Archive for December, 2010

The Master of New Beginnings…

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Clay and I are in Hilton Head Island for a couple of days, and we spent much of the morning recounting 2010. We always spend New Year’s Eve setting our goals for the coming year. It’s never fun, but in the end we have polished some tarnished areas. Before the day is over we will have our goals for 2011 in place. We do this every year. I can always think of better ways to spend my New Year’s Eve but when you’re married to a driven goal-oriented man, you expect it. And I am very thankful for Clay and his leadership in our marriage. It keeps me on my toes.

So I signed on to my computer feeling a bit disheartened by 2010 and pulled up Biblegateway.com. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my mistakes, and to give me a “word” to encourage my heart and set me on fire for 2011. I wasn’t at all surprised that the Verse of the Day that popped up on their Home Page did just that…

“This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’” (Isaiah 43:16, 18-19).

2011-fireworksDo you feel like you just plain blew it in 2010? Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. In other words, shake it off and move on. This passage doesn’t give us permission to continue on as is, not learning from our mistakes, not striving for perfection. There are plenty of scriptures that encourage us not to be complacent. But this scripture gives us a shot in the arm to move on. Don’t dwell on the failures of 2010. God has new things to do in your life in 2011! That’s exciting to know! And is yet another reminder of God’s grace in our lives. He doesn’t dwell on our poor decisions, lack of wisdom, indifference in our spiritual walk. He calls us to trust Him. He is making a way when there seems to be no way. He’s really good at making a dry path through a turbulent sea, a clear trail through a thick wilderness. I don’t know what 2011 looks like to you as you stand on the edge looking in, what fears await, what huge mountains you must climb; please know that God wants you to trust Him. Forget 2010 and watch Him work in 2011. He is the Master of New Beginnings! I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

Happy New Year!

Hope

Do less and accomplish more…

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Jesus is calling each of us to do less in 2011 in order to accomplish more. Several days ago I read in Jesus Calling that many of us think spending time with Jesus is a luxury we cannot afford. We get so busy that the thought of slowing down and spending good quality time with the Master is just out of reach. We don’t have time to slow down.

Did you have too many irons in the fire in 2010? Do you feel like you are run ragged as this year comes to an end? I know I do. The more we have our hands in the less effective we are. One completed task is worth far more than twenty unfinished. Maybe I’m preaching only to myself today, but I’m tripping over my own feet as I step all over my toes.

2011 holds for each of us great blessings, tremendous opportunities, amazing moments. Slow down, refocus, re-prioritize your life, do less in order that you may accomplish far more. Spend good quality time getting to know your Master better. Good things come to those who wait on Him!

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

us-smallerClay and I are traveling to Hilton Head Island to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We were married on New Year’s Day 1999 at 11:00 a.m. Clay wanted to get up, get ready, get married so we had a late morning wedding. Later I realized he wanted to get it over with so he could get on with the bowl games! We haven’t gotten away by ourselves on our actual anniversary but a few times over these 12 years. I’m gonna cherish every second of it! Happy New Year to all my web family from my little family of three. I love you and cherish our www relationship!

Hope

Dive in!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

First let me apologize for not posting earlier today, or should I say yesterday since it’s 1:00am Thursday morning. I was in doctors’ offices all afternoon and then beating the clock to get a deposit in before the bank closed. So please forgive me.

In Grace for the Moment yesterday, Max Lucado stole my devotional from last week. He said that the reason we can’t show grace to others is because we’ve only scratched the surface of God’s pool of grace. You know I rarely tell more than a small quote of someone else’s devotional, but I want to share some of Max’s thoughts. They are so in line with what we discussed about giving much grace to others.

To believe we are totally and eternally debt free is seldom easy…As a result, many are forgiven only a little, not because the grace of the king is limited, but because the faith of the sinner is small. God is willing to forgive all. He’s willing to wipe the slate completely clean. He guides us to a pool of mercy and invites us to bathe. Some plunge in, but others just touch the surface. They leave feeling unforgiven…

Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness is born. But where the grace of God is embraced, forgiveness flourishes…

The more we immerse ourselves in grace, the more likely we are to give grace.

