Friday, October 30, 2009

The Worn Path

The fall colors are glorious this year. Because of an unusually early frost, the leaves have begun showing off their brilliant shades of crimson, yellow, and orange a bit sooner than is typical here in the south. With a definite chill in the air last weekend, my husband, Steve, and I set off with a few of our Sunday school students, to conquer the corn maze at Cagel's Dairy Farm. Our class, made up of seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students, had chosen this particular outing and the three that attended, were not to be deterred by the cloudy skies or cold temperatures. Did I mention that, contrary to popular belief, we really do wear winter coats here in the south?

Once we purchased our tickets, we were ready to head into phase one of the challenging maze of maize. There were ten signs with various questions posted throughout the maze. Each multiple choice question was followed by three answers. If you chose the right answer, you were able to follow the instructions to find the next sign. Each of our students had an opportunity to be the leader. It was humorous to almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they came to a decision-making spot along the path. Should I turn right? Maybe left? No, I'll continue straight ahead...I think. Early on in our quest, 'eeny, meeny, miny, mo' seemed to be the most popular decision maker!

After making it to the third sign, Steve made a clever observation. All of the paths that had successfully led us to the next sign, had been worn paths. It was clear that many feet had traversed the same path before us. Some of the other paths at the cross points were less worn and had patches of grass growing on them. Ah-ha! A visible clue in addition to the written clues that were provided for us on the signs! Although we didn't make it through the maze without errors, Steve's observation certainly proved useful.

As I'm busy living this thing called 'life,' I inevitably come to those crossroads-moments where I must make a decision. Do I continue forward? Should I pursue something different? What should I do? I'm challenged by the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (6:16a, KJV). Oftentimes I'm tempted to listen to my own voice of reason. Unfortunately, this approach is not uncommon. Take a look at the second half of the verse in Jeremiah: "But they said, We will not walk therein" (6:16b). Ouch! Too often that's a picture of my rebellion against God's plan for me.

In order to successfully navigate the path of life God has for me, I must submit to His ultimate authority and search for the 'signs' He gives me to keep me moving in the right direction. The 'signs' include seeking direction from His word, spending time with Him in prayer, and getting counsel from other godly people in my life. Will I make it through life's maze without errors? Because I'm human, the answer is, "Absolutely not!" But I can take hope in the fact that God's word is, "...a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). And I can cling to the truth Joshua penned, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:9)

When you're at a crossroad, what is your response? I'll go my way? Maybe I'll try God's way? Take a look at God's definition of success: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8). As you navigate life's path today, know that submitting to God's will in every area is a tried and true method for success. You have His word on it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 'Gift' of Learning

I was surprised. I had tentatively voiced my desire for a laptop computer, and instead of looking at me as if I'd suddenly sprouted wings, my husband, Steve, agreed that it would be a good investment. My combination birthday/Christmas present arrived the second of October; delivered directly to my doorstep. Steve was thrilled that it had been built, shipped and sent, ahead of schedule. No need to wait until my birthday, which is in mid-November, he was eager to have me open my present as soon as possible. I didn't need further coaxing.

Once the box was opened and the computer, manuals and software were removed, I realized it wasn't going to be as simple as just turning the laptop on and getting busy. There were things that needed to be set up. Page layouts that I wanted to customize. I was so used to the way everything was on our home computer, that it was a little shocking to realize that I had a lot to learn before I could even begin my first writing assignment.

Thankful for my computer-savvy husband, he walked me through the necessary steps to set up my new laptop. I must admit that just about every time I use it, I learn something new. And because it's something I enjoy, I've taken a couple of steps away from my oh-so-cautious nature, and actually tried a few new things. Unlike my perspective when I was in school, I'm realizing that learning can be fun. Being challenged is a good thing.

