Casting All Your Burdens

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV)

The week after Thanksgiving I was suddenly overwhelmed with prayer needs.  Dear friends and acquaintances were all going through trials at the same time.  First, a young mom’s baby was born with her intestines outside her stomach; mamma and baby were both life-flighted to a hospital far away. Then the husband of one of my best friends was diagnosed with leukemia, then our local pastor had emergency gallbladder surgery, then a dear church friend had a hysterectomy, then another church member had a heart attack, then a 7.2 earthquake hit Alaska where my college roommate lives, then a community member loved by all was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer…the prayer needs were daunting for me, combined with all my usual prayers. I found myself fretting throughout the morning, worrying about each person and praying for them over and over again. In my unfruitful way, I was trying to carry out Galatians 6:2.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

But then I realized I should bear those burdens to the Lord, carrying them from my friends to Jesus.  Once I gave it to Jesus, I was supposed to let go, not take it back. I was carrying burdens I did not need to carry.  I got out my prayer journal and wrote 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”  And I wrote all the people for whom I’d been worrying.  I prayed for each one and gave them to Jesus.  I said, “Jesus, please carry these for me, it’s too much for me and You know just what to do.”  And Jesus took my load. He gave me His peace that He would take care of everyone. I still lift these dear ones up to Jesus each day, but I’m not fretting now.  Jesus has them covered.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Write 1 Peter 5:7 in your prayer journal today.  Below the verse list people you’ve been worrying about, one name per line. Then go back and write a short prayer for each one by their names.  Thank Jesus for carrying these dear ones for you!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Good Deed Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (NKJV)

This December we are renewing a Christmas tradition we began long ago, the Good Deed Manger. It all started when our oldest two children were little and I was reading Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.  One story was about a mom with four children who was having trouble with them arguing and fighting during December.  So, she began a Good Deed Manger.

The story was a real tear-jerker and hard for me to finish reading aloud to my family.  But we read it each year, nonetheless, and made our own Good Deed Manger.  The first year, Kallie, Jacob and their Daddy built the manger you see in this picture, it was a little crooked, just like in the story.  Some family members went outside to collect dry grass or straw to put in a bucket near the manger.

Then we all wrote our names on slips of paper and put them in a Christmas hat.  We took turns drawing names until everyone had one.  It was a secret, so no one could know whose name we had.  That was the person we would do good deeds for all week, without them seeing us.  Each time we did a good deed, we could put a straw in the manger, trying to make a soft bed for baby Jesus.  Every Sunday night we would draw new names and continue with the good deeds.  On Christmas Eve we put a baby doll in the manger to be the Baby Jesus.  We hoped the bed was soft enough for Him because of all our good deeds.

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:12 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Make a Good Deed Manger with your family this December! If you can find Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul at your library, look for the original story  (p. 68 “The Last Straw”). and read it aloud together. Better yet, read the the story of our Savior’s birth in Luke 2. Then have a blessed Christmas season, surprising everyone with good deeds.

 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:16 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed this devotional activity, you might like to read my other Christmas Devotions, another favorite of mine is My Heart Inn.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Gingerbread Cookies and Chocolate Zucchini Bread

 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas before us, it’s time to start making more goodies.  Today I share two gluten-free recipes you can use to make treat plates to take to neighbors, if you can deliver the goodies before your family munches them!

The photo here includes both the gingerbread cookies I share with you today, along with the sugar cookies I  made one Valentine’s day.  Both are delicious and gluten-free, though I think the gingerbread variety holds together the best.

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 Tablespoon vinegar
1 beaten egg
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (Did you know xanthan gum is a powder ingredient that can be found near the Bob’s Red Mill flour in your grocery store?  It helps to hold baked goods together.)

In a medium saucepan, bring coconut oil, sugar, molasses, and vinegar to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat to potholder on the counter and allow to cool.

In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients: Brown rice flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and xanthan gum.

