A Sweet Aroma

And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma...Genesis 8:21 (NKJV)

How is the aroma of your tea?  Does your tea smell pleasing? As you sit at your table, holding your warm mug on a chilly morning, does the steam from your favorite tea blend rise up and bring joy to your senses? 

Have you ever thought about our prayers smelling good to God? Like children to a pan of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, God comes running at the scent of our delicious prayers and it brings Him great joy!

...He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you. Isaiah 30:19 (NKJV)

Noah knew how much God loved sincere prayers because he walked with God.  No sooner did Noah and his family step off the ark (after more than a year on board!), did they set up an altar with a fire, preparing burnt sacrifices to God.  And when God smelled the aroma of Noah’s offering, it was then that He promised to never curse the ground or flood the whole world again.  God promised there will always be seedtime and harvest for as long as the earth remains. 

Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.  Psalm 141:1  (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Read the entire story of Noah’s sweet aroma in Genesis 8 today.  Let your prayers be a sweet aroma to Jesus. What other offerings can you give the Lord that will smell wonderful?

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed today’s message, you might also like Tea with Two Verses and Filling the Bowls.

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

Beach Prayer

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light,
The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. Isaiah 24:15 (NKJV)

I’m hooked on beach running.  Sadly, I live in the land-locked (yet beautiful) state of Montana where the nearest ocean is a two-day drive.  If I had grown up near the beach, there might have been no moving me to higher ground. 

There is just something about the rhythmical crash of waves on the shore, the dodging of the tide as it ascends the beach, the warm sun shining down upon my face, and the joy of miles of sand upon which to run.

A few months ago, I experienced all this as we visited our son in California.  Each morning I slipped out of our tent before sunrise to have my quiet time on a bench overlooking the Pacific, praying Isaiah 24:15 (above).

Then donning my running shoes, I jogged down to the beach where I ran in the newly-washed sand on the shore, making fresh footprints with each step.  When I reached the turn-around point and came back, I witnessed a marvel,  most of my footprints had already been washed away!  This reminded me of Jesus washing away our sins.  Each footprint of doubts and worries and anger and wrong words is washed into the depths of the sea, gone forever!

…You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NKJV)

And if you are concerned about those sins just floating around, waiting to be washed up onto another beach, find hope in Revelations 21:1 where we learn the entire sea disappears! First, our sins are drowned in the ocean and then the ocean is no more! That’s how complete is our forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Revelation 21:1 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  As you head into a new year, cast your sins of the old year at the feet of Jesus.  Confess your failings to Him in prayer, asking Jesus to wash you clean. Claim Jesus’ promise to throw your sins into the depths of the sea.  Ask Him to help you every step of the way this new year.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! Isaiah 42:10 (NKJV)

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

 

A Christmas TEA CUPP

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 (NKJV)

December is upon us with holiday open houses, lighted parades, Santa gift exchanges and even a few Christmas teas. But what our hearts truly long for in this often chaotic, overwhelming, lonely, expensive, yet festive time of year, is the peace and calm of a simple CUPP of TEA with the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ.

So today I give you a Christmas TEA CUPP….Bible verses from the Christmas Story in God’s Word which you can use as conversation starters as you pray to Jesus this month. 

T is for Thanksgiving

For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. Luke 1:49 (NKJV)

E is for Exalting

And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:33 (NKJV)

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV)

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David. Luke 1:68-69 (NKJV)

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

A is for Admitting

the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:35 (NKJV)

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

C is for Calling

Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word….Luke 1:38 (NKJV)

To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. Luke 1:74-75 (NKJV)

U is for Understanding our stories

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (NKJV)

For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32 (NKJV)

P is for Promises

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Luke 1:14 (NKJV)

For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 1:37 (NKJV)

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45 (NKJV)

P is for Petitions

for your prayer is heard...Luke 1:13

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Plan to spend a quiet moment with Jesus every morning, even on Christmas morning before the unwrapping of gifts.  Read the Christmas story in your Bible in Luke 1-2, underline your favorite verses. Borrow theses verses as you begin your prayers with Jesus.  Merry Christmas, dear TEA friends!

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

Our Thanksgiving Chain

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3 (NKJV)

One of my favorite Thanksgiving devotions from my new book, Mom’s TEA CUPP Prayers, is an activity I’ve shared over the years with you, a Thanksgiving chain.

