Do you remember being in your school’s cafeteria as a child? I remember being in 2nd grade and standing in line outside of the cafeteria as I would wait my turn in line for lunch. My parents would send me with four quarters which would buy my meal as a child in the late 1970s. I would squeeze my oval shaped, thick but bendable plastic pouch as I waited in line to be sure that the quarters hadn’t escaped. The shiny coins would always look back at me through the opening in the pouch. I knew that if I would eat lunch, I would have to have the right amount of money to give the cashier. Being able to eat lunch and pay was the first experience I remember having where I paid because normally, at age 7, my parents always would pay at a store.
These days, as a teacher, I am sometimes summoned to monitor the cafeteria as students arrive in the morning and eat breakfast. We are fortunate to have universal free breakfast now. I am grateful that anyone can come to eat breakfast without having to remember their coins. Someone funded the breakfasts for kids. It helps start their day on a positive note with tummies full of muffins, milk and juice.
This morning, a six year old needed help opening her bag of cranberries. One Kindergartener had managed to poke an opening in his foil covered orange juice lid and was placing his spoon in the juice to get some out. He didn’t realize that he could have poked his straw through the foil lid and been able to drink it through the straw. Instead, he continued to dip his spoon in the crooked place to get out just a little juice.
When I saw the child trying to get into his juice cup in an inefficient way, I wanted to help so I asked him if I could show him how to place the straw in the juice. He loved being able to not have to spoon it out but instead drink it out! The little boy enjoyed getting to drink his juice to wash down his food instead of sipping it out of a spoon.
I feel that many times I’ve sat at the table, grateful for what had been provided for me, but unable to enjoy the meal. Kind of like the little boy who had fumbled with the orange juice lid, I have tried to enjoy my blessings, but somehow, something wasn’t just right. Instead of directly accessing my blessings, I haven’t always known how to get into them. I have watched as others enjoyed their lives and blessings, but have realized that I too need to be aware of how to best access the blessings given to me by God. I need a direct way into my blessings.
I want to try to enjoy my many blessings directly so it is important to remember that I am in charge of my response and my attitude.
I am an ambassador of Christ.
I have the Holy Spirit of God living in me. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord.
God reaches down and gently supports us as we try to enjoy the blessings that He has provided.
I hope that you will look to Him and ask Him, like I will, to help me directly enjoy all of the relationships and gifts that He has provided. Sometimes we can just go about it the wrong way like the little orange juice opener child. God will open new possibilities and cause me to grow, enjoy and be fully aware of my blessings.
God gives us special blessings like the coins in my lunch money pouch; ones that will provide blessings for us and for others. My friend, I pray that you will also find ways to bless others and enjoy the blessings that have been provided for you.
Pumpkins and pansies freshly placed on my porch and in my flower bed transform my view of my house. The flaming orange and yellow dots of color falling from our maple tree are forming a patchwork quilt in my yard with contrasting scarlet leaves. I feel surprised each time I drive up and see the way my home has been transformed with the look of fall.
The season of fall in the South is really a time to just notice and note the world. Squirrels scurry through the yard gathering their final nuts for winter. The cooler breeze dances with the falling leaves. Sunshine illuminates the remaining green leaves on our pin oak tree in the backyard. Maple leaves stick to the driveway after a night of rain.
As if they are waving goodbye, the leaves cling to the tree limbs as they move to and fro. Their final moments of glory are happening. This is it. They have captured carbon dioxide, changed it into oxygen and now choreograph their final dance to the ground. This Autumn Change has begun and will continue until this fall season concludes when winter begins. My view in my yard will soon be a memory due to the change that will happen in the fall foliage; change comes, the leaves fall but not before their radiant red, orange and yellow hues fill the yard ushering in a new season.
While reading about the events that took place in the life of Paul in Acts, I’ve noticed that there are brilliant descriptions of change. The way that Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus has always startled me. Paul was persecuting those who followed Jesus. He thought he was right. He needed an awakening so Jesus sent a light from heaven which blinded Paul and allowed him to have an encounter like never before with the very one that he had despised. He changed and saw Jesus as The Way.
Later on in his life after his conversion, we read of how even the cloths that touched Paul were used to heal people. Over and over, I read about Paul sharing about The Way as he traveled and endured many false accusations. God changed Paul and Paul changed the world.
After his conversion, he left Jerusalem and visited many geographical locations. He later would travel back to Jerusalem then back to Cilicia and Rome. His location changed a lot during his life but at each city he visited, He had listened to the leading of God as to where to even go and when to move on. Change in location and life circumstance became Paul’s norm.
Like the leaves, Paul captured the waste in the air; the nasty accusations, the plotting against him and the news that even the leaders weren’t fully supportive. In every case, he accepted the change and planned his next move after praying about it.
I am amazed that Paul produced tremendous texts that to this day still contain truth even though he was under duress while undergoing continual change. God used him to write, to encourage, to correct, to clarify and to compel others to be a part of The Way. God choreographed the events in Paul’s life to rescue him from total destruction and revive him out of uncertain and unsettling moments.
We learn so much from our brother Paul: he didn’t fight the change but accepted it and kept becoming an even better version of himself. In the Spring, the leaves will bud again and come forth as new green life. It will take time for us to see seasons, but Paul just kept having new seasons and rolled with it. He, like the leaves on our trees, captured the poison from the mouths of his enemies, changed the atrocities directed at him like the leaves change the carbon dioxide into oxygen and choreographed new positions geographically, like the leaves travel to new locations, to handle the enemies.
Listen in below on just a few events from Acts 22 about how Paul handled change. These events play out like a motion picture full of intrigue and excitement which inspire me to capture the change moments in life and choreograph my next steps and words very carefully. The Holy Spirit provided the necessary wisdom to help Paul in his states of change. In our lives, the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom to handle our change moments and to guide our next steps.
