Welcome to Mountain Breeze Devotions

Mountain Breeze Devotions began in May of 2003. This ministry is an email ministry sending devotionals and meditations seven days a week by request.
It is the sister site of www.ChristianDevotions.US

This is the ministry of authors Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones. Two friends brought together to serve the Father -- to spread the word to those who may not know and to promote the art and writers of Christian writing.

Welcome to Mountain Breeze Devotions --Cindy Sproles, author

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Admit One

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

– Philippians 3:20 & 21

A few years back, when my boys were still in high school, we decided to go to a Sunday afternoon movie. We left church, grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the theatre. Even with two working seventeen year-old sons, I was still roped into buying the tickets. Pulling the cash from my billfold and passing it through the glass slot at the ticket booth, the attendant slipped three passes through the opening. My disabled son snatched his ticket and stuffed it into his pants pocket.

“Son, hang on to that ticket in your hand. I don’t want you to accidently pull your hand out of your pocket and lose your pass.” He grinned and pulled the ticket from his pocket squeezing it into his palm. We paced in front of a few stores, passing time before the movie. When the satin ropes were untied from the entrance we took our place in line.

Twice my son flashed his crumpled ticket for me to see. He stepped to the usher and he proudly unfolded his fingers to redeem his pass. To our surprise his palm was empty. Both boys began to frantically scan the floor. Only moments prior, he’d had the slip of paper. Thanks to the kindness of the woman behind the counter, she allowed us to enter since she had sold us the ticket.

I couldn’t help but think about our earthly efforts to secure our way through heaven’s gates. We accept Christ into our hearts, we’re baptized, and we earn our citizenship into heaven, or at least we think we do. We grasp tightly to the thought that we’ve somehow gotten an “admit one” ticket to heaven. In the beginning we clasp the pass in our palm occasionally flashing it for the world to see that we are “Christians.” We pull out our Christianity when it’s convenient to us, never considering that we may lose the golden pass. We take for granted we’ll slip through effortlessly.

However, what happens if we get to the door, open our fingers and find our ticket is lost – our citizenship denied? Scurrying to find it suddenly becomes meaningless. We have to make the effort to care for and manage our way into heaven. There is no free ride and we have to do our share to be the best we can be and do what God asks. Be prepared. Then should our ticket slip through our fingers we can look at the one who purchased it in the beginning –the one who paid the price in full and seek his loving mercy and forgiveness. Like the woman behind the booth, God will remember He sold us a ticket if we are repentant.

Hold on to the pass. Make the efforts to be what God wants. The reward is amazing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Isaiah 53 - A Sinners Paraphrase

Imagine that. Who would have ever dreamed that God would reveal himself in such a way? Definitely not what we expected, not what we anticipated. Certainly not what we deserved.

He was ordinary, soft and tender like a new plant lifting its stem from the dirt. Tender. Fragile yet deep rooted to withstand the elements. He wasn't especially handsome or if he was he was more on the plain side, he blended in -nothing especially unique about his looks that drew us to him.

Yet, people despised him for no apparent reason. Maybe because he was so gentle yet his tongue sharp. He wasn't afraid to teach. He wasn't ashamed to be different.

His own rejected him as though he were an unwanted stepchild, and he understood suffering and sorrow because he would knew it face to face. He was accustomed to being shunned. And his gentleness, as odd as it seemed, stung men -made them feel ashamed because true innocence is very convicting. He knew our souls not just us a people, but the deep part of our souls.

Still, through all the torment, rejection and pain, he took the things from us that made us ugly inside. He took these things on willingly. We didn't understand and we thought God hated him, had cursed him and turned his back on him. We took his love for us and insisted he be taken away because we refused to understand it.

But that wasn't the case at all. His heart was stabbed, pierced for the horrible things we had done. He took the nasty parts of us on his shoulders and as he carried them he was crushed down, and what should have been our punishment and pain - he took upon himself. Because he was wounded our souls were healed. It didn't seem right. Who could understand this type of sacrifice? Especially for a people who thought him so wrong. Why would he do this?

We go our own way, never looking back, never considering anything other than our own desires and still, God laid the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He was tortured, beaten and abused and never once did he say a word. Because of us and our stubbornness he was taken, and the judgment that should have been ours became his. He was murdered. That's what it was. Murder. And then in death he saw the wicked . Still he said nothing ill as he died - still he felt nothing for us but compassion And the guilt of our souls burned like a raging fire.

It was God's plan that he be treated this way because his life was to represent to us what a true guilt offering meant. He died for our guilt. He was innocent and we were wrong and we needed to see that in a fashion we take hold of.

After the agony of death he was allowed a newness of life. Something none other has been able to do. Proof that our debt has been satisfied. He justified me and I will give back to him a small portion of the rewards of this spiritual battle - a part of my soul. It's the least I can do for the one who did not hesitate to die for me. He poured his living soul into the pit of death for me. He carried my wrong doing and stood before the Lord in my behalf, pleading for me - the very one whom he died for stands begging for me before the God of the universe.

I am not sure I can ever understand it or fully grasp it. All this for me -someone he's never met face to face. All this for me.

All of this - for me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My New Step-Counter and Spiritual Growth


"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Sometimes it's the simplest gifts that bring the most joy.Take this past Christmas. My son, Andrew, gave me one of those digital "step-counter" devices that records how far I walk.

