Sunday, September 13, 2015


Shells - by Margot Cioccio
(Written for a service at the Gathering House Church in Spokane Washington)

Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”  I wonder if we are missing something here. Yes, God is big and powerful, but God is love and God is good. Perhaps it is not that we should fear him but rather get over  our fear of him so that we may know him. There is a line between what we fear and what we most want. We want to know God but our fear keeps us from moving past that fear into really knowing him. If we get over our fear of God perhaps that is where wisdom truly begins because then we find ourselves in his presence.  In his presence we are changed. 

My Journal excerpt: I awoke from sleep, having spoken to the Lord about my fears. My fears hold me back from doing things and being who I was created to be. I have discovered the line between what we fear and what we desire is the same line. We must cross over our fear to get to those things we most desire. It is all to often easier to stay where we are miserable but familiar than to cross over into the unknown. What holds me and pins me in? It’s my fear on so many levels. Fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of what others will think, fear of disappointing God, fear of not being able to handle things, fear that I wont like the new thing any better than where I am presently. Fear that I may learn and grow and then no longer fit or belong among the people am around. Fear of having to go on alone. Fear of having to share what I really think, fear of being rejected. Fear of loosing my way, fear of being different, fear of not being understood. There is fear of loss, fear of the new, fear of embracing new ideas and beliefs. I fear loosing my own identity, that being with others with stronger personalities that I will meld into them and loose my individuality. Yet I don’t want to walk alone. I want to share my thoughts and my feelings and to do that I have to let people in. “ 

In my comfort zone, I am pretty secure and confident. Out side of it is where I realize that I have a lot of fear but to grow and move forward, I must somehow take down my walls. My fear was stopping God from taking me further up and further in. I didn’t want to remain in that place of fear so I had to conquer and overcome these fears many others I have not even realized. I had to find the roots to them and dig them out of the garden of my heart and mind.”

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  How can one have knowledge of the Holy One without crossing over the barrier of fear of the Lord?  I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote. Mr Beaver said “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  The children in the Narnia stories move past their fears and come to know and love Aslan the great Lion. I suppose crossing the line between fear and desire is never safe but we have to trust that we are crossing it with God who is good and who loves us more than we realize.

When I first thought about using shells in this series I thought it might be something about listening to God. You know how if you listen carefully you can hear the ocean in a shell. As I thought about how shells relate to pursuing your dream I had another idea. I realized that we all build walls and have our familiar shells from which we face the world. Our shell may many different things. It could be group of people we feel safe around. It may be our home, school or our church or somewhere we work. It could be our behavior or attitudes. In that shell we feel safe and we know our boundaries. We know what people expect of us and the way we relate to others in that safe environment.

Hermit Crabs are interesting creatures. They have their own semi tough exterior but its not much protection against predators.  To truly be safe they find discarded shells of other creatures and move in and call it home. Eventually they out grow that home and have to go find a new one. If they don’t they will die. If they do they will continue to grow. The same is true for us. We need to keep growing. Parents don’t want their babies to stay in diapers forever. 

I'm growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again, but am I going to live in a shell, or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don't think that's the way I should live my life, and I'm not going to do it.  ~ Johnny Manziel

It's when you begin to think about going to your dream that your dream is always outside of your comfort zone. It's always beyond what you've ever done. ~ Bruce Wilkinson

