Friday, November 18, 2016

A Grand Attitude, Every Day, All Day.

Psalm 107:8-9 "Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul, He has filled with what is good."

We're expecting a late night storm Sunday into Monday. It will be so nice to hear the rain, the drip-drop through my trees and the splash-splatter on my front door mat. I'll see the leaves shine again, polished by Heaven's hydration, and more of the yellow leaves now covering my backyard, a thick blanket of gold falling to make way for the new. It is oh, so good.

Thank you Lord for loving and for kindness.

Does the earth give thanks?  "Let them give thanks," the Psalmist says.

America celebrates Thanksgiving Day, a day set aside to be proactive in gratitude. 

When the skies overflow and rain streams through the dryness of the land,  it swallows and gulps that which it longs for, that sustains, nourishes, and enables it to thrive. It is loving and kindness and the results are beauty in the Spring, new growth, new hope.

And just think for a moment...If we spend some time feeding and drinking, nourishing in the words, the attitude and posture of Thanksgiving, what results can we expect in our spiritual bodies? And what if that became an all day every day event?

"Eucharisteo--thanksgiving--always precedes the miracle." 
~ Ann Voskamp.

Gratitude is just that, a GRAND ATTITUDE, because we see His wonders all around us. It can change us, if we allow it.

What wonders captivated you today? What did you notice, what caught you, stopped you for a second to know that God is good and He is loving and kind?

Loving: For me, today was spent at a memorial service for a close relative. "Let your Lifesong Sing" played by the worship band as my little 2-year old (3rd) cousin played at my feet, his great-grandfather's legacy surrounding me in new life and good memories.

Kindness: A friend from church sees me at the grocery store tonight and comments about my manuscript, how it is going to bless the church!  With tears, I could only say how without the church blessing and loving on me, teaching me, being Jesus to me--my memoir would not have been written.

God is good: Just when I think my son doesn't care too much about "certain things," he comes home from a little road trip and hands me a heart-shaped rock.

"I found a heart rock at the river mom, for you."

The earth needs rain. The soul needs the Hope of the Lord, the Word of God to sustain life, a hopeful life, a life of purpose. We need the constant drip and saturation of His Word, combined with fellowship and worship to sustain our walk with Him.

We all hunger for something. Our stomach growls, our gut groans for more. We consume and regurgitate, fill and purge. Then do it all again. Every day. All day. But the longing soul cannot be satisfied with our worldly lusts, our self-indulgence, our gluttony for our own expectations and desires.

It's only when we truly empty ourselves, remove the bag of our own guts and gizzards of grand schemes and glory, can the Lord refill us with His Goodness. It's a Grand Attitude of humbleness and sacrifice that will spring forth inner peace and joy.

Lord in Heaven and on Earth, we thank you and give you praise for how you show us Your wonders with the cycles of seasons, with sunshine, rain and new growth. Thank you Lord for satisfying our thirst when our lives become dry, when we've neglected Your Word, Your fellowship and failed to give You priority in our lives. Your sweet promises quench our hearts and hydrate our blood to flow again with a GRand Attitude: Gratitude! Thank you Lord for Your satisfaction, for feeding us Truth and helping us to desire your Banquet Table. Be with us Lord in Your Holy Spirit and continue to lead us into a life of Thanksgiving, not just one day out of the year, but all day, every day and continue to bring to us all Your wonders and goodness. May we be humble, for You Lord are Worthy. Lord, prompt us and prepare us to receive You, Every day, all day. Amen.

                                                   LIFESONG ~ CASTING CROWNS


Friday, October 14, 2016

So Close, Yet Still So Far

Matthew 13: 57-58:  And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household." And He did not do many miracles there because of their own unbelief. 

Where is it the hardest to live your faith? At your work? Maybe. At church?...lots of spiritual comfort there. With your neighbors? We are called to love and serve our neighbors. All is good in the neighborhood. 

Let's ask this...Who do you have the most expectations for? Who do you find easy to judge, to "correct," to metaphorically be comfortable with, really be yourself...?

