THE END, DEVOTION #22 for the week of 29 July, 2018

Immediately after the Munchkins determined Dorothy was not a threat to them, they welcomed her to their colorful territory.  They also expressed their gratitude for her unique elimination of the Wicked Witch of the East. 

One little fella proclaimed, “We thank you very sweetly for doing it so neatly.”

Now that we have made it to VBS week, I want to acknowledge this hasn’t been a dream.  You were there.  And you.  And you.       


to my music team…whose orchestration kept the music going & never missed a beat (you deserve an Academy Award),

to my very own Toto…my constant, black companion, with sparkly eyes and wagging tail,

to my Aunt M and her husband…who allowed me to cool off when I needed it most,

to my farmhands…who lifted, hoisted, and moved things,

to one special cowhand…who dealt with a particular bill (with no bull),

to my very own Almira Gulch…the grump who insisted this was beyond my grasp (for you made me remember to put it in the hands of my Almighty God who can handle anything),

to my Professor Marvel…who saw the future, and reminded me it would all come together,

to my personal Munchkins…the “little people” with big hearts, 

to my Glinda…who set me on the right path, who made certain my roadblocks were just temporary, and who reminded me I had access to the highest Power all along,

to my Lullaby League…who met on Tuesdays to ensure this feat would be a dream instead of a nightmare,

to my Lollipop Guild…those sweet gals who keep the kitchen running smoothly (and the stock boys at Sam’s on their feet!),

to my lovable Scarecrow…who offered sage advice on more than one occasion.  You are the wisest man I know, and I love you more than I can say,

to my Woodsmen…who showed their meddle, and exhibited great skill at woodworking (You. Are. Awesome.),

to my Lions…who showed great courage in accepting and teaching someone else’s lessons,

to my doorman…who, “bust my buttons”, welcomed me, and whose wife made certain I didn’t lose my marbles,

to my Citizens of the Emerald City…who scrubbed, and rubbed and polished to keep things shiny and tidy,

to my Winkies…who kept me guarded with prayer,

to my 8th grade Flying Monkeys…who, as a group might scare some, but allowed me to get carried away more than once (9th grade should be OZ-some),

and to my Man (and his sister) Behind the Curtain…whose exploits and anticipation for their next adventure always inspire me.  You brought me to this place.

At this point, I also acknowledge the Devil, who wickedly interfered at the most inconvenient times.  Keep your eyes on the sky, Lucifer.  Don’t worry about a house dropping on you.  My Jesus has much bigger plans than that!

Heavenly Father,

            I thank you for this congregation.  There is really, truly no place like home!             In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.     

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, DEVOTION #21 for the week of 22 July, 2018

Dorothy Gale’s quest to return to her Kansas home continues.  She has finally reached the end of the saffron-colored sidewalk with her four faithful companions (Yes. Toto, too). 

They are out of the cornfield and past the sour apple trees.  The forest, where lions and tigers and bears might haunt and hunt, is behind them.  They even skipped their way beyond the acres of sleep-inducing poppies.

Convinced her attempts to go home will be realized inside the Emerald City, Dorothy approached the massive entrance.  She knocked on the huge door, to be greeted by a whiskered doorman.  The man didn’t welcome the bedraggled travelers inside, although it is obvious they had come a great distance.  He, instead, tried to frustrate their business inside. 

Convinced the Wizard could return her to the Kansas prairie, the young girl pled her case.  The doorman, however, was not persuaded.  No one, after all, had ever seen the great Oz.

The concierge only recognized the legitimacy of Dorothy’s journey and request when the braided heroine showed him the shoes she was wearing. 

“Well, bust my buttons!  Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”          

You know, of course, the doors were opened wide and the nomads were welcomed inside.

We, also, continue on our journey Home.  There are times this old world is more fearful than anything Dorothy experienced.  The road we travel, though straight and narrow, can be beautiful…or long and arduous.   

Let’s suppose our walk with God is over.  We are ready to sit down with Him.  We approach the gates of Heaven.  The entrance is marked by massive pearls, not emerald doors.  The golden-yellow path doesn’t lead to the Beautiful City, but is inside it.  There is no wizard, but the Omnipotent Creator of the Universe and Savior of all Mankind are seated on their thrones. 

What if we were greeted at Heaven’s gates by a blustery figure who indicated we had no business there?  We argue:  we followed and stayed on the designated path because we expected it to get us Home. 

The gatekeeper is not impressed.  We present our case, but he bids us to leave.  That is, until we point out our shoes. 

Our feet are fitted with readiness, which is only associated with the Gospel.  Matter of fact, we also wear the belt of Truth, the breastplate of Righteousness, and the helmet of Salvation.  We also have the sword of the Spirit in our possession.  (Ephesians 6:14-17)     

The Keeper of the Gates may just as well say, “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”   

No one can keep us from calling the Great City home when we wear the armor of God.  No one.  Not nobody.  Not no how!


Heavenly Father,

            This lifelong journey has been filled with beautiful places, wonderful friends, and interesting events.  I have known curiosity, devotion, and fear.  Thank you for inviting me into Your Home.  Thank you for preparing it, and graciously making it accessible to me.  There truly is no place like Heaven!                               In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.


DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE WATER,   DEVOTION #20  for the week of 15 July, 2018

I have to admit:  I have watched The Wizard of Oz more times in the last year than in the last 50 years combined.  The climax of the movie—the watery elimination of the Wicked Witch of the West—never grows old.  That highpoint has elicited “hoorahs” and “woohoos” for decades. 

The book is just as interesting.  It gradually builds on anxieties of the green-faced antagonist.  She was scared of water.  (In the book, the old gal actually carried an umbrella—instead of a broom—so she could always stay dry.)

You thought flying monkeys were bad? This Mean Green Fiend was scared to death of water. And, justifiably, so.

Aquaphobia is a legitimate concern for many people.

I’ll never forget Stephanie Ayala’s baptism.  She was a little thing—even for a six-year-old—but the kid had moxie!  She didn’t hesitate to leave her pew when the invitation began.  She dragged her chuckling daddy up the aisle, because nothing was going to stop her from being obedient.  A crowd of 1800 didn’t intimidate her from making her Confession of Faith.  She grinned from ear to ear as she marched up the steps to the changing room.  

Only those closest to her knew the conflict going on in her mind.  The minister stepped into the baptistery and clarified things:  Stephanie had a petrifying fear of water.   

Her grin had disappeared.  She sobbed and tears streamed down her face.  She fought hyperventilation.  She was determined, though.  She took the minister’s hand and stepped down into the water.   

The baptism was quick.  Empathy maneuvered her into and out of the water as smoothly as possible.  Stephanie went under… and immediately shot up about five feet where she clung to the minister’s neck. 

It was one of the most awww-inspiring moments I’ve ever witnessed. 

I don’t know anyone else as afraid of water as Stephanie.  I have met plenty of people, however who are trepidatious about baptism. 

