An All Consuming Fire

We just finished studying Chapters 8-10 of Leviticus in our Bible Study Group this week. It has been quite powerful reading! What seems to be so exacting and legalistic has an amazing way of shining beams of light into the beauty of God’s grace and shining such a bright beam into the final sacrifice that is to come… seriously… Wow.

While studying this week we were also lead to Hebrews 12:28-29 and 1 Peter 2:9-12.

We discussed verse in Hebrews that says “Our God is an all consuming fire.”

It reminded me of this Performance Painting done at a youth camp a while back, so I thought I’d share. I think it’s my all time favorite painting.

Take your time and look at each painting…

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Hebrews 12:28-29New International Version (NIV)

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[a]

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Inspired Perspective

We were four American college-aged students, in the town-center of a small city on the border of Mexico, with very little Spanish and… we couldn’t find the van.

The van… that we had borrowed.

The van… that we had parked near McDonald’s.

The van… that was now, no where to be seen.

What do you do when your van has vanished?

None of us had any experience in this kind of thing happening before…
Are we sure this is where we parked it?
Yes
Was this a joke?
No
Could it have been stolen?
Perhaps… after all, we are in Mexico… and we are a bunch of gringos…

So, I did the only thing we could do, I called the owner of the van.
She was one of the main people who we worked with as we lead teams in building homes and running Summer School Clubs. It was her van that we had borrowed and so… I dialed her number and waited for the scream of frustration to come through on the other end…

“Hey, Anna. Ummm, we’ve run into a problem… we had parked at McDonald’s and then went down town and when we came back, the van was gone. What should we do?”

“Just wait inside, I’m on my way.”

Her voice, had a tinge of frustration that lingered at the end, but honestly, I was quite surprised by her reaction. I’m not quite sure, actually- I know,  I would NOT have responded in the same way.

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Our Trusty Van

The four of us sat at the small table on the little circular seats awaiting the coming furry… we were supposed to be the responsible ones, we were supposed to be leaders, and… now the van was gone.

The silence in the car was thick with regret and questions, but we soon found ourselves walking into the local police station.

We had failed.
We had lost the van.
We felt doomed, frustrated, and stupid.

But in that completely self-loathing and frustrated moment my entire perspective changed dramatically.

Anna came over to the four of us sitting in the waiting room at the police station, and said, “Be praying, we are here for a purpose. We may be some of the only light, hope, and good news that some of these people ever see.”

What?
Did I just hear her right?

Oh, yeah.
She’s right… instead of having our eyes and thoughts and frustrations on ourselves… she helped us focus our attention to those around us.

Her main concern was not the van, but instead she was trusting God and being lead by Him. Knowing that He had a purpose even in this.

Even in our incredible silly mistake of parking in the McDonald’s Parking lot and NOT going in, but instead having the van towed away by the police…

She had an eternal perspective.
She had trust in God and in His bigger plans.
She knew how to live for Him in each moment of the day.

When I look back on life, I find this moment to be very pivotal in my thinking.
When I think of women who live for God, this moment puts Anna on my list.
Even though this was over 10 years ago…
I am still inspired when I think of her response and perspective…
I continue to desire to live with Anna’s Inspired Perspective as well.

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Anna

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Be.U.Tiful… and believing it?

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I’m pretty sure I was 11 or 12 years old. My Mom and I had just gone on a tearful shopping experience. Clothes just didn’t fit like they looked on the manikins or in the magazines, whether the size fit or not. We had been looking for an Easter dress. The one we ended up with was the only one that really fit well, and after hours of trying, it was a relief to finally make the decision.

Finally, I ran into the house with the JC Penny Bag in tow. As was tradition after spending the day shopping and buying clothes with the family’s hard-earned money we (my sisters and I) would always put on a little fashion show for my Dad.

I may not have been thrilled with shopping, but I loved the dressing up part! So after discussing the day and sharing everything we accomplished, my Dad urged me to try on the new dress.

