grown a bit. In a flash, he bared his teeth at me, jumped in front of my path home, and wouldn’t let me go. I was afraid, but had no one to blame but myself. Why didn’t I listen and stay inside the gate, where I was safe?

It’s been awhile now, and I’m still in the woods. Oh the puppy will play with me and periodically will cuddle against me, but whenever I try to leave, he grows into a big ugly animal and bites me. Sometimes I bleed. I have a lot of scars from the wounds. I can’t explain why, but I’ve grown to love him even though he hurts me.

I long to go home. Some days I can almost see through the woods to my Father’ house. I’ve tried to get back, but I feel trapped. And I feel so ashamed that I got myself into this situation in the first place. I want to call out to my Father to come and rescue me, but the words choke in my throat. I miss my Father. I want to get home, but I’m not sure how. All the plans we made, I feel like they’re ruined now, and each day my life slips away.

I wish I had known the name of the puppy was Sin.

Monday, April 14, 2008

From A Sinner's Perspective

Because it feels good
Because it makes me alive
Because it kills the pain
Because it makes me feel loved
Because it helps me forget
Because it’s a quick fix
Because it’s what I’ve always known
Because it's a comfortable lie
Because I’m afraid to take that step of faith
Because I’m not as strong as you

I want to believe
I want to be different
I want to stand for Christ
I want to choose the right way… this time


Because Jesus loves me
Because I am forgiven
Because I’ve screwed up for the 1,000st time
Because of 1 John 1:9

Maybe… just maybe

This time will be different
This time I can see the victory
This time I can see me as Christ sees me
This time will be different

Oh Jesus, in this desperate hour of
Forgive me
Cleanse me
Help me

In You alone, my Savior
In You alone
My hope, my redemption
My only reason for living
My truest love
My heart
My eternity

Friday, March 7, 2008

Take the Risk...

Isaiah 43:18-19 (Message)

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.

Our past can hold us back from all God offers us in the present, and promises us in the future. Pain, betrayal, mistrust, suspicion, failed relationships, abandonment, abuse… and so much more. When we turn back and keeping focusing on, giving time/attention/energy to all these past wounds, we don’t see the next step in the journey.

It’s like being lost in the desert. You walk and walk until you are parched and exhausted, and ready to drop. You steel yourself and in anger refuse to take another step. You turn around and see nothing except your own bloody footprints from where you’ve been, all the wrongs you’ve suffered, the path filled with nothing but hurt and disappointments. You convince yourself this is all there is, and allow it to define your world.

If only you will believe and go a little further, over the ridge is a cool refuge, trees to shade your weary brow, a crystal bubbling stream of the sweetest water you’ve ever tasted ready to quench your thirst. Just a little more, and you will find a place more beautiful than you could imagine.

Please have faith. Look up to what beckons you forward. Take the next step. Turn around to your future, leave the past in the past. God is calling you to something wonderful, but He will not force you to go – you must choose. Be present – see what you have in your hands this very minute, and all the promise of the future. Don’t grip the sands of your past history in your fists – you will only wind up with aching clenched hands of emptiness. Open those hands, let it go, and God will fill those hands with His blessings that are too numerous to count, too big to hold.

Take the risk…

Monday, January 28, 2008


Psalm 30:5b: “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

I had come home from church on this beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. There was a break in the bitter coldness that had engulfed our area, and the mildness was rich in the air. The sermon had been meaningful, and I was feeling good. It was one of those “all’s right with the world” moments, when you’re smiling and happy and calm. I half expected some little cartoon animals to gather around the car and begin singing… okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but it was a great Sunday morning.

I stopped for gas, and across the street the car wash was gearing up for what looked to be a promising day of sales. What better way to wash away the grime of a cold week than to treat my car to a car wash and drive home in style, the black hood glittering in the sunlight, all fresh and clean? I drove over, got in line, turned up the radio, and enjoyed the moment. Now this is the type of car wash where you get out of your car and stroll along as your car goes through each wash station. I have to admit, I still get a kick out of watching the foam spraying all over the place, the rhythm of the water streaming, and the huge whirling brushes and air dryers do their thing. The only thing better is actually being able to sit in the car! I always imagined that, just perhaps, when you went through the car wash in your car, you might come out in another land, just like the scene where Dorothy opens the door onto a colorful Land of Oz!

I paid at the counter, and went out to my beautiful baby car, all gleaming and enticing as the day I took her off the lot. Yes, it was a good day! I got in, took a moment to enjoy the fresh scent of scrubbed rugs and vanilla freshener, turned the radio back up, and began to drive away. And in literally two seconds, no sooner than it took to turn onto the road home, SPLAT!!!! A bird christened my windshield, and by the looks of it, I think it must have been a turkey vulture or perhaps an unusually large goose! (Pigs aren’t flying yet, are they?) No…. no… are you kidding me? Are you kidding me???? It was one of those surreal moments when suddenly everything goes into slow motion, and you are faced with “the choice.” Okay, I can really let this get to me. I can get ticked off and grump and mumble about my bad luck and just really let it get to me. Or, I can try to find the humor in it. I starting laughing… not just giggling, but laughing until my sides hurt and the tears welled up in my eyes. I just downright howled with the ironic silliness of it all! Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? I managed to get home, and grabbed a HUGE roll of paper towels and an economy bottle of window cleaner, and managed to get rid of the mess, through fits of giggles.

