Friday, December 30, 2011

The Last Post of 2011

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Proverbs 4:18 

The path of the righteous 
is like the first gleam of dawn, 
shining ever brighter
till the full light of day.

I was going to write about First Fruits but I think I will save that for next week. I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on the past year.  Where have I been and where am I going.  I love the new Facebook Time Line feature because I can look all the way back to last January and follow my posts and remember what I was thinking and doing. Last January I was posting some of my mosaic cards and I was in the midst of my own little Mother Teresa reading marathon. I posted on January 10th
"I am having a Mother Teresa marathon. I read this article and I am reading a book called To Find Hope about her life. I know in my own little bit of work with the poor that there is often great spiritual oppression or darkness that we feel individually and as a team . It has caused me to pull my head out of the sand and admit there is a spiritual war going on. As I try to reach souls for the God's kingdom
I like this quote about Mother Teresa: "Her work in Calcutta's slums illustrated something that the high priests of global development often tend to overlook: in order to pull people out of poverty, it is important to first empower them with self-esteem and with the hope that change is always possible."
 At that time I had not yet started A Devotional Mosaic and was posting occasionally in a couple of other blogs. Here are links to some of the articles that I wrote about my Mother Teresa Marathon. If you are getting this by e-mail you'll need to click on the title and come back to the site. I was reading Mother Teresa at the time because of the work I continue to be involved in ministering to the inner city homeless and poor. Much of her wisdom and inspiration has carried me through this year.
There are a few others posted there. By the end of January I was sick and struggled to get well for the next couple of months. I was also the chairman of the board of our church and we were faced with how we would survive and at that point it looked like we would close if God did not step in somehow. Amazingly a church that should have died continues to stand on the corner of 2nd and Division in Spokane. We continue to feed 100 - 200 homeless people a week. At this point about 20 -30 of those folks attend our church. I am thankful.
Yesterday we served 230 homeless and poor folks. The end of the month the numbers are high. I think this might have been a record beaker."
In February I posted the following to encourage a friend.
This is my quote of the week - God works in the difficult stuff to. Just because something is hard does not mean God is not in it with us. In 1895, Andrew Murray was suffering from a long lasting and very painful back injury. One day a woman in great trouble came to where he was staying and asked his hostess if he might have any counsel for her. He handed her a piece of paper and said, “Give her ...this advice I’m writing for myself. It may be that she will find it helpful." Here is what he wrote:

"In times of trouble, say, “First, he brought me here. It is by his will I am in the strait place, in that I will rest.” Next, “He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.” Then say, “He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.” And last, say, “In his good time he can bring me out again. How and when, he knows.” Therefore, say “I am here [1] by God’s appointment, [2] in his keeping, [3] under his training, [4] for his time."
See More
In March we put on a wedding for a formally homeless couple and I had gotten the church web site functional.  My computer had to be repaired and we found in taking opening it up after 10 years of not problems that it was filled with more dust than imaginable. I guess at about that time God began quite a healing work in my own heart that started by saying yes to a couple of friend request from way back in my life. Wow who knew what one very small click of a computer would take me. Had to deal with some big areas to un forgiveness and repentance that I had locked away. 
In April this quote spoke to me
"Once our eyes are opened by God, we will see all the events of our lives, whether great or small, joyful or sad, as a chariot for our souls. Everything that comes to us becomes a chariot the moment we treat it as such. On the other hand, even the smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair if we allow it. ~ Hanna Whitall Smith"
One of my favorite christian writer died in April and I posted about it.
"One of my favorite writers died this week. David Wilkerson passed away on Wednesday in a car crash. He has stood in my mind as one of the mighty oaks of this generation, a Father in the faith. While I rejoice that he is home with Jesus, I will miss his daily thoughts and inspiration.
I know he will have a lasting legacy that will speak far beyond his mortal life. 
In May I started laying glass on the Beloved project - that was quite a journey. Through it I discovered that people were interested in the mosaic process and followed my postings about it.
June a lot of posts about the Beloved project 
In July I started this Blog thanks to the encouragement of a friend. I never imagined that I could actually stick to this Monday - Friday writing schedule.
In August I got my bike and remembered how much I loved to ride. I visited my sister and came home with some new direction and soon after started my Coach Training.   
September started another year of homeschooling - we signed up for a bunch of on line classes - can't say we have really enjoyed them. Niah will head to real high school next year and Cai wants to go back to the way we did things. We are finishing up what we started.  September is birthday month for my kids. We as a family were quite blessed because my husband won a prize from Coke Rewards by turning in bottle caps at their website. We all got new lap top computers from Best Buy. Very cool. I finished the Beloved project.
October - my birthday month. I spent a little time at the Spokane Public Market.  I continue to teach guitar and I have a couple of coaching allies as I keep working through my coach training. 
That gets us to November and December where I have continued to write daily, and post about my mosaic projects. I hear from people that the things I am writing continues to encourage them. Its been a full year full of little purposeful steps. I look at my face book page and I think maybe I have grown up to be an artist, and a writer and one who prays for and encourages people.  I have grown to be much more open and transparant in the past year. My life is much more visible and an open book. I still have some hidden things that are just between me and the Lord. 
In looking back I realize I have come a very long way over the course of one year. God has been gracious to walk with me step by step, day by day. He has picked me up when I have tripped and fallen. He has cared for me in so many ways.  I think it is good to look back and reflect on what he has done. To take stock of where I am at this point and to hold the vision of things he has put on my heart out there and trust that He is working. I'm sure 2012 will have some things that I can't see just like 2011 has been full of surprises and challenges and some major victories.  I hope this has encouraged you it has me. Cause I can get so focused on my daily struggles and the stuff I have to do that I forget that I am making progress. I am stronger and healthier physically, mentally and spiritually than I was a year ago for that I am very thankful. 

See you next year - I'm out of time and will have to post this typos and all.

Dear Lord, 
Thank you for taking us from where we are in this moment to where you want us to go. It is a journey and you delight to take it with us one step at a time.  Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you that you have started a good work in each of us and you will carry it out to completion.


Thursday, December 29, 2011


A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Hebrews 2 (AMP)

 1SINCE ALL this is true, we ought to pay much closer attention than ever to the truths that we have heard, 
lest in any way we drift past them and slip away.

I wanted to talk about drifting. The currents and the pulls of the carnal world are such that if we are not consciously moving towards God and his kingdom we are likely drifting away.  I like to watch people and I sometimes see subtle changes and choices being made that in the moment seem irrelevant but over time will spin them off down the path of least resistance.  People who at one time walked together towards similar goals and plans,  little by little one small choice at a time find themselves going completely different directions. One day they will wake up and scratch their heads and wonder how did I end up here. This is something that is often easy to see happen in marriages. It is not usually one big thing that is the straw that breaks the camels back. It is the subtle shifts of direction and purpose. Quite often if you are not spending time in the word and in prayer seeking God for his direction then you are likely grabbing at straws and thinking here's an opportunity lets give that a try, maybe God will bless it. When perhaps we should be asking will this choice bring me closer or farther away from God.

