Fired up!

Tuesday, I wrote about how we feel when God says yes, or no, or wait. Any of those occasions could be prefaced by painful circumstances that cause us to cry out to God and say, “God do you see me here? What are you thinking? In the most trying times, when I was going through the worst circumstances of my life, where were you?  Does any of this sound familiar? Especially in the days when God’s answer is wait.  Just wait.

A couple weeks ago, I watched Day of Discovery program produced by RBC Ministries.  I was intrigued by the familiar topic of the potter and the clay.  Isaiah 64:8 says ”Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.” I’ve heard that story all my life. The potter (God) takes a lump of clay (me) and puts me on the potter’s wheel, spins me around while dousing me with water, and shaping me into a masterpiece, fashioned for a unique purpose. Does that sound familiar?

Through the process, the master has this designer mindset that transforms an image into a vessel with all the qualities planned in advance, before the clay even arrived.  Jeremiah 18:6 spells it out for God’s vision for his people. “He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” God has a plan for his people today, just as he did back in the days of Jeremiah the prophet.

Here’s what really caught my attention. The gentle shaping of the clay, constructing the sides to fit the base, twisting the handle or leaving it looped and serviceable, all of this creating purpose inside its shape. Characteristics – all unique; some through tender prodding, others subjected to deeper depressions.  But the most beautiful ornate features came from pinches, scrapes, and gouges. Finally the potter gently applied the glaze with a loving guided hand to complete its designed purpose. I think God used the illustration of the potter and the clay so we could understand a little about his ways.  This is how we want God to work on our design.  We want slow, deliberate guidance, not too rough.  If we must endure some pain along the way, like smoothing out a rough patch or covering a dried out crack, we want the action to be swift and precise. We want to be assured that no matter what we’re going through, God is close by, working all things out for us because we love him.  Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The potter and the clay – a masterpiece.

What happens when our life is not defined that way?  There’s another step in the process of creating that masterpiece. After all the planning, designing, forming, and painting the piece goes into the kiln.  That’s right – that’s life.  Instead of the calm, placid life we agree with, our circumstances are tumultuous and agonizing. At times we feel like the temperatures of our circumstances are rising and we are far beyond the boiling point. Where is God then? We are going through fire and we feel like God has abandoned us.  Did he just walk away and leave us in our distress? What does the potter do in these times? When the potter puts his fully formed masterpiece into the kiln, that’s when he watches most closely. The temperature in a kiln reaches over 1500 degrees.  The potter can’t risk being far away or being distracted. Think about it for a moment.  Remember how David sang about being relieved from his distress over and over in the Psalms.  Just as the potter watches and protects his masterpiece when the kiln is fired to its hottest temperature, so these are the life times when God watches, tends, and protects his children, his masterpieces. Psalm 120:1 “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.”

We have to remember to trust God in the dark for what he promised us in the light.  It’s so easy for us to be distracted by the frenetic pace of life. We are prodded, chinked, and scored. We crave tranquility and we get turmoil. We just want things to calm down, but we’re stuck in heated fury.  When our spiritual tanks get drained dry, I wish we had a robot audibly beeping ‘Warning, Warning, Warning.” like on that old 60s TV show ‘Lost In Space’.  We don’t have a robot, but we do have the guidance of God’s word, filled with promises that last a lifetime.

Proverbs 6:20-22 “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.”

It’s a battlefield out there. Not a physical battle, but it’s real and when the heat is turned up, remember that God is still in control, nothing happens to you that doesn’t first pass through his hands, he has control of the temperature gauge. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. “

Jeremiah 32:38-40 “I’ll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I’ll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them. What’s more, I’ll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I’ll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they’ll not even think of turning away from me.”

