Archives For Devotional Thoughts

The Big Three

Renee Ann Smith —  September 14, 2015 — 10 Comments

I love the start of a new school year and all that comes with it!

A shopping cart filled with notebooks, book covers, and sharpies.

The smell of new books.

Lesson plans and imagining how my class will react to the new movie or book or project I discovered.

The first sight of my students faces when they walk through my classroom door.

The sounds of soccer practice drifting through my windows while I work at my desk.

The picnic tables under our tall trees filled with kids doing homework and shouting good-bye as I walk to my car at the end of the day.

In August, our building is strangely empty and lifeless. I avoid it and mostly prepare for the school year from home.

Then September comes and with it our students.

They pour through the doors, crowd the hallways, mess up our carefully organized classrooms, frustrate us, delight us, teach us. 

Our building hums with drama, laughter, life.

And even as I lament the too-short, flew-by-too-quickly summer, I know that the school year will pass in much the same way. 

And once again our building will be empty . . .

Last week in British literature, I shared with my class an excerpt from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede. In our reading, the king’s counselor describes life this way.

“The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me . . . like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad.

The sparrow . . . is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again.

So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”

He’s saying that to him, life is like a bird taking refuge from a storm.

The bird comes out of nowhere, somehow managing to escape the storm. For a time, he is warm and protected in the shelter. All too soon, he leaves and returns to the dangers of the tempest. 

Under His Wings(Feel free to share this graphic I made for my author friend!)

It’s a great metaphor, and one that touches on the Three Big Questions:

  • Where do we come from?
  • Why are we here?
  • Where are we going?

Finding the answers to those questions is the stuff life is made of. 

But every time I read that metaphor, I think of my students—pouring into our building in the fall, spending a few short months under our tutelage, and flying off again at the end of the year.

Their conditions vary. They may be wounded and disheartened or open and searching or on the verge of blossoming into full bloom. But all find their way to my classroom by the same Hand.

Why are they here? Because God’s purpose for my life is to be used in their lives . . . 

To turn their eyes to the One who made them,

To teach and bind up, 

To lead them in the way everlasting, 

And all to the praise of His Glory.

God has brought you your little flock—whether it be your own children, the women or girls you are mentoring, your co-workers, your Sunday school class, your youth group, your grown up family, or your class—for the same reason. 

After they have spent their appointed span with you and fly away, will they have been blessed by your time together? Will they look more like their Savoir? Will they be closer to His heart? Will they be headed down whatever path God has called them to? 

All that and more is what I pray for my students. May it be so for all those who take shelter with us!

Let’s look for glimpses of glory today. Blessings, friends!

Wings like Eagles (Fee free to share this graphic I made for my author friend!)

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Remind Me Who I Am

Renee Ann Smith —  August 31, 2015 — 12 Comments

Sometimes I forget who I am.

I might be sitting in a meeting, enjoying a meal with family, browsing through a store, and I hear the voice of a stranger speaking and realize . . . that’s me.

Am I sick, over-tired, losing it? Or is this just another season of life when women go temporarily crazy—like the teen years or menopause?

I decided to expose my vulnerability and ask my friends, “Do you ever feel like you’ve forgotten who you are?”

Every woman I asked answered without hesitation, “Of course.”

My 70 year old friend said, “I look in the mirror at the gray hair, wrinkles, age spots and wonder who that woman is. I feel the same as I did 30 years ago . . . or 40 years ago.”

But even my younger friends, ones with little children clinging to their skirts, have felt the disconnect, that odd feeling of being outside themselves, watching themselves tend babies and cook dinners.

Why does that happen? Have we lost touch with reality? 

I think during those moments, we’ve lost touch with the “real world” around us, the things we can touch and see, and are aware of a different world, a deeper world, a world of the spirit—and we get a little lost. 

Eternity C. S. Lewis

Those surreal moments bring home to me that we’re built for eternity, but we inhabit time—and sometimes that’s not a comfortable fit.

