It’s Not Up to Me

Last Monday, I had a goal of giving out five Gospel tracts during the week. I thought this was achievable since I don’t get out and about much. I was excited and hopeful as I began working toward my goal. In fact, I gave out three of them the very day I started! By Wednesday, I had met the goal.

But, then I noticed something: Every time I opened up my Bible, my mind wondered. Some things had happened and I couldn’t stop thinking about those issues. I would have to read a chapter not once, not twice, but three times before I could keep my mind focused on the words. Then, there was my prayer life. Because it took me so long to read my Bible, the kids were all up before I had my prayer time! So, two days last week, I didn’t get to spend my normal time praying.

I felt out of balance and out of whack. “Why can’t I be a witness and be faithful in my Bible reading and prayer time?”

The answer? Because I’m human. I am frail. I can’t possibly do everything right. If you know me in real life, then you’re nodding in agreement at that last sentence.

I went along last week feeling discouraged and defeated. Wasn’t the Lord unhappy with me? I’d allowed petty problems to interfere with my walk with Him. When I seem to have faithful Bible and prayer time, I forget to witness or hand out Gospel tracts! Don’t I have a responsibility to share the Good News? Of course! Someone might die and go to Hell because of my unfaithfulness.

Then it hit me: It’s not up to me. Yes, God uses His people to share the Gospel message through preaching and personal witnessing, but their salvation is not up to me. I don’t have to be a perfect person for them to hear the Gospel. God uses us *despite* our faults and failings. He works through our weakness to bring others to Him. (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 12:9)

And what about my failure at my devotions? Well, my own salvation is not dependent upon my perfect attendance for “quiet time”. Does it grieve me to miss it? Yes. But I was reminded that when God the Father looks at me, He already sees perfection! He sees Jesus’ righteousness, not Valerie’s. (Isaiah 61:10)

Of course I want to live according to the Scripture – I want to because the Lord has made me “want to”. But I can live in victory each day, even on those days when I mess up, because of Christ.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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Thank God for Memories

This morning I read some very good Bible verses that encouraged me so much. I began to write about them, because sharing God’s Word is always a good idea. But things happened.

A good friend of our family went to Heaven last Sunday morning. Of course, my heart broke upon hearing the news, but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. I stayed busy with my work at home and church and kept my mind on other things. I wanted to go to the funeral, but it wasn’t possible.

Yesterday, I heard that the funeral would be aired live online. I decided I would tune in. Well, the grief I’d been holding back, came out. One of my earliest flashes of memory of our friend, Bro. Reggie Payte, is of him singing behind a grand piano at Hot Springs Baptist Temple. In my memory, he has fiery red head of hair and a blazing beard. I seem to recall that he was wearing a red-plaid flannel shirt as he sang! This intrigued me, even as a pre-schooler. Now, I might be remembering wrong, I mean, I was only four, but that seems right. I enjoyed his lively singing so very much. But more than that, I enjoyed just being close to Bro. Reggie and Mrs. Debbie. They had the gift of making everyone feel welcome and accepted. No frills or fluff necessary, just “come on over and visit a while.”

Years later, Bro. Reggie went into full-time evangelism. I didn’t see him or his family as often I wanted. That seems to be the way it is with those people who add sparkle and pizzazz to life – they don’t stick around long enough. But the good news was, his oldest son, Jenceson, got married and decided to stay close by! In fact, he became the bus driver for my church bus route. There is not enough time, or enough words, to share with you what a gift from God  Jenceson and his wife, Donna, have been to me. How can I adequately express to you the courage, faith, joy and comfort they have added to my life? God poured out a blessing larger than I ever expected when he graced my life with those two amazing people.

I was a typical teen – dramatic, awkward, talkative, hyper – basically, I was never doing the right thing at the right time. I was never good enough. At least, that’s how I felt. My parents loved me and did all they could to guide me and help me. But, I rationalized that they “had to do that”. They were my parents! Bro. Jenceson didn’t have to care, but he did. He taught me to “embrace” who I was; to just go with it. To be me. So I was talkative? Big deal! It’s okay to be talkative, he’d say. So my life was a hopeless abyss of agony and loneliness? It would get better, he’d tell me. And he was right. He had to correct me a few times, lining me out about my attitude, or sometimes, my actions. But he did it because he cared, and I knew that he cared. That made all the difference.