...Your household.  Your kin.  Your close family. 

The townspeople of Nazareth didn't get Jesus. He was from their lowly town and nothing good ever came out of Nazareth. How could this son of their neighbor, this brother of one of their buddies, ...this Nazarene, be so knowledgeable of scripture, share such wisdom? After all, he (He) was the son of a carpenter, he grew up with them, had the same experiences, same customs...

These fellow citizens with Jesus, missed it. Their unbelief, skepticism, maybe even jealousy, kept them distant from really seeing God, who came to bring fellowship with the Father--so very close.  He was their own neighbor, friend, maybe even their half-brother. 

God moved among them yet their unbelief, their own ideas about themselves, that they just were not worthy enough, --and who was he (He) to tell us any different...kept them from knowing who He really was--the Messiah. In the last part of this verse it says that He did not do many miracles there. 

It wasn't because there wasn't a need. 

Great is the need, our need. Greater still is our sin and our need to reconcile. 

They didn't ask Him, seek Him, truly follow Him, listen and process the Words that would heal, Their pride and their unbelief, maybe even unwillingness to truly connect and know Him brought their own isolation from the One who walked among them. 

So close, yet still so far. 

In my special education class, the Renaissance kids (student leadership) collaborate with our students for one period during the week. They interact and stimulate conversation, peer to peer, teenager to teenager. It is awesome. 

This week's project: a miniature hot air balloon made from a Dixie cup, yarn got it, a balloon--a bit under inflated with helium. Pictures of our kids were taken the week before, cut out, mounted on cardboard placed inside the Dixie cup. The kids got to see "themselves" float around the room. 

I got to thinking about faith and trust and my own "balloon ride" in that journey  I had quite a few crash landings, but God never left me and continues to teach me His ways, His direction--and I pray I am listening and honoring Him.  

Sometimes it is just a "cardboard cutout," of ourselves, a flattend version minus the things we want to hang on to that we've placed in the basket of faith. God sees all of us. The launching moments of climbing high brought us salvation, but soon, the basket comes floating back down, the heaviness of our burdens not allowing us to see beyond to the horizon of what God can and wants to do in our lives. It's like having a brand new Mercedes Benz, but never driving it, keeping it locked up in the garage. 

Having experienced life, its hurts and God's healing,  some want to help, to understand, to encourage and give a good word, maybe some wisdom from their own ride. Unwilling to accept, the root of bitterness keeps JOY waiting in the wings. 

It is the miracle of seeing who Jesus really is and how to live free, soaring under His protection and purpose that gives true hope in a broken and hurt-filled world. 

The belief in ourselves and our feelings rather than His desires for us, more than the belief in the power He has to change us and our thoughts, is like the under-inflated balloon. It soon floats down to the street view. It's comfortable there. It's what we know.  

You don't get it. That's who you are, not me...Who are you to tell me?...

--and they took offense. 

So close, yet still so far.  

Lord, Please help us to accept wisdom, even when the lessons are so hard. Help us to be discerning, to be obedient to Your will for us and how to let go of the hurts that keep us grounded and isolated. Help us Lord to get close to You and not drift away in our own worldy thoughts. Lord, I don't want to be a cardboard version of myself in You, but be all You want me to be, learning to fly high in surrender and feel the love of those you've put in my life for  fellowship as we help each other through the ups and downs of this life. Thank you Lord for giving us Your Word. May we study, discern and know its truth and live accordingly so that You will be glorified and believed in us. I believe Lord, help me with my unbelief. Amen. 

Sidewalk Prophets~ "Live Like That" 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Prayers For A Seismic Event.

Isaiah 78:35  "And they remembered that God was their Rock, and the most High God, their Redeemer."

Last weekend, my family and I traveled just a couple hours east to the low desert for a weekend getaway. Always enjoying the open landscape of the desert, its unique plant life and vast wilderness, it certainly did not dissapoint. We took a drive out to Joshua Tree National Park on one of our outings, capturing visuals with photography and viewing information provided by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior--awe-struck at the beauty and splendor. God's architectural floor plan of these deserts actually include the convergence of two: the Mojave and the Colorado.