But we have an advantage when the One who lived that best, the One who seamlessly brought the worlds together—Jesus, an eternal spirit housed in a finite body—lives in us.

He navigated the worlds with grace and enables us to do the same.

Keeping in close touch with Him is what reminds us who we are—that we’re more than the duties we perform and the labels we give ourselves.

And that we will not reach our full potential until we’re home with Him in glory.

Because, no matter how anyone else sees us or how we see ourselves, who we am to Jesus is who we will be for all eternity. 

Selah! That’s amazing stuff!

Someday I’ll shed this outer shell that contains my soul and receive the body designed to last forever.

(At times I’m really happy that what I see in the mirror will not leave this world with me!)

In that eternal, incorruptible body, I’ll see as I was meant to see, relate to the true world as I was designed to, and fit like a glove into my new surroundings.

What a day that will be!

Remind Me Who I Am

Let’s look for glimpses of glory today. Blessings, friends!

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Live To The Hilt

Renee Ann Smith —  August 10, 2015 — 15 Comments

Sometimes it feels like life has grown complicated.

My daily tasks are simple enough. Once I’ve done some planning, I could walk through my days without thinking or feeling much.

And that’s the problem.

I don’t want to just  go through the motions and mark time from now until Jesus calls me home.

Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

Jim Elliot Wherever you are be all there

But this world is a messy place. Experiencing all the highs & lows, allowing our feelings to be touched by the heartaches & hurts of those around us, can be painful and exhausting.

Many people end up doing whatever it takes to avoid feeling the guilt, loneliness, despair, rejection, fear, and regret that seem to characterize life. Whether it’s drowning their sorrows or closing their hearts off in a safe, little bubble.

It’s tough to be in the world but not of it.

On one hand, God put eternity in our hearts and we long for . . . 

Beauty that will never fade

Love that will never die

Peace and hope and happy

Enough to fill every empty place inside us.

Yet we live in this transitory world, and just like fall turns to winter, people disappoint us, pleasures come and go, kids grow up and move on . . .

Sometimes the good-byes to be said at the end discourage us from even beginning.

We yearn to freeze our best moments and hold them close. We yearn for joys that last. 

Yet we feel them slipping through our fingers.

Fortunately, God has made a way for us to straddle both words.

Because in Jesus, time and eternity meet.

He is 100 percent God, made the world, knew us before we were born, and even appeared in the Old Testament.

Yet He came as a man. He lived in this world as an eternal being limited by a human body. He ate, slept, hungered, wept, laughed, grew weary, felt pain . . . just as we do.

And this God-Man, who knows our frames and guards our hearts, helps us embrace life without fear.

In Him, we find balance, a soothing balm, a buoy to reach for when we’re sinking.

He saturates our days with eternal value as we navigate this world

And afterwards receives us into glory.

Amen.

Heaven Peter Kreeft

Let’s look for glimpses of glory today. Blessings, friends!

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He Is Greater

Renee Ann Smith —  August 3, 2015 — 7 Comments

”Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,
‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.’”

~John 20:24&25~

Because of these words, Thomas will always be remembered as Doubting Thomas

But I think of him more as Pessimistic Thomas. Or maybe Cautious Thomas.

Poor guy, even when his friends offered him hope that Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it.

I don’t blame him for thinking that his friends might be wrong or easily fooled or perhaps even delusional. Think of what had been happening all around him during the last few weeks.

The world as he once knew it had gone crazy. It had become a place where ordinary men—upstanding, law-abiding citizens—had to fear for their lives. Not because of they were swindlers or thieves or murderers or abusers of any kind.

But simply because of what and in whom they believed.

At the center of this maelstrom was his Lord, a man-God who raised the dead, restored the sick, exercised power over wind and wave, and gave meaning and purpose to Thomas’s very existence.

Yet the world looked at Jesus–teacher, healer, shepherd, a man who never hurt anyone–as a threat.

Like today’s world, they “called good, evil and evil, good,”*** hunted God’s Son as a criminal, tortured, and killed him.

Maybe it all seemed like a bad dream from which there was no waking.

And God let it happen.

Thomas had been close enough to Jesus to feel the chill of those evil forces.

What might they have in store for him?

No wonder he was afraid to trust good news. He could barely believe what he had recently seen with his own eyes much less put stock in hearsay from some emotional friends.

The wounds sin inflicted were painful, deep, and deadly. How could there be any recovering from them?

Thomas wanted to touch, to see, to be sure . . . and Jesus answered his request.

“A week later, Jesus’ disciples were in the house again. Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came in and stood among them. He said, ‘May peace be with you!’

Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed.’”

~John 20:26-29~

I don’t look at Jesus’ last comment so much as a rebuke to Thomas but as a promise to us. We might find ourselves looking around at the things going on in the world today and thinking exactly as Thomas did:

How can we survive against the evil forces of this world?

Why does God seem to stand silently by?

Where is Jesus?

And the Lord answers, “Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed.”

Let’s help each other keep believing, and we can be sure that the blessing will come. It might not look the way we expect—but it will come!

Here’s a verse reminder that greatly comforted me this week . . .

Greater is He that is in youPlus a bonus graphic just because . . .

Blessed is she who believes

I’m thankful that God understands our hearts so well and makes sure to show us again & again that we can trust His.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

**“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” ~Isaiah 5:20~

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When We Hurt Beth MooreSometimes when we’re hurting, we wish for a God whose arms we can feel and voice we can hear.

But Martha and Mary’s story reminds me that if Jesus were still on earth, His ability to be physically with each one of us would be severely limited.

Part of the faith journey is learning to live in the world of the spirit,

Where God’s comfort comes to our souls in a miraculous work of grace

That is beyond what I can explain or describe.

During the times when I have hurt the most, God has used His faithful servants and His Word and His peace that passes understanding to show me His heart for me.

Here are some favorite verses to immerse myself in during those times. What are some of your favorites?

From Psalm 34 . . .

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” (vs. 15)

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them. He delivers them from all their troubles.” (vs. 17)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (vs. 18)

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (vs 19)

“The Lord will rescue his servants. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” (vs. 21)

Psalms 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Philippians 4:6&7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I love how those Philippians verses sound in The Message: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Psalm 139:16: “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth. All the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Psalm 139:9&10: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”

Psalm 139 God Knew me at conception

And, of course, I can rarely end a post without sharing some quotes! I appreciate these wise words from a man who has been through dark times himself . . .

“Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days,

When your heart is broken,

When you feel abandoned,

When you’re out of options,

When the pain is great and you turn to God alone.” ~Rick Warren

I’m thankful that God understands our hearts so well and makes sure to show us again & again that we can trust His.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
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When I find myself filled with doubts about what God’s doing

Or not doing

Or whether He even notices me down here on earth struggling to make my life count,

I take comfort from the testimonies of those who have gone before. Their transparency reminds me that I’m not alone.

Consider the vulnerability of C. S. Lewis, who wrote in a letter:

“I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence.

But the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth.

Often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so—the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so.”

Be assured that doubting is not sin. Author and pastor, Erwin Lutzer gave me a good way to verbalize this. In The Vanishing Power of Death (a book I recently read & loved), he writes:

“By doubt, I do not mean unbelief.

They appear to be the same, but there are differences.

Unbelief has been defined as rebellion against evidence that we cannot or will not accept.

But doubt is simply stumbling over a stone that we do not yet understand.

Unbelief—especially the hardened variety—is kicking at a stone that we understand all too well.”

 As C. S. Lewis points out, honest doubting—taking our questions to God while remaining open to His answers—can even strengthen our faith. 

“If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt.

If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing.

But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger.

It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply.”

I so appreciate the insights of these godly men. I can tell they’ve ‘been in my shoes.’

If God weren’t so important to me, 

If I hadn’t given my whole life to following Him,

If I didn’t hang all my hopes on salvation and eternity,

Maybe then I would silence my doubts and move on to some easier way to live.

But I continue to walk His path, stumbling over hard truths as I go.