A couple of years ago my job at this church ended. I was challenged to take a period of time to really pray and seek the Lord about what was next. I felt the Lord calling me to do something new and different but I didn’t know what. I knew it was something out side of my familiar safe comfort zone of the church. How could I use my spiritual gifts and talents outside of the church. For 30 some years I had done art, music and ministry. So I spent almost 6 months trying to figure out what I might possibly do. Counseling, Nursing, Art Therapy, Teaching, Missions, Massage were some of the ideas I considered. Really none of those ideas excited me all that much at the time. They all sounded like a lot of work. Rob gave me books and so did others. I read them all and didn’t feel any closer to knowing what to do than before. Some days I felt like throwing all the books against the wall. Why wouldn’t God just tell me what He wanted me to do? I don’t like the in between places, the are really uncomfortable. I felt adrift in an ocean of possibilities. I was waiting for God to tell me what to do. God was waiting on me to decide what I wanted. I got a lot of good ideas from the many books but it was a book my dad gave me called What Should I Do with my Life? in which I finally found something that really clicked. It said towards then end of the book
“Here’s my point” usually, all we get is a glimmer. A story we read or someone we briefly met, a curiosity. A meek voice inside, whispering. Its up to us to hammer out the rest. “ ~ Pi Bronson  In that moment I realized I was looking for a revelation not a glimmer. Once I started to look for the glimmers, I realized that there was a glimmer around the idea of massage. I had been drawing pictures of hands for months. I kept finding verses like

Zechariah 8:3 that said So I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong.”  One day flipping though my papers I noticed there was an open house at a massage school so I called and made a reservation to attend. While I was at it I called some other schools.  Once I decided on a direction the rest came together very quickly.  I found the school I wanted to go to and just needed to figure out how to pay for it. Even that answer came unexpectedly. September two years ago my life changed in so many ways and I began a new adventure. Today back in the prayer loft there are shells with glitter on them to remind to look for the glimmer as you look for that next larger shell so you can keep growing. Change is often frightening and uncomfortable - in the end its worth it to be able to keep growing. There is one picture in my illustrated journal that I goes along with the idea of moving out of your old shell. My journal will be back in the prayer loft if you want to take a peek at some of the other drawings from my journey to find a new life.

Lord help us to over come our fears and to notice the glimmers’ so that we may continue to go forward with you on this grand adventure called life. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


STONES - By Margot Cioccio 

Written for a service at the Gathering House Church in Spokane WA. 

Rich Mullins writes in his song Hold Me Jesus “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need. I beat my head against so many walls I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees.”

Last week before the service I shared with a close friend what I would be sharing in these readings. The topic of dreams is upbeat and positive right? Not if you've had a dream that died. My friend and I both have suffered numerous deep disappointments and set backs on this journey to follow God. 

In both our cases it was certainly not for lack of trying or for lack of faith.  

King David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. He collected vast amounts of supplies and devised wonderful plans, and God said no - sorry your hands are too bloody. I’ll let your son build it. God does say no sometimes to our dreams and he doesn’t always explain why.

I sat at one of these tables last week and my friend and I both got all teary at the thought of having to discuss the subject of dreams. Maybe you too have dreams that you need to grieve and release to the Lord. Today my reading is called Stones. We can do a lot of things with stones. In the bible young David used three smooth stones to slay the giant goliath. I think it was more his faith in God than in the three tiny stones. David had learned some things while tending his fathers sheep all alone in the wilderness. He faced some mighty trials out there with only God to turn to. Loneliness, lost sheep, lions and bears. You might look at all those things and think ‘thats not the blessing of God…. but what if all those hardships are what prepared him to be the best of Israel’s kings.  Laura Story put it well in her song called Blessings. “'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near? What if my greatest disappointments Or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst This world can't satisfy? And what if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are Your mercies in disguise?

When I was a very young woman, I had come from a broken home. You many think my dream small and perhaps it was. I simply wanted to get through college and marry my high school sweet heart and have a family of my own that wasn't broken. I was young but I was sure he was the one. We went off to the same college. The first year was ok - we would be fine then we would break up, then get back together only to do it all over again. I always had hope that we would eventually grow up and make it work, College year 3 he moved with his family to another state. He met someone, she got pregnant and he did the right thing and married her. I locked that dream of a life together away with the part of my heart that contained it and just moved on.

I buried it so deep that, many years later when I realized I didn’t have any dreams of my own I couldn't hardly remember it. I kept having visions of an old chest that was wrapped with chains. It would rattle and shake. I was terrified of what might be in it. If I ever got brave enough to open it. It was about that same time that that young man and his mother both independently found me on face book. That chest rattled and shook even louder. It’s a long story but God was able to work some long over due healing in all of our hearts. I am thankful for that healing.

