Sunday

When "the Happiest Season of All" Isn't


The holiday season can make us profoundly aware of all that is wrong in our lives. Watching holiday specials featuring happy families gathered around the Christmas tree makes us grieve the imperfections in our own families. The endless ads for the latest and greatest possessions remind us of our meager bank accounts. The health and apparent well being of others stand in sharp contrast to our own physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. If we’re not proactive, the “happiest season of all” can become the saddest one.

Unless we let gratitude rescue us.

Social media was full of memes and posts about gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. That’s good. By nature we are self-centered, selfish, ungrateful people. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. I know this because most of the time, I am a self-centered, selfish, ungrateful person.

Occasionally, however, the goodness of God overwhelms me, and gratitude bubbles up.

It happened today in a most unlikely place – my laundry room. Rain had been falling for three days. This probably doesn’t sound like much to those of you who live in places other than the sunny South, but for us, three days of rain with two more forcasted is unusual. And inconvenient.

My gratitude erupted when I pulled the first of two loads of clothes out of the washer and stuffed them into the dryer. I’m so thankful I have a clothes dryer, I thought, and grateful tears welled up. For ten years I lived without one.

On sunny days I’d hang our laundry on a backyard clothesline, and on rainy days I’d string it up all over the house like a Chinese laundry. Remembering those days triggered my grateful response and tendered my heart to recognize God’s goodness.

Another gratitude eruption happened the day I gave blood. “Thirteen point six,” the phlebotomist announced as she read my hemoglobin level. “Thank you, God,” I blurted out.

The technician looked at me strangely, so I explained. “For many years my hemoglobin was so low I couldn’t donate blood. In fact,” I paused, “someone had to give me two pints of blood. Now I donate every chance I get. I’m so grateful to be well.”

Gratitude often wells up on a spiritual level, too. I shared my salvation story recently with a new friend. As I told her my story, all the emotions of those empty and fearful days returned, and I was once again a profoundly lost young adult.

“I’d been living my life my way, and doing a lousy job of it,” I told her. “I was anxious and afraid. I had major life decisions to make and no wisdom to draw from. I went to bed crying and woke up crying.” Tears pricked my eyes at the memory, and I blinked them away.

“Finally, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I went to talk with the pastor of the church I’d been attending. ‘Lori, don’t you want to surrender your life to Christ?’ he asked. ‘Let him take control.’ His words stirred something deep in my soul. I did want someone bigger and wiser to order my life. I bowed my head and prayed, ‘Lord, I’ve been doing things my way for too long. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I surrender my life to you. Whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do it.’”

“My life’s never been the same since,” I continued. “I have peace, even when things aren’t going my way. I’m not afraid of the future. And I have a wise, loving Father to pray to whenever I need wisdom and direction. I’m very grateful.”

If we let it, gratitude can ride in on a white horse and vanquish the demons of self-pity, comparison, and depression. It can open our eyes to the goodness of God and spotlight his gracious hand in our lives. And it can remind us of how lost we were, and how far we have come.

If you’re struggling this holiday season, will you pray this prayer with me?

Father, thank you for your presence in my life. I’m very grateful you promise never to leave me nor forsake me. Thank you for providing everything I need, and much of what I want. Help me be grateful for what I have instead of dwelling on what I don’t. Lord, I miss the friends and family members who are missing from our holiday celebrations, but I thank you for the years we had together. Thank you for my family—my imperfect, struggling, sometimes heartbreaking family. Help me love them as you love me. Most of all, thank you for sending Jesus – for loving me when I am unlovable, pursuing me when I neglect you, and preparing a place for me where I will live with you forever. I am most richly blessed.





Dear Hungry for God friends,

I suspect there are quite a few busy women on your Christmas list. Friends, co-workers, fellow church members, and your children's teachers, coaches, and babysitters, to name a few.

If you'd like to give them a gift that will draw them closer to the Lord, encourage them to spend time in God's Word, and think biblically, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is the gift you're looking for.

And what about those friends and loved ones who may not have a relationship with the Lord?

In the last devotion in the book, I share, in a winsome and non-threatening way, what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you give someone you care about a copy of HFG, you'll not only be passing along spiritual encouragement, you'll also be sharing the gospel. Either way, you could change someone's life forever.

And that's what Christmas is all about.




I'm excited to say that
Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time has 105 reviews and a 4.8 star rating on Amazon. It received the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award in 2016.

If you live in the Columbia, South Carolina area, I'd love to autograph and personalize copies for your special friends. Email me at LoriAHatcher@gmail.com.









