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DEFINING CONTENTMENT

seabrook2I pedaled my rented bike through the gated ocean side community of Seabrook, South Carolina where homes are more than magnificent and unpretentiously shout wealth. There are pricey cars parked in driveways and the pets on leashes are purebred only.

Association members assumed I was a member of their private community; they smiled and nodded to me as if my bike and me belonged in their inner circle. But I didn’t belong to this million dollar community and never will.

A twinge of envy surfaced as I rode past homes with manicured landscapes, breathtaking ocean views, hired services, not to mention, money. These homes, along with the purchased amenities, require enormous wealth. As an onlooker, I can only imagine what it would be like to walk through the front door of these homes. The exterior beauty must certainly represent what lies inside.

My bike ride destination was a planked wooden path that led to the ocean. It was low tide so I was able to ride along the hard-packed sand on the beach. There were occasional stops to look at jelly fish washed ashore or to scout out special shells for the grand kids. Just off the shoreline dolphins would occasionally display their stealth beauty while sea gulls skimmed the water’s surface in search of their next meal.

The ocean and everything within it seemed content with their assigned purpose in the cycle of life.

As I left the beach and cycled back to the resort, the bike pedals rhythmically rotated to the word contentment. I considered what makes me long for things I don’t have, and certainly don’t need in an effort to have a contented life.

Contentment is a state of mind; an acceptance that some things can’t be changed. A dolphin will never be a jelly fish; and unless I win the lottery, I will never belong to a million dollar community by the sea.

A grateful heart brings contentment.

The exterior of someone’s life doesn’t necessarily display what’s inside. Inside those beautiful homes by the sea there may be addictions, poor health, debt, loneliness and discontentment. Possessions don’t buy contentment. It is only when we are truly grateful for what we have and accept those things we cannot change that contentment is birthed.

Wealth does not bring contentment or peace within. Should you have both, consider yourself blessed.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things (and be content) through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

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FAITH INFUSED

Rhema Marvanne’s was three when her singing mom died. Rhema believes her Mommy left behind her singing voice because she no longer needed it. When you listen to her angelic voice sing Amazing Grace, you will be compelled to agree.

Truly God’s grace is amazing and forever ranks number one on the scale of life, and child-like faith surely ranks second; if it doesn’t, it should. I look no further than my own grand kids to see how a child is instinctively faith infused.

There is power in the untainted faith of a child until they begin to feast on adult food. As they ingest the truths or untruths fed to them, their faith infused can become faith unplugged. When must keep our faith plugged into God’s Word if we want our children, the instruments gifted to us by God, to remain faith infused.

I pray that Rhema Marvanne contines to be mentored and surrounded by those who seek to keep her faith infused and plugged into all that God has to offer. It is the very least we can do for our children.

WATCH RHEMA’S VIDEO:

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THE BLACK BAG

My blog post today is a story I submitted to a magazine. The publisher set the story theme:

You just came home from a relaxing vacation and realize you have the wrong suitcase. How would you react?

As usual, I ran in an entirely different direction than what the publisher might expect. Here is the story of The Black Bag.

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As the black bag rounded the airport conveyor belt it was hard not to notice the colorful thong panties tied to the leather handles.  The elderly man removed the black bag from the carousel and then lovingly grasped the arm of a woman and walked her toward the curbside valet. He seemed oblivious to the stare of onlookers, or maybe he simply didn’t care.

The valet attendant’s eyes widened as he loaded the bag into the trunk. Attached to the streamer of thong panties was a luggage tag imprinted with the words, ‘Hot Stuff’. He shuddered to think what might be inside the black bag of a couple who appeared to be his grandparent’s age.

As the couple drove away, the valet attendant muttered aloud, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all…wow, that was really strange.” He couldn’t help but wonder if the bag belonged to someone else and was mistakenly picked up by the man; after all, the conveyor belt spews out plenty of look-alike black luggage bags; but few have panties and a ‘Hot Stuff’ luggage tag attached to them.

The elderly couple drove home in silence. For the first time in 50 years of marriage, they had nothing to say and the silence was deafening. They stopped to collect the contents that overflowed from their mailbox. An unexpected phone call had abruptly ended their golden anniversary vacation in Hawaii and the sudden departure left no time to stop mail delivery. The stack of mail could wait. The only thing that mattered at the moment was the black suitcase in the trunk of the car.

The elderly couple walked into the house and placed the suitcase on the bed in the spare room that once belonged to their daughter.

Father and Mother sat on the edge of the bed overcome with memories. This was the same bed they had cuddled, read stories and said bedtime prayers with their little girl. At one time, stuffed animals and trophies had lined the shelves next to pictures of prom and dance recitals. But now, the room was bare except for a bed, black bag and grieving parents.

With eyes locked, the woman nodded to her husband to unzip the black bag that didn’t belong to them. It belonged to their prostitute daughter who was buried two days earlier.  Inside the bag with thong panties and a ‘Hot Stuff’ luggage tag tied to the handle were her only possessions.

They carefully laid the curling iron, blow dryer and a zippered cosmetic bag onto the bed. The bulk of the suitcase was filled with miscellaneous clothes and undergarments. It was only after the Father and Mother removed the garments that they came face to face with their daughter’s killer; dirty syringes.

Prostitution and heroin had stolen the innocence of their only child and left them with nothing more than a black bag that didn’t belong to them.

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DOES GOD REALLY LOVE US?

Today, on this Good Friday, I share the words of my Daddy who passed away in September 2008. He loved his Lord and today he rejoices in Heaven.

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I say look to the crucified Jesus. Look to the old rugged cross.
By every thorn that punctured his brow,
by every mark of the back-lacerating scourge,
by every hair of his beard plucked from his cheeks by cruel fingers.
by every bruise which heavy fists made upon his head, God said, “I love you!”

My Daddy Easter 2007. He was battling cancer.

By all the spit that landed on his face,
by every drop of sinless blood that fell to the ground.
by every breath of pain which Jesus drew upon the cross.
by every beat of His loving heart, God said, I love you.

– Billy Lobbs

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JUST IN CASE I SCREW IT UP

bible-instruction-manualI don’t know about you, but my list of life screw ups is long and filled with more ‘what were you thinking’ moments than I care to recall. But amidst all my screw ups, there are a few things I have done right and the birth of my daughter, Jamie, tops the list.

In case you didn’t know, detailed instructions are included in packets of birth control pills,

“Take one pill at the same time each day. Failure to follow prescribed instructions may result in pregnancy.”

Oops, were you talking to me? And so, Jamie became an unexpected, but welcomed gift to her dad and me. It is one of the few times in life I’ve had no regrets about not following directions. But that hasn’t always proven to be the case.

The telling evidence that I don’t like to read directions is found in a file drawer in my office. It is filled with manuals and instructions sheets in original unopened plastic sleeves. The folders include everything from warranties to how to change the blades on the lawn mower I purchased 20 years ago. For all I know, the instructions for my 1975 birth control pills are probably in that drawer.

So what compels me, maybe you too, to hoard papers and booklets we have no intention of reading? Maybe it’s the just in case I screw it up back-up plan for those times we fail to assemble and repair things on our own; without directions.

In our spiritual life we often try to navigate our way without directions or a manual. After all, our life is busy with kids, work, shopping, and homework. Who has time to pull out instruction sheets or manuals when most of us don’t even have time to get a decent amount of sleep?

We have to make time.

When the kids are fighting and you are ready to explode, when you have worked 12-hours and still have to pick up the kids from daycare and grocery shop, read the manual. It offers directions on how to overcome the chaos of life, ways to maintain inner calmness and brings encouragement to the soul.

That manual is the Word of God and it includes detailed instruction sheets on how to avoid screw-ups in our life. There are directions on how to live a balanced life, tips on time management, sibling rivalry and more.

The Word of God should never be a just in case I screw it up back-up plan; it should BE THE PLAN! It’s an instructional manual for life.

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ROTE LISTENING

rote“So, the grandkids are coming over Sunday night?” It was a rhetorical question and a recap of the conversation my husband and I had ten minutes earlier; the one about the grandkids coming on SATURDAY night.

 “Are you serious?” The irritation in my voice coupled with a piercing glare clearly indicated this question annoyed me.

And why wouldn’t it? Our conversation about the grandkids had fully covered all the details, but it was now apparent his focus had been on the Master’s Golf Tournament and not me. My words had fallen on deaf ears; my husband’s rote responses had been appropriate and perfectly timed.

I’m sure Jesus has encountered these same rote conversations with us. In our preoccupation with the busyness of life, we often fail to listen and our conversations with God become one-sided. We hear what we want to hear and dismiss the rest.

“…a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”
The Boxer Lyrics/Simon & Garfunkel

Consider the number of times you have turned to someone and asked, “Were you talking to me?” They look at you in disbelief and their facial expressions alone confirm the truth; yes, they were talking to you but you weren’t listening.

A self-absorbed lifestyle cripples us to the needs of others and we listen to their conversations by rote. Then, there are instances we listen by rote because the person talking has nothing substantial to share but idle chatter.

My grandma was a professional chatterer. The only way to survive her continual chatter was to acquire rote listening skills, which my grandpa did.  After 50-plus years of marriage, grandpa could have authored a best-seller book titled, Surviving Idle Chatter.

No one wants to listen to idle chatter. If we desire to capture the attention of our listener, we must have something of value to share.  If not, we get tuned out and the listening channel is changed to rote; or in my case, the Master’s Golf channel. Make no mistake, God is not a God of idle chatter. When you talk to God, be ready to listen. When he talks with you, turn off the rote remote.

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SALT IN MODERATION

Salt of the Earth

I took a bite from a slice a pizza and gagged from the excessive amount of salt. How could our favorite local pizzeria produce a great pizza last week and an over-salted pizza this week?  The change in taste was so exaggerated I felt the restaurant manager should be notified; so I placed a call.

The manager stated there are different pizza cooks on any given day. He would check into the day and time the pizza was ordered to determine who had been over aggressive with the salt. I thanked him for his time and ended the call; but not without apprehension about future orders.

Salt is good when used proportionately.

It is a preservative and flavoring necessary to our survival. But salt is easily diluted by water and when that happens, its valuable mineral properties are greatly diminished. We no longer have the proper balance needed to maintain a healthy life.

It’s possible to oversaturate ourselves with salt which depletes bodily fluids and causes dehydration. To get an idea of how the life juices can be sucked out by dehydration, look no further than dried fruits and veggies.

Spiritual salt

The Scripture gives reference to Christians being the salt of the earth. But what does this mean?  Is it possible, like the pizza cook, to over salt our life? And if that is true, I can only assume that lack of salt produces a life that lacks flavor and zest.

My grandma taught me that a few pinches of salt were enough to season the dish being served. I believe the same is true of our Christian walk. We don’t want to lose our flavor and zest because we allow ourselves to be diluted by the world. On the other hand, we don’t want to over salt our life into spiritual dehydration. It is only when we proportionately salt our life with the Word of God that we will have a balanced and healthy Christian life.

Don’t over indulge in salt like our local pizza cook, use moderation.