In my devotional blog that now has nearly 600 post I found one I had written called the secret place. I want to share a bit of it with you. “I have always thought of the Secret Place as being some place wonderful, hidden in the Lord like a secret garden. Today I had a whole new perspective on where the secret place is. I was asked recently about my hopes and dreams - I was unable to give an answer and that has bothered me for the last several days. So I have been pondering. Why don't I have an answer and why does the question bother me?

I realized today as I was praying and pondering that there was a place in my heart that I have kept locked up and hidden. A place of secret dreams that I had chosen to let die because I came to realize that I could not have them and have my relationship with the Lord. My relationship with the Lord won out. Yet it was a great dream to let go of on my part and it was tangled up into much of my hopes and other dreams. So I locked them all away.  Today I realized that that hidden place in my own heart is the "Secret Place” where the Lord longs to meet me in a deep way. So today I allowed the Lord into that secret place. He walked around the place with me without any condemnation. He allowed me to grieve the loss and helped me to bury it in him.

John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

It really doesn't matter how big or little your dream may have been. When I wrote the post called the Secret place I was not able to talk openly about what had happened.  I shared some of  it with Rob and our Intern at the time on a long drive home from a conference. Rob was right at the time to tell me to look how God had protected me.

There is only so much of a tale that can be told in a reading like this. I had buried and locked away my heart and never allowed myself to feel the pain or grieve the losses. I chose to go on with life and just not feel things as deeply as I had once been able to feel. I was never going to hurt like that again. That day in the secret place with the Lord I began to allow myself to feel those very old losses. They hurt just as much even after years of being locked away.  Some pain is good - we need to feel it to heal and to begin to feel more than just numb again.

More recently I sat one day by the Spokane river. I would pick up a stone and I would allow myself to feel my frustration, hurt, grief, pain and disappointment. I put it in that particular stone. When I got ready to let it go and be done with it. I would hurl the stone out into the water where I could never get it back. It took a number of stones to work through the dream of being full time ministry on staff at a church. Letting go of that dream that I had pursued for many years in many places is another story but it led me discover a new dream. I'd like to tell you these decisions to lay down something familiar to be able to follow the Lord into something new and unknown, is easy. But as Rob will tell you being a Christian isn’t for cowards - moving on with the Lord means allowing him to deal with our broken stuff.   

There are stones back in the prayer loft and a big basin of water. I invite you to choose a stone and place upon it your sorrow, or broken dream, your grief or that thing you know you need to let go of. When you are ready cast it into the basin as an act of letting it go. It is a step on the journey to discovering a new dream, we must first let go of the old broken ones. 

I’m so sorry this will be hard for some of you. I can tell you it is worth it. If this is not hard for you today will you pray and support those who are having to release things to the Lord. 

The journals and feathers are back there again this week. If you want to share about your big dream, or the lack of one, or what you are releasing to the Lord. I invite you to be real and honest before the Lord and if you can with each other. 

If you are reading this on-line you can take any stone use it in a similar way casting it into a near by body of water or a bucket of water in your home when you are ready to release it. You are welcome to share your big dream, or about a lost dream or your thoughts on this post in the comments. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015


by Margot Cioccio
(Written to share in a Sunday service at the Gathering House in Spokane Washington.)

“Not long ago and not far away, a Nobody named Ordinary lived in the Land of Familiar. Every day was pretty much the same for Ordinary. In the mornings he got up and went to his Usual Job. After work, he ate almost the same dinner he’d eaten the evening before. Then he sat in his recliner and watched the box that mesmerized most Nobodies on most nights. 
Sometimes, Best Friend came over to join Ordinary in front of the box. Sometimes Ordinary went to his Parents and they watched together. 

