Category Archives: Devotions

REVELING IN THE BEAUTY OF THE CROSS

It is finished.

The beauty of the springtime flowers is breathtaking. Every year, as the wintertime barrenness is overtaken by new life, it simply amazes me.

This year in Georgia, it seemed as though the change was instant. I don’t recall another time when the seasons have changed so abruptly.

During my jogs, I noticed the flowers peaking through the dirt and the plants that were lying dormant were showing signs of life even before the weather changed. The plants and flowers were obviously ready and waiting to come alive as soon as the first sign of warmth emerged in the atmosphere.

As I’ve been reflecting on the emerging beauty of the new season, it made me think of the resurrection of Christ and His power to resurrect life out of the barren places in our souls.

As quickly as the seasons change—the condition of our hearts change when we turn away from those things that deaden our spirits (see Ephesians 4: 22-24). 

In my past, there were yucky things—bitterness, fear, pride, self-righteousness, and on and on the list goes—embedded in my heart, and they were keeping me from experiencing a beautiful, new life in Christ. The day I realized how simple it is to live fully alive and free in Christ, I received a new heart and never looked back to the past.

Christ died an agonizing death so that we can live abundantly and free from all the things that weigh us down. When we stumble, we can simply pray, Lord, please forgive me for that mistake. Then the Lord embraces us in our brokenness, and His reply is always filled with love…I imagine Him saying, “Yes, beloved one, you are forgiven for every mistake you’ve ever made and every mistake you’ll ever make in the future. Rise up and live with no regrets, and let Me help you walk in the Spirit, free from the grips of sin and shame and doubt and all things that burden your soul.”

 Jesus said, “It is finished.” We do not ever have to agonize over our failures or mistakes again.

Are you living in the finished work of the cross? Are you living abundantly in Christ?

My prayer this Easter week is that you will breathe in the loveliness of the springtime flowers and revel in the beauty of Christ’s magnificent gift to mankind.

THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT

LIGHT FROM THE LORD

I was gazing out the window noticing the winter weather as I was writing notes on Christmas cards. The wintry day caught my attention with the bareness of the trees and lack of sunlight. It was noticeably monotone and drab in my back yard where it is usually vibrant with life and color.

I noticed the stark contrast between the drabness outside and the joy and brightness in my soul. As I pondered that distinct difference, words began flooding into my spirit. The thoughts of the wintry day reminded me of what life would be like without Christ.

Apart from Christ, we would be destined for a wintry life.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth this week, let us all remember why He was born. He came to give new life.

His love is a gift that breaks into the dark places of the soul and brings forth light. He strengthens us when we’re weak. He fills us with love when we’re loveless. He soothes our sorrows when we’re mourning. He heals the heart when it’s broken. He restores the broken things and makes beauty out of our mistakes.

He is the redeemer of every painful trial we’ll ever face.

God brought forth Christ the Messiah for all people, so that we could live abundantly in hope and peace no matter how dark it becomes in the world. His light overcomes all darkness. The love of Christ is the best Christmas gift we’ll ever receive.

Lord Jesus,

Let us be keenly aware of Your love and light this Christmas. Let us rejoice over the gifts You have given us through a loving relationship with You. Amen.

 “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” —Ephesians 5:8

DANCING IN THE RAIN

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The rain would start pouring down hard and my children would be energetically bouncing with joy.  Their little voices would beg me to let them go outside. “Mommy, if there’s no thunder, can we go out in the rain?”

I would stand at the door and watch them jump around and dance in the rain. It was full living at its best as they splashed in the puddles. Sometimes they would dance, or they would make a tent of umbrellas on the driveway. Sometimes they would simply stand in the rain on the edge of the street feeling the rush of water flowing between their toes.

The rain didn’t stop them from simply enjoying the day.

Children hold the key to a happy life. They are innocent in their thinking, and they know how to enjoy life to the fullest instinctively. A downpour of rain doesn’t hinder a child’s ability to embrace the moment and live fully.

