Shattered – The Inside Story

I’ve always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes. When I was a little girl my grandma had one in the toy box. I still remember it was made out of a cardboard tube with a tin top and hazy plastic bottom.  Not much to look at, but out of all the toys in the box, it was my favorite. Back then, I didn’t know how a kaleidoscope worked; I just knew that it did.

There’s an exciting event in Grand Rapids that’s coming up in September. It’s ArtPrize and last year even though I was in the early stages of recovering from a near fatal accident, I begged my husband to take me. A couple years ago at ArtPrize I saw a life-size kaleidoscope.  You know what?  I was still just as fascinated with it as I was 50 years ago.  I loved turning toward the moon, twisting the cylinder while multiple colors in crystal shapes were illuminated by the moonlight.  I had the opportunity to talk to the artist about his quest to find the perfect ingredients to craft his object for ArtPrize. Did you know the makeup of a kaleidoscope is from very basic materials? A tube, a few mirrors, some glass and plastic – nothing remarkable. Nothing remarkable. Does this sound familiar?  That’s me. That’s us. Don’t we feel like that sometimes?

We feel a little like that tube, all shiny on the outside, but pretty hollow on the inside. Sometimes we’re shattered by the circumstances we’re living with and are exhausted in trying to figure out how to get through the maze. Inside the tube, it’s dark. The remnants of shattered glass are everywhere. There are mirrors, but in this position they reflect nothing.  Let’s work on that. We are like a kaleidoscope in the making. All the ingredients are there; now we need the Master builder to perform His work in us. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Like the kaleidoscope our lives are a potpourri of events, decisions, activities, and situations.  Some of them are exciting, others are bursting with happiness, we love those times and grasp them firmly in our memories.  Then there are broken dreams, shattered opportunities and we want to forget they ever happened.  Did you know God uses all of that – the good and the sorrowful – to make our lives beautiful and significant? The key is in our positioning.  We have to get into the place where the Light of the World enters the dark, hollow tube and reflects off the mirrors of our hearts.  All those fragmented pieces of glass, those times when we feel shattered, point them to the light and turn the filter while they fall into a beautiful design. The colors change and illuminate in patterns, each one unique, each one beautiful. Your life is unique and beautiful. All those broken toys, all those shattered plans, give them all to Jesus. He is the Light of the World and will make your life beautiful.

The kaleidoscope – unremarkable.  But when the position is just right, the light comes in, reflects off the mirrors, and the shards of glass illuminate with unique beauty.  I agree with David.  Psalm 40:8
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

The sun is rising on a new day.  Yesterday in one of his many life enhancing truisms, our pastor quoted Colossians 3:17  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Today I’m thankful for hope through the good and bad, the ups and downs of how life happens. I’m thankful for light in a dark world. Now hand me that Kaleidoscope!

There’s a hand stretched out – take it. We can trust our God. He knows what he’s doing.  Remember the kaleidoscope. LET’S GET OUT THERE!

You are now entering the mission field!

Can we start over at the gateway to summer?  In June, didn’t we all feel like we were on a mission to enjoy the days of summer?  How successfully did that mission progress? The countdown has begun. Mom’s everywhere are on the fence with this one.  On one side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. On the other side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. See the dilemma?  These days preceding the start of school are evaporating.  When entering a store I want to wrap a tarp around the displays of schools supplies to hold back the reality that summer is nearly over. How can it be that August is so quickly slipping away when there are so many activities still waiting to transpire? ERGH! Can we go back to June, please, when we were just embarking on our mission?  I know what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” but can’t we stretch this season out a lot longer?

What do you love most about summer? Is it vacation? Catching a few extra minutes (or maybe hours) of deck time? A chance to be outside till God turns the stars on? Running errands that have no obligated set time to be done? Downshifting a little, instead of feeling like every gear is programmed to shift on command? Opportunities to gather with friends for a few hours without wondering if you’ll be plowing snow all the way home? Sounds like a mission of a different variety, doesn’t it?

