Let Your Light Shine

Candle

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” the kids burst into song. I hear their sweet voices echo from the backseat and I begin to think. My candle is lit; I am on fire for God. My purpose, our purpose is to spread His light. One little candle can light up a room but Jesus can light up an entire world … and my small flame can be a part of that. I am continually blown away that my Lord Jesus who can do this all by Himself chooses to let me be a little part of it.

I want to be challenged, to learn more every minute, to share God’s love with people walking around unaware. I want to feel needed, used by the Lord, able to make a difference no matter how small. I want to give my life away, to comprehend losing my life and what it means to find it (Matt. 10:39). I want to serve the Lord daily, with every breath, every moment both inside and outside my home. Opportunities to tell people God loves them and desires to lift them from this dust and into His glory.

One of my great joys (outside my family) is to disciple my friend, Betty. Betty is only 58 years old but the hardness of her life wears across her face. We scoot a chair underneath her modest kitchen table and crack open our Bibles. The worn, scribbled on pages flip with grace to the book of John. We start here. I want her to find Him in between the lines…I want her to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3).  Most days I am a mess and feel anything but qualified to lead a bible study. I make a lot of mistakes but God will use me, in spite of all that. He can use you too.

We finish our study and close our Bibles and begin to talk about our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I ask my trusted friend, with slight hesitation as I’m not sure my heart can handle her response, “Do you think our ministry to share Christ with people is making a difference?”

She takes off her reading glasses and places them gently on her red King James Bible. I feel my eyes quiver a bit upon her reply, “Well, yes. Even if just one person accepts Christ as Savior, that’s enough…don’t you think?” Maybe I wrongly define success by vast numbers and make-shift tent revivals. Maybe I forget to be obedient in the small and anticipate His faithfulness in the big. Maybe I forget I’m the seed planter, not the crop grower.

I don’t cry often anymore but this touches me. The tears push themselves like a parade down the side of my face. I say, “Yes, you’re right. I just needed a gentle reminder, I guess.”

Over and over God ministers to me through someone I thought I came to minister to. He shows me His heart and His Word in new ways right here in the life I am living and through the people I am serving.

How blessed we are to be called His servants. I am thankful that He who sits so high would bend low upon people like us and use us as his vessel. How blessed we are to experience the breath of God as he fans our ember into a roaring flame, set ablaze for the glory of God.

My sweet sisters, don’t ever underestimate your little light. Keep letting it shine because God will use it and direct it where it will shine the brightest.

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What Would Your Day Say About You?

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Discuss three things that happened today. How did you feel? Frustrated, mad, happy, thankful, or fearful? The question my husband and I discuss in our couples bible study.

Well, I’ll go first,” I say with an abrupt tone. The dog pooped on my friend’s front porch and that made me frustrated. Second, due to the inconvenient fact that no Kleenex were present in the car, I was forced to blow my nose into my scarf while passengers in the neighboring car looked on in horror. I felt embarrassed. Last but not least, the kids smeared dirty water all over the ping pong table outside, the dog licked it, then threw up on the floor. That made me mad.

Shall I continue?

I must confess y’all, I didn’t particularly care for that exercise.

If my day could talk, it would say, “You spent most of me…

Mad,

Frustrated,

Embarrassed, and

Overwhelmed.

My sweet friends, I don’t want to simply cope with life. Survive the day.

I don’t want to pinch myself awake until numbness wears off.

Do you?

Then I remember something about the Apostle Paul. He said, “Do it all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This verse opens the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. What I do and how I do it, matter to Him.

Every word.

Every action.

Every reaction holds the potential to be worship in the raw. Glory to God in spite of poopy porches or snotty scarves! I admit I need practice in this area.

Paul tells us we must set our minds on things above (see Col. 3:2) and practice living for His glory, actually and determinedly.

Underneath the schedule.

In between activities.

In the middle of the mess ~ we must meditate on God’s Truth, talk it over with Him often in our prayers, and remind ourselves frequently as we scale the walls of “to-dos.” It takes intentionality and resolution and determination. Aggressive faith. We must offer all our acts to God and believe He accepts them. Then hold firm to that position and keep insisting every act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction. Go to God in closet communion and tell him we mean every act for His glory then supplement those times by a thousand thought prayers as we go about the job of living (paraphrase Pursuit of God, Tozer).  

Oh yes, that’s it. A thousand thought prayers. Daily. Hourly. Seconds bursting with the overshadowing Presence of God. God help me to do this … then as I perform the elementary, I will hear the voice of the angels worshipping the lamb, “Holy, Holy, Holy … the whole earth is full of His glory,” and I will sing along with them (because I’m adding to His glory, not stealing it away)!

