Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brush Strokes from THE MASTER PAINTER'S Hand

Redecorating in our home continues and through that process, God has been revealing Himself in the mundane moments of life.  Who knew my bedroom painting project could be such a wonderful visual of God’s love?!

This is the time of year my creative juices flow as I pour over my decorating magazines, Pinterest and the many decorating websites.  Since I am not particularly good at color selection, God has provided me with help.  My sister-in-law, Karen, has the uncanny ability to see colors well.  I am so thankful for her advice and her skills.

Once the plan is in place I can’t wait to get to the project at hand.  (I always hope my excitement will carry me through to the end of the project as there is nothing worse than running out of enthusiasm midway!) 

First I prepped the walls; there were drips from the last time I got the “bug” to paint.  After my husband lovingly suggested I have a “drip” problem when I paint (ahem…always hard to hear criticism but so much easier when it’s “truth with love”), I knew I had to do better this time around.  So I scraped and sanded and finally I was ready to arm myself with the various brushes and several cans of paint.

I rolled that brush across the walls while enjoying music from the Christian radio station. (I can still see some brush strokes; it is probably the point at which the music became filled with praise!)  The more I rolled and brushed, the more the blemishes disappeared.  Those old walls (our house is over 100 years old) were fairly shouting with the joy of being refurbished.  That paint was covering up the scratches, nicks and old color and something new was bursting forth.


Another thrill of repainting is the joy of watching a huge change happen so quickly!  Voila!  Walking into that room is now a brand new experience.  It looks and feels clean and refreshed; the new color brings a sense of peace and tranquility.

Doesn’t God do the same thing for us?   I love the old hymn, “There is Power in the Blood”.  The blood that Jesus Christ shed is the same blood that covers up our “blemishes”, our “nicks”, our sins.  The red blood of Jesus is the best “redecorating color” of all.  When we accept the gift of Jesus, we are rescued, redeemed and restored (three of my favorite words).  Hebrews 9: 22a says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  We need God’s brush strokes on our lives.

My husband and I recently saw the movie, “Risen”. The graphic pictures of the crucifixion are stamped into my memory.  Admittedly, it was difficult to watch, but it should be painful.   Thankfully the movie did not end there….nor does the glorious story of Jesus end there.  The tomb was empty!  Jesus was alive, is still alive and is waiting for all believers to join Him.  The “walls of my heart” have been painted over by the blood of Christ!  Oh how I look forward to the Easter celebration!

In the same way this painting project brought new life to our old walls, my life was made new when I invited Jesus to be my Savior.  When we get “painted” by the blood of Christ, when we accept God’s gift of eternal life though His Son, the Bible says we are born again.   
"II Corinthians 5:17 tells us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
It’s the perfect time of year for refreshing and refurbishing.  Jesus is the MASTER PAINTER and the only One Who is able make all things new.  As we look toward Easter, let’s invite our “heavenly decorator” into our lives to give us new life.  Get ready to shine!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How the Geese Touched My Heart

It was one of those winter days in the U.P. that was rather ordinary, as winter goes.  Cold, but not bitter; a bit on the gray side; not much snow but a forecast of a coming storm was hitting the news cycle.  The bay coming in from Lake Michigan was frozen….enough that there were ice shanties and vehicles out there.

That Tuesday was my weekly women’s Bible study and afterwards, I looked forward to a friend joining my husband and myself for lunch in our home.  (We had some delicious homemade tomato soup simmering, and Charlie put together grilled cheese sandwiches.)  All in all, a lovely way to spend a winter day.

Charlie had gone out for a walk around our area and he asked if later, I would head down to the harbor with him.  He had something he really wanted me to see.  Jokingly I responded it must not be a sailboat since the boats were in storage for the winter. (He once owned a sailboat and I sometimes wonder if that “bug” might hit him again.)  I was intrigued but definitely game for whatever it was.

After lunch we got in the car and headed to the harbor. (Could have walked but that would have required bundling up.)  Charlie parked the car close to the water; as we got out of the car he pointed me to something moving.  We got closer and I could see it was two geese.  The closer we got to them, the more they moved out onto the frozen ice, obviously keeping their distance from us. 

There was a chilly breeze blowing and I hugged my winter vest, attempting to capture a bit more body heat.  At that time, we were the only people moving about with just those silent fishing shanties looking desolate out on the ice.

As I looked at those geese, it finally dawned on me that they were not supposed to be there.  Geese fly in those lovely V formations at the end of the summer/ early fall, energetically announcing their departure, as they fly south.  There was something amiss here. 

