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Summer

Coffee Shop Conversations;


A four-part devotional to celebrate His seasons

Sun, Sand, Wind, and Worship. Things of Summer that fill us with joy and gratitude. This Summer series will give you a space to pause and reflect on God’s generosity and provision. Each week I will share a devotion for you to intentionally set your hearts, minds, and spirits on our Loving, Generous Lord.

So, grab a cup of coffee, settle into your favorite nook, and let’s dive into His Word. Share these devotions with a friend or your family, or let them wash over you as you set your mind to worship our Savior in this lazy season.

I hope these devotions will serve each week in being intentional in your worship. Please enjoy!

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The Sun

 

One of my favorite seasons is summer. It’s the time of year that families leave their hectic, rigid schedules and get a chance to put what they want to do on the calendar.

It could be a vacation far away, a staycation nearby, VBS at church, a book club with friends, or just hanging out in the neighborhood. You pick! One thing that will be present in whatever you choose is the sun.

I’m sure you know there are different types of heat. In the South, heat is thick, chunky, and wet. Southern heat can catch your breath and sit heavy on your chest like a kettlebell when coming out of any air-conditioned place. You feel the difference moving from indoors to the outdoors by the weighty, moist air looming around you.

The other type of heat we can experience is a dry heat. Imagine baking your skin to a dry, crispy degree. All moisture sucked out of the air, and temperatures in the sizzling 100s. Yet, as you move from the indoors to the shade of a tree, areas with dry heat allow the temps to drop by 10-20 degrees as we get out of the direct sun. Dry heat can make us feel like an ant under the magnifying glass of a curious child, roasting our skin with every second we’re in the direct sunlight. But that shade...phew! It’s truly refreshing. And then there is the direct sunlight versus the light we see when the sun hides behind some fluffy clouds. It varies in intensity, but we can still see where we’re going by its light. Still enjoy our summer reads, and let’s not forget the fun summer tan we all look forward to each year.

We also reap the benefits of vitamin D that sun exposure provides us. This benefit of the sun is available all year round. But we

soak up this beneficial vitamin most in the summer when the warmer temps, coupled with lighter schedules, seem to draw us into the sun more so than other seasons of the year.
The sun is a cherished gift God has lavished us with! Its warmth, light, and effects on our bodies benefit us greatly. In the summer, we can grow weary of higher temperatures, sweaty bodies, and, if we have little ones, extended bedtimes due to the longer days Summer affords. But we cannot deny its rich blessings.

This summer, let’s be intentional in praising God for providing the sun! Let’s be grateful for all it grants us. Yes, the practical blessings I’ve listed above, but how about we go deeper in our gratitude.

Taking time to start each morning gazing at the sunrise, vibrant with colors of yellow, orange, red, and purple, is a sure way to plunge into your days with a thankful heart. Hosea 6:3 guides us in using each sunrise to meditate on our Heavenly Father.

“Let us acknowledge the Lord, let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us...”
Lamentations help us celebrate His compassion towards us every morning. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Sunsets bring about a new avenue of praise, as we can reflect on His goodness to us in the day that is wrapping up with a similar array of vivid colors boldly testifying to God’s presence and goodness in each day. A sunset can prompt us to stop and be thankful for one thing God has given or shown us that specific day.

This summer, let’s intentionally use the gift of the sun, such a promenade part of this season, to position ourselves in unison with nature. Let’s use the rising and the setting of the sun, the tingly warmth of the direct rays, and even the chunky, wet air we breathe all to be gentle reminders of the generosity and provision of our good Father.

It’ll make our hearts more thankful, our summers more fulfilling, and our minds more at peace. This summer, let the sun bring you closer to The Son.
“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3)

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Sand;
Sticky, hot, and so much of it!

What comes to mind when you hear the word “sand’?
In light of summer, of course, the beach. For me, the beach is such a restful, relaxing respite I look forward to every summer. Family time. Warm sunny days laying on the beach, reading, napping, sunning. I love the therapeutic movements of running my hands through the sand. I always admire laborious statutes of castles, sea creatures, or even just a ginormous hole dug in the sand. I appreciate the time it took, but more so, the time of total bliss building anything in the sand affords. Fun. Family. No deadlines. Just time spent in the sand.

Others may not admire sand as much. I respect that. Tiny bits of sand find their way into the nitty gritty nooks and crannies, agitating whatever they touch. It sticks to the skin, beach chairs, and beach blankets. It can cause erosion if not properly washed off of metal beach equipment. Hmmm... I do see the other side of sand.

But there is another way to think about sand. The Bible mentions it a few times. In Genesis, when God calls Moses to step out, trust Him, and worship The One True God, he promises, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.” (Genesis 32:12)
Here we see sand being used to attempt to count the volume of God’s promise to Moses. Who can count sand? How much sand do you think is at your favorite beach? Impossible to say.
That’s God’s point. By using sand as a reference for the number of descendants He would give to Moses, He was communicating that His generosity is uncountable.
Job uses sand to liken it to the weight of grief,
“Oh, that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas...”
Funny how a bunch of tiny pieces of sand can feel so heavy on our chest. Job felt the heaviness of grief as if the sand in the ocean were upon him. Another way to look at sand; heavy. Any dad who patiently laid still while his kids buried him in the sand can attest to the heaviness of sand.
Jeremiah 5:22 tells us another use God has for sand. “Do you not fear Me? Declares the Lord. For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea. An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” Sand

makes a perfect barrier, an eternal one, as this verse tells us. Now, I see clearly that it is God’s sovereignty stopping the waves, not the actual sand. But God’s using the sand nonetheless. I can attest that the ocean shoreline and sand are a mighty reminder of God’s power and authority. Just stand on the beach, looking at the crashing waves hitting your toes, and you’ll see it too. His majesty, creativity, generosity, power, and authority. He tames the sea!
God again uses sand as an uncountable example in Psalm 139:17-18, but this time, He describes how He feels about us!

“How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand...” His thoughts towards each of us are precious and too many to count, just like sand is too much to count! That’s how your Heavenly Father feels about you.

This summer, as you head outside to walk along a shoreline or play in a sandbox with your family, let sand remind you to worship the God who made it, you, and the whole world.
Let sand cover you up in these truths;

He is in command.
He keeps all His promises to us.
His love and thoughts towards us are too much to count. Sticky, hot, or too much of it can still lead us to worship the God who loves us ...too much to measure!

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WIND

 

Where I live, a good summer breeze can chase away annoying bugs, cool your core temperature down, and be a breath of fresh air on a hot, sticky day. It can also tear down homes, uproot trees, and make a mess of everything. It has great power to shift large objects around and the ability to gently refresh us, all in one. Growing up in Kansas, I learned to respect the power of the wind. I witnessed it power houses as an alternative to electricity. I’ve seen it ravish through towns, leaving people desolate.

It’s a bit of a mystery, wind. Yet, it’s another thing God made that can blow us into worship. Let’s look at God’s Word to see how we can use wind to lead us into worship.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes...” John 3:8 Here, Christ uses wind to communicate that the wind is just that, a mystery, and like the wind, so is the work of the Spirit.

We see who is in control of the wind in His Word too. Psalm 78:26 says, “He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by His power He directed the south wind.”
Jesus, while resting in a boat with his disciples, rebukes the wind and commands it to be calm. The disciples were shocked at this, asking, “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:27) Jesus Christ, Lord of all, calmed the wind.

God uses wind to show His sovereignty, His power, and the mystery of His Spirit.
In Exodus, God uses wind to sweep away all the locusts as He displays Himself as the One True God.
“So the Lord shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in the territory of Egypt.” (Exodus 10:19)

He is able to command the wind to do His bidding. I love that “not one locust was left”. He is the Almighty One.
He uses wind to clean up more than just locusts. Remembering Noah, his family, and all the animals in the ark, “God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.” (Genesis 8:1b). God also used the wind to discipline Jonah when Jonah did not want to obey God. “The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea, and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” (Jonah 1:4) That got Jonah’s attention!

Proverbs tells us we can inherit the wind, though I don’t think we want to. “He who troubles his house will inherit the wind...” (Proverbs 11:29)
The wind can be a powerful display of God’s might, and it can be a source of tension and fear if it is unleashed. Yet scripture also uses wind to describe the Holy Spirit. The disciples experienced a mighty wind after Christ’s death and resurrection. Acts 2:2 states, “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

Ezekiel 37:9-14 speaks of the four winds and breath coming from heaven to bring dry bones to life! Fascinating!
John 20:22 recalls Christ performing another miracle. “And with that, He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Life-changing for them and for us!

This summer, whether you feel the gentle breeze off the water, colling you down and refreshing your mind, or you’re hunkered down in a safe place as powerful winds wreak havoc, let’s use the wind to remind us of God’s power, provision, and the gift of His Holy Spirit, with us. When we see the branches bending, let’s bend our knee to the author and perfector of our faith. Let’s marvel at how something so mysterious can thrust us into an intentional moment of worship.

And let the wind blow!

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Worship;
What we were made to do.

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

Worship! The word itself catches our attention and lifts our spirits. We can be in the laundry room, folding clothes, driving in our vehicle, dropping off kids, or sitting in a pew surrounded by all our familiar people, or not knowing anyone at all, and be thrown into worship, praising the Creator God, Maker of all life. We cannot help but watch a sunrise or sunset and are in awe of our God. Or see dew dripping from a flower petal in the early morning and find ourselves thanking Him for all of it. Rocking our sleepy babies and snuggling with our spouse. All these things and experiences ignite within us a desire to worship. Summer does this too.

