Family Time in The Laurelwood: God’s Masterpiece

An Interview with Worrisome Woodchuck

“Hey, ho everyone!  This is Random Raccoon here helping my pal EE out while his family is away visiting his great-aunt Edna.  I thought maybe you’d like to meet some of the gang here in the Laurelwood.  So here is one of the gang, Worrisome Woodchuck.  He can be a little bit nervous ’bout stuff, but he’s a good ole’ pal!

R.R.- “Ummm….everyone this here is Worrisome Woodchuck. W.W., this here is, umm…everyone.”

W.W.- “H-h-hello, e-everyone.”

R.R.- “So tell everyone somethin’ about yourself. Ya know, so they can get to know what a great guy ya are.”

W.W.- “W-well, I’m a w-w-w-woodchuck.

R.R.-“Seriously, man?  We’ve covered that one already.  Somethin’ else, please.”

W.W.- I d-don’t kn-kn know. Uh, w-well.  I l-l-like to p-p-p-p-play the c-clarinet.”

R.R.- “Is that what that long, black horn thingy is that you blow into and make all kinds of noise?”

W.W.-“Y-yes.  And it’s m-music not n-n-noise!”

R.R.- “So while other kids are out runnin’ around playin’ soccer and basketball, you’d rather be blowing into that clar-e-net?”

W.W.-“I like th-those things t-t-too, but I r-r-really l-love playing my c-c-clarinet.  I w-w-work hard at it and p-p-practice alot!”

R.R.– “Hmm….bet some kids think that’s kinda wierd.

W.W.-“W-w-well, y-yes they d-d-d0, but G-G-God created all of us -s-s-special. I m-m-mean with different interests and t-t-talents, and p-p-personalities. L-l-like each of us are H-H-His own sp-special p-p-poem or c-c-c-c-concerto.”

R.R.-“Whoa, God makes mexican food?”

W.W.– “Wh-what are you t-talking about, R-Random?”

R.R.– “Concerto. That’s some kind of Mexican food, right? Man I am so hungry.  I bet God’s concerto is really, really good!”

W.W.-“A c-concerto is a m-m-musical c-composition, n-n-not Mexican food! M-m-my favorite b-b-bible v-verse says: ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ ”

R.R.– “Amazing. You don’t stutter when you quote Bible verses. Did you know that, W.W.? Do you stutter when you play the clar-e-net?”

W.W.-“No, I d-d-don’t, R-Random!  I g-guess what I w-want kids to -kn-know is th-that God d-didn’t c-create us all w-w-with the same interests or t-talents, but wh-when we c-come to know Him through Christ Jesus, He has g-g-good things for us t-t-t-to do that line up w-w-with the sp-special w-w-way He m-made us.”

R.R.-“I guess that’s why we shouldn’t make fun of folks who might rather play the clar-e-net than soccer.  We should cheer each other on so we can all use the special gifts God gave us to do good things for His kingdom!  Hey, I like to eat-ALOT!  Do you think that’s part of my special gift?”

W.W.– Uh–I d-d-don’t know, R-random.”

R.R.– “Well all of this talk about Mexican food has gotten me really hungry. Thanks for talking with us W.W.!   And thanks for tuning in, everyone!  Hey, W.W. do you think your mom knows how to make that Concerto stuff?”

Tilling Time

Some talking points for around the table, time in the car, or anywhere really.

  1. What are some ways God has made everyone different?
  2. What are some ways that people are different that are a result of sin?
  3. What is the difference?
  4. What is a special talent or interest that one of your friends has that you don’t have?
  5. Have you ever made fun of anyone because they might have different interests than you?  Has anyone ever made fun of you because of this?
  6. Have you ever felt jealous of anyone who was really good at something that you wanted to be good at too?
  7. What is something special that interests you?
  8. What types of good works might God have planned for you to do using your gift of talent?
  9. What is something that you have an interest in and would like to try out or to read and learn about?

Digging In

  1. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)

The Greek word here for “masterpiece” is “POIEMA” from which we derive our word “poem”.  How cool is that!  It is important to help our children understand is that there are some differences which are a result of the sin nature that we are born with, or sinful choices we make because humanity is fallen. God desires to make those things new in Christ and to move us forward into all of the great things He has planned for us and the special talents He has given to us.  This verse so beautifully explains once we receive Christ as savior, we are created “anew”.  Such things as an aptitude for math, language arts,  or music,  personality traits, natural athleticism, these are things God has placed within us that make each of us different. Special interests and tastes are also ways we are created differently.  These are all gifts God wants us to grow and be good stewards of so that we can use them for the good things He has planned.

