A Hotchy Potchy Friend

 Hotchy potchy was my Grandmother’s made up creation.  It was nothing fancy, but I loved to eat it.  The meal consisted of eggs over easy and homemade fried potatoes.  Oh, and the name came from mixing those two foods together in a big, hotchy potchy mess on my plate.  If the friends of my youth only knew what they were missing out on!  My adulthood friend, Mary, remembers me telling her about hotchy potchy.  She laughingly jokes about us needing to make some to eat.  Sounds good to me! 

In all seriousness, I was thinking of Mary today, as I do most days.  I miss her.  Thinking about Mary today made me think about how life can be “hotchy potchy” sometimes.  What I mean is, life can hand us multiple things which sometimes can get mixed up on our plates of life.  I have experienced this and I have seen Mary experience it, too.  We have both been served  plates of hotchy potchy by the Enemy.

Mary’s plate of hotchy potchy has been different than mine.  Most everyone’s is unique to them.  I have learned much from Mary, watching her sometimes deal with the same plate of hotchy potchy more than once.  Mary has not always cleaned up her plate perfectly, but who of us has? I have seen her plate piled high with hotchy potchy and by God’s grace and mercy she has wiped it clean and has come out stronger and healthier.  Was it easy for her? By no means.  Did she struggle? I’m going to guess that she did.  But, one of the MANY things I love and admire about Mary is her faith in God and her trust that Jesus Christ will always help her clean her plate. (1 Cor 10:12-13)

I am blessed and grateful that Mary has faithfully been by my side when life’s hotchy potchy messes have overwhelmed me.  I praise God that Mary never judges me.  I thank our Lord that through my repetitive hotchy potchy living Mary never gives up praying for me.  Mary reminds me that I am not alone.  She knows of her own humanness and struggles and she quickly informs me that she is in no position to cast stones.  I am able to say the same to her during her times of struggle.

How awesome is our Father God in providing  Christian friends to love, support and encourage us.  Mary is this kind of friend.  She is always there when I need to talk.  She is always willing to pray.  Mary encourages me and never tears me down.  Mary is my hotchy potchy friend; she reminds me I am not alone.  (Ecc 4:9) My prayer for you today is that God provides you with a hotchy potchy friend if He hasn’t already.  A hotchy potchy friend is a friend for life! (Jn 15:13)

Kami R. Lobner

Through the storm

Peter and the other disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  They were being buffeted by wind and waves when they saw a man walking upon the water.  At first, they were afraid. The Man said to them, “Do not be afraid, it is I”.  Peter stood and asked the Man to prove that He was Jesus and to command Peter to also walk upon the water.  Jesus told Peter to come.

I imagine Peter gingerly stepping out of the boat.  Perhaps, still holding on to the other disciples or the side of the boat, he finally lets go and to his amazement he is standing on the water.  Peter begins to walk toward Jesus.  I envision Peter picking up the pace with his heart pounding as he gets closer to Christ.  Suddenly, and for only a moment, Peter takes his eyes off Jesus to look at the waves.  It is then he begins to sink.  Peter cries out to Jesus to save him.  The Lord reaches out and grabs hold of Peter saying, “oh ye of little faith”.  Jesus lifts Peter up and together they walk to the boat.  As Jesus climbs in, the wind and waves cease.

What happened here?  Peter seemingly doubts that the figure on the water is Jesus, however, when Jesus tells Peter Who He is, Peter believes and takes a step of faith.  As Peter is walking through the storm, his eyes are fixed upon Jesus.  There is no wind which can blow Peter over and no wave to push him down.  There is only his Savior helping him navigate the storm.  Then, for a moment, Peter looks at his surroundings.  As he looks at the storm, he is no longer focused on the One Who was helping him, and he begins to sink.  Remembering Jesus, Peter regains his focus over the tribulation and cries out, again, for his Savior.  Jesus immediately responds and comes to Peter’s aid.  The two walk together and get into the boat.  But, it isn’t until Jesus steps foot inside the boat that the wind dies down and the waves stop crashing.