As you are moving towards the New Year when everyone seems to be making grand proclamations and resolutions to change or fix some part of their life.  Many will resolve to loose weight or quit smoking only to find after about 4- 6 weeks that they somehow lacked the resolve to really make the change. (Just a quick side note - that is where a coach comes in really handy. You decide where you want to go and a coach helps keep you accountable. I am available and I do have room to add some coaching allies. Some folks need help discovering the direction they want to go - I can help with that too.)

I guess my thought is that you take some time to examine what it is that you value and to take some time to make sure that you are heading in the direction you want to be heading. Perhaps you have made some subtle shifts over the last year that are moving you towards a destination that is far from your intended course. Perhaps you have never given much thought to your intended course.
Take a bit of time and consider during your prayer time what God's direction for you life is and what choices it will take over time to arrive at that destination. It helps if you spin things out 3-5 years into the future.  I have an exercise that I do with some of my coaching clients called the Interview. Here a peek into it. 
The reporter has heard about you and how you now thrive at work and at home. So she thinks you would be perfect for the story. To prepare for the interview, she has sent you this list of initial questions that she would like you to answer before your interview.
Allow yourself time to think and dream as you respond to these questions.
Answer them in the way you would LOVE to be able to answer them... as if your wildest dreams have come true. Let your heart dream... let your imagination go... become a kid again... and have fun with it! Don’t let practicality take over... and don’t limit yourself.
At this point... it doesn’t have to be “realistic.” You don’t need to know HOW you got there at this point. Right now... it’s all about dreaming BIG!
So free yourself from any of that responsibility.
Just dream... think... pray... vision... and get creative!
See where it takes you! 

It asks you to describe your work space, and your ideal day, the types of people who are in your life. My favorite is question 7 It says " As I have dug into your story, it sounds like you made some small but significant shifts towards doing more of the things that you love to do about five years ago and that has made a big difference for you. What are a few things taht you would want people to learn from making this intentional shift towards doing more of what you were created to do?

These are great questions to help you discover what it is you would really like to be doing, the types of people you would like to be doing it with, and the kind of environment you would like to be doing it in.  So rather than a making some grand resolution take a look at what you love to do, what makes you happy, what are the things that make you say " Now this is what God created me to do and be". How can you do more of those things?

The path of least resistance is a great tool for moving in a direction - just make sure it is the direction you really want to be heading.  You need to be able to hold the reality of where you are currently and the vision of where you want to end up in your mind simultaneously.  It creates a structural tension that will help move you towards your destination it in a sense sets up the tracks or the rails to move you to where you want to go.  I believe that if you take the time with the Lord, He will help you to set the rails to move your life in the direction that will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment.

So as you head into the new year, I challenge you to make some protected time alone with the the Lord to talk about His plans, purposes, calling and direction for your life.  Are there some areas of "drift" where you have stopped being intentional in your daily walk with the Lord. 
Ask the Lord to help you lay the rails or tracks so that in the coming year you are moving more and more towards things that are part of His plan for you. 

Finally what are some of the things that bring you the most joy and satisfaction? Think about how you can do more of those kind of things in the coming year. 

Dear Lord, 
You know the plans that you have for each of us. I know that they are good plans to give us a hope and a future. Help us to see where we are drifting away from you and help us have the courage to make some subtle but significant shifts so that we are heading where you would have us head in the coming year. Lord help us to see that small things done with love can change the world. Help us to see the small changes that we could make that will impact our lives and the lives of those around us in a profound way over time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Wonder of God

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Psalm 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.

This is a beautiful video with some incredibly beautiful time lapse photography. If you get this in your e-mail and the video is missing click the blue title to get back to the post to see it.

Today I have been looking at art and photos trying to find the inspiration for the Tree of Life mosaic project. There are so many directions I could go with that project that I really need to see what it is that God would have me do with that project. In thinking about that project I have stumbled across many beautiful paintings and photos of Gods creation. I guess it is hard for me to begin to fathom that heaven is far more beautiful.  I think that the Tree of Life rests in the Paradice of God. It is guarded by an Angel with a flaming sword. It bears 12 kinds of fruit and its leaves will bring healing to the nations. It sits along the banks of the river of life that flows from the throne of God. So I wonder what is the essence of this project - how do I begin to represent the splendor and the wonder.

I guess I am surprised by how much Tree of Life art is out there. There a celtic tree of life designs, and tree of life tatoos and wonderful paintings. It seems to be found in many cultures and lands and time periods. I saw one artist that does individual tree of life paintings out of symbols that mean something to the patron. One was made up of dragon flies, it was very clever and beautiful.

I'd like to tell you that I can just "ta da" see this because I have asked God to show me. Perhaps it will come in a dream or a waking vision perhaps something will suddenly click. I know the Beloved project happened in stages, I could see it, I could draw it small, I could draw it big but before I could lay the glass I had to some how feel it and that was something that God allowed me to feel after much healing. So I wonder what it will take to remove the blinders from my eyes to be able to see this. For now I watch and wait with expectation that the Lord will show me. I suspect there is something in me that is not ready to behold this wonder. Then again it may be like naming my second child. The first one God clearly gave me the name the second one he was silent and I had to search til I found the name that seemed right. So I have learned in life and in art that one can't put God in a convient box and expect that he will do things the same way every time.

Did you ever notice that the accounts of how Jesus healed blind men was different every time.
Here in this example He spits in the guys eye and says "Do you see anything"

Mark 8:23
He took the
blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. 
When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, 
Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

 In the next example spit was not enough this time He spits in the mud and puts mud in the guys eyes.

 John 9
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  
2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
   3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
 6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 

 So before you go off and make up a spiritual formula to cure blindness. Take a look at the next example... no mud, no spit - what the heck - just what do you want me to do for you - and ta da its done. It just goes to show you that you can't fit God in a box. 

Mark 10:50-52

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
   51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
   The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
   52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Well thats about it for my great wisdom for this post.  Oh I have one more cool story to tell you. I prayed last week for a young man in India in facebook land chat. He was having a bad day and said he needed a word from the Lord. By faith I shared with him the word that was on my heart from Proverbs 16:18 about the gift making the way for the giver.

He wrote me today to tell me that he applied that word to his life and went to an orphanage on Christmas day to take gifts to the children. He shared with me how he has received great favor from other leaders in the ministry where he serves.  He writes "when u give that woed from that day onwards every big appercaite me like anything praise god everyone appeciate me all people encourage me that is the reflcet of christmas orphange people food given" 

I am blessed to know that the word I felt led to share - made a difference. I am blessed to know that there is no distance in God's kingdom. That God can do wonders in far away places and speak into lives through the prayers that we pray and the words of encouragement that we share with others.
His story today encourages me to not put God in my own little boxes in thinking that He moves when I lay hands on people to pray for them. He ministers through each of us as we step out in faith to believe that He loves us and wants to touch others near and far if we will believe and be led by the Holy Spirit.

God is good -He is amazing and I look around and I am in awe of His wonders.

Dear Lord,
I pray you would open the eyes of those reading this and that if they have put you in some box, that they would allow you to expand their paradigm. Help us to be led by your Holy Spirit in little things like a word of encouragement or a bible verse or a prayer I pray that those little acts of obedience, faith and kindness will be like a stone tossed in a lake that will create ripples that go on and on.

