This week I had the privilege to guest blog on the Word Weaver's website as part of their Valentine's Day series. Below is an excerpt with a link to the full blog.
Every year for a decade I left town on President’s Day weekend in mid-February. My excuse to colleagues was a chance to visit warmer places. In reality, I was escaping Valentine’s Day. As a single woman, that holiday is one of the most painful days of the year. My solution of traveling with a friend always let me feel special on an otherwise depressing day. Then came the year I couldn’t find anyone to go away with me.
I had asked everyone I knew if they wanted to go on a weekend getaway, and no one said yes. I felt miserable because not only was I single, but I also felt like I had no friends. I started praying about it, and perceived that God wanted me to stay home. That stung. I protested that decision with God. How dare He take away my joy during a day of hurt?! It made no sense. So, I tried again and again until I had to admit defeat.
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 NKJV
I invited her to Starbucks so I could apologize.
The lady had shown up unexpectedly at a Christmas party for a ministry in which she wasn’t involved. I only spoke a few words to her, mostly talking with other people. Later, while reading my Bible, God convicted me of my bad attitude, so I decided to make amends.
Apparently, she had not noticed my rudeness until I said something. Instead of forgiving me, she laid out a long list of complaints. The coffee acid burned my stomach. My efforts to reconcile had backfired.
The next day at work, I couldn’t focus. Words swam on my computer as I saw her accusations replay on the movie screen in my mind. Why couldn’t I be nicer? I felt abysmal. A colleague noticed tears cruising down my cheeks and asked what had happened. I told her how I had asked for forgiveness from someone and received a tongue-lashing instead. She tried to console me, telling me I wasn’t a monster. In time, God healed my wound.
Months later, the same woman needed help with moving, so I volunteered. When I told my coworker, she was shocked. Why would I help someone who had been so nasty to me? It made no sense. I told her I would want people to help me move, so I needed to serve others. My associate couldn’t understand. Why show love to your enemies? She recommended I ignore the request and hope someone else would assist.
I remembered Jesus’ words that His followers should show love. Doing so helped my coworker see something different in me than she saw in the world. She recognized my love for others. I told her God had forgiven me of much worse. I could forgive someone who had hurt me. I could share God’s love when I had none of my own to give.
The world cries out for vengeance. When we choose to love—when we would rather hate—God gets the glory. Giving undeserved love seems illogical and separates us from nonbelievers, but they will know we are Christians by our love.
Let your life display Christ’s love to everyone, even when it’s difficult.
Used by permission Christian Devotions Ministries.
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. Psalm 5:3 NKJV
I am not a morning person.
Caffeine is my friend. I drag myself out of bed and struggle to dress in the dark lest the light burn my eyes. I’ve gone to work with mismatched shoes because I fumble for them under my bed by touch. In grad school, my ultimate goal was to lie down again, which meant that if I could rest for sixty seconds I’d return to bed.
But I’ve discovered when I don’t start my day seeking God, the day goes downhill quickly. Once, I was in a rush and skipped my morning Bible reading. The results were disastrous. Management didn’t like the project I presented, and, instead of calmly taking the feedback, I left in a fog. Had I read Psalm 124 that morning as planned, my perspective would have differed. I would have remembered the Lord was on my side. When people rose against me, they wouldn’t swallow me whole. God would protect me.
The psalmist knew the importance of turning his heart heavenward in the morning. When I meditate on Scripture before I face the day, it provides a lens of truth through which to frame my experiences. Once I leave home, the world seeks to overwhelm my mind with information. If I have no filter to sort the onslaught, then everything becomes factual and weighs down my soul.
I have to choose to answer God’s invitation to look to Him in the morning. I try to read a psalm or a proverb each day before work. These books have enough chapters to cover six months, so I read them through twice in a year. Maybe other verses call you louder, but the point is that we need to respond to God early. God will help us pull back those sheets and open His Word so we can start the day right.
With Jesus (and a little coffee) you can be ready for whatever comes your way.
Used by permission Christian Devotions Ministries
My guest blogger this week is Ed Windhausen, a friend from my Word Weavers writers' group. I love his poetry and children's stories. He also has a heart for missions. I am pleased to share his insights with you, and hope you enjoy the devotion!
What am I doing?
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was all a big blur. How had I gotten here? What had I done to make it to this place, this dark, cold, brown, dangerous, yet beautiful place? The dust choked us as we drove. Too many of us packed into a 1964 Land Rover, bouncing and jostling into each other as we bumped along what really wasn’t what any of us recognized as a road, but rather a collection of jigsaw pieces of asphalt between large soil filled holes. Hours and hours of zig-zagging to avoid damaging the precious vehicle our host missionaries relied on for their travel, safety, and a majority of the work being done in this remote area of the Zambian bush.