It was a thoughtful gift, because he knows I've made great strides in the health department this past year. My program has been a no-frills intervention of dog-walking and careful eating. The two straightforward changes have combined to take off 20 unwanted pounds, lower my cholesterol, cut my triglycerides by two-thirds, lower blood pressure, and produce a resting heart-rate around 50.

Now, with the step-counter, I can be more deliberate in my discipline.

Here's how it works. Depending on stride length, around 2,000 steps equals one mile. For me it's closer to 1,900. With two long walks each day and short excursions between, I was starting at around 10,000-12,000. My goal is 50 miles a week which means around 14,000 steps per day.

The genius of the step-counter is accurate feedback. Simply knowing provides immediate results, and the opportunity to walk an extra 500 steps before lunch or to add 250 more during a short break more easily turns into positive behavior when I see the fact of it digitally displayed.

It's a principle that works across the board. People can lower or raise their heart rate while watching a real-time monitor; it's easier to maintain 45mph when the speedometer works; accurately measuring calorie intake can lead to weight loss; cars with "heads-up" fuel-use
displays get better mileage; a large mirror on the refrigerator door... well, you know where I'm going.

Ditto our family health and spiritual lives. Recording TV use leads to less mind-sucking; posting a chart to plan and record family dinners increases togetherness; keeping a journal of devotional time is a great way to grow closer to God; hearing the words "I love you" constantly impacts relationships moment by moment.

Anything we can measure can then be modified. Knowing where we stand is half the battle.

So here's my challenge. Pick one positive behavior you'd like to increase, figure out how to measure it, and then keep records for one week. Now you're 90% of the way toward your goal. Once you have proved the idea with something simple, begin to add some spiritual objectives. Share with a friend to add accountability. Pray.

It doesn't take a lot of personal discipline to grow spiritually, but it does take some.

(Derek writes for the Tampa Tribune. Check out his blogsite and his book.)


Friday, January 25, 2008

God Paints the Sunrise

(Photo by Karma Shuford)

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning –the first day. –Genesis 1:3-6

Sunrises are one of the most beautiful things in the world. There’s nothing like stepping outside, leaning against a tree and soaking in every second as God draws a new day on the canvas of night. The world begins in total darkness, pitch black, and within a matter of minutes the transformation happens.

Just over the horizon a pinhole appears. I have to squint at first. Is it just another star in the distance? But it widens to a slit. The first inkling of light squeezes through the crack spilling over into the darkness like froth on a too-full cup of coffee. A white burst turns into a hazed- over pink, and then finally lavender. One color after another stretches across the sky like the tentacles – reaching, grasping at the last hope of night. Before long the brightness of the light becomes a wave washing over the dark sky taking away all that was hidden by the night. The world opens her eyes and sees the beauty of the light. It’s amazing.

I often wonder how I would react if the sun chose not to shine. The light is healing, therapeutic, warming for the soul. For me, constant darkness would be devastating, leaving me cold and lost with nothing to light my way.

When God crafted the world He began with daylight, offering the void of emptiness respite. With the light He provided hope and within the hope He gave us His promise --a promise to heal our hurt and offer us an opportunity to open our eyes renewed and fresh into a new day.

So today when I took my morning walk and watched the sky open its eyes, I asked the Father, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” He whispered on the breeze. As if He didn’t already know.

“How do you paint such different pictures every day? Better yet, why?”

“My portfolio is vast. I have an eternity of paintings to choose from, and you ask why? Because I can. Because I want to. Because I care that you see the “newness of new” every day. When your heart is sad, you can look into the sunrise and know that I am here.”

“Wow. That’s pretty awesome. You do that for me?”

“Indeed. Without hesitation. Every day. Day in and day out. For you. Because I love you.”

“Nice.” I replied. “Can you step to the left. I need to take a picture of the sunrise?”

“Wait, let me touch it up just a bit.” Said the Father. And He took His finger and gracefully drew into the darkness, brightening the colors and pushing the snow clouds to the side so I have a better view. What an amazing God. One who paints life anew every single day and He does it for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Embarrassing Moments - Guest devotionalist, Cindy Rooy

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. -- 2 Corinthians 4:17

We’ve all had them. I wish mine didn’t happen in front of so many people. It was my debut in the choir, my first time in this church’s choir loft. Waiting for the perfect opportunity to make an unnoticed exit after singing, I was anxious to get to my Sunday school class. Observing one classmate slip out, I realized that it was time to go. I stood and hastily stepped down to the empty row of seats to make my quick get-away, but it wasn’t meant to be. Losing my balance, I tripped over a chair and went crashing face first to the floor. It wasn’t pretty. Parishioners, who were fortunate to miss the spectacle, heard the ado. Startled singers from the front row turned and unsuccessfully tried to pull me to my feet while some concerned tenors, leaning over the chairs, questioned my well-being. I couldn’t get my bearings. Becoming intensely self-conscious, I realized the service stopped because of all the commotion. Slowly pushing myself off the floor and unsteadily rising to my feet, I was unable to put any pressure on my injured leg. My embarrassment intensified when my husband appeared and helped me limp across the row and out the side door.