I see this story in my life.  I sometimes doubt that the Lord is there, in the storm of my life.  I cry out to Him and He says, “it is I”.  With renewed confidence in Him I begin to walk through the trial I am facing.  But, I become distracted.  I take my eyes off Christ and I begin to sink.  I need encouragement from my Christian family and friends, or to be reminded through my Pastor’s sermon, to focus upon my Lord and Savior.  When I do, Jesus is right there with me.  He is stepping into the boat I am in and He is calming my fears.  He is quieting the storm around me. 

It may take days, months or even years to get to the other side of a stormy sea. When Christ steps into the boat we are in, the turbulence of life is less daunting.  He knows we are “of little faith”, but when we place our seed of faith in Him anything is possible. 

Today, I encourage you to focus upon Jesus to get you through whatever storm you are facing.  He longs to walk with you through it.  He wants to climb into your boat and ride it out with you.  All you need to do is ask.

Matthew 14:28-32                             Luke 17:6                                Philippians 4:13

Kami R. Lobner

A friend for eternity

Today I celebrate the birthday of a dear friend.  I haven’t known her long, but I will know her eternally.  From the very beginning she has been the Proverbs 27:17 kind of friend.  She challenges me to get into the Word of God.  She encourages me when I share my dreams with her.  She is the most amazing listener and provides words of wisdom from her heart.  This friend is iron to my iron; she sharpens me.  As the Benson Bible commentary states about the Proverbs 27:17 friend, she “quickens her ingenuity, enlivens her affections, strengthens her judgment, excites her to virtuous and useful actions, and makes her, in all respects, a better woman”.  I am most definitely a better woman for knowing this friend.

My friend is also this kind of person, also described in Proverbs: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17).  Matthew Henry’s commentary defines this kind of friend, in part, as one who, “intimates the strength of those bonds by which we are bound to each other and which we ought to be sensible. Friends must be constant to each other at all times.  That is not true friendship which is not constant. It will be so if it be sincere, and actuated by a good principle”.  This is her.  She loves at all times.  She is constant, sincere and lives a life based upon good principle.  The love of our Lord radiates from within her and touches the lives of those around her.  I trust her to be there for me through times of adversity.

One thing I admire about my friend is her humility. Another quality she exudes is a quiet confidence.  She would be embarrassed if placed upon a pedestal.  She would be the first to remind others that her Source is our Savior.  She has often said that she is “just the vessel”.  She is “devoted to” others in love and “honors others above” herself. (Rom 12:10)

This is the kind of friend God calls each one of us to become.  He gives us His written Word as a guide on how to be a friend who “loveth at all times”.  Our Father provides us with a body of fellow Christians with whom to have relationships and from whom we can learn.  God’s Word commands us to “love each other” (John 15:17).

In loving others I still mess up.  I can read God’s guide book in the morning and by the afternoon have dropped the “love others” ball.  None of us are perfect in this; not even my dear friend of whom I have written.  But, we can seek forgiveness when we mess up and we can pick up the “love others” ball and start over again.  We can do this because God is Love and His mercies are new every morning (1 John 4:8 and Lamentations 3:22-23).  Thanks be to God for His never-ending love.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy which is new every morning.  Thank You for Your love and provision.  God, I praise You for the body of Christ and the loving friendships You have brought into my life.  On this day, Lord, I especially thank You for my dear friend.  Bless her today and always just as she blesses so many people. May You grow me into this kind of a friend and use me in the lives of others to become a friend for eternity.  I ask these things Jesus’ Name. Amen.”                                                      Kami R. Lobner

Choose your food wisely

Galatians 5:19-26

I was reading in Galatians today and I had this image come to mind.  I was in a banquet hall and there was food on both sides of the room.  On the right was a beautiful arrangement of ripe fruits; crisp red apples, fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, green and red grapes, kiwi, strawberry and pineapple.  The fruit on this table was sweet, delicious and never ending. This represented the fruit of the Spirit and Its live-giving blessings.

