Archive for November, 2013

What can we live without?

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Somehow over the past few months I have developed a strange allergy to spices. The reaction? Extremely chapped, burning and peeling lips. Isn’t that crazy?? I love spices – the hotter and spicier the food the better! I’ve been doing a process of elimination and two things I know for sure that cause the reaction are raw onions and cayenne pepper. When I told my boss, Lee Ann about it her response was, “Oh no! I don’t think I could live without onions!” She decided that would make a good devotional. We’ve joked about an onion devo for a couple of weeks, and this morning it all came together.

Today is the big football rivalry that football fans across the state of South Carolina live for. The Clemson Tigers will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, Gamecocks’ territory. This rivalry has been serious for many, many years. I get far too into it myself. Though I’m a serious Gamecock fan, as you all know my nephew, Michael Sobeski plays for Clemson. So I’ve had to tone down my passion the past four years. Relationships mean far more than football. For the past several years the discussion around the Thanksgiving dinner table has been whether or not our family thinks Clemson has what it takes to stop the Gamecocks, and vice versa. We don’t spend much time talking about anything else as a family during the Fall. Football is a huge part of Michael’s life right now; therefore it’s a huge part of the Sobeskis life. As it would be mine if it were Caleb playing. But the magnitude of the outcome of tonight’s game on the players and the fans really hit me hard this year. I left Poppy and Grandma Ellen’s Thursday night feeling like “life” puts far too much pressure on these young men to win. What can we live without? I’d say we can live without football, should we have to.

Caleb is so competitive and when he pulls for a team, he pulls for a team. To the 10th power and back! In basketball he loves the North Carolina Tarheels and Miami Heat, and whoever is playing Duke. In NFL football he loves Carolina Panthers. In college football obviously he loves Coastal Carolina but he’s a Gamecock fan, though not real passionate about the rivalry. But when the Tarheels or the Heat or the Panthers are playing, it’s not very fun around our house. He takes it far too serious. The pacing, the arguing with the refs and the announcers, the rantings never cease to amaze me. It’s not like he has a horse in the race! It’s not like he knows any of these players personally. But he is PASSIONATE about the games. Last night Duke was playing Arizona and Caleb was a SERIOUS Arizona fan for the evening. And I have to confess he got that Tarheel/Duke love/hate passion from me. As a matter of fact Clay and I were in Dick’s Sporting Goods last night getting in on some last minute Black Friday deals and I was glued to the TV in the golf department making sure Arizona was going to get the win. Crazy! What can we live without? Definitely sports, should we have to.

I don’t know whether I’ve made this confession to my web family or not, but I lease my vehicle and have for years. It is so against anything Clayton “Financial Peace/Money Matters” Houchins stands for. He fought it for the first few years but then realized that overall I’m a good wife. I submit, I give him the leadership and authority he needs and deserves and is appointed by God to have in our marriage. He’s taught me so much about budgeting, the envelope system, not having to spend everything you make. But I want to drive a nice vehicle. Nothing expensive – ever. Upper 20′s max. Every 3 years or so I get the itch to trade vehicles. So the fact that I’ll never own one, and rather than be upside down when it comes time to trade it in, I lease my vehicle. I’m up for a “new car” in early Spring and I’ve already been eyeing various vehicles on the road. However, lately I’ve found myself leaning toward buying a nice, used SUV. Clay’s parents are now living in town and there have already been a couple of opportunities when we’ve wanted to pick them and my Mom up and take them somewhere. That’s a tight fit in a Honda Accord. So what can I live without? A new vehicle every 3 years (if I must…).

And on a serious note, there’s the death of people whom we love. We don’t want to live without them, but we can. We don’t want to go on without them, but we can. What can I live without? My dad, my brother, my niece, my grandparents. I don’t want to but unfortunately, I must.

As Lee Ann pointed out at lunch on Wednesday, the one thing we can’t live without is God. This morning I was thinking about how He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-power), and omnipresent (all-around, He’s everywhere!) Even if we think we can live without Him, we can’t. He’s in control of it all! And He knows every single thing we do, don’t do, should do but don’t, and shouldn’t do but do. We can like that or not. We can embrace it or run from it. But nothing changes the fact that God is God and He is, and always will be. The only place where God is not is hell. Can people live without God in hell? No – hell is eternal death, condemnation, a burning fire that never lets up. Weeping and wailing forever. There is no life outside of God. He is life – and He wants to give life to us in abundance!