When pot is cool, stir in the beaten egg, followed by the dry ingredients.  Mix well, cover, and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove gingerbread dough from fridge and let sit on counter while oven is preheating.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Use extra tapioca flour to flour a cutting board lightly.  Scoop part of the dough onto your prepared cutting board.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out your favorite Christmas shapes. Use a metal pancake turner to lift the cookies from the cutting board to the parchment paper pans.  When the pans are full, bake for 5-8 minutes, or until done.  Cool on cooling racks.  Decorate with your favorite frosting and sprinkles.  (We mix 2 T. coconut oil, 2 cups powder sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and enough almond milk to make a fine frosting). Merry Christmas!!!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

If you’re like us, your freezer still has zucchini from last August.  We grated several zucchinis and bagged them for winter baking and cooking. Grocery stores still have zucchinis this time of year, too. This recipe was one of our favorites we made in summer.  The Chocolate Zucchini Bread can be wrapped and given as a gift, or sliced and arranged on a plate with the cookies.  This recipe we modified from the Gluten-Free Mama Cookbook, another great resource for gluten-free eaters.

Ingredients:
Coconut oil to oil baking pans
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 cups shredded zucchini
4 eggs
1 cup apple sauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 package Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two loaf pans with coconut oil.  Set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer combine the zucchini, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla.  Mix for one minute.   Next, add the dry mixture, a little at a time, mixing just a little bit until combined.  Finally, add the chocolate chips and gently mix.

Pour half the batter into each prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Bake for 1 hour or until done.  Remove from oven to cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing.  So tasty it should probably be called cake!

Arrange all the goodies on plates for your neighbors with a Christmas greeting and Bible verse.  Another recipe your neighbors will love is Anna’s Peanut Butter cups!

Remember the REASON for the SEASON!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

 

 

 

Party Beans, Rice Con Queso, and Sweet Potatoes

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2 (NKJV)

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  The big day is tomorrow!  I pray that God blesses you with family and friends and a feast!  Here are a few more of our family’s favorite recipes for the holidays. Scroll all the way down for extra Thanksgiving links.

Party Beans

Ingredients:
(All bean cans are about 15-16 ounces)
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can butter beans
1 can black beans
1 can black-eyed peas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1- 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper

This is a great crock-pot recipe. First open your five cans of beans, empty them into a colander and rinse.  Pour all the beans into your crock-pot.  Next, chop your onion and peppers and add them to the beans.  In a glass measuring cup, combine the ketchup, water, brown sugar, bay leaves, cider vinegar, ground mustard and pepper.  Pour the ketchup mixture over the beans and veggies in the crock-pot.  Give it a quick stir.  Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 hours, or high heat for 3-4 hours.  Remove bay leaves. Serve with cheese or chips for a great meal or side dish.  Any combination of 5 cans of beans will work, whatever you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll use a can of corn.  The more colors, the more festive for your holiday gathering!

Rice Con Queso

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups brown rice, cooked with 3 cups water, salt and pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 small can green chilies, chopped
1-1/2 cups shredded Jack cheese or Daiya cheese
8 ounces Ricotta cheese or almond milk Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Daiya cheese

Put rice, water, salt and pepper in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.  Or, you can cook the rice ahead in your rice cooker.  Saute garlic, onions, and chilies, in a bit of olive oil.  Add the sauteed veggies, along with the black beans, to the cooked rice.  Lightly oil a 2 quart casserole dish with olive oil.  Layer the rice mixture, Jack or Daiya cheese, and Ricotta or almond milk Ricotta in dish.  Repeat layers 2 times, ending with rice mixture.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheddar or more Daiya cheese.  We make one with dairy and a dairy-free rice con queso.

To make this a festive Thanksgiving dish, instead of serving in a casserole dish, serve it in a pumpkin!  You will have to pre-bake the pumpkin.  Here’s how:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Choose a small to medium pumpkin and wash thoroughly.  Cut off the top and scoop out the insides.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and turn the pumpkin upside down onto the paper.  Bake the pumpkin for at least an hour, until the inside seems tender.  Don’t bake too long, or it will collapse (that’s what happened to mine this year, so I don’t have a final photo for you 😕 ).  Remove from oven and place upright on a fresh lined pan or oiled casserole dish.  Layer the rice con queso ingredients and bake as described above.  It’s an amazing treat for Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potatoes

Here’s another crock-pot recipe.  We make this Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving and let it cook all night. The house sure smells delicious when we get up on Thanksgiving morning.  Then we scoop it into a casserole dish to serve later with dinner.

