By Lt. Jayerica Tumale South Mountain, AZ Kroc Center – Southwest Division
There have been mornings, evenings, nuggets of time, and even extended seasons where we have wept and mourned.
We have mourned over a death of a loved one. We have mourned over disappointments. We have mourned over illnesses. We have mourned over tragedies. We have mourned over sins that we have made. We have mourned over all kinds of things that we love.
Mourning is the state of being in deep grief. We mourn over a profound loss. We mourn over our mistakes and sins as we strive for a pure heart. Though painful, mourning is a part of human life.
Throughout scripture, we witness people mourning. Ezra mourned over the sins of his people (Ezra 10:6). Nehemiah mourned at the news that his beloved Jerusalem lay in ruins (Nehemiah 1:4). Naomi was introduced as she displayed the depths of grief and mourning (Ruth 1:20-21).
Throughout the book of Psalms, David writes about his season of mourning. Amidst the loss, grief, and mourning, God promises to comfort and turn our mourning into dancing and great joy.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12
When David wrote this portion of scripture, he had been going through a painful time. He had been weeping and crying out to God for His mercy. God heard his prayers. David put on new clothes of righteousness that brought about joy in his life. The purpose of the new clothing was to give God praise and tell others about what God had done.
Life will always be filled with overwhelming situations because of the unknown. As I reminisce about my life, the Lord has always comforted me. He has turned my mourning into dancing and provided the most unexpected miracles! Mourning is a process that we all encounter. Although painful it can help us align our hearts with the heart of God, scripture reminds us: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) We need to lean on God and trust Him and His process as He comforts us. But while we wait for our situations to change, let’s sing and dance before the Lord just as David did. We have such an amazing God who redeems us and that is worthy of dancing about!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/May-devotional.jpg15321125Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-03-28 09:27:252023-03-28 09:27:27May 2023 Devotional: Mourning into Dancing
By Captain Aimee Docherty Retired Officer’ Representative & Order of the Silver Star – Southern California Division
I know I’m not alone in this. I know I’m not the only one who took on some sort of new activity during the Pandemic because we were home all the time. While some took on running, or cleaning the garage out, or perhaps even knitting…I took on gardening. I took these little seeds, lovingly germinated them in the Instant Pot and planted them in the freshly toiled soil in my raised garden bed that my husband built for me. I took great pleasure in watching my baby plants sprout. It was a process that took patience. Every day I would stroll out in the morning with my cup of coffee and watch for signs of the little green sprouts which would become my cucumbers, beans, peas, or my favorite…a perfect little pumpkin. I gently tugged any weed out that threatened my baby seedlings. Faithfully watering them throughout the long dry Summer. Allowing the water to seep deep to the little seeds, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on under the ground and whether they had survived the planting process. I was intentional and careful with my “plant babies” watching them grow and flourish with a happy heart, and then harvesting my precious garden with so much care. It was so satisfying and joy giving.
And then a whole year passed, and this Summer arrived, and things have changed again. The pandemic has seemingly gone away, and we are no longer home all the time together. Instead, we are busier and our hearts are distracted by all of the things in our lives that have so easily snuck back into our lives. So, what of my garden this year? Well, it’s not so lovingly tended any more. I’ve no seeds that I’ve germinated planted with care. I’ve not planted, visited, watered, and lovingly tended. You would imagine that my garden might be barren, empty, and full of weeds. And it might be so…
However…All the work I invested in my garden last year has allowed seeds that I didn’t purposely plant to spring back to life. My marigolds, which last year I had planted to prevent pests, came back in full bloom all over the whole garden making my garden a lush wonderland! The strawberry plants which had failed last year came back to thrive! We have gorgeous strawberries to eat without investing a moments work! I even have one little pea plant which has made its way back all on its own, sprouting and growing, and maybe it might even produce some yummy peas in time. Of course, the weeds made their way back too, so I’ve managed to spend a few moments weeding here and there. By investing those minutes in weeding I’ve been rewarded with a flourishing garden that has allowed my heart to flourish as well.
