By Shirley Johnson
Charlotte loved to work in her garden in the morning. She could hear the morning birds greet the day with a song. The refreshing dewdrops found rest upon the garden. The flowers seemed to smile back at the sun.
Charlotte worked hard at maintaining the presentation and growth of the garden. She knew with the proper care it would not only look beautiful, but create a peaceful atmosphere for those viewing it. From childhood, she knew which of the elements and garden intruders can interfere with the presentation and growth of the garden and which are harmless.
The garden often ministered to Charlotte. She embraced the seasons of the garden. It often shared reflections of life and whispers of hope.
While working in the garden a ladybug crawled on her sleeve. There was a time many years ago if this happened she would have panicked. She smiled and laughed to herself. She thought back to when she was a very small child. She was with her mom visiting at their friend’s home. The porch provided a favorite play area. Somehow a ladybug crawled right where she sat. She cried out to her mom for help.
Charlotte’s mom came running in response to her cries. While Charlotte saw a big intruder, her mother saw a simple little ladybug. “Oh, Charlotte.” “It’s okay,” said her mom. Her mom had gardened a long time and knew the difference between a harmless bug and dangerous ones. “This is just an innocent little bug that somehow landed in the wrong place.” She calmly scooped up the ladybug with her gentle hands, opened the screen door, and let it go.
Life’s seasons have a way of presenting itself with different problems. There are times when we have real problems, big problems that we need to face, address and solve. Sometimes though, we have little irritations that invade our space. They land right where we sit in life. They have us talking, repeating, agonizing and spinning our wheels. They interfere and distract us from the purpose and plan in our lives. They “bug” us.
When those little irritations land in our space,
look at them and determine how big they are.
Perhaps there are times when we too must open the screen door and let them go.
Shirley Johnson shares inspiration and encouragement through her writing. She is a member of SCBWI and ACFW. She loves to read and has volunteered at her local Public Library as an Adult Literacy Tutor. She shares her writing on her blog. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
So You Want to be a Sheep?
By Maureen Hager
Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than any other animal; symbolically they refer to God’s people. All the sheep that belong to the shepherd are of one flock.
God has many names; each one describes an attribute of His character. A favorite name is Yahweh-Rohi – The Lord, Our Shepherd. Here is the description of the relationship our God wants with us. The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
What a beautiful picture of the rest we have in Him. Are you stressed today? Find rest in the green pastures of His finished work. Find hope and restoration as He restores your soul.
The Lord tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that most sheep will go astray and follow their own way. Are you a stubborn sheep, straying on the wrong path and in need of guidance and correction?
A shepherd’s rod redirects and corrects the sheep. The staff is used to lift and restore the sheep. Trust and hope in the Good Shepherd to lead you out of the pit of despair.
I once traveled on the wrong path. This misguided search led me into a painful journey of drug addiction and life in a motorcycle gang. I was that stubborn sheep that got caught up in a violent gang war and became a broken victim. Crippling bullets forever changed my life.
Eventually, I encountered the hope and healing of God’s transforming love. A victorious life in Him is meant to be lived on the paths of righteousness and not in the past.
So why would you want to be a sheep? Like sheep, we need only to trust the Lord and follow Him. We need Jesus, our Good Shepherd to lead and guide us, to care for us, and to protect us from the enemy. What contentment and sufficiency we can have in Him.
Yahweh-Rohi leads us home. He lovingly rubs the healing oil on our broken and wounded hearts. The Shepherd knows our needs. He will restore us when we are broken, pick us up when we fall, and strengthen us in our weakness. Now that is a love I can trust!
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28 (NJKV)
Maureen Hager is an author, speaker, and blogger. Her passion lies in empowering women to receive hope and healing from their brokenness through the love of God. Her testimony of deliverance and restoration has impacted women of all ages. Her book, Love’s Bullet is available Fall, 2017. Website: www.MaureenHager.com Blog: www.OutoftheBrokenness.com
Got Five Minutes?
