Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is It Your Best? (Number 16 in a series)

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us…” Romans 12:6 (KJV)

As I wound my way into town, a Christmas CD played in the car – an instrumental version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” I sang along with the melody, and a mental image of the little boy popped into my head. A child, wanting so desperately to give a gift to the Child yet fearing he had nothing good enough to offer.

I thought about his dilemma and his creative solution. All he had was a musical gift, to play the drum. The gift he gave was to play the best he could. And he earned a smile from the Christ Child.

The traditional story got me to thinking: do I give my best, or do I settle for less? Any gift I give shouldn’t just be Good. It should be the Best I can do. There is no job too large or small, no offering too unimportant to undeserving of the best I can do. My best effort, my best heart, my best attention to detail.

When I was growing up in Grace Baptist Church in New Orleans, I belonged to the Girls’ Auxiliary. One of the songs we sang, practically an anthem for us, was entitled “Give of Your Best to the Master.” If I close my eyes for a moment, I can still hear those young voices enjoining each other to do our best for Jesus, just as the drummer boy did.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses, and there are some things in which we excel while other tasks may seem heartbreakingly difficult. Jesus does not demand that we do everything perfectly, but asks us to use the gifts He has given us to do our best at whatever we undertake.

It’s a lesson to remember, not only at Christmas, but all year round!

Dear Jesus, You are God’s Best and He sent you for me. Help me to remember always to give You my best in return.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Sunday, December 21, 2008

He Knows My Name (Number 15 in a series)

“…the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” John 10: 3b-4 (KJV)

Awake or asleep, Mama calls. If I’m not in the room with her, I hear her on the monitor calling out. Not my name, always. Right now she thinks I’m my late Aunt Louise.

Other times, she calls me Dolores, Katie or Lena, Mutzie or Carrie (other aunts). Occasionally she calls me “Mama.” Sometimes, it’s a name I don’t recognize as family, such as Erma. And sometimes, she calls me by my own name and is quite proud of remembering who I am.

Whatever name she uses, I respond. Occasionally I will tease her with “Louise isn’t here. Will I do?” The main thing is her voice is calling out. My mother. I recognize her voice and that’s what gets me moving toward her in response

When I reread Jesus’ parable of the sheep, I understood afresh the importance of recognizing the voice doing the calling. I wouldn’t respond so quickly to just any voice in the night. And I am so grateful to know that even though Mama doesn’t always call me by the right name, He always knows who I am. I am His and He will lead me through whatever is to come.

Do you know the Good Shepherd? He knows you, and would love to count you in His flock. Call on the name of Jesus – He already knows your name!

Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to know my name and call me your own. Please give me wisdom to always recognize your voice.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Morning is Coming (Number 14 in a series)

“And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8: 21-22 (KJV)

2:45 a.m. – My mother is calling again. As I stumble from my bed in the adjoining room, I can look out across the shadowed valley through the uncurtained window. How very dark it is without the street lights of suburbia! I can see stars gleaming in the velvet sky and occasionally, the lights of a plane approaching distant Sacramento Airport.

But I can’t stop to look for long – Mama needs help. I put aside my sleepiness and shuffle into her room.

When I’m helping her ambulate to her bedside commode chair (or changing her linens because I didn’t get there in time), it’s easy to give in to exhaustion or frustration. Some of the times, I get there and she doesn’t know what she wants. There are moments it seems the night will never end and I will be responding to her calls forever.

It’s at these times I cling to the promise God gave to Noah. Once the ark landed and was unloaded, Noah made a sacrifice of gratitude for God’s care and protection. God blessed the sacrifice and made promises as to the future of the earth. One of those promises was “day and night shall not cease.”

I know the morning will come, no matter how endless the night seems in the wee hours, no matter how tired I am. My prayer is that God will accept my service to my mother as a sacrifice of love to Him and He will find them pleasing.

When the situation seems darkest, remember “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30: 5b) And morning will come!

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joy in the Face of Discouragement (Number 13 in a series)

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5 (KJV)

No job today. No interviews lined up. The want ads are lean pickings. Sometimes it’s hard not to give in to discouragement, but then I remember what I’ve learned about it.

Discouragement is a powerful tool in the hands of the enemy. He uses it to take our eyes off of our hope, our destination. With discouragement, he seeks to undermine our faith. Feeling as though God has deserted you? That’s discouragement at work.