The first part of the TEA CUPP is “T” is for Thanksgiving. It’s eternally important for moms to model thankfulness to our children, so here is a project to help you do just that.  This thankfulness activity will carry your family from Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas.

First, count the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas on your calendar (this year it’s only 27 days). Next, cut out that many strips of colored paper, approximately one-inch by six inches. Grab your Bible, the paper strips, some markers, and a stapler, and gather the family around your kitchen table.

Read a Psalm of Thanksgiving, such as Psalm 136.
● Talk about things for which you are thankful.
● Divide the strips of paper between all family members.
● Everyone can use markers to write blessings on their paper strips. Older family members may assist younger family members.
● When everyone is finished, mix up the paper strips. Curl one strip into a circle and staple it. Run another strip through the first circle and staple it to itself. Continue stapling strips until you have a long chain of circles.
● Hold the chain around the table and let family members read the items together as you thank Jesus.
● Hang the chain on a nail in the kitchen so you can see how many days until Christmas.
● Each morning at breakfast, let one person tear off the bottom link of the chain. Say a prayer of thanks again for whatever is listed on that slip of paper.
● Each day the chain will get shorter until it’s Christmas.

Today’s TEA CUPP: Plan to do this activity with your family at Thanksgiving. Talk with your kids about God’s blessings. Some families keep a thankful jar. Every time they find something for which they are thankful, a blessing, answered prayer, etc., they write it on a slip of paper and put it in the thankful jar. He’s blessed us so much we can’t even name them all.

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
Psalm 40:5

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

Where are the other Nine?

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16

One of my favorite thanks devotions from my first book, My TEA CUPP Prayers, comes from the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17. The lepers were shunned members of society, ones who must have desired more than anything else to be healed and welcomed back into the community. The ten lepers had just been hollering at Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

Jesus told them to go to the priests, and as they were going they were cleansed. But only one remembered to come back and praise God and give Jesus thanks. So Jesus answered and said,

“Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” Luke 17:17

Don’t you think Jesus still asks that today? Where are the other nine? WHERE ARE THE OTHER NINE? For what have you prayed recently that God heard and answered your prayers? Was it a safe trip home? Was it a check in the mail? Was it healing for a loved one? What blessings has He sent our way before we even asked? Oh, let us run back to Him and throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and give Him thanks!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Remember, the first “T” in TEA CUPP is for Thanksgiving. Read the story of the ten lepers again in Luke 17:11-19. Have you forgotten to thank Jesus for anything? Ask Jesus to open your eyes to any overlooked blessings. Tell Jesus THANK YOU today!

What are some things I’m especially thankful for this year?  Jesus, God’s Word, my family, miraculous healing, a new grandbaby on the way, strength to run a marathon, publishing my second book, Mom’s TEA CUPP Prayers, and for you, my dear TEA CUPP friend. Thank you for reading my devotions and accepting Jesus’ invitation to have TEA with Him each day.

 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

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

French Fries for the Father

I’m rerunning this golden-arches-oldie for you today as I try to meet a publication deadline on my next book …stay salty, dear TEA friends!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

One day, God the Father decided to try out the local fast-food restaurant. He drove His car past the golden arches to the drive-through, contemplating what to order. God heard French fries were popular with the people, so He resolved to give them a taste.

“Hello. Welcome to the Golden Arches. May I take your order?” the speaker squawked at God.

God, with His exceptional hearing and knowledge of several languages, had no trouble understanding the faceless voice. “Yes, I’d like to try your French fries today,” He answered.

“Would you like a drink with that?” asked the voice.
“No, just French fries, please,” answered God, the Living Water.
“That will be $2.29. Please drive to the window,” instructed the voice.

And so, God the Father pulled ahead to the window, found some coins with Caesar’s picture in the glove box, and purchased His French fries.

