Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Wonder-Storm

As I've mentioned before, thunderstorms are high up on my list of favorite things, and at this very moment, at my home, thunder is rolling, lights are flickering, and the rain is soaking the earth.

I am smack dab in the middle one of my favorite things!

Gift #1089 - a thunderstorm

If I could rename it, I would call it a Wonder-storm. Who knows? Maybe after this blog, many will start using my new found weather term.

Why a Wonder-storm?

Storms bring with them much to wonder about. How long will it last? How much rain will we get? Will we lose power? Will we have wind, hail? Will a tornado spawn from the storm?

The key to transitioning from thunderstorm to a Wonder -storm is how well we are prepared when it hits.

Four very dear people in my life are in the midst of some very severe weather today. My father-in-law was transported by ambulance to the hospital yesterday. He has double pneumonia, again, along with other issues.   A sweet friend is grieving the loss of her mother who passed away yesterday. Another friend's mother may have just days to live, and another received not-so-good news from CT scans this morning. All are weathering their own personal storms.

Because life's storms don't always come with a Noah weather alert, how can we prepare for the inevitable as it rolls into our lives?

The Word of God is what we stand on when the storms are raging.  Reading the Word daily, studying, learning, and applying the deep truths it contains will keep us safe and grounded.

Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, is Who keeps us upright through the storms fury.  There's no need to fear. Even walking through the valley of the shadow of death, David had no fear. He knew the Lord was with him. (Psalm 23)

The Holy Spirit, our Teacher, Protector, Comforter, dwells inside the soul of every believer. The Creator of the universe intentionally created you and me. He is Sovereign. Any storm which forms in our lives has already been sifted through the fingers of the Father. No page is turned that He has not already ordained. (Psalm 139) The Spirit's presence is certain, something we can count on.

Not knowing Christ invokes fear of the unknown, especially death. Knowing Christ gives us a sweet peace through the unknown - a peace that surpasses all human understanding.

A relationship with Jesus Christ, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, infused with the truth of God's Word,  prepares us for the unknown weather patterns ahead. It's such a relief knowing that we don't have to brace ourselves for the storms that are coming because we are already embraced by the Savior.  As we emerge from each storm, we will be just like the sun as it has broken through the clouds this afternoon, radiant and beautiful.

The refining process is difficult, but necessary. The storms test our faith. Our response to the storms prove our faith. And our faith is evidenced by our obedience to Christ.

The answers to the earlier questions are:  The storm may last a while. We may be hounded with hard wind, rain, and hail. A tornado may even develop, and yes, our human power will deplete, but there is good news. A good God is holding us tight, protecting us from harm.  If we rest in Him, we are free to glance around at the wonder inside the storm, breaking through on the other side looking more like the Son - radiant and beautiful.

My Pleasure,

Friday, May 23, 2014

Timeless Beauty and Charm

One of my simple pleasures is flipping through decorating and recipe magazines. My top two favs are Southern Lady and Southern Living. Yes, I am a southern girl with a southern flare, with a tiny smidge of tom-boy tossed in. (Ok, a lot.)

As I was reading an article in Southern Living, the February 2014 issue, Gentleman's Quarters by Terri Sapienza, a particular line caught my attention.

Through a Washington D.C. interior designer,  David Mitchell, God led me on a unique spiritual detour concerning His pride and joy, the Bride of Christ. Here are a few of my discoveries.

The vision of this D.C. dweller and designer was to take a piece of the past, a 1930s Colonial home, tucked inside the chaos of Washington D.C. and give it new life, while at the same time, preserving her history and timeless beauty.

Capturing this homeowner's vision, the writer says, "David's highest priority was to modernize the house without destroying its age-old charm, so he intentionally worked within its original footprint and kept the traditional floor plan in tact."

1. Preserving her past enhances her future. To the left, the hardwoods in David's home have been preserved and given a sparkling new shine. See how the light just bounces off of them? With such radiance, the dark, wood plank floors seem to beam with pride, inviting all standing on the threshold, "Come on in. You are welcome here."

Below, as you gaze into the Colonial dining room, the old supports the new. A modernized round table top with a cypress tree stump as its base. It is strategically placed where the family or guests will gather for meals, reminisce about the past, talk about the present, and dream about the future.

The old surrounding the new brings rich strength, support and stability throughout the home. Together.  Pure.  Simple.  Joy.

2. The timeless beauty and charm of the Bride of Christ is revealed through it's gentle blending of old and new, swirled into a sweet aroma of worship; the family together loving God and loving each other.

