The Worth of A Soul

photo-186

On Christmas Eve as we sang the song “O Holy Night” one line especially jumped out at me:

“Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

and I thought, does this ever sum up a key thing the Lord’s been teaching me lately – that my worth, my value is 100% based on Him!

It’s not based on what I look like

It’s not based on what I do

It’s not based on people’s opinion or whether they want to spend time with me (or not!)

It’s not based on the gifts people give or don’t give

It’s not because of position…

Of course I “know” all of this, I’ve “known” this for years and could gladly tell someone else, but lately the Lord’s been blessing me with opportunities to “know” this experientially, on a deeper level than ever before!

They’ve not been easy lessons nor very enjoyable.  But I’m finally learning in the depths of my heart because of Jesus there’s always treasure in me, even on my worst days.

It is a holy night when the soul feels its worth!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

one further blessing:  Ever meet with someone you aren’t too excited about spending time with?  As I was getting ready to do this, the Lord brought this picture to mind, pointing out, “Because of me everyone has value, Deb, and that doesn’t change based on what they do or don’t do!”  So I asked the Lord to help me see this person the way He does and wow!  What a difference it made!  Got to love the power of a picture, how it can come back to bless you (and those around you!)  in new ways!

Because The Moon Doesn’t Shine…

photo-185

For Christmas my son’s fiance gave me a wonderful gift ~ Gouache (rhymes with squash) paint and a set of brushes!  What a difference it makes using quality materials!!!  I can’t recommend enough investing in a good set of these!  I love them!  Especially as they proved a double gift…  of even greater value than the physical items, was the invitation they offered to process at a time I deeply needed it.

The day she gave these to me I was reading Amanda Jenkins book Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist  (for the record, I’m not a perfectionist – but this ebook was free and well, after studying Greek this past year with limited time for reading, let’s just say I’ve been a starved bibliophile and ever since the last class ended I’m having a blast devouring books right and left ~ and being amazed at how the Lord is guiding me in the process and speaking to my heart in neat ways! :0)

In her book, one quote really grabbed my attention where she answered the question, “How can we boast in our weaknesses?”

“Because the mood doesn’t shine – that’s why.  In fact, the glow of the moon is actually the light of the sun reflecting off the moon’s surface.  Without the light of the sun, the moon would be dark.  And the same is true with us and God.  Our talents, our knowledge, our ability to love and laugh and weep and sing are mere reflections of who God is.  He’s the light – the creator of all that’s good and worthy of recognition.  The only one who deserves the spot light which is obvious when we take the time to notice.  And our weaknesses allow Him to shine in us all the more.”

All week I’ve been reminding myself, “I’m like the moon.”   Apart from Jesus, “There is nothing good in me” Romans 7:18.  And I love how John the Baptist’s statement ties in with this, “a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”  John 3:27

But what’s most gripped my heart in Amanda Jenkins’ quote is that last sentence, “our weaknesses allow Him to shine in us all the more.”  Personally I’m not a big fan of my weaknesses!  And I certainly don’t relish others seeing them!

How easy it is to sing, “In my life Lord be glorified” when I’m thinking, “Yes, be glorified through the things I do well!  Through my accomplishments!”  but through my weaknesses?!

One of the things I love about painting quotes is how I find myself processing with each brushstroke.  As a result, this beautiful illustration gripped my heart!  And good thing too…

Little did I realize this marked the start of the Lord preparing me for an unexpected journey of grieving…

The Light Shines!

 

photo-167

Our pastor just started a sermon series on the book of John, so our church hosted a “Create Night 01” to give people the opportunity to create a work of art reflecting what stood out to them from the book of John and at some point I expect they are going to display the pictures to go along with the sermon series.

When I heard about this I was so excited!  Then a friend asked if I’d be willing to take her daughter and did that sweeten the deal even more!  And yet, I’ll be honest.  As the night approached I was a bit intimidated, wondering what I’d paint and how it’d look and if I was about to totally humiliate myself!

