Sunday, June 28, 2015

Painting Advice


I love to paint!  Oh no, not the small brush and canvas type.  I leave that kind of painting to my gifted husband.  I am talking about the roller brush and a blank wall.  That is my canvas!  There isn’t much that is more satisfying than watching a room being transformed in a matter of hours.  And it all happens with a brush, a roller and a bucket of paint.  Easy….right?

During one of my past painting ventures my husband entered the room.  “Pretty good, huh?”  I waited for his response and when I didn’t hear one, I threw in another statement:  “I love to paint and I think I’m pretty good at it.”  Hmmm.

This was the moment, I am quite sure, Charlie had to make a decision.  Would he let my statement rest or would he tell the truth?  I am thankful he made a truthful statement, although I must admit I did not necessarily receive it well at the moment.

“You have drips.” What?!!!  I don’t have drips!  Where? Sure enough, there were plenty of dried drippy paint places around the room.  And in that moment I realized I was looking at my work through a stilted lens.  But guess what?  Every paint job from that day forward was done more carefully and although the drips have not completely disappeared, I am much better!  (I grimace every time I look around a room in our home that was painted before Charlie offered me truth.)

Looking back, I am thankful that someone (in this case, my husband) chose to tell me the truth.  It gave me an opportunity to improve my technique and enjoy a much better finished product.

Do you know the Bible addresses this very idea?  No…not painting a room but the need to “tell the Truth in love”, which also means having a willingness to receive truth. 

One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  When we discuss, challenge and share God’s Truth with each other, our focus gets “sharper” and we tune in to areas of our lives that need to be given over to our Lord.

In even stronger terms James 5:19 & 20 tells us to help each other turn away from sin. “My brothers (includes us women also!), if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

 
My encouragement to all who value truth and want to live Christ honoring lives is to stay open to those who love God and you; invite their advice, admonishment and constructive criticism (given in love).  As people of God, we are to help one another stay on the path that leads to holiness.  I know, this side of heaven, my life will not be without “drips”, but through the love of others, those “drips” will be discovered, fixed and even eliminated before they dry and become permanent. 

John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Where the Healing Begins


This week I am doing something new….for me.  I have invited my friend, Laurie Coombs, to do a “guest blog” on my site.  She has an amazing message.  At the end of her blog will be more information.  I pray you are blessed.

“I didn’t want to revisit my past, but I knew I needed to.  I had already seen God move mightily on my behalf in the short time since giving my life to Christ, but I knew He wasn’t finished yet.

Healing begins the moment we allow Jesus complete access to the darkness contained within our souls.  Darkness must flee in the presence of light, in the presence of Jesus, but light cannot go where it is not permitted.  Doors must be opened for light’s rays to touch our darkest dark.  And at this point, I was flinging doors open left and right, begging, Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Soon, I heard God’s gentle whisper – “It’s time to forgive.”

I knew what God was calling me to.  I knew I was being called to forgive Anthony, the man who murdered my dad.  But quite honestly, I thought I had already done that.  Yet over the course of the next several weeks, God slowly showed me that, while I had forgiven Anthony as far as I was capable, I needed His grace to forgive completely, to forgive unconditionally.

But then God took it a step further – “Love your enemy,” He said.

At that, I cried out to God and said, “Okay, God, I get this whole forgiveness thing, but love my enemy?  How am I to do that?”

I wrestled with what God was calling me to do, but I had read account after account in Scripture of God redeeming losses.  Of God healing physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds.  I saw Jesus’ heart toward the brokenhearted, and I believed God could do all that for me as well.  I didn’t want my faith to be just a belief system.  I wanted it to be real.  I wanted it to impact my life.  I wanted it to change the way I lived.  So I followed, believing wholeheartedly that God would deliver.  That He would faithfully keep His promises.

And He did.

What began with a simple, seemingly insignificant call to love and forgive my enemy led to years of correspondence with the man who murdered my dad, through which I witnessed God do the impossible.  I have seen God redeem a situation that seemed without hope or purpose.  He has brought good out of evil, love out of hate, and peace out of despair.  God has truly worked all things for good in my life.  And I believe with all my heart that He will do that for you as well, if you let Him.

I pray you will.

You see, God has not left us to sit in our pain.  Jesus came to heal.  He is our redeemer, and I know it is His desire to lift each of us out of our despair and bring us I to a new, better place.  A place rich in beauty and blessings.  But in order to get there, we must be willing to allow God unhindered access to all the pain and bitterness and anger in our souls.  And we must be willing to forgive.

For this is where our healing begins.”

Laurie Coombs’ new book, Letters From My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness – which tells an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God – has just been released.  It’s available wherever books are sold. Be sure to pick up your copy today!


Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus.  She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God.  Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, and she is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve and Crosswalk.  Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery.

For more information about Laurie or to book her for a speaking engagement, visit www.LaurieCoombs.org.  And be sure to connect with her on her blog Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pruning From THE Gardener's Hand


My mother loved her flowers and her garden!  She planted and weeded and watered with the best of them; and when everything began to bloom she reveled in the beauty of it all.  After moving back to my home town in May of 2004, I was so busy with the changes in my life that planting flowers wasn’t an immediate priority.  I remember my mother asking me, “Judy, don’t you like flowers?!”

My mother’s enthusiasm for her yard was contagious.  She is now in heaven living in the midst of more beauty than I can even imagine.  I miss her, especially when I am digging in the yard.  Her love for gardening did eventually rub off on me and I know she would be pleased!

