Praising The Great Protector!

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Because we live six miles from the mountains we didn’t have to evacuate and didn’t lose everything in the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Was the Lord ever protecting us! That certainly  would not have been very conducive for a restful sabbatical!  Thank you Lord!

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places”  Isaiah 32:18

The Great Exchange Embraced!!!

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There are some things I do that really drive my husband crazy!  Like not putting things back (especially his things back!) where they belong, how I file by pile… and those piles tend to multiply rather rapidly!  And how I’m forever losing things! But the one that tops them all is my penchant to awake in the middle of the night mumbling, “I’m so sorry, Lord!” …repeatedly!

In the past few years the Lord has opened my eyes more than ever before to how much I blow it!  How much I fall short in everything I do.  Nights are the worst, as I lay down and my mind replays scene after scene of failure ~ and the accuser has a heyday attacking me.

I’ve found if I spend time before bed worshipping the Lord, considering the gospel, confessing those sins it really can help!  But it’s one thing to know truth in you mind, another to get it to penetrate into the depths of your heart…

One treasure the Lord blessed me with recently is Jerry Bridges’ new book Who Am I? that addresses our identity in Christ.  I decided as part of my nightly time with the Lord to read a chapter each night.  It really is a fascinating little book!  But when I reached the fourth chapter ~ I am justified ~ I discovered the most helpful treasure where Jerry explains:

“Second Corinthians 5:21 is often called The Great Exchange, and it works like this.  Imagine your life as a moral ledger in which every action, every thought, every word, and every motive is recorded.  That’s pretty grim because even our very best deeds are like a polluted garment in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6).  But God takes your sin and removes it from your ledger and charges it to the ledger of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Savior bears the penalty for all your sin.

You are left with a clean but empty ledger, so God does something else.  He takes the perfect obedience, the perfect righteousness of Christ from his ledger and transfers it to your ledger.  In computer terms you might think of this as “copy and paste” in the sense that the same righteousness, even though it has been given to you , is still available to every other Christian and everyone who will come to Christ in the fiture.

Now you have a ledger that no longer catalogs your sin but instead bears only the record of 33 years of absolutely perfect righteousness.  How can God do this?  How can a just God completely wipe all sin off your ledger and  replace it with the perfect righteousness of Christ?

Because we are in Christ.  He, as our representative, stands justly charged with our sin and pays its penalty through his death.  And because he is our representative, God can justly credit his perfect righteousness to us.  So we can say, as Paul essentially says in Galatians 2:20, that when Jesus died on the cross, we died on the cross.  And when he lived a perfect life, we lived a perfect life.  Because we are in Him…

There are two plays on the word justified that may help us see this more clearly.  You can think of it as meaning “just as if I had never sinned.”  That is, it does not matter how vile and long-standing your sin is.  When you trust in Christ as Savior, God looks at you just as if you’d never sinned.

To state the same thing in the opposite way, you can also think of justified as meaning ‘just as if I had always obeyed.”  That’s the way God sees you because he sees you clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ.” p. 35-36

Now when I was in fifth grade I started a newspaper at my Elementary school called “Beaver Tales.”  That was back in the pre-computer age when cut and paste literally meant cutting and pasting!

So when I read this I thought – hey! I should actually do what Jerry describes.  So one night before bed I sat down and drew a line down the middle of a page.  Putting “me” at the head of one column and “Jesus” on the top of the other.  Under “me” I recorded all the ways I could think of that I’d blown it that day.  Sure enough, I filled my side of the page!  Under “Jesus” I wrote “Totally righteous!  Perfect Obedience!  Perfect Righteousness!”

Then I cut out the column of what I’d done, and the column under Jesus’ name and switched them!  Then wrote on top of my day’s sin list that was now in Jesus’ column “PAID IN FULL!  Debt cancelled completely.”  And on top of Jesus’ column that was now mine, I pasted the reminder “Just as if I had never sinned!  Just as if I had always obeyed!”  and “That’s the way God sees me because He sees me clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ!  Thank you Lord!”

Now that may not seem like much, but actually doing this had a HUGE impact on my heart!  …and on my marriage!  Not once have I mumbled in the night since!!!

First Adventure In Art Journal Painting…!