Yep, to whom much grace is given, much grace is required. Perhaps the reason we do not forgive others is because we haven’t accepted God’s forgiveness toward ourselves. As I read this devotional I imagined walking to the edge of the pool of grace and mercy and barely dipping my big toe into it, and then expecting to understand it and live in it and with it. God wants us to dive in head first and bathe in it! He loves us so much and He forgives us over and over and over. Where love us, grace abounds. Accept His forgiveness, His love, His grace and mercy today. Dive in! It is the most soothing bath you’ll ever take. And in turn show that same grace to others. I know they don’t deserve it, just like you or I don’t. That’s why it’s called grace and mercy.

Go ahead, dive in!

“He called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever” (1 Peter 5:10).

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘…show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9).

Hope

The Nook of your heart…

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
Clay & Me in our front door with a White Christmas in the background!

Clay & Me in our front door with a White Christmas in the background!

I asked Santa Clay for a Barnes & Noble Nook for Christmas, and I must have been a good girl all year. I hung my stockings and said my prayers and sure enough Santa Claus came that night. I spent a lot of time Sunday afternoon acquainting myself with my Nook. I just love it. Why an e-reader as opposed to having a hard copy of a book in your hand? Because you can have 1000+ books in a space that is smaller than one book. Last night I downloaded the NIV study Bible and The Message, my two favorite versions, and Jesus Calling and Grace for the Moment – my two favorite devotional books. Now when I go away for a day, a weekend or an extended vacation, I’ll grab my Nook and will have all I need for my spiritual food. You can even make journal entries as footnotes. I love it!

Now there may be some out there who would say that the Lord would want me to carry around my Bible; that there’s just something “wrong” about having it on an e-reader. To that I say that God isn’t at all concerned about how, when or where I read His Word. He simply wants me to hide it in my heart. So I said to myself, “What a perfect name for my new little best friend. A nook!” The definition of the word nook is, “A hidden or secluded spot.”

God wants our hearts to be a Nook for His word. He tells us to download His Holy scriptures in our hearts and hide them there in a secluded spot where no doubts or fears or death or disappointment can get to them. Is your heart a Nook for God’s Word? I hope so.

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees” (Psalm 119:10-12).

I told you I’d update you on our Christmas activities, so I’ll just tag this info on to the end for the convenience of those who, a) don’t have time to read all the details; or b) already know the details; or c) don’t care! Clay’s parents, Poppy and Grandma Ellen arrived Thursday afternoon the 23rd. I had gotten all domesticated that morning and cooked a huge meal before going shopping just for the fun of being in the middle of the hustle & bustle. I fixed a huge ham (which we are STILL eating on!), green beans, the best mashed potatoes you’ll sink your teeth into (my secret? Stir in a spoon of Duke’s mayonaise), a huge pot of great northern beans, and a cake of cornbread. You’d have thought you were at Berthie’s house! (My Grandma Bertha, but the back-home folk call her Berthie.) I was so proud when Poppy said, as he crumbled the cornbread and chopped an onion into a big bowl of northern beans, “I tell you right now. You just can’t beat this supper right here.” Yep, I did the Barney Fife inhale as I said, “Aaah, we eat like this every day.” He knows better.

Poppy, Clay and our buddy Todd worked away in Clay’s shop building “handmade” presents. Andrew and a couple of my nephews got cornhole boards built by Uncle Clay, Deb got an earring frame, and Grandma Ellen and I got small tables to sit by our favorite sitting chair for our devotionals. I know, if I used the Nook all the time I wouldn’t need a table to hold my books. But I won’t be using the Nook for my quiet time at home. We just love our special homemade items!

clay-deb-poppy-grandma-ellen-smaller1Grandma Ellen spent much of the afternoon “resting her eyes” in our cozy living room with the gas logs burning, the Christmas tree shining brightly and the Christmas carols playing softly from the stereo (Sounds great – pass the blanket and coffee, please!) while I wrapped presents. Mick, Deb and Michael joined us later while Caleb visited a buddy who was able to “break away from his girlfriend” and Andrew went Christmas caroling with buddies. It was a wonderful relaxing day.

Christmas Eve was great. We changed up our tradition and went to Roebuck for an early-afternoon Christmas dinner, and Mickey’s smoked turkey was DIVINE! All the traditional trimmings were delicious. We kept the tradition that has been in place since Hannah went to heaven by attending the Christmas Eve service at our church, Cudd Memorial Baptist, then back to our house to exchange gifts. We ended the long but fun day with a Christmas movie, A Dog Named Christmas. No matter how full and fun the day, Hannah is always close to our hearts. She will forever be missed.