Have you ever stopped to consider that opening God's word, the Bible, is very similar? Whether you are new to it, or have read all 66 books several times, there is always something new to learn or consider. Hebrews 4:12 affirms this fact, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (KJV). Since our thoughts and emotions are constantly changing, God can speak to us from His word today, about a specific topic that we may not have been dealing with last week.

Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that we're very familiar with everything in the Bible. The truth is, the word of God is alive and active. The gospel of John points to Jesus Christ as the Word: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth"(John 1:14). Instead of being satisfied with a quick perusal of God's word, we're wise to embrace Christ's recommendation, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing"(John 15:5).

Just like I was thankful for my husband who was able to teach me how to configure my laptop, I'm very grateful for the Holy Spirit who teaches me the truth of God's word. According to John 16, the Holy Spirit of God has quite a job description: "...he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. ..Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:8-11, 13; emphasis mine). The Holy Spirit is able to give us understanding, so we can accurately interpret scripture. How amazing!

God's word is His love letter to us. Are we actively reading it in order to get to know Him better? Are we able to glean wisdom from a familiar passage of scripture that we can apply to our everyday lives? Are we willing to learn the lessons He's eager to teach us? Isaiah 55:11 reassures us that God's word, "...shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Knowing that His word will accomplish its purpose, make the decision today to be a lifelong student of the Master.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Appointment

On Friday, I headed to the dentist for my semiannual cleaning. I don't mind going to the dentist. My husband thinks I'm crazy and jokingly refers to me as the 'dentist's pet.' I guess he's just a little jealous that I was fortunate in the tooth department and very rarely get cavities.

My hygienist was exceptionally sweet, and we chit-chatted back and forth when my mouth was free of scaling tools and the suction straw. First she used a metal instrument to check my gums and measure any areas that showed signs of recession. Next came the scaling tools that applied pressure to remove any plaque or tartar build-up that had accumulated over the previous six months. Although the scraping sound was vaguely reminiscent of fingernails on a chalkboard, my hygienist was surprisingly gentle during this phase of the cleaning.

Once plaque-free, my teeth were ready to be polished. I didn't know so many flavors of tooth polish existed. I was offered the traditional mint, followed by some pretty creative flavors: bubblegum, grape, cinnamon and even cookie dough in case I wanted to imagine that I was back at home mixing up a batch of cookies. I stuck with mint. After a final squirt of water to rinse out any remaining gritty polish, flossing was all that remained. The dentist came in to give my teeth a final examination, and with my goody bag of new tooth brush, paste and dental floss in hand, I left the office having scheduled my next appointment for mid-2010.

My trip to the dentist reminded me of the importance of regular self check-ups. It's crucial to examine myself in the light of God's Word and allow Him to use His 'scaling' instruments to remove those 'plaque-like' things in my life that hinder my growth. I'm challenged to pray with the Psalmist, David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV).

When we've identified sin in our lives, what a good opportunity to offer up a prayer to God from the words of Psalm 51:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (1-10).

When we admit our faults and shortcomings, and submit ourselves to the Father's scrutiny, although He may need to 'scrape' some of those areas with the heavenly tool of His Word, I can testify to the fact that He is surprisingly gentle. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul verified that it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Once the sin is purged from our lives and our 'cleaning' is complete, we can once again "...teach transgressors thy (God's) ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee (God)" (Psalm 51:13). Wow! Just to think that when we are walking in fellowship with God, He can use us to bring others to Himself, should motivate us to go to Him for regular 'check-ups.'

Have you scheduled an appointment with your Heavenly Father today?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unexpected Blessing

My schedule was full. From the moment the alarm went off and my feet hit the floor, I knew I needed to use my time wisely in order to get to each scheduled meeting and appointment on time. After my Bible study, I put on my gym shoes and headed down to the basement to exercise. I spent a few extra minutes in prayer while I walked quickly up and down the inclines on my treadmill. Before I started my exercise routine, I was tired. I had gone to bed late the previous evening and was up fairly early, and now I was paying the price.

