Sunday

Don't Close Your Eyes



When my children were young, bedtime (theirs) was one of my favorite times of the day. Not because they were tired, but because I was. I loved and enjoyed my children, but after a long day of refereeing squabbles, wiping runny noses, teaching, correcting, feeding, and cleaning up after two busy little girls, I was spent.

Like the lawnmower that ramps up to a high speed right before it runs out of gas, however, my girls seemed to gain momentum, not lose it the closer we got to bedtime. The only way I managed to get them settled down was to pop them into a warm bath, clothe them in their flannel jammies, and read them a bedtime story. If I could just get them still, their little bodies would wilt and their eyes would grow heavy. 

Choosing the right book was crucial to the success of bedtime, though. Too exciting, and they’d be slaying dragons and fending off invaders. Too sedate, and they’d be teasing and poking each other behind my back. And if it had pictures, they’d better be good, ‘cause great words with sub-par illustrations is just wrong. 


My grands -- Caroline, Andrew, and Lauren
My kids seldom allow me to read to them anymore, but I have a brand new audience in my three grandchildren. Their parents love for me to put them to bed for some reason, preferably before they arrive home from a date night. 

We had the opportunity recently to preview a new bedtime book by my friend and agent, Bob Hostetler. Bob began his career writing books for teens, then for adults. Thirty plus books, including a Shakespeare devotional. Imagine that. 

But those books were just practice for his finest work yet, Don’t Close Your Eyes, A Silly Bedtime Story. The perfect blend of rhyme, humor, and reverse-psychology, this soothing board book follows the bedtime antics of a group of forest animals at day’s end as they try very hard not to close their eyes. 


Hostetler’s lyrical rhyme and Mark Chamber’s whimsical illustrations keep little readers (and not-so-little ones) engaged until the final sleepy page. The only hindrance to bedtime is that kids like it so much they want you to read it again. And again. And again. 

No worries, this sturdy board book has only 20 pages, which means you can read it several times without setting bedtime back too far. This funny, sweet, story with its awwww ending puts the cherry on the sundae of a good day. 

For every child who fights sleep and every parent (or grandparent) trying to put them to bed, this book is a must-have. Better for inducing sleep than a glass of warm milk or a teaspoon of Benadryl, Don't Close Your Eyes, A Silly Bedtime Story is available for pre-order on Amazon and debuts February 5. 

Now it’s your turn. Do your kids or grandkids have a favorite bedtime book? Which one is it? Leave a comment in the space below and share your treasures. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

Thursday

Feeling Grateful on National Squirrel Day?



“Lori!” Vangie said, hurrying through the door, her eyes wide. “There’s an animal in the backyard. He’s grey, and has big eyes and a fluffy tail. And he runs like this. ” She moved her arm up and down like a roller coaster. “Does he bite?” 

My puzzled frown turned into a smile, and a laugh escaped before I could smother it. 

Vangie was from the Philippines and had been living with my husband and me for several weeks. Every day since her arrival, she’d found something new to marvel at. Today it was a squirrel. 

Since the furry rodents are indigenous to the United States, and this was Vangie’s first visit here, she’d never seen one before. Once I assured her they were harmless, she added squirrel to her never-ending list of funny American words and went back outside to study it further. 

Vangie found other aspects of everyday life in America equally fascinating. My oven, for example. Most Filipino homes don’t have ovens, so baking was quite mysterious to her. The day I let it slip that I knew how to bake bread from scratch elevated me to rock star status in her eyes. 

She’d never had a birthday cake, either, something I didn’t know until I’d whipped up a simple Betty Crocker mix for her 25th birthday. Her awe and delight made me ashamed for all the birthday cakes I’d taken for granted over the years. 

I didn’t realize she’d grown up without hot water until I came home one day to find all my dishes washed and half the bottle of dish detergent gone. “You cook, and I’ll clean,” she’d said to me earlier that day, eager to help around the house. 

When I watched her tidy the kitchen after dinner, I noticed she wet each dish individually, saturated the dishcloth with dish soap, scrubbed it clean, then rinsed the suds off with cold water. I asked her why she washed dishes this way.

“When you don’t have hot water, you have to use lots of soap,” she said. Showing her the left hand faucet revolutionized Vangie’s dishwashing. 

January 21 is National Squirrel Day, and as I watch the squirrels race across my back fence, they remind me of Vangie. I’ve never forgotten her child-like sense of wonder about simple things like birthday cakes and hot water. 

Her delight and enthusiasm made me think of all the things I take for granted. 

Clean water to drink, cook with, and bathe in. After two mission trips to Mexico, I should never take this for granted. 

The ability to sleep without fear. Not everyone in the world, or even in this country, rests peacefully with little concern for safety. 

Choices about what to eat. Many in the world are grateful simply to have food. My “leftovers” would be someone else’s feast. 

Washcloths. I’ll never forget the Operation Christmas Child story I heard about a little boy who received an OCC shoebox for Christmas. When someone asked him what his favorite item in the box was, he responded, “The washcloth. I’ve never had one of my own before.” 