I gingerly pulled the new smelling chiffon dress over my head and my hands pushed their way out; the pastel printed cream, tan, and mauve flowers seemed to ooze out of the sleeves onto the button up beige attached collared shirt (that looked like a separate piece but secretly was sewn in). After the struggle was over, I flapped my arms down and was then… was paralyzed in disgust.   My eyes had hit the mirror. All I could see was a flowered blob with thick tattered bangs and wire rimmed glasses looking back at me.

My Dad’s voice called me to come. I leaned back against the door of the bathroom and flung my head back in disgust, allowing my body to crumble to the floor out of view of the mirror.

Who in their right mind would want to see this? I blinked back tears thinking of what I had hoped to see. Stupid dress. Stupid hair. Stupid flowers.

“I’m waiting…”

I noisily pulled myself to my feet, wiped my eyes, opened the door, and walked down the hall with my arms crossed to match my frown.

As I reached the living room, where my Dad was seated in his chair, the warm light invited me to his side. The next moments have since become engraved in my heart and mind.

When my Dad looked up and saw me, his eyes lit up… and in a way I can’t quite describe or imitate, despite my best efforts, he exclaimed:

“BE. U. Tiful!”

And he meant it.

He then put out his hand to take mine and spun me around.

In that moment, my heart and understanding clashed. I knew what I had seen in the mirror and let me tell you, it was not beautiful. Yet, when I looked into his eyes and I heard him say “be-u-tiful,” I knew it was true. I knew he meant it. I knew he really saw beauty in me.

He wasn’t faking it. He didn’t just say what he knew he should say. He wasn’t just talking about the “inward beauty.” No.

He really saw me, and he saw beauty.

I’m still not sure to this day how it all worked, but let me tell you… it changed the way I saw myself, and it changed the way I saw others.

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A Flower’s Fragrance

Yesterday, my husband brought me a little jasmine from our “oasis” outside… it was beautiful! I love these little flowers. They have become some of my favorites. The fragrance from them, is simply amazing. However, sadly, the one he gave me seemed to be scentless.

“How sad is that,” I thought, “the poor flower has no scent. It seems kind of pointless.”

Then my husband came back in picked up the flower, smelled it and proclaimed, “Wow, these sure do smell the amazing.”

I was confused. 

So I tried again.

I still couldn’t smell it… at all!

As I sat reading I started thinking about the reasons why I couldn’t smell it. I guess my nose is a little stuffy. Maybe, the AC is really messing with me. 

Even though I can’t smell the scent from the flower, it doesn’t mean it is not there.

One thing was clear… the flower did in fact have a lovely fragrance. There was nothing wrong with this flower. The flower was perfect in every way. There was just something coming in between the scent and my nose.

Just a little later, I was thinking and praying.

This year has been quite a tough one. For some reason, I just feel far and weak and alone. Spiritually, physically, and mentally I just feel down. I know that these are just feelings and not “the truth. I know that I am not alone. Not only am I blessed to have my husband, friends, and family who brings me flowers and encouragement, but I have an amazing and all powerful God who is the maker of heaven and earth. I have a God who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

Yet, I find myself wondering… 
Am I too far for Him to hear me?
Am I not worth His effort?
Is He too busy for me?
Is He…

My train of thoughts lead me to questioning Him. They lead me to questioning and even at times doubting Him. Wondering what is wrong with Him…

Even though I can’t smell the scent from the flower, it doesn’t mean it is not there.

Why is it so easy to doubt Him?
Why do I so desperately need to “feel” Him to know He is there?
Why can’t I trust Him the way He deserves to be trusted?

The truth is, He is here.
This is where faith comes in.
This is when being in His Word is the only option.

Romans 8:38

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Build up…

It is usually worse with kids, because they seem to always “forget” to brush their teeth… at first it is nearly invisible (one or two days in), but then you can start to see some discoloration… in some cases you begin to see the change of shape in what appears to be teeth. It’s build up.

This blog is not about teeth, or hygiene… well, at least not literal hygiene, but it is about build up. 

Have you ever had those times in your life when little by little things just seem to have built up on your heart, your mind, and soul? 

