Friday, September 30, 2011

Praying along with the Apostles

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Ephesians 3:16-19  

(I pray) that He would grant you, 
according to the riches of His glory, 
to be strengthened with power 
through His Spirit in the inner man, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts 
through faith; and that you, being 
rooted and grounded in love, 
may be able to comprehend 
with all the saints what is the breadth 
and length and height and depth, 
and to know the love of Christ 
which surpasses knowledge, 
that you may be filled up 
to all the fullness of God.  –


One of the ways I like to pray is using the prayers prayed in the Bible as a model. This one in Ephesians was prayed for a church and you could pray it for your church. You could also adapt it to pray for family as a whole or for individuals that come to mind. You could even pray it for yourself. I wanted to break it down and show you some of the things that jump out to me as I read it. You might see other things that I have missed but it should get you started.

(I pray) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory
Have you considered the riches of His glory and how much is at our disposal through faith in Christ. I pray that you might be made aware of the gifts of His provision that you may have over looked, or not realized were available to you. I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead you as you read the Word to discover the riches of His glory.

To be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
Strengthened in the original Greek means "to empower, to increase in vigor, and to be strong" It is not our own strength that we need it is the power of His Spirit working in our inner person. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not an "it" or even a wind or a force. When Jesus was taken up to heaven He said He would send the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. The Holy Spirit helps us become strong in part by helping us understand the Word. The Holy Spirit also gives us gifts to help empower us for ministry and to accomplish Gods plans and purposes for our lives. The Holy Spirit does not just come and take over but waits for your invitation.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith
It is though faith that Christ dwells in our hearts. It is not because we are worthy or deserving. The theif on the cross next to Jesus was never baptized, never made things right with the folks he had wronged. He never walked down to the front of a church to publicly confess His faith. He never did the things that most of us equate with "Being Saved". He simply believed in that moment that Jesus was who He said He was. He recognized Him as King of kings and asked to be remembered by Jesus when He came into His kingdom.  I pray that you might allow Christ to dwell in your heart through faith.  

 To be rooted and grounded in love 
I like to think of a tree that has roots that go deep into the ground to find water. The Lord wants us to be rooted and grounded in His love. When the storms beat against that tree with deep roots it may bend and sway but it is grounded and will not be up rooted or moved from its place. Our lives are full of storms and trials we are much more likely to get through those storms when we are secure in how much we are loved by the Lord.  I pray that you would be rooted and grounded in love.

To be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth 
and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ 
Can you even begin to grasp the greatness of the love of Christ. This is a prayer that would cause us to grow deeper in love with Jesus. I pray that the Lord would help us really understand His love for us. Help us to comprehend the power of His love to transform us to become more and more like Christ.
 
To be filled up to all the fullness of God
I pray that you would be filled up with all the fullness of God. That you would have everything you need to do everything He has called you to do. The more we realize how much He loves us the more we are able to love and trust the Lord. 

 Well I hope that you will allow the Holy Spirit to lead you as you pray through these verses. 

Prayer
Dear Lord, 
Open up your Word to us and lead us as we pray along with the Apostles and use the prayers of the Bible as a model for our own prayers. 



Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Gaze Upon the Beauty

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio



Psalm 27:4

One thing I ask 
of the LORD, 
this is what I seek: 
that I may 
dwell in the house 
of the LORD 
all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty 
of the LORD and to seek 
him in his temple.




I was looking through the photos I took this past weekend.  Most were beautiful landscapes or pictures of family members. The photo above was a bit of beauty that I found in an unexpected place. I found these flowers in a parking lot. I had to move away a bit of trash just to take the photo. 
 
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

What is the one thing you would ask of the Lord, that one thing that you seek? Is it to dwell in His house all the days of your life and to gaze upon His beauty.  Is he your all in all? Is he your everything?
For most of us our relationship with the Lord is shades of grey. We fall way short of our own expectations. In our guilt and shame we strive to do better, to be more holy, only to realize how short we fall. Which keeps us on a treadmill going no where. 

Take a minute and gaze upon his beauty to spend some time in His presence. Not because it is the religious thing to do. Not because it is a way to prove your goodness or worthyness.  Gaze upon his beauty - its all around you. The whole of creation contains the finger prints of Gods most gracious hand. Read His word not as a list of Thou shall not's but as a love letter written to you. 

Hear the song played in the night and think upon how glorious is music and you can accredit it to men or you can accredit it to the God who made men and who has inspired us to create. 

Our God lavishes beauty all around us. Sometimes we are so busy that we don't even see it. Sometimes we have gotten so used to it that we have lost the sense of wonder.  
Ahh .... to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. Perhaps the psalmist was on to something. 


I wonder if rather than trying to change ourselves that if we were you to spend time in the Lord's presence that his presence would begin to change us. 

Prayer:
Dear Lord, I lay down my striving, all my efforts to try and be good enough and I come to gaze upon your beauty. I desire to know you more, not for what you can do for me. Help me to enjoy your presense. I will trust that in your time you will transform my life in ways I can not currently even imagine.




Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Give Me Jesus

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Beloved - by Margot Cioccio
1 Corinthians 2:14
“The man without the Spirit
does not accept the things
that come from the Spirit of God,
for they are foolishness to him,
and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned.”

Today I finished the Beloved Project and I lost track of time cleaning the little pieces of glass. You have to scrape and wash the excess grout away from the glass that sits lower than the others. It will take me several days of fussing over it to get it to a point where I will call it presentable. Its done except for a little clean up.  Anyway I was about ready to go to bed and I realized I had not finished working on a devotional for today. So I will ask your forgiveness this time for making this a little short.

This morning when I got up the song Give Me Jesus by Fernando Ortega kept running through my head so I recorded it earler today and will include it as part of this post. If you are getting this in your e-mail you will want to click on the title to be taken to the devotional page so you can view the video.


