Archive for December, 2011

Acceptance with Joy!!

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Dear Father, as I have been reading and meditating on the Christmas story this year You seem to be writing on my heart that perhaps many of the characters in the story would have chosen that something would have been different that first Christmas . Each person had been chosen by You to play their part in the eternal drama You were writing and it was a wonderful blessing to have been chosen – but being chosen always has a cost.

For Mary, a young Jewish virgin, engaged to be married, the cost was coming to understand that she had been chosen to give birth to the promised Redeemer. Mary knew the scriptures about the “virgin being with child” and perhaps, like all Jewish girls, had even entertained the thought of being that chosen one! But all those thoughts had left her mind the day she became engaged to Joseph. Now her mind was entertained with thoughts of her upcoming marriage and new life with this handsome young man! But as soon as Gabriel appeared on the scene with his announcement, the eternal plans and purposes of God were brought into clear focus and Mary realized there was a change of plans. This was not about her plans – it wasn’t about her – God had a part and a purpose for her in this eternal drama He was writing.

The same was true with Joseph – a righteous young man who was anticipating his marriage to a godly, young, beautiful virgin girl. He had jumped through all the hoops with Mary’s family and was busy preparing to make a home for his young bride.  And now Gabriel was telling him that he would name Mary’s Son Jesus – the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ – because He would save His people from their sins. Mary’s son – where did that come from? This was not what Joseph was thinking and once again the eternal plans and purposes of God were coming into clear focus.

And then of course there were Mary and Joseph’s parents and their grandparents – what a change of plans in the dreams they had for their children. It had been intriguing to ponder over the years what it would be like to be the relatives of the Messiah.  But when it actually happened there was a lot of sorting through to be done in each of their hearts and minds. Would anyone believe this story? Were they going to believe this story? They knew the scriptures but the news that Mary was “with child” turned each of their worlds upside down.

You know Lord as I have pondered these truths this year, I am so reminded that many people would choose that something in their lives would be different this Christmas – perhaps wholeness and good health, perhaps a restored relationship, perhaps spending Christmas with a loved one who has passed from this earth, perhaps that a different choice had been made at a decisive moment in their lives, perhaps that they had invested more in the lives of others this year, perhaps that they lived in a different location, perhaps that a wayward child would come home and on and on. . .  just wishing that something would be different this Christmas.

And You know Lord, You take me back to the response of Mary when her world was turned upside down. She had an opportunity to allow You to be glorified through the path You had chosen for her or she could “buck up” and “show out.” Her response would affect the lives of everyone around her. I know You knew what she would choose – and perhaps that is part of the reason You chose her. After asking the angel a good question, “How can this be since I am a virgin,” Mary responded, “May it be to me as you have said.” Acceptance – acceptance to the plan and purpose of Sovereign God.

And You know Lord, I believe the way Mary walked victoriously through the journey You had chosen for her was that praise became the language of her heart and mouth! She kept her view heavenward – she had to! She kept her focus on You and on the eternal plans and purposes You were accomplishing. Praising You sustained her!

And the other thing I am so struck by in the Christmas story this year was that Mary wasn’t out trying to “push Your plan through” or “help You out” – like Peter cutting off the ear of the servant to protect You or Abraham sleeping with Hagar so You could give him a child – Mary, instead, the scripture says repeatedly, “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It says, “The child’s parents marveled at what was said about Him.”

I believe Mary spent a lot of time pondering, treasuring, marveling – deeply thinking, meditating on – the eternal plans and purposes of her Heavenly Father. And as she pondered and treasured, You kept her heart at peace.

No, it wasn’t the path she would have chosen. But today, from heaven, she sees the perfection of what You were accomplishing!  And may I, may we, choose to accept the paths You have chosen for us as we sit at Your feet pondering You – Sovereign God who makes no mistakes. And may the language of our hearts and lives be praise and thanksgiving! In Your Name, we ask and pray, Amen!

 

 

 

Counting Christmas Blessings!

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

“Glory to God in the highest

And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14

 

It is with hearts full of thanksgiving that we celebrate this Christmas season! As we count our blessings at the end of this year, relationships with family and friends are at the top of the list! What a blessing to link arms with those who find themselves on the journey of life beside us – far or near! What a privilege and encouragement to watch the faithfulness of God in the lives of others – through joy and through sorrow!  How quickly our pilgrimages through life on this earth are passing! Oh to capture every sunrise, every sunset, every flower, every smile along the way! Oh to be a reflection to those around us of eternal hope and peace that can only be found in a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ! 

