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Here are a few reprints:
I knew Dad would guide me and keep me safe always whether we were in a store, at a crowded festival, or walking through the church parking lot. With Dad at over 6’2”, holding hands with the less than 3’ version of me was out of the question. Instead of grabbing my hand, Dad always insisted little me would walk in front of him while he placed his fingertips lightly upon my head to guide me.
I always felts safe with my dad. After all, he had been in my life since the beginning, he seemed calm and intuitive about the future, and he was a great problem solver along the way. Dad was an early example of how God cares for his children and leads us through life.
You [God] go before me and follow me. You place your right hand of blessing on my head.
(Psalm 139:5 NLT)
When we accept and focus on the fact that God walks behind us, we understand there is nothing in our past that has surprised him. The enemy of our soul fires darts at us filled with the shame, guilt, and regrets. But God has been there since our beginning and He already knows all of it. And, He loves us still.
With God going before us, we will never face anything in our future that will catch Him off guard. Every trial, our frequent frustrations, and painful heartaches, may come to us but through Father God’s love He will see us through. Worrying about our future, and the futures of those we love, is unnecessary. Rather than spending time and energy worrying about the challenge, picture Almighty God walking three to four steps ahead of you, and maybe less, on those more trying days.
According to the Psalmist, God’s “right hand” blesses me. The right hand is known as the strong hand–the hand that represents power and authority. His hand on our head shows His nearness and concern in our present time, and His desire to lead us on the path He has planned for us. His right hand rests lightly upon my head just like my dad’s light fingertips did so many years ago.
Dad’s hand on my head made me more confident and less afraid. I felt safe even when I didn’t know the plan, or exactly where we were going. I knew everything would be okay because Dad was capable and in charge.
I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. (Hebrews 13:5b NLT)
Everything changes when we realize how closely God stays with us. He has our past covered, nothing in our future will surprise Him, and His hand leads and blesses us through our current circumstances. We can rest assured, especially when we couple that Psalm with the awesome promise we find in Hebrews 13:5b (NLT), which reads, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
Friend, your Heavenly Father has a future for you. Trust Him to guide you into it, and through any problems that may come along the way. Your heavenly Father secures your past, protects your future, and leads you through your present days.
Share an experience where you were sure Father God was guiding you.
Heavenly Father, May I be sensitive to Your leading through everything I face today. Thank You for guiding me every day. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
My car clock ticked off two unacceptable minutes as I stared at the drive-thru menu. Since my hour-long commute had come in under an hour, I had time to treat myself to breakfast. The little speaker box stayed silent.
With a huff, I put my car into gear and approached the window, uninvited. The lights were on and workers scurried about with intent, but not one of them acknowledged my presence, or my desire for food and coffee. After a few more minutes—and maybe after wildly waving my arms—I mumbled, and pulled away. On the short drive to the office, Anger convinced me to write a public review, contact the corporate headquarters, and post my disappointment in a quirpy Facebook post.
Like a big bully, Anger tries to boss us around. He shoves us into feeling rejected. He calls us names until we are offended. He provokes us to agree with him and to seek revenge, and then some. Anger is relentless and persuasive; he begs us to respond with urgency before we can acquire more information, or fully understand the whole situation. We’ve all watched, in horror, as others cannon-ball off the high dive into anger as if it were a swimming pool on a July day.
People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness. (Proverbs 14:29 NLT)
I cornered several of my co-workers before our work day began to share my rage, and some pretty ugly opinions of the chain restaurant’s customer service. One friend widened her eyes and ducked her chin. After clearing her throat twice and allowing a small giggle to escape, she informed me Wendy’s, at that time, did not even serve breakfast.
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19 NLT)
All of my drama and stress that morning could have been avoided if I would have recognized Anger and kept him away from the entire situation. Then maybe not everyone I worked with would have had a front seat for my cannonball of foolishness.
Let’s become slower in getting angry—slower in becoming frustrated with a business employee, or our pastor, or a friend, family member, or coworker, based only on the details we know. It’s safe to assume we lack the key information to make a true and fair opinion in the moment: key information, like the menu offerings, or hours of the local Wendy’s drive-through.
What are some ways the bully of Anger provokes you?
Dear Father God, I never know the whole story, and I apologize for the times I act like I do. You alone know all. I commit to come to You, Lord, before Anger has a chance to do its damage. Please help me to listen more, and to slow down my reactions when I am frustrated, or challenged, and to keep my distance from Anger, and instead turn to You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I do not have a lot of money. I do not have flat abs. I do not have a big company knocking at the door of my email box begging to publish the books I’ve written. I could go on and on.