Across the room on the left side was another table.  It had on it moldy cheese, rotten eggs, sour milk and spoiled fruits and vegetables.  There was an odor surrounding this food.  Those who were eating from this table became instantly ill. This represented sin and its consequences.

Then a thought came to my mind.  My life has been a series of choices as to which buffet table I would prefer to eat from.  I would love to tell you I have always chosen to eat from the table on the right, but that would be a lie.  I have eaten from the table on the left; the table where I chose sin and its devastating consequences.  I have eaten from this table more times than I care to admit.

But, praise God that choosing the table on the left has not been the end of my story.  I have suffered the ill effects of choosing the rotten food from that table; things like strife, depression, anxiety and hurting those I love.  But by God’s mercy and grace I found my way back to the beautiful table on the right.  Because of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit I have been given access to the table on the right; the table which fills me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I don’t deserve a second trip through the buffet line.  But, Jesus Christ bought it for me and He says I am worth receiving the better food; the food on the right side of the room. I have even been so wrong that I have gone back from the delicious, life-giving food to the rotten, sickening food and, still, Jesus offers me a clean plate. It grieves the Lord to watch me choose the table on the left.  But, He is patient, kind, loving and forgiving.  He calls me back to the table on the right.

“Praise You, Lord Jesus, for continually offering me Your life-giving food.  Thank You, Father, for Your patience when my belly is full of the rotten food I have chosen to eat.  And, thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your sacrifice which provides me the life-giving food.  May Your Spirit continue to fill me and lead me to the table on the right.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Winning Team

Sometimes life trips us up.  We are cruising along seemingly carefree and then wham, from out of nowhere we are blind-sided.  These moments present themselves in many ways.  The car breaks down and so does the washing machine.  Situations arise at home or at work bringing fear and strife into our relationships; both personal and professional.  We lose a child.  We lose a spouse.  We lose a job.  We are bullied and harassed and we do not understand “why”.

I have experienced life’s struggles.  In those moments a fear wells up inside of me and I give in to anxiety, frustration and anger.  I often need time and a trusted friend or two to listen to me and help me through prayer support and words of encouragement.  Sometimes it takes a moment before I see that being temporarily blind-sided is fleeting.  I am reminded through God’s Word, prayers of support and words of encouragement that I am forever part of the winning team.

I believe Satan is behind most of life’s distractions leading to strife. This is Satan’s modus operandi.  Keeping us distracted with relational issues, broken down items and financial woes is how he sidetracks us from our purpose. But, our God is bigger than Satan’s plans and attempts to foil us.  Our Heavenly Father tells us in His Word that Satan is already defeated and we who believe in and call upon the Name of Jesus are victorious.

First Corinthians 15:57 states, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory”.  Again in 1 Corinthians He says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”.  (1Cor 15:55) And, in the final book of God’s Word we read the assurance of our faith in Christ, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.  (Rev 20:10)

Satan’s future is already determined.  And so is ours when we put our trust and faith in the One Who saves, Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I thank You for the sacrifice of death upon the cross and the salvation it provides.  I praise You that I am protected by You and the promise of eternity with You in heaven.  I thank You for those brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for and encourage me when I get blind-sided.  There is no fear in the things of this world because You are the only winning Coach and by Your grace and mercy I am forever on Your team.  Thanks be to Jesus.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Are you well?

There is a hymn which I love entitled “It Is Well With My Soul” written by Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. From the original lyrics, it is the second stanza which speaks most to my heart:

            “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

Horatio Spafford lost nearly everything.  He was a successful lawyer. He had invested in a large amount of property which he lost out on financially during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. His son had died at a young age.  He and his wife and their four daughters were to sail to Europe together but Horatio was detained in Chicago.  The ship collided with another vessel and sank, killing all of their children with only his wife surviving.  (Wikipedia and references therein)

That much loss would certainly do most people in.  But not Horatio.  He met up with his wife and they added to their family only to lose yet another young son.  Through it all He focused upon God and he expressed that focus, that faith, so eloquently in the hymn he wrote.  Horatio had hope and faith in God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and he never took his eyes off of his eternal home yet to come.