Oh, how I wish I could do that over. In class, my leg pain and swelling increased but didn’t affect me as much as my embarrassment. The tears started to flow. Other concerned choir members entered the classroom and upon seeing me, couldn’t resist chuckling over my humiliating episode. I previously had nightmares about losing my sheet music or singing at the wrong time, but it never occurred to me that I would cause such a disturbance that the church service would be disrupted.

I wonder if Jesus ever got embarrassed. I somehow doubt if He did anything in haste that He regretted. But didn’t Jesus experience every human emotion? Why does our compassionate God allow mortifying situations to happen? Perhaps I could blame sin for accidents happening or for my imperfection and tendency to be impatient. Was there any particular reason why God permitted that humbling event? Was I more concerned with the details associated with singing than focusing on worshiping God? Perhaps someone had a wrong perception of me that needed to be corrected. Or maybe I thought too highly of myself and needed to be knocked down.

Sometimes we may never know the reason. Job never learned why he had to suffer. It helps to be reminded that God is in control and allows negative things to occur for a reason. Eventually I may find out, but for now, I must redirect my thoughts from humiliation to trusting God who sees the big picture. He has a purpose and plan for every person, and in some way, this incident has its place. So I trust that this humbling experience will someday benefit myself or someone else. Today, “embarrassed to tears” became a reality for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

….who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts. – Psalm 15:4

My parents raised me with integrity. That included a wide spectrum of things such as work ethic, persistence, and honoring my word. These qualities are all things I take very seriously. When it comes down to how people perceive me, this is what they adhere to. It’s important I honor those aspects of myself – they may be the ones that make a difference in someone else’s life.

Maintaining a standard of integrity doesn’t mean things will run smoothly, nor does it mean we’ll never be hurt or disappointed. In fact, we’re probably hurt more, suffer more disappointment , and feel more sadness than those who could care less. We tend to be “used,” and “taken advantage of” simply because we desire to step above the pettiness and walk away from certain conflicts.

I recently offered to assist a woman who was bogged down with work, life and family. The offer was made because I cared about her and hated to see her in constant turmoil, overrun with daily muck. She would give me tasks, and I happily worked to accomplish the small things she’d needed. It was a pleasure to help her, to see that she was digging from beneath the mess life had dropped on top of her. That is, until the jobs were complete. I walked past her at a meeting and over heard her bragging to her friend how she could just throw the trash jobs to the woman who offered to help her and she reaped the benefits. Her friend’s face turned crimson, as she pointed to me.

The woman, turned and eyed me then said, “I was just telling her how….er….uh…you helped me.”

My heart sank. This was just cruddy. All the things I’d done were done because I cared for her. I expected nothing in return other than the joy of having served. Smiling I remarked, “it was my pleasure” then I turned and walked away to complete the things I’d started. I’d said I’d assist her and I would honor my commitment – even when it hurt.

The truth is, she was using me. I could have stood eye to eye with this lady and let her have it for taking advantage of genuine love and compassion, but it would have been fruitless. Suddenly, the life of Christ became immensely clear. He’d come into this world, gave me His word, served me humbly and then died for me. In my mind, a vivid picture of the Savior came into view. How hurt and brokenhearted He must have felt as He died on the cross for me, knowing that many times I would’ve simply used Him and then bragged on how He did the dirty work.

Once again, I bundled up and took a short walk. I asked the Father, “Why does it hurt so badly? I was trying to do the right thing.”

He eased into step with me as I climbed the hill in the back. “It hurts because you freely gave and were taken advantage of.”

“It doesn’t seem fair – to hurt over this, that is. Why do people use us?” I asked.

“Greed and selfishness are everywhere. Integrity is not what it used to be. But then are you in this for the praise?”

“Heavens no! I did those things because I wanted to help.”

“Then your heart was in the right place. You did as I have commanded. You served.”

“I just felt….well…..used.”

“And rightfully so. But you gave your word, you joyfully worked, and your treasures are in heaven. It doesn’t matter what’s here.”

“I guess. I didn’t expect any treasures. I just wanted to help.”

The Father stepped in front of me and brushing my hair away from my face, He reminded me, “You did, child. You did.”

I felt a little comforted knowing God was pleased.

“Hey, God. Before you go. A friend gave me this little tid-bit.”

The Father stopped and placing His hand on His hip said, “Shoot.”

“He sent me this email that said, ‘Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible.”

“Smart friend. And what does that teach you?”

“To have faith in the heart of what I do. Believe that what I do is amazing in Your eyes, and You will make the impossible happen.”

“Integrity means a lot. Your word means a lot. But My word means everything.”

Monday, January 21, 2008


Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:25

In our house, we're all failures. Sounds harsh, I know, but it's the truth. Every one in my family has failed at something. We've had failed jobs, failed marriages, failed friendships. You name it and we've probably had a shot at it at some point in our family's history. However, having these disappointments and accepting them are two different things.

We learned early on, in raising a child with mental retardation, that true failure was not an option. The road was hard - still is bumpy. But we've grown deeper as a family. In this child, we found out the world would prefer we miss a step and fall - it gave them something to talk about, something to drill into us. In my eyes, failure was not an option. We learned quickly, that if our child was going to grow up with any abilities at all, it would be because we encouraged him to be above the disability.

Our family had the three-try rule. Not only did it apply to our special needs child but it applied to the other three boys as well. You tried everything at least three times. If you were still unsuccessful, you could rest but then try again. We learned to be cheerleaders. Honest cheerleaders and our encouragement of each other struck a chord that made us want to press ahead.

Encouragement and failure seem to go hand in hand. I say that because there are few individuals who come into this world successful. They each had to fail and be encouraged to try again. That's how it is with Christ and His love for us. He knows we aren't going to be successful everytime, still He is the encourager who continually says, "Get up, try again. If you fail, it's okay. Just try again."

So today, I made my way out to the pond. Bundled in a heavy coat, scarf wrapped tightly around my face and nose, I thought it would be nice to listen to water running over the rocks. As I stood there staring into the water, I heard the Father sigh. He rested His arm against the poplar tree, legs crossed, gloves on.

"What's on Your mind today?" I asked "I believe that was a sigh I heard."

"The question is not what's on my mind, it's what's on yours?"

"Nothing important."

"Lying isn't becoming."

"I'm not lying......well, I don't think I am."

So the Father walks a bit closer and puts His arm around me. "What happened today?"

"Oh, that."

"Huh hu, that."

"I worked really hard, a lot of hours trying to get it right. But it wasn't. I'm just a bit disappointed."

"Disappointment stinks doesn't it?" He gave me a squeeze.


"So, what's ya going do?"

"Try again. Try until I get it right. Though I'm not sure I will. Or I'm not thinking I will. I feel so dumb sometimes."

"I don't make dumb, sweetheart. I make unique."

"You think I'm unique?" I asked.

"I do. And when you make the effort and it's unsuccessful, you try again because that tells the world you're not a quitter. And if you try and fail again, that tells you that you're not a quitter. Then if you try and fail yet again, it tells me you are a worthy servant because you are faithful to the task."

"Wow, that says a lot. Thanks for the encouragement."

"When all else fails - when you fail -I am always with you, encouraging you to try again, and helping you find success. Remain faithful for I am faithful."

So, I smile as my teeth chatter in the cold morning air, turn and walk back into the house. Only to try again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Yoked? -- She Said

(This devotion is part of the He Said - She Said Series. Go to Christian Devotions to read the complimenting He Said devotion.)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

–Matthew 11:29 & 30

As a child I remember listening to our minister preaching about the weight of burdens and taking up the yoke of Christ. I wasn’t sure what the definition was but I wondered what the deal was about a yoke. I liked mine scrambled. Odd that the minister would preach on eggs. However, it didn’t take long for me to figure out, I didn’t want one of these “yokes or burdens,” especially if additional weight was involved. When it seemed as though everyone around me was suffering hardships, I found myself happy and carefree. If I saw something coming my way that looked like it might be heavy, I avoided it like the plague.

I spent a great deal of time learning to how not to become weighted down with despair and frustration. And then, just when I thought I had it figured out, I was slapped in the face with a good dose of burdens. A failed marriage, two babies and no money quickly taught me what it meant to be burdened. My heart was heavy and depression settled in around me.

I remember crawling into bed in the wee hours of the morning and sobbing, in fact, wailing might be a good word. As I cried that still small voice of God spoke to my heart. “Do you insist on carrying this alone? Take responsibility for what part of this is yours and then turn the rest over to me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That evening, I learned what it meant to carry a burden and better yet, I learned how to give one up. The seconds turned to minutes and the minutes to hours as I lay there, struggling with the agony. Never had I felt such deep loss, such deep suffering. I looked like a train wreck –swollen eyes, red face, runny nose, but I finally came to terms with what I knew to be my own part in the unhappiness. Falling to my knees, I lifted my hands into the air and told God the part I’d played in is ordeal. “Will you forgive me? Can you forgive me?” And literally, no sooner had the words left my mouth than I felt the thousand pound weight disappear. I could catch my breath again, stand without feeling like I was going to topple over. God had lifted my burdens.

I’ve often wondered why, as humans, we insist on learning the hard way? Why is submission so difficult? What Jesus offers us is such a simple concept. His way is really not hard it’s our own stubbornness and pride that makes picking up the yoke of Christ difficult. The circumstances which surround us cause us to cling to the sadness of our lives. It’s as though this unhappiness is the only thing we feel we can gasp hold – probably because it’s so close at hand. Our own desires to continually remain tight-fisted and white-knuckled hanging on to the hardships are the very things that prevent us from the rest that lies within the Father.

It’s not difficult to take up the yoke of Christ, it’s hard to let go of our worldly selfishness and learn to trust – to stand naked and vulnerable before the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. His yoke is easy and His burden is light and when we embrace Him there is rest.

So, I learned over the years that the yolk the preacher was talking about was not yellow and encased in a shell, but rather it was me who could crack and break as the slightest touch of pressure. I have my moments when self-pity sweeps across me and I drop His yolk, but then suddenly I figure out I don’t have to walk on egg shells. What I have in Christ will never crack.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Plain Sight.....

Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle, and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in the God’s sight. – 1 Peter 3:4&5

Have you ever lost sight of the obvious? The things that set in plain view – the picture of a niece on the shelf, the star shaped post-it notes, that rubber band that’s been laying on the floor just beneath the computer desk for weeks. There’s a vast amount of “stuff” we intentionally overlook daily – some because we’re too lazy to change them others because we fear picking them up and looking deeper into their story.

