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Devotions from the Front Porch

Devotions from the Front Porch

by Various Authors

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"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."Matthew 11:28

We live in a society of stressed-out people. Stress affects young kids, college students, and adults; almost everyone seems touched by it. Then, in an attempt to ease the stress, we make it worse. We work harder. We work faster. We do more. We refuse to rest, and then we wonder why we're so exhausted. It's a vicious cycle.

Do you want to know who isn't stressed? Anyone currently sitting in a rocking chair. Try a little rocking on someone's front porch, and see what happens. You will rock your cares away, my friend.

Christ knew that life would be stressful. He didn't invite us to come to Him and have all of our problems solved. A quick fix or an end to the current struggle is not what our bodies need. He gives us what we often do not give ourselves: permission to rest.

We don't need to do one more load of laundry, or work longer or harder, or stay up later, or get up earlier. We need to rest, and Christ, in His wisdom, gives us permission to do just that. And not only does He offer rest, but He invites us to give our worries and burdens to Him.

We have permission to turn on the radio and dance in the kitchen. To laugh out loud. To simply breathe. We have permission to take a break from whatever is weighing us down. You and I have permission to rest, and there's no better place to rest than a front-porch rocking chair.

I am so thankful, Lord, that You know what I need. When I am weary and overwhelmed, help me remember to come to You for rest.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.Matthew 9:10

Breaking bread with others is a special experience. Chances are, if a person is ill, has had a baby, or is new to the neighborhood, someone will show up with an offering of food. Many lasting friendships have been formed while sharing a chicken casserole or some pound cake.

The early believers understood this concept of community. They knew that life was not meant to be lived in isolation, but rather in interacting with and loving others well. They had witnessed the extraordinary way Christ loved, and it often involved dining with people. He feasted at Matthew's house, Martha's house, the seashore, and the Upper Room. He dined with His friends, His disciples, Pharisees, tax collectors, and lepers.

Jesus didn't withdraw from people or their pain. He was never too busy to be bothered by others' burdens. In fact, He invited them to step away from the busyness of life and share a meal with Him. As a result, the outcast felt as welcome at His dinner table as the disciple.

People are no different today than when Jesus walked the earth. We want to be seen and heard — to know we matter.

We are surrounded by hurting and lonely people who long for an invitation to break bread with us. They desire to be welcomed. When the coffee flows freely, people feel free to be themselves. If there happens to be a pound cake involved, well, that's just icing.

Lord, may I never be too busy to let someone know that he or she matters. May my kitchen table be a place where people are truly seen and heard. Open my eyes to those around me who need to be invited to break bread at my table.

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.Proverbs 3:24 ESV

When you have children, sleep is the first thing you lose. As infants, they keep you up all hours of the night. Then they begin climbing into your bed in the middle of the night, kicking you in the back and stealing your covers. At some point, they finally sleep in their own beds, only to wake up at the crack of dawn requesting breakfast. Occasionally, however, something beautiful takes place on Sunday afternoon: a nap.

Whether it's on the couch, in a hammock, or on a blanket in the yard, a Sunday afternoon nap is a wise gift for a weary body. To close your eyes and snooze in the middle of the day seems positively decadent, which makes the sleep that much sweeter.

Solomon knew the importance of wisdom in a person's life. Of all the things that he could have requested from God, he asked for wisdom, and God granted it. Solomon also knew the benefits of wisdom in his life. Wisdom allows a person to walk in security and peace. A wise person is a source of life to those around her.

A foolish person makes foolish decisions and suffers the consequences — one of the first often being troubled sleep. When worry and regret weigh heavy on a person's mind, sleep proves elusive. A wise person, however, makes prayerful decisions, trusts God with the outcomes, and sleeps like it's Sunday afternoon.

I know what it's like, Lord, to endure sleepless nights.

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Matthew 6:26 ESV

Although it may be hard to admit as they eat all the blueberries from the bushes in your yard, birds are fascinating creatures. They glide effortlessly through the air while singing the loveliest of songs. With a chirp and a hop, they go about their business as if they haven't a care in the world. It's difficult not to envy them.

The fact is, just like every living thing, birds must have food and water. They have and take care of babies; they need shade from the heat and shelter from the storm. So why aren't they scurrying and worrying? For the same reason you and I need not worry: the God who created them also cares for them.

