Jars of Clay – Unadorned Clay Pots

clay potThe beautiful gray haired woman had a soft weathered face and always wore a dress with stockings. Even though she lived alone she could cook up a storm into her late 80s and early 90s! Guests and family visiting her home would enjoy a spread of multiple meats, numerous vegetables, homemade cornbread, yeast rolls, and two or three desserts as well as a congealed salad she usually left in the refrigerator until mid-meal when she would rise from her seat exclaiming, “Oh, my, my, I forgot the congealed salad!” as she scurried to retrieve it from the refrigerator. Her food and hospitality were expressions of her love and attracted folks to Grandma Vera’s house!

She lived by herself until she passed at age 93 and was always serving others – never without food or treats for the school children who would drop by her house on their way home. She allocated her food scraps to stray dogs in the neighborhood and had a heart for God’s creatures and his people.  Strengthened by difficult times during the depression when her husband lost everything, she raised two children, and worked as a schoolteacher to support her loved ones in an era when most women were at home raising their young ones and tending to daily chores.
I’m blessed to have a number of her keepsakes; her hairbrush and mirror, the old jar of clay and the dining room table where we not only ate smorgasbords of delectable southern cooking, but where children gathered to play cards among cousins and cringed to be the ‘one’ who ended up with the ‘old maid’ queen of spades!

Jars of Clay

The worn clay pot is simple and unadorned, a treasure no longer used for carrying and storing staples like milk, or butter.  Now, whether it has flowers in it or is empty on our hearth, it reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. …..For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I love verse 7-8 in The Message version:

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.

With the love of Christ, you and I are like my grandmother’s old jar of clay:

  • We can hold beautiful and essential things of God!  They may be flowers of joyful smiles and they may be the buttery, smooth, satiating goodness of words of encouragement we share with others.
  • We can pour the refreshing and nourishing love of God on others with our words and actions!
  • We may look fragile, but we are handcrafted, have history and hold the hidden treasures of the Potter!
  • When we are broken, the loveliness within us is no longer hidden from others and the Potter will take the crushed remnants and fashion them into an even more beautiful and more useful jar!
Father, I pray your incomparable power will be reflected and poured out of us each day – even if it means a few scratches, cracks or chips on our clay pots!  Let us reflect your image this day remembering that you are indeed the wonderful, rebuilding, master Potter.

Count It All Joy – Three Types of Trials

How do you count it all joy?

“Count it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…”  Jame 1:2

Really?  Did Paul really mean that we should count all our trials as joy?

The way I look at it, if we are not in a trial, good for us!  I hate to break the news, and I am not trying to put a damper on our day, but we are probably on our way into a trial if my past experience has any merit in predicting future experiences.  Our lives are beautiful, amazing and precious, but I’m telling the brutal and graceful truth.

Three kinds of ‘various’ trials.

Readily three kinds of trials come to mind:

First: Oh, really was that a trial?  God sure brought me/us through that!

I look back and see that a trial slid by nearly unnoticed because God’s faithfulness and grace were so strong that he protected me and my loved ones in a miraculous way.  OK, I can count that joy while in the midst of a trial!  Joy even fills my heart in these situations.

Example.   Recently, I was stranded in my van unable to start the car or open the doors due to a malfunction with my complex system.  A call for help and a couple hours of perseverance took care of the problem.  Although I missed an appointment, gratitude for a shaded garage and a friendly, generous neighbor abounded!  Now that could’ve been a different type of trial! In fact, later a friend said she was amazed that I did not break down or cry or lose it emotionally during the event.

Second:  Lord, I know you will bring me/us through this.  I can give thanks in all circumstances!

Other times I find myself looking for the best way to cope or deal with a difficulty.  I go about my business with family and friend’s support, prayer, counsel, scripture meditation and memorization, and ride the struggle to victory.

Example.  When I had my accident and paralysis we all knew it was life changing and horrible.  But as you can see from my Life Can Turn on a Dime series, through the ups and downs God’s grace abounded and hope was nearly always within reach.

Third: Not sure I can take this anymore.  What do you mean count it all joy?

Finally, there are those trials that just seem to beat us down. Usually this type of trial includes ourselves and/or someone we hold most dear in our hearts. A death, divorce, illness, struggle to have a child, etc. can fall into this category.  When they come I’d like quick deliverance by all means! But ‘quick deliverance’ doesn’t often come.

Example.  Simultaneous chronic health issues experienced by my husband and me wore us both out. It’s hard when our pain affects others day after day.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep suffering when healing evades us, hope is dim and pain is deep.  Moment by moment and day by day is the best I can do to move forward.

This kind of fiery trial continually asks us to look for His refinement, to look for the unexpected and unanticipated goodness, and to consider the testing as an opportunity for a break through of faith…and maybe an opportunity to learn.


I’m still learning about trials and would love to hear about your experiences and how you view counting it ALL joy.

Knowing that God is faithful,


Hope – Advent Devotional Week 1

Hope – Advent Devotional Week 1

“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.” – Catherine Marshall

As the advent of our Savior coming to earth is remembered and celebrated, the hope we profess is often tested and tried. The pains of life – Illness, loss, loneliness and wounded relationships, etc. can be magnified as the season ensues.

The hustle of preparations can distract us from pain until we stop and silence ourselves. Christmas music, decorations and family traditions may dull the pain of hopelessness…but our heavenly father sees and can disarm the power of this world’s pain with hope today as he did in many years past when the first Christmas was arriving.

What was young Mary thinking when she realized that she would bear the son of God? What would she say to her family as a young engaged girl who found herself pregnant? Mary had to wonder what would happen to her when the angel told her she would be with child. Surely anxious thoughts of embarrassment, fear and uncertainty crept into her mind… But hope prevailed. The hope that what the angel said was true, the hope that she indeed would bear a son and name him Jesus, the hope that her cousin Elizabeth would also be pregnant as the angel told her. By God’s grace the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt at Mary’s (Jesus’s) arrival! I can only imagine the comfort Mary felt as she was with Elizabeth.

Young Mary embraced her dilemma with grace and held to hope. Hope. Yes…Hope. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” 1 Cor. 13:13a

When we have hope we dare to love. When we have hope we step into situations that might be uncomfortable with a different perspective. When we have hope we can face fears head on and receive grace.

The first week of Advent is underway. Let’s usher in this sacred season knowing that we will likely need an intentional reminder of our true hope during the upcoming weeks.

My prayer today is that we have hearts that are ready to receive as we embrace our Savior coming to earth and that we have hearts that are determined to give. May we pray that we see the needs which God has called us and equipped us to meet and grasp the grace to humbly serve in them. Oh Father, show each of your plan for how we can give others hope this season. Help each of us to rest solidly with hope in you. Amen.

Below are a couple suggested verses for my scripture memory friends – if you haven’t joined us this year maybe you’ll consider memorizing some verses with us next year! It’s a powerful habit indeed!

He is the one we proclaim admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Col. 1:28-29

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.” Heb. 10:23

Time to Review

The pumpkins and fall foliage remind me that the year will be over before we know it! I want to make the most of these last 2 1/2 months and in thinking about this, I knew a ‘goal review’ was in order.  What ‘unfinished’ priorities would pop off my goal list and potentially surprise me?

My goal review and reflection is too infrequent. God’s grace made this year’s reflection an encouraging one. As I contemplate, the reality of how important it is to review my goals becomes crystal clear. A review reminds, confirms and encourages.

Today, I remind my friends who join me in a scripture memorization goal that it is important to review what we have already memorized. My system uses a good bit of time to review what I have etched in my  gray matter (exercise time goes by quickly while quoting verses). In fact, I’ve been known to take a month off from new scriptures to remind, confirm and encourage myself in past scriptures. Regular scripture review is imperative even if I’m in the midst of new verses.  If too much time elapses between reviews, rust has often crept into my mind particularly on a reference or on the infamous ‘blank out’ words that often cause me a stumble.  Keeping words fresh helps me apply them more intentionally in my daily life.

We all need encouragement and support.  I love and appreciate you, my memory partners, who help spur me on in this discipline.

This year’s solid hold on memorizing scripture has been a most important goal for me. With soberness and grace it has helped me accomplish so many other goals in it’s rippling wake.  These words really are alive and active!

I pray you will join me as a partner in my journey of scripture memorization and goal setting..and regular reviews of both.

Enjoy the fall season – Madge