In spite of being tired, I was looking forward to each activity on my agenda, and while I headed to the shower, I was busy making mental notes of the things I would need to take with me. There was my laptop, the articles I had printed out for a friend, the plates of cookies and brownies to be delivered to the first responders, and the food for the friend who was sick at home. I breezed through my shower and began getting ready.

Have you ever noticed that when you don't have much time, suddenly, you can't find a thing to wear?! To further compound the problem, our weather has been a bit odd. One day it's hot. The next day it's freezing cold. My summer clothes were still hanging in my closet, and although it was cool, I knew the temperature was supposed to climb into the mid-70's by afternoon. I sprinted to the guest bedroom closet and began looking through my fall/winter wardrobe for a possible outfit. I was still having a hard time coming up with an outfit I wanted to wear. The style of that blouse wasn't right with this skirt. That sweater might be great this morning, but by afternoon, I'd be way too hot. Decisions, decisions...

By the time I settled my clothing dilemma, it was high time to leave. Only one problem, I hadn't plated my brownies or cookies. I'd have to call my friend who was making the deliveries with me and see if we could meet just a few minutes later. Fortunately, she too was running a bit behind and suggested I finish up and meet her at her house as soon as I could. A wave of relief washed over me. Now I just had to re-schedule my Bible study meeting, because I knew I wouldn't be back in time for that. Again, my request to change our meeting time was well-received.

Once the cookies and brownies were ready to go, I began the first of many trips to load the car. After everything was arranged, I grabbed my purse and began the challenging task of extracting my keys from its bottomless depths. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The harder I searched, the more I became convinced that I didn't have my keys. This couldn't be happening. My husband was out of town on business, so I couldn't borrow his keys. I was fairly certain that my daughter had forgotten to return my keys after she borrowed them the previous evening. A quick call to her school confirmed my suspicions. I had no choice but to call my friend and explain my situation...

As I look back on it, the entire morning was rather amusing. I was so concerned about not having enough time to get to my scheduled events, but the Lord knew all along that I would have plenty of time to do other things that day. The schedule I was prepared for, had been completely rearranged. All of a sudden, I had ample time to do whatever I wanted. I was like an elated school kid on a snow day. I knew this was a special gift from God.

I was reminded of the faithfulness of the Lord, even in the seemingly small things. After several busy days, He knew I needed a break. Having the day 'off' was an unexpected blessing and gave me pause to say with the Psalmist, David, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Psalm 34:8, KJV).

What unexpected blessings has He showered on you? Be sure you thank Him today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Created for a Purpose

Something was definitely wrong. It was cold. As I stood at the kitchen sink, the air blowing out of the vent onto my feet was anything but warm. Overnight, the temperature in our balmy state of Georgia had plummeted, causing us to flip the switch from air conditioning to heat. The only problem was that no warm air was rushing out of the vents to greet us. After a brief trip to the basement, my husband realized that the pilot light was not on and was stubbornly refusing to be re-lit. Time to call the heating and air specialists.

We placed a call to FlowTech Mechanical Services first thing Monday morning. Fortunately they were able to put us on the schedule for later in the evening. Unfortunately, that meant we had to endure the arctic chill that had crept into our house overnight. Its icy fingers convinced us that layers were an absolute 'must.' Clothed in a winter coat and toasty slippers, I wrapped my hands around a steaming mug of coffee, resisting the urge to don a pair of gloves. Ok, so it wasn't quite that cold, but you get the picture! Since our upstairs heating unit was working just fine, both my husband and I retreated upstairs to begin the day's work.

Throughout the day, it was humorous to note that neither one of us spent an extended period of time downstairs. Each of us would only do what was absolutely necessary, before heading back to the comfort of the upstairs. The temperature difference from the chilly downstairs to the pleasantly warm upstairs was noticeable.