Screens. I live in the Southern United States, where the insects are plentiful, and mosquitoes are vicious. I can’t imagine living without screens (or windows for that matter). More than 40 percent of the world’s population, however, lives in malaria-risk areas. Over one million people worldwide, mostly children, die from malaria each year, which is just one of the diseases transmitted by the insects. I should never take my screens for granted. 


The apostle Paul said, in his letter to the Philippians, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13). 

Contentment and gratitude are beautiful things. They bring glory to God our father. May we never cease to be in awe of the good gifts he has given us. 

I’ve shared only a few of the things for which I am grateful. I’d love for you to add to my list by leaving a comment in the box below. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.



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Sunday

Guess What I've Been Working on All Year? An Exciting Announcement!

WOW! Do I have news for you!

But first, a story:

I’ll never forget the first time I read the story of Jonah. As a new believer, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The same thing happened when I read the story of the Moses parting the Red Sea. And Daniel’s sleepless night in the lion’s den. The stories inspired and fascinated me.

But after a while, something changed. The fabulous stories became familiar. Their knock-out punches became more like gentle pats – comforting, but certainly not seismic. To fight the boredom that threatened to lull me into spiritual sleep, I bought several women’s devotionals. Sadly I discovered most authors seemed stuck in the same rut I was in. Their devotions focused on the same well-worn stories and verses I’d been reading in my own quiet times. Zzzzzzzz.

Then I participated in a Bible study called Let Prayer Change Your Life. In one of the sessions, author and speaker Becky Tirabassi challenged us to read through the Bible in a year using The One Year Bible. As I began to read the whole Bible, not just the familiar sections to which I’d previously gravitated, I discovered books and passages I’d read but never really seen before. 

Buried in familiar portions of the Bible and in obscure books like Ezra, Habakkuk, and Philemon were dynamic, life-changing verses. Before, I’d avoided or skimmed these less-familiar sections. Now their gems shined with extraordinary brilliance. In the more well-known books, I discovered unlikely verses that sparkled with truth and life application. Perhaps if others knew these gems were here, I thought, they’d fall in love with the Bible, too.

This is how my latest book project, Uncommon Insights for an Unbounded Life, 66 Unusual Devotions from Every Book of the Bible was born. 

I've spent the last year journeying through the Bible in my personal quiet times, searching for powerful, God-filled verses to spotlight. Once I found THE verses, one from each book of the Bible (and it was HARD. There are SO many amazing Scriptures to choose from), I asked God to give me a real-life story to pair it with. This helps the verse come alive and demonstrates how we can apply the verse to our lives.

In the meantime, my agent, the amazing Bob Hostetler, was busy shopping the proposal around to different publishers. As we prayed for just the right home for Uncommon, God answered by sending an offer from a well-respected publisher in the Christian book industry, Discovery House, publisher of Our Daily Bread and the works of Oswald Chambers.

Their publishing goal aligns perfectly with mine:

To publish books that feed the soul with the Word of God, fostering growth and godliness in the live of God's people. Their materials focus on Scripture, show reverence for God and his Word, demonstrate the relevance of vibrant faith, and equip and encourage you in your life every day.

I signed the contract this week, thus beginning the long road to publication. But before we know it, Uncommon will be available, target date: Spring 2020.

In the mean time, will you cover this book in prayer, and pray for me, also? We must accomplish many steps before this project is complete. I deeply desire God's anointing on each one of them.

Dr. Jerry Falwell often said, "Nothing of eternal important happens apart from prayer." 

I want Uncommon to have eternal importance.

It’s my hope that as readers journey with me through little-known and often overlooked verses in every book of the Bible, they, too, will discover the joy, excitement, and riches of God’s Word. I hope they’ll not only fall in love with the Bible, they’ll fall in love (or back in love) with God, the Author of the Bible.

As we move through the process, I'll share the journey with you, invite you to pray, give input, and test drive some of the really cool components of the book. When launch time nears, you, my faithful readers, will be the first to know about giveaways, excerpts, and free stuff. But the most important thing you can do right now is pray. Thank you in advance, dear friends.

Now a question for you: what feature or aspect is most important to you when choosing a devotional? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you're reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

If you'd like to hear more, here's a video sharing a little more about my journey.




 If you're reading by email, click HERE to view the Youtube video announcement of my latest book.



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Wednesday

Ellie and David – Two Good Gifts, A Tribute to Marriage



Overshadowed by Christmas and family gatherings, presents and meals, holidays and have-to's, a very special occasion came and went two weeks ago. Our 34th wedding anniversary. 

Friends warned us that an anniversary in the shadow of the most celebrated day of the year might get overlooked. Who needs another present, dinner out, or card? 

And their warning has sometimes come true. If we don’t guard our special day, it’s easy to overlook it. The spectacular becomes the ordinary. The sparkle dims and the fanfare segues to the familiar. Kind of like my childhood friend, Ellie.

My mother created Ellie when I was five years old. An impressive attempt for an amateur seamstress, Ellie the elephant was stitched from 17 pieces of fabric and stuffed with I-don’t-know-what. She has a multi-colored trunk, blue ears, and hand-embroidered pink eyes. 