2.  2 Corinthians 5:17 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

3 . Psalm 139:13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful,
 I know that full well.” (NIV)

Growing Out

  1. Indoor Snowstorm: make paper cut outs of snowflakes.  This is one site that offers 12 free printable templates: http://www.firstpalette.com/tool_box/printables/snowflake.html

Parents can make a bunch of snowflakes while kids are sleeping and then hang them from the ceiling of any room.  When the kids wake up the next morning: it’s an indoor snowstorm!

2.  Grab a mug of hot cocoa and watch this incredible slow motion video about the formation of a snowflake.  While scientists tell us that two snowflakes can scientifically be alike, the conditions that cause the snowflake to form have to be so precise that, although scientifically possible, it is highly unlikely. God is the Master Designer of snowflakes and of us!

Enjoy!

 

3. Have your child make their own snowflake out of any color paper that they choose.  Have them write out one way that they are God’s masterpiece. Date it. Let them hang their special snowflake up with the others.  When it’s time for the snowstorm to come down, save their special snowflake.
4. Here is a wonderful website about Snowflake Bentley, the man who first photographed snowflakes and documented his findings. http://snowflakebentley.com/
5. Let each member of your family find a way to bless someone using their own special gifts or talents.  Perhaps a note of encouragement or thanks could be written by your  family member gifted in language arts or the art of encouragement; maybe cookies or a meal could be baked for someone in need; maybe a visit to nursing home to sing, play music or deliver pictures created by budding artists.  You get the idea!  The possibilities are endless.
Have a wonderful week!  May you and your family find the beauty in the poem God is creating with your lives and may you go forth and bless others with your very special gifts!
Thanks for spending some time here in the Laurelwood!

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Time in The Laurelwood: Lessons in Repentance-Sorry Doesn’t Cut It

A note to grownups: Welcome to family time in the Laurelwood!  I am so glad you are here to join EE Otter and his gang of friends as they learn about living life according to God’s Word thanks to Opaah, Mama and some other Laurelwood folk.  Each Sunday there will be a new post that will include a short adventure with EE and friends, bible verses to read and memorize, and a variety of fun activities and crafts that you can use with your family to reinforce the values and truths of God’s amazing Word!  I hope that you will join us on this adventure.  Oh, and on Thursdays, you and I, we’ll have some grown up time in my Thursdays Thoughts because even we need a bit of respite to refresh and challenge us too!  Thank you for visiting here in the Laurelwood!  We are so blessed to have you and your family join us.

(EE Otter and all characters affiliated with this series are  a copyright of Laura Taylor)

This week EE and Random will share with you some of the adventure they had when they learned what repentance really means and how much God loves them and everyone else too!

Story Time:  Sorry Doesn’t  Cut It!  

“Sahhwee, EE!” Lily exclaimed when she accidentally dropped her big brother’s karate trophy on the floor.  “Lil, you aren’t supposed to be in my room without asking.  This is the third time this week you sneaked in here and picked up my trophies.”

“Well I is sahhwee” she said tearfully, “it was a accident.”

“Well, sorry doesn’t cut it, Lily.” Random Raccoon said, trying to sound very mature.

“OOOhhh, I didn’t cut nuffin, Wandom! ”

“He means that saying sorry doesn’t really matter if you don’t stop doing the thing you keep saying you’re sorry for doing.”  EE explained wiping away her tears.

“Boy, did me and your brother learn that one the hard way! Remember EE?”

Walking over to his bedroom window, EE moved the curtain aside and looked out towards the clearing beside the Otter family den.  “We sure did”, he said remembering.

The weather forecast for a deep snow had EE and Random so excited it was hard for them to fall asleep.  There had been little snow that winter and they had been making plans to build the greatest snow fort the Laurelwood had even seen!  It was especially exciting because it was Winter break and Random was spending the next four days with the Otter family.

As the sun peeked it’s way through EE’s bedroom window, Random jumped up, ran to the window and exclaimed, “Whoo-Hoo!  Our prayers were answered!  Look, EE!  Look!  There’s at least three feet of fluffy, white snow and it’s still falling.  C’mon, man, wake UP!”

The boys worked for hours clearing the spot for the fort and forming “snow” bricks.  They only stopped when Mama insisted that they come in for some lunch.  After lunch they were finally ready to begin building the first layer of walls for their grand snow fort.  They worked diligently until the sun began to fade.  All of the walls were almost three feet high.

