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“Hey, excuse me?” The words were spat out more like a command than a question. I looked up from my desk and into the eyes of an angry woman, her hands balled into tight fists on the counter. Of all the women who exercised at the health club, she was the most peculiar. She dressed like a pioneer, yet chatted on an iPhone. Her face wore a permanent scowl, making her look older than she was. She always came in clutching church literature to hand out.
Through gritted teeth, she hissed, “You put on some Christian music this instant. I don’t pay to come and get a headache from this worldly garbage.” Thrusting her finger in my face, she continued, “Change it right now. This unholy music is really getting to me!”
I was shocked. The songs played were instrumental aerobics beats. The volume was even below moderate. I managed to smile while searching for words with which to respond. But it didn’t matter; she was already stomping away, shaking her head. I simply changed the CD to praise music and then fell back into my chair to think.
Was it hypocrisy? Had I made wrongful assumptions based on her appearance? Was our music really not appropriate for a Christian gym? I wanted to be fair, but my natural inclination was to judge. Later, I opened my Bible expressly to find texts justifying my indignation. The first text I turned to was Matthew 7:3—“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”
I was looking down on the woman because she wanted to hear Christian music and because she was rude about it. How were my sins any less? My self-righteousness and contempt were greater.
The next time I saw her coming, I changed the music before she could ask. She smiled and even thanked me. Over months, this simple ritual evolved to small talk to conversations. And I now have a better understanding of who she is.
Thank God for His lessons and for a new friend.You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
Are you kidding me? Did that guy really just say that out loud? That’s what I thought during my Bible study at church. We were studying Luke 1:7—“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.”
The discussion turned towards how childless couples were considered cursed; how children were considered a blessing; and how those without children had obviously done something wrong in the eyes of God. Then, out of nowhere, this guy pipes up, “Well you know who’s to blame—Elizabeth. It says she was barren.”
The room was quickly flooded by an angry wave of intense murmuring. How dare he say such a thing! As if any woman, desperate to have a child and yet unable to have one, would be to blame. A thousand rude comments clogged my throat as I clamped my mouth shut—which is very unusual for me. I spent the rest of the study time stewing over this Neanderthal’s comment.
But then I started to really think about the fact that Elizabeth had no children. What could have been the reason? I know that medical issues could easily explain this, but just follow my train of thought: In verse 6, Luke says Zachariah and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God.” Maybe Elizabeth’s barrenness was part of God’s plan all along. I mean, let’s be honest. Parents with many children parent differently from those with just one or two.
God chose Elizabeth and Zachariah to be the parents of a very special person, the one who was to pave the way for His Son. This person was to begin softening the hearts of God’s children. To be aptly prepared for the job, he would require a solid foundation in his early, formative years. He would need the undivided attention of parents who had the time to bring him up to fulfill the job description of his career. Just think about the man that John the Baptist became. He was a true believer, a dynamic preacher, and a great leader of his time.
Elizabeth—having been barren for so long, having matured along the way, having watched the errors of young mothers—had a huge advantage. She didn’t have other children or responsibilities to distract her. Both Zachariah and she were at a point in their lives where they could fully embrace God’s plan and focus all their time, resources and energy on bringing up John to fulfill the prophecy of a messenger.
And this may not have been the case without Elizabeth’s barrenness. Think about this the next time you find yourself praying for that one thing you need to fulfill your greatest desires. Never put your limits on God. He has amazing plans for you in His time.You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
by Ruth-Ann Thompson
Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. John 13:8, New International Version.
It had been a particularly stressful few days—sickness, unplanned meetings, unexpected visitors, plus an assignment that took me away from home and the children for a whole day. Routine household cleaning was the last thing on my mind.
Returning home at the end of the last long day, I looked around my messy home and wasn’t sure where I should begin. But when I couldn’t have a drink of water because there wasn’t a clean glass in sight, dishwashing was the obvious place to start. Somehow, without me noticing and being somewhat too tired to care, our dishes had piled up.
I was shocked. While I was busy, my family had done nothing to help out. Every dish, cup, glass, mug, bowl and every utensil and receptacle was absolutely filthy! Some had to be soaked for a later scrubbing! Time seemed to go on forever as I scrubbed and scoured (and scowled and screamed).
And then through my frustration, I realized that my sins are far more disgusting than any stack of dirty dishes could ever be. So often I go to God with my plan expecting Him to do a quick and simple cleansing process on me and send me on my way! But then He gently reminds me that there is so much more work He has to do.
With that insight, I chose not to be angry with my family. In my attempt to remove the toothpick from their eyes, God showed me the telephone pole that was lodged in my own.So wash me clean, dear Father. Do what you must to remove every impurity from my soul.