Some—especially those from churches associated with the Reformation—contend 1) baptism is a good deed, and 2) no amount of works can make man right in God’s eyes.  I agree:  1) baptism is good, and 2) nothing we do makes us righteous.  On the other hand, baptize is a verb (an action word), as are belief, repent, and confess.  Scriptures indicate these are ALL actions which God requires of us. 

When we read the Book of Acts, it is not difficult to notice each specific account of salvation is associated with baptism.  Whether it was the crowd of 3000, the Pharisee-Turned-Apostle, the Samaritans, the Ethiopian Eunuch, or others, each one was immediately baptized.  Those who believed and those who repented got wet. 

If you have never been baptized, use today as an opportunity to be obedient.  Get soaked.  Drenched.  And, let those sins just melt away. 


Heavenly Father,

            I want to be right, but I long to be righteous.  Give me the wisdom, the heart, and the courage to be completely obedient to You, whatever it requires.  Guide me to understand and accomplish all you require of me.             

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


BLACK-STRIPED SOCKS   DEVOTION #19  for the week of 8 July, 2018

I can’t begin to tell you how many times we have heard, “Nobody does VBS like Bloomington!”  Matter of fact, it was one of the first comments I heard after I was introduced as the new minister’s wife.  It is good to identify with the favorable aspects of a congregation!

We often identify people with characteristics which aren’t on their face.  Two of the most iconic ankles in history are those of President George Herbert Walker Bush and the Wicked Witch of the East.  (I’m simply making a point.) 

Our aging former president loves unusual socks, and he has a penchant for red ones.  They are more noticeable now than when he was active.  One antagonist in Oz, of course, is most easily identified by her black and white socks.  To be candid, her stockinged feet are the sole feature J we could recognize of the old gal.       

We have been collecting multi-colored and multi-sized socks for several weeks.  We will use them one evening of VBS.  Our activity will emphasize This Walk with God; it will allow the kids to take steps to helping the Persecuted Church.

Two weeks ago, I mistakenly commented we had a sufficient supply of socks.  (I didn’t foresee the number of teen boys with ginormous feet who would preregister.)  On the day of my faulty announcement, a certain fellow declared he would be accepting donations of black socks.  I surmise by your generosity there is more than one wise guy in our midst. 

To what, or to whom, do people associate you?  Friends know us by name.  The mailman recognizes us by address.  Insurance companies distinguish us by number.  Waitresses may connect us to certain menu items.  Does anyone associate you with your feet?    

Isaiah 52:7 reads, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

The prophet preached during a particularly ungodly era in Israel’s history.  He warned the unrepentant Hebrews that divine punishment would come via an Assyrian invasion and Babylonian captivity.  Even so, Isaiah joyfully looked forward to a time of salvation and peace.

Wickedness is rampant around us.  Many of us are too comfortable to step out and present the Gospel to the lost.   God has entrusted the Gospel to us, though, not to protect from an evil world but to share with it.  This means we stand up and step out on our footsies.  We move—over the mountains and through the hollers—to the lost.   

Truly beautiful feet aren’t determined by an ideal size or a recent pedicure.  They aren’t designated by a pair of boring black socks or eye-catching striped ones.  Beautiful feet belong to the compassionate soul who doesn’t hesitate to share the Gospel. 


Heavenly Father,

Help me remember my scarred, calloused feet can be beautiful, if I’m willing to share Your grace with others.  Help me remember the most beautiful feet in history were pierced with a nail and fastened to a cross.  Let me establish beauty according to mercy instead of the eye.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen


 SURRENDER   DEVOTION #18  for the week of 1 July, 2018

Several weeks ago, I shared the Top Twelve scariest scenes in The Wizard of Oz.  More recently, I reminded you the various characters suffered from various levels of anxiety.  (Scarecrow was afraid of fire and the Lion was afraid of just about everything.) 

There is one scene in the movie, however, which put every character on edge.  It took place after each member of the traveling foursome got primmed and primed in Emerald City.  Scarecrow secured some supplemental straw.  Tin Man took a tune up.  The Cowardly Cat was clipped, coifed, and curled.  The gingham-garbed girl got gussied and glammed.    

Everyone in the jolly old town sang, danced, and laughed the day away.  At the height of celebration, the crowd was silenced.  The Wicked Witch had suddenly appeared on her broomstick.  She presented a text message for all to see:

“SURRENDER DOROTHY” was spelled out in the sky above the emerald community. 

Folks dressed in green scattered behind green doors and into green closets.  Ooohs and ahhhs filled the air as everyone hid.  Two words, and everyone panicked.    

When was the last time you were alarmed by something someone said?  I mean really nervous:  sweaty palms, queasy stomach, and palpitations.  Most of us would agree the message started out with “Sir…”, “Mom…”, or “The test results….”  How many would admit a single word, “surrender” shakes us to our core?
I don’t think anyone around here would say faith is intimidating.  We don’t seem frustrated if we are urged to confess Jesus in the presence of others.  We readily accept the concept of repentance…the concept, anyway.  Some may argue the necessity of baptism, but we would agree obedience to Scripture is crucial.  But how many of us are really prepared to surrender everything to God?

We sing “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give.”  But, total surrender is a frightening concept.  It conjures images of drawn guns and hands up.  It challenges how tightly we cling to what is dearest.

Are we ready to forfeit our weekend, or our wallet?  Are we willing to give up our talent, or our vacation?  Could we possibly deny ourselves lunch, or our daily allotment of coffee?   

I’m not asking if we could serve more, pray more, or fast more.  I’m not suggesting giving, but giving up.  Are we willing to relinquish these things repeatedly?  Are we willing to renounce what we have and concede what we want?  Surrender, you see, is not a one-time decision.  It is something we do over and over again. 

In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”  (MT 16:24, NIV)   Could you deny yourself?  For Jesus’ sake?



Heavenly Father,

            I know sacrifice is daunting and challenging.  Strengthen me to release what fills my heart—regardless of the relationship, in spite of the circumstance and cost—to the One who surrendered everything for me.           

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


POPPIES, POPPIES, POPPIES   DEVOTION #17  for the week of 24 June, 2018

Many of you know, we just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated with little fanfare, though it was certainly a milestone which many never reach.  We have certainly covered a lot of territory in three and a half decades.

We’ve never been given to anniversary traditions, but I had recently read some information which I thought was remarkable.  I deemed my discovery quite significant, given the timing.  I was immediately satisfied and humored.     

You see, the traditional gemstone associated with #35 is the emerald, and the customary flower for this anniversary is the poppy.  My husband, self-described as one of the least-sentimental creatures you know, couldn’t have been more relieved.  All pressure was gone for an anniversary gift, for we have both been overwhelmed with all things Emerald City, and we will soon be overrun with “poppies, poppies, poppies.” 