“Tomorrow we can finish the walls and then we can ask Opaah if we can use that old tarp he has to make the roof!”

The boys excitedly shared all of their building plans with Mama, Opaah, and Lily that night at supper.  Opaah told them he was proud of all of their hard work.  The boys were so tired that evening that they fell asleep in front of the fire in the family room.

The next morning they were up before the sun and raced outside to begin working on their masterpiece.  “What in the world?” EE said startled.  Random stood next to him without saying a word, mouth hanging open.  One side of the snow fort had been knocked over and there were boot prints on the ground leading to Opaah’s workshop.

Racing to the workshop the boys found Opaah busy working on a new table for Mrs. Mole.  “Opaah, did you see what happened to our snow fort?  Someone knocked the wall in!”

“Sorry lads,” Opaah said, “I did it.  I was carrying this wood and I wasn’t watching where I was going.  I am really sorry!  Can I help you re-build it?”

“That’s okay, sir,” Random replied, “we can do it ourselves.”

The boys were disappointed, but it was just an accident and Opaah was sorry about it.  They rebuilt the wall in no time and finished the final layer on the remaining three walls just as night was falling.  Tomorrow would be the grand finale!  They would put the top on it and then invite the rest of the gang to come and play.

As they washed up for supper, Opaah came in from his workshop.  “Listen, lads, I need to apologize again about your fort.”

“It’s okay, Opahh.  It was just an accident.”

“Except, I’m not apologizing for this morning again.  I need to say sorry for what just happened.”

“What just happened?” Random asked

“Well, I must not have been watching very carefully on my way inside, it is kind of dark.  I walked right into your snow fort.  I knocked down the same wall.  I’m really sorry!”

“Opaah! You didn’t! We have been working on that for two days.  You said you would be more careful.  Oh, no!”

“We’re never going to finish it before Winter break is done. We’ll never get the best snow fort EVER built in time!” Random moaned.

“EE, your grandfather said he was sorry.  You boys will just have to work on it again tomorrow.”  Mama chided.

The next morning the boys headed to the fort full of discouragement.  “I know Opaah said he was sorry and all, EE, but that’s two times.  If he was sorry don’t ya think he’d have been more careful the second time?”

“I don’t know, Random.  It isn’t like Opaah to be careless.”

He knew our fort was there and he had plenty of room to get around it, even with those long boards.”

On top of the pile of smashed snow bricks was a wooden sign post stuck into the snow.  It said: Come into my workshop before you begin re-building

Opaah was busy at work when the boys entered.  “Welcome, lads!  Come sit here at the workbench and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa with me.”  He was awfully jolly for a guy who wrecked a snow fort not once but twice.  “You lads, look like you’ve lost your best friend!” he said as he poured piping hot cocoa into three mugs. “You know I said that I was sorry, boys.  What else can I do?”

Swallowing hard, EE respectfully replied, “Maybe you could be more careful, Opaah.  Next time I mean.”

“Yeah, like tonight on your way inside,” Random said, “or you could help us rebuild it.

“Hmmmm, so my saying sorry doesn’t quite cut it, does it? Sounds like you lads would like me to change what I’m doing so that my actions reflect my words.”

“That would be somethin'” Random said slurping the hot cocoa

Looking thoughtfully at his grandfather, EE said, “I have a feeling this isn’t about snow forts, Opaah.  It’s about Polly Possum.”

“Polly Possum? What’s that peck-uh-lur girl got to do with Opaah wrecking our snow fort?”

“It’s ‘peculiar’, Random!  And that’s just it, we said we were sorry for the way we treated her but we didn’t change anything.”

“Well it’s not like we were mean to her!”

“Well it’s not like we were nice to her either, Random!  We said sorry but nothing changed. Right, Opaah?”

“Right, son.  Saying sorry doesn’t cut it if we don’t change our attitude and then follow that by changing our actions.  God’s Word calls that repentance. It begins by changing the way we think.  For instance Random, you told Polly you were sorry.  You did that work at Mr. Badger’s in order to learn your lesson, but you still think of Polly as peculiar.  Since you haven’t changed the way you think and haven’t changed the way you act you aren’t truly repentant. You aren’t truly sorry by God’s standards. The Bible tells us that  godly sorrow brings repentance and that leads to salvation. It’s a change in the mind, heart, and actions, boys.  And God’s promise is that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins when we confess them and choose repentance.  Now let me show you something really special…..” Opaah said with a twinkle in his eye.  “I think you lads are going to love this!”…….