 

Ingredients:
6 medium sweet potatoes or yams (we like the orange yams best)
1-1/2 cups applesauce
2 apples, chopped
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 cups water

Place all ingredients in your crock-pot.  Cover and cook on high 8 hours or overnight.  Enjoy!

Need more holiday recipe ideas?  Check out my complete list of holiday recipes. Or my pies and jello salads.

Need an activity for your family around the dinner table, or while waiting for dinner?  Check out the Thanksgiving Chain.

Need a new grace to sing with your family?  Check out these favorite camp graces.

How about some Thanksgiving Bible verses to add to place cards at your Thanksgiving table?

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.  Jesus loves you!  And because of Him, we all have a reason to give thanks!

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.  Psalm 116:17 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

MOPS: Mothers of Preschoolers

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
  Psalm 127:3 (NKJV)

One of my favorite organizations for moms is called Mothers of Preschoolers.  When I had my first two little blessings, there was a MOPS group for us to attend. There we made friends, were encouraged as moms, and shared fellowship with other moms who were seeking to follow Jesus.

This week I had the joy of sharing My TEA CUPP Prayers at a MOPS group in Big Timber, Montana.  What a lovely bunch of ladies!  I promised them I would post the devotions I shared here.  Just click on the photos below to read the articles. If you would like me to to share at your MOPS or moms group, I hope you will also contact me.  I’d love to share a CUPP of Mom TEA with you!

Here are the devotions we shared with the moms today:

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
  Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

Preschool Day

Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God. Psalm 50:23 (NIV)

Saying Thanks at Meals

And The Thanksgiving Chain.

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children. Isaiah 54:13 (NKJV)

Bedtime Prayers

For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. John 16:27 (NKJV)

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing
Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

God loves you!

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV)

My TEA CUPP Prayers Story

By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You.  Psalm 71:6 (NKJV)

Bonus Devotion:  There is Always a Baby

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.  Acts 20:24 (NIV)

My Running Testimony

Today’s TEA CUPP: Fall is a great time to join a new Bible study or moms group in your area.  These groups usually kick off the new season when school begins. Christian friends will keep you accountable on your walk with Jesus, and love you right where you are.  I encourage you to find a group in your town.  Ask your local church or check out MOPS.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

 

 

 

 

Jello Salads and Cranberries

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (NKJV)

It’s time to collect holiday recipes!  This month I’ll be sharing some family favorites with you.  Occasionally my grown children will ask for these when away from home for the holidays, so now they are right where we can find them.

Today I have two favorite Jello salad recipes.  The first came from my husband’s Grandma Fern.  Grandma Fern was a Christian prayer warrior who prayed and fasted every Friday.  I claim God’s promises that He continues to hear Grandma Fern’s prayers for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Grandma Fern’s Holiday Jello Salad

Ingredients:
1 large box red (strawberry or cherry) Jello
1 large box green (lime for Christmas) OR orange (orange for Thanksgiving) Jello
1 small box yellow lemon Jello
3 oz. cream cheese or dairy free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayo or Veganaise
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup mini-marshmallows

Give yourself a day to make this salad.  You will need a 9×13 pan or container.

Heat water to a boil.  Measure 1-1/2 cups boiling water into a large glass measuring cup.  Stir in the red Jello until dissolved.  Add another 1-1/2 cups cold water and stir again.  Pour into the the 9×13 pan.  Cover and put in the fridge to chill.

When the red layer is firm, boil more water.  Measure 1 cup hot water into a large glass measuring cup.  Add the lemon Jello and 1 cup marshmallows.  Stir until marshmallows melt.  Allow to cool for a bit. In another bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and mayo.  Add the crushed pineapple and juice.  Now, carefully add the lemon jello mixture to the cream cheese mixture.  Stir.  Pour it all on top of the chilled red layer.  Cover and chill again.