One more beautiful video and a great song by Phil Wickham.
Wow the changing sunset behind the lone tree. - Beautiful! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Were You On That Flight?

A Devotional by Margot Ciocco
Careful what you say - you may not yet see what is around the bend.

Proverbs 18:21

The tongue can bring 
death or life; 
those who love to talk 
will reap the consequences.

I've just finished reading the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. While many probably read it to find out more about heaven and angels I think I was more profoundly touched by the people who from all kinds of places, were led by the Holy Spirit to be part of this miracle. My favorite story in the book took place at the scene of the accident. A neighbor in his yard heard the crash and ran to help and sat with the child and prayed and encouraged him till the EMT's arrived but the best story to me is about the faith of the Helicopter Transport guy named Dave. 

As Beth pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, she spotted a man wearing a MedFlight uniform. She quickly backed up, rolled dow the window, and called out to him, ""I have a six-year old son who just arrived by helicopter. Were you on that flight?" The man walked over to her " Yes ma'am. My name's Dave." "Is my son all right? How bad was it?" Looking into Beth's eyes, Dave said, "I have a question for you." Yes? Beth said quizzically. "Are you a Christian?" "Yes I am", Beth answered, wondering where this was going. "Then listen to me" Dave continued intently looking into Beth's eyes. "You're are going to go in the trauma room and you're going to hear some horrible things. In fact, they're going to tell you your son's going to die. But I laid hands on your son and prayed for him in the name of Jesus. I'm telling you, he's not going to die.  Now you definitely have a part to play in all this. The Lord is already beginning the healing, but if you go in there,  fear will try to attack your thinking. I'm not telling you to go in there and argue. Be polite and listen; they know what they're talking about. But as true as all their information is, God's Word can change all that. I prayed for your boy in the name of Jesus, and he's not going to die. But if you go in there and agree with what they're saying and start speaking that, he will die. You'll negate what's been started by my praying for him. But if every time you get scared or hear a bad report, you thank the Lord for His healing, He will do His part. Have you got it?"

I think Dave the paramedic's words are good advice to all of us as well. Our words are powerful, they set things in motion. God spoke and created and he has made us in his likeness. Our words have the power of life or death. Dave the paramedic said "But if every time you get scared or hear a bad report, you thank the Lord for His healing, He will do His part." Perhaps you have been given a bad report or a diagnosis that seems hopeless. Remember you serve a big God but like Beth in this story you must play your part. Don't give into the fear... If God has told you He would heal you - lay hold of that healing, don't let go, don't give in to dispair and hopelessness.

There is a spoof on the Lord of the Rings where rather than the laborious journey of trials, hardship and faithfulness the big Eagles that rescue Frodo and Sam at the end of the story are the ones that take the ring and drop it in the mountain and life carries on and everyone goes on about life as usual. Its an  easy fix but does not make much of a gripping story.  I think quite often as we go through our own journey of struggles and the ups and downs of faith that we wish God would just skip us past the hard stuff and just give us the answer to our prayer. I have come to realize that often His answers are part of a journey that must be walked out.  Here is a link to that spoof on the Lord of the Rings
I think sometimes we keep looking for the big miracle rescue when God sends us on a journey of little daily miracles and on a road with companions who help and encourage us to press on and to not give up. 

Dear Lord I ask for courage to not loose heart when the answers you send to our prayers are not of the quick fix sort. I pray that you will help us to see the daily miracles of walking with you, and the strength and character that is developed in those who continue on the journey with you. Thank you for what you are working in our lives and for your plan and the roads it will cause us to walk down. There are so many things that we would miss if the eagles or the angels stepped in and just did the job for us. Thank you for walking with us day by day and help us to remember the words of Dave the paramedic. Lord thank you for your healing and transforming power at work in our lives.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Snow

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Song of Songs 8:14 
Beloved Come away, my lover, 
and be like a gazelle or like a young stag 
on the spice-laden mountains.

There is a beautiful song by Audrey Assad called winter snow. In it she compares how Jesus comes in to  our hearts in a soft gentle way like falling snow.
The bridge of the songs says " Oh no your voice wasn't in a bush burning, No your voice wasn't in the rushing wind. It was still it was small it was hidden."  Here it is (e-mail readers you know the drill by now - if it does not come with your e-mail click the blue title and head back to the Mosaic Devotional to enjoy the video.)

How do I hear the voice of the Lord? I have to make time to be still, I have to be quiet and listen. Its easy to get caught up in day to day life. Laundry and dishes never end at my house. I'm not saying that we must shirk our responsibilities. In the story of Martha and Mary its not that the meal and its preparations were un important. I think there are times that we can get so caught up in trying to impress a guest with our great hospitality that we are too busy to enjoy the guest. 

Anyway I still have company at my house and so I am going to make this one short today. In some ways I am feeling a need of a fresh breath of prayer as I head towards the new year.
We had a prayer gift box to Jesus in our service yesterday where we could write a prayer or something we wanted to do for Jesus in the coming year. So I am thinking about the things I wrote on that little slip of paper. Some of the things I gave to Jesus were my words and my writing and my prayers.
So I find myself wondering where we are going with this blog in the year to come. I don't have any great revelations at this point but I feel a tug to find some time to come away with the Lord to see what He would say.

I have had a lovely Christmas and hope you have as well. 

Dear Lord, I pray for my readers today in the after glow of Christmas. I pray that we would all find some special quiet time to spend with you as we head towards the new year. I pray you would help us to hear your heart and to have a better understanding of your plans and purposes in the year to come. I pray that if there are things we need to finish up before it becomes 2012 that you would help us to do those things. I pray that you would help us to leave behind the chains that have kept us from moving forward with you. I pray you would help us to see those chains and once and for all deal with the things that need to be repented of or forgiven. Help us to see the old dead things for what they are and to leave them behind and more on with you. That we would move into the new year with a clean slate and a renewed sense of vision, purpose and calling. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Angel Stories

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Waiting Angel by Margot Cioccio

Hebrews 13:2 
Do not forget to entertain strangers, 
for by so doing some people 
have entertained angels without knowing it.

This morning I got a call from my sister in law checking to make sure we had gotten the card they had sent. I guess they had had some things come back un delivered by their post office. In the course of the conversation she felt compelled to tell me a story. I will do my best to relate it to you.
She and her family had left on a trip from Kansas City to St. Louis. Her husband, my younger brother decided not to eat before leaving and was hungry and wanted to stop before they had even crossed the state line. So they pulled off the highway to a fast food place. On the ramp they saw two men  holding up signs. The one that my brother saw was a man who had run out of gas. He never saw the other guy. My sister in law said he was holding a sign that said "Help Him". There were no trees or bushes along this exit and they pulled over to help the man that my brother saw.  As my brother went to talk to him and see what he could do to help the family sat in the car and waited. As they waited they looked to see where the other man was so they could help him as well. He was no where to be seen. When my brother got back to the car the family asked if he saw where the other man had gone. He had never seen that man. They pulled in to the fast food place and went in to get a meal and as they were sitting there they over heard some others talking about how they had stopped to help this man. One the husband had gone to pump gas in the car, the other had given him some money. My sister in law who is a very out going person. Asked if they had seen the other man. Things suddenly got very quiet and both of the others who were led to help the man said yes they had seen him but then he was gone. As if he had vanished into thin air. One of the ladies was pretty convinced that he was an angel.  The man they all did help had received word from his family that his mother was dying and was trying to get to Colorado to see her one last time. He had family who would help him once he got there. He was very poor and drove a beat up truck and was hoping that it would make the trip. My sister in law comment on the other man. She said his clothes were very plain but he had a pleasant face.