For the most part, not much happened in Familiar that hadn't happened before. Ordinary thought he was content. He found the routines reliable. He blended in with the crowd. And mostly, he wanted only what he had. Until the day Ordinary noticed a small, nagging feeling that something big was missing from his life. Or maybe the feeling was that he was missing from something big. He wasn’t sure. The little feeling grew. And even though Nobodies in Familiar didn’t generally expect the unexpected. Ordinary began to wish for it.” ~ Bruce Wilkinson  The Dream Giver

It has been 12 years since I first read the book the Dream Giver. At the time it rocked my world. I found my self asking “Why don’t I have any dreams?”  That question nagged at me like Ordinary I knew something big was missing from my life, or maybe the I was missing from something big - I didn’t know. That nagging started me on what has been a very long journey to discover why my dreams were lost and to learn to dream again. 

The readings I will be sharing over the next 5 weeks will be bits of that story. Each week the prayer loft area will have a different little token for you to take with you. I hope with this series to inspire all of us to dream again, or if you have dreams to perhaps dream a little bigger. 

When Pastor Rob asked me to do some readings a while back I admit that I wasn’t particularly inspired. He said I could use any of the 300 I had already written. I did get a few things written while on vacation. I knew I wanted to use some sort of tokens each week, jewels, feathers, shells, stones and scrolls. In truth the inspiration that tied it all together didn’t really happen till I was walking around Hobby Lobby yesterday. Its not that Im being irresponsible and waiting till the last minute. I have been thinking and praying about it for several months - it just lacked a common thread. When I have done prayer lofts in the past there is usually something that I believe God leads me to that is my “Ah hah!” item or moment that causes the idea to suddenly make sense to me. Yesterday it was the purple candles with the feather and jewels that you will see back in the prayer loft. It was in that instant that I realized that what I needed to share was about my journey to discover my own dream. 

It all started when I realized that I didn’t have my own dreams. I’d like to tell you that I figured it out in a week or two but it has taken me many years to unravel. I think what I have realized is how ordinary things like jewels, feathers, shells, stones, scrolls and lives begin to sparkle in a new way when God breathes upon them.  I have watched those sparkles and followed them like little bread crumbs. Pennies remind me to Trust God, sometimes its finding Lighthouses in the strangest places - reminders that God will lead me through every storm. Lately I have been collecting feathers as reminders of God’s care. I even found a peacock feather one day in Manito park. These little tokens remind me of God’s amazing love. Little gifts he leaves for me.

Where I have felt God presence of late, has more often been in the cathedrals made of trees during my daily walks. I have sat on a stump or a log and listened to the chorus of birds and joined them in singing thanks and praises to God. Then listened quietly to what God is saying in that moment.

Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end singing praises with birds. I want to share a story about St. Francis. “ Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they didn’t move.

Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”

At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic. Then he gave them his blessing.

How does this tie in with finding my dreams you may be asking. I have rarely seen God roll out the entire plan for anyone. He gives us little bits and waits to see what we will do with what he has shown us. Will we believe and trust and move forward taking a step of faith or will we put our dreams aside thinking its too big and I am fooling myself to think God would pick me for such a task. Will we like Francis leave our friends to follow God even if its to preach to the birds. 

In the book The Dream Giver it reads “Then one morning Ordinary woke up with the words echoing in his mind: What your’e missing you already have….” Could it be? Ordinary looked and looked and then he discovered that in a small corner of his heart lay a Big Dream. The big Dream told him that he, a Nobody,, was made to be a Somebody and destined to achieve Great Things. Jumping out of bed Ordinary discovered something else - a long white feather resting on the sill of his window. Where did it come from? What did it mean? With a jolt of excitement, Ordinary decided he’d been visited by the Dream Giver. “

With each feather I find on my walks I am reminded of the Father who cares for common sparrows and paints the fields with flowers, surely has not forgotten to care for me. I am reminded that God does not withhold his blessings for just the elect but lavishes them about freely for the entirety of his creation to enjoy.  Psalm 119 says 1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Back in the prayer loft are some white glittered feathers that I hope will speak to you in a powerful way,  reminding you of Gods continual care of you and of your Big Dream. 

