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

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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.

 

Drudgery or Delight?

When David and I bought a house 14 years ago, four people, one cat and one dog moved in.  Today we live in a parsonage in Simpsonville, SC that houses two people and two cats; two empty bedrooms and only the memory of our furry dog – Frodo.

Life moves on… that’s why every time I read Proverbs 14, the 4th verse causes me to reflect on this truth:

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”  (NKJV)

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When my kids were part of the household, I remember bemoaning the work it required to keep “the trough clean!”  Washing clothes, tidying the bathrooms, picking up toys, cooking and cleaning up afterwards were daily occurrences.  There may have even been a time or two that I whined in my mind about taking care of my husband as well. J

Yes, taking care of a family is work, work, work.  But when we consider the alternative – an empty house with no one but ourselves to clean up after – it will help change our attitude.  Yes, life moves on.  Our children grow up and our pets pass on; but while we have them with us, may we remember that an increase in work can also mean an increase in joy and purpose.

By all means, keep the trough clean, but do it with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.  It will help turn drudgery to delight.

 

I’ll Take Door #2

70s-Doors    Back in the day, day-time television was all about game shows. One of my favorites was “Let’s Make A Deal.” People would dress up in silly costumes and hope to make it to the final round where they would be given the chance to select door number one, two or three. When I played along I would usually shout, “I’ll take door number two!” Sometimes the Big Deal would be revealed behind this door and sometimes I would get “zonked.” Since I was playing along at home, the choice I made was inconsequential and meaningless.
But life is not a television game show and the things we take hold of do make a difference.
In Acts 27:22, Paul says to his traveling companions: “Take courage! None of you will lose your lives.” And in verse 25 he repeats the deal: “Take courage! For I believe God.” (NLT) The NKJV translates it as “take heart.”
We live in discouraging and disheartening times. Like a Mac truck barreling toward us on a one-way street, life comes at us hard and fast, often leaving us shaken and disturbed. God’s word reminds us that we have a choice… We can take courage or we can take fear. We can believe His word and take heart or we can doubt and become disheartened.
Why not trade in fear and doubt for the sure reward that awaits a life of believing faith?
“As the Scripture tells us, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” ~ Romans 10:11 NLT
Or to put it in game-show parlance – anyone who believes in Him will never be ‘zonked’!!

Vacation Frustration

It’s vacation time again!  Time to hit the road and drive to delightful destinations.  Hooray!  Or… Help me Lord!

I reminisced about a couple of our trips when I read the words of Moses in Numbers 11.  He wasn’t on a vacation but he was taking a trip.  Unfortunately, all was not rosy as they rambled down the road.

“Moses heard all the …whining…Moses was very aggravated…And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Have mercy on me!’…The load is far too heavy!  If this is how You intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me.  Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”  (v.10,11,14,15 NLT)

Ever felt like that before?  Does this bring back memories of long car rides or delays at an airport?  Can you hear the kids whining in the back seat during hour three of a multi-hour journey?  I can.

36992_1448459048196_2425001_nThe summer of 1990 brings back such memories.  Lee was nine years old and Briana was four.  Our first trip was to Michigan and took fifteen hours.  The second was to the General Assembly at San Antonio, Texas and you don’t even want to know how long of a drive that was.  To make matters worse, we were in a very small Oldsmobile Calais.  On the journey home, by the time we hit Atlanta, I was ready to bypass our house and head to the psychiatric hospital!  Honestly!

Looking back through the mist of the years, I wonder, “Why did I get so upset?  Why did I fret and fuss over the kids being kids?”  Why couldn’t I understand that life passes so swiftly; that the little irritations of today will initiate longings in our heart tomorrow?

God gave Moses a plan to help him deal with his frustrations.  Maybe God can use me to speak into your life today and tell you to lighten upEnjoy the journey.  The kids will be grown and gone before you know it and all you will have are memories and pixels on a screen.  Don’t let the little irritations and frustrations of life rob you of the joy and wonder experienced through the eyes of a child.

By all means, have a plan for discipline and follow through if disobedience occurs, but if it’s just your kids being kids… kick off your shoes and join in the fun.  Twenty years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Wasting Away in “Gardeniaville”

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When David and I were dating (many, many years ago!), we went to the botanical gardens that are part of Clemson University.  Back then, I often wore flowers in my hair (It was a Seventy’s thing :)).  As we were walking along admiring the beauty of the garden, David plucked a gardenia from one of the bushes and tucked it behind my ear.  My mother later put the twig in water, rooted it and then planted it in the front yard.  A cutting from that plant now grows in the yard beside our house in Fort Mill.