Cool story - they were not out looking for angels - I'm not sure why she felt compelled to tell me that story today. She has some very prophetically bent giftings. So when she tells me a odd story out of the blue that had nothing to do with anything we had talked about. I pay attention because some times God speaks to us thorough other people.  Before her call I had just sat down at my computer and opened the blogger page to write today's devotional. I had no idea what I would write about and before I had a chance to come up with something the phone rang. So I am taking it as God's direction to me for this particular post. 

Ministering Angel by Margot Cioccio
I have done a couple of angel projects that I will include photos of in this post. The Waiting Angel. I was wanting to create something that was more in line with the references to angels that I saw with in the pages of my Bible. So much of the angel art that is out there is very beautiful female looking, wispy, fairy like angels.  So the waiting angel I wanted to portray a warrior, who stands at attention waiting to be sent by God to aid the heirs of salvation. 

Another angel project that I did shows again a strong more masculine angel reaching to take a bottle away from a man who struggles with addiction. I have some friends that run some recovery homes and take in men and women who want to overcome their drug and alcohol addictions. They had been raising funds for the work they do and I did not have the finances to give but I was inspired to do this project. I gave it to them telling them they could sell it if it would help their ministry. Instead they decided to hang it in one of the houses.

So I want to point out to you some of the passages and stories that have helped to build my view of what an angelic being might look like. Other than the brief inspiration like visions for these two pieces I can't say that I have seen any angels at least none that I was aware of.

We see an angel in Genesis 17 who finds Hagar who is the mother of Ishmael in the desert. The angel tells her to go back and submit to her mistress Sarah and that she would have a child and call that child Ishmael. The Lord has heard of your misery. No description is given of the angel in that passage. It comes to deliver a message to a very desperate woman alone in the desert.

 Then there are the two angels that are sent to get Lot and his family out of Sodom because God intends to destroy that place. This story is in Genesis 19. They are addressed by Lot in the town square as "My lords" It would seem in this case the come looking as men. Lot persuades them to come to his home and not stay in the town square. While at his house the men of the city come and bang on the door asking "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out so that we can have sex with them." The story from that point kind of stretches me because Lot is willing to send out his two virgin daughters. The men have come under the protection of his house but not his own daughters. I don't always know what to do with the story of Lot. He strikes me as a very carnal person although he believe and trusts God. Yet he is one of the few righteous people found in the city of Sodom at that time.  Anyway my point being that the angels in this passage are decidedly masculine in appearance.

Next up in Genesis 21 Hagar again now with her child Ishmael is again running away and is in the desert in despair with a crying child. No description is give of the angel but it comes with an message of hope, encouragement and direction.
 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Next you find the story in Genesis 22 where Abraham is tested and is to sacrifice his son Issac to the Lord. He makes the journey and along the way the son asks where is the sacrifice for the offering. Abraham assures him that the Lord will provide.  He has his son on the altar that they have built and he is ready to sacrifice him to God when he is stopped by an angel. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
   “Here I am,” he replied.
 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
In some of these the angel of the Lord is seems more to be the Lord himself rather than a messenger sent from God. There are many such references to the Angel of the Lord in the old testament and this post will become way too long if I outline them all for you. I suggest you drop the words "Angel of the Lord" into the Bible Gateway search and scroll through them all. There are tons of examples.   This form of Angelic being is called at theosophany. " Is a visual manifestation of God before the incarnation. Some theologians limit the definition to a bodily form, and others include any visible manifestation such as the burning bush".  In some things I have read it is thought that it can not be God the Father because one cannot see his face and live. The Holy Spirit is described to be like the wind that blows through the trees. You can see the effects of the Holy Spirit but not the Holy Spirit.  That would leave the third person of the trinity, Jesus to appear as the Angel of the Lord.

My mother handed me a book the other day about a young boy in Ohio who was in an terrible car accident who's spine was severed internally. It is called The boy who came back from heaven  by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. I have only read not quite half of it this evening. There was one passage so far that seems to go with this post.  This is the child Alex giving his account of the accident. " For just one second before all of the action began, there was a moment of calmness. I remember thinking someone was going to die. When the calm ended, I heard the sound of glass breaking, and I saw Daddy's feet going out of the car. Now I thought I knew who was going to die. But then I saw something unbelievably cool. Five angels were carrying Daddy outside the car. Four were carrying his body, and one was supporting his neck and head. The angels were big and muscular, like wrestlers, and they had wings on their backs from their waists to their shoulders. I thought Daddy was dead, but that it was okay because the angels were going to make him okay."

 I don't think I can even begin to scratch the tip of the iceburg on this subject. I am how ever reminded of Hebrews 1:14  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
I am reminded that like the guy by the side of the road and like the father of the child in the book and like so many people in stories through out the Bible that angels are sent by God. Even Jesus talks about them. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels ? (Mat 26:53)

In general where there are descriptions of angels in the bible they are generally described as men. There is one verse in Zechariah 5:9  Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth. I suppose as spirit beings they may appear as either male or female. Daniel sees an angel that seems to be made of polished metal, precious stones and a face like lightening. I'm not sure where the idea of fat baby angels came from but in 30 years I have not found them anywhere in my bible. It seems they have come to us from Roman or Victorian art. You get some descriptions of Cherubim in Revelation 4 :7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
They don't sound like chubby babys to me. In my recall, most of the time the first thing angels have to say is some something to the effect of fear not. I think they might be a bit intimidating.

Our verse today is about showing hospitality to strangers. In doing so it says some have entertained angels with out knowing that they had even encountered an angel. I think a lot of angel ideas come to us from artistic ideas and have little or no likeness to the powerful angelic beings found in scripture.
Its kind of like the many Christmas ideas that we have come to accept as fact because someone in a song said there were 3 kings that followed a star and brought gifts to Jesus. They were more accurately scholars, and there were likely many more than three, probably a whole caravan. The idea of three comes from there being 3 gifts given. We also have pristine images of a shiny clean child birth in a barn. Sorry child birth is messy even with todays technology. Well... and do you really think baby Jesus never cried? We get many of our Christmas idea not from the bible but from songs, stories and art that have become part of popular culture and that have been perpetuated over time.

