Saturday, September 16, 2017

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder



I can easily guess your response looking at my above photo .. "what in the world is that!!"

But if anyone dares to describe the little ornaments as ugly or worthless or anything 'less-than', my emotions will rise in defense,  resenting any criticism.

Why ?   Because to me the above little ornaments are beautiful with treasured value.
When my two  granddaughters were  toddlers, both under 3,  my daughter asked them if they wanted to make  something for me for my birthday.  Oh yes, they did.
She gave them a box of paint and brushes and  two little figurines to paint.
My daughter told me they sat for over an hour painstakingly, patiently painting brush stroke after brushstroke, intent on making their work perfect for their Nanna.  I will never forget the eager little faces when they so proudly gave me their gifts.
My heart melted - how I still treasure the little ornaments, and in 'my eyes'  the beauty is unsurpassed!

Often when I look at the little figurines, I wonder if God doesn't feel the same as I do.
When He looks at you and me, does He see us as worthless?  Does He see the flawed, imperfect brush strokes with which we have painted our lives?
Does He look at the 'gifts' of service we give Him and see them as so much 'less' than what He could so easily do better without us?
Or, do His emotions quickly rise up against anyone who would speak against us?   Does He see us as beautiful beyond description and are our humble offerings to Him precious because we are clothed with our faith/trust in Him?  Does He value what we offer Him as 'beautiful' , even when in human eyes it looks worthless, just because we are so loved and treasured in His sight?

" ....  the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes" I Peter 1:7

 "Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."  I Peter 3:4

"So shall the King greatly desire your beauty, for He is the Lord, worship him !" Psalm 45:11

The ultimate, unfathomable truth is expressed by Jesus Himself -- that the Father loves you and me as much as He loves Jesus !
John 17:20,23

Next time you look into the mirror,  or look into your heart, and feel despondent or discouraged at the 'little' you have offered to God, remind yourself of how God sees you and how He values what you give Him in response to His love for you.
If God delights in you and values your 'gifts' to Him,  does it matter so much what others think?


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What's Wrong With This Picture


We recently stopped for lunch at a very popular Bistro called Bliss in Peachland.  They  have excellent  "made from scratch" soup, bread, desserts so I  recommend them as a good place to have lunch in you are in the area.

I ordered a bowl of soup - gluten free -  and a cup of coffee.  When my husband, with a smirk on his face, carried the tray with our order to our table and placed my soup and coffee in front of me,  I had to burst out laughing !
Something was wrong with the picture!!
The cup and the bowel were just NOT in proper balance regarding relative size!

I thought about this.  I thought about how we all adhere to a certain standard.  We expect things to be in balance. We are far more reluctant to move from what has been established as the rightful  'norm' than we would think.  We don't really think about it, until something jars our senses and alerts us to note that something is out of balance.

Regarding the size imbalance of my soup bowl and coffee cup, it was something that tickled my sense of humor, but it did no harm - it caused no inconvenience.

But sometimes things out of balance do hurt.
When  monthly expenses exceed  income.
When time runs out before I can meet a deadline or keep an appointment.
When there are more people than food to feed them.
When my fatigue is greater than strength needed to complete a task.
When I have miles to go and no gas in the tank.

But then my thoughts lifted to a higher realm.
Does God look down on me and see an imbalance in the cup and bowl of my life?

Does my bowl of God-time look much smaller than my cup of me-time?
Does my bowl of faith shrink in size when compared to my cup of anxious worry?
Is my bowl of forgiveness much smaller than my cup of harbored grudges?
Is my bowl of unselfishness out sized by my cup of selfish me-focus?
Is my bowl of love overshadowed by my cup of fear?
Is my bowl of generosity much smaller than my cup of greed?
Is my bowl of trust in God's truth insignificant in relation to the size of my cup filled with the world's  standards of right and wrong?

my prayer - "Dear Father, forgive me for where I have allowed  my cup and bowl to be out of balance, where I am more filled up with myself than with you.  Forgive me where I have not been careful to make the things of the Kingdom bigger than the things of this world.  Jar my senses, Lord .. show me the imbalances in my life and teach me to be pleasing in  your sight. I turn my eyes up to you, desiring that as I look I will reflect your love in my life. In Jesus' precious name, amen."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Something Good in Something Bad



I have rheumatoid arthritis ... the crippling kind. I was diagnosed about twenty years ago. It changed my life as I had  known it.  I had been very active, healthy and always able to add one more thing to an already busy day.  But then suddenly, my body rebelled, painful swollen joints refusing to allow movement and actions I had taken for granted.
But, over the years, my rheumatologist prescribed the drugs that controlled the pain and limited the crippling that used to be unavoidable.  I began to find a more tolerable level of function, although I had to give up many things I had enjoyed doing ... like hiking ... tennis ...sewing ... knitting. I had to find new ways to do common every day tasks.