Today, after you have your coffee (morning or afternoon cup), as you walk outside, look around. See what catches your eye, and see if it positions your heart to worship and praise our Father in Heaven. I bet you’ll find something, maybe without even really trying. Why is that?

Yes, our Creator is worthy of all praise. I often hear somewhere in my thinking “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God Almighty. Who was, and is, and is to come.” And with the four living creatures described in Revelation 4:8, my spirit joins in, as if I were right there at the Throne with them.

He IS worthy and deserves all glory, honor, and praise. There is no question. But, why do the blessings of this life turn our hearts to worship? Because we were made to worship the One True God.

“The people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21) When God formed our unseen bodies, in our mothers’ wombs, He created us to worship.
Not just worship. Worship Him. We see this truth throughout the Bible. 1 Peter states it clearly. We were created and chosen by God “...that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called

you...” Proclaiming the excellencies of Him is worship. That’s why when we find ourselves in awe or filled with gratitude, with thankful hearts bursting in our chest, our nature is to worship Him. To proclaim His excellencies. He put it in our nature when He was forming us in the hidden places.
I want to make space here to say there are times and things we go through that can stifle our free-spirited worship. Sometimes our hearts are heavy and flooded with pain, loss, and many questions. I understand that place well. And in those times, may I humbly encourage you to reach out, with cracked, dry throats, lift your weary, heavy hands, and praise Him in the middle of those dark, non-glorious moments?
I think of Paul, imprisoned. Unsure what was coming next, in the dark, dank dungeon. I think of the Mother of Jesus, crouched at His feet, terrified yet determined to stay with her son, The Son, her Master. Any one of us would certainly give them both a pass on worship in those moments. But look what happened when they worshipped from their dark, dismal places.
“And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly, there was a great earthquake so that the prison's foundations were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:25-26)
Freedom. Hope. Miracles. Change. All because of their willingness to do what they were created to do, regardless of their circumstances.
Let’s look into Mary’s dark place of worship. “And standing at the foot of the cross, near Jesus, His mother...
Then He said to His disciple, ‘Behold thy mother.” (John 19:25-27) Mary was at the foot of the cross, losing her son, and through

worshipful faithfulness, she gained a son. Jesus met her needs in the middle of her worship. And He does the same for us.
When we are willing to worship in all seasons of our life, something tangled in the fabric of who we are is satisfied. And, the God who made and saves us meets us there.

As you settle into a slower, less rigid pace this summer, take time out daily to set your heart to worship our Great and Mighty King. Allow whatever is within eyesight to thrust you into the Throne Room, and with all that is within you, do what you were created to do; Worship Him.

I pray your summer is filled with nothing but laughter and sunny days.
But, if you do find yourself in a dark, dank dungeon, I pray you will lean into what you were made for and choose to worship.

You won’t be disappointed. Sun. Sand, Wind...Worship!

Winter

A two-part devotional to celebrate His seasons

 The Season of Anticipation

 

It’s here! December. 

The anticipated time of giving, celebrating, family and friends, hope, and joy. This time of year, the whole world looks forward to something. It could be time off work or school. Maybe gifts we want. Maybe snow. But we are all looking forward to something during this holiday. What always amazes me about Christmas is the whole world is celebrating Jesus. Some may not even know it, but everywhere you go, you hear songs about His birth…and grandma’s getting run over by reindeer…all mixed together. This devotional series will help you sort out the funny, non-Christ-centered moments and the true meaning of why the whole world is rejoicing; Christ came to us!

Let me break down these four weeks leading up to Christmas with a fresh look at familiar symbols, traditions, and hope that is shared by so many. 

As you sip your favorite flavored hot drink, let your mind go to a place of pure excitement as you anticipate a wonderful holiday season. 

My hope is always to provide you with a space to refocus on God’s pure love and His faithful promises as you take a second to pause and read these devotions in your favorite spot; a local coffee shop or your very own living room. 

Sit back, relax, and let me provide a fresh view of the hope and joy offered to us each year in this season of anticipation.

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A Look Through the Eyes of Israel; Advent

 

Advent Season has begun. The four weeks leading up to Christmas. Did you know advent means “arrival”? The four weeks before Christmas are considered the season of the celebration, anticipation, and excitement of the arrival of Christ, the One who would save the world! 

Avent Season has always fascinated me. Over the years, the various churches we have worshipped with have all approached this anticipated arrival season differently. Most have done a type of reading focused on the promised Messiah, lit a candle, and led the congregation in a focused prayer on Christ, The Savior. Sometimes a family was selected to do the reading, candle lighting, and prayer, each adding a unique personal touch. Sometimes it came from the pulpit as the local leaders guided the congregation through this act of worship. On many occasions, Mark and I had the kids join us by reading a portion of the assigned prompt when we were called upon to participate. 