Anyway I'm not sure why that song was going through my head. It might have been that I went to sleep knowing that I had accidentally over drawn my bank account.  Even as I went to bed last night I purposed in my heart to not get all freaked out over it. This morning I was able to go to the bank and fix things and only ended up with one twelve dollar over draft charge.  When I went to bed I did not know how I would manage to solve the over draft situation, yet in the morning I had a way to work things out. The temptation to panic was there but I chose to take the matter to Jesus and ask for His help. So perhaps the song Give Me Jesus was running through my mind as a result of my decision to trust Jesus rather than turn to worry and panic.

In the morning when I rise give me Jesus. When I am alone... give me Jesus. When I am afraid....give me Jesus. When I come to die....give me Jesus.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
I come to you with the things that I am facing today... give me Jesus. You are sufficient for every need that I have. You understand the things that tempt and try me. You desire to help me. Help me lay down my pride and self sufficiency and look to you for help with expectancy and belief that you are able.
Lord I choose to trust you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Guide to the End

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Follow Me - I will make you fishers of men
Psalm 48:14 NIV84

14 For this God 
is our God 
for ever and ever;
   he will be 
our guide 
even to the end.

We live in uncertain times, and it is easy to sense the growing concern as people face a very difficult economy. I heard a report recently that this is the greatest number of children being raised in poverty in America since the great depression. More and more families are loosing their jobs and are faced loosing their homes. They find themselves living with relatives, or in run down motels or even in their cars to try and stay together.  I know that the homeless and poor population in my city is getting larger. We are surrounded by organizations that are also in the inner city to help, who like us are finding their funding has dropped. In a time when there is an ever increasing need there is less and less available in funding.

In difficult times it is easy to become engrossed in the surrounding panic. In Proverbs 1:33 it says "but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." Not only are people concerned about the economy there are also holes in the ozone, solar flares, the decreasing of the polar ice caps and dwindling natural resources.  There are threats to national security from terrorists with access to nuclear and biological warfare. There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there with some compelling concerns.  There are natural disasters from volcanic eruptions, earth quakes, floods, fires, and un-usual weather. It is no wonder people are feeling fearful.

Our verse today says that God will be our guide to the end. I have found that in the face of difficulties it is important not to loose sight of Jesus. He is still the King of Kings, The Lord of LORDS, the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the hills for that matter.

One of the verses I have stood upon during difficult times is Psalm 27:13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Then there is Job 40 and 41 for those days when you loose sight of how all powerful our God is.   He thunders in verse 40: Do you have and arm like God's and can your voice thunder like this? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Job replies in chapter 42 I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
I read such verses and I am reminded that God is not surprised by the things going on in the world today. He is not caught off guard by the circumstances of my life that catch me in a spin cycle of worry, doubt and fear. I have to catch myself in those time and remember where my center is. I have to remember like Woody the cowboy,  in the Toy Story movies, who's name is written on my boot. I belong to Jesus. My life is His. His purpose is for me to become more and more Christ like. He will use the circumstances of my life, good or bad to shape and mold me more and more to His character.
I read this quote the other day.  
Accomplishing our destiny is less a measure 
of being in the right spot at the right time 
than it is to draw near to God, to grow up into the measure 
of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  ~Tony Stoltzfus 

It is easy to get caught up in the "if only's" and think that God's plans and purposes are some how delayed or thwarted by our screw ups and failures or the condition of our world. He takes us right where we are today and every day and will use whatever we are willing to yield to him.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me to yield to you today in the midst of my life today. Help me to bloom for your glory where you have planted me. I choose not to get caught up by the fearfulness of the times we are living in and will instead look to you. You are indeed my guide to the end and I choose to walk with you each and every day. 



Monday, September 26, 2011

Tired

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Isaiah 40:29-31

29 He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope 
in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar 
on wings like eagles;
   they will run 
and not grow weary,
   they will walk 
and not be faint. 

I was talking to a friend this evening and sharing how I still had this devotional to write and how completely uninspired I was feeling.  He said "You know Margot, Its ok to be tired. Why don't you write about that because we all get tired and its ok"  So thats what I am writing about and I will hope that some how God pulls something up out of me by His Holy Spirit that encourages you.

Its Sunday night and I have been at church since 9 am this moring. I am there early to help with set up, sound, power point. I was the MC of sorts. We had a guest speaker and a guest worship leader who both blessed me by thier ministry to us and to the Lord. So I was the person who welcomed everyone and did the announcements, and the offering and introduced our guests. Its a good job for me God seems to put words in my mouth and its more of a being led by the Holy Spirit thing for me than a stressful speaking in front of people thing. After that there are people who have questions or prayer needs and there is clean up. Then we begin working cooking the meal that we serve at 3pm to our homeless and poor neighbors.  The fellowship in the kitchen is a lot of fun. I got to cook Perogies on the grill and cut and grill onions.  We make a point to only serve things we would serve to our own families. Can't say my family has ever had perogies but I think we will have to add them to the menu. Today we served about 130 people before we ran out of food. We had to turn away about 10 folks and were not able to feed our crew. It does not happen often but funding is a little low lately. Its hard economic times for everyone and giving has been down.  We do our very best to pepare enough to feed everyone and our crew of workers.  Its been quite a while since we have run out of food. You just never really know how many people will show up from week to week. It was 5:30pm by the time I got home and needed to go to the grocery store for some items to be able to pull of dinner at home. Thankfully someone else did the cooking.  All that to say I'm tired, but it is a good tired. I have spent the day doing things I love to do. Serving in the house of God is in many ways is the highlight of my week. 
When I can I try to get ahead on the devotionals for the week.  But not this weekend. Oh well it will be very fresh this week.

