I hope these devotions will minister to you. If you print them and/or use them in any way, please keep the devotions as written with (C) Marilyn Nutter All rights reserved.
Stretching: More than Physical Therapy
by Marilyn Nutter
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
I went to my physical therapy session yesterday for treatment of my frozen shoulder. The PT has given me several exercises for stretching and increasing my range of motion.
“The more repetition to stretch, the greater the range of motion,” he explained.
As I went through the second set of each exercise, I saw the principle at work. I could reach further than the first time. There was more stretch and less pain.
I had an “aha” moment that seemed to be a spiritual principle.
Life experiences stretch us emotionally, relationally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. On any given day we may face disappointments, overwork, stress, or fractured relationships. Our pain is real. Sometimes we see no resolution on the horizon—the other parties are not interested in resolving a conflict and tension continues. Or, a situation may be irreversible, such as job termination or death of a loved one. A move into a new house brings hours of work and we are exhausted. A chronic illness takes its toll emotionally and spiritually. Our schedules with overwork and over commitment breed stress.
As I thought about the parallel to my PT stretching and reducing pain, I recognized the more consistent, genuine, and intentional spiritual disciplines I engage in, life stretching is less painful. I encounter God in prayer, not with a request, but to know Him better; not to receive a tangible blessing or answer, but to know the One who blesses in a more intimate way. I praise Him for His character, not as a benefactor. Praise can be a sacrifice when life hurts.
As I read the Bible and meditate on scripture, I learn more about its Author and see God’s perspective in my stretching experiences. I see a new truth I never read before, a verse tailor-made for where I am in life, or a promise to encourage me. A W Tozer says, “Go beyond the sacred page of the written Word and find the Living Word.”
Life stretching experiences, like the tight muscles in my shoulder, remain. They do not disappear, but my range of motion—a deeper spiritual intimacy–is greater. The stretching yields a range of motion where I find encouragement and enlargement of God’s perspective, not my focal point of pain.
Like the physical therapy exercises specifically designed for me, God’s mercies are carefully crafted and specifically given each day for whatever I meet. I do not have yesterday’s mercies, but newly designed ones. His constant love accompanies my stretching. His compassion is renewed daily as I work through pain. With my increased range of spiritual motion, I see His great faithfulness.
Where are you stretched today? As you read God’s Word, meet Him in prayer, and listen to His voice, your range of motion will increase. Your situation may or may not resolve, but as you stretch, you will meet the extraordinary treasures of God’s mercies and faithfulness to accompany you.
© Marilyn Nutter 2016
Wearing Glasses: A Choice
by Marilyn Nutter
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63: 7-8 NIV
Scanning our family photo, I realized many of us wore glasses. The styles and frames were different, but the objective was the same: each of us wanted to see clearly. Focus and clarity were our goals for distance and reading close-up. Without our glasses, we would stumble over objects, and not be able to drive or read.
Focus and clarity are our goals in choices, too. Some decisions are easy and have little consequence: shall I have chicken salad or a turkey sandwich for lunch? Others are significant: shall we move or stay put?
I’ve recently studied Bible characters who were confronted with hard choices. Their decisions had outcomes-personally and for generations to come. A different decision would have had major consequences. Reliance on their feelings or human reasoning over faith and God’s wisdom, would have been disastrous.
David, a shepherd boy, when confronted with the opportunity to kill Goliath, chose to rely on God’s strength to complete his mission, rather than retreat in fear or move forward knowing his weakness. His obedience prepared him to be anointed king. (1 Samuel 17)
Ruth, a young widow, chose loyalty to her widowed mother-in-law, and moved to a foreign land. She could have remained in her familiar homeland but chose otherwise. Boaz was waiting for her. They married and had a son who was in the line of King David and Jesus. (Ruth)
Mary faced the possibility of social stigma as a pregnant unwed teen but pursued obedience with joy. She bore the Messiah. (Luke 1: 26-38)
The widow of Zarephath, chose to comply with Elijah’s request for a meal despite her poverty. She witnessed two miracles: food for two years and restoration of her son’s health. (1 Kings 17: 7-16)
Each of these people chose to look through the eyes of God’s strength rather than their personal weaknesses or human reasoning. Yes, we assess situations and avoid foolish paths. But we can learn to move through the lens of faith and God’s wisdom. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)
Your thoughts: Are you facing a decision today that requires you to move away from timidity to resting a place of God’s power? What assurances can you look to from the Bible to guide you in your decision-making?