Well - there is more that could be said but I am writing a devotional post not a doctrinal paper on angels. I guess my challenge to you is that you read the Christmas stories and other account of angels in the Bible for yourself.  Let me know if you find any fat baby angels. Who knows in extending hospitality to strangers you might get to meet an angel or maybe you already have and have a cool story to add to the comments. I guess all in all while I find angels amazing and I am glad for there work behind the scenes, my focus is on knowing Jesus. I would join with the angels to worship Him. Glory to God in the Highest are the songs of the angels to the shepherds at the birth of Christ.  Holy Holy Holy cry the angels around the throne of God. I would join them in worshiping the one who deserves all honor and glory and praise.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the angels that you send to minister to us. We are often unaware of your care and protection and work of angels sent to minister to us as the heirs of salvation. Lord help us to have hearts that would reach out with care and hospitality to the stranger, the lonely, the broken perhaps there is an angel under the poor mans rags holding up that sign on the corner. Angel or not whatever
we do for the least we have done it unto you. I pray you would be blessed by our hospitality and our care for those in need. Help us see past our own little traumas and to even in our own needs and brokenness to reach out to others with your love. I pray as we minister to others you would minister to us and bring the healing and solutions for our own concerns.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift Makes A Way...

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Portrait of Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Rossetti

 Proverbs 18:16 

A gift opens the way 
for the giver
and ushers him 
into the presence 
of the great.

At Christmas time we think of giving and receiving gifts.  I find myself asking what can I do that would bless the sock off of Jesus this Christmas. I also think, I wonder what spiritual gifts Jesus might want to give me. I think of the words to a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830 -1894)   
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.

I have pulled some of her beautiful Christmas poems to add to this post.

I guess as I think about what gift I can give, I think of those things that I do for the least of these - are things that I do for Jesus. So I give Him my heart and my life and my songs and my thoughts and my words.  I pray He will be blessed by my faith and obedience to write these devotional posts. I am thankful that He is using my words to encourage people all over the world. While I have conquered the "I am not _____ enough" thing that as hounded me most of my life I still find myself often thinking but who am I, what do I have of any great value to give. I suppose I still struggle with the insecurity of seeing myself as very ordinary and very broken and I am truly humbled that the Lord would use me to touch others with His love. I was told by my pastor and his wife that I needed to sit with the realization that my prayers were profoundly impacting the lives of people. So I am sitting with that this morning and my tendency is to say but thats not me thats the Lord working. I just pray as the Holy Spirit leads me and pray what He puts on my heart in that moment. Truly it is his work ...but I see, that as I sit with the realization that my prayers are making enough of a difference that it is getting back to my pastor, while all the glory goes to God.... that I have become useful because I have spent the time to know the Lord and to be found at His feet. So I am blessed to hear that my prayers and writing are making a difference in the lives of the people. I like to think of myself as a carrier of God's presence. I resist the notion that I am special - we are all special and I tend toward I am available Lord for your plans and purposes. You, who at one point used a donkey to speak to a prophet - now that was a "special talking donkey." But I have been instructed to sit with this knowledge by two people that I trust and respect deeply. So I find myself wondering what is it that you want me to see. Its not that I have a lack of confidence that you would use or speak through me, I see that, and I know that. I think perhaps is has to do with realizing the Lord's value of me. Clearly there is a deeper revelation of God's love for me that I need to somehow grasp.

When I pray for people. I lay hands on them and the Lord puts in my heart what to say. I rarely have any idea what they are going through or why they are wanting prayer, the Holy Spirit leads me as I pray. I am blessed that God would use something as simple as a prayer to make a difference in the life of another. I am humbled and in awe of Jesus who can take brokenness and make beauty from it. That he can take us, simple creatures that He formed from dust and fill us with His Spirit and reveal his glory in earthen vessels. I realize that if all I am is His, then it is more than enough. God who would come as a baby and fill a lowly stable with His glory is also willing to draw near and fill the likes of you and I.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti was an interesting woman who turned down several proposals of marriage because her suitors did not share her faith in Christ. Back then being an un married woman was not so cool or accepted as it is today. She was one of the formost women poets of her time. She was the youngest of four children and was educated at home by her mother.  She started writing as a young child and continued to write though out her life. She suffered from depression and a thyroid disorder called Graves disease and lived much of her life in seclusion. She died of cancer in 1894. 

I found another of her Christmas poems to share with you.

The Shepherds Had An Angel

The shepherds had an angel,
The wise men had a star;
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together,
And singing angels are?

Lord Jesus is my Guardian
so I can nothing lack;
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The wilful lambs that go astray
He, bleeding, brings them back.

Those shepherds thro' the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heav'nly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing glory, glory,
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heav'n,
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their Glory, glory,
For my sake in the height.

Lord, bring me nearer day by day,
Till I my voice unite,
And sing my Glory, glory,
With angels clad in white,
All Glory, glory, giv'n to Thee,
Thro' all the heav'nly height.

So to tie this post together. I think that as we give the Lord our hearts, our lives, our words... that he takes even the simplest things and begins to use them. Christina used her words and they have lived on long beyond her and still to this day inspire me and others who read them. So today as I sit with the knowledge that my prayers are making a difference,  I guess I am hopeful that my words will as well. There is a passage that says of Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 3:19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground."  I hope that God would say that of me, that my words in the things I write and in the things I say or pray would not fall to the ground but that they would encourage and inspire and bring hope to people and draw them closer to Jesus. I will end with this verse from Isaiah because it speaks to me of how God desires to establish us and move us from being afflicted and storm-tossed to becoming something of great beauty. To become his treasure and a gift to His kingdom.

Isaiah 54:11-14

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.”
Beloved, hear the word of the Lord to you. Rise up, take off the heavy cloak of sorrow and shame. Know that he is healing you and wants to set you free from the chains that have held you back from being all He has called you to be. He wants to replace that old raggedy cloak with a new one called hope.  He wants to pour over you the oil of gladness, that His joy might be your strength. He would give you temperance that you would no longer turn to old addictions and behaviors as a bandaid in a vain attempt to numb your pain. I pray you would receive the gift of His forgiveness and the have a deep and growing revelation of His love for you. I pray you would truly receive His acceptance and would begin to walk in the freedom of His grace and mercy and to once and for all finally cease from trying to atone for your past indiscretions. Jesus paid it all! May you have the faith to receive His Gifts to you this Christmas and the courage to leave the old behind and follow Him into the new things He has prepared for you. May you, yourself, become His gift to the many lives around you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Running and Leaping in the Light

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A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

2 Samuel 22:29-30 NKJ

“For You are my lamp,
The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
 For by You I can run against a troop; 
By my God 
I can leap over a wall.

There are days that seem dark, when troubles seem to stand as walls of stone to block our way. Days when life seems to be beyond my ability to control. It is on those days I am thankful for the Lord being my lamp. It is on those days that I am thankful for his word that is planted in my heart. The Lord has a wonderful way of shining his light in those dark places. A friend once told me the quickest way past a mountain is through the dark tunnel. It may seem dark and lonely but it is the fastest route to the other side.  I am glad that God knows the best route to take us at various times in our lives.  The rest of this verse is amazing too. Not only does the Lord enlighten my darkness but he gives me the endurance to keep going in the midst of life’s battles. I am able to leap the walls that would block my way. The Lord is able to get us from here to there even when the the place you are trying to reach seems impossible. Or when I feel weak or that I am some how not adequate for the task before me. God is my strength when I am weak. He will walk with me through each days journey.
I like the part about leaping walls and I think of those obstacles that seem to tower in front of us.  This verse reminds me that with Gods help I can leap over those walls much like a runner leaps over hurdles. With God all things are possible.