Several years ago, a mother cardinal decided that this gardenia bush would make a dandy place for a nest.  This had never happened before and it got my attention.  I was so excited to see the tiny eggs!  It wasn’t long until they hatched and wee little birds took up residence.

But all was not well in “Gardeniaville”… I don’t know what happened, but the mother bird abandoned the nest and the little babies died.  It broke my heart to dispose of that nest.  Such beauty and potential come to an end.

Maybe that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote:  “A man wandering from his home is like a bird wandering from its nest” (Prov. 27:8)

Perhaps he too had found a nest abandoned and desolate.  Whatever his experience, I can tell you from mine, that this verse is meant to capture our attention and prevent us from making costly mistakes.

When we wander from our marriage vows… when we stray from the Truth of God’s Word… when we leave the path of purity… it affects not only our lives, but those in the “nest” as well.

No matter how alluring the temptation to do things our way instead of God’s way, we must always remember: the eventual outcome will bring pain and suffering.

There is an alternative“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.”  – Jesus (John 15:9)

Why would we ever want to wander away from there??

 

 

Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Have you ever had “one of those weeks?”  Perhaps your best laid plans fell through… or someone you love misunderstood your intentions and “let you have it”… or illness drained your energy and left you feeling despondent.

In a nutshell, life is just not going the way you envisioned. download

Maybe your circumstances have left you feeling like a big green trash receptacle – full to the brim with the lid barely closing.  If so, I have good news – a truck from the sanitation department will take that trash away if we are willing to let it go.

Willing to let it go??  Why would anyone want to keep a stinky garbage can full of trash?

Why indeed?  Yet, how often do we sit around and ponder the problems in our lives?  How many times do we dwell on the negative things our loved ones do without considering all of the positives?  How often do we allow despair and doubt to color our world and affect our decisions?

God has provided a beautiful challenge that will help to clear away the debris and garbage that is trying to clutter our minds.  It’s found in Philippians 4:8.  Read through this list slowly and see if you have “set the garbage on the curb” or if you are hanging on to it and allowing it to stink up your life.

“Whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE – if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY – think about such things.” 

Why not ‘dump the trash’ over into the Master’s basket?  Let Him take care of it.  He has an amazing way of transforming our thoughts and causing our situations to change when we entrust them to His care.  What the enemy meant for harm, God can turn around and use to help us grow and mature in Christ Jesus.

Instead of dwelling on the negative, give it to Jesus and allow Him to transform your thinking and fill the atmosphere of your life with His sweet fragrance.

I think I hear the trash truck coming…

Sonja

A Song is just a Song?

I find it interesting that shortly before Moses died, the Lord instructed him to teach the children of Israel a song.  Not just any song; and definitely not a “top-40” tune that tickles the ears and causes your toes to tap.  It was a serious song that would remind them of where they had been and prepare them for where they were going.  (It’s found in Deuteronomy 32… uh, don’t expect the praise team to sing it anytime soon! :))

God gave this song to Moses along with these instructions:   “Now write down this song… so that it may be a witness for Me… this song will testify against them…” ~ Deut. 31:19,21

Music is not neutral.  Every song is proclaiming a message.

Think about the songs that were sung at your wedding…  What if they were not just catchy tunes that called forth lovey-dovey feelings or the rote recital of a prayer?  (I actually talked my husband into singing a duet with me!  T23-wedding-paris-ceremony-636x636hat feat alone assured me that “he had it bad!!”)
What if the words of those songs rose up in judgment to testify for or against your marriage?

Take “The Lord’s Prayer” for example – if this popular song was included in your ceremony, is “Thy kingdom come/Thy will be done” still the cry of your hearts?  Is depending on God for daily bread and living a life of forgiveness a reality in your home?  Are you resisting temptation and giving the Lord all the glory forever??

As the Psalmist would say: “Selah” (Think about it!)

If we fall short of the loving feelings and actions featured in the lyrics, we can always pray to the One who gave us the gift of music and ask Him to restore and strengthen our love.

In the words of one popular wedding tune:

“Lead us to a place/ Guide us with Your grace/ Give us faith so we’ll be safe”                                                                  (“The Prayer” ~ Foster/Sager/Testa/Renis)