I enjoy whimsical appearance of poppies.  The poppy fields at Antelope Valley and throughout Europe are world-famous.  I am always touched when I read In Flanders Fields, and appreciate the memorial attachment to this flower.  And, while one Papaver species provides a tranquilizing effect, most simply dot the landscape with brilliant color. 

The poppies in The Wizard of Oz had a nearly-deadly effect.  Author Frank Baum described the scarlet flowers as mesmerizing, with an enticing perfume.  The flowers produced a deep sleep which persisted as long as the scent was inhaled.  In the movie, acres of these red-petaled flowers separated the Haunted Forest from the Emerald City.  The Wicked Witch capitalized on the well-known sedating effects and cast a spell on the large meadow.  Dorothy, Toto, and Lion (the only travelers who breathed) were doomed without the help of the Field Mice or Glinda’s fresh snow.

Christians are unfazed by poppies.  I would say that is a sufficient action, unless they are affected by today’s opioid crisis.  Many believers, however, don’t realize there are things which can impede our walk with God just as seriously as the poppies of Oz affected Dorothy and her companions.  Some physical deterrents can actually become dangerous barriers in our spiritual journey.

One movie.  A flirtatious wink.  A website.  An off-color joke.  Just one sip.  Sunday work hours.  A harsh word.

We blur the boundaries and overlook the threats.  We shade clear distinctions between right and wrong.  We neglect warnings and dilute the truth.  It does not take long to lose our inability to discern what God desires for us.  Suddenly we are walking through the midst of a terrible poison which impacts our relationship with Him. 

The Apostle Paul said, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in Glory.”  Colossians 3:2-4.  We need to follow his instruction before we succumb to the heady scent of sin. 


Heavenly Father,

            I know You have established a path of righteousness.   Remove the obstacles which prevent me from drawing closer to You.  Guide me around the challenges which are daunting.  Strengthen me to persevere along the way You have chosen for me.  Lead me in holiness until I rest safely in Your arms.         

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


TIMID CREATURES   DEVOTION #16  for the week of 17 June, 2018

Recently, I shared how many people dislike The Wizard of Oz.  They say they don’t like the movie because it preyed on—or even instigated—certain fears.  For some, it was a very potential threat (malicious neighbors or being lost in unfamiliar territory).  For some it was a possible, but not probable, circumstance (lions & tigers & bears).  For others, it was a rare occurrence (a deleterious tornado).  For others still, it was something completely illogical (flying monkeys). 
Psychologists say some fears are inherent.  Babies are born afraid of falling, the way they are held, and loud noises.  Other fears, however, are learned behaviors.  Angst is also categorized as rational or phobic. 

Fear is sobering:  more than 50 million Americans are treated for anxiety at an estimated cost of $148 billion annually.  Fear is life-altering:  43% of Americans take prescribed medications for anxiety.  (Neither of these statistics includes alcohol or recreational drugs, which some people claim relieves their apprehensions.)        

I will try not to taunt you for disliking the monkeys.  After all, something makes each of us restless (Dorothy was afraid she’d never go home).  Distress breaks our hearts (the Tin Man wanted to love and be loved).  Anxiety is legitimate (Scarecrow confided he was afraid of fire).  Even the most lion-hearted of us can become panic-stricken given the right circumstances (okay, so the Cowardly Lion became hysterical when he pulled his own tail)!      
Fear is as old as mankind.  Adam and Eve were so afraid of punishment, they hid from God.  Cain was so afraid of vengeance, he begged for protection.   Abram was afraid of Pharaoh. The Israelites were afraid of the Egyptians, the Amalekites, the Moabites, the Arameans, and everyone else.  David was afraid of Saul and Saul was afraid of David.  Elisha was afraid of Jezebel.  Baruch was afraid of the Babylonians. 

The list continues, but let’s look back at pre-Promised Land Israel.  General Joshua was preparing to lead the people into the territory God had promised.  The prospect of Canaan had already intimidated an entire generation of Hebrew people, leading to their demise.  The 40-year leader, Moses, had died.  Joshua had reason to quake, but God commanded, “Be strong and courageous.” 

The LORD didn’t just encourage Joshua and let it go.  He repeated this command three times in 9 verses!  The command, though, came with the promise that could eliminate all fear, “for I will be with you wherever you go”. 

Our VBS theme verse is, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  Let’s cling to the spirit we have been given as we approach this week of ministering.  There is no reason for apprehension:  God will be with us!


Heavenly Father,

            There are many things in life which intimidate me.  More than anything, Father, embolden me to declare Your love to the nations and proclaim Your Son as Savior and King.  Strengthen me to fearlessly defend Your Word and share Your peace among those who desperately need You.         

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


HOLLOW CHESTS, DEVOTION #15 for the week of 10 June, 2018

I have a new t-shirt.  It reads, “Not my tornado.  Not my flying monkeys.”  The phrase, of course, capitalizes on our VBS theme.  It also makes light of my greatest fear, while it mocks a significant source of movie trauma since 1939. 

The shirt has served another purpose.  It offers personal assurance when someone grimaces at the mention of a Yellow Brick Road.  It reminds me not everyone loves VBS.  Not everyone appreciates being exhausted and its only Monday evening.  Not everyone enjoys thematic songs, decorations, and crafts.  Not everyone relishes hot dogs and fish sticks.  (GET IT?)  And, honestly, not everyone welcomes little kids like Jesus did.

The phrase on my shirt also plays on the “not my problem” concept which is all too common today.  I didn’t purchase this shirt to suggest there are problems in society which do not concern me.  I don’t wear this shirt to flaunt an irresponsible disposition. 

I bought the shirt because I found it funny—not because I’m heartless.  I think a calloused attitude is unbecoming to anyone and everyone.  I believe a merciless spirit is especially uncomplimentary to those who profess to be Christians.      

Christians should be the most compassionate people group in the world.  (Our eternal hope is available to us because God is compassionate!)  I think, however, we need to work on “having a heart” in a world full of hard-hearts. 

Jesus was born into an unjust world.  Approximately 35-45% of first century’s population were slaves.  Approximately half of the world’s populace were female, who were treated with no more respect than animals.  Romans despised the Jews, Jews loathed the Samaritans, Sadducees disliked the Pharisees, and the Pharisees were certain everyone was beneath them.   Lepers were ostracized, widows and orphans were mistreated, and the poor…well, the poor were ever-present (MT 26:11).

Jesus ministered to an unjust world.  He didn’t look at divorce rates and utter, “Not my problem”.  He addressed infidelity face to face (see JN 4:4-19).  Jesus didn’t moan, “Not my problem”, and avoid the bleeding woman.  He touched her and acknowledged an end to her suffering (see MK 5:25-34).  Jesus didn’t shout, “Not my problem”, and ignore ten lepers.  He kindly acknowledged their presence and symptoms and set them for purification.  (see LK 17:12-14)

Jesus died in and for an unjust world.  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the Spirit.”  (see 1 Peter 3:18)

Humans aren’t hollow-chested like the Tin Man, and Christians cannot be heartless.  We need to set aside our cultural differences and abandon prejudices and preferences. We need to reach out to the hurting around us, regardless of what is causing the hurt.  Reach out.  After all, Jesus reached out to us.        