As our hearts and lives get busier with post pandemic life, what will we allow to take root and flourish in our hearts? It’s surprisingly easy to fall back into that distracted state of busyness. Lack of focus in any one area because we are busy in all the areas. God falls into the back seat because we’re too distracted to notice. Our hearts become hardened, and the weeds pop up taking root. We’re no longer intentional in caring for the garden of our hearts. Worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment begin to take root and flourish. But, just like my surprise garden, God is there. Working. Waiting. Seeking our attention. Calling us by name. When we stop and look to see what He has to whisper into our hearts we will discover the joy and love that He has for us. The words of His love are like those strawberries on the plants I didn’t tend, waiting to be harvested. The beautiful Marigolds like the work of His hands are blossoming everywhere in front of my eyes, but will I stop, rest, and soak in their beauty? Will I stop to recognize the work of His hands? He is inviting us into His presence. He is calling us, come to Him so that He can fill our hearts with the joy that we seek so that our heart will flourish in His beauty.
In John 7: 37-38 Jesus extends an invitation to our dry gardens “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Let’s take a deep drink and allow the waters of His love to refresh our soil, bathe our dry roots, and restore our wilting hearts. Let’s take a deep drink and find healing and wholeness where we feel dry and distracted, let’s take a deep drink and find love blossom in replacement of anger, let’s take a deep drink of His water and find Salvation take root and grow in the unlikeliest places. Let’s take a deep drink and allow our garden to blossom and bloom so that others can see His work in our lives and might know His beauty.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/j-k-2j8X-RpB1sM-unsplash-scaled.jpg17072560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-03-06 09:28:322023-03-06 09:28:37April 2023 Devotional: Planted in Joy
When I think of tests and trials and those who’ve overcome them, I think of people like Helen Keller, a blind and deaf author and champion of the power of the human spirit. C.S. Lewis, who overcame atheism. Tim Tebow, prejudiced for being a Christian, Carrie Underwood who’d suffered through many miscarriages, and Stephen Baldwin who overcame his addiction to drugs. What do they all have in common? They’re Christians. Some grew up in the faith, and some became born again. All overcame great adversity and flourished in their fields.
But what about “ordinary” folk like me? Can I overcome my trials and go on to flourish? The simple answer is, yes! Mark 10:27 explains that with God anything is possible! There are so many beautiful, frustrating, difficult, and loving examples in the Bible. Moses stuttered and was afraid to lead two million enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of that day. But he listened to God and God gave him the strength and help to accomplish just that. Deborah, the only female prophet and judge in the entire Bible, went to war with the warrior Barak, at his insistence. John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus, was tasked with spending his entire life in the wilderness. He persisted and successfully baptized thousands into the kingdom of God. There are many more – Jeremiah, Esther, King David, Joseph, Sarah, Job, Gideon, and the thousands of people who approached Jesus for healing.
The Hebrew words for “flourish” are revive, blossom, and sprout. Psalm 92:12-13 say, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.” Palm trees are strong and last a long, long time. Cedars can grow up to 120 feet high and up to 30 feet in circumference. They’re strong and immovable. King David is talking about us and our faith. If we have faith and believe that God will get us through, how much more can we accomplish in His Name?
As I write this, my own trials surface, constantly repeating in my mind, swirling like great hurricanes seen on radar screens. My oldest son declared that God doesn’t exist, because if he did, he wouldn’t have dropped us down here on earth to figure it out for ourselves. I found myself thinking . . . “What am I going to do?” Why do we forget to go to God first before thinking something like this? Because our trials are here, are real, and often, very scary. When we’re afraid, we tend to panic and forget there’s a real, loving Father right here by our side.
Some time ago I was driving my van and it started to rain, hard. Once again, I’d forgotten to get my windshield wipers replaced. Yep, you guessed it, I had to drive like I was 3 feet tall and 100 years old. I was so close to the windshield so I could see, that my body turned along with the steering wheel! While comical, that was a stressful test of my own doing! Is God responsible for that? No. But if we neglect stuff in our lives, they add to the stress we may already be under and can become frightening.
So, too, the world can be very frightening with the ever-growing identity crises of our young people, attitudes of instant gratification, disrespect of authority, “do what feels good” attitude, and lack of moral absolutes (it’s wrong for you but not for me), just to name a few. Circumstances of life, tests and trials are exacerbated when we already feel the stress the world’s troubles cause. I know God doesn’t want us to feel this way, so what must we do?
Get to know God by reading the Bible. No kidding, right? If you’re like me, you may need to read a study Bible and keep a Bible journal asking honest questions to understand its message more thoroughly. Be sure that you’re talking to others who share your faith in Jesus. They may not have the answers, but conversations can sometimes lead to answers in other areas of your faith. Get involved in a Bible study and ask questions, even if you feel they’re silly. You’d be surprised at how many others are thinking the same thing! Read trusted and well researched online Biblical websites.
Pray. In fact, turn your worries into prayers. Pray all the time, everywhere as if you’re talking directly to God, there in front of you. Be honest. Write your prayers down in a notebook or journal. Ask God to teach you through your own circumstances. Listen to God’s answers. He speaks to us in some of the most unusual ways sometimes!
Recently, I attended a conference where the speaker talked about the book of Jude, a tiny, short letter just before the book of Revelation. It was written by the brother of Jesus who reminds us of what we must do to keep our faith strong. Verse 23, “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” By the glorious words of God through Jude, I know my path. God was speaking to me and giving me comfort at the same time. I know my Lord is there with my son, and I know, because of His Holy Word, what I must do. Through it all, I will flourish because I have His Word and promises to keep me firm in my faith and sure of my steps. With these tools and wearing the armor of great faith, you can’t go wrong. In fact, like the cedars of Lebanon, you’ll stand strong and flourish!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/march-devo-scaled.jpg25601707Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-02-16 08:48:002023-02-16 08:49:04March 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Tests and Trials Season
ByMajor Nancy Ball Divisional Secretary for Program – Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division
Walking through challenging seasons is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes “flourishing” means getting out of bed to face another hard day. It might mean doing a load of laundry before going back to a hospital bedside or facing a painful task with the support of others. The Bible has a lot to say about travelling through the valley and Psalm 23 is one of the best:
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23: 4 (NLT)
Since the early 1900’s, rocks – even large boulders weighing up to 700 pounds – have been discovered in Death Valley National Park leaving evidence of movement with no apparent cause. These large rocks leave proof in the hard ground tracing their movement as much as 1500 feet along the valley floor to leave tracks in the hard packed soil. Researchers and scientists have been unable to determine the cause for this phenomenon until recently. Once every decade or so, perfect weather conditions leave thin sheets of ice across the valley floor. Light winds begin to blow the breaking ice which pushes against the rocks, causing them to move while leaving ruts in the muddy ground.
In the same way, there are forces working beneath the surface when we are in the valley of our own lives. We can’t see the change in real time, but over time we will be able to see God’s faithfulness at work in the struggle. Find encouragement in the journey. The reason for our suffering is rarely obvious. Faith is what we cling to when nothing else makes sense. Look to Jesus and flourish in the valley.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Feb-devotional-scaled.jpg14402560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-01-27 14:44:592023-01-27 14:45:03February 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Valley
By Captain Sandra Solis Salem, OR KROC Hispanic Ministries – Cascade Division
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 NLT
Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 NLT
Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NLT
Peace be with you; Shalom in Hebrew was a typical goodbye in the times of Christ. This simple phrase was not only a way to say goodbye but to wish their fellow man a peaceful rest of their day or journey, almost like a prayer or blessing upon the traveler, no matter if they were a loved one, friend, or stranger. Peace be with you, four simple words that some may not have thought about most of the time, but if we, as Christians, were to take up this practice of saying, peace be with you, as our fellow man leaves. To be able to wish someone Shalom, we must have peace in our souls as well.
We can look at our flourishing life as like a garden. If our garden is not tended to regularly, we can lose the peace and rest that the Lord gives us. We learn throughout the bible that we need to tend to the garden of our soul. This takes work, and it takes support. You cannot grow to an actual garden, but just planting the seed and walking away, you need to water it, supply nourishment, and pull the weeds. We need to do this; sometimes, we must remove the weeds that affect our peacefulness and joy. Remember, friends, when pulling out the weeds of life, we might run into painful moments, but they are necessary. These moments make us stronger and healthier and allow us to grow into the person God has intended us to be.
We must remember that we need the Lord with us, maybe even more during our times of tending the garden of our soul, because when we let the weeds come in, our peace and stillness are affected. These are the times when we honestly need Him the most. This is because we don’t reach out to our master gardener when we feel like everything is going well. We feel like we can handle things ourselves. However, we need to stay connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit at all times by reading the word, staying in intentional prayer, attending Bible studies, and fellowshipping with our church family. We must remember that when we flourish, we do so by studying God’s Word.
Prayer: Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit brings those into the lives that can help us tend the garden of our soul. Please give us the right mindset to hear what you have for us. Let our hearts discern the counsel that your Holy Spirit is giving us. When we seek your will in our lives, let us follow you and not get complaisant or get in your way by saying, not now, Lord. Let us be willing to accept the path you have walked before us with a generous spirit. In Christ’s name, Amen!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Devo-Jan-scaled.jpg17082560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2022-12-05 12:32:262022-12-27 10:42:43January 2023 Devotional: Flourishing During the Peaceful Seasons of Life
“But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds it full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
I have three best friends with whom I text almost daily or chat with every couple of weeks. One of the things that I find with my best friends is that I text them about life. It could be when I am having a good day, not-so-great day, downward spiral of thoughts kind of day. What I appreciate about my friends is that each one will respond. The responses I receive are anything from encouragement, accountability, Scriptures, and sometimes memes that make me laugh.
I recently texted my friends about a not-so-good day I was having. Things were stressful and I didn’t have a clear mindset that could help improve my situation. My friend texted a picture of her devotional book and there was the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”
“I sense more deeply the power of Christ living in me” part of the Scripture hit me to the core. It made me pause and think, what if I lived this verse out each day, conscientiously, in my life? Would there be a difference in how I operate and interact with others?
In the grinding season of December, we find ourselves in various beautiful geographic locations throughout the Western United States. Yet, we find ourselves in one season at the same time—Christmas. The time where we are grabbing a Starbucks, Dutch Bro’s, or a favorite drink from our local coffee shop not just one time a day, but maybe two times. It is the season where we “need” the extra to help us through the daily grind of serving others and forsaking ourselves. We all understand this. Yet, during the grinding season of Christmas, there is something important for each of us to strive.
It is a time where we want to strive for grace. Grace in the grinding season. Grace for ourselves. Grace for those we love. Grace for those we serve. When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me and loving me throughout each moment of the day. Christ is loving me through His promises of walking with me and speaking to me. When I recognize the grace of Christ in me, I am more apt to show grace to those I love.
When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I love my family better. When I take a moment to pause and breath in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace in tiring moments. I take a moment to pause and breathe in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace when the schedule is crammed and another thing comes up that might make me explode with words on a loved on.
When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I serve others without forsaking myself and my spirit. We have all been called to serve God and serve others in love. Yet, I cannot serve others when I forsake my spirit. My spirit, your spirit, cannot be what is getting grinded in the busy season of Christmas, or any season for that matter.
I feel more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I accept the grace, He has for me. It is more than the grace of salvation that Christ has for each one of us. It is the grace of love, of peace, of healthy thoughts, and physical well-being.
To help myself flourish in the grinding season of Christmas, my promise to Christ and myself, is this: I will pause in the morning to ask for help in accepting the grace Christ has offered me. I will ask for help in showing grace to myself and others. I will pause as often as possible to ask for grace in situations that arise and are difficult to handle. I will pause to give thanks for the ability to walk in the power of his grace and therefore, continually strengthen my spirit.
I have designed a small breath prayer that may be helpful to you if you find yourself in need of grace.
Dear God, I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over my life. I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over all situations I encounter today. I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power available to me. I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power in the life of my family. I breathe in your grace because it is more than enough for me and I exhale your mighty power because your grace is perfect for me, for others, and for all situations. Amen.
Sisters, may you know the deep and mighty power of the grace of Christ in your life during this grinding season. May you experience the grace that Christ has for you. May you know you are loved graciously and lavishly by Christ, Himself.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/dec-devo-scaled.jpg17072560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2022-10-31 15:10:542022-10-31 15:10:58December 2022 Devotional: Grace in the Grinding Season
By Capt. Tanya Pemberton Administrator of Program at Santa Monica, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center
Working in The Salvation Army can have our wheels spinning, especially with this constant cycle of change and transition happening in our centers, corps, and lives. The truth is, I know I am called to be an Officer; and at this time, I am in the ARC; what a beautiful and fantastic ministry! However, God has taken me down some very overwhelming and uncomfortable paths over the past few years. Paths that I could not figure out on my own.
Things got so bad that I was told I could be put on OED (officer experiencing difficulty). That scared me, and I had to figure out how to go on. I was so depressed and wanted out. I planned out leaving officership. I was extremely frustrated and angry. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I couldn’t stop being so angry at the situation.