As a teenage girl, there were only a few people in my life who made me feel that I should continue breathing, (Did I mention I was dramatic?) and Jenceson and Donna were two such people. I watched them survive some difficult storms and still keep smiling and keep serving God – and with style. It has been an honor just to watch them live. Their testimony shines in my memory, in my own dark times, across the miles.

Today, I watched the funeral of my friend, Bro. Reggie. It was hard to see much through my tears. I started missing everyone, longing to share my thoughts with someone. So, instead of writing about a passage from Matthew, I’m sharing these winding thoughts. Thank you so much for allowing me to do that.

Bro. Reggie came to sing at our church in Hope, Arkansas, a few times. I came across these photos of one visit in January of 2011.

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Bro. Reggie is behind the piano, Reuben is playing the banjo, Jim is on the bass, Mitchell and Leslie are to the left watching them practice and the other two boys are Bro. Reggie’s grandsons, Conner and Titus.

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Bro. Jim Payte, who wrote a wonderful poem to honor my dad when we lost him suddenly in 2004.

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Mrs. Debbie, (one of my most favorite people ever) with two of her grandchildren.

I thank God for people who make you want to remember them.

I thank God for friends who are real-life heroes.

I thank God for Calvary!

With love,

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It’s Here!

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I am very excited to share with you that my Bible study on Proverbs 31, “31 Days of Proverbs 31″, has been completely revised and updated and is now ready for print! I wanted to share the first day with you here, to give you an idea of what it’s like. Each day covers one verse of this famous chapter, but the study is short enough it can be read much faster if you so desire.

Day One

Proverbs 31:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

The first verse of this famous chapter is an introduction of the characters. Every good story has good characters, and Proverbs 31 is no exception. We have Lemuel, the writer, who is believed by most commentators to be King Solomon. If that is the case, then his mother is Bathsheba.  If you are unfamiliar with Bathsheba, please turn in your Bible to 2 Samuel 11-12. To sum it up, she is the woman who had an adulterous affair with King David which resulted in her child’s death, her husband’s murder and many trials for King David. Later, she gave birth to Solomon, whom God chose to follow David as King of Israel.

The name Solomon  means “peaceful, one who recompenses”.  How perfect! David’s life was anything but peaceful after committing open sin – God punished him openly – but Solomon’s birth and life showed God’s mercy and forgiveness. As children of God, we will be chastised for wrong doing. God does not chastise us in wrath, but in love, to bring restoration. Another example of God’s  mercy is the fact that Bathsheba is the one issuing these instructions. The virtuous woman was described by a woman who was not always virtuous. It is my opinion that Bathsheba could have refused to commit adultery with the King. Certainly, she could have died for that, but there are some things worth dying for. She made a poor decision, and suffered for it. But God used her in spite of that to raise up a future king.

We also see that this is the “prophecy his mother taught him.” She taught him. As a mother, I’m teaching my children every day. Not just because I homeschool my children, but because I’m their mother! They watch everything I do, and they copy most of it. (Usually the bad!) It is my job, along with my husband, to teach them the Bible. It’s the most important subject of life, and yet it’s the one I spend the least time teaching.

This one little verse has reminded me that God is just, but He is merciful. His mercy endureth for ever. (1 Chronicles 16:34) It has also convicted me about teaching my children more of the Bible. Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic has its place, but they should never unseat the Bible in order of importance.

