Thursday, August 29, 2013

Members of His Household

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, Ephesians 2:19 NIV

My homemade cheese press contraption
My mother, who is visiting, heard me talking about having a flop day. (A day when you don't do anything of consequence or a day of rest and relaxation.) Our flop day was actually pretty busy so we are going to try to do a better flop day tomorrow. 
Canned Hamburger Meat
Today we washed and dried off the jars from yesterday's canning, processed kefir and the cream cheese that we make from kefir or yogurt. Then we needed to take the car back into the shop because it was still spiking into the red briefly and then going back to normal. The mechanic suggested that we have the cooling system
The Daily Kefir Project
flushed. So while we waited for that to be done, we had a couple of hours to kill.
(Looks like it may have done the trick - car seemed fine driving home.)

Our first attempt at Sushi
 Since my son's birthdays were coming up in September we went looking for things that they might enjoy. Then we came home my mom took a nap and I made red velvet cake (low carb and gluten free) so we could have an early birthday celebration for both boys while my mom is still here.
Red Velvet Cake
  Niah the oldest boy, wanted Sushi for his birthday dinner so he and I worked on our first attempt at making it. Cai has not decided what he wants for his birthday dinner. In our house birthdays are a month long celebration where we try to do special things. 

So presently we are all sitting at the kitchen table. Niah is drawing with the new inks and papers he got and Cai is building a wooden working model of Di Vinci's 15th Century Arial Screw. I've got my lap top and am trying to come up with something that will encourage or inspire you in your walk with the Lord. 

Niah will be 16 Sep 7th  and Cai will be 13 on Sep 27th 
I guess what jumps out to me from today's verse is the idea of being a member of God's household. In my household we try to give gifts that are tools that will help to continue developing useful skills. Niah is very interested in all things art and Cai likes to build things and follow directions. They are both very different in how they approach things. I think as members of God's household there is room for us to each grow and develop. He does not expect us to be exactly alike and to all like the same things. He wired each of us a bit differently.  Even from one family to the next there are differences in what we value and how we approach life even as Christians. Those differences are wonderful. God's desire is for you to be you. He does not desire for us to all be the same. Each of us has a unique relationship with Him. Just because we are members of the same household does not mean we are all exactly alike. As members of the same household there are some things that we hold in common but there is also a lot of room to shine and to use your gifts in a multitude of creative ways. 
Cai is still busy at work building. 
Mom with the pressure canners. 
Me packing hamburger in jars to can. 
In His Grip
Tomorrow we will try for a better flop day. But I have students in the morning and we got big box of tomatoes to can. True flop days are hard to come by.

My oldest son got these wooden manikins as a present and wooden hand that can be posed for drawing. It was not very long before the hand was posed to hold the manikin. It reminds me that God holds us each in His hand.

Prayer: 
I pray that you would live your life fully. That you would also find time to rest and enjoy a flop day now and then. Help us Lord to enjoy each others differences. Help us to not try to transform others into our image but to remember that we are being changed in to your image. If we look at each other we can begin to see how amazing you truly are.  Lord keep us each in your grip.

I thought you might enjoy a peek into my household and some of the things that we are doing. At this point things are winding down for the night. I am thankful to be a member of God's household and I rejoice in the resources and freedom that gives me to be fully alive and totally me.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Projects

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: 
to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 NIV

This verse makes more sense to me in the Voice version. 

John 6:29(VOICE)
Jesus: 29 If you want to do God’s work, then believe in the One He sent.

Doing God's work is a funny thing. I used to think that one needed to aim to be serving in a local church to do God's work. There is certainly plenty to do in that arena. For most of my christian life I have felt particularly called to work in the local church. I have made involvement in church the center of my life and activities. I am seeing that God's work can be done pretty much any where. Earlier this year I felt like God was beginning to shift me from one arena to another one outside of the church. Please don't think that I am mad or hurt or anything like that. I love my church and continue to be involved in things there.

One only has so much energy to put various places. I can manage to cram an awful lot into my days. The thing is I had to spend time refining what exactly was God calling me to do. There are lots of great things one can be involved in but they are not all necessarily Gods best or His plan for you. 
So while there are a lot of great things happening at my church - I am not necessarily the person called to do them. I am excited to more and more see people stepping up to help do things. I am trying to spend more time doing the things I particularly feel called to do. In my church presently that is facilitating prayer. It includes things like gathering interested folks to help develop and put together the prayer loft filled with hands on things to help people connect to God. The next one will be a 23rd Psalm theme. In addition I am working with interested people to put together a prayer team that comes early to pray for the service and to plan and put on prayer and worship nights. I see my role as being the person who says "thats a great idea, go ahead and run with it". Pretty much encouraging prayer and helping to facilitate it happening in various creative ways. It may still sound like I have a lot on my plate but I am trying to not be the person who makes it all happen but the person who encourages others to stretch and use their gifts. 

