Pasture Time

by Terri Gillespie

Commit whatever you do to ADONAI [the LORD], and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3 TLV

This verse used to confuse me, which eventually morphed into frustration. Why? Because not everything I dedicated to the Lord succeeded. My family members’ salvations, the jobs I had hoped for, friends and families’ health, the books published (or unpublished), speaking engagements…and the list goes on.

Interestingly enough, to commit means to carry out a plan or pledge or bind ourselves to a certain policy. To dedicate what we’re doing to the Lord is more like investing our time and effort to His cause or plan.

You know what that sounds more like? Relationship.

The greatest architect in the world is only as good as his listening ability. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the building is, if the building doesn’t function in the way that the client needs and requests, the project is a failure. Because ultimately, the architect doesn’t own the building, it belongs to the client.

King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). When David felt a passionate urge to build a “real” dwelling place for Adonai, he sought out the prophet Nathan for advice and guidance (2 Samuel 7:1-3). Notice that the David who had spent his boyhood alone on the hills worshipping and praising God, gaining great wisdom and insights, didn’t even go to the Lord himself. Where was that special bond and relationship David had?

David may not have spoken to the Lord, but the Lord sure spoke to Nathan that night:

But it came to pass the same night that the word of ADONAI came to Nathan saying: “Go, tell My servant David: Thus says ADONAI: Are you to build Me a house for Me to dwell in? Since the day that I brought up the children of Israel from Egypt to this day I have not dwelt in a house, but have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. In all My journeying among all the children of Israel, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’” (2 Samuel 7:4-7, TLV).

Okay, then. Adonai scolds David for presuming he knew what the Lord of Hosts wanted. Adonai reminds David that He was the one who raised David up to be king—from a pasture of sheep.

But then, our Heavenly Father has compassion on David’s well-meaning intent, and gives the ultimate prophecy that He would make David’s name great, because from his lineage would come the Messiah, Jesus (2 Samuel 7:8-11).

What?! David would not be remembered for building a temple that would eventually be destroyed three times, but for his offspring, the Son of David, Yeshua—His Body, His Temple, that atoned for our sins and then rose from the dead in three days—could never be destroyed!

What is David’s response? He goes straight to Adonai in worship, praise, and gratitude (2 Samuel 7:18-29). He went back into relationship with the Lord. He went back to the “pasture.”

Perhaps, this is our reminder that those well-meaning plans we “commit” or “dedicate” that don’t work out may need some serious relationship time. While seeking wise human counsel is a good thing, it isn’t a substitute for seeking God’s direction.

Let’s go back to our “pasture” and listen. GOD may have an even better plan.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry

Sweet Rivalry, the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again?

Join the conversation: How do you work at staying connected with God?

How to Live Happy When Life Isn’t

A.C. Williams

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:11 NLT

How happy is your life? Do you jump up every morning and dash excitedly from task to task because you have confidence that everything you try will work?

Yeah? Me neither.

Most days it takes a heaping helping of faith for me to crawl out of bed to face my to-do list. Life is hard. It’s a constant struggle of trying to make ends meet, supporting people who need me, giving generously (and cheerfully), and fulfilling my God-calling.

Honestly? I just want a nap.

But I also know that rejoice is a verb. Sure, it’s a noun too, but most of the times I find it in Scripture, the Lord is talking about rejoicing as an action we’re supposed to take. That means it’s a choice. It’s something we can do or not, and it’s up to us.

So how does that work? How can you rejoice when you don’t feel like it? How can you choose joy when life keeps giving you reasons to be sad? How can you be happy when life isn’t happy at all?

This is what the Lord is teaching me.

Do what you can. (Proverbs 16:3)

We all have impossible problems, but even if you can’t fix it, you can do something. Do what you can. Fix what you can fix, and give the rest to God. Trust Him with what you can’t do.

Don’t give up. (2 Timothy 2:3)

God never promised that following Him would be easy. Quite the opposite actually (John 16:33). We’re going to face challenges. Jesus says so repeatedly throughout Scripture. But we know God has His own timetable, and He’s never late (2 Peter 3:8-9). So don’t give up on what He’s doing in your heart, in your life, and in your world. He’s got a plan. Give Him the chance to keep His promise to you.

Feel what you feel. (Psalm 34:18)

Surprise! God gave us emotions. You have permission to feel sad or hurt or discouraged when life is wrong. Experiencing negative emotion doesn’t make you a failure as a Christ-follower. It makes you human. David expressed his feelings to God honestly in the Psalms, and we should too. Feel what you feel, but choose your actions based on truth (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Look for the good. (Romans 12:12)

You can acknowledge that life is hard without embracing a negative life perspective (Job 13:15). Spend time with God and let Him transform how you see your life. When you trust that God can truly do anything, your challenges suddenly become opportunities He can use.

Take one step at a time. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Choosing to believe in Jesus saves you immediately (Romans 10:13), but you still have your sin nature to contend with (Romans 7:15-17). You aren’t going to get it right every day. No one does. But God remembers that we aren’t perfect (Psalm 103:14), and He offers us grace for the journey of life.

Remember where home is. (Philippians 3:20)

Heaven is our home, but for now, we are in this world as God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) with a message of reconciliation for those around us. We have a purpose here. And no matter how difficult life is, we can always remember that this life isn’t our full destiny (Hebrews 13:14-15).

God didn’t promise us a happy life, but He did promise us a good future. We can rejoice in that, because He always keeps His promises. So choose to be happy, even when life isn’t.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA)

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About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. An AWSA Golden Scrolls finalist and an editor at Uncommon Universes Press, she believes that God works miracles through stories. Learn more about her coaching services at www.amycwilliams.com and subscribe to her daily devotional emails at www.alwayspeachy.com.

Join the conversation. What helps you get through the times when rejoicing is a challenge?

Clean Jars

 by Deborah McCormick Maxey

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23 NKJV

I love new beginnings: a new store, class, book, craft, or skill. I still get a new notebook every fall and organize it with colorful dividers. And don’t expect me to downsize my big stack of blank journals, because they all have the potential for a new beginning.

But I had to learn to face beginnings I didn’t like. The summer I turned eight, my grandmother had exactly that lesson in mind. Involving my nemesis…. spiders.

When I “sassed,” her about a chore, she was ready. I followed her outside as she opened the door to a crawl space and pulled out a galvanized tub filled with old canning jars. Without tops, they were filthy with, dirt, bug parts and…dead spiders.

As I helped her move the tub to the sidewalk, keeping my arms stiff to create as much distance as possible, she gave me my instructions. “You are going to get these jars to sparkle. And I’m going to be listening for the most important part, you’ve going to pray out loud the whole time you’re doing it. Talk to God. Find ways to thank him.” Looking up she saw my scowl. “You can ask Him for strength or courage or whatever you need. But talk to Him. And Deborah…you’re not coming back inside until it’s done.”

We unloaded the jars on the sidewalk and carried the hose, hot water, and detergent to the tub. She left me sitting on the sidewalk pouting, believing she was torturing me just to get her jars clean. Glancing at the spider parts gave me major heebie jeebies. Granny poked her head out of the back door to make sure I was praying out loud, so to elicit sympathy and reconsideration I prayed for help. (Okay, there may have been some drama involved. Just saying.)

I was stubborn, but so was Granny. I knew I was going to have to clean those jars. So, I offered a sincere prayer for help. The next thing I knew I realized I could take the hose and squirt out the jars before I loaded them into the soapy water. I’d never touch the bugs!

That started prayers of true thanksgiving. I thanked him for the bubbles and soapy water, the way I could splash and make a mess, the warm sunshine, the shiny clean jars that could hold His beautiful flowers or the delicious fruit He gave us to make jelly. Happily, I talked to God in a continuous stream.

When I called Granny outside to see my finished chore, she asked me what I learned.

“Well…not to sass you back.”

“And?”

“Even with an icky job once I got going and saw I could do it, it turned out to be fun.”

“And?”

I was stumped. But as I started to speak, I started to understand. “Oh…I never felt alone. When I stopped complaining and started thanking Him, it felt like He was right there with me, like a friend. And He was having fun too.”

“Yes. Now load them back in the tub and we’ll put them back where they came from.” The depth of her teaching started to dawn on me. She didn’t need the jars. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV).

Just like the water hose idea came after prayer, He would always show me where to begin. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Granny was big on memorizing verses and this is the one she gave me afterwards: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. Her lessons have lasted a lifetime.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s first novel, The Endling, will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media early spring 2021. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: Did you have a relative that was a good influence on you in your developmental years?