Friday, September 6, 2013

Daily devotionals

I started reading devotionals years ago when a friend introduced me to Stream in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. It was written in 1925 and in it were thoughts, quotations, spiritual inspirations which had helped sustain Mrs. Colman during her years of missionary work in Japan and China. Reading each days passage was a great comfort and refreshment. Every once in a while I refer to it.

In 1996 I picked up a copy of Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a daybook of comfort and joy.  In the foreword she wrote, "What I wanted to write was a book that would show me how to reconcile my deepest spiritual, authentic, and creative longings with often-overwhelming and conflicting commitments - to my husband and daughter, invalid mother, work at home, work in the world, siblings, friends, and community." She followed six practical, creative, and spiritual principles - gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy as she developed a manageable life style into a state of grace.  It made a good companion to Mrs. Cowman's book.

Last year a new friend suggested I read Daily Guideposts for 2013 which describes itself as a spirit-lifting devotional. It has brought out new editions for 36 years. The daily entries start with a short Scripture verse for reflection, a first person story of the ways God speaks to us, and a brief prayer. I was not as thrilled with this one but pick it up now and again. I did so this morning.

The Bible verse is Romans 12:6 from the New International Version...We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  (It shows up right at the beginning of this week's Responsive Reading in our Bible Lesson)The story is about a woman attending a large gathering where everyone was wearing a name tag. She asked one woman, "What do you do?", and did not get the typical response she expected.  "I bring hope to people who are hurting."  Turns out she was a clerk in a local grocery store but she didn't see her job that way. She felt it was a way to use the gift of hospitality and love God had given her to make the world a better place. So she paid attention to people who looked sad or careworn and offered them a simple word of kindness.

That made the writer look at his own job, as a seminary dean, with fresh eyes. He felt if you met him today and asked him about his work he would have a different response now. Hhe would say, "I use my gifts of administration and teaching to help prepare people for ministry and build up the kingdom of God.

Imagine yourself in that room full of people. Imagine someone coming up to you and asking "What do you do?"  How might you answer? I know my answer will be different now than it might have been before I read this devotional entry. I will look at it as an angel message and a call to lift my thinking higher about what I do and how I would describe it to someone else.

The prayer at the bottom of the page reads, "Bless the work of our hands, Lord, that it may bring glory to You."

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