It didn't take the heating/air specialist long to determine the cause of our problem. The circuit board was bad and would no longer allow the igniter to do its job; hence the cold air in spite of moving the switch to 'heat.' If I'm not mistaken, when it was originally manufactured, the circuit board's job was to provide power to the igniter which, in turn, causes the unit to heat the air and push it out through the vents, warming the house.

What an accurate picture of our lives before salvation. God created each one of us in His image. Genesis 1:27 spells it out plainly, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (KJV). He created us for a specific purpose: to walk in fellowship with Him, bringing Him honor and glory. When Adam and Eve chose to sin against God, man was no longer in fellowship with his Creator. He could no longer fulfill his God-given role. Similarly, when the circuit board in our furnace stopped working, the pilot light went out and the unit stopped performing the function it was created to fulfill. It no longer heated our home.

A blood sacrifice had to be made to atone for sin so man could once again enjoy a relationship with God (Heb. 9:22). Throughout the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were made according to God's instructions. When God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ to this earth, He became the ultimate sacrifice to forever atone for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 10:10).

When we accept God's gift of salvation by grace through faith, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul words it beautifully in the book of Ephesians, " whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (1:13b). We are once again brought into fellowship with God and we can chose to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We can chose to fulfill His purpose for our lives. In much the same way, when the faulty circuit board was replaced, power raced to the igniter, and once the pilot light was lit, warm air coursed through our house. The furnace was doing the job it was created to do.

What about you? Have you accepted God's gift of salvation by grace through faith so you can walk in fellowship with your Creator? If so, are you fulfilling the role He's called you to? Pray for His guidance as you follow Him, today.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The scene was comical. I could imagine it being included on the I Love Lucy show. Instead of Ricky and Lucy, my husband, Steve, and I were to be the stars of this episode! I was perched on top of our front-loading washer, head and arms dangling off the back of the machine, desperately trying to reach the owner’s manual that had fallen down in back of the unit. Only one problem, my arms just weren’t long enough to make the rescue.

One peek behind the washer, and I realized that the manual wasn’t the only thing that had vibrated off the top of the machine. Towels and hangers stared back at me from their newly discovered hiding place. Time to get serious. How could I retrieve these items without dislocating an arm or putting a permanent crick in my neck?

Steve to the rescue! He had gone to the garage and reappeared with some make-shift tools that should aid us with our project. With a long wooden stake in one hand, I managed to push the towels and hangers over to the gap between the washer and dryer. While I slowly and carefully lifted each item, Steve was able to slide a broom down on top of each of them, and working as a team, we successfully removed the manual, each towel, and hanger. Neither one of us would have been able to complete the rescue alone.

Such a simple, comical scene, reminded me of the beauty of God’s design for marriage. Husband and wife working together as a team, to bring more honor and glory to God than they could as individuals. We’re given a beautiful picture of God’s gift of marriage in the first book of the Bible: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, KJV). The marriage relationship is to be an accurate representation of Christ’s relationship with the church.

Love is so much more than an emotion. The Apostle Paul outlines a pretty comprehensive list of the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13: suffers long, is kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, isn’t proud, isn’t rude, doesn’t seek its own way, isn’t easily provoked, thinks no evil, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes and endures all things, and never fails (4-8a). Now that is challenging!

If you take a look at the woman in Proverbs 31, it seems she has this ‘marriage thing’ down pat. In her book, Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss communicates an amazing discovery about this woman, “One of the things that strikes me most about the ‘virtuous woman’ of Proverbs 31 is the fact that she is so utterly selfless. She is not seeking ‘self-fulfillment’; she isn’t interested in advancing ‘her career,’ having her own bank account, or being known for her personal accomplishments. To the contrary, she seems virtually unconcerned about her own interests and needs, choosing instead to focus on how she can meet the practical needs of her husband and children, as well as others in her community” (p. 144). Sounds like the kind of wife I want to be! And what an accurate representation of Christ’s relationship with the church. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, we’re able to live out this kind of love in our marriage relationship.

