That Little Sneaky Path to a Bad Place

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

One Sunday my pastor had to do some housekeepin’ fussin’ at our congregation before he started his sermon. It was a “visitors, close your ears” moment as Jimmy interrupted the service for an important message from our neighbors.

See, right beside our church property is a city park. On Sundays, when our parking lot is full, we tend to use the city park lot for our overflow parking. The only problem is that the folks going to the city park don’t like the fact that those daggum CHURCH people are taking their parking spaces.

It is not nice of us. Really. I’m sorry. I’ve done it, too.

And while our sweet pastor calmly asked the congregation, once again, to STOP PARKING IN THE CITY PARK PARKING LOT (he didn’t yell, but I bet he wanted to) folks still do it. As soon as Jimmy finished his announcement and began his sermon, God had a sermon just for me. He wasn’t finished with me and the forbidden parking lot issue. That’s what happens when you make a path or keep a path open, He seemed to say, “You’re going to walk down it eventually.”

See, while we have been warned, scolded, and pleaded with not to park next door, there is this nice little path through the bushes from the city park’s parking lot to our church’s parking lot. The bushes are trimmed on both sides, cobblestones are succinctly placed, and a nice little bit of concrete forms a gently curving sidewalk. Someone keeps the bushes clipped and the grass maintained. The breezeway almost beckons us (me) to break the rules.

Now let’s go down a different path. Let’s call the path sin. Let’s say that you have decided that once and for all you are not going to park yourself in the parking lot of a particular sin.

  • You’re not going to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and eat a dozen chocolate-covereds in one sitting. You’re not even driving by.
  • You are not going to sleep with that boyfriend…ever again!
  • You’re not going to date that guy you know is bad for you…ever again.
  • You’re not going to look at that particular website.
  • You’re not going to flirt with the married guy in the next cubicle.
  • You’re not going to gossip about other people.
  • You are not going to drink because you know you have an alcohol problem.
  • You are not going to indulge in online shopping because you’re in debt.
  • You’re not going to _______________.

There are hundreds of vices you could put in that sentence. But then there’s a nicely groomed little path that you’ve kept open…just in case. You wouldn’t call it “just in case.” You wouldn’t say it out loud.

  • The guy’s name is still in your contacts list on your smartphone.
  • You still think about what that guy in the next cubicle would like when you get dressed for work in the morning.
  • You still pull up that website when you think God isn’t looking.
  • You still pull up a chair when someone begins to gossip.
  • You still take the route home from work that goes right by the Dunkin Donut store.
  • You keep a bottle in the cabinet…just for company.

The paths beckon you. And as long as you keep the breezeways open, you’ll probably breeze right through them…eventually.

The answer? Remove the path. Put up a gateless fence.

  • Remove the contact.
  • Change your job.
  • Get rid of your computer.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Take a different route home from work.
  • Remove the bottle.
  • Unsubscribe.

Make the path impassable, implausible, and impossible to take, and put up a gateless fence instead.

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29 NKJV). That is pretty dramatic. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was saying either. But He was telling us to remove the cause of the temptation.

Remove the path. Put up a fence.

So here’s my question: Do you need to put up a fence where you now have a path?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!


What Does God Want From You?

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

Sometimes I think we’ve made our relationship with God far too difficult and confusing. We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in.

For more than half a century, I have been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing her tail, I’ve been going in circles.

Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness wandering ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God. During a recent poll, 65 percent said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth. On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

We have everything we need to experience the ever growing, continually maturing, abundant life, so why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

“God, what do you really want from me?”

I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their heart through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot.

And somehow, we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

I had asked the question a thousand times, but one morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that my busy sisters and I have been asking the wrong question.

Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those eight little words: In Him we live and move and have our being. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

So today, I encourage you to be still. Just get quiet. Breathe deeply. Jesus in. Worries out.

Don’t make your faith about what God wants from you, but what God wants for you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Overcoming the Troubles of This World

Thank you Erin Odom for today’s message….

God doesn’t promise us a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. To the contrary, Jesus told His disciples that in this world we would have trouble. But He didn’t stop there: He reminded them that He overcame the world.

Several years ago, my family walked through a period of extreme financial frustration. Month after month, we saw our savings dwindle and our bank account diminishing. We felt like we were barely surviving financially, emotionally, and even spiritually at some points.

But it was during that troublesome and turbulent time that God pointed us to Himself and the promise that He has overcome the world—despite the troubles we encounter in it. He also showed us very clearly that He is the Great Provider of all our needs. No, we will not have perfect, trouble-free lives on this earth, but God has promised to provide exactly what we need, when we need it. His provision might not always look like we would imagine or what we would pick out for ourselves, but it’s exactly what He knows is best.

I clearly remember when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I thought life would never get better. We would never be able to breathe. And we would always barely be making it.

The humility of our season of trouble brought me face-to-face with real need, and real provision. More than anything, our time in the tunnel tuned our hearts to God’s. We failed to acknowledge or appreciate the Lord’s provision when it seemed we were meeting all of our own needs, when we had enough money for excess. But when every penny counted, when our budget never made sense on paper, when we had cents instead of dollars in our bank account at the end of the month, that was when we learned that only God is the provider of all of our needs.