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One of the best parts of Colorado College Fine Art Center’s Free Day is during the evening they have three teachers demonstrating what they teach in their classes.  It’s a great way to try something new and expand artistic horizons -even if you aren’t all that artistic!  :0)

As I wandered past the plein art painting teacher I’m sure there was a wistful look in my eye.  I’ve always wanted to try this!  The combination of being creative + outdoors =  Just sounds like a dream!

But I’ve always been intimidated by paint.  Really anything you can’t use an eraser on!  And so hesitant to try.  And painting on a canvas – well, it feels like you need to come up with something significant to justify the expense!  So after getting the info for his course I passed on to the next table only to find….  a real live art journaling instructor!!!!  You can’t even imagine how excited I was!!!

As we talked she asked how I learned about art journaling and I shared how I’d asked the Lord to give me an idea for creatively processing during our sabbatical and a little while later stumbled onto a church’s website for artists where someone was sharing about this – turns out she goes to that same church!!!

As she shared her art journal with me, she took time to explain how to use different materials and shared some of the assignments she gives in her class.

For her first assignment she always has her students take a sheet of paper and divide it into different sized boxes – she says it’s less intimidating this way.  And they can have fun exploring whatever medium they are using.

Light bulbs went off as I heard that!  What a great way to jump into using paint!  So I ran to a local art supply store, bought watercolors and… had sooooo much fun! :0)  This really did help to get me out of scrapbooking mode and expanded my creative options!

Got to love how the Lord provides just what we need (including new ideas!) right when we need them!

Lord, please save me from ideas that are not yours!!!

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One of the things I love about living in Colorado Springs is Colorado College Fine Art Center’s free day the third Tuesday of every month!!! Now there’s no way anyone can ever really digest a whole museum worth of art, so whenever I visit an art museum I like to start my time asking the Lord to direct me to a work He wants me to focus on and speak to me through. And this time as I prayed, did he ever answer!

He led me to a sculpture entitled “Monster Pencil Tip: An Endlessly Enlargeable Monument to Human Imagination Interrupted – Pay No Attention To It’s Highly Suggestible Shape!”  This was basically a huge pencil tip, just the lead, and it easily could’ve been taken for a warhead.  Now the artist, Sean O’Meallie is known for his works having double meanings.  At first glance it’s easy to think a pencil tip is constructive, whereas a warhead is destructive but O’Meallie makes the point (no put intended! :0)  that the words scrawled by a pencil can be more dangerous and destructive than any bomb!

Now you have to know I have a lot of ideas that run through my mind – way more than I could ever act on.  And one thing I’ve learned through the years, I need to be protected from ideas that aren’t from the Lord – if not, can I ever get sidetracked and end up spinning my wheels.

That very day I’d been considering and praying about writing a movie!

Donaldina Cameron has a story that is just crying out to be told!  She was a Presbyterian missionary back in the early 1900’s who rescued Asian girls who were human trafficked in California.  Can’t you just see her, dressed in her victorian garb, hatchett in hand, going in to rescue those girls in the middle of Chinatown?!t

Truly she was a modern (or whatever you call someone from 100 years ago!) Deborah.  When the men in the town, including policemen and politicians who were believers, were doing nothing about this – prejudice ran so high they didn’t want to bother! – she called them to account and got them doing what they should’ve been doing all along!  It’s an incredible story!  And there’s such a need for women today to have role models like this!

But the Lord reminded me gently, apart from Him I can do nothing.  If He wants me writing a movie, then that’s what I need to do, but if not then it will be a waste of time at best and perhaps even harmful!

Got to love those art museum visits!

In Everything Give Thanks!

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1 Thessalonians 5:16 is one command I really struggle to obey.  But while out walking and caught in a hailstorm I noticed the parts of me that were sheltered by my hat didn’t get hurt (even though golf ball sized hail was falling!).  In fact, as long as I was covered I could actually enjoy the beauty and wonder of it all!

And I realized, with Jesus as my shelter that’s also true for the painful storms in life.  Things that would devastate me if unprotected, I can now endure (and sometimes even enjoy!) because He is my shelter!

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NOTE:  The song, “I have a Shelter” by Sovereign Grace Music has been nourishing my soul lately ~ can you tell?!  Here’s the link in case you’d like to hear a blessing:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXwVgkmGDd4

How would you define rest?