The word ‘submission’ has gotten a bad rap in our day, but we’re told to submit ourselves “one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). My American Heritage Dictionary defines the word,’ submit’, as follows: “To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.” As wives, we’re privileged to submit ourselves to our husbands, as unto the Lord (Eph. 5:22). In reality, husbands have the more difficult task: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). DeMoss debunks one of the enemy’s lies, “Satan has done a masterful job of convincing women that submission is a narrow, negative, and confining concept. He has taken a beautiful, holy, and powerful Truth and made it look ugly, frightening, and undesirable” (p. 146).

The truth is, when we submit to Christ and our mate, we position ourselves under our Lord’s protection and blessing. When both husband and wife are seeking God’s will and devoted to the needs of the other, they’ll be able to accomplish much for His honor and glory. Marriage requires teamwork. When we allow God to be the coach of our husband/wife team, we have everything we need to succeed!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Close Enough?

He made us laugh hysterically! His face was pressed up against the window, mouth open wide. His long tongue, reminiscent of a strip of turkey bacon, licked the glass surface with abandon, as if he was relishing his favorite treat. Trails of slobber were left on the windowpane. His eyes never left us. No, this wasn't one of the mischievous neighbor boys, but our big, auburn Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Mighty Joe.

We were sitting at the table, enjoying our dinner, when Joe got our attention with his crazy faces. He just stared and stared as if to say, "I love you guys, and I want to be as close to you as I can get! Oh, and by the way, do you want to come out and play?" Of course we ended up getting up from the table, going out onto the deck, and showering him with the attention he was craving. Did I mention we also gave him some treats? He was just so cute, we couldn't resist.

Although this incident happened a few years ago, I chuckled again this morning just thinking about it. Then it dawned on me: What if I approached my relationship with God the same way? Do I long to be as close to Him as I can get? Do I keep my gaze fastened on Him in eager anticipation? Or do I shift my focus to other things?

God created each one of us with a purpose and a plan. He has marvelously equipped us with different talents and abilities. Psalms 139:14 reminds us that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made (KJV)." Each of us has a decision to make. How will we use the gifts God has given us? Will our goal be self-serving or sacrificial? Do we crave fame and fortune, or are we willing to submit our agenda to the One who gifted us with the ability?

We're all human. None of us will get it right 100% of the time. Yet I am so encouraged by the countless examples of people in the Bible who, in spite of their humanity, were persistent in their pursuit of Christ and persevered in spite of setback. Think about the Apostle Paul. He was a zealous persecutor of Christians before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:4-10). After his conversion, he became equally zealous to promote the gospel of his Lord.

His life was far from easy. He endured extreme hardship including: shipwrecks, beatings, plots to kill him, and imprisonment, to name just a few. Yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul penned the following words: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose"(Rom. 8:28). What is God's purpose for us? The answer is found in the very next verse: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29; emphasis mine).How can I be conformed to the image of Christ? By staying close to him in prayer and Bible study and by fixing my gaze on Him, "the author and finisher" of my faith (Heb. 12:2).

Here's the icing on the cake! Remember how we couldn't resist giving Joe treats because he made it clear that he loved us and wanted to spend time with us? I'm convinced our Father lavishes heavenly 'treats' on us when we seek Him with all that we're worth. How do I know? Take a look at Psalms 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." We're also told that He is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).

Take the opportunity to get close to the Savior today. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Unusual Tool for Growth

Loss. I just finished an article about this sobering topic. It is definitely not a respecter of persons. The past few weeks have reminded me of this fact. Once again I realized that at some point, all of us will experience loss.

Recently, some dear friends buried their Dad. A young husband buried his wife. A relative lost his job. And an acquaintance was diagnosed with cancer. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the loss of a job, we can all relate.

Still pondering this topic as I sat down to read this morning, I was encouraged by the reminder that in spite of all the difficult changes that occur, God hasn’t changed. One of my favorite verses serves as a testimony of this truth: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8, KJV). We can rejoice in the fact that He provides help, hope and ultimately healing when we’re overwhelmed by the difficult circumstances life throws at us.

