Sovereign or Souvenir? Which Kind of God are You Looking For?

God wants to exercise his authority as supreme ruler in our lives (he acts by invitation only) via @blestbutstrestThe young girl walked up to my daughter and declared, “I’m ready to say my memory verse, Miss Sarah!”

“Go ahead,” Sarah said.

She listened patiently as the student recited from memory Habakkuk 3:17-18. When the youngster reached verse 19, her words caught Sarah by surprise. “The souvenir Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Sarah swallowed her giggles and helped the little one pronounce the word ‘Sovereign’ correctly. We had a good laugh over the funny things kids say whilst eating dinner, but then I started thinking.

How often do we think of God as a souvenir to acquire and check off on our tourist to-do list in our travels through life?

• Got Jesus. Check.
• Got saved. Check.
• Got religion. Check.
• Go to church. Check.
• Changed some bad habits. Check
• Wear a cross around my neck so everyone knows. Check.

We collect the souvenir, and forget about the sovereign. Especially in today’s world where personal choice and independence reign supreme. We fight for our rights, our way, and to make our opinion known. We struggle to make sure that others understand us, respect us and don’t take advantage of us.

We expect God to go along with our plans (after all, we’re Christians and we try to keep our plans within biblical guidelines) in the same way we expect a souvenir to stay safely packed in our suitcase.

But the word ‘sovereign’ means ‘supreme ruler’. The word ‘souvenir’ means ‘a small, inexpensive memento purchased as a reminder of a place visited.’ God wants to exercise his authority as supreme ruler in our lives (but he acts by invitation only). (tweet this)

I went to my Bible to read the first part of the student’s memory verse. Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, lists all the things that have gone wrong in Israel. The fig trees don’t bud, the grapes don’t produce, the olive crop fails and the fields produce no crops. To make things worse, the people have no sheep or cattle. In other words—they face utter ruin and starvation.

They can’t run down to the Piggly Wiggly and purchase replacement staples when a bad season hits. A Costco of plenty doesn’t sit in the desert, waiting for them to drop by and stock up for the season. They have nothing. Nada. Zilch.

How does Habakkuk handle the eminent disaster? “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).

Insanity, right? Choosing joy and praising God when life as you know it has ceased and the next step forward seems impossible to take. (tweet this)

Habakkuk’s prophetic powers must have given him a vision of a rosy future, right?

No. Habakkuk can rejoice in the Lord because “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19).

Habakkuk can rejoice because he has a Sovereign Lord, not just a cheap souvenir Lord—a mere memory of an experience that he keeps on a shelf collecting dust. He knows that he is under the rule of a supreme being who knows more than he does—who knows the beginning from the end and loves us so much he gave his own son to die in our place.

I’ve had my own Habakkuk-like experience, and I know that I can rejoice in my Sovereign Lord no matter what. But I’d like to share a clip of someone who can illustrate exactly what it means to have a Sovereign Lord.

Singer and songwriter Chris Picco lost his wife and their son, Lennon, delivered at 24 weeks, struggled for life in the NICU. A friend recorded Chris singing “Blackbird” to his son in the hospital, and posted the video on You Tube. It immediately went viral.

A few days later, Lennon passed away. What happened at the memorial service for Chris’s wife and son is a powerful testimony to the relationship between a man and his Sovereign Lord. It’s a long video, so if you’re short on time, just skip ahead to minute 8.

Souvenir or Sovereign? Which kind of God are you willing to serve?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • It is funny how an error on a pronunciation of a word can bring so much thought. Children do bring light to things we would never see. And thanks for the song, it reminded me to be thankful for my son. He was hospitalized this week with breathing issues, but his struggle is nothing compared to so many others.
    Amanda recently posted…30 Thoughts on being ThankfulMy Profile

    • Oh, I hope your son is doing better! How helpless we feel when a loved one is sick! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving :).

  • So much to learn from the mouths of children. I love your application here. He is Sovereign, and how I pray to surrender to His rule in my life each day.

    Enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving.
    Deb Wolf recently posted…5 Important Characteristics of PeacemakersMy Profile

    • Amen, and amen! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving :).

  • First, I love how that little girl’s mispronounced word got you thinking about something so deep. Secondly, I’m going to go read Habakkuk. Thanks so much for this post – I loved it. Our Christian walk is not a checklist to be accomplished, but a relationship to be relished.
    Heather @ My Overflowing Cup recently posted…A Week of Thanks {The Basics}My Profile

    • Amen! Relationships that we relish are the best kind–so much more satisfying than a mere checklist! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friend!

  • I love this so much… yes – Sovereign Lord… so thankful that He is not just a cheap souvenir! Bless you, friend!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…Counting Gifts, Being Thankful, Giving Thanks… in a Blessing Box!My Profile

  • What a thought provoking post. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
    Amanda recently posted…Girls Gift Guide from Guest Blogger Becky!My Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by, Amanda! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving :).

  • Love it when little kids mix up words.. so cute, and this time a great reminder to remember to see our God in the proper light. Thanks for sharing!
    Tobi@SimplyJesus recently posted…A Love Story {John 1}My Profile

    • I love the truths that slip out of the mouths of little ones, too! Thank you for stopping by and have a fantabulous Thanksgiving!

  • Souvenir GOD helping me walk in my high heels!!!
    Susan Shipe recently posted…gratitude from a to zMy Profile

    • ;). Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Susan! It’s the time of year when we’re full of gratitude and intentional thinking about our Sovereign who is NOT a souvenir ;).