Heavenly Father,

 Strengthen me to live the words of Micah:  to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You.      

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


EMPTY-HEADED FOLKSDEVOTION #14, for the week of 3 June, 2018

     Have you ever wondered about Polack jokes?  What is it about a Polish person that is particularly funny?

     Poland is a picturesque country and the people are tenacious.  In eight decades, the Poles survived famine & genocide, invasion & occupation, Nazis & Communists, and political & financial upheaval.  They endured innumerable episodes of martial law.  Finally, shrewd trade unionists participated in collective bargaining that changed the world

     Polish people are cultured and complex.  They are conservative in thought and committed in faith.  Poles are smart.  Their youth are some of today’s best-educated students in the world.  This group of people speaks a language comprised of 32 letters (including three versions of “Z”)!  How could an ignoramus speak and understand Polish?

     Polacks are intelligent, enduring, and competent.  American humor, however, puts them on the level of morons.      

     Polish immigrants were proud of their background and their culture.  They did not feel a need to embrace American culture or to conform to their neighbors’ ways.  Polacks became the butt of jokes for a century because they were mis.under.stood.   Americans pegged Polacks as their favorite dolts…until enough Blondes came along. 

     Now, there are “stupidity” jokes around the world.  The French make fun of the Swiss; Tajikistanis laugh at Uzbeks. There is even evidence of a 4th century group that equated their neighbors to halfwits. 

     In the last two decades, however, dunce jokes have taken a more sinister tone.  Liberals and humanists have directed their humor at conservative Christians.  Acceptance of the Virgin Birth and belief in a literal Resurrection is deemed idiocy.  Acceptance of a Young Earth and the Inerrancy of Scripture are considered ludicrous. 

     I don’t believe Christians should be pew-sitting nincompoops.  We need to defend our faith to those who treat us as brainless.  Jesus told His followers they needed to be “wise as serpents” when they encountered skeptics.

     Faith obviously has a place in Christianity.  We believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.  We believe “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”.  We believe the dead in Christ will rise, just as our crucified Lord rose on the third day. 

     Reason is also a crucial factor for believers.  Emotions and “feeling it” are insufficient for defending our faith.  Christians need to know historical and scientific evidence that supports the Bible.  Believers should be prepared to clarify Scripture passages which are misunderstood or misquoted. 

     On Monday of VBS, we will be compare Peter to the Scarecrow.  While Peter came with a brain, he didn’t always us it.  Wisdom only developed when Pete walked with God.  In 1 Peter 3:15, this disciple said, “…And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (NLT)    


Heavenly Father,

     You gave me a brain and you gave me potential.  Give me the sense to study Your Word.  Strengthen my heart to share Your Word.  Embolden my faith to defend Your Word at all costs.    

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

Who We Meet Along the Way,   DEVOTION #13, for the week of 27 May, 2018

     Have you ever wondered why we meet certain people?  Will they influence us, or will we influence them?  Will they change our life…or will we change theirs? 

     Do you remember Clarence Odbody?  He had been unassuming for a lifetime.  He was actually documented as being a “second-class” citizen because his lingering existence had been so uneventful.  Even still, he was a gentle, caring individual.  He finally made his mark one winter night.

     A distressed man, convinced he had never accomplished anything worthwhile, walked into the darkness.  The dreary setting made his life seem even more wearisome.  He stumbled towards certain death when Odbody acted.    

     The old man recognized a crisis and took the necessary steps to interfere.  With snow swirling, the elderly fellow purposely crossed paths with the distraught one.  His quick actions forced the younger man to consider the plight of someone besides himself. 

     Mr Odbody talked to his new companion and challenged the man’s desperation.  George Bailey finally understood his life had a purpose.  He had influenced the people in his life, and they had influenced him.     

     And Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class, had influenced George.  His interaction had been brief, but had changed the Bailey household and Bedford Falls for a lifetime.  The interaction had eternal consequences for Clarence, because he was finally able to get his wings. 


So, why do we meet people along the road of life?

     1)         Some people change our lives dramatically, but briefly, like the Scarecrow.  They are so influential we can only say, “I’ll miss you most of all” when our time together ends. 

     2)         Others are extremely caring, like the Tin Man.  We’re thankful they are by our side in this harsh world.    

     3)         Others bring out our fears—“Lions and Tigers and Bears”.  They can be intimidating, but, “Oh my!” they give us courage to face another day.    

     4)         Then there’s folks so exhaustingly odious (the Wicked Witch), they motivate us to be anything else. 

     5)         Finally, there are strangers—the ones referred to in Hebrews 13:2.  They don’t reveal their identity or their purpose, but how we react towards them clearly reveals who we are!

     Dorothy is startled when two prominent characters in Munchkin Land suddenly disappear.  She comments, “My, people come and go so quickly here.” 

     In light of eternity, our acquaintances are in our life a short time.  We should motivate each other to have the mind of Christ.  We should push each other to show the love of Christ. We should encourage each other to boldly proclaim the resurrection of Christ.  We should propel each other to long for the throne of Christ with great intensity. 



Heavenly Father,

            You have placed dear friends on my path in life; You have allowed unusual characters along my journey.  Help me appreciate the reason they are in my life and be thankful for the season they are with me.  Guide me to be Christ-like in all my words and actions to influence them as they influence me. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

Munchkins Matter,   DEVOTION #12, for the week of 20 May, 2018


   Have you ever found yourself someplace you didn’t want to be? 
  • Out of gas in the desert. Out of gas…anywhere.
  • On a 4-hour layover on Christmas Day (NOTHING is open) with two young children.
  • On a perfectly-planned trip, only to share your hotel with 189 6th grade band members.
  • Now.  During multiple volcanic eruptions.
  • Up a creek without a paddle…during a thunderstorm.
  • A long way from home without a return ticket.

   Dorothy Gale knew what it was like to be in an unexpected—and sometimes unwelcoming—place.  She acknowledged she couldn’t go back the way she came.  The only solution to reaching her destination was to travel along the Yellow Brick Road.

   Have you ever wondered why one specific route?  Why couldn’t Glinda take Dorothy via bubble?  Where did the Red Brick Road go?  Why did Dot have to walk, and what might have happened if the horse of a different color appeared earlier?

   People do doubt specific directions they are given.  Maybe they don’t sufficiently trust the one providing the bearings.  Maybe they want a more direct route, or want to travel a more scenic way.  There’s many folks who simply want to go their own way. 

