Here’s Your Sign – Encouragement Café – December 4

Here’s Your Sign

By Linda Gray

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

As I am writing this, it is less than a week until the 2020 election. Campaign signs with names, slogans and promises try to entice those who pass by to cast a vote in favor of posted candidates. They are everywhere.

But no doubt, you have seen the signs, “Thank You, Jesus” planted in the yards of your neighborhood. I have made it a “habit” that when I see one of those signs to say a quick, “Thank you, Jesus for (salvation, peace, provision, etc.)” Get the picture? Why not try it for yourself? It can be very uplifting.

But there is another sign I used to see every time I went to church.  It simply said in bold letters, “YOU NEED JESUS.” Now I’m sure many scoffers have seen that sign as well.  I can hear their responses, “I don’t need Jesus! I am doing fine on my own. Only weaklings need this so-called Jesus!” Well, then I humbly wear the label of “weakling.”  I need Him every day. I’m sure many of you can chime in and say the same.

After years of praying for my brother to come to Christ, he did so in a hospital room where he had spent a few weeks recovering from a stroke.  His prayer simply put was, “Jesus, I need You!” Jesus met him there in that hospital room.

Even the Apostle Paul with all his credentials (Philippians 3:4-7) recognized his desperate need for Jesus.  He accepted his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was, as God’s way of reminding him of that need (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

And as I think about my need for Jesus, a song comes to mind.  It was written by Mylon LeFevre.  The lyrics beautifully sum up the truth of our need for Jesus!

Without him I could do nothing

Without him I’d surely fail

Without him I would be drifting

Like a ship without a sail

Without him I would be dying

Without him I’d be enslaved

Without him life would be worthless

But with Jesus, thank God I’m saved

Without him how lost I would be

Dear friend, please don’t live your life without Him!

Father, I simply need you! Amen

© 2020 by Linda Gray.  All rights reserved

Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?  Pull up a chair… He’s been waiting for you.

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DEVOTIONAL DAILY

Share your story. Give God the glory. And live a better broken.   Beauty in the Broken   by Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It       Messy Endings

When songwriters are trying to figure something out, they often write a song about it. The song I wrote was called “I Can Just Be Me.” The lyrics begin with me trying to do everything but not measuring up. Then in the chorus I ask God to be everything that I can’t be. 

I’ve been doing all that I can 

To hold it all together 

Piece by piece.

I’ve been feeling like a failure, 

Trying to be braver 

Than I could ever be. 

It’s just not me. 

So be my healer, be my comfort, be my peace. 

Cause I can be broken, I can be needy, 

Lord I need you now to be,

Be my God, so I can just be me. 

So be my father, my mighty warrior, be my king. 

Cause I can be scattered, frail and shattered, 

Lord I need you now to be,

Be my God, so I can just be me. 

And be my savior, be my lifeline, won’t you be my everything. 

Cause I’m so tired of trying to be someone.

I was never meant to be.

Be my God.

Please be my God.

Be my God.

So I can just be me.

So I can just be me.

I can just be me. 

And as I worked through the ideas behind the song, I realized that when we’re living in brokenness we can sometimes feel as though we’re less than or not good enough. Sometimes that leads us to trying harder. Often it leads to us failing further. But we have to give up that idea and settle into who God created us to be. 

Looking in the mirror that morning, it was clear I wouldn’t win a Best Mom trophy, but that was okay. I was finally able to embrace the fact that I am a working mom whose daughter might climb more catwalks in an arena than trees on a playground. She’ll start trends by wearing her pjs to church and blowing kisses (though they might be bloody) to her audience. But she’ll also know that there was a Man who shed His blood for her when He died on a cross. And she’ll never think of church as a place we go, but something we do wherever we are. 

Mine is motherhood redefined with God at the center rather than my achievements at the center. But it is a center that is always in flux. Just when we started to get good at being Josie’s parents, our little family of three added two more. On September 18, 2014, we welcomed Josie’s new little brothers, Benjamin Cary and Griffin James, who doubled not only the joy in our house but also the chaos. Their birth was a reminder to me that good and beautiful things can come from pain. My labor was roughly eight hours long, and I said Jesus’ name a lot — not in vain, but in pain. Of course, I would go through every minute of the pregnancy and the delivery over and over again to have such precious boys. The temporary pain I endured was worth it. When we see the results of my pain in the faces of my children, I would do it all over again. But think about the birth from the twins’ perspective. When the boys first entered this world, they left the security and warmth of the womb to be violently faced with the bright lights and cold air of the hospital delivery room. They could only cry, but if they could have talked, I imagine they would have said something like, “What did you do that for? We wanted to stay where we were, warm and happy!” 

I wonder how many times I’ve said that to God? 