Ellie quickly became my new best friend. I carried her everywhere, chewed on her trunk, and cried into her soft stomach. I slept with her under my chin. Before long I’d handled her so much that her shiny fabric dulled to a muted blue. Saliva stains marred her trunk, and one ear came loose, a casualty of too much love. 

I brought her to elementary school for Show and Tell, to high school for a Home Ec class, to college for a psychology display, and, after I was married, to our first home. She sat on my dresser, a tribute to a childhood well lived. 

When we moved the first time, and the second, and the third, Ellie traveled with us. Today she sits on a shelf in my bedroom closet above my sock drawer, next to Ken, Barbie, and a picture of me running the hurdles in high school. Ellie is one of my treasures. 

In many ways, Ellie’s a lot like my marriage. Over the years its fabric has also changed. My husband and I have traded the silk and tuxedo for scrubs and work pants. We still break out the bling every now and then, but sequins are scratchy and tuxedos bind. Sparkle has given way to softness, like the warm embrace of a well-worn blanket. 

I cut my relational teeth on the patience and forgiveness of my long suffering husband. I’ve cried tears of anger, betrayal, hurt, fear, sickness, and grief into his chest, leaving emotional stains he’s willingly worn. I’ve filled his ears with rants, dreams, and prayers ‘til it’s a wonder they haven’t fallen off. I’ve carried my marriage everywhere. 

From the elementary years of emotional discovery, to the high school years of responsible parenting, to the college years of hard work and sacrifice, to the graduation years of accomplished dreams. 

But instead of sitting on a dresser or a shelf, my marriage travels with me wherever I go. It centers me, inspires me, molds me, and refines me. It gives me strength when I’m weary and comfort when I feel alone. 

It’s a safe place to be myself and a challenging place to become better than who I am. It sands the rough edges of my selfishness and polishes the gold of my potential. 

Like my mother fashioned Ellie to be my companion, my comfort, and my friend, so has my heavenly father created my husband to be my companion, my comfort, my friend, and my lover. 

Ellie and David. Two good gifts from those who love me best.


Now it's your turn. Have you enjoyed the gift of a loving marriage? Leave a comment below to share something special about your relationship. If you're reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and share your thoughts.




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Monday

Consider the ants . . . and the grandchildren – What pondering God’s world will show you

When I consider ants, I’m usually thinking about how to poison them, not what I can learn from them. But Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 6:6, instructs, “Go to the ant . . . consider her ways and be wise.” 

Most of us know reading our Bibles will make us wise, but buried in this simple proverb about laziness and diligence lies another way to gain wisdom – by studying God’s creation. Maybe Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, learned it from his father, David, who penned this gem: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psa. 19:1-2). 

No doubt about it – God’s wisdom is all over his creation. We can learn a lot from studying it and prayerfully pondering what we see. And while God’s Word remains the single greatest source of wisdom, we can also find gold dust sprinkled upon the works of his hand. 

As I set out to apply this principle (and sharpen my observational skills), I asked the Lord to reveal himself and his truth to me through the world around me. Here’s one example of what I saw: 



I was hanging out with my grands and slicing apples for a snack. Caroline (3) sat beside me on the kitchen counter while Andrew, aka Bubby, (1) waited at my feet. I handed him an apple slice, made sure he was munching happily, then went back to slicing. 

Pfhhhtt. Splat. 

Something warm and wet hit my foot. 

“Andrew! What are you doing?” 

Pfhhhtt. Splat. 

 A slimy piece of apple skin sputtered from his mouth, and, this time, landed on the floor. He’d taken a bite, chewed it until the fleshy part disintegrated, and spit out the skin. 

“He doesn’t wike skin on his apples, Gigi,” Caroline remarked. 

Apparently not. 

I took the remaining apple wedge from him to trim the skin off. 

But Caroline was faster. 

By the time I’d wiped the apple goo from the floor and my foot and picked up Andrew's apple piece again, she’d nibbled all the skin off her apple wedge. 

“Here Andrew,” she said triumphantly, holding out the naked fruit, “no skin!” 

He scrutinized her gift for skin remnants, then popped it into his mouth, cheeks bulging like a well-fed chipmunk. 

By observing the exchange between these siblings (two of God’s most delightful creations), I learned three things about God: 

1. He created us to be unique, with different likes, dislikes, and preferences. A preference for skinless apples is just one example. We need to remember that different isn’t wrong, just different. How much better would our relationships be if we graciously allowed room for “different” without treating it as right or wrong? 

2. He created mankind in his image with a natural capacity to love, share, and serve. Caroline’s thoughtful act of service to her brother is a sweet example of this. 

3. He provides an endless source of patience and grace to help us deal with the often-amusing, sometimes-annoying quirks of our families and friends. Lord, make us as patient with others as you are with us

As the new year moves into its second week, I’d like to issue a challenge – consider the ants (or grandchildren, cats, dogs, trees, birds, sky, or anything else that catches your eye). Study it. Prayerfully ponder. Invite God to reveal himself to you through what you see. Then leave a comment below to share your observations. 

I can’t wait to hear how God shows himself to you. 

If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.





Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
I’d love to send you a 5-minute e-mail devotion twice a week to start your day off with the Lord. 

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