There are other faces to discouragement: fear and anxiety, depression, hopelessness, discontent. Each of these is a guise in which discouragement may come to call.

Right now, I’ve been out of work for more than two months. Am I feeling happy about that? No. Am I discouraged about my prospects? NO. When discouragement tries to rear its head, I claim the promise of II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (KJV).”

I count on God’s goodness to get me through the times when Satan uses my diminishing bank account to try to get me down. And I focus on the birds of the air and lilies of the field (Matthew 6) when I send off another job application that gets no reply. While I do what I can about my situation, I rely on God’s planning to provide the final resolution. Although I can’t solve it on my own, with God’s help I can get through.

When discouragement seeks to divert your attention from God’s goodness, remember Satan seeks to drag you down. God will lift you up. Turn your situations over to Him, hang on, and rejoice! He loves you too much to let you go!

© Mary Beth Magee 2008

The Reason for the Season

While this isn't exactly a devotional, I wanted to share with you a reminder of the heart of this season.

I took this photo of a display put up by one of my sister's neighbors. Each time I pass the home, I can't help but smile at the truth of the sign. Jesus truly is the Reason for the Season.

In this hectic, activity-filled, over-scheduled season, I invite you to revisit the Nativity Story (start at Luke 1 and continue through chapter 2) for a breath of fresh air amid the commercial smog. We don't celebrate because of the invention of department stores - we celebrate the King.

May your holiday season be blessed richly!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Finding the Path (Number 12 in a series)

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11 (KJV)

In Illinois, I lived in the heart of a suburban town. Within a few blocks of my home were stores, restaurants, filling stations and a bus stop if I chose to take public transit. Within a mile, I could access major highways and get to pretty much anywhere I wanted to go with reasonable ease.

The street numbering system made navigation around the area fairly straightforward. I ran around several counties with no problems at all. Quite a change from the convoluted streets I grew up with in New Orleans.

Out here in California, it’s another different story. The roads twist and turn through hills and mountains and even a relatively nearby location can mean miles of travel because of the intervening mountains dictating a meandering path. In many spots, the roads are only a little more than single vehicle-wide ways. There are blind spots and drop offs and other perils to be negotiated to get from A to B.

When I first arrived, I had to rely on the navigation system in my Blackberry to help me find my way around. I’m getting better at recognizing my surroundings, but I still like the help in finding the right route when I go to a new location. I like getting the warning of an upcoming turn, the indication of which lane I need to be in.

Life is a lot like that, isn’t it? Having a guide is helpful when faced with a new destination. For the Christian, that guide is God and His Word. He directs the paths we follow through life and will give us the “fulness of joy” if we will simply follow His roadmap. Unlike my little navigation system, He doesn’t give us “turn right – turn left” directions. Instead, He shows us the destination and accompanies us as we make the journey. There is no place we can desire to go where He doesn’t know the way.

Are you traveling with Him? Are you experiencing the joy the psalmist described in His presence? You can – just turn the controls over to Him rather than trying to plot the route yourself. He’ll show you the way.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Glory of His Handiwork (Number 11 in a series)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:1 (KJV)

When I made the decision to move to California, I thought I’d miss the glorious autumns I’d experienced in the Midwest. Streets lined with blazing golden trees, a horizon painted a spectacular palette of reds and oranges, burgundies and plums – these were the joys I had experienced in Illinois falls.

What a wonderful surprise to find colors every bit as grand and varied here in northern California. I look out across the hills and see a rich patchwork of autumn hues laid against a velvety background of evergreens. Some days, there is a gauzy overlay of mist softening the riotous colors. Other days, they blaze in full splendor.

How shortsighted I was to think God would not display His artistry here! In a world He created, there cannot be a place where He does not allow His creation to draw hearts toward Him through its beauty. Sometimes the beauty is delicate as a butterfly’s wing; other times it is the savage beauty of a glacier. Always, the creation points to the Creator.

Look around you today. Do you find large markers of His glory, glowing like constellations in the sky? Or is it small things that remind you of His creation? Take time to enjoy the signs and to let them point you toward Him -- the Master Artist.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Joy of a Friend (Number 10 in a series)

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)

Getting ready for a cross-country move is a major undertaking under any circumstances. Doing it alone, unemployed and concerned for an ailing family member merely adds to the stress level.

