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Friday, December 20, 2013

CREATING THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS


“You get your panties all in a bunch!” he blurted out. Oh boy is he in trouble I thought. I watched my friend Tom bury himself as he rolled his eyes and came out with that to his wife. What was he thinking by saying that?
Tom was expressing his frustration about the family Christmas dinner that was just around the corner. He went on a rant describing how uptight Cindy gets. I felt for Cindy because I understood where she was coming from. I know she loves Pinterest and she has been perusing that website getting inspiring ideas with the desire to create the perfect Christmas.
Have you found yourself trying to keep up with the times and new ideas? Or with the age-old desire of creating the perfect Christmas? Are your panties in a bunch? Or maybe you have found yourself just giving up and doing the complete opposite–nothing?
The Bible teaches us the perfect perspective of how to celebrate Christmas. It starts with the angel declaring to Mary, “And listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31 AMP). Mary’s response “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said” (Luke 1:38 AMP).
We can relate that to our lives. We pray for our plans. We become pregnant with an idea. We respond as the handmaiden of the Lord knowing that “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment” (Luke 1:37AMP). We can fulfill the perfect Christmas in God’s power.
Next time you imagine yourself creating a perfect Christmas think of yourself being nine months pregnant. Imagine Mary travelling 80 miles, about one week on foot, to get to her perfect Christmas celebration. What would happen to all our perspectives of wanting a perfect Christmas? The world could fulfill their perfect Christmas with this promise, “No word from God shall be without power” (Luke 1:37 AMP).
PRAYER: Thank you for the free gift of Jesus Christ. You always have the perfect plans. Help me be guided this Christmas with your promise that I will be with Your power to create Your perfect Christmas plans. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

HO HO HO


My “to do list” is taking over my brain. Bake the cookies (every recipe that grandma gave me when I got married), put up the decorations, plan the holiday meals, send out the Christmas cards, do the shopping (even doing on-line shopping takes up a lot of time), get ready for all the upcoming parties, stock up the house with food (the college students are coming home) and so on…
My phone just buzzed twice. I have to look! It’s hard to stop! I have to hurry up! It all seems urgent!
I am wondering if you are feeling the pressure of Xmas?
I use the word “Xmas” because when you look at my list above there is no CHRIST in it.
The Bible teaches, “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp” (Psalm 92:1-3 NIV). David wrote a song for the Sabbath day, a day of rest. David loved playing music and singing. It had a calming effect.
Whenever I sit down and listen to my Christmas music, read scripture and write in my journal, miraculously I find out I have enough time to get everything done. Guess what? I get it done with a “Ho, Ho, Ho.” The sound that bellowed out of Santa’s gut makes me feel light-hearted; like I want to laugh. I feel the same when I reflect on Jesus’ birth and picture Him in the manger with those little rosy cheeks just like Santa’s. I cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.” The true Spirit of Christmas.
I was shopping with my daughter when a customer cut in front of us while we were in line trying to make a purchase. We looked at each other, yelled, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and burst out laughing. As we were leaving the mall there was a huge traffic jam and we realized were not going anywhere fast. We yelled out, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” So many stories I can’t write them all.
Imagine what would happen if in this season when the tension is building instead of giving into that frustration with a negative reaction we could be more spontaneous. We would yell out “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Stop! Laugh! The result would create an atmosphere of what the Christmas season should be filled with…THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS.
PRAY WITH ME: Holy! Holy! Holy! Are you Lord! Heaven and Earth are filled with Your glory. I reflect on Your glory! Lord give me a Ho! Ho! Ho! of love, praise, laughter and song in this Christmas season. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

RISE UP AND CARRY ON

November 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James –
I find myself wondering how to respond to overload in my life. I imagine you have found yourself in situations where you are not sure what to do either.
Maybe you can identify with a day like this. My dogs are driving me crazy because they are starved for attention. They keep following me everywhere. I walk around the house and see the sink full of dirty dishes, garbage that needs to be emptied, laundry piled up, clutter everywhere I look. There is a stack of mail on the counter with bills that need to be paid. Depressing! My kids are griping “Mom there is no food.” I need to get to the grocery store. I look at my cell phone and there are voicemails, emails and texts that I did not respond to.
My son just left the house stressed about the long road trip he was venturing out on. I glanced at my calendar and saw writing deadlines and doctor appointments. I don’t want to even mention the flip-flop in my stomach when I saw Thanksgiving and Christmas coming around the corner. The thought of figuring out who we will spend the Holidays with gives me the willies. It conjures up the nerve-racking thoughts of who is talking to whom. I ask myself “Why can’t we just all get along? Why is so and so always crabby at Holidays?” Blah, blah, blah…Need I go on?
What does the bible teach us on how to respond to overload? Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
“However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city…strengthening the soul of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:20-22 NKJV).
Having faith through the power of the Holy Spirit gives us immunity to life’s struggles. Paul had super-human power to endure suffering that we may never experience. Acknowledging his true faith strengthened him. The faith Paul talked about does not preempt us from suffering. Jesus also addressed the issue of how to respond. The Father gave Jesus the faith to believe in Himself so much so that he rose up and went to the cross. The King within each of us gives us the faith to rise up and carry on.
Next time you aren’t sure what to do, ask yourself this question, “Can God give me enough faith to rise up and carry on?” Imagine what would happen in our world if we all had faith to believe God will give us strength to rise up and carry on.
PRAYER: Our Father in heaven I know that all I need is the faith of a mustard seed to be able to accomplish things daily. Help me to rise up and carry on daily. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE WILL OF THE FATHER