The weekend, special to us because it is the birthday of my older son, who looks down upon us now,  from his Heavenly vantage point. We do this family time in his memory for our own good and because God is good.

It's 3 days I yearn for more than Christmas, more than summer vacation, more than reunions, more than...anything. 


Because in those 3 short days, a difficult relationship I have with my other son, heals. He lets his guard down. I never talk about yesterday or next week. We enjoy the moment, laughing, learning, playing, speaking civil to each other, exploring, celebrating, asking questions without pretense-- loving each other and  totally enjoying the scenery, the food and the atmosphere...each other. 

I ask God in my prayers... why do things change when we return?  His answer to me is to wait, be patient, keep praying and keep acting as though everyday I have to love on my son, is a day I am making and creating something new in him, softening him to receive and know the path I  planned for his own redemption, his return to his own promised land.

 OK, Lord, I trust You. 

For now, his wild wilderness remains untamed, hidden with venomous snakes seemingly always ready to strike. Like the Rangers at the station of the entrance to the park, God's Holy Spirit is at work protecting and guiding him and encouraging me. At night, away from the artificial light of the world, the sky in the desert displays the brillance of the stars and the planets--God's glorious realm in the heavenly places. I believe with all my heart because he is my son and I know his soul, that in his own strength, things will not change, but through faithful prayers of many and God's will, mountains will move and hearts will proclaim His goodness and stars will shine into eternity on the day God does a work in his heart. 

He moved mountains for me and in the moving of those hard places, one can see the evidence of surrender, the patterns of grace and the shape and color of love formed by the Creator himself. The bubbling lava of sin, shame, regret and grief, is now a vessel, a usable tool for His glory. 

For the next few days, the USGS has issued an earthquake advisory for So. California.  With over 140 "seismic events" recorded since Monday along the San Andreas Fault, (which also runs through Joshua Tree) this prediction warns us to be prepared in the event of the inevitable, the shaking up and realigning of the earth's crust.

Sometimes God has to do that...shake us up, and show us where we need realigning, teach us how to do just that. It's a slow process.  Joshua Tree, formed by volcanic activity, molten rock intruding into hardened rock,  is very visible and the unique shapes and stacking is truly magnificent. God has a plan for each and every one of us. 

Jesus, I pray to be a part of the plan, not in the way of Your plan. I ask for your molten blood to intrude and form a new shape in a hardened heart. Bring about change in a varied and vulnerable young man like the beautiful desert we explored. Converge your vast will and sovereignty together and create a unique and powerful formation in my son. Let him grow up, towards Your Light. When anger boils over and pressure cracks at the surface, show us the shade and hydration of  Your oasis of truth and purpose. Teach us Lord to honor you and set You apart and be a witness with kindness and gentleness, preserving the wonder You have created us to be. I pray this for our sons and daughters in the wilderness and for ourselves, traveling the road of faith that offers strength and hope around every turn.  Thank you Lord for your magnificent Creation and the lessons we learn and the inspiration it brings. Amen. 

Heart-Shaped Rocks 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Graceful Revelation

I Peter 1:13 "Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

When one reads this verse, it seems like a job description or a to do list to receive a blessing. First I must "gird my mind." What is that? 

To "gird" means to get ready for something. In ancient days, men and woman wore long tunics with belts around the waist. When work or even going into a battle presented itself, the hems sometimes got in the way, so, the wearer would lift the bottom and tuck it into the belt, thus preparing to take on the task at hand. 

Second, keep sober in spirit. If I am hoping for a blessing, for God to prepare a way, I would hope He wouldn't look down from His Throne and find me lazy in my pursuit of Him, flippant in my attitude, or "drunk" in desperation over a situation where anxiety rules and unkind and unfaithful words gush out. 

Third, "fix your hope." Constant, dialed in, no wavering, steadfast, unmovable. 

OK, once we've got all that accomplished, perfected, then we are Holy and can receive a revelation, a blessing...a fine life as a believer. Is that what this verse indicates? 