I love every season. In fact I love every day of the week. Some are more fun than others – like summer, like vacations. But then back to work and back to reality and back to ‘that’ mission field.  For some of us it’s a job, for others it’s schools, and for everyone it’s a place to be.  That place to be, no matter who we are is our mission field.  It’s that place where just by being in it we can make a difference. I read a lot, listen to podcasts and watch countless videos. The number of social media evangelists telling me what I have to do to be successful is overwhelming. Their mission field is vast compared to mine. But this one thing is true for me and it’s true for you, we all have a mission. We have a place to serve – a place to make a difference – a place to shine. Some of us take the scenic route, a crooked path, a mountainous trail, while others seem to know their mission like an internal compass stuck on true north.  For those who lack that pinpoint precision, we gain unparalleled experience from all the ups and downs, twists and turns while wandering.  The key is building a strong foundation of experience as we cross boundaries, then use what we’ve learned to help others and help ourselves too.  Our mission field might be small and familial or it might be diverse and seem foreign.  Most of us are not called to acts of prominence or fame but each of us is called to be a light right where we are.

My mission field at home and at work is my opportunity to make a difference.  It’s yours too. We don’t know the impact one small act of kindness will make.  Philippians 2:1-4 says: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

What is your mission field? Does it feel like unknown territory?  The entire landscape of my day will be different from yours.  We know different people, we live in different places, what we do every day is different. We have a kaleidoscope of opportunities on our mission fields all needing just one thing to be effective.  Light!  The places where light makes the most difference is where there is no light.  Proverbs 13:9 says “The light of the righteous shines brightly.” We look toward the Light of the World to receive energy, contentment, and an unlimited supply of joy.  Colossians 3:23 reminds us that “Whatever we do, we are to work at it with all our heart, just like we are working for the Lord.” No matter where we live, work, go to school, or play, whatever gifts God has given each of us, we are responsible to Him to work at it with all our heart and be faithful.  1 Thessalonians 5:24 tells me if God calls me to do something he will be alongside me helping me do it. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Leaving the gateway of the summer camp I attended, there was a sign that read “You are now entering the mission field.”  Back then I didn’t think about the significance of that simple statement. Now I recognize its truth. I could spend years looking for my mission, when all along I have been on my mission field, the place where every day I make a difference.  The question is, what kind of difference am I making?

Ready?  You are now entering the mission field. Let’s get out there.

Lover vs Enemy – Which Do You Choose

Have you ever started your day from the moment of wakefulness with an unexplained sense of regret? Monday, I woke up disappointed; no reason, but the tug toward discouragement was obvious. Monday follows Sunday, the day of spiritual feasting.  It didn’t take long to recognize the leading character in this restless descent into pessimism. While my guard was down, the ‘Enemy of My Soul’ brought out his messy paintbrush and tried to ruin the landscape of the beautiful day God planned. During our pastor’s sermon on Sunday, he was reading in Psalms when my eReader flipped back a few chapters to a passage that came to my heart at the first sign of morning today. Psalm 57:8 “Awake, my soul! Awake, O stringed instrument and harp! I will wake up at dawn!” Being awake is a helpful first step, but what comes next? Good question. What does come with the advent of a new day? Some days are immersed in wandering contentedness; on others we need a swift upsurge of incentive! There is nothing wrong with taking a break, letting off the accelerator of life and coasting aimlessly for a little while. We need a reprieve from regimented structure and relentless work, but this was not one of those time-off days.

This day I had my heart set on a productive day; productive laced with contentment. I was thinking of all the things I wanted to check off my list and the satisfaction of seeing that line drawn through each task. I’m pretty sure I gave some thought to the Lord and even started the day with a sincere prayer.  I know what it says in 1Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.” Instead of contentment, menacing flickers of discouragement threatened. Less than 15 minutes into morning the effects of Monday after Sunday were coloring my day with abstract images; lost focus and no contentment in sight. After about the 4th fruitless trip up and down the stairs, I recognized the signs of attitude deterioration.  I was definitely not following what I learned just the day before from Psalm 63:8 “My soul pursues you; your right hand upholds me.” I had to ask. Is this the path God would want me to stumble around on; all this aimless wandering? Isn’t this wasted energy? And what about all the time I can’t get back if this restlessness continues all day?

Does this ever happen to you? Some obscure emotion snags your attitude and drags it through a gloomy path to despair and spiritual poverty? Couldn’t we use a stop sign right then with an arrow pointing to a better path; one that’s well marked with a light at the end? There is always a better path. In fact, I can prove it in Jeremiah 6:16 where “The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!” In that context, God is calmly trying to convince his people that he has given them instruction and has shown them the tried and true path, but they seemed to have a better idea and purposefully rejected God’s advice and said “We will not follow it.”  Let’s not make that chaotic mistake!