The synovium is the primary site of the inflammatory process, which if untreated leads to irreversible damage to the adjacent cartilage and bone. My right wrist responded less than my other joints to treatment, and now the synovium layer has thickened and affected the wrist joint to the point that I have virtually no movement left in it. 

A bad thing?  yes.. of course ..  God created our flexible wrists because they make many things easier to do.  
But ... for me, it has been a blessing in disguise.  With the wrist no longer being able to move I am spared the jarring pain that resulted from any hand movement. 
And ...  then I discovered that with my wrist fused I was able to quite comfortably knit. The weight of holding the needles no longer aggravated the pain in my wrists , so to my delight I was able to once again indulge in something I enjoy.   The above photo is a baby blanket  I recently made for a friend's first grandchild. 

Bad things do happen ...  trials, troubles, pain , suffering are all the 'norm' in our earthly life. But, God in His loving kindness can take the 'bad' things and bring something good out of them. 

It is not natural for us to look for the good in something bad, but when we trust in God's love for His children and His promise to 'work all things together for good' , we can develop the good habit of looking for His fingerprint in the midst of something we would so gladly eliminate from our life.   
The apostle Paul repeatedly begged God to remove from him the disability that plagued him and God said 'no'.   Why? Because without it Paul would not have fulfilled the calling God put upon him. Pride would have been his downfall. 
 And in the acceptance of his 'thorn',  he  experienced how God's strength was perfected in his weakness and he learned to live in the all-sufficiency of God, leaning on Him instead of trusting in his own strength and ability. 
Had God said 'yes' to Paul's plea, would we today be missing much of the New Testament in our bibles?   

What God allows to come into our life, He also provides the grace we need to rise above it, and we need never face it alone.  He is there with us, comforting us in it, and taking us through it. 


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recognizing the Enemy



Every human being is created in 'the image of God'.  No matter how vile a man becomes, buried within him remains that 'image' of who he was created to be like.
It seems that we so easily fall  short of being transformed from the 'earthly image' into the 'godly image'  that we lose sight of how valuable we really are.

Why is it so difficult?
Simple answer ...  everything that has worth or value is fought over.  And we are all caught in a battle for our soul.
Jesus, in His ultimate sacrifice and resurrection, won the right to receive every man to Himself - every man that desires to be His follower is lovingly 'born again' into the family and Kingdom of God.
But ... as soon as we declare our allegiance to the Lord, the enemy - Satan and his demons - screams in anger at his loss and plots to lure us back within his grasp.

Someone once wisely said ... "He who best understands his enemy wins the war."
How true !   Do we as believers understand our enemy?  Do we recognize him when he throws his darts?   Do we know how to defeat him?  How to live in the victory that is declared ours by the mouth of God?

There is a very insightful story in the Old Testament that pictures for us the tactics of the enemy and his limitations, as well as the authority and strength of the one whose trust is in God.  We learn best by pictures or stories  and the lesson learned goes deep into our understanding.

The book of Nehemiah tells his story.  Nehemiah was a godly man, dedicated to love, worship and serve his God.
His heart was toward his people and when he heard of their distress because the 'walls of Jerusalem  were broken down', he cried out to God on their behalf.  (Neh. 1:3,4,5)  Responding to Nehemiah's cry  God sent him out to repair the house of God and the walls of protection around it.
What higher calling does the believer have but to build and repair in the Kingdom of God, to encourage the saints and to restore what has been destroyed.

No sooner had Nehemiah set himself to the work of God, but the enemy immediately heard of it and was 'deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel'.  (Neh.2:10)

The name of Nehemiah's enemy was Sanballet.   This name is interesting when you look for its meaning.  The Jewish Encyclopedia gives the Assyrian meaning as 'sin is vivified' (or, sin has given life)  Another meaning I found was 'enemy in secret'.   So it seems that the enemy in our story was aptly named, and it isn't much of a stretch to link him with Satan.

We see Sanballet's heart motives.  In Nehemiah 2:19 we are told that Sanballet despised Nehemiah and his people and laughed them to scorn !
We know that Satan despises God's people and mocks them in his anger. He "seeks whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8)

Before we examine the tactics of Sanballet, we have a very revealing statement by Nehemiah. He declares to Sanballet ..  "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us, therefore we, His servants, will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."  (Neh. 2:20)

That is such an insightful truth we need to tuck into our hearts. Satan has no heritage or rights  in God's Kingdom. He shares nothing with God's people!

