Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When someone you've never met impacts your life

Dolores was someone who impacted my heart and yet, I never met her.  I learned about her at her memorial service, where her family gathered and shared loving memories and anecdotes about who she was and how she impacted their lives. 

Her children and grandchildren conveyed who she was through stories filled with humor, tears and  tenderness.  Her unique and authentic qualities were a common thread throughout the evening.  Each shared memory drew a clear picture of who Dolores was, and as the stories unfolded I began to get a sense of her spirit and personality.

Dolores not only sought joy, but she gave it away, freely.  It was a big part of who she was, and it was a significant trait she shared with her family and friends in abundance.  Her life was built upon it, and she communicated this to her family by telling them they each had a choice in life.  That each day, they had the ability to choose joy.  To her, it would be one of the most important daily choices anyone could make.  And that message struck a chord in my heart.  Each day, I could make an important decision to choose joy.

Another beautiful thing that stood out about her life was that she was a promoter. She thought the best in everyone she met, and she never hesitated to elevate others and to highlight the good in them.  She made some of the grandchildren blush with the way she would brag about them to others.  But that was who she was.  She did this with everyone around her, never drawing attention to herself, but to the others around her.  When you really think about it, it is when you focus on others and get your eyes off yourself, that your own heart becomes full.  Being a promoter is a huge element that cultivates joy.

It was easy to see that Dolores lived a celebratory life.   Story after story, I learned how she lived life as though there was something special in each day.   That didn’t mean life was without struggle or challenge.  That meant that although we might face challenges, we can still move forward and choose.  We can choose to keep moving, and as long as we are moving, we are healing and growing.  Through it all, each day was a celebration.  Another way to welcome joy into our lives. 

There were other beautiful stories and traits shared by her family, but these three things really touched my heart.  To choose joy, to promote others and to celebrate every day.  I never met Dolores, but at the end of the service, I felt like I did.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7

Friday, August 18, 2017

Living within the lines

A bold white line on the right side of my lane and a bright yellow line on the other side.  Orange cones warning me about fresh paint.  I was driving down a freshly striped road. Great.  Now I have to really focus and make sure I don’t veer out of my lane.  I felt a little nervous. If I veered just a little bit, well…I’d be creating a disaster.

If you have ever driven over fresh road striping paint, or seen a car that has, you know it really ruins a car’s paint job.  Please let me stay within the lines.  That was my prayer. 

Isn’t that how we sometimes try to live our lives?  Staying within the lines so we can have proof that we are doing it right?  I go outside the lines so many times.  It is easy to do and I don’t even recognize it at times because I just go about my merry way.  Yet, I veer off in seemingly simple ways.  By comparing myself to others, by putting myself down, through my attitude toward others, my words, my actions…shall I go on?   

I thought about Peter and how he went outside the lines.  Before Jesus was crucified, Peter denied who he was three times.  How outside the lines was that?  Yet Jesus offered Peter a way to be restored.  In John 21 we read how Jesus interacted with Peter with three questions, entering the mess Peter was in and replacing it with grace.  

Jesus does the same for us.  The lines of life can be difficult to maneuver, and it is easy to cross the lines.  Yet if we turn our thoughts to Christ, when we do veer off and make a mess, he meets us there.  He meets us in the mess with his grace and mercy, ready to restore us. 

Lord, help me when I make of mess of it and veer off into my own desires.  Rescue me and restore me and bring me to a place of love, where I can find rest in your arms.

The road I was on...

The story of Peter and Jesus.  John 21
Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows,[c] have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards[d] from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rescue me

I was never a good swimmer.  But when I was invited to a friend’s pool party, I begged my mom to go.  The pool looked mammoth to me and all I needed to know was which side was the shallow side.  The safe side. So that’s where I parked myself.  But after a while, I noticed I was the only one at that end of the pool.  The other girls were experienced swimmers and were bouncing around in the deep end.

Longing to fit in as much as possible, I was determined to somehow get to the other side. I carefully navigated my way across  by tip toeing on a narrow ledge along the perimeter of the pool.  I used it to make the journey over to the deep end, and I felt pretty satisfied for making it there successfully.  Then my foot slipped.  I felt my body slowly drift just far enough from the edge of the pool where the security of the ledge disappeared.  Suddenly, I had nothing to hold on to that would keep me safely attached to the edge of the pool.  I tried hard to keep my head above the water, but I felt myself panic and I began sinking.  There was nothing I could do, and there was nothing to keep me from going down.

One of my arms was above the water line, and suddenly I felt someone grab hold of it.  A girl, who was walking along the deck, grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the edge of the pool.  I was able to inhale and tried to remain composed.  Completely shaken and scared, I reflected on what had just happened.  I was filled with thanks as I quickly exited the pool.  Whoever that girl was, she rescued me.

How often do we hear the word rescue?  Maybe not that often, but when we do, we pay attention.  We like stories about rescue.  There is joy and hope in rescue, and often there is a hero in the story.  Recently, I was challenged to think of rescue in my life.  The challenge?  How do I apply rescue in my life as I interact with others?  By that I mean, how do I carry out Jesus’ mission and purpose by being his hands and feet?  By rescuing others with love, compassion and care?  How do I care?  Do I care?  Do I care for those different from myself?  For those who are bruised and broken?

I asked God to show me how to rescue, but as the days passed and the idea of rescue began to take shape in my thoughts, I didn’t know how to make it happen.  All I knew was that I felt convicted and wondered how God could use me in my small world.  My very small world.  I don’t have a big circle, but God does.  Rescue.  What could that look like?