God drove away from the restaurant, sampling the fries. They were cool. Room temperature. Not steaming hot, like French fries fresh from the deep fryer should be. God was not pleased. This reminded Him of some of His people who were not cold nor hot. They go to church and hear His Word, but don’t act upon it (James 1:22). They love God with only part of their hearts, instead of all their hearts (Matt. 22:37-38). He spit out the lukewarm fries and drove back to the drive-through.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

“Hello. Welcome to the Golden Arches. May I take your order?” the speaker squawked at God again.
“Yes, I was just here and ordered fries, but they aren’t hot,” replied God patiently.
“Oh, we are very sorry. We’ll replace those with a new batch,” answered the voice. “Please pull forward.”

So, God drove ahead to the pick-up window again, eager to try some properly cooked French fries. He was handed a container of piping hot French fries.
“Thank you,” said God as He pulled away.

Almost on the road, He sampled this new batch of French fries. They were definitely hot out of the fryer, steaming as He lifted one to His mouth. But the taste! There was no salt. How could they forget the salt? This reminded God of His people who had lost their saltiness. They were not willing to give up everything to follow Him (Luke 14:33). God drove to the nearest trash can and tossed out the un-salty fries, before heading again to the drive-up window.

Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Luke 14:34-35

“Hello. Welcome to the Golden Arches. May I take your order?” the speaker squawked at God for the third time.
“I was just here twice for French fries. The first time they were lukewarm, and I spit them out. The second time they had lost their saltiness, and I threw them away. Do you think you could give Me some HOT and SALTY fries, please?” His voice commanded.
“Yes, Sir!” responded the wise worker inside the restaurant. “Please pull forward.”

So for the third time, God drove to the pick-up window and received His French fries, hoping for piping hot, salty ones this time. And He was not disappointed. They were just as He desired.

Today’s TEA CUPP: God the Father wants us to be hot and salty for Him. He spits out the lukewarm and those who have lost their salt. How can we stay hot and salty? Dig into His Word the Bible, pray for God to show us where we fall short, meet with other Christians for Bible study, keep seeking Him, share with others… never stop growing and serving Jesus. Then we will be fit for service, not with the burger king, but with the true King of kings.

You are the salt of the earth…
Matthew 5:13

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.
Mark 9:50

…With all your offerings you shall offer salt.
Leviticus 2:13

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

Tea in the Storm

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2 (NKJV)

God has always been in the storms.  Ever since He created the earth, His Spirit has hovered over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).  Today with hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, cancer, rushing children to hospitals, family difficulties, government corruption…we may wonder where God is.  Yet He is right there, ready to carry us through the storm. 

One Sunday our pastor gave a sermon on the passage from Mark 4:35-41 about Jesus calming the sea.  He pointed out for us in Mark 4:36 where it says, “And other little boats were also with Him.”  There are other little boats on the sea, too.  We aren’t the only ones in this storm.  Others need Jesus’ help and our example of faith.  Let’s ask Jesus to calm the storm for everyone.

Today I give you a special TEA CUPP with verses from this story.  You can claim God’s promise to still the waves.  You can wake Jesus up and ask Him, “Don’t You care?”  You can stand amazed at His miracles and proclaim, “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey Him?”

T for Thanksgiving:

He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:29,31 (NKJV)

E for Exalting:

 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:41 (NKJV)

A for Admitting:

 

But He said to them, Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Mark 4:40 (NKJV)

 C for Calling:

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, Let us cross over to the other side.” Mark 4:35 (NKJV)

 U is for Understanding our story:

Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with HimAnd a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. Mark 4:36-37 (NKJV)

P is for Promises:

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  Mark 4:39 (NKJV)

P is for Petitioning:

But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? Mark 4:38 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Read the amazing story in Mark 5:35-41, The Sea is Stilled.  Use these verses as conversation starters in your prayer time with Jesus today, all week, or any time you or loved ones are going through a storm.

The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled. Psalm 77:16 (NKJV)

You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.  Psalm 89:9 (NKJV)

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

Tools, not Rules

Every job has tools.  Baking a cake calls for a bowl, spoon or mixer, and an oven.  Building a fence takes a saw, hammer, nails, level, and maybe even a post driver.  Painting a house requires paint, brushes, a ladder, and perhaps some scaffolding. Prayer is no different. My TEA CUPP Prayers is about giving ladies tools to pray with Jesus each day. 