Now from my art journaling class I’ve been learning how helpful it can be ahead of time to consider ideas. So after reading the couple opening chapters of John I went to google image and looked at pictures of hands and lights.  But you know what helped the most?  My husband and I went walking before I left, and here in Colorado, well, after daylight savings time kicked in it’s pretty ridiculous how early it starts getting dark – like around 4:45!

As we walked it was amazing to watch the sky and notice the different colors as the day drew to a close.  What hit me was the light wasn’t just yellow!  (I know, big surprise, right?!  But it’s amazing how when you’re getting ready to paint something you notice so much more!)  The way it reflected off the clouds that night was breathtaking.  In fact, after we got home Jim encouraged me to run out and take some pictures!  Were we ever blessed with a colorful sunset!

So with that fresh in mind I headed to pick up my young friend and together we drove to Paint the Town, where we were meeting to create our pictures!  Now I love creating art with my young friends nearby.  There’s something so fresh and fun about being like a child and diving in, not feeling pressure to create something that will impress others.  I highly recommend if you’re just starting out painting to find a young friend to go with you!!!

photo-166

As we approached the paint, she was so cute, “I have no idea what colors to use!”  Neither did I.  There were a ton of them!  So we prayed together asking the Lord to give us ideas and to guide our hands and make us like Bezalel and Oholiab!  :0)

Even as we started painting, I had no idea what I was going to do – just a vague idea that it was going to involve the contrast of light coming into darkness.  So I put on my plate all the colors that could even remotely be related to light and started using them all, painting outwards from the center.

Now all around the room people were painting.  And there were some amazing artists present – but thankfully I didn’t see their works till after!  :0)  My friend and I were off at the end of one table and it really was the sweetest time praying each step of the way.

Did it ever hit me how painting a picture for me is like an act of faith.  There’s this blank canvas and you have to move to get started putting paint on it, and there’s this fear that each stroke may do damage or mess up the picture beyond repair.  What’s really crazy is the more it started to take shape and I liked what I was seeing, the more I was hesitant lest I mess it up!  At one point while painting the black around the border I dripped paint right in the center of the drawing and I sat there and looked at it for the longest time, praying, “Um, Lord, what am I supposed to do now?”  I’ve heard people say there are no mistakes in art – just incorporate what happens into your design, letting it take you in a new direction.  Well, I wasn’t quite sure how to do that.  Thankfully as I was praying, the owner of the studio walked up and when I shared my dilemma with her, showed me how to take off that unwanted paint.  Just dip a paper towel in water and wipe.  I had no idea you could take off top layers without the underlayers coming up too!  It was amazing!!!

Really the whole night was!  At one point I sensed the Lord wanted me to draw people at the bottom of the picture, but I was like, “Lord, I’m not really good at that” but as I moved forward, dabbling with the paint on my brush, low and behold small people started appearing at the bottom!  Right at that point a woman came up to me and said, “Are those people down there?!  That is so neat!”  I was encouraged it was even recognizable!  And then my young friend started demonstrating her favorite poses I’d drawn!  :0)

But the scariest part of all came as I added the words.  At first I took a black marker and wrote them in black on black on the sides of the painting.  But a friend encouraged me to write them on the front as a border.  Then when I asked the owner what she thought she suggested I do it in white!!!  Yikes!  By this time there were only ten minutes left.  Were my hands ever shaking!  But after, was I ever thankful for their input!

My biggest mistake came when they told me to sign it and the first pen I tried was old and made a mess of my initials.  I was so sad.  But then I saw there was still some black paint on a paper plate and guess what?!!!  It covered the mess right up!  And I was able to sign it again with a better pen!

photo-165

All that to say, whenever I look at my picture I’m amazed because I am so looking at one BIG answer to prayer!  Once again I’m so thankful the Lord called me out of my comfort zone…!!!

 

Being Built By God!

Image“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”  Hebrews 3:4

Having a son studying building construction has made me notice even more verses that relate to this.  When Andrew was recently visiting, the Lord directed me to this verse during a quiet time.  What a difference it can make when I truly grasp that I am a work in progress (and stop expecting myself to have it all together) and to realize that everyone around me is too!  Until the moment I die, as long as I am in this world, I am under construction!