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Wednesday

Yet Another Reason to Believe in God's Word

When I first became a Christian, I believed the Bible by faith. In the 35+ years since, I’ve discovered there are other very strong reasons to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I stumbled upon one of them recently in my quest to read through the Bible in a year:

Historical Accuracy 

One of the strongest proofs for the Bible’s origin is its historical accuracy. Take, for example, Ezekiel 29, a prophecy recorded in approximately 597 BC against the nation of Egypt:

“It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations” (Eze. 29:15).

You may remember Egypt as one of the world’s first civilizations. It reached its zenith of power during the days of the Pharaohs. This mighty country led the world in military strength, architectural advancements, science, and medicine. We get a glimpse of its power in the biblical account of the exodus of the Israelites in the book of Exodus.

The beginning of the end came, however, when God drowned the Egyptian army as they pursued the Israelites to enslave them. It was downhill from there. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, then Cleopatra’s death ended its nominal independence. It became just one of the many provinces of the Roman Empire. When the modern Republic of Egypt was founded in 1953, it marked the first time in 2,300 years that Egypt was fully independent.

Now, after more than 2,500 years, Ezekiel’s prophecy still holds true. Egypt is still “the lowliest of kingdoms,” has never “exalted itself above other nations,” and “will never again rule over the nations.”

This example is one of thousands that shows the Bible’s historical accuracy. It gives us one more reason to believe. I’m convinced God will never remove all our doubts, because it’s faith that pleases him. He has, however, provided ample evidence to strengthen and encourage us to believe.

If you’d like more straight answers to honest questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity, I encourage you to check out Chip Ingram’s new book, “Why I Believe.”

Now it’s your turn. What extra-biblical evidence has strengthened your faith? Leave a comment in the box below and share your thoughts.



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Sunday

Living in a Scary World -- 3 Ways to Take Control



“And then the ugly, old troll said to little Billy goat gruff, ‘Who is that tripping over my bridge?’” 

Determined to entertain my granddaughters without turning on the television, I was retelling one of their favorite stories. I raised my hands like claws and contorted my face into my best ugly, old troll impression as I rasped out, “Whoever it is . . . I . . . am . . . going . . . to eat you up!’” 

My youngest granddaughter, Caroline, had been watching my face with wide eyes during the whole story. When I crouched down to imitate the scary troll, however, my dramatization was simply too realistic for her tender little heart. Her bottom lip poked out, and her smile turned upside down. When her eyebrows scrunched up, I knew she was just seconds away from bursting into tears. 

“No, no, no.” I said, scooping her into my arms. “Don’t cry. The ugly old troll isn’t going to eat little Billy goat gruff. His big brother’s going to come along and rescue him!” I hugged her tightly and planted a kiss on her head. “And they’ll live happily ever after in the meadow eating grass and growing fat.” Another hug and a few more kisses calmed her fears, and soon, all was right with the world again. 

As I reflected on the experience, I realized Caroline isn’t the only one who’s frightened by scary stories. I am, too. Every day I hear of acts of terror, heinous crimes, and unforgivable sins. News streams churn with graphic details and up-to-the-minute coverage. Facebook posts share sad stories of loved ones battling cancer, marital break ups, and local crimes. And if that’s not enough, Live PD provides “entertainment” by riding along with law enforcement officers as they patrol my city. Just what I need – irrefutable evidence that criminals are alive and well and stalking my neighbors. 

We live in frightening days, but we don’t have to live frightened lives. And we are not victims to the things that make us scared. With a little planning, we can not only conquer our fears, but avoid most of them. 

Here are three suggestions: 

1. Filter your news coverage. 

Don’t watch continuous news coverage. You don’t have to click on every video that comes across your feed. While it’s important to be informed, we don’t have to allow ourselves to be inundated with scary stories or graphic film footage. Most of us are over-saturated with information and would do well to limit the time we spend watching the news. For me, the five-minute radio news on the way to work in the morning is plenty. It briefs me on the top stories in the world and in my area, but doesn’t give too many details. 

 2. Choose your recreational reading material carefully. 


Some of my friends like psychological thrillers and murder mysteries for bedtime reading. “I was so scared after reading that book,” one friend told me, “I slept with the light on for a week.” Filling our minds with sadistic, gruesome tales provides rich material for our subconscious (and conscious) minds to work with. Before we know it, we’re checking behind the shower curtain and seeing intruders in every dark corner. 

Philippians 4:8 provides a plumb line for what we allow into our minds. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.” 

3. Skip the horror movies, graphically-violent, and dark-themed television shows and movies. 

My husband enjoyed watching NCIS when it first came on Netflix. Sometimes I’d watch it with him. While I found the investigation/mystery component fascinating, I noticed I tended to worry a lot more about my naval officer son-in-law after watching it. I know his assignment puts him in harm’s way, and I pray daily for him, but watching the show planted a whole new set of fears in my mind. 