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 NKJV)

3. The world is drawn to Her grace and charm. There's an old British custom, which many brides still adhere to today that encourages the bride to have something old, something borrowed, something new and something blue to complete her wedding attire.  The old connects her with the past, the borrowed connects her with the present. The something new and something blue (symbolizing fidelity and purity) connect her to the future.

Just as the world peeks into this charming cottage in the city, the world is leaning in to see how the Bride of Christ preserves Her past and carries Herself into the future, standing the test of time.

4.  An eclectic, inspired cottage design gives us a glimpse of how the age-old Church can come together in modern day times with a seamless ebb and flow, in and out of the past and present, radiating the reflection of Her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forevermore.

Timeless, charming, and full of grace.

My Pleasure,

Photography by Jonny Valiant from February 2014, Southern Living Magazine article, Gentleman's Quarters 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Writing With the Author of Adventure

New friends, getting to know author friends better, sharing our stories... just a few of the perks of being a part of the SC Book Festival this past weekend with the PCWN (Palmetto Christian Writers' Network).

The past two days took me into a whole new world leaving me with many treasured memories. This faith adventure into the unknown by putting myself out there as a published author was a little scary, but incredibly rewarding.

As an unknown author in this environment of secular and Christian authors, I rubbed elbows with some who have arrived, and with others working hard to get there. (Most were in the latter category.)

Any fear that I had going into this venture quickly subsided as the aisles began to fill with people perusing the book-filled tables.

I love people.  I love meeting them, talking to them, and listening to their stories. The ability to bring Jesus into a conversation with the browsers, sharing what He's doing in my life, especially as a writer, was so exciting. Some who didn't stop to talk would take a FREE Living Real Magazine offered to them. Who knows? Maybe through an article they will encounter Jesus for the first time. How amazing is that?

The discussion on Sunday at our PCWN table reaffirmed to me that this is the greatest network of authors around.  What sets us apart from many others is we are not writers seeking fame. We are authors seeking to make Jesus famous through our writing.  It's so refreshing to know that we don't have to scratch and claw our way to the top of some best-seller list. As Christian authors, we just have to be obedient, write the words He lays on our hearts, and trust; letting God take our writings to whatever heights He chooses. Yes, we have to be engaged in the process, and work hard, but with a much different posture and perspective.

Embarking on new territory with King Jesus, the Master Author of Adventure since 2007, has been incredibly rewarding. It has opened my eyes and heart to a much deeper faith.  If I could splash a truth learned on billboards, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. all over town, they would say...

 Just obey! You'll be okay!  

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 
                                                                                                      (Hebrews 11:8 NKJV, emphasis mine)

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pinwheels, Laughter, and a Warm Breeze

When I went summer book hunting the other day, I could not find any of the books on my list.  I try to stock up on a few to take to the beach and read throughout the summer.  But this trip was becoming quite the waste of time, or so I thought.

As I was perusing the shelves, I came across a book by one of my favorite Women of Faith speakers.  I had not heard of Patsy Clairmont's newest book, Twirl, but the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to have it.

As you can see, the cover has a colorful pinwheel plastered up close and personal on the bright white background. It looks as if you could step right into the cover and give it a whirl right there in the bookstore.

Don't worry. I didn't, but I sure wanted to.  Instead, I bought it!

I love pinwheels.  Just a small amount of breath blown the right way sends them into a tailspin. I'm mesmerized as I watch them twirl with their plastic, colorful folds. I remember making the paper ones as a child. There's just something about getting lost in the blur of the blades that appeals to me.

Simple pleasures.  Simple joy.

I'm already half way through the book. I could read this in one day, but I don't want to. I'm trying to savor the simplicity.  The chapters are titled with just one word, and the short chapters compliment their titles.

Early in the evening, while the sun was still peeking through the trees, I sat on the back deck with a cup of coffee, a highlighter, and my new book.  A warm breeze blew over me.  Simple pleasures.

As I read, I laughed. I'm drawn into the crazy situations she gets herself into, and I can identify with many of her stories.

Patsy is smart, creative, full of life and loves Jesus with every inch of her tiny, petite frame. She weaves God's Word into her writing with such tenderness and respect, as she teaches you lessons you hadn't thought about before. She's very well read and has traveled to many places in her 38 years of ministry. But what I truly love about her is her childlikeness, her love of life, her joy-spilling personality. That's how I want to be when I grow up!

And she wears RED glasses!  Love it!  Visit www.patsyclairmont.com

"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light." (Matthew 6:22 MSG)

My Pleasure,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Be Aware, Be Very Aware

On a chalkboard I wrote, "Refreshed...
Free to live in the moment in all the fulness of Christ."

Have you ever thought about what it means to live in the moment?