As a rule, I am a pretty self-sufficient person. With God’s help, I will tackle most any task. I am reluctant to bother people to ask for help unless I get in a real bind. When friends asked “Do you need any help?” my instant response was “No, everything’s fine.”

As my preparations progressed and timetables had to be revised, I was feeling less fine and more frazzled. In those days, two friends saw through my fa├žade and came to help.

The first is a lady who had been my boss years ago, but had become my friend even when she left the company. When I told Connie I didn’t need any help, her reply was “Well, I’ll come over for moral support. If nothing else, I can help you stack boxes.”

She came, equipped with a big hug and willing hands. In the hours she was there, she helped me shift my focus to the things needing immediate attention and away from the things I couldn’t do yet. A few simple questions helped me set the priorities. More than her physical assistance, the encouragement she gave helped me get back on track at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed.

The second friend is Nancy, a former coworker. Realizing I was eating way too much junk (because it was quick, handy and didn’t need much in the way of preparation), she insisted I come to a home-cooked dinner with her family. I love her kids anyway, so spending time with them wasn’t any hardship. In fact, it was rather a guilty pleasure!

Nancy fed both my body and my spirit. That little bit of “down” time refreshed me and allowed me to get back to work with renewed energy. Like Connie, she gave me the precious gift of herself. Each of them saw a need and stepped in to fill it.

The Bible is filled with references to the importance of friendship. We are told tasks are lighter when shared; we strengthen each other like a bundle of sticks tied together; we share joys and sorrows. Check for “friend” in any concordance and you’ll find plenty of endorsements.

Are you a friend? Do you stick “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24)? Pray for the grace to see how you can give of yourself to your friends, and be a true representation of Christ’s love to them. And don’t forget to thank God for those true friends He sends to you.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Soaring with the Birds (Number 9 in a series)

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Matthew 6:25-26 (KJV)

For the first time in my adult life, I find myself out of work by a choice other than my own. Being laid off (downsized, terminated –whatever label you use) is a humbling experience. I’ve always taken pride in doing my job well and seeing my employment as a ministry to be performed in Jesus’ name. This time, that wasn’t enough – a corporate decision to cut costs resulted in a dramatic reshuffling of staff.

At my age (late fifties), the prospect of job hunting is a little scary. To be up against all the youngsters out there is intimidating. To think I’ll probably have to interview with one of those youngsters is almost overwhelming.

Yet this “catastrophe” is not without its upside. Being relieved of my job set me free to follow my heart to California, where one of my sisters is caring for our mother. I might have let my feelings of loyalty to my employer delay me. Now that I’m here and see my mother’s condition, I know how wrong that decision would have been.

So here I am, filling in job applications when I’m not caring for my mother, and hoping there is someone out there who will look beyond the age and into the heart of this applicant. I’m managing to stay pretty upbeat about the whole situation. Through all of this, I have felt assured of God’s care and guidance. Like the birds of the air, He provides for me each day. An unexpected refund on a cancelled service, a reimbursement for an expense I had forgotten, an opportunity to do a small task for a fee – all these and more ways He uses to supply my needs. I have what I need today, and I’m trusting Him for tomorrow.

Somewhere, He has an appropriate position for me. I know I’ll find it in His time. Meanwhile, I am taking advantage of the time I have with Mama and resting in the knowledge that I’m more precious to Him than the birds He provides for so abundantly. God is so good!

When times seem difficult, remember His loving kindness. As the old song reminds us: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Don’t be discouraged or detoured by the world’s perspective. You matter to Him and He will keep you through adversity! Go to Him in prayer about your needs and rest on His supply.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grace and Peace (Number 8 in a series)

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” I Thessalonians 1: 1-4 (KJV)

Now that I’ve arrived in California, I am able to assist with the care of my mother. She had declined dramatically in the five weeks since I had last seen her and now is little more than an invalid. I do what I can for her, calling on everything I learned when I worked in home health as a nurse’s aide and from my First Aid certification. Yet it seems so little.

She sleeps fitfully between her feedings, administered through a tube implanted in her stomach. At night, she awakens often, calling for help through the monitor we’ve set up in her room with a receiver in mine. Sometimes, it is me she calls. Often, it is God. She carries on a conversation with Him, asking for relief from the recurring leg cramps we don’t seem to be able to help.

In my own prayers, I ask for strength to be able to provide what she needs; patience to respond in love when she asks the same question for the umpteenth time; gentleness in my touch as I seek to minister to her; and comfort for her. All of those things sound terribly noble, don’t they?

