Is Your Identity in Your Calling?

Are our identities mainly in our calling?

I had a conversation with someone recently, and they said, “I’m sorry. I can’t remember your first name, but I know you as Jessa’s mom.” I laughed, told them my name, and it was fine they didn’t remember because that is how most people know me. When my daughter played T-ball and softball, I even had a shirt that had “Jessa’s Mom” on the back.

I am the substitute teacher for my Sunday school class, and the last time I taught, the lesson was about Mary. A particular statement caught my eye. It said, “Mary’s identity was in her calling.” It caused me to ponder if that is true for most of us. Are our identities mainly in our calling? It was certainly true for many of the Bible characters.

We know Abraham as the father of many nations, Noah as the ark builder, Moses as the leader of the Israelites, and David as a king. In the New Testament, we know the disciples, missionaries and Bible writers by their calling. Finally, we know Mary as the mother of Jesus. Had she not had this calling on her life, she would have been a simple, unknown village girl.

So, what about us? Our first calling is to salvation, where our true identity begins. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  As children of God, we are each called to certain tasks and ministries. It is not always easy to let our calling be our identity. We get caught up in wanting to make a name for ourselves instead of just resting in who we are in Christ.

Since our identity is linked to our calling and our calling to God, who we are is a direct reflection of him. If we seek to honor him, then we must strive for excellence in what he has called us to do.  We also need to treat others in a way that would reflect God’s love on them. Paul puts it this way. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

We may think our identity is not in our calling if we are not in full-time ministry. But, God has called you to use your gifts and talents to minster to others. You may be a door greeter, choir member or baby rocker. Your calling may be outside the walls of the church. You may be a hospital volunteer, a community beautifier, the neighborhood cookie baker, or somebody’s Mom. But, whatever the calling, we are to do it to the honor of the Lord.

Our identity without him is nothing. Our identity in his calling makes us valuable and worth knowing. Let our response be the same as Mary’s as we gratefully say, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” (Luke 1:46-48)

Sue Potts

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A Well-Instructed Tongue

Do you give advice to others? Sure you do. We all do. Whether it is to, our children, our family, or our friends, we make comments on what others should do. Sometimes, the advice was asked for and sometimes not. | www.liftupyourday.com

Do you give advice to others? Sure you do. We all do. Whether it is to, our children, our family, or our friends, we make comments on what others should do. Sometimes, the advice was asked for and sometimes not.

Often our advice is so subtle we may not even realize that we have said it. We think we are just having a conversation but the other person hears us telling them how to handle their situation. Our words hold a power, so we have to be careful what comes out of our mouths.

One of the best ways that we can do that is to never say anything to someone else that Jesus wouldn’t say to them. If your friend is complaining about her husband would Jesus tell her that she should leave him? If your child has a conflict with a friend would Jesus tell her to tell them off? Are you tempted to tell your co-worker that it will be ok if they fudge on the report this time because they have to meet the deadline? Is that really what Jesus would say in that situation?

When we truly care about others, we want to ease their pain, so it’s tempting to comfort them by saying what they want to hear. The right thing to do may be the hard thing, but we find ourselves, skirting the issue or finding a less confrontational piece of advice to hand out.

Not every situation is black and white. We may truly not know what to tell someone when they come to us for advice. We don’t want to say the wrong thing to make the situation worse, and we don’t want to ignore this person who needs our counsel. So, how do we learn to give wise advice? Isaiah 50:4 tells us, “The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

A well-instructed tongue comes from the Lord. This verse says that the Lord wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. So the key to a well-instructed tongue is a well-instructed ear. We should listen to Lord before we speak. We have all shot up those, “Help me, Lord” prayers at the moment that we need wisdom, but this verse is telling us that more is required.

It says that we are to listen to the Lord, morning by morning. The more time that we spend with the Lord, the more that we are going to understand his instructions. The more that we understand his instructions; the more we are going to act and speak like him. The more that we speak like him, the more words we will have that sustains the weary.

Our words are often faulty, self-serving or inadequate. Only words that come from the wisdom of God will make a difference. To be wise advisors, we must first be good listeners. We can get up the morning by morning as this scripture says and call ourselves spending time with the Lord but are we listening as well as telling God our needs? He wants to equip us with what we need to be his voice to a hurting world. He wants to give us a well-instructed tongue, but first, he wants to give us well-instructed ears.

Sue Potts

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Heads or Tails

Heads or Tails

When you flip a coin and call heads or tails, one is just as good as the other depending on which one you called. In life, however, we want to be heads, not tails. We all like to think of ourselves as successful, but let’s face it, there are times when we think we landed on tails one too many times. So, what is the key to flipping that coin and landing on heads?

First of all we need to define success the right way, God’s way. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created to do good works that God prepared in advance for us to do. If we keep our eyes on what we are we were created to do, we won’t have much time for comparing ourselves to others. Success God’s way is using the gifts that he has given us to do kingdom work. Even if our job is in the secular world, there is still kingdom work to be done.

After we have found our place, we can then apply several basic biblical principles to our work that will point us to success.

  • Always keep God first. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
  • Don’t be lazy. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4)
  • Be honest. “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” (Proverbs 11:1)
  • Listen to good advice. “The way of fools seems right to them,but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
  • Use your money to honor God. “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” (Proverbs 3:9)
  • Learn to balance work and rest. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)

One final important step to being successful is prayer. God cares about every aspect of our lives. He wants us to given him our jobs and tasks. He wants to bless us with success his way, but sometimes he is waiting for us to ask. I want to leave you with some scripture prayers to pray over your work.”

“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory.” (1 Chronicals 4:10)

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)

“The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” (Deuteronomy 28:13-14)

Sue Potts

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A Fresh Heart

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Are you embracing the new year? We all like the idea of a fresh start, a chance for a clean slate but sometimes in life that is practically impossible. For many of us, last year’s problems followed us into the new year. It’s hard to get a fresh start if you are still dealing with the same old stuff.

You may have an aging parent or be the caregiver for ailing family member. You may be facing health issues yourself. You may be dealing with a wayward child that hasn’t seen the light, yet. You may be in the middle of grief over losing a loved one. You may have financial problems that didn’t go away just because the date changed. You may have unfinished projects looming over you that you have to get finished before you can have a new start.

Continual problems like these leave us feeling weak and weary. When we are feeling this way, it is very easy to give into self-pity and depression. The Apostle Paul knew something about that. He called his problem a thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul said that he had asked the Lord to remove this difficulty from his life three times. God chose not to remove his thorn but instead replied to him by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God had made his choice, now Paul had a choice to make. He could accept the grace and power that God promised him, or he could try to operate in his own strength. Paul made the right choice. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

So, if this is the situation that you find yourself in at the beginning of the new year. I hope you will choose to believe that his grace is sufficient. Our part is to just let God be God in our otherwise impossible circumstances. We just to have to commit to being faithful to whatever role God has called us. We have to keep showing up in the lives of those we love. We have to keep praying for God to change the things that we have no control over. We have to keep plugging away at those things that overshadow our new start. We have to seek godly wisdom for those things that we don’t know how to handle on our own.

We may not have got a fresh start on New Year’s Day, but we can have a fresh heart. We can have hope because we have a big God who loves us and will never leave us. Our problems may be continuous but so is our God. He is faithful to carry through what he promised.

Be encouraged today. Hope lives because our Great God lives. Happy New Year or Happy New Heart!

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Sue Potts

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Choose to Believe

Have you ever been to the place where things are so bad that you have to choose to believe that God is there with you?

I love Christmas movies, and there have been a lot of new ones this year. I just watched, as I am sure many of you did, Dolly Parton’s movie, “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.” I don’t want to give anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, but, at one point Dolly’s mother prays this prayer, “Oh, Lord, we are here. I don’t know what your plan is for me and these children, but I choose to believe that you’re going to save us.”

Have you ever been there? Have you ever been to the place where things are so bad that you have to choose to believe that God is there with you? If you have, you are not alone. All throughout the Bible, we are told time and time again of people who chose to believe in difficult circumstances.

•    The prophet Habakkuk chose to believe in spite of financial problems.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

•    Job chose to believe when he lost everything but his life.

Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him. (Job 13:15)

•    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to believe in the face of physical harm.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3: 17-18)

•    John chose to believe after much suffering.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

•    Mary chose to believe even when she couldn’t understand.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Often when we are in the midst of our problems, faith may not be our first reaction. We have to will ourselves to have faith. We have to choose to believe that God is still God and that he is able.

This Christmas season whatever difficulties you are facing choose to believe. Don’t let your circumstances steal your joy. Choose to believe in the child of the first Christmas. Choose to believe in the man he became. Choose to believe that he is your savior, redeemer, and friend. Choose to believe that he cares about you and your situation personally. He was faithful to the people of the Bible, and he will be faithful to you. He is trustworthy and worthy to be praised! Joy to the world!

Sue Potts

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Lessons from Dorcas

Do you know the New Testament story of Dorcas?

One of the first Bible stories that I remember learning when I was a child was the story of Dorcas. The lesson I remember was that Dorcas sewed clothes to help the needy. She used her skill as a seamstress to serve others because she loved the Lord. This is an important lesson, but I think there are a few more that we as adults can glean from this story. Let’s review Dorcas’ story.

In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:36-42)(NIV)

Notice that Dorcas never said a word in this passage, actually she was dead for most of it. We know her because of her actions. Her deeds were her legacy. She was called a disciple, and it says she was always doing good. When she died, she was mourned by the recipients of her deeds. The mourners were widows, those that could not help themselves.

It is probably safe to assume that Dorcas had money if she was able to buy the material to sew robes and other garments to give away. There were no Singer sewing machines back then. Oh, the time Dorcas must have put in sewing each garment by hand. Each piece would have been valuable if she had chosen to sell them. Maybe she had been a seamstress for hire in her earlier years. Probably much of her sewing time was spent alone, when she could have been down by the well, chatting with her friends.

It is believed by scholars that what the widows had were tunics that were worn next to the skin and cloaks that were made from animal skins, wool or goat, and camel hair. Can you imagine how those widows felt each time they put on their new tunics? How the crisp and fresh the material must have felt to their skin? They had lost their provider and could no longer afford new things for themselves. Wearing the outer cloaks gave them a sense of dignity. They held their head a little higher as they pulled the cloak around themselves.

I also wonder how many stories Dorcas heard as she delivered the garments. How much loneliness did she relieve?  Did she go in and sit with the widows and listen for a while? Did she tell them she understood and that they were not alone? Did she tell them that she sewed for her God and that he loved them too? Would they have mourned so deeply if all she had given them was clothes?

The scripture says that when Peter raised Dorcas from the dead that he gave her back to her friends. The news that she was alive became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Dorcas used her talent, gave what she had to give, and God gave her life. Dorcas did what she could then God did what he could. She did her best and God did the rest resulting in the salvation of many.

So, our lessons from Dorcas are to…

  • Use the skill that God gave us.
  • Do quality work
  • Serve others
  • Do our deeds for the Lord
  • Be an example of God’s love and leave the rest up to him.

Sue Potts

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Are You an Alleviator or an Aggravator?

Are You an Alleviator or an Aggravator?

I recently used the word alleviate in an article that I was writing and although I knew what the word meant I looked it up to be sure that I was using it in the right context. It meant what I thought it did, to ease or lighten, to lessen, improve or relieve. However, I was a little surprised that the antonym of alleviate is aggravate.

This immediately brought to mind a lesson that I tried to instill in my daughter. If you can’t be part of the solution, at least, don’t be part of the problem. There are many times on the way to school when I knew she was not looking forward to something that lie ahead of her that day that I had her quote Philippians 2:14. “Do all things without murmuring and complaining.” I knew that whatever happened gripping about it would not alleviate the situation or her mood.

Have you found that murmuring and complaining tends to aggravate not alleviate most situations? There are so many messes in our world today aggravated by murmuring and complaining. Just look at the political situation. Yes, I agree that there are problems on every side of this election. Yes, I agree we have the right to our opinion and as Christians should take a stand. But, are we really helping anything by murmuring and complaining? I often wonder if we would just hush for a little while if we would hear the still small voice of the Lord giving us direction on such matters.

Conflicts within our churches can be looked at the same way. Are we alleviating or aggravating threats against the unity of our church. Satan loves nothing more than getting God’s children taking sides against each other. A good question to ask ourselves when these situations arise is “Is what I think or have to say about this, going to improve the situation or make it worse?” Being petty isn’t pretty, and it isn’t pleasing to God.

Even in our homes, we can choose to not be an aggravator. Find ways to lighten that disturbance that come to cause disharmony. Sometimes laughter can defuse a tense situation. Other times, when it is a more serious circumstances, it may take restraint and putting a lock on our mouths. Make a conscious decision to choose peace whenever possible. The scripture tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) (NIV)

Do you know people that seem to always in a bad mood? Don’t be one of them. One of the lessons in my book, 101 Life Lessons From Uno (The One-Legged Duck), is “Find Simple Pleasures.” This is a quote from that lesson,

“Whatever is wrong, let something be right. Let something no matter how simple make you smile.”

We need to check ourselves from time to time to see if we are frowning more than smiling because our mood can aggravate or alleviate the mood of others.

As I read back over what I have just written, it struck me as sounding negative, and I certainly didn’t intend it that way. So I want to pull the positives out and leave them with you. We can choose not to add to the messes of our world by getting quiet before the Lord and waiting for his direction rather than complaining. We can choose unity in our church by not letting Satan get a foothold in the door through pettiness. We can choose to ease tension in our home by choosing peace whenever possible. Finally, we can check own mood and learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life that will get us well on our way to being an alleviator instead of an aggravator.

Sue Potts

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The Power to be Your Best

The power to be your best

Some of us remember the days of manual typewriters. Imagine for a moment that you were a writer in the 1800’s when the first typewriter, as we know it, was invented. You would have thought it was wonderful. No more sitting for hours with a pen and paper. No more hand cramps from grasping that pen so firmly. No more eyestrain from concentrating so intently so as to get ever letter perfect.

Fast forward to the early 1900’s when the first electric typewriter was invented. If you were in that era, you would think it was even greater. This new electric typewriter had power behind it. It allowed the same work to be done faster and easier.

Then computers were invented, better still. Computers were capable of even more power and made typing even easier and allowed mistakes to be corrected quicker. Computers have come a long way from where they first started.  I am one grateful writer to be living in the digital age. I need that power that the computer offers to be my best, most efficient self.  Apple, the leading computer company, says just that in one of its slogans. The slogan is “The power to be your best.” What they are saying is that their product can help us do what we do at the ultimate level.

That slogan could also be used in our spiritual lives. The power to be our best is available to us if we just avail ourselves of it. That power is the Holy Spirit, God in us. God sent the Holy Spirit to be our power source. We can do what we are called to do with a lot less effort, resting in him, rather than struggling on our own. He nudges us when we are about to go astray and helps us to take the right path. He enables us to do more than we could imagine doing on our own.

The Holy Spirit also helps us correct our mistakes much quicker. Computers have a way of letting you know when you make a mistake.  So does the Holy Spirit. When we sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us, and we simply go to him, ask forgiveness and ask him to help us fix our mess-ups. The Bible says if we confess our sins he deletes them and remembers them no more.  It is not like when we used whiteout, and you still could see traces of the mistake. No, he erases them completely.

Computers are also great for being able to work on a project over time. We can go back and start again building on what we have already completed. The Holy Spirit works on us over and over again, making us into what he wants us to be. We are a work in progress.

Do you feel like you have been doing life manually lately?  Does everything you do seem like a struggle? Are you cramped from trying to get everything right on your own? Do you have some things in your life that you would like to white out?

Remember, you don’t live in those olden days anymore. God makes all things new. He did not leave you alone. You have a power source. Plug in and be grateful for the power to be your best.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11) (NIV)

Sue Potts

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How Old Are You?

How do you measure spiritual age? How old would you be spiritually if you didn’t know how old you are? | liftupyourday.com

I recently saw a sign that asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Our physical age is something that we know because we celebrate birthdays, and we see it on our birth certificates. But, what about our spiritual age? So, let me ask, how old would you be spiritually if you didn’t know how old you are?

How do we measure spiritual age? We have a date and a time that we can go back to and even if you don’t remember the exact date you know when you gave your life to the Lord. But, did we grow at a healthy rate from that time on? For most of us, that answer is no. If there has ever been a time when we felt closer to the Lord than we do right now it may indicate that something is wrong.

We often stunt our spiritual growth by not feeding ourselves on a regular basis. We get in the Word for a while, and then we get off track. We miss a day or two and then it is easy to miss a couple more and before we know it’s been a week. We can also let ourselves get into the habit of going to church because it is a habit instead of expecting a fresh word from God and worshipping him with all of our hearts.

Spiritual maturity doesn’t come in spurts. It is disciplining ourselves to spend time with the Lord in prayer, worship, and Bible study. It is learning to walk in faith through the circumstances of life. When we are spiritually mature, we will respond to others in maturity instead of reacting to others in childish ways. We won’t get our feelings hurt over every little thing, and we will worry less and trust more.

The Bible also warns that those who are not spiritually mature can be led away by false teachers. The Message translation says it this way, “Be on guard, lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Wisdom also comes with maturity. The more we read the Bible, the more we understand about God and how he works. Another way that we can test our maturity level is by looking at how we act when life doesn’t turn out the way we think it should. We are human, and we will still experience grief, disappointment, and hurt, but the test of maturity is what we do with those feelings.  As we mature, we will learn to turn those feelings over to God and know that we are in his hands.

The good news is that just as we would do anything to help our children grow, our Heavenly Father wants to help us grow. All we have to do is go to him and let him help us get back to healthy spiritual disciplines. So, maybe the next time someone asks us how old we are spiritually. We can say that we are growing and maturing in the faith.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and understanding; that you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

Sue Potts

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Good Morning

I don’t like mornings. I am a night owl. I like to sit up late, and mornings are difficult for me. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t have that pleasure that some look forward to every day.

I have never been a morning person. When I was a teenager I had a nightshirt that said, “I don’t do mornings.” But, guess what, God does mornings. The first chapter of Genesis tells us that God separated the light and the dark and made evening and morning. He not only made mornings, but He also said they were good.

If God does mornings, then we have to do mornings too. I believe that God created us all uniquely and with different abilities, personalities, and preferences. For that reason, I don’t think we should feel condemned if God didn’t design us to be one of those people that spring out of bed with a ton of energy ready to take on the world.  However, I believe that there are a few things that we can do in the mornings based on the word of God to help us make the most of this time.

Stand Before the Lord.

Genesis 19:27 says, “And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord.” What a wonderful way to start a day. When we stand before the Lord, we acknowledge his presence, and we thank him for bringing us through the night and waking us up again. After we have done this, we can move on to making our request known to him and getting our instructions for the day.

Eat.

Chapter 17 of 1 Kings tells the story of God sending the ravens to feed Elijah. It says they fed him in the morning and the evening.  Our bodies need nourishment in the mornings. It refuels us. It helps to wake our bodies up and gives us energy. Even if we don’t like a full breakfast, we should try to eat something to help us be at our best.

Set Out on Your Journey.

Time and time again in the Bible it says that people set out on their journey in the morning. When I leave for a trip even though I am not a morning person, I prefer to leave in the morning. There is just something about getting a fresh start in the morning. We each have a daily journey. We make plans, lists and set out doing what God has in store for us each day.

Receive New Mercy.

Each morning is a fresh start. Maybe, yesterday didn’t go so well. Maybe last night was long and troubling. Maybe, we haven’t been all God would have us to be lately and we wake up feeling like we have already failed. God meets us where we are and stands ready to forgive us and equip us for the day. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Morning for even those of us that are not morning people can be a blessed time if we start our day by standing before the Lord. Then, take care of our physical nourishment. Determine to set out on our journey for the day and realize that we have a faithful God who is waiting to shower us with new mercies.  God created mornings, and it was good!

Sue Potts

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