It was at this time I remember making a promise to God that I would never leave the ministry angry. This meant that I had to figure it out but didn’t know where to start. That’s when God whispered to my heart: “Go back to the basics” I had to remember that God wired me with gifts that I do exceptionally well. He also stretches me in areas to remind me that I am entirely dependent on Him, which must have been what He was doing.
So back to the basics, what is that? When I think of getting back to the basics, I immediately think of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary at their home in Bethany. Luke 10:38-42 talks about this visit. It says:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I know that no matter how hard I try to embark on my own strength, it all comes back to relying on God. I can never do it on my own, and I’m alright with that because things manage to work out better when I turn to Jesus for help: when I posture myself at His feet throughout my day, and that is just what I did.
First, I went to His feet, the feet of Jesus, in my mind. I sat there picturing Him, and me at His feet. It is there that I found a quiet place in my heart. Then I went back to the basics, back to truth, back to the foundation of sound teaching we have in Jesus Christ. Mark 12:30-31 says this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
This started my journey to where I am now; flourishing in the season I am in – contentment! Focusing on God and the beautiful souls that God entrusted to The Salvation Army under my care, I let the rest go. It didn’t seem to matter as much as time passed.
Now I am not facing OED, quite the opposite. I am flourishing in my appointment and so are the people around me. Are there things I wish I could change? Definitely, but that no longer defines me, or my day. I can focus on the things that matter, God, others, and my family. And those things that matter to me the most are loving others just as Christ has instructed in his greatest commandment.
My hope and my prayer is that this devotional touched your heart today and it allowed you to understand that while you’re going through the storms of life, Christ is there, go back to the basics, and depend on him in all that you do and say, and he will guide your footsteps.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Nov-Story-scaled.jpg25312560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2022-10-20 09:31:002022-10-20 09:32:09November 2022 Devotional: Contentment at the Feet of Jesus
By Captain Jessica Stevens Family Care Director – College For Officer Training
It’s back-to-school season, and like many moms and caregivers, I feel like my life is being overrun by to-do lists. With two kids in two different schools, a dog, and two cats my days are filled with mundane and ordinary moments. School supply lists, first day of school outfits, extracurricular activity registration, and annual medical and dental appointments all fall (mom pun intended) into the month of September. These are the days, and this is the SEASON OF THE VERY ORDINARY.
Now, as a kid, I dreamt of being an adult. I pictured being a Grown Up Lady that stayed up as late as I wanted, wore fancy shoes, and, delight of delights: ate at the restaurant of my choosing for dinner. Actual adulthood looks very different than my childhood imaginings. Sometimes I feel a little like Bill Murphy in Groundhog Day: every day looks very similar to the one before.
Alarm: 6 am
Take dog out, pour cup of coffee, complete Wordle
Devotions/breakfast prep/make school lunches
Morning routine/put in a load of laundry/remind kids to wear deodorant
Pack backpacks, computer bags, purse, lunches, water bottles, to go coffee into the van
8:00 am depart
Work, make dinner, do dishes, coral kids for chores, check homework
Sweep floors, listen to 67 stories about Roblux, remind kids to shower, argue about reading, take out the dog
Start bedtime routine, program coffeemaker, fold laundry, read to kiddos
Repeat ad nauseum.
I know I’m not alone in this. Friends and sisters and aunties share similar stories of fatigue and emotional labor. Meme after meme tells the story of frazzled women hanging on by their threadbare leggings. As a girl, I read Bible stories about David fighting Goliath, Esther saving her people, Paul preaching to the crowds, and Miriam singing songs of freedom. I dreamt of lofty things, and now I’m folding socks and jeans.
A few years ago I realized I was sorting my prayer concerns the way I sort laundry. I had a mental basket of “big” things I was consistently bringing to the feet of Jesus: school issues, family rifts, medical diagnoses, etc. But smaller, more ordinary concerns were being left out. While in my head I knew that God in His goodness cared about all my cares; in practice, I was filtering my prayers. I was weeding out the ordinary concerns of my life: math homework, sibling disagreements, my own weaknesses and fatigue.
But Scripture is full of the ordinary. Of course, as a child, I loved the adventure stories. Deborah, Esther, Ruth – what girl wouldn’t love these tails? These biblical heroines provide examples of strength, courage, faith and grit and are dear to me still. But in this Very Ordinary season, I see the Spirit just as much in other, less glamorous verses.