Then my day’s reflection will become one of:

Refreshment,

Comfort,

Encouragement, and

Peace.

So as you reflect on today ~ What would your day say about you?

 

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God Calms the Chaos: Be Still

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Overloaded. Stressed. Busy. Lonely. Overscheduled. We don’t compare notes or even talk about it much. Maybe because we think we can be all and do all, all of the time. We are pretty good at figuring things out, multi-tasking, checking boxes, and getting things done. We promote ourselves as self-reliant, resourceful networkers when underneath it all, we are disconnected and exhausted. I think it’s the pressure to be a performer on the stage of our life: a great mama who helps glue and create science projects, a sacrificial wife who forfeits a shower to help her husband at work, a trailblazer for God whose sacrificial service is unmatched. Maybe we even push ourselves to do a little more because our self-worth’s at stake. Oh my sweet sisters, this creates a breeding ground for … Chaos. Un-reasonable expectations. Impossible goals. Does any of this sound familiar?

I consider myself an unfortunate expert of sorts. I trip into the trenches of chaos weekly. I run full speed on the treadmill of discord until my legs buckle and refuse to move another inch.

Why do I run towards the empty?

The spaces void of anything good?

Why don’t I escape to the quiet, the stillness of my room, shut the door and pray to my Father in secret? Why don’t I call on the One who spoke something into nothing? The One who spoke the very nature of chaos into order?

That is our God after all. His strength. His order. He waits to calm stormy seas that swirl deep within…All we have to do is ask.

But will we?

He desires to be our dwelling place even while our feet trod the road of simple earthly duty. God winks at our weakness and overlooks unfinished to-do-lists that seem to label us failure. Praise God He isn’t looking for a woman who can get it all done in 24 hours! Instead, He is looking for a woman who will come behind the veil and push into His presence one quiet moment at a time.

“Be still and know that I am God,” He says.  He says it as if he means to tell me that my strength and safety lie not in the noise but in silence (see Pursuit of God, paraphrase, Tozer). We must step out of the worldly parade long enough to get still with Him. A worldly procession that shouts your success is how much you can accomplish in a day. God’s intelligible word says just the opposite. Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 tells us wise people practice moderation and contentment and quietness. We don’t want to be fools with fistfuls of frantic; we want to be wise with limits and stillness.

God calls himself, “I am that I am.” May I apply that to us today? As the noise of life creeps up a decibel level, imagine our Savior’s voice: I am the stillness that is your hearts cry. I am the green pasture that awaits instead of a busy parking lot. I am your soul-rest from normalcy and monotony. I am the organizer of your chaotic mess. I am the only sustainer you’ll ever know. Come and find me. Call out for me. Get still with me. You will be so glad you did.

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Nourishment for the Soul

I found myself reading about the prayer life of George Muller this morning. Oddly enough, I forfeited my own prayer time with the Lord reading about him. But it brought such soul satisfaction that I wanted to share with you …

Before this time my habitual practice had been, at least for ten years previously, to give myself to prayer immediately after having gotten dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, so that in this way my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.

I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but simply for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result almost invariably is this, that after a very few minutes I have been led into prayer of some sort, whether confession, or thanksgiving, or intercession, or supplication; so that, although I do not give myself specifically to prayer, but rather to meditation, nevertheless my meditation upon the Word turns almost immediately more or less into prayer.

After a time of confession, or intercession, or supplication, or giving of thanks arising out of my meditation upon a few words or a verse, I then go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or for others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the goal of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and my inner man is nourished and strengthened spiritually, so that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I find myself in a peaceful and happy state of heart. In addition, not only am I fed spiritually, but also during these times of meditation the Lord also communicates to me truth which later I find to be spiritual food for other believers—even though in the first place it was not for the sake of teaching or preaching or the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but simply for the profit of my own inner man.

The difference between the way I prayed before and the way I pray now is this: Before, when I awoke, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer. But what was the result? I often spent 15 to 30 minutes or even an hour on my knees in prayer before deriving any benefit from it, and often, I would really begin to pray only after having had my mind wander for the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way because my heart, having first been nourished by the truth of God’s Word has been brought into experiential fellowship with God. As I commune with God around His Word, I then speak to Him as my Father and my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.