Where do we find momentum for living above challenges etched in the landscape by that messy paintbrush clasped in the hands of the ‘Enemy of Your Soul’?

  • Dive into the hands of the ‘Lover of Your Soul’, Jesus, God’s Son who promises in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  If you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.
  • Connect with God – Isaiah 59 reveals some consequences of being alienated from Him. Unfamiliar with peace; wait for light, but see only darkness; grope along the wall like the blind, like those who cannot see;
    we stumble at noontime as if it were evening.

It’s easy to begin the day with hope and quickly slide into sadness. Even when we pray to the ‘Lover of Our Soul’, that despicable ‘Enemy of Our Soul’ is ready to pounce, claw, and drag us to defeat. In those times, remember these words from David in Psalm 119:65-68 “Be good to your servant, God; be as good as your Word. Train me in good common sense; I’m thoroughly committed to living your way. Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place, but now I’m in step with your Word. You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness.” [Message]

Your mission, should you decide to accept it is, Lover vs Enemy – you choose. Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”

Ready?  Let’s get out there!  All will be well.

21 Tips For Being Wise

You’ve heard it before. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I’m not convinced that qualifies as insanity, but it runs backward from wisdom. Did you know knowledge and wisdom have distinctive differences? I read, I study, I memorize, I even practice, but I can still lack wisdom. I can use more wisdom. Maybe you’ve already got it mastered.   Personally I’ve taken God at his word in James 1:5 “If you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I think I better take the advice here – and get on track.

Have you ever thought about the differences between knowledge and wisdom? They go together but are not a matched set. Knowledge is gained through study, experience, investigation of facts, and knowing about a subject enough to share precepts or an educated opinion.  Wisdom can be coupled with knowledge but its qualities extend beyond what is known to encompass what is right. Wisdom is joined to discernment and is the navigation system we use to make decisions and find our true north.  So many decisions, so many possibilities, so many paths to get there.  My quiet time today took me to Proverbs 4.  But somehow these two verses in Proverbs  got me started.  Proverbs 18:9 “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” And Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  One thing I never want to be is one who is slack in my work; it destroys! And I know that I can plan all I want, but it is God who gives me wisdom to sort out the steps to take.

Reading through Proverbs 4, I made a little checklist.  Go ahead and read the full 27 verses after this, but I thought it might be fun to dash through Proverbs 4 and pick up some tips to share.  I’m not going to identify the verses …. But just remember Proverbs 4.  Here we go.

  1. Listen to your father’s instruction
  2. Pay attention and gain understanding
  3. Do not forsake my [father] teaching
  4. Take hold of my words with all your heart
  5. Keep my commands
  6. Get wisdom – The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom
  7. Get understanding – Though it cost all you have: Get understanding
  8. Do not forsake wisdom
  9. Listen and accept what your father says
  10. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go
  11. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
  12. Avoid the path of evil; do not travel on it
  13. Choose the path of the righteous which shines like the morning sun
  14. Do not walk with evil; the wicked is like deep darkness
  15. Pay attention to the words of your father
  16. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
  17. Keep your mouth free of perversity
  18. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips
  19. Keep eyes your straight ahead – do not turn to evil
  20. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
  21. Be steadfast in all your ways

So there we are. Twenty one tips for becoming wise and gaining understanding.  Something to think about; something to strive for.  Look back at the list once more.  Ready?

Let’s get out there. And remember: Treat yourself to joy everyday!

The Truth About Investing

I miss blogging. There I said it. I don’t count my followers. I don’t analyze the geographic locations of my readers. I have the smallest degree of popularity.God has a purpose for you  I love that people sometimes read and comment on what I have to say, but what I really miss about blogging is spilling out the contents of my heart because it’s part of who I am. I met up with a friend yesterday whom I had not seen in over 2 years. She needed a guest to join her on her radio show, so I helped her out – then we spent the next 4 hours in eye level communication, soul sharing, revealing life as we have experienced it since 2012.  “I miss blogging,” I told her. And instantly felt her response. “Why do you feel like you can’t spend time doing something you really enjoy?” That’s it! The enigma uncovered, deciphered with a few well-placed words.