 Andrew – Senior year of High School – completed his last Cross Country season and is preparing for baseball in the Spring while enjoying church league basketball for a few weeks with friends – so much fun to watch!  Andrew is in the top 10 of his graduating class – has applied to Clemson and Anderson – currently taking Teacher Cadets to possibly prepare for a lifetime of teaching and encouraging others! Always a joy in our home! He is blessing our hearts with his new love for the guitar and his passion for the Lord and His word! Anticipating seeing the plans of God unfold for his life!  We are treasuring every moment of his senior year! Pray for wisdom and guidance for the decisions he will make in the next few months!

 Michael – sophomore at Clemson – Mechanical Engineering Major – Red shirt freshman long-snapper with the Tiger Football Team! What an incredible opportunity the Lord has given Michael to be part of something very special! He leaves  for the Orange Bowl in Miami on the 27th and we follow on January 2! Only the Lord (and Hannah) could have orchestrated that the Tigers would be playing the West Virginia Mountaineers – both mine and Mickey’s Alma Mater – ’83 & ’84! We have watched much WV football over the years and this time we find ourselves on the other side of the ball!  Should be a great game!  Mickey says, “Go TigEERs!” Ha! Michael has done very well in his classes has some great godly friends who are spurring him on and continues to date sweet Emily! Pray for wisdom as he balances many exciting things going on in his life right now!!

 Mickey – 27th year at Dorman High School – continues to be salt and light and a steady rock for our family! He has just finished teaching a Sports Medicine class for the first time alongside his two US History classes! He continues to be involved as the Head Athletic Trainer with many sports and invests countless hours in the lives of young people – both at Dorman, with his 11th grade SS Class and youth at church in various ways! He is continuing work on his doctorate in Sports Management from North Central University in Prescott, AZ. He has completed 16 of 17 classes and is in the process of completing his dissertation. He has worked so diligently for 3 ½ years – please pray for continued endurance and successful completion in the spring of 2012!

 Debbie – so blessed to be a wife and mother! So thankful to see the Lord at work in the lives of those we love! So thankful for new eternal perspective! Turned 50 years old in March while on a mission trip with our church to the country of Kazakhstan! What a privilege to share with missionaries from that region! The Lord continues to open doors to share because of the Hope Hannah lived while on this earth! Had opportunity to travel to Tylertown, Mississippi in November to share in Judgment House. It continues to be a blessing to share as the Lord opens doors through Hannah’s Hope Ministries! “His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not!” (Jeremiah 20:9)  Bless His Name!! Working part-time as a bookkeeper at a law firm and playing the piano at a sister church – both have been great healing for my mind! Praying the Lord will allow us to write a follow-up bible study to Riding Waves of Grace on the life of Abraham – what obedience!

 Bless You Father – Thank You for Your hand upon our lives! Oh Dear Jesus, allow us this season to sit longer in Your presence and soak up Your radiance so we can be a reflection of Your glory! In Jesus name, Amen!!

 Much Love,

Debbie – for the Sobeski’s – Mickey, Michael, Andrew and Hannah from the cloud of witnesses  

Future certainties…

Friday, December 30th, 2011

As we close out the year, there are many uncertainties going into 2012. When I look back over 2011 there is no way I would have been able to “call” the outcome. From friends and family to the movie project to Clay’s work and Caleb’s college, every area of my life held uncertainties. And the same holds true for 2012. Future certainties are non-existent. Clay and I got married on New Year’s Day 1999. Every year we review the previous year on our anniversary and lay out short term goals for the coming year and revisit our long terms. We don’t typically make “resolutions”, just goals, and we do a fairly good job sticking to our man-made plans. But even with my husband’s lists and goals and schedules and agendas, future certainties are non-existent. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, much less next year.

But we have one future certainty – God is on it, whatever “it” is. He already sees passed whatever we will face. If 2012 holds an unexpected  storm of a job loss or illness or death or divorce or children straying, God sees the storm from the other side. He already knows what we will face, and He already knows the outcome. He will not fret over 2012. He is not wringing His hands about the upcoming presidential election or any other “big event.” The very God Who spun things in order has got our future. Future certainties are non-existent, except to be certain that God is in control.

Bring in the New Year with anticipation for what God has in store. Because whatever it is, He will be right there with you!

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Happy New Year to each of you!!

Hope

A Miracle of the Heart…

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The Christmas season came and went in a hurried rush for me. I felt like I didn’t cherish many moments, and by Christmas Eve I was saying, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas. It’s too warm and I just ain’t feeling it.” But our Christmas Eve service changed that for me.

