Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aren't You Amazed?

So, the last few months I've been studying "What is truth?" You know, all the basic questions of life that the new-agers try to dump on us. "Who Am I?" "Where did I come from?" "Is there really anything after this life?" Those mind boggling questions that really no one can answer with precision. (Hence, the reason the new-agers grasp hold and say there is no God...cuz' they don't get that God is SO BIG. And honestly, it's sad they are lost to their own refusal to look up instead of out. -- sigh!)

It's hard to convince someone God exists by using scripture. They don't believe scripture. So our only real weapon is our own life. Ultimately, our own depth of joy, peace and love in Christ becomes the weapon to fight with. Imagine that. 'Reckon that's why God tells us to put on His armor everyday?

My friend asked me, "So do you really believe this God stuff?"

I found myself...well...speechless, at best. My first thought was, "You're a Christian, you idiot, what do you think?" But, not only would that have seemed crass, it wouldn't have been the example God wanted me to present. Then I realized something. It's harder to convince a questioning Christian than a non-believer! They can fight back with scripture or just the denial of it. So, where do I stand in this battle? Perhaps a greater question than "why am I here?"

As we say in East Tennessee, "I hadda thunk on that." And thunk I did--all day and the bigger part of the night. And when I woke up in the a.m. hours tossing the question over in my mind, I suddenly felt very "ill-equipped." So, I got up, walked to the bathroom and splashed water on my face. The night light cast a yellow glow around my silhouette and I watched as water dripped off my nose. "Shesh, God. I'm speechless here."

"Why?" He whispered.

"Because, I'm not sure I know how to answer my friend's question."

"What was your answer?"

"Ah - you answer a question with a question. That's just hunk-dory! My answer was YES! I believe in this God stuff." What else would it have been?

"Do you live your answer?" God whispered. I had to stop and think on that one, too. Did I? Do I?

"I try." I said as I splashed water on my face a second time. "I really try. But I'm far from perfect."

"Who said I expected perfection?"

This is the thing about God. He talks to us with questions. Hard questions and I never know if there's a right or wrong answer. I suppose the point is to make me dig deeper into my own heart. Ultimately, that is where the answers to all the hard questions hide.

I remember a song we sang in Sunday school as a child.

I've got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.
Down in my heart!
Down in my heart!

That pretty much answered my questions. Sometimes God gets clouded for us all. I went outside the other morning and the fog was so dense I lost my bearings. Now, I've lived in this house for 23 years, walked on the porch, stepped down to the sidewalk bizillions of times. But this time, the path was so clouded I slid my foot slowly in front of me feeling for the edge of the porch. I was completely turned around and I felt as though I'd fall. Honestly, it was a little frightening. But eventually, I turned loose of the door and trusted the way I knew by heart. And Guess what?

It was still there. I extended my hand and began to walk. I knew the fence would eventually be there. And it was. I didn't sway off the sidewalk toward the pond (thank goodness, I've fallen into that rascal before, butt first!) I say with great conviction, that my heart and mind knew the way because it was the truth. The truth doesn't budge. Ever!

I probably failed my friend in the big question of life. But then did I? My hope is that the light of Christ does show in my example and that the hunger for a deeper presence with God in my life makes someone else salivate for taste of Him, too. You know how your jaw aches when you smell someone's grape bubble gum on their breath. You can almost taste it by the smell. Makes you want a piece, too.

Yeah, without a doubt I believe this "God stuff." And even when I've wondered if God is ignoring me at times, I've never questioned His presence.

What is truth? Christ is truth.
Why am I here? Because God wanted to know me. Because I WANT to know Him.
Is there life after death? YOU BET. We just can't get our heads around it.
Who is God? I would say, "Who is He not?"

So, for my friend, I pray God will lift the fog or push my friend off the porch to trust what he knows to be true and unchanging...the way of God...the truth...never changes paths.

I hope that's a good enough answer. I hope the example of my life is a guide maker. I am who I am because of the God who lives inside of me and I though I don't always understand His ways, I never question if He exists. Even when the way is clouded I know He exists.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's a Devotion?

This summer my ministry partner and myself were fortunate to be on staff at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. We spent the week teaching writers how to promote their work through internet radio and interviewing writers for

Oddly enough, we assumed writers understood what a devotion was. And for the most part,they did. With a little guidance they could take a personal testimony and turn it into a devotion (the two are not the same).

However, through the hours we spent working with writers and enjoying every second of it, the revelation hit me on the last leg of my plane trip home.