Spending time. Or investing time? Is it just me, or does spending seem different from investing?

Investing is paying into something, expecting a profit in return. Investing is more purposeful, intentional, a personal commitment with promise of reward. Investing builds. Investing creates. Investing is discernment – applied to time, that means making choices which have discernible benefits.

Spending is often frivolous, impetuous, and done without thinking. The damage done by a mindless spending spree can be financially devastating. Spending money or spending time, expends energy and depletes resources without regard to replenishing. I’m a little slow on the uptake and sometimes God has to grab ahold of my head and point my face in the right direction. I couldn’t sleep all night so I started praying then I started web surfing and that always brings me to  I read 1Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  I may not be a gifted writer, but God has given me a love for writing and that is the gift. It’s OK to invest time in writing; in fact God says each of us should use whatever gift we have. Why do I tell myself blogging is spending time frivolously? God says I’m not spending my time, I’m investing it. He gave me the love of writing. It’s a gift.

This tiny lesson was a revelation in other ways too. In January, I decided to join the one-word-to-live-by club. I call it a club because it was hot for a few weeks and, well, it’s a club that evaporated quickly like 3 week old resolutions. Take a trip over to Twitter and look for hashtag #word365 . . . Point proven.  My word though, which I adopted and still invest in is ‘discernment’.  What should I be doing right now invades my thoughts so often I recognize that I am spending too much time deciding and too little time investing in what I should be doing right then. Things like organizing only to reorganize.  Reading too many books simultaneously leads to spending time, instead of investing quality time in one or two books.  Spending countless hours online reading and following blogs to learn from the masters and absorb their knowledge. All GOOD, but am I intentional and investing wisely?  I see some flaws in my investment strategy.

Whether spending or investing, being human automatically qualifies us to experience disillusionment with our choices. Humans are the only species with cognitive abilities and minds capable of reason. We are practically licensed to feel exhausted from the myriad of choices we must make! Here’s a little hope for those overwhelming responsibilities. Bring on Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

God comes along and promises that our efforts will be rewarded if we invest our time wisely. We might have to be stubborn toward our wandering minds to be staunchly disciplined in constructing our days.  And those of us who are certain we’ve been touched with ADD need a significantly stronger behavior pattern to assure we are investing in our gifts that will reap rewards. 2 Chronicle 15:7 says “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

How about you? Are you spending or investing time for a profitable outcome?  Deciding what to do with the hours in our day is like a roller coaster running inside a maze. Sometimes couldn’t we yell, “Stop the world and let me off. Just for a little while.”?  Instead God gives us gifts that bring us pleasure and he says, use them. Spending/Investing. Make wise choices.  Isaiah 65:22 comforts us when God says, “For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.”

Treat yourself to joy today!

Changed – Becoming who I was meant to be.

Google Doesn’t Know Everything

Good workI received this comment on my blog:  I see a lot of interesting posts on your website.  You have to spend a lot of time writing.  I know how to save you a lot of work. There is a tool that creates unique, google friendly articles in a couple of minutes.  Just type in google ….  And it came from someone calling themselves ‘Chairman’.

I don’t know this person’s angle and surely they don’t know me. All of you experienced bloggers out there are going to say, it’s spam, just delete it.  Of course it’s spam and it’s already deleted, but that’s not my point.  There’s a lesson here.  There are good reasons to reject assistance and invite compromise. What do you think?

Let’s put this idea into the perspective of being authentically who we are, engaging in activities we enjoy, working in a vocation we love, and relentlessly practicing our craft, while learning from the experience.  In our quest to develop expertise and strengthen our affinity for knowing what we were born to do, we cultivate the cycle where our interests match our skills, match our abilities, match our responsibilities, match our aspirations, mastermind our vision, and through rigid determination create inspiration to press on, keep learning, keep striving, and never giving up.  There is no free pass to carry us without effort into becoming the authentic person we were meant to be.  Listen in while I explain all that to Chairman.

Dear Chairman,

Thank you for your interest in the content you found on my website.  We agree on one thing. Every word written was by my hand, from my thoughts, and with a fair amount of effort. Yes, I spend a lot of time writing and it does take a lot of time.  But Chairman, for me to stop writing is to stop breathing. I have never sold even one paragraph of my writing. You see, I don’t blog for income; I blog because I love it.  It’s a simple exercise that grows my writing skill and allows me to encourage readers by conveying comfort, motivation, and joy for their day through the way words are strung together.