Michael, Andrew & Caleb

Michael, Andrew & Caleb

Christmas morning was a lot of fun. Caleb is at a hard age to buy for. He’s not into electronic gadgets, video games, etc. so there’s nothing “big” to get him. I wanted to buy him a GPS since he travels so far to college, but he didn’t want one. He says he knows the way to Coastal and back. He doesn’t need a woman telling when to turn. Clay says you can’t argue with that. So instead he got a lot of clothes, shoes, socks, undies, etc. I creatively bought him an iron gym for his dorm apartment, and he loved it! He put it together immediately and attached it to the doorway into the kitchen – where it’s been hanging ever since. It was quite entertaining and rather impressive to watch him not just do 20+ pullups without batting an eye, but then pull himself up and into a flip, all with the strength of his arms. Clay just shook his head and gave him the, “Oh to be young again” look. (I’m not sure Clay was ever “young” enough to pull that off.) I bought Caleb some Miami Heat lounging pants and a couple of Heat tee-shirts – and he was tickled to death. I don’t know if it was that I did so well in my selections, or if he’s just glad to be home and he’d have been thrilled with anything. Whatever, he was a joy Christmas morning.

Caleb left to visit his dad and I quickly transitioned to the kitchen to do my baking, while Clay drove across town to deliver Michael’s present from us that we were not able to give him until Santa had come and gone. He would have found it odd to get a golf bag when he didn’t have golf clubs. I was rushing around making sure the house was just right, while baking sausage squares and preparing the mac & cheese when Muggsy scratched at the door. I opened it to find a very wet, dirty dog. I prayed for patience and a joyous spirit as I accepted my lot – Clay was still visiting at Deb’s, thus I must bathe a dog before my family arrives in 40 minutes. So I did. Muggsy got an unscheduled, unexpected Christmas bath.

And then…the real madness began. My side of the family arrived at 2:00. It’s amazing to look back on the day and see how God sustained us through the first year without Randy. Many people must have been praying for us. It was a wonderful day. Lots of presents, lots of food, lots of laughs, lots of LOUD talking, lots of dessert, lots of coffee and hot chocolate, lots of trash – but best of all – lots of SNOW! When it started snowing I almost cried. I just knew it was God showering us with a special blessing – our first white Christmas since our childhood.

The last of my family was leaving as Poppy and Grandma Ellen returned from Deb’s. They helped us “recover” the house and then we all reclined in a comfy spot and watched Caleb’s favorite Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It was a perfect ending to a perfect Christmas day.

The next morning I fixed a big breakfast, Mick, Deb and the boys stopped by for lunch and then I kindly, graciously and gladly swooshed them out the door for West Virginia, leaving Caleb, Jax, Muggsy and me behind. Clay has had a great visit at “home” the past couple of days, with 17+ inches of snow in Beckley. Caleb and I have had a fun few days back home, as have the dogs. God is good and His mercies endure forever. Oh how He loves me.

Hope

God with us. God with me.

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Merry post-Christmas! I pray each of you had a wonderful Christmas. We surely did! I’ll give details throughout the week as a witness to God’s sustaining grace and mercy, but today I want to share with you something my husband wrote early last Sunday morning, December 19th. It is absolutely beautiful. I hope it blesses your heart as it did our family’s. Jesus was God in human flesh in order to be God with us. God with me. 

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about…” (Matt. 1:18a)

I was 19 years old.  I had recently finished my formal schooling, and had just gone to work full-time at the Halivi’s shop down the road about a mile.  Times were pretty hard, especially since the Roman government had “again” raised the taxes.  Jobs were hard to come by, and I was grateful to have a job, especially at the Halivi’s shop – I had been there many times with my father, and I was always taken by their latest project – cabinetry or furniture, or visiting the job site of a building they were working on.

My parents’ little shop provided a decent living for our family. I had worked in the shop growing up, but my older brother was the next in line to take ownership of the shop, and I really wanted to do carpentry work. So everything was working out for me.

