Life in Abundance

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Much Like Dirty Pots

by Ruth-Ann Thompson

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. John 13:8, New International Version.

small__6112258221It 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.

photo credit: cuantofalta via photopin cc

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The Okra Syndrome

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

okraThe 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.

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On Seeing Red

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

When Sky came along, it was Roy’s turn to play stay-at-home parent. Every day, they both spent time in anticipation of mommy coming home (which made me feel very special). Every day, there’d be a card or a handmade trinket waiting for me. But once in a while, they’d surprise me and personally deliver my gift.

A visit to mommy’s office was always very exciting, but Sky would get impatient during the trip. It was only 11 miles to the office, but distance and time are, of course, beyond a toddler’s comprehension.

One day, Roy came up with a clever way to address Sky’s impatience. He said, “Mommy’s office is five red lights away. You can count them and know when we’re there.”

Sky looked at him, “You are wrong, Daddy.”

Patiently, Roy assured her that he knew what he was talking about. “I have driven on that road many times,” he said. “And I have counted the number of traffic lights. You just trust Daddy. Count the five times you see a red light and we’ll be there.”

Sky narrowed her eyes, let out a big sigh and clearly emphasized each word, “You. Are. Still. Wrong.” She continued impatiently, “You can’t drive through red lights to get anywhere. You have to wait till they turn green. So there are five green lights to get to Mommy’s office.”

That conversation told us a lot about the person Sky was going to grow up to be. And since those early toddler days, she has continued to reinforce in us, over and over again, the importance of a positive perspective.

You can spend your life seeing red, the stuff that slows your pace and cramps your style. Or you can live in anticipation of the green, the things that herald new opportunities and exciting options.

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A True Friend

by Gaby Fernandez

I met Elaine this school year. In just a short period of time, she has become a good friend. During this year, we’ve both learned about what it means to be loyal. For us, it mainly meant being there for each other in both stressful as well as happy times.

However, while preparing a sermon, I discovered that the true meaning of loyalty is more than simply being there for one another. To be loyal means to be faithful to a person, ideal, cause or responsibility. And that translates into keeping my word, staying constant and consistent. Loyalty involves various areas of our everyday life. The very essence of loyalty is staying true—true in word and deed.

The story of Jonathan and David is a great example of loyalty. It demonstrates mutual love and loyalty between two friends. “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:3). Jonathan makes this covenant with his best friend because the love he has for him is deep and one that no one could break. Not even his father, Saul. When Jonathan gave David his armor and weapons, he was showing his loyalty. He was willing to put David’s life and safety above his own. For David, Jonathan was willing to risk everything, including his right to his father’s throne.

The loyalty between David and Jonathan transcended personal needs and priorities. More importantly, their friendship also united them in their service to God.

I pray for the same kind of loyalty between Elaine and me. I pray that we grow in trust and in service to God. Having a friend that loves and honors God is a treasure. Being loyal to one another is important, but it is more important to be loyal to God.

Christ was loyal to us when He died on the cross on our behalf. He was true to His word! 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful.” God’s Word declares His loyalty to all humanity.

It’s my prayer that God finds each of us loyal in His sight.

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Bottled Tears

You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8

Bottled Tears

It had been a long toiling week. We had finally finished packing the last of my grandparents’ belongings. I took a few moments to catch my breath. My eyes lingered as I walked through each empty room. I had so many memories. Grandma had passed away a few months prior, and Grandpa was living in an assisted living facility. It was hard to be in the house without them. I found myself walking towards the old piano in the parlor. I had spent many hours playing and singing hymns with my Grandma. With memories pouring in, I solemnly sat at the dusty piano and began playing the familiar hymns. Tears began to stream down my face. I poured my heart out to God.  I remembered my grandmother’s life. I cherished our memories. A floodgate of tears and emotions swept through me.

We each have moments in life when we surrender all and cry out to God. Psalm 56:8 speaks to such occasions. When I read the words of David I am comforted. Jesus truly is aware of the hardships we experience here on earth. He has captured every tear and every sorrow with His outstretched arms. There is nothing too great or too small for His notice. When heartaches and unquenchable sorrows fill your soul, envision Jesus carefully gathering your tears and putting them in His bottle.

By: Tonya Mechling

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Singin’ in The Blessings

by Cynthia Ward

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10, New International Version.

Tithing has always been a difficult task for me. I have read all the verses in the Bible; I have listened to all the sermons about the importance of tithing; and I have seen the blessings of tithing. But I continue to struggle with it. Recently, however, I began to understand what tithing really means.

You see, all along I thought that if I give my 10 percent, the Lord Almighty would “open the floodgates of heaven” and give me back that 10 percent and then some. But you know, not once does the Bible say that I’m getting the money back. What it does say is that I’m going to have so many blessings poured out so much that I will not have room to contain all of it. It says blessings, not money.

Blessings such as those I have experienced: Like the time when the insurance company started deducting my payment from my account a month later, when I was better prepared to pay the full amount. Or the time I got a gift card to purchase gas just when I was running out of money and wasn’t sure I’d be able drive my car to and from work. Then there was the time there was so much of leftovers from the company picnic that I had free meals for three days.
I guess my struggle comes from my focus on the money, not the blessings. I have been spending so much time waiting for my 10 percent check back from God that I forgot to notice all the blessings that were raining down on me. I was soaked in blessings and didn’t even notice or really care.