But that is not what Grace is. Grace...well that comes first. The revelation? That came the moment we trusted, believed, had the encounter with our true self, our sin nature and the perfect God who desires a relationship with us. 

Grace is Christ and Christ is Grace. We are Holy in His eyes because of the Cross. To grow in the Lord takes some action on our part. Getting our feet wet in the Word, finding our place in the Body of Christ, prayer and intimacy with the Lord, transparency with each other struggling to do the same--this is the beginning and the eternal revelation of holiness, the work He will do in us and through us. 

In the last 4 weeks there are things I am preparing for with the Lord as my Shepherd, clearing the way. Spending 3 summers writing a memoir, it is ever clear through this whole process and beyond, that He is before every word I've written. Ready, sober, fixed on relaying His story of grace and mercy within my grief, I completed the work and now take action through His grace to present it for publication. 

My husband awaits a major surgery. God prepares us in very tangible ways and even in some complicated ways, yet He gives us the wisdom to see His purpose in those difficulties. I choose to fix my eyes on Him and know that when He gives us something hard, complicated, something we have to wait and see through, He also has a plan to remove it in His timing and reward us in our faithfulness and obedience. 

I've seen it before. Sometimes as humans, we just don't take care of something hindering us because of our various excuses or doubts. So God, in His love for us, puts that hindrance front and center and then gives us a promise, that all things will work together for the good. 

"Trust Me in this,  He says. Let's take action together and the hindrance will be all for My glory and Your testimony." 

And that is the revelation...

when you begin to know from the very beginning that God's grace covers it all. "I believe in You Lord, help me with my unbelief." 

Lord, when we face certain trials or even in today's daily challenges of living and pursuing a righteous life, Your instructions are for us to be proactive in our faith, even when we can only muster up a little at a time. It's our heart You look at, our desire to know You more, share Your grace and love with our neighbor and each other, surrender our incompleteness to You. Lord, be our belt, holding on tight to those things that want to trip us up. Protect us from the intoxication of the world, the demons of doubt and anxiousness. Help us Lord to focus on Your goodness, from all the things we have already seen and what You have promised to give us. Thank You Lord, for Your grace that goes before us and for Your plan that prepares the way for Your Glory to be revealed through us, already set before us through Your Son on the Cross. What a privilege Lord to walk on this prepared road, the rocky parts and the smooth as Your child trusting and waiting for more grace to come. Amen. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Inspired. Affirmed. Redeemed.

Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." 

Inspired. Affirmed. Redeemed.  All these words fill my heart and mind as I interact with those around me and continue to move forward in my own spiritual trust-walk. Yet God still allows challenges and concerns before me, before this country and the world we live in. It seems everyday this summer swings like a pendulum--up to the heights of knowing God's love and plan, seeing it play out in front of me, bravery and achievement of goals, reunions and celebrations, vacations and beauty in the garden... butterfly wings. Then the news and politics fill our Facebook and living rooms, the heartbreak and evil, the disease and estrangement, the entitlement; the blatant disregard for human life...the tragedy this world has become. That last bit... is a darkness that's always existed, seeping in the cracks we ignore, the things we compromise, the choices we make to appease instead of stand up for truth, and ignorance of what God already accomplished.  God is sovereign and is always, always GOOD!

I am inspired by a young man who chose a profession of service, that of a police officer. Not only did he choose to be an officer of the law, but to do so in the big city, the City of Angels. At such a time as this, we climbed into a car in the early predawn hour on the morning after 5 Dallas policemen were taken out, executed. We watched the brave young recruits receive their handshake from the Chief of Police and the Mayor, listened to the heart breaking yet determined speeches--bittersweet words unintended for that morning, but determined to comfort and strengthen, assure and...give gratitude and love. I was so honored to sit with my closest friend and her family and pray for her son...our sons and daughters.

I am affirmed when my own story of "Grace Upon Amazing Grace, " my work in progress these last few summers, winds down to concluding thoughts, and a point of view switching from myself to my son in heaven. Incidents that to some might seem coincidence or "weird," I know and feel God reaching down and giving me a high-five, a thumbs up in a song or two, butterflies, and many other occurences. It bestows a  confidence... (sigh and smile) that the pages will be tangible soon. Words will be read, and hearts will see and turn to His grace in their own grief. 

