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1 Kings 11; Philippians 2; Ezekiel 41; Psalms 92, 93

I visited my sister when I was in college. Her husband was military, and they lived on base. She had a neighbor named Renee, and while I was there, Renee would pop over in the mornings, walk right through the kitchen door, pour herself a mug of coffee, and chat with my sister and me at the table. This image took root and life in my mind–and I have been looking for my own Renee ever since.

One day, my sister’s Renee was gone. It’s not just specific to military life–nearly every life is transient. A move. A job change. A church change. A school change. A season may be beautiful, fruitful and sweet, but that in itself won’t make it last forever. Illness, crisis, attitude and interest are all elements that can affect another’s ability to be present. (My mother died from breast cancer, and when my friend Doris was diagnosed, I didn’t know what to say to her–and I was regrettably disappointed in myself because I thought that I should know.)

When I glanced the scriptures earlier this week, thoughts of loyalty, strength and endurance came to mind. But when I read more closely, I also see disappointment, limitations, distractions and weakness.

Solomon, a wise man, a king, was not exempt.

The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord. (1 Kings 11:2-3, NLT)

Paul served the Lord wholeheartedly, but not everyone on the mission field shared his vision.

20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:20-21, NLT)

Lord, you are gentle and kind. You know my heart. You lovingly unfurl my fingers from the grip I have on the way I think things should be, and you show me grace. You show me humility. You are my forever friend. You will never forsake me. You are eager to meet me when I seek you. You sit with me at this table today, and together we can examine what really matters.

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (Philippians 2:12-16, NLT)

Help me to mature in the woman you want me to be.

Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever. (Psalm 93:5b, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Revelation 15-18

What does Christmas feel like? Our regular radio station played Christmas music almost every day in December. We drove down streets with houses festooned in colorful, blinking lights and displays. Our house had its tree decorated and lit; shimmering red ribbons curled and placed across a mantel; snowflakes and ornaments dripped from light fixtures and windows. I tried to recreate my favorite childhood memories of the season–purchasing boxes of chocolate covered cherries, baking a Christmas morning warm cinnamon pastry, playing music throughout the house to signal the celebration of the new day.

Despite the outward display, though, sometimes it doesn’t feel like Christmas. So, what does Christmas feel like?

In Revelation, End Times approach and there’s no escaping it. From my vantage point, I read of what will happen, and wonder: then and there, would it feel like End Times?

So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. (Revelation 16:2, NLT)

The first of the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out. I noted by the fourth bowl, a first mention: They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory. (Revelation 16:9b, NLT)

What will End Times feel like? And would one know when the time is upon him?

15 “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” (Revelation 16:15, NLT)

So much in the Bible requires further explanation by the speaker. Revelation describes a future yet to take place, people yet to be born, and items yet to be made.

“Why are you so amazed?” the angel asked. “I will tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits …” (Revelation 17:7, NLT, emphasis added)

Back-to-school morphs into packages of candy in October, sharing shelf space with Thanksgiving and Christmas–a blending blur of season. Christmas seems out of place in October, and yet, its date is fixed and arrival certain–whether it feels like it or not.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 34-35; Ephesians 2

At some point, the crickets’ song took over summer, reminding that a new season approaches. During a morning walk, honking geese overhead shake me from a summer dream almost like an alarm–a new season approaches. I remember thinking, “It’s only July–you’re going the wrong way!”

My calendar said there was still plenty of time. But suddenly it’s two weeks later and two more to go will go in a blink. When I was young, the days seemed long. Now I find myself wishing for more hours in the day.

Lord, help me to keep a Kingdom focus. When I find myself small, discouraged, I want to remember, you are mighty.

16 Search the book of the Lord,
    and see what he will do.
Not one of these birds and animals will be missing,
    and none will lack a mate,
for the Lord has promised this.
    His Spirit will make it all come true (Isaiah 34:16, NLT).

A friend reminded me, the Lord is a redeemer.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

A changing of seasons seems almost imperceptible when I operate in the daily–laundry, schedules, appointments. One day the trees are budding. Another day, I am aware of the rich aroma of full flowers saturating the air. Now the mornings have a pleasant chill that make me want to run faster and farther. A kingdom here, a kingdom near, and I am reminded I am his.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT).