Oooohh. I fink I get it.  If I was weally sahwee I wouldn’t fink it was okay to come in your woom and play with your twophies as long as I didn’t get caught!”

“Something like that Lil” EE smiled giving her a brotherly hug.

Tilling Time

These are just some discussion starters you can use with your famigood. Tilling time can happen anywhere: in the SUV on the way to the next game or practice; in the car on the way to school; at the dinner table; before bed.  These are the moments you begin tilling the soil of your child’s heart.

One of the Greek words used in the New Testament for repentance is “metanoeo” and Strong’s  Concordance defines it as “change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God)

  • Has there ever been a time somebody said they were sorry for something that they had done, but they kept on doing that same thing?
    • How did you feel?
    • Do you think that they were truly sorry?  Why or why not
  • Sometimes saying “sorry” is more of a habit.  We might feel badly about something that we did, but we don’t really assume responsibility for it.
    • Is there an example of this in EE’s story: Sorry Doesn’t Cut It?
  • Let’s talk about a time when you might have said you were sorry but didn’t really mean it.
    • parents can share a time they may have gone through something similar.
  • How did Opaah’s knocking the snow fort down teach EE and Random about repentance?
  • We must remember that we cannot earn God’s favor by our good deeds.  We can’t work to earn God’s love nor be bad enough to lose his love.  However, to have a relationship with God through Christ, we must have an attitude of repentance.

Digging In

This is the place where we begin to dig into God’s word planting it into the soil of our children’s heart. There are many bible verses that can be used.  These are just a few dealing with repentance and salvation through Christ.

(Scripture here is taken from NIV)

  • Luke 5:32 “Jesus answered them saying, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
  • Acts 17: 30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people, everywhere to repent.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 “It is by grace you are saved, through faith,  and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works so that no one can boast.”
  • 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Growing Out

Here is the place where we use a little fun and laughter to water the garden of our child’s heart, and our hearts too!  These are some practical tips and ideas you might be able to use or adapt to your family’s lifestyle.

  • Scavenger Hunt: Choose one bible verse and write each word out on a large piece of paper.  Hide the pieces of paper in various locations along with a clue for them to find the next piece of the verse.  Attach a clue on the final piece of the puzzle that will lead them to a special treat that they can have once they put all of the pieces together to form the verse.  Enjoy the treat as you talk with them about what the verse means for their lives.
    • Here are some variations:
      • Get extended family or neighbors in on the action!  Perhaps Nana or an Aunt can text or call with a clue to lead the kids to the next piece of the puzzle.  Maybe the children have to deliver a note of encouragement to a neighbor (who is in on the action!) who will hand them the next piece of the verse and clue.  BE CREATIVE!
    • Find some fun and peculiar (pek-a-lur) facts about Opossums to share around the dinner table.  God’s creations are amazing!  Even the creatures we think of as weird or a nuisance can teach us fascinating things about the world God created and how creative our God is:
      • Here are a few about Opossum’s:
        • They have a protein in their blood that makes them immune to poisonous snake bites
        • They are the only marsupial found in the United States and Canada
        • One of their natural defenses is to “play Possum” that is they play dead.
    • “Play Possum” tag: (this can be adapted for older children.  Just use a little creativity) played like the game Red Light, Green Light
      • The person who is “IT” is the tagger and stands with their backs to the “possums” who are lined up a good distance behind the tagger
      •  The tagger yells “Possums on the move” and the possums begin making their way toward home base (where “IT” is standing)
      • The tagger (IT) yells: “Possums play dead” and the possums must freeze while “IT” turns around.
      • If a possum moves he/she must go back to the start line.
    • Edible Possum Habitat: Opossums are very adaptable and can use almost anything as a home.  Lay out several snack items: pretzel sticks, raisins, peanut butter or icing, fruit or candy pieces.  Give the kids 15 minutes to create an edible Opossum home. Then enjoy—Yum!
    • Possum Stew: don’t panic, possum is NOT one of the ingredients! Find a  new stew or soup, or even a casserole, recipe (or with the help of your budding chef’s, create your own)  Let the whole family pitch in and help make some Possum Stew for dinner!