Over the past 3 years, God has been teaching me how to do this. He has opened my eyes to see His name, "I AM", in a whole new way - inside of time and space. His very name means here and now.  He never changes.  His presence defines the essence of His character - ALL joy.

Every. Single. Moment.

Free to live in the moment means that we are free to live in the fullness of Christ Jesus.  

Fully alive!

People who are O.C.D. life planners give us a picture of what it's like to not being able to "live in the moment."  Extreme planners are constantly looking to the future;  only existing in the here and now just to be somewhere else later.  But God has gifted us with a life span of time to fully engage in the gift and enjoy Him in every moment of every day.

How do we enjoy Him fully as we deal with our daily? That's it! Turn the question into a statement.

We deal with our daily while enjoying Him fully.  

It's all in our perspective; how our spiritual eyes view life.

Enjoying the fullness of Christ is being aware that in every moment, He is.  I AM.

Acknowledge His presence right where you are. Right now. Wherever you may be.

Acknowledging His presence is being aware of your surroundings and seeing what is right before your eyes:

- the sun warmth on your skin as you drive
- lungs breathing in and out on there own
- the strong aroma of a beautiful flower
- the belly laugh of a child

No matter where you are, Jesus is affirming His love for you today if you will just turn your attention to Him...in the moment.

Live in it. Give thanks for His goodness, His kindness, His gentleness, His love, His gifts.

This is living in the moment. This is living free. This is being filled with joy - the fullness of Christ.

Being aware, very aware of God's presence is freedom.  It's refreshment of the grandest kind; the freedom to live life fully engaged with Him in every moment.

AHHHH!  "...at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

My Pleasure,

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Are We Missing?

I attended the National Day of Prayer Rally today at the SC State House.  I took my camera to capture portions of this sacred event. Many pastors were on the State House steps calling on the Lord, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and in His name, to hear our prayers...

-prayers for godly wisdom in the Federal and Local governments
-prayers for the presence of Jesus to be present in education
-prayers for the restoration of the family
-prayers for the safety and strength of our military
-prayers for the Church to be the Church

...but the most important prayer of the day, I believe, was the prayer of repentance.

Before God hears any of our prayers, a broken and contrite heart is what He requires. (Psalm 51) Our hearts need to be cleaned, purified, and attentive to the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin. God's ear is close to a heart in the right condition.

Repentance is what we're missing.

I grew up in church. I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of five. I've participated in every program imaginable. I've watched preachers, music leaders, youth leaders, teachers come and go. I've been a part of every fad that has come through the church, and I've come to the conclusion that even though we've tried everything under the sun to "do" church the right way, we have failed miserably.

My assessment of failure is measured by the lives that are not changing- changing to become more like Christ.  The Church seems to be just going through the motions without the Christ of the Church having any affect on their daily life. Because the Church hasn't surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit in "being" the Church, we have rendered ourselves powerless to help change the spiritual state of those in the pew and those out in the world.

I truly believe where the Church has missed the boat is in the teaching and discipline of personal and corporate repentance. The Church must be broken before God if we are ever to be used by God.

We need to fall on our knees before Almighty God and pour out our hearts before the Lord of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness. He's waiting for us to confess our sin, and turn our hearts back to Him so the power of His Holy Spirit can be released in the Church. But sin is hindering and clogging the flow of the Spirit through the lives of His people.

I've often wondered what a Sunday morning would be like if there was no music, no choir, no instruments, no praise team, no band, no formality, no bulletin, no stage lights, no screens, no one on stage or in the pulpit but the pastor preaching repentance from the Word of God. The only movement being knees bending and hearts bowing before the Lord.  Confession and the begging for forgiveness for not living out our faith, trying to be something He never meant for us to be, and surrendering to His authority in our lives.

The only other sound would be the Word being preached by a humble pastor who has led the way in repenting and being cleansed of his sinful heart first and then being patient as people get right before God.  Preach and pause as souls are being set free.

Could we do it? Could we step away from our divided preferences for one Sunday and just corporately seek the face of God?

I have my doubts, but my God is bigger than my doubts. I sure would love to be a part of a service like that.

If the Church would repent, then we would be revived. If the Church would bow, we could lift our voices in praise. If the Church would empty of self, then we could be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Only then will our church buildings be busting at the seams; and not only with many souls fighting for life- eternal life with Jesus Christ, but also with Christians yearning to know Him more.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are we missing? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

My Pleasure,

The Counting of Gifts continued:
1045. Fresh birdseed in the birdfeeders
1046. Surprise visit from Tanna
1047. Answered prayer for no violent weather
1048. National Day of Prayer