I feel the redemption flow when I recognize the nudge, the need to tell someone's story, someone I haven't seen in 25 years. When they show up out of nowhere, open up to me about life and struggles and their own redemption through the gift they've been given late in life, to discover a talent beyond their wildest dreams in the throes of a cancer diagnosis...

"Maybe you're meant to tell my story," he said. Maybe I am. 

 "Genesis"  (God Creating Mars). 

***Creating art for only 11 months now,  a suggestion given to him by a counselor to use the other part of his brain, his three-D paintings are unique, the colors amazing in the detail and texture, and the subjects...inspiring!  

It happens again, a different person, a different dialogue  She writes in a message, ..."I need to tell you stories of the Holy Spirit, true stories of Hope I've experienced.  I need a writer." 

Then again, another person from the far past..."help me please, pray for me, how do I connect back to God in my prayer life?"

Three different souls, me and One God that unites us all. 

 I am redeemed because I am every one of these friends. I lived a life on the fence, one step in the world and a foothold on faith, straddling for balance, ignoring God until tragedy struck. In time and through genuine confession and wanting Him front and center, in control, did grace come pouring back, flooding me with peace and a hope I never felt before. I connected by writing in the pages of a journal and reading with intent, the Holy Words of Scripture. My prayers and my whole self became for the first time, authentic before God, highlighting spiritual gifts and purpose I never believed I was worthy enough to offer. I am used of Him now to bless others. In my darkest moments of this life, God revealed to me in the true supernatural, the ministry of the Holy Spirit and I long to share this miraculous gift of that very grace with everyone. 

So now, in my thoughts, I think on the good, the good God brings out to those that love Him and how it does all work together, even if it takes years. We all need to want to be an inspiration, to have affirmation in our  prayers, to want to serve and protect and give back a bit of ourselves so others can feel hope, and tell of His goodness. He still is in the miracle business. He does it in lives and hearts of His children who always have mattered since Creation began. Yet He allows us the free will to choose. I pray that God matters in your life today; allow Him to show you how to swing again and reach for the clouds. It's only a matter of a little push, a pump of the feet...and you'll feel the power of redemption pulling you up and out towards your own destiny in Him...

...because that is what makes evil benign--that is what keeps the swing going high to touch the clouds of heaven, that is what brings us intimacy and purpose in the opportunity we have to be grateful to Him everyday. 

We only ask you Lord to keep us humble in our own inspiration, in our own affirmation of You and keep redeeming us all for Your glory. May we serve each other in a holy way that unites us in love because all of us matter, everyone of us. Amen.

 Jars of Clay  Higher Than the Sun

Friday, July 1, 2016

Living Liberty, Fullness of Freedom

II Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Where does your liberty, your freedom hang out?  Where does it surface, show itself, invade your space, overflow...

Where does it go when you don't see it? Is it hiding, absent, not available? 

What does the word freedom mean to you? 

Does it conjure up ideas of democracy and patriates? America and the red, white and blue? 

Yes, probably.  I think there's more...

Is liberty a statue or a state of mind and soul? 

We will celebrate freedom/liberty in a couple of days. 

Can't we celebrate it everyday?  It's why we have it, right? 

I know...known of  some people who seem chained, un-free, without liberty. 

I am sure we all have felt this at one time...more than one time. 

Words tumble out like heavy chains linked together with negativity. They trod through life with shoes made from disappointment, shoulders burdened with the world's expectations and troubles. 

When Jesus Christ reigns supreme in our hearts and in our minds, freedom is ours forever. The Cross, like Holy bolt cutters, severed each link. God is our liberator through His Son. The more you meditate on that fact and live it,  in worship, prayer and submission, those chains begin to break apart. 

Shoes seem lighter today. 

Shoulders won't be sore; you'll sleep more restful and feel His peace. 