The game is way too easy to play: focus on all the things your life lacks, all the ambitions you’ve not accomplished, and the places you hoped to be but have not yet achieved. We roll our deficiencies up like a great big snowball making our discontent as long as a ski slope and shrinking our hope to a flicker in the distance. In this case, the biggest snowball does not win though.
Why do we so naturally identify ourselves in negative terms? Why are we so quick to list all the ways we don’t measure up? Before long, our identity becomes grounded in whatever lack we focus on most. It’s sad, but maybe not that unusual.
God had big plans for Moses. And, like many of us are tempted to do, Moses rattled off of all the reasons he could not say “Yes”. Moses feared failing, he feared rejection, and he argued he was not a public speaker. He was overwhelmed by the assignment God had given him. Moses let all of his inadequacies decide his inability to readily accept what God had planned for him.
But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God answered, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:11-12a NLT)
God is with us and always will be, in our lack and because of our inadequacies. Maybe our solution to overcome our weaknesses is as simple as Moses’s. God will be with us. End of story. He is enough when we don’t feel or believe we are.
So, the next time you are tempted to think you are not good enough, not thin enough, not financially fit enough, not spiritual enough, not nice enough, have not accomplished enough, take a deep breath. Then, remember God’s enough-ness is more than sufficient to cover our inadequate areas. And, because He is our Father, He does that because He loves us.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children. (1 John 3:1a NLT)
You are His child—precious in his sight—He loves unconditionally just like the very best father would. He loves you; He loves me. And He will be with us to fill in our gaps, just like a good father.
The next time God asks something of you that feels too big for you to accomplish, remember His presence is a given. Put away your list of reasons you cannot say “Yes” and step into what God has planned for you.
What areas do you need to adjust your thinking away from lack, so you can accept God’s assignment for your life?
Dear Father, I am sorry for not always operating from my potential. Please remind daily of the value You see in me. I want my thoughts to come from a place of gratitude for the way You created me. I will say “Yes” to you more often—I want to walk in the plans You have for me. I choose to live fully and freely as Your cherished child. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Instant Oatmeal did a great job of easing my morning rush and my guilt as a young mother rushing off to work. In just sixty seconds, I could provide a hot meal for my toddler, albeit a mushy one loaded with sugar and fake fruit bits. Two guys from Illinois patented the concept of instant oatmeal in 1961, and many of us have not known anything else since.
We sometimes think our fast-paced lives require instant everything. It wasn’t long until my list of instant go-to things included mashed potatoes, soups, and coffee. What seemed like a blessed shortcut, though, often compromised quality, flavor, and some healthier aspects.
Worse yet, my desire for everything fast or faster creeped into the way I lived my life and the way I prayed. You see, I have prayers that are old and musty. My heart holds desires that have settled in like they’ll be there forever. I have dreams I’ve worked toward for years with little progress. So I get agitated. I want answers, and I expect everything served up in 60-seconds.
The answers to our prayers are being prepared for us, and in us, at just the right time.
Twenty-five years after my toddler-feeding days, my friend and whole-food plant-based guide made me a bowl of old-fashioned rolled oats. Victoria covered the pot and in thirty minutes served the glistening oatmeal with cinnamon, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Oh my! The texture was wonderful and filling. The flavor tempted me to write notes of apology to my daughter. I became a walking billboard for the stuff.
God and I were chatting a few weeks later when I lamented about his timing. I admitted maybe I didn’t want to wait for his best in some areas—maybe I would settle for less and learn to be happy with that. Then I remembered Victoria’s oatmeal and this promise:
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
(Habakkuk 2:3b NLT)
Here’s the thing: in the waiting—the time it took for the old-fashioned stuff to cook—it wasn’t that nothing was happening. The two of us had propped back in comfy seats with our feet up. We enjoyed hot mugs of coffee, and we shared with each another, waking slowly to prepare for a new day filled with all sorts of potential.
This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. (Habakkuk 2:3a NLT)
So the next time you’re tempted to grumble about God’s plans and answers not being delivered quite fast enough, think about prayers like oatmeal. Maybe then we can learn to take a big breath in our waiting, look around, and find all the good things happening while we wait. God is working; the answers to our prayers are being prepared for us, and in us, at just the right time.
Prop up your feet, sip a mug of coffee, and share your heart with the Lord in an unhurried way. Trust that your hopes, dreams, and prayers are being answered, because they are coming–in His time, and in His way. Everything is on its way; trust Him. All will be fulfilled. Yes, all will be fulfilled.
What are you waiting to receive from God? Are you willing to wait for His best?