Then it hit me.  Before I could ever be used by God, I would need him to rescue ME.  To rescue me from my “safe” life.  The part of my life that is comfortable and simple.  From the side that doesn’t have the courage to think like Jesus.  The side of me that retreats from what is going on outside my circle, because it’s just hard to think outside that space.  How could I possibly “rescue” if I was just hanging out in a place that feels safe?

And so, in my prayers, I ask God for wisdom and understanding.  I seek intimacy with Christ so that I can be rescued from myself.  I seek a relationship that is real. Make it real.  Make it real, Lord so that I can be real.  So that I can be used to rescue.  Maybe I’ll be the one who notices someone in distress and is able to grab their hand and bring them to a place where they can see the face of God.  A place where reflection can take place and where a deep breath of his grace and mercy can be taken.

Recently, my friend Ann shared this scripture with me...(thank you, Ann!)

John 14:4-12
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?   When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.  Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.  You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Living Prayer

To be seen by God

“Do I believe in God?  Yes!  When I am at work I feel like I am assisted by someone who leads me to do things that are greater than myself, greater than what I have done before.”  Henri Matisse

Close to the end of his artistic career, Matisse embarked on creating “The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence” (Chapel of the Rosary), a chapel in France.  He considered it the most significant work of his career, and perhaps one could say that something outside himself caused him to create this masterpiece.  As I read his thoughts, I am certain there was something more to why he created art of any kind.

On the outside, his long-standing friendship with Monique Bourgeois, who he met as a young nurse, engaged and motivated him to take on this work.  Their friendship developed over time and lasted for years.  They remained friends as she became a Dominican nun, and his work took on life and breath when he began designing the chapel.  But was it more than this friendship that moved him? 

He wasn’t spiritual in the least, and when challenged by his peers about the project, he said, “Doing this is essentially a work of art.  I don’t know whether or not I am a believer, the essential is to work in a state of mind that is close to prayer.”  He went against the tide to create his masterpiece and he was true to himself in the process.

As an artist, there is something that drives me to create.  Recently, a gentle whisper in my heart made me take pause.  The simple, yet profound, words, “To be seen by God, and not by man.  To love like God, and not like man,” rocked my world.  There is something inside me that wants to be seen, yet not.  It’s a definite tug-of-war, and learning how to lose is actually understanding that you really win.

When I started working with Denise, my art coach, the first question she asked me was, why do I create art?  My answer seemed dramatic, but I spilled it out anyway.  I simply told her that If I did not create, I would feel as though I'd die.  At that moment, the process of discovery and learning began.

The journey took me past fear, which is the most troubling aspect of being an artist.  Once I was able to understand this, creating for myself and more so for something other than myself, for the Glory of God, put me in a different frame of mind.  I may be simplifying it a bit, but I think you get the idea.

My art is simply a form of prayer.  As I wrap my head and heart around this, I move into a different arena.  It is here that I long to be seen by God, and not man.  It is a place of communion, and where an exchange takes place.  It is where I can share my prayer with the world, and the size of the world doesn’t matter.  I pour out what HE pours in, all to be blessing to God, to receive a blessing and to bless others.

So, my question for you is, what is your form of prayer?  What has God placed in you that when you communicate it to the world, it is an offering and a pouring out of a blessing unto HIM, unto your heart and unto others?

The chapel Matisse built, was designed with intricate details that were thought out specifically, so that each person entering it would be deeply affected by the beauty it offered.  His design was personal, powerful, and beautiful.  A display that even today connects people to God.

Our gifts are the same.  They are personal, powerful and beautiful.  During this season of lent, let your gift be poured out as a prayer, for all to see.  But most of all, to be seen by God.

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!
1 Corinthians 12:4-11The Message (MSG)

The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence

Friday, March 3, 2017

Facing the Elements

My husband has a knack for finding used exotic cars.  Head turning cars priced to where the average Joe can afford them.  And he’s done this a few times.  One of those cars was a beautiful Jaguar.  It was luxury beyond what I’ve ever sat in and we enjoyed that car for many years.  He appreciated it because of its fine qualities and features.  Everything about that car was top notch, inside and out.  He knew every aspect of the car and meticulously cared for it, especially its signature British Racing Green paint job.  Over time, the elements started to invade the paint and caused it to breakdown and fail.  It began to fade and discolor in areas and the luster of the paint was completely missing in many spots.  The only thing that would truly help “fix” the erosion was a restoration.  The car really wasn’t worth putting that kind of money into it.  Reluctantly, he sold it. 

We can be affected by so many things in our lives.  We are a one of a kind creation that comes into the world ready to shine.  Along the way, though, the elements take their toll on us.  Words, people, emotions we feel, experiences we encounter.  The list goes on and on.  All these things affect us, affect the brilliance of who we are.   Some of us are resilient and can weather out so much of the things that come against us.  Thankfully, our creator-designer, God knows everything about us.  He knows how to care for us, meticulously.  And instead of giving up on us, He has made a way for us to be restored.  To have a way for our luster to shine again.  That restoration comes through his son, Jesus.  Through Christ we can bring those parts of our lives that have been dulled by what the world throws our way.  Through Christ we can have joy and we can walk with our heads held high.  Through Christ, we can fully know our identity.  It is in this restoration and realization that we can share the hope we have found.  To pour kindness and compassion on others.  Maybe we can have a hand in helping others find their luster by pointing them to the one who created the world.  The one we call Love.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  2 Corinthians 5:18