I hope you will visit the prayer loft and take a feather, but even more I hope you will begin to have a conversation with God about where you stand with your Big Dream. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Drop In The Bucket

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I have not written in quite a while. I can't say if I will manage to regain any semblance of a regular momentum in writing and posting. Every couple of weeks I get together with a friend and we write and pray. I am always surprised by what is stirred up by that time together. This is what I wrote today. I thought I would share it, perhaps it will encourage you. If so I'd be  encouraged by your comments. Today we read John 6:1-14 and this is the portion that grabbed my attention.

 "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted" Jesus tells the disciples after feeding the 5000 with some barley loves and fish from a young boys lunch.  It always strikes me as odd to think of God's interest in leftovers. It is the remnant that God often takes up. The leftovers of the people. The people and things that would seem to amount to nothing.

Isaiah 10:21 says " A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel only a remnant will return."  In the story from John 6, we don't know what is done with the leftovers. We just know that Jesus wanted them collected in baskets so nothing would be wasted.

We start with a sack lunch, feed a multitude and collect 12 baskets of leftovers.  - Quite a day!
I suppose the Lord always starts with something... a mustard seed of faith, a sack lunch, the willingness to believe and to follow. When compared to the great God of the Universe even our very best is just a drop in a bucket. Yet some how, God will take our, oh so inadequate drops that we surrender to Him and transform them beyond our wildest imaginations.

Even King David, who in the estimations of history was exceedingly great, saw himself as yet another drop in the bucket. He is the least favored of his brothers. When Samuel comes to anoint the next king the other brothers are paraded before him. At last in exasperation he says. "Are there no more?" Only then does the family acknowledge that there is another son, David.
"Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" says David later in his life. Maybe that's what made David great. He knew what God could do with a couple of stones and a shepherd boy.

I think we often suffer from low self esteem. I seem to struggle endlessly with the feelings of "I'm not ______ enough" Though out my life I have had to face that giant of self doubt head on and remind it that I may be just a insignificant drop, but I am a drop in God's bucket. I've seen what God can do with drops of nothing much. I push thorough my self doubt believing that God will do something with my meager contribution. Over and over I have seen God provide opportunities, solutions, and creativity that are far beyond my abilities to mastermind, or beyond my ability to even pull all the loose ends together.

That day, in our story, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. Were they served up as a late night snack to the folks that sat listening into the wee hours of the night, or sent home with the poor. We are not told. All we know is that those leftovers were important to Jesus. I think that it is important to God that we not waste what He has provided in excess to our needs.

Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over. In our small sightedness we easily focus on our lack when there are the resources of heaven available to us if we would simply ask.  I suppose in asking, we must face our inadequacy. We have to realize that its never been about us alone. It is when we surrender our drop to Him who holds the oceans and the universe in His hands that amazing things begin to happen before our very eyes.

We quickly want to create a success formula with repeatable steps as if to manufacture the presence of God. I think God is already looking for the next seemingly impossible situation and the most hopeless drop in the bucket folks to astound and stretch with His never ending and wonderful possibilities of prevision. Ultimately it becomes yet another display of His great love.

Prayer: Lord, I come to you in my insignificance. All that I am and all that I ever might aspire to be is nothing compared to your glory.  Yet you can do so much with a mustard seed of faith, a pinch of belief and a dash of trust. Thank you that I am a drop in your bucket. I watch with expectation to see what you will do with those things that I choose to surrender to you.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Other Ways to Relax and Unwind

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7 NIV   

The Message says it this way "God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible."