Time is a very precious resource and I am so glad you have gifted us here in the Laurelwood with your visit!  Hopefully you and your family will enjoy some of the things you find here.  Most importantly we pray that your visit here has given you encouragement and drawn you closer to the amazing Creator God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

Vessel

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Loosely defined, a vessel is a container meant for carrying something.  A container, not just to look pretty, but to be useful. Something designed to assist us in making everyday life easier, more enjoyable.  Some containers are beautiful works of art; some are plain and ordinary; some fragile while others are sturdy.  Some are broken, some whole.  pablo (22).png

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But no matter the outside, the point of a vessel is that it was designed to contain something.  That is has a usefulness.  That it was created for a purpose; to be filled.

That’s not so unlike you and me, is it?  The whole lot of us—this world of people, created as vessels by a loving, living God.  He even calls us that in His Word: “earthen vessels”.  Vessels created with purpose and for purpose; created to contain something.  The plain, ordinary; the finely crafted; the busted up and broken; the simple, the fancy…….you and me, we are vessels.  And let’s just face it: we all carry something around inside of us.  We were created with a need to be filled, a void; a “God shaped”space someone very wise once said.  Vessels meant to carry something.  And yeah, we all carry something.

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Maybe we carry hurt, anger, unforgiveness.  Perhaps we carry pain, pride, dreams, desire, hopelessness.  Maybe we carry around need, or grace, or love, or compassion.  Remember, you and me, we are God designed vessels of skin and bone–earthen vessels.  I’m sure we don’t all see ourselves that way and sometimes we rail at God saying He has no right to tell us that we were created to carry something, to contain something.  Somehow we think that it’s our body, this vessel, and no one, no One, has the right to tell us how to operate, how to live, what to carry.  So we all just carry on………….

Yes,  we carry on filling ourselves with things that just don’t quite satisfy.  Un-useful containers in a world hungry to have someone carry something to them, to pour out from their vessel something of value, of worth, of dignity into this world’s vessel that is dying to be filled with something that really satisfies; something alive; some Living water to quench that thirst to really be known and to be loved.

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You and I, Christ followers, fragile earthen vessels designed for this great God mission–the carrying of the gospel of peace; the good news of Jesus Christ, His love and grace and power for living—we get to choose to fulfill His purpose in creating us as empty vessels to be filled with His excellent power–to carry His love into a world that has filled itself with things that don’t satisfy.

See, we’re vessels by design, not by choice. So today, you and I, we will carry something, somewhere to someone.  Choose to carry His love, His light, His Life in your little earthen vessel so that His power can flow out of you and meet the needs of the Vessels you will meet along your journey today.  Yes,  fellow Vessel,let’s carry on……………..

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Signs…….

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Lately I’ve taken up the habit of early morning drives out enjoying the beautiful countryside where we live.  While the rest of the household is soundly sleeping, I grab the keys, my camera and head out to the winding country roads.  I play worship songs, sing at the top of my lungs (since there are no complaining teenage boys in the car) and have long conversations with my Heavenly Father.

I try to be good, to watch for the signs along the way, to do what they say…………however one beautiful morning I decided that the sign that suggested that I slow way, way down to say, 20 M.P.H. because of a sharp curve just ahead, must be an exaggeration.  The road ahead didn’t look like it curved that sharply.  I was a seasoned (well seasoned) driver and I could surely handle whatever lie ahead on my own terms.  Besides, don’t a lot of these signs exaggerate how slow one really needs to go when approaching impending, said, curve?  Aren’t some of them silly, frivolous, and optional to obey?

So, yes, I took my foot off the accelerator.  And, no, I didn’t apply it to the brake.  Well, at least not until I was fully engaged in “said curve” and realized the prior admonition was NOT a gross exaggeration.  I went up on two wheels and almost off the side of the road….I pulled to a stop.  Heart pounding, my first response was, “Why in the world would they make a road with a bend like that out here in the middle of nowhere!”  It couldn’t have possibly been my fault for not heeding the warning of the ones who knew the road and marked the way!

I laughed out loud when I realized how incredibly ridiculous I was being!  And then, I heard the Father speak to me, “Road signs that warn and instruct you aren’t the only ones you ignore, my child.”

Road signs are simply symbols that provide instructions; some instructions are optional; some instructions are mandatory.  Try telling the nice police officer that you weren’t “feeling” like the speed limit was 25 M.P.H, it “felt” more like a 55 M.P.H. place and see where that gets you!  Obligatory or instructional, signs road signs serve an important purpost.  Their purpose is to make the roads a safe place for drivers, pedestrians, and cattle (if you live in our neck of the woods). They are there to assist us in arriving to our destinations safely.

