Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Wells of Salvation

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Isaiah 12:3
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.


(There is a video I recorded of a song called The Well 
if it does not come to my e-mail followers please click on the title to get back to the site)

While I was at the Navigate conference several weeks ago and was feeling kind of fuzzy brained after a very early morning and most of the day spent traveling. The first night's worship service which was wonderfully refreshing. My church experience is more of one of serving and ministering to others, so it is a treat to be able to sit back and enjoy the fruit of the labor and ministry of someone else. I was talking to my pastor who was also at this event and he also shared the same experience. Its not that we don’t experience and worship God during the worship services where we are leading and serving. We do but it has a different dynamic of God flowing and ministering through you rather than simply receiving. I think there is value in making sure your leaders get away to be refreshed from time to time during the year. For me the Navigate conference was a powerful time of refreshing ministry.

As a leader I have learned that unless you become a “well” or plant yourself by the stream of living water you quickly become dried up and burned out. The demands for water from the people you are ministering to will quickly leave you empty unless you are daily spending time in the presence of the Lord to be refilled. By spending that daily time alone with the Lord over time you become a well of salvation where others many come to drink. I have been trying to encourage people to become wells. If you have been a believer very long you really should know how to tap into the river of God's Spirit that flows from His throne. Sadly I find that even people who have been Christians a long time seem to be clueless and come parched and weary running from well to well or drinking from the cups of others. Its time we learn to go to the source.  We do not need an intermediary to go be for God on our behalf. We are kings and priests before our God. We have been adopted and grafted into the family tree. Yet too many of us wander around like beggars when we should be dishing out food and living water to the broken and hurting.

It is possible if you are in a church ministry position for your well to become dry because the demands are great. Its easy to get so busy serving that finding time with Jesus becomes very small compared to the demand placed upon you for living water. It is also possible to have living water flowing through you and not realize that you have a leak. I experienced this myself recently.  I prayed for a woman and I felt the power of the Holy Spirit flow through me in a powerful way, her need was so great that she left me empty. It was in that moment as I tried to be refilled that I realized that my well had a bunch of leaks that made it difficult to refill my own well. I'm sure this is a bit out there, its hard for me to describe. The Lord gives me pictures like leaky wells to help me understand spiritual concepts far beyond my understanding. Its like trying to explain what makes an airplane fly to a child. For me it was an issue of leaky faith. God had told me some things and the circumstances were causing me to doubt what God had said and confirmed to me previously. There are times I feel like Joseph, God gave him visions of his destiny and purpose as a young man. Then he is betrayed by his brothers, sold in to slavery. While in slavery he is wrongly accused and put in prison. While in prison he interprets some dreams and is right on but still he finds himself being tested and tried by that vision that God had given him so long ago. Surely he must be crazy - right? It was 33 years that his life was seemingly on hold.
I am sure he must have had times where his faith wavered and leaked. I'm sure there were days that he felt discouraged and confused. There are some things that no matter how crazy and impossible they may seem that God keeps saying "hold on, I'm working it all out. The story is not over yet. You may have some of those kind of things too. I think Joseph made it through because he new how to be connected to God. Rather than shake his fist at God for his long years of hardship he allowed God to use it to mold and shape him. He pressed and became closer to God rather than turning away.

I am more and more convinced that most of the people I encounter during a day and quite often even the Christians don’t know where to get their own living water. Many Christians run from meeting to meeting to drink from the wells of others. Which is great, thats one of the reasons God raises up leaders in His church. I don’t think in general that people are being encouraged enough to develop that personal intimate relationship with the Lord. We need to move from babies that need to be fed milk in bottles and spoon fed to become mature believers who practice the presence of Jesus and are filled to over flowing.  For a long time even as a leader I did not understand what was happening. I would just find myself running on empty because people were drinking from my cup or pitcher and I would need to go find someone else with water to spare to get filled up. It is funny to think there could possibly be a drought of living water but I have noticed a verse that says in Amos 8:11 there can be a famine of the word of God. So I suppose there can also be a famine. We can become dry. Spring up oh well with in my soul.
 Amos 8:11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
   “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
   but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. 


Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
Cause us to become so connected to you that the river that flows from your thrown flows through us. Cause us to become wells that keep not only our own sprit watered but gives us enough to share with the parche and thirsty. Help us to disciple others to go directly to you as their source. 
Lord if there are leaks in our cup, in our pitcher or our well, I pray that you would repair and heal those broken places in our lives. Show us those places where we have started to give up on the things you have spoken to us.  Refresh and restore us even if it is many years like it was for Joseph be near us and help us to trust you. Become our source and cause us to become wells that reach deep into your underground river.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decorating - Prepare The Way for the Lord

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Through the tender mercy of our God; 
whereby the dayspring 
from on high hath visited us,  
To give light to them that sit in darkness 
and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the way of peace.   
 Luke 1:78-79




This morning I was doing a little decorating of this devotional blog site. I was also trying to fix some problems in the previous post. As a result those of you who get this sent to your e-mail may have recieved a couple of copies of the same post. My appoligies.

I was thinking about how busy we get during the holidays. Given there are only so many hours in a day, in order to make room for new things we must cut back on others. The other option is to run our selves ragged. I'd like to try not to do that this year. So I've been thinking about what is important to me. This season is supposedly to celebrate the birth of Christ. How do we glorify him by becoming so crazy busy that we have little or no time for Him seems odd to me.
How can you and I make Jesus the center, the focus, the reason for how we spend the next few weeks?

I can put up all the holiday decorations around my house and forget to decorate my heart for His coming. We leave Thanksgiving behind and all its reminders to be thankful and follow it with the next 24 days before Christmas day. How will we spend those days, what will we spend them on.

In church we celebrate the Sunday's of Advent. We light a candle each week and someone reads something, a prayer is prayed. Prepare our hearts for your coming. Advent for believers, is a reminder both of the original waiting of the Hebrew people for the birth of Messiah and for the waiting for Christ's return.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:    “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ The writer talking about John the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40:3

What was the message of John The Baptist. I think it gives us some insight in how we are to prepare our hearts for His coming.

First - Repent - To repent means to turn around to change your mind. To realize a choice or choices that you have made have not been in keeping with Gods will and desires for your life. Repenting is not like Back To The Future. This is not an exercise in time travel. We can't go back and un-do what has been done. The choices we make have consequences, they will effect us and they will effect others. Something profound happens however when we repent. Where we have shut God out by choosing to do life on our own terms, repenting invites Him back into the story.  When He is allowed to be part of our life He comes and begins to work for our good, his plans and purposes.

So the question is where have you shut God out? Where have you said "I've got this, I can handle this with out you Lord?" You may think it too trivial to bother the Lord with, or you may have become prideful. Either way you have shut God out of your life in that place. Its not always bad things that are sins. You can avoid all the popular vices only to become a workaholic and neglect the people in your life that God has called you to love. Work it self is a good thing, but it can become an idol of self-sufficiency. 

