Friday, August 31, 2012

Suddenly, Unexpectedly, In an Instant

A Devotional by Terri Lister & Margot Cioccio

Isaiah 48:3
I foretold the former things long ago, 
my mouth announced them 
and I made them known; 
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.

Terri in the Palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece
I love it when I am sitting in my chair in the morning and wondering what to write and I feel led to go check my facebook and then find there the inspiration for the days post. Today has been one of those kind of mornings. My friend Terri wrote the following in response to yesterdays post. She even posted a few photos of some of the places she has gotten to see with her own eyes. So her comments have become the bulk of todays post. I know you will be blessed by what she has to share. So you are not confused I will be the bold type and she will be the regular type. All the photos in this post are from Terri's personal collection of things she has seen with her own eyes.

Dear Margot,
I have been thinking about this today, I have so many its hard to know where to start. "Suddenly" or as the dictionary says, "unexpectedly". I do have one I will share with you. Like many people I always watched the documentaries
This one is the Corinth Canal
about the ancient lands of Greece and Egypt , about the travels of the Apostle Paul, Abraham and Moses. It was always fascinating to me. A few years ago I had a sudden and unexpected opportunity to travel to Greece. In the blink of an eye I was suddenly standing in Corinth, Greece. Things I had never truly believed would ever happen in my life were in front of me. I visited the island of Crete and went to the Chapel of Titus. Things that were so far out of the possibility that I could not even dream them really.

Then two years ago God brought two Egyptian boys and two Pakistani boys into my life. I thought so much about my wish to one day see Egypt with my own eyes. The Nile river, the Red Sea. All those things I had heard and read about in the Bible. With the passing of that year I came to love these four boys as my own sons. They have a very special place in my heart.

The last day before they were to leave America I went for a walk in the park with one of my Egyptian boys. I thought I would most likely never see any of them again. We talked about the possibility of me coming to Egypt but even as we spoke the words it seemed an impossibility. My heart broke that day putting them on the plane. I was afraid the goodbye was forever. I prayed that somehow I would go and see my boys one day.

Two months later my college announced that although they could not give raises that year they would give a one time bonus. The day the bonus came I looked at the price of airline tickets to go see my boys. The cost of the ticket for Pakistan and Egypt was within fifty dollars of the amount of my bonus after taxes.
Church of St. Titus in Greece

Suddenly, unexpectedly, I was in Pakistan and a short time later I was in Egypt. I put my feet in the Red Sea, I walked in the sand of the Sinai Desert, I rode a boat across the Nile River, but more important than any of that, I walked again with the four boys who I have come to love as my own.
 
When I left Pakistan and Egypt I promised the boys I would return again as long as God provided a way. This year the college once again was unable to give raises, but choose again to give a one time bonus..... today is the day the bonus came. The amount... almost to the exact penny of what is needed to go once again and see my four boys.

A view of the Sinai Desert, Egypt
Amazing places God has taken me. I would have never begun to believe I would see these things with my own eyes.
 
On most days Terri works at a community college. Please keep her in your prayers as the Lord gives her many opportunities to shine His love to student from around the world. She posted this on the first day of school. "Today is a new beginning for many of our students at the college. Some of them come eagerly, some are pushed in by their parents, some slip in hoping no one will notice. I try to remember that when I answer the same question 300 times or get the person on the phone who can't find their way around the block. A new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity to make a difference. I tell my students all the time, "make your corner of the world better, wherever it is God put you". As students around the world start back to class please remember them and those who teach them in your prayers. They are the future of what our world will become." Thanks, Terri for sharing today, I've been blessed.
 
Prayer: Lord in an instant you transported Philip from baptizing the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-49  "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away,  and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.  Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea." Lord thank you for how you can in an instant provide for us exactly what we need to go where you want us to go. 
Help us to be ready and available for when you suddenly decide to act. I pray even now you would prepare the hearts of these readers for some wonderful thing that you have for them when in an instant you will make the impossible - possible.  
 
 


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don't Give Up

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

My Cleaned Up Garage
Yesterday while the kids and I were cleaning the garage we got some very good news. My husband came out all excited because he had gotten a call from his supervisor for work.

We moved to the Spokane area 5 years ago believing that God had called us to move to this area. My husband had been able to transfer with in the company he was working for at the time. We found a large house not far from where he would be working. We prayed together before signing the lease on the house and felt that even though it would be a stretch that God would provide for it and was giving it to us as a gift. In looking back - even when I did not know where the finances were coming from - God always provided. So we made the move and beat the snows - just barely.  With in 2 weeks of moving Spokane got hit with 6 feet of snow and our new home seemed like more of a snow lodge. The kids were thrilled because they had never really had snow to play in.