Things To Ponder
What walls do you want to leap over or have you recently leaped over?
Where is God shining His light in your life that may need cleaned up?
What areas of darkness is He illuminating?
Ask God to forgive and cleanse you.

Tell the demonic troop you have repented and forgiven and they need to get out of the way. Its over and done with they can not hold you captive any longer.  Then run against them and leap the wall and take some new ground in your life for the Lord.

Dear Lord, Thank you for being my lamp and for the light you bring to the dark places in my life. Sometimes troubles seem to advance on me like a great army but you make me able to run against a troupe and to leap walls and obstacles and take new ground for your Kingdom. 
Be with me as I face the day ahead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Quiet Time

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs for Thee
Song of Solomon 2:10-12

My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,  
my beautiful one,
and come with me. 
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.  
Flowers appear on the earth; 
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

I hear people mention from time to time the dryness of their quiet time. They want to meet God and they set a time in their day and they dutifully read their bible and try to pray. Rather than feel re-charged and like they have met with God, it feels more like the heavens have become brass and their prayers are like soap bubbles that pop before they even float beyond arms reach. They are frustrated and give up.

So I thought today I would talk about my quiet time. Not because I am some super saint and have it all together. Trust me I struggle with all kinds of stuff. I have learned that I really depend upon my quiet time with the Lord each morning. Not that every morning is an amazing mountain top experience. A lot of it is just ordinary and then other days I have great insights and revelations. Your quiet time may not look exactly like mine, because your relationship with the Lord is unique and and God knows how he has wired you and what makes you tick.

Showing Up:
Showing up for my quiet time is where I want to start today. I have to make room in my life for those things that are important to me. I want my relationship with Jesus to be central, everything else flows in and through and around that primary love relationship. So one of the things I do is I show up at the start of my day. I get up early before my family so I have a block of protected time to spend with the Lord.  I don't get up and spend this time to fullfil some religious notion of what it means to be a "good christian".  Wake up and smell the coffee...You can't atone for yourself, you can't be good enough, or holy enough to even begin to live up to Gods righteous, holy standards. You have to accept that Jesus has done for you, what you could not do for your self. Quit trying to pray enough, read the bible enough, do enough good works, --- enough already. Yes, those things are wonderful things and God wants us to share them with us but we have to quit trying to preform for his approval. Things like reading the Word, Praying, learning to be silent, fasting, giving, using your gifts, are disciplines much like learning to play the piano that take regular use and practice to become proficient.  When you live your christian life trying to some how tip the scales in your favor - thinking this much good out weighs that much bad - you are still trying to get to God by your own merit. At some point you need to accept that you are accepted just like you are in this moment with all your flaws, failures, baggage, sins, sorrows, and your talents, abilities and successes.  God loves us where we are today but He does not want any of us to remain in the place we are today. He is always healing, cleansing, refining and tuning our life for His plans and purposes. There are benefits that come with having His word hidden in your heart, in knowing how to rightly divide it and to know what verses to stand on in various situations. There are benefits in learning to hear his voice and to learn to be led and guided by the Holy Spirit, there are benefits in knowing how to connect with God, to walk in the assurance of your salvation and your calling and place in His Kingdom. We must use our gifts and practice various spiritual disciplines for them to develop and grow.  So disciplining our selves to spend time in the word, to memorize it, to study it is really important. Learning to be still and listen, to not just come to the Lord with your long list of prayer demands like a spoiled child with a long list to Santa is important.
So I hesitate to tell you what I do each morning in my quiet time because I don't want you to think that it is some formula that if you need to follow like a doctors prescription to become a spiritual person who is approved of by God.

Preparing The Way of Your Heart
Luke 7:27 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  This verse is written about John the Baptist. For about 400 years there have been no prophets in Israel. Then this weird guy John comes on the scene. He dresses in course clothing and lives out in the wild, and eats bugs and honey. This is the child who is born to Elizabeth and the Zachariah. The story goes that old Zach and Liz were up in years and had no children, which was quite the disgrace in those days. So Zach is part of the the priesthood and it becomes his turn to go into the holy place which happened by the drawing of lots to determine which guy got to do which job. Zack got to burn incense and might only get to do that job once in ones life. Check out Luke 1 for more of this story. So in my quick version, while he is in there to burn incense an angel appears. He is pretty startled and he allows doubt and unbelief to creep in and needs more proof than an angelic visitor to believe what the angel is telling him about having a child. So the angel says ok you won't be able to talk till the baby is born. When he he is born you are to call him John.  So old Zach comes out and everyone is wanting to know what happened and what took him so long but he can't talk. Its a great story but this very old couple become the parents of John who incidentally is a cousin to Jesus. Mary visits Elizabeth while both she and Elizabeth are pregnant. I'm thinking they had some pretty wild stories to swap.  Anyway the big message of John was to repent and be baptized. To prepare your heart for the coming of the Messiah.
In my quiet time I try to prepare my heart for the Lord to come. If I have bitterness, un-forgiveness, or if I am offended, or angry, or hurt I try to work through those issues. I often need the Lord to help me see things from another perspective. I try to prepare my heart to make more room for Jesus in my thoughts, and in my day.

There are a variety of other things that I do from praying in my prayer language, to reading the word, some times I sing songs, or write songs, sometimes I am studying a topic, sometimes I journal or write these posts. Some times I just sit and let the Lord hold me. Sometimes we just talk.

I was talking to a friend today and she shared that in her quiet time sometimes she meets Jesus by a little river and he lets her hold her aborted babies. She has long time ago worked through her guilt and shame for the decisions she made once upon a time. What is so beautiful to me is that God meets each of us in a unique and special way. While much of how we each spend our quiet time is similar, we both like to journal, and to be very open and honest with the Lord about how we feel about stuff. We both spend time in the word and read until some verse or passage speaks to our hearts. She has her own intimate places that are totally unique to her relationship with the Lord.

The Lord wants to help you find those special ways of connecting with him too. I think what really makes my own quiet time work is that I realize that God knows me inside and out. He knows he created me from dust. He knows my limitations, he knows my strengths. Its not about achieving some spiritual stature but more just some of the things we enjoy doing together.

My ex husband used to love to drive to beautiful places and meet God. He called it finding "spots". I know he is reading - we are good friends.  God would lead him to find special places and in those places he could find the quiet to hear Gods voice. He would often compose beautiful songs during his quiet times. Don't know if he still does that or not but it was unique to his relationship with the Lord.

Another friend feels closest to the Lord when out walking in the woods. For me its on my couch with a cup of tea or coffee in the quiet of the morning with two dogs who insist on being right on top of me. A little later my early rising child comes and quietly joins the pile.

I read of one woman who had lots of children and she would put her apron over her head and all the kids knew not to bother her she was talking to God.