Can we say it is well with us? Would we become violently ill if our physical health mirrored the current state of our spiritual health? Or, would we instead remain steady through the storms of life as we continue to place our hope and faith in Christ alone?

For myself I can honestly say I am continuing to grow in this area of spiritual health and well-being.  I have experienced my share of loss, sadness, pain and the sort.  I have not always remained steadfast during those times because I allowed my spiritual health to deteriorate.  My focus shifted from Christ’s sacrifice for my soul’s eternity to the here and now problems of life on earth.  I did not remain in God’s Word nor did I continue in faith and hope.  I was NOT well.  My soul was not well. 

Horatio Spafford suffered, as have you and I, but the One Who suffered most was our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He shed His own blood for our souls.  Christ died to make it possible to spend eternity in Heaven without the loss, sadness or pain.  He died so that our souls could be well.

If you are facing a trial right now have courage in Christ  Who is your strength.  He is the One Who can make your soul well through it all. 

“Lord Jesus I praise Your Holy Name.  I thank You, Lord, for shedding Your blood for my soul. Thank You for the spiritual health and well-being found only in You, Lord.  Thank You for eternity.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.” (3 John 2, Jer 17:7-8)

Kami R. Lobner 

Return to Me

One amazingly cool thing about God is His willingness to forgive us of our sins.  Not only is He willing to forgive us, He calls us to Him for the very purpose of redemption. When we turn to our Heavenly Father with a contrite and repentant heart, He honors us by wiping our slate clean.  Isaiah 44:22 says, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you”. 

Think about the imagery that verse produces.  With an easy brushing of His hand, God breezily pushes aside the offenses we have brought before Him in genuine repentance.  He does not require great effort to do this.  Like a cloud that gently drifts away in the sky or the morning mist which quickly disappears when the sun begins to rise, our Heavenly Father erases our offenses forever.  He does this so that we can return to Him. 

Sounds easy, right?  For us it is simple; we need only confess our sins and He is faithful and just and He will forgive us. (1 Jn 1:9) For God, I suppose the act of brushing away our sins seems effortless, but the sacrifice it took to bring about the path of redemption was horribly difficult.  God sent to earth His only Son, Jesus, who was mocked, hated by leaders of the time, ostracized by society, tortured and crucified.  Jesus faced rejection and pain so that we could return to the Father.  God had to TURN His back on His Son so that through Jesus’ shed blood we can now ask God to put BEHIND His back every single sin we commit.  What a gloriously undeserved gift we have been given.

I have abused this gift.  I have willfully chosen sin over asking God to forgive me and to help me out of the sinful situation.  I dare to say I am not alone in this.  But, Praise be to God that He never stopped loving me.  He never stopped longing for me to repent so He could once again bestow upon me His gift of forgiveness. He did this, so I could return to Him. 

I have learned that, while this gift is always available TO me, it is NOT meant for me to take for granted.  I must learn from the mistakes I make and from the forgiveness God grants me and I must not continue to sin (1 Jn 5:18).  Again, the amazing thing about God is that when I return to Him, He will return to me.  (Zech 1:3)

“Heavenly Father forgive me for my sins.  Bring to my mind any unconfessed sin in my life that I can repent and return to You.  Thank You, Father, for providing the Way to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice for me and all of humanity.  Lord Jesus, may I not take Your sacrifice and the gift of forgiveness for granted.  I ask that Your Holy Spirit lead me and guide me every day.  May Your Spirit speak clearly to my heart so that my daily choices bring You glory and honor.  I ask all these things in Jesus’ Holy Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner