Friday, March 30, 2012

Door Number?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

While visiting the Windy City, we stayed at our friends lake shore condo. My husband and I meant to get off on the fifth floor, however, when the elevator door open we stepped out. We were not paying attention to the fact that we had stepped out on to the second floor. We simply saw the door open and assumed it was our opportunity to exit. What we discovered, however, was that we were on the wrong floor. Our guest key was useless on this floor. 

Sometimes I feel like I am playing "Let's Make a Deal" with my life. I am presented many "life doors" to choose from, and all I have to do is simply pick one. If a door opens, I often step forward without questioning whether or not it is the correct door. The problem is that an open door of opportunity does not equate being the correct door. On that day in Chicago, I was not paying attention. I had lost my focus and my way. I stepped through an open door and it was the wrong door leading to the wrong destination. 

Today, consider whether an opportunity in your life is the right choice to make. Perhaps it is available, but it does not mean it is the correct decision. God promises that if we trust Him, He will direct us through the "right door" of life. We do not have to randomly choose a door of our liking or gamble with our guesses. God states He will make the path straight, so we can know. So, rather than guessing at your "door number", know your number. Stay focused and attentive. Be alert. Know your God. Know your number. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for...written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God and  they shall be My people. Hebrews 8:10

I recently had my eyebrows waxed. Yep, vanity woman is thy name. I have very unusual brows. Part of my brow exists, but the other part is sparsely distributed with hair. The friendly woman, who was practicing her eyebrow sculpting technique, suggested I consider having my eyebrows tattooed. She conveyed, with conviction, that by having my eyebrows tattooed I would never again have to worry about misshapen or barely existing eyebrows. She modeled her tattooed eyebrows as my inspiration. I have to admit, I was impressed. I began to imagine my red carpet moment when I would step out of my house, eyebrows permanently in place.  

I have many friends and family members that don body tattoos. I even know a woman who had a tattoo strategically placed on a back tooth. Tattoos as body art is prevalent in society. What intrigues me about this art is its purpose and message. I am keenly aware that the man or woman wearing a skull belies the reality of their kind and gentle spirit. I have also witnessed the contradiction in a person's life that is tattooed for "Jesus", but living a life that, sadly, exonerates Satan and his intent. So what is the message tattoos convey?  The message I have learned is that external, body tattoos really do not represent the heart or soul of the individual. If I decide to have my eyebrows tattooed on, it really does not change the fact that I have uneven hair distribution on my brow. A tattooed brow will only present a false reality. 

I do, however, have a tattoo. You cannot see my tattoo, but I pray you realize its presence. My tattoo artist did not use ink, nor did he use a needle. He used His blood as the permanent dye and nails as His marking instrument. It did not hurt, nor was I at risk for acquiring a life threatening disease, rather, I was given eternal life. He knew His work would be on display, so He chose my heart as His canvas. He assured me of its permanency. I would recommend my tattoo artist to anyone, because He offers His services for free. His name is Jesus, and what He tattooed on my heart was "covered in blood". Jesus removed my sin, and the death it brings in life and relationships, and replaced it with life giving love. His tattoo on my heart causes me to want to live at peace with all men. I am driven to offer joy in place of discontent. I seek to offer lasting hope to the hopeless. I desire the greater good for all mankind. I am forever changed because of His tattoo. What about you? Would you like your heart tattooed today? Go ahead and step in His presence and ask Him  to change you from the inside out. It is one tattoo you will never regret, and the world will stand in awe of its beauty. 

Jesus, today, change my heart. Write the words "covered in blood" across my heart. Forgive me of my sins and transform my heart and mind. I accept the blood and nails you use to give me eternal life. Today, I am made new. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To an Audience of One

...know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

I have a very demanding job. Daily, I diligently prepare science lessons. Each year I read and reread material I have already mastered, but each year I am certain that I will pick up some new information that will add value. Each day, as I prepare to deliver my well-read, well-planned out lesson, I stand in front of disengaged teenagers who are more interested in how their friends perceive their hair and make-up, what is in the lunch box, or whether or not they are "liked" by the opposite gender. What matters to these students is what happens before and after the classroom. Honestly, I wonder why I even expend the energy and time trying to understand and explain cellular respiration to freshman biology students, or any other biological concept. I get frustrated and wonder why I am the only one reading the material, when in reality they are the ones who need to read the text. I have my diploma. They do not. It is in these trying moments that I reminded that when I feel this frustration I am living with misplaced expectations. 

The question I need to ask each day is, "When it's all over, what is really going to matter?" Will it really matter whether or not my biology students were impressed that I came prepared each day? Will it matter if students, administration, colleagues, or parents approved or disapproved of me?  Will being able to explain plant anatomy and physiology really matter? The simple answer is no. All that will matter is whether or not I have lived in a manner that pleases my Lord. He alone is the audience I must live to capture. My favorite author and Bible teacher Kay Author writes, "When our expectations are in anything or in anyone other than in pleasing Him, we will know only distress, defeat, disappointment....and failure...."

So what does this revelation have to teach me? I am to live for the audience of one. I am to capture His heart, attention, and approval. When I do this, I will care about the things and people He cares about and loves. I will spend less time rereading science facts I have mastered, and spend time learning about the lives of my students. I will not notice students' lack of interest in biology, but will notice what captures their hearts and minds and join them at their daily entry point. Perhaps when I can convey that they are loved, because the King of the universe loves them, then maybe they will want to understand the creation He has designed. When I live for the audience of one, then I am free of living in the bondage of expectation. When living for Christ is my only focus, then I will live worthy in a manner of His calling. Today, making living to an audience of one your only goal. 

Father, I admit I have lost my focus. I have been serving the expectations of myself and others. Today, help me to live for you and you alone. Redirect my attention to Your Word and Your love. In You alone I find my rest. Blessings and honor belong to You. In Christ I pray. Amen  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Progressive Vision

"What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" Luke 18:41

Recently, I accepted a position that offers vision insurance. I was quick to accept, because three people in my family rely upon corrective lenses to have clear vision. Having just recently replaced my old lenses, I decided it would be a great opportunity to order prescriptive sunglasses. My plan has limits, so I chose to order my tri-focal lenses with lines and skip the extra $70 it would cost to have progressive, no line, lenses. Little did I understand what  looking through lenses with lines would create. Distraction. I am greatly distracted by these lines of demarcation. Instead of looking out, I am constantly looking down trying to figure out my focal point. I am careful, as I am fearful that I will misstep and lose my balance. This slows me down considerably, as I navigate from place to place.

I am reminded of the blind man crying out as Jesus was passing by. Jesus stops and commands the man to be brought to him. What happens next is more than a miracle. Jesus asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Funny question to a blind man, from my perspective, however, his answer reflects his present state. He responds, " Lord, I want to regain my sight!". Regain? This man must have once had vision, but something happened that cost him to lose sight. The Bible does not tell us what happened, but we do know that Jesus restored his sight. After his sight was restored, the once blinded man began following and glorifying God (Luke 18:43).

With my new glasses, I feel I have lost something I once possessed-my ability to look out and move effortlessly forward. I have lines distracting my view and my attention. I decided having a progressive lens was too costly. What about you? Have you lost your life vision? What have you allowed to distract you from moving out and forward? What are you not willing to give up, because you feel it would cost too much? What is slowing you down?

Today, cry out to God to restore your life vision and give you a progressive lens. Remove the obstacles that create distraction, and move forward. Living with progressive vision will cost you something. Perhaps time you do not think you have. Maybe a relationship that is obscuring your view, or fear creating "false evidence appearing real". Whatever it is, be willing to make the sacrifice. I wish I had.

Father, today, restore my vision. Give me a progressive lens, so that I can live without distractions. Show me what I have allowed to obscure my vision of you and the plans you have ordained for my life. Reveal to me what I need to let go of, so that I can live confident. Today, I cry out for life sight. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Speaking Art

Then God Said....Genesis 1:26

I work, and happen to be friends, with an extremely talented artist. I watch how she effortlessly takes blank paper, or other mediums, and casts her "magic" to create thought provoking, colorful images of shapes and designs. I simply cannot grasp having this kind of skill and creativity. She literally creates works of life out of nothing. Her tools are colors, brushes, chisels, hammers, saws, clay, foil, fabric, twine, and quiet honestly, anything she can place in her hands. These tools obey and submit to her skillful mind and determined hands and fingers. When I watch her, I think back to my days in high school art. I wonder how my art teacher ever endured my clumsy nature and inept ability to go beyond drawing people with straight lines. I wonder if she ever tried to pay off the guidance counselor and have me transferred out of her class. Perhaps her pay was that of most teachers-miniscule. Today, nothing has changed. I can recite the basic eight colors, but beyond that, know nothing about art. I have never considered myself an artist until today.

Today, I read in Gensis that "God said". And what follows was more magnaminous than Van Gogh, Michelangelo, or my dear, talented friend could ever produce. God spoke, and the beauty of all creation came into being. Words. These were God's tool. Words. The first and greatest artist spoke, and living art, in 3-D, appeared. Proverbs 18:21 states that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue". Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp in their book "Relationships: A Mess Worth Making" write;"Because our words have power and direction, they always produce some kind of harvest." My words have the power to produce a harvest of life giving and life sustaining fruit. Just like my dear friend produces a harvest of artifacts from her labor, I too can create a harvest that can be displayed and viewed by onlookers. "Let know unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).       

Yes, I am an artist. I use words. I have the ability to "speak art" every day. I can choose what words I will use, and can decide how I will use them and to whom I will bestow them upon. I can speak creatively and bring living colors of hope and encouragement. I can remind the faint hearted that all journeys have an end point. I can convey to those who deem themselves unworthy that God himself handcrafted every aspect of their form. I can choose to extend words of forgiveness to the offender and comfort to the offended. I can say "I love you" and "You are special" by mindfully choosing the right combination of words that declare the message. God spoke and so can I. Today, choose your words carefully, for you too are a speaking artist.

Today, Father, help me to mindful of every word I speak and think. Let no unwholesome speech proceed out of my mouth. Help me to guard what I place in my heart, for what I allow in my heart will be ushered out of my mouth. Thank you for reminding me that I speak art everyday. Amen.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Living upside Down

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.... 1 Corinthians 3:19

I visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago this week. It is truly an amazing adventure into bio-diversity. I highly anticipated my visit, and was most notably excited about the jellyfish exhibit on tour. My expectations of this exhibit were met. I soaked in every educational tidbit posted on walls, stood mesmerized at the variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of the various species, and was in awe over the artistic enhancements that punctuated the walls in the exhibit. Watching the jellies, as they appeared effortlessly suspended in their watery environment, washed away any stress from the week. I was captivated by the variety being displayed, however, one species captured my attention the most--the upside-down jelly fish. This species lives in a symbiotic relationship with a single celled algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae provides partial nutrition to the jellyfish, but need to be housed. The jellyfish turns upside, so that the zooxanthellae can reside inside its bell shaped body and absorb the energy from the sun. Both benefit, however, the jellyfish must give up its freedom to float in the water currents and rest upside down. 

As I pondered the life of this jellyfish, I thought about my relationship to Christ. How often I refuse to give up my independence and live in a receiving position. After all, the culture I live in vehemently applauds and encourages independent, self-sufficient living and constant movement. I believe it could cross over into a social mores if one would choose living "upside down" by deciding to live interdependent, and perhaps dependent, with people and life in general. But then I have to question what life giving gift am I missing by refusing to lay down and let others "rest" in me. What soul nourishing, emotionally satisfying food do I pass up when I refuse to rest, so that another soul can gain nourishing energy from my "idol" position. What is it the God wants to place in my life, so that I can be soulfully fed?  

What about you? Have you believed the wisdom of this world that advertises the belief that to be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally well-fed that you must live freely and disengaged. It was the apostle Paul who declared that God himself has made "foolish the wisdom of the world" ( 1 Cor. 1:20). I believe Christ is calling us to live upside down. To live in a manner that places us in a receiving position. This means we have to decide that giving up our freedom to choose how we live better enables us to receive "soul nourishment" from Christ himself. To rest in Christ is to believe that we do not need to conquer life on our own, because He has already done this for us. Today, let go and receive His good gifts. 

Father, today I let go of needing to live life on my own. I freely surrender my independent stance, and receive life your way. I trust that what you have to give me is much more than I can acquire on my own. Today, I trust you, as I live life "upside down". 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dressing-Up to Cover-Up

Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk,  for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." And David took them off. 1 Samuel 17:38-39

The story of David, the little shepherd boy, and Saul, the giant of a King, reminds me of playing dress-up. As a little girl, I enjoyed trying on my mother's clothes and clopping in her over-sized heels. I felt so "grown-up". The problem, however, is I could not get around without tripping over hemlines and twisting ankles as I attempted to stride in her ill-fitting shoes, and I remained a little girl in spite of my adult apparel. David was much wiser than I was, and perhaps his example continues to illuminate my feeble attempts as an adult to play dress-up. He recognized that in order to slay the giant that was taunting God's people, he would have to go dressed as himself. He exuded confidence in who God had made him and trusted God for the outcome (I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted-1 Samuel 17:45). The problem with playing dress-up, is that we are attempting to cover up what we label as inadequacies and deficiencies in our person-hood, character, or abilities. Even King Saul felt that donning the armor of a King would veil David's small stature, but David did not focus on his small stature. Instead, he was able to focus on his big God and accept the way God had designed him. 

We spend, or rather waste, our lives when we dress-up, or cover-up, what we believe to be inferior or broken. We justify our choices, while we trip over our over-sized protective armor we have donned. Perhaps our over-sized homes, with their over-sized mortgages, covers up our feelings of being inadequate in providing shelter for our families. Maybe the constant search for information and higher education is a veil to cover our fear of not being prepared or understanding what is meant by living a good life? The clothes of constant busyness and chronic "Busy Bee " syndrome is perhaps to hide our insecure selves from a world that determines our importance based on our calendars. Cars, titles, recreation choices, media, technology, work, and relationships, although each have inherent utility, can be a version of "grown-up dress-up" that allows us to cover-up our fear of inadequacy. 

Today, be like David. Accept how God made you. Know that He made you exactly the way He intended, and His intentions unveil purpose and meaning. Tiny David slayed the Giant, and he did it in shepherd's clothing and faith in God's design. What God has made is not broken, nor inferior, but useful as is. David slayed the giant "as is", and the giant succumbed to God's original design.

Father, today, help me to accept the way you created me. I do not need to dress-up or cover-up any self-imposed deficiency or inadequacy. What you have created is useful "as is". Help me, like David, to move out into the world and slay the giants you have  placed before me. Today, I come to you "as is".

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's All Found In a Name

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and (are) safe. Proverbs 18:10

I remember, as a little girl, loud noises periodically going off and coming from what appeared to be no where. These screeching sounds, which I now know where sirens, would set my little 4 year-old feet flying toward my mother. I would impale my body into hers by burying my head into her abdomen, and tightly wrap my frail arms around her waist. She would stand strong embracing me with her reassuring arms and soothing voice. I recall feeling that there was nothing that could harm me in that moment. My mother was my strong tower. Today, there are different arms I have learned to run to. Yes, I am much older and perhaps should be more capable of discerning the reason behind the noises that threaten my security, but often fear presents itself before logic. And in that moment of fear and insecurity, I continue to need assuring arms and words that comfort. The writer of Proverbs 18:10 directs me to run into the name of the Lord. His name, the name above any earthly or heavenly name, reminds me that when others criticize my existence, the Lord Elohim created me. Elohim reminds me that I am precious in His sight (Isaiah 43 emphasis mine). His name El-Elyon declares His sovereignty above any foe or circumstance that threatens my purpose, because He declares that He will accomplish His good pleasure and that as He has planned it, so He will do it. Nothing or no one thwarts His plan for my life (Isaiah 46:9-11 emphasis mine). The name El Roi declares his perfect vision of my life. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3 ) My father, my Lord, sees when I have been harmed. Nothing escapes His vision or His sovereignty. His other names: Jehovah Shalom, the Lord of peace, the Lord my shepherd who declares I shall not want (Psalm 23:1), Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides, and Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals mind, body, and soul. He has many more, but these are just a few I have learned to run to and find security. Where or who do you run to in times of distress? Many boast in friends, family, jobs, money, and possessions, but I boast in the name of the Lord (Psalm 20:7 emphasis mine). For me, security and peace are  found in a name, and this name is most noted as Jesus.

Father, remind me that there is no other name that can calm my fears but yours. When I am beaten and battered emotionally, I can run to you and be safe. Safe from worries and concern, and safe from being rejected. Today, I run to you, keeper of my soul.