  • Oh, Anita,
    how much we learn from kids one way or another…Thank you for taking the time to go deeper and to take us with you…such a challenge sometimes…to trust God as Sovereign and not treat Him like a trinket…

    Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving,
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…A little peek into Soul KeepingMy Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by during this incredibly busy time of year! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours :).

  • Don

    So glad our God is not a trinket God!
    To place our God in His proper place of power we must quote properly… He knows “the END from the BEGInNING” not vice-versa.
    “He knew the end of my life before I was stitched together in my mothers womb,” as King David put it… Or was it Solomon?
    Now THAT is Soverign!
    Have a happy Thanksgiving Day (without your mom’s lefsa).

    • I’m mourning the lack of lefse, but I shall survive! Laura made a pecan-chocolate chip pie. That should help me! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with Dean and Joyce!

  • Donne

    It is funny how a little slip can lead to a large revelation. Thank you for the reminder that God is sovereign in our lives. Habakkuk’s neighbor (in the Bible) has a powerful reminder for us as well.
    Zephaniah 3:17
    “The LORD your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
    he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
    he will exult over you with loud singing.”
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving day with your family!

    • That’s a beautiful verse! Thank you for sharing it with me. I love the thought of God rejoicing over me with gladness and exulting over me with loud singing! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving–too bad you’re not here to help me make lefse ;). I still haven’t mastered it (and Laura’s kitchen doesn’t really have the space to attempt it).

      • Donne

        I’ve never mastered the art of lefse either. I am totally dependent upon Vickie’s skills in that arena. 😉 Apparently, the ‘lefse gene’ skipped us and landed all on her. Remember that Thanksgiving on Silver Loop Drive in NC when we made lefse on the wood stove in the shell house? There was plenty of room, granted, but only the single cooktop (the wood stove) and no counters save a door on sawhorses. 🙂

        • I do remember that! I think we did it again on Hammond Court (the year Duane showed up in his raccoon fur coat ;)).

  • Donne

    The verse in the beautiful picture above your blog this morning contained a typo. This was amusing on one level since the blog was about an unintentional error, but it was very thought-provoking for me on another level. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savor”.

    That got me to thinking about salt, as in “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” Matthew 5:13, KJV. That led me to a quick search for salt in the concordance.

    In the Old Testament, I found that salt was required as a part of the Temple offerings. Leviticus 2:13 states that, “And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt”. Salt was to be cast on the burnt offering (Ezekiel 43:24); salt was used as an ingredient in incense (Exodus 30:35); and a part of the temple offering included salt (Ezra 6:9). This was a BIG deal. In Old Testament times, salt was a very valuable commodity; it was used not only for seasoning but to draw blood from the meat before they ate it, as an antiseptic, and to maintain the chemical balance in the body at a cellular level. God certainly knew that, but He asked them to offer a portion of that connection to life itself to Him. Relinquishing a bit of that life-giving element was the way that the Israelites took their trust in God to the next level. In doing so they sealed the covenant of trust. They trusted God to provide in their day-to-day lives and were willing to sacrifice to prove it.

    In the New Testament, Jesus says that ‘ye are the salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13); and that everyone will be salted with fire and that we should ‘have salt among yourselves’ and be at peace (Mark 9:49-50). In Colossians 4:6 we are admonished to let our “conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt” so that we can provide appropriate answers to everyone. When Christians are living under the covenant of trust with God, it will be evident in three ways: they will love one another (John 13:34-35), they will bear the fruit of a changed life (John 15:1-8) and they will live in unity (John 17: 20-23).

    Salt has played an important role in history as well. It was used as a preservative that helped civilization to grow, allowing humans the capability of storing food instead of living on fresh kills and foraging from day to day. In Roman times, salt was often used as a form of currency. Soldiers from all over the known world were paid in salt (salarium being the basis for the word salary) and were able to spend it without going through moneychangers. A man who was good at his job was described as being ‘worth his salt’. In 1930, Ghandi led the “Salt March” that broke the stranglehold the British Empire had put on the production of salt, allowing Indians to proclaim their independence.

    Where does that leave us? Are we ‘worth our salt’ as Christians? Only through Him who strengthens us and has the power to change us as we behold Him. When we die to our own needs and live in Him we are sealing that covenant of trust. Our lives become transformed by the renewing of our minds in Him (Romans 12:1-2). As we spend time with “God our Savor”, that savor fills our lives and is evident to those around us in our words and in our actions.

    • What a beautiful reflection on salt! I’m thinking you should write a guest post for me ;). Thank you for catching the type-o! Sometimes, I rush through things and don’t pay close attention to what I’m typing!

      • Donne

        I typically don’t call people out (especially in a public forum) on errors, but this one was so apropos I just had to say something. : )

  • Laura

    Beautiful words, and I love the tie-in to Chris Picco’s story. His strength is amazing; you can tell he does not have a souvenir Lord.

  • Anita, I loved reading this. I loved the way you heard a funny statement and your mind turned it into a life lesson. I like the way you think. This happens to me frequently. We so often do that. Souvenir God and people too. Like a place we’ve been. Hmmm. a lot to think about here! Thanks!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Somer. You’re so right! We get stuck on where we’ve been instead of dynamically looking forward.

  • I love that story! Kids say great things. 🙂
    I never want to treat God like a souvenir that gets lost or thrown away. He is mighty and worthy of praise, no matter what is going on!
    Sarah Donegan recently posted…Pause on Black FridayMy Profile

    • Amen! During these crazy weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s especially easy to loose sight of the sovereign part of God’s personality.