Today, my good friend Mark, reminded me gently of the wealth of stories I overlook simply because my eyes aren’t quiet focused. These things that surround me are filled with joy, laughter, work, and peace, yet I pass by them regularly and refuse to look deeper.

Let’s take the nine inch rubber band that I use to bind my class work together. It’s one of those huge rubber bands that you can slip your toes through to weigh it down and stretch it to your chin. In fact, that’s the fun of the thing. My son, does just that. He stands on it and stretches it the length of his 6’ 6 ½” body, then roars in laughter as he plucks at it like strings on a stand-up bass. He refers to it as the Mammoth Band. A smile crosses my lips as I tug at the silly thing and see the memories that come into view.

Sometimes we just need to sit and finger through the paperclips, play with the scotch tape, shoot staples from the stapler. I found it’s the little things we fail to notice -- the simple parts of our inner self, our spirit that we miss. It’s those same things we fail to look for in Christ. So, today when I pushed my computer chair away from the desk I asked the Father,

“Why didn’t You say something sooner? Why didn’t you tell me to open my eyes?”

“What did you want me to say?” He answered as He scratched His back against the door frame.

“There You go, answering a question with a question? I need statements not more questions.”

“So, what’s the question?” God asked.

“There You go again.”

“What?” asked the Father.

I rolled my eyes. “Asking me the questions. I asked You first.”

“And I’m asking you what?” He mused.

“What what?” I threw my hands into the air.

He slid my reading glasses across the desk and propped them in plain sight. “Read that line from my book.” I reached for my glasses and He slipped his hand over mine to prevent me from taking hold of them.

“I can’t see the words without my glasses.”

“That’s my point. We all need help seeing occasionally. I see everything about you and every inch I have in my sight is worthy to be seen. So why do you question?”

I sucked in a deep breathe and exhaled slowly. “Oh, I guess I see.”

“Funny how a question can give sight to the blind, don’t you think?”

I learned today, not only can God play 20 questions, but that my vision can be 20/20, and unless I peer about me and see at the multitude of things I overlook daily, I’m really blinded by the sight. There’s stories all around us, we merely have to look. God sees deep within our hearts, and He never fails to pick up the little parts of us that go unnoticed by most, twisting and turning, observing every inch. An attribute I need to practice. So, God being God, handed me my glasses and trudged down the hallway softly singing, “Jesus loves the little children, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…..”

I dripped a splash of eye drops into my eyes. My sight blurred but within seconds I could see clearer than I’d ever seen before – but then again, I looked this time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. -- James 5:16b

When God decides it’s time for a change in us, He knows how to prod us into obedience. I felt God’s nudging to make prayer an active part of my morning. That meant pulling away from my toasty flannel sheets and down-filled pillow and literally getting on my knees. The problem is that after four surgeries, my knees weren’t willing participants. Submission works better from the kneeling position, but any pressure on what used to be my right kneecap brought tears. I was also less than thrilled with the idea of arising earlier; I’m not a morning person. Needing confirmation, I asked God if He would be my alarm clock. Not only did He give me divine wake-up calls precisely at the requested time, He wouldn’t let me fall back to sleep. After two weeks of prayer with my elbows on the bed supporting my weight while gingerly allowing my knees to touch the carpeting, God withdrew all of my knee pain.

God rewards us when we try to be obedient. He wants us to pray. His Word tells us to “pray without ceasing” and to “devote ourselves to prayer.” However, we need to have genuine faith and trust in God in order to pray sincerely. We must believe He hears us and is willing to respond. “When you ask, you must believe and not doubt.” While we examine how much faith is in our prayers, we may ask God for assurance if our prayers are in His will. God looks at our hearts and motives when we make our requests. As we see our prayers being answered, our desire to pray intensifies because our expectant faith grows.

Some wonder why we should pray since God knows our needs and everything about us. They forget that He desires a personal relationship with us and wants us to communicate with Him. God answers our knee-mail. The more we talk with Him, the closer and more intimate we become, which generates more love for Him. The phrase, “To know him is to love him” applies! Remember, Jesus said the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Do we love Him enough to desire quality time with Him? He does with us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Prayer is Just Talking.....

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians5: 16 & 17

When I attended Johnson Bible College, I had the privilege of being taught by a prayer warrior. This professor, older by the standards of the majority of the faculty, was an amazing man of prayer. It was not uncommon to walk along the loop at the college and see him standing in the back yard, white hair glistening in the sun, head bowed, hands behind his back. He believed in conversation, true and continued conversation with the Father.

His devotion to this quiet time impressed me when there was a campus wide prayer vigil. Students signed up for fifteen minute prayer times which continued around the clock for a full weekend. My prayer time was 10:00 p.m. and when I arrived, he was there. The chapel was quiet and lights were offering a soft glow off the stained glass windows. He pulled the list of student names and marked me present.

“How long have you been here?” I asked assuming he was taking the night watch for student protection.

“All day.” He whispered.

“All day? When do you go home?”

“Tomorrow night, when we’re finished.”

“Good grief. Aren’t you tired?”

“Yes. But it’s fine because if a student misses their prayer watch, then I step in and fill the gap. I don’t want the vigil to be broken.”

