Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Do You See a Sparkle?

Reflected Stone Rainbow by pshab
flickr.com_photos/pshab/1343896490_572409f3a6.z.jpg

"...brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel 1: 27b-28a

If you're joining me from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

"When you look at me," Molly Mahoney asks, "What do you see? Do you see a sparkle...like something reflective of something bigger that's trying to get out?"

This is one of the best lines in one of my favorite family movies, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," (2008). It's one the most significant questions we can ask ourselves as followers of Christ. Even as parents and grandchildren, do we seek, encourage and call out their sparkle?

In the movie, Mahoney is the loyal manager of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, a magical toy store where everything comes to life. Most alive and happy when she's working, Mahoney relishes in Mr. Magorium's child-like faith. Mr. Magorium recognizes her "sparkle" and upon his retirement, transfers ownership of the toy store to Mahoney. But she feels completely inadequate, noting her lack of magic (the sparkle) that makes the Wonder Emporium...well, magical. Mahoney further reasons that she just can't be a kid anymore and therefore, opts to sell the store even if it means her unhappiness and that of all the children.

Isn't that how we act too? I mean here we stand, created in God's image, meant to reflect everything about Him including His glory and yet, we feel so inadequate most of the time. We don't see the sparkle, the reflection of His greatness in us. And as parents or grandparents, do we look for that sparkle in our children/grandchildren and encourage it's appearance?

God placed a desire in each of us to do something that seems, in any normal circumstance, natural. But, when asked to step out in faith, using that desire or gift for His kingdom, we suddenly retreat. We may even opt to "sell the store" of possibilities to someone else; someone more deserving or more talented, because for us, accepting the task would be simply impossible, even childish. 

And what happens when our children are maturing? Do we acknowledge their talents, applaud their God-given desires and encourage them to seek out opportunities to grow those desires or test them?

Sometimes we miss God's reflection in ourselves and our children. We cheat those around us of the same when we sit frozen to our chairs of impossibilities. So, what does it take to get us to see God's "sparkle" in ourselves or others?

I believe that something, event or moment when time stands still and we say, "Aha!" is different for everyone. But, common to all God followers? Abiding - spending alone time with God through His son, Jesus. We reflect the heart and glory of God himself when we abide in Him. Then, when we recognize God's movement in our lives or the lives of our children, faith grows. That's when we realize that with God nothing is impossible.

Thankful hearts brim and respond in obedience to God. It's here where we find our true selves - through obedience - what make us, us.

Do you see a sparkle? Do you have that reflection of something bigger that's trying to get out? Will you let it out? Will you spend time with your Creator so that He might shine through you?

What about your children or grandchildren? Do you encourage their sparkle? Do you recognize God's reflection through their personalities and do you give them opportunities for God to appear?

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Unshackled

Prisoner Shackles by Jonathan Dresner
flickr.com_3072374801_db98b198a7_CC BY-ND 2.0
If you're visiting from {re}fresh, welcome!

"But I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists." Jeremiah 40:4a

Tommy walked outside the iron gates a free man, carrying all he owned inside a crisp manila envelope - life simplified. Endless possibilities stretched out before him promised life renewed, but somehow life got crazy on the outside, his past hijacked him and freedom didn't seem so rich or desirable, after all (from the movie, Crazy on the Outside, 2010, starring Tim Allen).

Sometimes we're a lot like Tommy. We find ourselves suddenly unshackled - finally free from our past - and yet we bend down and pick up our own manila envelopes. We peek inside at the past, at the little life we own and suddenly our dreams and desires skew; they veer way off the freedom road.

It's an old, old story and the ending remains the same:

Only God frees

Throughout history God said, leave everything behind - all your possessions, your little life and all it's gods - and follow Me

Live life unshackled

And when we do? 

                                              God builds us up, prospers us
                                              God plants us, establishes deep roots
                                              God stays with us, protects and guides us
                                              God restores us, brings health and healing

What's inside your manila envelope? Are you willing to leave it at the curb, walk away and follow God on the freedom road? I know, it's easier hanging onto what we know rather than hoping in what we can't see. Hope goes against everything we are, but dig deep and scream, "Help!" He'll come alongside and show you the way - that's the kind of God He is. He's living and breathing and always there when we call. His greatest desire is to free us, restore us to who He created us to be. 

Father, it's so hard to leave behind what we know and walk towards hope in what we cannot see, but today we cry out, "Help!" and take that first step toward freedom - trusting you.  