As we look at the intent of Sanballet to come against Nehemiah and to stop his work, we see that Sanballet was limited in the ways he could attempt this.


THE LIE 
The first darts Sanballet threw at Nehemiah were 'lies'.  He accused Nehemiah of working without the king's permission and was in fact in rebellion to the king. (Neh. 2:19)

Satan's first attempt to harm us is always with lies.  We  remember his first lie in the garden of Eden... "Did God really say.....?"
Satan's lies always aim to plant doubt in our minds - taunting us to doubt God's word, to doubt His promises, to doubt His love for us.  He has endless variations on the theme ... "Did God REALLY say....  did He really mean ....?"
He plants the questions in our minds - "Maybe God's promises aren't for me, maybe I did something to incur God's disfavor,  His disappointment, maybe even His anger. Maybe I am not worthy of His love,  maybe God has turned away from me and will not hear my prayers  ...."

Any voice that plants doubt in our mind  is not of God but is the voice of the enemy.

THE BELITTLING 
Another tactic Sanballet employed was the mocking, belittling - the destroying of confidence. He cried out that Nehemiah and his people were 'feeble' , unable to accomplish what they set out to do. Whatever they did would fail, and fall down around them.  (Neh. 4:2)

Satan would have us look upon our own weaknesses instead the power of the Spirit within us.  He would have us falter,  like Peter, looking down at the water and sinking instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Jesus speaks words of encouragement ... Satan's words always belittle and discourage.

CONFUSION 
Sanballet plotted to create confusion, and in the confusion he would be able to  enter and destroy before Nehemiah saw him coming. He sent word to the Jews that no matter where they turned they would be ambushed.
In Neh. 4:10  it speaks of the results of confusion - failing strength to work, and so much rubbish that it kept them from building the wall.

We easily see the truth of that in our own lives , don't we?  In the confusion of all the voices around us, we grow weary and are overwhelmed with the 'rubbish' that we see and hear all around us.
I think of the song lyrics that  refer to the confusion of 'the things of earth'  that grow dim when we keep our eyes on Jesus, believing His voice. (Turn your eyes upon Jesus)

FEAR 
Sanballet sought to strike fear in Nehemiah's heart. (Neh. 6:9) Fear that would cause him to be paralyzed, unable to continue the work. Sanballet tried to distract Nehemiah by threatening him and making him afraid of what the enemy could do to him.  

Fear - Satan knows that fear is man's most crippling emotion.  Fear is never from God .. because God is love and there is no fear in love.  When there is fear in our heart, we see the footprints of the enemy.  Fear lurks in the dark.   In fear there is torment. (I am not talking here about the 'good' kind of fear - the fear that is profound respect, for fire, water, gravity, and God Himself ) 
God never tries to motivate us with fear ..  He motivates us with love.   

When fear threatens our peace, we can with Nehemiah speak to the enemy .. "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart."  (Neh. 6:8) 

If we stand against the enemy, refusing to allow him to fill our hearts with fear but rather drawing near to God , he will flee !  (James 4:7) 

DECEPTION 
Sanballet had one more trick up his sleeve.  Unable to distract Nehemiah openly, he sought to find his vulnerability, to deceive him.  So he found someone who was a 'secret informer' - one who Nehemiah thought was his friend.  Sanballet sent this 'friend' to Nehemiah pretending to have his best interests at heart. He came with an invitation for Nehemiah to come meet him in the house of God. There they would be safe from the enemy who were plotting to kill him that night. 
Nehemiah was almost taken in ... but then recognized that God had not sent this man at all but that he had been 'hired' by Sanballet. (Neh.6:13)

We too need to be on guard that we are not taken in by 'friends'  that bring false messages.  If the message is contrary to God's word, it is not from Him and we need not fear the message or the messenger.    

IN CONCLUSION 
It is interesting to note that in our story Sanballet never 'touched' Nehemiah, never attacked physically, though his army stood ready.  Nehemiah - with God's word in his mouth was protected from the enemy.  He stood in victory because he never faltered in  keeping his focus on God and standing on His truth.  
Nehemiah knew he did not have to fight the enemy, God fought for him and his people, and it was God Himself who discredited the enemy and brought "their counsel to nothing".  (Neh. 4:14,15,20)

Nehemiah finished his work, and "when all the enemies heard of it ... they were very disheartened and perceived that this work was done by God." (Neh. 6:16)
So we too, with the sword of God's word in our mouth, can stand in victory,  not fearing what the enemy could do to us ... because "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."  (I John 4:4) 

And as we do the 'work' God has called us to, the enemy watching will be disheartened, knowing it is God who is working in and through us.