My focus at least for this year is learning and studying. I start Massage School on September 11th. I think that out of that training my focus will be in another arena outside of the church. The good news of our verse today. Is that God's work can be done where ever you are and in what ever phase of life you may happen to be in. It can happen if you are rich or if you are poor. If you are old or if you are young. If you are brilliant or just average or even if you have some handicap. 
God's work in our lives starts by believing in Jesus whom he sent. Getting to know him by spending time in His word, and in prayer. Then like Isaiah you my find yourself hearing God say "who shall we send, who shall go for us?" and like Isaiah you my be the person who respond "here am I send me!" My paraphrase if you want it word for word check out Isaiah 6:7-9 

beef broth

hamburger
My projects the last few days have been puppy sitting for a friend and canning. 
So far we have canned 27 pints beef broth. Today we are doing 30 pints of raw packed hamburger. It has been fun to finally get to do canning with my mom. 
Next week add teacher meetings and school open houses. As well as hair cuts and shopping for school supplies. Right now I need to get out the door and on to a lesson. 
Hope you find something to encourage you in your daily journey in this post. 

Blessings, Margot  

Monday, August 26, 2013

All God's Creatures

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5 NIV

So this verse makes me think of this song called All God's Creatures Got A Place in the Choir - its one I have fun doing with my students.


http://youtu.be/-iP27eatYxE

I suppose one never realizes how important their big toe is until you stub it and it hurts. Really our bodies are a lot like our cars. We just expect them to work. We've been down one car for the past several weeks. You don't realize how dependent you are on that 2nd car until suddenly you don't have it. Then you are thinking about how you are going to do the things you've committed to do if the first car is not available. In our family, my husband is out of town most of the week for his job. Which made it really impossible to share one car. Thankfully my mom came up and stayed with us and I was able to use her car. I am glad to say I brought the 2nd car home today and the bill was considerably less than the first shop had estimated. So glad I got a second opinion. So it now has a new thermostat, a new battery and a new radiator. I had no trouble on the drive home but I am supposed to call the shop this afternoon after I drive to and from my music lessons to let them know how it did. Anyway - thank you to those of you who have been following and praying. 

So we each have one body and it is made up of many parts. If one part or system is not working it affects all the others. Sometimes we don't realize the stress or strain that we are putting on various parts because other parts are not functioning as it should. 

In the church or the body of Christ we are made up of many parts. Some serve very specialized functions and others more general. If everyone is doing their part we feel great and can get a lot done for the kingdom. If there are some of us who are not healthy and functioning in our gifts and callings the others around them have to pick up the slack. Which if not corrected quickly can lead to burnout. 

How do you fit into the body of Christ in your local church? 
We need each other and we need to encourage and build one another up. Notice what others are doing and thank them. I always say no one notices the sound man till there is feed back or some tech problem in the service. No one notices the janitor until the toilet stops up. We should notice those who are serving, especially those who work behind the scenes. 

 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Second Opinion

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:18-19 NIV

There are times when we feel like life has spun out of control. We feel like we are slipping. Our verse today reminds us that God's love is unfailing. He will be your support.  I think it is interesting that the verse acknowledges that we sometimes feel great anxiety but if we look to the Lord He will console and comfort us. 

Earlier this week I felt like my life was in a bit of a slippery spin. My husbands car was in the shop and we got the call that it would be a major repair job in the several thousand dollar range. Which set me and everyone else here into a brainstorming spin of all the possible ways we might solve this problem. Yesterday I had students and as I prayed in the morning I felt the Lord saying stick to the plan of getting ready for school and don't be thrown off by the distractions. I felt His instruction was to keep moving forward. So I shared that with some of my family members we stopped all the spinning of ideas and yesterday everyone kind of chilled out a bit. 
Today I felt like we needed to go get a second opinion on the car and a friend had given me a place that they recommended. So today I called the shop where the car was and I asked him if the car would even start at this point. He had cleaned and tried to charge the battery but it was just dead. I asked if I could just pick up a battery someplace and have him drop it in for me.  Which he did for no charge. Because I did not want to be having to jump the car if I had to stop it because it was over heating on the way to the other shop. I did stop once to allow the engine to cool down a bit while checking on directions. 

We made it to the shop and the mechanics looked like those guys in the Duck Dynasty reality show. They were super helpful. When I explained what was going on. They came out and looked at the car and recommended that we start by replacing the radiator that was leaking. He said he could do the job in an hour and I could get a radiator for him to use. I started to ask who I should call and what I needed to buy. He said here let me look it up on my computer. He found one for  $85 dollars and the labor he said would be $65 dollars. He seemed to think that the loss of pressure in the radiator could be causing all the issues we had discussed. So I am hopeful at this point and should know more perhaps even tomorrow, if not early next week.

This evening I got some essential oils to get ready for my Message Training. I got two carrier oils that they can be mixed into for use in Massage. All of them have various healing properties.