But what joy to realize this work is being executed by the Almighty Living God, the Ultimate Master Builder who never runs out of resources or energy, who always knows exactly what needs to be done when and is faithful to do it, who never wipes His hands and declares me a futile project!

But this really hit home while Andrew was visiting, because well, both of us are pretty strong willed – and at times we can really clash because of that.  And while I was thinking about this analogy I realized how when the Lord is building the “house” of someone who is a leader, well, it’s like the skyscrapers downtown – you need steel beams for those.  Those beams are so vital for supporting the structure!  And they make possible all the functions those buildings are going to have.  But during the construction process, well, those beams aren’t always in the right place.  When they are first unloaded, they are often deposited anywhere – and you can really get hurt by them if you don’t watch out!  You can stub your toe on them, or get knocked over by them or even seriously damaged, especially when the builder is in the process of repositioning them.

I can’t even begin to count the numbers of times I’ve been hurt by leaders whose beams (aka strong will) weren’t yet where the Lord wants them to be!  That doesn’t mean that being strong willed is wrong – but unless it’s in its correct God-directed position it can cause a lot of damage!  And no one starts out with all their beams in the right place!

So yes, I’m having this quiet time the day after Andrew’s beams and my beams have collided!  And it so helped me get perspective on it… and prepared my heart to apologize.  For my strong will had, in that instance, been misdirected.  I’d been adamant and passionate about a gray area and I was wrong.

Now every single person is a work in process, a building under construction, but with leaders, especially young leaders, those in-process areas are often more evident and have potential to cause even more injury.  I just love how this analogy is helping me learn to better extend grace – to myself, but also, even more importantly, to young leaders around me, especially when I’m hurt by them!

It certainly helped me better relate with the young leader who came from me!  :0)  Got to love how timely the Lord’s insights are!

Come…

Image

Each Tuesday I’ve been heading off for an extended date with Jesus!  One of the things I sometimes do is read through ten different chapters in the Bible (I use Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System  http://www.challies.com/sites/all/files/attachments/professor-grant-horners-bible-reading-system.pdf  – though he created it to be used daily – I find that’s a bit much when I have so many other things I’m doing in the Word – but once a week reading from each of the ten lists I’m finding to be such a blessing – and hey!  I’ll get through it, I’m just on the seven year plan!  :0) I find it gives great structure for my dates with Jesus, usually I’m on my bike and it’s amazing the places He’ll lead me to – I try to read each chapter in a different location and then divide one page in my sketchbook into 10 boxes and I draw a quick picture summarizing the main thing from each chapter that stands out to me.  From remote coffee shops to graveyards, old churches downtown to various park benches and gazeboes, it’s always an adventure!!!

And I never cease to be amazed at how the scriptures will relate to each other!  Got to love those concatenations!!!

Just this past week I was reading through the elevens!  Since I just started this a few months ago I’m in the 11th chapter of most of the lists!  And I started out with Matthew 11 where verses 28-30 jumped off the page at me, “Come to me all 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 lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Then after biking to the next location, I turned to Genesis 11 and was I ever amazed to find the word “Come” was in there too!  Only this time it was “Come let us make bricks… Come let us build ourselves a city… and let us make a name for ourselves…”  Then they go on to build the tower of Babel – but you know not one of the names of these builders is listed!  And what’s crazy is the second half of that chapter, from verse ten on,  there are a ton of names listed.  The ones whose names were listed were not those who attempted to make a name for themselves but simply those the Lord chose!

Now I was raised to make a name for myself – to put effort into this, to value this, to find my value in this.  Yet God’s ways are not our ways.

So here I am just a year short of 50 and barely anyone knows my name.  I’ve not accomplished much of any import.  As far as making a name, I’m a big disappointment.  Small wonder I struggled so much to give up my plans and my ambitions when the Lord asked me to.  And small wonder I just spiritualized those ambitions even when I gave up worldly ambitions.  As long as I made a name for myself it didn’t matter whether it was in the word’s kingdom or God’s kingdom.  But now the Lord has hidden me, called me out of all that was making a name for me before so I could learn I truly am hidden with Christ in God, to learn I still have much value, infinite unchanging value simply because I am His.

