Worth a Mint

There are two more items required for our survival kit: a mint is one of them.

The mint is to remind us that we are worth a mint to our Heavenly Father. This is a play on words, because the “mint” we are speaking about, actually means a FORTUNE. Perhaps you don’t feel that valuable but you really are. There is a verse in the Bible which sums up how special you are:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I’ve been told to substitute my name in where the word “world” is, because if I was the only one that needed everlasting life, Jesus would have still come and died just for me. When I finally realized how set apart I was, that God cared so much for me…..it was mind-boggling! I grew up having an understanding of God and who He was—-I had all the knowledge in my head. But it wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I began to have it sink into my heart.

My husband and I had decided to attend a new church shortly after we moved to New Jersey. The preacher would share Bible verses that, at first, meant nothing to me. Yet, I was curious to hear more of it. At first I was stubborn, not liking to be told I was a sinner. In fact, I sometimes would refuse to go with my husband, who was truly searching for answers.God continued to draw me closer and began putting people into my life who had a close relationship with God–and it showed. I eventually came to realize that no matter how good of a person I was, it wasn’t about anything I could do—it was God’s grace—his unmerited favor towards me, offering me a choice to accept His Son. For so long I had looked around me, comparing myself to what others did and thought I could be a good enough person.

mint candySo, on July 8th, 1987, I made a decision to trust Jesus Christ as my Personal Saviour, admitting that I was a sinner and needed His forgiveness. Because Jesus surrendered Himself and died for me—I knew I needed to surrender my own desires and live for HIM! It’s a decision I have never regretted making.

It amazes me that God cares so much about little ol’ me! He’s the Creator of the universe, but Scripture tells me that He knows the number of hairs on my head. Psalm 139:17 states, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!”
I am special to God and that is all that matters.

Wanted: Hugs and Kisses

We can endure the journey God has placed us on, when we rely upon the resources He provides. I have been blogging about the various items in our “782 gear bag” ~ the USMC term for a survival kit. All of our help (“equipment”) can be found in God’s Word.

Today’s item for the survival kit would not survive too long in my gear bag.
A chocolate candy kiss reminds us that everyone needs a kiss or a hug.hershey kiss

I can’t remember when I first sampled a piece of chocolate; it had to be quite some time ago. But, I have acquired a taste for it! If I had to admit to an addiction, I would have to confess, that I am a chocoholic! Eating chocolate does bring me great pleasure, so it seems quite fitting to associate the name and shape of a chocolate candy as a “Kiss,” the popular trademark of The Hershey Company.

First John 4:7 says “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” Our love for one another should show. How else can we display to others that we have a personal relationship with a God Who unconditionally cares for us? Our testimony can be sweet to others, when we remember to be kind, gracious and loving.

We can show our affection and concern for one another by physical touch. Years ago, I used to go to a nursing home and visit some of the residents there. I would bring my small children along with me. They were more of a blessing to the residents than I was! Why? Because they could fit real nicely on an older person’s lap and allow them to hug and cuddle. A hug or a kiss does feel good–almost as good as the chocolate kind!

I have an older friend named Audrey who hugs everyone she comes into contact with. Her smile is broad, and her demeanor is sincere and heart-felt. When she opens her arms for a hug, people (friends and strangers alike) respond without hesitation. Audrey’s hugs have touched so many lives because that is how she shares the joy that is bubbling up inside of her!

Down here in the South, hugs are as natural as fried chicken and sweet tea! Everyone hugs! The truly sincere hugs are accompanied by a hardy pat on the back (men) or a warm handshake and a peck on the cheek (women). I think that most Southerners’ survival kits are loaded up with Hershey’s candies! 🙂 Good ol’ Southern Hospitality!

Completing the course is much less difficult if we have our backpack filled with promises of safety, security and stamina. Oh! And lots of sugar!

Strength that sticks with us

There’s a term that athletes use: “Hitting the Wall”. It basically means that sudden fatigue and loss of energy have occurred. A marathon runner can push through that experience and eventually overcome it–or they can just stop, bow out of the race, quit altogether. Months of conditioning and fitness-training have prepared them to endure, stay focused on the goal, which is to finish the course.

In times when we are getting weary, running out of steam, finding it so difficult to continue on in this journey called “LIFE,” we have Jesus Christ who comes right along side of us and gives us the strength to go on. His timing is perfect. I find that searching the Bible for a verse to encourage me during those times of exhaustion can really help! One of my favorite promises from God’s Word is found in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things which strengthened me.”

This is another item to add to your survival kit:
chewing gum clipartChewing gum ~ reminds us to stick with it. We can accomplish anything with Jesus Christ. He understands the difficulties we face.

Jesus endured the pain and suffering of the Cross, accomplishing His Father’s Will to go to Calvary and die for our sins. He was beaten, and bruised along that path; He was spat upon, whipped and rejected as being the Son of God. He could have stopped, quit, refused to complete the mission. Yet, He knew that the victory would be sweet and that the promise of eternity (with Him) for all mankind, is a goal worth pursuing. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that he is a “friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” A stick of gum can remind us to stay strong in the Lord, confident that we have a true friend who will not fail us.

Jesus is there for us, knowing our weaknesses and our sufferings. He loves us and cares for us, and WILL give us strength. He has already crossed the finish line and is there waiting for us!

Count Your Blessings

RECAP: We need a survival kit to combat the everyday traps we fall into. The Bible can be our reference tool and teaches us how to live our lives pleasing to God. Our relationship with HIM matters too.

Our survival kit includes: toothpicks, rubber bands and Band-Aids. (Please refer to previous blogs for the complete explanation.)
Here is another item to pack in your Survival Kit: a pencil.pencil clip art

What is significant about a pencil? It’s to remind us to list our blessings every day. The words to this familiar hymn instruct us to be active and aware:

Count your blessings; name them one by one.
Count your many blessings; see what God has done
.”

How many of you woke up today in a good mood, because you saw the sun shining? That’s a blessing, isn’t it? Something to praise God for!

In some parts of our world, waking up to the bright sunlight wouldn’t be such a big deal. A quarter of Finland’s territory lies north of the Arctic Circle. At the country’s northernmost point, the sun does not set at all for sixty days during the summer season. If you lived there, your list of blessings would probably differ!

Ephesians 1:3 tells us, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

Our word blessing comes from the Greek word EULOGIA; it’s also our English word, eulogy, which is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing. Often, a eulogy is given by loved ones and/or close acquaintances at a memorial service. The purpose of the speech is to express honor and heartfelt appreciation.

To list our blessings, means to praise God for what He is doing and what He has done. What is even more fun to do, is to take the time to read over an “old” list of blessings–it will amaze you to see how faithful God has been.

I’ve heard it said that God’s response to our prayers is sometimes a “Yes,” sometimes a “No,” and sometimes His answer to us is “Wait.” God has perfect timing; all that’s required from us is patience (that’s a topic for another day!). When it is all said and done, we learn that God’s Ways are best. Our hearts become full of gratitude and understanding. And that’s when we need to remember to record the blessing….with our pencils!

I have kept many lists over the years and delight in seeing answered prayer whenever I review what is written down. Many times, what was perceived as a bleak situation, was actually divine intervention. God ultimately had a plan in action; I just couldn’t see it at the time.

Not only should we make a list to document our blessings, but we should be vocal, exclaiming God’s goodness to those who will listen. I love what Psalm 19:1 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” God’s Creation bursts forth in its beauty, praising its Maker! Now, get that pencil and start writing!

Ouch! Got Band-Aids?

Uh-oh. We are out of Band-Aids.

I don’t know about your household, but this first-aid treasure is an essential part of ours. We started stocking up on Band-Aids as soon as our first child began to walk. As our family grew, so did the need for a larger inventory! I kept them in my diaper bag, my purse and my car’s glove box. Band-Aids went everywhere I went: school trips, play dates and sporting events, and oh-so-many-other places.

Every Mom can relate to the hurt of a child who has fallen, scrapped up their knees or worse…. Putting a Band-Aid on even a tiny scratch seems to make those tears magically disappear. Not only do they cover up the affected area and help prevent infection, many Band-Aids come with a nifty super-hero or Disney princess affixed to them! How quickly a toddler will forget about the “boo-boo” because they have their favorite cartoon character stuck to their body!

Another item that is so necessary in our life’s survival kit * is Band-Aids, which remind us to heal hurt feelings–yours or someone else’s. God’s Word has a lot to say about this topic. One of my favorite passages is 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”band aid

Have you ever heard of the “pay it forward” concept? It’s when someone–who has been a recipient of a kind gesture, monetary gift or award–makes a conscientious decision to repeat a similar act of kindness for someone else (usually a stranger.) This repetitious pattern of generosity and thoughtfulness can have far-reaching consequences; but it is with the sole intention to comfort, encourage and bless without expecting compensation. I think God is certainly pleased with that type of behavior, don’t you?

God wants us to respond to the hurt we see in others. When we do, we are actually reflecting His character of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. He has completely forgiven us and expects us to pay it forward, spiritually-speaking!

The greatest motivating factor behind us forgiving others is to remember that Christ has forgiven us of all of our sins. Therefore, we are expected to, in turn, be able to forgive each other fully as well. Only then will the healing process go into effect, because we took action and utilized that tiny, elastic life-saver tool: a Band-Aid.

Colossians 3:12-14 advises us to, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

These words speak of a number of responses we should have concerning our relationships here on earth. Compassion is “love in action” and can be shown in a variety of ways; remain sensitive and aware of what others may be going through. This isn’t a perfect world and we will have disagreements and conversations that cause wounds-not physical, but emotional ones. God desires us to be peace-makers, willing to admit our wrongs. A spirit in sync with Christ will have a full supply of Band-Aids, eager to patch up the hurt and generate healing!

If there is anyone you know who is hurting, make an effort to put a Band-Aid on it today!

Gotta go! I have to make a Walmart run—-I need to replenish my Band-Aid stash!

* Ongoing series of blogs–What’s in Your Life’s Survival Kit?

Toothpicks and rubber bands

What do these two items have in common? Not much, except they should be in your daily survival kit!

A few blogs ago, I described the race that is set before us. Our life’s journey is frequently compared to a course we must complete. It’s not important how quickly we run, but that we stay on track. Various elements, detours and many other bumps-in-the-road will discourage us, possibly tempt us to quit. Even if you’re not a runner, the analogy is very easy to understand: our years can be filled with purpose, direction and resilience.

For some of us, the finish line is well within reach. For others, it will be a much lengthier expedition until that final lap of completion is upon us. Every day requires commitment and strength beyond our abilities. This is where God’s Word can supply us with the basic essentials required to finish the course…and finish well.

These basic essentials are available for all participants! Our mission is to recognize their priority and utilize them effectively. How rewarding our time on earth will be, when we’ve relied upon the items in our survival kit!
Here are two pieces to consider:

toothpick clip artTOOTHPICK
~reminds us to pick out the good qualities in others!
Too many times, we focus on the negative stuff and make wrong assumptions; we might form an opinion that is too hasty or harsh. Matthew 7:1 says to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” His words here were addressing the behavior displayed by the Pharisees. They were a religious sect in Jesus’ day who were very rigid and severe in their thinking, possessing a fault-finding type of spirit. They looked down their noses with an air of superiority — what was actually going on in their hearts? Certainly not a loving attitude!

We have to be very careful that our behavior is not condemning or critical. What is going on inside our heart, if we are acting that way? Make an effort to pay someone a compliment, be positive and encouraging in your relationships with others. This type of attention pleases God and can be quite contagious!

gumby clipart

rubberbank clip artRUBBER BAND
~ reminds us to be flexible. Things might not always go the way you want, but it will work out.
This quality makes me think of the Marine Corps motto. Semper Fi means “Always Faithful” but there is also Semper Gumby, which is the military’s way of saying to be “Always Flexible.” For those of you who may not remember Gumby, he was a bright green, very bendable, animated cartoon. Serving in the military requires a surrendering of self; patriotic duty demands a compliant spirit and loyal support. And you never know what is coming next. You have to be ready, but you also have to be flexible.

Romans 8:28 says “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.” This verse can help us to trust God in those times of anxiousness when we don’t always know what is coming; but, we DO KNOW that it will eventually come to pass and that God is always in control. And God’s Ways are always GOOD.

If we truly love Him, we should be trying to live in a way that honors Him. Whatever God has allowed into our lives has a purpose. We can have assurance in knowing that since God is in it, He IS working it together for good! Don’t tense up, rather stay loose….like a rubber band!

*There are more items in our survival kit….stay tuned for the next blog revealing them!

When the Course is Coarse…

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Survival: the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.
Who knows what the day holds before us? Aren’t we all just one phone call away from news which can cause our heart to faint, our spirit to be crushed?

Our future is full of unforeseen events; some will be life-altering, possibly tragic in nature. Other moments are memorable, good news which uplifts us and encourages us on this course of life. I like how David trusted God completely and knew that ultimately, whatever he faced had already passed through the Master’s Hands. Read what he expressed in Psalm 31:15:

My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand difficult path
of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

David’s trials required him to flee and hide, fearing for his life! Our dilemmas may not be quite as severe, but we can certainly relate to the urgency that prevails. We seek a place of refuge, a place of comfort, where we can linger and wait for the issue to pass.

But, what if the circumstance is more permanent, like a poor health prognosis or a broken marriage that seems irreconcilable? We have to stay steady in our faith, knowing that we serve and worship a Holy, Righteous Creator who only wants the best for us. God’s Word is full of promises that give us a blessed hope and sure victory!

Does it feel as if you are at the end of your rope, left hanging with no where else to go? Is there a void, something missing from your life? Many times, we fail to look “up”–we attempt to find help all about us, ignoring that God has the entire situation under His control! His desire is that we survive; He patiently, lovingly awaits our invitation for Him to accompany us on this life’s journey.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? He promises to forgive you from your sins (past, present and future) and will establish a relationship with you like none other! That is the only thing that will matter once this earthly life is over. Eternity awaits all of us, and God wants us to spend it with Him in heaven! Salvation is for everyone: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Survival is attainable! We can struggle through our daily course alone, but much better, we can make a choice to be strengthened each and every moment with the help of our Heavenly Father. Invite Him along on this journey called “Life.”

Allow me to encourage you with the lyrics to “Trust His Heart,” a Christian song performed by Babbie Mason:

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don’t
See how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don’t see him,
Remember your never alone

Chorus:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart

He sees the master plan
He holds the future in his hand,
So don’t live as those who have no hope,
ALL our hope is found in him.
We see the present clearly
He sees the first and last
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me,
To someday be just like him

Shine On!

Brilliance is described in gemstone terminology as the internal luster or shine that every precious stone possesses. A word picture can easily be conjured from this fun fact–God has made you in His image, intended to radiate with His goodness and greatness! Yet, even the most vibrant, radiantly sparkling gemstone will pale in comparison to the rich potential and eternal capacity you possess! What are you going to do with it? Shine on!
shining star
Daniel 12:3 says this about the brightness you can exude: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Many of the saints who have gone home to heaven before us have left a legacy-one which clearly and radiantly leads the way for others. To the world, they may not have received celebrity status as a “star,” but their  testimony has been an influence, affecting countless generations! Praise God for their faithfulness!

The Bible says in Proverbs 28:20, “A faithful man shall abound with blessings.” The rewards are endless–who can put a price tag on Faithfulness?

One of the deepest burdens my husband and I had, due to our move (this summer) to the South, was in finding a church home. We craved the fellowship with like-minded believers and desired to sit under sound, Biblical teaching. In addition, we knew that we could contribute and serve in the ministry of a local, Bible-believing church. We were in much prayer about it.

In recent weeks, the Lord brought many memories to my mind; ones which focused on those individuals who were a “shining” star to my family and I. Some were soul-winners, determined to spread the gospel to all they came in contact; never wavering from the truth. Some had the gift of mercy and displayed compassion and a deep concern for others who were hurting. Some possessed a joy that exuberated from within, encouraging me with a Bible verse at just the “right” time. Others had a passion to sing or minister through music, which always blessed and prepared our hearts for worship.

But–thank God!–many are the memories of the godly men who preached with power and conviction. Preachers who remained committed and faithful, humble and obedient; focused on the cause of Christ. They weren’t perfect people, but they did have one thing in common: they strived to obtain wisdom from the Scriptures and desired to “turn many to righteousness.” .

I think the reason for my sentimentality was due to the fact that we were searching for a spiritual home. Looking back, we can recognize God’s Hand and direction in the journey He set before us. As we anticipate a new phase, we want the brilliance God has placed inside of us to shine forth daily and eternally like a star.

What are you doing to keep yours aflame?

New Creatures Welcomed Here

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Photo taken at the Georgia Aquarium; 7/24/14
Photo taken at the Georgia Aquarium; 7/24/14
I was so mesmerized by the colorful, interesting features of the Red Lionfish, that I never realized how potent and dangerous a creature it was!

In fact, when I researched this species online(www.nationalgeographic.com), this was the initial description I found:
Pretty much everything about the venomous lionfish—its red-and-white zebra stripes, long, showy pectoral fins, and generally cantankerous demeanor—says, “Don’t touch!”

How did I ever come up with a spiritual application with this symbol? I’m glad you ask! A recent conversation with a mutual acquaintance sent my memory racing back to nearly thirty years ago. It was a time when I embraced the “world” and did not perceive the dangers that existed all around me. My activities and thought processes were linked up with what was popular and fun. The convictions and standards I once stood firm upon, gradually eroded, being replaced by the philosophies and fashions of the current day. I don’t blame this change on anyone else, although peer pressure and selfishness were a big part of it.

There was a conformation going on, a subtle transfer which caused me to not only change physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Over time, I had assumed the characteristics of my environment, developing a strategy to defend myself from any outside threats. I was much like the Red Lionfish–my behavior towards God and anything of a religious nature, had literally become a “don’t touch” attitude. I thought I was safe in the camouflaged confines of man’s world.

The transformation that needed to take place, is summed up well in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It wasn’t until many years later, that the layers of denial and detachment began to be peeled back. God hadn’t given up on me, and somehow, His grace was revealed. I recognized my need for Him in my life and that my self-sufficiency was not enough. I cried out to Him for salvation, willing to relinquish the bondage of sin. God did a miraculous intervention, giving me new life in His Son, Jesus Christ.

As I was conversing with that mutual acquaintance, I was reminded of this promise of newness. My past mistakes, wrong responses and materialistic motives don’t have to identify me anymore; rather, it is the new-found joy and hope of eternal life in heaven!

I no longer desire to blend in and rely upon self for survival—like the Red Lionfish does. I’d much rather trust God’s Will and swim against the current anyway!

Drinking in the sunshine

Our transition to the South has been uneventful, rather smooth. I like to think it’s because we were able to move in the middle of the summer. The sun is shining, and it seems to make a huge difference on the countenance of those it touches! Everyone seems to be in a better mood because of it. You’ve heard of Southern hospitality? Perhaps the tremendous amount of warmth that exudes from local residents is due to the high temperatures? 🙂

The most popular question I am presented with is “How do you like the weather there?”. No complaint here. The biggest effect it has had on me, is that I desire to quench my thirst much more frequently than ever before! A big, tall, ice-cube abounding mug….or jug….is definitely a requirement for any outing nowadays. However, there is always the risk of my running out of the beverage or bottle that once was full. Funny how I can tolerate the heat a bit better whenever I have my water with me!glass of water

I like Bible promises that reassure me of God’s loving sustenance, and it goes way beyond just being hot and dry! Spiritually, we can drink from a well that never runs dry. Jesus’ words in John 4:14 “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” are full of satisfaction and deliverance. I just love how Jesus uses illustrations that are relevant and full of thought-provoking ideas. We can’t imagine what the “everlasting life” event will be like (until we get there), but we can relate to the deep contentment that comes over us, knowing our physical need (for thirst) is taken care of. Jesus states it so matter-of-factly: our spiritual need can only be satisfied fully in Him.

The image of a well “springing up” reminds me that there is a bountiful amount. God is not stingy with His perfect supply of living water. It’s crystal clear, always on hand and full of promise and pleasure. Now, that gives me something to smile about!