When the lemon layer is firm, heat water to a boil.  Measure 1-1/2 cups boiling water into a large glass measuring cup.  Stir in the green or orange jello, depending on the holiday.  Add another 1-1/2 cups cold water and stir again.  Pour this final layer over the lemon layer. Cover and put in the fridge to chill. Cut into squares when ready to serve. Happy celebration!

Cranberry Jello Salad

Cranberry Jello Salad is one of my favorite holiday salads, packed full of healthy ingredients like cranberries, apples, nuts and celery.  So hearty and yummy!

Ingredients:
2 cups cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large box cherry Jello
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup water
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup unpeeled apples, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped

In a medium sauce pan, cook cranberries and 1 cup water until cranberries are soft (about 15 minutes).  Add sugar and bring back to a boil.  Remove pan from heat to a potholder on the counter.  Stir in Jello.  Next, add one more cup water and the can of crushed pineapple. Allow to sit on the counter to cool a bit.  Stir in the celery, apples, and nuts.  Pour the salad into a Jello mold, Bundt pan, or a medium glass bowl and cover.  Chill in the fridge overnight.  Enjoy!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Finally, the perhaps the easiest yet most appreciated holiday side dish is homemade cranberry sauce.  This recipe is usually on the cranberry package.  But if you can’t find it, I share it here with you…

Ingredients:
1-12 ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Rinse the cranberries in a colander and throw away any bad ones.  Set aside.  In a medium sauce pan, combine the water and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir in the cranberries and bring to a boil again.  Turn down the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour into a glass dish, cover and chill until serving time. Be blessed!

Who gives food to all flesh,
For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!
For His mercy endures forever.  Psalm 136:25-26 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Morning Prayer

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You. Psalm 143:8 (NKJV)

Dear Lord,

I am Your servant,

Show me where to walk,

For I have come to You in prayer,

Teach me to do Your will.

May Your gracious Spirit

Lead me forward,

I am Your servant, Lord,

In Jesus Name I pray,

Let Your will be done. Amen.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  So long ago I read Psalm 143 and then wrote this prayer for God’s direction.  You can do it, too. When you need God’s guidance for your next steps, read Psalm 143.  Then pray Psalm 143, asking God to hear your prayer, to answer you speedily, to show you the way to walk, to deliver you from the enemy, to teach you, to lead you, to revive you.  And He will answer.  The King of kings and Lord of lords, the Father or our Savior Jesus Christ, will answer you and guide you on His straight and narrow path.

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.  Psalm 143:10 (NLT)

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.  Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

(NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation

(NKJV) Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Prayer Journal How-tos

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)

Keeping a prayer journal is a great way to stay focused while you pray, to encourage you that you really did pray, and to look back to see how faithful God has been in carrying you through so many prayer requests.  Just as there are a variety of ways to pray, there are numerous ways to keep a prayer journal.  Today I’d like to show you how I do My TEA CUPP Prayers prayer journal, and soon I hope to give you one along with my book.

For now, start by finding a notebook you know you will use.  I like a spiral notebook that is about the size of my Bible.  The prayer journal and Bible fit nicely together in my book bag.  The spiral binding allows me to open it flat or flip it completely open while I am journaling.  You can find inexpensive notebooks and journals at Walmart or Target or Family Dollar, or you can find a pretty flowery one at an office or gift store.  Whatever inspires you and helps you pray is perfect!

Next, find your pens.  If your favorite color is purple, perhaps you’d like a purple pen!  I use blue Pilot G-2 pens for most of my journaling because of the smooth writing ability.  I always need two or three, because they run out right in the middle of my prayers and I don’t want to have to get up and search the house for another one.  Have extra pens right by your Bible and journal in your quiet time spot.