Letting Google create my articles robs me of the opportunity to learn by doing.  Google doesn’t know my heart and can’t empathetically impart concern for a hurting soul or confused person struggling through discouraging circumstances.  Google is a goldmine for information seekers and I don’t doubt the power of your suggested resource, but Google can never replace the sentiment of a sincere message from my heart.

I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but Chairman, to follow your suggestion cheats me of the opportunities to be creative, increase my value as a writer, multiply my capacity, and expand my proficiencies, and sharpen my aptitude.  When I’m not writing I feel my talent diminishing and competence evaporating.

You’ve expressed concern that I am working too hard.  I love writing so much, it is not work at all.

Wishing you a day blessed with authentic joy, and work that doesn’t seem like work.





Hidden Faith

I had to stop singing. We were in the middle of a song at church, music resonating from the worship band, the words projected on the screen flashed through my mind. “The riches of your love will always be enough” I had to stop. Could I really sing those words and mean them? If I couldn’t find work, if my car broke down, if suddenly I was financially destitute, would the riches of God’s love really be enough?

I thought of my childhood friend sitting across the aisle from me whose life is about to change in a good way. She and her husband are closing down their business and moving thousands of miles away to be fulltime home missionaries to a Bible Conference and Camp in Idaho. They have a passion for leading children and adults to the savior through a camp ministry. They have to raise support because their income from corporate America will be gone. They are following the call of God into the unknown; what they can’t see.  Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’  That’s faith.

On Saturday, I spent a few hours with friends I have known longer than I have not known them. In fact we have been friends for so long, the line between friends and family have blurred. They waited till retirement, but they give their entire winter to working on service projects for places that need all sorts of maintenance and construction. Bible camps and colleges provide a place to park their RV and provide some meals, but the rest is real life; a walk of faith. They exemplify the life in this first verse of Psalm 89 “Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it! I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are. I’ll never quit telling the story of your love— and at the end of verse 4 David, says ‘Everyone descending from you is guaranteed life; I’ll make your rule as solid and lasting as rock.’ “

That same evening, I was talking with two artists in their family. One of them is creating an object for ArtPrize here in Grand Rapids. The other artist is from Missouri.  We were talking about the creative process and while they have one thing in mind at the start, sometimes the object just doesn’t want to take on the form. The art turns out quite different from their original vision. Sometimes, most of the time, their artwork won’t behave. Not unlike me, I thought.  Isaiah 64:8 plainly says it for us “You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  But we have the will to misbehave; I do things my way …. And then wonder why I fear the future and what it holds for me.

In my quiet time this morning I was reading Isaiah 30 and still thinking about that song by Hillsong that continues “I’m running to Your arms, The riches of Your love Will always be enough, Nothing compares to Your embrace, Light of the world forever reign.”  I know that what I want for my life is to know that I am living inside the incomparable embrace of God.  Isaiah 30 starts out “Woe to the obstinate children,”
declares the Lord, to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, and don’t consult me.”  I pray my way through every day, but do I really consult with God? Do I take his counsel or do I make it up on the fly and just ‘think’ I’ve prayed, I’ve consulted.  Shouldn’t my faith be stronger? This is what I believe.  If you have to see it to believe it, it’s not faith.  Close to the end of the chapter is Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Recently I told a friend that when someone has direction for me, they need to be very direct. I don’t take hints and can’t grasp the meaning behind sugar coating.  Just tell me what to do so I can’t mess up.  I made a decision a few weeks ago to move forward with my heart’s desire to write online courses and be able to make them publication ready.   In preparation I consulted with experts and asked an untold number of questions.  Then I purchased Storyline by Articulate. I believe I did the right thing. I believe God lead me to the sources of information. But was there a path like in Isaiah 30:21 that said “This is the way …. Now walk the course”? Not really.  I may be directed down an entirely different path.

My friend and her husband who did leave all behind to follow where God lead them, did they have a well lit path so they couldn’t mess up?  They will tell you it’s been years in coming.  But they believe God when he said in Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Today is a new day – “This is the way; walk in it.”