I still struggle sometimes, but when my first check each month is made out to God, I spend my time now singin’ in the blessings!

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Anything But Brown

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

I have a problem embracing the earth—dirt in particular. And I passed this quirk on to my son. From the moment he opened his eyes, he learned to stay within the borders of a multi-colored patchwork quilt.

The quilt was his world, and I kept it cleaner than a surgeon’s prepped hands. Every time Jez slithered to the edge, I’d say “No” and put him back in the middle of the quilt. The quilt was his sanitary universe. Outside of the quilt, I was always armed with wet tissues and disinfectant spray. The patchwork quilt continued to be his world even at almost 6 feet and 12 years of age. He could never spread out on the carpet and watch TV—unless the quilt was under him.

Unfortunately, my idiosyncrasy became his paranoia. On picnics, he refused to sit on the grass. At dinnertime, he never let his hands touch anything but his fork. Swings on playgrounds had to be wiped down before his turn. He even refused brown M&M’s because he associated the color brown with dirt—He would carefully open a pack and separate the browns from the other colors.

Kenny, his brother, saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime to have twice the amount of M & M’s. He explained to Jez that if brown meant dirt, then chocolate, in all form, was dirty. Chocolate was brown. Break open a yellow M & M and it is brown on the inside!

Somewhere along the way, Jez realized his need for chocolate exceeded his bias towards the color brown. Or maybe it was the pain of handing over his share of chocolates to his older brother who made a big production of enjoying all the M&M’s. I don’t know.

Today, Jez loves chocolate. But he still has anxiety attacks when he comes in contact with dirt. He also regrets all the extra chocolate he missed out on during his prejudice-to-brown days.

Prejudice, almost always, results in loss. Don’t you think?

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The 12-Year Old Prayer

by Iris Eastwood

Twelve years ago, my brother’s relationship came to a bitter end when his girlfriend left him and took with her their twin sons. The boys were five years old.

For various reasons, my brother got no visitation rights and we had no connection with the boys. My mother and I did the only obvious thing we could—We prayed every day for little David and Austin.

Two years later, we heard the boys’ mother had died and that the boys were in state custody. Quickly, we contacted social services and began processing the paperwork to find a way to bring them home. But, for whatever reason, we did not succeed. So we just continued praying every day.

We sent letters, birthday cards and even money orders for the boys through their caseworker. Still we never heard from the boys or about them. Years went by with absolutely no contact. 2011 was Year 12. The boys would be adults soon. The chances of finding them seemed almost zero.

And then one day came an unexpected phone call from the social service office. The lady introduced herself as the new caseworker assigned to David and Austin. She then proceeded to tell me of how she found a box of letters and cards and money orders. It was obvious to her that David and Austin had a family who loved them. And she wanted to bring us back together!

Since that day 12 years ago, I have moved a lot. I was now 3000+ miles away from where my nephews were. I wished I could hang up the phone and be miraculously transported across the country to see my precious boys. But not only was I too far away, I was also unemployed and had a sick husband at home. There was no way I could visit them. —These were my thoughts as I talked to the social worker.

It was a bitter sweet moment—I was so glad to have finally found my boys, yet so sad that I was so far away from them. Just then, I heard her tell me the state would pay my expenses to travel to see them!

My cup was more than running over. I was drowning in the joy of answered prayers. But God’s goodness did not stop there. When I looked up at the tall and strong David and Austin from my petite frame, I could tell that God had been their protector all along.

David told me of how he wants to be an evangelist and Austin said he planned to work beside his brother to provide music and songs for their ministry.

It may have been 12 long years, but God knew what was best for my boys!

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Part of the Puzzle

I woke up this morning to an email from Joe, my childhood friend. Every now and then, I get a note from him that’s timely and inspiring. This one, he says, is from Max Lucado’s writings.

Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries . . . When we mix, mingle, confess, and pray, Christ speaks.

The adhesiveness of the disciples instructs us. They stuck together. Even with ransacked hopes, they clustered in conversant community.They kept “going over all these things that had happened” (Luke 24:14 MSG). Isn’t this a picture of the church—sharing notes, exchanging ideas, mulling over possibilities, lifting spirits? And as they did, Jesus showed up to teach them, proving “when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (Matt. 18:20)

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Life in the Fast Lane

“As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness: I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.” Psalm 17:15

We all do it from time to time. Intentions become mislaid and life gets busy with stuff. As I write, I pause to reflect upon my use of each day. I have mentally conjured up a t-chart. One side reads FOR ME, and the other side reads FOR GOD. Since I am not working right now, one would surely expect to see God’s side brimming with activity. Worship, church activities, and the occasional helping of others all made the list; sadly, though, they use a small space on the t-chart. The other side, however, is overflowing with selfish endeavors.

As I read David’s prayer in Psalm 17, I was drawn into God’s presence. While fleeing from Saul, David went through many ordeals. The perils around him forced him to live minute by minute. Despite all of the danger and strife, he was able to keep his focus on God during this time.

I want to lift up the same prayer as David. My life will still be inundated with stuff, but I want everything that I do, say, and breathe to be about becoming like Him. Moment by moment, I want to reflect Jesus in all that I do.

By: Tonya Mechling