It rained torrential bucketfulls in Philadelphia which threw my flight behind. I watched as the pilots and flight attendants waded across the tarmac through ankle deep water to board the plane - and I thought. Now that's devotion!

With ten minutes to spare my flight landed in Cincinnati. The cabin door opened and through the window I eyed the automatic staircase being pushed against the side of the plane. Well, almost. It rolled within five-feet of the door and stopped, not to be moved another inch. The machine operator patiently shifted gears forward and backward, over and over and OVER. Still the stairs wouldn't budge. In my impatience, I thought to myself, "Now THAT'S REALLY devotion! The guy just keeps trying."

After 45 minutes waiting to disembark, the mechanics physically lifted the stairs and moved them securely against the door. The airline staff directed us off the plane, down a corridor and into the airport. As soon as I stepped into the waiting area, I heard my name over the intercom, "Cindy Sproles, report to Delta 6215 desk." I looked on the monitor for any clue to where Delta 6215 was located. Finally, in a last ditch effort to catch the one remaining flight home, I asked the guy at Delta 7166 desk. "They're calling my name but I can't find Delta 6215."

"No problem, he said. "It's this desk." I bit my lip, puzzled.

"But it says Delta 7166."

"Right. They're holding the plane for you." I didn't get it but I figured if they were holding flight 7166 for me, they had to know the numbers didn't match.

Are you ready for a chuckle? Here goes...

The guy at the desk motioned me through the same door I'd entered. I was met by the same flight attendant who walked me down the exact corridor and BACK ONTO the same plane I had left. You got it. The same plane. I wondered WHY I couldn't have just just stayed put? And before you ask...yes, I even had the same seat from the previous flight, only this time I had to step over a nice man to get to it.

I laughed as I shoved my computer under my seat. In fact, I continued to laugh which peaked the man's interest. Settling into my seat, I flipped open a book my agent had given me. The man smiled and tapped my book. "Southern Romance."

"It is indeed. My agent wants me to write a romance. So I need to read one to write one."

One tidbit led to another and we began to chat. I found out he was a neurological surgeon who lived in a neighboring town close to my home. As we talked I told him about the opportunity to teach aspiring writers about writing devotions.

He cocked his head to one side and said, "What's a devotion?"

This very educated and intelligent man, who made his living performing surgery inside people's heads, didn't have a clue what a devotion was. Actually, he didn't believe in God either so why would he know what a devotion was?

I thought for a minute. I took for granted WHAT a devotion was. Every morning of my life, I get up and dig into the Word, then say my prayers. But I had to explain what a devotion was to a man who didn't believe in God.

We talked the entire trip home and when we landed I gave him a Christian Devotions business card and asked him to visit the site. He promised he would, in fact, he put the card in his wallet instead of trashing it.

I got to tell him about the God he didn't believe in. And before it was over the best description of a devotion I could come up with was this:

A devotion is NOT just what you read about God,
it's the time you spend
getting to know Him as well.

We're devoted to lots of things in our lives but are the things we're devoted to giving back to us? So I ask this question....where does your devotion lie? Family, friends, work? or God? You tell me. What is a devotion?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Truth or Consequences?

I recently met a lady who told me she was having a party. She'd bought beautiful invitations, planned a fully catered meal with dessert tables and hired a bartender to manage a full bar.

I'm not wealthy by any stretch of the means. I'm not sure I'd recognize ole' Benjamin if he ran by the house flying his kite naked. But judging from Teresa's (that's what we'll call her) dress and her 1987 Dodge, I figured she wasn't in the position to even know whose face donned the front of a $100 bill. So I asked her, "Teresa, why the big party and better yet, did someone die and leave you a truck load of money?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, dad's brother died and I'm the only remaining relative. So I got his small estate."

**Open mouth, insert foot.** I tried to load my groceries in the car without looking her in the eye. Maybe that Freudian slip breezed over her head.

The next logical question had to be asked. "So why the big party? You planning on dying soon, too?"

"Funny you should say that. The doctor informed me I have stage 4 breast cancer."

In the Smokey Mountains there are these huge boulders in the rivers. I wanted to crawl under one. Since, I was two for two, I ventured on to ask yet another stupid question.

"Okay, at the risk of finishing off what dignity I have left. Explain."

She proceeded to tell me her Uncle James had died and left her a $50K. And since fate had already crossed her pathway, she was making plans "to go out with a bang." Teresa talked about her uncle's funeral and how every person that visited his casket had something nice to say. Not one ugly thing was said about her uncle--even the ones she knew didn't particularly like him.

