Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Living Color in a Greyscale World

I watched the news this morning. Ever feel like Henny Penny was right and the sky really is falling? Bombs in far away places, more than 100 killed, mostly women and children . . . The powers that be, fighting for the lives of fish and animals while they callously starve people and abort babies . . . World leaders promising to save the world while they try to steal our freedom . . . A 15 year old girl gang-raped while a crowd of onlookers just watched the show . . . A 7 year old girl, slain, discarded with the trash, laid to rest in a coffin excruciatingly small . . . How bleak the view where there aren't shades of grey black enough to do justice to the darkness of the scenes played out before our incredulous eyes. What do we do when it looks so impenetrably dark? How do we keep from giving in to the sadness and fear and hopelessness of a despairing world? Even worse, what do we do about a world blinded to the darkness to the point that some even call darkness light. If you're feeling alone in the shadows, may I introduce you to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world who loved you enough to shatter the long terrifying night!! Look to Him!
"the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Matthew 4:16 NIV
For those of us who know Him, this is the very time for us to live in full, glorious, vivid living color! That is what Jesus did when He came to this dark planet as the Light of the world. He shone more light into the world in 3½ years than the world has known in all the other years of its previous history combined. That light is still shining and He wants to shine through us like the sun through a prism!
"There it was--the true Light was then coming into the world the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light that illumines every person." John 1:9 AMP
The color of a thing is moot unless there is light shining on it. The darker it is all around, the more striking the colors when the light hits. We have an extraordinary privilege and responsibility to be the full rainbow of color God created, in a world that knows only greyscale. Their starving eyes need to know more than grey upon grey upon black--they need all the colors of a faith placed in the Creator of light and color--Jesus Christ Himself!! I want to be a prism to refract the Son's light to others. I want to be like the torch of an autumn tree, blazing with color as winter-death comes on. Let's live in living color!! Here is an old song I love to remind us of His colorful life! What are some practical ways we can live in color? What will you do this week to be a vivid display of the Light of the world shining through you? Share your ideas with me!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Faith Enough to Follow

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You see them every time you go to the mall. Brightly lit kiosks heavy-laden with their wares. They're like little mini-stores with pizzazzy products, usually lending themselves to a hype-filled demonstration. The gizmos and gadgets all have some kind of "wow factor" that the proprietor hopes is significant enough to get shoppers to stop and say "Oooh . . . Ahhh . . . Wow! I want one!" Lots of people don't stop. Others stop and watch, only to walk away empty-handed. The prized few stop . . . watch . . . and believe in the product enough to make the purchase. No one in the history of earth had more of a genuine wow factor than Jesus did as He went around the countryside doing miracle after miracle. He had a timeless message and could back up all His claims. He gave none of His energy to hype, but He caused a stir nonetheless. Crowds gathered, and people everywhere were talking about who He was and what He could do! The question is, how would they respond?
" . . . many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men." John 2:23-24 NIV
Wouldn't it be awful to be someone who actually was in that very crowd, a few feet from Jesus, watching Him do miracles with your own eyes, say, "Wow!" . . . and then walk away? How could they believe in the miracles they witnessed, even believe in His name, believe that He was Who He said He was, and still walk away, unchanged, in pursuit of their own way. What a tragic indictment to have it recorded for all time, that because of what Jesus knew about their hearts, He would not entrust Himself to them. So what was the difference between these people who believed but could not be trusted by Jesus, and the disciples, to whom Jesus increasingly entrusted Himself during the few years He had with them? What was it about the disciples?
They believed in Him enough to make the purchase. They desired to know Him. They hungered to be near Him. They wanted to understand what He said. They had faith enough to follow Him, to pursue Him and His ways.
What if Jesus sometimes can't entrust Himself to a deeper walk with us because of what He knows is in our hearts? What if He sees that we only want to "ooh" and "ahh" over His "signs and wonders" power, ask Him for miracles of our own, and then like shoppers at the mall, walk on by, leaving the Miracle-Worker behind as we pursue our own way. He wouldn't be able to entrust Himself to us any more than He already has, and we would miss the increasingly intimate relationship He wants to have with us. A. W. Tozer wrote, "Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted." (The Pursuit of God)
HE WAITS TO BE WANTED!
Ever the Gentleman, my gentle Jesus never barges in where He hasn't been invited, never gets in your face like a salesman with a quota to meet or a boss breathing down His neck for results. For some unfathomable reason, the all-powerful King of Kings waits for us to want His Presence. He patiently, softly prays for us to ask to see His glory, to eagerly desire a closer walk with Him! We are what HE WANTS!! Does. That. Not. Blow. Your. Mind?!!! It does mine.
"My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:8 (AMP)
Join me in following hard after Jesus this week! Share with me your ideas of what that looks like and how you demonstrate a following heart!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Hold Your Breath