With in three months of moving here the company that my husband worked for closed its doors and he was out of a job. Thankfully he had un-employment and some how we managed to get buy while he looked for jobs and finished up the on-line classes for his associates degree. We had hoped that finishing his degree would help him to get a better job. After two years of putting out applications and un-employment running out we moved out of the large house to a much smaller house. Only we did not find the new place in time and spent a few months at my moms while we continued to look for a home. (Even that was a miracle story - because my mom and my aunt both had medical issues that required hospitalization and extra care. God made a way for us to be there to help them.) During that time my husband finally got a part time job and has been with that company for the past three years. The hours have been very sporadic from week to week - making budgeting nearly impossible - but God has always supplied and we have learned to consume less. 

On the 15th of this month my job that I have had for 6 years ended. Since I was an independent contractor there are no un-employment benefits to draw upon. I wrote about this in an earlier post.
I got the call from my boss during the first week of August. A few nights prior to that call my husband rolled over in the middle of the night and told me that God was lifting something off of me.
A few days later my boss called to give me notice. I had been praying about no longer doing that job and being able to spend more time on art, writing and teaching music lessons. I had been trying to little by little replace that income with creative income but still had a way to go to accomplish that goal and be able to quit. Some times little birds get pushed out of the nest so they have to learn to fly.

So while I was cleaning the garage yesterday. My husband received a call from his work saying that out of 2000 employees that three had been chosen to move to full time status. He is one of the three. Anyway after nearly 5 years of putting out thousands of applications and lots of people praying - he suddenly has a full time job. -  I don't know why it took so long to get this particular prayer answered. Perhaps the Lord will give me greater insight at some point. What I can say at this point is don't give up because God will often suddenly change things often after a long time of trusting him.

Joseph - suddenly was remembered by the cup bearer for having accurately explained the dreams he an the baker had. After long years in slavery and then more long years in prison he was suddenly raised to a position of 2nd in charge of the super power of that time in history.

David  - after years of living in the wilderness with his band of followers suddenly becomes king of Israel.  Many years before the Prophet Samuel had anointed him as a young man and proclaimed that he would be the next king. 

The Woman who touched the hem of Jesus's garment - suddenly after years of sickness reached out by faith and was healed.

Acts 16:26
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose

I could probably think of more examples. I say all this to say that sometimes the things we are praying and believing God to supply or even things we believe He has promised to do come after a long time of trusting and hoping and believing. 

That healing you are praying and believing God for  - or that financial miracle, or that job, or that restoration of a relationship  - my appear impossible as if nothing is ever going to change. I would say to you don't give up - you don't know when your suddenly may happen.

I did remember one thing that I did do this month. About a week ago I felt led to support a particular ministry - which at the time with no regular income, seemed a crazy thing to do. I felt the Lord encouraging me to take that step of faith. Was I going to hord every last penny or was I going to trust him to provide. I decided I would take that step of faith and trust him.  Sometimes we do need to take steps of faith along the way. If the Holy Spirit is tugging on your heart to respond in faith, trust and obedience in some way - do it. You may find his response to your obedience and faith to be the suddenly that you have been praying for.  Lets not forget the story of Naman  - who had to dip himself in the dirty river 7 times in obedience to the prophets instruction to receive his healing. He was pretty angry but was persuaded by his servant to go ahead and at least give it a try. The worst that could happen is he'd get wet and need to go take a bath to clean himself.  Six dips and still no change - this seems crazy and stupid but one more dip and suddenly he was healed.  So perhaps it was just coincidence. I'm going to believe it was part of God's leading and that there is a blessing for responding in faith and in obedience to the things the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts to do.

Prayer: 
Lord, I know that some reading have been praying and trusting you for something and it has been a long, long time of waiting. I pray that you continue to strengthen them and pour out your grace in this time of waiting for their prayer to be answered. Help them to praise you in the midst of the difficulty they are facing. Lord if there is some step of faith and obedience that they need to take please help them to know what that is and give them the courage to take that step. I pray that suddenly you will come and give them that long desired answer to their prayers. Thank you for building trust, patience, faithfulness, hope, wisdom and many other things in them during this time of waiting. Thank you for those suddenly's that you have in store for each of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Too Many Plans To Count or Declare

Painting and Design Work by Margot Cioccio

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

On Monday I spent most of the day painting these beautiful birds. It was part of a on line artist challenge. The challenge supplied you with several photos of various separate birds from Costa Rica to work from. I added the bridge and decided I wanted to use two of the birds in my painting.

I suppose I am some what taken aback by the magnificent creatures that God created for us to enjoy. The colors of these Macaws and Parrots are spectacular. Its hard for me to understand how people can look at such things and not see the fingerprints of God and the vastness of his creativity.

I look around at all the things that God has created and I can help but think that he would have us as people who he made in his likeness to also be creative. I'm not talking about just arts and crafts but in every area we should be able to apply the creative process. To have a vision of something that could be and then to take steps to make it become something that others can experience as well.