Are you there now, friend? You don’t see a way out. Hope is dim. There is no light. Are you stumbling around in the fog? Is the tunnel still dark?

Romans 8:37 says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Yes, we will have trouble in this world, but, through Him, we can overcome them.

With the right attitude and perspective, we can look back on a season of troubling times as some of the most faith-building days of our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!


Don’t Miss The Beautiful

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message….

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. ~ Hebrews 12:2a, NIV

A few years ago I was invited to speak and sing in Tennessee at a women’s event. To my delight, my daughter Kennedy was able to join me. The two of us are all about “mommy-daughter time” so we were all smiles as we started off on the three and a half hour drive.

Prior to the trip, I had given Kennedy permission to use my iPad to watch a movie. So once we hit the highway, she got cozy with her pillow, her headphones went on, and her attention became fixed on the rectangular screen in front of her. Random giggles floated from my little movie-watcher as I drove and prayed for the event we were heading to.

It was the first week of November, and in the Tar Heel state that’s primetime for fall tree color. Once we past the congested traffic and the hullaballoo of the suburbs, the splendor of God gripped me. Showcased through traces of red, yellow, orange, and brown, the leaves danced in the breeze under the backdrop of a brilliant blue Carolina sky. The trees continued to boast of more and more glory as I neared Virginia… and then the mountains joined in.

Oh, the mountains!

They puffed their chests with the majesty of color and power!

My heart was captured by the glory of it all.

And then I realized that Kennedy was missing it. Ugh!

I tapped her on the shoulder and pointed out the window. “Look around! Lift your eyes and soak in the wonder, sweetie! Don’t miss the beautiful…” I urged.

“Don’t miss the beautiful!”unnamed-2.jpg

She paused her movie and joined in on the beauty moment, totally agreeing that God was showing off with His fall art. Minutes later, she went back to watching her movie as I drove on undone. Wrung out by glory. Overwhelmed by the sacred sanctuary I’d stumbled upon. I stayed in the moment and celebrated the beautiful as the psalmist did in Psalm 96:

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Worship poured from my heart. Splendor and majesty were before both Him and me. I thanked God for the beauty show. And as praise and adoration continued to rise, a God-thought settled on my heart. Tell them, Gwen.

“Tell them what, Lord?” I wondered.

Tell the women what you told Kennedy. Tell them not to miss the beautiful.

Ahhhh, yes! I would tell them, and I would chew on that challenge for days to come. Convicted by questions like: How often do I drive right through the busyness of my days and miss the beautiful? How many moments of glory do I not even see because my eyes are on the mundane? Do I even look for it?

As we dance between the days of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – as we decorate the doors and the hearths of our homes and communities – let’s be intentional to decorate the doors and the hearths of our hearts with ribbons of God’s grace.

Let’s live with eyes lifted to the Gift of gifts, Jesus Christ.

When we face the stresses of our lists, and our tasks, and our activities, and our heart burdens, let’s commit to remembering that the best present is His presence. He’s our Hope, our Peace, our Joy… our Beautiful.

Don’t miss the beautiful.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

It’s Not About Me

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message….

Some of my Girlfriends in God are not going to like this devotion. I’m not even sure I do. But I’m going to put it out there anyhow. During the month of February, I write devotions on marriage. It is the month of love, and marriages certainly are in shambles all around the world. Each February, I am flooded with e-mails: some are appreciative for the reminders on how to love their husbands; some are filled with hurt because they are in their own struggling marriage, and some are broken-hearted because of shattered dreams. These women are so thankful for the balm of God’s truth in a very tender area of their lives.

But I also receive e-mails from women who are not married, who do not like the attention to marriage at all. They are flat out angry and frustrated because the devotions do not pertain to them. “Don’t you know that all of your readers are not married?”

“Oh honey child,” as my grandmother would say.

I’ve seen the same attitude in church. “I didn’t like that sermon.” “I didn’t like the singing today.” “I couldn’t relate to that teaching.” And on and on we go.

You know what I’ve discovered…it’s not about me. It is all about God. If the pastor is preaching on a topic that is not my struggle, I pray that God will open my eyes to new truths that I’ve never seen. If he is talking about losing a loved one, I pray for those who have lost a loved one recently…even though that might not be my struggle at that particular time. Is the teaching on raising young children? I have a grown son, so I pray for those who are raising the next generation.

One Sunday, I was singing in church. Barely singing, I might add. It was a dry old hymn and I just wasn’t into it. Then I looked at an older woman a few seats down and she had tears trickling down her wrinkled cheeks. She was moved to tears by that old hymn and was taken to the throne room of grace.

“Oh Father,” I prayed. “Please forgive me. This is not about me. It’s not about what I like or don’t like. It is all about You. Truth is truth. Worship is worship. Help my focus be on You and You alone. It’s not about me.

Here’s a truth I want you to underline, memorize and ponderize (I know that is not a real word, but it should be.) Say it out loud: As long as I think the world is all about me, the angrier and tired-er I will be. The more I realize it is all about God, the happier and freer I will be. (I know tireder is not a word either. I’m just feeling feisty today).

Listen to how David focused on God during worship:

So let’s commit to remember together…it’s not about me. It’s all about God.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!