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Wow!  Another great devotional from Transformed by Rick Warren, especially the underlined parts, which remind me of the following verses. This reminds me that God is responsible for all the good in my family and our country. Happy Tuesday!

“‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ Acts‬ ‭17:28‬

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
‭‭Col‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭

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The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut. 33:27 NIV

Two years ago we brought home the cutest kitty ever, Bella, who is now almost three years old. She has been a real pleasure, very affectionate, loving, and playful. However our resident, elderly cat was not so pleased with the new addition.  At first she was openly hostile to the newbie, but now she has come to a state of truce, unless Bella intrudes on her personal space, and then she can expect to be swiped at, chased or otherwise harassed.

This morning I was sitting on my bed and the elderly cat was with IMG_0610me sleeping on the bed. Bella came in from her morning exploration chirping cutely as she does to say hi. I called her up on the bed, and she accidentally jumped right on top of the elderly cat! lol You can imagine, not a pleasant scene. Poor Bella was swiped at, and she made a hasty exit. However, watching this scene, I got off the bed, picked her up in my arms and took her back to the bed, snuggled closely in my arms.  She seemed quite appreciative to be rescued, cuddled, and given permission to go where the older cat wouldn’t allow.

There is no way my older cat would do anything to Bella while I’m holding her. I’m like “base” in the children’s game of tag. No one can touch her if I have her. She is completely safe, protected, and out of harm’s reach. Not only that but she is also loved and affectionately cherished. And she gets the privilege of being close to me, much closer than the older cranky one!

As I was holding my baby, it occurred to me that this is what it is like with God. If we choose to snuggle close to Him, to rest in His arms, and to enjoy Him, we are safe from whatever is trying to hurt us. Nothing would dare approach or attack when we are safe in His arms. In addition to being protected, we are also have the added privilege of being loved and cherished and in an intimate position of closeness with the One we love. Sounds like the place to be to me!

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare…He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day… Psa. 91:1-5 NIV

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The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul…  Psa. 23:1

My husband was sick this past weekend, worn down by working so many hours, so we didn’t get to hike very far. My daughter was also sick on her birthday, which was Saturday, so my husband and I decided to just do a short hike at a nearby park. When we got there, we found out that this was the day for their outdoor festival. We just kind of ignored it and headed off for our usual hike in the woods around the outskirts of the park. By the time we made it all the way around and back to the open area in the center, we began to look at some of the booths.

There was one from the Meeman Shelby State Park where we usually do our long hikes displaying an owl and a long (creepy) snake that you could pick up! There was also a petting zoo from Hooker Farms with the most adorable little animals! We thought they was so cute and my daughter loves cute little animals so much that we drove home, got her, and brought her back, even though she was sick. It was her birthday, after all!

We saw bunnies that were so cute and soft. We got to each pick up one and snuggle it! Some of the animals had quite a personality. We met a pig who would come up to you and look straight up his snout at you! No doubt, looking for food! And then there was my favorite animal there, a cute little wooly sheep. He was all fluffy and chubby-looking.  He was very interested in you when you came around and seemed to be very sociable, like a dog.   He would look up at you with a smile on his face!  If you got close to him, he would come right up to you and curiously nose around. He was very responsive and seemed to have quite a personality. We just thought he was the star of the zoo, Mr. Personality! lol

Then I thought of how the Bible says we are the sheep and Jesus is our Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us from one pasture to the next to find food and safety for us. He loves our quirky personality. He loves each sheep for its uniqueness, and He knows each one intimately. He cares for each sheep as if he or she were the only one.  And in the end, He leads us safely home. After meeting this sheep with attitude, I’ll never read the stories about Jesus and His sheep the same way again!

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:3-7

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A couple of days ago I was struggling with feeling hurt and frustrated, and if I was honest I’d have to admit that I was probably wrong in my attitude as well.  Then that evening, I had to go to a meeting about my daughter’s violin lessons and was finding it hard to pay attention because I was so upset.  So I started writing sporadic prayers to God on my little sheet of paper that they had handed out, telling Him how I was feeling and writing if I thought I was hearing anything from Him.

I eventually heard the phrase, “I am your strong Helper and your Shield”.  I knew it was in the Bible, but it’s not one of the verses I am very familiar with.  So I looked it up, and my favorite was:

The Lord is my Strength and my Shield,
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy,
and I will give thanks to Him in song.
Psa. 28:6-7

So I began to hide behind God as my Helper and my Shield, so that I was protected from the hurt.   I was safe and hidden with Him and was then able to deal with the emotions that I felt were unmanageable before and proceed with what I needed to do that day.