I previously had two essential oils in my collection. Peppermint and Tea Tree. I added Clary Sage, Cypress, Frankincense, Geranium, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lavender, and Rosemary. All of these are great choices for your home remedy first aid kit.
Yesterday I came home from my morning lessons with a pretty bad ear ache. So I took a little time to find out what essential oils might help. Turns out olive oil and peppermint were recommended.
So I tried them out and by the time I needed to leave for my afternoon lessons it had pretty much subsided. My mom got up this morning with an ear ache and we did the same thing and it worked again. I've used peppermint for headaches and upset tummies. I have a lot to learn on the topic of aroma therapy and the healing properties of various essential oils and how it all relates and compliments Massage Therapy.

So today felt like I got beyond the crazy spin of some earlier days this week and was back into moving forward towards my set purpose and goals. As I moved through my day those previous distractions seemed to have begun to part and move out of my way to find reasonable solutions. 

Prayer: I pray that the Lord will help you to realize his great love and if you are anxious that He would comfort and console you and you would know His joy. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bigger Prayers

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 
Romans 8:32 NIV

Do you get this verse? God went so far as to give his Son as a sacrifice for our sins, to bring us back into right relationship with the father. He already gave the ultimate on our behalf. Do you think the trifles that we are worrying about are really that hard for him. The end of the verse says "will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" It does not say some things it says all things. 
If you are like me you are going to go check the preceding and following verses to see if there are any conditional statements. So here's the whole passage that talks about us being more than conquerors. 

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

Is God for us? It is easy to think when we face trials and difficulties that God has forgotten us. After all why would he care about people as messed up as us? 
Look at verse 33 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?" I don't think God is caught off guard by our failings. He knows us from beginning to end. He knows why we do what we do. He knows the thoughts that we have that are twisted. He knows how we got broken. He knows our potential and he knows our weakness. 

What ever your momentary trials may be...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  Let me add... cars needing major repairs and transportation concerns as well as finances that don't add up and relationships that are difficult. What ever the hardship you may be facing God has not forgotten you. 

I had a friend say recently that our prayers and expectations are often too small.
We timidly approach God with at "sir, I don't want to bother you" kind of demeanor. Bother him are you kidding - he is like the father who waits for the prodigal to return. He does not chase him but he does watch and wait. When he sees him off in the distance He runs out to meet him. He does not give him the servants job that he feels he deserves. He orders a great feast prepared. He puts a ring on his finger and fresh robes. 

So I still don't have our car issues solved. Today was busy with students and I just had to put it on the back burner. When I prayed in the morning I felt like the Lord reminded me to not get side tracked and distracted. I am supposed to be getting ready for school to start. I felt like the Lord said to continue to move forward and watch the obstacles move out of the way. So I re ordered one of my books. I looked for massage tables and chairs on Craigs list. I focused on my students and my family. I started reading one of my text books that I was told we needed to read at least four times. I stopped spinning all the possibilities of ways to fix my situation. I got back on track doing the things I believe I am supposed to be doing at this point. I left the rest in the Lord's hands. 

Tomorrow I will simply follow His leading and see where it takes me. 

I think we read verses like the one we have today and think that must be for other people. God can't mean me? Sometimes we have not settled what it is that we want. Sometimes that false humility thing kicks in and we feel awkward walking as not only a kingdom ambassador but one of the family of God. 

We limit the Lord with our small thinking. We ask God to fix something when perhaps God is waiting for us to ask him to replace it with something brand new. 

God does not wake from his slumber, wringing His hands saying "geesh...what do they want now? He is delighted when we realize how much we need Him. 


Well thats all for tonight - I pray the Lord will help you to grab ahold of this message. I hope you will find the courage and faith to pray bigger prayers. 


    

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rejoice

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Rejoice: A Photo I took at an art show early this summer. 
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. 
With him at my right hand, 
I will not be shaken. 
Psalm 16:8NIV

I suppose this is a good reminder for any day. For me it is a good reminder after a kind of crazy day of spinning many possibilities of ways to resolve our current car repair solution. 
I was given a name of another shop to call to get a second opinion. Will try to call them tomorrow. Not sure if I can drive the car there or not. Lots of questions to ask the mechanic when I talk to him. 

Looking at other options possibly trading the car in on something newer. Selling the car ourselves and then finding a decent used car to buy. I hate car shopping.  We even talked about sharing a vehicle with my mom which ranged all they way from maybe they don't need a car since they live in a small town and don't go anywhere. To the other end of the spectrum of moving them closer to Spokane, or getting a house big enough to include them in our home. So we looked on Craigs List and drove by some places. One was a dump and the other was very nice. Some of the thought behind that is that my mom is having more trouble taking care of my aunt who is dealing with a bit of dementia. Combining incomes makes affording a large house possible plus it solves the car situation. I know that we may be moving that way at some point as they get older but all of us were thinking it was still in the future and maybe it still is. We had been talking about my mom and aunts changing needs before all this car stuff came up.

I am reminded of the words from Philippians on how to handle every situation. I've put it in bold in the verse below for you. 