Romans 16:19 tells us to be wise about what is good, and simple concerning what is evil. This verse, paired with Philippians 4:8, confirm that we don’t need to know everything about the dark deeds people commit against one another to stay safe. Some education is necessary to protect ourselves, but graphic details breed fear rather than enlightenment. 

If you, like me and our little Caroline, tend to be frightened by the things you read and hear, why not try a Philippians 4:8 experiment? For one week, filter your news coverage, choose your recreational reading material carefully, and skip the scary movies and television. Choose instead to fill your mind with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Read a Christian novel, watch an inspiring movie, or spend some time in God’s Word. At the end of the week, assess your fear level. I’m confident you’ll see a positive change. 

Now it’s your turn. Do you struggle with fear? What steps do you take to combat it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.



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Practicing the Fine Art of Tolerance

We live in a culture that prides itself on being tolerant. Tolerance has become our culture’s buzz word.

Unfortunately, our culture has redefined what it means to be tolerant.

Our culture says to be tolerant, we must agree with someone, regardless of their decisions, beliefs, or lifestyle. 

But this isn’t tolerance at all.

Webster's Dictionary defines tolerance this way: 

Tolerance – sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. 

Pastor George Wright, of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, SC, adds further clarity: 

“To be tolerant, there must be conflict. 

 To be tolerant, there must be differences. 

To be tolerant, we must disagree (but never be disagreeable). 

Tolerance is not about agreement. Tolerance is about disagreeing and still finding a way to get along. 

True tolerance says ‘I don’t agree with you, ‘ or ‘I don’t think you’re right, but I still love you. I still care about you. And I’m not going anywhere because of my care for you.’” 

Martin Luther King would be considered intolerant by today’s standards. 

He said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He was intolerant of people’s prejudice, and he spoke out against it. But he did it respectfully and with love. 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” he said, “only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 

Abraham Lincoln would also be considered intolerant by today’s standards. 

He disagreed with those who supported slavery. But he did it respectfully. He said, "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it. 

Consider this example from a letter to a colleague: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. For this, neither has any just occasion to be angry with the other. " 

And the greatest example of all, Jesus would be considered intolerant by today’s standards. 

He spoke truth that was hard to hear, but necessary. To the religious and the non-religious alike he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except through me."   But he said it respectfully and with love. 

And he demonstrated that love. “Greater love has no man than this,” he said, “than he lay down his life for his friends.” 

These three are powerful examples of how to be tolerant without watering down what we believe. 

From their examples, I’ve developed three life goals. 


This is how I intend to practice tolerance: 

1. While I may not agree with someone’s ideas, I will always strive to honor them as human beings, created in God’s image. 

2. While I may not agree with what someone says, as Evelyn Beatrice Hall said to Voltaire, “I will defend to the death (their) right to say it.” 

3. When I disagree with someone, I will strive to separate the issue from the person. I am free to reject ideas, but I should never reject people. 

Tolerance doesn’t mean we water down or compromise our convictions in deference. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “Tolerance obviously does not disturb the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil.” 

Firmly-held beliefs are not the enemies of tolerance, they are the foundations of tolerance. 

In its truest sense, as Ghandi said, “Tolerance is the only thing that will enable persons belonging to different religions (political parties, social agendas, sports teams) to live as good neighbours and friends.” 

The freedom to disagree is a right granted by our country. 

The responsibility to disagree is a standard given to us by our Creator. 

The apostle Paul instructed the church at Collosse, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 

These are my goals: 

To unashamedly embrace my convictions, 
Respect my fellow man, 
And practice tolerance wherever I go. 

I hope they will be your goals, too.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on tolerance (as long as you're respectful). Leave a comment below and join the conversation.



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Friday

Simplify Your Shopping, Encourage Your Friends, and Share Your Faith

Dear Hungry for God friends,

I suspect there are quite a few busy women on your Christmas list. Friends, co-workers, fellow church members, and your children's teachers, coaches, and babysitters, to name a few.

If you'd like to give them a gift that will draw them closer to the Lord, encourage them to spend time in God's Word, and think biblically, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is the gift you're looking for.

And what about those friends and loved ones who may not have a relationship with the Lord?

In the last devotion in the book, I share, in a winsome and non-threatening way, what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you give someone you care about a copy of HFG, you'll not only be passing along spiritual encouragement, you'll also be sharing the gospel. Either way, you could change someone's life forever.

And that's what Christmas is all about.




I'm excited to say that
Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time has 105 reviews and a 4.8 star rating on Amazon. It received the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award in 2016.

If you live in the Columbia, South Carolina area, I'd love to autograph and personalize copies for your special friends. Email me at LoriAHatcher@gmail.com.









If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.



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