Running on Empty

Once I was stranded in the parking lot of a grocery store because my car wouldn’t start.  I tried everything, and was really starting to feel helpless when a kind man came to lend a hand.  It didn’t take long for him to diagnose the problem.  “Lady, I think your car is out of gas.”  Oh.  I never wanted to repeat that embarrassing situation, so I knew I had two options to keep from ever running out of gas:  never go anywhere or keep an eye on the gauge.

Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t go anymore?  You didn’t blow a tire.  You didn’t blow an engine.  No one ran into you.  You just flat ran out of gas.  How did that happen?  You neglected to keep an eye on your gauge.  You’d probably been running on fumes for a while.

When your car runs out of gas, you are forced to stop.  No matter how many things are left on your to-do list, or how many errands you have left to run, you’re stuck.  Not only that, you’ll probably have to rely on someone else to come rescue you by bringing a can of gas to get you going again.  You may not have reached the point yet where you’ve run out of gas, but are you dangerously close?  Are you running on fumes?  Has the joy left your days because you lack the energy to keep up with everything?  What can you do to keep from running out of gas?

BEWARE OF THE DISTRACTIONS.  There are several detours we often take that make us spend more time running around than we had planned.  Let’s look at two of the biggies.

Worry is a costly distraction.  If I gave you a sheet of paper and asked you to list ten things that you are worried about, could you do it?  I could!  Worry expends energy and depletes our resources.  It steals the zest that we need for real Godly living.  We know this, just as surely as we know that cars need gas to run, but sometimes we forget to check on our worry gauge.  Jesus gives a powerful reminder in Matthew 6.  He tells us not to worry about life (v. 25).  He tells us that worry accomplishes nothing (v. 27).  And He tells us that He’s got tomorrow taken care of (v. 34).  Paul wrote to Christians who had some things to worry about.  They were facing persecution, dealing with false teachers, and experiencing strife in their home congregation.  Paul advised them to worry about nothing and pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).  The result would be the peace of God guarding their hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).  Isn’t peace the opposite of worry?

Being overwhelmed is another distraction.  How do you feel when your schedule is packed, and has been for a while?  Grouchy?  Tearful?  A little less enthusiastic?  Resentful?  Regretful?  Fragile?  It’s easy to get caught up in overcommitment. The things you’re busy doing are probably all very good, but can still cause you to feel overwhelmed if you find yourself rushing from one commitment to the next.  How can we keep from overextending?  First, be disciplined to know when enough is enough.  “If you find honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it” (Prov. 25:16).  Although honey is good, it will make you sick if you don’t practice self-control.  We need to have the wisdom and restraint to know when to say, “That’s enough for now.”  Second, don’t lose sight of your goal.  As the saying goes, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  As Christians, our ultimate goal is to go to Heaven and to take others with us.  When faced with something you’re going to have to write on your calendar, ask yourself, “Will this make it easier or harder to reach my goal?”

LET GOD DRIVE.  Sometimes we’re just lousy drivers.  When we direct our own course, we can get lost, or at least way off course.  Notice what happened to the psalmist who tried to do things on his own (Psalm 77).  He got overwhelmed in a hurry!  What was his solution?  Remember God’s greatness.  The difference between being weighed down and running with endurance is looking to Jesus (Heb. 12:1,2).  When we take our eyes off of Him, our attention becomes fixed on other things.  Anything that takes our eyes off the Lord becomes a danger to us.  Instead we must turn to God for direction.  Filling up on His Word will keep us from running on empty.

Prayer for Today:  May I have the desire and strength to “work till Jesus comes,” and the wisdom to know what takes precedence.  

Easiest Sunday Dinner

A friend of mine shared this recipe with me over 10 years ago and it’s been a staple in our house ever since.  Not only is it super simple, it’s absolutely delicious!  It’s perfect for Sundays because it can be thrown in the crock pot that morning and it’s ready by the time you get home from worship.  Plus, it can be easily doubled, and then you’re prepared to invite guests home with you for a special lunch.  Simply add a tossed salad and crusty bread (and a lemon ice box pie) and you’ve got a complete meal in no time!  This is also my go-to menu for taking to someone who needs a meal.