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We believe what the signs say (usually) and we know if we don’t obey the instructions that there is a cost, a penalty.  Sure, we might complain a bit, but that’s the way it is.  We seem to understand, although at times they may seem frivolous or inconvenient, these signs are there for our safety and the safety of those we love.   We somehow trust in the lawmakers who place these road signs to know what is needed out there on the highways and byways to keep things in order.  We know that when we drive we can’t lead with our feelings, (especially if they tell us that the curve sign is just an exaggeration) because there will be a cost.

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Yet somehow we don’t translate this to our spiritual lives.  God’s Word is full with instructions (signs, if you will) that implore us, warn us, admonish us,  and encourage us. Still we often take them as mere suggestions that are for obeying and following if we feel like it.  We get upset with Him when we disobey those (signs) instructions and we argue that the consequences are so unfair.  Yet God, our perfect Father in Heaven, knows us; knows what we need; how we should operate to maximize the lives we live here on earth.  His love is available freely to all through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.  The ultimate sign of His love for us.

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Still many are offended that He should say there is only one way to Him.   We don’t feel like Jesus should be the only way.  “Who would have decided that there’s only one way to God.  That’s ridiculous!” we shout.  Much the way I felt when I decided to take that early morning curve on my terms.  What is so unfair?  The opportunity is there for all; for “Whosoever”.

“For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” John 3:16-17

Still many of us want God on our terms.  We want Him to fit into our ideologies, but what kind of God would that be?  Would we truly want to give our allegiance, to lay our wills and lives down at the altar of a god who could be fashioned into whatever  we irrational human beings could make of Him? Would that seem more “fair”?  A god open to suggestions as to how he should act and operate?

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We have a God who is full of mercy, justice, grace, and love.  His love for us knows no limits and his instructions for our lives are always for our good.  He has created us with a free will.  We can accept or refuse His love.  He has laid out two options.

” I call heaven and earth today as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, that you many cling to Him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

And like that sign pictured above (where I turned right to head home and……yep, should have gone left….) we are given a choice.  We are not forced to go one way or the other, we have options and with those options come blessing or cursing; rewards or consequences.  Not all roads lead home (as I found out that early morning!)  Out of His great love for us and His wisdom, He implores us to choose His way, the way of LIFE!

God—Circumstances—Choices

“Faith is not merely “feeling good about God” but a conscious choice, even in the utter absence of feelings or external encouragements to obey His word when He says, “Trust Me.” This choice has nothing to do with mood but is a deliberate act of laying hold of the character of God whom circumstances never change.”
Elisabeth Elliot

the pierCircumstances.  They change.  Oh my, how they change!  One minute we are soaring the heights, all is sunny and bright in our world.  The next, we are plunged to the depths, pit in our stomachs, the breath sucked right out of us, wondering how we’re even going to survive.

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Feelings.  Oh yes, feelings!  My, how they change!  One moment we are desperate in the darkness , feeling hopeless.  The next minute the light begins to break and we feel joy, hope, contentment.  Today life feels overwhelming; and the next day we feel the magic the beauty. Today we feel like a champion, invincible.  Tomorrow, well…….maybe not so much.IMG_0152IMG_0618IMG_0432

Circumstances.  Feelings.  Yeah, this is the messy, crazy thing we call the roller coaster of life.  And many days it just doesn’t feel like the vacation at Disney.  So how do we get off the roller coaster?  How do we live a life of steady on joy and peace in the midst of circumstances as  they dance and dip and delight and depress?IMG_0116IMG_0080IMG_0215IMG_0314IMG_0286Choices.  Yeah, it’s always about choices.  About making choices.  Making a conscious, intentional decision.  Because we all know that when we let our feeling jump feet first onto the roller coaster of life’s circumstances……….yeah, we made a choice.  And even though we might feel helpless by the circumstances life has thrown our way, well, putting our feelings in the front seat of the roller coaster car, that’s a choice.  Either way we end up fixing our eyes on something and that something determines how we ride out this thing called life.  We fix our eyes on the temporal, the changing, the unknown, the pain, the momentary joy, the dream, cross our fingers and hope for the best.  Or we fix our eyes, adhere our gaze, like “white on rice” as my Nanny used to say, on something eternal, unchanging, known, certain.  Or, should I say Someone: Eternal, Unchanging, Known, Certain.  Ultimately, those are the only two choices.IMG_0187IMG_0317 (1)