Wednesday, I went on an adventure. Nobody else might consider it an adventure; but to me, it was like being taken from the kiln and released to cool air; no burns, no scorches, at just the right time. For months I have wanted to meet Becky Robinson, the owner of Weaving Influence.  (http://weavinginfluence.com) God has been watching, tending and protecting me – and just when I was tempted to think he wasn’t paying attention, God opened the door.  Now what does this mean in a tangible way? I’m not sure because I have only this moment.  I can’t see into the future.  But I know that in God’s sovereignty, he orchestrated that event.  I have no doubt that he will orchestrate anything that comes from it.

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Sunday Sonrise

It’s Sunday Sonrise everyone!  I hope you remembered to Spring Ahead last night. If you didn’t you’re already late.  So let’s make this quick.  Look around you.  No I mean it. Look around you and what do you see? I look back on the remnants of a full Saturday, the anticipation of a family-friendly Sunday,  and the evidence of abundance. We don’t have to be millionaires to have abundance. We have nourishing food to eat, we slept in warm homes last night, when we woke up this morning we found clean water to take showers.  Our closets are so full of clothes we actually have to decide what not to wear.  Many of us complain of clutter overload.  We plan meals around ‘just enough’, because we have the capacity for ‘too much’. Is anyone with me on this? Abundance.

We are going to embark on a small remodeling project over here in our basement. It’s just one wall, but it has to come down. That meant I had to move things leaning on that wall and everything else around it. Do you know what was going through my head as Tyler and I moved all of that from there, to over there? Abundance.  It’s pretty hard to grumble and complain about what I don’t have, when the evidence of what I do have is all around me.  Thankful.

It’s the weekend. It’s Sunday.  There is something enticing about weekends, something beyond days off from work, hours of fun, and time to catch up on household chores.  There is time for contemplation, mentally taking a thanksliving break.  I really like what I read in Colossians this morning.  I hope it has meaning for you too. Colossians 3:14-16 (NIV) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs-EHiTg1Ek

What about options?

A local news channel in West Michigan often publishes a question to raise enthusiasm for the weekend and, of course for their broadcast popularity.  Nothing wrong with that.  If my purpose was to grab attention and get people to pay attention, like a news channel, I’d kindle a response on a Thursday night too.  That one question though started an unpredicted recall process that left me a little bewildered. Not because I don’t already have a calendar full of possibilities, but because I do.  I’m a list maker and a natural born planner, albeit a very flexible planner because I like to keep my options open.  I have a thick spiral notebook with beautiful floral pages that I handwrite my list of options on.  And there’s that word that got stuck in my head and refused to budge. Options!

As my mind was anticipating the weekend ahead and annotating plans to go to a high school play, maybe two high school plays, spending Sunday afternoon with my family, having breakfast with my accountability friend, and enjoying fresh, dark coffee made with my Keurig brewer, I stopped.  Right there in the middle of those thoughts whirling in expectancy I realized how blessed I am to have options.  There are many who don’t have options.  They have physical limitations, they have financial restrictions, their health confines them to a small, safe space. I couldn’t turn off the thoughts of individuals suffering from serious illness, and their families who suffer with them. Weather in parts of our country have ravaged areas and left people homeless for weeks. What options do they have? I was watching a program on TV that showed the poverty in countries where the only drinking water comes from polluted sources.  They have no options. We love options. We’re dismayed at their absence.

I confess. I’ve done my share of complaining this week. Maybe not vocally where others could hear me, but my mind has been contaminated with little grievances.  The problem with little grievances, is that they procreate and like any other living organism, they grow to the size of their nurturing environment.  Do you ever feel like this? Nobody is perfect. Everyone is allowed to complain.  It’s OK because life isn’t fair and I’m just being realistic. Good point.  But not valid. Nothing good comes out of complaining.  Complaining is a decrepit option.  Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,”  Interesting!  Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.  Those negative thoughts should be fleeting, not resident. I should renew my mind Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Renewing my mind is a favorable option. Realistic is recognizing what I have instead of what I don’t have. Realistic is being aware of what I can do, instead of what I cannot. Renewing my mind, refreshing my attitude, regenerating a right spirit within me are options; options as real as the plans I’ve made for the weekend.  Sometimes I overlook the blessings in my life. I often forget that I have options. One option is to adjust my attitude so thankfulness is at the top of the list; the predominant characteristic.  If I get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (the Message) “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.”  But I need help – lots of help!  Well, there’s an app for that.  Psalm 55:16 “I call to God; God will help me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.”  I still have plans for the weekend, but option one is a renewed mind, and thankful spirit.