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)

There is no right way to pray to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But My TEA CUPP Prayers will help you get started so you can spend time with Him in your own special way.  Let’s unpack the toolbox and see what we might need…

  1. A Bible to read and let Jesus speak to us first.
  2. A bookmark list of prayer requests.
  3. A hymnal to sing praises to God.
  4. A journal to record our prayers.
  5. A pen to write those prayers.
  6. A teacup or mug of your favorite beverage.
  7. A quiet spot for just you and Jesus.

As you sit in your quiet spot, sipping your morning mug, open your Bible (the Psalms, or Genesis, or John are good places to begin).  Read a chapter or two and let God speak to your heart.  Underline your favorite verses and use those verses as conversation starters as you pour your heart out to Jesus in prayer.  You can write the verse in your prayer journal and then add to it all you want to share with the Lord. You’ll find some verses are good for telling God, “Thanks.”  I like to mark those with a “T” in my Bible.  Some verses are good for exalting or praising Jesus. I mark those with an “E” in my Bible.”  Some verses are good for admitting our sins. Those I mark with an “A” in my Bible.  And I keep going with the CUPP for Calling, Understanding, Promises, and Petitions. You can pray all the parts each day or just one part a day, depending on the verses you underline. Soon you will have a prayer routine that is just right for you and Jesus.

If you lose your toolbox or forget to bring it with you, remember, you can still pray!  Strip away the quiet spot, and you just pray amidst the chaos.  Remove the hot drink, and you find yourself drinking Living Water.  Lose the pen and journal, and you pour your heart out with your voice.  Forget the hymnal, and you sing new songs to the Lord of your own.  Misplace your prayer list bookmark, and pray for whomever God puts upon your heart.  Hide your Bible and it’s just you and Jesus (but you best find it for next time!). 

A dear lady in my Bible study group earnestly shared one Wednesday morning, “It doesn’t matter what words you use to pray.  God knows your heart and hears your prayers.  You can’t make your prayer any better with more words or fancier words.  Just pray your heart.”  This stuck with me from that day forward.  It doesn’t matter if I do the entire TEA CUPP or just part of it, or write my prayers, or say them aloud, or use clever words, or simple words…God hears all my prayers.  And when I’m at a loss for words, His Word, the Bible, gives me all the words I need to keep on praying.

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)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  My dear friend, it’s time to pack your toolbox so you are ready to pray!  Find everything you need and lay it out for tomorrow morning.  Set your alarm for 5 a.m., get up, fill your morning mug, be amazed at what God will do with your prayer time.

If you enjoyed this devotion, you might also like to read Prayer Journal How-tos and My Jesus Spot and How to Get Started with Your Jesus Tea.

Where I Met Jesus

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

This past weekend I had the joy of sharing my testimony at a reunion with my Iowa State University Track and Cross Country team.  Oh the happiness and tears of seeing these dear sisters again.  Thank you, old teammates, for letting me share my story with you…

For 34 years I’ve had a dream to run a marathon. Two weeks ago God helped me fulfill this dream when I ran my first marathon in Bozeman, Montana. The good news is I finished the race.  The bad news is it took me 34 years, but that’s okay. My goal was to run it in 4 hours.  After 8 miles my legs were hurting, at 18 miles I was ready to stop, but I pressed on. At 22 miles some fellow hollered that I could break 4 hours if I kept going, so I kept going, but crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes.  I was so thankful to Jesus to be done, thankful to be close to 4 hours, but a bit disappointed to not have made my goal.  But later, when sharing a meal with my family, I asked my college son Kevin to look up the reference for “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”  He found it in his smartphone BIBLE.  The verse comes from 2 Timothy 4:7, 4-7 just like my time, 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was then I knew that God had His hand in the entire race, I was in His will.  I believe God has had HIS HAND on all our lives, ever since He brought us together and through the tragedy that seared our hearts in 1985.

God’s hand has been upon us all since He brought us to Iowa State University in the 1980s.  I see this in those He called into ministry, in those He blessed as wives and mothers, in those who are leading lives of integrity in your chosen professions, and in those who are still seeking, trying to put the pieces back together like me.

I’ve wanted to run a marathon ever since I was 18.  Like most of us, I was in the best shape of my life in the spring of 1985, my freshman year of college, but it didn’t fit in with our track schedule to run a marathon.  I carried the dream with me into the fall cross country season that year, and then came the accident that changed all our lives forever.  In that one day, you and I lost everything dear to us and our dreams crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa. 