Words become more gentle, humble and kind, encouraging and uplifting. 

More of Him, less of the world...that is true freedom and a hope not found in the bitter man, but the believing man. 

And isn't that something we need to celebrate everyday?!  

Thank you Lord, for the freedom, the liberation I have in You. Though the evil one wants to find clever ways to weigh me down, keep me from all You want to give me, I know that You Lord, conquer over my enemies, those in thought and those visible. Chains are replaced with Your Hope and Your Joy. I desire to use my freedom in You to further Your Kingdom. Help me Lord to live knowing that everyday, I am free and filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I am free to celebrate that gift in love and deeds for those who need to know how to find that same peace. I'm free to worship you at every minute and proclaim my gratefulness. May I never lose this passion and become apathetic at the thought of true freedom. 

Thank you Lord for the liberty I have to write and post this blog, for that freedom, many have died for. I am forever grateful. God bless them, their families.  Amen. 

Happy 4th!  God Bless America. 

Chris Tomlin 

Friday, June 24, 2016

First Language

Chronicles 16: 8-9  Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His    
                                 Make known His deeds among the peoples.
                                 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
                                 Speak of all His wonders. 

God gave us a gift he didn't give the animals--communication.

(Some of you are thinking you CAN understand your pets..., I know). 

Man created language, then symbols that eventually turned into an alphabet. Most people in the world speak more than one language.

According to Google: "There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. However, about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most popular language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. There are 1,213,000,000 people in the world that speak that language.

God and Adam had PERFECT communication in the Garden, but then...well, tempting WORDS messed it all up for everyone.

I can understand some Spanish, but not as well as I used to. 

My husband understands dutch, but he has a hard time putting sentences together. So far, he hasn't had the need to revert to his "native" tongue.

My son experienced...learned a big lesson in the art of communication this week.
Curious? It seems commonsensical.  (did I just invent a word?)


It almost cost him a friendship.
It did cost him in other ways.

Do you practice, know the language of PRAISE?

It's simple really. You turn your sentence around and make it a positive, thanking God in the  beginning, middle and the end.

The Psalmist does it. The last few chapters are filled with the language of PRAISE for everything around him, everything he sees, what he knows of the character of God and His sovereignty over us.

Jesus taught us to pray that way: "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name...For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." Amen. 

What would this world look like if everyone spoke the language of praise out loud within their everyday communications?

Barrista: "Hi, I am so thankful to see you today. God is good. What can we make you?"
Customer: "Yes, He is! I am thankful to Him this morning for getting me here safely in this storm. I'll have a venti vanilla please." 
Barrista: "I praise Him for my new tires, just in time for the rain." 
Customer: "Great! He provides! Thanks, see you tomorrow."

Employer to crew: "I thank God for each and every one of you. You all work hard and this success is for His glory. God has a plan for a hope and a great future for all of us."
Employees: "We praise God for our great boss and for all we have endured, the good times and the hard times."

Policeman: "Hi Sir, license and registration please. Sir, this is a good day. Our merciful Father in Heaven has put it upon my heart to just give you a warning today. I know that I have received an abundance of mercy from Him when I don't deserve it, so, ...thought I'd give some back today. Oh--and fix that tail light too."
Driver: "Wow, thank you Mr. Policeman. Father God, You guide and protect me as you do my family. I am in awe. I needed mercy today. I'm on the way to the wife, she's in labor, the neighbor took her..."
Policeman:" Lord, You are so good! You directed me to this young man so that I can escort him straight to the hospital with sirens blazing. Let's go, you're about to be a dad! Lord, go before us. Thank You for Your direction and using me in this place."

Can you imagine the political dialogue?

A different world indeed. 

Everyone needs to plant sunflowers out their window and stare at them like I do. They are all about praising their Maker. ( well, just a suggestion). 

Seems I need to continue to model everything I just wrote and practice the language of praise, around my son, around everyone. The more I use it, the more it will be my first language. 