I never read about this method in a book, nor did anyone ever tell me about it. And yet, now, ever since God taught me this concerning meditation and prayer, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God should do every morning is to first obtain food for his inner man. Just as our outward man is not capable of working long unless we eat, and as this is one of the first things that we do each morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food as well for the inner man.

Now, what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not merely reading the Word of God without comprehension, so that it simply passes through our minds like water running through a pipe, but instead, taking time to consider what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time from the heart, generally requires a certain amount of inward strength or godly desire, and the time when prayer can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God—where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us.

We can profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, even though we are ever so weak spiritually; in fact, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. When we pray in this manner, our minds will wander far less than if we simply give ourselves to prayer without first taking time to meditate.

~ Kelli Zaniel

Don’t Focus on the Hard

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We hadn’t spoken in a while.

The Christmas rush, the holiday travel, the sinus infections.

We reconnect on a Wednesday afternoon. The phone rings. My six year old answers and exclaims, “Mama, it is Ms. Betty!” Ms. Betty is a friend from our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I now call her part of our family. My multi-tasking-self holds the phone in one hand while making mac and cheese and PB&J’s in the other. In this moment, my mind floods with the insignificant…Christmas returns, new brake pads, and puberty talks. Well I suppose the puberty talks are significant…but hunny that’s for another day.

Ms. Betty is a story teller and this day is no exception. I cut off crust and make butterfly shaped sandwiches and she begins. She just moved from a run-down motel into a modest apartment for seniors. She is now removed from the prostitution and drugs that plagued the residents, her neighbors. This is a better life for her, a safer one.

She saves money and purchases a queen mattress and box springs at the Salvation Army. The nice man brings the mattress to the third floor and places it where it needs to go. Finally, her apartment is comfortably furnished just in time for Christmas.

T’was the night before Christmas or so the poem goes, not a creature is stirring not even a bedbug? Ahem, yes the mattress and all surrounding furniture begins to stir with bedbugs. This is one thing I’ve grown accustom to in ministry. Going with Christ to the least of these in Reno usually means going to the bedbug infested places too.

Bless her heart.

She saves.

She budgets.

She spends wisely. And instead of a wink from jolly Old Saint Nick she gets a bite from the mattress critters. Lord have mercy!

But what she says next makes me spill my macaroni. Even though I cannot see her face, I know it’s smiling. She exclaims with contentment, “The Lord is with me. I am blessed with what He has given me. This may be inconvenient but God will use this to make me stronger.” She puts to death her desire for meager comfort, picks up her cross, and chases the heels of Jesus.

I gulp and pause and I know. She has the New Testament contentment and joy Paul talks about. A sincere joy despite her circumstance. The kind of joy and satisfaction in the supremacy of Christ that should be tucked inside the heart of every believer.

Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4); “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Ms. Betty clings to the feet of Jesus with gladness and nothing distracts her… not even the mud pies. Once again the kitchen table turns and she minsters to me. I am so amazed at her faith, her endurance, and her courage.

God reminds me of something as a new year commences. The way is hard that leads to life. But we must be careful of our emphasis. The focus is not on the “hard” but on the “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17), Piper.

Lord, awaken my joyful heart. Be magnified in my attitude. Like Ms. Betty, please help me to find joy in you especially when days flurry with disappointment. Help me to be so satisfied in you that I can call death gain. In the precious name of the resurrected Christ I pray, Amen.

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Great Resource

Pastors Francis Chan and David Platt team up for a second Multiply Gathering this Friday November 8, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m. CST.

This is a free live stream from Austin, Texas. If you’d like to register click here…

Identity Crisis

Identity-mind-map

know, I kind of abandoned ship for a spell. I’m sorry to leave you hanging! As of late, my faith seems to be a work in progress. Kind of like when Paul talks about “working out your faith.” Yes ma’am, that’s what I’ve been doing, workin’ things out intellectually and spiritually.

A few months ago I sit in a messy gym office where my girls take gymnastics. Mamas gather around in a cramped circle to find out whether or not they can add “team” to their plates. The owner of the gym talks all informative and lays down team rules and regulations. In a pitch to draw us in she says, “Your children need an identity. They need to belong to a group, a team.” Now I am not saying that gym team is bad, no ma’am. But in the moment, the Holy Spirit begins to churn something in the pit of my stomach.

Identity.

That’s my Jesus’ message to me. His message to my girls. The message that’s been chasing me for weeks.