Mystic Lake
My tired son and Gracie dog
They call me the Dog Wisperer
This week my family spent the weekend (all but Sunday) on a camping trip. Which was wonderful a day and a half that was spent un plugged from technology. Trust me that is good for my family and for me from time to time. So I brought along a book and did some reading with the help of my dogs. I have not been quite so dirty in a very long time. Tonights dinner was the fish that the kids caught on the trip. We went to a place called Mystic Lake it was beautiful and very rustic with a lake that was down a very steep hill. We walked up and down it a bunch (hmmm... that may be part of why I'm tired too). We sat around the camp fire and played guitars and sang what we could remember of various songs. It was a delightful weekend. There is now a pile of camping gear that will need properly put away and a ton of extra laundry.  Our verse today says "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall." I'm getting a little beyond "youth" but if the young folk get tired, I suspect there is room for me to be tired too. I think my friend is right - it is ok to be tired. What we need to not do is give up, or give the enemy open doors to attack us in those tired places.  In Galatians 6:9 it says "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." The things I have done this weekend have been good. I spent much needed un plugged time camping with my family,  I spent today in worship and serving at my church. I am now enjoying the quiet that has been afforded me by my family to get this devotional written.  It may not be a literary master piece, but I hope it will encourage those of you who are reading it. That it's ok to be tired. God promises in our verse today  
31 "but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint."

My hope is in the Lord. I am thankful for His abiding presence with in a very full weekend. I am thankful that I will sleep well tonight. I am thankful that He promises to renew my strength.
I am thankful that He has given me an abundant (full) life. I am thankful that I've had this time to share these devotional thoughts with you. I hope you will remember something from this devotional when you are tired. Tiredness will pass. I took some time to sit out on the porch earlier and to lay on my back and look at the clouds and feel the gentle touch of the breeze.  I have found a quiet spot to write for a bit, which has turned out to be quite relaxing for me.  When I am tired I seek out quiet and I look to Jesus to be my center. In the quiet and the silence there is a refreshing that comes and all in all I am simply thankful for this tiredness because it is a reminder that I have been doing things I love to do, with people I enjoy being with, and I have had the pleasure of being the hands and feet of Jesus to others as I have been led along by the Holy Spirit.  Have I done it all to perfection - no.  I have lived and loved and experienced life first hand and that is a great gift for which I am extreemly thankful.

We saw a great sign on the drive back and my son Niah made sure we got a photo of it.  
Guess there are some days that I am thankful for coffee too.


Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help us when we are tired to be thankful. To find hope in you that while we may not see all the fruit of our efforts in this moment that we can be confident that they will be evident in time. Lord, refresh us with your presence and in your word.  Thank you that your goal is for us to be more Christ like and no matter what our circumstancs you are able to work that in us if we will yield to you.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Counting Your Blessings

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalms 40:5

Many, O LORD my God, 
are the wonders you have done. 
The things you planned for us 
no one can recount to you; 
were I to speak and tell of them, 
they would be 
too many to declare.




Did you catch in todays verse where it says..."The things you planned for us no one can recount to you: were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."  Have you stopped lately to count your blessings. All the undeserved things that happen each and every day in our lives. There are so many things that we take for granted. Yet God has lavished His love upon us in the beauty of the sunset or sunrise.  The wonders of creation. The smile of a friend, a kind word. There are thousands of little ordinary miracles that happen each day. Perhaps you can explain many of them away to natural causes and perhaps they are just little gifts of grace that touch our lives in a million little ways.

Proverbs 17:22  The Message "22 A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
   gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.


Amplified Bible 17:2222A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.'

 Thankfulness is a powerful thing. There have been difficult seasons when I would make a point to wake up and think of things I was thankful for. Thankfulness sets your mind and heart on a different path than a complaining or grumbling heart. We need to stir up the gifts that God has put inside us. We need to stir up our thankfulness. Its easy to get weighed down in depression, discouragement to the point that we wear it around like a wet blanket. We stand there pitiful, wet and cold and wish someone would come join us in our pity party. I don't mean to make light of anyones troubles but often the biggest adjustment that needs made is to our attitude. 
Put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  Which reminds me of this song that I am too tired tonight to try and record. So here is a link to a nice version someone did on you tube. I like the flags at the end.


If you are getting this in your e-mail you will need to click the blue title to get back to the devotional site to view the video.


Some more verses to think about today. Note that "And be thankful." at the end of Colossians 3:15 
Don't just let Christ rule your heart and live at peace. Those things are followed by a very strong "And be thankful" You can start with being thankful that the peace of Christ does rule in your heart.

Colossians 3:15 NIV 1984  "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."

Philippians 2 reminds us  14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

I like it in The Message starting with 13b Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
 14-16Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing. 

I believe as we go through the ups and the downs of life that people around us are watching. If we can begin to cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness, and joy not just in good times but in the hard times as well. Our lives become a testimony of the power of God at work in us.  I love the line in the verse above that says That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.  Our God is a gentleman and waits to be invited by us into the situations of our life.  God is doing the work in us, he wants to provide the energy and the will to do the things he desires for us.


What are some things that you are thankful for?

Is there anyone or anything that you have been taking for granted?

Why might it please God for us to come to him with a thankful heart?

Are there things that you are complaining about that you might want to look at from a different vantage point. Maybe ask God what He is using it to work in you?


Prayer:
Dear Lord,
You do so much for us every day. There are so many things that we have grown accustomed to that we over look them or take them for granted. Lord help us remember those things. Help us more and more find reasons to be thankful for all that you do. Even in the midst of the trials we are facing help us to see the fingerprints of your love and mercy. Help us to be doers of the word and not those who just let it go in one ear and out the other. Help us more and more put it into practice in our lives. Help us catch ourselves when we might begin to complain and turn it around and find a reason to thank you.




Thursday, September 22, 2011

Need A Check Up?

