It was one of those days. It must have been a Monday. I had been away speaking all weekend. I picked up the phone to gather voice-mail messages. "You have 31 messages." I put down the receiver, discouraged. A stack of correspondence, a half-finished manuscript, and my email screen all stared back at me demanding a response. I was officially overwhelmed.
I had made a commitment to God, that I would spend time with Him before I would start my workday, but this day I hadn't had my quiet time yet. I reached across the desk and picked up my dog-eared copy of Daily Light for the Daily Path, a book that gathers verses of the Bible together by topic, and has a Bible reading for each morning and evening. I opened to January 8th and read: "I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able. Able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work . . . Able to guard what I have entrusted . . . Who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control . . . Do you believe I am able to do this? . . . According to your faith it will be done to you."
ABLE! ABLE! ABLE! I felt free to be me and let God be God. I thought of several friends in ministry who might also be encouraged by receiving this same devotional page. I turned to January 8th to copy it. It wasn't there. I turned to February 8th — not there either. I turned to March 8th. It was the March 8th reading, but I had read it on January 8th! I'd been so preoccupied, I'd read the wrong page — but God had me read the right day for me! He is Able! Guard My Heart, Lord!
One woman who had sat in a Bible-teaching church Sunday after Sunday for over 10 years told me something one day that took my breath away. She had been having an affair with her best friend's husband! Those in her world had counseled her, confronted her in love, shown her care and compassion — everything possible to help her see the trauma she was causing two families — then one day she eloped with this man! When she arrived back in town, I saw her at one of our children's sporting events. She was so excited. She was flitting from person to person showing her ring and wedding pictures. When she arrived in front of Bill and me, we were shocked by her flippancy, "Oh, aren't you excited for me? I just knew it was God's will that we marry because, after the ceremony, I looked up and there was a ring around the moon!"
"A ring around the moon!" my heart screamed with sadness. Her heart had drifted so far from God's Word that her decision-making ability had become irrational. That day has stayed with me — primarily because it wasn't an isolated incident. A best friend, married to a minister, told me God had led her to an Internet chat room where she encountered a man who met her emotional and sexual needs. Another woman, who had been a committed women's leader for years, told me at a retreat, "I was praying about whether to leave my current ministry, and I saw a butterfly and thought, 'Butterflies are free; I am free from this ministry calling now. I am released to fly on to something else. Something for me.'"
Our world has become so feelings-based and experiential, women are hopping from one emotional high to another. Sadly, this thinking is also creeping into the church, and into church leadership.
Seeing this, I feel compelled to be in the Word daily because every day I lean on an experience or emotion rather than on God and His Word is one more day my heart drifts further from truth, and further from God. If I don't gird up my mind with the truth, I will drift from the truth.
Guard My Emotions, Lord!
Recently, the emotional pressure in my life had escalated — facing deadline upon deadline, bad medical news, grief over my father's death, plus the daily stress of church leadership and family responsibilities. I sat in my doctor's office in tears. All I wanted to do was escape, and drive to the beach to spend time with God. Only by talking to God and having Him talk to me through the Word would salve this pain.
I knew that I would be okay if I could just get to the beach and let God's love wash over me like the waves wash over the sand. So I drove home, told my husband I would be gone for a few hours, and I grabbed my Bible, concordance, journal and a few devotional books. I rushed to the beach, anxious to spend time with God. I read, prayed, journaled, walked, listened — and read some more. Finally, both peace and a plan came.
Guard My Body, Lord!
Last fall, I had weeks of back-to-back speaking engagements. On a trip to Colorado, I remember thinking, "Wow, this is great! My flight got booked with some breathing space. I'll get there early, take a nap, shower and feel so refreshed." I arrived at the Denver airport only to discover that my connecting flight was canceled, and I was stuck in the airport for five hours. I would have to dress for the event in the airport restroom and step off the plane and go immediately to my speaking engagement. My heart sank. How was I ever going to get the rest I needed stranded in an airport?
I walked the terminal and prayed. I spotted an empty gate; one that had a door that opened to the outside with fresh air streaming in. With a little ingenuity, I created my own lounge chair by placing my suitcase under my legs and my purse under my head. I began to read a book by A.W. Tozer about the character of God. The book was packed with verses, and I just devoured it. As I read, some birds hopped into the terminal and began to feed on the crumbs of tourist food. I thought of the verse, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matt. 6:26).
I smiled, read the final page of my book and drifted off to sweet slumber — in the airport! I awoke an hour later, refreshed and thankful that those who wait on the Lord gain renewed strength.
Guard My Mind, Lord!
If I am lost in a city, I like to go to a map so I can see the "big picture." The same thing is true of discerning God's will. Having an overall general understanding of God's book, character, actions and words helps us to understand God and to understand how He works. Try one of these new ideas to layer God's Word into your life this New Year:
Other ideas for study are the names of God in the Old Testament, the verses that speak of God as the Father, the names Christ is called in the Old and New Testament, and the names and character of the Holy Spirit. When you layer God's Word into your life on a daily basis, you gain the ability to see things from God's perspective. Jesus explains it with the phrase, "You are in me and I in you" (John 14:20, John 17:21-22). The Word of God is the key ingredient in protecting your life: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Prov. 4:23). My prayer is that I will never run my life by a ring around the moon, but by God's Word that's been hidden in my heart.
My list of things to do seemed to be growing out of control. Pastoring two churches, my husband often worked 60 to 80 hours each week, and I was increasingly frazzled as ministry spouse and almost-single parent. In greater martyr moments, I felt I did everything but stomp the grapes for communion.
Who intercedes for you? For whom do you intercede? Someone has said, "Praying for others is one of the best ways of loving people." I agree.