BOGO

On a recent “date night” David and I decided to go to the grocery store together.  This does not rank up there with my top 10 favorite dates, but because of my busier than normal week, it was a necessity.  When David goes along with me, it usually ends up costing me… this trip was no exception.

One of his favorite brands of ice cream was on sale – BOGO free.  As we approached the freezers I mentioned this and suggested he pick out two containers.  He did.  Then he picked out two more.  (Those of you who know me well know that I tend to be frugal. :O)  I felt myself bristle.  “You want four?” I asked incredulously.  Yep, he did.  He could tell by the look on my face that I thought two was a gracious plenty, but four went into the cart.

The next morning in my Bible reading what should I read but these words:  “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from your hand.” ~ 1 Chron. 29:14

I heard the Holy Spirit’s gentle chiding, “Sonja, Sonja.  Why are you so stingy?  Week after week your husband shares his paycheck with you so that you can manage the household and you begrudge to let him have extra?”  (Okay, I apologized!)

The same principle holds true in our relationship with our Father God.  He has given us gift after gift – health… strength… the ability to make money… the ability to think and reason… the ability to love.  Why do we hold back and hesitate to give back to Him?

Think about it…

Sonja

 

Intangible Gifts

Many people (I’m talking millions!) buy gifts to show their love and appreciation for a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.  My husband, David, has always gone above and beyond to make me feel loved, but last year left me a wee bit perplexed.  Trying to “think outside the box” and give me something unique, he gifted me with flavored coffee pods for the Keurig and a box of gourmet organic oatmeal packets.  Nothing says love like food that keeps you regular!  🙂  We have had a good laugh about these gifts.  (I think I’m getting Belgian chocolates this year!)

valentine-day-chocolate-1

Fancy flavored oatmeal aside, gift-giving has always been a tangible way to express feelings of love and honor.  But what about those “gifts” that you can’t put into a package or hold in your hand?  I’m talking about the intangible gifts that we can give every day, not just on special occasions.

How about the gift of physical fitness?  Taking care of yourself by eating foods that are good for you and exercising so that you can live as long as possible, as healthily as possible…

The gift of spiritual wellness – spending time with the Lord each day so that you are consistently taking on the likeness of Christ…

The gift of forgiveness – even when it is most difficult…

The gift of empathy – putting yourself in their shoes; keeping quiet and listening long enough so that you can recognize and appreciate where the other person is coming from and how they feel about it.

The gift of time – making the time to be together without the distractions of outside influences.

The gift of praying for one another every day…

I could go on and on, but I think you get my drift.  Some gifts you just cannot put a price tag on – and those gifts are always the best!

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Love, joy and peace,

Sonja

 

 

 

The Richest Among Us

December is many things, but one of the hallmarks of this month would have to be the opportunities we are given to extend a helping hand to the needy.  Red kettles on street corners… paper angels on Christmas trees inscribed with the hopes and dreams of little girls and boys… good-looking Marines collecting toys that will brighten the eyes of tots… Truly this month beckons us to think beyond our own needs and desires.

41418f0044901005808a00146efa6b30

Yet those with hearts attuned to God’s heart understand that giving to others is not a “December” thing.  It is a life-enhancing practice that should be as natural to Christians as breathing air.

Proverbs 19:17… “Giving help to the poor is like loaning money to the LORD. He will pay you back for your kindness.” (ERV)

I sent this verse to a friend of mine who was having financial difficulties.  I challenged her to give to a food pantry or some other outreach each week, even if it was only a can of soup or a bar of soap.  Why would I give that advice?  Because I truly believe that when we give out of our poverty, God will bless us out of His wealthnot just in December, but all year long.

Lord, please help us to understand that the richest among us are not the ones with the most money in the bank, but those with eyes that see the need and hearts that respond in love. 

Thank you Father for seeing our need and responding with Jesus…

Merry Christmas!

Elisha and the Two Bears

As parents we all have certain things that we find difficult to let go of as our children age…  I cherished the nightly bedtime reading ritual that I shared with Lee and Briana.  We read through many a story and several children’s series when they were young.

teaching%20the%20bible%20to%20our%20children_bedtime%20story

One of the Bible story books was told through the words of animals in the Bible.  The ravens that fed Elijah, the donkey that talked to Balaam, the animals in the stable when Jesus was born helped make the stories come alive to my preschooler.

One story was not included though – the story found in 2 Kings 2:24:  “He (Elisha) turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.”  Oops!  Not great bed time reading unless you want the little ones to wake you up in the middle of the night with nightmares!

Let’s explore the story… Elisha had just watched Elijah ascend to Heaven in a whirlwind and had accepted the mantle of responsibility as the next prophet of God.  As he begins this new phase of his life, a gang of teenagers begin to make fun of him.  They “mock the man of God.”  Because of their choices the Bible tells us that 42 of them were mauled by bears.

I found it interesting that the Bible does not say they were killed.  To be mauled by an animal means that you are attacked and wounded and often severely injured, but it does not necessarily mean death.