I couldn’t help but think how much life is like this little analogy God gave to me this sunny Sunday morning. We go along, feeling good, living strong, and suddenly SPLAT!!!! Something comes along to fowl up our plans, to dump all over us to the point where we can’t see clearly any longer. And we’re faced with a choice – do I focus on the SPLAT on my windshield, or do I try to find the lesson, and the humor, and just ride it out? Sometimes it’s a great big SPLAT, some life-altering news; sometimes it’s a smaller SPLAT that still rocks us to the bone. Either way, we have a choice in our reaction, and in our focus. We can look to God to give us strength and courage and to help us deal with what has been dumped on us. And hopefully, at some point, we can smile again.

I encourage you to grab some paper towels, and laugh.

A Fresh Start

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I began a new job today, and it feels like January 1st “fresh start” time again. I realized that I was walking into this company with a clean slate. No one knows me – no reputation to be upheld (or lived down), no mistakes to overcome, no regrets. I have a clean canvas upon which to paint the next scenes of my journey. It’s almost heady – I can be anything, anyone, they have no idea who the real me is yet. I could practically come in with a fake accent and they would be none the wiser.

So what will I do with this newfound freedom, this opportunity that doesn’t come along too often in life? One of the Seven Habits (by Stephen Covey) says “Begin with the end in mind.” I would like to look back on the end of my career at this new company with the knowledge that people would say about me, “You know, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone.” I hold this goal very dear, as I know how easy it is for me to be sarcastic, passive aggressive, and to allow the bitter words of gossip to drip from my lips like venom. Too often I have wished with all my heart that I could have taken back a harsh word or cruel, thoughtless comment – the joke at another’s expense, the wry cynicism that was in direct opposition to words that would be kind and gentle and useful.

This time, I want my words to be filled with love… uplifting and healing. I want Jesus to be reflected in every utterance that comes from these lips. At the end of the day I’d like to be able to listen to a replay of my conversations and not only not wince at something, but to breath deep and smile and know that my speech was pleasing to God. I’d like to use my words to build up instead of tear down. And with the Lord's help, each day I will begin walking towards this goal with the prayer from Psalm 141:3 -- Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Making This Year Count for Christ

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

As with so many around the world, we begin a new year with new goals and resolutions. Weight/health goals, financial/material goals, relational goals, career/education goals. I want to weight X amount, earn X amount, get a new car, develop a deeper relationship with my spouse/significant other/children/family member, get a promotion, get my degree… All these things are good, and important, and we should start off the fresh pages of 2008 with clear goals and specific, targeted steps for the journey ahead to achieve those goals.

How about spiritual goals? Have we thought about that? Oh, yeah, I’ll read the Bible this year, and try to get to church more often, maybe teach a Sunday school class or volunteer for vacation Bible school this summer. Again, all good things to accomplish this year.

But… have we invited the Lord into our goal-setting process this year? Have we laid out our dreams and desires before Him in prayer and asked Him what He wants for our life in 2008? All those goals mentioned above – have we placed them before Him and asked if that’s what He wants us to accomplish?

Before we consider any goals, consider what Andrew Murray wrote in the January 1st devotional of the book, “The Andrew Murray 365 Day Devotional”:

Many Christians… have never really grasped the secret that the Lord Jesus in Heaven will continue His work in them every day, but only on one condition: every soul must give Him time each day to impart His love and His grace. Time alone with the Lord Jesus each day is the indispensable condition of growth and power. Bow before Him, tell Him that you long for Him and His love, and He will let His love rest on you… learn the lesson of spending time each day, without exception, in fellowship with your Lord.

When we think about our lives and what is ahead for us this year, above all else, we must give our hearts and lives afresh to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we ask Christ into our lives, to forgive our sins and cleanse us, we become Christians – Christ-followers. We are forgiven, and begin a new life with Him. We, too, are called to grow up into strong, mature believers (a lifelong process). This requires daily time with the Lord – as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat.

First and foremost as we sit down to write out our new goals, we must place time each day to meet with Jesus through prayer and Bible study. Not because it’s one more ritual that will make God love us more (He loves us that much now, no matter what), but because we want to develop our love relationship with Him, to get to know Him better, and become more like Him. As with any relationship with someone we love, our desire is to spend time with that person, just be in their presence, learn all about them, please them, share our hopes and dreams, love them more and more. It’s just the same with our relationship with God. That should be our top goal, our top priority this year… because we love Him.

Then take all the rest, lay them out before Him, ask Him what He thinks, ask Him for guidance and wisdom so we can know that everything we are shooting for this year in His will and on His path. May this year be for all of us the best year ever in making our lives count for Christ - for being a mirror of His love and righteousness and purity - for a life more abundant in joy and growth than any year before, because we have put Him first.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Second Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart… inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

1 Chronicles 22:19a Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God…

Joshua 1:7 (Message) Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out… every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going.

Philippians 3:13-14 I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past… I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 …run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. (Living Bible)

Hebrews 12:1-2 Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience/perseverence the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Living Bible/NIV)