And periodically He reminds me that my wavering does not diminish Him in any way.

Because God is big enough—and gracious enough—to handle my doubts.

Doubts C S Lewis

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
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HEroes 2I’ve been keeping my sister company during her recovery in a big-city hospital. Her room is on the seventh floor, and right outside the window is the helicopter pad.

So while she sleeps, I watch the life flight crews fly in.

I can only imagine the tragedies these folks see and the highs and lows of emotion they must experience—the rush they feel when all goes well or the heartache when even their best efforts are not enough to save someone.

Life Flight First RespondersSometimes they touch down and—with copter blades still churning the air—run into the building to deliver or receive a vital organ that will pass from one who lost his life to one who will now have a second chance at life.

These heroes remind me that in spite of man’s best efforts, life on earth eventually means broken lives and broken dreams—either for us or for someone we love.

But God did not create us in His image, shape our personalities, bestow our gifts and talents, and instill our dreams and desires, only to see our lives end before reaching our potential or seeing our dreams fulfilled.

When we give our hearts and lives to Him, He performs first aid on those lost dreams, restores them, and brings them to fruition in His perfect timing—which may be in the lifetime we live beyond these earthly years. 

Reach Your Dreams Erwin LutzerI love how Erwin Lutzer says it in The Vanishing Power of Death:

“Every shattered dream we give to Jesus is integrated into a higher and even more blessed purpose.

In short, if we have faith to believe it, there are no wasted sorrows, no wasted aspirations or dreams.

Even in this life, we see God is continually reshaping whatever we give Him.

Indeed, the Christian life is a series of new beginnings. God Himself rushes in to fill the vacuum left in the wake of our own disappointments.

Dreams left unfulfilled in this life will most assuredly be fulfilled in the life to come.”

In Christ we can be assured that Heaven will be the answer to all our dreams and that when our souls take flight from this earth, our real life will have just begun!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I created these graphics with iPhone pics & one free image from Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
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The Thorn Bearer

Renee Ann Smith —  May 19, 2015 — 12 Comments

“From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh Dougall must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all.” ~Amazon blurb for The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham~

Pepper Basham

A few years back I met Pepper Basham at the American Christian Fiction Writers‘ Conference. At the time she was an unpublished writer—but not anymore! How fun to see Pepper attain her dream by earning publishing contracts for several manuscripts!

Recently, I was privileged to review Pepper’s historical fiction novel, The Thorn Bearer.

The Thorn Bearer is set during 1915 and focuses on Ashleigh Dougall, a young woman crossing the Atlantic on the Lusitania with two men—one she doesn’t love but can’t get rid of and the other she does love but can’t have.

Pepper’s novel reminds me of the dramatic, Gothic romances I read in high school. The story has a beautiful, innocent heroine who is hiding a painful secret, a conniving sister, a set of abusive, neglectful parents, and a hero who is handsome and good but takes half the chapters to realize he’s in love with the heroine! Thus Ashleigh must forge ahead in life without 20th century society’s normal protections—parents or husband—by relying on her own pluck and ingenuity.

In spite of these odds, we readers know Ashleigh will win the day because she has a pure heart and a grandmother who teaches her what’s right.

The Thorn Bearer has all the good stuff that makes it fun to while away a day or so in another world—with the added benefit of Spiritual Truth! Exactly what those grand adventures I read as a teen were missing.

I really enjoyed Pepper’s debut novel! The graphics in this post show some of my favorite quotes from story. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, or share them on Facebook!

Pepper Basham Thorn BearerPepper Basham Thorn Bearer****Don’t miss the chance to grab your copy of Pepper’s engrossing novel at this link. Right now it’s a $3 Kindle deal!

Pepper BashamAs a little girl, Pepper D. Basham fell in love with storytelling while listening to her granny share oral history. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate, Pepper enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley.

You can connect with her

At her website

On her Facebook page

On Twitter

Thanks for  by stopping by today! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I created these graphics with free images from Unsplash plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass it on!
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