Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creatively Created to Create


A few days ago, I joined a group of ladies from our church at a local art studio. It's one of those wonderful places where you paint a canvas or a piece of pottery with the help of a local artist. If you've known me for any length of time, you've probably heard me say that I didn't get the "craft gene" or that I'm "artistically challenged". I say that because I didn't, and I am. I'm just not gifted like so many of my artsy friends. I did struggle more than most with the sketching required before you can paint. But when I was finished, and I signed my initial in the corner of my painting (a must, said our instructor) I was actually excited to take it home, in all its splendid imperfection.


I know, it's kind of wonky, and not exactly proportional. Kind of like me :o)  But I mixed the colors myself, and the brush strokes are all mine. There's something so meaningful about creating something. It reminds us that we are, after all, created in the image of the One Who Creates.  As I walked around the studio, I marveled at the spark of the divine in all of our handiwork; each woman's unique personality so beautifully reflected in her painting.  I learned some things from our night at the studio:

1. Because the Creator lives in us, we can all create! A song, a dress, a garden, a business.. create!
2. I cannot chat and paint at the same time. Or really even think and paint at the same time.
3. Never pass up the chance to have the instructor trace your squiggles with the puffy paint. Genius.


Verse for Today: "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  - Ephesians 2:10 NLT


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Treasures of her Childhood


I absolutely love Christmas!  All you bah-humbug people, I do not understand you! Okay, I'll try.  But really...I don't.  Since I was a little girl, I've collected Christmas ornaments.  Our daughter Caitlin is celebrating her first Christmas as a Mrs., so last night after family dinner, I got to share some treasures from her childhood.  We spent over an hour sitting on the floor of my living room, opening boxes of Christmas decorations, sharing memories, and choosing the things that will be hers from now on. My heart was full of joy as she carefully chose the things she wanted: the handmade "jewel ornaments" lovingly made by her Pappy, the little nutcracker, the pretty blue star, the tiny silver teapot. She was positively tickled to have my snowman cookie jar, and the red bead garland for her tree. As we wrapped the winners in tissue paper and tucked them all in a big blue rubbermaid tub, I smiled as I thought of my son-in-law Cameron dragging it all back out again next year, like my husband has done for thirty-two Christmases.  I sighed contentedly, and thought how quickly 

this:


...becomes this...


....and this.. 

I promise.  You blink, and they're grown. 

That blue rubbermaid tub does contain treasures from her childhood. It was such a joy to give them to her! I pray one day she'll sit on the floor with her little girl, filling a big blue box with holiday memories. But the real treasures of her childhood aren't wrapped in tissue paper or hanging on a tree.  The real treasures we have to give are the  strong love we all have for each other; the 'No D-word' commitment to marriage her Daddy and I share; the forgiveness that marks our family relationships, even the complicated ones; the faith that guides and sustains us;  the beautifully raucous noise of our home..brothers and sisters and dogs and music and friends and cooking and laughter;  and most precious-the absolute certainty that in spite of ourselves, God loves us without reservation or condition. That's the real family treasure.  What real treasure do you have to share with your kids? Why not share in a comment!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Free To Good Home



(This post was first featured on Chick Food Nov 20, 2010)




"He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve." Psalm 103:10 NLT




Don't let this adorable face fool you. When she wakes up from this nap, she'll be into some new mischief before you can say "free to good home". We've never had a puppy quite like Ellie before. We have given her the same care our other Boxers have enjoyed: a loving home, a big yard, good food, lots of chew toys....Chew toys will be featured prominently as our story continues. It's not an exaggeration to say that Ellie is the most willful and disobedient pup we have ever had. "Oh, she can't be that bad", you say. Oh, yes she can.

Just a few highlights, by the numbers. She has dug six holes in the back yard. Destroyed five pair of shoes. Four is the number of times she has broken out in full-body hives from sticking her face in, or sitting in, a pile of fire ants. It's also the number of dog toys she has dismembered, de-sqeakered and de-stuffed. Coincidentally, four is also the number of times I have had our carpets cleaned since her arrival. She has destroyed three pieces of very nice patio furniture, including shattering a glass tabletop. She has eaten two pair of rather expensive eyeglasses. Leaving me with one nerve, which she is sitting on.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home to find Ellie sitting in a pile of feathers, which she had extracted from a cushion on our living room sofa. With feathers in her mouth, her head cocked to one side, she looked at me as if to say "What?" I looked down at her and said "I will not be hypnotized by your cuteness!" I have four words for you! Free. To. Good. Home!" She curled up at my feet and looked up at me with sad eyes, a look which the Boxer breed has perfected. My heart melted. In spite of all of her faults and failures to live up to my expectations, she is part of the family, and she is here to stay.