The Psalms of David are rich with emotion. Praise, doubt, fear, faith. You’ll find all of them echoed in this fantastic book of the Bible. Psalms 61:1-3 shares a desperate, yet somehow confident prayer of King David in a distressing time of loss in his life, “1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” David knew his God would provide help and hope.

I remember back to the unnerving time when my husband was laid off. How would we make ends meet? Would he find another job quickly? Would we have to sell our house? In the midst of our crisis, God offered us help and hope in His Word. He walked with us every step of the way. We were not in control of the situation, but He was! Nine, long months went by before my husband was employed again, but God was faithful to meet each of our needs.

When you stop to consider it, our times of greatest spiritual growth are, more often than not, brought about by difficulty and hardship. I can’t say that I’m first in line to sign up for suffering, but I know that I have grown as a result of difficulty and loss.

I’m reminded of the miscarriages my husband and I have experienced. How amazing it is to look back at the pain that we suffered, yet see God’s sovereign hand as He brought healing. Psalms 147:3 offers a beautiful promise from God to anyone who accepts it, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” God is also faithful to give us opportunities to bring comfort to others during their time of need. Our losses and struggles need never be wasted.

God’s desire is for us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Oftentimes it takes the tough stuff of life to get us to the place where we can be molded and shaped, and experience growth in our faith. While living on this earth, I constantly remind myself, that my sanctification won’t be complete until I reach heaven. Growing in faith is a journey, not a destination. How sweet to meditate on Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” He walks with us every step of the way.

Have you experienced a loss recently? Have you seen your faith grow as a result? I’d love to hear from you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Never Forget

Yesterday, our church celebrated its tenth anniversary. What a celebration! Complete with choir specials, a visiting quartet, the guest preacher who had been instrumental in supporting our pastor when the church began, a video presentation of the previous ten years, and the mouth-watering, buffet-style dinner that awaited us following the service; it was a day that will not soon be forgotten. The Lord even provided us with a beautiful, sunny day, in spite of the weatherman's prediction of rain. So much to thank Him for!

In direct contrast, this morning arrived accompanied by the steady downpour of rain. At some point during the night, my husband had moved to the guest bedroom with a queasy stomach and rising temperature. Once my daughter made it successfully out the door to catch her ride to school, I sat down at the table with my steaming mug of coffee, needing some encouragement from God's Word. As I turned to the forty-second Psalm and began reading, I was struck by the passion in the psalmist's words: " 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee..." (KJV)

God had been good to the writer of this Psalm, who is thought to have been one of the sons of Korah. He had a great job; serving as either temple musician or assistant. However, being human, he had given in to his emotions and chosen to let them dictate his outlook on life. He was 'downcast.' Can you identify? I certainly can. Maybe circumstances have pulled the rug out from under you, or you're overwhelmed by bad news, and suddenly you find yourself knocking on that door labelled, 'discouragement' or 'depression.'

I remember the accident vividly. A friend and I were returning from Amicalola Falls and we had missed our turn. I decided to turn around. As I began my lefthand turn, a jarring impact and the sound of scraping metal alerted me to the fact that I had been broadsided. Fortunately, no one was badly injured. Aside from some soft-tissue injuries to my back, I was fine. Or so I thought. Over the next several months, the ensuing anxiety and depression, made me realize the importance of my thought life. It was crucial to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) And to think on the right things; things that are: true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtous, and praise-worthy. (Philippians 4:8)

This morning, as I remembered the process that allowed me to climb out of the pit of depression, how encouraged I was to continue reading the forty-second Psalm: "Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life." (v.8, KJV) Others have walked this road before me, and have arrived at the same conclusion: God is good, and worthy of all of our praise. In the good times, and yes, even in the bad times.