I guess my point is that in any love relationship the more quality time that is spent together the more the intimacy of knowing and being known grows and develops. So while you may feel a little awkward in your quiet time let it become a time to meet with the lover of your soul. The more you spend time together the more that intimacy will grow and you will soon discover those special things that you enjoy doing together.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for those who already look forward to their quiet times with you. Thank you for the special things that you have helped them discover that are unique and special to their relationship with you. Maybe they will post a comment and share about how you meet with them in some special way. I pray for those for whom this is all new and who still feel awkward and clumsy in their relationship with you. They struggle to find the words to say to express how they feel.  Maybe they have been trying to earn your favor or approval and are exhausted by trying to do and be enough. I pray you will deliver them and help them to accept what you have done for them. Help them to have more than just head knowledge of your acceptance and atonement, cause to really understand in a deep way that your love for them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Removing Obstacles & Road Blocks

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Found this photo on-line - yikes thats quite a road block!

Isaiah 57:14-15 (NIV1984)

And it will be said:
“Build up, build up, 
prepare the road! 
Remove the obstacles 
out of the way of my people.” 

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who 
is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

I was trying to think about this verse today in terms of preparing a road to knowing and following Jesus. What are the obstacles or the things where people get stuck and how might we help to remove them. I probably won't think of everything maybe some of you will post in comments things that have been obstacles for you and how you overcame them.  I love Revelation 12:11 "Our brothers conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to their lives even in the face of death." Perhaps you will share in comments below this post a bit of your testimony of how you have overcome in some area of your life.

I think complacency is a big issue - some people look at faith in Christ as spiritual insurance. They said the sinners prayer, the attend church when its convenient. Its like the guy who finds the woman he wants to marry and puts lots of effort into winning her, he marries her and pretty much checks finding a wife off his to do list. Then wonders years later why his marriage is falling apart.  I think we have a mixed up notion that we can have relationships with people and have no interaction with them. Kind of like all those facebook friends that send you a friend request and then never talk to you. Marriage, friendships and even walking with Christ are things that are about being done together.  For relationships to grow there must be time spent together.
Complacency is described in the dictionary as self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. These folks are happy to watch from the sidelines and let others live and work while they watch, or sleep on the sidelines. With all our computers and tv's and other boxes we think we are participate just by watching. Stop watching reality shows and really live. 

Fear of Getting Hurt: 
I think lots of people try to live behind walls of their own making they they have tried various relationships and gotten hurt. They have taken the Paul Simon option of being a rock or an island that is alone but does not get hurt or feel any pain. Pain is a good thing it lets you know you have felt something. I won't be too hard on you because I have been an expert at building walls around my heart and not letting people in. I suppose for some if they could attend a virtual church where they pick the music, and the message, and the people around them it would be ok. Life, church, relationships are messy. Following Christ is more than just me and Jesus. It's me and Jesus and the rest of his family. 
He calls us to be living stones in a spiritual house. He calls us to lay down our lives for one another. 
I'll take an order of church but hold the people.  Kingdom life is lived together. Iron sharpens iron. 
I can't take the splinter out of your eye till I remove the plank from my own. 
You are right you are likely to get hurt, people will disappoint you. Just about the time you think you can count on someone they are gone. We were not created for lives of lonely isolation we were created to live in community with others. 

Family or Relational Pressure: Unbelieving family can be a road block. They may view you as shallow or foolish. What will your friends and co-workers think if they found out. Some may not want to have anything to do with you in the future. In some parts of the world one can be cast out of the family structure and even risk death for choosing Christ. In America we have it pretty easy in that respect.  

The Cost of Following Jesus: Luke 9: 57-62 
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”   Objection: Security - Having to walk by faith and not by sight

He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”   Objection: Family duty or responsibility 

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Objection: Desire for a last time with the old life

Performing for Gods approval:
Thinking that you must clean up your act enough for God to accept you. We are created to do good works but our good works do not gain us salvation in Christ. We can not do enough to pay the debt that we owe to Christ for paying for our sins. The good works that we do should be motivated by gratitude not in a vain attempt to atone for our own sins. He accepts you just as you are in this moment, with all your faults, and failures. The thief on the cross next to Jesus, never had a chance to walk a church isle, or get baptized, or do any good works. He believed Jesus was God and Jesus told him that he would see him in paradise. You don't have to wait for your dying breath to accept Jesus you could walk with him from this point forward. Julian of Norwich is healed on her death bed and she says she wanted to live so she could know Christ more.

Pride or Social Status: We get the stories of the rich young ruler Luke 18:18-23  and Nicodemus in John 3  Our quest for money and things or our desire for prestige and power can be major stumbling blocks that keep us from having a faith that is deeper than lip service. Maybe its your job, it is important to work.  Work and that paycheck should not become the center of your existence. It should not define who you are. Who you are is defined by Jesus. It is not your job that provides for you - Jesus is your provider.

Here's some good news from Isaiah 57:  
15 For this is what the high and lofty One says—
   he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
   but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
   and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Some synonyms for contrite: apologetic, regretful, remorseful, repentant,  sorry

Its amazing that God who is high, lofty and holy is willing to be with those who are sorry for the choices they have made, and realize their need for Him in their life. It says he wants to revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite.  Maybe thats you today. Call out to Jesus - let him into those dark places. 

Why are some Christians shallow and stuck, often making the same bad decisions over and over again, they don't seem to progress or grow? Why does it seem that the Christian life does not work for them?
Could it be because the came to a road block and decided that going any further was too hard?
Maybe that shallow, stuck, bad decision making person its you. You keep hitting that same old brick wall again and again. You can't walk with Jesus in your own strength or because of how good or together you might one day hope to be. He accepts you today. He extends his hand to you and says come, follow me. Yeah I know you are a mess, but your my mess and I love you. I want to help you, look I have clean clothes for you and let me show you a better way to live. I understand and know you better than you know yourself. Mostly just come and spend time with me, lets do this life journey together, I have everything you need. You just need to decide to leave the past behind come with me. 

What are the road blocks in your life that are keeping you from following Jesus with your whole mind, soul and body?

What are some ways you might be able to overcome those obstacles?

Dear Lord,
Help us to actually see the obstacles that are blocking our growth and progress towards knowing you more fully and deeply. What keeps us from abiding in you and following you by faith day by day. Help us see some of the ways we might begin to overcome those obstacles or road block in our life. Lord maybe we need to help others to clear their road blocks. Help us look around and see who we might encourage or share the journey with for a while.  Thank you Lord that while you are high and Holy God you are also with those who realize the depth of their need for you.  Lord help us to move in our relationship with you from it being a side thing to being vital like air or water to our body. Let us not put off till someday, the abiding relationship we could have with you today. I pray you will give us the courage to bust through that road block that is keeping us from going further with you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tips on Getting Filled when you are empty.

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Its been pretty grey here. This was taken mid morning.