Oddly, my middle school years suddenly come to mind. I being super shy want to fit in. My uncoordinated lanky-leggy self, strolls down halls in my button down with rolled up sleeves, britches yanked up to my navel, and my wavy perm which is later dubbed “a bird’s nest.” Apparently, this business is not cool. I like Homek but I can barely stitch a Christmas pillow for my mama. I like basketball but I need glasses and can’t see the goal. I like kickball but trippin’-n-fallin’ is more my game. I try and figure out who I am by looking around at everybody else. Am I an athlete? A nerd? A brain? Which group do I fit in?

This identity thing doesn’t end with middle school or high school or even college. We continually define and redefine ourselves. We do this through our jobs, our homes, our cars, our kids, and our fitness level. Every day we communicate something, “I want to be seen or I want to be perceived this way.” This is hog wash in the eyes of God and it should be to us too.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3 we find who we are not in the external but the internal. Instead of defining ourselves based on what we do or what group we associate with, the Gospel would have us remember what Christ has done.

Therefore my identity, your identity is in Him, built completely on Him and nothing else. When we go outside of Him to determine our identities we actually engage in idolatry. In the sense idolatry says, “I will not be defined by God, I am going to be defined by other things like gymnastics or music or even my home.” We start holding onto these things so tightly that when God wants them, we won’t give them up because we think they define who we are.

On the ride home with gym bags and musical instruments in toe, I think of what Paul told the Philippian church: remember to whom you are united and the place where your real citizenship rests. Our citizenship, our identity is found in heaven, it is found in Christ.

Period.

We are hidden in Him (Col. 3:3); we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

Sweet sister remember your identity.

Remember who you are.

You are His.

You have, have had, and will always have an identity in the One worth identifying with!

“But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20, NET Bible).

“To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12-13).

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South Reno Baptist Harvest Festival and Trunk-n-Treat

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My Obituary

Saturday I drug my sweet friend Michelle to see a Beth Moore Simulcast! Beth challenged all of us seated in the audience to write our own obituary. Let me explain. So many of us still carry our old dead self on our backs even though we are new creations in Christ. Why do we do this? Anyhoo, she challenged us to kill off our old dead self once and for all so here is mine ~ it is meant to be funny and a little serious! I challenge you to do the same:) 

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Kelli Zaniel, raised a southern belle, had a hankering for Chick-fil-A, Krispy Crème, banana clips, and Scarlett O’Hara died on September 21, 1980, at the First Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. The 5 year old walked the aisle sweaty palms and all and said, “Bye to her old self and hey to Jesus girl status…bless her heart!” Her dead self floated off in the baptismal waters of grace as a congregation shouted, “Amen new sista!”

She, being drenched in Southern Baptist churchin’ until it almost choked her ever living self, attended every Sunday, Wednesday night suppers, Girls in Action, and kicked some tail in the Bible Drills. 

Dern tootin’! 

She attended youth group. She even re-dedicated her life to Christ at camp somewhere in between river rafting and flirting with a redneck-fly-fishing-wannabe. Don’t judge, we didn’t have lots to choose from!

Wink, wink! 

These little excursions on the youth bus were great to combat feelings of not measuring up. She felt when she didn’t act right, she disappointed God. She didn’t get up every morning with a fresh, new gush of grace pouring over her like sweet tea in a cold mason jar. Naw. Instead, she rolled the covers back over a diseased body because she wouldn’t let God carry it, her weakness that is. The funny thing? No one even knew she was sick! 

Her new life began to look visually assaulting from the inside out. She asked for bread, but it wasn’t daily…maybe monthly or even yearly after a spell. By golly that girl was parched and needed some nourishment, right quick. Other church goers were slack-jawed when her first marriage ended. They couldn’t see past the veil of the D-Word and into the eyes of her broken, abandoned, and abused heart. She felt cast out like a fishing wire only it didn’t get reeled in. She became like the adulterous woman with her future written in the sand…by her accusers. 

She had a love affair with the Christian bubble and became a veteran people pleaser. She compartmentalized her faith too. And … for heaven’s sake’s good Bible study girls never let the lines between church, school, and normal life blur. She was a sinner but thought she was a saint; blind but thought she could see, and sick but thought she was well. She walked into church with her panty hose and heels but come to find out, she was lame too! 

While sittin’ in church one Sunday y’all know what she did? She got down on the floor and began given mouth to mouth resuscitation to her old self that died a while back. She wouldn’t let it die. She kept carrying it across her shoulders and squeezing it underneath her arms. She dusted it off and took it to parties and out all night. I’m pretty sure she and that old self did stuff that would make you want to slap your granny! Yep, she kept on massaging the heart of old man sin and got herself into a whole heap of trouble. Yes Ma’am. 