My head is generally full of ideas. I keep a note book of ideas to refer back to during times when I don't have my head full of ideas.  I keep lists of things I want to work on and I check it every now and then to see what things I may have forgotten that I wanted to do. I keep the list on a sticky on my computer and I underline things and move them to the bottom of the list when I get done with them.
Here's an example of my current list. Things like this painting never even made the list but are more of things that I make a point to do regularly like spend quiet time with the Lord,  write this blog, create something. They are things that no longer need to go on the list because they have become more of a way of life. The To Do list is more things I would like to accomplish and some of them may take a while to accomplish. The things with checks by them on the list are things I have worked on but are not yet completed.
 
To Do
Finish A-Z e book √√
Write a New Worship article for Training Resources
Add Stuff to artfire  10+done √√
Guitar Policies and Open Slots
Finish Guitar Blog Site √√
Hang Guitar Posters √
Garage Clean Up
Sew Patio Pillows
List Items to E-bay - create account √
Create a fiver video and gigs -
            photo collage, christmas letters,
Home Prayer Concerts √
Devotional Posts based on Cinnamon Bear √
Apply To Pearl Blog
Do something about my desk area
Up Date Guitar Teaching Book
Eleanore's 30 Cinnamon Bear Ornaments
Finish the Key Painting
Guitar Poster and flyer

Get Posters to Students 
Create Facebook Art Page 
Create Facebook Devotional Page
Create a book of performable songs


I guess my point is that as I look at the account in Genesis of the creation I can see that God was very systematic. One day he creates day and night, the next land and sea... then on to the various types of creatures. I have grown to realize that creativity does not just happen. You have to set aside time for it. There are things I don't do much of because they are a lower priority. I start with a vision or an idea. Then I assess what steps I can take at this point given the resources that are available to me today. When I am stuck and can't do anything on one project, I let it rest until the inspiration or needed materials become available. I don't spend much time fretting or worrying about how I will get to the final completion but I am always actively looking for the next step. If I'm stuck for a time I pick something else from my list and work on that for a bit. In my mosaic projects if I don't have some great idea to work on I work on nipping glass to common shapes that I will then have on hand when I do have a project idea.

I hear people say that they don't have time to pray and I feel sorry for them because they have not discovered that fruitfulness comes from having spent time with the Lord. Its not that I spend time with the Lord so I will be fruitful. I spend time with the Lord because I have learned to love His presence. The fruitfulness is a by-product of hanging out with the creator. As I spend time with him I am filled with inspiration, hope and courage and it begins to over flow in my life.  When we learn to practice his presence and invite him into our daily life things somehow work better. Its not that I don't face difficulties and set backs but in those time rather than shake my fist and blame God. I look for how that difficulty helps me to know him more. I trust that as I draw near to him that he will help me figure things out. I know that as I take the next step of faith that even though there seems to be no safety net his hand is always there protecting and guiding me.

Sometimes I need to set my list aside and seek the Lord about what he has on his list. The things he has planned for us are too many to count or to declare. While I have my list of things I am working on I make a point to remember to be led by the Holy Spirit. It may be the Lords plan for me to spend time supporting or encouraging someone else. Its important to me to stay available to Him.  At the same time I have to know my boundaries. There are times when we are to step in and help other and there are times we need to pray and believe that others are capable to work things out on their own. 

I hear people comment all the time about how busy I am and how much I get done. I do keep busy but I try to keep it a relaxed contented busy rather than a stressed and harried busy. I fully believe that the Lord will give me everything I need to accomplish the things that He wants me to do. Sometimes when I don't seem to have what I need for some goal or project I check my motivations. Did I take on this project because God wanted me or did I take it on for some other reason. Sometimes I need to make adjustments. Quite often the steps that God has for me to take to accomplish some task are far different than my own.

Today I think I will work on the Garage project - not my favorite but it needs to be done and I've put it off till the end of the summer.  If I get it done quickly I will reward myself with some extra creative time.

Prayer:
Lord you know the multitude of thoughts and plans you have for each of us. Help each reader to realize the value of abiding in your presence and allowing you into every part of every day.
Lord there are some that still fear they don't measure up. They think why bother they will never be good enough to please you or to reach your standards of perfection. For those readers Lord, I pray that they would come to know the wonder of your acceptance and Love.

Help Support this BLOG
If you are getting this devotional in your e-mail I realized that the paypal donation button does not work. You have to click the blue title and get back to the actual post for it to function. You can also help by sharing this devotional with your facebook friends or pinning this to Pinterest or to Stumble Upon and I truly do appreciate your prayers as this is a faith journey for me.





I also try to make my artwork available to you in a variety of ways. I make a small royalty on these items that helps me to pay my bills and continue to be creative. I hope that you see them as resources that will encourage you and also those whom you might give them to as gifts. If you see a design that you like and want it on a t-shirt or some other item let me know and I will make it available and send you the link. 

Macaw & Parrot Candy Jar
Macaw & Parrot Candy Jar by MargotsDesigns
Browse other candy dish designs on Zazzle.