--
Hustle . . . hurry . . . faster, faster, faster!! Rushing, harried thoughts run like a drum beat through life. Giving attention to organization helps, but even then, there is so much to do and it all seems tied to a deadline of some kind. I rarely feel like I have the permission of . . . I don't know, the cosmos I guess, to make time for rest. If I'm not accomplishing something, achieving something measurable, I'm wasting time, right? My husband, my children, my parents, my Heavenly Father ALL tell me to take time to refresh, but . . . too often I don't, at least not in meaningful ways.


I find myself instead stealing time from responsibilities in a series of little minutes-long chunks, and then feeling guilty for
having stolen them, thinking, "I should be doing ______________, and ______________, and _____________, not goofing off!" Guilt, guilt, guilt. Then when I hear my Heavenly Father's prompting, "Why don't you go for a walk and get some exercise--come be with Me awhile." The enemy uses my earlier guilt against me and says, "You don't have time for that, you don't deserve it because you've already wasted all this time! You should be doing ______________, and ______________, and _____________." Anything to keep me from God's presence! It's a vicious cycle.



Mark Buchanan, in his book The Rest of God, writes: "God made us from dust. . . . Knowing this, God gave us the gift of Sabbath--not just as a day, but as an orientation, a way of seeing and knowing. Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It's mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily, and oversoon. Keep it, otherwise our dustiness consumes us, becomes us, and we end up able to hold exactly nothing."

I love the concept of Sa
bbath as more than a day, as an orientation, an attitude to carry with us through the whole week. I do not mean that this attitude should come at the exclusion of work--the Bible places a high value and great honor on hard work, but Sabbath is our God-graced balance for the good work we do. Rest really does have the ability to mend us, to hold us together when we're about to crack, to restore places in us that are wearing thin.

I learned yesterday that in both Greek and Hebrew, as well as Old English there is a word (different in each language) that has the triple definition of wind, breath and spirit. If you love words like I do, you'll find that really interesting! Do you ever have the desperate feeling that you're caught in a whirlwind, or that it's been too long since you took a breath? Sometimes it is purely physical and you just need a deep breath, but very
often in our crazy-busy lives, it is spiritual breath we lack. When we forget, or just plain refuse to rest, it is like depriving our spiritual lungs of the oxygen of the Spirit. We need a breath of Him!

"Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground
and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils,
and the man became a living being."
Genesis 2:7 HCSB



God did not design us to merely be sculpted dust. Once He had formed us, He didn't just animate us so we could be USEFUL dusty sculptures. NO! He formed our dust and then breathed His own breath into us so we could be living beings. Um, that's LIVING beings, not just DOING beings. The dust we're made of needs to continually be quickened by His breath!! Thankfully, His breath is everywhere if we would just stop holding OUR breath and breathe Him in!

Incre
asingly I want to build attitudes and habits of Sabbath, of holy rest, into my everyday. Rest is risking being late for an extra-long hug around my husband's neck on the way out the door. For me, rest is watching football and bull riding on a Sunday afternoon.
Rest is taking time to bake cookies with my daughter, even if they do have too many calories. Rest is saying yes when my teenage son asks me to go clothes shopping with him when I have already been away from housework all morning. Rest is taking that walk my Heavenly Father invites me to take with Him, the laundry be danged--it'll still be there when I get back!

These may not seem "spiritual" disciplines to some, and admittedly, they can be done with no spiritual value whatsoever. But in the doing of them, if I notice, Spirit-breath comes like a cool wind on a hot day to refresh, restore and renew, and suddenly these are prayer, fellowship and love shown to others.True rest and Sabbath-keeping is breathing Him in as we encounter His love for us in His handiwork and in the countless little "I love you's" He puts in our way every day!


NOTICE!!!
Turn to catch His wind in your hair!!
BREATHE!!!

 C. S. Lewis contends that the apparently frivolous ways we take a break from the hard work of life, are glimpses into what heaven is all about, resting in His love and the joy He gives when we do. "Here, they are a moment's rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends." Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer, Letter XVII.

Share with me your ideas for building rest into your busy life! How will you take a breath of Him today?



holy experience

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Joyful Noise

--


The mallets touch the cymbal, barely moving at first, then rising higher and faster with each repetition until the cymbal sings out in a crescendo of sound. I have come to love percussion, all the more because I've learned to single it out in the listening because of Drummer-Boy, who came to the world with percussion in his soul.

A cymbal is a beautiful instrume
nt, both to look at and to hear--it can be a tinkling timepiece or a crashing splash of sound, a metallic accent, or the clanging main event. Did you ever notice that a cymbal is silent until the drummer strikes it? Something has to happen to make it vibrate and send sound waves through space. It can't ring of its own accord.

There is more music in my home. She-So-Sweet sets her bow on violin strings and calls from them the sweetest music. Her music can make you laugh, break your heart or set your spirit to glorious flights of fancy. Sometimes my heart nearly aches with the beauty of it. As lovely as her music is, the violin itself is helpless to make its own sound. The violin can only sing what my young violinist plays.


I think joy is like music. I can't muster up joy on my own, can't order myself to be joyful--it wouldn't be real if I did. Joy needs the divine Drummer to strike my senses in such a way that I cannot do anything but make a joyful noise. Joy w
aits for a heavenly Virtuoso to play the song He designed to be played on an instrument such as I.

As life happens, each day is filled with its own set of trials and triumphs. God walks through each moment with us. He turns the trials that were intended to do us harm into mallets to make joyful music on His cymbals, our lives. The triumphs He gives are His way of putting His bow to my strings in a victorious song of gladness.


There is a major difference though . . . between me and a musical instrument. Where a cymbal or violin will always respond to being played by a skilled musician, I can set my will against the Musician's playing and refuse to sing His joy-song.

Oh, but I must not!!

 Joy is as powerful to a hurting life and a hurting world as music is. Both music and joy are waves of the voice of God! I must let Him make His joy ring out in me . . . in spite of circumstances . . . because of His love . . . forever and always, AMEN!

"O come, let us sing unto the LORD:
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation."
(Psalm 95:1, King James Version)

How has God played His song in your life this week? What music did He produce through you? Tell me about your joyful noise!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Burn Baby! Burn!

--
Firewood that won't burn just isn't worth a diddly!

The storm had been blustering all day as each of us went about our various activities--Hero Husband at work, me at my Bible study, Drummer-Boy taking college mid-terms and She-So-Sweet making 8th grade look easy.

At the store on the way home, the kids and I picked up a few things we needed. "Please Mom, can we have a fire?"

Hero Husband was doing a guest lecture at Drummer-Boy's college, so it would be up to me. Against my better judgment, and indulging my own love of fires in the fireplace on cool autumn evenings, I helped them get the fireplace ready. I tried all the tricks I knew for building fires correctly and effectively, but the dry-as-a-bone log WOULD. NOT. CATCH. FIRE. It would tease us and act like it just might, and then, nope! Just smoke and half-hearted little embers only on the very surface.

Smoke, smoke and more smoke, until we were choking on it, but no bright, happy flame, no warmth to chase away the chill, no satisfying and festive crackle to add to the fun. As firewood goes, this log was a real dud and this was decidedly NOT fun.


Hero Husband tried his hand at it when he got home, but to no avail. The log was just too dense, too hard, too stubborn to surrender to the flames. We finally gave up on having the cozy fire we had envisioned and I got busy helping She-So-Sweet with her algebra homework. The darn log wouldn't burn, but it was still smoldering and producing smoke. When we could stand it no longer, I took the offending log out to the BBQ to let it smolder where it couldn't bother us any more.


My annoyance has yet to subside--it will probably be with me as long as my entire house smells like the smoke from the log that refused to burn!


Refused to burn. Hmm. Too dense, too hard to surrender. Hmm.


"Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;"
1 Thessalonians 5:19 NIV

Do I ever refuse to burn? Do I ever resist the Spirit's fire in my life? Does He ever want to burn bright from my life, but I won't let Him light the flame?

Oh, I hope not! I hope I never miss out on the opportunity to burn for Him, giving light and warmth and comforting, crackling joy to those close by!! I always want to let His power glow in me, hot and effective, releasing His energy into the world around me. I want to Burn Baby! Burn! every minute of my life until He has been able to use every part of me for the glory of my Lord Jesus--I don't want big charred chunks of stubborn me left over like that blasted log, useless, discarded, annoying . . . wasted. I don't want to merely smolder and smoke and in so doing, choke people. I want to burn with vigor and passion and be a sweet aroma that makes everyone want to gather around the fire of the Spirit that uses me to spread His light.

Will you pray with me that Christians everywhere will catch a vision for letting Him burn us up for His glory??? People need us to be bright with His fire--the world is very dark for them, and some of them won't realize just how dark until they come close to our dancing light and sparkling flames!! Burn Baby! Burn!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Press On

--
It's been a busy week. For you too, I bet. Life in 2009 just seems to be that way, doesn't it? I think there are moments in every busy week where we know we have to keep going, but our want-to is running low and we need a second wind. We need a boost, something to perk us back up and keep us in the game!

Wanna see my 1-second Pep Rally? Here it is:



When I hit those moments where I face the choice to keep after it, or instead, to get distracted, fizzle out, get lazy, or just don't feel like doing what it takes to finish the race, this picture gives me the boost I need. IT FIRES ME UP!! It illustrates dedication so admirable that it motivates me to keep going when my flesh tries to pull me off course. It is the intensity I see in this picture that makes this my 1-second pep rally!

When I look at it, I can still feel the ground shake under those thundering hooves, I can still taste the dust churned up by the horse digging in to make that tight seco
nd-barrel turn, and I can hear the crowd cheering horse and rider to a flying finish, running all the way through the finish line! They pressed on, from the first explosive stride to start the race, barrel to barrel, turn after cranking turn, hoof beat on hoof beat, the girl completely one with the animal, both straining together 'til their race was done and a wild, screeching, sliding halt brought them to a stop just in time to avoid hitting the arena fence.


Barrel Racing times vary greatly from one event to another because of variations in arena size and dirt conditions. The PRCA world record is 13.52 seconds--my best time ever was 16 seconds flat. Regardless of the variations between amateur and professional, a barrel race is over before you know it. There is no place in the race for a lazy horse or a distracted rider. It takes complete focus, maximum effort, and full commitment from start to finish.


INTENSITY!!

I know what those few seconds feel like. I know the focus. I know the blur. I know the intoxicating mix of adrenaline and oxygen and the sweet-scented aroma cocktail of saddle soap, neatsfoot oil and sweaty horse-hide. This picture brings it all back, my own barrel racing days, and memories of the beloved horse that flew beneath my saddle. It also sparks those same feelings of determination, power straining ahead toward our goal--a great race, well-run, and hopefully a winner's prize at the end. When you're done, you catch your breath, hug your horse's neck and drink in the exhilaration!! Wow, that was SO! MUCH! FUN!!


THAT is how I want my life's race to be run! It goes so fast, there's no time to fritter away. Every moment counts and the victory and the prize are already promised!



RUN TO WIN!! KEEP GOING!! YOU CAN DO IT!! GO!! GO!!! GO!!!!


" . . . forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Encourage yourself, or someone you know with the greeting card or poster of this image.

Press On print 
Press On Poster by FridayDreaming

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What God Allows

--
Yesterday I had a fender bender.

Thankfully, no one was hurt! It was minor as collisions go, but even the smallest accident leaves you feeling shaky and rattled. To top it all off, the lady in the other car was snotty and accusing, certain I was dolt or imbecile or both. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering, God, why didn't you prevent this? How is this good? We do NOT need this!! I apologized to my Father later for my accusing tone, and thanked Him that it wasn't more serious and for His protection. He hugged my heart and whispered, No worries love, you're only dust.


We would really, really love it if God WOULD do all that He COULD do to prevent difficulties and to ensure safety, health, prosperity and happiness. When He doesn't, we are tempted to question His love or wonder if He is really powerful. This is a dilemma as old as Eden, and we probably aren't significantly closer to understanding it than Adam and Eve were.


One thing I have learned though--it is very important NOT to get the wrong idea about God when He allows tough things to touch us. Last time, I shared the story of my battle with worry. The real spiritual battle I faced began out of some well-intentioned teaching (I'm sure you've heard this too) that God allows suffering to touch our lives
because He has things to teach us through those experiences.

Satan began to use that idea as a way to drive a wedge into my relationship with God. Although I never heard an audible voice, the sneering, caustic, screeching tone I heard in my thoughts was a dead giveaway--he would hiss, "Weeeellllll! I wonder what horrible thing God is going to allow, jussssst to TEACH you something?" That treacherous thought made me shrink from God, drove me away from prayer, and made me wary and distrustful of Him.


That worked on me for a long time . . . too long. It stoked the fire of my worried what if's, but the thing that scared me even more was what had become an actual fear of God. This was not the "fear of the Lord" that rightly, humbly
stands in awe of Almighty God. It was a terribly destructive "I'm-scared-to-death-of-You-because-maybe-You're-as-cruel-as-the-devil-says-You-are" fear that crippled my ability to grow in my relationship with God. My wise and wonderful Pastor pointed me to this powerful passage of Scripture: 

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV

A "pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." That was exactly what was happening and I was falling for it, but I didn't have to!!

Little by little, one thought at a time, I replaced the snide questioning the enemy shot my way, with the truth about who God is and how He loves me. As with the worry, the power of fear also bit the dust in the face of God's great love for me in Christ. The moment I rejected the lie and submitted to Him whose character is only true, all the time, choosing to trust Him, the fear was obligated to flee! The strongholds came down!

So, whether it's a fender bender, or something more serious, whether I understand or not, I can take solace in the knowledge that when it comes to what God allows,

"God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see his plan
When you can't trace his hand
Trust His Heart"

Do you ever find yourself afraid of God?
How do you fight the battle?
What are your go-to Scriptures to demolish strongholds?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Even If

--
I come from a long line of worry warts. Both my grandmothers were masters of the art of fretting. My mother, to her credit, has greatly overcome many of her worrying tendencies by choosing to pray instead, but she would be the first to tell you that the worry gene is a tough one to overcome.

When I left home at 18 to go to a Bible college 1200 miles from home, my fledgling ability to worry went into overdrive. Every time the phone rang, my imagination flashed a scene of hearing horrible news of a catastrophic car accident that had killed my entire family, leaving me alone in the world. If I was meeting someone and they were a few minutes late, I just knew they were dead in a ditch somewhere. I felt as though I was constantly one heartbeat away from being blindsided by tragedy.


Somehow, worry felt like a small measure of control--if I worried about everything, at least if it did happen, it wouldn't take me by surprise. You hear the stories all the time--"I thought I just had a hangnail, but it was cancer and they had to amputate my entire arm." I couldn't stand the thought of that kind of drastic shock, so in some way, worry would at least take that out of the equation--you're not going to catch me off guard, I thought.


My life became torment. I couldn't fully enjoy good things I was experiencing for fear of what awful event might be just around the corner. I wasted time and energy worrying about things that weren't even happening. Incessant what-iffing, was almost like experiencing tragedy after tragedy, dying a thousand deaths, and my stress and anxiety increased.


Finally, battered from the long months of grappling with dread (which, I think, may be even worse than worry) I came to a crossroads--would I stay like this forever, or choose to do otherwise?


ENOUGH! I finally had had enough. This was not the life I wanted! I knew better than this!!


I stood alone, out in the darkness, approaching the mysterious moon like heaven's customer service desk, my touchpoint for meeting with the One whose sky I beheld.

What did I want from Him?

I had been wanting guarantees that nothing bad would ever happen to me or the people I loved. At 20, I had lived just long enough to know that wasn't reasonable, and that God never promised a life free of pain. I had spent the last 2 years wracked with worry about relentless "what if's." I was bone-tired of the life of constant dread that was sucking the life out of me. I knew this wasn't what God wanted for His daughter.


What did I want from Him?


Rest. Peace. Relief. Victory. Joy.


TRUST ME.

But what if . . . ?

TRUST ME.

Deep breath. This was scary!

EVEN IF.

I. Trust. You. Even. If.


YES. Even if all those bad things were to happen, I want You more than I dread pain.


At that very moment I felt the fear lose the power I had given it. I was free. Rest. Peace. Relief. Victory. Joy. The things I asked Him for flooded into the space left by the fleeing fear.


In the 25+ years since that night, I have had to make that choice again and again, but never again has fear had me in it's icy grip like that. Practically none of the things I worried about have actually happened. Now when the old worry gene gets activated by life's hiccups, I know that TRUST IN HIM is the way to turn it off again. I used to think that prayer was the answer to worry, but now I believe that prayer is the opposite of worry.

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT







If you are afflicted with the worry wart gene, or it's just a habit you've fallen into, there is hope! Walk right up to the brink of what you're worrying about and when you look over the edge, you'll find Jesus is there to catch you before you even have a chance to fall. Choose to trust God more than you fear anything in this life--He is worthy! How can I pray for you as we learn together to trust Him?

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