Running the Race

Running the Race

 

Have you ever had one of those moments where God speaks a word to you and it becomes an epiphany to you that changes your entire outlook? I had one of those moments. Of all things, it happened two minutes before I was to speak at my brother’s memorial service. It was such a powerful insight and has brought much comfort and a sense of peace to us as we mourn Matt’s passing.

 

I was reminded of how my brother was a runner. He ran cross country in high school as well as a few marathons. I remembered the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4. He had run his race and finished his course. Suddenly, a flash of insight hit me! My brother, who was the runner in the family, was also the first one of our immediate family to finish his earthly race! How fitting that was! Yes, we would still miss him immensely, but what a comfort this realization gave us!

 

As I shared this awesome insight, I carefully watched the expressions on everyone’s faces. It was absolutely beautiful to see the transformation on their mournful faces as they “got it.”

 

I have had an immense sense of peace since that epiphany. Whereas, prior to that moment, I would sob nearly every day, I no longer do that. Yes, I still cry, but not the heart-wrenching sobs of a heart that is breaking. Deep within my spirit, I know Matt is EXACTLY where Matt is supposed to be. That has helped me tremendously.

 

As we are trying to move forward, there are several questions that keep resonating through my head:

 

What kind of race am I running?

 

How do I want to be remembered when my earthly race is over?

 

What kind of changes do I need to make to get my priorities in better order?

One thing that was an immediate change is that when I visit my parents, I no longer leave without giving hugs and saying, “I love you.” That has become incredibly important to me. It is also important to me to check in on them even more than I did previously, for losing a child is something none of us can fully understand unless we’ve gone through that experience ourselves.

 

I’m also giving a lot more hugs to extended family members and friends. The power of touch is huge, and the touch of a hug can help to heal broken hearts.

While I frequently speak of my job and often say, “I love my job,” I don’t want that to be the first thing said of me. Rather, I want to be remembered for loving my God first and foremost, then for loving my family and friends.

 

What kind of race are you running? Do you need to make changes?

© 2014, Stacy R. Miller

 

 

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Cyanide

Cyanide

If I were to place before you a glass of ice water and told you that I tainted it with one tiny drop of cyanide, would you drink it?  Since that tiny drop of cyanide has polluted the whole vessel, you would be foolish to drink it.  Yet, I see many people in the church today who are drinking cyanide in a spiritual sense.  Just as cyanide is colorless and you cannot tell it is there, Christians today are drinking it, completely unaware of its deadly effects.

We are called to a life of holiness, which means that we are to be spiritually pure.  To be pure is to be free from that which adulterates, makes impure, or taints.  It only takes a trace of contamination to taint something.

God does not want us to be impure, but to live holy and godly lives. (I Thessalonians 4:7-8) In Ephesians 5:3-4, it tells us that there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among us.  Nor should we be partaking in any obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking.  These kinds of things are improper for God’s holy people.

To live out these scriptures, we must bring God’s standards into every aspect of our lives:

  • What we read – Is there a hint of immorality in it?
  • What music we listen to – Is there a hint of impurity in the lyrics?
  • What we watch – Is there a hint of sexual impurity? What about foolish talk?
  • Where we surf on the web – Is there immorality or coarse joking there?
  • Where we go – Is there any immorality or foolish talk taking place?
  • Where we go in our thoughts – Is it immoral or indecent?
  • What we wear – Is it immoral, drawing attention to our body, rather than God’s Spirit in us?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, you have opened yourself up to spiritual cyanide because we are not to let even a hint of immorality or impurity enter our lives. (I Thessalonians 4:7-8)

God’s Word makes it clear that participating in such activities is sinful and improper for Christians.  The result of being tainted with spiritual cyanide is that we end up living impure lives.  The cost of opening ourselves up to that poison is that we will lose sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, giving ourselves to sensuality, indulging in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.

Since the Word tells us that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), we must be very careful not to allow any spiritual cyanide into our lives.

(I will be continuing along this topic for the next few devotions.)