I found this act of community worship beautiful. I still look forward to Advent Sundays. Yet after my trip to Israel this past Fall, I am seeing  this season of Arrival through different eyes.

 

When I allow myself to hurry through this season of anticipation, it feels more like a burden than a promised blessing. So today, as you enjoy your warm cup of coffee, let’s slow down for a minute and refocus on Christ. 

With so much to emphasize during this season, let’s turn out thoughts toward the announcement. Jesus comes to this earth as a babe, born of a virgin roughly two thousand years ago. We see this announcement at the beginning of the New Testament. In Matthew, the wise men received word of Jesus through the stars (Matthew 2:2). In Luke, the shepherds hear of His arrival through a sky full of angels (Luke 2:8-14)! How exciting! But did you know Christ was announced in the Old Testiment…many times? And not just announced, but specific details were revealed, ensuring that we would know who He was, when, and where He would be. 

 

Micah 5:2 announced where Jesus would be born. Isaiah 7:14 foretold the clear sign that Jesus would be born miraculously of a virgin. In Numbers, it was proclaimed that Jesus would be a descendant of Abraham (Numbers 24:17). Christ, our Savior, was prophesied about and announced to us throughout the Old Testament. He was confirmed when He arrived by the prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-68. 

 

Jesus was not an unannounced guest. Yet, some still missed Him. Some ignored all the prophecies of the Old Testament and all the miraculous signs surrounding His arrival. Some are still waiting for the promised Messiah. Sure, we can read it all together in one nicely packaged Book. Yet, I believe we can still miss the Messiah if we’re not intentional. If we allow ourselves to jump on the face-paced train to Christmas.  Take some time to revisit these passages in both the Old and New Testaments, and allow yourself to slow down and refocus on Christ this season. And with the angels, wise men, and shepherds, celebrate Christ! 

This year, choose to be like Mary and “treasure(d) up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

As we stood looking over an open field in Bethlehem, our guide tugged at our hearts as he engaged our imaginations in describing what one lone angel’s impact must have been on a few committed shepherds in a quiet field. These were not ordinary shepherds. They  had been given the grave responsibility of caring for the “spotless” lambs who would be purchased by faraway travelers to make a proper offering for themselves and their families during the Passover. These lambs had to be perfect. Without blemish, nick, scrape, smudge, or impurity. The shepherds would bind the feet of these chosen lambs together, place them over their shoulders and around their necks, and holler out ahead of them, “Sacrifice!” to warn those around them not to get near enough to damage these perfect sacrificial lambs. The crowds would hear this announcement and literally make a path for the shepherd to pass through untouched. At times, these shepherds would lay the spotless lamb in a manger, like the one in this picture, with bound feet, to keep it safe and unblemished throughout the night. 

When I saw this manager in Old Jerusalem, I did not know that the shepherds used mangers for this purpose; to protect the spotless sacrifice before the Passover. True, a manger was used as a feeding trough for the animals. But also, it made a perfect holding bin for these lambs that needed to be preserved until they would be sacrificed. 

This changes the lens the shepherds must have seen Jesus through when they found Him “laying in a manger” that Holy night! 

Think about it! They knew what was placed in mangers. 

Perfect sacrifices. This must have hit them profoundly as they got off the ground from the host of angels flooding their night sky with worship. They listened to the instruction of where to go to find their Savior, and they obeyed and found Him just as the angels said. 

They must have been speechless for that moment as they made the connection. And that understanding of the symbolism of the sacrifice and the manger is what must have fueled their enthusiastic parade of sharing the Gospel with whoever would listen that night! 

“He is here! The Spotless Lamb! The Awaited Messiah!” 

I can hear them now!

Oh, we could use some of that same enthusiasm today, couldn’t we? This year, as you celebrate the Advent Season, look at it through the lens of these shepherds of ancient days. Ponder the excitement as humans were joined by the Perfect Lamb. Allow yourself to be speechless in the Presence of Emmanuel, God with us.

Anticipate with fresh wonder this Advent Season. 

He is Emmanual; God with us! The Perfect Sacrifice!

 Announced Visitor

 

 Oftentimes we rush through Thanksgiving only to find ourselves on a turbo-paced countdown to the long-awaited Christmas Day. I’m not sure about you, but it feels forced, fake, and empty when I get on that train. I feel detached as time ticks rapidly through each day leading up to the month of December. Can you relate?

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Tina Akridge has walked through loss, and grief after losing her husband who fought cancer for eight years. She learned how to lean on God, and hopes to hold the hand of those who are going through their own loss, offering compassion to them, and helping them turn to God's promises.

 

Tina's writing will be a friend in those dark places, and show you where to find more peace in your life.

 

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