The truth is, God's blessings abound. David was led to pen Psalm 68:19, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah." (KJV) We're privileged to praise Him. Think about all He's done for you, and praise Him today!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Great Exchange

The arrival of fall is much more evident these days with several of the leaves on our trees beginning to blush a crimson red or hint at an autumn orange. And what could herald the change of seasons more appropriately than the county fair. I can close my eyes and think back to last year's fair. The familiar sight of throngs of excited people, the sound of laughter in the air, and the smell of funnel cakes tempting me to forget everything I know about fried food. I love to dangle my feet high above the crowd while enjoying the sky ride, and petting the adorable baby buffalo at the Indian village. All of these thoughts remind me of fall.

In my case, the change of seasons also signifies a change in some of my responsibilities. A shifting of gears. Change isn't always easy. I get comfortable in my summer routine and have to consciously remind myself of all the things I enjoy about the up-coming season and the new routine it will bring.

After being out of town last week, I eased back into the activities of this week. Catching up on homework for my writing class was a top priority. I needed to focus attention on the mound of laundry that was quickly rivaling Mt. Everest in height; not to mention cleaning the house and getting healthy meals on the table. How was I going to fit in creating and putting up two bulletin board designs in our Sunday School classroom? Or attending the special choir practice scheduled to prepare us for our church's 10th Anniversary service? Food would also have to be prepared for this special occasion and did I mention that there is a work day on Saturday to spruce up the church grounds? I have to pick up my daughter on Saturday afternoon, as she returns from visiting another college campus. What will my laundry pile look like then?

God reminded me that He is a God of order: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (I Cor. 14:33; KJV) His prevailing words for me this week, echoed consistently throughout my Bible study, were 'hope,' and 'peace.' I wasn't to be discouraged or dismayed, "...for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1:9b; KJV) The writing of King David in Psalm 37:7a reminded me to, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him:" (KJV)

It's comforting to know that in numerous places in the Bible our Lord defines Himself as the God of hope and the God of peace (Heb. 13:20, Rom. 15:13, Rom. 16:20) When I'm fully relying on Him, He becomes my hope and peace. The One who keeps me focused and satisfied. What has you frazzled this week? Why not give it all to Him in exchange for His hope and peace. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who Has the Right of Way?

This morning, the air was thick with humidity when I went outside to feed our puppies. Joe was just emerging from his dog house with an expectant look on his face, as if to suggest that it was an excellent morning to get down to the important business of playing. Oddly enough, Precious was already shuffling about around her doghouse, totally oblivious to the duck and potato dog food I was bringing her. Not at all characteristic of our Golden Retriever. She certainly had piqued my curiosity.

After filling Joe's food bowl and giving him fresh water, I headed over to Precious' portion of the yard that we've come to refer to as her 'bark park.' Even with the tantalizing smell of her food drifting nearer, she gingerly picked something up in her mouth and ran away from me. It wasn't until I had poured her food into her bowl and called her several times that she gave in to her hunger. Once on the porch of her doghouse, she finally set her prize down and showed her usually interest in eating.

I had to laugh. Precious had befriended a small turtle as her toy. Not accustomed to being played with by a large, furry creature, the turtle had labelled her as 'Danger' with a capital 'D,' and had successfully retreated into his shell. I rescued the poor, frightened turtle and deposited him by our creek to recover.

Heading back over to Joe's bark park to give him some much-coveted play time, I noticed that it was with reluctance that he let me take his ball from him in order to begin the long-awaited game of fetch. He would hold his rubber football in his mouth for quite some time, before placing it on the ground at my feet. Even then, he put his head down and hovered over his toy, not fully comprehending that in order to play he needed to surrender his ball to me so I could throw it. We played an invigorating game of fetch until Joe decided he wanted to keep his ball and play with it by himself.

As I walked back toward the house, I couldn't help but think about the fact that my response to God is a lot like the response I had gotten from my dogs. Both dogs were a bit reluctant to give up what they felt was important in order to receive what I knew was best for them.