A group from our church went Christmas caroling on Sunday evening, the week before Christmas. To watch the faces of the elderly lighten up brought tears to my eyes. Then a few members of our SS class delivered groceries to “Jane”, the friend I shared with you a couple of years ago who is battling breast cancer. We filled her counters with lots of food and then stepped back outside and began singing Christmas carols. She and her family listened intently, each one of them wiping tears from their eyes. I had spent a couple of hours with “Jane” the day before, and I knew from that conversation that God was doing a work in her heart. She continues to battle the cancer that has now spread to the bones. She’s also facing surgery for a brain tumor on January 3. But God is working a miracle in her heart.

About an hour before our Christmas Eve service I received a text from “Jane” that said, “I see on Facebook you’re having a Christmas Eve service at your church. I’d like to come. Can I sit with you?” “Jane” has only been to church one time in her life of 42 years. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I couldn’t wait to get there, praying all the way, “Lord, please don’t let her change her mind!” Clay, Caleb, Poppy and I sat with “Jane” and her boyfriend on the back row, and as we lit candles and sang Silent Night, I watched her wipe away tears. I heard her sniffing most of the service. At the end she said to me through tears, “It’s all beginning to make sense.” 

To watch the Holy Spirit change the heart of someone who has never believed in God, to watch the melting of a hard, self-reliant heart, and to see the dawning of the meaning of Christmas brighten the face of a very sick lady – that’s the miracle of Christmas. Christmas morning as I prepared for the long, busy day I couldn’t hold back the tears. I had to share with Caleb and Clay, and later with my family what the Lord had done in my own heart late on Christmas Eve night. He reminded me that while we pray for miracles of healing in our physical bodies, the true miracles are of the heart. It is a miracle when someone goes from not knowing the Lord to realizing their need for a personal Savior and then accepting Him as Lord of their lives. That’s a miracle of the heart.

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:40).

God is still performing miracles, the greatest of which are of the heart. I have a list of individuals who I’m praying will receive that miracle. How about you?

Hope

Point others to the King…

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Are we pointing others to the King, or are we sending them another way? As the wise men passed through Jerusalem in search of the Messiah, they were directed to the star in the east. Those who believed pointed them to the King. But King Herod tried to sway the wise men and misguide them because of selfish motives. King Herod didn’t know where to find the King because his heart was evil. 

There are so many hurting people around us. They are searching for the Prince of Peace. They desperately need a Savior. Their hearts long for the King of Kings. They need someone to point them to the Messiah. Does your life point others to the Savior of the world, or does it misguide them with your lack of dedication to Him? As others look on, what do they see? Where do they look because of your life? Do you point others to the King, or are they turned off to Christianity? What a challenge for each of us as we move forward from the Christmas season.

Point others to the King. They’re seeking…

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1 & 2).

Hope

Christmas is over, now what?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! We had a wonderful Christmas season. We are greatly blessed.

Pastor Danny left us with a challenge to ponder yesterday. I can’t remember the title but what I took away was – Christmas is over, now what?

Once the shepherds saw the Christ Child, they returned to what they were doing before, only they left Bethlehem with an adoration and love for the King. They went back to the fields glorifying God and praising Him. They didn’t keep what they had found to themselves. They spread the word! Now that Christmas is over, we will return to what we were doing. Do we have a greater adoration and love for the King than we did prior to Christmas 2011? Will we glorify God and praise Him in our every day life or will we put Christ on a shelf for 11 months? Will we spread the word of the miracle of Christ’s birth? Christmas is over, now what?

After the wise men worshiped Christ and offered their gifts, they returned to their every day lives – only they went back another way. They didn’t go back the same way they came. Maybe you need to go back to your every day activities in a different way. Maybe you need to reroute a few things in your life, not return to the same paths that you have been traveling. Does God want to do something new in your life now that Christmas is over? If so, allow the Holy Spirit to take you back to every day life in a different direction than the way you arrived at Christmas 2011.

Christmas is over, now what?

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them…The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:16-18, 20).

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:10-12).

Hope

 

Step away…

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I apologize for not posting a devotional yesterday. I was having website / server / software / compatibility issues and spent literally hours on the phone with Apple Support. I told Clay I wish I knew how to send a Christmas present to Adrian @ Apple. First of all, he spoke English – southern English!, and was so kind and patient and knowledgeable and helpful, knowing from the onset that my problem was not an Apple issue yet he would not stop until he helped me find a solution to our website glitch. By the time we hung up he had weathered many ins and outs of Jax & Muggsy, waiting patiently while I dried them off from the monsoon rain, and just before we ended our 2 hr. 12 min. session he said, “Have a Merry Christmas, Hope.” I could hug that little guy!