Parmesan Chicken

In crock pot, layer:

3- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, and 1 package of shredded parmesan cheese

Crock pots vary, so determine whether or not to set it on High or Low based on your crock pot.  Mine needs to be set on High in order to be done by the time we get home from worship.

When you get home, shred the tender chicken using two forks.  If you super shred it, your sauce will be thicker.  I like to shred it just until it’s in bite-size pieces because I prefer bigger chunks of chicken and saucier sauce.  Serve over penne pasta.


-Cook chicken with salsa verde, then shred for tacos.

-Cook chicken with red enchilada sauce, then shred for enchiladas.

-Cook chicken with barbecue sauce, then shred for sandwiches.

Prayer for Today:  May we always take advantage of modern conveniences that make it easier for us to be hospitable.

Angry Much?

Aristotle said, “Anyone can be angry.  That is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way– that is not easy.”

Perhaps you’ve recently been the brunt of someone’s road rage or received an icy glare from a fellow shopper when your cart blocked the aisle for five seconds.  It’s shocking how quickly some people get enraged, especially over such insignificant things.  They remind me of the verse in Proverbs, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (25:28).  They’re vulnerable.  There’s no protection against the enemy getting into their hearts.

Christians aren’t immune to unreasonable anger, and there may be days when it seems every tiny thing sets you off.  It could be attributed to a lack of sleep or an extra amount of stress.  Hopefully, however, those days are few and far between.  But what if you find yourself being angry all the time?  Something aggravates you first thing in the morning, and you go to bed that night griping to your spouse.  All of your problems can be attributed to everyone else’s shortcomings.  You’re sick and tired of dealing with people.  Life seems unfair!  Therefore, your anger issues aren’t even your fault.  Or are they?

Think of a specific person you know that leads a joy-filled life.  They exude serenity, kindness, compassion and patience.  They smile.  They have a heartfelt zest for life and their service is sincere.  Is it because life has been fairer to them?  Is it because they have no problems?  Of course not.  Some of the happiest people I know have experienced great and multiple burdens.   So what’s their secret?

You can read about happy people in the Bible.  In Proverbs, there are several verses talking about people with joyful hearts.  It says they have happy faces (15:13) and they feel blessed (15:15).  In fact, their joyful hearts are like good medicine (17:22).  It’s like taking a happy pill!  So those who can smile and feel content aren’t problem-free.  They’ve just chosen to have joyful hearts.  As Duane Garrett wrote, “A happy heart is the key to a full, healthy life.”

If you find yourself struggling with anger these days, there’s an antidote.  Spend time familiarizing yourself again with God’s advice about have to have a good attitude.  The following verses are marked in my Bible as “Right Attitude,” so I can easily look them up anytime I feel the grouch coming on:  Prov. 14:16,17; 15:1, 13, 15; 16:32; 17:22; 19:11; Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 12:9-21; 1 Cor. 10:24; Eph. 4:23,26, 31,32; Phil. 2:14,15; 4:11.

Prayer for Today:  In an angry world, Lord, help me shine the Light by spreading joy to everyone around me.

Haunted by the Past

Have any regrets?  While most of us have things in our past we wish we could go back and change, some have things in their past they can’t seem to, well, get past.  You may have studied the Bible with someone who briefly looked hopeful as they contemplated salvation, but then their shoulders slumped as they whispered, “But you have no idea what I’ve done.”  They are so ashamed of their past that they are burdened with feelings of guilt and unworthiness.  How can we help them understand that none of us are good enough, but the blood of Christ is powerful enough to wash away every transgression?

