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Thrown away

Lent devotional 3

Once there was a young man sitting with his youth group, a new girl was brought to the group, she was introduced and then sat down next to the man. She said nothing, but played with her hair as the youth pastor talked. When the group was asked for responses to the lesson everyone joined in, except the new girl. Later the man took the opportunity of a snack break to speak to the girl. He asked her the basics, where are you from? What’s your name? So on. When she mentioned her dad was a soldier, the man inquired to what her mom did, was she a stay at home mom or did she have a different job someplace in the city. The girl blushed and pulled on her hair. Her mom had left them when she was born, the doctor had said that she might have brain damage and that her father had convinced her mom to have her anyway, but after her mom had left because she didn’t want the baby.
It was a sad story. But not all sad. Her father loved her and raised her by himself and she was cherished by him. But she still felt unwanted and thrown away because of her mother’s choices. She then blushed again. She hadn’t meant to say all that to this stranger. The man smiled gently. He cast around with his eyes until he found a stone and a piece of wood. ‘Let me show you something.’ He said. Then he sat down and the girl sat with him. ‘Open your hands.’ She opened her hands and cupped them together. Then he used the sharp edge of the Stone to cut away at the wood causing shards of wood to fall into the girl’s hands. The man continued to whittle away, to the best of his abilities, with the stone until he had a rough-hewn image of a bird. Then he looked at the girl and said, ‘ do you know what you hold in your hands?’ The girl shook her head. ‘If we were going to build a fire to roast marshmallows, or just wanted to keep warm, or any other reason we might have to build a fire we would use those as our base to get the fire going and to help it heat up. Those are valuble shards of wood called kindling.’ The man paused, ‘now, we aren’t going to build a fire, so we just need to throw those shards away, you could just drop them here in the grass, they aren’t sharp so there’s no worry.’ The girl drop the shards. Then she looked at the man. The man smiled again, ‘ don’t worry, those pieces of wood we have no need for won’t go to waste. Birds and mice, even insects will come and use the shards to build their homes. What we saw as trash and worthless, someone else we’ll see as a valued gift. But the animals each will only take as much as they need, they will leave the rest behind for someone else. What they discard and don’t want the next animal coming will find used for.’ The girl smiled softly, knowing what he meant. ‘So,’ she started quietly, ‘what one person may see as worthless or trash, another might see as a gift of great worth.’
The man nodded, ‘Don’t doubt your value because of someone else’s view of you. Ot wasn’t the fault of the wood chips that we didn’t see them as useful, it was us who were to blame for leaving them behind. It also won’t be their fault if several animals pass them by not realizing their value. Someday, someone will want them when they find them and will cherish them.’
The girl smiled. ‘Jesus always sees my value.’
‘Yes.’ The man stated, ‘and so do others, including myself. Just beleive in who God calls you to be. His.’

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No string attached

No strings attached with God
We as humans tend to put contingincies on everything. I will come if…. I will do that if…. even with God we tell Him we can do a certain thing for Him if….. please feel free to place your own excuses in the if blank, I have put my excuses in there in my mind. But God comes to you with no strings attached. He loves you unconditionally, He desires your presence as a parent desires to be near their child or a friend to be with their friend, God has no strings attached. He just wants you. You might say, “but He wants me to go to Church and pay tithes and spend time in prayer, those are strings attached.” No, God does not need you to do these things for Him to love you, He needs you to do these things so you learn to love Him and trust Him more. If you sinned right this second and in the same instant fell down and cried out to God do you think He would ignore you? No. He would come to your side anyway, because He loves you.
God requires things of us so we can go to Heaven, that is true, but He requires nothing of us for His love.

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Faith fall

Faith fall

Everyone talks about taking a leap of faith, just jump and see what happens. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, in fact if you feel God drawing you into something and it seems crazy it may very well take a leap of faith to go where you are being led. The part we forget is that a leap signifies a fall. You aren’t going to jump and discover you can fly, you will begin to be taken by gravity eventually and that can be scary. The rush of air as it tears at your skin and is deafening  your ears, the knowledge that the ground will hurt when you hit it and suddenly you stop trusting that God is going to catch you when you reach where He is waiting and you start to flap, trying to catch something- anything that will stop your decent until finally your hand grabs a ledge and you pull yourself up onto that ledge, catch your breath and look around. The ledge is nice, it’s safe, you could stay on this ledge happily and now you feel that maybe the ledge was God’s plan after all, not the foggy abyss below you. Too many of us take the leap of faith only to wind up catching ourselves on a ledge, if God wanted you there He would have put you there Himself, but you grabbed for that ledge, you clawed your way up there. A true leap of faith means wrapping your hands around your body and falling until God catches you, but now you are comfortable where you have caught yourself, so what do you do? Do you feel called to fall again and leave your ledge? Does your faith yearn to move past where you mind says you should stay? Maybe then it’s time to jump again, and this time, keep your hands in your pockets and let God catch you and put you where He wants you. 

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We all want to be more. More than we are at this moment, more than we dreamed we would be, more than enough. And it is not easy. All you can do is what is in front of you at this moment. Striving to be the best YOU you can be is not a bad thing, but the person you are right now might be the person you are meant to be. God often has to remind us to be still and to trust in Him, when things are not progressing or going the way you expected, when you are not reaching beyond your own expectations it can be hard to calm down and remind yourself that you are okay as you. God will grow you when He feels you are ready to grow. Trees don’t complain when they are a few branches short of how large the wished to be or when they have a smaller ring count than the tree next to them, they simply grow in God’s time and that is what we have to do. Wait on the Lord. Be still and know that I am God- Psalm: 46:10

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We as humans tend to used descriptive language often. We say things we have built or roads we have taken are drenched with our sweat or our tears. When we redid our house I often said it was coated in my blood from the two or three minor scrapes I received while working on it. Drenched, coated. What if our lives were drenched and coated, not with blood, sweat and tears, but with prayer? What difference would we see? I once heard a mission planter say that he truly saw the difference come when he began to pray. He worked on his own for awhile, but then he started to coat everything in prayer and that was when things began to happen. My grandpa is a prayer, no matter what we do, before we do it he prays. It may take time but in a bit you see that exact prayer come true and crazy things that shouldn’t be possible start to happen. I used to think it was because he is a retired pastor and God just hears pastors better, but I found out after trying his technique that it is simply because he pours himself into a thirty second prayer before doing anything. His weakness in the moment gave God room to show His strength, so grandpa eventually got to a place where instead of becoming stuck and needing God to bail him out, he just handed it all over to God in the beginning and watched God work. If we drench our days, familys, selves with prayer we will see things begin to change. It may take time, but it will happen.

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He isn’t flying away

Jesus isn’t a little bird trying to fly away from you, He’s a man who is there for you to trust and lean on- a solid rock on which to stand. He’s not fluttering by and have to try to catch Him, He’s standing there with His arms open ready to embrace you.
If you know nothing else about the Bible but the fact that God sent His son to earth as a human baby to be stripped, beaten, spit upon and killed by the people He loves so much; if you know that a man tempted by sin but pure enough not to fall into it died and took the keys out of the devil’s hand and freed the captives from hell and ascended to Heaven, and you know that He is waiting for you to come to Him so Heaven can be yours too, then you know the greatest grace, mercy and miracle in the whole book. He wants you so come to Him.

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One of the sheep

Follow that star that burns so bright, flee from it dark night, onward my feet and chase after it, there is something about it that I need but don’t have yet. Faster and faster, don’t slow down now, what’s that up ahead? It seems like a crowd. Braying sheep press close to the walls for warmth, a glow comes from inside, almost invisible because of the star’s great light. Feet you may sting and knees you may tremble but don’t turn back now, press through the wooly crowd, see you are not the only one who trembles – they all are at the presence here. So much power from someone so little and dear. He coughs in the cold and His Mother wipes His soft cheek, He is who the star drew me to, its Him whom I seek. Sleepy eyes turn and look my way, I back up, I am afraid. I am so dirty, so lowly so raw, I fall to my knees in the damp straw. A soft nuzzle tickles my toe, a little lamb has joined me as he escapes the cold. Fearless it lies against my knee. Now I get it, now I see. He is so perfect as He lies there unmarked, someday for sins He will be scarred. I can sit here dirty and blemished and broken, in the presence of one so pure, only because He will be broken for me and then my soul will be clean once more. Only because of His perfection do I stand a chance, only because of the love in His feet and Hands. I can walk away, soft lamb in my arms, because the lamb in the manger will shatter the dark. I will always seek Him, star or no star, because He is someone I need, He is hope, He is God.

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I want to know more

Can you be a Christian your whole life and still learn new things about God?
Of course.
Life is a constant shifting processes. We shift between weak and strong, brave and afraid, bitter and forgiving, so on. In each of these shifts we learn something new about God. He’s the same God that loved us when we were passionate about or prayer and Bible reading, and the same God that loves us now when we are listening to society and backing off on being quite so ‘Christian.’ He’s the same God that loved us when we gave our gift card to the Keg to the homeless man, and the same God who saw us cut the guy off in traffic. We are human, we switch between powerful Christian soldiers and kind of weak hearted selfish people. Why? Because life is a constant battle to keep our Faith in a world that belongs to the devil. When we were weaker in our walk with God we learned more about His strength, when we were selfish and bitter we learned more about His forgiveness, when we didn’t know where to turn we learned more about His omnipresence, when we fell down and cried we learned more about His compassion. And that is just what we learned from our own lives. Then we learn more about God from the testimony of others, we learn more through the words people speak about lives we never have and never could lead. No matter how long you have known God your can always learn more about Him and no matter how long you have loved Him you can always love Him deeper. Not because you aren’t giving enough right now, but because His love is so vast and infinite that there is always more love for Him to give you. Keep shifting and growing and learning until at last you see Jesus in person.

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Testing the reins

‘I try the reins.’
The Bible speaks of horses often, in all honesty I can’t help wonder if they are God’s favorite creation, He seems so proud of them. When God says ‘I try the reins’ and He is speaking of the reins of our hearts it makes me think of my days before my riding accident. Back then I would get on any horse and usually after doing the basic warm up, the ‘trying of the reins’ I could tell what the horse was thinking and how he was feeling. I could tell if something was wrong or if he was ready for a fight. The movement of his body and the tension of the rein in his mouth, how he reacted to the bit, if he strained against me or (heaven forbid) tried to take control of the bridle, all that sensation went into my hands and from the experience I knew how to react and what was happening with the several hundred pound animal beneath me. There were I days when something was clearly off so I got down and found what was wrong, a couple times he seemed to be in pain but I couldn’t find why so I gave up on the ride to spare him discomfort. I know many people who have had bad falls and later said that they knew the horse was in a fight mood and they shouldn’t have gotten on. My bad fall was a stupid mistake and not my horse’s fault at all. God tests our reins. He tests our hearts and tells what we are thinking, planning and feeling. He tests what we are ready for and what should be saved for a later date. He senses if we are fighting the bit or are just too afraid to go forward. He can tell it all and knows when to be gentle with us because something is wrong or painful, He knows when to let us calm down so we don’t do something stupid in an effort to fight back, He knows when all we need is a nose scratch and a bucket of oats. God knows everything about us, simply from testing our reins. And He loves us enough to go forward gently or with conviction depending on what we are ready for. Isn’t that a nice thought?

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Bitterness is a prison that a person builds themselves and then enters willingly, locks the door and blames others for their being in the prison.
People mess up, they hurt you and make you angry -trust me, I’ve been there too- but it’s how you respond that shows the strength of your character. Give Jesus the keys and let Him free you from this prison you’ve made, then feel relief as He pulls the bars apart and breaks your prison down forever. Don’t give people the power to lock you away, give Jesus permission to set you free.