Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peace Like a River (Number 38 in a series)

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:” Isaiah 48:18, KJV

Having grown up along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, I am familiar with the inexorable strength possessed by a moving river. I’ve often thought of the power of God’s love in those powerful terms. The peace, though, is something quite different.

I learned about that in early morning rides during a period when my father had horses. The rhythmic whisper of the waves along the levee, the call of a bird seeking a finny breakfast in the water, the majestic motion of a heavy-laden ship heading for the Gulf of Mexico - all combined with the creak of saddle leather and clop of hooves to create a peaceful haven. Although the day-to-day world existed just out of sight on the other side of a line of trees, on the levee there was serenity.

This same river could destroy with horrific force, should it breach the levees. Floodgates upriver helped to control the quantity of water reaching us in New Orleans, yet we kept an awareness of the fragility of the earthen bulwarks. (The destruction caused by levee collapses following Hurricane Katrina proved the point.) But, oh, the peace of those rides!

God promises not only a river of love to those who love Him – He offers us His peace. We can access that peace through obedience; a peace flowing as unendingly as a river and as constant as the waves on the ocean awaits us. What a promise!

Don’t confuse peace with lack of problems. Just as the world went on beyond the levee, life – and its attendant problems – goes on. Knowing God is in control and covers us with His love gives us the haven of peace we need despite the problems.

Where do you find His peace? What helps you remember His love when the going gets difficult? Think back to a time and place where you experienced His peace and remind yourself of how it felt. Hold fast to His love, even in the bad times.

Father, we thank You for Your unending love and boundless peace. Help us to focus on You when the world offers turmoil. Keep us in Your peace.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Such As I Have (Number 37 in a series)

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” Acts 3:6a (KJV)

Boy, can I identify with the first part of Peter’s statement! I’ve been out of fulltime work now for nearly ten months. Although I am sure there is something for me out there, it doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to reveal itself to me.

I’ve become quite saddened by many of the charity appeals I see, because I have nothing to give. No silver. No gold. No green, either. It breaks my heart to say “No.”

In the last few weeks, this verse has been heavy on my heart, so much so that I went back to look it up and read it in context. Peter is addressing a crippled beggar near the Temple. The man has asked for a handout. Instead, Peter and John give him a changed life. They heal him!

No, I’m not going around healing crippled beggars. But I have been thinking about the “such as I have” part of Peter’s speech. True, I don’t have money. I do, however, have skills and time. Those things I can give.

My mother needs care. I can do that. In fact, I worked in home health many years ago until an automobile accident left me unable to life heavy loads. But my mother weighs so little, I can manage her needs easily.

Our church is sponsoring a jobseekers ministry. I got excited about signing up as a jobseeker. Guess what they were looking for? Volunteers, including ones who could teach people basic computer skills. Aha! I can give that.

Peanut butter or canned goods on sale at the supermarket – buy one, get one free. I only need one, but the church food pantry can use the other one.

I’ve lost some weight over the last year. Some of my clothes no longer fit properly. I can’t use them, but the clothing closet at church can find someone who can.

“Such as I have” is what God has given me in this moment. What I do with it is what I give back to Him.

What are the “such as I have” things in your life? Are you making the best use of those things God has given you?

Father, thank You for the things You give us, meeting our needs. Help us to share those blessings with others and to actively look for ways to apply our gifts to meet the needs of others.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Be Still (Number 36 in a series)

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (KJV)

When I sit down to write a devotional passage, I usually have a particular point in mind – something that happened during the day, a scripture from my daily readings, a line from a hymn. My mind will say “that’s a perfect illustration of this dimension of God’s love,” or “I learned a real lesson there and I should pass it along.”

Over time, I have discovered an important truth: my point isn’t always God’s point. In the quiet prayer time before I begin writing, sometimes God will whisper to me the message he has for me at that moment. He will gently direct my awareness to something completely different from where I thought I was going.

It comes back to the necessity to “be still” and wait on His words. There are so many distractions going on around us every day that it becomes easy to overlook the whispered encouragement God gives us along the way. Yet the soft message is the most important one of all.

God will be exalted, whether I am a part of the process or not. I can choose to join in and share the joy, or I can fill my world with noises and sounds and activities that mean nothing in the eternal landscape. The decision is mine.

The most wonderful part of being a part of God’s plan is seeing the response. Inevitably, those messages that I wrote down in response to God “overriding” my plan turn out to be the ones that touch the most hearts. All I have to do is be still and let Him work.

Are there times when you have a plan but learn God’s plan for you is different? Don’t be afraid to be still and listen to His leading. He is the master cartographer, and His map will never lead you astray.

Father, thank you for the quiet times when I hear Your prompting. Please remind me to take the time to be still and listen.