I love how God uses events in my life to teach me about Him. In that moment, He showed me how very much like Ellie I can be. I make a mess of things, fail to live up to expectations, and fall at His feet asking for mercy. Again. And He is full of forgiveness and compassion. No matter how I mess up, I'm part of His family. I'm here to stay. And so are you.

Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, thank You that You are rich in mercy. You do not punish me as I deserve when I'm willfully disobedient. Help me to be gracious and forgiving to people in my life, as You are gracious to me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shine!

(This post was originally published on Chick Food Oct 28, 2008)

14-16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:14-16 (MSG)
                     

As a young girl in the 1970's, I wasn't very athletic.  Except for snow skiing and backpacking, most of my leisure activites centered around being creative.  I loved to sing, read, write poetry and music, and I always enjoyed creating "art" with our Lite Brite.  Using this simple grid of small holes, brightly colored plastic pegs, and printed templates, I spent many happy afternoons creating sailboats, clowns, and crocodiles. There was something so satisfying about spending time creating an intricate design, peg by colorful peg.  But the real beauty of my picture was revealed when I plugged it in, and the light bulb inside illuminated my artwork for everyone to see!

This morning in my quite time, I came across this scripture passage from The Message translation of the Bible.  While I don't use The Message for verse by verse study of God's word, I often find it captures the theme and application of a scripture.  Maybe you know this verse better from the King James Version: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16) Maybe you even sang about it in Sunday school:  "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" The Message reads "You are here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world."  And that's what got me thinking about my Lite Brite, and about letting my light shine.

So what does that mean, letting our light shine? The answer is tucked inside Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men,  that they may SEE your good works....."  Those around us see Jesus in the "light" of our good works.  Our obedience, the fruit of His Spirit, they all point people to Christ, and bring glory to God!  My Lite Brite wasn't much to look at without the light bulb.  The colors were dull and the design barely visible.  The light inside was the key to its beauty. And without His light, we're not much to see either! Without the Light, the world sees a dull, lifeless picture of our Savior.  So let's light it up today.  Bring light to someone who's hurting.  Bring light to a dark place.  This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!

Prayer for Today:  Father,  You said our light was meant to be put on a light stand, on a hilltop for all to see.  Help me to carry Your light into my world so that others may see You clearly, and give glory to You.  In Jesus' name,  Amen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thirty-one: True Beauty

(This is the 10th of ten posts in this series.)


 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. 26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. 27 She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness. 28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: 29 "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!" 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. 31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31: 25-31 NLT



It's finished. I actually finished a writing project. This personal 'dig' into the verses of Proverbs 31 has been so important for me.  I needed to shake off some dusty, myopic teaching about this chapter from years past. But the most pressing need was to silence the annoying little voice in my head that tells me nothing I write is of any real value anyway, so why bother? I know it seems like a little thing but, believe me, this was an epic battle! It took me four months to write ten blog posts! Of course there was study and reading, but there were looooong stretches of time in between posts. (I refer you to my earlier statement about the annoying little voice in my head)  I'm no Beth Moore, but I am who God made me to be, called to share what He's given me with the women of Crossroads...and with you! 

In the last seven verses of Proverbs 31, God shows us His definition of true beauty.  It's vastly different from our culture's unattainable, airbrushed ideals. In verses 25 through 27, He tells us what is beautiful in His eyes:  strength and dignity... fearlessly facing the future... speech filled with wisdom and kindness...watchful care over our households.  Isn't it interesting that every one of the qualities He calls praiseworthy comes from His Presence in our lives? We can't manufacture virtue, He does it.  It flows out of our fear (deep reverence and respect) of the Lord.  That is so liberating! It frees us from all the box-checking and rule-following, and trying to make ourselves 'virtuous'.  I
f everything My Heavenly Father calls beautiful comes from His Presence in my life, then the only thing on my to do list is to know Him more, trusting Him to make my life...Beautiful.  

Prayer for Today: Father, thank you for this beautiful picture of a woman who makes YOU her lifetime pursuit.  Help me to zealously guard my time with You, knowing our time together gives me everything I need.  In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thirty-one: Home Sweet Home

( This is the 9th in a 10-post series)

"19 Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. 21 She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. 22 She makes her own bedspreads.  She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. 24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. 
Proverbs 31:19-24  (NLT)


I've had a really difficult time writing about these verses. I've read Proverbs 31:19-24 in every English language translation, many times over.  I've searched far and wide for sound commentary, but have found little apart from the writings of narrow minded fundamentalists who would keep all women at home, and 17th century theologians who obviously lack insight for women of the twenty-first century.  And I don't know about you, but I don't know a single woman who spins her own thread.  So are these verses irrelevant?  I don't think so.  Like all scripture, they are "inspired by God, and useful to teach us what is true" (2 Tim 3:16 NLT). So we need to look at the biblical principles underlying these verses, which transcend both time and culture. Here's my take:

Verse 19Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.  She is industrious.  She is actively involved in providing for her household.  Whether she works primarily at home or the workplace, she works hard to give her family her best.