This is how our Father in heaven wants us to live out our lives. When He created us He never intended for us to grudgingly endure life. His original idea was for us to see Him in the midst of the rain showers and enjoy life to the fullest.

God knew life wouldn’t be perfect or easy. I believe His greatest desire is for us to rely on Him in the midst of the rainy days. When we’re dependent upon Him, He continually pours out His grace and love onto our lives in the most unimaginable ways.

Years ago while praying, I heard words in my spirit that changed my perspective.

If you stay on the path with Me, you will not be disappointed.” God whispered those life-giving words to my heart.

At first I was thinking, “How can that be possible?” But I soon understood what the Lord was trying to get me to understand. He wanted me to know that if I followed Him and stayed close to His heart, He would turn my mourning into dancing instantaneously in the midst of disappointing circumstances.

His words have proved to be true in my life. I can honestly say—because I have been so wrapped up in God’s love—that disappointment has not lingered in my heart, nor has anything been able to rob me of my joy during the latter years of my life. Not any setback or loss or shattered dream can take away the joy that comes from Christ. His joy is eternal. When we have Him—we have everything.

Life is full of difficulties and challenges for everyone. No matter how much a person tries to put on a facade, nobody’s life is perfect. No human is immune to pain. Pain is not our enemy when Jesus is the center of our lives. His love overshadows everything and we can fellowship in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

My grandmother Mimi lived fully alive until she passed away at ninety-five years old. She had every reason to be bitter and unhappy. Her six-year-old brother died in an accident when she was a young girl and her father died when she was a young teen, leaving her in a state of poverty with a mother who wasn’t very affectionate.  Yet she danced in the rain.

My friend and mentor Bonnie had a gift for expressing what it means to live fully. She said, “With Christ, there are no disappointments. The challenges in life are HIS-appointments.” Bonnie passed away in 2008. Her faith in Christ lives on in my heart.

Leaning on our own strength leads to more disappointment. It’s when we lean on Jesus that we see His glory in our lives.

Life is undeniably hard. Every day we have a choice. We can either focus on the troubles in our lives or look toward Christ and live in His presence and glory. Why not choose the latter and see God’s Glory in your life? Choose joy. Choose life.

When the rain pours down, choose to turn toward Jesus and dance!

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.” — Psalm 30:11 (NAS Bible)

“Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your God. He’s giving you a teacher to train you how to live right—Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul, just as He used to do.”

Joel 2:23 (The Message)

This article has been revised from a piece originally written in March, 2008.

The photo was downloaded at istockphoto.com.

CHOOSING TO WALK IN THE LIGHT

Walking in the Light

With a forlorn tone in my voice, I told my mother, “Nobody understands.” I was venting to my mom about how hard things were in my life at the time. My mom in her wise and loving way, said, “You’re right, nobody does understand, and they never will. Jesus understands though. And He is the only One who will ever be able to fully understand what you’re feeling and what you’re going through.”

It was years ago that my mom’s words helped to jolt me out of my big pity party. It was a defining moment for me that helped to change the course of my thinking. Mama’s words were etched in my heart permanently as a reminder of how Jesus is the only One who can satisfy the longings of the human soul.

During the darkest season of my life, seventeen years ago, I made a choice to walk away from the things and thoughts that were keeping me from living and walking in the light.

Feeling sorry for myself was a snare in my life that was robbing me of the abundance I was longing for. Self-pity is such a destructive, life-stealing, ugly force that steals beautiful moments of abundant living from anybody who falls prey to it.

As we read in John 16: 33, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When we embrace the fact that Jesus can help us overcome anything and make a conscious decision to focus on His love and not on our difficult situations, then amazingly our problems begin getting solved in the most supernatural ways. That’s exactly what happened in my life.

I was in a pit in 1997, and it was a living hell for me. After my family and my special friend Bonnie encouraged me to keep seeking the Lord, I took a hundred and eighty degree turn from my self-destructive thought patterns and chose to pray boldly for help from God. On the days I could barely get out of bed, I would turn on my Larnelle Harris C.D. and listen to his song, “I Choose Joy” over and over and over and over until joy came bursting out of my soul.

Once I began taking every thought captive and meditating on the truths of the Bible, then my spirit felt renewed, I began living in peace, and miracles began coming forth.

Transformation begins with us turning away from negativity and taking a step toward Christ. God doesn’t just snatch us out of the darkness. He says if we seek Him with all our hearts, then we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Are you feeling the darkness closing in on you? If so, I pray that you will begin today to seek God with every fiber of your being. As you are steadfast in your pursuit of Christ, the light will overcome the darkness in your life.

Be encouraged. Jesus has overcome the world!

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (ESV)

 

A NEW SONG

grandfather and grandson with cloud

It was during the early morning hours. I felt weak and restless as I was facing a challenge in my life that seemed impossible to overcome.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I bowed down at the feet of the Father. I cried out for strength. I prayed, “Father, the obstacles on the path laid out for me feel too big.” His warm embrace enveloped my heart as His love washed over me. His Spirit soothed my soul and the sweetness of His presence encircled every ounce of my being. His words flooded into my spirit.

 “Child, nothing is too big for Me. I’ll never ask you to do more than I created you for. Rest in Me. Rest in My love, rest in knowing there is nothing I’ll ask of you that will ever be too big. My grace is sufficient for you. In your weakness, My strength is made perfect. Arise my child. Let me put a new song in your heart. Let My love lift you up and carry you.”

As His loving words permeated my heart, my soul was restored in an instant. He breathed new life into my spirit and strengthened me. Joy replaced the tears. Peace covered me and made me ready to begin a new day with a new song in my heart—a song of joy for celebrating the love I had found in my Father’s arms.

With the love of God, and His strength—life is made beautiful. He carries those who completely depend on Him.

Lord, 

I lift up each one reading this prayer. Surround her with Your peace and give her a new song in her heart today—a song of joy and a song of hope for all the great things You have in store. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

— Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”

— Psalm 40:3 (NIV)

 This post has been revised and edited from a piece I wrote in 2009.

THE SECRET GARDEN OF GRACE

Woodstock Cross

As a young teen girl, I was thrust into a deeply painful situation when my dad moved out of our home and divorced my mother. As difficult of a season as that was for me, I am grateful for the pain. It was that very trial that led me into the secret place with God. In my distress, I learned how to draw away with Christ and to allow Him to comfort my hurting heart with His healing balm. In the moments of heartache, I was drawn into the arms of the greatest love of my life. It was in His presencein the secret garden of God’s grace where I found His never-ending love.

Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

I pray that you will rest in Christ’s secret garden on this Valentine’s Day and every day until His return.

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Garden.”

Five Minute Friday

RESTING IN GOD’S PRESENCE

Rest in Christ

The rain was gently and slowly coming down. I could hear the pitter-patter on the roof over my head as I knelt down before the Lord. I was quiet and still. There was no sound around meonly the gentle, soothing sound of the raindrops. It reminded me of the softness of Christ’s Spirit, His soothing love, and gentleness.

I asked the Lord to pour out His Spirit all over me like rain. He did. A soft, gentle love came rushing over me. I was frozen in the moment. His Spirit was holding me tight. I knew He was there with me. Suddenly I knew the vastness of His being. I realized how small I am in his presence. I am nothing without Him. He is everything to me in this dark world.

Tears came over me as I thought about the many times I have bowed before Him with selfish motives. Many times I had made it about me. This was very different. It was all about Him, His power, and His strength. His love consumed me. I better understood what it means to die to myself.

In those moments, my needs were far from my thoughts. I was in the midst of the Famous One. I was in awe. I was overcome by Him. I wanted time to stop. I didn’t want to move. In His presence, I was speechless.

Lord, You are beautiful and holy and perfect. Thank You for Your never-ending love and grace. Let us rest in Your presence this Christmas season and always. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

This post was originally written in 2009.

THE ABUNDANT LIFE

John 10.10

During one of the hardest seasons of my life I learned the most about abundant living. My husband had been laid off from a good job, I was working tirelessly to make ends meet and life was very stressful. I wanted desperately for my circumstances to change.

While battling hardships and trials, I sought the Lord for the answers to my problems, and He diligently answered me. He led me to a Scripture in the Old Testament that jumped off the pages when I read it.

Deuteronomy 30:6 says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart, and with all your soul, and live.”

In these verses, I found the answer to what my heart longed to know. The word ‘circumcise’ is derived from a Latin word meaning, to cut. In the midst of excruciating trials, it felt like my heart was being circumcised. God was cutting away the things inside me that were hindering me from fully loving Him and fully living life. The process was, at times, excessively painful. But ultimately it led me to the abundance my soul was longing for.

Everyone wants to live abundantly. The Bible says that Jesus came to give us life, and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). Yet how many people truly tap into the abundant life that Christ offers? Could it be the way we view our lives, or what we equate happiness with? For a season, I was seeking abundance in the wrong places, which led to more disappointment.

In God’s infinite grace, He took me through a season of testing because He wanted to lead me to the true source of abundance.

Are you in the midst of being pulled and stretched? Do you feel as though life is caving in around you?

To be rebuilt, a house needs to be torn down first. It can be an excruciating process. Do not lose heart. God is building a beautiful house out of your life. He uses every loss and every struggle for our good. Nothing He allows in our lives is in vain. He uses it all.

The things in my past, that were the hardest to endure, are what led me to the abundant life in Christ—a life of genuine joy and peace—that is not determined by things or circumstances.

Through the hardships, God gave me a new heart—a heart that rejoices because of His love.

It really is pure joy for a child of God to face trials because we know that no matter what is happening, Jesus is walking along beside us, carrying us, allowing us to bask in His great love at all times and in all circumstances.

Jesus is everything—when we know this, then we know that any other good thing we have in life is only the icing on the cake.

Lord, I thank You for the abundance of joy and peace that You give to us. Help us to look to You as our only source. Let us be content in all circumstances and know You are all we really need to live abundantly. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5 (NASB)

IN CHRIST, WE CAN FLY

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I threw my hands up in the air and proclaimed, “I’m free!” I was talking to an acquaintance from church, a woman I didn’t know very well. She looked at me strangely and I knew she had no idea what I was trying to communicate through my gesture. I shared a little about my painful past and how it had held me captive for way too long.

With excitement, I continued sharing my testimony of how Christ had taken my brokenness and transformed me. I used the metaphor of the butterfly to share what God had done in my heart and in my life.

After joyfully sharing about my new-found freedom that day, I left and pondered the words I had boldly shared. Even though the woman stared blankly and didn’t seem to get it at the time, I’ve often thought about her and hoped my testimony had planted a seed in her heart.

It’s been over a decade since that day when I proclaimed my freedom. The longer I walk with Christ the freer I become. I am no longer held captive by the thoughts of my past, by the concerns of the world, by the need to measure up to any person’s standard…on and on the list goes.

Jesus is the true Redeemer. He takes us and transforms us like the metamorphosis of a butterfly. As we leave our past hurts, our fears, our failures, our sin at His feet, He changes us and makes us new. In Him, our spirits are renewed and we soar.

Christ takes us in our caterpillar state and gives us wings so we can fly.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (New Living Translation)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Fly.” Today, I wrote for about ten extra minutes.

The photograph was taken at Anderson’s Sunflower Farm in Cumming, Georgia.

Five Minute Friday

RESTING IN THE TRUTH

She wiped his feet with her hair by J M Hartley

Bowing down with my head on the floor is the place where I feel the cares of this life and the memories of hurtful words spoken by others melt away. As my tears fall onto the feet of Jesus, in His gentle way, He wipes my tears away and tells me the truth, “Amy, you are my beloved one; you are precious and beautiful to Me.”

In those times of solitude, I am filled up and ready to face another day because I know the truth of who I am. I know without a shadow of doubt that I belong to Christ and nothing else matters after realizing He is all I needthat He is my truth and my everything.

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Truth.”

I invite you to listen to this heavenly worship song by Kari Jobe.

Five Minute Friday