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Much of the solutions we came up with seem way too complicated and filled with things I would rather not be having to deal with while starting back to school after 30 years. I wonder if this a catalyst to make some change or do I need to simply stand firm and expect to see the deliverance of God. I have been trying to do my part of exploring the options that I can see. At this point I am tired and still have nothing settled.

No decisions have been made at this point it has been a brainstorming kind of day. All the things I can think of cost money that I don't have to pull off.  When you have done all you know to do - you stand. You wait, you watch for God to open some door or provide a way where one did not previously exist. Tomorrow I will try to do less spinning of solutions and more waiting and trusting. I have students tomorrow so I don't see that I'll have much time to deal with this subject anyway. 

Still... I remember the many, many times God has helped me in the past, 
when the situation was beyond my ability to fix. God supplied. 

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. 
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 
Psalm 16:8 NIV

God says to us...
I Am....
I Am your healer
I Am your provider
I Am your deliverer
I Am your shepherd
I Am able to make a way when there seems to be no way. 

He has parted rivers, raised the dead, healed the sick, set the captives free, made the lame to walk and the blind to see. His name is Jesus and this current trial will pass and become yet another memory of God's love, kindness, grace and mercy in my life. 

Prayer: I pray that not matter what you may be going through that you would keep your eyes on the Lord. I pray that although it may feel like your head is spinning, that God is our rock of refuge. He is our hiding place in the storms. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Like me perhaps you need to push the weight of your situation back over onto the Lords more capable hands. I pray the Lord will meet you right now and give you His peace. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

We All Need Jesus


A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 



Psalm 18:32-34 (NIV)
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

Today has been an interesting day. I met with my Massage Therapy Instructor and had essentially my first two hour class. He showed me the various resources and some pretty cool tech things that are available for students to use. He checked through my books to make sure I had gotten all the correct editions. I have one that is the wrong edition and I will need to return it. I got my first cranial massage - which was not getting your head rubbed. I don't think I can explain it yet but I am looking forward to understanding why and how it works and learning to do it. I turned in my paper work and paid my tuition down payment.  All in all it was a really informative and great morning.

Then I came home and got a call from the auto repair place. I had already stopped by to pay for the thermostat but it was still not running right. It turns out there are considerable other issues. At this point there is white smoke coming out of the tail pipe. Which the mechanic says is coolant leaking into the engine. That fix is about 1500 dollars and then he said your timing belt is beyond time to be changed and if the engine has to be pulled you might as well do that too. Its another chunk of change and the radiator has some kind of leak. His estimate was somewhere between $2000 and $3000 dollars. So my head was kind of spinning trying to figure out what our options might be. At this point I don't have a solution. My husband travels regionally to different locations for his job so he needs a reliable car. He could use mine but we bought them at the same time and it is likely to quickly have its own wear problems. With him out of town most of the week I would still need to be able to drive something. My mom has been gracious to come up here while the car has been in the shop and to share her vehicle. So how does this all relate to the verse today?

Well for one, part of what I have tried to do from the beginning with this blog is to be open and honest. I want to share with you my walk with Christ. Not just the mountain tops but the valleys and the in betweens. In thirty some years of walking with the Lord I have seen Him to be faithful in all of those places. Some of it has stretched me quite a bit. I admit this situation is stretching. At this point I don't have an answer and there is a great temptation to worry and to get discouraged. So this situation is like an enemy that threatens to stop us from moving forward.

It is God who arms me with strength 
and keeps my way secure.

I could sit around and say we should have done this or that, and we might not be in this place. I can look at all the should of, could of, would of's and they are all water under the bridge at this point. I can't change the past but I can decide how I will navigate the present. The bible is full of accounts of God's people who find themselves in difficult circumstances and how God delivers them.

When difficulties and trials arise we can look to the Lord to help us navigate through them or we can throw a pit party and sit around worrying and re-hashing what could have been done in the past. It is possible to be so consumed with fear and worry that you can't see God's answer when its right before your nose. I think of Hagar in the desert sure she is going to have to watch her son die of dehydration. God hears her cry of desperation and shows her a near by well.


He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; 
he causes me to stand on the heights.


I am choosing to trust that this situation has not caught the God of the Universe, whom I serve off guard. He is not asleep at the wheel and while I can't yet see the solution, I am choosing to be thankful and to praise Him and to remember all the times I've been in a tough, seemingly impossible spots and seen God come through in ways beyond what I could imagine. I have every confidence that God knows our needs and is fully capable of moving on our behalf.  Who knows maybe He will use you. There is always a donate button at the top right of the blog home page. But this is not some appeal for you to give, at the same tome I'm not going to limit how God may choose to answer. I'm not sending out little prayer hankies or blessed bottles of oil or cute little pins. This blog has not been a source of income. I write because I believe that God has directed me to share my journey and insights along the way.