The Will of the Father

November 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
While sitting at a Senior Choral practice a frail elderly gentleman turned to me and asked, “What is the will of God for your life?”
I wondered how to respond to this kind man. To me it is a loaded question with many possible answers, but I chose to respond “to be a child of Jesus.”
He blinked and gently spoke, “First Thessalonians 5:16-22: rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks under all circumstances. Know the love of God. Don’t despise prophesying. Test all things. Do well. Refrain from sin. Reach out to Jesus.”
I can only imagine that you have found yourself in similar situations where you weren’t sure what to do or say either. People may have been asking you “Do you believe God exists?” “Who is Jesus and what does he mean to you?” or, “How do you live out the will of the Father?”

In the book of Thessalonians Paul was exhorting the Church on various ways to seek to honor and reflect God in everything they think, say, or do. I think of it like this: when you go for a wellness check-up the doctor asks you questions about how you take care of yourself. Many times a doctor has a check-list of questions.You, like the doctor, can examine yourself and call it “The will of God checklist”.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I rejoice always?
2. Do I pray continually?
3. Do I give thanks under all circumstances?
4. Do I know the love of God?
5. Do I test all things?
6. Do I refrain from sin?
Our answers just need to be honest. God is not grading us. He reminds us gently what His will is for our lives. He is not forcing His will onto us. He loves us and gently guides us. He wants us to do well this side of heaven.
What would happen in our churches if all of us began to model the will of our Father in heaven?
PRAYER: Father give me the courage to examine this checklist. Help me to be honest and desire to live out the will You have for my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

GLOOMAWAY

“And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3-5 NIV).
The realization. The admission. Recognition. What a time in Isaiah’s life. Reading this verse brought to me the memory of when I dealt with how unclean I was. It was a somewhat gloomy time when I came to grips with my sin, but learned to rejoice.
You’re probably wondering how. Think about it! Awareness is the beginning stage of healing. In Isaiah 6:10, the Lord expounds, “They might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (NIV). I found physical and mental healing.
At one point I just became determined to rid myself of my whole history of sin and confess it to God. I asked God to reveal to me my sins of the past and present. Be careful, if you choose to ask. Be sure you mean it because God is faithful to do it. Not because He is a mean God. Quite the contrary! He loves the intimacy!
God began to reveal even the smallest of sins. An example was when I was driving and merged into another lane. The driver in the car behind me made a nasty gesture. I stopped and thought “I am guilty of that same sin.” Remorse touched my soul, and instead of raging back at the person, I saw my own sin.
The revelation of my sin continued for weeks. My journal was getting full. I cried. I felt as if I was in the accelerated program called “Advanced Admission of Sins.” Well thank goodness there was absolution. It is called forgiveness, and I graciously accepted it. Ahhh- Grace! The thing I did not deserve. I was getting to know God, there was more room in my heart for Him. He does not spare grace. No! He pours it out. It overflows from my head to my toes.
What does all this mean? I rejoice now, knowing forgiveness! I try to extend that same forgiveness to others. I pray now for those who wrong me or even when I see someone do something wrong. I pray that they will discover the same truth about grace. I learned to hate the sin not the sinner.
There is a body lotion called “Gloomaway.” The product name is cute. I like to use it. It is refreshing. God’s my true “Gloomaway.” After I spend time with Him, I always feel as if He soothed my soul.
Prayer: Father thank You for Your forgiveness. Your love is amazing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