© Marilyn Nutter 2017
Too Many Envelopes
by Marilyn Nutter
“Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. “
Acts 16:6 NLT
We’ve had several rainy days recently, and on one of them, I decided to stay in and clean out drawers. I filed my greeting cards according to occasion. Yes, I wanted to organize, but I faced a dilemma when I had several odd envelopes remaining. “Several” doesn’t fully describe the sight. I didn’t count, but I think there were fifty envelopes in assorted sizes and…I had one lone greeting card that didn’t fit in any of them. How did that happen?
I began thinking about things that fit or don’t fit-besides summer clothing, because I’ve gained a few pounds. With graduation around the corner, high school students say they chose a college because it was a good fit. That usually refers to size, cost, and opportunities to pursue a major. We buy a house that is a good fit for our family. Employers choose an applicant who is a good fit for a job. After careful consideration, those may work in our best interests, but what about other choices? Are they the best “fits”?
In today’s scripture, the Holy Spirit prevented the apostle Paul from traveling to Asia to preach the gospel. What? Not preach the gospel? Yes. It’s clear: “Don’t go there, Paul.” It appears God had other plans and a better time frame in mind. Humanly speaking, going to preach the gospel at any time seems to be a fit, but this scripture says otherwise. There would be a better fit later, rather than acting in that moment.
What about us? Do we have better or best fits? And how do we determine them?
Do we choose to do something urgent over something else that is important? What have I sacrificed by my choice?
Do I make a good decision, when I could have made a better one or the best one? What have I lost out on? Or could I have waited and not decided?
Do I volunteer and respond to a need rather than a call from God? Did I get joy from serving or frustration and relief that a task is done?
Do I impatiently try and “fix” something, instead of wait? What did I compromise by settling?
Do I proceed, or do I pray first? What do I forfeit by not seeking godly wisdom?
Did I speak instead of restraining my words? Hmm…that could be costly. We can’t put toothpaste back into a tube. How did that turn out?
Getting back to my card organization task, I tried several envelopes. Some were too big, others wouldn’t remotely hold the card. The card just didn’t fit. There is a fit with plans, decisions, and choices too. Pray, seek godly counsel, and look for the best fit, instead of forging ahead. It’s ok to stay put on a rainy day and wait until the sun comes out. You can learn a lot on a rainy day.
© Marilyn Nutter 2017
A to Z: Everything You’ll Need
by Marilyn Nutter
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV
Several months ago, I began a stamped cross-stitched quilt for my expected seventh grandchild. I unfolded the quilt, scanned the letters A to Z and noted the characters that were placed next to each one. It looked like quite an undertaking in limited time, though a much simpler task than one I handled eight years ago for grandson #1.
The guide indicated colors intended for each letter. I opted to change some of the color suggestions, since we knew a boy was coming. The only pink in the blanket would be the hearts next to letter “H”. I separated the thread and set out to work, two strands and one letter at a time.
The A to Z pattern meant more to me than the alphabet and familiar “Now I’ve said my ABCs” song we often sing with children. Years ago, this baby’s Mommy (and his aunts) were in a children’s choir. One of the songs the choir of 100 plus children sang, was Everything. The beginning line says, “He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 22:13 NIV) They proceeded to “Captain of Salvation”, all the way to “Z”! One hundred voices, ages nine-to twelve, finished with the chorus, “He’s everything, everything, everything a God can be; He’s everything to me.” The kids sang through each letter, showing the twenty-six names of Jesus. They memorized the song and prayerfully hid its meaning in their hearts. So, as I proceeded to stitch the blanket, I prayed each name would be real for Mason—that he would know Jesus as his Savior at a young age and He would be everything to him for all his days.