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

2 Corinthians 13
5-9Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. I hope the test won't show that we have failed. But if it comes to that, we'd rather the test showed our failure than yours. We're rooting for the truth to win out in you. We couldn't possibly do otherwise.

One way you can give yourself a spiritual check up is to use one of the many assessment tools that one can find on line. I found two that are pretty nice. I'm not saying that assessments are the be all to end all in determining where you are on your spiritual journey but they can help you see areas that might need some work. The verse we have today from 2 Corinthians 13 say to test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. That is a good idea, much in the same way you go to the doctor for a check up to make sure you are taking care of your physical body. It is also a good idea to check your spiritual pulse from time to time to make sure you are moving in the right direction. It can help you to determine where you might want to work or make changes. You then can decide what you want to work on and how fast you want to make those changes. There are probably plenty of other assessments out there. These are just a few that I found that I thought you might find helpful in doing a Spiritual Check Up.  We all have areas in our life where we could be more like Jesus. It is a journey that we each take step by step with Jesus. The important thing is walking with Him and being led by the Holy Spirit day by day.  If you decide to do any of these assessments or others like them. Pick one area or thing that you want to work on and pray and ask Jesus to help you with that area.  In your prayer time spend sometime brainstorming some things you might do to work on that area. Pick one and try it out. If it works great, if not theres no harm no foul. Think about where you might want to adjust or change things to make it work better. The good news is you are doing something and you are not just drifting and taking things for granted.  If you decide you need someone to help you through the process, check out my coaching site (click on this link or there is a Mosaic Coaching tab at the top of the page)  Lets schedule a time talk about your results and to work on what you want to work on.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord,
Help me to test myself according to the standards of your word. Show me the areas where I could use a tune up or a major overhaul. Help me to not view my results with condemnation because I know you love me right where I am today. I also know you want me to grow to be more and more like you. Help me to look at myself objectively and with eyes of faith. Help me to see where you are already working and where I need to surrender more to you. Help me pick one thing to work on with you this week or this month. I want to brainstorm with you and begin to experiment to find a plan of action that will work for me. I know you know and I know you want to help me figgure it out. So I look to you with expectaion and trust and know that you will lead me by your Holy Spirit.  ~ Thank you for helping me and loving me on my journey.

Assessments Tools:

Are You on Target? (This is a nice on-line assessment that gives you a target at the end showing you where you are in your journey in various areas. When you click on the "x" indicating your present growth location it takes you to a page that gives you relevant books that would be helpful. This one was my speed - on line - with no forms needing my information. Fast and the results were visual.


http://www.assess-yourself.org/  This one has assessment for Love of God, Christian Character, Obstacles to growth, and your world view.  They ask for some info for their larger study but no names or address or e-mail is needed. (I would be inclined to do this one when I have more time. Liked the idea of the different tests they offered.)

Growth Planner PDF  This is a long assessment that is set up for you to take the test and also have a friend who knows you well take the test giving their answers for how you are doing. (I liked the suggestions they gave for you to make changes at a crawl, walk or a run. You choose the pace. There were plenty of good ideas in that section even if you don't use this assessment tool. )


PS. I am not endorcing any of the ministries where these assessments are found. I really don't know much more than these tests showed up when I searched and they seemed to be geared for Christians who want to grow. I am not affiliated with these ministries in anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Forget To Celebrate

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A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Jeremiah 31:4
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.


 

Lets start today with some questions.

• What things do you celebrate?

• Are you waiting to celebrate until you reach some great milestone or victory?

• Are there some smaller victories you need to celebrate in your walk with the Lord?

• Can you think of some fun ways to celebrate with those who share the journey with you?


The restoration projects that God starts in our lives are often very long. It is easy to get so focussed on what we want to be or for God to do in our lives, that we spend all our time frustrated because we have such a long way to go. God wants to restore our lives and while He is sovereign and could do an immediate miracle and zap us with the desired result. Most of the time He allows us to become walking miracles or miracles in progress. Quite often rather than remove some obstacle or trial from our life He chooses rather to walk with us in and through it.

In our verse today God says to Virgin Israel who is at this time in captivity. "I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt" He says the same thing to us. No matter how messed up your life may feel in this moment.  No matter how far you may feel you need to go. The Lord want to build you up again.


Add some fun to your day- play a little. Work hard and play hard.
Most families are separated all week by jobs, and school and activities and then they come to church for more separation. Kids go this way, teens that way and adults another, singles over here, old people over there. The fact is we need each other. God created us to be in community. We grow best together.

We need to find reason to get together - to develop relationships - to be there when someone is having a hard time, to celebrate, to play. This is the soil that other stuff can grow up out of. When we go through difficult times it is important to celebrate the little victories along the way.

The story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jeresulem is a good example. They took time to celebrate the little victories and that helped them to not become discouraged and give up. They faced resistance on every side. They had to work with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other. Some times life seems like that, we just struggle and struggle. Its ok to take a break even if you have not finnished all the work. Celebrate how far you have come. Find things to be thankful for.

Look back on your journey in the past six months are there some areas that you have made some progress? Maybe you have not fully reached your goal, its ok and healthy to celebrate smaller steps along the journey. Take some time to look at the things you are wanting to see happen or change in your life.  Sometimes it is hard to begin the journey because it seems too big or too impossible. See if there are some ways you can break it down into some smaller chunks. Find ways to make smaller goals with in your larger one. What are some of the smaller first steps that you see and might begin to be able to see yourself move towards accomplishing this week? It might just be finding the smaller steps or goals and making a list of what needs to be done. Once you've done that pick one or two and think through ways you might be able to accomplish them this week. Its ok to experiment.

I know when I am trying to loose weight I like to celebrate a when I change clothing sizes to a smaller size. I like to celebrate by finding something new that fits. There is something to celebrating, and being joyful that strengthens us. Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

If you look at your life and the progress you are making remember our verse today and find hope. "Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."