I’ve been pondering this for a while now and realize when I respond to the world’s invitation to “Come” make a name for myself, it really does get in the way of responding to the Lord’s invitation to “Come to Him… and find rest for my soul.”  I so need to respond to His invitation to be at peace being hidden with Christ in God trusting that when Christ who is my life appears I also will appear with Him in glory.

I don’t need to “make a name for myself,” because I bear His name!

The Same Body

Image

Have you ever been so hurt by another believer that you just want to lash back at them or tell others what they did in a way that will destroy them?  Sometimes I sure feel like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, ready to command, “Off with their heads!”

Yet meditating on the truth that we are all a part of the same body has really put this in a different perspective.  If we’re really all part of the same body, then to hurt them is to hurt me.  Like if the mind led the body in a way that caused hurt to the feet, (eg., say if the mind told the feet, “walk across that parking lot” but it’s summer and the feet are bare and they get so burned they blister…)  does it make sense for the feet to kick the head into unconsciousness?!

That’s why it’s so much better to let the Lord take care of disciplining each part of His body – because He ALWAYS does so in a way that will be beneficial for the whole body – the wounded part included!

My job is to focus on forgiving and loving even those who hurt me.  I can trust Him that He truly will be my advocate.  He sees when I am hurt.  He cares about me deeply.  He is perfect in His love for me!  And He is so able and willing to deal with the offender in His perfect time, in His perfect way.  But this requires I trust Him.

Oh please help me Lord to trust you to take care of discipling your body, remembering I benefit when I do … and am hurt even more when I don’t!

(btw the face is compliments of my niece Grace who was doing wax crayon etchings with me!  :0)

God cares!

Image

While out walking and “praying” one night I was consumed with angry thoughts, considering how someone had really hurt me.  Over and over in my mind scenarios played of sharing what they’d done and exposing their immaturity and sin.  Half way through my walk I cried out to the Lord, “Why am I so consumed with this?  I’ve forgiven them as much as I know how!  Why is this such a big deal, that I’m not even able to enjoy time interacting with you?  Would you please give me wisdom to understand what’s going on in my heart?”

The very next day the Lord answered my question through what our pastor preached on!  During the sermon he asked, “Do we believe we have a Heavenly Father who delights in justice and delights in us?”  If not, he explained, we take on an orphan mentality where we feel like we have to take care of things ourselves.

I realized, when I was so deeply hurt, the Lord truly did bring great good out of it.  But when I saw the good that came out of it, my thinking got a bit off track without me realizing it and I supposed that because such good came out of the pain, God wasn’t really concerned with the fact that I had been hurt so deeply.  It was so good to be reminded that even though God brings good out of the hard things that happen to us, He is still a God of justice and He still cares deeply when we are wounded.

I have a friend who was raped and as a result started to follow the Lord.  God was at work bringing great good out of horrible wickedness, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t care deeply for how she was wounded. He carries our griefs.  He bears our sorrows.  And because He is a God of justice He will take care of the offender.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written “Vengeance is mine.  I will repay,” says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

Never noticed it before, but that is a promise!!!

I can’t even begin to tell you how loved I felt as I sat there listening to the Lord provide the answer to my question the very next day through our pastor!  What an amazing communicator – and carer the Lord is!

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, or have no compassion on the child she has born?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”   Isaiah 49:15

Now We See…

Image

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, with Jim and I attending four conferences, giving five messages, on two different continents!  Were we ever in need of some good rest and time together!  Thankfully a friend blessed us with tickets to the Denver Art Museum and last Thursday we were off on a date!

Now when Jim saw me slip my colored pencils into my backpack he was concerned, “What are your expectations for this trip?!”  Spending two hours contemplating and drawing one piece of art at a museum is not his idea of a good time!

