07-30-12 suitcases

 

 

By Janet Perez Eckles

 

“No way,” I said to the lady across the counter at the airport, “that bag has my make-up.

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It's Grace Fox with a devotional thought to start your week.

Sometimes life leaves us baffled or bruised. We wonder if God is as wise as He claims to be, and we question why circumstances don’t happen how and when we wish they would. When I feel this way, I take courage from the Scriptures.

Recently I read about the prophet Samuel’s boyhood. One word—meanwhile—popped up several times in the account. It reminded me that, no matter what life looks like, God’s at work behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes. 

  •  “And the Lord gave Hannah three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:21).
  • Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the LORD and with the people” (1 Samuel 2:26).
  • Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the LORD by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the LORD were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon” (1 Samuel 3:1).

Events both good and bad unfurled on a daily basis at that time. Meanwhile, God was quietly raising up a prophet who would honor Him and faithfully proclaim His word.

The beauty of meanwhile remains true today. A couple years ago, Stonecroft Ministries asked me to produce a DVD-based Bible study to accompany my book, Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. I had no funds and no clue how to do this. The thought of producing such a resource made good sense, but it also unnerved me. And so I prayed: “God, if You want this project done, then You’ll need to bring me a team of skilled people to help. And you’ll need to work out all the details including funding.” 

For the next year, I went about my usual business of writing, speaking, and ministering overseas. Meanwhile, the bi-weekly women’s Bible study that my daughter-in-law organized lost its teacher.  “Can you teach it now, Mom?” asked Cheryl. “Preparations won’t take long if you teach from Moving from Fear to Freedom because you already know the material.” I thought about the DVD study. Using this opportunity as a test run seemed divinely orchestrated, so I agreed and started writing the lessons. 

Meanwhile, I met a man in my church who’d specialized in audio-visual work while a missionary in Africa many years prior. He had a local friend who owned two filming cameras. Both agreed to help. 

Meanwhile, a national women’s ministry set aside money for projects such as this. One day the president handed me an envelope containing a grant application. “Fill out the form and ask for funding,” she said. I applied, and the committee approved. Within a year, the DVD-based Bible study became a reality. 

Perhaps you’re facing a challenge today. You’re not sure what’s goin’ on, and life looks like a puzzle with a few pieces missing. Pray and take courage in the Scriptures, especially in the word meanwhile.

You work. You wait. Meanwhile, God is on the move behind the scenes to fulfill His plan.

 

Visit www.gracefox.com/blog for more devotional thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The word weary has captured my interest. This is likely because I recently spent hours preparing a retreat package based on Isaiah 40:28-31. Beautiful verses, they are:

“Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (NLT)

I travel across Canada and oversea for ministry purposes. Everywhere I go, women tell me their stories. Some accounts thrill me; others break my heart. I especially feel for those who are weary from the inside out due to difficult circumstances, major changes, criticism, or interpersonal conflict at home, church, or in the workplace. These gals are tired—bone tired—and hoping for reprieve to show up soon.

I can relate to their feelings. I recall the days spent raising three preschoolers. Life was busy and loud at any given time, but it included the additional stress of one child having special needs that required weekly occupational therapy and frequent hospitalizations. Weary seemed tattooed on my forehead.

My kids are grown and gone now, but I still experience weary from time to time. As a writer, speaker, and missionary, I travel across time zones frequently. This means sleeping in many different beds, eating at odd times, being flexible with schedules, and trying to communicate with people whose first language differs from mine. It also means sitting for hours at my desk pecking on my computer keyboard, researching, and revising.

When weary sets in, I recall Isaiah 40:28-31 and find encouragement in its words. God—the one who never grows weary—knows our limitations. He also knows that our source of strength is found not in our own efforts, but in Him.

“Wait on Me,” He says. “Commune with Me. Be entwined with Me. And as you do, you’ll find your strength renewed. Your energy restored. Your weary diminished.”

I’ve found this to be true. When weary sets in, I seek silence with God. I bask in His presence. I thank Him for the strength He provides. And I praise Him for the depths of His understanding and His immeasurable power. My soul is renewed and my strength restored.

Are you feeling weary today? God knows. He cares. Spend some time in His presence, draw from His strength, and you’ll find restoration.  

Read more devotional blogs at www.gracefox.com

 

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24As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

John 15:5

Good Monday morning from Elizabeth Baker! As wordsmiths and lovers of letters, authors often have a unique way of looking at the world. I suspect we tend to dig a little deeper and look for answers even when others are not asking questions!

One of the first things a writer learns is to continually ask, “So, what?” For every article, every speech, every motivation of a fictional character, asking “So, what?” is critical to literary success. No matter how well placed the modifiers or how skillfully crafted each sentence, if there is no answer to that question, readers will drift off and soon lose interest.

I suppose that’s what instantly drew me to today’s verse. The “So, what?” answers fairly jump from the page promising not only logical solutions to practical problems but what writers call, “high take-away value” as well.

The first answer is the reality of fruit. It is actually possible to have more love, more joy, more peace, more patience and all those other delightful tidbits Paul identified as the fruits of the Spirit. [1] These are not pie-in-the-sky or wishful thinking or day-dreams. They’re real things that make a real difference. That is a big, “So, what?” because having more of that kind of fruit will change my world!

The second, “So, what?” is perhaps the most significant of all. It’s the good news that I don’t have to work up these good things on my own. I can get off the treadmill, leave the rat-race, rest. It no more depends on my efforts to grow fruit than it depends on the efforts of a branch to grow grapes. The effort and power come from the vine. A vine can get along without the branch just fine but the branch without the vine is dead before it hits the ground.

And, the last really big “So, what?” is the other side of that coin. While the fruit does not depend on me, that doesn’t mean I’m useless. I have a significant responsibility. I contribute to the process. If I don’t do my part, I won’t share in the benefits of fruit production. Other branches will take my place. They and the vine will go on without me. My job is to cling tightly to the vine. I don’t focus on fruit production, I focus on the vine and fruit comes as a byproduct.

Unfortunately, it is possible to be a Christian attend church and even read the Bible but stopped asking the question, “So, what?” When that happens, faith becomes disjointed from daily life; religion separates from living, and experiencing the dynamic flow from the Vine slows to a trickle.

How sad! For the solution to the problem is simple. Jesus told us about it before he left. We make it our business to firmly hang on to the Vine and a good way to do that is to keep asking the question, “So, what?”

 [1] Galatians 5:28

 

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CAN Blog Dianne Neal Matthews with an encouraging word for the second Monday of the month. Ever since I attended my first conference, I’ve heard people compare writing a book to giving birth. The more I write, the more I see how appropriate that analogy can be.

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