One of my favorite Bible-marking topics is about this very thing.  There are several verses that can help anyone who struggles with the idea that it’s too late because they’ve messed up too much.  In my Bible, I have this topic marked as “Sinful Past,” and aside from the Plan of Salvation, I’ve used this one the most.  Here are the verses:


Luke 7:36-50– This is the account of the woman who was a sinner entering the Pharisee’s house and anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and fragrant oil.  This woman had an unsavory reputation in her town.  She’d been shunned by others, but her obvious regret and repentance led her to Jesus.  In my Bible, I underlined “a sinner” in verse 37, “your sins are forgiven” in verse 48, and “Go in peace” in verse 50.  Jesus commended her faith.  He assured her of salvation. He knew she would struggle with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, so He comforted her by offering her the peace that only He can give.

Acts 2:36-38– (If you’re Bible-marking, then write this Scripture reference at the end of the last one so you’ll know to turn to it next)- In this passage, Peter preaches to a large group of people and convicts them of their guilt.  What did they do?  In verse 36, I underlined, “Jesus, whom YOU crucified.”  They were guilty of putting the Son of God on the cross!  That’s a pretty major burden to bear, and aren’t we all guilty of that?  When asked what they could do about it, they were not told, “Nothing!  It’s too late!”  An answer was given, and with it, a solution.  Repentance and baptism remove sins.  In addition, anyone who does those very things will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  That gift is not offered only to those who are special or worthy.  In my Bible, I circled “remission of sins” and “gift of the Holy Spirit” in verse 38.

Gal. 5:19-25– The first half of this passage lists “works of the flesh” (vs. 19) and concludes with “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21).  I underlined both of those.  When people are struggling with feelings of unworthiness, they are stuck here.  They think nothing can possibly be done in order for them to go to Heaven. The second half of the passage, though, talks about the fruit of the Spirit, a list of things that are in stark contrast to the works of the flesh.  I underlined “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh” (vs. 24).  Adultery, drunkenness, fornication, hatred and many other sins can be put to death for those who are in Christ.  The past can be buried.

Col. 2:11-13– Paul wanted Christians to have that blessed assurance and to have hearts that were encouraged (see earlier in the chapter) so he reminded them that baptism raised them above their former condition.  I underlined “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (vs. 11) and “being dead in your trespasses” (vs. 13).  I circled “raised with Him through faith” (vs. 12) and “made alive together with Him” (vs. 13).  That way the contrasts really jump out on the page.  I put a square around “forgiven you all trespasses,” highlighting the word “all” (vs. 13).  If ALL our sins have been forgiven, how many of them are left to haunt us?

1 Tim. 1:12-15– Paul had a past.  He used to be a “blasphemer, persecutor, and an insolent man.”  He called himself the chief of sinners.  But he obtained mercy and grace.  I underlined the word “formerly” in verse 13, and circled the words “exceedingly” and “abundantly” in verse 14.  Grace, faith, and love are in Christ Jesus, and don’t you love how grace is emphasized?   Grace would’ve been enough.  Abundant grace would’ve been more than enough.  But our Lord offers exceedingly abundant grace so that all can accept the fact that Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

1 Cor. 6:9-11– Twice we’re told in this passage that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Specific acts of unrighteousness are listed:  fornication, adultery, homosexuality, theft, drunkenness, etc.  Anyone guilty of these things will be lost.  Paul goes on to say, “And such WERE some of you” (vs. 11).  Paul was writing to the church at Corinth.  He was addressing Christians, people who had a sinful past.  Their guilt was removed when they were “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” in the name of Christ.  I underlined all three of those words, and circled the word “were” in verse 11.  In the margin, I wrote the words “just as if” to remind myself that “justified” means just as if I’d never sinned.

Prayer for Today:  Help me, Lord, to remember that Satan wants us to hang on to our past so we will feel hopeless.  Thank You for Your love, which prompted You to offer Your Son, and for Your grace, which makes it possible for us to saved by obedience through Him.

Buttered Hot Cocoa

Am I genius or what?  Don’t answer that.  You might ruin my fine moment of patting myself on the back.  I was making hot cocoa for the boys and trying to think of something to add as a foil for the sweetness.  Sea salt?  A cinnamon stick?  I was perusing the pantry and fridge looking for inspiration when I saw the stick of butter.  My mind conjured up images of other delights that I love involving milk and butter–creamy grits, oatmeal, soups.  Oh yes.

