Jesus Isn't LostOur cat, Scooter, is a kleptomaniac. She loves to pick up small items and usually deposits them under the couch for safe keeping.

One of my most treasured belongings is a 1” X 1” picture of Jesus.  It belonged to my mother and holds great sentimental value for me. Because of its size, it’s a likely target for Scooter.

One morning when I awoke I immediately noticed that my picture of Jesus was gone.  I just knew Scooter had taken it somewhere. The first place I looked was under the couch and became very concerned when I didn’t find it there.  I looked everywhere.  Soon panic set in when I couldn’t find Jesus.  We even moved furniture thinking that maybe she dropped Jesus down the heating vent.  But Jesus was nowhere to be found.

In my heart, I knew that eventually Jesus would turn up, but the feeling that He was gone was very upsetting.  Maybe that’s how the disciples felt when they saw the empty tomb.  Halfway through the day I remembered that when we discovered that Scooter liked to hide things, I moved the picture to a safer place.  I ran downstairs and sure enough, there was my picture of Jesus in a glass cabinet – right where I put it.

Jesus wasn’t lost after all. But He never is the lost one. Sometimes we feel like Jesus isn’t where He once was in our lives – like maybe we lost Him.  Sometimes we put Him aside and we forget where He is.  Jesus is the one constant we will always have in our lives. Don’t misplace Him! “…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Don’t lose sight of Jesus this holiday season!  Wishing you Christmas joy from Grace, Peace, and Coffee.

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Choose GraceIt was a horrible week. I sat thinking to myself I’m just too old and too tired for this crap. Yes, crap.  And, if I had checked my dipstick I would have seen that I was running about a quart low on grace. Let’s be honest, there are times when we are so worn out from the circumstances around us that we feel graced out – like it’s just impossible to be gracious towards others.

So often we get caught up in our own world and we forget that there are others around us who are dealing with their own set of personal issues.  Friends, it’s really not about us.  Every job carries its stressors; every family has its conflicts; everyone is busy.  Everyone needs grace.  Everyone should offer grace.  When life doesn’t go your way, choose grace. When a co-worker rakes over your last nerve, choose grace. When your husband leaves his dirty socks in the middle of the floor, choose grace.  During the upcoming holidays, choose grace.

Jesus didn’t withhold His grace because he was having a bad day.  Praise God that He knows the exact amount of grace we need every day. God freely and abundantly extends His grace to us so that we can extend it to others – especially on those days when we feel like we are fresh out of grace.

So, my child, draw your strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus… Accept your share of suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus…Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. (2 Timothy 2:1; 3; 14)

Life is too short.  Choose grace.

Your character goes before you.  Those were the encouraging words spoken to me as I prepared to face an audience of my peers who had been going out of their way to discredit me and ruin my reputation.  Until then I had never really considered the difference between character and reputation.

Dictionary.com defines character as “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing”; and reputation as “the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public”.  In other words, our character comes from within and defines how we live.  Our reputation is what others see and believe about us.  People won’t know our true character if it is stained by our reputation.

To say that your character goes before you means that people will see the values by which you live your life.  When people say or do things to hurt us or to try to make us look bad, it is actually a poor reflection of their own character.   In the end, they are the ones who look bad.  One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 12:23: The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly. This verse proved itself true in the case of my peers who tried so diligently to hurt me.   In the end, their pride and foolishness earned them the reputation of being untrustworthy and dishonest and eventually cost them their jobs. Proverbs also tells us: “Pride goes before destruction…” (16:18)

Other people may say untrue things about you and try to ruin your reputation, but no one can take your character away from you.  Your character goes before you.

What am I doing here?  I asked myself this question years ago when I was hired to do a job and was then faced with opposition from the very people who said they would help me.  But the opposition went beyond anything I had ever faced.  The opposition involved unethical behavior.  My choices were to either let it continue and risk damaging my career, or try to stop it and risk losing my job.

Throughout my struggle a dear friend kept reminding me of the story of Esther. Esther was a Jewish maiden who was named queen of Persia.  After foiling a plot to assassinate the king, she courageously saved her people from annihilation.  Perhaps the most well-known verse from this book is when her relative, Mordecai, tries to convince her that she must save her people.  “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

My ‘time such as this,’ according to my friend, was to bring God’s truth to light in the midst of deception and greed.

We all have times when we wonder how we ended up where we are.  I call those times “Esther moments;” when God puts us in a place for “such a time as this.”  And “this” is different for everyone.  It may be as messy as shedding truth on moral misconduct.  Or it may be simply to encourage someone else who is wondering: What am I doing here?   Whatever task you are called to, remember that God always has a purpose and a plan “for just such a time as this”.

Peace Immersion 2

This morning I had the very rare, but pleasurable opportunity to enjoy my coffee on the front porch. Usually I’m the one who is up and out before dawn, but today was different which is why I treasured the moment so much. There in the quiet of the morning were the sounds, smells, and sights of God’s creation right before me – a clear blue sky, humming birds, bees, the smell of gardenia, and the lush green grass of our front yard bordered by magnolia and pine trees. The moment was topped off by the warmth of the sun at just the right temperature. I’m convinced these moments are not man-made. Only God can create the perfect environment for us to experience the fullness of His peace at just the time when we need it the most. Enjoy your day and live every day in the fullness of His grace and peace.