The opportunities in her life to share the Gospel were numerous. Unfortunately, she busied herself with so many OTHER things… kind of like Miss Martha. I mean that girl got so distracted she could rack up a bill at the Rich’s and the Parisians Department Stores. She and her old self were well dressed and seemingly put together but underneath…they were hog-wild. They chased earthly treasures instead of the eternal ones. Years past and she went and married a nice law-yur fella from (Las Vegas – eewww). Yep, she left the belt – had some kids and relocated to Reno, Nevada where she came to life again. One day after the babies were napping and the house all a hush, God had his way with her. He totally wrecked her and turned her world upside down. God said, “Girl we’ve got to kill that old dead self for good because you keep bringing it back to life and it’s ruining you! Old man sin flung over your back is taking the place of the cross I have asked you to carry. Don’t you realize there is no door too scandalous for me to walk through?” Ouch that stung but oh how sweet! 

Kelli’s old self finally died in her home in 2006… for good. She put to death the rattling chains of shame and condemnation that had been clanking around in her life. She understood what it really meant to follow Jesus. She described the experience like opening the eyes of the blind during a beautiful sunrise; a stunned silence before unspeakable holiness; and a shocked terror over her own preference for darkness. And then the faith came, like a rushing roar hovering above. The confidence that Christ made a way for her, a sinner, to live in His glorious fellowship, to give her the desires of her heart, and to behold his glory forever. 

Yes Sir, Kelli still loved eating more chicken while watching “Gone with the Wind” when her old self died (the banana clip got put to death with the old self)! Even more than those things, she had a hankering for digging holes in strange fields claiming she’d found a treasure; for living a life unexplained without the presence of the Holy Spirit; for denying herself and counting the cost. Yep, there was no more stinking to high heaven with the odor of death over her like a bad shirt! Nope, death no longer had a sting; it no longer smothered her; it no longer owned her …. She had been set free; her load lightened.  Free to accept unmerited favor. Free to accept gushes of grace. Free to live like she believed!

 

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Catch My Drift?

 

Turquoise water, pink sand, and our tenth wedding anniversary…

SNORKLE

Two years ago my husband and I return to our honeymoon destination.  Off the clock and away from the stove, we sleep late, snorkel, and eat more seafood than should be legal. We especially love snorkeling together. We plop beach towels and snorkel gear down on a remote beach. Waves gently crash against the sand and out we go flippers and all. We swim around like crazed children in the ocean for the first time.

When the sun’s sparkle begins a colorful descent across the sky I know ~ we’ve been swimming all day. Relishing the tired-happy satisfaction that comes from hours of salt water, sun-burn, and brightly colored fish, we pop up over white caps for a break. We notice the current gently ushered us down the beach. Our eyes scan with no familiar points of reference in site. Our little makeshift cabana is a mile down the beach. We drifted away from camp and never noticed until we couldn’t find our way back.

I never intend to drift so far that I separate myself from the familiar mile markers. But drift happens in my life and not just in the ocean on a snorkeling excursion, but in my relationship with God too. It’s as inevitable as the rushing tide ~ if I don’t focus on where I am and in whom I serve I will float away from my priorities, my purpose. For me, the drift is a symptom of coming unhinged, unanchored from my convictions, my values, and my intimacy with God.

Shore

Maybe you are hugging the shoreline with confidence. But if you’re like me, maybe you wonder if a trip downstream just might just do you some good. Hebrews 2:1 warns against the drift:  “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Revelation 3:2-3 tells us drifters to “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.”

If you’ve been following Jesus for a while, you know the tide’s rise and fall can sometimes get us sidetracked from God. The undercurrent can potentially shift us away from the warmth of God and into lukewarm waters of the world. We know what the Bible says about tepid water and we don’t want to make God puke, do we?

Floods of normalcy will sweep us away from God’s best at every opportunity if we let it. When we allow ourselves to go with the flow so to speak, we drift away from the solid rock of God’s presence in our lives. We drift and think things are fine until one day we look up and we’re not where we thought we’d be. God is not the drifter, we are…He is there on the shore where he has always been and will continue to be. We are the ones who ride waves to other destinations whether deliberate or not.

ANCHOR

Going forward on this Thursday morning I need to pay attention to where I am, where I want to go, and the direction of God’s current. I must remain tethered to Him, my first love, and be securely tied to Him alone… this will prevent my drift; this will prevent your drift too.

When you glance back toward the shoreline, where are you in relationship to where you once were with God?

sand

 

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