Karen's Devotions

This is a selected collection of my devotions e-published on Daily Devotions, Journey Christian Church, Irvine, California; George Bragg, Editor. To join the mailing list, email George, gbragg@cox.net.

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As a 25+ year homeschooling vet, post-cancer, math prof, mother of five, master's track and field athlete, and certificated private pilot, I have a lot to share about what God has done in my life. In 2000 I began writing devotions as something to try when it seemed like accoustic pianists were becoming an endangered species at church. I have since found great blessings from writing and sharing. God is good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Spiritual Food

Published April 23, 2007
Mt. 5:6 Part A: Playing With Food

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
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When I was about 3 years old, I remembered a common occurrence. My baby brother, J.E. would entertain me during dinner by strewing his food around. He seemed to put his meal everywhere but in his mouth. No amount of preparation seemed to help. My mother put layers of newspaper under J.E.’s highchair. She put a large bib with a wide pocket to protect his clothes. Yet he prevailed. Food went on the floor, on the walls, on his face, in his hair, and on me! Interesting that with this expected event each meal, my mother didn’t get angry or upset. Maybe it was because my brother was young, and playing with food was not considered serious.

A few years later my sister L.E. displayed interesting eating habits. We were not permitted to leave the table until all our food was eaten from our plate. My sister didn’t like peas, but she made her plate look like she ate them. They were also hidden in her napkin, thrown under baby Syl’s highchair, mixed into her mashed potatoes, or stored in her cheeks. She knew her food was good for her, yet she played with it. Do we do the same with our spiritual food?

When we are “baby” Christians we make a mess of God’s Word. Our spiritual food goes all over the place. We don’t seem to comprehend much at all. But we persevere, pray, and mature a bit, grasping a deeper meaning of forgiveness, grace, faith, wisdom, and love. Still, sometimes we look at a Biblical teaching and instead of studying and applying it, we “play” with it. We tuck it away out of sight. We don’t take God’s word seriously. We redefine scripture, so that it doesn’t look like food at all. It looks like a mess. Sadly, like me with my baby brother, the world is entertained by the foolishness. And we know better.

Fortunately, God gave us hunger pangs by way of prayer. Perhaps you’ve heard these phrases: “Let’s open with a word of prayer,” “Let’s prepare our hearts and minds for a lesson from the Word of God,” and “Let us ask the Lord to bless this assembly.” These prayers are not for show. They ready us to receive spiritual food. By praying, the aroma of God’s Word draws us to it. We pine and hunger for a better understanding. We thirst for the wisdom in living God’s will.

Today let’s begin with a prayer to help focus our minds and hearts to receive God’s Word. We know it is good for our spiritual growth, so let’s not play with our food.
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Oh Heavenly Father, you are so wonderful. You have provided spiritual food for our souls through your divine scriptures. But Lord, I do not take this nourishment seriously. Please open my eyes Lord that I may desire your Word. Help me to thirst after the righteousness so I may do your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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Published April 25, 2007
Mt. 5:6 Part B: Spiritual Junk Food

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
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“Yeah,” I heard a daughter say recently, “My parents are addicted to sudoku.” What? I was shocked that “parents,” “addicted,” and “sudoku,” were used in the same sentence. “It’s everywhere.” (Sudoku is a Japanese originated numbers placement puzzle, typically on a 9 X 9 grid of squares.)

Hmph! I’m not addicted to that silly puzzle. I just have two electronic versions, four books in two rooms, the daily puzzle in the newspaper, a puzzle-a-day calendar, and two website links saved under “Favorites.” Gee, “addicted” is so, so... uh, so…correct. When I saw how much of my time was used for this recreation, I began to make mental excuses.

I was mentally challenged and stimulated by these games. I like solitaire-type games. If I couldn’t get the puzzle solve, no one would judge me. And when I finished a puzzle the joy was so satisfying! Wait. I realized that I had been feasting on spiritual junk food. Puzzling wasn’t just a hobby. It consumed time that used to be devoted to reading and studying the scriptures. I forgot that the Bible was challenging, stimulating, and satisfying. I traded quiet time with the Lord for a solitaire game. I didn’t wait for the abundant blessings from on High. I wanted to solve the puzzle, now.

It’s so easy to put other seemly harmless activities in front of spending time in the Word. We soon believe that these activities can satisfy spiritual needs. Today’s simple short verse says otherwise. But where is the link between righteousness mentioned in the verse and spiritual food as I have been writing about? Think about the entire eating experience. It begins with hunger pangs. Next we actually partake of the nourishing food. Then it is digested and utilized throughout the body.

