Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Will Be With You

"Then the Lord said to Jacob, 'Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.'" Genesis 31:3

In my Bible reading plan through the One Year Bible, I've been reading about Jacob. Poor guy - he was in love with Rachel and worked for seven years for her. Then he was tricked into marrying Leah, the older sister. I would have been angry and pitched a big fit. We're only told that Jacob speaks to the father and asks why he has done this. The father calmly answers that he couldn't marry off the younger daughter without getting the older one hitched first. (Well, he doesn't say it in exactly those words, but that was the gist.)

What does Jacob do? He agrees to work more years for Rachel. He must have really been smitten with her. Finally he has Rachel as well.

Now Jacob works for his father-in-law and brings much prosperity to his flocks. I'm sure that's why the father-in-law wasn't too happy when Jacob said it was time to head back home.

Of course, Jacob had to also be thinking about that little incident with his brother Esau. Last he heard from him, Esau wanted to kill him.

But the Lord told Jacob to go home, and the Lord would be with him.

I got to thinking about that. There are times I wish God would speak clearly about His direction for my life. Some instances in my life, I've been very sure of God's leading. Everything has pointed in a direction. But other times in my life, God hasn't been as clear. I think in those times it is like Abraham's experience. God told him to get up and go to a land He would show him. But Abraham didn't know the exact itinerary or have an X marked map. He just had to follow.

But I have to focus on the last part of the verse above rather than the first part.

Focusing on the first part means I want God to be specific with me on His direction. However, I don't think that is the best part to focus upon. The last part of the verse says that God would be with Jacob. I have that same promise from God.

The important thing for me is to know that God is always with me. He may decide to shine a big light on the dark path up ahead and let me see far away. But He may only shine a tiny light which means I can only see far enough to take the next step.

This is a hard lesson for me. I am a planner. I like to know what I'm doing. I crave a nice filled in schedule. But God knows that my trust in Him can grow when I don't quite see the whole plan laid out. When I'm forced to just depend on Him for the next step, my faith grows. And I know I can depend on Him to be there because He promised. I have to rest in that. Or at least I'm learning to rest in that. The controller in me says, "Could you make this path a little more blatant and clear?" And God says, "I'm here. That's all you need to know."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Four Days into the New Year - How Are You Doing?

Evaluation time. At least for me. I told you about my word for this year - diligent. Let me report one way I feel I have been diligent.

Normally, I go through a One Year Bible each year. This year I decided to be more earnestly involved in reading God's Word by keeping a devotional journal.

Here's what I do:

Read the Old Testament passage in the One Year Bible.
Write something in my journal that stood out to me in that passage.
Read the New Testament passage.
Write something in my journal that stood out to me.
Read either the Psalms or Proverbs passage, whichever is included.
Write something in my journal that stood out to me.
Sometimes write out other things that come to mind or maybe even a prayer for God's help in an area noticed in the passages.

How does this make me more diligent? Acting on what I read means I have to truly think, meditate on the scriptures. By doing this, I can begin to apply what I am reading into my life.

I have often fallen into the trap of just reading through the Bible passages so I can mark it off for the day. But if I truly want God's Word in my heart and influencing me always, I have to be more attentive.

I'm sure you'll end up hearing about some of the passages here throughout the year. You know how I love to share when God teaches me stuff.

How about you? What are you doing in your personal devotion time this year? I would love to hear about them all in the comments.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Staring a New Year in the Face

For the past few days I've been mopey. Do you know what I mean? I guess I could chalk it up to nostalgia with its wistful regrets of what I didn't accomplish during the past year. I might even have faced the doldrums because staring the New Year in the face makes me wonder if I'll do something of worth.

For the last couple of years I have chosen a word to characterize the upcoming year, rather than set goals and resolutions I will break or not accomplish. But this year I didn't have a sense for a word until I headed to bed last night. The word, diligent, came to mind. I thought on it a bit and then drifted off.

Then as I read the last entry in my One Year Bible this morning, the last verse on the page convinced me.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." Proverbs 31:30-31

Now I'm not a big fan of the Proverbs 31 woman. Not because she's bad. She's just so hard to imitate. This lady is so dog-gone perfect that it's annoying.

However, these two verses seemed to fit with the word diligent perfectly in my mind. Diligent can be defined as characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. Other forms of the word held these synonyms: active, engaged, busy, persevering application, and determinedly.

What many do is strive to attain success or to be noticed which is really just superficial. I've felt pulled toward this trap. The verse speaks of charm and beauty - superficial and not lasting. But what kind of woman receives praise? The one who fears the Lord.

Fear of the Lord isn't a cowering in this instance. This kind of fear is a respect and reverence. A remembering of who should be first. A reminder of who guides us to the success He would have for us.

Here's where my word came into play. The only way to experience the fruit and be praised for my own works is to be diligent in working out God's plan for me.

As I applied this word to different areas of my life, it seemed to fit.

I want to give earnest and engaged effort when it comes to my family. They deserve that.
I want to be steady and active in my work at school with all students and teachers.
I want to display persevering application to reaching others with the gospel.
I want to give earnest and active effort to writing God's message through my stories.

The list continues as I think of different aspects of my life. I suppose I could wrap them altogether by simply saying: I want to be diligent for God this year. I wish for diligence to characterize me, not just a busyness for being busy sake. I also don't want my diligence to be misplaced in striving for the superficial. Nor do I want to work at tasks halfheartedly. The definition of diligent seems to refute anything but focused, all-out engagement.

So, that's what I'm posting on the little board on my desk - Diligent. May I come to the end of 2017 and be able to say I've given my best attempt at being characterized as diligent for God.

Has God shown you some verse or word that might challenge you this year?  Feel free to share in the comments.

And Happy God-filled New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'm Still Saying Merry Christmas

Just the other day we were having a discussion about saying Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas in my Sunday school class. One of the guys said that a sales lady wished him happy holidays and he returned with Merry Christmas. He joked that he felt like he was witnessing to her just because he actually told her Merry Christmas.

We then got into a discussion about what non-believers even celebrate at Christmas. Let's face it, even the word Christmas itself let's you know what the celebration is all about. It would seem that those who didn't want to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th would just skip it altogether.

Honestly, what do those who don't celebrate Christ's birth tell their children? It's all about Santa Claus? Saddens me to think of what their holidays revolve around.

But let me be politically incorrect or whatever you want to call it. I will say, Merry Christmas. In fact, I often tell others to have a Christ-filled Christmas.

It is sad to me that we have come to this in our day. We're told not to offend others by pushing our beliefs by simply wishing someone a Merry Christmas.

Let me just say that I celebrate Christmas as a time when God looked down and said, "I love them so much, I'm sending my best gift." I praise God as the angels on that night - Glory to God in the highest. We didn't deserve the gift. But the God of the universe had this plan all along to send Jesus to pay for our sins and make a way for us to be reconciled to God.

Because my eternal hope rests in the Christ whose birth we celebrate at Christmas time, I will not mince words. I will wish you a Merry Christmas and pray that you too know the hope found in Jesus Christ. Our only hope. Our blessed hope.

Merry Christ-filled Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hope is Wrapped Up in a Person

No doubt you too have been watching as the fires swept through the beautiful Smoky Mountains and surrounding towns. Such a disaster and some of it caused by people setting the fires for attention. I won't even go there.

We (my family) had relatives and friends to lose their homes. We also watched as they reported on places we had visited which were destroyed. We live less than an hour away from the area.

Honestly, as the reporters would stick the microphone into the face of one of the evacuees, I cringed. Always the same insensitive question: "So how do you feel right now?" I understand that people wracked with emotion or falling apart makes for good TV. But I truly winced every time and didn't want the person to be exploited just for their reaction.

But God. Yep, He showed up in this disaster and in the reports seen on TV. I will applaud the stations for not cutting Him out when mentioned.

One man was obviously drained and emotional, yet he proclaimed the hope he had no matter if he had lost all his possessions. His hope was in the Lord. I practically cheered. What a testimony!

That man wasn't the only one who talked about their hope in Jesus Christ. Many spoke of prayers being the best way to help.

My friends, you can lose every material possession, including house, car, and clothes but still have hope and joy. Why? Because those who have Christ as their Savior and Lord, Leader and Boss, have the hope of glory. They can have a joy in the middle of the hardest times. Their joy doesn't depend upon anything earthly. They have the promise of eternity. They have the promise that they are never alone. And God can bring good from any circumstance.

As my pastor/hubby says: "God's kind of hope isn't a pie in the sky, I hope it will happen, kind of hope. God's kind of hope is confident expectation."

God sent us hope at Christmas time, and He wrapped it up in the person of Jesus. Let's review that hope:
Jesus paid our sin debt so we have the hope of a relationship with God.
Jesus conquered death by rising from the dead, which gives us victory too over something that seems hopeless like death.
Jesus prepares a place for us to live with him throughout all eternity. That's hope!
Jesus declared that he would be with us always. That grants a hope-filled life here.

This God kind of hope is evident, especially when people experience trials. Let's face it, Christian sisters and brothers, if we truly hold to the hope God has granted, we will act differently than those who don't possess that hope.

Sure, even those filled with Christ-hope who lost their homes and barely escaped with their lives still felt loss and had moments of sorrow. But as the Bible says, they don't have to grieve as those who have no hope.

Continue to pray for and help the people of Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas. Be on the look-out for when you might share the Hope you have - Jesus in you, the hope of glory!


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Check Out My Free Book

Hey Everyone! I have a sweet little romance available for free from Pelican Book Group. The title is String Duet.

If you've never read any of my romances, you can check me out for free.

If you have read my books, consider this an early Christmas gift.

You can find and download the story here: https://pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/

Hope you enjoy Ashlyn and Roddy's story. Don't miss the dedication. Some of us really do end up with our high school sweethearts happily ever after!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Another Dream Come True

Friends, I just have to share with you the latest release from me. This is a different kind of book than you've seen from me. But still this is another dream come true to have my first children's chapter book published.

I would be honored if you would check it out. My friend, Linda Carroll-Bradd, interviewed the star of The Adventures of Chloe Ann Parker.

Please check out that interview and info on this book. It was so much fun creating this book and this character. Chloe is a good girl but full of sassy little-girl-ness.

Chloe's Interview