2 Samuel 23 The Message
1 These are David's last words:
The voice of the son of Jesse, 
the voice of the man God took to the top, Whom the God of Jacob made king, 
and Israel's most popular singer!
 2-7 God's Spirit spoke through me,  
his words took shape on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke to me,  Israel's Rock-Mountain said,
   "Whoever governs fairly and well, who rules in the Fear-of-God,
   Is like first light at daybreak without a cloud in the sky,
   Like green grass carpeting earth, glistening under fresh rain."
   And this is just how my regime has been, for God guaranteed his covenant with me,
   Spelled it out plainly and kept every promised word—
   My entire salvation, my every desire.
   But the devil's henchmen are like thorns culled and piled as trash;
   Better not try to touch them;  keep your distance with a rake or hoe.
   They'll make a glorious bonfire!
So I found myself again today at a loss for what to write. I seem to have come into a dry spell.  I realize that I can't do this on my own. I need the Lord to fill and inspire me.  I admit I have been a bit down lately, I think the lack of sunshine is probably bothering me more this year than it has in the past. Money is tight which means I must use faith and trust God,  and I think I have a bit of compassion fatigue and I need to remember "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9) Maybe some of this is hormonal.  I don't think any of those things are to dangerous levels but I realize I need to remember to take care of me. (For some reason that is hard for me - I tend to put me last - Trust me I have a long way to go to arrive at perfection - I am like you a work in progress.)  I think there are things God shows me that test and try me and I find myself wrestling with God in a sense. Like you I have to sort out what is this my voice, what is Gods voice, and what is the enemy.  So I must ask how does it line up with the Word? 
Speaking of His Word - every day we have to decide if we are going to do things His way or continue with life on our own terms.  In my effort to be transparent here I am sharing that I do struggle to keep my focus on Jesus, and to die to my flesh, and avoid the traps set up by the enemy. It is a journey that is taken one step at a time, one choice at a time and there are days that I do better than others.

So anyway this morning I read the last words of David, the shepherd boy who becomes king of Israel.  Generally we believe that the last thing someone has to say is very significant and important. It is the final thing that they wanted to be sure to communicate.  David tells his son Solomon. "God's Spirit spoke through me,  his words took shape on my tongue."  I know that I need God's Spirit to speak through me as I write these posts. Today I feel like an empty vessel, and I don't want to give you muddy dregs of water. So I pray Lord come and fill me, allow my life to overflow with your presence. In and of myself I have a handfull of talents and abilities but I realize that if you don't breath your life into those things they are nothing more than pretty trinkets some are relics of the past from other times you have moved powerfully through my life. Like faded photographs and memories I know I can't live in the past. I can't live on yesterday's mana (heavenly food - see Exodus 16). I need a fresh infilling of God's Holy Spirit presence today and every day.  So do you.... and so I come in my transparency to something that may help you. What do I do when I feel empty and dry.
How to get re-filled when you are empty?
I pray and ask the Lord to fill me. 
I will take time to listen to what He is saying to me. (Sometimes we don't really want to listen because we are afraid of what God might tell us) Have I put my will ahead of God's will?
I will check to see if I've done something to damm up the flow of His Spirit - (check for obvious sin area's of my life that I know I am not allowing the Lord to govern)
I will look for cracks or leaks ( places where I should be walking by faith but have decided not to trust)
If I find that anything comes up that I need to deal with then I take my findings to God. I ask him to help me with it. Do I need to repent or forgive - those are quite often the place to look. 
Has God told me to do something that I have neglected to do? 
Sometimes all those things are fine and I remember that there is a spiritual battle going on even if I want stick my head in the sand and pretend it does not exist. Perhaps there are some things that I need to bind (Matthew 18:180 - doubt, fear, insecurity, shame, guilt, depression, double mindedness are a few I can think of.... There may be some things I need to loose or release over my life. Keeping in mind that there is the power of life and death in the tongue (Proverbs 18;21). The words that come out of our own mouths do effect us. What am I saying to myself? Am I speaking the truth to myself or have I taken up the lies of the enemy. Ugggh - guilty as charged on that one.  The lie of the enemy to me is "you are not ok, you are not good enough, you have nothing to say, you are empty, you are tired, you are broken...." Lord forgive me - I love David's final thought "But the devil's henchmen are like thorns culled and piled as trash;  Better not try to touch them;  keep your distance with a rake or hoe. They'll make a glorious bonfire!" Perhaps you will join me in adding some garbage to the bonfire. 
Dear Lord, 
Please show us any place that we have dammed up the flow of your Holy Spirit. Help examine us for leaky places and come and repair those places. Help us move out the sin that is clogging the flow of your presence into our life. Lord where we need to us to at least to be willing even if we don't know how to get there, Help us to repent of the things we know of and bring to mind things that we may not be able to see. Lord we need to add some things to the bonfire and so help us to speak aloud those things that you bring to mind now and to bind them by the power of your authority and your name. Lord finally I ask in your name that you would fill us up with your Holy Spirit, that you would loose your peace, joy and love in greater measure into our lives. I pray that you would grant us wisdom to understand your word and faith to do it. I pray you would guide and direct us by your Holy Spirit and I invite you to walk arm and arm with me into this day. Help me to be aware of your presence and help me not to miss the little gifts of love that you send my way.  

I look back over these words that I've managed to write and I am thankful that God has supplied. I am once again humbled by his never ending faithfulness to me.

Some of the other things that I will do when I feel empty. 
• I will pray in the Spirit because doing so builds up my spirit.  (Jude 1:20 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.)
• I will spend time in the Word. Its not that you need to read great amounts. Read until something speaks to you. Then take that verse or passage and think about it, ponder it, act on it or do it.
(1 Peter 2:2 (NIV1984) 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation) Sometimes we need to grow up. There are days that I need to quit wining and fussing and stand on the Word.
• I will remember the things I have to be thankful for. Make a list if it helps.
• I will speak the truth to myself and resist the lies of the enemy. (the battle ground is generally inside my head) James 4:7" Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Just don't forget the part about submitting to God. Quite often I get off track because what God is calling me to do or believe or walk in is bigger than I think I am capable of accomplishing. Rather than trust Him and walk by faith I will too often settle for lesser things.

 ( The more I write the more I see a dozen things that I could spin off on and write about in greater depth - the more I realize that my feelings of having nothing to write or say is just the enemy trying to get me to give up. I would covet your prayers. We all have our battlegrounds this seems to be one of mine presently.)

Reading devotionals, or the works of other believers, spending time singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs. Listening to music and worshiping God along with it.

I often will keep things around me to remind me of God's promises. I will look for little reminders of His love and faithfulness. One of those things for me are lighthouses. They speak to me of Gods light to those on a troubled sea. So I was having a difficult day, I was not feeling good and I was discouraged, and I had to drive to pick my kids up. I looked up and a big truck passed me with a big lighthouse on the side. I just had to laugh and thank God. Somedays he has to send me moving bill boards to get my attention and to remind me to not let go of hope and trust in Him. That is just a little example of one odd way that God deals with and encourages me. It has come from spending time at His feet and learning to love His playfulness. There's another subject to write about sometime. I'm going to call this one good and post it and thank God for pulling this one out of the hat,  like a magician does a white rabbit. 

• Writing seems to help - I think for me it is an act of faith and obedience and as I write God Spirit some how shows up in the middle of my personal desert like water from the rock. (Exodus 17)

You are welcome to join me, in laughing at me - God always provides and I am always thankful.
I had nothing to say and now I am having trouble stopping. Go figure.  Have a great weekend and see you back here on Monday. In the mean time if you need more check out the archives on the lower left side of the Devotional Mosaic Blog page.

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