So, we must “hunger” for God’s spiritual food (written about in Part A). We must “eat” the right spiritual food (The Bible). Then we can be satisfied of attaining the end result (righteousness). That’s a lot of God’s wisdom in that little verse, but isn’t it great that He made it so palatable?!
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O Dear Father On High, I have set aside your Word and replaced it with junk food. I rest upon your promise of forgiveness, Lord. Give me strength to avoid spiritual junk food. And help me to spend my time wisely in your Word, that I may be spiritually satisfied. Amen.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

He Has Risen!

March 29, 2006

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

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One twist-tie: free if you save them. One 6 by 6 inch square of colored tissue paper: 5 cents. One scripture verse pencil: 25 cents. The lesson of Christ’s redemption: priceless.

Recently my daughter Victoria told me about an assignment in her economics class that involved each calculating their net worth. Our conversation reminded me of a craft project that I used years ago with a boy’s Kindergarten Sunday School class. The accompanying lesson talked about the value of what Christ did on the cross and how following Him changes your life. The project, whose materials are listed above, is a great illustration for all ages.

1. The students were given a sheet of colored tissue paper. This signifies how clean and new we were.
2. They were told to crumple the paper into a wad, showing that sin destroys what we were and made us ugly in the sight of God.
3. Given the twist-tie and pencil, the students were shown how to fashion the paper to look like petals and attach it to the pencil creating something new and much improved, a very beautiful flower. This represents what Christ can do in our life if we follow his example of obedience to the Father.

To do all this Christ died on the cross for our sins. The sacrifice of his life redeemed the trespasses of all mankind. This act was too much to place a monetary value on; it was priceless.

Today, consider using the craft project to tell someone about Christ’s priceless sacrifice. The drama of crumpling the paper should be a striking representation of our sin. And the new beautifully fashioned flower is likely to really impact the recipient’s conscience.
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Dear Heavenly Father, Your word says that when we walk in Christ, we “lay aside the old self” and “put on the new self.” Please give me guidance today to share the message of what this new self, this new life in Christ means. Help me to think of ways to convey this creatively and truthfully. And please Lord, bless those that hear your message, that they will be prompted to accept your Son. In His name, amen.

Miracle Loaf

April 4, 2007
Miracle Loaf

And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. And there were five thousand men who ate the loaves. (Mark 6:41-44)
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Have you made bread lately? I mean, have you really made bread lately? In Jesus’ time it was a complicated process. First the wheat had to be grown. A plot 10 feet by 10 feet would yield 10 -25 loaves of bread. Seeds were thrown out in a fanning motion and left to spout, but the plot had to be watched since birds and disease could easily destroy of a crop. (http://waltonfeed.com/old/wheat.html)

When mature, the stalks were threshed or hit on stone to remove the grain. Then the grain was winnowed, a process of removing the chaff and small bits of straw by pouring the grain from one container into another while standing down wind. (http://www.breadinfo.com/flour.shtml) The milling was usually done by hand with a rolling stone, or in large affluent households, using an animal driven grinder.

Next, one had to capture the leavening agent, wild yeast, by setting out a water and flour slurry. In a few days you have a “starter” colony with which you could add more flour, sugar, and water, form into loaves and bake. (http://www.cox-internet.com/jpwright/sourdo.htm) So when everything was said and done, it took months of growing and labor to produce a loaf of bread.

Wow, just on the basis of making one loaf of bread, the miracle told in our passages was a very big deal. We tend to look at this story on the grand scale. We can hardly fathom looking at 5000 one-dollar bills, let alone enough bread to feed 5000 men with their families. Yet, by focusing in on the miracle of one loaf to one person among the 5000, we may acknowledge God’s presence in our own life. Did one man out there in the multitude listening to Jesus’ words experience a personal miracle by receiving the bread and fish for he and his family? Let’s hear a resounding “yes!”

Personal miracles are big deals. They strengthen our faith and provide strong testimony of God’s working in us personally. 18 years ago this month I was diagnosed with cancer, and though now my immune system is delicate, I consider my presence today to be a great miracle. Once my husband got a surprise bonus check right when our finances were strained. That was a big personal miracle.

Today, take time to remember a personal miracle “loaf” that occurred in your life and thank our father in heaven for it. You’ll not look at bread the same way again.