Dear Father, I thank You for your faithfulness to me. You hold my dreams in Your hand. You know the prayers of my heart. I trust You, and I will wait patiently and expectantly for the best You have for me. Help me to trust You and to enjoy the wait, for You are creating results that are so much better than instant oatmeal.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The crazy thing about hurricanes is how they are forecasted out a good week in advance and yet we still don’t know where they’ll hit, when they’ll arrive, and the impact they will make.
Tornados are quite the opposite; they can blow up with almost no warning at all.
Life brings us many storms. Little ones blow in and threaten our day or our mood, but we also experience the category four hurricanes and the mile-wide twisters that rip life as we know it into pieces.
Think in terms of a hurricane representing a bad diagnosis, a financial misstep, or an ambush divorce. Tornadoes look more like a job loss or a car crash. Whether we are hit with a hurricane or tornado, those powerful storms of our life can knock us over, blow our roofs off, or we can find ourselves in troubled waters that continue to rise.
How do we cope? Can we find peace when we encounter these serious life-storms and tornados?
The Book of Matthew offers a storm-survival guide. In chapter 14, we find the disciples shoving off the shore after a long day of ministry. When a scary storm hit, their first reaction, like most of us, was to panic. Then they saw a “ghost” on the water and they became terrified. But the ghost was actually Jesus Christ, and he gave the disciples this get-out-of-the-storm-card:
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27 NLT)
No matter the storm that comes, Jesus is right there with us, in the middle of it. Acknowledging His presence in the storm doesn’t stop the wind and rain, but it does stop the chaos and crazy in our heads. He helps us keep fear out of the equation. He gives us rest in the storm. He also provides, because of the storm, an opportunity to stretch our faith a little bigger.
Later, in Matthew 28:20b (KJV), Jesus assures us further with this promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” No exceptions. No excuses. If the world has not ended, then He is still with us. And He will remain with us even in our very worst storms. Lean into these truths, the next time life gives you a storm warning.
“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20b KJV)
No matter your storm, Jesus is right there with you, and He will see you through.
How has Jesus demonstrated His presence and care for you during a “storm” or a “tornado” of life?
Father God, Thank You for Your presence when the storms of life threaten me. Help me to lean into Your Son’s ever-presence. No matter the storm, I trust that Jesus is right there with me, helping me to come through, stronger and more dependent on Your lovingkindness and grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
We all smelled Grandma before we’d ever see or hear her, despite her large personality.
She loved Youth-Dew from Estee Lauder, a perfume described by marketers as exotic and opulent. I described it as icky and strong. Grandma loved her favorite fragrance, as in, she loved lots and lots of it.
Because she liked it so much, the smell I didn’t care much for permeated everything around her. Her car, her apartment, her clothing all reeked of it. Later, we’d find the scent—her scent—had more staying power than she did. The furniture, keepsakes, quilts, and books she left behind thirty years ago still give hints of her signature perfume.
I’m sure my grandmother thought she smelled delightful; I did not. My opinion never stopped her from spritzing it on with abandon.
We all put our scent out into the world, regardless of our hygiene products or cologne choices. What do others catch a hint of after spending time with us? What will be the lingering scent we leave behind in the end? Paul addressed this in 2 Corinthians,
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:15a NLT)
It is humbling for us to think about our level of responsibility noted in that statement. But, there it is–we must be so Christ-like that our “fragrance” is His. Our character should be just like His. Sometimes, we are surrounded by people who exert the foul odors of jealousy, greed, gossip, and despair.
More than anyone, Paul realized we are not innately good, sweet-smelling people. Our attempts at becoming better smelling and more Christ-like are progressive—one of those “two steps forward, one step back” journeys. That’s why, in the previous verse, Paul shared the secret: the fact that becoming captives of Christ and allowing Him to fully lead our lives, allows each of us “to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume” (2:14b NLT).
Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14a-15b NLT)
When we exhibit Christ most and first, we become a life-giving perfume to other believers. Our sweet fragrance manifests as kindness, genuine interest, love, concern, and encouragement.
Paul knew that not everyone would enjoy the lovely scent of Christ, though. Non-Christians may find it to be offensive; they may think we reek of death and doom. Don’t allow others’ opinions to keep you from spritzing the scent of Christ with abandon. May you wear the sweet fragrance of Christ as well as Grandma wore her Youth-Dew, with confidence and in complete joy.
To whom have you shared the fragrance of Christ, in recent days?
Heavenly Father, help me to exude your “fragrances” of love, kindness, patience, and every spiritual scent. Thank You for the privilege of sharing Your Son’s message of salvation. Let this be my life’s mission. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Cynthia Mendenhall - All Rights Reserved.
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