Upon our arrival into camp, we had to clear the grass under the trees to make space for our tents. Tents that we had to figure out how to set up under the minimal light of the headlamps we used. We were all exhausted after two days of travel through four airports. We had experienced long lay-overs, close quarters in coach, way too much dairy on our French airline, and the six-hour wild car ride we had just endured. But, once the tents were up, another team member summoned me into a nearby field. It was then that I saw, the first of many amazing sights I would experience on this excursion. As I gazed into the heavens, I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my life. I felt both small and enormous as I contemplated my role in God’s plan for His fallen world. The twinkling of the stars blurred as my eyes watered at the enormity of what was taking place within my heart. I was being changed, whether I liked it or not, but what was I doing?
Sleep came quickly even though it was a chilly 45 degrees in the bush that night. The exhaustion of travel and pending excitement assured that I slept through the night. The rooster crow that awakened me before dawn the next morning, I suspected had come from our host missionary who seemed to delight in confusing the bleary eyed, sleep drunk westerners with his antics. I got dressed quickly to prevent the chill in the air from entering my bones, and was greeted with tail wags and whimpers from the camp dogs as I emerged from my tent. The crisp morning air was evident in the clouds of vapor lit up by my headlamp as I exhaled. I never knew it could be so cold in Africa. We had learned in our training that regions south of the equator experienced winter opposite of our seasonal calendar up north; therefore, our trip was in the middle of a Zambian winter.
For breakfast we had real coffee brewed over a campfire along with scrambled eggs and toast cooked the same way. We ate sitting around the campfire with plates on our laps, wondering what we would do in this remote place. During our training we had learned to be FAT; flexible, adaptable, and trainable, but were we prepared for what was about to happen? Would we be able to manage the shock of being plucked from the comforts of home, and dropped into the deep bush of Africa?
After taking care of Mother Nature’s call in a dark hole dug in the ground, I was about to find out if I had what it took to serve my Lord in a difficult way. It wasn’t digging into the dry, hard, dusty ground that posed the greatest challenge for me. I was glad to help establish an orphanage in this place that was being ravaged by a horrendous disease that robbed children of their parents, and often became their companion for life. It wasn’t the food, which consisted mostly of a mash of ground corn and small, cardboard consistency, salty fish for protein, if they were available. I could handle the discomfort of sleeping in a tent in the bush. I wasn’t bothered by the cold nights and hot African days. It wasn’t even the possibility of encountering the dangers of venomous snakes, scorpions, or very large spiders. What scared me the most was that burning question; what was I doing?
How would I help? The fact was, most of the people I encountered were blissful in their ignorance of the fate of their souls. But, I knew. I knew that these beautiful people, who would welcome me into their homes and schools, were destined to an eternity of suffering and separation from the Creator who loved them, simply because they had been born in a place that did not have access to the truth of Jesus Christ. This broke my heart in a way that I had never, or would never again experience. I had already fallen in love with these people, and I could not figure out why.
What was compelling me to pause and stand on the side of a dusty path, speaking aloud to my Lord as I walked to the morning briefing before starting our work? What power was making me promise Him that if He wanted me to do this, I would? If He wanted me to turn my life upside down in service to His children, I would. If He asked the greatest sacrifice from me, I would gladly lay down my life to bring just one soul to His side. As a husband and father, I understood commitment to those I loved, but to contemplate dying for a stranger. What was I doing?
We worked. We ate. We prayed. We loved. We sang. We slept. I cried. I wept because I knew. I knew that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was not at all about what I was doing, it was about what was being done in me. All my worries, all my anxieties, all my feelings of self-loathing, were being healed. I was there to help people I had never met before, but I was being helped more than all of them combined. God was giving me a gift that would change my life from this point forward. God was showing me who I was in His kingdom. God was giving me the chance to use the gifts He had so generously given to me. Phillipians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). Along the way I was discovering that it is not at all about, what am I doing? But, it is all about, what God is doing.
Ed Windhausen is a life long student who has not yet made it out of preschool, a field in which he has worked for the last 25 years. A recent graduate of George Mason University, with a master’s degree in early childhood special education, he has a heart to advocate for those who are not able to do so for themselves. Ed is currently serving his home church as a deacon and chair of the mission’s committee. He can also be found singing in the choir or playing harmonica at men’s ministry events. While he has a passion for writing, his devotion lies with Jesus Christ. Ed is the happiest while serving the Lord and spending time with his two grown daughters, Briana and Lindsey.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Joy Box Journal by Adria Wilkins. The stories were so engaging that I read the whole book in a few sittings. I look forward to reading them again and answering the reflection questions. I've never seen such a unique journal. It contains its own joy box to assemble with note pads to write on so you can store joyful memories for rainy days. I appreciate how Adria finds joy even during dark times and encourages readers to claim joy for themselves. If you want to be uplifted and learn to find joy in new ways, search no more. The Joy Box Journal is for you!
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.