As you read this passage from the Bible describing Paul’s life, look for moments of change and how he handled each one with the help of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will sense how God helped Paul and will also help us as we encounter change.
Acts 22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Exodus 36:7 “…what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.”
Giving thanks in a season of Thanksgiving may or may not come easy. He has sustained us, provided and deserves to be given all of our thanks and praise. Even while we wait on God to answer our prayers, I am deciding to keep on thanking and praising Him for all that He has done in the past and all that He will do in the future.
I give God my praise, my thanks, my concerns, my heartbreak, my stress, my disappointments, my victories and my what ifs. He has shown His unfailing love to me so it is my desire to speak and write thanks to God.
In our current season of applying to universities and waiting, I am learning to give Him my praise and thanks and to expect Him to open the right doors of opportunities for my child. He has a grand plan for each step that she will take on a college campus and on the major for which He has designed her. I am trusting Him to take what my husband and I have brought to Him, our dedication of our child to Him, our thanks for the miracle of life and praise for His Provision and Character, and to build the future for my child that only He can design.
The Bible gives us a visual on how God works regarding what people gave to Him. Consider how God provided for His multi-million dollar Sanctuary dream in Exodus. He arranged the details of materials and gifted people in the building of the Sanctuary. After Moses spent sacred time with the LORD on Mount Sinai, he assembled the Israelite community and shared the materials/needs list with them which would be needed to create the Sanctuary in Exodus 35: 5-9.
God told them what was needed and commanded those who were willing to bring the materials so that work could begin on the Sanctuary. The people whose hearts were stirred and willing brought what they had as an offering to the LORD. They willingly brought the materials so that they could build a Holy Place in which His Presence would dwell. He already knew how his Holy Place would look so these materials would be used specifically. In addition, he had given skills to tradespeople who would use the materials to build the sanctuary to the exact specifications.
Eventually, the workers told Moses that what they had was more than enough to do all of the work. God’s pattern was to provide so that His Presence would be welcomed and potential outcomes became possible.
When I see how God supplied the need to build a Sanctuary for His Presence to dwell, I notice God’s pattern and provision in planning. If he provided more than enough back then, I am confident that he will keep providing today for us. As a Believer in Christ, we are the Temple of the living God so he cares about how our lives are planned and how provision is implemented.
In the building of the Sanctuary, it was the people’s obedience that paved the way for the work that lay ahead. In our lives, as we bring our will and resources to Him, He sees the building blocks to craft his dream for us and our children. Obedience opens our Father’s opportunity preparing us for His Best Plan!
Those who were willing decided to bring what they had and it made all the difference in accomplishing the purpose of God. He wants us to also bring what we have to Him because it really matters. He wants our heartbreak, the gut wrenching groans, the tear stained face. He knows that as we give what we have, even giving our brokenness to Him, He takes it and uses it in the journey toward healing. It matters what we share with God. He will provide a sense of help, wholeness and restoration when we have welcomed Him and given Him our truth.
I may not feel that I have a lot to give, but I choose to give Him my thanks for all that He has done in my life. Make no mistake, I need to thank and praise Him so much more, but know that when I have stopped to give Him what I have, even if it was my thanks on hard days, I have experienced His presence and witnessed His building of my spirit when it was torn down.
I can trust God to move mightily and provide more than enough to see me through difficult moments. The people in Exodus couldn’t see the finished Sanctuary when they were bringing their supplies to the builders, but they had faith in the ones who could bring a dream to a reality. I also have full faith in God to take my thanks and build His vision for my future and for the future of my family.
What will you decide to give to God in this season? All I know is that when you make the decision to bring and offer what you have, He takes care of building His vision for your life. Make no mistake, the God who used what the people brought to Him in Exodus, is the same God who is using what people today offer back to Him. He is our Provision, our Protector and our Peace Maker.
My Prayer Today:
I praise you for your unfailing love. Your gift on the cross has redeemed my life and given a lifetime of grace. I appreciate you and honor you with my life and words.
I love that you show us stories of how you acted mightily on the behalf of your people throughout the Bible. Your pattern is to provide so that your Presence will be welcomed. Potential outcomes become possible because of your plan. Lord Jesus, I offer up praise and thanks as a mom who wants your Holy Spirit to walk with my children every day of their lives and to open the right doors for them.
I will admit, the waiting on the college acceptance letters and wondering how it will be paid for is consuming my thoughts. Please, Lord Jesus, allow your peace to stand at guard around our hearts and minds as we wait on you. We have dedicated our child back to you and honored you by teaching her your Word both at home, in the car and at church. I know that you are working and helping her see that the next year will be a new beginning as she begins college. Please help her to make the best choice and provide for every single need that we will have. You make streams in the desert. I know you are a good God, giving good gifts to your children. I just ask now that in the strong and mighty name of Jesus, you will guide us into all truth and provide for her as you unfold your perfect plan.
We don’t deserve it, but still you are so good to us. I thank you and praise you for the way you provided in the building of your Sanctuary. Many people used their talents to build it and others brought what they had so it could be built. We are giving you what we have, our praise, our thanks and our requests, so you can open the doors into the future for our child. We welcome your Presence so that potential outcomes can be revealed in your timing.
And, Father. Help this Momma’s heart. As we’ve visited Universities in the past year, my heart leaps for joy over the college life that awaits our child while also making me feel a bit uneasy. Help me to not be upset or anxious. I give those kinds of thoughts to you now. I praise you and thank you for helping us as parents and for helping our child. Now, please stand at guard around our hearts and mind so that your peace that transcends all understanding will protect us.
It is in the strong and mighty name of Jesus that I pray.