So in the last six months I have moved my mother's house, my aunts house and our own small home into one larger home. At the same time I started Massage Therapy school. So some things like writing this blog, working on mosaics and painting got put on indefinite hold. It was like my whole life was turned upside down. Not that it was a bad thing, it was all good stuff. My pastor kept asking how my new blessed life was going and all I could respond with is I'm so tired it just feels like a lot of work.
Thankfully our living room no longer looks like this.
We just got out of boxes and the holidays arrived. I think someone sent me a gift card to hobby lobby and I remember wandering around the store trying to decide what to get and in the end I decided I would save it till later because there was no space left in me for creativity. It was all used up.
Much Better
I was doing so well staying healthy until the week between Christmas and New Years when I got sick with the same 
respiratory stuff I tend to fight each winter. It generally hits me in October so I was glad it waited this year. I would have preferred it not to come at all. It may just be my body still trying to get my attention to slow down and allow it to recover from the busyness of the previous four months.  

So we have arrived at March and its not that I am wanting to add to my busyness but I think there are more ways to relax and unwind then to sit in front of the tv watching other people live fictions lives. So tonight I am choosing instead to spend my time blogging. "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."
 I think some time we feed our selves so much on the tv that we begin to compare our lives to those fictitious people who some how manage to solve their problems in 30 minutes. We feel frustrated that our own problems seem to never go away. How often do they show anyone doing laundry or the dishes or taking out the trash or wiping runny noses or stinky behind on our adorable children. People always seem to know the right things to say to each other. Duh they have a team of writers working to perfect the amazing things that come out of their mouths.  You have couples who make life together look romantic and mystical when in reality marriage takes work. Communication takes commitment and effort no matter what the relationship may be. They all have what appear to have interesting jobs and make decent money. One cannot help but scratch your head and wonder why your own life sucks in at least one area if not in every area. Wake up from your tv stupor THEY ARE NOT REAL - THEY ARE FICTION! Turn off the box and decide to work on your life to make it what you want it to become. We live in a world with a zillion gadgets that are full of distractions that keep us from really living. We can become isolated in cool technology and we can forget that we need real people we can touch and interact with to live whole and healthy lives.  

How many of you are getting your dose of "feel good" because someone "liked" that picture of a kitty that you posted on your face book page. What have we become as a people when how we feel about our day is based upon how many "likes" we got. How many of those facebook so called friends have you bothered to have a real conversation with lately. It is so easy just to lurk and feel we are involved in peoples lives. I'm not saying its all bad there are people I would not be in contact with were it not for facebook and e-mail. I just think it is easy to become out of balance and to get sucked into a giant technology, entertainment vortex, while opportunities for real life pass us by. We can spend more time playing silly games that accomplish nothing than we do doing little kindness for others. I can hear you saying it already 'but I worked hard all day I need to unwind and relax." Fine but there are other ways to relax. Relax into a creative project or a hobby. Relax by taking a walk or watching the sun set. Read a book, play with your kids, call a friend and visit with them. Play a musical instrument or learn to play one. Take some time to sit or rest with the Lord to hear His heart. Go to bed and get some rest so you are not so tired. 

I'm preaching to the choir and I'm in the choir too. It is easy to fall into a pattern of mind numbness and wonder why some people can accomplish so much and complain that we never have time to do things we wish we could do. Or live in the land of mental fantasy wishing our lives were different. There is always time for the things that are important to you. People tell me all the time I wish I had time to pray. Clearly praying is really not all that important to you or you would make time for it. Saying you wish you had time for God's purposes does not make you more spiritual. Doing his will and purpose does. Its not my place to tell you what God may be calling you to do with your life but I can try to wake you from your places of stupor and remind you to examine how you are spending the time He has given you.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, Help us to examine how we are using the time you have given us. Help us to see those areas that are breeding idleness, depression, worry, feelings of poor me or other such negativity. Help us to fill those spaces with more positive uses of our time and thought life.   

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ordinary Miracles

I have not posted in quite a while. Today I this song by Sarah McLachlan just keeps going through my head. I look around at all the miracles that we take for granted because we have seen them over and over. We so easily forget how blessed we are. I have not recorded and posted a song in quite a while. Today I had a quiet kind of day. I stopped by the Healing Rooms for worship and prayer this morning, took my aunt out for coffee, came home did a little cleaning, journaled and the whole time this song just kept running through my mind.

