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THE TURKEY SHAKERS

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A hand sewn table runner ran the length of mom’s festive Thanksgiving table. Her best china, crystal and Damask napkins adorned each place setting; and a colorful fall floral arrangement served as the centerpiece. She had spent considerable time setting the table, it was beautiful; but my eyes were focused on two items and two items only.

“I can’t believe you still have this mom!”

“Have what?”

“This turkey salt and pepper set. I loved them as a kid. When you die, I want them.”

They showed signs of use and painted areas on the glazed ceramic had vanished with age, and certainly these shakers would never pair with my contemporary dishes. It didn’t matter, I was laying claim to childhood memories. Each shake given from the salt and pepper turkeys were times remembered around the family dinner table.

As we sat for dinner my sister immediately noticed the turkey shakers. Her conversation with mom was a repeat of my earlier one.

“I can’t believe you still have this mom!”…

I was quick to interrupt and state my claim to the shakers. I continued with, “

“After dinner I am writing my name on the bottom of each turkey with a permanent marker.”

We both laughed and I conceded she could have the pepper shaker and me the salt shaker. It was a pact made in blood (just kidding) with an agreement to reunite our shakers every Thanksgiving in remembrance of the wonderful childhood memories we have shared over a dinner table.

My sister and I will one day depart this life but not without our turkey shakers. They will adorn our family table at the dinner of all dinners; the Marriage Supper of the Lamb of God. My daddy, mom, sister and I (and turkey shakers) eternally reunited; making new memories at a celebration hosted by God.

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LIFE’S NO PARKING ZONES*

Everywhere you look you see the familiar signs saying, “No Parking Zone.”  You see them everywhere. They are in front of hotels, hospitals and fire hydrant; bus stops and theatres. They are seen on bridges, in tunnels and on curves and shoulders of highways.

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One of the most persistent warnings in traffic and in life is the warning of the danger of parking, of resting, or of settling down in off-limit, restricted areas. And yet people go right on parking where they should not, and paying the penalty for doing so. In traffic, the penalty is a monetary fine. In life, it is a little more severe. The penalty is an arrested development—a stunted personality—a narrowed vision—a limited life. Life is for growth, for movement, for development, for struggle, for progress. The life that becomes static becomes stagnant.

Don’t park by your failures.

Who is there among us who has never failed? I have failed and so have you. All of us know the askew taste of failure in some goal or aspiration in life. And oh, how tempting it is to park by our failure and say,

“What’s the use? I tried, I really tried. But things just didn’t work out, that’s all!” The greatest tragedy in life is not to fall down, but to stay down. The greatest disaster in life is not to fail but to park by that failure and say, “What’s the use.” We need to know that failure does not have to be fatal or final. It wasn’t to—

Charles Goodyear— it took 20 years of experiment, failure and error before success in the rubber business.

Abraham Lincoln—his political career was one long, dreary series of failures and defeats before becoming President in 1860.

Thomas Edison—experienced many failures before success in inventing the electric light bulb.

The Apostle Paul said, “My one aspiration is to forget what lies behind and striving to what lies ahead—I press on…” (Philippians 3: 13-14 (Amplified)

Don’t park by your handicaps.

Millions sit parked by some handicap—fancied or real—and consequently fail to grow, to develop, to achieve in life, simply because they don’t look like everyone else, or talk like everyone else, or walk like everyone else. They meet every challenge, every opportunity, and every responsibility with the sniveling whimper, “What’s the use— with my handicap!”

Well, what is your handicap? Don’t let it become a millstone around your neck. Instead, turn it into a stepping stone to success. These people did— Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Handel, Milton, Homer, Louis Pasteur, Beethoven, Helen Keller, F.D.R., Fanny Crosby…and the list goes on.

Zechariah 4:7 (NIV) says, “What are you, O mighty mountain (of human obstacle)? Before Zerubbabel (with God’s authority) you will become level ground (a mere mole hill).”

Don’t park by your resentments.

We will not always be able to choose the changes and circumstances that come to us, but we will always be able to choose the attitude and spirit in which we meet them. We are not always responsible for everything that happens to us in life, but we are responsible for the attitude we take towards it.

Refuse to park by the calamities, tragedies and flip-flops of life. Don’t allow them to settle down in your heart where they can fester and sour. It is never what happens to us in life, but what happens in us that determines the final outcome. No amount of water can sink a ship—unless, it gets inside.

Surrender your life.

Surrender all of life’s hurts, heartaches, disappointments and unpleasant situations to God. He is able to help you through them all. There is victory for anyone in any situation of life when God is brought into the picture. He makes the difference.

“I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down, nor relax my hold on you—assuredly not.”  Hebrews 13:5

Get behind the wheel of your vehicle and start driving! Move out of life’s No Parking Zones. You have God’s assurance that He will guide you on your cruise through life. His roadmap (the Bible), will guide you on your journey and help you to stay on course.

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* This devotional was written by my Daddy, Pastor Bill Lobbs. He has since passed on, 
but the truth behind this message remains just as pertinent today, as it was then.
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HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY DEBT-FREE CHRISTMAS

A DEBT-FREE CHRISTMAS

It is a struggle to live debt-free when bombarded with catalogs that entice us and coupons that lure us into the spending web. On average, I receive at least three catalogs in the mail daily. During the holiday season the number quadruples.  Email accounts are cluttered with offers too good to pass up, at least that is what retailers would like us to believe.

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Are you willing to separate wants from needs?

Retailers prey on our wants and desires. We are presented with “This deal is too good to pass up” purchases. We find it hard to pass up a 50% off coupon even if we don’t need it. Another retailer ploy is to open a store credit card with the promise of additional discounts. When applying for a credit card at the checkout counter there is little time to read the fine print about the interest rate applied to unpaid balances.

Learn to live within your means.

Credit card debt is epidemic.  Young families continue to with a Keeping up with the Kardashians spending mentality; spending based on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Advertisements present us as inadequate if we aren’t acquiring the biggest, best and latest of everything on the market.

Personal worth and value is personified through designer clothes, purses by Coach and the latest electronic devices. Our vehicles, homes and vacations far exceed our champagne purchases on a beer salary.

Are you buried in credit card debt?

 I know the downward spiral of credit card debt; been there, done that and never again. Today I live debt-free and perfectly content living on a beer budget and window shopping with champagne taste.

If you are buried in debt, I encourage you to seek God’s help. Here are eight nuggets of truth about debt from God’s Word if you are willing to listen and obey.

  1. The obvious first principle is to live on no more than your current income.
  2. Borrowing is not a sin. It becomes a sin when we can’t control our desires and loosen our grip on possessions. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” (Proverbs 15:16 NASB)
  3. God will provide for our needs but it is essential we understand needs from Jesus’ perspective.
  4. Debt makes us a servant to someone other than God. “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
  5. Budget under God’s direction not your own. God knows the future. If we allow Him, He will direct our life according to that plan. Whenever you are making a major purchase, seek God in prayer. He is more than willing to guide us if we listen to His Spirit.
  6. We bear the burden of our poor financial choices, but God stands ready to lead us through the difficulties.
  7. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). Let me translate into modern day language.
    “Who applies for a credit card or line of credit before looking at their income to determine if they have enough to pay off the bill every month?”
  8. Contentment comes from accepting the lifestyle and provisions God has purposed for us.  Learn to accept God’s provisions and plan for your life.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NASB)

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THE HAMMER

Most will agree the hammer can be a very handy and useful tool. A nail, however, might have a differing opinion. To the nail, the hammer seems brutal and relentless as it pounds and drives each nail head into submission.

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Do you ever feel like you are the nail and God is the hammer?

I sure do. God has used His hammer on me more times than I care to count and there have been plenty of bent nails in the process. When nails take on a mind of their own and fail to submit to the blows of the hammer they can bend in any direction. The same is true of our life in Christ.  Our will is the nail beneath God’s hammer.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

When we bend, God takes the hammer from His tool belt and makes us straight again. God never grows tired of straightening bent nails; He is in the restoration business.

God allows us to be crushed by the blows of the hammer.

We all suffer the driving force of God’s hammer in our life. With each blow the silent hurts, disappointment and pain seem to intensify. We cry out, “Stop! I can’t take it anymore.” Yet, the hammer is relentless.

In profound depths of anguish we either learn to submit and develop the character of God, or become bitter and crushed by self-pity.

God’s hammer draws out qualities of greatness in each of us.

God’s hammer is designed to reshape us, not ruin us. When we are being hammered, it is difficult to see God’s hand in our heartache, failures and despair. But as we submit to God’s will, we get a glimpse of His ability to make something useful and beautiful out of the bent nails in our life.

Consider the worlds of A.W. Tozer:

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

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BREAKING THE CHAINS OF RELIGIOUSITY

I am gifted with an incredible family; a family who continually seeks to understand the ways of God. But our family journey in Christ is less than perfect. It is a day-by-day process of baby steps that draw us to the cross where God tenderizes our heart with the salt of His Word.

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I struggled to roll the waistband of my pleated skirt; there was no way I was going to school wearing a skirt this long. My mom insisted dresses and skirts were mid-knee length and she wasn’t beyond using a yardstick to measure.

ReligiousityEveryone, no matter the age, wants to fit in with their peers.

In the mid-sixties pleated and kilted plaid skirts was the fashion rage with middle school girls. As a fourteen year old, I desperately wanted to fit in with my group of friends and rolling my skirt waistbands at the bus stop became a ritual.

There were other religiosity rules besides hemlines. Boy/girl swim parties were forbidden, so were movie theaters; and a phrase like ‘dang it’ too closely resembled a swear word and might require a mouth washing with soap. There were dreaded morning devotions before school and reading a few pages of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ before bed.

Our life can be constrained by beliefs and teachings of previous generations.

I rarely invited friends to my house; there were just too many rules and I cringed to think what would happen if profanity escaped from the lips of a friend. I knew the embarrassment that would ensue if I crossed my mom’s line of Christian purity.

I will never forget the time my mom picked me up after a middle school football game; I was a cheerleader. After the game the players and cheerleaders would hang out in the school’s lobby, but seating was limited.  On this occasion, my mom arrived to find me seated on the knee of a football player. My behavior was unacceptable and mom’s religiosity kicked in sparing me no embarrassment in front of my friends.

Repent from religiosity.

Years later my mom released the chains that bound her to religiosity. I applaud her for letting go of religion scripted by man. She relinquished the judgmental teachings from her past, and began to embrace the full spectrum of the Gospel.

I love my mom. She is an incredible woman of God with a story to share about the bondage of religiosity. Her heart has been transformed and her mind renewed from that misguided doctrine.

God is concerned about the heart, not outward appearances of religiosity.

God doesn’t give hooey about the length of our skirt or hair; or whether we wear granny panties or sexy thongs. He doesn’t pass judgment based on tattoo art and piercings; God sees only the heart.

Maybe you have multiple failed marriages, are an ex-con, or battle addictions; God sees only the heart.  To the prostitute, the runaway and sexually abused, I say this; God will rock the world to bring you to His salvation and grace. Redemption is free to all, but a change in lifestyle is required. Not a religiosity lifestyle, but a Godly lifestyle based on the Word of God.

Are you ready to break the chains of religiosity?

If you are held in bondage by the chains of religiosity, consider this; God’s grace is not about your views or opinions of worthiness. It’s not about your personal interpretations of God’s Word. God is the heart specialist and only He knows how to read the heart.

Is it time for you to break from the chains of religiosity and allow God’s Word and Spirit to make changes within your life? Lay your religiosity at the foot of the cross and let God do His thing.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

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THE EARTH IS GROANING

In the last month, there have been newscasts of horrific weather conditions around the world. Reports include record winds and tornadoes in the Mid-west, flooding in Southern states; a devastating typhoon in the Philippines and drought fires throughout the Western parts of the US. These catastrophic weather reports are only a small part of the catalyst aggravating the groaning process of Earth.

When the Earth Groans

We are faced with a failing US dollar, record unemployment rates, wars and rumors of wars. All things God-related have been banished in favor of self-love and gratification. The definition of sin has been abandoned and replaced with Nike’s “Just Do It” motto.

”We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22)

Why wouldn’t earth be groaning?

We have buried the cross of Christ in favor of earthly lifestyles, beliefs, immorality and self-absorption. The earth is backing up with the sewage of mankind’s blind indifference, deceit and intolerance to anything and anyone conjoined to God.

The nations of the world readily embrace everything and anything not affiliated with Christianity or godliness.

The tendency of human nature is to eventually trip over the same things.

I don’t see the events of history as repeating themselves. I believe it is the historical sins of human nature that repeat themselves. The Bible is filled with scenarios of the earth groaning under the weight of mankind’s sin and the outcome that follows. Our groaning earth can be summed up in one scripture.

“None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands; no one seeks God.” (Romans 3:11)

We are not unlike the Israelites who wandered through the desert, or the residences of Sodom and Gomorrah who sought to live by their own ways and desires.

Trees weep, Earth mourns, animals cry, the wilderness groans.

All of creation is sensitive to the natural world and joins in the groaning for the hope of restoration and a new creation. Everything from the stars to the sea cries out for liberation and a new beginning. God too is in pain and His ears are not deaf to the groans of humanity and cries of creation.

God stands ready to liberate creation and restore life in all its fullness.

The groaning of God’s Spirit is described as “silent sighs”. The word “sigh” has a much stronger force in its Scriptural usage than in our modern conversation. A “sigh” is an inarticulate declaration, too deep for words; an indistinct cry for deliverance.

From the depths of Earth to the sanctuary of the heavenlies, God’s Spirit is groaning in anticipation of new life.

“The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” (Psalm 102:19-20)

There is hope!

If you are expecting God to drop a pant-load of heavenly fairy dust on your life, think again. God has only one plan and one plan only. It is for new life and restoration; the acceptance of His son, Jesus, as your Redeemer. When God’s Spirit lives within us our Earthly groans are in unison with God’s plan for all of creation.

And what is that plan? It is restoration of the heart, mind, soul and body in accordance to God’s Word. It encompasses redemption, forgiveness and righteousness. When the fulfillment of God’s plan is complete, the Earth will no longer groan; it will rejoice.

Are you groaning in unison to God’s plan?

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THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS TREE STAND

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There is poor and then there is poor; we were the latter.

It was the early 70s and my husband’s military salary was less than $500 a month. It was our first Christmas together as a married couple and I wasn’t going to let anything thwart my holiday enthusiasm. Not even the pathetic Charlie Brown Christmas tree cut from the woods behind our rental house in Maine.

The limbs of the misshapen tree were so crooked that I dubbed it my ‘Tiny Tim’ tree. All it needed was a crutch to help it stand upright and some ornaments to hide its flaws. What ornaments? I had none. With scissors, cardboard, ribbon, aluminum foil and glue I constructed handmade decorations for my first Christmas tree. Popcorn strung onto fishing line was the garland.

There were no gifts beneath the tree that year, but it didn’t matter.

Everything we owned at that time would have filled the back of a pick-up truck with space to spare. We had a warm place to live, a bed, food and each other. Who needed gifts?  On Christmas day we were gifted with a beautiful Christmas snow and a surprise visit from my Michigan in-laws. It was a Christmas to remember even though it was lacking in many ways.

Mary & Joseph’s first Christmas together lacked many things.

Mary was pregnant and ready to deliver at any time. Their newlywed cash flow situation wasn’t any better than my husband’s military pay. Their personal belongings were limited to whatever they could pack on the back of a mule.

Their only home on Christmas was a manger where they slept on beds of hay. There was no platter of ham or turkey to carve. There were no gifts to open and not even a Charlie Brown tree to decorate. But they had each other; it was all that mattered.

God’s best gifts are given to us in times of scarcity.

When we lack nothing, it is difficult to recognize the blessings of God in our life. It is in scarcity that God truly reveals Himself to us in amazing ways. Look no further than the manger. God’s greatest gift to mankind was the birth of Jesus in a humble stable void of any amenities.

God could have sent anything to the desert terrain of Bethlehem; including an evergreen tree. Instead, He sent majestic angels to sing heavenly praises and a brilliant star to penetrate the darkness of night. God chartered Wise Men to bring gifts, and lowly shepherds to pay tribute to a newborn King.

Let Jesus be your tree stand this Christmas.

Jesus longs to restore the crookedness of your ‘Tiny Tim’ tree limbs. He wants to breathe life into the dead needles of your ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. When your roots are seated in Jesus’ tree stand, His hope, forgiveness and promises feed and nourish your life. He holds the patent on a “lifetime warranty” tree stand.

In times of scarcity, God is at our side; ready, willing and able to offer us His finest gifts IF we seat our roots in the tree stand of Christ Jesus. When we do, He presents us with gifts wrapped in hope, redemption, grace, mercy and healing.

“Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation (tree stand) for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.” (Colossians 2:7)