My family was of deep faith, and we religiously took part in all of the orthodox feasts and customs. At synagogue, the message was pretty simple – God’s Messiah was coming to deliver us from the Jews.  There was a great sense of anticipation concerning His coming, but apparently there had been for a long time – like 450 years!

My father and I were very close.  We talked about most everything – including who I would marry one day. “There is a family that we go to synagogue with”, dad told me one day, “that has a daughter”. She was a good bit younger than I was, and I was still taking school at home and working in the shop, so I didn’t give it much thought.

And so by and by it happened. Dad needed part-time help at the shop; I was “of age”, working full-time and able to provide for a family, etc., etc.  The next thing I knew, I was betrothed!  My father helped me with the dowry.

I had known who Mary was for a long time from synagogue. But having a prearranged marriage meant that you often didn’t know the person you were going to marry very well until you were betrothed.  We had had a few casual conversations over the years, but it was always a distant thought that this person would be my wife.

Now though…I was taken by her immediately – she had a very gentle, caring, nurturing side about her, but she had spark in her eye and she always had a smile on her face and something kind…or funny…to say, especially to children. She helped out with the children at synagogue, and was especially interested in music.

Our spiritual journeys were very similar. We both grew up in homes of deep faith, and our personal faith in God was very strong.

During those months of our betrothal, Mary and I grew very close. Our friendship grew into romance, and we were very excited about getting married. Everything was just perfect.

But then the day I will never forget – One evening Mary came to our house with an obvious “urgency” – we needed to talk. We went for a walk, and she told me to sit down. “I’m pregnant” – she said. I fell on the ground. While I struggled to get my breath, and every imaginable thought went through my mind, Mary, with the same vibrancy and energy that she always had, went off on some discourse about how she was having her quiet time, and she had a vision of an angel who called her name, and then told her not to be afraid. For 15 minutes or so her monologue continued about her being highly favored, that she was to going to have a baby, that the baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit, he told Mary the baby’s name and said that He would be the Son of the Most High, and that He would sit on the throne of His father David, and on and on and on she went.

I’m sure I only heard piece of Mary’s concocted story. My mind was swirling. The way she told the story, she sounded almost believable. Of course, I told her I would have to have time to think – alone! I guessed we walked together back to the house – my mind was pretty cloudy at that point. I couldn’t tell my parents anything except that I wasn’t feeling well – which was true – so I went to bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, reality sank in. My Mary, something has gone terribly wrong. Either she is lying about being pregnant, which I hope is the case, or she is lying about who the father is.  “God’s baby?” – where could she possibly have come up with that. How cruel – how sac-religious. My heart was crushed.

For days I couldn’t sleep or eat. I’m sure my worked suffered greatly – Mr. Halivi asked me several times if I was okay. “I’m fine”, I mumbled, trying to muster enough energy to keep from getting fired. I tried to pray about it. I started to go talk to the rabbi, but couldn’t. Mom & dad both tried to talk to me.

Finally one night I was lying in bed, like I did a whole lot during those three long weeks – not able to sleep. I didn’t want Mary to be embarrassed. But I had to do something. It wouldn’t be long before she would start to show. I had to tell mom & dad, and her parents – if they didn’t already know. I would just divorce Mary quietly, and send her on her way.  I had no idea how my life would ever get put back together again. How would I answer folks at work, or worse, folks at the synagogue? I realized that I was about to head down a very long, lonely road in my life – embarrassed, ashamed, hurt, angry…I finally drifted off to sleep in tears.

“Joseph!” – I heard my name clearly, like my mother used to say it when I was in trouble. “Joseph!” I heard it again, and sat straight up on my bed. There was no one there – no one, that is, except for the form of an angel. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

His words were exactly what Mary had told me!!  The angel left. I lay there for what seemed forever. In my mind I heard the rabbi at synagogue reading from the prophets: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us’”. Could this be true? Could my sweet Mary be God’s chosen servant? Did he choose me as well? Could this be real? Or am I just dreaming?  Somehow, I fell back asleep and had my first night’s sleep in weeks.

The next morning I woke up. Yes it was true. Yes God had appeared to me. Yes Mary’s story was true after all. I had to tell mom & dad. But I had to get to Mary first. God was going to use my sweet Mary to bring the Christ-child into the world.

Those months happened so fast. Both our parents were supportive, but they were skeptical. They desperately wanted to believe. But it was overwhelming for them – as it would have been for us if God hadn’t confirmed those dreams in our lives over the next months. So many things happened that assured us that God was there, like the whole thing with Mary’s older cousin Elizabeth getting pregnant, and her story about how God had spoken to her.

But then, out of nowhere, just about the time Mary was to deliver, the whole census thing happened. We would have to make a trip down to Bethlehem. Bethlehem – 80 miles away! And Mary about to have a baby! My family was going to have to make the same trip, but I knew Mary and I would need extra time, so we left a few days early.

It was a pretty miserable trip – but Mary never once got discouraged or complained. She hummed all the way to Bethlehem. She made up songs that she would sing to that baby over and over and over. By the time we got there, I pretty much had the songs memorized and I was humming along too. My sweet Mary was going to be the perfect mother. And God was entrusting me to be his father – I nearly lost my breath every time I stopped to think about it.

People were traveling like mad. Folks from up north going down south; people from the east were going west – everyone was bustling to get back to their town of origin to register for the census. Augustus had established himself as a man not to be ignored, so the whole country stopped for several weeks.

We finally made it to Bethlehem – and so had everyone else. I found Mary a little restaurant to sit in while I ran around to what seemed like 30 inns. “No room” was the only reply. I was starting to panic – the last inn that I went to I was desperate: “But sir, you don’t understand. My wife is just about to have a baby.”  This innkeeper was especially kind. “I’ll help you”, he said. “But the only place I have available is out in the stable.  It’s warm, and I’ll get my wife to help make you as comfortable as possible – but that is all I have.”

It was just perfect for Mary and me. The trip had been so long and hard, that a warm quiet place was just what we needed. We slept for hours and hours that night.  The next night, with the help of a local midwife that the innkeeper had found for us, that little baby boy was born. “Jesus” – we both remembered what the Lord had told us. This Jesus boy would save mankind from their sins. We really had absolutely no idea what the Lord meant by that part of our encounters with the angels, but we knew it was special.

That night, the stable was especially well lit – it was because of that star that seemed to keep hanging around directly over the top of the inn. Late into the night, several shepherds from south of town just showed up at the stable. The innkeeper tried to keep them away, but they insisted that they had had an encounter with a “whole bunch” of angels, and that they had followed that star into town, and right straight to the manger. We were overwhelmed at their reaction to the baby. They fell to their knees and worshipped. Then they left and stormed the town with the news that the “Christ-child” had been born. The whole town was in amazement. We had a constant stream of visitors who showed up to see the baby.  Mom & dad finally made it to Bethlehem; they had heard the news long before they got into town.

Over the next months and even years, many events occured that kept Mary and I scratching our heads. Jesus was a few months old when these astrologers from Persia or somewhere out East showed up with very expensive gifts. They too, had followed a star. They were men of faith who were looking for the Messiah prophesied hundreds of years prior. They warned us about a conversation with Herod the King.

The night that the astrologers left, I had another dream, confirming the warning that they had shared about Herod. God told us to go to Egypt – so we did.  We finally made it home to Nazareth a couple years later.

We stood in amazement over those months and years as Jesus grew.

One night, lying in bed reflecting on the events that occurred, I realized what had happened. God had chosen me to be the earthly father of His boy. And it was his boy that would save the world from their sins. And that included my sins. My adopted son had come to earth to save me. My heart was changed –God had visited me. Truly he was Immanuel – God with us. God with me.

By Clayton Houchins

12/19/10

You know you’re my favorite…

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

I heard a story of a mother who was dying from a terminal illness. In her last days she wrote each of her five children a letter. And each letter began with, “You know you’re my favorite.” Each of her children was able to cherish her final words and cling to them because not only did they have her words in writing, but each one lived the rest of their lives thinking they were their mother’s favorite. So sweet!

God whispers to each of us individually “You know you’re my favorite.” He created each one of us uniquely. We’ve always heard that each of us has a twin somewhere, and while there may be someone out there that looks just like me (someone other than my three sisters), there is no exact replica of me. And there is no exact replica of you. God designed you exactly like He wanted you to be, and you are His favorite. I quote Max Lucado, a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard many time. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. He loves you so much, and that love will never fade. How much does He love you? Enough to send His only Son to be born in a lowly manger, live a sinless life, and die a horrible death to pay for your sins. Yep, I’d say you’re His favorite. And guess what? So am I. He whispers to each of us, His children, “You know you’re my favorite.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galations 2:20).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16 & 17).

Hope

Light is best seen in the night…

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

It’s so easy to leave the house during the day and forget to turn the lights off. Often I have to look up at the light to tell whether it’s on or off. We take lights for granted during the day. One light I have a hard time remembering to turn off is the spotlight on the side of the garage. I only turn it on when Caleb’s home so he can see to come in. I typically notice it as I’m backing out of the driveway for work – not a convenient time. But at night I don’t have to wonder whether that spotlight is on. It lights up the entire driveway and front yard. Light is best seen in the night.

light-shining-in-darknessThe angel appeared to the shepherds at night to announce the birth of Jesus. A light shone round about them. Why at night? Because light is best seen in the night. You can appreciate light more when it’s dark. Jesus was born in the night and the star was very bright in the dark sky announcing His arrival. Why at night? Because light is best seen in the night.

Maybe that’s why we have so many dark hours in our lives. Maybe the Lord allows our lives to pass through hard, troubled hours of night so that we can see Him at work. Jesus is the Light of the World. We don’t always see Him when things are going great. We take Him for granted, and sometimes forget to talk to Him or thank Him for the good times. But when things are really hard and our hearts are breaking, His very presence lights up the darkest areas of our souls. God allows the night in order for us to appreciate the Light. After all, the Light is best seen in the night.

Walking through a long night of trials is no fun, but it allows us to get to know the Light of the World better. Look back over 2010 and pinpoint the moments that were the darkest. Can you see God’s hand of protection on you? Can you feel God’s arms of love wrapped around you? Can you see how His grace and mercy and strength sustained you? We don’t like the dark times, but we must admit that the Light is best seen in the night.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (Luke 2:8-11).

Hope

“Extra” ordinary!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Love this quote from Max Lucado…

God loves to hook an “extra” on the front of the ordinary.

That does something to this ordinary girl’s soul! I’m just an ordinary girl from an ordinary family raised in an ordinary town. But because I’m a child of God, He hooked an “extra” on the front of my ordinary and now I am extraordinary! Nothing good that I have done, no bragging rights on my part. Simply an act of kindness from my Creator. To an outsider looking on, I’m just an ordinary gal. But because I’ve been with Jesus, I’m extraordinary.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Is your life dull? Do you feel like you’ve been doing the same ole thing for years? Are your days filled with ordinary stuff? I offer you a word of encouragement. God created you in His image for His purpose. He loves you with an everlasting love and He has an amazing plan for your life. In other words, He hooked an “extra” on the front of your ordinary. Take a deep Barney Fife breath, stick out your chest with godly pride and walk in the extraordinary path. God placed you there through the blood of His Son. You’ve been with Jesus – enjoy your extraordinary life!

“God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside” (1 Thessalonians 4:7 The Msg).

Hope

Grace for grace…

Monday, December 20th, 2010

This morning while I was chatting with the Lord I was reminded of the verse…

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

I’ve always heard this verse paraphrased as, “To whom much is given, much is required.” And I’ve used it on Caleb many times, always in reference to his personality, talents, gifts, etc. But this morning I saw it as referring to grace. One day last week a good friend asked me if I had any idea how special my family is. She went on to say that we accept people with arms open wide, no matter what their background or current status. My response to her was, “I know how loud my family is, I don’t know about special!” Her kind words about my family came back to me this morning as I was praying for grace for myself and for another situation I’m faced with. I reflected on my devotional from Friday and I recognized that the Lord has shown my family a bucket load of grace. The least we can do is show it to others. When we’re given much grace, much grace is required of us. After all, how could we accept God’s amazing grace and not dish it right back out to others?

I challenge you today to recognize that God has given you much grace. This Christmas season, dispense grace liberally to others. Give grace for grace. You’ll be glad you did.

Hope

Cherish the Season! Treasure the Moment! – Christmas 2010

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

“Cherish the Season!” the ornament read as I chose it from among the others to take to a Christmas gathering!  “Cherish the Season!”  Oh Jesus, that is it!  “Cherish, capture, delight in, be very aware of the moment in which you find yourself! Don’t let this slip through your fingers! In the scripture the bible calls it “treasuring and pondering” – that which Mary did as she watched the pearls being strung together to form the story of her life! She clung to the pearls – she pondered them – one by one – as she watched the supernatural unfold and recognized the Sovereign hand of her God at work around her!! 

 

How many times Mary must have gone back and clung to the moment the angel Gabriel came to her and said, “Greetings, . . .the Lord is with you.” The scripture says that “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”

 

How many times, during the lifetime of Jesus, did Mary re-ponder Gabriel’s statement, “Do not be afraid!” Perhaps many days when her entire life seemed to be unraveling before her eyes and in her humanness she felt completely out of control!

 

And then Gabriel really went out on a limb, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” And in all the human understanding Mary could muster, she replied, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

 

Gabriel goes on to “explain,” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. For nothing is impossible with God.” And once again, not understanding, Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”

 

When Mary arrives at the home of her cousin Elizabeth she is greeted in a loud voice, “Blessed are you and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” 

 

At this point, still not understanding, Mary breaks out in praise to the Lord!! “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

 

For the rest of her life on this earth, Mary cherished and pondered those encounters – she held them like treasures because they represented pearls in the puzzle of her life! Each pearl, each puzzle piece unlocked another part of the “big picture” Mary desperately needed to see! Wow, how she must have clung to those pearls – things that couldn’t be taken away – the unseen! Those encounters with the supernatural!

 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19, 51

 

And just like with Mary, Father, You are so faithful to give us daily pearls as we look to You and as we seek You! These daily pearls keep us going! They keep us looking up! They are assurances and encouragements of Your work in our lives!

 

 

For Your blessing, work and favor over our lives this year Father, we give You great thanks! You are amazingly faithful!! For every pearl – the ones we have seen and cling to and the ones we have missed and over-looked in our busyness – we thank You!!

 

For Mickey’s completion and celebration in May of 25 years of service to Spartanburg School District 6, we give You thanks! For his continual perseverance on a doctorate program, we give You thanks! For opportunities to model life in front of a classroom – both at school and church, we give You thanks! For the privilege of being a father and role-model to two handsome sons, we give You thanks! For 26 years of marriage, for a new respect and appreciation for the lines on each other’s faces, for strength that is birthed through the storm, we give You thanks!

 

For Your timing in my new place of employment which began the Monday after Michael left for college. For the continued blessing of playing the piano and having music strengthen my heart, we give You thanks! For the writing and completion of an eight week bible study on the life of Noah, “Riding Waves of Grace,” we give You thanks! For new opportunities to pray with others as they ride their own “waves of grace,” for the privilege to share of Your faithfulness through any door You open, we give You thanks!

 

For Michael’s great start on the campus of Clemson University, for good first semester grades, for being a red-shirt, walk-on long snapper for the Tiger team, for getting to travel to Charlotte for Meinke Car Bowl on New Year’s Eve, for new godly Christian mentors in his life, for new churches, for special friends, for good health and new strength, for opportunities to test the truths that have been taught over the years, we give You thanks! For the privilege of watching this boy take flight, we give You thanks!!  For the plans and purposes You have for Michael’s life, we give You thanks!!

 

For Andrew’s Jr. year of high school, for his sharp mind in history, calculus and Spanish, for the opportunity to study the bible during the classroom day, for discipleship leaders and friends who challenge him to make good decisions, for intense church league basketball games with friends, for Cross Country and spring Baseball, for boundless energy, for being the only child at home, for his great gusto for life and the continual joy he brings, for the plans and purposes You have for his life, we give You great thanks!         

 

For the way You continue to use Hannah’s life as “she speaks from the grave,” for a new and heightened understanding that we are building our legacy every day, for a new longing for our eternal heavenly home where all human suffering will be removed and we will be restored as in the beginning, for pieces of the puzzle that continue to come together for the telling of Hannah’s story through a movie, we give You thanks!  For being a God we cannot understand, whose ways never match our own, we give You thanks! For being a God who delights to do “exceedingly, abundantly above anything we could ask or imagine,” and even gives us the faith to believe You can and will, we give You great thanks!

 

Cherishing the Season, Treasuring the Moment!!

Much Love, Debbie – for the Sobeski’s – Christmas 2010