Maybe we should share this story with our kids when they are old enough to understand that their choices in life will have consequences.  Like the youths in 2 Kings 2, many of us made stupid choices when we were young that mocked God and His Word. We bear the scars of those choices on our hearts and in our minds to this day…  The sinful things we choose to do as young adults may not kill us, but the wounds go deep and it is only by the grace of God that we find healing and peace.

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears” may teach our little ones to honor the property of others, but “Elisha and the Two Bears” will teach our kids the importance of honoring God.

“Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.”  (1 Samuel 2:30)

For such a time as this…

Foolish Secrets

Years ago I was friends with a woman who was overweight.  I couldn’t understand it.  She hardly ever ate anything when I was around her.  She would pick at the food on her plate and seldom finish a meal.  I assumed she had a sluggish metabolism or a thyroid condition.

After we became close friends she felt comfortable sharing her secrets with me.  I was shocked to learn that even though I seldom saw her eat, she often got up in the middle of
the night and ate whole loaves of bread or half-gallon article-2287020-1863bbf7000005dc-500_634x730cartons of ice cream or entire pies and cakes.  No wonder she had difficulty losing weight!

Although I haven’t seen her in many years, I often think about her when I read Proverbs 9.  The first part of the chapter personifies wisdom as a woman who is inviting people into her home.  The last verses of the chapter picture foolishness as a woman as well – loud and brash – doing everything she can to get us into her house…

“To someone weak-willed [the foolish woman] says,… ‘food eaten in secret is pleasant.” (v. 16-17)

Many people who struggle with weight control (self included!) can fall into the habit of eating while others are not around.  Self-control may be exhibited in public, but once alone, when no one is looking, it’s a different story.   This can become a foolish and destructive habit.  (see v.18)

In contrast… “Wisdom…has set her table.” (v.1-2)

She invites you to sit at a table and eat, out in the open, no pretense.   Many dietitians will offer this same advice.  Think before you eat; sit down at a table and make wise choices; don’t just fill up on junk to satisfy unhealthy cravings.

Don’t think for a moment that you are off the hook if you do not have issues in the area of eating!  Anything you do in secret; anything done impulsively without forethought is also foolish behavior and will lead to trouble and eventual destruction.  (see v.18)

Wisdom teaches us to “proceed in the way of understanding” (v.6).  IOW, before you do something, think about the outcome and where your choices will eventually take you.  This will put you on the path that leads to life and peace.

And who wants to keep that a secret??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparkling Spider Webs

What do Pan Am, E.F. Hutton, Oldsmobile, Banker’s Trust, and Amoco have in common?  They are all major companies that have come and gone; the once familiar icons now relegated to museums.

If you had your retirement nest egg resting in the branches of these companies, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” cannot put it back together again!

   What we are trusting in matters – it matters a great deal. 

“The hope of the godless comes to nothing.  Everything they count on will collapse.  They are leaning on a spider’s web.” ~ Job 8:13b-14 NLT

img_00151

Spider’s webs.  I love to look at them shimmering in the early light of a morning sun; the dew drops revealing the intricate design of the tiny artist.  Nevertheless as lovely as that creation may be, I know better than to lean on it and expect any kind of support.  (Sorry, Spiderman, it is just not possible!)

In the same manner, we must be careful what we are “leaning on.”  The companies we work for today may go overseas tomorrow… The hot stock we are counting on to see us through in our golden years may become ice cold… The politician who promises gold may turn out to be Rumpelstiltskin… The spouse who vowed eternal love may decide to rewrite the definition of eternity…

The only One we can lean on is the eternal God who holds us up with “everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27)  He is faithful and true; an intensively present helper in times of trouble and the only Rock worth building our lives upon.  His icon – an old rugged cross and an empty tomb – is not gathering dust in a man-made museum, but is forever enshrined as the hope of mankind.

 

What are you leaning on?

Faith is Believing

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ~ Hebrews 11:6

faith

When David and I were barely “Mr. and Mrs.” we decided to memorize scripture together on a regular basis.  Hebrews 11:6  was our first verse.  Sadly, we let the busyness of life and ministry sidetrack us and we didn’t follow through on this plan, but I have never forgotten this verse.

Out of all the verses in God’s word that we could have chosen, this one is a gem.  As I read it now almost 38 years down the road, I can see how it has marked our lives and shaped us into the man and woman we are today.

Have we always done everything right? No.  Have we wandered away from the path of righteousness?  Yes, a time or two (or three or four…)  But through it all, our lives have been grounded on the belief that there is a God in Heaven who loves us; who sent His Son to die for our sins and His Spirit to dwell in our hearts.

Have we dropped the ball and wished for a “magic eraser” so that parts of our story could be re-written?  Yes.  But day after day, year after year, our hearts have been drawn to the only source of wisdom and knowledge – God’s holy word.  We have sought Him diligently and it has made all the difference in our story.

One often hears, “seeing is believing.”  But I ask you to consider an alternative…

“Faith is believing.”  Truly, the only belief that will alter the course of our destinies and change the dynamics of our family stories is believing in Jesus Christ and earnestly pursuing His presence day after day.

This will not only please God, but will bring a pleasing reward greater than we can begin to imagine.