I thought of this when my two close friends and I sat in a Starbucks yesterday and talked for several hours about life and God and His Goodness, some hard stuff and God's faithfulness. We weren't exactly quite. We weren't exactly speaking "politically correct." What we were doing was figuring out life with God in the mix and giving Him praise, coming to conclusions about forgiveness and grace and THANKFUL for his divine interventions in our lives and our friendship. It really does do a good thing to your soul--even more so than the coffee!

We did a group hug in the middle of the parking lot. I hope all the customers saw that--what it communicated. 

Christ came with Words and Actions of Love and Grace to heal the language barrier created in Eden. 

Father God, I praise you for friendships that are deep and everlasting. I honor You for all that You are doing in my life, teaching me to trust You in everything. I exalt You for who You are, The Lord of Lords, The God of the Universe, Creator, Yahweh, the Great I Am, the Alpha and Omega. I give thanks and seek Your face and heart of mercy in all my own communications, both difficult ones I hear and ones that don't come out of my own mouth so well. Help me Lord, all-hearing God, to give You praise in all my circumstances and may these same words become good thoughts, pleasing to You, King of Kings, giver of all that is good. Amen.

Casting Crowns ~ Lifesong

Friday, May 13, 2016

Just Keep Believing

I Timothy 4:15 (ESV) Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  

One of the enjoyments of life in summer, (in California almost year round) is taking a dip in the pool. I admit, swimming as eluded me these last few summers even though we have a community pool just a couple minutes walk from my front door. I know at my stage in life, swimming is an excellent exercise and quite relaxing. Refreshing and just plain fun go right along with the belly flops and Marco Polo shout-outs. We look forward to the Olympic Summer Games where swimming sports win gold and new hereos wear goggles and spandex.

Some though, find a pool and water up over their knees quite intimidating, down right frightening.

They stare at the steps and wonder, what the big deal is, yet don't move forward.

They can hear their friends,  even family coaching them on, reassuring them that all is OK, to trust the process.

"Come in. The water is great! No one will let you drown! 

You even have your cutest suit on, your boldest hawaiian print board shorts, sunscreen, and beach towel. You're ready, but...

look over there, a deeper place, a scary place...

Finally, you immerse yourself in the shallow end and feel accomplished. But it's there you stay, dog-paddling, blowing a few bubbles and hanging onto the edge with your eye on the easy way out.

You watch as laps are completed and head-first dives are executed off springy boards and...what is that?  --Synchronized swimming?  Ugh!

It's too much work, too deep, too many arm strokes and foot paddling and chlorine and this and that...

Lessons are rejected, breathing techniques are disregarded, safety doesn't mean much because you avoid any challenge. The exercise, the cheering section and the improvement stay packed away, no progress made. Hanging out with guppies becomes your norm. The shallow end--your only friend because the deep...

well, it's just over your head.

I think there are a lot of enthusiasts of Jesus like that. They received their "pool" invitation with excitement. Maybe even went and purchased all the accessories to make them look experienced and ready--even a spray-on tan!

Yet they never move out of the shallows of their faith. They don't learn to let go, be taught and trust--Trust in the Life Guard of Everlasting Life! They drown in their own tears of doubt and worry.

Everyone finds their beginings in the shallows, and that is a good place to start. But many continue to lean on their own understanding, that the deep is just out of their comfort zone. They miss the blessings of completing laps, seeing the end results of the effort, of learning the ways of the water and discovery of the depths.

-as Dory says,  "just keep swimming, just keep swimming."  
-as Jesus said,  "Just keep believing, just keep believing." (Mark 5:36). 

Lord, learning to tread water was a good thing. Holding my breath and trusting in You for my next inhale has strengthened me. Staying and swimming in the deep waters of Your love has refreshed me and taught me to know You are always on deck, always standing guard over my life. When I emerge from the waters of Your salvation,  I am covered in a warm towel of amazing grace. Help me Lord, everyday, to be synchronized with Your moves, immersed in Your Word and in Your will,  ready to go deeper in trust and faith for wherever the laps of life continue to lead me. Amen. 

Oceans ~ Hillsong United 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Are You Faded or Fancy?

I Peter 1:3-4 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you."