But there is Someone who can pull dreams back up and make them happen.

There is Someone who can give us beauty for ashes, joy for tears, and dancing for mourning. 

There is Someone who is with us here right now, still reaching out to hold us in His hands.

I want to thank you for letting me share my story with you today. I’ve had the blessing of sharing this story with ladies groups over the years as I invite them to have TEA with Jesus, but this is my first time to tell you, the dear people who were all so much a part of it.  In my ministry, I encourage ladies to sit down with their Bibles, a cup of tea, and spend time with Jesus each morning.  We all have this cup called life, and we need to refill it with His Word each day.  But sometimes, our cups spill and everything goes pouring out on the ground, all in a moment.  November 25, 1985, was a day like that.

We all have a story to tell.  Yours is just important as mine.  I think of in the BIBLE how there are so many people gathered around Jesus at the cross and some are mentioned like Mary, but there are those on the sidelines who are hurting just as much, but who aren’t mentioned.  Their lives were also forever changed by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, just as all of us on the cross country and track and men’s team and students and roommates at ISU were changed by the loss of our beloved coaches and teammates.  Thank you for letting me share my part of the story…

I share this in honor of my Savior Jesus and the lives He took 34 years ago so that we could live.  My testimony is a tribute to these dear souls: Coach Ron Renko, Coach Pat Moynihan, Runners Sheryl Maahs, Julie Rose, Sue Baxter, Trainer Stephanie Streit, and their Pilot Burt Watkins. I can’t wait to see them all in heaven!

I run in the path of Your commands,
for You have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:32 (NIV)

This is my running story.

I was not always a runner.  I was the one with the side ache walking at the tail end of the grade school PE class.  I was the one who could never hope to qualify for the presidential fitness award.  I was so slow!  But something happened in late junior high.  I discovered I had something that was needed to be a long-distance runner…perseverance.  And so I left the sprinters to their fast legs and joined the distance runners.  Slowly, slowly the side aches went away and I learned how to run.  In high school, my coach, my team and my workout became the centerpiece of my life.  I was dedicated to a fault, always running my complete workout, never cutting corners, such perfection was my religion.

When I headed to college, I wanted to continue running, so I walked-on as a cross country runner here at Iowa State. I remember the summer day when I walked up the stairs in the old State Gym to Coach Ron’s office to ask if I could join the team.  I was so scared, but he must have already talked to my high school coach and decided to take a risk on me.  A month later I was in the van headed to the grueling pre-season training in Wisconsin with many of you.

Let’s talk about those van rides.  Somehow, everyone knew that the passenger seat in front was a hot seat, whoever sat there got to talk to Coach Ron.  And for some reason, since I didn’t know anyone else on the team, that seat was left for me. When we would return from training or meets, since my parents’ home in north Ames was close to where Coach Ron lived, I was the last one to get dropped off.  I remember him talking and talking to me and I wish I could repeat one sentence for you today of what he said, but I was so young and nervous and just wanted to get home, I don’t think I heard it.  But now I know he was pouring himself out for me, as he did for many of us when we went to his office, sharing his wisdom and love for Jesus. And it was not in vain. Neither were the encouraging words from Coach Pat when I ran my spring track workouts, nor the inspiration from Julie and Sheryl and the smiles from Sue, nor the healing from Stephanie, nor the service from Pilot Burt. None of it was in vain, God had His hand on us all.

Do you recall how twice a day we met together for workouts, running dozens of miles a week?  I was the slowest one.  When the team did 1000 meter repeats, I would finish my 1000 meters just when you were leaving for the next 1000 meters.  I would run up and down the hills crying at the end of the line, but I kept running.  And the miles paid off by spring of my freshman year when I ran my best 10K ever. I kept on running for our coaches and team, you were like a family to me, you were my church, until that November day of my sophomore year…

The sidewalks in Ames, Iowa were glazed with ice as we ran our afternoon workout. We, the junior varsity runners, were on our own this day because our coaches and faster teammates were at the National meet in Wisconsin. We thought of you as we jogged along, mostly in the grass because the walks were so slick.  After running together as a team twice a day for months, we felt a strong connection to those of you at the National meet, even though we weren’t there.  As we dutifully completed our workout in the fading light of that November afternoon, we hoped to hear news of victory at Nationals.