    The Bible may provide the most difficult route ever provided.  In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 

   While this seems like an easy path, people reject it outright.  And, not always for reasons we think.  Folks deny its validity because they believe a single approach to eternal life is intolerant, politically-incorrect, and exclusive.  They refuse to believe Jesus could be the only way to eternal life.  They want to believe God will accept anyone of any faith…as long as they try hard enough.

   Ah, there’s the rub.  No matter how hard anyone tries, no one is getting to Heaven by working for it.  Sin established a roadblock between us and God.  Jesus’ can remove that barrier, but only Jesus can do so.       

   While “no one comes to the Father except through Me”, sounds restrictive, it is a direct route.  It doesn’t require man to clear, level, and pave the path.  That has already been done.  It is an all-expense paid trip.  There are no tolls.  It may get bumpy, but there are no detours, no road construction, and no flying monkeys along the way.  

   The roadblock is lifted.  The Way is actually all-inclusive to those who accept it as the only access to Eternal Life.


Heavenly Father,

   I know You established a straight and narrow path to follow.  The way to You is not based on my efforts, but on everything Your Son and my Savior accomplished on my behalf.  Father, fill my mind with thoughts of You.  Guard my heart, and guide my steps until my journey in this life is over. Walk with me until I reach those golden streets. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   




Munchkins Matter,   DEVOTION #11, for the week of 13 May, 2018

   Ask the mother what her newborn is worth, she may become a mess of hormonal tears.  Ask the mama of a sick child what she would take in exchange for her daughter, she may throw a bottle of baby aspirin at you.  Ask the same question of rebellious teen’s mom and she may offer him free to a home…she may not even wait for a good home. 

   Ask the mother who has buried her child.  She will ask you to estimate the value of another hug, one more  conversation, and all the laughter never heard.  She will ask you to divide the frustrations ever experienced, and multiply the tears shed.  She will have you calculate your sum to the umpteenth power, and eventually—when she has strength to speak again—reply her child was worth so much more.       

   A mother knows the value of her child cannot be determined.  Your child, on the other hand,…. 

   It’s easy to think of our own children as priceless treasures, especially when we compare them to someone else’s kid.  Jesus, though, knew what every little one was worth (regardless of their parentage). 

One day, a bunch of parents brought their kids to Jesus.  The moms and dads wanted the Rabbi to pat their heads, hug on them, pray over them, and ask God to bless their lives. 

   The disciples thought the parents’ requests were disturbing and the kids were a nuisance.  They tried to shoo the families away, but Jesus stopped their efforts.  He plopped a smelly kid on his lap, and wrangled a snotty-nosed one into a cuddle.  He tousled the tangled curls of a third, and chuckled over the snaggle-toothed grin to His right.  And He said, “Don’t.  Do not hinder kiddos—these kiddos, any kiddos—from coming to Me.  Heaven belongs to those whose heart is as pure, whose lives are as simple, and whose eyes are looking at Me.”

             Matthew 19:13, 14 (paraphrase, mine)

   Bloomington has the privilege of ministering to dozens of local Munchkins.  We have the responsibility of being Christ-like in our interaction with these kids who do not belong to us.  In doing so, we must watch our step, watch our temper, and watch our tongue because they are watching us.  We must remember the warning Jesus pronounced (Matthew 18:6) if we cause a child to misstep or stumble on their Walk with God. 

   Do Munchkins matter?  Yes!  We need to welcome the little people just like Jesus did.  We need to guide those sticky fingers to Do Justly, help those tender hearts to Love Mercy, and lead those dirty feet to Walk Humbly with our God.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for these children.  They are a gift from You, whether or not they are mine.  They are a reward from You, whether or not they say “please” and “thank you”.  They are a blessing from You, whether or not they have learned to love you yet. 

Give me today the wisdom, the compassion, and the courage to love them as You would love them. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore DEVOTION #10  for the week of 6 May, 2018

   Vacation Bible School used to mean chocolate-covered graham crackers, Elmer’s Glue, and Kool-Aid.  And Mrs Erickson, who was there ten years before I came along and ten years after I graduated from high school.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The taste of those Keebler cookies and the scent of Elmer’s evoke fond memories.  I don’t remember much else about my first Vacation Bible School.  I do know VBS today isn’t what it used to be.

   Not much about VBS is what it was five decades ago.  Vacation Bible School used to take place before noon, but nearly 70% of churches now schedule it in the evening.  It accomodates working parents, and dodges athletic and community camps which are scheduled during the day.  Evening VBS has another positive result:  male participation.  Years ago, the entire staff for Vacation Bible School was one minister, one whiskered custodian, and a bunch of ladies…a BUNCH of ladies.  Boy, that has changed!     

   Flannel Boards are gone.  Sword Drills are a thing of the past.  Memorizing Bible verses had a prominent place during the week.  Today’s lessons must compete with fast-paced sports and video games.  Classes are quick-paced to accommodate shorter attention spans and lessons are interactive.  There are a numerous memorization options… and the King James Bible is just one of them.

   VBS perks have increased exponentially.  We used to rely on stickers as incentives for attendance, bringing friends, and Bible verse memorization.  Churches now offer swimming parties, bicycles, and iPads!

   We often pine for “the good old days”.  We reflect on the “tried and true” methods which were good enough for Mama and Mrs Erickson.  After all, we were raised that way and we turned out okay, didn’t we? 

   It’s difficult to accept change…until we understand good health requires change.  A healthy church must undergo changes, just as humans need to adjust our diets and activity levels to stay strong and fit.  Sometimes, we have to adapt our schedules, our traditions, and our style just to survive.   We find clarification for change in Ecclesiastes.  Chapter 3, verse 1 explains, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.” 

   There you have it:  God’s holy, inerrant Word provides for change.  It prepares us for it.  Scripture also gives us one thing to rely on when change throws us for a loop.   Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

   Our unchanging Savior is the sole reason we have VBS.  Introducing Him to the kids of this ever-changing world is why we don’t do VBS like we did 50 years ago.  Chew on that for a while…along with a chocolate-covered graham cracker!


Heavenly Father,

You know I’m a creature of habit.  Calm my soul when the world about me changes.  Give me peace when I have to transition to something I have not chosen.  Guide my heart to be always grateful that You never, ever, ever change.

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


It’s a Twister!  We Are All Storm-Damaged  DEVOTION #9   for the week of 29 April, 2018

   I have an odd fascination with tornadoes.  I am mesmerized by their unique formation and tremendous power.  I have heard countless warnings and seen the dreadful aftermath, having grown up in Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  Even so, I have had nightmares involving these monsters my entire life. 

   Several of our  friends were small children during great Tri-State tornado of 1925. They offer mind-boggling and heartbreaking accounts. Nothing, however, compares to the frightful stories and dreadful damage of the Joplin tornado.  My niece was working at St John’s hospital when the storm blasted the nine-story building.  Her eardrums burst from the low barometric pressure.  Her car was lofted from her parking space to the opposite side of the building.  Her co-workers later said they were holding her ankles trying to keep her in the hospital.  