Why are we told to Repent? Because the Kingdom of heaven is near.
I have been profoundly challenged the lyrics of Rich Mullins song, Live Right. In it he says...

Live like you'll die tomorrow
Die knowing you'll live forever live right
Love like you'll leave tomorrow
Believing love lasts forever live right 

When we become believers we become part of an invisible Kingdom. In that Kingdom things don't work the same as they do in what we call the "real world."  Jesus spent a lot of time trying to help us understand what the Kingdom is like and how we are to function as citizens of His Kingdom. 
In the parables He tells, he is masterfully communicating the culture and defining for us how things work in His Kingdom.

John also tells us to "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." So in a mythic sense I think of how the people would prepare for the arrival of a great king or a dignitary. They clean things up, they decorate, they put out the best they have to offer, the most important thing happening is the King and his coming. We want him to be pleased, we want him to say "Well done". 

What would it look like if you took some time to repent, to do a little heart cleaning, to make the Kingdom and its King your priority during the next few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself [say no to SELF], 
 and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23

What are some of the selfish or self centered things that you might lay down to make more time to spend with Jesus and some ways you could be his ambassador to others around you. Small things done with great love change the world. You may think what you are doing or could do to be insignificant. We all have a mental image of a rock being thrown in a still pond.  None of us know how far the ripples will go and what ripples they will cause in the lives of others. The same is true of the small acts of kindness and the little blessings we bring into the lives of others. How far might a simple smile or a kind word go?

When Jesus arrived on the he came preaching the good news of God. God's kingdom is here, you can be part of it. Repent and believe the good news.  Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has drawn near; repent, and believe the good news."

Stop trying to make it through this life on your own. Admit you need help. Turn to Jesus and invite Him into those places where you have shut Him out.

I challenge you to resist the hustle and bustle, the obligations, the over spending, the stress. Take time now to invite Jesus to join you in all that you do during this holiday season.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
I invite you into the holiday season. You know those things you are calling me to be part of. You know the people who's lives you want me to touch. Help me to be your hands and feet of love, compassion, kindness and mercy to the lives of those around me.  Let me not be like the inn keeper who had no room for you in his inn. Help me to not relegate you to the barn or the garage or the fringes of my life during this season. Please come and be the center, the focus. I set my heart upon you - may your Kingdom come in my life this Christmas.

Vulnerable

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


 
 
"He will be the sure foundation

for your times,

a rich store of salvation

and wisdom and knowledge;
 
the fear of the Lord is the key

to this treasure."
 
—Isaiah 33:6




It has been a on going journey for me to become more open and honest and to allow myself to be vulnerable. I can't say I have totally arrived but I can say that I am more open and vulnerable than I have been in the past. It is easy when we have been hurt to put a brick wall around our heart.

I love this portion of the Velveteen Rabbit  I've added a link to a digital version of the story.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day,

when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender,

before Nana came to tidy the room.

"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you.

When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you,

then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.

"When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time.

That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges,

or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real,

most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose

in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real

you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it,

for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago;

but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."


One of my guitar students is working on the song called I Am A Rock by Simon and Garfunkel. He is not from a Christian family and we had the opportunity to discuss the song. I asked him "What is one word you could use to describe the person in this song". "Lonely" he finally replied. We went on to discuss how unforgiveness and bitterness were what held this man in this lonely place. We talked about how this was not a good way to choose to live.  



"I've built walls, A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island." ~ Paul Simon


Sadly many people choose to respond to hurt by building a fortress around their heart. I know I have lived behind my own walls too long. It is easy for me to trust God. He has always been there for me. He has never left or forsaken or betrayed me. People on the other hand are hard for me to trust. I admit that I trust people at varied levels. I have decided somewhere along the way it is better to risk the possibility of pain, disappointment and grief at the hands of people than to miss out on love, friendship, joy...

Even in the best of relationships people grow old and die and we suffer the loss of that person.

We have to press through those fears of being hurt to experience the joy of knowing, loving, and caring.


Many people look at God as the one to distrust. It is God in their mind who has let them down. It is God who has denied them the things they have wanted. If God is all powerful - why doen't he do something to change my circumstance. They forget that we live in a fallen world. Things and people in this world are messed up and broken. Because of their hurt and brokenness they often pass that hurt along to others. People do wrong and destructive things to others, even to people they are supposed to love. Even Christians make poor choices and don't live up to God's kingdom way of living. God is working. In the fullness of time He sent Jesus. 


 1 Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked,

“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.

 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change

and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child

is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes

one such child in my name welcomes me.



Children are trusting and vulnerable. They say what's on their mind, they are not worried about what others think, they have a sense of wonder and playfulness, children are adaptable. curious, imaginative, spontaneous, they view life as an adventure. They are like sponges they learn and they develop and they try new things. We are to trust God as a little child trusts a loving parent. They are humble and innocent. Sometimes they are fearful, and they can be self absorbed and selfish.


I like this story by William Hendrikson I think it gives a glimpse into the mind of a child.
A merchant had a pile of gold coins outside his windowsill with a sign, “Take One.”
All day long people passed by thinking, “this guy can’t fool me.” Evening fell and the owner was about to remove the pile. But just before he did, a child came by, read the sign and calmly and without the least hesitancy, took one.”


Children are trusting, they take things at face value. I have a friend who has a small child and she is sometimes frustrated when her little child seems to be testing and trying all the rules. I had to explain to her that when little children do that it is because they sense that some boundary has changed. We need to know where the boundaries lie to feel safe and secure. If one boundary line moved a child will try all the others to know where the lines have been drawn. It is not usually that I child wants to go beyond the boundaries but needs to know where they are now lie in order to feel safe. I know for myself I need to know where my boundaries are in order to be creative. There are times when then the borders must expand because I have grown.  Just because God knows a child will grow to be an adult does not mean that God makes us wear adult size clothes. God gives us boundaries that fit us presently. Much like I take my children shopping for new clothes and shoes several times during the year because they have grown. The old clothes no longer fit.  We come to God with a childlike trust, a hunger to learn, a sense of wonder, a sense of adventure and playfulness. God takes us where we are and fits the boundaries for us. He does not give us a one size fits all robe of righteousness. He taylor fits it to our particular stage of development, to our individual gifts and callings.


Perhaps it is time for a change of clothing. Yours may have gotten worn and may no longer fit. Allow God to replace the old rags with something that is the right size for you now.

I found this quote that I like.


"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would

no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability...

To be alive is to be vulnerable." ~ Madeleine L'Engle


Vulnerability is like faith it must stretch and grow. There have been times that I have wished that I was not always having to walk by faith. I thought that at some point I would reach a level of faith that I would no longer need faith. Only to reach that thing I had walked by faith to reach and discover there is always a new journey of faith.  I have come to see that with out faith you can't please God. It is part of the way of life for the believer.  Life in the Kingdom requires faith, it also requires a child like trust and vulnerability. In the life of a believer these things are always stretching and growing.