As you all know, the year was 1985, long before the days of cell phones.  We didn’t get news in our pockets, nor text messages from friends, nor emails on a computer.  All we had was television news and corded telephones plugged into a wall. And so we awaited good news.

But what interrupted the TV shows that evening was news of a tragedy.  I lived at home with my family still and was watching Wheel of Fortune in our basement with my brother, before diving into another evening of homework.  Partway through the show, newscasters broke in with a startling news announcement:

“A plane has plummeted from the icy skies and crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was one of three planes returning with the ISU athletes after a second-place finish at the National Cross Country meet.”

I ran screaming up the stairs, unable to believe such awful news.  I called my teammates at the dormitory (on the corded phone) who had just heard the news also.  We decided to meet at the Student Union chapel for prayer (I think Paula set this up), an amazing act for a public university team.  We met and cried and prayed, not knowing who was on the plane that had crashed, and me not truly understanding the ONE to whom we prayed.

The next day we were called together for a meeting with the athletic department in Beyer Hall.  There we embraced you, our teammates who remained, and there we heard the news of who we lost. That single accident took the lives of seven dear people, and changed the lives of all those who knew them:  Our two coaches, three teammates, athletic trainer, and pilot were taken from this world. Now they are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us.

The grief was heart-wrenching for their families, and for those of us who lived like a family on the cross country team.

Classes were canceled at the university for a day when a memorial service was held for the athletes.  Our team marched in our gold uniforms and sat together in misery in the ISU Coliseum.  Memorials were given for each beloved person.  The one I remember most was the one Dawn gave for her friend Sheryl.  Before the thousands gathered there, Dawn spoke of how Sheryl was a Christian and is in heaven now, and that if Sheryl had the choice she wouldn’t come back to earth, even if she could.  As I listened with tears spilling from my eyes, I just didn’t understand such faith. Sheryl’s mom was so sad. Why wouldn’t Sheryl want to come back? Why?

In the days that followed, I tried to continue my running workouts along the streets of Ames, Iowa, but could barely lift my legs.  How could I go on without my coaches and teammates?  I questioned, “Why, God? Why?”

Since God allowed my coaches and teammates to be taken away from me, I ran from Him, in search of peace elsewhere, in food, in poor relationships.  Yet those gave no comfort. The plane of my life was on its way to crash, too.

I remember the following spring I made an Easter basket for a boy I liked, filled with M&Ms and other yummy things I never ate because Coach Ron told us not to eat sugar.  But then I found out the boy liked someone else so I was stuck with this basket.  One day I decided I would just eat it, and I ate it all.  That led to another and another and another bag of M&Ms until I had a big problem, eating too much and then running 15 miles to burn it off.  Somehow I found out about a group for people with eating disorders on campus. The day I went there were four of us there from the track and cross country team.  The tragedy had affected us all! But there was no group session or counseling that could take away our eating disorders or sins. We needed a Savior.

By the fall two years after the accident, I had wrecked both my parents’ cars, my bike was stolen, my life was a mess.  One morning on my way to class, I stopped by the chapel of the church where I grew up.  I got down on my knees and poured out my heart to God, asking Him to help me through the mess I had made of my life.  For half an hour I prayed and prayed in that empty church.   When I left the chapel, my heart was lighter, even though I did not know what God was going to do.

Some of you must have been praying for me, because a short time later, my roommates (Becky and Sarah) were invited to attend the Baptist Student Union and brought me along.  It was in the weekly testimonies and singing, that I got to know the Savior of my soul, and my forever friend, Jesus Christ. I learned how God sent His only Son to die for our sins and someday we will be in heaven with Him and all our loved ones. My quest was over – I learned…

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (NKJV)

This was truly a miracle from God.  Jesus gave me the peace and comfort for which I’d been searching.  He washed away all my sins and mistakes.  He took my broken soul and healed me. He filled my teacup.