I've spent much of the Summer seeking Him for his direction and I suppose I think the timing today is kind of laughable.  The very day I pay my down payment to move forward in the direction I fully believe that the Lord has shown me to pursue that a giant obstacle rears up and threaten stop me in my tracks. Nope - I'm standing with young David on this one, as he faced the giant of the land in his day. He picked up a few stones in 1 Samuel 17: 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

Two months ago when I first met my Massage instructor to learn about the program offered. 
 I said to him. "I am confident that if this is God's plan for me that the finances will work themselves out. I did not know how and I set about doing what I could do in picking up new students. When I shared my desire to go to school with my dad and his wife they took some time to think about it and then called me several days later and said they would completely cover my tuition. They are not believers and my not see God as part of the equation but I do. No matter what they believe at this point, it is none the less an act of generosity and love and I am blessed.

I remember the story of the widow who was about to make her last meal. She meets Elijah, who has been sent from the river bank where he has been fed by ravins for quite a long while. Seems in the three year drought that the river dried up. So God sent him to meet a widow woman who was to provide for him. She was at the bottom rung of the societal ladder with no business helping this strange prophet guy. He said to her "make me a small cake first and then make yourselves one and your oil and grain will not run out." I'm giving you the New Margot version not a word for word quote. Well every day she repeated the same meal preparation and every day what she needed was there in her jars. The story is in 1 Kings 17 if you would like to read it. My point is that I believe that God blesses those who take care of His servants. I am His servant and I believe that somehow God will bless my father and his wife for their generosity to help me pursue the path that I believe God has shown me to follow. The widow woman had heard of God and the mighty things He had done for His people. She was not a Jewish person, she was from Zarephath, a neighboring country of non believing people. While others were struggling and starving God provided for her because she helped Elijah who was God's servant.

Sometimes it is as simple as letting a need be known and someone will rise up to be the answer. I believe in divine appointments. Maybe there is someone who has a good car they no longer need and God will some how bring us together. Maybe God will supply the money to fix the car. I don't presume to tell God how to solve this problem. I simply bring my need to him and fully trust that He will help us to find the answer. Its not a faith that I have to work up - "Oh I hope God will help us." It's not "Oh God I will do _____ if you get me out of this mess". It is simply "Lord we need a reliable car for my husband to be able to do his job. The one we have needs extensive repairs." God may supply by fixing the present car, or he may supply a new reliable car or He may answer in countless other ways that I have not even considered. What I do know is that Romans 8:28 is in effect. I love the Lord and I am called according to His purposes. So somehow this will work out for my good.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

He trains my hands for battle; 
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

He has trained me in the power of thankfulness and in praise. He has trained me to remember the past times He has helped me. He has trained me to make my needs known to Him in prayer. So while my head spun a bit this afternoon and I felt a bit overwhelmed by the news, I was never with out hope or confidence that God was in control.  I have set my mind on verses that talk about God making a way. I remember the stories in the Bible and the countless and amazingly diverse ways that God supplied for those who trusted and looked to Him. 

There are many people who are in far worse places than myself in this hour. I pray for a dear sister who just recently received a diagnosis of cancer and for another one who has been diagnosed with  MS. There are readers who have lost jobs and people who have lost loved ones. There are some fighting depression and others I know who are dealing with homelessness and some with addictions.
So rather than fuss and fret over my own needs I will pray for them. 

I am reminded of the words to a song by Amy Grant 
(I've embedded the video at the top of the page or you can use this link http://youtu.be/xFz503Pqg38

"We believe in God
And we all need Jesus
'Cause life is hard
And it might not get easier
But don't be afraid
To know who you are
Don't be afraid to show it
If you believe in God
If you say you need Jesus
He'll be where you are
And he never will leave you
Sing to me now words that are true
So all in this place can know it...
We believe in God
And we all need Jesus"


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fragile Earth Suits

 A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, 
we die for the Lord. 
So, whether we live or die, 
we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8 NIV

If you go and look at the rest of this chapter its all about the controversies over what foods one should eat or drink and regarding particular days as special. What it all boils down to is faith. 

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

The other concern is based upon loving our neighbors and not causing others believers to stumble as a result of our choices in these matters. 

20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean,but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

At this time in the history of the church there was a mix of people who had come from a Jewish background who had been taught that some foods were clean and to be eaten and others were not to be eaten. As more and more gentile believers became part of the mix from all sorts of cultures and ethnic groups controversies abounded over food, drink and cultural celebrations. 

I guess I wonder why God did not continue the dietary laws of the Old Testament with the establishment of the Church. I suppose the emphasis changed from keeping the law, which basically showed us that we are incapable of fully keeping God's standards. We each and everyone of us falls short of God's will and ways. It shows us that we are in need of a savior to restore us to right relationship with the God of the Universe. The focus became faith in Christ rather than a civil and dietary code of conduct. Jesus fulfilled the law completely. There was no longer a need for regular sacrifices to atone for ones sin. Jesus paid the price for all these things once and for all. 

The message in the end to this mix of Jewish and Gentile converts and to us as well is to not to cause others to stumble as a result of our choices. The other believers around you are the work of God. We are all works in process. What the area of growth and focus is in my life may be very different from what God is working on at this time in you. We are not a vast army of clones that have been saved and brought into the kingdom. We are each individuals with varied pasts and our own array of brokenness.  God alone understands fully his plans and purposes for our lives. He alone understands how we have been broken and what it will take to restore us to wholeness. His desire is that we love one another. That we extend grace to others as he has extended grace to us. 