I must learn to trust more, to be more open, to be more honest, to be more forgiving... these things are always expanding but God generally moves the boundaries a little bit at a time.


Sometimes he lets us project ahead to see a dream or a vision of a life or a ministry or a calling. It always seems too big. It generally looks impossible otherwise it would not require faith. He may even allow us to play dress up in clothes that are way to big for us. Like a little child I realize someday they will fit me in the mean time the Lord allows me to play in the palm of His hand, loved as the apple of His eye, safe with in the boundaries that He has laid for me in pleasant place.  I am thankful everyday for His care. That I can run to Him when I am hurting, that washes me when I fall in the mud and muck of sin, that He binds and heals my wounds. That He loves and accepts me today - just as I am.


Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Help us to take down the brick walls around our hearts. Help us learn to trust you like a little child. Renew in us a sense of wonder, and playfulness.Help us to restore those childlike qualities that are pleasing to you. Help us to trust and to be willing to take the risk of being vulnerable again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Finding and Fixing The Leaks

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

John 7:37-38

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast,
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,
“If anyone is thirsty, 
let him come to me and drink.  
38 Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said, 
streams of living water will flow 
from within him.”








Not quite a week ago I prayed for a woman and I felt the power of God go out of me. I suppose much like what Jesus experienced when the women touched the hem of his garment and was healed. He said who touched me. He was in a crowd of people, I'm sure he was being jostled and bumped by many people. But it was a woman who touched the hem of His robe with faith to believe she would receive something. In that instant Jesus felt the power flow out of Him.
In that instant as I prayed for that woman, I felt the power of God flow out of me. That woman came to me for prayer believing that she would receive something. Not from me but from God through me.  I after praying with her felt empty and light headed and needed to call out to God to refill me. I have felt drained and tired since that time. So I have rested as much as possible and tried to press into God to be filled yet I have continued to feel drained.

Yesterday I was reading Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest and God helped me to connect the dots. In the November 24th passage called Direction of Aspiration. He says "Only when God brings you to a sudden halt, will you realize how you have been losing out. Whenever there is a leakage, remedy it immediately. Recognize that something has been coming between you and God and get it readjusted at once"

I realized upon reading that that I had a leak of faith in my life. I could not see it when I was full but having been emptied I was able to realize the leak. So today I have been tracing the leak back to its source. There has been something that the Lord told me to hold on to, that I have based upon circumstances, been telling myself that I need to let go of.  As a result of letting go a leak has been growing. It started out small but it has gotten bigger. I've had to go back to the Lord and repent for letting go of something He told me to hold on to. I am thankful that the Lord was gracious to expose the leak for me by allowing me to be emptied by the faith of a person I prayed for recently.
What my leak was, is much like the secret things that Mary treasured up in her heart. Thing that the God had shown her that made little or no sense at the time. Yet she held on to them and waited, and trusted that in time they would make sense. Even now they make very little sense in the light of present circumstances but the Lord tells me that my letting go of what He has told me to hold on to is the cause of the leak. So I take those promises and I hold them. I ask the Lord to forgive me for my doubt and unbelief and I ask Him to seal the leak and fill me back up.

I wonder if you may also have developed a leak in your faith. That perhaps you have let go of something that the Lord has shown you and told you to hold on to. My pastor has a series of drawings that he did of the condition of his heart. In the first there is a whole side blown out of the heart and water pours through it. He said he wondered why his heart could feel nothing. It could not contain the love of God because it leaked out as fast as it came in. He cried out to the Lord to fix it and the Lord took that broken heart and submerged it in His living water. The heart was still broken but submerging it in Gods presence kept the heart full while God worked on healing what was broken.
Perhaps your heart is like that unable to hold the love of God.  Its time to acknowledge that you have a leak that needs to be repaired. Oswald Chambers writes. "Spiritual leakage begins when we cease to lift up our eyes unto Him. The leakage comes not so much through trouble on the out side as in the imagination, when we begin to say - I expect I have been stretching myself a bit too much, standing on tiptoe and trying to look like God instead of being an ordinary humble person. We have to realize that no effort can be too high."

I don't know about you but some of the things that God has shown me and has called me to, at times seem way too lofty for one as broken as myself. Yet he calls me to hold on to those things that He has called me to walk in and to not let go of someday even though it seems far off in the distance at present.  Letting go of the things He has shown me causes many other things of faith to begin spring leaks. If I let go of one thing that He has shown me and told me to hold on then other things begin to leak and my faith begins to un-ravel in other areas. Quite often the things He shows us and asks us to hold on to seem far fetched and down right impossible. That is why it requires faith. Faith pleases God. I don't presume to know how God will work these things out, I only know that my part of faith and obedience is at this time to hold on and to believe that God is working and is able. I see now that moving from that place of holding on, short of being told by the Lord to let go only causes leaks of faith to spring up all over the place in my life. I know that a big part of my purpose in the kingdom is to carry living water to the thirsty,  to be a well of His presence. I can't do that if I am leaking faster than I am able to be filled. So I must allow the Lord to repair the leaks. I must repent of my disobedience, my doubt and my unbelief of trying to shake free of something that He has given me to hold on to.

I don't know who you are who will read this post. I suspect if you are reading it that there are probably some leaks in your faith life that you need to allow the Lord to plug. There are things He has shown you and dreams He has allowed to remain that await His timing.  He as not called you to let them go no matter how impossible they may seem in this moment.  Repent of your doubt and unbelief and for your lack of obedience to His call. Today He wants to plug and seal those leaks and fill you up to overflowing. Today He calls you to journey farther with Him to have faith and to trust Him more than you have to this point. There is a calling on your life and by faith you need to move towards becoming the person he has called you to be so that at some point in the future you will be prepared to walk in the things that now are only little visions of hope that He has called you to hang on to.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help us find the leaks of faith in our lives presently. Help us to repent of those places where doubt, unbelief, double mindedness have snuck in. Help us to see those subtle shifts of belief that have caused us to think we should let go of things that you have called us to hold on to. Help us repair the leaks and then fill us up Lord to overflowing so that we may walk in your plans, purposes and calling at this present time and in the future. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
   
1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the LORD, 
for he is good; 
his love endures forever.




Happy Thanksgiving for those of you who are reading this post on Thursday!
I'm a little late posting it - what can I say I've been trying to maintain a stress free kitchen. I've only had to kick my husband out once for going off on the dogs.  Its no wonder we do this meal only once a year. Its amazing how much prep work is involved in the traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Potatioes to peal, turkey to stuff, cranberries to cook, green bean cassarole to mix together. I think I've been in the kitchen since about 9am and its now noon and I am finally back to my computer to try and get this post written. Everything is prepped at this point and just needs to go in at the propper intervals to get cooked on time. In general I have tried to keep things pretty low key. Family memebers have all helped in various ways through out the moring to the back drop of the Macy's parade.

Our day will include playing some of our favorite games. I think we watched more movies than humanly possible yesterday but I was glad for old familar favorites that I could sleep through part of the movie and still know what was going on. I just needed to veg a bit yesterday.  I'm still a bit tired and I know I have been pushing myself to much in the past few months and will need to find some ways to find a more reasonable pace. Some things are done, I finished my coaching training, I will keep writing daily posts but I'm not too worried about actually hitting the 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. It will be interesting to see how many words I did manage. The Public Market,  I had thought I would try to be there every week through the holidays and I think I will scale that back to just one week in December and be there the 15th - 17th. Most of my actual mosaics are listed on my Artfire site for those who want mosaic gifts. I may do some specials that I post on my face book page.  So I am thankful that there are things that I can adjust up or down. I tend to be kind of scattered in my approach to life. It works for me. I have a circle of things that I rotate through. Writing used to be one of those things. This devotional has moved writing to being a everyday thing in my life. Working on mosaics has become a nearly everyday kind of thing. Music is kind of in the background presently, other than keeping up with piano at a kind of minimal level.  Homeschooling is in more of a matinence mode, the kids are pretty much set up to move through thier work on thier own most of the time. Other things move up or down depending on my energy and inspiration level.

I am thankful for the concept of pacing I learned as a cross country runner while in highschool. Learning to pace yourself has a lot to do with actually making it to the end of the race.  There are times that you have to slow things down a bit and other times when you need to run hard. I've been running pretty hard and I need to slow that pace down for a bit. Even when I slow things down I don't ever loose site of the goals that I am reaching for. Its important to keep moving in the right direction and not get off track chasing rabbit trails that lead to nothing. So I am thankful for lessons learned along the way that I am able to put to use as I continue forward.

It was suggested to me that I did not necessarily need to write long posts every day to accomplish the goal of writing daily for this devotional. Funny the things that can get past me.

I liked this quote by Harvard Professor and author, Shawn Achor

“Countless studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and less likely to be depressed, anxious or lonely. 

And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier, either; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes.  When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience few headaches than control groups." 


So I will encourage you to Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
Take some time to write down a few things each day that you are thankful for this past week or this past year. It really does help you look at other things with a more optimistic outlook.

So I am going to take that advise today, that it is ok to write a shorter post and call this one good.
I wish all of my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy your families or the friends you are spending this day with. I'm off to go enjoy mine. Thanks for reading!!!

Prayer:
Dear Lord, Today and everyday help us to cultivate a heart that is thankful. That we would thank you no only for the obvious blessings in our life but for the hard things that we face and the character that those difficulties are developing in us.


 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

As We Enter Into The Holidays

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
 
What would you LOVE to EXPERIENCE over the Holidays?
Colossians 2: 6-8
 
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.




Well the Holiday season has arrived. You may already be up to your eyeballs in preparing pies and turkey or at least the shopping for all those foods that make up your families traditions. If thats not your job perhaps you are having to deal with that dear over stressed loved who is doing all of that prep work. Maybe you are packing and traveling to visit family or friends. Whatever the case the Holidays is a bit of a change in normal day to day life. Personally I am hoping to rest and re-charge as I am feeling tired all the time lately. I may need to re-evaluate some of the things I've taken on and work towards a slightly slower pace to find the balance between accomplishing various goals and being exhausted. 

So here's the big question:  
What would you LOVE to EXPERIENCE over the holidays?
This is a question posed by my coaching instructor Mitch Matthews.
His instructions were to take a few minutes and jot down a list, or if you like to journal if you enjoy writing. Either way take a few minutes to think about what you would like your holiday season to be like. What do you want to do? Who do you want to spend time with? What traditions are important? What would you LOVE to EXPERIENCE over the holiday?

Here's why... it is so easy to be swept up in the expectations of others, the traditions, the parties, and all the things that get added to our lives, that all you experience is stress. Then there is the over spending and over scheduling...we can get so grumpy as a result that we miss the blessings that God has for us.

How can we decide not to miss out on the joy, the peace, the beauty, the laughter...and to not get  sucked into the Holiday Rat Race.  One way is to take the time to answer the question, and write it down and keep it before you so your focus is on what you want. your holiday season to hold. As a result you will make choices to move in the direction of what you want. You can begin to sort out what is important and shift your focus to accomplishing those things this Holiday season.

So stress is not something I want to put on my list.
On my list are things like rest and recharge. Which means I will have to say no to some things and work to protect some time to be able to rest and recharge.
Also on my list is to enjoy some focused time with my family. I think I will have them all answer this question and try to do some of the holiday things that are important to each of us.
Also on my list, to enjoy some beautiful music. I was given tickets to the symphony a year ago during the holidays. It is now a special memory. I will be looking for some way to add a special musical experience to the holidays. We have a piano carol recital in two weeks - boy do I need to practice.

I want to celebrate the birth of Christ in some meaningful way. I've chosen the advent readings for our services and I will enjoy the singing of carols and being with my church family.

I want to do some special things just with my husband. (Nothing big dinner and the movies would be fine)

I've wanted to do that sleigh ride down town - but never made time to do it.
We've talked about going sledding on Mt. Spokane. I need to decide to make these kind of things happen.

I'll probably add to my list - but I did give this question a few minutes of thoughts. My holidays don't have to be stress filled. Your's don't have to be either.

What might happen if we were able to shift our focus from all the obligations to creating a holiday season filled with the things we would Love to EXPERIENCE.

Keep your list somewhere that you will see it. Like your car visior or the bathroom mirror or in my case my desk.

What if we took it a bit further and asked the same question of some of the important people in our lives. Could we put a positive spin on the Holidays. What if you compared lists with the people you spend the holidays with.  - It just might shake things up a bit.
Mitch writes
"You might find out some gatherings might get smaller and more intimate.
Other activities might get bigger and louder
You might find yourself spending less on gifts and agreeing to spend more time together instead.
You might go out less and spend more time around your own kitchen table.
You might agree to venture out to see people who you haven't see forever"

Who knows.... I dare you to take even five minutes to consider what you would really LOVE to EXPERIENCE this Holiday. You could make a list of 100 things I love to do during the Holidays and try to do more of those things you love doing.

In our verse we are reminded to not get sucked into the rat race of this world and is traditions. We do that by remembering to live like verse 7 suggests.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, (Just because this time of year is busy don't let it cause your quiet time with the Lord to erode)
7 rooted and built up in him, (what will you do to be rooted and built up in him?)
strengthened in the faith as you were taught, (how will you strengthen your faith?)
and overflowing with thankfulness. (Thankfulness is the focus of this current Holiday but it is also a powerful thing that unlocks faith and trust in God. It is something that as a believer, should be part of every day of our life. Its funny that we have a day to remember to be thankful.) 

Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
We come to you with thankful hearts as we remember all the things you have done for us. Help us to focus on you in this holiday season and to focus on the things we would like to have be part of our holiday experience this year. Help us to not be swept away by the holiday rat race and to be purposeful about the things you have put on our hearts to expereince this year. 
Go before us as we enter this season and help us to want the things that you want for us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

100th Post Note

If you are reading by e-mail I notice that the links don't always come through right.
In today's post there are two special 100 lists activity sheets that are there but not showing the graphic.
You will need to click the blue link that says open publication.
I will re-post them in this post for you.  If you would like these activities as a word or text file e-mail me at princessmargot@hotmail.com

100 Things I'm Thankful For Activity http://issuu.com/margot/docs/100_things_i_m_thankful_for_pdf?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222


100 Things I Love To Do Activity  http://issuu.com/margot/docs/100_things_i_love_to_do_pdf?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222

100th Devotional Post

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving thanks.
 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.




I started thinking about things I could do to celebrate my 100th Devotional Blog Post. So I started to make a list of possible things I could do - clearly I can't do it all.  I'm writing this on Monday to post on Tuesday. I am really tired from being at the Spokane Public Market with my mosaics Thursday - Saturday and then being at church all day for the service and then cooking pork loin chops for the homeless and poor folks in our neighborhood. It was pretty late in the afternoon before I started to feel human again. So I was thinking of lofty and grand ideas for things I could do for this post.

So I started a 100 list. You can do Hundred lists for any number of things. They are quite helpful the first 20 things are generally pretty obvious as you have to keep going you have to think harder and reach deeper. You uncover things you might not have realized where there to be discovered. 
So I made my list, you will see it below. Some of these things are ideas that I might want to work on to have ready for my 200th post. I realize that this is a milestone post for me I am roughly 1/4 of the way to my bigger goal of having written a year long daily devotional. It feels to me like something that I should celebrate in some way. I have grown to be able to write on days when I feel tired or un-inspired. The dailyness of writing has been very good for me.

100 Things I could do For My 100th Devotional Post

1. Write about the things I've learned during the 100 days.
2. Celebrate and give something away.
3. Create some downloadable content
4. Re-package the previous posts into 10 books of 10
5. Write about the value of 100 lists.
6. Look at Psalm 100
7. My 100 favorite verses
9. Printable Gift Tags
10. Printable Book Marks
11. Encouragement cards
12  Create Printable Top 5 lists
13 Create some mini e-books
14. Shopping List
15 Journal pages
16. Do a VLOG post rather than a typical blog
17. Photos with verses.
18. Printable journal pages.
19. Printable Calendar Pages.
20. 100 things I love about Jesus
21. 100 things I love about the Holy Spirit
22. 100 things I love about my Bible
23. 100 Small acts of kindness.
24. 100 things to journal about
25.  100 things I would like to accomplish
26. 100 ways to bless others.
27.  100 Things Activity  Pages
28. Crate a Beloved Project re-cap e-book or pp presentation.
28. 100 things I'd like to write about
29. My 100 favorite Quotes
30 100 Scripture Book Marks
31. 100 Ways to be more creative.
32. 100 Photos
33. 100 Songs I'd like to Share
34. 100 Tips for a Happier Holiday Season
35. 100 Ways to Help My Readers
36. 100 Practical Ways to Pray
37. 100 Practical Ways to Spend more time in the Word
38. 100 Ways to Relax
39. 100 Ways to Share The Love of Jesus
40. 100 Ways to Abide in Jesus
41. 100 Ways to better connect with my readers.
42. 100 Dinner Table Discussion Ideas
43.

Well thats how far I got before I decided I better pick something and try and get it done.
So I do have two things to celeberate the 100th Devotional Blog Post.
At the top you will see 100 Things I Love To Do and below you will see 100 Things I'm Thankful For.
I hope you will enjoy working on them.







Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Thank you for 100 days of this devotional, I pray for my readers that you would touch them deeply through it. That you would draw them to hunger and thirst for your presence. That you would be their peace in the midst of the storms they face. Help them to remember to celebrate the milestone in their own journeys.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reconciliation

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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 Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering 
your gift at the altar 
and there remember that your 
brother has something against you,  
24 leave your gift there 
in front of the altar. 
First go and be reconciled 
to your brother; 
then come and offer your gift.

 

Yesterday's message at church titled Anger and Conflict gave some steps for the process of reconciliation. You can hear that sermon and many others by Pastor Rob Bryceson on our web site. http://www.fccspokane.org/category/sermons/
I wanted to share some of the part about the steps for reconciliation along to you with the link to hear the sermon for yourself. 

One part that stood out to me was to realize that total reconciliation is not always possible. Even if two people are able to work through forgiveness, and repentance for the wrongs done to one another it may not be possible to go any further in the process of reconciliation.  Reconciliation requires that both parties to want to do the work to have it. Even so it may not be desirable, or reasonable or possible to have full restoration of a relationship that has been broken even though forgiveness and repentance have taken place. To much time and life may have taken place and the circumstances of both may have changed. It is good that the repentance and forgiveness has happened but it is a mark of maturity to care enough about each other to know that further restoration would cause others in the lives of each side hurt and damage.  Here are some of my notes on the steps to reconciliation.


1. Repentance: Without the level of repentance from the wrong doer who is willing to take responsibility and admit the hurt that has been caused to the other party as a result of the wrong that was done reconciliation is not possible. (It may not be possible to actually repent to the person you have wronged. In some cases the person is dead or you don't even know how to contact them. Repent to God or tell your story to a friend and share your heart of repentance with them.) It may not be possible to go back to the person you wronged but you can put the memories away clean before God. 
You do not need to remain tormented by guilt and shame. You can work through repentance and forgiveness and stand clean before God. If it is possible you should go to the person you have wronged and do what you can to admit and see the brokenness you have caused. Rob in his sermon talked about making restitution. If I smashed up your car and just tell you I'm sorry its not good enough. I need to be willing to pay to repair or replace what I have broken. How that works in the case of broken hearts, or lost childhoods I can't say for sure. You have to pray and be led by the Holy Spirit.  There is something important about going beyond a genuine repentant" I'm sorry" in seeing how your actions have affected the other party and doing something to make restitution. You may need to pray about what you can do that would help or bless the other party. It may be that all you can do is pray for them. Prayer is a tremendous gift. I think that the "I'm sorry" alone may not be enough to release one from the feelings of guilt or shame but one must be somehow responsible to help heal or repair what has been damaged. 

2. Forgiveness: I release you and offer genuine forgiveness. I no longer hold this thing against you. 
It may not be possible to go back to the actual parties involved. Sometimes you just have to go before God or share your story with a neutral party. That neutral person may be able to say that you were truly wronged but they may also see some things that you may have done that you need to repent of. Sometimes we are so focused on the wrong done to us that we can't see the part we played and the hurt or damage we may have also caused. When possible go back and make things right with the people who were involved. Forgiving and repenting and getting yourself to a place where you can stand before God having done what you could. It is important to put the memories away clean. It does not mean you will forget but they won't come up with the rage, the anger, the pain. It is no longer a rotting untended wound but one that has been healed though the scars remain.  Pray very specifically about the hurt you feel. Sometimes we don't know why we hurt and we need to dig beyond the surface to the root of the real pain. We can do a lot of things to mask the real pain. Sometimes there are many layers of stuff that we must deal with before we get to the real pain. Do something to bless the person who you are forgiving as a sign of your forgiveness. I think much like in the part of repentance - must also have some act of restitution. So in forgiveness one must do something to show that forgiveness in a tangible way.  Pray and seek God about what you can do to bless the people God lays on your heart to forgive.

3. Restitution. - Something mut be done to fix what has been broken. You've been robbed or have robbed someone of something. There are somethings that only God can give back. It is important to know that how you feel may not have changed. Your desire to do what is right before God is what is important. I have to be willing to forgive even when I may not feel it. It may take praying every day for that other person or giving it to God everyday for a long while before the feelings pain, hurt and sorrow begins to lessen. Sometimes there is a grieving process that one must go through. It takes time - its ok. I know for myself there have been things that I have lost that I wanted very badly, things I know won't ever happen. I have had to specifically grieve those lost hopes and dreams, I've had to forgive and repent and accept not only the condition of my heart but the directions my life has taken. It is a journey and some restoration that may not be possible today may in time become possible. For my own part I need to have done what I can do to make things right. In the Old Testament when one had sinned they would offer a sheep or an ox to atone the sin. When Jesus came along He kind of raised the bar a bit with today's verse.  The blood of dead animal is not enough. We need to do what we can to make things right.

4. Reconciliation: There are people who want to just start fresh but don't want to do the work of getting to reconciliation. There are others who are willing to do the work of repenting and forgiving only to find to much has happened, life has gone on to far in other directions to fully reconcile the relationship. While reconciliation may be desired, it may not be possible. Sometimes one dream is traded for another and there is no going back to the relationship that has been lost. Even if one is able to pick up and walk in full reconciliation with someone there is a span of time that can never be regained and things that happened during that time that will have changed both parties. It may be possible to go forward as a result a reconciliation but it needs to becomes a new relationship not an old patched up one. There is a cute movie called 17 Again where the guy gets a "do over". He gets to be 17 again but not in the past but in the present.  We may as a result of working through forgiveness and repentance and restitution be able to have a type of "do over" but we can't go back in time. There are healed scars that will remain on ones heart and life that may fade some with time but they are reminders or memorials of what was lost or broken.  Many of those things have caused us to become who we are today. They in a sense shape and define us.

I guess what I hope to convey is that it is really important to work through your part of forgiveness and repentance. We must as Christians follow Jesus by forgiving those who have wronged us. We must be responsible and repent for the wrongs we ourselves have done to others. I think the part of taking things a step further and doing something to bless the other party that is an act of our repentance or a sign of our forgiveness is something that I will be praying about this week. We were asked at the end of the service to pray and allow God to bring up a name. I realized that the names that came to mind for me were all ones that the forgiveness and repentance part has happened.  In one case directly with that person, in the others before God I have forgiven and repented of my part. I guess I want to encourage you that it is a process. I can think I've gotten through it all and some thing will surface and I find that I must walk through the process of repenting and forgiving once again. I say both forgiveness and repentance, because in most situations even those that we have been wronged by another, there are things if we are honest that we could have done better. You may no be able to go  directly go through the process to repent or forgive but before God we must be responsible to own our part.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help us to work through the process of repenting for those things we have done that have hurt or harmed others. Help us to forgive those people who have hurt or harmed us.  Lead us in both cases to find the next step of restitution and or the sign of forgiveness by some act of blessing on our part. Where it is possible bring restoration where it is not bring acceptance and peace.

 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cast Your Nets One more Time

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Luke 5:4-6 (NIV1984)

 4 When he had finished speaking, 
he said to Simon,  
“Put out into deep water, 
and let down the nets for a catch.”
 5 Simon answered, “Master, 
we’ve worked hard all night 
and haven’t caught anything. 
But because you say so, 
I will let down the nets.” 6 
When they had done so, 
they caught such a 
large number of fish 
that their nets began to break.

I am at the Spokane Public market with my mosaics today. It has been kind of quiet so far. I've made some new gift tags and listened to files for my other job part of the time. I had someone who saw my facebook post about the Market who messaged me and let me know they wanted some specific items.

I have a meeting with the church tec team in a little bit. We need to talk through some of the things we can imporve. Its part of moving from survival mode to moving forward mode. I am thankful that we have survived. I know it stretched all of us and there were weeks that looking at the circumstances was enough to make one want to roll up in a little ball of dispondency in the corner. This is not however, the posture of faith.

During that time I was reminded of a sceane from the movie Facing Giants. Its been a while since I've seen the move but to my best recollection. The Janitor tell the coach a story about two farmers who were both praying for rain. I found the clip one movie clip is worth a thousand words. Praying for Rain. There is another similar clip that jumped out at me at the same time from the latest Robin Hood with Russel Crowe. In it the seed for planting has been stollen and Marion tells her people to prepare the fields because God will provide. Wish I could find that clip for you. What I hope to convey here is that circumstances and lack of provision and how you feel about yourself and your life really are just the stage upon which faith in God is played out. Will you look at your circumstances and give up? Will you take how you feel and go down in dispair? Will you look at the lack and say God is not able or willing to help me?  I read this quote by Meister Eckhart today and I think it is a good rule of thumb. "Do exactly what you would do if you felt more secure." We often waver between faith and unbelief and we wonder what we should do. Turn back, sit here stuck, or press on ward. If you knew the end of the story - what would you do?

I love the story of Joseph in the Old Testiment. What I love about the story is that for years nothing works they way he envisioned it. He even had these amaizing dreams from God about his brothers bowing down before him. He's sold by his brothers, wrongly accused by his masters wife, he's in prison and interperts the dreams of a baker and a cup bearer and is forgotten. All the circumstances and signs point to Joseph, dude you are a looser and God has forgotten you. That is the message the enemy trys to tell all of us all the time. If the enemy does not use that one he will use the one about you never being up to or adiquate for the task - give up now before you make a bigger mess of things.
I am here to remind you that Jesus keeps his promises. Jesus hears and answers prayers, Jesus knows the plans he has for you and they are to give you a hope and a future. 

The challenge to us as leaders of a seemingly dying church was to keep preparing our fields for rain. Sure we had to make some decisions on a more practicle level in the event that God did not send a last moment resuce - we could not just run it into the ground and walk away. We needed to be sure there was money to pay a short severece of our pastor. There were things we needed to be honorable and responsible to do in a right way. I was often reminded of the story in 2 Chronicles 20 of Israel surrounded by enemies - a future that appeared to be one of death or slavery at the hands of thier enemies unless God did a mircle. We serve a God of miricles, of last minute saves. I belive he is honored by our desire to walk before him in a right way. When we keep doing the things that are before us that we can do while we wait for Him to "send the rain" of the desperate need that we have prayed for. Every good story has a bit of tension, a period of time where things look impossible or hopeless but then something changes and the story moves forward in some un-expected way.
Our God is an authors, Author. He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Artist Creator of all artist creators. The question is do I believe that he is working in and through my ciricumstances for my best interest? I do. Do I believe that if I am off track in some way that he will keep working with me till I get it figured out? I do.  Do I believe that God will provide even when His answer seems to be delayed? I do.

How will you spend that uncertian time between realizing a need, praying for it and ultimatly recieving it? Will you spend it wining, compaining, worring, doubting, trying to maipulate the outcome?
None of us walks perfectly and I fall prey to those things but my heart is for God's will not my way. I have made a pracitice of when I feel overwhelmed, frightened, worried, doubting that I turn to Jesus. I find verses to stand upon, I recall time that God has delivered me in the past. I push past the fear and do the things that I am able to do and make up my mind that I will trust, hope and believe that God is working and the answer that I need will come when God is ready to send it. In the mean time I do what He has given me to do.

There are often times that I find myself feeling discouraged and feeling in adequate. I look at the things that God has shown me and I wonder if it is just my particular form of crazy. I do see through the glass dimly and I don't always fully understand the little glimmers of things that the Lord has shown me. Things do get hard and sometimes I come very close to giving up. Sometimes God has to send others to encourage me and help me to drag my way to the finish line. Don't give up

If I knew how things would turn out, if I knew that God does come through and does provide, if I knew I would be adiquate for the task before me.... what would I do?  Would I turn back, stay stuck, or keep moving forward? I would keep moving forward. 

What will you do? How will you respond and prepare your field for rain, while you are waiting for God? Take some time to think about if God sent the rain today are your fields really ready. Get ready His rains will come. Will they come on a planted field that will produce a harvest or just make a big mud puddle because you did not trust God enough to do your part while you waited for him. Perhaps he is delaying his answer in mercy because you are not really ready for rain.

The disciples fished all night and caught nothing and Jesus came along and said throw your nets out one more time on the other side. They came home with a catch of fish that was beyond what they could have even anticipated. Where is Jesus saying to you to try one more time. Cast your nets again even if it seems crazy.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
You know the needs and desires that we have before you. You have heard our prayers, and you know our deeper needs and how you wired us. You know if we are ready for you to send the rain. We may think we are ready, when we still have much work to do to be ready to recieve the rain.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

God is in Control

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


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Isaiah 54:16-17:
“‘See, it is I who created the blacksmith 
who fans the coals into flame and forges 
a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who 
have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; 
no weapon forged against you will prevail, 
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. 
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, 
and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the LORD.”

I was reading an article about Five Bible Passages to Read When You Are Doubting God. Four of them are verses that I know well and have stood upon countless times. There was a fifth one that I was not familiar with and the is the verse we will use as today's verse.  I like it in the Contemporary English Version the best 16Don't forget that I created metal workers who make weapons over burning coals.
   I also created armies that can bring destruction.17Weapons made to attack you won't be successful;
   words spoken against you won't hurt at all.  My servants, Jerusalem is yours!
   I, the LORD, promise to bless you with victory. 

I guess what stands out to me is... that God is in control and He promises that Weapons and Words used to try and attack His people won't be successful. He promises us victory.  I need to remind myself of verses like these when I make an major error in the check book and now sit with my account over drawn. Ugggh ... so its not an attack of an enemy but my own carelessness. I'm not saying "The Devil made me do it" Its probably more the result of me trying to juggle too many things currently and my struggle to keep it all strait in my head. I suppose I could beat myself up over it - I realize that really won't help.  If I look at the next two months there are plenty of reasons to for me to panic. Money is tight already and hours for my husbands job will be even less because of the holidays. I could allow myself to be consumed with worry, fear, doubt and trust me I have had some moments of anxiety. It is at times like this that I am thankful that I have a believing husband who was quick pray with me and remind me that it will work out - it always does. 

Anyway I am at the Public Market Thursday, Friday and Saturday and perhaps that will be the vehicle through which God provides. Maybe He will put it on someone's heart who has been blessed by reading theses devotionals to use the donate button on the top left of the page. I don't know how God will meet this need but I know that He will, and so I am choosing not to worry and will continue to do the things that are before me to do.  Please don't think I am more gifted at trusting than you are,  God has allowed me to practice and exercise the muscle of trust a lot.  When I am in a situation that cause me to feel fear, worry or doubt I take those thoughts captive and I make a point to remember all the countless times God has come to my aid in the past. I will remember, and as I do faith, hope and trust will rise up and push the worry, doubt and fear out of the way.

There was a time when I used to wish that I did not have to live and walk by faith. It seems I am always having to stretch my faith for some thing. I went through a period where I wished I could be like others that did not have to look to God to meet there needs. Folks with great jobs and lots of insurance and seeming security. I look around at the great number of those seemly secure people who are finding themselves un-employed in this difficult economy. I think that were I to come from such a life and find myself suddenly having to trust God or not knowing God how fearful that place would be. I realized that I have had the privilege of seeing God work things out for me time and time again. I have learned to trust and know Him so much more deeply as a result.

So I am not writing this to allarm any of my friends or family. I generally don't say anything to anyone and just bring my need to the Lord and he provides in ways that I never even thought of. So why share with you, my readers? I know that each of you has your own struggles that you are facing and it helps to know that you are not alone and that others have gone through or are going through similar things. It is important to share with you some of my little tricks that I have learned.
I have learned that if I can do something for the poor - it blesses the Lord and reminds the enemy that he can't intemidate me. Give and it shall be given to you...pressed down, running over.... I try to remember that when things are tight is not the time to hord but to continue to give and help others.

Think of the story of Elisha theres a famine in the land and he is hanging out by this little brook and the ravens are feeding him. Ah what a life ... but then the brook dries us. Dang it - now what's a prophet to do. God sends him to a widow woman to ask for her help. She is busy making her last meal for she and her son. She's got nothing to give - right. She gives anyway. Its a great story.. you should read it for yourself. I should just leave you hanging so you will go and discover for yourself how this story end. I'll be nice and paste it here for you.

1 Kings 17:8-16 (NIV1984)

8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
 12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”
 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

I read in one comentary that her jug of oil and flour lasted her for two years til the famine ended.
What the heck - why would God not just send him to a nice bakery and give him some money. I think God uses stories like this that he does not need to turn to the fall backs we would tend to seek for aid. He can create bread to feed a multiude out of a kids sack lunch. 

We watched a great presentation by John Eldredge last night called the Outlawcast. It was excellent how transformed flat whimpy Sunday school  Jesus into a real person. I highly recommend it to you. There are 18 individual free video and audio files that you can download or stream. You might want to go through them together with your family or in your home group or on your own. They are rich and well done videos that I encourage you to experience.  There is even a free participants guide that you can download and use as you go through the 18 videos.  This is a writer and a ministry that have impacted and challenged and helped to change my life on more than one occasion. They many great resources at thier site. I don't get a kick back for refering you, I am simply sharing a resource that I hope you might find to be of benefit as you press in to know Jesus more and more.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
I pray that not only will you provide for our needs, that in it you will reveal to us more of your wonderful character. There is so much of you to know help us to see you, and to trust you more. Be with us in the situations and circumstances of our lives. Open our eyes and our hearts that we might see you more clearly and grow to love you more and more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ouch My Toe

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

1 Corinthians 12:14-16 (NIV1984)

 14 Now the body is not made up 
of one part but of many.  
15 If the foot should say, 
“Because I am not a hand, 
I do not belong to the body,
” it would not for that reason 
cease to be part of the body. 
16 And if the ear should say, 
“Because I am not an eye, 
I do not belong to the body,” 
it would not for that reason 
cease to be part of the body. 



I don't think about my toes very often. They do their job of supporting my body and allowing me to walk but I don't pay a lot of attention to them other then to trim my toe nails from time to time. They don't even cross my thoughts unless there is a problem. If they are cold, I notice and will do something to warm them up. So you must be wondering why, I am writing about my toes today?


My left foot middle toe was fine when I went to bed last night and when I got up this morning it feels as if I kicked a brick wall. Maybe I did kick the wall while I was sleeping. My husband will read this and laugh and be glad he was working and not in bed being kicked by me. I don't remember kicking anything but my point is that we can take things for granted when everything is working. When something hurts it becomes a part of your thoughts. You wonder what you did to hurt it, you wonder what can I do to fix it. In general you are aware of it until it stops hurting.

There are those who serve in the body of Christ that go largely un-noticed unless something goes wrong. Take for example the tec folks who run sound or lights or video for your church service.
You probably have no idea who's even back there serving unless your worship is interrupted by a bit of audio feed back, or glitch in the video, or those darn typos on a song slides. I spend a lot of time with the tec team and I am very thankful for all their hard work. Most people have no idea how much stress that team can be under to make the survice run smoothly. I would encourage you to remember to pray for those folks. I train the folks that serve in that capacity to strive to be un-noticed.  Oswald Chambers writes "It takes Almighty God Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty to the glory of God. It takes God's Spirit in us to make us so absolutely humanly His that we are utterly unnoticeable."

So I am thanking God for my toe. I am sorry that it hurts and I am trying to help it feel better.  I in yesterdays post that I had a particularly difficult Sunday. I was trying to get myself pulled back together before the servie and I was sitting in the prayer loft praying. There was a wonderful friend who must have noticed that I was not myself. He did not need to ask what my deal was but simply put his hand on my head and silently prayed for me. That meant a lot to me. On my good days I try to be aware of the people around me who are struggling and to reach out to them and pray for them, or encourage them. Even in my mess that day I did pull it together to do my jobs and did pray with some people. I am always surprised when God uses me in spite of my own internal mess. There are many days that God uses my own brokenness to connect with the need of some person who comes for prayer in ways that amaze me. Its almost like what I have gone through and wrestled with during the week has prepared me to be able to know how to pray.  My point here is not - Oh look at Margot she is sooooooo spiritual. My point is that God wants to use you where you are. If we can get beyond our selves to see the needs of others around us God will use even our brokenness to touch others. I have noticed when I am in such a condition and I push beyond my own pain and begin praying for someone else that as God pours His Spirit through me to that other person that He also does a work of healing in me as well in that moment. I can't begin to tell you how often it happens that the people God brings to me to pray for are dealing with stuff that I have had to deal with during the week. It is still fresh and raw and they always seem surprised that I understand how to pray for them. I simply pray what God puts on my heart as I lay my hands on them. I don't try to analize or figure it out - I just go with it and trust the Holy Spirit. I pray for them how I would want to be prayed for.

I think it is also the mercy of God that on a day when I was struggling that someone came up to me after the service and thanked me for praying for people and made a point to tell me how I was hearing from God because I had prayed very specifically what those people had needed with out knowing anything about their situation. This person had heard several of his friends share about how God had used me to touch them and made a point to come and thank and encourge me. That was a gift and a blessing to me because I was feeling so messed up at that point. I needed encouraged in that moment.  To know that God still can use us even when we look at ourselves and feel like we are a mess is humbling and amazing. Its when I know that its not my own strength or togetherness that matters but God's Spirit working in and through me. Kent Henry once said that "we are carriers and couriers of God's presence". We are the pitcher from which living water is poured out to the thirsty.

I guess I have gotten side tracked a bit and have gone from toes to prayer. In some ways not that far because whatever your gift may happen to be - even if it goes largely unnoticed you are a vital and needed part of the body of Christ. Your gifts may be very different than mine but yours are needed and just like me you may have a bad day where you don't feel like you have much to offer. God can use you on those days too. On those hard days, I try not to spin out of control and I do my best to press into Gods presence to allow Him to minister to me. I don't always get myself back on track sometimes I need others in the body to reach out to me. To pray for me, or to hold my feet to the fire and remind me to not put of dealing with things that need dealt with. I need people to share with me that God has used me to touch thier lives. I often have no clue the work that God does in someones life or how something I have said or written has spurred someone on to take a step of faith, or to strive to know Jesus more.  I am generally not to worried about the out come, I leave that up to God and work on being obedient and faithful to use the gifts that God has given me to use. We all need to be encouraged, and to know that what we are doing by faith is making an differene.

I am finding in my journey to be more open and transparant that there are times when I need to stop trying to hold it all together and reach out to others in the body and allow them to use thier gifts to minister to me. It is so much easer to be on the giving out side of things for me and much harder to admit my own need. I am very thankful for the people in my life that are there for me on those hard days. I am thankful for my kids who come and snuggle near me on the couch, and my husband who trys to stay out of my way and allows me to process through stuff, for friends who pray. I am thankful for those who tell me I need to let them know when I'm in trouble, that I can call them for prayer even if it is in the middle of the night. I am thankful for those who see through me and can tell in an instant that something is wrong. I am thankful for my pastor who tells me I don't know what to tell you Margot but I'll pray. These are all gifts of Gods grace, and people allowing the love and compassion of Jesus to flow through them. It is a beautiful thing to be touched by Jesus through the body of Christ.

So I am thankful for the hands and feet, the ears and the eyes, and the mouths and all the amazing ways that God pours out His love through His people.  Most churches are not purfect - they all have problems because they are made up of people with problems. We bump and rub the rough edges off of each other. Just like families need to agree to work things out, so do churches of people need to decide that we won't just leave and go somewhere else but we will work through our issues and support and be there for each other. It is when the church or a family begins to function and value each other that people on the outside begin to know we are Christians by our love.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
I pray for the hurting toes in the body of Christ. I pray that you will send hands to care for them. I pray for those who are eyes to see, that they would step up and be watchmen on the walls. I pray for the ears to be listening to what the Spirit is saying and to have the courage to tell the body, for mouths that would speaks the truth in love. I pray that whatever part we may each have to play that we would remember to value each other and to be thankful that God has brought us together for His plans and purposes.