HOOK LINE

October 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
Tom’s flight landed on time, and before he knew it, he was driving off in his snazzy red sports car rental. He was on his way to a convention where he was slated to speak. Once he arrived in town, he was pumped up but troubled. I’m on time. Everything is going to be okay, except that I still need that “hook line” to open my speech – something funny. I also need a little pick me up. Coffee!
As he made his way into the drive-through lane, he remembered that he still needed to confirm the pronunciation and spelling of the town. He certainly didn’t want to embarrass himself by saying it wrong during his presentation.
He greeted the young boy at the window inquiring, “How do you spell this place, and can you pronounce it for me?”
With a slight hesitation, the boy spelled, “B-U-R-G-E-R-K-I-N-G, Burger King.”
Tom, by this time laughing hysterically, said, “No, son, I mean the name of this town!”
Earlier that morning Tom had prayed, “God, I need a funny hook line for my speech. Help!” Nothing came to his mind. He was on the plane thinking, I must come up with something funny. Still nothing! He prayed again, this time telling God, “I only have about two hours till I give that speech. Can you hurry it up a bit?”
In the past, I’ve found myself praying like Tom, telling God what to do and how much time He had to do it. I have prayed like this, “Lord, I am going right now to meet with someone. Make her think the same way as I do about this situation so there won’t be any conflict.” Then I would reason with God using Scripture, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14 NIV).
Tom got his “hook line” with that funny story. Prayer does not always work fast even when I reason with God. James helped me out when he stated, “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15 NIV).
I have learned to pray about everything, but now I end my prayer with, “… if it is your will, Father …” I’m hooked! Remember, Father knows best!
PRAYER: Father I pray for _______. Your will be done. I know You know best. Thank You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

PRIZEFIGHTER

Prizefighter

October 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
My first week of empty nesting. The last two of my four children were going off to college. I kept imagining myself being alone. The adversary kept jabbing me with “You are never going to make it! You are going to fall apart! Those kids are your life. You cannot do anything else!”
I desperately prayed, “God I just can’t fall apart. This is where life is now. Help me!”
It was impressed on my heart to read the book of Philippians. My study Bible recommended that the reader focus on certain verses of that book. There are many good verses that I like, but I was praying and asking God for a personal revelation for me. I actually get excited about praying and reading, because at some point a verse does pop out at me! Then I just read it over and over till I can journal some thoughts to help me carry through the day.
“And do not [for a moment] be frightened or intimidated in anything by your opponents and adversaries, for such [constancy and fearlessness] will be a clear sign (proof and seal) to them of [their impending] destruction, but [a sure token and evidence] of your deliverance and salvation, and that from God” (Philippians 1:28 AMP).
This was the verse! Consider the phases of life as a boxing match. We’re God’s prizefighters! Are we going to throw in the towel and give into fear, intimidation or sadness? Are we wimps or fighters? We have to be careful or we can get hit hard and be KO’d (knocked out), ending up depressed or sick.
This verse put it into perspective for me. It is a daily choice. I am a competitive person by nature. I cannot let Satan win. I cannot let him destroy me. If I draw near to God, He can disable Satan and make it so he won’t have control over my life. God can give me the energy to fight! How about you?
I think that we have no choice about being in the boxing ring of life. There will always be round after round with many bouts of fighting. I know that if we take breaks between those rounds and go to God’s corner where he coaches and delivers us, we can be prizefighters!
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me embrace Your promise to deliver me. I want to draw near to You and be energized by You so I can be a prizefighter. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

September 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place? You know, when you’re faced with a choice between two unsatisfactory options. Aron Ralston was trapped in Blue John Canyon desert in Utah where he was forced to amputate his own right arm with a dull multi-tool in order to free himself after his arm became trapped by a boulder. His choice was to die or lose his arm. What an unbelievable story.
My rock and hard place is pale compared to what Aron suffered. Yet, I quickly get emotional about decisions. Thoughts monopolize my day. I try to self-talk myself into not thinking about my circumstances. I get stuck. It becomes a challenge I ask “How can I stop thinking of this?” I pray, then pray, then pray.
One day this scripture was my consolation “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD For the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV).
Jesus’ M.O. gives me perspective and it becomes my M.O. Next I read, “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you” (Isaiah 60:1 NLT) and “At the right time, I, the LORD, will make it happen” (Isaiah 60:22 NLT).
When I read the words “The Lord, will make it happen”, I felt assured that some outcome will happen. I just have to wait. What will I do while I wait? I start by praying and reading scripture then I do whatever comes next…my laundry, cleaning out a closet and so on…
“It’s going to be okay, hang in there!” That’s what I wish someone would say to me, instead of “just wait.” My dilemma is 8 years in the running. Joseph’s was over 20. Abraham’s was over 90. What do you do when you are between a rock and a hard place?
PRAYER: Lord as I wait on You for answers to prayer help guard my heart and mind. You live in me and anointed me. Heal me and send me as the Father has sent You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

