Category Archives: personal

Will I Choose Silence?

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Do you ever feel inadequate? Maybe you don’t use your gifts because you think they aren’t good enough.

I often feel inadequate as a voice speaking out. I look back on previous devotions and see I need my own advice! It’s frustrating. Part of me thinks I need to be more “spiritual” or “victorious” to share a message with others. But, I suspect readers relate more to my struggles than to my victories. No one has it all together and shouldn’t give the impression they do. However, this struggle doesn’t go away.

Recently, I was doing my daily  SOAP  reading and this verse stood out:

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Queen Esther had the opportunity to speak up for her people and possibly save them from destruction, but she was afraid. There was a good chance she would die if she approached the king without being summoned. Her uncle Mordecai gave her the advice in verse 14, telling her if she kept silent, God would bring deliverance from another place.

The truth of that verse hit me. “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise…from another place.” I realized I can stay silent, but if I do, God will use someone else to share His message. I’m the one who misses out if I don’t share. God will find a messenger. He will accomplish His purposes on earth. For Him to ask me is a privilege: not a right. If I deny that privilege, I lose it. I want Him to use others but I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity! If I keep silent and don’t share through writing, I’ll miss the blessing of experiencing God working through me. I’ll miss the encouragement that comes from others. I don’t want to treat lightly the grace He is giving me by offering opportunities to share His truth. I can’t take that for granted. Opportunities come from Him. I’m not entitled to the privilege of sharing through writing.

Yes, I need to seek Him, live for Him, and know the truth of His Word: otherwise, what I have to share will grow thin. Living for myself doesn’t produce fruit. But, the fact that I stumble and fall and struggle with my flesh doesn’t disqualify me from the race. I’m humbled and awed that He would still give me opportunities and still use me to encourage others. I don’t deserve that privilege. It’s all grace.

What are your gifts?

How is God using you?

If you struggle at times with feeling unworthy to use those gifts, remember if you stay silent, if you put your gifts aside, God will send someone else, use someone else and you will be left without the blessing that comes from serving Him. He wants to use all His children. He wants all believers to operate in the body as one.

We are all important and together we fulfill His purpose on earth.

I don’t want to miss out on experiencing Him working through me.

Father, thank you for the grace you give me every moment, every day. It’s amazing grace that I can even come to you in prayer. Thank you for the opportunities you give me to serve, to share, to write, and to give. Help me to take each one. Open my eyes to see when and where to speak and what to say. Open my ears to hear your call. Please work through me and let your will be done not mine. May all glory always go to you.

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One Last Tear

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My mom’s breath began to slow. It was 10 seconds between breaths, then 20, and then 30. There was one last breath. I realized that the first sound I heard on this earth, my mom’s heartbeat, was about to stop. Sobbing, my two sisters and I clung to our mom as a tear rolled down her cheek. Then her spirit was gone. In an instant, her body became an empty shell. As I gripped her hand, it became as lifeless as an empty glove.

One last tear was shed.

Did she cry for her daughters who were hurting? Did she cry at having to say goodbye? Maybe it was a happy tear as the veil was torn away and she saw glory. My sisters and I believe she shed a tear for us. She loved us well and with all her heart. In that moment, it was clear that this body we live in is just temporary housing. When her spirit left, the body was just an empty tent left behind. She wasn’t there anymore.

It had been a difficult ten weeks. From the time my mom first fell and broke her hip and then faced one setback after another. She finally was put on hospice and we sat by her side for a week as her body slowly weakened. Here are some thoughts I meditated on as I sat by her side:

Dying is hard.

Regret is devastating.

Moments are fleeting.

Opportunities pass.

There’s a last time for everything on earth.

Seize the moment.

Love well.

Make eye contact while you can.

Say I love you often.

A person’s tent is just that – a tent not the person.

Jesus conquered death.

Hug while you can.

Grief will not be rushed.

Grief stops time.

Rushing doesn’t improve life.

Trust requires patience.

Trust is shown in a gentle and quiet spirit.

Waiting patiently requires us to stop and be quiet.

Faith is the evidence of things NOT seen. It’s trusting without seeing.

I wrote this as I sat with her that morning:

This is probably the last time I will hold my mama’s hand.

Let me hold your hand one more time.

Feel your touch.

See your face.

I will always love you.

Always have you in my heart.

You’re my mom.

My dear heart.

You loved me fiercely and were always glad to see me.

“Hi sweetheart!”

“Hi Darlin!”

“Love you so much.”

These will echo in my mind.

Soon Mama, you will never have another pain.

Never be lonely again.

You will know everlasting joy and see the face of Jesus!

Strong, stoic, hardworking, determined,

Giving, generous.

Loved by many.

She loved us with a fierce love.

She was so proud of her girls.

She is with Jesus.

Singing, rejoicing and praising.

Free from suffering, pain and loneliness.

Free of guilt, hurt and sorrow.

Life is a mist, a vapor,

a puff of smoke,

a flower that blooms in the morning and dies at night.

Live purposefully.

Live intentionally.

Walk with Jesus.

Follow His voice.

Simplify, listen and just follow.

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Psalm 103:15-16 (ESV)

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14b (ESV)

“’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (ESV)

I originally published this at Internet Cafe Devotions

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First Christmas in Heaven

I wrote this when my father-in-law spent his first Christmas in heaven in 2007. Today my mom will spend her first Christmas there. I miss her and wish I could just have one small glimpse of her joy.

I love you mom!

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Christmas in heaven.

Can you imagine?

Not just celebrating the babe in the manger,

but falling at the feet of the King of Kings.

 

Not just viewing dozens of Crèches

made of every conceivable material

but being in the presence of the Holy One,

Immanuel,

Jesus Christ Lord of Lords,

The Great I AM!

What a glorious celebration!

 

Our little “celebrations” are barely

even shadows of the eternal celebration in heaven.

 

To think that our loved ones

are experiencing the full meaning of Christmas

for the first time.

 

God with us!

 

They are now in His presence for all of eternity.

The full joy of Christmas

with none of the negative effects caused by sin.

Pure joy unmarred by selfishness, worry, stress,

materialism or worldly distractions.

 

Can’t you see them worshipping before the throne?

 

Filled with the joy of heaven.

Free from the sorrows of earth.

 

Living the meaning of Christmas.

 

We love you.

Keep celebrating and one day

we will worship there together, forever!

Susan Aken   Christmas 2007

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

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Who Am I?

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Often I forget life is not about me.

I’m not the source of strength or truth in my life. I can’t produce one good thing in my own strength. My breath is a gift of grace from God. I can’t hold on to it or guarantee I will take another one.

As I take a deep breath…that act is grace.

Do I have hope? That is a gift.

Do I have a moment of peace? Also a gift.

Every second I spend with a loved one and look into their precious face is a gift. ALL good things come from our Creator Father. The ability to enjoy His gifts comes from Him. Life and death are gifts from Him. Life because it allows us to know Him. Death because it allows us to be with Him forever. I need reminders of who I am.

I’m a receiver of His good gifts.

I am…

A branch not the vine.

A creation not the Creator.

A pencil not the source of truth

A reflection not the light.

A servant not the master.

A voice not the message.

One part not the body.

Gifted not the gift.

A messenger not the message.

A channel not the source.

Forgiven not sinless.

In process not perfect.

En route not at my destination.

A singer not the song.

A child.

A follower.

A believer.

A vessel.

Forgiven, loved, trusting.

He is…

The Creator.

The Light.

The Hope.

The Master.

The Message.

The Author.

The Giver of every good gift.

He alone is worthy of praise, honor and glory.

All that I am, I owe to Him.

That this Great God would choose to love me and use me is overwhelming GRACE!

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (ESV)

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 (ESV)

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Originally published at Internet Cafe Devotions

 

 

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There is Hope

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My dad went to be with Jesus in 2000. One of the last times I saw him alive was on a visit I made to the VA home where he lived in another state. I was only able to visit him there two or three times a year. He had been in the home about four years and he hated it. As a former reformatory guard, he referred to it as “lockdown”. But my mom was no longer able to work and take care of him by herself. I wanted so much to encourage him somehow and on this visit I felt the urge to share these verses:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (ESV)

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Looking at my mom, he choked, “Did you hear what she said”? He was blessed and encouraged. He would not be stuck in that bed forever. Jesus was preparing a better place for him.

This world is a place of suffering. We may have moments, even days when we are personally free of suffering. But truthfully, with how the world has shrunk so that we know what is happening around the world instantaneously, suffering confronts us hourly if not by the minute. Suffering in this world is a reality and has been since the day Adam and Eve sinned.

Our encouragement, our hope is in knowing it won’t be this way forever. Even if we live into our hundreds, life on this earth is short. Those who believe in Jesus will then live with Him for eternity free of suffering. Someday, He will return to earth and those still alive on earth will see the end of evil and pain.

The tragedy is for those who never know or do not believe that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and set us free and then enter into eternity without Him.

The longer I live, the faster the days go by. Life on this earth is fleeting. Even if I manage to have a life of ease and comfort it won’t last long.

“For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14b (ESV)

I feel it.

The longing we each have in our hearts for a perfect place free of pain and sorrow will be fulfilled in heaven.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

Believe in Jesus. Believe He died for your sins and rose again.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:13 (ESV)

Believe in Him and know you will spend eternity in perfect joy.

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Originally published at Takin It To the Streets

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I’ll take instant maturity, please.

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Grinning with pleasure, I watched my newly planted butterfly garden. The bold yellow of the Yarrow and the vibrant orange of the Blanket flowers were a great beginning, but I longed for all the green to turn to blossoms. I rushed out each morning, excited to see new blossoms but nothing seemed to change.

Gardening brings a great lesson in patience. Hoping for growth, we plant seeds or small plants where they will get sun, adding soil, food and water. It takes weeks, months or in some cases a year or more to get full benefit of our labor. We must trust the food, water and sun to bring the seeds to full growth.

Spiritual growth is the same. When I read an inspiring verse or book or hear an insightful sermon, I want the maturity offered right now. I read about loving others with all my heart and wonder the next day why I’m rude and uncaring. I learn about the power of thoughts and keeping them focused on truth and want victory that minute. Like my butterfly garden, spiritual maturity comes with time and the right conditions for growth.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15 (NIV)

   Perseverance produces a crop. If I want growth, I prepare my heart with prayer as I would prepare the soil. Letting the Holy Spirit break up the hard clods of sin. I plant the seeds of truth in the soil of my heart by reading and meditating on Scripture. I drink from His living water, yielding to the Holy Spirit. I spend time in His presence and His light shines on me like the sun warming my heart and bringing the seeds to life. As I listen and obey, those seeds grow and produce fruit. But like my garden this takes time and patience, daily care and trust that the fruit will come. If I apply food, water and light, my garden will grow. When I pray, read Scripture, stay in God’s presence and obey His leading, over time spiritual maturity will come.

I few years ago, after struggling to be consistent with daily Bible reading, I was introduced to the SOAP method of Bible Study. With excitement, I made it a priority every morning. After a few weeks, I wanted to see change. God helped me to see that change comes as we make these choices day by day.

It’s what we do everyday that changes us over time.

I realized I would have to be patient and faithful and trust the power of His word to work in me.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” James 5:7 (NIV)

Do you wish for instant maturity? I know I do.

     If we will persevere and keep studying, praying and applying His word as we seek to know Him better, maturity will come. Just as one day I will walk out and see a garden of beautiful flowers, there are days when I get a glimpse of His word producing fruit in my life.

Keep going! Persevere. The fruit will come!

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Originally published at Internet Cafe Devotions

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Am I Living With Purpose?

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I winced as my tongue touched the roof of my mouth. The red, painful sores that had recently flared up made it difficult to eat.

The pain had become too much. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I tried essential oils, vitamins, drugs, salt water,  rest and other treatments to find some relief from the pain.

As I look back over my life, I’ve been sick many times and spent a lot of time and money getting healthy and keeping this body going. But the truth is the same for everybody. Our earthly bodies are temporary. No matter what we do, we all will die one day.

As I was trying to figure out what could have caused these awful sores and how to get them to go away, a seed that had been sown into my heart long ago sprouted.

Instead of dedicating so much of my focus to this temporary body and working to keep it alive as long as possible, I asked myself,  “Am I really living? Will I live the abundant life Jesus came to give me or will I just exist in the time I have here on earth?” I can’t change the fact that I will die or even control the day it will happen.

“A persons days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5, NIV)

Instead of constantly looking for the latest cure for some physical ailment, I need to focus more on:

  • How will I live?
  • How will I make the most impact with the time I have?
  • What legacy will I leave behind?

Those are the eternally important questions.

Of course, I want to be physically healthy so I can enjoy the time I have. But being obsessed with prolonging life is pointless. Better to focus on living each moment to the fullest.

“Show me, Lord, my lifes end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” (Psalm 39:4, NIV)

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”(Psalm 90:12, NIV)

When I am sick, I focus on how I can fix the immediate problem. But am I that determined when there is a spiritual weakness? Do I seek the Lord until victory comes? Do I take a selfish attitude as seriously as I do a sore throat? Am I as concerned about pride as I am about an infection?

This body is wasting away. Nothing can turn that around. But my inner being is being renewed day by day. My inner being will live forever. Am I seeking purity and holiness? That’s an eternal investment. Am I quick to find help when my soul is sick?

I have a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She struggles with the thought of how long she has left. She wonders, “Do I have two years, five years or 10 years?”

The truth is we are all terminal.

A diagnosis like hers makes it real. But none of us knows what will be our last day or hour.

So I make this my prayer: Father, I want to focus my thoughts on living life to the fullest with the time I have. I don’t know how many more days I have. But I don’t want to waste them. Help me to focus on living this moment fully alive and to trust you with how many moments there will be. I love you Lord!

We all struggle with the shortness and working so hard to l keep this body alive, we should focus on how to keep our souls healthy by seeking God first and loving Him and others to the fullest.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27, NIV)

Have you taken some time to evaluate your spiritual life lately? If not, set aside time today to honestly determine how much time you’ve committed to prayer, reading and meditating on God’s word and serving others in the past few days, weeks or months.. If you haven’t been doing any or all of these things, it’s likely your spiritual health is suffering.

Just like diet and exercise, spiritual fitness takes discipline and commitment, and there is no better time to start strengthening your spiritual body than right now. Let’s get started!

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I originally published this at Takin’ it to the streets  as “How’s Your Spiritual Health?”

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