Though they are truly lovely, we are far more valuable to God than the birds of the air. Our Creator is well aware of our every need, and He is able to meet each one of them. We add nothing to our lives when we worry — not minutes to our days or dollars to our bank accounts. Our worrying does not alter circumstances or alleviate problems.

Jesus knew that the tendency to worry was part of the human condition. During His earthly ministry, He addressed the issues of worry and anxiety on more than one occasion, and His message is clear: when we worry, we are in direct disobedience. We should, instead, take our cue from the birds. God always provides for them — even if He does so with the blueberries from the front yard.

Forgive me, Lord, for my worrying ways. Help me to live a little more like the birds and spend my days singing of Your goodness and trusting in Your provision.

His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.Psalm 1:2 ESV

Some foods just naturally go together. Peanut butter and jelly. White beans and ham hocks. Chocolate and, well, anything. There's something unique, however, about the pairing of cornbread and buttermilk. According to my mama, "The longer it sets, the better it gets." The buttermilk must be poured generously so that it soaks into every morsel of cornbread.

The study of Scripture works much the same way. To delight in the law of the Lord is to partake of it generously and allow it to soak into our spirits. Our goal should not be to read as much as we can or as quickly as we can. Delight takes time as we soak up a verse, a phrase, or a word.

We can spend day and night worrying about all the what-ifs of this life, and we can hang on to a grudge for days without end. What if, however, the thing we dwelled on was the goodness of God? What if it wasn't worry but wonder that captivated us?

To meditate on Scripture is to read it over and over, allowing it to penetrate our minds. It is to read it slowly and out loud, emphasizing a different word with each reading. It is to ponder. To delight in the law of the Lord is to know that the longer it sets, the better it gets.

Lord, forgive me for treating the reading of Your Word as just another item on my to-do list. Teach me to delight in it daily and to meditate on it, no matter what my day holds.

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.Proverbs 27:7 ESV

Grocery shopping can be a tricky thing. If you shop with an empty stomach, you're likely to fill your cart with pecan twirls, sugary cereal, and day-old bakery doughnuts. Items from every shelf will call your name, causing you to spend far more than you anticipated. When you unload everything at home, you'll realize that you don't have a single proper meal. That's the danger of shopping while hungry — everything seems like a good idea.

It is far easier to shop logically on a full belly. You know what you need, and you aren't tempted by the call of the candy on aisle five. You're able to walk right by the frozen pizzas without a second glance. Perhaps you still accept the sample of sushi in the deli section, but the point is that when you're full, you're able to use better discretion when shopping.

When we spend time in prayer, Bible study, and communion with God, we are filled with the things of Him. We aren't interested in the things the world has to offer, no matter how tempting they may appear. But when we allow ourselves to get too busy to spend time with God, we wander out into the world with hungry hearts. Everything seems sweet and desirable.

We attempt to fill our emptiness with material possessions, the praise of others, and empty, mundane pursuits. Instead of feeling full and satisfied, we're left with the bitter aftertaste of disappointment and discouragement. It's a dangerous thing to go out into the world with a hunger inside. We must fill ourselves with His Word and with godly pursuits. Then we won't find ourselves unloading our groceries with buyer's remorse.

You, Lord, are the only thing that truly satisfies. I desire to be filled with Your Spirit and Your truth so that I don't crave the things of this world.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.Philippians 4:8

Life can get crazy loud. With work, friends, a spouse, children, church, household responsibilities, and a hundred other things going on, it can be challenging to carve out any peace and quiet.

Recently, I stepped out onto the porch to get a breath of fresh air, and I was instantly bombarded with noise. A barking dog next door. A neighbor mowing his lawn across the street. Cars driving up and down the road. My children laughing and playing in the yard. I was ready to turn around and go back inside, but then a soft wind began to blow.

Suddenly, I could hear the tinkling of the beautiful wind chimes that my husband had recently hung. I closed my eyes, and as I focused on the song of the wind chimes, other noises faded into the background. The noise disappeared because of what I chose to focus on.

The world is full of distractions, noises, and needs vying for our attention. These things seek space in our hearts and minds, making it easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. Sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves, What is true? Noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Then we must consciously choose to focus on those things and let the rest fade into the background.