The oft-quoted Romans 12:1, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message reminds us “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” In this season, 90% of my life is sleeping, eating, going to work/school, and walking around; of course the God of my heart is present in these moments and in this season.
From Genesis to Revelation, from ancient times to today, if we look closely we can see a God who cares deeply for us and our small, human concerns. The God Who Came Near shows us this in Scripture: look close – you’ll see it, too. Don’t believe me? Read Leviticus. God cared so deeply for his people Israel he was very specific about their safety, worship, planting, livestock, meals and so much more.
We have only to spend a little time in the Gospels to see this in the character of Jesus himself: his stories are full of human concerns, lost coins, lost children, seeds and shallow soil. We frequently see him eating communal meals and going to people’s homes. Do we think he lived a human life and didn’t have human concerns or ordinary days?
We don’t sort have to sort our prayer concerns like laundry. If it’s on our minds or hearts, silly or serious, we can bring it to the Gentle Father. We can look through the whole of Scripture and see the love of our God in the ordinary and in the adventure. We can be like Deborah; speaking frank truth. We can be like Esther, listening to the Spirit and knocking on doors that aren’t open to us. We can be like Ruth, providing for our families and loving loyally. And in every single moment, we can lay our ordinary, sleeping, walking, going to work lives before the feet of Jesus.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/sarah-brown-oa7pqZmmhuA-unsplash-scaled.jpg17072560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2022-08-30 09:38:212022-08-30 09:38:25October 2022 Devotional: The Ordinary Season
By Major Ronalee Fenrich Honolulu, HI Adult Rehabilitation Center
Everyone has favorite foods, and I am no exception. I love avocados! But I had really only been exposed to one type of avocado my entire life. Spending nearly all of my 52 years on the West Coast, I was familiar with the Haas avocado. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered the fact there may be other types of avocados to choose from!
Two years ago, I moved to Hawaii. That has been an adventure in and of itself! I am surrounded by plant and animal life I had never been exposed to before, and it has been quite the project to learn all about these beautiful creations so new to me. One of the things I have had to learn more about – Avocados!
There is a large and very old avocado tree in my backyard. However, the avocados growing on it are very different that what I am used to. This tree grows Dominican avocados, most commonly found in Florida. Unlike Haas avocados, when Dominicans are fully ripe, they do not fit nicely in the palm of your hand. They grow so large they take tow hands to hold. They are HUGE, and it takes skill to harvest them off the tree, because one wrong move means you will get whacked in the head with a heavy piece of fruit! When Haas avocados are too soft to the touch, that is a sign they are rotting. However, Dominican avocados need to be soft to the touch. If you try to cut one open before that point, all you find inside is rock hard fruit that can’t be used.
It may seem strange I would invest so much time in trying to understand more about avocados, but when I realized what was growing on the tree was different than what I was accustomed to, I had to start doing some learning!
I think it is human nature to gravitate toward what is familiar, and what we already know to be true. There is often comfort in “knowing what we know.” The downside to that, however, is when we are too comfortable in our knowledge, we are often unwilling to consider there may be more information we need to take into account. This is especially true when we are learning God’s Word and working to apply it to our lives.
When I was in college, I moved to the city of Seattle. I was a Salvation Army Officer’s kid who had moved around a lot, but never in my life had I lived somewhere so big! The Corps I attended was at least four times larger than the last one I had attended before leaving home, and the congregation was so diverse! It was all an enormous adjustment. For the first time in my life, I was being exposed to various viewpoints and opinions I had never heard before. I remember being in some sort of friendly debate with other young adults in the Corps about a Biblical concept. Someone in the group said something to the effect of, “I was taught to believe this way.” Another said something about the importance of Church traditions. I eventually said something like, “I was always told to do it like this.” One of the Corps Officers who had been standing by listening to us, popped his head into the group, smiled, and said, “But what does the Bible say about it?”
That was a wakeup call for me! After some reflection, I realized I had been basing my entire belief system on what I had always heard and was guilty of not really studying the Bible for myself. Perhaps what I had always believed to be true was correct, but how would I truly know until I compared it against God’s Word?
Recently, I was looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. It is one of the most basic and easy to understand sermons Jesus ever taught. It is a sermon I had heard and read so many times, I admittedly had started just “speed reading” through it rather than taking the time to reflect on each word.