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“Fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fixing our eyes on Jesus.  That word “fix” means to look away from ALL ELSE!  We gaze upon the One who has already conquered the worst possible circumstances of life: bearing all of our sin, receiving no mercy or hope from God for another way out, hanging on that cross in our place. Yes!  We stick our gaze to His unchanging character, His undeterred love, His unending mercy.  We refuse to let our eyes fall on anything else

We rest in this position, fixing our eyes on the One who is above any circumstance we may face.  Whose joy is complete even when our circumstances may be much less than joyful and complete. We trust this One.  Not based upon how we feel, but based upon what we know.  May God grant us the determination to fix our eyes on Jesus; to be so single-minded in our trust in Him that we become beacons of steady light, life rafts of hope, in this often dark and stormy world to the ones around us who feel overtaken by life’s circumstances.  May we be the eternal breath of the God who is bigger than, the God who changes not, into the lives of those who need to His hope and strength and peace today.IMG_0676

Too Broken to Be Used

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Hey you, broken one.  You whose hands are full of the broken, busted up pieces of life, heart full of broken dreams.  Yes, you, standing there trying desperately to hold together what is left, to salvage the usable parts; to keep breathing hope into the broken pieces.  This post is for you.  I may not know your face or your situation, but I know your heart.  I know your heart because I’ve been there, in the broken, way too many times.

Yeah, sometimes the broken mess was my own doing; my own stubborn determination to tell God that I was doing things my way because, well, yeah, I knew best………..And many times the broken mess was created by someone else’s words and ugly.  Left standing there in the wake of their hurricane feeling like life was beyond repair, beyond grace, beyond help, beyond hope.  There scrambling to pick up the pieces to try and make something useful out of the mess again.  Standing there feeling stupid, played, embarrassed, shamed, guilty, afraid, exposed.  Trying so hard to believe again………I get it

See, beloved one, ever since man decided to do things his way, back in the garden, back there when God walked with him and talked with him and man knew no guilt, no shame, no embarrassment, things have been broken ever since then.

And if the brokenness isn’t enough to do you in; if the dashed hopes and crushed dreams aren’t enough to make you lose your hope’s last breath, then the voices of the Accuser will be more than glad to steal what life you have left beating in your frail chest buried under the weight of your pain.

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The Accuser, that’s right, the same one who whispered in that first Garden twisting Truth in the ears of that first woman as she walked; that voice that whispered in the Wilderness, twisting Truth to tempt the Son of Man; that voice that whispers to you twisting Truth so craftily that you swallow the lie just as Eve swallowed the first bite of the forbidden fruit.

In that first Garden he came as a serpent.  Not a slimy, slithering, beast, but one that walked upright, one who must have been beautiful, beguiling enough for the Woman to not be wary.  In the Wilderness he came as the promise of greater things, if only the Son of Man would take heed; and to you, there in your garden filled with thorns; your wilderness so deep that you can’t see your way out; the Accuser whispers, twists Truth; promises better things; reminds you of your ugliness, your unworthiness, your guilt.

And listen, dear child.  Please, listen.  The Accuser will always use a shard of Truth; He will take and twist that small piece of Truth out of shape and wind it around your very soul until it becomes a part of you choking the life and the hope out of you.  And, the Accuser, he’s slick, cunning, crafty.  He will use the sweetest of voices, the most “well intentioned” of people, to remind you of your sin; of your guilt; of your shame.  Never will he allow a hint of grace to shine a glimmer of light into your soul.  No. His words will twist and wind and strangle the very notion of grace for you, of all people, right out of your weary mind.

Please, listen.  Please, beloved child of the King, hear this Truth.  His grace is NOT equal to your sin, your pain, your past mistakes.  NO!  His grace is GREATER THAN.  Close your eyes, breathe in those words: HIS GRACE IS GREATER THAN________ >>>>than ALL of the madness, brokeness, hurt.  Let that marinate deep into the fallow ground of your soul until it seeps down, way down, nourishing, breathing life there in the darkness.

See, the Accuser, he will keep those voices, the ones outside your head and inside of your head, shaming you, reminding you over and over again as to why grace doesn’t count for you, of all people.  You don’t deserve grace.  And there the Accuser has made his fatal flaw because that is Truth you can grab hold of……..he intends it to be the death blow, but, it is the very breath of life, sweet One!  The beauty of grace is it is exactly what we don’t deserve!