You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
The bright green, fresh and tender okra brought back memories of standing on a footstool and sharing a kitchen counter with my mother. As I rinsed my okra, I remembered instructions and warnings drilled into me—all specific to cooking okra in India.
1. Always buy twice as much as you need because half will definitely be rotten on the inside.
2. Never use okra whole or in large chunks because you might end up eating the rot that you can’t see. (Numbers 3 and 4 are obvious requirements resulting from numbers 1 and 2.)
3. Soak the okra in a mixture of bleach and water to exterminate e coli and its distant relatives. Then rinse and dry every single piece with a clean, dry towel.
4. Slit every okra lengthwise and carefully examine the innards for worms and weevil droppings.
Ones with even the tiniest hint of anything foreign resulted in the entire okra tossed in the trash. Saving the unaffected portion of the okra was not an option in my mother’s kitchen. And looking for worms and droppings was my job.
I was very good at it—probably out of fear that my negligence might poison the family! It wasn’t an easy task either. It wasn’t something I could multitask while listening to music or talking to a friend. The okra required my undivided attention. Okra worms are masters at camouflage. They curl and entwine themselves around the inner ribs and tunnels with their little heads looking just like the creamy white okra seeds. And you have to look really closely to identify the tiny grey dot of a mouth that differentiates the worm from the okra seed.
All this training came back to me as I prepared my okra. I really wanted to fry them whole, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. So I did like I was six again. I began slitting each one lengthwise and carefully examining it for worms and droppings. One by one, over and over. About half way through and having found no worms, I objectively and rationally realized I needed to stop with the craziness.
But, I simply couldn’t. I continued, until I checked every single okra in the bunch.
The whole thing got me thinking. This is how I am in life. I have a major case of the okra syndrome. I remember the details of every time I’ve been burned, hurt, taken advantage of. And I go overboard with preemptive measures, making certain I never have a worm or weevil dropping in my life again.
In a way, I guess that’s a good thing. But in more ways, it’s not good at all. Paranoia has a way of sucking the fun out of life.You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
There is an innate desire within us to serve God. Ideally, we want to do His will and we want to share Him with others. This willingness to serve, however, is often difficult to put into action. Personally, I struggle. Sometimes, I am too busy or too tired to care for the hurting, the dying, the suffering.
In the midst of a very hectic school year, I read Acts 8. I contemplated the words that God placed before me. Just when I needed encouragement, God had a special message for me. Philip’s actions inspire us to hear God’s call!
Philip was chosen by the Apostles to serve as a deacon. I don’t know the specifics of his duties, but I am sure that he was busy. Acts 6 presents images of helping widows and serving tables. After Stephen was put to death, many of the early Christians scattered. Philip could have easily relinquished his duty to serve God. Instead, we find Philip in Samaria vehemently preaching the Good News.
At the height of successful evangelistic endeavors in Samaria, an angel sends Philip on an expedition to a desert road. Philip might have been tempted to tell God that he needed to stay in Samaria, but instead he heeds the call. This part of the story is where things really get interesting. As Philip travels the dusty road, he sees a court official from Ethiopia reading. He could have hesitated, but instead he runs! At the exact moment that the Ethiopian cries to God for help, God sends Philip. Philip’s willingness to serve led to the Ethiopian being baptized and believing in Jesus.
I encourage you, today, to answer the call. Don’t be afraid of the service God calls you to do. God will empower you with all of the skills, energy and time required for the task. Like Philip, you will be greatly blessed.You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
I was there to listen to Bruce sing again in the quartet for the first time in three years. To compensate for the loss of salivary glands, he took long sips of water between songs. And on one of his water breaks, he shared his testimony. He began, “Three years ago I got the blessing of cancer.”
It was a time when nothing seemed to be going right. His health was in crisis, his marriage was falling apart and his business was struggling. A man of faith, Bruce turned over his problems to the Lord. He prayed, he meditated on God’s Word, he exercised faith at every turn, he surrendered to God’s will. But he couldn’t shake the heaviness of his problems. It hovered over him. Then one day while praying, he realized that it wasn’t enough to turn everything over to God. He needed to find a way to praise God for his problems. He needed to live like he really believed that “all things work together for good to them who love the Lord.” And that’s when his problems took a back seat in his life. And that’s why he is able to say his cancer was a blessing.
There’s the kind of faith that helps you to stoically wait for God’s plan to unfold, so you can see in hindsight that everything that happened was meant to be. Then there’s the dynamic kind of faith that does more—It is an active agent that enables you to laugh and live and rejoice during your trials. Most all Christians have the first kind of faith. But those who have the second kind live every day with the rush of contentment and peace.
It was this second kind of faith that allowed Job to chastise his wife with the words, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.