We can live without onions, without football, without sports, without a new car, without our loved ones. But we cannot live without God. He’s a must-have.

“Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:13).

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who isto come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life’” (Revelation 21:6).

Hope

What about Thanksgiving?!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

I have a friend who has a 22 year old daughter, Danae’ with Down Syndrome. Last week my friend asked Danae’ to make a Christmas list and Danae’ responded, almost distraught, “What about Thanksgiving?!” How sweet! That pretty much sums up this time of year, doesn’t it? What about Thanksgiving?! Christmas decorations have been out since early October, Christmas music has been on the radio for a few weeks, and Santa has been at the mall since Halloween. ?? What about Thanksgiving?!

Today’s Verse of the Day on BibleGateway is:

“Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 HCSB).

I paraphrased the verse and posted to Facebook and Twitter, Sing to Me a song of thanksgiving. I’ve earned it! – God

Then I saw this picture posted on Twitter:

I don’t think we can really celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and just skim over Thanksgiving. God has done so much for us! He sent His Son to be born to a virgin girl in a lowly manger for you and me. He provided a Savior just for us on Christmas Day over 2000 years ago. Jesus is the free gift that secures our eternity in heaven with Him. And in addition to that awesome gift, God has done so much for me in my life. He showers me with multiple blessings each day. Why would we not sing a song of praise and allow our lives to overflow with thanksgiving to Him? He’s earned it!

My prayer for each of us is that we won’t skim over Thanksgiving tomorrow. May we be deliberate in overflowing with thanksgiving for all He’s done for us. And may each of you have a blessed and safe day. What about Thanksgiving?!

Hope

The Bible tells me so…

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

We are in the book of John in Sunday School and this past week we studied Lazarus being raised from the dead. Lazarus’s sister, Martha said to Jesus, “Your friend whom you love has died.” Clay did a wonderful job reminding us that although Jesus is 100% God He is 100% man and He loves us. He had our class sing Jesus Loves Me , and I’ve found myself singing it off and on all week. This morning I broke out with the chorus…

Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, For the Bible tells me so.

How do I know Jesus loves me in spite of myself? The Bible tells me so. And no one has ever been able to discredit the Bible. It is the infallible inherent Word of the Almighty God. And it tells me that Jesus loves me. He doesn’t put a list of stipulations on His love. He doesn’t require anything out of me in order to earn His love. He doesn’t make a list of dos and don’ts for me to follow in order to receive His love. He loves me unconditionally. He loves me just as I am, but He loves me too much to leave me that way. I know He does, because the Bible tells me so.

And that same Bible tells me that the God Who spoke the world into existence is always with me. He’ll never leave me. He’ll never turn His back on me. He provides comfort and strength and encouragement and mercy and grace and peace when circumstances seem hopeless. He is a refuge in time of trouble. He is a shelter in the midst of a storm. I know all this is true because the Bible tells me so.

There are hundreds of promises in God’s Word. Those promises are true, and they’re ours for the claiming.

“Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5a).

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Hope

Navigate the waters, Lord…

Monday, November 25th, 2013

In Clay’s early morning prayer I was moved by the visual image of his sincere request, “Navigate the waters, Lord. We need Your direction, Your intervention, Your power.” I saw Clay and me on board a ship that was being tossed by “life” – careers, multiple careers, commitments, multiple commitments, extended family dynamics, aging parents, son in college, to sell our house and downsize or not to sell, goals and dreams for our future, goals and dreams for Hannah’s Hope Ministries, LIFE! And I saw the ship being tossed from one wave of life to the other, water threatening to surge in, the winds so strong at times that the ship feels as though it may turn over. But I saw Jesus at the helm of that ship. Clay and I are just passengers on our ship. Jesus is navigating the waters for us. We don’t have to worry about life. We just have to be sure we are faithful to our post, diligent in our duties, good stewards of what has been entrusted to us, and faithful to our responsibilities. Fear certainly threatens to seep in from time to time, but we’re reminded of the 365+ times in the scriptures that God tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” So we do our best to enjoy the ride, knowing that the Creator of it all is navigating our waters.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:5).

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me” (Psalm 31:3).

“Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Luke 8:50).