Happy Friday, everyone!

 

 

 

What are children being taught?

Thought for the day …. what are our children being taught at school?  Here’s what they are being taught at Thornapple Kellogg Schools in Middleville.

We will be kind, caring, fair and honest. We will treat each other with respect by following the Golden Rule (treat others like you want to be treated). We will show our citizenship by cooperating with others and following the rules.

Found on a poster, in a classroom, signed by all the students. Heartwarming!

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnmWwudeqfM

Change requires what?

Last night I was listening to Priscilla Shirer at the end of her lesson in the book titled One In a Million when she used a well-known cliché with a new application.  At least for me. “If you’ve done things the way you’ve always done them, you’ll get the same things you’ve always gotten.” Remember I’ve confessed more than once that I can be a little slow on the uptake. How many times have I heard that same phrase used in business presentations, business books, business meetings, in consultations … many.  How many times have I heard it applied to the life of an individual, the life of me? Probably just as many times, but by the time I ran it through all my filters, it’s impact evaporated.  Note to self … to make a change, I actually have to change something.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes little changes are the most difficult to make. Could it because the little things are such a part of us, they are as common and ingrained as the position we take while we sleep?  Have you ever had to change your sleep position?  Yah.  It’s tough.  You know why?  Well duh!  I’m sleeping. I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m sleeping.

To make a change, requires that I actually ‘make a change’, a conscious change.  I have a couple habits that I do as naturally as breathing.  They aren’t necessarily bad, but they are unproductive and I need to change.  My goal is to write online courses.  I’d like to start today, but since this is not a goal that leans toward overnight success, what can I change to get me to that goal?  I envision moving one paw out of the familiar track and pulling the rest of myself onto a new pattern. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember my love of the tapestry analogy.  All the strings of life are woven together in this magnificent masterpiece. We don’t even realize the intricate beauty of the pattern because we are so engrossed in living the pattern. When God looks down from heaven, he sees the pattern because he created it.  We are under it and sometimes all we see  is the mess of tangled threads, but even then sometimes the pattern is evident.

The tapestry is the result of what I weave into each day.  If I don’t like the way the pattern is turning out, I have to change the color of the thread, or the placement of the color.  In my quiet time I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 and wondered how the message translation would describe the event going on there.  1 Corinthians 10:11-12 describes my thoughts quite well   “These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.”

How about you?  Do you have something you really want to change? It starts with a thought and a thought reaps an action, which reaps a habit. That’s another old cliché that I’ve heard but have not put into practice.  To make a change, requires change.  I’ll meet you out there.

Contentment on the Flipside

I grew up in the age of the 45.  Not a cruise speed of 45 miles per hour, I’m talking about vinyl records, played on a record player that had a turntable speed of 45 rpm.  When music producers went to market for an artist, they printed the hit song on one side of the record and the less desirable on the flipside. On occasion, the tune on the flipside surprised everyone and scored higher on the charts than the song promoted and most desired.  How does all that relate to contentment on the flip side?

We all want contentment. Contentment says “I like where I am. I like what I have. I like what I do. I like “fill-in-the-blank”.  Don’t we all have those moments or days of feeling content? What is the source of contentment? There can be others, but one foundational source is gratitude. Being thankful for where we are, what we do, and what we have.  Gratitude and appreciation.  Colossian 3:15 implores us to be thankful “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”  Notice that peace and thankful are joined together?

Remember the flipside of the 45? The less desirable song? On the flipside of contentment is what?  Comparison!  Nothing invades contentment more than the flipside, comparing! Comparison is the opposite of contentment.  We are warned against comparison and told that it is not a wise act in 2 Corinthians 10:12  “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” When we look outward and see what ‘they’ have, or what ‘they’ have accomplished., or  the house ‘they’ live in, or even the entertainment ‘they’ can afford, we can so easily be distracted from what ‘we’ already have.

Does this mean we should stop working toward goals? Should we not look for the better job that fits our talents, interests and our budget? Should we stop maintaining our homes and adding touches of beauty? Here’s one thought. Be thankful right now where you are. Express it.  “I am thankful for:  my home, my vehicle, my level of education, the fact that I have employment, the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom, food in my pantry,  what else …”

There’s something alluring about contentment. It goes beyond the peace we feel when things are going well and we have something to look forward to.  Contentment comes from being satisfied, when we have enough, when we are happy right where we are.  Contentment is the companion of a grateful heart.

The apostle Paul had it together.  Listen in on his self-revelation in Philippians 4:11-12  “ I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  1Timothy 6:8 expresses it very simply “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Certainly we can have new clothes and good food to eat, but be content with God’s provision for this moment, and be thankful.

Time is gone for today, but think about contentment. It starts with a grateful heart, and leads to peace, to joy, to being the best we can be, with what we have, in this moment we have.  I leave you with this final idea from Hebrews.  I’m just throwing it out there for consideration.  Hebrew 13:5 “ Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Comparison is the opposite of contentment.  Do you want to be content? Stop comparing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-I8fBVCXi4

 

Weekend Warrior

What does the term Weekend Warrior imply? Isn’t it normally attributed to intense, endurance-challenging exercise?  This translation is different.  Have you ever felt the intense urge to pray for people you care about and you just can’t stop thinking about them until you’ve spent time with God praying his best for them?  What if we applied the tear weekend warrior to prayer? What would happen if we prayed for other people; prayed for ourselves; prayed for our country and prayed for our leaders. What if we prayed for a godly attitude and stronger faith. Could we pray for God to be in the center of every room in our homes and that whatever happened there would be honorable and pleasing to God? I want a heart like the people in Joshua 24:15 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We often think we need to spend an hour in prayer of at least a significant amount of time reading from a list of names so we don’t forget to pray for them? That traditional method is one way of assuring we get our prayer time in, but there’s another way to pray without ceasing like 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

There are benefits to Well first, let me tell you what didn’t happen.  Everything on my get-it-done list, all pertaining to some room in my house, didn’t auto-magically get done.  Even if I had asked God to complete the tasks for me, he would have reminded me that he is not a magician, he is God.  Sorry – the long list of tasks to do are a result of ignoring them all week and they are still all mine.  ERGH consequences, huh?  I do, however, think my willingness to persevere, and not avoid, was the product of a renewed spirit within me.   Maybe a little of Psalm 51:10 seeped in along with my prayers. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

 

Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’   Call to me and I will answer you … I know that promise still operates on God’s time, not mine, but here’s what happened.

As a result, the sadness and discontent that had accompanied me for days, was replaced by a spirit of peace. It’s unexplainable in human words, but I’ve noticed regret and disappointment creeping into my thoughts lately, and that is where all acts start.  “Sow a thought, reap an action.” I know that. We all know that.  There is a constant battle for my mind, and that’s the first place to make a change. The weekend warrior in me, prayed for miracles to happen. I’ll settle for the miracle of having a steadfast mind. Think right, to do right.

It’s still the weekend. There’s time to be a weekend warrior.  I’m continuing with a dose of God’s nurturing spirit in church.  I’m not calling it quits after the weekend though. I learned something yesterday. Don’t get stuck in the muck of negative thoughts live as though that’s the pattern and there is no way out.  There is hope and there is help, like it says in.  Psalm 31:24  “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” And in Isaiah 41:31 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”