When we are on the receiving end of pain and can’t yet see or understand why we’re in such trials, we can find it so hard to trust. But as imperfect mothers and fathers, we often inflict pain on our children for their own good. Whether it is birthing them, giving them their immunization shots, or putting them into time-out so they don’t touch a hot stove, we could be seen as the source of their pain, even though we’re only doing what is best for them. 

So how much more must God, our perfect Father, be doing for us when we’re experiencing pain? Like any good parent, God fully understands the pain we feel, and He is with us in it, but He allows us to go through it because He has a greater good in mind. 

Can we trust Him in that? It’s hard, I know. But that’s also why we place our hope in Him. Our hope is that one day the pain will end and we’ll live with Him in a pain-free eternity, where there is no more brokenness and we are all made whole. 

I know there are days in the midst of our brokenness and our trials, when it is so hard to cling to that idea. It feels as though it takes more faith to believe it than we have. Fortunately, God doesn’t even demand supersized faith from us. In fact, Jesus says all we need is faith the size of a seed — a mustard seed — smaller than many of the spices in your cabinet. A seed so small it gets lost under a fingernail or stuck in the fold of our palm. That’s all we need in order to do what seems impossible. 

Jesus said,  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. — Matthew 17:20
Faith that small. Because God is that big. I cling to that thought both as a mother and as a wife. The older I get the more I realize there are few seasons of life that can be labeled “good” or “bad.” Right now, I am in a really sweet season of life. Whatever season Martin and I face, whatever new blessings we face, we find new things that rub up against Martin’s disabilities and new mourning takes place. The good news is that our mourning often takes place, humorously, in the midst of baby projectile poop, while I am trying to feed the same twin twice because one of us forgot which twin was already fed. (And once again, that “one” is me, not Martin.) 

Our life looks much like the life of any set of parents with a newborn baby. Except that we have two babies. 

And a two-year-old. And a husband with a disability. 

Okay, so, it probably doesn’t look anything like anyone else’s life. It probably looks a lot funnier. But that’s okay, because it’s not about us. If you knocked on my door right now and asked to use the bathroom, you’d likely find there is no soap at the sink and the hand towel is actually a dishrag. The good towels are starting to mildew in the basement in a pile of laundry I have labeled “not yet urgent.” 

Our dinner menu ranges from “What menu?” to “takeout.” When someone wants a snack, I try to give them something healthy. “You can eat the Cheerios under the couch, but not the cheese; it’s getting old.” 

The weekend before our Christmas production at Perimeter, I was at the church on Sunday for fourteen hours straight. Josie was with me. When I was onstage, she was holding my hand the entire time. Some might find that annoying, but I think it is precious memories in the making. That’s just what our life looks like. 

We were both exhausted by the time we finally left that evening! As soon as we got home and I started feeding the twins, to show her appreciation and contribute to the memories of the day, Josie vomited. That meant another trip out to get Pedialyte and more prayers that no one else in the house would get whatever bug she picked up. 

What can you do in a situation like that? You can cry or you can laugh. I choose to laugh and think it could be worse. In a few more years, I’ll still be doing the Christmas production, I’ll be older and more exhausted afterward, and at that time, I could be bringing home three vomiting kids! 

As you’ve read my story and compared yours to mine, maybe your story is harder or maybe it’s easier. But whatever it is, I encourage you to cling to Scripture because that and laughter is what will get you through. 

I know people look at our Elvington family and say, “What a mess!” And I’d agree. But despite our brokenness, despite the trials we have endured and will continue to fight through, despite the days when our faith is low, and our patience is lower, we are blessed. 

We are blessed by a God who loves us and will never leave us. 

We are blessed with the gift of his grace that allows us to spend eternity with him in a place free of trials and free of brokenness. 

We are blessed because we have a loving family who gets to serve our great, big God every single day. Whether we are at home or on the road, for us, life is an abundantly beautiful, blessed mess. Despite our brokenness, we wouldn’t want it any other way, for it is through our brokenness that God is the hero of our story. 

We’re all just a phone call away. And when we get that unexpected phone call, we think life as we know it is over. But life as we’ve yet to know it and how God might use it has just begun. 

Share your story. Give God the glory. And live a better broken.  Excerpted with permission from When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story, copyright Laura Story Elvington.      Your Turn   Is your story messy? Even in the middle of the Christmas season, or maybe especially in this season, our stories can be used to help and uplift others going through the same things. And, God gets the glory! Share it! And, come share your story with us, too. We want to hear from you!    Share this devotion with someone who needs it today.     Save 75% off   Don’t miss this $5 Deal of the month   + free U.S. shipping* on orders $30 or more
When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without by Laura Story   Softcover, Regular: $19.99
Sale Price: $5.00 (75% off) + free U.S. shipping* on orders $30 or more     IS IT POSSIBLE THAT GOOD THINGS CAN COME OUT OF OUR BROKEN DREAMS?

Worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Their lives would never be the same. Yes, with God all things are possible. But the devastating news was that no cure existed to restore Martin’s short-term memory, eyesight, and other complications. The fairy-tale life Laura had dreamed of was no longer possible. And yet in struggling with God about how to live with broken dreams, Laura has found joy and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

Laura helps us understand we aren’t the only ones whose lives have taken unexpected turns. She examines the brokenness of some of the heroes of our faith, and shows how despite their flaws and flawed stories, God was able to use them in extraordinary ways. And it was not because of their faith, but because of the faithfulness of their God. God may not fix everything. In fact, although your situation might not ever change or get better, with Jesus you can.   What People Are Saying

Our family has been ministered to by her vulnerability and willingness to walk in the valley and still say ‘God, I Trust You.’ — STEVEN CURTIS and MARY BETH CHAPMAN

Laura is one of my heroes when it comes to trusting God. She’s joyful, genuine, and faithful even though her story includes messy chapters. ­This book will be on my nightstand for a long time! —LISA HARPER   Learn More and Save           5-Star Reader Reviews   “Such a real life story with messy parts included. You will feel like you are a part of this story because of the honest and raw emotion. No pretending or looking through rose colored glasses.Real people,real heart ache,real triumph.” ~ Vickie W. 


“After doing “I Give Up”, and growing through some things, this study called to me…Spirit screamed, actually. For being someone who likes to ‘fix’ things, God is schooling me on His definition of fixing and adjusting my way of thinking, perception and ways of thinking. It’s one I will recommend to others wholeheartedly. It also illustrates God’s  sovereignty in ways we don’t often see til we’re on the other side of a crisis..” ~ Jean S.      Save 50% off the  Companion Video Bible Study
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Family Talk Night Light for Couples

Duration: 365 days

FAMILY WHISPERS

“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Levity and lightheartedness are glue that holds family members together. Families willing to laugh at funny stories about growing up are sure to forge a strong bond for the tough times.

We heard about a mother who decided to hold her squirming toddler in her lap during his first Muppet movie. Midway through, they lost control of a large Pepsi and a box of buttered popcorn. The gooey mixture flowed over the child into the mother’s lap. Since the movie was almost over, she decided to sit it out. What she didn’t know was that she and her son were being cemented together. When the movie ended, they stood up… and the mother’s wraparound skirt stuck to the bottom of the toddler, came unraveled, and followed him up the aisle. She stood there clutching her slip and thanking the Lord she had taken time to put one on!

Another mother wrote us about a little miscommunication involving her preschooler: “Perhaps there should be a uniform word for ‘potty’ when children have to go to the bathroom. My three‐year‐old has been taught to refer to that act as a ‘whisper.’ Well, his grandfather came to visit us, and in the middle of the night my son came to his bed and said, ‘Grandpa, I have to whisper.’ Not wanting to awaken his wife, he said, ‘Okay. Whisper in my ear.’” So the little boy did.

The telling and retelling of funny moments like these can connect families for generations. God created us with a sense of humor for a reason. We believe that He wants us to use it.

JUST BETWEEN US…

  • Why do you think that God created us with an ability to laugh?
  • Do you remember any funny family stories from your childhood?
  • How can we preserve our family heritage through stories?

Lord, we’re grateful we can share funny times with our kids. Help us make them part of a grand story that will bind us together for years. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Family Talk Night Light for Parents

Duration: 365 days

LOVE AND RESPECT

Show proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 2:17

Love is an important means to building a healthy self-concept in your children, but it is only half of the equation. Respect is equally vital—and it’s entirely possible to show one without the other. For example, when your son starts to speak to another adult, you may cut him off in midsentence and explain what he’s trying to say. Or you lecture your daughter before she leaves for a weekend at a friend’s house on how to avoid making a fool of herself.

A child is perfectly capable of understanding that he or she fails to measure up in the eyes of Mom or Dad. “Sure, they love me because they’re my parents. I can see that I’m important to them, but they’re not really proud of me as a person. I’m a disappointment to them.” The first step in building a sense of worth in your children is to be careful about what you say and do in their presence. Then, rather than focusing only on their problems, be sure to communicate your respect for them and the wise choices they do make. When the apostle Peter instructed believers to “show proper respect to everyone,” he certainly meant it to include the impressionable members of their own families. As you display an attitude of respect and love toward your children, you’ll establish a home in step with the heart of God.

BEFORE YOU SAY GOOD NIGHT…

Do you show your children respect as well as love? How?

Are you sometimes disrespectful to your kids? In what ways?

Which of your kids’ traits and accomplishments are worthy of your respect and praise?

Father, by the restraining power of Your own Spirit, keep us from damaging home and family with careless, critical words. Help us to focus on building up one another. We seek Your strength to accomplish this. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.