  1. God will not show mercy to those who have not been born again. John 3:36 says He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. The first question to ask yourself is “Am I a child of God?” If not, then Hell will be your eternal home. If you feel the convicting power of the Holy Spirit upon your mind and life, then don’t delay! Cry out to God for salvation. You need not pray a specific prayer or know lots of Bible doctrine. You must merely understand that your sin is separating you from a holy God and that Christ paid for your sin on the cross. Believe on Him – and only Him – and, as it says in Acts 16:31, “thou shalt be saved.”
  2. If you are certain that you are a child of God, then it’s important to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word. If you’re a beginner, then start small. Read one chapter a day. You could start in the book of John, or by reading one chapter of Proverbs every day. Ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to the truths of His Word and to help you apply them to your life. Attend church faithfully in order to hear the Bible taught and preached by a man of God. Preachers are just human, but they are called of God to dig into the Word, study it, and help others to understand it. I have been in church since I was a newborn baby and I still have so much to learn! No one can learn everything about the Bible in one lifetime, but we should strive to know as much as possible. Church is also a wonderful place to meet godly friends and have good fellowship. Churches pray together and for one another. Church friends will offer a word of encouragement just when you need it! The right church is, in my opinion, a little piece of Heaven on earth.
  3. No matter where we are in our walk with God, there is always room for growth. We all should pray more, study God’s Word more, memorize verses more, serve more, love more, and the list goes on and on. Ask the Lord to reveal areas in which you need to stretch and grow, then follow His leading.

Further Reading:

My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers

By Searching – Isobel Kuhn

The Personal Spiritual Life – Peter Masters

The Bible study is being published by Bethel Baptist Church‘s publishing ministry, The Watchman Press. This ministry produces a free quarterly newspaper/magazine called The Baptist Watchman. It is available in both print and digital formats. To view the April issue of the paper, click HERE.

The the cost of the “31 Days of Proverbs 31″ booklet is $3 (just to cover the cost of the printing) plus shipping; and the PDF or Kindle formats are absolutely free. To order a print copy, just send me your mailing address and we will include a bill. To get the free digital copies, or to be placed on the mailing list for The Baptist Watchman just send me your email address.

I hope and pray these materials will be a blessing to others. You can contact me using the “Write to Me” tab above. The goal of our church is to bring glory to God and edify His people through the preaching and propagation of the Word of God.

Thank you for stopping by today!

With love,

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Matthew Turns Five

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Matthew, while playing. (And, no, he doesn’t care that it’s summer.) :)

Today, our sweet Matthew Ron is turning five years old! In honor of his big day, I thought I’d share a few things about our youngest child.

M anly – He’s all boy! He loves to pretend to fight with swords, guns or even fists. Sometimes, he gets a little too rough. He likes hanging out with his dad, sweating and getting dirty.

A nimated –  Most of the time, we can tell what he’s thinking by his facial expression. He’s not good at hiding his emotions.

T ruthful  – Like most five-year-olds, if you ask Matt his opinion, he’ll give it to you, good or bad!

T ender-hearted – Matthew is rough and tough, but he also loves to cuddle up with me and read a book or tell me one of his stories at bedtime. We recently read the book, The Giving Tree. It’s a very touching story, but I thought the theme would be over Matt’s head. I was wrong! He got tears in his eyes over that book. I’m glad he is already feeling compassion, even if it’s just over a fictional tree.

H andsome – Of course, I *am* his mother. ;)

E nergetic – He’s a bundle of exciting, unending ideas and activities. He is keeping me young.

W illing – Matthew is happy to help you with any job, any time. A few months ago, I asked him to go put something away for me. His reply was, “I’m on it, cutie pie!” Just last night I asked him to put away some dishes for me. He said, “Okay, beautiful Mom!” I know he’ll grow out of using the terms of endearment, so I’m soaking it up while I can.

I am so grateful for my Matthew Ron. I was delighted to have another boy so I could name him after my dad, Ron Courtney. I pray that Matthew, and each of our children, come to know the Savior that their Papa knows face to face.

Happy birthday, Matthew!

With love,

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Red, White and Blue T-Shirts

We had a very nice fourth of July at home this year. Terry grilled hamburgers and steaks and we enjoyed eating strawberry shortcake.

I thought I’d pass along this very popular craft that we did with the kids this year. You have probably seen it around on Pinterest, Instagram or elsewhere on the net – but I thought I’d share it anyway.

So here’s how you can make American flag tee-shirts!

You will need plain white tee shirts (we bought ours at Hobby Lobby for about  $3 a shirt), red paint, blue paint and a sponge paint brush, and some small pieces of cardboard.