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Jesus Talked To Me Today

If you're visiting from Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome! 

Have you ever been so desperate for God that when he shows up you didn't recognize him at all? But the funny thing is, children recognize him right away.

That's what my story, A Visit From the Healer, (and many others' stories) compiled in James Stuart Bell's book, Jesus Talked To Me Today: True Stories of Children's Encounters with  Angels, Miracles and God, (Bethany House 2016), is all about.


Our family faced tough times with prolonged unemployment in a tough economy. The last thing we needed was for sickness to strike. But it did. Longing for relief for my daughter and our entire situation, I shot a quick prayer into the darkness. And, well, you'll have to read the rest on pages 134-139 to find out how miraculously Jesus showed up.

The entire book is filled with hope and children's true encounters with the Living God. Children whose eyes could see and ears could hear. Is it not surprising then, that Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3 NIV)?

This book would make a great family devotion resource as each story runs between 1000-2500 words. What a great way to spend summer evenings with your children, sharing other children's stories and passing on the works of our great God.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Turn Around: Letting Go of Your Best Laid Plans

If you're joining us from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! It's so good to visit with you.

U-turn by Jordan Nielsen
Flickr.com_97338266_ed37f724df_CC BY-ND 2.0

I accepted a job, against Godly counsel that looked promising in every way: more money, better and cheaper health benefits, a lucrative 401K plan and still close to home. 

Within eight weeks none of that mattered as I found every facet of my life turned upside down. My pride kept me going, holding onto this job that I just knew was right, but screamed, "TURN AROUND! WRONG WAY! DO NOT ENTER!"

Month after month things grew worse, at home and at my job, but I was in this job to stay, like I had something to prove to God, and planted my feet firmly under my desk. Then one day, I lost my footing; literally tripped and fell, head-first into a solid, steel reinforced fire door. Even then, while suffering painful concussive headaches, I stubbornly stayed. Two months later, I surrendered - admitted I'd made a wrong decision - begged God's forgiveness, and let God’s healing process begin.  

When we find ourselves in the midst of disaster—when it's obvious we made the wrong decision, how do we just turn around?

1.       Stop! Make an about-face and turn back towards God.
2.      Set things right. Admit your mistake and ask God's forgiveness.
3.      Step in line. Ask God, "Which path?" and walk on it.
4.      Seek Godly counsel from someone who will keep you accountable to God's will.
5.      Savor God's presence. Develop daily God-time. God alone is our ultimate counselor. Be intentional with reading His Word, praying about your struggles, your intentions, and listen for His advice. He will speak if we listen and welcome His presence into our daily lives.

God did a miraculous healing in my life both physically and spiritually in the months that followed. He taught me about abiding and being still and knowing him as God; God of creation and God of my life. He taught me total dependence on Him for every need and showered me with grace and good gifts.

Are you in the midst of a tough decision? Is it dangling promises and prosperity, but Godly counsel says, "Stop?" Won't you take the time to stop and seek God's presence, ask Him what His plans are for you? Ask, "What's the right path, God?" and walk in on it.  God promises, "I will counsel you and watch over you." What is there to fear?


Abba, I pray for all my brothers and sisters facing a tough, life-changing decision today. May they set aside their own plans, seek godly counsel and most importantly, seek your will for their lives. Shine your Light on the path you’ve chosen for them – the path that keeps them in step with your will. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Do You See Good When Bad is All Around?


If you're joining me here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

"I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:17

Thankfulness awakens us to God's presence. My heart knows this full well and hearkens my spirit at sunrise. Summer night's heat still lingers so I tip toe outside - coffee in hand - breathing in the new day.

The day before proved challenging. Problem popped up like weeds in the lawn and I nearly lost my footing. I'm ready for a new day - one better than the last. So I take another deep breath and a sip of hot coffee and trace the warmth all the way down. Then I open my eyes - Thin clouds hide the rising sun but daylight reveals God's beauty and provision everywhere - and start counting to ten:
  1. A new day
  2. Waking up next to my husband
  3. Morning's first coffee
  4. Pink roses
  5. Yesterdays wet fun draped over the clothes line
In this moment my heart remembers that goodness abounds - even in the middle of a challenges. And I can't stop counting, can't stop noticing all God's goodness around me.
    
     6. Ripening raspberries
     7. Bluing blueberries
     8. Cooling breezes
     9. Summer thunderstorms
   10. Silence

When we take a deep breath and start counting our blessings - big and small - our hearts resound with praise to the Giver of all good things. We realize how high and deep, how long and wide is His great love for us; how He takes care of tiniest details of our lives. When we do this - take time to count, to reflect, to remember - our faith grows.