 





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What If - Photo Challenge # 2 Debbie DeRienzo

Monday, August 27, 2012

Even The Darkness Seems Light To You

Psalm 139 - Even the Darkness Seems Light To You
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I hit a point during this weekend where I felt troubled. I don't even remember at this point why, I'm not sure I could even fully pin point what it was at the time.  I sat down at my desk to paint and with no idea of what to paint. I started with purple and then I decided to make it streaky and before you knew it the picture emerged. As I thought about it I knew what the verse should be on the back. The portion of scripture from Psalm 139 that says "If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."

I suppose in a way the Lord gave me another lighthouse for my funny mostly intangible collection. Most of the collection is from lighthouses I see during my day sometimes on a side of a truck, or on a bible case, a picture on a wall, a card displayed in someones house. The best one was I was about to post something and had to type the funny random words to make sure I was a real person and not some bot. The words that I got that day were "lighthouse". Its just a little reminder thing between myself and the Lord. I originally picked lighthouses thinking that here where I live they would be hard to find because we are inland and not near the ocean. I am often surprised by the places I find them. I've even had them come up in conversations that I happened to hear. They remind me that the Lord is protecting, lighting the way, that he is guiding and directing me. About the time I feel alone or discouraged a lighthouse will be there waiting.  This one was found as I painted. 

I really like this portion of the Psalm having moved a lot in my life. No matter where I have gone I have found the Lord and his people. He goes with me and he holds me securely.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;  if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

Psalm 139 must have been on the Lord's heart for our congregation because our pastor was supposed to speak about the 7 churches in Revelation. He said he had been fighting the Lord about detouring from the plan all morning. He decided it would be better to leave the plan and go with the Lord. I'm glad to have a pastor who will follow the Lord even when it messes up a sermon series or scheduled plan. One thing that I had not considered that he brought up was the vastness of God's thoughts towards us. "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." To think that God has so many precious and good thoughts for me so many they are beyond number.  Even when the way before me seems uncertain and dark I can be sure that God has thought about it. He knows how he wired me. He knows what things frighten me and why. He knows where I have believed in error and he knows how to go about fixing those things that are broken or damaged in me. 

What ever you are going through today you can be sure that God has thought about it and has a plan that is good for you through it. Thats not to say everything is easy some things are difficult and build our spiritual muscles. Sometimes God has a good plan and we stubbornly go our own way and end up with a mess before we call him to our aid. He's there waiting to be invited into the decisions that lay before you. Too often we think its no big deal and that we can handle this one on our own. God delights to be included in your day and in the things you are facing. Too often he is the last resort even for believers. When hope seems gone they finally turn to the Lord to help them. He should be our first resort not our last. 

Prayer: 
Dear Lord,
We want you to be part of this day and every day of our life ahead. Help us to remember that you are with us. Thank you for the little reminders you give us along the way. Thank you that there is no darkness to dark for your light to penetrate. No problem that is beyond your grasp. Thank you for the many thoughts to numerous to count that you think about each of us. Lord help us to align ourself with your plans and purposes for today and tomorrow and each day as we walk with you and learn to trust your leading and guidance for our life.   

Please Help Support This Devotional Site:  
The following are items that feature my art that was featured in this post. If you would like this image on some other item comment and let me know. Also you can always use the Donation button to be part of helping make this site possible. Thanks, Margot






Grocery Tote  
Greeting Card with Psalm 139:11-12 on the inside.
Lighthouse Apron
Lighthouse Apron
Lighthouse Apron by MargotsDesigns
Make your own personalized apron from Zazzle.
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Been a bit Snappy and Stressed?

 A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


I am just completing a big commission project of 30 hand painted Christmas ornaments of illustrations that I have done from the Old Time Radio show called the Cinnamon Bear.
You can see my favorite character from the series, Snapper Stick the Crocodile. I am just about done with the finishing touches on the project and took some time out to experiment with a first card idea. Eventually they will all become cards for various occasions.

I was thinking about what I do when I get snappy. I do often take a bath. It might be why I like this character - I can relate. The bath gives me some time away so I don't take my grumpy mood out on my family. It is good to allow the Lord in even when we are discouraged or grumpy. He is not just a fair weather friend. We serve a God who is not un-done because we are having a bad day, even when we are mad at him. Anyway I've collected some verses for you that may be helpful to remember when you are having a stressed out snappy kind of day. 

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.


Philippians 4:6,7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Another thing that Snapper Stick the Crocodile reminds me to do is to sing or to praise the Lord. To be thankful and to not forget all that he has done.

Psalms 103:1-5 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, Help us to turn to you when we are feeling snappy. Help us to be careful with the words that come out of our mouths in those moments. Help us to not say things that will hurt or damage the people we care about. Lord if we were snappy and said some things we now regret give us the courage to repent and make things right. 
 




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Turned Some Corner

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Photo by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 94:17-19
 Unless the Lord had given me help,
    I would soon have dwelt 
in the silence of death.  
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your love, O Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought 
joy to my soul.


Today upon rising I had ideas for an new album in my head. I've written two verse and a chorus to what I think will be the title song. Then I thought I better stop and get this devotional witten for today.