My husband suggested I take a good look at one of the geese and, sure enough, it had what appeared to be a broken wing.  Oh sadness….  Then I realized why they were there and why they kept waddling without taking wing.  ONE OF THOSE BIRDS WAS UNABLE TO FLY!

Did you know that geese are monogamous and stay with each other until one dies?  Also, when something happens to a goose that forces him/her to drop out of formation, always the other goose goes with the “disabled” one.

My first thought was, those geese are never going to survive the winter. They would encounter predators, food shortages and severe weather issues. As we were leaving we saw a woman, obviously aware of those two misplaced geese, dump a bag of food for them and walk away.

I felt so helpless; but even if I could somehow make it all better, my husband reminded me that it would be difficult to get close to them.  Their ability to walk allowed them to move farther and farther out on the ice (there is a limit for me when it comes to walking on that ice!).

While I was feeling so sad for Mr. and Mrs. Goose, my husband reminded me of something beautiful in that scene….the commitment we can observe even among the animals/birds. 

God gave us a beautiful picture of what marriage should be as we watched the geese hang together.  Their commitment involved leaving the gaggle behind, protection of the wounded one and a willingness to enter unknown territory.  It may even result in the “protector” losing his/her life along with “Mr. or Mrs. Goose.”  Wow.  Who knew this day would offer so much?

I love how my husband saw all of that on his walk. Better yet, I love that he wanted to share the experience with me.

This picture is still incomplete, however. To take this to the ultimate place, I believe we see the heart of our Father, God.  There are no limits to His protection, commitment and love for us.  He gave us life in the first place, set us on this beautiful earth, provided for our care…and when we messed up, He sent His Son to provide cover for us. 

When we are injured, He brings healing…either in this life, or the ultimate healing when we go to live in Heaven.  He walks with us through all of life’s “wintery places” and goes with us into the unknown.  Psalm 23 says, “even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

I am thankful to Charlie for sharing “Mr. and Mrs. Goose” with me.  I am thankful that God continues to reveal Himself through His creation, if only I stay tuned in.  May God bless YOU with a peek at His heart today…and every day, as He reveals Himself through the ordinary moments of life.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Exposed!

It’s that time of year.  Yep.  The north wind is howling outside our windows, the holidays are a distant memory and spring hasn’t even given us a hint of when she is ready to show herself.  House project time!

We live in a wonderful old home, complete with oversized wood doors, tall ceilings with crown moldings, windows that rattle and leak cold air and an old behemoth of a furnace.  Every so often we discuss replacing that furnace only to decide to let it go one more year.  Replace the windows?  That would compromise the integrity of the original architecture.

We love this house!  She has served us well: Charlie reared his family in this wonderful home and 11+ years ago it became my home.  We toyed with the idea of starting our marriage in a new home that had no previous memories attached (the marriage books suggested that!) but because of its amazing personality, location near the lake and park, closeness to downtown….we decided to “deal with” any issues associated with staying here.  Almost 12 years later….good decision.

This year I decided it was time to update our bedroom.  The wood frames around the windows were very dry and faded; I had been threatening to tackle those windows for over a year. The time had come!

Charlie had already worked on the wood in many areas of our home and had an established process to get the wood shining again.  It, of course, involved major “elbow grease” but didn’t seem beyond my capabilities and determination.  (By the way, even though I was willing to take this on as my project, Charlie patiently showed me how to do it AND jumped in to help.  Great husband!)

Steel wool, sandpaper, various scraping instruments and other previously unknown tools became useful objects in my hands.  I had a fast, hands-on tutorial and the whole project became larger than life.  Can you home owners relate?

Eventually the windows were prepared and ready for the shellac, an adventure in itself.  Shellac has to be applied quickly because it dries so fast.  It was downright intimidating.

Charlie had brought upstairs his very, very bright lights….the ones that make it seem like a spotlight has been brought into the space. We turned those lights on and all the mistakes, less well prepared wood, brush strokes…all were EXPOSED!  The scrutiny of those lights EXPOSED areas that needed more work.

Isn’t our walk with God like that?  I love being in relationship with other Christian women, through Bible studies and fellowship gatherings, because we support and encourage each other.  So often the conversation focuses on what happens when we get deeper into the Word of God, what happens when we shine the light of Truth onto our attitudes, words and actions.  Those “bare areas”, places where sin is not so noticeable…. all EXPOSED!

In the book of Romans Paul says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”

There is more.  In Romans 7: 24 he describes himself as “wretched”.  Wow. Talk about sin being EXPOSED!  If today’s topic ended there it would be pretty depressing.  But, it doesn’t end there!  As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”.