I probably would have forgotten by the next morning, but as I opened my Jesus Calling to read, guess what the title for the devotional that day was???…”I Am Your Strength and Shield”.  And guess what the verse was?  Of course, the very same one!  When I saw that, my jaw dropped!  I was really quite amazed to hear the same obscure (to me) verse twice in a row!  I would say, what a coincidence, but I know there are no coincidences with God.  So He reminded me that He is my Strength and Shield and how He was able to protect me from that hurt.  So I continue to view Him that way when I feel attacked and hide in Him as my Strength and Shield!

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He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge…You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day…”  Psa. 91:1,4-5

For years and years we’ve had the same cat who is now an old lady.  All she does is pretty much sleep, and we feed her and love on her and tell her how pretty she is!  She’s the Queen.  But the kids have been asking us for a kitten for years now.  The answer is always no.  Too much work, too much money.  Who knows what bad habits another animal may have!  But last spring while my 15-year-old was sick, a coworker had a kitten available for adoption.  It was two days before my daughter’s birthday and it seemed that God telling me that this was the right time to adopt another cat.

So we brought her home and named her Bella.  She is now 10 months and has been a great joy to us.  She was like therapy for my daughter while she was sick, a comfort to her and someone else for my daughter to think about care for.  We all enjoy her!  Its like having a new baby in the house.  Everyone loves to see the next crazy or cute thing the kitten has done!  God has blessed us through this little kitten during all of our hard times.  She has brought life and joy into our household, the kind that only a kitten can experience: exuberant, carefree life!

The other morning I opened up her cat door early in the morning because she kept meowing until it was opened, and I was trying to sleep!  It was not light yet and soon I hear cats fighting outside my bedroom window.  I realized it had to be our kitten, Bella.  And she was too young to contend with an adult cat.  So I opened the bedroom window and yelled at the intruding cat, scaring him away.  Then I ran outside in the front yard in my pj’s like a mad woman to make sure my kitten was okay!  I didn’t find Bella right away, but I did find the other cat, whom I scared further off our property.

As I came back into the house, Bella was there waiting for me.  She seemed a little scared, but she was fine.  I closed her cat door, and she did not seem to have a problem with staying in now.  I guess she’d had enough excitement for one day!  I crawled back in bed, and she came with me.  Then she crawled under the covers and curled up next to me.  And I realized there she was safe.  No one could even come close to her here.  She was in our house, locked in.  She was in my bedroom with me, on my bed, under the covers, right next to me!  Nothing could get to her.  I wouldn’t allow it!  And even when she had left the house when it was dark and wandered into the front yard and encountered the hostile cat, I would’ve done whatever it took to scare off the intruder and rescue my little kitty.

Then I realized that is how God is with us.  He is ready to come down and rescue us from our enemies.  I love Psalm 18 (below).  That is pretty much what it says about God.   He will chase them away and defend us at all costs.  He is our Great Protector.  He is fierce in His love and protection of us.  When we are in distress, when we are in over our heads, He will shake heaven and earth to get to us, to scare away our enemies, to rescue us, to bring us back inside the house, back into His arms and under His protection.  

He will cover us and hold us close.  We are safe near Him, right next to Him, the closer the better!  No one can get to us then.  There is no way they could get in the house, in the room with our God and get to us next to Him and under the covers!  There we are safely and securely protected, held closely, wrapped in His arms to comfort us after our scary encounter.   I am so thankful that we a have a God who loves, cares for and protects us so well.  What a great God we have!

Psalm 18
“I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.  The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me…In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.  From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.

The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because He was angry.  Smoke rose from His nostrils, consuming fire came from His mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down…He mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind…

He shot arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at Your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from Your nostrils…”

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” 

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He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psa. 91:1

I see myself kneeling before Jesus, who is sitting in front of me.  My face is  buried in His lap.  I am protected and hidden, almost like the child who thinks that if she cannot see anything, then she cannot be seen.  Here all my overwhelming worries, anxieties, fears, doubts, and burdens are taken away.  At least for a little while, hiding in Him allows me a break.  A reprieve.  Protection from the attacks.  Instead I am in a safe, protected and sheltered place of freedom and Love.  Now to learn to live constantly in this place of shelter and protection, to learn to rest continuously in His shadow.  Thank You Jesus for Your Rest.  Thank You that we always have You to go to.  We are always safe and protected in You.  Amen.

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‘And I Myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.”  Zech. 2:5

Lord God, be a wall of fire around me, protecting me from spiritual attack that often comes after writing about You.  Be a wall of fire around my family, protecting us from the physical attack of illness and accident, as we seem to be prone to so often lately.

And Lord, be our glory within.  Fill us each with Your Spirit and Your fire.  Fill us with Your presence and Your Word, Your strength and Your power, Your peace and Your joy.  Thank You for the pleasure of knowing You and experiencing You within us.  Thank You that You have made Your home within us.  And we have the incredible privilege of cohabitating with You, 24/7.

You in me, and me in You.  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  (Col. 1:27)

Thank You for being the wall of protection around us and the glory within.  We adore You, God.  Amen.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  1 Jn. 4:15

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