   Sarah won’t live in a house without a basement.  Loud noises and thunderstorms leave her panic-stricken.  She can no longer fly because of damage to her inner ears.  Sarah is “storm-damaged”.     

   Most of us experience storms of one kind or another…sooner or later.  Some are physical whirlwinds, others are emotional tempests.  Some experience squalls that leave their spirit battered. 

   One soul may experience emotional abuse; another may be injured by a traumatic divorce.  A painful diagnosis, bankruptcy, a house fire, an unexpected job loss, an accident, a threatening co-worker, or a premature death are all severe storms.  The winds of change leave behind damaged lives and crushed spirits.


   One day, many years ago, a powerful storm struck in the East.  As it descended the hills onto a large lake, the height of the waves increased.  Mighty gales and churning water frightened a dozen men.  Four of the men, well-acquainted with the manners of this lake, were especially alarmed when waves breached the boat in every direction.  This storm threatened everything they knew, so they woke up the only One who was nonplussed by the wind.  With two words, “Be still”, the Creator quieted the turmoil around them. 

   The Preacher had not been with them long, but the Disciples had seen Him heal disease, drive away demons, and cure paralysis.  I wonder if the Twelve were familiar enough with the ancient Psalms that they recognized one.  I’m curious:  did they associate “Be still” with “and know that I am God”?  (Psalm 46:10)  Were they ready to give Him their personal storms?  Are you?         


Heavenly Father,

Bring stillness to my busy life.  Calm my stirring mind, quiet my agitated heart, settle my aptitude for wandering.  Flood my life with Your peace.

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   


Somewhere, There Is a Rainbow,  DEVOTION #8    for the week of 22 April, 2018

   I love color—especially bright colors.  Spring is my favorite season, largely due to the appearance of color after months of brown and gray.  I appreciate a brand new box of Crayons and I enjoy perusing through paint chips at Lowe’s.  I delight in the vibrant hues of a nursery in April and I am attracted to the rich colors of oil paintings. 
   I especially love light streaming through color.  I still enjoy playing with a kaleidoscope.  I continue to be mesmerized by sunbeams coming through stained glass. 

Not long ago, I was using a prism to teach a lesson.  It sparked a concept which I’d like to share with you.

   Both Old and New Testament Scriptures declare God is light.  1 John 1:5 reads, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”  The brilliance which emanated from His Presence shone so brightly upon Moses the old man was required to wear a veil when he returned to the Israelites.  The brilliance which shines from His Presence today illuminates our Eternal Home…to the degree there is no need for the Sun.  
   Jesus called Himself “the light of the world” and promised those who follow Him will benefit from His light.  (John 8:12)  He challenged believers to be lights which would direct others to God.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

It is not difficult to acknowledge the Light if we have experienced deep darkness.  Directing others to the source of Light is a matter of how we react to that Light.   It is natural to shine “like stars in the universe” if we have a relationship with God.  Any light seen in us is not a natural occurrence among humans, but is the Holy Spirit living in us and shining through us.   

   Understanding how the Holy Spirit works in our lives is difficult for young Christians to grasp.  An easy explanation is that believers should mirror Jesus.  A mirror, though, only reflects one direction—in the direction of the original light.  On the other hand, if we serve as a prism, the light would be refracted in many directions.   
   Consider a darkened room, black with the exception of a single sunbeam coming through a small crack.  The light, indeed, pierces the darkness but the darkness is still profound.  A small prism pushed into that light splits the light and scatters beautiful color in every direction.  The use of the prism—a very basic creation and useless without the light—produces something attractive and attracting.             

   I want you to welcome the Holy Spirit in your life.   The world needs the light of Christ to shine through you.  There are two questions to consider:  How will you react to the Light?  Will you let Him use you in glorious, colorful ways?


Heavenly Father,

I am ready to be used by You.  Shine through me in this very dark world.  Help me illuminate and clarify situations others deem as “gray areas”.  Don’t allow me to eclipse Your Glory, but only direct others to You.   

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

This Life is Gray, DEVOTION #7   for the week of 15 April, 2018  

   The first paragraphs of Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz suggest everything Dorothy knew of Kansas was void of color.  Everything was gray:  a paint-stripped farmhouse atop sun-scorched grass upon the baked-dry soil on that great prairie under the massive sky.  The misfortunes of life on a small farm had even drained color from Henry and Em Gale.     
   MGM portrayed the concept by only using sepia tones for the Kansas scenes.  The lackluster background clouded Dorothy’s spirit.  It also inspired the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. 
   This former Midwesterner understands.  As a young girl, I didn’t think anything was as lackluster as Kansas.  (I now know Oklahoma wins that category.)  The absence of trees and eye-catching geographic features was monotonous.  My surroundings were plain…but, prairies tend to be that way.  I think we can compare this life to Baum’s Kansas.    I’m thankful God has not abandoned us to live only among multiple shades of gray.  His creation—dramatic landscapes, glorious sunsets, majestic canyons and mountain ranges—tell everyone His palette exceeds anything produced by Crayola.  There is no doubt our universe was created with a kaleidoscope of tones and hues.  Everything we have seen, however, is just “a foretaste of glory divine”. 
   A quick glance at Hebrews explains the Old Covenant was a shadow of the New.  Even the Church Age, however, is nothing compared to what is to come.  Christ’s sacrifice was complete, but this life is still lacking.  The wonders we appreciate are merely two-dimensional samples of Eternity.  Indeed, this world is sepia-like in comparison to the brilliance of our future home.   
   A much-anticipated wedding doesn’t compare to the Wedding of the Lamb to His Bride.  Looking on the face of a long-awaited newborn is a mere glimpse of innocence when considering a look on our Savior’s face.  Our most treasured experiences and our favorite memories are nothing in light of God’s glory.

Sin and the curse it produced will disappear.  Pain and the tears which accompany it will be eliminated.  Death and the grief which ensues will end.  Our imagination cannot prepare us for what is to come.  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Co 2:9 NLT)

   I love my adopted home—complete with that odd shade  of orange.  I’m looking forward to saying, however, “I have a feeling we’re not in Tennessee anymore.”


Heavenly Father,

Help me set my mind on things above before I’m overwhelmed with things on earth.  Strengthen my heart and help me remember the joys and trials of this life will pass away, but your glories are eternal.  Embolden me to praise You just like the heavens declare Your glory. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.

THE WICKED HITCH OF THE BLESSED, DEVOTION #6     for the week of 8 April, 2018

   This summer, we will compare four Oz characters to four Bible folks with particular needs.  We will purposely remove several characters from the basic story, though.  We will not have a wizard, and witches are banned.

   World cynics mock our faith.  They derisively refer to Almighty God as a “wizard in the sky”.  We cannot possibly compare Him to a fictional character because He is so much more than a magician who grants our wishes.  God is our Creator, Redeemer, Friend, and Eternal Hope. 