These small recollections build our faith so that when those times of insurmountable problems arise we can present them to God with confidence that He will see us through - the One who makes all things work for good for those who love Him and call Him by name.

It's a new day - a new week. We all face challenges, even our children. When we practice counting our blessings (personally and as a family) our perspective changes. Are you or your children facing any challenges--maybe an insurmountable situation that's out of your control? Take a deep breath and start counting to ten, together. Ready?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spring Cleaning ~ Surrendering to the Light


Pittock Mansion by Brittany
Flickr.com_8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0
If you found your way here from (re)fresh, welcome!

"God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5

The days are longer now. Morning creeps in under the shades of my bedroom window at 5 a.m. like a slinking cat reaching its front paws towards me for a morning stretch. My almost-half-century body rises less reluctantly, (yet with a few more kinks than the year before), now that light guides me safely from my slumber.

I face the day with great expectancy with a spring of hope in every step and a few more hours of sun light to accomplish great things. But as I walk from room to room throughout the day, things gone unnoticed in the darkness of winter now distract me in the light of spring. I catch a glimpse of dusty cobwebs hanging from every corner of my ceilings; once-white curtains are now a dingy gray; scrapes and scratches appear from nowhere all over my tired, painted walls. Finger prints mar every mirrored surface and I think something is growing underneath my bed. Surrendering to the light, unable to hide what it reveals, I put aside the great things and focus on spring cleaning.

Saturday, words from a former self spilled over my lips like an overflowing bucket of dirty water. Ooooops! That monster named Unforgiveness had snuck back in under the cover of darkness and drowned me with my own words. How appropriate. Words...my passion and my weakness. There they were. My dirty words spilled out for all to hear revealing my heart. I couldn't hide. I couldn't take them back or mop them up. I just ignored the puddle hoping it would silence them.
It's been a few days. Sleep has been restless like trying to ignore the glow of the night light from across the room. Finally, I surrendered to the Light. God's light. The light revealed by His glory. It's just there because He is. It's not a condemning light. He's not shaking his finger at me saying, "Naughty girl." He's just being...in my heart...revealing what was hiding in the darkness...showing me what's in need of spring cleaning. I can't always get those "hard to reach" places where monsters like Unforgiveness live, but God can. I'm letting Him do some spring cleaning because I'd like to get on with the great things He has in store.

What about your spring cleaning? Do you need a little more light?

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through (Him) the Spirit who gives you life has set you free..." Romans 8: 1-2a

"If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:6-7

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weeding


If you're visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! Make yourself at home.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. " Luke 8:15 NIV


Weaving through narrow, shoreline roads dotted with whitewashed gingerbread cottages, my sister and I simultaneously gasped, "How beautiful!" Peeking far above the picket fence of this corner lot a splash of nature's colors caught our attention: bright yellow, lacy white, hot pink, purple, and orange. All fashioned in their natural vases of green, this European flower garden was absolutely breath-taking.


I marveled aloud at our shared joy of flower gardens we inherited from our mother. No matter where we lived as kids, our mother always planted a flower garden. In her early retirement years she won the neighborhood "Best Garden" award for her work a number of times. One of my earliest memories is following behind her while she weeded in the hot summer sun. I'm not sure she ever formally taught me the reason for weeding or other gardening techniques but I learned just by following her.


First, weeds are sneaky. They creep up on you quickly and if they go unattended, they can choke out the healthy plants. It's essential to pull them out before they take over the whole garden.


Second, weeds must be pulled out by the roots or they'll keep growing back.


Third, weeds can be deceiving. They can be beautiful to look at, even appear to be the "real thing" so you have to discern the healthy plant from the weed.


Finally, healthy plants must be fed, watered , fertilized and given lots of sunshine to grow. If any of these elements are missing, the plant will not grow to its full potential.


Jesus warned against the weeds (thorns) of life that can choke us. He categorizes them as "life's worries, riches and pleasures." If we spend our days focused only on ourselves whether fretting, chasing money or over indulging in our pleasures we will remain immature and ineffective. But, Jesus says, if we spend our time focused on His word, effectively put it to use, and persevere then we will not only mature but reproduce.


What are the weeds threatening to take over your life's garden today? Do you need to spend some time on your knees with the Master Gardner, Jesus to find their roots? He's got an endless supply of fertilizer, living water, and Sonshine. Drink him in.