We have reason to be joyful because of the presence of Jesus in our life. It is not that we need to change our self to be able to be with Him. It is by being with Him that we are changed. You may be thinking that you just really need to get it all together because you are sure God is tired of your mess. The fact of the matter is you are loved and accepted today just as you are. What He desires is a relationship with you. That relationship has been restored and made possible by what Jesus has done. All to often our relationship with the Lord is distant and difficult. We want to know the Lord more but we can get past all our guilt, shame, flaws and failures. We feel we are the worst sort of Christians who never measure up to Gods standards. Some folk give up entirely and leave God to the more holy Mother Theresa types. We might experience Him second hand through books and sermons but we don't really want to get too close to Him. 

Stop it already. Lay down your pride and come before him with humility and thankfulness. He has done what you could never have done yourself. He has made a way for those who will believe in Him to be made right with God.  That alone is reason to celebrate.
As you spend time with Him you will notice that you are wanting to be more like Him. You are able to change. He works in you to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:3)

He is rebuilding you - take a moment to see how far you have come and take some time to celebrate.



Prayer:

Dear Lord,
Thank you for rebuilding my life. Cause my foot to tap to the rythem of the song of joy you have put in my heart. Help me to see the victories along the way and to find meaningful ways to celebrate. I have a long way to go. Thank you for your abiding presence in my life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comfort for the Stuck

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Jeremiah 29:11 

For I know the plans 
I have for you,” 
declares the LORD, 
“plans to prosper you 
and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope 
and a future.




Today we are back to the refrigerator verse collection. You know those verses that everyone loves and you often see on plaques, magnets and cards. We all to often see those verses standing all alone and out of context. So today I want to bother to look at the story surrounding Jeremah 29:11 It is part of a letter sent by the Prophet Jeremiah to the exiles of Jerusalem.  He is pretty much writing to tell them they need to make the best of their situaltion because they are going to be stuck there for the next 70 years. He tells them they need to build houses and plant gardens. Encourage their sons and daughters to marry so they can have their own children.  They are to seek the peace and prosperity of the place that they find themselves stuck in because as that place is at peace and prospering so will they.

There are sometimes things set in motion in our life that have to play out before God will release us from those obligations. For the people of Jerusalem God wanted them to know that although they had just gone through this horrific up-rooting from the life they had known. They had been taken in to captivity or exile in Babylon. Many of the so called Prophets were prophesying that this was all just a temporary thing and they would be back home soon. So who should they listen to in their situation?

They were in this place of exile because for a very long time as a people that had refused to listen to God. Their relationship with God had become a show at best and they were consumed with foreign idols and had taken on the ways of the cultures around them. God got to a place of having given them one opportunity after another to repent and change. To stop living life on their own terms and to start living life on His. They consistently refused to listen, to turn and repent. At some point God said enough and the army's swept in and the life they knew came to an abrupt end and now they found themselves in Babylon.  God is trying to tell them through Jeremiah that he has a good plan but they are stuck in their circumstances for the next 70 years. God may be saying that to you today as well. There are some yokes that we must submit to wearing and walking out. If we stop fighting those things and begin to make the best of them, we will begin to see what Jesus said in Matthew 11:30.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I particularly like it in the Message.  28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Is it time for you to "Get away with Jesus and to recover your life?"
Have you been fighting a circumstance that God seems un willing to release you from, though you have prayed and pleaded.  There are things in our life that sometimes we just can't do anything to change. While I believe God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, sometimes like the people of Jerusalem, we have to accept that we must now walk out the consequences of our long rebellion and refusal to draw close to the Lord. It is easy to blame everything and everyone around us for our troubles, when we need to accept that we have not really turned to God. In our pride we have turned to every other option to try and solve our problem and God is our last resort. He wants to be your first resort and He is still calling you to turn to Him and allow Him to help you to make the best of your situation. Allow it to work in you the heart changes He desires. Allow him to carry it with you. 
I, by no means, am saying that you should give up faith that God will heal and restore - it is more a question of how you will function in the mean time. For the exiles in Babylon it was 70 years that they could spend fighting God or they could accept their lot and make the best of it.
What about you?  Are you listening to God in this season or are you still trying to find the answers on your own? Turn to Him and submit to the yoke He has you in presently.

One of the nice things about a yoke is it keeps the oxen together. They have to cooperate if they want to get the job done and get back to the barn.  Your yoke circumstance, in many ways is doing the same thing. It is keeping you close to Jesus. You are learning in and through it, that you really do need to know Jesus and you do need to be learning to be led by the Holy Spirit.  Change your focus from trying to change your situation to learning to know Jesus better in it. In His time He will get you back to the barn and out of this present yoke. If you will stop fighting Him - and follow Him you will get through this much faster. He wants to help you carry the weight of this burden. He wants go with you step by step, day by day until the work in you is completed. Trust Him.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord,
You know the places where I feel stuck, the burdens that I have been trying to bear on my own or only allowing you to partially help me with. Help me today to stop resisting you and to accept my present circumstance as a yolk that is keeping me close to you in this season. Help me to turn to you and to stop fighting you to get free, when you are wanting to use this to draw me close to you. I do thank you that your plans for me are good even when my time line does not match up with yours.
Today I choose to stop fighting you and I choose to trust you. Help me to know you more deeply because of this burden.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Selfish Ambition

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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  Philippians 2:3-4 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition 
or vain conceit, 
but in humility consider others 
better than yourselves. 
Each of you should look not only 
to your own interests, 
but also to the interests of others.” 





So where do we begin with selfish ambition?
There is a story in the book of Numbers about a guy named Korah. He is one of the Levites during the time of Moses who is a good example of selfish ambition.

The people of Israel had just come out of a life of slavery in Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. The tabernacle was kind of like portable church and Korah and his family had the special job of moving it. When it was time to move to a new place they had the job of taking down the tabernacle and carrying all the parts and pieces to the new place and setting it up. It was a special job and only members of that particular family line were even allowed to do. In those days there were jobs that the Levites could do and there were other jobs that only priests could do. Korah has the job of moving the portable church but he thought he was just as capable as Aaron and the priests and could certainly burn insense as good as they could.  Korah and some of his buddies got a notion that Aaron and his family had set them self up as the high and mighty ones. So Korah and 120 other leaders rise up against them in Numbers 16:3 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”

Well the story goes on and Moses stands up for Aaron and lets the mutionious group know that its not Aaron they have turned against but God. 

Numbers 16: 8 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

Things don't go so well for Korah and his rebellious bunch. Sometimes we can set our selves up against God by not being satisfied with the things he has given us to do an wishing we could have someone elses calling or annointing. Jealousy begins to grow and we look for ways we can take matters into our own hands. We refuse to heed wise council or Gods word or instruction to us and we insist on having things our way. A selfishly ambitious person will try to achieve at any cost the things they feel they should have that God denies.

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

I'm not saying that there is no place for ambtion or dreams but when our ambition becomes all about me, me, me and we have no concern for how it will effect others we find ourselves walking in a dangerous place.  It is hard to feel we have been passed over, particularly when we have been doing the job with out much recognition. It is in those time we must resist the desire to be selfishly ambitious and ask God to help us trust his plan.

So on with the story of Korah and the gang.  In verse 28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave,[c] then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”

Well, if you read on you will find out that the ground did indeed open up and have Korah and the rest of the selfishly ambitous for lunch. It was pretty clear that they did not die of natural causes in the usual way.

It is important to remember that you are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20). Sometimes we can be doing a job serving the Lord and someone else around us can be promoted to a more important job and we can feel slighted by God. Its important to remember in those times that God lifts some up and bring others down. He shifts people around to accomplish his greater pourposes. We often are looking at things from our own perspective and while we might be quite capable of doing the job we might not be the one God is calling to do it. We need to be careful to not become like Korah, by learning to trust that Gods plans for us are good. Even the hardships we are facing are often grooming us for his future plans for our lives. 

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me to see where I am selfishy ambitous. Help me see where I am pushing for things that perhaps are not mine to have at this time or maybe ever. Help me Lord to be humble before you and to accept your plan. Help me to not be jealous when others get opportunites that I think I am better able to do.  Help me to not only look to my own interests but to the interests of others. Help me to seek your Kingdom first and to trust that you will take care of the rest. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

To Walk Humbly with your God

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Photo by Margot Cioccio

Micah 6:8 (NIV1984)  

He has showed you, 

O man, what is good.  

And what does the LORD 

require of you?  

To act justly and to love mercy

   and to walk humbly with your God. 

I think we often over complicate things. What would it take for you to feel like your walk with the Lord was good enough. How much would you need to read your bible, or how much time would you need to spend in prayer? How many acts of kindness or how much self-sacrifice or good deeds would it take to put you in right standing with God?

The truth is that if you are approaching your relationship with the Lord on any of those levels you have missed the point of His free gift of grace. While I want to encourage you to spend more time with the Lord, more time in the word and in prayer. I want to be careful that your devotions do not become "works"by which you hope to win the Lords favor. Ephesians 2: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

While it is important to spend time with Jesus it should be more like when you fall in love with someone. You look forward to every opportunity to be together. When you are apart your mind is quick to wander to thoughts of the one you love. The Lord desire is a relationship of love not one of works. Our acts of service and devotion should be more from a place of thankfulness than one of constantly trying to earn Gods favor. Your salvation is a gift of God's love and grace. It is un-deserved, it can't be earned.
Mark 12:33 (NIV1984)
To love him with all you heart, 
with all your understanding and with all 
your strength, and to love your neighbor
as yourself is more important than 
all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

 Knowing that there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you any more or less should help to free you from the task master of religious obligation. When we walk humbly with our God. It is from a position of acceptance of the great gift of His mercy, grace and love that has been provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus. He took the punishment that we deserve.  

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help us to approach you from a position of humility and thankfulness. Help us to put to death once and for all the idea that we could ever do enough to earn your favor. We do not deserve your mercy, grace or love. Yet you have reached out to us with arms of love and have made a way for your justice to be satisfied through the price paid once and for all by Jesus. It is ours only to accept or to reject. If we choose to reject that gift of love, we are already perishing. Help us to more fully realize that you desire our love over sacrifice or religious duty.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Up Side of Suffering

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Romans 5:5 NIV 1984
And hope does not disappoint us, 

because God has poured out his love 
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, 
whom he has given us.

I love this verse, God has given us His Holy Spirit and poured out His love to us by the Holy Spirit. Hope does into disappoint us.

I know some of you who are reading this are struggling. Your life is hard and some to the things you are facing seem unfair and impossible. I want to share the rest of this passage with you today.

 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I suppose you probably don't want to read about the up side of suffering. Most folks would just assume avoid suffering.  While I don't suggest that anyone go looking for suffering, because we all do suffer at various times throughout our life. While its no picnic it does produce perseverance as we do our best to walk through those difficult times and season. That perseverance produces character.
How exactly does hope fit in. Is it simply a hope for things to get better. Or is it that those things remind us that this world is not our home. We are on a journey and we have not arrived at our final destination. 

I am reminded of how pearls are formed. A bit of sand gets into the oyster shell. That sand produces suffering for the oyster. What does the oyster do? It coats the sand or other irritating foreign substance with the same substance that coats its shell. Over time it forms a pearl. 
I think like the oyster we were designed to be able to deal with the sand like troubles that come into our life.  Why not just take us home as soon as we accept Jesus. Why does God leave us here to wade through the trials and troubles of life.

Trials and trouble help us see what we are made of. I think we often find we are stronger than we think. Even when we fail, hopefully we are learning and adjusting and have given ourselves permission to experiment until we figure out what works for us. Trials either turn us from God or turn us to God. I think God allows them to help us discover where our hope lies. Does it lie in our own strength and ability or does it rest in God? 

Everyday we have opportunities to discover if our foundations are built on shifting sand or if they lie securely on the rock of trust in Jesus.

I like the old hymn that says

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Refrain: On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Refrain

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

Refrain

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

If my hope is in anything but Jesus it will be shaken. That hope will likely fail us. Hope in Jesus and resting in the provision of His grace, helps us to view the trials of this life with different eyes. 
Every difficulty we face is an opportunity to not only turn to God but to create a pearl.  

God knew the oyster would encounter sand and foreign substances and He created the oyster to have a way to deal with it in a positive way.  He also created you knowing you would go through hardships and trials and He has equipped you just like the oyster, to turn them in to something of beauty and value. 

Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
You see the things that each of us face. You know how those things are working your perseverance and character into our lives. Help us to turn those things over to you and to trust you in them. Help us each to place our hope in you. Cause that hope to grow and become a testimony of your love and grace working in our lives.   When we put our hope in you, we will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God is in the Midst of Her

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Colorized Photo by Margot Cioccio
Psalm 46:4-5
There is a river whose streams 
make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

Even my quiet time was busy today.  I spent much of it worshiping and practicing the song As The Deer on the piano, part of it bike riding and then I have been on the move all day with meetings, running errands, work, parents meetings. It has been a non stop kind of day. As I started out in the morning the words of Psalm 46 came to mind and have steadied me through out the day. "God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved."

In the Psalm it is a river that flows from the presence of God's throne. That river makes glad the dwelling places of God Most High. You and I are dwelling places of the Most High God and the river from this thrown makes us glad. It brings joy, refreshing and cleansing. It flows in, around and through our lives. Much like the rivers of the earth over time the river cuts a path through the land, changing the land it passes through. As God passes through our life the steady stream of his presence also changes and shapes us. The river will not be stopped, it will not be moved.

I could have allowed the business of the day to keep me from the presence of God. That choice confronts us in busy times and in slower seasons of solitude. Will I allow God to be part of my day? or will I try to navigate it on my own terms?

Today I have tried to practice God's presence with in the things I have been doing. I am little by little finding my center of balance with in this season. I've had concerned friends tell me that they think I take on too much. They are probably right, but I don't think the answer is quitting any of the things I am presently involved in. The Bible talks of believers having an abundant life, a full life. I will have to account for how I used the time that God gave me in my life. What did I do with the gifts, talents, abilities and challenges given to me. Did I make time to love and care for those around me?

There are things like learning piano, and writing this devotional, and getting my life coaching certification, my leadership role at my church, homeschooling my kids, that I know that God has called me to do. When I was sick earlier this year I had to scale back to allow myself time to get well. Even with this current busy schedule I need to make time to rest, and to be refreshed in the Lord. Just because something or some season is difficult does not mean that God has not called you to those things or to that season. It is difficult to ballance it all. I am learning more and more with each passing day that God is in the midst of it. I can and will find my ballance. I will not be moved, I stand secure in Him. While I am no less busy than I have been on many other recent days, I am not feeling as overwhelmed or off ballance by all of it. I am finding the rythem of life in this season. This beat that I am currently walking to is not a leasurely steady beat, it at times is wild and whirling. Yet as I am learning to feel the presense of the Lord with in the rythem of this season. I am learning to embrace the dance and I am thankful that God is taking the lead and I am wisked along by the music and by his hand leading me along in the steps of His magnificent dance.

Prayer
Dear Lord, Help us each find the cadence to the dance of our life in this present season. Take the lead and guide and direct our steps. Draw us near and hold us tight. Wisper in our ear how much you love us and how glad you are to share this dance and this day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rejoice

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Philippians 4:4 Amp “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; 
again I say, Rejoice!” 

Its early and I am sitting in my favorite chair. Its quiet, everyone else is still asleep. I'm waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.  When I sat down I thought it might be nice to go see what the verse of the day is at Bible Gateway.  It is a great site with many online versions of the Bible. Today I found the verse the verse above from Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord. My rejoicing in the morning while the family is sleeping are kind of quiet. More of a heart of thankfulness. While I'm thinking thankful thoughts I remember some bible things that I have learned and discovered through the years. I thought I would share some of them with you in this post. I hope you will find them helpful.

I was asked by a friend a while back how I was able to find the verses I was looking for so quickly. I am not a good memorizer - unless it is song words and I can pull up complete song words from my childhood. My brain however, does not remember numbers and so finding verses is not by remembering the verse numbers. I struggle to learn things like my phone number. So it is only the actual Bible verse words that stick in my brain. I've hidden them in my heart through the years by spending time reading and thinking about the passages I am reading,  I write them on index cards and post them in places around my house. I make up little melodies and sing them. Some how they have managed to get planted in my brain. After 30 years of walking with the Lord there are a lot of them tucked away in my mind and heart. I think it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring them to mind when I need them.  I may not remember the whole verse, but I take the words that come to mind and search for them using the keyword search option at Bible Gateway. My most used bible version has been The New International Version so I generally start there. Then I try some of the others that I might have been reading. For a while I changed out Bible versions each year and tried to read through the Bible in a year. Its a great goal and Bible Gateway has some wonderful Reading Plans that I have enjoyed using. Its is a site that I have in my bookmark buttons.  Today I have a window open to write this post and another window with Bible Gateway. It's not always how I write, I use a note book a lot of the time too. I am rejoicing over God's wonderful provision of a new mac pro lap top. He provided new computers for my family, through the coke bottle caps that my husband saves. He finally won after six years of saving and turning them in at the coke rewards site. 
I am always amazed at the many ways through which God is able to supply my needs. 
My new computer is allowing me to sit here in my favorite chair and have my quiet time with the Lord using my new computer,  rather than a Bible, a notebook and a concordance. 