The other day, sans gardening gloves, I was digging around in the damp earth.  (Not recommended for beautiful fingernails but it felt good to actually touch and manipulate the soil.)  Because we live in a house that is over 100 years old, there are years of plant roots lingering below the surface.  As I pushed into the dirt making spaces for plants, I often had to cut those roots and dig them out. 

The other challenge is tree and bush overgrowth; all of you “tree huggers” know that a tree or bush explodes with growth, oddly enough, when it is pruned or cut back…. at just the right time of year.  We have a spindly rose bush (not getting enough sun) that keeps coming back, no matter what we do to it.  Upon my request, my very accommodating husband dug it out at the roots and transplanted it to a more sunny location.  I am looking forward to seeing that rose bush fill out and become a healthy, blossom producing plant.

As I dig, plant, water, weed and subsequently enjoy the end products, I can’t help but see the plan of God in this process.  Just as God created a natural world for us to enjoy, He has created us to be unique in the ways we blossom or produce fruit in our lives.    

God created us to be fruitful but to do that we must stay attached to His “vine” (Jesus).  It is His plan that we grow and blossom.  However….there are times we choose to go our own way, and these sin filled hearts of ours often take us in directions that don’t honor and please God.  It is here that danger lurks; if we are not staying attached to the vine (Jesus), we are in danger of losing our ability to produce fruit.

 In the Bible there is a wonderful comparison between us (God’s people) and the vineyards Jesus visited.  He says in John 15: 1, 2 that He (Jesus) is the true vine and God is the vinedresser.  Jesus goes on to say that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit, He takes away but a branch that does bear fruit gets pruned so it may produce more and more.

We are like those branches; when we are attached to Jesus, we become “fruit bearers”.  However, if we are not consistently reflecting Him, following Him, living for Him, we become like those branches that are taken away.  That is a sobering thought.

But even more fascinating….as we become like those branches that DO bear fruit…we are also pruned! I don’t know about you, but any pruning God has done in my life has often been painful…perplexing at the very least.  And yet, that same pruning results in great fruit in my life!

Example:  when Charlie and I were first married, we wanted to forge a new path in our community that reflected our union.  Charlie had been living here through the years and had many wonderful involvements in the community and local church. Over time God moved him out of some of the organizations that had been important to him. And….God called me to leave my long time community (in a different state) and get grounded where He wanted me.  It was a time of almost overwhelming changes while God was pruning both of us!

Where to attend and "be" church was one of our larger struggles.  Through a series of events it became clear that the church of our youth was no longer God’s choice for us…. but where did God want us?  Although it was a challenging time, we also experienced growth while God’s Word took root in our hearts and His pruning shears cut and snipped!


As I look back on that time, I praise God for those pruning shears.  Eleven years into our marriage we are still experiencing the trimming and refining process and hopefully always will! We are firmly planted in God’s garden/vineyard, grateful for what He is doing in our lives.  For the past 7 years we have been digging into the soil of God’s garden in a church of God’s choosing. 

Are you struggling today to make sense of something happening in your life?  Are there circumstances that seem totally out of your control?  Have you stopped to consider this may really be a good thing, even though it’s hard?  (I have a friend who loves to say, “hard isn’t bad/hard is just hard”.)  Is it possible God is pruning you to prepare you for a new ministry?  …. A new challenge?....A potential "fruitful" change in your life?  May He prune, snip and cut so that your "fruit" would be plentiful….all to His glory.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Flying in Formation


Today was one of those magical days….an introduction to summer with a promise of more to come.  It was a day of skin warming and eye blinding sunshine (without my shades); flowers are blooming and the world is absolutely bursting with life.  Charlie and I took a bike ride out into the countryside and at a park on the edge of town we saw a flock of turkeys.  They were awkwardly funny as they waddled into the bushes to veer away from our bikes!

And then there are the geese, such dirty birds but a part of the landscape none-the-less.  I have a wonderful story from an unknown author to share today and it’s called, “THE GOOSE STORY”.

“Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in a “V” formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way.  It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.  People who share common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.  If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.

When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.  It pays to take turns doing hard jobs.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.  An encouraging word goes a long way.

Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a gun shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him.  They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group.  If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.”

I love this story because it points us to what true Christian community should look like.  It is a great word picture.  Through the years God has gifted me with many “geese” with whom I have shared my journey.  They are and have been women who share(d) a common direction, who have rotated in and out of the lead, who have “honked” their encouragement through prayers, notes, meals, phone calls emails and their presence. 

I have had times of woundedness and sickness (in many forms) and have had to fall out of “formation”; always there was at least one “fellow goose” (if not several) who took time to fall out of formation to tend to me and protect me.

Recently God has been calling me to stretch and grow in my trust in and reliance on Him.  I have been so thankful for wise counsel, prayers and very real time others have spent with me as we “fly” together on this journey called life.

My geese are known by many names: Linda, Gayle, Alayne, Michelle, Tommie (a “she”), Wendy, Joani, Ashley…..so many beautiful geese I can’t begin to name all whom God has brought alongside me through the years.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.”  Acts 2: 42-47 describes the early church, a beautiful picture of Christian community.

I hope the next time you see geese flying in formation it will cause you to stop and thank God for His encouragement through nature and the creatures He created.  And you may want to offer up a prayer of gratitude for the “geese” that fly in formation with you.  And, for goodness sake, if you are flying solo, it’s time to join up with others.  Who knows, you may be needed to create an “uplift” for another!  Happy flying!