My quiet time begins with Jesus having the first Word as I read my Bible. I follow the one-year Bible reading plan found in the Our Daily Bread devotional.  I have also used a One Year Bible in the past, which has the Bible divided into daily readings already. I pray,

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.”  Psalm 119:18 (NKJV)

I soak up all He has to tell me and underline my favorite verses.  I label the verses with the letters of the TEA CUPP acronym, so I may use them in my prayer journal.  Then I open my journal and get it ready for my prayers.  I write the date, then going down the page I write T-E-A.  On the next page I write C-U-P.  And on the next page I write another P.

Some Bible reading days have so many verses that it is hard to pick which ones to use.  Other days I don’t have enough verses, so I go back and use verses I underlined  in the previous weeks.  I find a THANKSGIVING verse and write it next to the letter T to thank God for His blessings.  I find an EXALTING verse and write it next to the letter E to exalt and praise my Jesus.  I find an ADMITTING verse and write it next to the letter A to admit my sins and ask Jesus’ forgiveness.

On the second page of my journal, I find a CALLING verse for something God is calling me to do today and write that in my journal next to the letter C.  I find an UNDERSTANDING verse and write it next to the letter U as I try to understand my story a little better.  I find a beautiful PROMISE verse and claim that as I write it next to the letter P.

On the third page, I find a  PETITIONING verse to use to pour my heart out to Jesus in prayer.  I pray all the parts of My TEA CUPP, filling in the extra spaces of my journal with more prayers on each letter.  Then I fill the rest of the PETITIONING page and perhaps another page with all my prayer requests for family and friends and loved ones.

If I am traveling or just had a new baby, I sometimes do just one letter a day in my prayer journal.  But I feel most complete when I have time to do all the parts and talk to Jesus about everything that is on my heart that day.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  I hope today’s devotion helps you as you fine tune your own prayer journal and devotion times with Jesus.  If you need ideas for Bible verses I have oodles for you here.  Someday, you will look back on all these prayers and be praising Jesus for His goodness all over again!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

A Trip to Zion

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad. Psalm 14:7 (NKJV)

Are you looking for a fun family vacation in God’s creation where you will be reminded of God’s Word and promises?  Where there are activities for children of all ages?  Where accessibility is ensured and shuttles deliver you from April to October to your next scenic point?  I have just the place for you, and now is the time to plan your trip!

Last July our family made a trek to Zion National Park in southern Utah to rendezvous with our New Mexico cousins.  And though it was 100 degrees and the crowds were at their peak, we had a wonderful time exploring this unique National Park.

My dear sister-in-law made reservations for us in March, and the closest campsites at that time were an hour away in Cedar City at the KOA.  The hour drive wasn’t so long because of the pretty scenery and time to discuss hiking plans.  The Cedar City KOA had a central picnic area where we could join our cousins for meals, though the KOA itself was better for RVs than for tents.

But when we saw the campsites in Zion National Park, we knew that’s where we would like to stay next time.  For the Park campsites you must make reservations now, because they fill up by December.  The park campsites are convenient to the shuttles, trails, visitor centers, and ranger programs.  You can even take a shuttle back into the town of Springdale for groceries.  Nestled among the trees in their own quiet area, the campsites are the way to experience Zion.  If you still want to be in the Park, but not out in the elements, try the beautiful Zion Lodge.

So, how does Zion National Park remind us more of God’s Word than the other three National Parks in southern Utah (Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks), or the Grand Canyon, just two hours away in Arizona?  Though Zion Park gained its title from Mormon pioneers, a Methodist pastor, Frederick Fisher, gets the credit for many of the park’s names.  Pastor Fisher named three peaks after the Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Running through the Park is the Virgin River, named for the Virgin Mary who gave birth to our Lord Jesus. Another edifice, “The Alter of Sacrifice.” memorializes the Old Testament story of Abraham obediently offering his son Isaac, foretelling God giving His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. Rounding out the Biblical illusions are the Great White Throne, Angels’ Landing, and Watchman.