This time when I read, I tried to really focus on what Jesus was saying, and you know what? There were some important things I had been missing!
First of all, I was reminded Jesus was talking to a large group of mostly Jewish people who had grown up hearing the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. He knew they had most likely been basing their beliefs on what they had always been taught about the law, rather than learning the law itself. Jesus made sure they understood the purpose of His teaching about the law, when in Matthew 5:17 He says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” He then went on to challenge their understanding of what God taught through Moses.
As Jesus preached, he would begin by saying, “You have heard.” You can see this beginning in Matthew 5:21. Basically, Jesus was saying, “You may think you understand what the law is about, but there is so much more you need to know!” He would then immediately follow the statement, “You have heard” with “But I say.” He pointed His listeners to God’s true intent of the law, and covered areas of life such as anger, family life and marriage, making promises, revenge, and how to deal with our enemies.
Matthew Chapter 5 ends with words from Jesus about how to apply God’s law in our interaction with those we see as our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike.”
In today’s deeply troubled world, we are almost encouraged to be divided and live-in opposition with one another. But that isn’t what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us a better way, and that is to reflect His pure love in the way we interact with our enemies. This can’t be a phony or half-hearted kindness. Jesus says we are to pray for them, and sincerely ask God to work in their lives. We are to show true and intentional love toward them. This is they way God requires us to live.
Jesus taught it wasn’t enough to show up in Church regularly so we can know ABOUT God’s Word. Jesus taught it was vital we know God’s Word so intimately that we LIVE it! The only way to make that a reality is to be active students of His Word, asking God to help it take root in our heart so it will change the way we live.
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Romans 10:2
Let’s all vow to become committed students of God’s Word, and let it plant deep in our hearts!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Sept-Devotion-scaled.jpg25601711Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2022-08-17 08:22:002022-08-18 12:52:29September 2022 Devotional: Making Head Knowledge into HEART Knowledge
By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director Territorial Social Justice Department
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)
When I read this verse recently, it struck me in a new way. If you read the context, it defines “the least ofthese” as those who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. I’ve often imagined that “the least of these” would be easy to identify – like those who live on the streets that we see almost every time we take a walk of drive our cars through the city – but unfortunately this is not always the case, and we actually need to have our eyes and ears wide open to see those who are hurting all around us. Sadly, the traffickers in our communities have figured this out too and are experts at doing just that – their eyes and ears are wide open! These perpetrators, both men and women, seem to be able to spot the potential victims, the vulnerable, those who feel “unseen”, and deliberately move in on their prey to show them that they can be cared for, given a place to stay, even showered with gifts – which results in them being lured into trafficking situations where they are exploited, sold, treated as objects and often hurt or even killed – all whilst tricking these young women, men and children into believing that they are being taken care of, and no one will ever “see them” and “treat them” as well as their pimp or trafficker.
Jesus was the perfect example to each of us of how we can interact with others in society to ensure that they know they are seen, not only by us, but by our heavenly Father who looks past our circumstances, the people we associate with, and the decisions we have made, in order to love us and save us from a world of hurt. Jesus saw the criminal hanging beside him at Calvary and said the words “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well as He went against all cultural expectations and moved beyond hostility toward restoration, putting his own “religious cleanliness” into question as He shared a cup with, not only a woman but a woman, who was clearly an outsider in her own community (John 4:1-26). Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he saw those suffering from mental illness, disabilities, and sickness (Luke 5:18-26), the list goes on and on. He was willing to surrender his privilege to cross cultural boundaries and draw these people into relationships, and He still does this for each of us today. Just like Jesus, we need to have our eyes opened to see those in need so that we too, can cross boundaries and build relationships!
Traffickers work tirelessly to see the vulnerable in society, to be the first people to greet the young girls and boys leaving foster care, to reach out to those who have run away from toxic home situations and need a place to stay, and to spend time with kids when they leave school for the day and have nowhere else to go. It is our responsibility to let those same kids know that we see them and more importantly, that God sees them too!
Prayer: Lord, please give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us who need you – help us be brave as we look into the darkness to share your light. Show us how to help and give us courage to speak up. Protect these men, women, girls and boys from predators who offer promises of a better life but are actively planning their destruction. Use us to seek out and fight for the least of these.