GLUE

August 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
“Faith, get on your mat!” I yelled at the dog.
She ran to her mat, sat down and looked at me with those puppy eyes as if she was saying, “Look, I’m in my safe zone. You can’t touch me now.”
Did you play “it” or “tag” as a kid? To play the game, someone had to be “it” and the one important thing you needed to know was the location of “glue” which is your safe zone. Glue was the spot you touched or hung onto so you couldn’t get tagged by “it.” You’re out if you get tagged. You win if you don’t get tagged.
That is what I thought of in that moment when I stared at the dog. She was in her safe zone.
I have played the game as a child. The game is different as an adult. My mind is the playground where instead of getting tagged by kids, I get tagged by the evil one. He catches me and I am out; it feels like I am inundated with all sorts of negative thoughts. As a child after I got tagged I was out. I liken being “out” to not feeling secure in life. When I’m insecure others’ comments, betrayals, stubbornness, impatience, bad moods…make me feel out! The Holy Spirit reminds me to go to the B.I.B.L.E, which can be an acronym for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I run to God, I get glued, and then I am in a safe zone where I cannot get tagged.
When I awake at night and my mind is racing I focus on Him because He alone calms my racing thoughts. My approach is to acknowledge God by practicing the presence of Him. I do this by singing a hymn, praising, thanking, and praying to Him. I know the power of praying scripture and I find that this is the perfect time to pray for others too.
“The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11 NIV). At one point in my life I focused on this verse and asked myself if God is my fortress, what would it be like to be in God’s fortress? I let my mind wander further. What would it look like, who would be allowed in? I feel physically safe and that can be attributed to the Lord. This verse was my safe zone and I was stuck to God.
With all that said, I look at my darling dog with my puppy eyes and bark back “I’m glued to Jesus. He’s my free zone and you can’t bother me.”
Warning: The devil’s version of “it” still exists. Don’t be caught in the game. Stay glued in your safe zone, a place you can stick to Him!
Prayer: Lord Almighty help me to remember You are with me; You are my fortress. I want to stay glued to You and be in Your safe zone. Teach me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I SMILE, YOU SMILE

August 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
“Sweet niblets!” I screamed, screeching to a startling halt on my bike. I almost raced by and missed the glorious display of God’s beauty. “Imagine that! It appears to be snowing in the summer.” Have you ever seen a Catalpa tree? If not, Google it. A Catalpa tree is full of sweet smelling blossoms. I love it!
Let me rewind to the beginning of my day. I left for a bike ride with much on my mind. I was processing. Or maybe over-processing. Over-thinking. Thinking too much. Wasting time. When will I learn? I slammed on my brakes and focused on the blossoms. I allowed myself to enjoy nature. That helped me to just appreciate the NOW. I took a deep breath and told myself “God is in control.” This is what matters now. Taking in the moment. Appreciating what God gave me. A glimpse of heaven through His creation. It turned my day around. I went from “Elaine’s world” to “God’s world.” That is a good thing.
Friend, do you understand what I am telling you? Each day is a new day and new opportunity to smile and appreciate even the smallest of things, like a blossom. I nodded and said “Hi” to someone and that felt good inside of me. I smile, you smile. (I am singing a Justin Bieber song at this point.). It brings peace throughout my whole being.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV).
New birth means strength from God to: love the unlovable, to have a deeper awareness, to see good in others, to stop saying “I can’t” when you can through Christ. You are a new creation in Christ; the old is gone. This knowledge can help you stop being impatient, unkind, uncaring and be more like Christ.
I pray that you enjoy this season realizing you have been given a new birth. From my heart to your heart I smile, saying “Hi, how are you doing? Have a nice day!” You smile!
Prayer: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In your great mercy You have given me new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Thank you. Help me to understand this new birth for daily living. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, August 5, 2013

STEPPING STONES



Dear Friend:

“I don’t know why I am telling you this,” whispered the college professor.
I know exactly why he said what he said.
My son and I prepared to visit a prospective college that day. Before we left we prayed, “Lord, please, with absolutely clarity let us know if he should attend this college.”
As a group session ended and the room emptied my son and I sat talking. The professor came to us and asked if we had any questions. I told him about my son’s situation. That is when the professor came out with the unusual response. He was referring us back to a local community college to pick up some core classes. He even said, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you to go to another school.”
I jumped for joy because I had just witnessed the clear message the Lord sent my son, and he could not deny it. You know how teenagers don’t want to hear things from their mothers. I look back at that moment and smile. It is a story that is embossed on my “shield of faith.” I have a picture in my mind of my shield; it has marks that represent the captured moments of God’s faithfulness that He has used to build my own faith. Like the Israelites having their stones piled to remember what provision and clear direction they got from the Lord.
“So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you.” (Joshua 4:4-6 NIV).
God used stones to mark significant statements to Israel, like the Ten Commandments. He ordered special stones to make the temple. He commanded that stones be used to serve as a sign of His provision at important locations. Jesus was referred to as the cornerstone (the living stone), and we who are believers also are referred to as living stones chosen by God. They reveal God’s redemption and restoration for us all.
One time my family prayed for guidance about whether to purchase a home. The Holy Spirit led us to go through with the purchase. As our thanksgiving offering to God, we set up a pile of bricks in the yard, read the Scripture passage from Joshua 4 and dedicated our new home to Him.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, thank You for the times that You have made things clear to me. Help me to learn and remember what they mean. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE

Declaration of Dependence


I was dusting my shelves where the knick-knacks are displayed and the framed document entitled “Our Declaration of Dependence” caught my eye. I got choked up with tears thinking, Where has the time gone? Oh! Look at the precious signatures of my then eight and ten year-old sons.
Sixteen years ago when my husband lost his job, I was nursing a baby, homeschooling for the first time, my mom had left me, my relationship with my dad had become estranged and my best friend moved to Tennessee. Life was spinning out of control. A psychologist told me “Just losing your mom in the destructive way she left could put someone over the top.” How did I survive these six life changing events at once?
Prior to the year these things happened my family had come to know Jesus, but not to the full extent that we know Him now. We could not stay the way we were and go with God. The unanimous decision to declare our dependence on God for everything required us to look to scripture and be led by the Holy Spirit. That would necessitate us asking God to increase our faith and help us to live out WWJD. WWJD became our personal motto that stood as a reminder of our belief in a moral necessity to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through the actions of our lives. We gave God permission to do anything He pleases with our ordinary selves fully dedicated to Him. We would commit regularly to worship, thanksgiving and giving back to the Lord what He so graciously blessed us with. Looking back I would not change a thing. I felt so close to God. This experience taught me the same thing Paul learned from his trials. He stated “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12 NIV).
I made it through panic attacks and other health issues that arose from stress. Every step of my healing became a lesson to learn. I began to journal the healing process. Today I am known as “The Recycle Girl” meaning that the trials that I have experienced in my life and how God has taught me and helped me get through them has never been wasted. It has all been reused to help comfort others with the comfort I have received.
I want to ask you, have you made your “Declaration of Dependence”? Do you go through life barely getting by and learning nothing from your hard times or do you have a take–away that is recyclable for others?
PRAYER: Father in heaven I need an attitude adjustment. Help me to see trials from Your perspective. I realize I cannot stay the way I am and go with You. Thank You for showing me this. Forgive me for the times I do not ask you for help. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

EVERYBODY LOVES...



June 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
…. Raymond. Do you know the show Everybody Loves Raymond? If so, then you have seen Raymond blurt out something to Deborah and right away you think, “Oh no! He shouldn’t have said that!”
My husband had one of those moments. He said it, and he could not take it back. I immediately put up my defense. He’s not going to get away with that. I’m going to make him pay. At that moment, I was making his lunch. The thought came to me, I just won’t give him lunch.
Then a whispering, sweet voice said, “Elaine, have you ever said anything wrong?”
If I have to be honest, yes.
“Have I forgiven you and given you grace?”
Yes, Lord, you have.
“If My grace is sufficient for you, then my grace is sufficient for your husband. Can you make him the lunch for me?”
With you, Lord, I can do it. Without you, Lord, I want to ……
I made the sandwich. My mind and heart were battling the whole time. I will throw the sandwich at him. Honestly! I can make this sandwich and serve it with Christ. I made the lunch and gave it to my unsuspecting man. I got to thinking, I can really only do this because of God’s grace. I didn’t deserve what my husband said, but I chose to give him grace.
Have you ever felt that way toward anyone? When the whisper of God speaks, sometimes I ignore it and do not listen. It is hard at times.
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 NLT).
I did have revengeful thoughts. My insides hurt. I did not want to serve, but when I finally did, I felt really good inside. I was able to move on. Only God can do that for me, and for you. What do you do with your revengeful thoughts?
Let’s Pray: Father, sinful things sometimes dominate within me. Help me to stop and listen to You. Forgive me for the times I have not listened. I want to please You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

SPAM MAIL

Spam Mail

May 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
Taking a sip of my coffee I peacefully think “Peace and quiet, now I can get some work done.” I spoke to soon. A “bing” noise from my computer tells me “I’ve got mail”. It is a sting to my nervous system. I get like a million spam e-mails a day! Do you? Some days I just delete them and move on to the important messages. Other days it bothers me so much I feel like I want to explode! I am spending more time dumping into that little garbage can than I care to. Can’t someone invent an anti-anger button on my computer?
I liken this frustration to people or things that I come across every day. That person or thing is right in my face screaming for attention. It wears me down. Are you worn down, feeling like you just can’t take it anymore? Some days I am living fully frustrated and not fully alive.
I diagnose myself with the Paul syndrome defined by Paul himself “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18 NIV).
Thank goodness there is a prescription for this syndrome which the Holy Spirit reminds me “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22 NLT). Instead of exploding I pray “God give me some of that self-control.”
This prescription has brought me to a place of true peace and the result is:
Episodes< fruit of the spirit How exciting! I pray you are inspired to want: fruit of the spirit>frustration.
I add to my daily regimen a second prescription called thanksgiving. Being grateful takes my one-track mind away from frustration. I am thanking God for: the sun shining; my daughter’s smile; my husband’s kind words; my ministry; a double chocolate donut; food to eat; a friend who checked in on me today; a lady who said “HI” at the grocery store….on and on.
Join me, won’t you? The journey of life will become brighter. Make your thankful list right in the middle of chaos that is going on.
Let’s pray about it:
Father in heaven help me to want more of You and in turn You will fill me with the fruits of the Spirit. Help me to sense that You are developing more inside of me and it is showing on the outside. Thank You for Your medicine. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

YOLO

My daughter’s friend blurted out “I fell in love with the dress and I knew I couldn’t afford it. So I just opened a new store credit card and bought it. Oh well, “YOLO”.”
“What does “YOLO” mean?” I retorted. Just picture an annoyed teen response: attitude with eyes rolling and all, stating “Everyone knows what YOLO means. You Only Live Once.”
Catchy! I gazed out my window while rinsing dishes and let the phrase roll off my tongue, “YOLO.” I asked myself “Does that line up with what God has to say in His word?”
There are so many similar sayings such as “carpe diem” meaning seize the day. “Once in a lifetime experience” was what I said in my younger years. Do these catch phrases have soul meaning that requires some reflection? I say “Yes.”
Paul informed the church in Ephesus “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3 NIV). When I received Christ as my Savior the Holy Spirit came and dwelled within me, helping me to make decisions. Can Christians have “YOLO” moments?
Each year my husband and his Christian friends head to Canada on a fishing trip. They bring all of their fishing supplies and food and the owners provide cabins and some meals. The owners have seen some groups drinking too much and getting kind of crazy and causing trouble. They have commented to my husband “I love to watch your group have good clean fun.” He plans and budgets for the trip. It is a good “YOLO” moment.
The “YOLO” mindset can be okay when I am Spirit led. It is bad when I buy things, eat junk or do things with the “YOLO” mentality and regret it later.
The movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was filled with some good “YOLO” moments. I think God would agree with Ferris when he said at the end of the movie “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
PRAYER: God, when I say “YOLO”, can You help me to be wise? I know I live once and I have confidence that when I die I will live eternally with You. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit that guides me to live this life well. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Plop! Plop! Fizz! Fizz!

PLOP! PLOP! FIZZ! FIZZ!

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
I was feelin’ good about my clothing choice and pink lipstick for the day. Stepping out into the fresh air, I prayed my ritual prayer with a gentle whisper “God let me be in the moment and be in the right place at the right time for You.” I was digesting my breakfast and the scripture of the day:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for He grants sleep to those He loves” (Psalm 127:1-2 NIV).
I was heading to the local coffee shop in response to a friend’s e-mail stating “We should get together for coffee. I want to toss around the idea of a prayer group for parents…what do you both think?” The “both” was referring to my longtime girlfriend and me. I was actually thinking “Really, God? Another prayer group?” Poor attitude. Shame on me!
To make a long story short, this lady was in fear of the bad influence the world is having on our children. So legit! I too can work myself up into a mind loop of despair questioning “What if they take that influence and make bad choices themselves?”
My friend and I shared many scriptures that morning. I took out my phone Bible and read the above scripture. Side note: taking a verse from the morning into the day is so important. If we don’t put Jesus first everything we do will be done in vain. I didn’t make this stuff up; God did. We prayed together and she invited Jesus into her house (heart). The day denoted a new birth for her future. We left committed not only to pray but study the Word together. She was convicted that a prayer for a new beginning and the prospect of learning the Word dispelled darkness of fear and shed light on her new found path.
If you follow my devotions you can sometimes expect to get a jingle out of me. The one that comes to mind at the end of this God story is this; PLOP! PLOP! FIZZ! FIZZ! Oh what a relief it is!
Jesus plops scripture in front of us and fizzles our anxious thoughts into a pool of water that gives medicinal relief.
Jesus loves you! You can love Him back with this simple prayer of relief!
Father in heaven I want to follow you today. I am a sinner. I know Jesus died for me and rose from the dead so that I can eternally be with You. Thank you for calming my anxious thoughts. From this day forward help me to rise early and build my house with You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Zonk! Kapow! Sploosh!


ZONK! KAPOW! SPLOOSH!

March 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions
By Elaine James -
Holy heart failure, Batman! I blurted out just like Robin would blurt out his one-sentence opinion of the situation after hopping out of Batman’s Batmobile. I am pretty sure a fiery dart with the label reading “rejection” just pierced my heart. I was overcome with tears of sadness. I haven’t had this response in quite a while. I ran into my office to hide and pull the dart out. “God we need to sort this out. I just prayed this morning that no weapon formed against me would prosper. I declared that I was fully armored and ready for today. I’ve been hit! What is going on here?” More crying. No response. More prayer. “God give me the lowdown here.”
What occurred was a whirlwind attack right at the frontlines of my house. I can assure you that God and I took care of it immediately. That is the point! It doesn’t matter how frequent I am taken by surprise. For me what really matters is following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I calmed down. I was thankful. I felt compelled to continue my day as planned. I know now that God meant for me to stand firm. Without telling the whole story I just wanted to share the outcome. Everything went as planned and the day ended well.
At some point I wanted to tell the person who rejected me “you hurt me.” I thought if I said that maybe they would think next time and we wouldn’t have a repeat of the situation. I decided to pray about that too! I heard in my head “be quiet for now.” Later that day I was with the person and others. The subject of what went on earlier came up. With a light heart and humor (being indirect) I told the person that I was worried and hurt about the situation. “Why?” they asked. I explained and they accepted my explanation and we moved on to another conversation.
At the end of the day back at the Batcave. Batman would recap “There may be troublemakers, Robin, but they’re still human beings. … Our job is finished.”
For now, I am in my Batcave and I am finished too…THE END. Thank God!
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).
PRAYER: Lord I need You. I can’t live without You. Holy Spirit guide me with Your wisdom. Thank you for your guidance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

STINKY SOUL CONDITION


Dear Friend:

I walked past the bathroom and smelled Lysol spray in the air. Oh boy. Someone just used the bathroom and stunk up the joint. It’s never pleasant. But thank goodness for the spray to give a mist and erase the odor.
When my daughter had the flu, I used that same spray as my arsenal to attack those germs on anything she touched. My family began to beg me to stop spraying, screaming “Mom, the spray is going to make us sick before the flu does.”
I often do things that stink up the atmosphere. I said something I should not have to my friend. I watch TV shows and movies that probably stink up my mind. I even wore a pair of shoes recently that I did not like and I took them back. I am tempted and my decisions are not always clean. I wish I could have had a magical can of spray to get rid of that odor when I screw up and feel condemned. I’m not perfect. No magic spray for this stinky soul condition.
I have been reading about the life of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, out of impatience to have a child with Abraham, gave her maidservant to her husband so she could carry the baby. She later felt guilty, but made things worse by mistreating that maidservant, Hagar, while she was pregnant.
That decision still bears consequences to this day, as the entire region that came from their son, Ishmael, remains in unrest.
Still, God was patient with Abraham and Sarah’s impatience, and chose to accredit them with righteousness.
I identify with Abraham and Sarah. I can be impatient, quick-tempered, striving, doubting, worried and lacking peace. Just plain old stinky!
But Abraham and Sarah held their own son, Isaac, in the end and laughed. Their journey was filled with some odor yet the fresh scent of God’s spray (which was His promise) refreshed them and gave them joy. He loved them no matter what.
As I completed their story, I had a fresh spray of perspective. Just as Lysol works on eliminating nasty germs and odors, God sanitizes me and cleans up my mess. With both, I receive a fresh start and have renewed confidence.
PRAYER: God I know I stink up life at times. Thank You for Your covenant with me. Your word is truth. Help me to be refreshed by it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers” (Genesis 17:1-2 NIV).

MI POOKY


Dear Friend:

“MI POOKY” were the words on the car license plate I was driving behind. The phrase reminded me of all the endearing salutations I look forward to from my husband each Valentine’s Day. Admittedly my favorite is Honey Bun. I have to celebrate the day, don’t I? I feel guilty even questioning it. I regretfully think of the pressure of squeezing another thing into my already full schedule. It’s bittersweet. Love is what makes the world go round, yet I just got finished paying off my Christmas debt.
It drags me down when I start thinking about Valentine’s Day and the commercialism. Emotions rise up within as another Hallmark Holiday rolls around. But then the license plate caught my eye. Exchanging words of endearment with our friends, family and significant others should cost me nothing! Years ago, I started a tradition of preparing a red meal. Everything from the plates to the drinks and food is red. It’s a challenge but my family is hooked. Especially when they receive homemade love coupons that can be redeemed for back rubs.
The Holy Spirit gently guides me back to God’s love command so eloquently stated in the King James Version. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
My computer wants me to auto correct this verse. For me seeing it in this version causes me to read it slowly. Love! It reassures me and allows me to rest as I put my head on my pillow. In my waking moments it permeates my soul with a desire to continue living.
A Google search of the origin of Valentine’s Day reveals it started with a Roman Saint named Valentine. The world’s blitz of love symbolized in red, pink and white celebrates a tradition that dates back nearly 2,000 years. Our greeting card, the Bible, emphasizes its greatest symbol of love “The Cross” with its origin occurring over 2000 years ago.
PRAYER: Bless me with the ability to love you Lord with thine heart, soul and with all thy might. Help me to express this love to others that you put on my heart right now. May it give you glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