…And I will place salvation in Zion,
For Israel My glory. Isaiah 46:13 (NKJV)

Numerous activities beckon every visitor who enters Zion National Park. From early  morning ranger hikes to late evening campfire programs, to talks and hikes throughout the days.  I asked our six year old son what he liked best about Zion, and he replied, “Soaking my feet in the Virgin River after that super long hike.”  I must add to his list, earning a Junior Ranger Badge, successfully hiking to the top of Observation Point in 100 degree weather, and making it back down, even though we ran out of water! We also took the shuttle to end of the road to visit the River Walk and convinced ourselves we must hike The Narrows on our next visit (this is a hike in the river, so we have to plan our trip for non-flood season and rent special shoes, June and early July might be best).

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Take Jesus on your next vacation or camping trip.  Start your day with a family devotion and prayer, then head out early to make the most of your day with hiking and fun times with your family.  Thank Jesus for His beautiful creation and let each family member say thank you for their favorite part of the day.  Get started here…Plan your trip here!

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.  Psalm 9:11 (NKJV)

And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ”  Isaiah 51:16 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

My Fasting TEA CUPP

 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NKJV)

No tea, no cup, no plate, no food, no beverage, no water, nothing to nourish this earthly body, only God’s Word to feed my soul and His Living Water to quench my thirst.  This is an Esther fast, where we give up eating and drinking for a time, to pray and focus on Jesus and God’s Word.

When I first started a daily prayer time with Jesus, I didn’t know what fasting was all about.  My church didn’t talk about it, and there weren’t too many resources.  I wondered what the “rules” were.  As it turns out, there are no rules, only examples.  In our Bibles we have the example of Esther who fasted with her maidens for three days to save her people. Esther’s fast happened one time during an extreme crisis. They had no water and no food for three days and nights.  We also have the example of Daniel who gave up rich foods, eating only fruits and vegetables. Daniel’s fast was a way of life, along with praying three times a day.  And, of course, there are Moses, Elijah and Jesus who fasted for 40 days and nights during a time of great trial. If you are just getting started with fasting, I would recommend a one-day juice fast, where you only drink juice, a juice and banana fast is good for nursing moms.  You can work your way up to a full fast when the time is just right.

Some might think fasting is a thing of the past from Bible times, but it is still practiced by many Christians today as they seek God’s will in prayer.  If you are looking for a modern example of fasting, I encourage you to read The Heavenly Man.  This book gives testimony after testimony to fasting and prayer, from friends praying for the persecuted pastor to him praying and fasting himself.  I highly recommend The Heavenly Man.  Order a copy for yourself and share one with a friend. 

For today I give you My Fasting TEA CUPP, Bible verses that highlight fasting and trials. You may pray these verses while you are fasting, or any time you sit down with Jesus for prayer and TEA. Here are conversation starters for you as you pour your heart out to Jesus in prayer:

T for Thanksgiving:
(a verse of thanks as we finish our fast and have our first meal)

And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  John 6:11 (NKJV) 

Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)

E for Exalting:
(our suffering during fasting is nothing to compared to the glory of Jesus!)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 (NKJV)

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV)

(The prayer King Jehoshaphat prayed to exalt the Lord)

O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?   2 Chronicles 20:6 (NKJV)

A for Admitting:
(we repent and admit our sins as we fast)

 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NKJV)

C for Calling:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 1 Peter 2:21 (NKJV)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. John 4:34 (NKJV)

But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.  Matthew 9:15 (NKJV)

But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  Matthew 6:17-18 (NKJV)

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love. 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 (NKJV)

U is for Understanding our story:
(I love it when God sends prayer answers right during our fasting!)

So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,  Acts 10:30 (NKJV)

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  Philippians 4:12 (NKJV)

P is for Promises:
(Promises for when we are thirsty and hungry during fasting, and He will revive us!)

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.  Isaiah 12:3 (NKJV)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’   Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.  Psalm 71:20 (NKJV)

P is for Petitioning:

So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  Mark 9:29 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Once you get started on fasting and prayer, you might like to plan a regular day to fast, such as the first day of each month, the first Sunday of each month, or every Wednesday. Or when there is a great trial or event in your life. Write it on your calendar and commit to this time of prayer and fasting with Jesus. Read Isaiah 58 in preparation. Another devotion you may enjoy reading is The Empty Plate.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson