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Look Up, Not Down

By Chris Baxter

For those who are following along with the Moses devotional, thank you for walking with me! For those of you who are not, please join us on the journey by following my facebook page: @respitefortheweary. These posts are stand-alone devotionals that you can glean from day to day, so it's easy to jump right in!

Here is a sampling:

Pursuit and Passageway

 

The Egyptians—all Pharoah’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them They were terrified and cried out to the Lord…Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:9-13

 

Suggested reading: Exodus 14

 

Exodus 14 has to be one of the most action-packed chapters in the whole Bible. The Egyptians changed their minds and chased theIsraelites, who were terrified. They blamed Moses for dragging them out to the desert to die. God told Moses to rally the people to trust him, yet one more time. They were at the edge of the sea and then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side, so neither went near the other all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left (v.19-22).

 

And we know the rest of the dramatic story: the Egyptians followed the Israelites into the sea. God threw them into confusion, causing the chariot wheels to fall off. And then God told Moses to once again lift his staff. In doing so, the water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh…not one of them survived (v. 28).

 

Thoughts:

Oh my, so many thoughts! The powerful movement of God. The faith of Moses in lifting his staff. The Israelites crossing on dry ground. The defeat of the Egyptians.

 

I marvel at it all the BIG miracle of the waters being pulled back, but for some reason, whenever I read this story, I am amazed at the subtle, yet repeated, mentioning of the “dry ground” phenomena. I mean think about it, this was the bottom of a very wet, deep blue sea (well, actually it was the Red Sea, ha ha). The dryness to me is a miracle within a miracle. Not only were the Israelites walking between walls of water, they were not having to march through thick muddy sludge to get to the other side. I personally have an aversion to thick muddy sludge, so maybe that’s why this miracle makes me so happy. I know if it was wet and slimy, I would be looking down at my feet, trying to figure out which way to step. But God took care of that for them. He wanted them to look up…

 

to wonder at his power,

to feel the gentle spray of water as they maybe even skipped along this remarkable carved out path,

to potentially catch glimpses of the colorful rays in the midst of the sun-lit waters,

to make a memory that would last a lifetime…

to tell their children and their children’s children about their awesome God who delivered them from their enemy.

 

I want to live like I’m walking on dry ground with magnificent walls of water on my right and my left. I’m not sure what that means, but I want it…to know and experience all of God. I don’t want to miss anything!

 

He is for us, not against us.

 

It is for freedom that he set us free.

 

Let’s look up, not down, and marvel right now on our paved-out pathway from death to life.

 

Going deeper and sweeter: John 10:10; Romans 8:31; Galatians5:1

 

Dear Lord,

We praise you for creating a way to cross from darkness to light! May we learn how to live in the freedom that your Son died to give us.We want your abundant life TODAY! Amen.

 

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Please Join me for a 30 Day Devotional on my Respite for the Weary facebook page

By Chris Baxter

I wanted to let each of you know that I am currently providing a 30 day devotional on my Respite for the Weary facebook page. It's entitled Moses: Called, Challenged, Changed. The Scripture-based posts are offered Monday through Friday, and we have just completed our first week. It's not too late to grab a friend a follow along! Below is a sampling of one of our days from week one.

If you are interested, you can follow me on facebook @respitefortheweary or press the facebook icon on this website.

Moses: Called, Challenged, Changed

Day 3: A Sister and a Momma

But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Exodus 2:3-4

Suggested reading: Exodus 2:1-10

Since Pharoah’s plan “A” involving the midwives was not working, he constructed plan “B”:

all baby boys were to be tossed into the Nile River. Unthinkable!

Scripture takes us into one of these Hebrew homes where fretful parents were trying to hide their beautiful baby boy. When it became impossible to do so, a Levite momma had her own plan. Rather than throwing her baby into the Nile to drown, she gently placed him in a basket, chose a specific spot on the river, and sent his older sister to watch the hopeful plot unfold…and it did.

Pharoah’s daughter who “happened to be” bathing in this particular place, saw the basket, opened it, and felt immediate compassion for the child. The sister (Miriam) saw her moment and seized it. This young female slave approached the prominent Egyptian princess and said, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (v. 7). Miriam knew just who to go and get!

Amazingly, the baby’s mother (Jochebed) was now being paid to nurse her own son! (I think she may be the ONLY woman in existence who has ever gotten paid for the selfless role of mothering.) Oh, what a “give-back” story! Can you imagine the deep sorrow of letting her baby go, only to be met with abundant joy of receiving him back in her arms to nurse again? I’m sure, knowing that her time was limited, she held him even tighter, and prayed for him even more fervently, all the while trusting God for the things that lay ahead in his future.  

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharoah’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water” (v.10).

Thoughts:

Yesterday, we looked at the heroic acts of the faith-filled midwives who did not kill the Hebrew newborn baby boys as Pharaoh had commanded. Now today, we are observing yet two more heroines in Exodus. What descriptive words would you give Moses' (possibly 8 year old) sister? "Brave" and "risky" come to my mind. And what about Moses' mother? "Protective" and "Abounding love" are words I see in her actions.

Is there something in my life and yours today that requires a bold faith like that of Moses’ mother and sister? Is it to speak truth in love to someone or to share the gospel with a friend?

Or is it to step out into unknown territory for the sake of another human being--at work, at home, or in your community?

Will you take the "risky" step and approach this person with God's love?

May we each be called, challenged, and changed as we meditate on and then act like our faith-filled ancestors of long ago: the midwives, a sister, and a momma.

Going deeper and sweeter: Psalm 31:24; Hebrew 11:23; 2 Timothy 1:7

Dear Lord,

Speak to us. Where do you want us to step out in courageous faith? Give us a heart’s desire to obey you and the feet to follow you wherever you want us to go, for the good of your people and the glory of your name. Amen.

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Saturday, September 4, 2021

Two Extremes

By Chris Baxter

From our forth floor balcony at Panama City Beach, my husband, my daughter, and I watched the waves roll in and the waves roll out. We could have gotten mesmerized by the rhythmic sight and sound, but it was a different kind of evening on the white sandy beach beneath us. Several boats with blue swirling lights were driving back and forth in search of a young 20 year old who had gotten pulled away from his friends by a riptide. His panicked friends and accumulating spectators lined the shore in hope.

At 11 pm, the search was over, the young man was found. A thriving life ended, and inexplicable grief began.

Only 24 hours later, same balcony, same white sand, same rolling waves. Yet, what we witnessed on this perfect sunset-evening was a young man, dressed in khaki and blue who had set up a twinkling "marry me" sign in the sand. He waited for his sweetheart, and sure enough, she came. He bent to one knee and asked the question that young girls dream of. When they embraced, the condo balconies erupted in applause.

At 7pm, the search was over, the boy got his girl. His anxious thoughts stopped. Uncontainable joy began.

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the two extremes, the high and the low of it. I'm still processing the waves of emotion on both ends.

My only consolation with the young man who was swept away so suddenly is to think that Jesus himself was with him, saying, "Come with Me to a better place." There is a better place, I hope you know...maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you there is a better place than this life, and Jesus will take each of us there if we believe in him as our Savior. Yes, He saves us...from messes, from chaos, from riptides.

My genuine hope for this young, engaged, very happy couple is that they will walk with Jesus in the land of the living. Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that you don't have to walk this life alone, and that Jesus will help you in each moment and in every relationship. Yes, He helps...in the happy and in the hard.

We will always have the extremes...the high waves of over-the-top-joy as well as the low undercurrents of knee-buckling sadness.

Life and death and everything in between. The hope is this: Jesus is in the midst of it all.

Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that Jesus is in your midst...and to tell you to hold His hand in your extreme.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Parenting (and Praying)

By Chris Baxter

Over the past 18 months, I've become a grandmother to two adorable little angels. With each of their very first breaths, I entered and re-entered into the "grandparent-craze-club". I totally get it now, and I will try really hard to spare you of my several hundred pictures at this moment.

As I became Mimi, my oldest daughter became Mommy. Can I tell you how exhausted I am by watching her manage these two sometimes-human-angels? Did I really do ALL of that oh so long ago?

In reflection of my mothering years, here is a look at each stage from the rearview mirror:

Newborn-Toddler: Nurturing, (and praying). Primary questions come to mind, "Are they present and accounted for?" "Did they get fed?" "Are they somewhat clean?"