An accuser wants me weak and fearful–unwanted, worthless, abandoned. Faith tells me I belong. I am his.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38-40; Psalm 68; 1 Corinthians 11

29The Lord gives strength to those who are tired.

He gives more power to those who are weak…

31But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.

They will be able to rise up as an eagle in the sky.

They will run without needing rest.

They will walk without becoming tired.

Isaiah 40:29-31

I. AM. EXHAUSTED.

My roles as solo mama to three under the age of six, house cleaner for my own home (well, I’m trying) and for three others, sole breadwinner, daughter, friend, leader, studier of the Word…and on top of that never sleeping for more than 3-4 hours straight due to kids having nightmares or the insomnia brought on by thinking about my ever-growing to do list, has made me truly understand what it means to be sleep deprived.

And yet, I can’t stop. I can barely slow down; though there are days that I force myself, because I can’t afford to get benched by illness, and the cleanliness of my house suffers or we have cereal for dinner for the third night in a row. As much as I’ve pared down and said “No” to as much as possible, just the basics of life completely take it out of me…and unfortunately, there are way too many things left that if I don’t do them, they don’t get done.

I am desperate for strength and power. I am desperate to walk and run and rise up like the eagle. I am desperate to thrive and not just (barely) survive. I am desperate to live. I am desperate for God.

2Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, 3“Lord, please remember that I have always obeyed you. I have given myself completely to you. I have done what you said was right.” And Hezekiah cried loudly. 2 Kings 20:2-3

Hezekiah’s situation was different; he was literally on his death bed. He was desperate. And so, he cried out to Jesus, he cried loudly, unashamed. God heard his cry, honored his faithfulness, and restored his health.

To survive this season, all seasons of my life, it is so important to call on Jesus. Every day. Every moment. It is necessary to seek His presence, His, strength, His grace, His mercy. I can’t do it on my own.

3But those who do right should be glad.

They should rejoice before God.

They should be happy and glad.

4Sing to God. Sing praises to his name.

Prepare the way for him

who rides through the desert.

His name is the Lord.

Rejoice before him. Psalm 68: 3-4

When I take the focus off myself, my struggles and difficulties, my needs, and put the focus back on God’s goodness, I am immediately refreshed. When I praise Him through song, lifting His name to the heavens, I am strengthened, because I am reminded that He never leaver nor forsakes me. When I rejoice, I am encouraged in the ways He provides for my needs in the midst of my struggles, my fatigue, my overwhelm, and He meets me where ever I am.

Yesappa, Thank You for hearing me and being bigger that my circumstances. Thank You for meeting me where I am, despite my fatigue and my overstretched to do list. Thank You for Your strength and Your rest. Thank You for healing my body, my mind, my heart when I cry out to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

 

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Leviticus 21-23; Hebrews 8

A friend stopped by yesterday for a mug of hot tea. My house was chilly because I had been out all morning and didn’t get any fires started. Outside–rain all day. We chatted fast because she was pressed for time.

In the past, she had come by for a summer swim, but this was a first for her to sit inside my house and look around. She asked about where we used to live, and we talked about the differences: field life versus woods life. We talked about God and His orchestration of events that bring us where we are.

“That [moving season] was a dark time in my life,” I said to her. “But it was the closest I had been to the Lord.”

“33 It was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 22:33, NLT.

She and I looked out the living room window at the trees around my house. We talked about the seasons, each one beautiful in itself. The trees are stunning to me, even in winter.

I thought about life seasons and change. I thought about faith walks and a future unknown. I thought about His Word all the days through all the years–how it has fed me and strengthened me, comforted me and spoken to me about Him, about love, about truth.

10 But this is the new covenant I will make
    with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:10, NLT. (referring to Jeremiah 31)

Lord, thank you. Thank you for hard days, for great days, for rainy winter days. Thank you for a window full of wonder–of the things you’ve done, and the things you will do. Thank you for showing me through your word how I can and that I can praise you every step of the way.

Courtney (66books365)

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