Our verse today says "If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. 
So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:8 NIV
I suppose we are all living and dying at the same time. We are alive in Christ yet our mortal bodies wear out and eventually die. We are spiritual creatures who live in fragile earth suits.
I always liked this quote from Rich Mullins, "Live like you'll die tomorrow, die knowing that you'll live forever." I guess it brings us to the question - how are you living for the Lord? 
Are you taking care of your earth suit so it will last long enough for you to accomplish the things that God has prepared for you to do?  

The photos today are ones that I took of a display of clothing made from balloons. As I was looking for something to go along with the post title of Fragile Earth Suits I found these in my photo library. I wished that I could tell you more about their creators. So I looked very closely at the photos and I noticed in the bottom of this last photo that there is a sign at the bottom that says Artwork by Air Art. I could not read the rest but I did a little web searching and came up with an artist with the same logo. Here it is this guy, Ryan Oelrich
does some amazingly creative things with balloons. http://airsculpting.com/


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Invitation to Dinner

 A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Riverwalk Painting by Margot Cioccio 
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On to our verse for today.......

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:14,20 NIV

You have a dinner invitation from the God of the Universe. Jesus knocks at the door of your heart but he will not break down the door. He waits for you to hear him knocking and to come and open the door for Him to take part in your life. 

This verse remind me of another from Matthew 22. 

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

What are you too busy with that you can't take the time to enjoy the banquet that the Lord has prepared for you each day. He desires to spend time with you. 




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

God's Handiwork

My Massage School Textbooks 

 A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

My Massage School textbooks arrived recently. I spent some time flipping through them and reading bits here and there. I am excited to be getting to study in greater depth God's amazing handiwork. The human body is so complex. 

I've been reading a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. She takes a look at how primitive cultures ate and how it affected their healthy. They can tell a lot by looking at the bones of ancient people. She has some pretty convincing arguments that we have been pitched a lot of information regarding health and wellness that benefits big business and the drug companies far more than it benefits you and I. In looking at primitive cultures she points out that most ate mostly meats, seasonal vegetables nuts seeds and berries. Even when they became more agricultural the grains that they ate would have been sprouted grains and they would have added fermenting  as a way of preserving dairy, vegetables and fruits, which actually increase the nutrients available to the body.  The ate no processed flours, sugars, oils. They ate real foods that they generally collected, harvested and preserved with in their family structure. 

I'm not saying we all need to move to the farm or to the woods and live in a hut. Just as I am looking at things it seems we have gotten a long way from Gods original designs. My dad posed an interesting questions recently. He said look around your house at all the things you have. How many of those things could you make yourself. I cold maybe get a piece of wood and make a poor copy of a wooden spoon. We have become so industrialized that we are separated from how things are made. Most children think that milk comes from the grocery store not from cows. How many have even seen a cow or a goat up close or seen how milk can be turned into butter or cheese. Even most of our food often comes from cans or boxes. 

I've been spending a lot of time this summer learning how to make and preserve more things starting with fresh foods. So far I have learned how to make kefir and yogurt from milk. (I live in the city so having my own cow, goats or chickens is not an option.)  From the yogurt and kefir I can make soft cheese. I can make butter from the heavy whipping cream and I've been told you can make it from kefir too. I have been learning about laco fermenting foods and have been pretty successful with a number of vegetables. Pretty much my family is eating fresh or fermented foods and are enjoying what we've been serving. They were already used to low carb cooking and we have simply added wonderfully fermented foods to the lower carb way of cooking and eating we were already doing.

Anyway I have been thinking about God's creation of mankind and the world He has given us to live in and how far we have gone from Eden. Jesus restores us spiritually to a right relationship with the Father. He does not just zap us out of here at the moment of salvation He leaves us here. He begins a process of transforming us and he has prepared in advance good things for us to do. 
He has given us work and things to attend to in this life. Our spiritual life is not separate from the rest of our life. Our life is meant to be lived in Him. We are meant to be led and instructed by the Word and the Holy Spirit. There has been a prevalent idea in the Church life is somehow sinful and we should focus on the spiritual and disregard the body and the things of life. Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and sinners he did not spend his time locked up in the temple. He was out with ordinary folks involved in the things commonly known to man. Every day he demonstrated the principles of Kingdom life. 

I like this quote from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon "There is a great deal to be learned from their dietary habits, but the fact is that we are not fundamentally cave men but beings with a divine component to our being. The desire to abstain from animal products, found so often in those of a spiritual nature, may reflect a longing to return to a former, more perfect state of consciousness that was ours before our souls took embodiment in physical bodies on the material plane. This longing attracts many to the belief that our bodies and souls can be purified, or that we can achieve spiritual enlightenment, through a meatless diet. Saintly individuals are often drawn to strict vegetarian habits, and some have been able to sustain themselves on a diet free of animal products for fairly long periods of time. (Some have even lived on no food at all; for many years St. Therese Neumann of Bavaria consumed only the consecrated host. Similar well documented examples are found in the lives of Catholic and Hindu saints.) Even so, it is a mistake to think that meat-eaters lack spirituality—many
highly spiritual people eat meat regularly. Perhaps they instinctively realize that when we eat animal products we are accepting, reverently and humbly, the requirements of the earthly body temple in which the soul is temporarily housed, even as we look forward to the day when we have completed our earthly assignment and our souls will be free to return to a higher condition, one in which we will no longer be dependent on foods provided by the animal kingdom. Seen in this light, strict vegetarianism can be likened to a kind of spiritual pride that seeks to "take heaven by
force," and to shirk the earthly duties for which the physical body was created."

It is not just the big things that we do for God but the everyday ordinary things that are also to be acts of worship. The kindness I show my family and others.  Even the food that I prepare should show His love to them. The environment of my home should reflect His peace, joy and be a place of refuge and refreshing for all who enter its doors. When you go to work at a job you also have daily opportunities to be a living bible. You are the only bible that many people will ever read. Your life is an act of worship and your on going continual prayers and communication rise before the Lord like a pleasing incense.  


John 17:14-15 (NIV)
14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 

We are all works in progress for me I am seeing more and more how life in the spirit is not separated from life in the body. God desire is to restore us to wholeness in Him. 

Prayer: I pray that the Lord will meet you and help you to see His good plans and purposes for your life. That you will look at yourself and see with renewed wonder His marvelous creation. That you would find joy and fulfillment in the good works that He has prepared in advance for you. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

A New Way of Life


A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV


Each of us has been given a body that is home to our spirit / soul. When we become followers of Jesus, our bodies become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies become a place of worship to the God of the Universe. For the Corinthians and many other people of the time our verse was written there was some confusion.  The idea of worshiping the sun god or the rain god or the fertility goddess was practiced by taking an offering to the place of worship and generally included having sex with one of the temple priestesses. This is not the kind of worship that this verse is talking about. In God's way of doing things sex is reserved for the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. In keeping the marriage covenants we have made before God we honor God with our bodies.

There are more ways that we honor God with our bodies.
Paul say "All things are lawful for me, says he, but I will not be brought under the power of any", 1 Cor. 6:12. There was a big deal at the time about weather or not to eat meats and foods that had been sacrificed to idols. Daniel and the boys set a great example by not eating the food from the Kings table as a way to honor God. They we slaves and had no control over how the foods were prepared and what food may or may not have been offered to idols. They decided the safest path for them at that time was to stick to the vegetables and drink water. 

I like what Paul has to say about not being under the power of anythings. There is often controversy between Christians as to weather or not one should partake of alcoholic beverages. I know some believers who see no problem with it - after all Jesus drank wine. The Bible clearly says to not be drunk on wine. Ephesians 5:18 "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." One tends to not care when inebriated. It is easier to bypass our conscious at such times and to do things that we may later regret. I suppose the biggest issue for me is that I know a number of people who struggle with alcoholism and I would prefer to pass on drinking rather than to risk causing someone to stumble. I also don't drink often because alcohol is rapidly converted to sugar in the body. I would prefer for my body to burn fats rather than sugars so I try to minimize the sugars in any form that I consume. Thats a whole other subject. The important thing is to follow the Holy Spirit and be aware that someone is always watching - you are a living Bible.

What we do or don't put into our body is another way we can honor God. I believe God wants me to be healthy. When I am healthy I am more apt to be able to have energy to put towards His Kingdom. If you ache and are sick and tired all the time its hard to leave the comfort of your couch. I know many people who just want a magic pill of some sort to solve their health issues. I tend to think we must adopt a lifestyle of learning how to care for our bodies. 

For years the Church was all about developing the spiritual lives of people. I read my bible and and I think God wants us to be whole people. That our spiritual life must mix with our mental and physical life. The three combined make us whole and healthy. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and I tend to believe that the Holy Spirit will not only help me to be spiritually healthy but mentally and physically healthy as well. More and more I am seeing how each part effects the others. They work together. 

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

3 John 1:2 (NIV)
2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.


I think we get in trouble and out of balance when we think that following God is only about growing spiritually. Yes Bible study and prayer are important. So is life with your family, and so is taking care of your physical and mental health. I have been bothered by Churches and even Christian Schools who's approach to righteousness is to simply keep you constantly busy with spiritual things so you have no time to sin. I see kids raised in such environments often fall away once they are no longer under their parents or the schools thumb. They have complied but they have not really believed and changed. I hope I'm not stepping on toes.