© 2006, Stacy R. Miller

Proverbs 31 e-book

 

Proverbs 31:30-31

Proverbs 31:30-31

AMP: Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain (because it is not lasting), but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates of the city.

CEV: Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, but a woman who honors the Lord deserves to be praised.  Show her respect — praise her in public for what she has done.

MSG: Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.  The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.  Give her everything she deserves!  Festoon her with praises!

We have studied many verses regarding this dear lady, and we find that only one verse is dedicated to talking to the outer beauty of women.  That is one verse out of twenty two verses.  One dear sister gave me a good way to put this into perspective.  There are 24 hours in a day, so we should only be spending one of those hours in concentrated effort to exercise, shower, do our hair, and our make-up.  This gives us a better perspective regarding the status of outward beauty verses the inward beauty.

Our Proverbs 31 lady has learned the value of having that unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.  She knows that her outer beauty will fade.  She knew that she would develop wrinkles, and have added pounds due to bearing many children, not to mention from the transition of going through menopause.  She knew that gray would eventually take over as her primary hair color.  She was wise enough to invest in unfading beauty, rather than the beauty which is fleeting.

This is a woman who is well-balanced.  She has made God her very top priority.  Putting Christ first has enabled her to get all of the other things in life in the right order.  All of the good that is in her is a result of the Christ who dwells in her heart.

© 2004, Stacy R. Miller

Thank you for joining in on this study.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Surrounded by God’s Mercy

Surrounded by God’s Mercy

 

After the initial shock of hearing my brother died of a massive heart attack in March, I knew the Lord had given me a message to share at his memorial service. Having a mission in my pain certainly made those days of such intense grief a bit easier because the message He gave me about his mercy was something I was living out firsthand.

 

You see—my brother died the day before my scheduled weekend off work. After that, I had to get back to work. I didn’t want to use my allowed bereavement days until my parents returned from Arizona (where he lived), and we could plan our memorial service here. (And that didn’t happen for two weeks.)

 

Nearly every morning, I would get up and start getting ready for work. About the time I would be putting on my eye make-up, I would start crying. Eye make-up and tears don’t work well together! I remember crying out every morning, “Lord, I need Your strength and Your mercy. I cannot do this on my own.”

 

I work the switchboard at a local hospital. It is very busy since I answer every call that comes to the switchboard from inside the hospital, outside the hospital, as well as those for the after-hours answering service for over one hundred doctors. It requires a lot of focus, multi-tasking, and people skills. Yet, every day, in spite of the excruciating ache in my heart, I was able to come to work, put on my happy face, and do my job. Granted, I would sob all the way home, but at least I was able to hold myself together while I was on the clock. That was nothing but God’s mercy carrying me. Through this, I felt the prayers of others like never before.

 

After a grueling day at work, having been on the phone all day, I would come home and have to spend the evening on the phone, updating people on what was going on. Not only were we dealing with my brother’s death, but his wife was admitted to the hospital that night. The day after she got out, my mother was in the ER for dehydration. There were several times when I wondered, “Are they going to die too?” I cannot begin to fully exemplify how terribly stressful all of this was to our family. As my dad said, “This has been the worst two weeks of my life!” So to say it was a flurry of activity would be an understatement. Yet, the Lord continued to infuse me with strength.

 

I would do what needed to be done, but then I had to allow myself to release the grief and stresses of the day through tears each evening. If I didn’t, I was a basket case the next day. There is such cleansing and emotional release in letting those tears fall. Through this experience, I have learned that even tears are part of God’s mercy to us because of how much better we can feel after a long cry.

Another was I experienced God’s mercy was in the message of mercy He spoke to me. You see – I used to teach Sunday school every Sunday. That isn’t possible now since I work every other weekend. Yet, teaching God’s word is still a passion in my soul. He gave me a clear, concise message on His mercy to share at the memorial service. He knew this would do two things: 1. Give me a mission in my pain, which would be a comfort to me. 2. Allow me to use the spiritual gift He gave me to comfort and encourage others as we all walked through this valley of grief together.

 

As you face your own struggles in this life, I challenge you to look for God’s mercy and see how He demonstrates it to you in new, unexpected places.

© 2014, Stacy R. Miller

 

 

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Divided Loyalties

Divided Loyalties

 

As Christian women, we wear many titles.  In fact, the list can often seem endless.  Child of God, wife, mother, nurse, secretary, inventory manager, answering service, housekeeper, laundry attendant, chauffeur, and so on.  With so many things calling for our attention, we can find it very hard to keep the Lord our top priority, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

 

Psalm 119:113 talks of hating those who have divided loyalties. (NLT) That really struck a chord with me because I could clearly see myself in that verse.  How many times have I given myself over to “doing” for God instead of cultivating my relationship with Him?

 

A wife whose husband is always working is going to feel neglected before too long.  To her, love is more than just “doing” things for the person all the time.  It involves spending time with each other and communicating.

 

How often have I neglected the Lord because I felt my “doing” for Him was the same as loving Him?  When I do that, I have divided loyalties.  I say I love Him, but choose my busy-ness over spending time with Him.  God wants us to seek Him first in all that we do.  I have found that by doing so, not only does my stress level drop immensely, but I am able to stay focused.  Even while going from chore to chore, my mind stays more focused on Him.  As there is a break in one area, I am better able to focus on the next task at hand, rather than get distracted with things which will waste my time and energy.

 

Recently, I took a Sabbatical from an activity I really enjoy so that I could regain my focus.  I was amazed at the difference!  After spending my quiet time with the Lord, I was able to get all of our homeschooling done, finish chores, go swimming with my daughter, work on a class I plan to teach at church, plus write a devotion.  Had I not committed my day to Him and earnestly listened to His leading, my heart would have been given to divided loyalties once again.  While I am only sharing one day’s activities here, I can assure you that since I have really been working to readjust my focus, I have had several days where I have been astounded at all I was able to accomplish.

 

What causes you to have divided loyalties?  What can you do this day to make some changes?

© 2007, Stacy R Miller

God’s Mercy in Our Pain

God’s Mercy in Our Pain

 

Eat, sleep, work, and pay bills….That is a phrase my husband will often recite when it feels like we are doing the same thing over and over. However, there are times when “life happens,” and in that moment, you know your life will never be the same. We had one of those moments on March 14. I was working the switchboard, looking forward to going home and having the weekend off work, when I got the call that changed our lives. My cousin called to tell me my brother had died unexpectedly, just one day before his 53rd birthday.

 

He called because he didn’t want to deliver that kind of news over the phone to my parents. I quickly left work, sobbing all the way home, praying for the Lord to help me. After all, no child should EVER have to deliver that kind of news to their parents. Parents are supposed to die before their children – not the other way around. Having to deliver that news was the worst thing I have ever had to do.

 

My weekend off work became a whirlwind of activity. My brother lived in Arizona, so we had to drop my parents off at the airport the next day so they could be there to help my sister-in-law with the arrangements.

 

Two days after his passing, I dropped my daughter off for youth group. As I left the parking lot, I was playing a CD by Shannon Wexelberg. The song “Faithful God” came on. The Lord immediately began to speak to my aching heart. I want to share what He spoke so tenderly to me in hopes that it will help you when “Life Happens” to you.

 

We will all go through different, heart-wrenching trials during our journey on earth. Whether it is the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one, the herculean burden of finding yourself without a job, the formidable news that you or a loved one has a debilitating illness, or even the shock of receiving divorce papers, God’s mercy is there for you. His mercy is new EVERY morning. This means that the mercy He gave you yesterday won’t be the same today. It will be different, but it will also be new. And it will be just what you need.

 

To those of you who are dealing with the painful reality of losing a child, I will tell you the same words the Lord had me speak to my parents at my brother’s memorial service. His mercy will be there each and every day. That compassionate mercy will greet you as you face all of the “firsts” – the first Mother’s Day, the first Father’s Day, the first birthday, the first Thanksgiving, and even the first Christmas. He lovingly cares for you, and He will not let you walk the valley of grief by yourself. Reach out, take His hand, and let Him extend His mercy to carry you through.

 

© 2014, Stacy R. Miller

 

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