I traded…

My stopwatch for the cross of Christ,

My will for God’s will,

My earthly coaches for a heavenly Father who will never leave me nor forsake me,

And instead of beginning my day with a workout, I begin it with daily devotions in God’s Word,

And so God’s Word has become my life…

And, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…the task of testifying the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 (NIV)

My friends, PLEASE DON’T WAIT FOR ANOTHER PLANE CRASH to turn your heart to Jesus! Look unto Jesus TODAY! 

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)

The Lord is calling us to know Jesus, to meet with Him each day!

Whatever you are facing, wherever your tea has spilled, reach out to Jesus and let Him heal your circumstances, let Him refill your cup with His Word and promises. Let Jesus give you back your dreams. Let Him hold you in the palm of His Hands.  And someday, we will all be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.” And Jesus will say, “Well done.” And we will be reunited with these loved ones who went before us into glory, and they will welcome us with open arms like it was just yesterday, and we will have that celebration that never happened the day after the race.  It will be a day of victory!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV) 

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) 

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds.
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms… Deuteronomy 33:26-27 (NKJV)

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Philippians 2:16 (NKJV)

My times are in Your hand Psalm 31:15 (NKJV)

 Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson and Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984

God is Love and so much more!

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:8-9 (NKJV)

O Father, You are love. And I love You, but my love is so small compared to Your huge, huge love.  Even if my heart is filled to overflowing with love,  my heart is tiny and Your heart is as big as the universe, bursting with love for all humanity, sending us Your One and Only Son Jesus to die for us, and filling us with Your Holy Spirit. Blessed Trinity be glorified today! 

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear Friends, today I share tidbits from the EXALTING section of my prayer journal, just to show how you can use God’s Word to praise Him.  Pray these prayers as your own, find more EXALTING verses in your Bible and write them in your prayer journal. Share your heart with Jesus, it doesn’t need to be fancy, just tell Him you love Him.  Make EXALTING Jesus a part of your daily TEA time together.  He will love to hear your praises!

Who does great things, and unsearchable,
Marvelous things without number. Job 5:9 (NKJV)

O Father, O Jesus, this is You!  You do great things that we don’t even know and ones we do know, like rain and rainbows and salvation and forgiveness and heaven and peace and comfort and strength and protection and guidance.  You do it all!!! O Jesus, be glorified and magnified today, especially in my prayers for…

Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?
And what profit do we have if we pray to Him? Job 21:15 (NKJV)

O Jesus, I know You!  You are the Christ the Son, God the Father, Creator of the universe, Judge who is coming soon, King of kings, Lord of lords, Emmanuel, my Savior, my Friend, my Comforter, my Joy, my Crown, my Life, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Stronghold, my Protector, my Hiding Place, my Redeemer, my all in all! I love and praise You, Jesus!

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head. Psalm 3:3 (NKJV)

O Jesus, this is You!  You are my Shield, You protect me from the enemy and send me helpers.  You are my Glory, and one day You will come again in glory!  You are the One who lifts up my head when I’m discouraged.  I love and praise You! Be glorified today!

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:7-10 (NKJV)

O Jesus, I imagine You returning and the gates and doors that open to let You out of heaven, even those gates and doors bow before you and then lift their heads in honor of the King of kings who reigns for all eternity.  O Jesus, be glorified!  I love You!  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

then they bowed their heads and worshiped. Exodus 4:31 (NKJV)

Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”  Matthew 14:33 (NKJV)

O Jesus, they worshiped You!  Here are the Israelites in Egypt who haven’t heard from You in 400 years and they know how to worship.  Here are the disciples who also haven’t heard from the prophets in 400 years, since the Old Testament times. They are in the boat with You and they worship You!  They believe in you! They bow! They exalt and praise and worship!  O Jesus, may I do this too with all my heart. I love you!

The Lord is King forever and ever;
The nations have perished out of His land. Psalm 10:16 (NKJV)

O Jesus, You are King forever and ever. Some people don’t realize it (oh, touch their hearts!), that You are King of heaven and earth and You are coming again. That is exciting!  And every knee will bow and tongue confess that You are Lord to the glory of God the Father. O Jesus, be glorified this very day!

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness…The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever. Psalm 29:1-2,10 (NKJV)

O Jesus, You are King forever! You are Glory and Strength!  You sit on the throne.  Oh, sit on the throne of my life and be glorified!

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!
And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.
Psalm 72:18-19 (NKJV)

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