For the past week while I have been painting I have been listening to music and I find myself drawn back to my earlier folk music roots. I know I've turned some corner because for many years I set that music aside for what I deemed to be more spiritual music. I do love praise and worship music but I for years divorced myself from a musical style that like so many other things reminded me of a past that I felt went off track. Over the past few years God has done such a healing work and in the process I have gained back a number of things that I once loved to do but set aside in favor of things that would not remind me of the life I felt I had lost. I wonder at times why it took so many years to deal with this long forgotten and broken part of my past. I locked it up and stayed clear of anything that reminded me of it. I suppose in a sense it was off limits to even the Lord. He is a gentleman and won't force you to share your life with him. He won't force you to take of your religious mask to truly be known and to know him.  You add to those off limits areas a busy daily life with plenty of its own concerns and before you know it those memories became that trunk in the back of the basement behind a lot of other stuff... forgotten.

It was not until the Lord started talking to me about meeting him in the secret place. In my mind that secret place he was calling me to was some wonderful spiritual garden like place. So with old hymns words like " I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses"... "and he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own"... I said yes Lord I'll meet you in the secret place. I'm not saying that the Lord tricked me but I had no idea that he was talking a massive layer by layer basement cleaning as the location of our secret garden. Its been every bit of 3 - 5 years of layer by layer dealing with the things located in the basements of my mind and heart. It pretty much started when I began spending daily time with the Lord. Before you run away and tell him "no way I'm not going there. Lets leave well enough alone." I want to say that he has dealt with things as I have become ready to face them. He has not forced me, nor has he shook at me a wagging finger of condemnation. In each and every broken and painful place he has understood and helped me to see that area through his eyes of mercy and love. I have been able to forgive others, and forgive myself and I have allowed him to sweep away the rubbish and preserve for me those things that are precious. Perhaps even more precious because they have been rescued from the rubble heap.

For years my time alone with the Lord was pretty sporadic. I got filled up on worship services and was busy serving the Lord and doing lots of interesting things. The Lord met me and used me in those places of service. I prayed a little here and there and would binge on the word when I felt guilty about having neglected it. I would binge journal in much the same way and talk to the Lord about things that were going on as I found a bit of time here and there. I think the Lord met me where I was at the time. In that time I learned to trust him, and how to walk by faith. He's rescued me so may times from things beyond my control and from my own foolishness.  I've seen him take impossible situations and turn them into places of great possibility. I was walking as closely to the Lord as I was able to walk in those seasons of my life. Perhaps I will look back on this season at some point and realize that this was just scratching the surface of truly knowing Him.

In the dailyness of our relationship we have been able to little by little deal with the long forgotten secret places. As we have dealt with them from that once barren and salt covered ground has sprung new life and I see things beginning to bloom and grow that I had no idea were even possible.
I've turned a corner. I think perhaps we are done with basement cleaning and we have moved into a time of wholeness and fullness in him.

"The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive." - Saint Irenaeus

You invite us to come and die - so in you we might truly live. ~ Margot 
(Words to a song I need to finish writing)

Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
You know what is around the corner. When we have found the faith to go beyond where we could see and what we understood, you meet us there. When we are ready to take that next step of faith you rise up to meet us that we might journey on together. Lord help us to leave what is familiar and to embrace the adventure that you have set before us. You are calling us to come closer to know you more. Come closer and allow you into those secret places so that we might die to our old dead and broken past and become fully alive in you.

If this devotional has ministered to you please consider supporting this faith ministry. 
Thanks ~ Margot





Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spiritual Photo Challenge #1 by Debbie DeRienzo

Today I am excited to be able to start including from time to time some wonderful posts from my friend Debbie DeRienzo. We worked together on a church worship team probably ten years ago and have kept in touch by e-mail and more so of late by facebook. I know you will enjoy her series of Spiritual Photo Challenges.
 ~ Margot


Spiritual Photo Challenge #1 
by Debbie DeRienzo

Photo: SPIRITUAL PHOTO CHALLENGE
AUGUST 1:
John 4:14  "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Every day after my workouts I am so desperate for a drink of water.  I have worked up a sweat and lost so much water in my body that I am craving fluids.  My body NEEDS water so badly.  I pull out my water bottle and quench that thirst.  Sugary drinks will not satisfy, coffee will not work either.  I NEED water.
Spiritually, Jesus is the water that brings life to the soul. By drinking the living water we can live and never thirst again.  Just as the physical body needs water to continue living so does the spirit. Jesus is the water needed by the spiritual part of man. Without Him the soul will eventually die. The soul is thirsty and we try to quench that thirst with many things that satisfy for awhile, but eventually we get thirsty again. The only thing that can truly quench the thirst of the spirit is the living water, Jesus Christ.John 4:14 "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Every day after my workouts I am so de...
sperate for a drink of water. I have worked up a sweat and lost so much water in my body that I am craving fluids. My body NEEDS water so badly. I pull out my water bottle and quench that thirst. Sugary drinks will not satisfy, coffee will not work either. I NEED water.
Spiritually, Jesus is the water that brings life to the soul. By drinking the living water we can live and never thirst again. Just as the physical body needs water to continue living so does the spirit. Jesus is the water needed by the spiritual part of man. Without Him the soul will eventually die. The soul is thirsty and we try to quench that thirst with many things that satisfy for awhile, but eventually we get thirsty again. The only thing that can truly quench the thirst of the spirit is the living water, Jesus Christ.
 
Prayer: Lord help us to be able to realize that we are thirsty for you. Help us to stop trying to fill that need with everything else. We need you to be living water. Lord some are living in a spiritual desert be to them an oasis today. We remember to pray today for military families and ask your protection and your grace and loving care. Thank you for Debbie and her husband Mike for their support of military families we ask that you give them many opportunities to be your light as they continue to point people to know and love you Jesus.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Always Before Me

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
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 I will not be shaken...

How do you set the Lord always before you? Some of the things I will do to keep the Lord always before is to place bible verses around where they can speak to me and to others. I've been working on trying to include some sort of scripture print featuring my photos, painting or mosaic work in these post. I hope you will be inspired by them as you read and even perhaps decide to give them as gifts or use them around your own home.  I have at times gone so  far as to write bible verses directly on mirrors or to put post it notes around the house to remind me of a verse that I am standing on.

I keep the Lord ever before me by setting time aside to spend with the Lord in his word and in prayer during which I make sure to listen and not just rattle off a long lists of needs and requests.

When I am feeling shaken and stressed I try to find a quiet moment where I can take some quiet time to re center myself in the Lord. I will speak out loud to myself his word. Faith come from hearing the word I take Romans 10:17 literally. "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." I will ask for his help and approach the Lord with thankfulness and praise. I try to be honest with the Lord - if I'm struggling I ask him to help me. If I have sinned in some way I try to be quick about repenting.

I suppose I keep always before me as I am around others. I am always looking to see the Jesus in people. Where does he shine through in there life. How can I encourage them to trust and follow him more closely.

Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. I think over the years I have seen the Lord deliver me and rescue me so many times that I have come to trust that he will take care of me. He tells mighty warriors like Joshua to Fear Not and he tells me the same thing. I do not have to generally work up my faith in a crisis because I am making a point to walk near to the Lord each and every day. I make a point to include him in my triumphs and my tragedies and everything in between. I'm not saying that my faith does not get stretched at times. In those times I remind myself of the many other times that God has helped me. I recall the promises from his word. I look for a verse that is speaking to me in this moment and I begin to stand and act upon it. I speak my faith and pray out loud as a way of reminding my own spirit and the enemy where I am choosing to stand.

I had at one time posted a big angel over my tv with a sign that said " I will put no vile thing before my eyes." I could probably stand to make a new one of those. Its easy to become desensitized and just sit on that couch like a potato soaking in all the garbage. I am far from perfect in this respect. My husband and kids think I'm kind of nuts but I cover my eyes and at times will stop my ears and even walk out of the room. I have such a vivid imagination and gruesome images are hard for me to get out of my head.

Prayer: Lord I thank you that you want to spend time with us. You want to be part of our days and even those troubled nights. You are not waiting for us to get our act together you accept us today right where were are in this moment. Thank you for leading us in your word and by your Holy Spirit. Thank you for inspiration and courage and hope for this day. 

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Once more the sounds of joy and gladness

A Devotional by Margot Ciocco

One More - by Margot Cioccio - Available Below
  


Jeremiah 33:10-11 (NIV1984)
10 “This is what the Lord says: 
‘You say about this place, 
“It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more  
11 the sounds of joy and gladness, 
the voices of bride and bridegroom,  
and the voices of those 
who bring thank offerings 
to the house of the Lord, 
saying,“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,  
for the Lord is good;
    his love endures forever.” 
For I will restore the fortunes of the land 
as they were before,' says the Lord.


This I randomly flipped open Jeremiah and have read chapter 32-33. In chapter 32 verse 2 "The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined to the courtyard of the guard of the royal palace of Judah." 
Jeremiah is held prisoner because the king does not like the things he is prophesying about Babylon soon defeating them. During this time the Lord gives Jeremiah a little bit of a confirmation and a sign of his intentions. He tells him that his cousin is going to offer him a piece of land to redeem and own as his own. That he is to buy that land. So shortly the cousin shows up and the deal goes down.
It has to be a kind of weird time because here Jeremiah is prophesying doom and destruction for the neighborhood, God is also giving hope of future restoration. 

Sometimes the Lord must tear down the old things the deeply broken structures in our lives. The places where we have trusted in our own self sufficiency or looked to idols of one form or another to be our rescue and salvation. Those places where we have turned away from him and to our own devices. As I read I thought of the journey I have been through in the past three years with the little inner city church. The church itself is older than the city of Spokane and was started by a handful of Swedes who wanted to be able to gather together and worship in their own language. Most were newly immigrated to this country. In looking through the church archives I discovered that this church has been close to closing many times in its long history. While I was on the board during the last three years we came very close to closing again. We were with in two months closing because the money to pay the bills and keep our pastor was almost gone. During that time when things looked hopeless I would pray and God would say "prepare your fields" and so we continued to feed the homeless and minister to the people who came to us each week. Some church dynamics are different in the inner city because most of our congregation is poor and many are homeless. We are surrounded by missions, and homeless shelters, Spokane Mental health and the city prison work release. There are at least 33 registered sex offenders in the surrounding blocks. Our pastor says "this is not Mr. Rogers neighborhood." but God is doing amazing things in a place that seems a hopeless and filled with many utterly broken lives.

God sent provision that carried us along for a few more months through a homeless person. It boggles my mind that anyone with means would intentionally live a homeless life on the streets. This person told our pastor that they wanted to help and could the pastor meet them at the bank. Really not knowing what to expect Rob, our pastor showed up to meet with this person and to go to the bank.
God provided a very large sum of money which allowed us to keep our doors open and continue to feed the homeless of our city for a bit longer. In the bit longer that we were afforded through this donation our denomination heard what we were doing with the homeless and how our church was growing and helped us to get a loan that would allow us to do some repairs and up dates and some new things. The loan gave us a three year window to get things turned around. 
As I was reading these chapter in Jeremiah I came across the verse above and was struck by this section. "there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord."
This weekend we are celebrating the wedding of two members of our church family. This couple is sold out to the Lord and it is exciting to be able to share this day with them.  In this church that was so nearly dead there are going to again be the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom. We serve a God who heals and restores!

I guess my thought today is when you think all hope is gone, go to the Lord. He may tell you to prepare your fields, or like he told Jeremiah to go and buy a field. That action may seem totally contrary to the handwriting that seems to be on the wall in this moment. Yet the Lord is speaking "Do you yet believe I am able?"  In Jeremiah 32:17 it says "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is to hard for you." 

In Jeremiah verse 32:37b-38 it says I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 

Verse 42 This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 

In Jeremiah 33:3 it says "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know."

Why does God seem to delight in restoring the broken? Why not just keep things from getting broken in the first place? I think that prior to being broken we think we can manage just fine on our own. It is when we find ourselves in situations that seem to be hopeless that we begin to know the Lord as deliver, redeemer, Savior and healer. He alone can rescue - He alone can save!

In Jeremiah 33: 8 - 9 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive them al their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all the nations o the earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace that I provide for it. 

I don't know where you may be on your journey, you may be facing some seemingly hopeless and impossible things today. There may be things you need to face and repent for having done. It may be time to turn around and to truly look to God rather than all your own devices that you think will save you. You may have exhausted all your resources.  It's time to turn to the Lord!

I was at a big women's conference this weekend and one of the speakers shared the story of Hagar and Ishmael out in the desert. They have run out of water, it seems that death awaits them. When suddenly the Lord speaks to Hagar and opens her eyes to see a near by well. In her despair she had not been able to see it. This example spoke to me because God did not just "poof" and make a well out in the middle of no where.  It had been there all along. Hagar just could not see it until God opened her eyes. It has caused me to ask the Lord to open my own eyes to the means of provision that He has already prepared for me that I just can't see until he shows them to me. You can study the story in Genesis 21."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. " Your answer may be closer than you realize.

Prayer: Lord I thank you for your great desire to heal and restore. I think you for the journey to know you more that we are on. I thank you that in the middle of our most hopeless situations that you already have provision prepared for us. Come now Lord and speak to us show us the well that you have provided that we just can't see until you open our eyes. Open our eyes that we could see you as our provider, deliverer, healer.

Todays photo verse is available as a greeting card and on a necklace. The necklace is a great way to keep this promise verse close to your heart. Thanks for helping support this devotional site by remembering these items that Margot has created when you are in need of unique gifts.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Protecting Your Quiet Time

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 
Photo by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 143:9
Rescue
me from my enemies, 
O LORD, 
for I hide myself in you.

This morning is one of those days where I have had to protect my quiet time.  I don't have a set time to be up. I wake up naturally, well sort of naturally. The dog makes sure I'm up because she is starving to death and her tummy won't wait another second. Thankfully if I let her out and then feed her she will settle back down and sleep after doing her duty of making sure I have gotten up for my quiet time. Its a small price to pay for such a faithful alarm clock.
My husband works nights and is generally not home or not awake between 5 am and 8am in the space where my quiet time generally happens. Today he had a local job and got home early having had way too much caffeine and was way too wound up. He started sharing with me all the things on his mind. My mind needs to warm up in the morning - we've been married a while now - he should know that by now. I tried putting a blanket over my head and asked him to stop chattering at me. I really need my quiet time. That did not work and he continued to tease and pester me and say how quirky I am in the morning.  I realized I was not going to get any peace with him in the room. I probably get the bad wife award for not dropping everything and being totally attentive to my husband. He gets the bad husband award today for not honoring my quiet time with the Lord. I finally had to gather up my stuff and head to the bathroom. So the bathroom has become my quiet place this morning. I've turned on The Healing Refuge and have drawn bath water have spent time literally soaking before the Lord. 