You can imagine how frustrating computer issues are when my entire “calendar” for yesterday was to be spent on the computer. So much frustration, so much determent, so much threatening my Christmas spirit! Then I recalled the verse that Angie Duncan shared with our Ladies Bible Study class last week…

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything” (Psalm 46:10 The Msg).

You probably recognize it more as “Be still and know that I am God.” But The Message paraphrase brings it home at this time of year! How can we possibly be still when our lives are at a fast pace from the time our feet hit the floor? How can we take a long, loving look at our Most High God when everything in our life jumps in front of us, demanding our attention? How in the world can we possibly not miss the Christ Child during this Christmas season? We must step out of the traffic. Step away for just a few minutes from the traffic jam of errands, shopping, jobs, children, husbands, wives, extended family, parties, socials, appointments, the list goes on and on. Step away and spend time basking in the truth that God is in control. He is at work in our lives. He loves us with an everlasting love even when we completely blow it. He is the same yesterday, today and forever whether our computers cooperate or not. He is at work in our lives even when we receive bad news. He is ever-present ready to handle our “issues” even when those issues are impossible to us. Step away and take a long, loving look at the God Who is above everything!

Hope

Don’t stop until you see the Savior…

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Reading the Christmas story last night I found myself interested in the Magi, the three wise men. They were on a mission to see the Savior, the Messiah, the One prophesied to be the King of the Jews. The three men stopped in Jerusalem to inquire as to where they could find the Savior. They wanted to see the One Who would set them free. And in spite of King Herod’s scheme to use them to destroy the newborn King, the men kept their focus. They didn’t stop until they saw the Savior.

You and I must have the same mission, the same determination, the same focus. We must not stop until we see the Savior. There will be many persons and things to distract us. Many will seek to not only deter us but to turn us away. We must keep on and not hesitate. We cannot turn back. We cannot quit. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has set us free and we can’t stop until we see Him, our Savior.

Or maybe you’ve never come to know this Savior of the world. Maybe you are still seeking the One Who can set you free. Please, don’t stop until you see Him. Search the scriptures, ask the Lord to speak to you through the Holy Spirit and then respond to His call. Don’t stop until you see the Savior, as if your life depended on it. Because your eternity does.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him…they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matthew 2:1, 2, 9 & 10).

Don’t stop until you see the Savior.

Hope

Gotta stoop down…

Monday, December 19th, 2011

In current day Bethlehem there is a small cathedral built in the place where Jesus the Christ child was said to be born. Behind the high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. It is in that small cavern that our Savior was born. Inside the cavern there is a star embedded in the floor recognizing the birth of the King. To enter the cavern, you must stoop low. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up. Wow. Is it by chance that God ordained the place where Jesus became flesh to have been only approached by bending low? I don’t think so.

Still today we cannot find Jesus without stooping down, bending low, humbling ourselves. We can stand tall and see the world. We can stand tall and proudly proclaim our accomplishments. We can stand tall and allow others to see “me” and what “I”ve done. But in order to see Jesus, we must stoop low, approaching on bended knees with open hearts and full surrender to our need for a personal Savior.

We’ve gotta stoop down…

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

“With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:6, 8).

Hope

Either you believe or you don’t…

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Every time I walk into Gibbs Cancer Center I think about Hannah. I go often and maybe some day I will walk in and not think about her, but I pray I don’t. As we were shooting there last week I went back in my mind to when Deb and Hannah were walking out of the Center after making the decision to not seek any more treatment. Deb said she asked Hannah what she thought of her conversation with Dr. Corso. Hannah responded, “Either you believe or you don’t.” And Deb said to me, “There you go.”

Today I sat with the family of a friend from my church who underwent a mastectomy due to breast cancer. Cathy just turned 50 years old. I listened as her husband and daughter and mother and extended family talked of Cathy’s positive outlook, her sense of humor, her upbeat spirits. And I thought to myself, “Either you believe or you don’t.”

Last night late I was praying for a little baby girl who was born 12 weeks premature, Maddie Saylor. She is 2 lb. 4 oz. Her parents are doing so well walking out their faith. And I prayed for the young married couple who we’ve been working with whose marriage is weighing in the balance. And I prayed for Cathy’s surgery. And I prayed for Caleb who just finished up finals and would be driving home today. I prayed for my friend, Carmela as she celebrates the holidays, continuing to work through her grief from losing her Mom. And I prayed for little Bella Santorum, the 3 year old special needs baby daughter of Sen. Rick Santorum. And I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Either you believe or you don’t.”

Either you believe or you don’t. If you believe that God is sovereign and He loves you and He created you in His image for His purpose and He has a plan for your life and that plan is for your good and not for harm, then you have hope and peace at your fingertips no matter your circumstances. I, like Hannah, choose to believe.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45).

Hope