Weeks followed, the accumulation and number of threads diminished, and strands of colors took their places on the blanket. Finally, the day came when I stitched the last. I held up the completed project and saw it clearly. What a picture of life and of my grandson’s life to be—praying that the threads in his life take their best places, beautifully placed, because God is everything to him.
God bless you sweet child. I cannot wait to meet you.
** Herb Owen was the children’s pastor who composed the song, Everything, and directed the choir, “The Branches”. You can hear the children sing on this site. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyCPIcQo5X0
Reflection: Knowing the twenty-six names of Jesus is a spiritual comfort. Why not explore them today?
© Marilyn Nutter 2014
The Grass Is Greener
by Marilyn Nutter
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” John 4:10 NLT
We change neighborhoods, churches, schools, jobs and even relationships. Sometimes we lack direction and perceive the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. We consider adjusting and move toward that fence; perhaps we climb over it.
In Mark 6: 30-44, we meet a group of five thousand people, gathered to hear Jesus teach. He taught late into the day and the people were hungry. Knowing their need, Jesus directed them to sit in groups on the green grass. They obeyed. He took five loaves and two fish given to him by a young boy and, “taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks.” (Mark 6:41 NIV) After breaking the bread, He gave the pieces to His disciples to distribute. He also divided the fish. There were even leftovers, and each disciple put them in individual baskets.
In following Jesus, the people could hear His teaching, see His power, sense His compassion, and know His provision. They recognized His dependence on and gratitude to His Father. In their obedience to His directions, people were fed and satisfied.
We can know the superiority of resting on the green grass with Jesus and find the same. Like a well-watered yard that yields a green and beautiful lawn, we can water our lives by knowing Jesus in deeper ways. It is a matter of stopping our busyness, perhaps changing our priorities, taking time to listen, and then respond.
Like each person in that crowd of 5,000, we have opportunities to hear Jesus’ teaching, sense His compassion, and know His provision. When we do, wherever we are, we will be satisfied because on that greener grass, we can rest in His love.
Reflection: Ponder your discoveries of God’s power, provision, and compassion as you rest on greener grass. Perhaps you want to journal examples of your experiences and offer prayers of thanks.
© Marilyn Nutter 2015
by Marilyn Nutter
As my friend and I talked on the phone this morning, we caught up on our weekend. Both of us live alone, so the first time we use our voices, (unless we talk to ourselves) is generally for our regular 7:30 am call. After clearing her throat, she said, “Sorry, it’s been very silent here.” We laughed at understanding our silent households, but also because it’s impossible to be “very silent”. We hear degrees of noisiness, but there are not degrees of silence. We’re either silent or we’re not; either we experience silence, or we hear a loud piercing siren or a hint of sound as in a bird chirping.
Unfortunately, people are often uncomfortable with silence and feel the urge to speak. Sometimes instead of using words of value, people are hurtful or destructive. Such was the case when a store clerk told a friend of mine, that she “must have gotten a little chubby because her jeans size had changed”. Another was told, “You’d look better if you wore Spanx”. A third told me, “You must be doing something wrong if your house hasn’t sold by now.” Another bubbled over with news in the presence of a recently widowed friend, “My husband surprised me with a weekend get-away”.
The Old Testament book of Proverbs reminds us of the power of words: they can bring wisdom, give blessing, offer knowledge, be life-giving, enrich, empower, bless, bring health, and offer encouragement.
But words can also be destructive, insensitive, pierce a heart, get us into trouble, curse, discourage, lie, hurt, and kill a reputation.
The tongue has the power of life and death…Proverbs 18:21 NIV
A Spanish proverb tells us, “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” Perhaps before speaking, we can ask ourselves, “Is what I am about to say true, necessary, life-giving, helpful, kind, or accurate?” As we walk through our day, let’s pause before we speak, clear our throat, and then silently ask, “Will I improve silence, or should I enjoy the absence of sound?”
Reflection: Read through the book of Proverbs for references on words and the tongue. Which verses can be prayers for your words?
© Marilyn Nutter 2018