SUPER BOWL 2013


This is it! Huddle up! The biggest sports event viewed in the year. All the tailgating, home, bars and restaurant parties are in full planning mode. Everyone excited and rooting for their team.
All this hype! It is incredible what time is put into the biggest sporting event of the year.
The New Year is in full swing with each of us making resolutions, goals, dreams, projecting and forecasting for the year.
My mind (emphasis added) shifts to the last days of Jesus life. The disciples were unsure of Jesus’ last play! The Super Bowl can be likened to the Last Supper. Jesus worked hard to get there. With the same passion as a NFL player, Jesus is at the top of His game. How far would a player go to win the game? To win, Jesus went as far as His death on the cross.
In this New Year I look for things that I can tackle so I can be in control. How can I get my head in the game (pun intended) of life for this New Year? Let’s huddle together, call out the play and move out to our positions.
Where is your position? Right here, right now, what is your game plan? Where is your play book (the Bible)? Are you looking at the plays from a distance, saying “Yea, yea, I’ll get to it and read it?” But you never quite find the time.
I liken this New Year to this epic football game. I have to laugh! My friend kiddingly says his motto is “Football, the greatest game ever!”
My own motto for Jesus is this: “The cross, the greatest act of love ever!” It’s true. For God so loved you, He gave His life.
Many give back to the game by going to the games, rooting for their favorite players or buying all the merchandise. The fans have overwhelming passion as they cheer “We have to win.” I’ve even heard many fans yell “I LOVE THIS GAME!”
In the New Year ask yourself “Are you willing to love Jesus back?” Shout for joy “I love you Jesus!” May God bless our stadiums (churches) with a great cheering section for 2013.
“Bravo, GOD, Bravo! Everyone join in the great shout: Encore! In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might” (Psalm 96:7 MSG).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"ONCE AND FOR ALL...

“-we will find out who rules the land!” shouted out Matthew Perry in his new sitcom called Go On. Matthew Perry’s character Ryan King, a supposedly famous sportscaster, is in a small therapy group where he is trying to deal with the death of his wife. He decides to take over the group, stating, “Be honest when you sit here listening to someone else’s problems, you may smile and nod but a big part of you is thinking ‘My thing is worse than your thing. Am I right?’” They all nod in agreement.
With that reality in mind, Ryan calls their challenge March Sadness and he creates a competition. He blurts out, “We’re all going to go head to head. You have five seconds to tell your sob stories. Winners advance. We go a couple of rounds and we know once and for all who rules the land.”
The New Year was just celebrated and life will go on. But how do we go on? Another year of…(name your complaint.) There are many tragic “sob stories” in the Bible. One caught my eye as an example of how we can learn to “go on.”
King Nebuchadnezzar obtained high status and power as a king. He saw Daniel’s God rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace, but the truth of how great their God is faded and he continued to rule the land.
He commissioned Daniel to interpret a dream. Daniel interpreted it this way: “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.” It took Nebuchadnezzar seven years to acknowledge “Heaven Rules.”
In the television series Go On, Ryan tries to make light of life disasters by awarding a person as ruler of the land if they can prove their problems were the worst, but offers no solution on how to actually ‘Go On.’
No one likes pain. To go on, Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge that Heaven does indeed rule. The popular sitcom hits on the funny parody of life struggles. This was truly worth the laugh.
But the truth is that ‘Going On’ requires Jesus.
PRAYER: Father I have some sob stories. I want to go on and get past the pain and live as You ask me to live. You ask me to “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” Help me to get back to You and be grateful in all things. In Jesus name I pray.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

HOKEY POKEY-DEFROSTED


This week I took a frozen turkey and put it in the refrigerator to defrost. I realized how that was very similar to what had happened to my brain recently. It took three days to defrost both the turkey and my brain.
My frozen lips could only come out with “Help me!” That heart cry started a God-brain-defrost.
God appears to be in the refrigeration business. Relief came slowly, like the defrosting of a turkey. I was becoming aware that my brain had been hardening from my daily devotions. My spiritual intake appears to not have been enough. I was rationalizing and reasoning about how much reading of the Bible I needed, since I can quote New Testament stories in my head.
My brain freeze stated, “I know that story and I don’t need to read it.” My brain being frozen tried a new tactic avowing, “Once you start reading you won’t have enough time for the rest of your schedule.” My hurry up and do something response was winning over spending time reading the word.
But a freezer alert light came on in my brain! God got out His tools and began to help me be aware of how I needed to dismiss all of the arguments. First tool of choice; reading, John 15-17.
I melted! I can’t explain the phenomenon of God’s word. Simply put by God “Don’t question it, it defrosts.” The passion story and last words of Christ gave me strength.
You know when you get a brain freeze and it hurts? After it defrosts, you get hungry again. After this, I had a renewed hunger for God’s word.
Funny! I am hearing in my head the song Hokey Pokey. You put your whole head in, you put your whole head out, you put your whole head in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself about. That’s what it’s all about!
“For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me” (John 17:8).
Apparently, God helps defrost our brain so we can dance together!