Bugs & Windshields“Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.”  You get the point. These lyrics are from an old Mary Chapin-Carpenter song.  They came to mind recently as another trial in this already difficult year began.  I’ve been the windshield for some time – cruising along, feeling resistant to trouble and suffering.  I’m more like the bug now…still cruising along, but feeling vulnerable and uncertain.  Trials in our lives are inevitable. Sometimes we see them coming and try to prepare for them.  Other times, they come up from behind and pull the rug right out from under us.  Jesus never said our trials would be easy, but regardless of what they are, He does promise to always be with us and to see us through. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)

Whatever you are facing today – financial difficulties, the illness of a family member, conflict with another person, or perhaps you feel like you’re drowning in the busyness of your daily routine, remember that your strength comes from the Lord and along with it comes the grace to face your trial.  And you are not facing it alone.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5; 9) Don’t let the windshield stop you. Go forth and know God is with you.

Have you ever had a situation that you knew you needed to pray about…but you didn’t know what to pray for?  Or perhaps, the situation involves your enemies and your prayers are a little misdirected because they are from the flesh rather than from the heart? Believe me, as a pastor’s wife, I run into it all the time.  I’m not saying the church is a bad place.  However, being married to a pastor has certainly improved my prayer life.

When the words won’t come and my flesh gets fired up, I am comforted by Paul’s words to the Romans: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) According to the will of God – not according to the will of Terri… Praise God!  We know that all things work together for goodfor those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  HIS purpose – not according to our own agenda.  Praise God, again!

Church is not the only place we encounter difficult people.  Conflict is everywhere – in the work place and even in families we encounter differences, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get along with one another. “…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”(Ephesians 4:32)

When you need to pray, but don’t know what to pray for, do not be discouraged.  God knows your heart and the Holy Spirit has your back.  Praise God for His grace and peace.

Pruning our BranchesMost women and maybe some men can relate to how a really good haircut feels, especially when a trim is overdue and the ends look scruffy.  Most of us probably look forward to having those dead ends removed.  After all, it’s about style and looking good.  The split ends become obstacles to looking our best so we have the frizzy dead ends removed making our hair feel healthy and full of life.

The same is true when God cuts our dead ends and removes the obstacles that prevent us from being our best for Him.  Except we don’t always look forward to that kind of trimming, do we?  God doesn’t want us to carry dead weight that doesn’t or no longer serves His purposes.  God does want us to remove obstacles from our lives that take up room for Him to work within us and help us grow for His glory.

There have been times when I’ve harbored feelings of resentment, bitterness, and even un-forgiveness.  And like split ends, those feelings don’t look good on a person.  In John 15:1-2, Jesus tells us:  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.  He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Pruning our lives, as a gardener prunes the vines, allows God’s nutrients to feed what is important so that we can produce more fruit.  Producing fruit allows us to receive the abundant blessings and grace God so freely gives to us.

Pruning can sometimes be unpleasant, even painful, but it’s worth it.  God’s pruning has enabled me to leave the dead, unproductive past behind and move forward into a life of grace.  I do admit, every now and then I still need a fresh cut.  How about you?  Are you in need of a trim?

Faithful Mercy and GraceThe steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

I recently learned a new song called “Over and Over”.  Since the first time I heard this song, the words to the chorus have stuck with me in a very powerful way:  “Over and over, again and again God is faithful…”  I hear these words and I recall the many times in my life God has indeed been faithful.  Without God, I could not have made it through the challenges of being a single parent or through the grief of losing loved ones.  God has faithfully sustained me when finances were tight; He has faithfully protected me during numerous storms and other dangerous situations; He has faithfully given me confidence when others tried to make me feel insignificant; He has faithfully given me hope when all I could feel was the weight of despair.  Over and over, again and again, God has faithfully carried me through my most difficult times.

Every day we are faced with new challenges and trials; and every day God blesses us anew with His mercy and grace to help us get through whatever they may be.  These challenges and trials are opportunities for God to work within us and help us grow in our faith.

The song finishes with this line: “Jesus is with me, so I’ll claim the victory over and over again.”  As new challenges come my way – and no doubt they will – I know I can face them with the assurance that God will be with me, faithfully to the end.

“Over and Over” Words and music by Sue C. Smith and Belinda Lee Smith

The deadline for this month’s devotion came much sooner than I was ready.  Work has been busy and I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.  After several attempts at writing I found myself approaching panic phase as our deadline loomed and my writer’s block got worse.  To clear my head, I started playing the piano.  As I was playing I did indeed relax and I knew God would fill the emptiness in my mind and tell me what to write in plenty of time.  And He did. God’s message to me was to be still.

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).  My mind has been so cluttered lately because of the illness of a family member and having to make some tough decisions on his behalf.  I’ve been second guessing myself wondering if I made the right decisions or what would happen if I did this instead of that.  I don’t like to make hasty decisions, but sometimes tough decisions need to be made quickly.  Fortunately for us, God’s timing is perfect and He will always give us the answer whether we need it in five minutes or in five days.  Be still.

No doubt many of you also need to make important decisions and, like me, sometimes struggle with the “what ifs” of that decision.  Dear friends, give the “what ifs” to God!  Whatever the decision is that you need to make, remember that you always have time to pray about it, then be still and listen for God’s answer.  Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own. (Jeremiah 33:3 MSG)