   Believers are also aware Satan has no parallel in a literary figure.  The witches of Oz have nothing on the Wicked One described in Scripture.  The Enemy is real, and will remain a genuine threat until Christ finally binds him and casts him into the Abyss.

   Satan’s energy is focused on those who whose focus is God.  He hinders Christians who seek God’s will.  He frustrates and complicates our attempts to draw near to the Lord. He purposely impedes our walk with God by placing snares in our path. 

   Today’s reference—“The Wicked Hitch of the Blessed”—was chosen for more than a mere rhyme.  A hitch is a temporary obstruction…an impermanent impediment.  The devil’s influence is enduring, but he is not eternal.  He is the source of, and an active participant in, every spiritual stumbling block.  He can be overcome with Christ’s help.

   Five aspects of Satan are powerful and destructive. Do not think you are immune to his influence if he taunted and tempted Jesus.     

1)   Satan tantalizes.  The perceptive tempter knows enticement will attract us.  He charms and traps us using money, power, or pleasure.

2)   Satan taunts.  The cunning accuser taps into our vulnerabilities, old sins, and  failures.  He magnifies our doubts and increases our discouragement. 

3)   Satan tricks.  The father of lies is deceitful.  He purposely confuses us.   He complicates the truth and obscures what is pure.  

4)   Satan tears apart.  The ruler of demons is diabolical (the root word of which means “divide”.)  He works to separate us from God, and strives to cause rifts in the Church (relying on resentment, pride, envy…even simple misunderstandings). 

5)   Finally, Satan is tireless.  Relentless.  Unforgiving.

   Wisdom helps us see through deception.  A heart for God—and each other—helps us when divisiveness arises.  Courage reminds us we aren’t called to be perfect, but holy.  A fixed gaze on our heavenly home helps us avoid temptation.


Heavenly Father,

You are my refuge and strength.  Guard my mind from harmful distractions, set my heart on things above, strengthen me and help me stand firm against the powers of darkness.  Protect me from the evil one. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

  THE WONDERFUL WISDOM OF GOD, DEVOTION #5   for the week of 1 April, 2018

   The fourteenth day of Nisan was a red-letter date on Jerusalem’s calendar.  Scores of Jews had ascended to the Holy City in a celebratory mood.  Levitical experts examined thousands of sheep for defects or impurities.  Unsavory merchants, driven by greed, profited off those who were tired, exhausted, or naïve.

   The savory aroma of roast lamb lingered at every window.  The scent of supper blended with dense smoke from the Temple’s Great Altar.  A pungent haze from the continual sacrifices billowed skyward.  The full Passover moon had set; the new day was ripe for adventure.

   Every Baruch atah Adonai and each His love endures forever spoken the previous night had grown silent.  The narrow streets echoed with brusque commands of Roman troops and derisive shouts from a growing mob.  Mourners’ wailing and frequent gasps were absorbed by the noise of antagonists. 

   Suddenly, the distinct clangor of a Latin sledge against an iron nail clarified the morning’s tumult.  It was no holiday riot, nor jubilant parade.  A hastily-arranged crucifixion altered the mood of day.

   The seemingly sudden crucifixion of Jesus was not impromptu.  This horrific, painful death wasn’t without foresight.  It was within the gracious plan of the all-wise God.


   Knowledge is a collection of facts and ideas earned from education, observation, or experience.  Wisdom is using that knowledge to make good and valuable decisions. 

   The knowledge of God—who is timeless and invincible—has no boundaries.  (Psalm 147:5)  The character of God—both merciful and gracious—has no limits.  The impact of these characteristics is divine wisdom…which is immeasurable, untraceable, and incomprehensible to man.  (Romans 11:33-36) 

   Our all-wise God determined the best and most valuable factor for our lives long ago.  His infinite wisdom determined the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son was necessary.  God’s untraceable wisdom insisted our sins must be nailed to the cross.  Two wooden beams, several metal spikes, and shed blood are required for our reconciliation to Him.

   This is a frustrating concept to the world (it has been for 2000 years).  It was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called…Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24)

   At the worst moment in history, the wonderful wisdom of God prevailed.  What seemed absolutely foolish was, and still is, absolutely and wonderfully wise! 


Heavenly Father,

Grant me knowledge of Your Grace, passion for Your Church, and courage to accept Your Will.   Give Your wisdom:  pure, impartial, and sincere.

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   

THIS WALK WITH GOD, DEVOTION #4   for the week of 25 March, 2018

   Early in the Book of Acts, Peter and John professed Jesus’ resurrection.  Their message resulted in so many converts the Sanhedrin imprisoned the two disciples-turned-apostles. The next morning, Jewish leaders interviewed the men.  They wanted to know who authorized the men to evangelize so boldly. 
   The Pharisees and Sadducees would have been familiar with the prisoners’ Galilean accent.  The northern Jews’ speech was so “hillbilly-esque”, the rulers and scribes may have deduced Peter and John were poorly-educated peasants.  The priests and elders may have sensed these two were fishermen simply by sight and smell.  The Jewish leaders were amazed at Peter and John’s bearing, but concluded the men were “ordinary”.  Somehow, though, the leaders realized these fellows “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) 
   How did the Sanhedrin know the men’s relationship with the Lord?   Had high-level spies infiltrated the Upper Room?  Did the Principal Hebrews keep dossiers on The Twelve?  Had the leaders simply recognized Jesus’ disciples?   Was it instinct, or was it the Holy Spirit’s influence? 


   During this year’s VBS, we want to direct young people to a close relationship with the Lord.  We want to  put them on the right path; we want to start them on the right foot.  We want them to crave His presence.  We want them to enter This Walk with God

   We will teach how this walk involves loving God with all our mind, all our heart, and all our strength.  We  will share how this spiritual journey is more attractive, more beneficial, and more comforting than anything this sinful world offers.  We will explain This Walk With God is more than a week-long event, nor is it a day on/day off experience.  It is a lifestyle.

   We need to remember, however, kids are sharp.  They know when we are going in circles, or just through the motions.  They realize some of us march to the beat of the world, or that we glory in strutting our own stuff.  They know if we skip around our own sins, but jump to conclusions about others’ actions.  They will be acutely aware of what is most important to us:  running with the in-crowd or walking with God.    

   It is important, then, to make sure our walk is in step with the Spirit.  If we are going to teach others to walk with God, we must walk with Him first.  Our actions must be pure, not profane; our attitude should be merciful, not miserable.  Our life must be holy and honorable.  We must do what God desires for others to know we have been with Jesus.

   And, what does God require of us?

                                        “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with Him.  (Micah 6:8) 


Heavenly Father,

Please guide me.  Fill my thoughts, satisfy my heart, strengthen my will, and direct my steps.  Lead me and keep me in Your holy Presence.   

