Handcrafted Gifts

I saw the sunrise yesterday. Do I dare imagine you painted it just for me? When I am caught breathless by a rainbow, did you craft that moment before time began, knowing I would see it, and be dazzled? Is it too audacious of me to hope you were thinking of me when god-light spills out from the clouds and pours down to the ocean – because you knew how much it would delight me? Sometimes, when I find myself gazing at the blushing buds in spring, I’m certain I feel gentle whisper say, “I knew you would like that.”

God-Light in the Cypress
God-Light in the Cypress

I watched my dear ones play on your pebbled beaches yesterday. I heard them laughing and took in the way they delighted in the beauty around them and in the company of each other. How perfectly you have crafted my family. Who but you could take two people and create a third so unique? Each of us holding dreams and interests that, when brought together, serve to balance, sharpen, challenge, and teach grace. If I ever doubt your mercy in my life, I have only to look as far as the two pairs of hazel eyes that greet me every morning to be reminded of your blessings.

Moonstone Beach
Hearts on a Pebbled Beach

When I consider your heavens,

   the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

   which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

   human beings that you care for them?  Psalm 8:3-4

Who am I that you are mindful of me?

I am nothing but a jar of clay for ignoble use…and yet…

I heard music this morning.  When the strings and the brass and the wind and the rhythm danced around me, I felt you in the notes.  Was that your intention? Am I reading too much into it, or was the pleasure of that melody meant to be a gift from your heart to mine?

Surely I have not misunderstood. You are the God who loved so much that you gave us your one and only son1, who loved us so much that he could not stay in the grave2. You are the God that sees every sparrow that falls to the ground and numbers each hair on our heads3. Being this God, I’m inclined to believe that every moment of pleasure was hand crafted by you, as a reminder to me, that you are present and active.

So I accept your gifts as tokens of your affection for me, as undeserving as I may be. And as I am filled with your love, may your glory be poured out from my simple life and may others find in me a reflection of you.

Cambria, CA
Lone Bench
1. John 3:16 2. 1 Corinthians 15:4 3. Matthew10:29-31

Originally posted as Sensing God, on January, 19, 2012, but it speaks to the musings of my spirit today, so it has been embellished with some pictures and given second life.

Forget the Rules

Stop trying so hard to follow all the “rules.” You can’t do it anyway. You aren’t made to be able, by sheer force of will, to do what is right. Stop beating yourself up for falling into the same trap over and over. There is a better way. I like to call it tap-root living. Like a dandelion keeps coming back over and over, so will your destructive tendencies until you stop trying to modify your behavior simply by plucking off the above-ground stems. Until you stop trying to look okay to the outside world, and start focusing your effort on the root of the issue, victory will be fleeting.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Let your roots go down into him. Sit in quiet stillness without an agenda, in a posture of worship with your mind, spirit, and body. Sink into the healing sanctuary of God’s presence. Let the Holy Spirit bring to your awareness any idols you are holding onto and ruthlessly cast them at the feet of Jesus to do with as he pleases. Feel the sweet release to be who you were made to be. Notice that over time you are changing without effort, because you are being transformed from the inside out. How could you have ever been distracted by that temptation, or why did you ever feel like you just had to have that thing, or what was so important about what that person thought of you? You will be mystified at your old thoughts because they are so far from where you are now – and you didn’t even try to change them. Instead, you became, and continue to become, a truer version of yourself the more you let your roots grow down into him. That is tap-root living.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:8-10

Shame on all you who hold Christians captive with your lists of dos and don’ts.  That is just high-sounding nonsense that holds no redemptive power. We can change how we appear to others, and we can even change our behavior for a season, making everyone who is watching think we’ve got it all together, but unless we are tap-root living, those changes are unsustainable. We may think if we just stick to this list of dos and don’ts we’ll be okay. Don’t buy into this and don’t listen to people who teach it. Changing our behavior will not bring us closer to God, but being closer to God will change our behavior.

I will even go so far as to say forget about all the habits and thoughts that hold you captive. Don’t even worry about them. Only focus on God. Find a way to enjoy God’s presence that is meaningful to you and be still and stop wriggling and striving. Get to the tap-root and all you need to flourish will follow.

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. Colossians 2:20-23

The Artist

The comment with the pin said, “I wish I knew the artist.” If she knew the artist, she could find more of their work, understand the motivation behind it, see how the works complement each other and give meaning to the experience of observing it. If she knew the artist, it would be more than just a painting; it would be an encounter with the creator’s essence.

 I wish I knew the artist

I know an artist. She is compassionate, exuberant, beautiful, kind, creative, deep thinking, generous of spirit and warm hearted. When I view her work, I view it through the lens of her character, and the paint on canvas translates to layers of depth and meaning reaching far beyond the image itself. Knowing this artist gives shape and context to each piece. I see how she has captured sweet memories in colored drama. I can hear her whispers of love and hope in the brush strokes. They are all there, laid bare, if you know her. If you don’t, you can only guess at meaning and intention. I know this artist, and it changes my experience of her work.

Grant Peace: Beth Whitcomb
Grant Peace: Beth Whitcomb

I know another Artist, whose canvas is the universe, and whose love condescends to me. To witness a sunset is to hear the heartbeat of God. The painting of creation was commissioned by God to speak to my deepest need. How can I but stand in awestruck wonder at the power of the ocean and marvel at the intricacies of a passion vine? All of creation is wooing me and drawing me in, and when I am ruined by its beauty I have nowhere to turn but to the Artist who has been revealed in every burst of color and light. I know this Artist, and I can hear the whispers of love, and grace in the gentle breeze, and the proclamation of eternity in the expanse of the heavens.