I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. His mercies are new every morning. I love the line in this song that says "Don’t need to teach a seed to grow ". I think sometimes we get so caught up in striving to be good enough believers that we forget that it is God who planted that seed of His love in our hearts. Like any seed planted in rich soil, if you water it and allow it sunshine it will grow. To often that little seed is struggling to grow among rocks or thorns of bitterness, regrets, shame, doubt, unbelief. Sometimes our hearts are so terribly broken that even if we do water our little seed of Gods love the water just leaks right out leaving the little seed to struggle for life.  A lot of times we may even realize our heart is a mess but scratch our heads clueless about how to fix it or we look at how big the mess has become and are so overwhelmed or filled with fear that anyone including the Lord might discover who we really are that we isolate our selves even further.

While the journey to spiritual heart health may take you a while. I can tell you that it starts with getting to know Jesus. Opening your heart to Him is where the journey begins and where the journey continues from day to day. He is the one who created you and your heart and He is the one who can help you see how to fix it. I know we would all like those amazing instantaneous miracles and to be counted among the blind who can suddenly see or the lame man who can walk and leap for joy or the crazy demon possessed guy who is freed from his bondage. I don't discount that God can do those things. How I see Him work most often is through ordinary miracles. Things so common or simple that one might easily say it is just coincidence.  The courage to make little changes or take tiny steps of faith are not less miraculous.

I hope you will look around in spite of the difficulties you may presently be facing and realize that you have a lot to be thankful for because all around you are many ordinary miracles. I pray your eyes might be opened to see them. That you would take the time to rejoice over those things that you are able to see.

Monday, December 9, 2013

They cried out to the Lord

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 107 starts out with, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south

When we are going through the inevitable storms of life it is good to remember how God has helped us in the past. Our testimony of God's help is a mighty weapon against the enemy who would like to weigh us down with stress, despair and hopelessness. I think we must we remember to give thank not only for the great and wonderful stuff but also for the difficult things. It is in the difficulties that we face that we are stretched and shaped. It takes fire and heat to refine gold. It takes and obnoxious grain of sand in an oyster to make a pearl. Not that we need to go out looking for difficulties because there are plenty enough to be found just in the normal course of life. 

The following 40 verse of Psalm 107 shares some of the kind of stories that we might find our selves telling at various points in our lives. Verses 4- 6 "Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away." Sound pretty bad thankfully the Psalm tells us what the people did in the following verse. "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

I know as a church we are dealing with the uncertainty of selling our building and finding God's will for our next step. At times it seems like an unbelievably daunting task. I question if we are even up to it as a people. Will we be able to get on the same page as a group of people and walk in a greater level of unity. Not that we must agree on every point. Walking in unity is filled with give and take as we try to together determine God's will and plan for us as a people. I could spend massive amounts of time fretting about it. I could toss and turn at night and drench my pillow with tears. I could try to base a solution on the combine strengths of us as a people. If that is how I am trying to navigate I have made it far too difficult. We have to stop trying by our own feeble might and power and look to our God who says His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

Starting in verse 10 is yet another story. "Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help."  This sounds like a lot of our people who are prisoners to poverty, mental illness, depression or addiction. I am so glad we have started Celebrate Recovery. We prayed a long time for someone like Bob to come along and run with such a ministry. How does this passage end? Much like the previous story.  
"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress." 

Here's another story. "Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end." Perhaps you are at your wit's end. You thought you had things handled and then a mighty storm has arisen that threatens to pummel away your last bit of hope and faith. Good stories always have a seemingly impossible problem that must be over come. It always looks hopeless but some how courage rises and unlikely hero's must learn to walk together. Its the climax of the story that is followed by a resolution. Here's how this sea swept story ends according to Psalm 107 starting in verse 28 "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed."  

Are you starting to see a pattern in these stories? What ever you are facing remember to give thanks and to cry out to the Lord. He waits for us to realize that we need His help. He desire to be our first rather than our last resort. Don't forget how powerful and faith building it is when we share our stories of what God has done before as we journey together into the unknown.