Teach me, Lord, how to filter the many noises that surround me. Help me not to be so distracted by the "loud" things that I miss the delicate song of what truly matters.

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters."Isaiah 55:1

If you don't water your plants regularly, they will die. Houseplants don't wither without reason. Water is necessary for plant life; it's essential for the human body as well. We can only last a short period of time without water. And, unfortunately, we cannot store it up for a future dry spell.

One of the symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. Without water, your body doesn't have what it needs to function, and you'll become weary and worn-out. Your spirit is much the same. Does life have you exhausted? Do you feel continually tired? It's possible that you are just plain thirsty. If so, the Lord said, "Come."

God knew that we would need Him, the Living Water, in order to survive in this barren land. Without Him pouring into us, we wither away like a neglected houseplant. We begin to shrivel up spiritually. But all we have to do to be replenished and refreshed is to come to Him.

Jeremiah 2:i3 depicts God as a fountain and believers as cracked cisterns. When we immerse ourselves in God's Word, the water constantly flows over us. Sometimes we think we are good on our own, so we step away. The problem is that we are cracked cisterns. The moment we walk away from the fountain, the water begins to leak out. Soon we are dry, dehydrated, and weary.

Don't wait until you look like that forgotten potted plant in the corner of your living room. If you're feeling weary, worn-out, or tired, go to God. Drink freely and be refreshed.

Too often, Lord, I try to do it all on my own. I attempt to solve my own problems and heal my own hurts, and them I wonder why I feel weary. Fill me with the water of Your Word so I may be renewed once again.

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."Mark 9:35 ESV

We all want to do big things for God, don't we? We watch someone go from obscurity to fame, and we think that is what it looks like to be used by God. We hear of someone overseas living among the poor, and suddenly our daily sacrifices don't feel so impressive. Sometimes it seems as if everyone else is doing bigger things for God.

We might be tempted to view our day-to-day tasks as mundane. Or we might analyze our responsibilities and deem some of them holy and some of them nuisances. If we listen to the world, we will begin to believe that the little acts of service don't matter and that everyone else is living a more glamorous life than we are.

The fact is, there are moments when we must wash the dishes, bathe the children, and clean up the spaghetti that the baby threw on the floor. In those moments, maybe our service feels menial. But sometimes the ministry is in the mess. The sacredness is in the serving.

We live in a world that respects first place. Whether it's a sporting event, a black Friday shopping line, or an airline boarding pass, we like to be in the front. Don't we all want just a little of the spotlight for ourselves? The problem is that these feelings of entitlement carry over into other areas of our lives. Perhaps we're only happy to serve as long as we get the accolades for doing so. But that isn't service at all. True servanthood begins in the heart. And we must decide if we want glamour for ourselves or glory for our Lord.

There are times, Lord, when I make serving You all about me. Forgive me for seeking glory for myself. Teach me the beauty of humility, and give me a servant's heart.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."Jeremiah 29:11

As new homeowners, my husband and I had great intentions when it came to our landscaping. So, we bought an azalea bush. We chose the perfect spot, dug a hole, and planted it firmly in its new home. After a period of time, however, it became clear that the bush was not going to make it. Maybe the weeds were not pulled, or we didn't water it as often as needed. Regardless of the culprit, the bush died.

We did what any amateur gardeners would do: we dug it up and threw it out by the trash can. The plan was to carry it to the curb on trash day because there was no hope for that bush. But when trash day arrived, we discovered that next to the can was a beautiful, blooming azalea bush. We had given up too soon.

Jeremiah 29 is a letter written to people who had been taken into captivity. They weren't living the lives they had envisioned. It was as if someone had uprooted them from their carefully chosen spot in the sun and transplanted them into unfamiliar and undesirable territory. Yet, in that wasteland, Jeremiah wrote to them about the Lord's plans for their lives, about a future and a hope. In fact, they were instructed to grow in that foreign land.

Life rarely goes according to our plans. Circumstances change, and in an instant we can find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. It is not God's plan, however, that we wither away. Even when we are far from home, God's desire is that we continue to grow.

Thank You, Lord, that Your plans for me always include hope and a future. Help me to be the person You created me to be, no matter where You choose to place me.

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