Hope

Do Not Disturb? Disturb us, Lord…

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

I came across this quote today:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. — Drake

The first thing I thought of is the sign that is provided in a hotel room to hang on the door when we don’t want guest services to enter. Do Not Disturb. Now they’ve come up with a much more subtle door hanger. The one at the hotel where Clay and I stayed in Boston said, I want to sleep just a little longer. And that was it. Much less offensive than bluntly saying, “Do Not Disturb.” But the meaning is the same.

We hang Do Not Disturb signs up for God to see. We don’t want to be interrupted, inconvenienced, rerouted, detoured, or bothered. We have our plans laid out and we know what to do to get there. We may not vocalize the Do Not Disturb. We may not literally hang a sign. We may be more subtle about it, but our actions tell the Lord, “Go to the next room. I’m comfortable and don’t want to be disturbed.” 

My prayer is that You’ll disturb us, Lord. Interrupt our “planned out” lives. Inconvenience our agendas. Reroute us, send us on a detour, bother us. Do whatever needs to be done in order for us to get all You have for us. You have a good plan for us, a purpose for our lives. Disturb us, Lord so that we don’t miss it. Disturb us so that we don’t settle for less than Your best.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

“People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do” (Proverbs 16:9).

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Hope

What to do while you wait?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

I do not like being in a holding pattern. When Clay and I were flying out of Charlotte to Boston we boarded the plane on time, the weather was nice in Charlotte, yet we sat on the plane on the runway in a holding pattern for 34 minutes. We had no idea what was going on behind the cabin doors in the pilot’s seat. We didn’t know if there was a problem with the plane, if there was bad weather in Boston, no communication from the cockpit. All we knew was we were waiting. We could’ve gotten anxious and impatient. But instead Clay and I talked each other’s ears off. We don’t get a lot of opportunity to do that. We both struck up a conversation with the young girl seated next to me, and we also flipped through the Sky Mall magazine looking at doggy beds. (?? Really ??) We chose to keep ourselves busy while we waited. Finally we started creeping down the runway and the pilot made the announcement that we were clear for takeoff. And we were off.

Sometimes God places us in a holding pattern. We can choose to be frustrated if we want to. We can choose to pace and wring our hands and get anxious if we want to. Or we can choose to spend time with the Pilot. Because this Pilot is not locked behind closed doors and unreachable. He doesn’t keep us hanging. Now granted He doesn’t always tell us what’s going on or the purpose of the wait. But He does communicate in order to provide peace and hope during the wait. But we have to go to His word to get the word. The following verse popped up on my phone this morning…

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5).

 What to do while you wait? Spend time in the scriptures, because it is in His word that your hope lies.

Hope

This is not my day!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Ever heard anyone say, “This is not my day!”? I heard an interview this morning with a Christian recording artist and she said that one day when she made that comment to her Dad he answered, “No, not it’s not. It the Lord’s day – He made it and it’s beautiful no matter how bad your day is going.” This evening I logged on to Facebook and there was a status from a young mother that reads, “Could things get any worse?? This is NOT my day!” I laughed out loud – yes, literally LOL! Because immediately I thought about the interview I heard this morning.

So this may not be your day. It may not be your week. It may not even be your year! But whether it’s “your day” or not, it is the day that the Lord made – it’s His day. He made it. He planned it out before you ever thought about rolling out of the bed. He told the sun where to hide until morning, He picked which bird would land on what branch of what tree, and which Good Morning song they would sing. God hand-picked this day for you and for me. So no matter how bad things are, how many things go wrong, how much junk gets in the way of your good stuff, it’s the day the Lord has made, so it’s a beautiful day. The God of all creation created it just for us. Rejoice and be glad in it!

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJ).

This is not my day! No, no it’s not.

Hope

Never once have we ever walked alone…

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I really enjoy listening to K-Love Christian radio at work. I was thinking about folks in life crisis as I was entering data today. Broken marriages, terminal illnesses, wayward children, ailing parents, estranged siblings, so much crisis! Then I heard Never Once by Matt Redman…

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

I’m so thankful that even in the darkest valley, we’re not alone. At the lowest point in our lives with the worst news resting heavy on our hearts and minds, we’re not alone. God promises to never leave us. He promises to walk with us every step of the way. We can go back as far as we can remember to the hardest of times and the best of times, and God was there. Never once has He left us. Never once has He turned His back on us. Never once have we ever walked alone.

Maybe those very difficult times are right now for you. Maybe you are currently in the heat of the fire. Life has fallen apart. Please don’t think you have to face it alone. God loves you and He will give you the strength and courage to get through it. If you will trust Him and allow Him to be Lord of your life and Lord of your circumstances, you’ll look back and proclaim, Never once have I ever walked alone. 