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   




WALKING WITH GOD, DEVOTION #3   for the week of 18 March, 2018

   Most of us know a 20-minute walk three times a week is beneficial to our physical health. This uncomplicated exercise has been proven to lower our risk for heart disease and diabetes, as well as help with weight loss.  It can also improve our mood and memory. 

   Did you know, however, walking with someone is also beneficial?  A walking companion holds us accountable, stretches our limits, and keeps us motivated.  (They can also keep us away from Dairy Queen after each activity!)

   When we walk with a friend, we stay in close proximity to them.  Our attention is focused on their conversation, their mood, and their pace.  We can even be distracted by their distractions.  Having a friend to walk with can even provide protection in certain instances.


   If walking with a buddy can improve our physical health, consider how walking with God can help us spiritually. 

   Sin separated us from God.  We are reunited with Him through salvation.  A walk with God establishes our relationship.  A concerted effort and commitment to walking with Him cements our bond with Him.

   Several Bible figures walked with God.  Adam and Eve walked with Him in the Garden in the cool of the evening.  God kept the commitment to meet with, to fellowship, and to interact with them.  Adam and Eve broke the practice; they broke the relationship. 

   The righteousness of others was recognized by their walk with Him.  Enoch and Noah walked with God during an extremely wicked time in history.  Abraham, Zechariah, and Elizabeth also walked with God.

   What is necessary to walk with God?  It requires the same as walking with a human or animal companion.  It takes time, effort, and commitment. 

   Amos 3:3 inquires, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (NLT)  Establishing a specific time every day means you are committed.  Eliminating distractions indicates you are singularly-focused.  Reading God’s Word allows you to listen to Him.  Quietly meditating on Scripture helps you reflect on His message for you.  Prayer is your part of the conversation with Him.  Maintaining a godly character through the day indicates to others you have been in His Presence.  

   There’s an adage which says, “You can’t walk with God while holding hands with the Devil!”  God is always prepared to meet with us.  The more committed we are to meeting and walking with Him, the more we will be like Him. 


Heavenly Father,

I need to be with You. Give me the wisdom, the compassion, and the strength to rely on You as my closest companion.  Give me a passion to walk with You, to stay with the stride You have established for me, to be moved by the message You have for me, to love what You love, and to hate what You hate.  Hold my hand tight to keep me from straying.   Thank you for staying with me as I journey through this life.

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.   



GIVING  GOD THANKSGIVING, DEVOTION #2,     for the week of 11 March, 2018

   It is spring, but I am purposely looking at Thanksgiving.  Pastel spring colors haven’t given way to autumn hues.  I haven’t crossed out ham and candy eggs on my shopping list in favor of turkey and pumpkin pie.  I’m not looking forward to falling leaves, but budding trees.  Yet, I’m focusing on thanksgiving…or, a more thankful spirit.

   I’ve heard Christians debate the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  Some believe it should be interpreted “give thanks in all things”, while others prefer “give thanks for all things”.  I appreciate their determination; I hope they are merely seeking the most ideal translation.  I worry, however, some are implying there are times to offer thanks, but that some circumstances might not require gratitude.  That is disheartening. 

   The original language is most literally interpreted “in everything give thanks for this”.  As this is still a little “too Greek” for me, I turned to the New Living Translation.  This simple version reads, “Give thanks whatever happens.  This is what God wants for you….”  I like that.  It simply suggests we should give thanks for and in all circumstances.  If the Apostle Paul, who experienced beatings, at least one stoning, and imprisonment could urge us to be thankful “whatever happens”, we should strive to be thankful in and for everything!

   Wow!  That means we should even be thankful for…Vacation Bible School.

   Thankfulness is a distinct attribute of happy people.  It should be a pronounced characteristic of Christians.  Being thankful keeps us from appearing indifferent.  Maintaining a grateful spirit keeps us joyful (and a joy to be around).  Being thankful must aggravate Satan—who would prefer we stumble instead of thank God.  Having an “attitude of gratitude” indicates we know we are dependent on God (everything comes from God, 1 Chronicles 29:12-14).  Thankfulness suggests we appreciate His grace, mercy, and the gift of salvation.      

   Take a moment.  Be thankful for thoughts that seem to overwhelm; they indicate you can think.  Be grateful for tears; they show you can love.  Be thankful you can get out of bed; it suggests you have courage to face a difficult day.  Be grateful for salvation; it takes you through this life to your Eternal Home.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for everything You have given.  You have not given everything I want, but You have given so much more than I need, and I am grateful to You.      

Father, give me a spirit of persistent appreciation.  Help me be constantly content.  Lead me to a life of grateful gladness.  Guide my steps to more thankful living. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.  

    GIVING GOD THE GLORY, DEVOTION #1,   for the week of 4 March, 2018

   We occasionally sing “To God Be the Glory”, page 449 in the red hymnal.  We sing it with familiarity, we sing it with heart, and some of us sing it on key.  The Scriptures encourage us to give glory to God.  We may be challenged in a sermon to glorify God.  But, do we know what it means to give God glory?

   Two words in Scripture (in Old Testament Hebrew, kabod, and in New Testament Greek, doxozo) are interpreted “glory” in our Bibles.  Both of these words provide a simple understanding of glory.  Each word suggests “to shine” or “to reflect”.  Shining suggests glory radiates from God’s presence.  Reflecting hints at how we can direct the world’s attention to Him.  

   In Exodus 34, Moses asked to see God’s glory.  The LORD warned it would be fatal to look at Him, but presented the opportunity for Moses to see God’s glory from another angle.J  We don’t know what Moses saw, but it was glorious enough the man’s face shone brilliantly.  Moses’ appearance was so striking he had to put a veil over his face after every visit with God.  Moses’ relationship with God was so intimate, he reflected the glory which was so prominent in God’s presence.

   Now, was it Moses’ job to make God shine?  No.  God’s nature is full of glory.  He needs no help from man.  Was it Moses’ obligation to reflect God’s glory?  Absolutely—and he did so brilliantly!  Moses’ faith, his willing spirit, and his humble heart allowed him to redirect all glory back to God.  A glimpse of Moses indicated he gave to God the glory only God deserves.  It may have been some of the Israelites’ nearest manifestation of the Almighty.

   We, too, can glorify God in what we do.  We can honor Him in our thoughts, our words, and our actions.  We should strive to mirror Jesus instead of promoting ourselves.  Everything we do should point others to Him, instead of ourselves.  We are, after all, very limited without Him in our lives.

   In regard to Vacation Bible School, we want to glorify God before it starts, through its duration, and after it is complete.  If we examine the reason behind VBS, it is to glorify God.  Our Vacation Bible School should bring glory to God and not to us.


Heavenly Father,

Help me to focus less on what I do and more on what You do.  Help me concentrate less on my actions and my words and more on Your Deeds and Your Word.  Give me the wisdom, the passion, and the courage to take less honor, and to direct all the glory to You.  Help me to reflect you in my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions. 

In Your Son’s Name I pray, Amen.