How often do I hold onto things I've deemed as important, instead of yielding to God's best for me? In Romans 6:13b, we're reminded to, "...yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." In a culture where 'rights' are of utmost importance, it's stunning to know that by yielding our 'rights' to God, we are filled with the power of His Holy Spirit, to live a life that is characterized by fulfillment, and is pleasing to Him.

In her book entitled, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Nancy Leigh DeMoss puts it best, "The fact is, successful relationships and healthy cultures are not built on the claiming of rights but on the yielding of rights. Even our traffic laws reflect this principle. You'll never see a sign that says, 'You have the right of way.' Instead, the signs instruct us to 'Yield' the right of way. That is how traffic flows best; it is also how life works best." (p. 74)

DeMoss leaves us with some food for thought, "The only way to get off that kind of spiritual and emotional roller coaster is to yield all my rights to the One who ultimately holds all rights. That is the Truth - and the Truth will set us free." (p. 76) So, where are you on the road of life? Are you struggling to maintain the 'right of way?' Or are you willing to 'yield' to your Savior and allow Him to make you free (John 8:32)? Think about it.

Monday, October 5, 2009


The day dawned bright and clear, albeit a bit chilly for a September day in Georgia. As a senior in high school, my daughter, Riley, has been considering her college options for several months now. This was her first opportunity to attend 'College Days' at Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. She and I were headed to the Hartsfield Atlanta Airport to catch an early flight to Chicago. We had scheduled our trip several weeks prior and were looking forward to this adventure; although I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about taking this trip without my husband. I couldn't remember the last time that I'd taken a flight without him. Or rented a vehicle by myself. I was outside my comfort zone, and right where God wanted me to be.

Being forewarned about the morning traffic, we left in plenty of time to reach our destination. When we reached the airport, parking became a problem. As we exited the parking deck after an unsuccessful attempt to park, I took a wrong turn and ended up heading back toward the highway. I could feel my heart rate speed up as I realized my mistake. I pulled over as quickly as I could and realized we were at the airport park and ride lot. What an answer to prayer. Not only were shuttles waiting to ferry us to the airport, but our driver proved priceless as she insisted on lifting our 50-pound suitcases up into the luggage bin.

Our flight was wonderfully uneventful. No turbulence and plenty of time to catch up on some reading. Once we landed and collected our bags, it was off to the rental car lot to pick up our vehicle. Another small glitch. We had rented a car with GPS, but there were no GPS units available. God once again reminded us of His presence as we headed off to the hotel with the directions my husband had just happened to print out for us, "Just in case!"

After checking into our hotel, we quickly changed clothes and headed to the college to register. Unbeknownst to me, Riley had some of her own apprehensions. She was here by herself and really preferred to stay at the hotel with me instead of staying in a dorm where she didn't know anyone. Relief washed over her when she found out that she was welcome to stay with me at the hotel. Another answered prayer.

Once in line to register, a vivacious staff member signed Riley in and pulled together a packet of information for her, in addition to linking her up with some other prospective students who were familiar with the layout of the campus and could help her feel welcome. What a blessing!

Over the next couple of days, God assured us of His presence in so many ways. We were able to print out directions at the hotel that allowed us to find our way to First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana without GPS. My husband was able to research a few GPS units and we were able to purchase one at a local Best Buy. Having access to satellite maps and having a voice tell us when and where to turn was definitely comforting in the big city of Chicago. God certainly provided.

As I look back over those few days spent with Riley, I cherish the fun mommy-daughter times we shared. I am humbled and amazed at the countless fingerprints of God that showed up all over our trip. My husband bought me a bracelet several years ago. Its inscription sums up our four-day adventure perfectly, "...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20; KJV) There was nothing quite like being out of my comfort zone, and in an unfamiliar place, to bring me to the realization that I needed God's help every step of the way. He was more than faithful to remind me of His continual presence. Are you looking for Him, today?