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

One of my favorites:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).

Hope

Sometimes you’ve gotta pour it all out to find it…

Monday, November 18th, 2013

This past weekend was our annual Vision Retreat at Isle of Palms. We had a great time. I had my jewelry in a pretty little jewelry bag and I could not find my favorite ring. I sifted through that bag multiple times pulling out the large pieces of jewelry one piece at a time but could not find the ring. I was getting a little frantic to think I may have lost it. After a day and a half of searching through that jewelry bag I finally turned it upside down and poured every piece out. The very first thing to bounce across the table was the ring! I have no idea where that thing had been hiding, but I was so glad to see it! And I said, “Sometimes you’ve gotta pour it all out to find it.”

Is there something eating at you? Something holding you back from being “all in” in your walk with Christ? Is there a past hurt or disappointment keeping you from trusting someone? Maybe you’re having a hard time identifying exactly what it is that’s causing the problem. You’ve spent a lot of time sorting through your feelings but you just can’t put a finger on it. Maybe you need to pour it all out. Maybe you need to be completely honest with the Lord and lay it all out there. Sometimes all it takes is that initial effort and the deep rooted problem surfaces. Don’t be afraid to pour it all out. Don’t let fear keep you from completely coming clean with the Lord. By pouring it all out you will find what is holding you back. And it’s so exciting to identify it and give it up!

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).

Hope

Nothing is too difficult for You!

Friday, November 15th, 2013

I’ve said many times since we began Hannah’s Hope Ministries that the Lord is gracious and merciful and powerful to allow me to minister to “bad news” every day and not live in a complete state of gloom and doom.

Just this week an opportunity to reach out to a young lady who lost her only sister to a sudden freak kind of illness that took the life of that young mother and wife within 72 hours of getting sick. She suffered from what appeared to be a bad stomach virus. Her organs shut down and before they could even get her on a liver transplant list she passed away. She has a 5 year old little girl and a 4 week old newborn. Good Lord have mercy.

A man in his late 50s who began with symptoms resembling a brain tumor is now in his last days dying from a fungus that spread to the brain in just a few days. ?? Fungus? That spread to the brain? Have mercy.

A beautiful 7 month old little baby girl whose right eye began pulling to the right is now faced with eye surgery that will be tedious but must be done in order to save this sweet baby girl’s sight. Too heavy for me!

I could go on but for fear of depressing you I won’t. This morning I was standing at my sink rinsing my coffee cup thinking about and praying for all of these individuals who are in major life crisis. I was feeling the weight. I had not looked up from the sink at all. I took a deep breath and as I let out a long sigh I looked up. And there outside my beautiful octangular glass breakfast area was a breathtaking sunrise. The sky was a brilliant pink. And the words of Jeremiah 32:17 shouted loudly to my weary heart…

“Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17 HCSB).

I love Jeremiah’s exclamation points in this scripture! Does that make you wanna shout?! It does me! Oh Lord God! The same sovereign Lord who Himself made the heavens and earth by His great power and His outstretched arm can handle everyone of these situations. Everyone of them! Nothing is too difficult for Him! 

I’m gonna throw out this thought. And I hope you hear my heart on this. For God to have healed that young mother’s liver would have been very simple for Him. For God to raise up that man with a brain fungus and restore him to 100% health is very simple for Him. For God to heal that baby girl’s eye without any surgery or procedure of any kind is very simple for Him. And those are the specific prayers we’ve prayed for each situation. What we can’t wrap our minds around is the difficult task of Him healing the grieving hearts of the husband, the 5 year old little girl and baby boy who will never know his mother, and all the extended family of that young lady who God chose to take to heaven at age 32. How in the world do they go on? Nothing is too difficult for God. And should He choose to take this man with a brain fungus as it appears He’s going to, for Him to get the glory and honor and praise from the family seems like too large of a task. But nothing is too difficult for God. And should that precious little baby girl have to undergo eye surgery and even more procedures later, God will give strength and courage and grace to that young family to walk through every door God leads them to. Because nothing is too difficult for God.

You see we pray for fixes. But what God wants to do is transform our hearts and lives into His likeness. It’s not about fixes, it’s about giving God the glory and honor even when He doesn’t fix it. How can we possibly get there in our faith walk? Through His strength and power only. Because nothing is too difficult for God.

Oh Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!

Hope