Place the pieces of cardboard inside the shirt, between the layers, to create a firm surface to paint on and to keep the paint from bleeding through the layers. After that, have your child place his left hand in blue paint, coating the hand entirely. Before doing this, we practiced where we wanted the hand print to go. You’ll want it to be near the upper right hand shoulder of the shirt. Then, take your sponge brush and make red stripes coming out from the hand print and at least two stripes below the hand print, as pictured below.  Allow to dry 12 -24 hours before wearing.
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That’s it!

I know, it’s incredibly easy, which makes it my kind of craft!

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It kinda looks like they’re all waving!

“Hello, out there in Internet-land!”

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Happy Independence Day!

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Salvation: An Amazing Orchestra of One

I was thinking about how wonderful it is to know the Lord. What a joy to call Jesus my Savior and my friend! To have a relationship with the Creator of the universe is mind boggling.

I started thinking about how Christ paid such a great price for my soul. He called me – He knew me, and wanted me – long before the foundation of the world! He drew me with His grace, regenerating me (making me alive), showing me my sinful state and then redeeming me. I didn’t pray the “right words” or go to the “right church”. I didn’t pledge to do good for the rest of my days.

I did nothing.

He did everything.

It was like walking into a lovely orchestra hall, sitting on a velvet cushion, feeling relaxed and peaceful. Then, out of the silence and darkness, comes the loveliest music in the world. I am not a musician. For me, attending a concert is sheer enjoyment. No stress. No nerves. No fear. No worry. Just resting in their talent. Trusting that they have prepared, that they have practiced and that they are ready. And reaping the blessings of their hard work.

In salvation, Christ plays the lovely symphony of salvation. I do nothing, yet I receive all the benefits. Words fail me to adequately express my gratitude for the Father’s unspeakable gift – His own Son – Who gave His all for my worthless soul! I believe the prophet Isaiah says it best:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. ~ Isaiah 61:10

With love,

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I Love My Job!

This past week, I was hired – yes, HIRED! – by my church to be Terry’s secretary. My duties will include typing, filing, organizing, mailing, filling orders for The Watchman, printing the church bulletin and anything else my man needs me to do.

I have been praying for God to send Terry a secretary. For a while, the former pastor’s wife, Mrs. Mary Keener, was helping Terry fill Watchman orders. But the Lord recently moved her to south Texas to live near her daughter. We are so happy that she’s with her family, but we miss her presence. She was always looking for ways to be used. I recently began praying about it again, when the thought came to me: “Why don’t you do it?” I am busy during the school year with the children’s education, but my summer is flexible. I will only be working part-time, but I am looking forward to it. It’s one way I can be a better “helpmeet” to my husband, and amazingly, the church will even pay me to do this! It is a great blessing.

So far, we have re-organized the main church office. It used to house our church’s library, but Terry built shelves in a separate room for the library. This has freed up a lot of space!

Before:

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Terry building shelves.

After:

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The new library!

He will be adding another shelf that will be to the right of this one. We are also blessed to have a librarian in our church – a real one – who is going to help us get it all in order. The nice thing about the new location for the books, is that they are next door to the pastor’s office. ;)

We are currently re-organizing Terry’s office, and that’s been a big job!

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One of my jobs is using this postage machine. I just love using it! Yes, I’m crazy.

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Here is some work that will be tackled after I finish with Terry’s office. I will be collating a book by Arthur Pink, scanning another book to send to someone and doing some filing.

And you know what? I can’t wait! I am so thankful to get paid to work in the house of the Lord. It is a privilege.

In other news, I may be away from the blog for a while. I’m now even busier than normal, and, I’m not sure if blogging is something I should continue to do. I want to be a blessing, but with fewer and fewer readers, I don’t think I am very successful at that. But maybe I shouldn’t worry about the number of readers and just write for whomever may drop by? Anyway, I don’t know what to do. I suppose it’s silly to pray about a blog, but that’s what I’ll be doing. I want to use my time, my life, wisely and for the Lord.

Thank you for your time.

With love,

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