Tucked away in my butterfly garden, a unique whimsical birdbath protrudes above the geranium, yet not quite as tall as the cosmos when they are in full maturity. A small pathway leads to the structure, framed by blue lobelia, white alyssium and purple salvia. 

Checking out a local antique store in the next town a few years back with my sister, we spied the base, a chunky, carved-out pedestal, painted in several pastel shades of blues, corals and pinks. Reasonably priced, my sister suggested it would make a great base for a birdbath. Now the hunt was on for a perfect "bowl" to attach. 

Found it! Stuck on top of a high armoir, a "pink" metal bowl, perfect in shape, size, and price, became my new project--an addition to a butterfly garden I started that spring. With a little epoxy and some cleaning up, it soon found its permanent home, outside my sliding glass door as I come down the stairs. I can see it and the blooming garden as I begin my day. 

This winter, as I cleaned up my plants, culled out the dead and prepared the soil for the new, I noticed what poor shape the pedestal had taken on over the months of watering, weather, and sun. Parts of the design and broken off and the color, faded-- a dull grayish...something. There were no defining colors left, just a blackish mold and deteriorating design. 

My whimsical, garden art no longer looked attractive, alive, new, fun, colorful...but dull and lifeless--UNattractive. 

I decided then and there that this unique creation needed a restoration...again. I would pull it out of the garden and begin the make-over soon. 

Over the last two weeks, I purchased a small wire brush, some blue tape and a can of spray stain-covering primer. The bristles removed the black mold, the dust, and smoothed the surface for the primer. Taping off the bowl, I sprayed it down leaving it to dry for a few days. 

Having several cans of paint lying around,  I knew I wanted to use what I had and not invest any more. That's part of the fun. 

This week, I've been working on a new color every afternoon. I didn't have a design in mind, but as I go, I can picture which color I need and where to apply it, complementing the color next to it. I look forward each afternoon to add another layer of paint, seeing it come back to life! Once faded, now becoming transformed, --alive, vibrant--what it is meant to be. The carvings on the pedestal are defined once again. I can't wait to see it shine, probably better then it did originally! 

I think God does that. He sees us in His beautiful Creation--worn, weathered, faded. He comes to us, picks up the broken pieces of our lives and finds the right way to mend us, fix us up. Sometimes, a little scrubbing, maybe some sanding down of our rough spots, our moldy sins, is His sweet discipline preparing us for the next steps. He primers us with grace and we are made white again, pure in His eyes. Then, he begins to make us into something He designed all along, adding the color back, some which we've had stored somewhere...

He restores the luster and redefines our gifts. He leads us to His purpose, placing us in the midst of a garden full of His encouragers and fills us with His Holiness. Others stop to take a drink, be refreshed and linger awhile to hear the stories of old and the hope of the new. 

Are you fading in your faith? Do you need restoration?  Have you let the mold and mildew of the world tarnish your attitude? Do you think your broken pieces can never be mended? 

As Christians, we have an inheritance that is imperishable! We need tender-loving-care from the Lord to keep us new and attractive, fresh and alive, excited and worthy, but that takes an active plan on our part to spend some time with our Maker. Yes, we are born again, but God has an abundance of glory awaiting us in that decision to submit to the Craftman! Let's ask Him to polish up the fading faith of our lives and give us some bright hope from His Word. Fellowship with others helps us see Your purpose again and God will place us at the window of His will, ready to greet the new days of sunshine, as we stand tall in His favor. 

We are never a finished project Lord, until You call us home. How awesome to know that You are continually working and improving me, seeing me as Your unique creation, and allowing me to be used for Your glorious purpose. May my testimony and commitment never fade, but continue to gain strength and brightness as I learn and grow in You. Thank you Lord for seeing me and putting the pieces together, placing me where I can be the best I can be and surrounding me with beauty in the gardens of my life. Make me fancy Lord for Your glory, not mine, for You are a loving God and my cup overflows.  Amen 

‘Glory Window,’ Chapel of Thanksgiving, Dallas, Texas

                                                   JEREMY CAMP : RESTORED