The hot cocoa was pretty basic.  I used cocoa, sugar, dash of salt, whole milk and vanilla.  Then I put a pat of butter in each mug before pouring in the hot cocoa.  I have salted and unsalted butter, but chose salted thinking it’d be a lovely contrast to the sugary cocoa.  The pat of butter floated to the top and slowly began to melt.  Truly, it was delicious.  The boys declared it the “best cup of cocoa they’ve ever had.”  Next time I just might try that sprinkle of sea salt on top of the butter.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for the sweet and simple pleasures of life, especially those involving chocolate.

The Sound of Silence

Have you ever gone a whole day without praying?  Just one day?  Perhaps you didn’t feel too badly about it because it was only one day.  Neal has been in Cameroon, Africa.  This is Wednesday morning, and I haven’t heard from him since Monday.  It has seemed like a lifetime.  Neal is always careful to check in a couple of times a day to let me know he’s okay and share what he’s been doing.  I’m not worried because the internet (or power, for that matter) isn’t very reliable in Africa, but it sure has given me a greater appreciation for the importance of communication, particularly when it comes to prayer.

Let’s say that Neal felt too busy to contact me.  I would be angry with him for being thoughtless.  Or let’s say that Neal was just distracted, so he didn’t even think about it.  I would be hurt that I wasn’t a priority, that he didn’t care enough to remember that someone at home loves him, misses him, and waits to hear from him.  I might even wonder if he still cares about me.

There have been days when my prayers never exceeded the bare minimum (expressing thanks before meals, for example).  And there have been days when I’ve been so busy or distracted that I wasn’t sure if I’d prayed at all.  God already knows what I’m doing and how I’m doing, so that’s not the point.  Prayer is an opportunity for us to show God we love Him and to acknowledge His love and care for us.  Prayer demonstrates the fact that God is a priority in our lives because no matter how busy we may be, we will always take the time to talk to the One who loves us most of all.

Prayer for Today:  “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me–a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).


In Cambodia, we noticed they don’t use the words “garbage” or “trash” or “waste.”  They have RUBBISH cans.  We found humor in that and started using the word at every opportunity.  Today I ran across some real rubbish, some things that are most foul.  Out of curiosity, I wondered how many “God is” statements are in the Bible.  God is light.  God is love.  For some brainless reason, I opted to google it.  Here’s what popped up when I typed “God is…”

“God is Imaginary.  50 simple proofs to show that God doesn’t exist.”

“God is not a Christian.”

“God is dead.”

“God is for suckers!”

“God is an astronaut.”

“God is pretend.”

“God is impossible.”

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was completely caught off guard.  I felt a little queasy, then angry, and then I wanted to put my head down and cry.  I know there are people out there who don’t believe in God, who ridicule Christianity.  But to see those statements in print, to feel the vehemence behind some of them, was unsettling, to say the least.  HOW CAN THEY BE SO BLASPHEMOUS?!

And then a couple of things hit me.  First, as much as those offensive statements bothered me, how must God feel?  He offered His own Son for those very people.  Second, those statements must surely be the result of ignorance, or anger and bitterness.  That means we need to do a better job of spreading the Word and demonstrating God’s love.

I didn’t click on any of those links.  I can’t read that kind of stuff.  But I hope the reminder that Satan is active will spur me on to do my part to stand up for our Creator.

Prayer for Today:  Help me live in such a way that the world will see that I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

God’s Golden Moments

August marked the beginning of our Year of Significant Numbers.  In that month, our youngest son, Carl, became a teenager.  Our oldest son, Gary, will turn 18 next month.  In January, our middle son, Dale, turns 16.  In May, Neal and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  And also in May, I will…  I…  Um.  I’ll turn forty.  I remember when my own mother turned forty.  I got married the month before, so as the mother-of-the-bride, my mom seemed, in my eyes, like a woman who had already arrived.  A woman whose job was done.  A woman who was old.  Which makes me wonder, are there 20-year-olds who see ME that way?

I thank God for the years He has given me as a wife and as a mother.  I have to smile (and roll my eyes) when I think back to when I was a newlywed who thought she had all the answers.  But even though I’ve learned a lot since then, I have so much more to learn.  A constant prayer of mine is for wisdom!  And  there are so many things I still want to do.  When Neal and I were first married, we came up with our 5-year plan.  One of my goals was to have written a book in that time.  ha!  I just started it this year.  The past forty years have simply flown by.  What will I do with the next forty?

“Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages; swiftly the hours are turning to years.  How are we using God’s golden moments?  Shall we reap glory?   Shall we reap tears?”

Prayer for Today:  May I live each day as if it were my last, choosing always the eternal over the temporary.  

What Moves You?

Some are moved by beauty.  Some are moved by animals or babies.  I’m moved by music, and always have been.  I remember crying in worship as a child when we’d sing “Old Rugged Cross,” or when I’d hear my dad’s tenor during “My Jesus I Love Thee.”  Neal chuckles a bit when I want him to hold me, and he realizes it’s because there’s pretty music playing somewhere.  If there’s sad music playing during a movie, the boys start looking at me to see if the water works have commenced.    But music doesn’t just turn me sob-sister.  Turning up the radio while doing housework energizes me.  A hand-selected collection of songs on a CD makes me smile.  Listening to a cappella  songs before we leave home Sunday morning prepares my mind for worship.  Music moves me, because I love it.

Jesus was moved by people.  He wept over the heartache of others (John 11:33-35).  He wept over the lost condition of an entire city because He knew what was going to happen to them (Luke 19:41-44).  Although the text doesn’t say He cried, I hear tears in His voice when Jesus laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).  The emotions of our Savior were stirred by souls.  Why is that?  Because He loved them.

Prayer for Today:  In a society where people live side by side but hardly speak to each other, may I remember that PEOPLE are what Christians are all about.  May my emotions be stirred by souls.

Blessings in Christ

New friend, Sheri Harris

Several years ago, Cindy Colley presented a Bible study method called “Soul Survivor’s Guide” to the ladies at PTP.  What I appreciate about it is the fact that it begins with the blessings found in Christ, and that creates a desire for someone to want to be IN Christ.  The study covers about 10 specific blessings mentioned in Scripture that are only for those who are in Christ.  I always point out that it’s by no means an exhaustive list.  Further study would reveal even more blessings!  One of the blessings I cherish the most is meaningful relationships.

Does God understand our need for support and companionship?  Oh yes!  There are over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament.  (I have a list, if you’re interested).  God shows us how to love, respect, and forgive one another.  He encourages us to give preference to one another.  What a contrast to the shallow, self-seeking relationships found in the world!

Churches that place an emphasis on fellowship are loving and united.  Christians that make the effort to take advantage of those opportunities for fellowship are strengthened  by the support found in a unique bond.   We’re tied together by the precious blood of Christ, and that’s a relationship that can’t be found anywhere else.

In addition to the constant joy found by being with your local church family, you can find that same level of closeness with Christians you meet all over the world.  You can run into old friends (like the picture below, taken at PTP), and it doesn’t matter that you’ve been separated by time and distance.  You can quickly make new friends (like the picture above, also taken at PTP), and it feels as if you’ve known each other for years.  You can even travel to foreign countries and fellowship with brothers & sisters in Christ, and it feels as if there’s no language barrier at all.

How can we keep this unique blessing to ourselves?  Those in the world are CRAVING meaningful relationships, which is evident by the number of social networks, dating services, bars and clubs.  Last weekend, Tami Roberts spoke at Bear Valley’s ladies’ retreat.  She talked about the fact that God created in us a natural appreciation for beauty.  She said when we act as we should in the Lord’s church, it’s a very beautiful thing.  If we’re loving, honoring, respecting each other as God commanded, the world will be drawn by that beauty and come knocking at our door!

Prayer for Today:  May I nurture and protect those meaningful relationships found in Christ, and may I look for opportunities to share that blessing with others.

With sweet sisters, Mary Parrish, Rose Crayton, & Cheri Deaver
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