Perhaps you won’t think so highly of my prayers when I tell you the rest. I very selfishly pray to have my mother back. Not this frail, suffering woman who tears my heart out with each moan, but the strong, hardworking mother I knew before this decline.

In my heart, I know she is probably quite close to going home. So each time I approach her bed, I tell her I love her and kiss her head because I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get. I know when she leaves, it won’t be forever. I’ll see her again one day in glory. But, oh, how I long to delay the parting!

Paul wasn’t specifically talking about my mother in his letter to the church at Thessalonica. Yet it describes her so well. She has worked her entire life in faith and love. What I know of living in grace and counting on God’s peace, I learned at her hand. And I do wish her grace and peace as she makes this final journey. I only hope I can live up to her example.

Is there someone who needs to hear how much you love them? How much they mean to you? Is there someone you love but aren’t sure of their spiritual situation? Don’t wait – tell them the things they need to hear before time has slipped away. Pray for the confidence and wisdom to do it today.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Climbing the Steps (Number 7 in a series)

“With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” Psalm 119: 10-12 (KJV)

My sister has a house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The setting is lovely, with vistas in several directions to feed your soul’s desire for God’s beautiful creation. My bedroom is on the second floor, so I have an even higher view from my bedroom window.

That view comes at a price: I must climb the ten feet to the second floor before I can enjoy it. When I first arrived, I had to pull myself with the banister to reach the top of the seventeen steps. As I went up and down each day, my legs became stronger and I could go higher before I needed the help of my arms.

This week, I made it all the way to the top without the need to pull myself up. And I’ve done it several times since! This increase in strength didn’t come quickly. It came from repeated usage of my legs to climb the stairs – ascending and descending until my strength was up to the task.

Scripture is much the same. If we read a verse once and go on, we haven’t built all the strength it has to offer, haven’t seen the ever better view of God the verse had to offer. Repeated reading, pondering and praying on what God would have you to find in this passage are keys to getting more from your scripture reading.

Going deep into God’s Word is a step-by-step process. Too often, we focus on accomplishing a certain number of verses per day, rather than a deeper understanding of what we read. Take the time to set up your Bible reading for optimum results. Here are a few guidelines to consider.

• Prepare a place to study. Whether it’s your kitchen table, the corner of your couch or a formal desk, be sure the place is ready for you with space to spread out your Bible, a journal or notepad to record your thoughts, insights and questions, and whatever other reference material you might choose to use. Using a consistent place enhances study.

• Prepare your head to concentrate. Put aside the world – turn off the television, put your cell phone on quiet mode and get away from the computer. Let your mind be focused on what you are about to read.

• Prepare your heart to listen. Spend some time in prayer before you read. Ask God to point out what He would have you learn from this passage and how He would have you apply it.

The more you hide God’s Word in your heart, the easier it becomes and the higher you can climb, just like those stairs. Knowing God’s Word helps you face the world from His perspective – and that’s the one that counts!

How do you study God’s Word? Are you going for quality or quantity? Think about ways to improve your Bible study and you will find ways to improve your walk with God.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

What is the Goal? (Number 6 in a series)

“…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Philippians 3:13b-15 (KJV)

From my condo in Illinois to my sister’s house in California is 2020 miles or 29 1/2 hours driving time. That’s not counting stops for gas, rest stops or turnoffs to motels. I have made the trip in three days – but that was when I had my mother along with me. We were in a rented SUV with a medium-sized gas tank. We had food and beverages with us and only stopped to sleep or gas up.

I remember feeling as though every other sentence from Mama was either “Are you doing alright?” or “You aren’t going to sleep, are you?” She was committed to making sure I didn’t succumb to road fatigue. At the end of the second day we were in Salt Lake City, where we met my sister and her husband. I turned in my rental and he drove the third day.

This time, there was no relief driver for me, no companion to keep me awake. So I broke the trip into five days. This also allowed for a greater number of stops for gas, since my little Saturn Ion has a smaller gas tank; more rest stops for my little dog Shady, who is diabetic; and more opportunities for me to stretch these middle-aged legs of mine since the Ion’s “cockpit” is smaller than the one in the rented SUV.

There were points along the way when it felt as though the next stop was simply too far away to keep going. I was tired and cold and wet. The temptation to stop early was strong. But I knew if I did, I would forfeit things: my sister’s confidence in me (already badly undermined by delays in beginning my trip); the rental on the next motel room, my planned schedule. So I kept going, reminding myself of the goal waiting for me at the end of my trip – reunion with my mother, sister and brother-in-law, a chance to see my niece and nephew and their families, a fresh start in a new place. And I kept driving.

Paul reminded the Philippians of the importance of keeping the goal in sight and not succumbing to distractions and temptations. The same is true for us today. We press toward the prize, even when the going is tough. We work to stay on track to our target.

The truth of Paul’s instruction emphasizes how important it is to know what our goal is. If we haven’t identified the destination, we will find it difficult to chart the course to it. Praise God, He gives us the opportunity to change our destination if we find ourselves headed in the wrong direction!

What is your destination? What steps are you taking to ‘press on’ to that destination? Take a moment today to pray about those steps and where they are taking you. Lift your eyes to the ultimate goal, a relationship with Jesus Christ.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Standing in for The King (Number 5 in a series)

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25: 31-40 (KJV)

On the road to California, I met a lot of people. Whenever I stopped for gas, I’d see their eyebrows raise a bit at the sight of this little car with its big load. As I registered at motels, desk clerks would see the address on my driver’s license and smile kindly. At roadside rest stops, the other folks would smile and we would exchange a greeting.

None of these people knew me or knew of my circumstances. Yet each one of them was acting as though we were old friends or at least long-time acquaintances. In the entire five days, I only had one less-than-pleasant encounter. He wasn’t awful, mind you, just slightly rude – it was only the contrast of all the others that made it seem bad.

Now it could be that all of those nice folks I met had just won a big prize or gotten some great news and were in terrific moods. Maybe I was just the coincidental beneficiary of their warmth. But I have an explanation I much prefer.

I’d like to think that I was blessed to meet people who were living Matthew 25. They weren’t so nice to me just because I’m me – they didn’t even know me. But I was there, a representative of the ‘least of these my brethren,’ and they did it for the King. Of all the plans to save the world, rebuild the economy or create peace, I don’t think any plan can work better than this one: See Jesus in everyone and treat them as you would Him.

There is an old recording by Grandpa Jones of a poem called “Conrad’s Christmas Guest.” His is not the only version, but it’s my favorite. It talks about a man making great plans to welcome the Lord into his home for Christmas, only to find them totally disrupted as he gives away everything he had obtained to people in need who come to his door. It is a wonderful reminder of the importance of giving the right gift to Him – ourselves.

When was the last time you did something for someone simply because you would have done for Jesus, if He asked? How did you feel afterward? You can get that feeling again – simply see Jesus in others and act that they may see Him in you.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Traveling by Faith (Number 4 in a series)

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11: 1 (KJV)

The route along I-80 between the Illinois/Iowa border and the Pacific Ocean is filled with references to the pioneer days of the United States. The very names of some of the towns declare their roots in the westward expansion: Council Bluffs, Gold Run, Emigrant Gap, Mustang, Salt Lake City. Others reflected the First Nation legacy of the area: Winnemucca, Washoe, Wahsatch.

For me, this trip took five days. For the pioneers, the trip could easily take six months.

Just as I had my vehicle packed with belongings and food, they carried their belongings and food with them in their covered wagons.

I had concrete and steel highways with large signposts to ease my way. They had only rough trails and great hardship in crossing the Great Plains and various mountain ranges along their route.

As I drove, I pondered the courage those early settlers must have had. They left behind all they knew and headed into the unknown, the unfamiliar. Traveling in faith that something better lay ahead, they moved out. Although they had not seen the land waiting for them, they were willing to strike out toward it.

If you think about it, heaven is in a similar situation. We haven’t seen it yet, but we move toward it in faith that it is as promised: the better place for us, the Promised Land.

Faith is the key. We have faith that Jesus can do what He said He can do: redeem us and give us eternal life.

What have you done lately through faith? In what ways have you seen your faith rewarded? Have you moved toward a goal you couldn’t see yet? Pray for your faith to increase on a daily basis.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Laying Up Treasures (Number 3 in a series)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21 (NIV)

For four nights, I unloaded the rooftop container on the car and carried the duffel bags into my motel of the evening. For four mornings, I carried them back out and repacked the rooftop carrier. I must have made quite a sight: an overweight middle-aged woman dragging a series of tightly packed bags in and out of the local budget motel! Along with the bags, there was my little dog and her gear.