"I listened to people ramble on all evening about man who really only loved one thing in his life--his Chihuahua. (Figures it would be a Chihuahua, not something pleasant like, say...a golden retriever.) She said, she'd decided to have a party and host her own funeral before she passed. Her words were, "I want people to tell me the truth before I die so I can make things right if need be."

The look on my face must have screamed at her or it could have been the fact that my buggy slipped out of my hands banging against my bumper, but I just didn't think fast enough on my feet before she slipped an invitation into my hand.

"Thank you...I guess." I stammered. What do ya say to someone like that? Sorry, Teresa, I'm sure I'm busy for your pre-planned wake. I'll drop a vase of flowers by on Monday. I don't think so.

"I know you think I'm crazy. But I want the truth from people before I die. Not after. Does me no good after the fact."

I had to admit...the girl had a point. I took her invitation and slipped it in my purse. Still haven't torn open the envelope. Just don't have the gumption. But I'll tell you this. As I sit staring at an unopened linen envelope, I think Teresa probably asks the question most folks aren't brave enough to utter. What is truth?

I've thought a lot about that question over the past few months. And in the beginning I gave the standard answers -- truth is trust and honesty, not lying, being upright and righteous. Thing is, God kept saying, "Cin, dig deeper. You can figure this age old question out."

Then one day I was reading in the Book of John (He was a writer so I suppose I gravitate to his skills and craftsmanship.) The trial of Christ. That's when I suddenly saw it. I'd read the passage hundreds of times, memorized parts of it yet never recognized the answer.

Pilate mocks Christ, "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king."

But this is what got me.

Jesus said, "In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

Right there was the answer. What is truth? God is truth and Jesus came to testify that.

Funny how we read and study and never have a revelation like that. Never come to the realization that not only did Jesus come to save us but He came FIRST to testify to the truth. It's that simple, we just can't see past the ends of our noses. God is truth.

I can't say I want to be like Teresa and throw a party so people will say all the truthful things about me like, "Remember the time she had that big piece of spinach hung between her eye teeth before she spoke at that ladies conference in Atlanta? Or that even after she lost 10 lbs. the black pants still showed all the lumps and bumps of the middle age spread. Who needs that? There's something to be said for being the honored guest at a're there but you don't have to listen to the comments. Your ears are glued closed.

The one thing I gathered from this whole "what is truth?" question was that I needed to learn what and who truth was. And if I chose to ignore the truth, at some point there would be a real consequence. I don't know about you....but I'm not a fan of consequences and I certainly don't want to choose between door number 1, door number 2 or door number 3.

I didn't go to Teresa's pre-funeral fiasco. Instead, I looked her in the eye and said, "I hope your party goes well. Knock 'em dead!"

That fell out of my mouth before I could stop it. I squinched my face and shrugged my shoulders as I pushed my buggy to the rack. I'm glad I know the Truth, the Way and the Light. He already paid the consequence for me. Now whatever door I open is a winner.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pray Specifically or Pray Continually?

I love to walk. In my younger years, I was an outfitter, training others to hike the Appalachian Mountains or canoe down the Nolichucky River. There's great peace in walking the paths God has meticulously drawn in the hillsides.

After my children were born, hiking went by the wayside but eventually, as they reached adulthood, I walked again. Been at it for the past ten years, off and on.

Walking is where I talk to God. It's the place I come to find restoration and renewal. Grant you, I'm slow sometimes. Over the years, my lungs have grown weak with asthma, but I'm persistent. No matter how steep the climb, I just keep trudging until I reach the top. It's a slow continual process.

Recently my friend told me I needed to pray specifically. He said my prayers were...for lack of better words, too broad. That I asked God for too much provision because I assumed I knew exactly what was needed when maybe my requests were way too much for the need. He likened my prayers to a teenager saying, "Dad, I need a ride to the game. Will you buy me a car?" He said, "Pray specifically for daily needs."

Now, I get what he's saying, but I don't agree (that's what makes true friendship an adventure -- agreeing at times to disagree). We're all different in how we know God -- how we walk and talk with Him, how intimate our relationship is with Him. Perhaps it's the difference in men and women, but I pray "guesstimating"...assuming God knows I round off the figures.

I upholstered a couch once and when I measured the length of the couch, I stretched my arms and measured how many "arms lengths" the couch was. My girlfriend asked me in the store, "Did you measure the sofa?" I smiled and stretched out my arms--thought she would stroke on the spot. I unrolled the bolt of material, used my guesstimate and bought the material. When we were finished I'd over measured by 2 inches. Hummm....must be something to a "guesstimate."

But the fact is...God knows--whether I get it right or not. He knows accurately. All He asks me to do is to ALWAYS be joyful, CONTINUALLY pray, and BE THANKFUL...even when it hurts. (That's from the Cindy Version of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - a guesstimation, I'm sure!)

My prayers always begin with praise and thanks. And when I pray for needs, that's what I do. Pray for the needs. Sometimes I try to reason what a project may cost, because TO ME...I can have a better grip on what we need to work toward. If the need is more, God will fill in the gaps. If it's less, He'll provide the right amount. Abundance, not over abundance. That's a detail GOD will handle, not me. My job is to pray. God's is to receive and answer or provide--whichever He sees fit.

The fact is, praying is a lot like walking. Some of us can sprint the mountain in no time, others meander. But some of us, love the walk, we just don't have the lungs for it. So we climb the mountain a few steps at a time. We stop frequently along the way because walk is hard--we even stop from time to time, gasping for air. But we never give up. We keep walking. One step at a time. Continually, joyfully; even when it's hard.

I'm sure my prayer life can be improved and I'll take my friends suggestions to heart. I'll add a few specifics for "daily" provision and not things that lay a few months down the road. But for the most part, God and I have a method. I bet you have one, too. And as long as I am obedient to His command to pray continually about everything coming and going, then He'll fill in the gaps because my Father knows me and my heart. He knows my prayers are not greedy. (But then, the flip side grandmother always taught me to pray for the sun and I might just get the moon.) Not a bad theory when you think about it.

The path up the mountain never changes. Neither do my lungs. But when I go to my the place where they get bloody, I don't think God cares how specific I am, just that I am laid before His feet. My friend doesn't often pray on his knees (He has bad knees, but is that really an excuse? That's a question for another day :) Praying on his knees is not his method of talking to God. But it is mine. We're different in how we pray, but alike in the fact that we pray continually.

I love to meet Him on the mountain and I especially love walking with my friend. To be more "specific," that's when God speaks to us joyfully and continually...without ceasing.

"The method is not as important as the prayer," she says as stops to take a breath then continues on.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

He Said - She Said

The Hot Rod of God -- He Said
By Eddie Jones

“…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” - Psalm 23:4b

Listen to The Hot Rod of God

In first grade Mrs. Swartz spanked me for drawing on the floor during nap time. I don’t recall if the principal paddled me, too. He probably did. I was a habitual offender when it came to school rules. So you can understand why, as I child, I wasn’t “comforted” by God’s hot rod.

Step out of line, whack. Break a commandment, smack. Chew gum, choke. In my mind, God taught first grade and wore glasses, a frown and hair spray that smelled like paint remover.

Then a friend introduced me to God’s Good News and I began to see that God spent more time saving, restoring and comforting his children than He did correcting them. The wrath of God was real, but so too, was His love.

When His children reached a “dead end” on the shores of the Red Sea, Moses lifted God’s rod and the waters separated. When His people faced the Amalekites, Moses raised God’s rod and Israel defeated their enemies. Later, as they wandered the desert in search of water, shade, and a decent Chinese restaurant, Moses used God’s rod to strike a rock. Water gushed out creating the first desert fountain around which God’s people built the Bellagio resort.

So yes, God’s rod corrects us, but it also provides deliverance, strength and provision.

What dead end confronts you today? What enemy threatens to overwhelm you? What need leaves your soul parched? Ask the Good Shepherd to lift His rod on your behalf, pull you close with His staff and cradle you in His arms.

We serve a powerful God. Let us call on Him to fight for us.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Coincidence or Not? – She Said
By Cindy Sproles

“…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b

Listen to Coincidence or Not?

The busses pulled into the gravel parking lot, crunching over the grape-sized rock. A smile crossed my lips as the laughter and songs of 75 girl scouts rang across the pass.

With STAFF written across my shirt, the clipboard and whistle weighed heavy with the responsibility that lay ahead. I glanced across the dock at the canoes, paddles and life jackets. A quiet voice whispered, “Be afraid.”

I loved outfitting, but each new pack of novice kids was frightening.

The girls marched down the sloped bank to the dock as Dale, Rod, Randy and Lindsay each counted out a small group. Ironic that we had an outfitter named Rod and when he wore his Staff shirt, we just called him David.

“Shucks. Odd number.” I said.

“I know. Makes it hard?” Rod dropped his arm around my neck. Looks like it’s you and me to make the group.”

A dark-haired girl sat with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees. Rod coaxed her friends toward the life jackets while I sat next to her.

“You nervous?”

She nodded.

“Me, too.” I leaned onto my elbows. “I always get nervous when it comes to the boats and kids.”

“Really?” She said.

“It’s a big responsibility knowing your mom and dad trust your care to me.”

“I dreamed I fell out of the boat last night.” She held up her fingers. “I was this far away from the dock before I sank under the dark water.”

I flipped my clip board over and handed it to her. “Read that.”

“The lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

“Skip that,” I said, “Start here.”I underlined His rod and staff they comfort me. She read the sentence.

“See that guy? That’s Rod. See his shirt—it says STAFF?” The girl grinned. “You don’t think having a guard named Rod was a coincidence, do you? We had to hunt hard to find him.”She stood and walked toward Rod. I saw her mouth his name as Rod winked and nodded she’d be okay.

I’ve been afraid, too—unsure about the dark waters I was about to enter. Was it deep? Could I manage the current? Would God lead me out there then abandon me? He never has. Every step I take He protects. Sometimes He lets me wander but He never lets me get out of sight without calling me back.

And unless I decide to trek out on my own, I rarely get hurt. Even at that, God is still there to pick up the pieces.

Was it a coincidence that we had a staff member named Rod that summer? Don’t know, but his presence served as a constant reminder that my Shepherd is always close at hand and I have nothing…absolutely nothing to fear.

Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles are friends and co-founders of They co-write the popular He Said, She Said devotions and host BlogtalkRadio's Christian Devotions Speak UP! along with Marianne Jordan.

And now you can catch them each Friday evening at 7 p.m. on He Said, She Said Radio! (Call in number, 646-929-0706 ). They travel with Christian Devotions Ministries teaching the art of writing devotions at writers conferences across the country. Eddie and Cindy are featured in Spirit & HEART: A Devotional Journey.

Lighthouse Publishing

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Birth of Morning

I stepped outside this morning onto the deck. Dark. The moon thumb-nailed to the east and I wondered. How have I missed the sunrises all year long? What's with that? So kicking away ankle-deep leaves, I made my way toward the pinnacle of the deck and sighed. I glanced at my watch. 6:50 a.m. and still no sunrise. Then just beyond the valley, a glimmer of, it was mist. Morning mist. I took in a deep breath and waited. Seconds later the silver haze was trimmed in gold. I wondered. Is this what the streets of heaven look like?

Moments later, a splash of color. It was as thought God winked. I can remember standing atop one of the Blue Ridge Mountains and gazing to the east, anticipating the artistry of the morning and today waiting at the tip of the Smokey Mountains for the same thing. And as the sun bled into the night sky, I thought to myself....what it must be like to be in the middle?

I think today, God must have begun His painting with a specific idea, but as He worked He dipped His palm into the sun and smeared it with no rhyme or reason other than to play--experiment. I blinked and the soft yellows exploded in to brilliant. The morning sky-- on fire, blazing. And I knew at that moment...when I couldn't catch my breath for the beauty, that God had made it up to me. All those mornings when the sunrise was blanketed by the mist, "Today," He said, "Breath this in." And I did.

So this morning I have nothing more to say than I praise you for the beauty of the morning. For what is so simple yet so magnificent. Something that most are often too lazy to admire, I wait with grand anticipation to see. There is nothing more awesome Lord, than the birth of morning.

This morning I cannot ask for anything. I can only offer you the praise of your talents and thank you...for the opportunity to see Your hand at work. I lift my hands to You, my heart singing glory, glory...for the SON (sun) has risen.

photos; Cindy Sproles 11/09

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Faith & FINANCES: In God We Trust
A Journey to Financial Dependence

Jesus spoke about money and material possessions more than he talked about heaven, hell, or prayer. He noted the relationship between a man's heart and his wallet, warning, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be." This contemporary retelling of the Rich Young Ruler brings a fresh look at the relationship between a person's faith and their finances.

Within the pages of Faith & FINANCES: In God We Trust you'll find
spiritual insight and practical advice from Christy award winning writer Ann Tatlock, plus best selling authors, Loree Lough, Yvonne Lehman, Ginny Smith, Irene Brand, DiAnn Mills, Miralee Ferrell, and Shelby Rawson.

Faith & FINANCES: In God We Trust, A Journey to Financial Dependence - turning the hearts of a nation back toward God one paycheck at a time.

Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9822065-4-6
$7.95 (special pre-order price)