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