I see churches do the same kind of thing by having home groups and teachings and meetings every night of the week. I'm all for creating services to meet the needs of people but when spirituality is measured by how much stuff you attend I think we are heading for problems. I have seen too many marriages come to breaking points because with all the stress of the holidays the church also decides to put on a big production that takes hours and hours of rehearsal time. Not that big productions are evil. There are wonderful community and bonding things that happen during such programs. We have to find a balance that is healthy for our whole life and our families. If you are at church every night and the kids are in the nursery or home alone we are sacrificing them on the alter of our over zealous spirituality. Sometimes this comes from feeling like we have to some how be good enough. If we just pray more, and attend more bible studies, or serve more we will tip the balance in our favor. If thats you stop. Jesus fully paid the price - it is not about what you do - it is about what He did.

Finding the balance and learning to be a whole person is something I am pretty passionate about. 
Jesus wants all of you. The good stuff and the ugly stuff. He takes you as you are sinful, broken, confused. Step by step he wants to walk with you through the process of transforming your whole life for His glory. 

Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What is Faith?

One of my photos of flowers. 
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Faith is a funny thing. Where do you draw the line between faith and irresponsibility? When is waiting on God, just lack of action, indecision or laziness?

Without faith it is impossible to please God. So if I want to please God I have to some how have faith. Where do you get it? Do some people just come by it more naturally than others? Are you born with it or do you have to learn to have faith?


Lets look at some of what the Bible has to say about faith. Keep in mind I am just scratching the surface this is not an exhaustive study.

Galatians 3:22
But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.


From this verse we see that with out faith in Christ we are not going to be able to unlock Scripture. Its won't make sense. So if by chance you are reading this blog and you are not already a believer a lot of what I am saying just wont make a lot of sense for you. We also see that something has been promised and one obtains that promise through faith in Jesus Christ and is given to those who believe.

Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.


Some where along the line one needs to hear about Jesus. Somehow in hearing about Jesus and the Kingdom message, faith begins to emerge. I can look back and actually remember the instances that someone talked to me about Jesus. I was pretty closed to it for many years. I was 20 and had moved from St. Louis to Ohio to live with my aunt and her family to help take care of my grandmother who was dying of cancer. My grandmother passed away several months after I got there and the church the family attended at the time had one of those missionary camps. I figured I could enjoy the nature and tune out the speakers. Which I did. What I did not count on was that the message was also in the music. As I listened to one of the musical concerts I started to hear about the love of God, and belonging to a family. I did not make my decision to follow Christ that weekend but the message in the music had some how connected and got my attention. So I started watching the folks that claimed to be Christians. I attended some church service and youth events and asked more questions. There was an altar call in church one Sunday and I felt moved to respond. It is a decision that I have not ever regretted making in 30+ years of following Christ. He is all that He promises and so much more.

2 Corinthians 10:15
Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand,

From this verse we can see that faith is something that grows. As it grows the activity of other believers and leaders and even the teaching of the Word also expands.

Romans 12:3
[ Humble Service in the Body of Christ ] For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

This verse helps us to see that not only does faith grow but it is distributed to us by God. So I believe that God created each of us with a seed of faith that upon hearing the message of His love begins to grow and there are points through out our life where we are called to a place of decision. Decision to follow Christ is the beginning and over time we begin to see that we need to allow Him in to more and more of our life. We may have invited Him in to fix the plumbing but he takes that invitation and begins a whole renovation of our life. Of course He is always a gentle man and does not barge in where he is not welcome. He does not force us to follow Him or to do things His way. It is more that His kindness leads us to want to turn from our old ways and begin to do more and more His way.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

How is your life stacking up to His Word? How is your life stacking up to Jesus and how he lived and responded? We must test ourselves. You are either moving toward Jesus or away from Him. It is really uncomfortable to remain sitting on the fence.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Faith is an interesting thing. I have seen people who are sick try and as a last resort try to shore up or drum up their faith. If you have been walking closely with Jesus that faith has already grown up in you. Taking your health concern to Jesus was just part of your on going walk with Him. I think sometimes there is a race against time between the illness and the person whose has late to bloom faith. I always pray for people to receive God's healing. Some do and some don't and I don't begin to know all the reasons why. I think sometimes its a matter of too little, too late. I have also seen great people of faith who had many people praying for them die. In those cases I have to trust that God knows how our days are numbered. Seeds must fall into the ground and die for new life to spring up. I think that when you are in the midst of a crisis - its a bit late to try and build up your faith. You may want to shake your fist at God because He does not immediately fix things. All too often we blame God for inaction when it was our own choice not to include Him in our life. Maybe you called yourself a Christian but you don't really have much of a relationship with the Lord.

Romans 14:1
[ The Weak and the Strong ] Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

It is important for all of us to set a good examples for others. Our lives should reflect the love and the character of Jesus to others. We are all working on different things. An area that you have mastered may be one that I have not even begun to work on.

1 Corinthians 13:2
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.


1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Well this seems to be a good place to stop for this blog post. Here are some more verses about faith for you to consider. I pray that the Lord will strengthen and encourage you in your faith as you grow to know Him more and more. 

2 Corinthians 5:7
For we live by faith, not by sight.

Galatians 2:16
know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Galatians 3:14
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.


Galatians 3:26
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,

Galatians 5:5
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.


Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.