Robert Cheatham Photography
Robert Cheatham Photography

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world. Psalm 19:1-4

Nothing is Wasted

I have seen old suitcases turned into shelves, pet beds, vanity stools, medicine cabinets, side tables and bathroom sinks. I’ve seen shutters used for magazine racks, coat racks, picture racks, and pan racks. I’ve seen bathtubs as sofas, teacups as wind chimes, skis as Adirondack chairs, boots as birdhouses, rakes as necklace holders, and a telephone booth as an aquarium. When the original purpose is lost, a creative soul sees potential in the ruins and redeems the parts left for something new and interesting.

repurpose

Our lives are different though. Our original purpose was lost before we began. We are not like the rusty pipes rescued from the junk pile, never again to transport water, reduced to a coffee table leg. We have the best days ahead – always. Our Redeemer does not repurpose our lives. Our Redeemer purposes them, and, if we cooperate, continues to purpose them over and over and over, each new purpose a greater expression of our true identity.

The sorrow and pain of your present moment can be purposed. So can your joy.  Allow the beautiful Redeemer to work. Please do not hear in these words that loathsome platitude that there is a reason for everything. Hear instead the greater news that every piece of our lives may be purposed. Nothing is wasted is the hands of our Redeemer.

Today, as you journey through your valleys or soar on your mountain tops, you will discover joy beyond reason, peace beyond understanding, and hope beyond dreams when you focus your heart in willing surrender and whisper the prayer, “purpose this.”

Psalm 51:5, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Isaiah 61:3, Romans 8:28

Jason Gray :: Nothing is Wasted – Official Video

The Dance of Grace

Sometimes the grey gives way and brilliance breaks through. Sometimes there are miracles, sometimes, in these shadowlands, goodness prevails, and sometimes we can see grace.

It came disguised as a prom.  A glance told of a well-appointed party.   Swaggering young men in black tie and dazzling young ladies in sequins and chiffon. They chatted and laughed, Shook, Gangnamed, and Shuffled. But it was not just a party; it was poetry that had escaped the page.  An astute observer could glimpse the extraordinary.

prom 1

In the curl of every manicured finger was a hand that felt different. In the crook of every suited arm was a companion with a unique perspective, at the handle of every wheelchair was an unexpected friend. It was the best of humanity concentrated into one beautiful moment.  To witness it was to witness grace.

“Hi! I’m Stephanie,” she said, to a young man with almond-shaped eyes, “I’ll be your host this evening.” She took his hand, and turned to his parents, “I will make sure he enjoys himself, we are going to have a great time.” She was seventeen, stunning, poised, and completely selfless. One after another they came to greet their guest for the evening. Young men gently leading young ladies to the dance floor, some kneeling down beside wheelchairs to facilitate conversation, young ladies patiently listening to a halting story; young men and women all pouring their life into that of another.

prom 2

Hundreds of volunteers, local businesses, experts in their field donating their skills, and generous contributions from a family of faith converged in the lobby of a converted movie theater and gave modern expression to an ancient mandate;

“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…” Luke 14:12-13

I count myself among the most fortunate to have stood as witness. I have seen grace personified, and nothing will ever be the same.

A Night to Remember an event of Mission Church

Can You Hear the Singing?

Here you are again, full of hurts and heartache, and yet, I have not stopped singing over you, but you have not been still enough to hear it.

You keep looking to others to lend light and joy to your life and you know that’s not their purpose. You think the unjust action of your colleague has made you angry, but it’s your focus on the lesser thing of fairness that has stirred your ire.  Justice is good and right, but I am sweeter, and I offer mercy. You think your spouse’s indifference is breaking your heart, but it’s idolatry that is tearing you up. I am jealous for your affection. I know you, I made you, I called you to me and your wandering heart betrays the sweet existence you could have by relying on me alone for your satisfaction. Those careless words hurt you, I know. Your hard work has been overlooked and your ideas dismissed. You’ve gone unnoticed and underappreciated and you’ve been misunderstood. All these things pale in comparison to me. One day in my presence is worth a thousand elsewhere. Step out of the trap your wrong thinking has laid for you, and start thinking of truth. Offer forgiveness and become untouchable by those who mean you ill. Keep in mind always, that you are my child and anyone who harms you, harms my most precious possession.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:3-7

Respond to my promises. Let me whisper gently to you again that I have come to give you a rich and satisfying life, and you have the privilege in this life of practicing my presence in anticipation of the eternity to come when we will at last exist in the same dimension. Take a moment today, to rest in my beauty. Find a quiet place to sit and breathe in my presence. Remember the times I have shown myself faithful. Build an altar in your heart and I will come to you and bless you. Shift your focus away from the flawed and fallible and turn toward the lasting and lovely, and you just watch what I can do!

Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 46:10, Joel 2:12-14, Deuteronomy 4:23-24, Psalm 139:13, Psalm 84:10, Philippians 4:8, John 10:10, Exodus 20:24

Solemn Assembly

I am eternal. I am triune, yet one. I see all of time at a glance and exist in dimensions you can’t even fathom. With me there is no shadow of turning and what I say will be done, is done. There is nothing you can to do make me more trustworthy, more likely to keep my promises, more engaged in your existence. I am.  I have said that when two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, I go into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there. When my people of old worshiped, I manifested my presence as a cloud. Now my spirit is made manifest in you and is called to action through your intentional communication with me through prayer. Never doubt that your earnest prayers have great power and produce wonderful results.

Be excited when you feel inspired to join in prayer with others. When I intend special answers to prayer, I call for a solemn assembly.  When your heart beats with the same burden as others, you are being called by me to a solemn assembly and I intend to work, and your prayers are an essential ingredient. Thank you for cooperating, and responding to my call to action. You pray, I work. It is done without question, regardless of your ability to perceive it.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. Matthew 18:19-20

The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 5:13

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Joel 2