Encouragement to Continue

Are you facing a challenge that has left you with countless questions? I’ve been there. Several years ago, my husband Steve’s, position at work was eliminated. If you’ve ever lost a job, you’ve experienced the stress of financial pressures and lack of medical insurance. It’s no picnic. It was nine months before my husband found a suitable job. During that time, the pastor of our church died. And not many months later, my dad passed away. Doubts & questions The doubts and questions were relentless. Why was it taking so long for Steve to find a job in his field? What would happen to our church without a pastor? How could I deal with the death of my dad on top of everything else? In His grace, God gave me hope and encouragement to continue. God’s Word is filled with countless examples of people who chose to trust Him during really tough circumstances. Ruth’s story Ruth is one of my heroes. She went through some hard times, suffering the death of both her father-in-law and husband. The choice she made when faced with a life-changing decision is inspiring. Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, had lived in Moab for ten years and her husband and two sons had died. Now she was heading back to her home town. Naomi advised her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to go back to their people. Orpah found it hard to leave, but took Naomi’s advice. Ruth was different. She saw something in Naomi that caused her to leave all she had ever known – family, friends, her home town, and culture – and trust God...

The Best Investment

How would you describe yourself? As a project person? Or as a people person? Although we’re all a combination of both of these, I’d have to say I tip the scale in the direction of projects. I like the feeling I get when I’m able to cross tasks off my to-do list. Last weekend began with a full agenda. My husband Steve was out of town on Saturday, and I had naively lined up a weeks’ worth of chores – hoping to finish all of them in one day. Talk about setting myself up for failure. Am I the only one who does this? By mid-afternoon I made a disappointing discovery: I wasn’t going to finish all the items on my list. I wouldn’t even come close. Time to think about what was most important. A valuable lesson We would be celebrating our adult daughter’s birthday the next day. Did it really matter if the house was spotless? In five years would I really remember if the house was clean for her big day? No. But I would remember planning a special celebration for Riley, and spending time with our family. I made a decision. Cleaning could wait. I was going to focus on Riley and making this birthday one she’d always remember. We had a wonderful celebration the next day, and I was reminded of a valuable lesson: We were created for relationships – it’s much more important to invest in people than in things. People trump projects every time. (click to tweet) The right choice Jesus was the ultimate example of this principle. He wasn’t concerned about the...

Your Guide to Surviving & Thriving

Do you like flowers? I do. My husband surprised me with a beautiful bouquet for my birthday. The sunflowers and Peruvian lilies were highlighted by artfully arranged greenery. I gave them center stage on our fireplace mantle where I could enjoy them throughout the day. A few days later I realized I had forgotten something. The flowers hung limply over the sides of the vase, desperately in need of some water. Soon after I added the liquid with a packet of plant food, the flowers began to perk up. Staying connected I was reminded of an important fact: plants need nutrients in order to survive and thrive. The same is true in your life and mine. The apostle John put it this way: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. John 15:4; KJV So what does this mean? You guessed it. In order to survive and thrive, we need to stay connected to Christ (click to tweet). He’s made it easy for us. Keys to abiding *He gave us His Word – His love letter to us containing everything we need to know 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. Hebrews 4:12 *He gives us a direct line of communication – He always has time for us Let us therefore...

Sick of Complaining

I have to admit, the first two months of the new year have been a bit rough. Viruses and the respiratory flu have come to stay in spite of the fact that they weren’t invited. I’ve noticed a familiar pattern when I feel less than my best; something I’m not proud of — I complain. Because good health is the norm, it’s easy to justify my complaints. But complaining is toxic. Just like poison, complaining taints everything it touches. (click to tweet) When I begin a conversation with a complaint, I set the tone for others to add more of the same. Negativity creates a downward spiral that leads to hopelessness. A choice Consider the children of Israel. They had been set free from the bondage of slavery. God had done the miraculous and released them from their cruel taskmasters, the Egyptians. Instead of continuing to trust God to provide for their physical needs, they chose to complain. Listen to one of their pity parties: And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Exodus 16:2-3; KJV Really? Was the food in Egypt that good? Had they forgotten the hard labor and beatings they had endured at the hand of the Egyptians? Probably not. But...

From the Inside Out

One of my favorite snacks is a generous scoop of peanut butter on a fresh stalk of celery. When I grabbed the celery out of the refrigerator recently, I was already imagining how it would taste once I slathered it with peanut butter. But when I took the celery out of the package, and tore off the first stalk, I noticed the inner stalks were discolored. Although everything looked fine on the outside, something had caused the celery to begin rotting on the inside. Who would have thought I could learn a valuable spiritual lesson from a vegetable? A comparison We can be just like that celery – appearing fine on the outside, when there is something (sin) on the inside that is making us spiritually sick. Jesus put it this way when talking to the scribes and Pharisees: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Matthew 23:25; KJV Although following rules might trick us into thinking we’re spiritually healthy, only a right relationship with the Savior can provide the cure we need (click to tweet). When we realize we can’t measure up to the standards of a Holy God, we’re in a position to receive some very good news – He already provided a way to bridge the gap between us. Bridging the gap  He sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to fulfill the law and make the payment for our sins: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life...

Holding on for the Impossible

Sometimes I limit God. It’s true. The things I’ve so carefully laid at His feet in the morning have an uncanny way of showing up once again by mid-afternoon. He never intends for me to carry them. But when nothing seems to be happening, I run and pick up my burdens as quickly as I laid them down. The wait of faith I have to admit I have a bad habit of expecting God to work on my time table – and solve my difficulties using my suggestions. When He reminds me to trust Him, I sheepishly relinquish my problems into His more-than-capable hands. Faith delights God. Faith in Him. He helps me understand: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6 Faith trusts that God will work the situation out in a way that’s best for me and will bring Him maximum glory (click to tweet). Taking things into our own hands I can’t help but think of Abraham and Sarah. God had promised them a son. What exciting news! They had been married for quite some time, but Sarah was unable to get pregnant. Surely after giving them the promise, God would bless them with a child quickly. But month after month, year after year, they remained childless. Sarah reasoned that she had misunderstood God. Maybe God really intended them to have a child through her servant, Hagar. It was a popular custom in their day. Yes, that MUST be it!...

Leave Room

I knew it was too heavy. I had packed my suitcase with everything from clothes and shoes to toiletry items. Not to mention my pillow. The additional things I bought while we were in Florida did nothing to help the situation. The airport scale told the story: my suitcase was eight pounds overweight. Time to do a little rearranging. Fortunately, the attendant who checked us in didn’t charge us for the additional weight. I made a mental note to pack lighter next time. My suitcase was a glaring reminder of how I often live my life – filled to the brim with too many things (click to tweet). It wouldn’t hurt to do some evaluation and scale back; leaving room for other opportunities the Lord has for me. Living with purpose Jesus provided the perfect example. He lived life with purpose. He taught and preached to crowds, mentored the disciples, yet found time to minister to individuals. No doubt His schedule was full, yet Jesus was never too busy to meet the needs of those who sought Him (click to tweet). In Christ’s day, women and children were not considered as important as men. Even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that all people were valuable. When little children were brought to Jesus for His blessing, the disciples made an executive decision: Jesus didn’t have time for them. He was far too busy to waste His time with little kids. The right agenda But Jesus was more than willing to rearrange the day’s agenda. His response is heart-warming: But when Jesus saw it,...

Don’t Waste the Wait

Waiting isn’t a popular pastime. In a society of fast-this and fast-that, it’s easy to expect everything immediately. Waiting is often thought of as a time when you’re doing nothing while expecting something to happen. Although there are plenty of times when I get impatient, I’ve also learned that waiting can be a magnificent opportunity for growth. Whether I’m waiting for my husband to get back from his business trip, or for my next book to be published, I’ve gained some valuable insights while I’ve waited: *God can be trusted – He’s proven time and again that He has things under control. Waiting gives me the opportunity to put things in His hands and let Him orchestrate the details. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 *He’s given me this waiting period to prepare for what lies ahead – I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t consider the fact that it takes a significant investment of time and energy to write a book. Periods of waiting have helped me remain realistic. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Luke 14:28 *He has a plan for me that’s far better than anything I can come up with – Before time began, God planned out specific good works for me to do. Times of waiting allow me to seek Him and determine the next step He wants me to take. For we...

Staying Connected to the Right Source

I love fall. The morning air is crisp, the trees begin showing off their autumn wardrobe, and apple picking is once again a popular weekend activity here in north Georgia. But there’s another kind of fruit that’s in season all year round – the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. While this fruit is familiar, by nature we’re pretty selfish, and our culture encourages a ‘me-first’ attitude. It’s easy to just go with the flow instead of listening to the Lord’s still, small voice and putting others ahead of ourselves. The Source I remember attending a conference years ago and sitting in a session about structuring a daily quiet time. The speaker had a lot of great points, but what resonated with me the most was this statement: “If you’ve not been to the Source, you have nothing to give.”~ Conference Speaker (click to tweet) Wow! The Lord knew exactly what I needed to hear. A lot of times I find myself trying to solve problems and fix situations in my own strength. You too? Without seeking the Lord and submitting to Him – even my best efforts fall short. My human wisdom and understanding won’t be helpful to people searching for answers – but here’s the beautiful thing: When I spend time seeking God in His Word, and living out what He shows me, I can point others to Him – the Source with all the answers. Stay connected The apostle John put it like this: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me,...

Feeling Left Out?

Do you ever feel left out? I can relate. Sometimes we just don’t feel like we fit in – we don’t have anything in common with our co-workers, classmates, or neighbors. Feelings can be deceiving. It’s comforting to know we were created by a God who designed us for relationships. We were made to have a relationship with God and with others (click to tweet). It’s neat to see this pattern began way back in the Garden of Eden: And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Genesis 2:18,22; KJV In Adam and Eve’s case, they became husband and wife – a family. Friendships are valuable relationships too. Stepping outside of our own world and connecting with others is important. Value of community Whether we’re part of a family unit, a church, or a group with similar interests (art, music, etc.), there’s no denying the value community plays in our lives. Within community, lots of things happen. We can: *share our concerns *offer words of encouragement *learn from each other *support one another Love is powerful Jesus emphasized the importance of our relationship with Him and others: …Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:37, 39 (emphasis added) Love lets us reach out to others without expecting anything in return (click to tweet). It...