In Jesus we are offered relief from all of this angst.  Through the Holy Spirit (Who indwells us the moment we give our lives to God through Christ) we can have power to live life free from the slavery of sin.  We will always struggle with sin, this side of heaven, but we can have victory!

Later in Romans, Paul reminds us and encourages us that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  He reaches our hearts when he reassures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

What a joy to know for certain that one day my sinful self will fall away because of what Jesus did for me (and you!) on the cross.  I will stand among the saints – all who died and live again in Christ.  My spiritual battles on earth, EXPOSED by the light of Christ, will give way to perfect love. 
 
Have you committed your life to Christ?  Have you allowed God’s Word to EXPOSE the changes needed in your life?  If so, let’s journey together, encourage one another and look forward one day to joining our brothers and sisters (Ephesians 1:18) who are already experiencing the fellowship of the saints.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Climbing Into God's Lap

The day I became a grandmother for the first time ushered me into a whole new realm!  Before that day I knew it would be fun to have some “grands” but I was unprepared for the not-so-subtle impact our children’s children would have on my heart.

We now have 3 beautiful grandsons but the first one, the one that ushered me into that “divine” place, was born on March 17, 2010.  (I love the irony of that day; his mama comes from a very Irish background and I love God’s perfect timing, bringing Henry into the world outside the womb, on St. Paddy’s Day.) 

This dear family lives way across the country so I camped on my phone that day. That call came and it catapulted me into the most ridiculous phase…you know, the phase where I carried pictures and would show them to anyone who would indulge me!

That same family produced Gus a few years later and, once again, I was totally captured.  My heart and emotions were as vulnerable as they were when their daddy was born….and when we adopted his brother 2 years earlier.

Thankfully we have a 3rd grandson, Jacob; he lives in our town so we get to love on him in person, more often.  In fact, recently Jacob wrapped his little arms around me and my heart just filled to the brim with a sweetness that can’t be described, though anyone with a close adult-child relationship will know exactly what that is.

Jacob is 4 ½ and was born with Down syndrome.  He is blond, blue-eyed and although he has few actual words, he communicates greatly through signing and loving.  He is all boy, complete with a love for all things dinosaurs, trucks and trains.  His activity level is high and somewhat impulsive, a product of the effects of Down syndrome AND the fact he is a 4 ½ year old boy.  He has strong likes and dislikes and loves on people like there is no tomorrow.

Jacob and daddy were over for dinner and we were enjoying some play time afterward in our living room.  In one corner of that room is a rocking chair….the very chair used to rock that doll baby to sleep when he was a very little guy. 

Jacob was busy moving about the room and suddenly, without warning, he headed in my direction (I was sitting in that rocking chair), climbed up on my lap and proceeded to give this grandmother some wonderful hugs, kisses and snuggles.  He had never done that, at least since he was very little.

His little head snuggled into my shoulder and we enjoyed a time of joyful grandmother/grandson intimacy.  I whispered in his ear, “Nana loves you.  Jesus loves you. Daddy loves you. Mommy loves you.  Papa loves you.”  I told him quietly that I remembered rocking him when he was a tiny baby and he made the sign for baby.  He stroked my face and puckered up, planting wet kisses on my face.  More snuggling.  What a moment and those moments stretched into 10-15 minutes.

Just maybe, this is what it would be like to crawl up into God’s lap.  Just as a grandmother is ALWAYS ready for her grandchildren, so God beckons us to HIM.  We can have that beautiful intimacy as His children; through prayer and Bible reading we can not only enter His throne room but climb up into his lap.  He, of course, is the sole occupant of the throne but His lap is always available.

When I am really hurting or struggling….or when I just need some comforting, I close my eyes and envision my heavenly “daddy”.  Sometimes I am just worn out and tired because of the cares and brokenness of this world and I need to hear God’s words of comfort and love.

In John 3:16 God tells us he loves us so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for us so we can have an eternal relationship with Him.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”  Nehemiah 9:17 reminds us that our God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

Maybe, just maybe, God knew I needed some special loving the other day. Maybe, just maybe, He sent a little boy named Jacob, to remind me of my Father’s love. 

How is He demonstrating His love to you today?  Maybe it’s through a neighbor, a family member, a beloved pet; certainly His love is available 24/7 through His Word or any time we go to Him in prayer.  The Bible tells us God Is Love (I John 4:16).  His very nature is love.  I pray you will enjoy that beautiful gift, a gift God gives freely.