By Letitia Suk
“Take five minutes to pray for your work each day and see what happens,” was the challenge proposed by our pastor to the congregation years ago. I remember thinking something like, “Duh!” Of course, I already pray at least five minutes a day for my work…don’t I? Surely all the praying-on-the-run I did each day for all the flying curveballs added up to more than five minutes.
The nudging continued so the next morning I grabbed a timer on the way to my prayer chair, set it for five minutes and began to pray specifically for my work. Wow, that timer took a long time to ding! Challenge accepted—I was ready to see what would happen.
Like many of us, my work is multi-faceted. So I decided to give a minute to each of the five areas for my day-to-day projects. It seemed like one minute would be easier that five. I know, wimpy, right?
The first minute I gave to my coaching clients. They invested time with me to bring focus and intentionality to their lives and I wanted to give them my best work. My writing got the next minute. The current projects, the longed-for projects, my skill and wisdom in putting words on a page. Good thing the timer rang because it was easy to zone off into work mode instead of praying.
Speaking ministry was next. Events already scheduled and those I wanted to schedule. For my communication skills to grow and for lives to be changed. A lot for one minute.
My part-time chaplain work got minute #4. Patients, sensitivity, staff and overall blessing for the hospitals.
The last minute I saved for specific work stuff on that day’s agenda: marketing, blogging, networking. This time the five minutes flew by.
He was right—things happened! I felt more partnered with God in all aspects of my work. Not just that I was working for Him but with Him as I laid the concerns out each day. I saw clearer productivity and greater results.
All these years later, I still set my timer most days. My work depends on it.
Each day holds 1440 minutes…hard to claim a legitimate excuse for not finding five of them to invest in prayer over your work. You might be amazed at the return.
P.S.—The same five-minute principle works for other areas of your life too!
Letitia (Tish) Suk, www.letitiasuk.com, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She blogs at hopeforthebest.org and authored Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat) and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Find Tish: https://www.facebook.com/Letitia.Suk.Author/
Five Tips for Flexible Family Faith Time
by Stephenie Hovland
Guess what? There is no such thing as a perfect Christian family! That means there isn’t one perfect way to devotions. In fact, I’m thinking the word “devotions” might need to go. Think of this as family faith time.
Let’s go through five tips to make your family faith time work. Remember to revisit these ideas regularly. As your family grows and ages, you might need to change how this works.
- Purpose: This is a time for your family to meet around God’s Word. Your family and circumstances may dictate what time of day, where, what materials, how long it will last, etc. You are not trying be a theology professor or expect perfect participation from every family member every time. Just start with something (the Bible or a kids’ Bible story book, for example) and run with it. Make changes later.
- Plan a little: Don’t worry about it being perfect, but make a few plans. Or, if you’re like me, plan a lot! I am not spontaneous, so I need to have several options. You can evaluate how it went after you’re done, so the next time is a little better.
- Pray: I hope you pray with your family, but say a quick, private prayer as everyone gathers. That personal prayer time will help you to take a breath and let God handle things.
- Physical: Be physical. Hold hands when you pray, hug when you’re finished, and try to touch members of your family in a loving way when you talk about and with God. We want to be Jesus “with skin on” in a sense, so we should touch. Jesus did.
- Play: While family faith time works great around a dinner table for some, others find it easier to focus on faith talk when they’re more active. Maybe you need to take it outside and shoot some hoops while you explore God’s connections in each family member’s life. Or, perhaps you start or end your time with play. Dancing helps get the wiggles out, so it might be a great way to start your family faith time. Or, maybe after a quick devotion and prayer time, you play Candyland together as a family.
When it seems like it’ll never work, please don’t give up! Try not to force your way. Change elements of your time together, and see if something else might work better. (I say this from much experience.) Keep trying. Keep praying. God is there for you and your family.
Stephenie Hovland loves reading and writing devotions. She also writes rhyming Bible stories for children and resources for teachers. You can find her work at Concordia Publishing House, Creative Communications for the Parish, and many online bookstores. Visit her Facebook page: @StephenieHovlandWriter and on Twitter:@StephHovland