My other little trick is to type the words into my browser search bar and see if anyone else learned the verse with that wording. It works a lot of the time.  The other way I use is to have a Bible with a concordance. My favorite is my Thompson Chain reference Bible. Someone took the time when I was a baby Christian to help me pick out a bible with a great working concordance. While I have lots of Bibles that I enjoy reading,  my Thompson Chain Bible it is my favorite for when I am trying to study and don't have access to a computer. 

These are some things that gladden my heart. 
I rejoice in the Lord's presence in quiet of the morning. Not that He is not present in the rest of my day but in the quiet of the morning there are fewer distractions and its just a little easier for me to focus my thoughts on what the Lord is saying to me today.

Rejoicing is a great place to start in relating to the Lord.  Here are few other verses that come to mind. I am thankful also for the reminder to rejoice that came to me today from the Bible Gateway Verse of the day. I like to kind of mix up my times with the Lord.  I like the to change things up, in how I spend my quiet morning times. I rejoice that it does not need to be stuffy or religious. The Lord knows how He wired me and He knows how He wired you. I am reminded of the old old song called In the Garden. I remember the lines "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses... The chorus says : And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am his own..." I hope you will rejoice in your time with the Lord today.

1 Chronicles 16:10
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.


Dear Lord, Today I chose to rejoice in you. I rejoice in the little reminders of your grace and mercy. I thank you for meeting me in the quiet of the morning and for leading me through out the rest of this day. I pray that you will meet with those who are reading this devotional today and draw all of us to fall deeper in love with you. Help us to want to know you more and more and to make time to spend with you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Shelter To Every Generation

A Devotional By Margot Cioccio

I had a little help from Gracie to write this post.

 Psalm 90:1-2 (The Message)   

God, it seems you've been our home forever; long before the mountains were born,  Long before you brought earth itself to birth,  from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"—you are God. 

 

Amplified Bible  Psalm 90:1 LORD, YOU have been our dwelling place and our refuge in all generations .

 

The inner city church I attend has been around longer than the city of Spokane. The church was founded in 1888, so its been around for a few years. I have gone through many of the old archives and photos. Photos from long ago of a thriveing church with a Sunday School classes in the 1950 of more than a hundrend adults lined up in front of the building.  I love history and trying to understand the footprints left by other generations in the stuff others felt important to save. It reminds me that my generation is not the first generation to have followed Christ. There have been many generations of believers who have gone before us. The style of their worship was very different from our own but they served the same Jesus that we do and they have left a legacy of faith.


Today I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who's grandparents had been one of the three founders of our church. She had been there as a young child, when her grandmother, who was by then, an old woman, dug the first shovel of dirt for our present building.  At the time she was about five.  This dear woman now in her 70's, was delighted to see what God is doing in this generation. Her name was Sandee Kerr and I met her when she arrived and she told me her family were the founders of the church. At the time it was moments before the services was to start and I had things I needed to attend to but I assured her I would let the pastor know she was here. 

 

I made a point to talk to her after the service and it was then that I started to connect the dots of what she had told me earlier.  In the course of the conversation she wanted to see the baptismal font. She explaned that the silver chalace inside of it was inscribed with her name and the date of her baptism. Her grandmother, the wife of one of the founders had given it to the church at the baptism of her first grandchild. Sure enough there was the inscription she had been telling me about. I small piece of history came alive in that moment.  

I rarely bring my video camera with me to church. Today I had been moved to bring it,  thinking I would take some footage of our first week back to feeding our homeless and poor neighbors. It was a God kind of thing, to be able to go and get it and record some of Sandee's memories of the past. She is probably one of the last of a generation to even remember the founders of this church. 

Sandee's ingraved baptismal

She was in town for her class reunion and made a point to come and visit the church of her childhood. She had been here for weddings and funerals and had seen it change through the years. She was delighed that we had not only survived the wrecking ball as she called it. Her way of expressing how very close we had been to closing, but thats another story.

She showed me the gold ring her mother had gotten as a young person for having five years of perfect attendence. Things sure have changed since then.  

This whole encounter today was such a blessing for me. She admired my mosaic necklace and was tickled when I took it off and gave it to her. She said she would treasure it. You can see her wearing it in the photo. Sandee was able to make a bit of the past come alive for me. She reminded me through her stories that God has been active at this church for many generations. God has been working in this church for 120 years and in some ways I am humbled, that God has allowed us to continue to be a light on this corner.  Here's a link to our history if you are interested.

My heart is thankful that God has been a shelter here for many generations. I am thankful for the legacy's left by believers from the past in books, and music and in the older believers in our midst.  If you take the time to share a bit of your Sunday with those from another generation in your church or with those who come through the doors or your church you might be blessed to see to see the fingerprints of God. 

If you are an older believer, take time to share your stories with future generations. If you are younger reach out to those who are older than you and care enough to listen. I hear you thinking but I'm so shy, or I would not know what to say.  I would tell you that by nature I am very shy and prefer just to observe people. The Lord through the years has nudged me more and more to get beyond myself and to focus on the needs of others in my midst. I have often been suprised by the marvelous people God allows me to meet. You could start small just pick someone you don't know and make a point to introduce yourself and to listen and care. Weather it is a homeless person or someone from another generation or racial group or just someone who looks a little lost. I encourage you to reach out and discover some of God's hidden treasures. I discoved one today and was extreemly blessed.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, Thank you for being a shelter to your people for all these many generations. Help us to reach out to the people in our midst with your love. We don't need to be a spiritual giant a little kindness goes a long way. Help us to be your hands and feet and reach out to the stranger in our midst.