So I quickly explained, “Oh!  No expectations!  I like to have them just in case…”  Turns out you can’t even use anything but a charcoal pencil while you’re looking at the exhibits.  Was Jim ever relieved!

But as we entered I still asked the Lord if He’d highlight one treasure and speak to me through it.  Would you believe we found it on the last floor right as we were getting ready to leave?!

When we saw Camille Pissarro’s “Autumn, Poplars, Eragny” I was captivated.  Such texture!  And beauty!  But you know when you get up close, if you just look at a small section, it sure doesn’t look like anything!

But back away, take in the whole… and it’s breathtaking!

And I thought – that’s so much what life is like!  Right now, in the middle of the story, experiencing one small piece of the whole it may not look like much!  In fact it may look like a downright choppy mess!

But God is a master artist.  There is purpose in each stroke!  Am I ever looking forward to getting to heaven and first and foremost seeing Him for who He is!  Then it sure will be neat to see the whole of the picture He’s painting in our lives.  Especially to see the beauty He brings out of the dark strokes…

Bet it’s going to look even better than this!!!

Image

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

btw… we did have a ton of fun at the museum!  :0)

Image

 

Because He Desires to be With Me!

Image

Last week I was at a retreat with the University of Wyoming NavLadies and during a shared quiet time the Lord highlighted Psalm 139:3 for me,

“You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.”

As I read this it hit me how so often I am like a two year old, so highly distracted.  I deeply desire to follow Jesus, but as different things catch my attention I tend to flit here and there and certainly can get sidetracked.  What a blessing the Lord is committed to making the effort to search out my crazy, haphazard path and that he knows my ways – not just some of them, but all of them!  What security there is in knowing this!

As I continued to ponder this the Lord reminded me of a time when Jim and I were dating.  We were attending a Nav conference and I slipped away to enjoy some of the beauty of the location, taking a path through the woods to a lake. It was so far removed from everything and everyone, was I ever surprised when Jim showed up!

When I asked, “How did you ever find me?”  He said, “I missed you and wanted to be with you,  so I went looking for your footprints.  You have a distinct way that one of your feet turns in and when I saw that I knew I was on the right trail and even when I came to forks in the trail and the imprint of your feet wasn’t as visible, I knew you’d take the less traveled route!”  Jim found me because he was acquainted with my ways!  He found me because he was intentionally searching for me… because he wanted to be with me!

Does that memory ever vividly illustrate this verse, especially highlighting the Lord’s deep desire for relationship with us!

Got to love it when we can “see” Jesus in the actions of those around us and how it helps us understand on an even deeper level truths not seen, but so very, very precious!

The Life… Is In the Blood!

Image

Last Saturday I donated blood.  I’ve done this many, many times before.  However, this was my first time donating when I was doing it because of a specific person who is battling Leukemia.

As I drove to the site I found myself wondering how much it would hurt (I have “great looking veins,” but the phlebotomists are usually dismayed to discover “they roll” – not always making for the easiest insertions) and questioning, “Now why am I doing this?”  And especially as I read through all the possible complications… and then as they prepared to stick my finger to determine if I was eligible and said, “This should only hurt a little…”  I thought “Why am I voluntarily signing up to experience pain?!”

Then there’s always that moment of apprehension right before they put the needle in the crook of your arm – and yes, it does hurt a little, not only while the needle is inserting but periodically during the process too.

But as I sat there, watching the blood draining out of my arm I remembered the words my friends had written about how critical blood can be for people who are fighting cancer.  And I started praying for the person who would receive my blood…

And as I did, it hit me – this is like the tiniest taste of what Jesus did for me.  He voluntarily endured pain, to shed his blood so I could have life.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I spent the rest of the time praising Him!  And yes, as the people on either side of me were struggling not to faint (the phlebotomists were turning on fans and putting cold cloths on their head, necks and arms) I was actually singing!

If you’d like to hear the song I was singing here’s a link to it on Youtube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FZMsV5YCDM

Little did I ever dream when I went to donate blood, what an incredible spiritual experience it would be!

Can you guess what I’ll be doing again in six weeks?!