Oh this grace that fills the empty, broken places! This very thing that is only effective, only active, only life giving; we only get it because we DON’T DESERVE it!  Grab hold of that life line and let it lead you out of the wilderness.  This crazy, wild, thing called GRACE is yours exactly because you don’t deserve it.  It is His unmerited favor.  You don’t earn it, you can’t earn it.  So, your sin, your mistakes, your pain, CANNOT take it away.

It is the perpetual dawning of a new day.  It is the bloom that grows in spite of the frosty winter chill.  It is ALWAYS available to you; to me; the least deserving of it and the most grateful for it!

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Let it breathe fresh life into you today, in this present moment.  Let it lift high its’ chorus in your soul and drown out the Accuser’s discord of shame.  Let it ring loud; let it shine bright; let it become the rhythm that your heart beats out.  Let this truth be the foundation underneath your feet as you begin to navigate the path out of brokenness, out of the Garden of Shame; out of the wilderness where the Accuser held you captive.  GRACE > anything you have done; GRACE > anything you have lost; GRACE > anything you will face.  Stand upon it, breathe it in fresh each day, stepping to its’ cadence with all the assurance of heaven: It is ALL HIS AMAZING GRACE and His AMAZING GRACE is always FOR YOU right where you are!

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” Romans 5:1-2

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The Old and The New

As the old year wraps up and the new one is dancing ever near, I find myself thinking on many things.  I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions, seems they were never very productive for me in the past.

Our family has a simple tradition of eating green eggs and ham and yes, even though we are a house full of teenage boys,  we still read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham while we dine.  Then we all decide on something new we’d like to try in the upcoming year.  Some of us are bold in our desire for new adventures, some of  us more conservative, but the point is that life is an adventure and the beauty is in the journey and if we avoid new things we end up missing out on part of the adventure.  So, embracing the new is an important part of the journey of life.  Learning to see the new as a gift, even if it is wrapped up in paper that isn’t so appealing.  And, it is a New Year, so shouldn’t we focus on the “new” part of things?

Yet, God has placed a verse in my heart that has been ruminating there for several months.  And when a magazine arrived and the first article had this very verse written in big, bold letters, I took the hint.  Yeah, I’m a bit stubborn that way.  I went to the chapter and verse and read it, re-read it, and have been meditating on it.  The verse speaks of the old and the importance of the old, of embracing the old paths because in them is everything that we need to embrace the new.

        “This is what the LORD says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for           the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you  will find rest for your souls.”    Jeremiah 6:16

After reading and meditating on this verse I began to realize that God’s Word is the ancient paths, it is where the good way is.  Everything needed for me to embrace the new year, to seek a new adventure, to be grateful for each step of this upcoming journey in 2016, both the peaceful and the painful parts, both the successes and the failures, both the joys and the tears, is right there in the power of His living Word.  The very breath of God waiting every day to breathe His life into me if I will but pick it up and read and meditate on it.

Yet far too often I find myself like those stubborn Israelites, you know the ones we’re so quick to judge, wondering how they could have missed walking in God’s ways since He was right there with them?  Yep, I’m there, with them, at the end of verse 16, the part I didn’t include above. Here it is, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it”.

I think about this new year as if anything under the sun is really new.  Solomon in all of his wisdom even said that there is nothing new under the sun.  I somehow think that I can do this adventure called life on my own terms, my own way, blazing my own new, adventurous path.  And each new day, I am at a crossroad.  Each new day I have the beautiful opportunity to choose the path I will walk.  I can choose the ancient path, the good way that is His way.  I can choose to pick up the Word that is life for my living and His breath for my spirit and seek out His pathway which is where I will find rest for my soul.  Or I can choose to say, “Nope, I won’t walk in it, today Lord.”

Who doesn’t want rest for their souls?  I know that I surely do in this coming new year!  Yet, I wonder how often I will choose to the path that leads me away from Him, away from His leading, thinking there is some sparkling, new path that must be better than His ancient way?

He has come to make all things new, yet He still does it the same “old” way through the blood of His precious Son; through the ordinances He laid down centuries ago, the Word that breathes new life into the weariest of souls.

The beautiful mingling of the old and the new!  May we all choose to seek His ancient paths, to ask Him daily where the good way is and then choose in this coming New Year to daily walk in it and find rest for our souls!

I know this year, as I place our platter of green eggs and ham on the dining room table and grab the slip of paper to write the “new” thing I am going to try in 2016, it will have to do with adventuring daily God’s way, in asking Him daily for the Ancient paths and to lead me every step of the way.  I can hardly wait to see what the journey with Him will hold!