Other than my laptop computer, my purse and Shady’s food and medicine, I wasn’t taking anything from the interior of the car. All of those contents stayed put. One of the items was a portable ice chest. It was so buried under other things, I wasn’t been able to add ice to it or get any of the beverages out of it the whole trip. Snacks I had purchased to eat in lieu of buying meals along the way were likewise buried in the depths of the back seat. I could only hope the rain I’d experienced the first three days hadn’t ruined everything.

Looking back on my folly, I was reminded again of the uselessness of trying to acquire “things” here on earth. In the process of packing up for this move I had given away a large number of items. Another list of things had been damaged through mishaps and discarded. Of all the things I had owned, only a few had made it to the point of the move and now some of them were in danger of being lost to water damage or mildew.

There will always be something threatening the security of worldly possessions: natural disaster, theft, financial hardship. No complete safety is available here in this life. Only in Jesus Christ can we find shelter from the ills of the world. I’m so grateful to have a Savior who offers me eternal security in His arms.

Where do you look for your security? Are you counting on possessions or people like government leaders? Do you depend on your net worth? Take time today to look to the true Source of all security: Jesus Christ. Those under His care know true safety.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Dampened Spirits (Number 2 in a series)

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NIV)

For my first three days on the road, I was in rain, often coming down hard enough to obscure visibility. I fretted about the damage that might be done to the things I had on top of the car. I worried about missing a directional sign. I griped to God about the danger of driving in such weather and the time I would lose because of it.

Another problem soon became apparent: the nylon straps I had used to secure my “do-it-yourself” roof rack passed through the interior of the car and acted as wicks to bring the rain inside. The water followed the dictates of gravity and sought the lowest point. For one of the straps, that point was right over the front seat! Another crossed through the car in the back. Now I had to worry not only about my belongings on the roof, but also my dog, the things inside the car and myself. The whole world seemed to be perpetually damp. I prayed for the rain to stop.

Watching the news in my motel room on the second night, I heard the broadcaster report on the happiness of area farmers and ranchers over the much-needed rain. I felt instantly ashamed of myself. What I perceived to be a trial, someone else received as a huge blessing.

Isn’t that often the issue with us? The circumstances aren’t the problem so much as our reaction to those circumstances. Perhaps that’s why we have to be reminded to keep an “attitude of gratitude.” We are easily distracted from seeing God’s blessings as we get caught up in the cares of the world.

How often have you complained about something, only to find out later it was a blessing in disguise? In this Thanksgiving month, resolve to heed 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 and give thanks in everything.

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee

Heading Out (Number 1 in a series)

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 89:15-18, NIV)

As I watched the distant mountains grow closer, I found myself in an ambiguous mood. On the one hand, I thanked God for the opportunity to make this move to California to help care for my mother. On the other, I grieved the people and resources I was leaving behind me in Illinois, especially my dear son.

I would reach my destination tomorrow evening. For today, it was just Jesus, me and my little dog in the car. In truth, there was no room for anyone else in it as we sped across the mile. The trunk was jammed solidly, the back seat was filled to the ceiling and even the floor in front of the passenger seat where my dog rode was packed up to the level of the dashboard. Even the roof was loaded with a makeshift roof rack and a rooftop carrier. I likened myself to the folks fleeing the Dust Bowl in the 1930s – packed as high as I could go and still leaving things behind.

Lest it seem I am unhappy about this move, I’m not. After a long time in prayer and seeking God’s will, I am convinced this is what He would have me to do. I don’t know exactly what He has ahead for me, but He does and that’s enough for me. God has never failed to provide what I needed, often before I even knew I needed it. Granted, sometimes it took a different form than I would have preferred, but true to His word, all things worked together for His glory and my good.

So I am being transplanted – a discarded weed taken from one place to be planted in a place where I’ll be (I sincerely hope) a useful contributor to the landscape. Ahead of me is that new garden spot, waiting for me to put down new roots. And I’ve got Jesus to help me get those roots deep and strong.

Can you think of times when you felt you ‘weeded out’ by life? Looking back, what are the blessings you gained from being ‘transplanted’ into new circumstances? Praise God that He is with us in all circumstances, ready to nurture us into full bloom!

Onward to the future!

© 2008 Mary Beth Magee