Elementary years: Teaching, (and praying). Teaching how to brush their teeth, how to read and write, and how to get along with their siblings are just a few things that caused grey hairs to sprout all over my head.

Pre Teen-Teen: Training, (and praying). Oh my, these years. Talk about grey hairs, now add wrinkles around the eyes and several more forehead creases! When I ponder too long on four different teenagers learning how to drive, I have a come-apart all over again. And then there's teaching how to manage blooming emotions and teaching how to respect authority... so much, so much.

Young Adult: Listening, (and praying). As each one of my kids took flight, phone calls were filled with lots of highs and lows. I listened carefully; I also learned to read between the lines. They felt far away for the first time, but somehow, (I believe it was through my prayers for them), they were even closer in my heart.

Adult Children: Watching, (and praying). What a paradox, adult children. They're fully grown, yet they're still growing. I'm in this stage now, and I am more of an observer; like watching my daughter become a mommy. I'm also watching each of my kids grow up as they deal with their real life "stuff." Career paths, relationships, faith. Sometimes it's so awesome, and sometimes it's just not. When they were toddlers at my feet, I could pick them up and just hold them when it hurt. Now, the BEST thing (and sometimes the only thing) I can give them is prayer.

No matter where you are in your parenting, prayer is the lifeline, for you and for your kids. Remember, you are talking to the One who knows your child better than you do--in each and every stage! Believe this crazy truth: God can out-love even a mother's full on loving heart! So talk to Him.

This reminds me of a motto that the Lord whispered to me way back in those 24/7 toddler years. It's this:
"Talk a whole lot to God about your kids, and talk a whole lot to your kids about God."

So parent, choose to nurture, teach, train, listen, watch, and pray.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Does God Hear Me?

By Chris Baxter

I'm slowly unpacking my thoughts from the Colorado trip I went on with my husband Mac about two months ago for our 31st anniversary. We splurged for a few nights in mid-April and went to the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. Wow, it was f...a...n...c...y, way more than we knew!

While there, a wonderful thing happened while I was out on a long walk taking in the rugged beauty of the Colorado mountains. Mac had a fishing adventure, and it was way too cold for this southern girl to go alongside, so I stuck around the hotel grounds for the morning hours.

Speaking of cold, after biking some and walking some more, I was more than ready to go inside. The hotel offered one fireplace-lounge after another on several floors, and I already saw myself curled up with a book in one of these inviting spots. As I walked along briskly, I told myself, "Just get there, inside, warmth, ahhh." Meanwhile, someone's voice gently interrupted my bee-line mentality. A middle-aged woman who was touring the historic hotel and grounds asked me from a distance, "Excuse me, do you mind taking my picture?" With the large pond, the old hotel, and rugged mountains in the background, it was definitely a great picture spot, so I responded with a "Sure!" (If she had known of my picture taking inability, she would have waited for the next passer-by.)

 I walked toward her; I was cordial, but I was also quick. Bottom line, I was cold. I took her picture, and I took it again and again, to cover my bases.

Then I left her alone.

As I walked away from her and toward the nearing warmth, I couldn't ignore the nudge in my spirit. Hmmm, was I supposed to say something more to this lady? Unable to shake this thought, I confessed and prayed, "Lord, if you had something more in mind, please bring her back around."

     

Fast forward a couple of hours. After a hot shower (and praying a few more times the above prayer), I then meandered my way to a random fireplace lounge. Sitting there by myself, I texted a picture of the cozy scene before me and sent it to my adult kids, letting them know that I was doing quite fine at the moment.

After turning the pages of my book for a bit, I looked up to simply stare at the crackling fire and get lost in it.

But that's not what I saw.

Wow! What do you know? It was the lady...who was by the pond...now, sitting right in front of me.

Does God hear my prayers? Yes, oh yes, he does. Obviously it was his will to answer my prayer with, "Ok, you asked, so I'm bringing this woman back around to you."

To let you know, when I saw her sitting there, I was taken off guard and got really nervous! I'm an introvert. Talking to strangers is not my thing! But, the deeper "thing" is that I knew God brought this woman to me again, and so I needed to follow through. By faith, I moved to the chair beside her and started with, "Hi".

And I smiled...warmly this time.