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When my sabbatical advisor asked this question the first thing that popped into my head was Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now one of the things that refreshes my soul is taking time to camp out in a text and see what the words in the original language mean.  As I did this I realized Jesus is giving this invitation to those who work hard and are loaded up, overburdened with ceremony or spiritual anxiety.  To them Jesus promises if they come to Him, He will rest them.  Here rest is something Jesus gives!

But that’s not the only promise.  Jesus goes on to say if we’ll take his yoke upon us and learn from him we will find rest for our souls.  So here rest is something we find!

How do we learn to find rest even when we are weary and burdened?

As we are yoked to Jesus, following Him, doing what He does, closely observing how He does it we have the opportunity to learn how to be like Him, how to be gentle like He is (which refers to an inwrought grace of the soul and the expressions of it are primarily towards God.  It is that attitude of Spirit where we accept God’s dealing with us as good and do not dispute or resist.  It’s where you get angry at the right time, in the right measure for the right reason) and how to be humble like He is (low, not high, particularly of attitude and social position).

Reading this I wonder, could it be I get weary and burdened to the extent I’m not gentle and humble in heart?  Could it be that’s why I need to come to Jesus, submit myself to following Him closely and learn from Him how to be gentle and humble in heart and that makes it possible for me to find rest for my soul?

What’s fascinating is there are two different words used here for rest!!!

The first is anapauo = which means to give rest, quiet, recreate, refresh.

The second is anapausis = rest, inward tranquility while one performs necessary labor!

So as we start our sabbatical I am praying, asking the Lord to not only give us anapauo as we come to Him.  But to help us learn what we need to learn, especially how to grow in being gentle (at peace when things don’t go my way!) and humble (not thinking, “Oh I can handle that! Pile it on!”  Or “But I’m needed to do this!!!” realizing as a human I have limits and learning to live within those!) so that I truly will learn how to find anapausis and have inward tranquility not just while on sabbatical but while performing the necessary labor that awaits in the next chapter He has for me!

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note: Greek definitions come from “The Complete Word Study New Testament” and “The Complete Word Study Dictionary” edited by Spiros Zodhiates, published by AMG.

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All I wanted was to live near friends!

Yet when we flew out here to look for a home nothing in our price range was available near anyone we knew.  The house we did find was 15 minutes (at least!) away in the middle of the city.

At first I cried.  But then I thought, “Maybe the Lord has a new friend waiting for me in the neighborhood whom I haven’t met yet!”  So for four weeks as I walked and prayed daily, I was on the hunt to find her.  Sunday mornings, as we visited different churches, also provided opportunities… but week after week my hopes were dashed.

After four weeks meeting no potential friends I was so upset!  Until… our first sabbatical team meeting!

Judy Levan said, “Go slow in making friends, Deb.  Your sabbatical is a special time for getting alone with God.  You don’t want to get so busy with people you miss that.”

And I realized, God wasn’t preventing me from making friends, He is protecting me!

If I’d had my way my schedule would’ve already been full with people!  Suddenly my frustration turned to praise!  It would’ve been so hard to back track!  Truly He knows just what I do (and don’t!) need!

Thank you Lord!

Not Preventing, But Protecting!

In the beginning….

A month ago I’d never heard of it.  But as we prepared to start our sabbatical I prayed, asking the Lord for creative ideas to help me make the most of this time.   Shortly after, I stumbled on a website that mentioned it.  And I was captivated.

Art jounaling.  Journaling + art = what a winning combination.

Visually I loved the look!   But little did I realize the greatest benefit, the best treasure came as I prayerfully processed while putting each page together.

I start with an idea. One thing the Lord is teaching me.  Then ask him to give me a picture portraying this (and if drawing is involved I’m crying out desperately for the ability to depict what comes to mind!).

And as I work with different materials scrap booking remnants, glue, colored pencils and pens, watercolors, acrylics, ink, old magazines, pictures, its amazing to see not only how the picture is taking shape but how I am better learning what He is teaching me!

Our sabbatical journey begins!

Our sabbatical journey begins!

After 12 years working with college students in ministry it was time to take a break. Not a vacation, but an intentional time first of resting and reflecting, spending time processing what the Lord is currently teaching us as well as taking time to remember and highlight what He’s been teaching us through the years. One idea He gave to help me do this was to art journal. Now I’m no artist! But so far I’ve been amazed at how He’s been providing exactly what I need right when I need it to do this.  Stay tuned for more details…!!!