That was dedication.. I learned a great deal from his example. What I saw was something my own life desired – a deeper, more abiding relationship with the Father. The only way to achieve that was to commit to it and learn to talk to God anytime, about anything –continually. It took a long time to learn to pray frequently – in fact, to take the act seriously. Often, saying we’ll pray for someone good Christian lip service. But to follow through…..that’s hard.

Like anything we chose to do, practice makes us better. Am I where I should be in my prayer life? By the standards of my professor – no, but I’m learning. It becomes easier to talk to God when we make the effort, especially when Satan tries to distract us. Take your relationship with the Father seriously. Develop it by spending time talking to Him. Prayer doesn’t have to be formal it simply has to be that necessary conversation with our Father.

So this morning I asked the Father, “You there? It’s 5:15 a.m.”

“Been here all night.” He replied.

“Don’t you ever rest – get tired of waiting on me while I sleep?”

“Nope.” The Father pulled me close and kissed my head. “I love talking to you. Look forward to it.”

“I understand that. But don’t you get tired?”

“No. Never. I listen constantly in case you need something. I listen for all my children. The problem is few of them talk. The more you talk, the clearer you see me.”

Though I’m sure, I’ll never understand God completely, He is right. The more I talk with him, the clearer I see Him. His appearance is only limited by my imagination, but I see Him everywhere I am. He is with me when I walk, when I work, and when I write. And I am relaxed in His presence, comfortable to tell him anything. He doesn’t give me everything I ask for when I pray. Sometimes He simply provides comfort, however He hears every word I speak. And He doesn’t suffer from selective hearing. So I keep talking. After all, praying is just talking.

“No.” the Father interrupted. “Praying is everything.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Seeing through the Fog

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him. – Psalm 32:1 & 2

When I walked into early morning the Father greeted me with a damp moisture that enveloped me completely. Lately I prayed God would allow me to see deep into the things around me, allow me ability to describe them on a different level, understand them more fully. And though many times before I have stepped into fog, this morning I saw things I’ve never noticed before. This is what God taught me about fog.

Crossing my arms to block the frigid air, I meandered into the yard, grass cracking like panes of glass beneath my feet. I pursed my lips and exhaled a stream of warm air. Steam formed and it swirled gently, never dissipating rather clinging to the mist that covered me. The hand of the haze reached out taking me in its grasp leaving a dampness that chilled my arms. The fog pushed in and out as though it were waves breaking gently onto a sandy shore. My vision cleared and I squinted, trying to find sight through the foamy whitewash.
I gingerly blew a second breath into the wetness of the air. Again the cloud twisted and turned, lifting itself into the vapor that washed past me.

The cool moisture chilled my lungs as I took it in. Lifting my hand, I softly swatted at the smoky cloud and it moved, caressing my hand like sand filling crevices –constant and conforming. This blanket that covered the early morning hours pressed against me, wrapping me tight in its clutch. This is winter in the mountains. Looking over my shoulder I could see a pinhole form in the darkness and single ray of light. Daylight. With each fleeting second that passed I watched the curtain rise and with it, the dense ocean of fog. The amber glow of the streetlights became white as the mist cleared and my skin lost its tackiness. God had taken the blanket of fog and folded it neatly, then stored in the heavens.

As I watched the birth of a new morning I saw with different eyes, the tremendous cloak of forgiveness which the Father offers me. This deep feeling of abiding within the arms of a God who can cover me fully, forget the wrongs I’ve done, and yet warm me completely, brought me to a new level of humility I’ve never known.

“There’s a lot more to fog than being blinded isn’t there?” I asked the Father.

“Indeed. Took you awhile to notice.”

“I guess was only looking at the surface.”

I felt a warm breath that pushed away the chill of the morning air. “There’s so much more to see when you look deeper – squint a bit. Fog is really not just something to inconvenience you when you drive.”

I smiled. “I get that now. It’s a cover. A quilt of sorts.”

“Good for you. What else did you see?”

“I saw the movement in the mist. It carried your forgiveness toward me and it washed my fallacies out of sight. It clung to me, touched me physically, tickled my skin.”

“So you saw for the first time?” The Father asked.

“I guess I did. I could see the thick film before my eyes, yet, my vision was perfectly clear.”

“Good. You understand my love a bit better. If only more people would stand still long enough to look into the fog.”

This morning God taught me that winter on the mountain offers sight to the blind. He covers us with His mighty love and forgives completely. I saw that, deep within the smoky fog of the Appalachians.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where's the Flashlight -- She Said

(Part of the He Said - She Said Series. Visit www.christiandevotions.us for the He Said compliment to this devotion.)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12

Growing up, I was a Girl Scout. In fact, I still remember the troop number. Girl Scout Troop 181 and my mom was our leader. She was the ultimate as far as leaders go. Mom was creative and imaginative, as well as a firm believer that girls could do anything if they had the right training. Whatever we set out to do as a troop, mom researched it and provided all the necessary tools for us girls to succeed.

Mom spent several weeks teaching us the basics of hiking and camping. We learned how to roll our sleeping bags into tight bundles and to build a fire in the rain, how to store our food safely when we slept under the stars, and how to survive if we should become lost. The greatest part was by the time we’d entered high school, she’d prepared us for survival hiking.

When I signed up for my first survival hike along the Appalachian Trail, daddy freaked out.

“It’s dangerous. There’s bears. You’ll get killed. That mountain is no place for young girls.” He came up with every excuse he could think of to scare me. Nothing worked. I was confident in my skills. In his last-ditch effort to turn myself and Beth away from the survival hike, daddy threw in. “What’ll you do on that mountain at night when it’s pitch black and you have no light?” I kissed his forehead and told him I’d be fine, that’s why God made flashlights.

We headed to Boone, NC and the first leg of our three day survival hike. Manned with only an extra pair of socks, a piece of plastic cut to my height, a zip lock bag of matches, and a flashlight we hit the trail with a very competent guide. I patted my pocket to be sure I had my flashlight (Dad had managed to scare me just a bit). The first day passed quickly and as we prepared to bed down, the glow from our fire lighted the entire side of the bluff. I lay there watching as the flame died and there was nothing more than red embers. Darkness closed in around me and suddenly a chill of fear swept over me. Dad was right. It was pitch black. I held my hand in front of my face and couldn’t see it. I pulled out my flashlight from my cargo pants and clicked it on. The beam flooded across the other hikers highlighting them as though they were actors on a stage and it was my job to run the spot light. I was amazed at how far that beam of light could stretch. There was great comfort in the thin beam of light. Regardless of how black the night was, I could still find my way. Flipping off the light, I stuffed it back into my pocket and rolled to my side grateful for flashlights and new batteries.

I recounted that experience when I spoke for at Ladies Retreat and though we laughed about some of the antics of the survival hike, the point was we needed light to lead us through the darkness. There is never a day that passes when I am not awed by the light of Christ. He promised us that He was the beam of light we needed to follow – the beacon that would show us the way. His light is filled with joy and peace, contentment and safety. Even in the deepest darkness his light will cut through and provide us direction. When we seek the light of Christ, we will find the hope of a new tomorrow and a friend who will never leave our side. A savior. Now when I look for a flashlight, I turn to Christ. The best part -- He doesn’t require batteries, just our hearts.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Second Chances - guest devotionalist Cindy Rooy

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Erasers are great. You can completely fix a mistake without anyone knowing. If only our life’s mistakes could be erased as if they never happened. Regrettably, we have to live with our blunders and their consequences. Sadly, many of us feel disqualified from serving God because of our past sins, especially when we repeat the same ones over and over again. Besides feeling like a failure, we believe God considers us unworthy. Our peace becomes lost in our discouragement. However, when we read through Scripture and learn that God gives second chances, we sense hope.

Fleeing from his assignment, Jonah ended up inside a fish. God gave him a second chance to deliver the message by causing the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. That message caused a nation to repent, avoid destruction, and also receive a second chance. Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle who knew Him intimately. Peter denied knowing Jesus not once or twice, but three times after insisting he would die with Jesus before he would disown Him. Peter had to feel sick to his stomach after meeting Jesus’ eyes after the third denial. Yet, God loved him and prepared Peter to become an influential missionary and leader of the church, giving him many opportunities to stand up courageously and preach the gospel boldly.

When we repent, God lovingly forgives us and erases our sins. He doesn’t keep a record of our wrongs, so we must not dwell on them. We may have temporary consequences to them, but Jesus took the eternal consequences away from us. He made it possible for us to move on. Now we need to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes. On the other hand, Satan loves to make us believe we are unworthy by bringing back to mind all of our wrong doings and making us focus on our faults. He makes us feel like a failure. Satan causes us to doubt God’s goodness and forgiveness, and steals our hope.

The apostle Paul used to hunt down Christians to kill them before his conversion. God purposely used him as a missionary to the Gentiles and an author of several books of the Bible. His service had an enormous impact on the growth of Christianity. Likewise, we can still be useful to God for He will provide us with opportunities to serve Him and we can respond with gratefulness. God often takes our past failures and uses them for our good and to benefit others. We can be empathetic to others who experience the same situations and help them through their adversity . God will use whatever experiences we’ve had to advance His plans.

God loves us, never fails us, and always forgives us – even repeat offenders. His supply of compassion and grace is inexhaustible. We are awed that God has a purpose and plan for each one of us. Thank Him for His mercy for providing us second, third and more chances. Are there any past mistakes that you need to let go of?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tampa's Military Community Gives Me Hope

***A special thanks to Derek Maul, friend and writer for the Tampa Tribune and to the Tampa Tribune for allowing a reprint.***

Tampa's military community gives me hope

(The Tampa Tribune, Jan 2, 2008.)

I'm not big into New Year's resolutions; I'm interested in more
substantive change than that. But one thing I have resolved is to let
people know how much their contributions are appreciated. We live in a world top-heavy with complaining, and I suspect such a tone is bringing us all down.

So I'm not that surprised that I've been writing more about our armed service personnel lately. The faithful work of Tampa's military community has been cropping up both in my reporting and my commentary.

It's not surprising considering the immensity and the scope of the current world conflict. There's not a reader within reach of the Tribune who can't identify some aspect of their life that interfaces in some level with the military or those who serve.

Like it or not, we live in a world fraught with fear, hostility, and institutionalized hate; and, foreign policy fans or not, we owe our lives and our liberty to the faithful service of those who wear the uniforms.

So I'm proud to report that, this week, their ranks will be swelled by one more good American who believes in freedom, loves his family, and is willing to put his life on the line to defend the Constitution. My son-in-law, Craig Campbell, is heading to Rhode Island for Officer
Candidates School. In 13 weeks, if all goes according to plan, he'll be commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy.

Rhode Island; January; I understand it's lovely this time of the year. But my so-in-law's a meteorologist, so it's not like he's doesn't know what he's getting in to. Plus he grew up in Connecticut, so he's well aware of why Florida is so popular December through March.

Craig believes he's ready; he's been doing the push-ups, the sit-ups, and the running. But more importantly he's a hard worker and conscientious with it; he knows what commitment means, and he's not afraid to do what's necessary to see something through.

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to some concerns, some cautions, and some reservations. Craig's motivation is pure, and he is entering a military culture that values the principles that gave birth to freedom; ideals the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast-Guard
have sworn to defend. But the political will that wields such power is frequently more cynical, and often far less motivated by what is right. I have never held to the nonsense that government in a time of war is to be kowtowed and unquestioned. In fact any time American
lives are at stake is a good time to look for explanations that make sense.

Bottom line, my immediate family has entered the line of fire. And, while I'm no slouch when it comes to either prayer or politics, it's no exaggeration to say that I plan to redouble both my conversations with God and my due diligence in the coming months and years.

I have the good fortune to enjoy meaningful friendships with several officers, including more than one active general, so here around Tampa I see a lot that gives me confidence and hope.

I asked how their roles as professional soldiers in armed conflict could reconcile with personal Christian faith. They told me in no uncertain terms that the presence of believers in the military community is critical if we want to engage conflict as if the Constitution of the United States and the Geneva Convention really are working documents that mean something.

In other words, if there's any time that the foundational ideals of these United States come into clear focus it's in the context of stress, pressure, conflict, and tough choices. Or, maybe even closer to the truth, genuine faith is the only context where this freedom stuff really works in practice.

Because if we don't believe that, "All [people] are created equal", and that "They are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights…" - and that includes our enemies – then the whole thing comes down like a house of cards.

I'd like to think that everything we do as a nation is predicated on those fundamental premises. I'd like to think that's why my son-in-law, Craig, has signed up to serve.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's All about Faith....

We live by faith, not by sight. - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Sight is a valuable thing we often take for granted and for those who are blessed with 20/20 vision, there is no real understanding of the frustration in the cliché’ “blind as a bat.”

I can never remember having good vision, however, I do remember the day I got my first pair of “cat-eye” glasses and I can remember the day contact lenses entered my life (I thought I’d died and gone to heaven). The bulk of my childhood and my entire adult life have been spent depending on something to aid me in my sight.

Several years ago, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning. Leaning over to the night stand, I patted the top in search of my glasses but couldn’t find them. The natural assumption was that I’d knocked them off during the night. So without a thought, I trudged through the hallway not being able to see more than a few inches in front of me. As I passed by the stairs I glanced down and saw a gray blur. The night before I had been to the fabric store and I must have laid the bag on the stairs. That wasn’t like me to leave a hazard on the stairs that might cause one of the boys to fall.

Without hesitation, I drew my foot back to kicked the bag to the foot of the stairs. What happened next still shames me to this day. The bag I thought I was kicking to the bottom of the stairs was actually our grey cat and a blood curdling yowl pierced the quiet of the house when I lifted a perfectly innocent pet from a peaceful sleep and sent him sailing down the stairs mashing into the front door (scared the cat for life – little fellow avoided me for months).

For years I longed to have good vision. Just over a year ago, I had laser surgery to correct my eyesight. I was amazed – overjoyed to open my eyes in the middle of the night and be able to read the time on the clock. After all these years, I could finally see. I do not take my sight for granted because I realize what a valuable gift I have been given.

Many times we base the steps we take in our lives on the belief that we’re confident we see what might be coming our way. When in fact, we can’t see inches in front of us and we walk completely blind. There has to be guidance for us, something to give us clear sight. When we bring the Father into our lives we learn to walk by faith, trusting that He will be our eyes that are otherwise blurry without Him. We learn to lay our needs, our worries, or desires before Him and then faithfully believe that He will move the obstacles which may cause us to stumble and fall.

Today I asked the Father, “Do you remember Noodles the cat?”

“Oh yeah, I remember. You drop-kicked him down the stairs. Poor cat. Took me months to convince him you’re weren’t out to kill him.”

“It was an accident. I thought he was a grey shopping bag.”

“No, you thought! That was the problem.” The Father brushed the hair away from my eyes clearing the strands so I could see where I was walking.

“We need to think.” I replied.

“True. But you need to trust first. Have a little faith that I have a plan. Let me be your eyes and know that I’ll get you through. Having clear vision helps you walk safely but having sight means you have faith.”

“I get it. Just because my physical vision is blurry doesn’t mean my spiritual sight is marred.”

“Exactly. Walk by faith. Trust me.”

I looked out the back window to the hill behind our house where we’d buried Noodles the cat. We’d been blessed with his presence for twenty years before he passed away. A smile parted my lips. “So God, is Noodles happy in heaven?”

“Yes, indeed. The best part is, I put him in a house with no stairs and everyone in heaven has good eyesight!”

“Nothing like a God who has a sense of humor.” I remarked.

“Nothing like a servant who walks by faith.”