We engaged in small talk, introducing each other. I fumbled with my words somewhat, but pressed on. I ended up telling her about what just transpired (taking her picture, regretting not being more friendly, my prayer, and now the two of us sitting in this "random" place). I also boldly/fearfully told her I was a Christian writer, and gave her my card (that I had by faith put in my pocket just in case God answered my prayer). I told her about my website and the online ministry called Soul Sisters, both designed to encourage women in God's word. She received my card and my kindness with a hint of curiosity and...that was that.

The amazing thing is, the next day, Mac and I went about 20 minutes away to tour the Garden of the Gods, a vast array of red rocks that one can wander through for miles. As we were coming out of the visitor center, guess who caught my eye? The lady by the pond, by the fireplace, was now by the garden about to walk some trails.

I yelled her name as if she were my childhood friend! Ha, I think i might have scared her a bit, but we both laughed at yet another chance meeting. We chatted again, and I merely stated, "Wow, this is more than a coincidence."

God heard me, and he answered me, not once, but twice.

And I'm still praying for this lady...now, by name.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

From Prayer to Reality

By Chris Baxter

I'm a visual learner therefore I journal most everything that I want to know and remember. One of the consistent little pictures that I draw every morning beside the current date on my journal page is a quick sketch of two hearts side by side, slightly overlapping, with a cross going straight through the middle of the hearts. The hearts are meant to represent Mac and me, and the cross, of course, represents Jesus. When I draw this simple picture, I pray something like this over our relationship:

Lord, may your strong love pull us together.

May your love fill us and flow through us towards one another.

Bind us together and make us move towards other people.

Use us, O Lord, however you want, and where ever we go. Amen.

Well, not too long ago, Mac and I went to Spearfish, South Dakota. We stayed at the Secret Garden, a lovely Bed and Breakfast near the bubbling Spearfish Creek. In this small historic town, our hope was to visit some young friends of ours, John Michael and Erica Elder. Mac got to fish with John Michael, and I enjoyed coffee with Erica. We saw their new home, met their adorable little a six month old JJ, and had dinner with Erica's parents. What a great weekend of new sights and new relationships!

To top it off (no put intended here), John Micael took us on an uphill hike on his in-law's property. It was quite vigorous, OR I'm quite out of shape! However, when we reached the pinnacle it was well worth every upward step. From this vantage point, the view of Spearfish was spectacular: the Black Hills were in the distance, the green valleys lay beneath us, while blue skies and cotton clouds completed the work of art.

But what caught my immediate attention were the three dark wooden crosses that stood prominently at the crest of the hill. I loved to see them there, making a strong statement without words. I asked John Michael to take a picture of Mac and me in front of it, simply because it was something I wanted to remember from our trip out west.

It wasn't until the next morning in my quiet time, when I was sketching the hearts-and-the-cross-picture that I realized that my "journal art" had become reality. God is so sweet like that. I never want to miss his intentional intimate gifts he designs just for me! (He does this for ALL his children! We just have to open our eyes.)

After making this journal/reality connection, I went one step further, which is the TRUE reason God allowed me to live out my paper-sketch:

I believe with all my heart, that God will answer the prayers that I lift up for our marriage as I draw the simple picture.

I'm mainly posting this "evidence of God at work" to encourage you, wives, to pray for your husbands, and to love them with the unshakeable love of Christ. It's vital to him, to you, and to your marriage, no matter if you're six months in or 31 years like Mac and me.

Today, Mac and I are in a new place, literally. He's had a job transition, coming out of 27 years of doing the same thing at the same office. My prayers for him and my love towards him are a key factor in this faith-filled change. I have recently added to my prayers for us: Lord, show us where to live, give, work, and play.

Remember being a wife is a divine gift. Culture may shout to you that it's not; that it's a burden even, and a second rate role. But think about it, what a powerful privilege to be someone's "wind beneath their wings". Embrace your call and pray your man into the Lord's heights, which is way higher and far greater than any position this fleeting world can give.

You may not need to draw a journal picture right now, but maybe take a minute to pray the prayer above for your marriage. And in time, with a surrendered heart, watch your prayers become reality.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Daily Prayer

Luring

And Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." Exodus 3:3

Dear Lord,

Turn our heads to see your holiness. Pull our hearts towards your glory. Make us curious enough to walk towards you and willing enough to respond to all that you have in mind. Call us, challenge us, change us. Amen.