 20: She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. I don't think the placement of these verses is an accident. She provides for her family first, then looks to the needs of others. Over the years, I've seen so many women in churches get busy 'serving others', to the neglect of their own households.  First, care for those whom God has given you, then engage them in serving others, too!

21 She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. She is preparing for "winter" before winter arrives. I don't think the meaning of this verse stops at making sure our kids have coats and mittens.  I think "winter" is symbolic of times of difficulty or hardship. When things are good, she's preparing for tough times. She's not afraid because she trusts God, and she has set aside provisions (money, clothing, food?) for a 'snowy' day, so she doesn't fear what may come. 

22 She makes her own bedspreads.  She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.  She cares about the appearance of her home and herself.  She adorns both with the very best she can afford.  I don't make my own bedspreads, but I've worked hard to create a home my family loves.  I'm not always as careful with my appearance. Most days, a purple Crossroads t-shirt and jeans is as close as I get to this verse, although I usually dress a little better when I leave the house.  Hey, I'm a work in progress :o)

23 Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She does all she can to help her husband succeed and gain the respect of his community.  She prays for him.  She does her part to keep the home running smoothly, whether she's a homemaker or has a career outside the home. She respects him, encourages him, and pays attention to his needs. She speaks highly of him to others. A man who is respected, loved and built up by his wife has the best possible chance for success in any field and will have the admiration of his peers.

24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She finds a way to use her skills and resources to bring income into her household, while still managing her home. You probably haven't sold any linen garments or sashes lately.  Perhaps you sell yard sale finds on eBay, or keep your kids well dressed through consigning the clothes they outgrow. Maybe you own a business and work from home. Perhaps you prepare 95% percent of your families meals at home, saving hundreds compared to take out or convenience foods.  Whatever you do to bring income into your home, you are a doer of verse 24! 

Next time, we'll dive into the last seven verses of Proverbs 31.  Thanks for joining me on this personal journey.

Prayer for Today: Father, help me to do the very best that I can for my family with the resources You've provided.  Help me to make Your priorities my own.  In Jesus' Name, Amen. 


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thirty-one: Lamplight

(This is the 8th in a 10-post series)

She sees that her profits are good,
and her lamp never goes out at night.
Proverbs 31:18  HCSB



In Proverbs 31:18, we see that the Excellent Wife paid careful attention to the fruitfulness of her labors, giving her time and resources only to worthy pursuits. And we've heard that she "burned the midnight oil", working tirelessly until very late into the night. Some translations even render the verse that way.  But I think there's much more than the obvious for us here. After studying many translations, reading lots of commentaries and praying for insight, I saw some things I never saw before in this text. Maybe you'll see something new as well.

  From all we've read in Proverbs 31, there's no question the Virtuous Wife is industrious.  So it makes sense that she would sometimes toil late into the evening to finish important tasks.  But in verse 15, we read that it was her habit to "rise while it is still night" to prepare for her day.  To me, staying up half the night and getting up before dawn seemed incongruous with the way she conducted herself, and with the instruction to rest we see in both the old and new testaments (Genesis 2:2, Jeremiah 6:16, Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 4:9-10).  So I continued to study and search for insight.  In nearly a quarter-century as a Christ follower, I've found that searching His word like you're digging for hidden treasure always yields riches.

Is it possible that "her lamp never goes out" speaks not only of working late, but of preparedness at all times? Throughout scripture, oil is a type of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the five wise maidens have enough oil in their lamps to last through a long, dark night and are ready to greet the Bridegroom when He appears.  When the five foolish maidens realize they don't have enough, it's too late and they are tragically unprepared to meet Him.  I used to think how mean the wise girls were for not sharing their oil with the foolish ones.  But since oil represents the Holy Spirit, it would be impossible for one to share her supply with another.  A continual filling of  the Holy Spirit, is very much an individual pursuit, nurtured through a lifetime of prayer, obedience, fruitful living and time with God.  You cannot do that for me, nor can I do it for you.    

So I believe our virtuous woman doesn't stay up all night, every night. Her lamp is always burning; she lives ready.  From from now on, when I read verse eighteen, I'll remember her example. I won't think only of burning the midnight oil, but of keeping the oil burning...at midnight, and always.

Join me next time here at Chick Food as we dig into the next several verses of this precious proverb. 

Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, I pray you will help me give my time and treasure to only that which is truly profitable.  Please help me to be continually filled with Your Spirit, that my lamp may always burn brightly.  In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.