Eventually my mind does warm up and I am able to write these devotional posts. Some days the Lord is helping me deal with concerns. Today is not one of those kind of days. I have had to reign in my own thoughts that some mornings want to race ahead to all the things I want to work on. Today I have had to fight to maintain a center in him. I think at this point I have put my own ideas to the side and and isolated myself away from my husbands chatter. It seems to be more of a rest in Him kind of morning at this point. I get the feeling that what He wants me to share with you is that sometimes there are all kinds of distractions and he waits to see if we will push past them because time in His presence is truly important to us. Is He really my first priority or is he my last resort? For some of you reading He is your last resort. When you have exhausted everything else you turn to him with your tired left overs and your problems.  I suppose He is blessed that you turn to him at all. This is not meant to be a condemning guilt trip. More of a heart check - is he first in your heart?

What are the things in your life that try to crowd him out and to rob from you that quiet place in his presence. There are things I have learned to do to guard and protect my quiet time. I make a point to get up in the early morning when my household is still quiet. When no one needs me for anything and can just sit with the Lord. Even then I sometimes need to silence my own busy thoughts. I sometimes do that by making lists so I remember to think about those things later. Sometimes I just need to journal and talk through an idea or an issue through with the Lord. Its not like I have to get to some mystic holy place to commune with the Lord. I just need to invite Him in to share not only my happy at peace thoughts but those that trouble me as well. Some mornings I am just too tired and I tell the Lord how much I love him and want to spend time with him but I am so tired, Im not sure I can manage much of a conversation. On those days He holds me in his arms. On those days I will often do things to feed my spirit that require little effort on my part. Things like setting my i-phone to the Healing Refuge and letting those songs minister to my spirit. I am ever grateful that my friends Mark and Lori Kenney had the faith to step out and launch the wonderful variety of Healing Stream on line stations. My favorite for my quiet time is the Healing Refuge. I've put links in this post so you can get there and enjoy it. I hope if you like it you will consider giving a donation to help support that ministry. On mornings like today it is part of what has rescued my quiet time.

Other things that I do is... I show up. I don't always know how the Lord and I will spend that time. Time with Him is among my first things each day. I saw a great demonstration once. If you take a jar and fill it with rice and big balls of foil it demonstrates in a profound way that if you put in the big balls of foil first and then pour in the rice all the little stuff some how fits around the big things. If you fill it with rice first  and the balls second the big balls never fit. It is true of our life. Your priorities are the big balls put them into your day first and all the little concerns will some how fit in and around those things. I run at a pretty high speed and have a lot of things that I am working on and involved in. Some days before I go to bed I make a list of the most important things to get done. There are days that are crazy busy and there is no way that it will all fit and I ask the Lord to come in and bring order. To go before me and lead me through the mine field and some how things work out. Someone will call and cancel or other things will mesh together and in the end I know that the Lord has helped me.

I suppose one of the things that I remember is to be grateful to not take things for granted. I make a point to take the time in the morning to invite the Lord in to the day. To ask Him if there are things that are important to him for me to do. I have been trying to turn my prayers around to not be me telling God what I want to do and have him bless but ask him what he would want to do with me on this particular day. I try to throughout my day practice his presence. While I am driving in the car I am often carrying on a conversation with Him in my head.

While writing these devotional are part of my quiet time, I try to even set them aside for a time. The priority is to spend time with the Lord not to write devotionals. They are a priority don't get me wrong but I am aware that they are an overflow of my time with the Lord. They are not the purpose for my quiet time with the Lord.

Your quiet time may look totally different than mine. You may be more linear and have set things that you do with out fail. You may have a pattern or a set way that you approach God. My point is that you make spending time with the Lord a priority. If you ask Him he will help you figure it out. I know for some people they find the Lord when they walk in the woods. Some may not be morning types and your best quiet time may be late at night. The Lord knows how he wired you and he knows how to reach you. If you don't set aside time for Him guarding and protecting it as your top priority other things will crowd it out.

Prayer:
Lord thank you for the quiet times you spend with each of us. I thank you for the unique variety of ways that you connect intimately with each of us. I pray that you would help those readers who are struggling. Some are feeling that they just never measure up. That their quiet time is not what it should be. Perhaps there are changes they do need to make but Lord I pray that you would silence for them those feelings of lack, inadequacy, feelings of why bother because they are not good enough, or holy enough, or ______ enough. Help them take those thought captive in this instant and allow them to feel your great love and know that you accept and treasure them in this moment. Lord today I ask that those praying along would join me in praying for Mark and Lori Kenney and the Healing Stream Stations and the ministry that is going out all over the world. Thank you for the people who are being encouraged, and strengthened. For those who are finding courage in you to take that next step of faith.

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