I’m there right now. Awhile back, during one of the most difficult times in my life I realized that I made me heart a rock over the years, but I found that instead I needed to simply remain on The Rock. I’m not too sure how well I’ve been doing that.

Tonight on the way home I was pondering… do you think that in some circumstances it is ok to bottle things up… and then get rid of the bottles? It is always said those who “bottle things up” are usually the ones who make the biggest explosions, but is it possible to bottle and toss?

I’m very sincere in this question, because part me believes this may be impossible. Sometimes, there will be things in my life that I thought I was well over and taken care of, but then suddenly, I find the bottle on the shelf and it cuts me to the heart over again, like it had never gone away. So what am I doing wrong? Is there un-forgiveness?

So, if it is not possible to bottle it up and throw it away… how do I best get rid of this build up on my heart? Can I find the root? Maybe. Can I solve the problem, not likely. 

So what do I do? 

I feel like every thing that should be “normal” is beginning to become problematic because of this build up…

Like wax dripping from a candle onto an object below. It never seems like it will be the same. The wax consumes and molds to the shape, but changes the object completely.

I long for some renewal.

mmmmm… for an easy yoke… and a light burden…

Oh, Jesus, please come and renew a right Spirit within me. 

Please return unto me the joy of my salvation. 

Bring the heat.

Melt the wax.

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This is the call that Jesus gives over and over… it’s never “come to church every week” or even “read your Bible everyday.” He says… “follow me.” This is the greatest and most difficult, yet rewarding call there could ever be…

THE RIVER WALK

Read: Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30, Luke 9:51-10:12, Psalm 74:1-23, Proverbs 12:11

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

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Relate: Following is easy these days. I’ve got about 350 followers and follow about 250 people myself. That’s only because I cut off over 500 of the people I was following on twitter about a week back. If someone follows me, I follow back. I’ve got about 900 friends on facebook. Most of them I knew at some point in my past. About 20 or so I actually “follow” meaning their statuses show up in my notifications so I can ignore them there as well as on my home page like everybody else. There’s about 2,400 of you following my blog. Thank you all very much for that, I am honored that you would consider my…

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Discontentment

I remember to a little over a year ago… “discontentment”

 was the word that kept ringing in my ears. Despite the amazingness of God’s plan to miraculously reunite me with my then “ex-fiancee” and then bless us with an amazing 11 day planned wedding… I found only one weekend later that I had a new discontentment in my heart.

I guess “marriage” had been my source of discontentment for sooooooooo long that I thought that when I finally said “I do” I would be content. And yet… we had been married a mere 9 days and could here the infamous words of discontentment rear its ugly voice again…

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“If only….”

“Well, maybe one day when…”

“I’ll be happy when…”

“Maybe if I…”

And honestly, it is still something that I struggle with today. 

Some days, it is a very superficial discontentment… “If only I was thinner… If only I was beautiful like her… if only we had a nicer car… or nicer house… or” (you get the picture).

But sometimes, I feel a bit righteously discontent. “If I only I made more money, I could help that family who is in dire need.” “If only I had more time I could be more intentional about that relationship…”

As true as any of the statements might be… non of my discontentment changes anything.

Instead, it usually ends up discouraging me and robbing of my joy and peace for the day.

Interestingly, I think the truth of this hits closer to home for those who have more than most. Currently, I am surrounded by both rich and poor. Some people I am close to, make about the equivalent to $200 a month, while other make more than I could imagine. Interestingly, there is usually more contentment among those who make less money, for they have grown to appreciate the little they have. However, those who have much already know that they have bought all the things they want… and they are still not satisfied.

Some of my favorite quotes are by a man named Phil Vischer (you may know him as the voice of Bob the Tomato). One sermon that has particularly inspired my life is called “Dreams.” when he speaks of the bankruptcy and loss of his Veggie Tales endeavor. At one point in his talk he says, “A man who has many things plus God, has nothing more than he who has God alone.” He goes on to explain that if God is infinite… then you can’t add anything to infinity… but rather, He is all we need.

Now, in my mind heart I know this.

But in my mind I continue to remain discontent.

Always waiting for the next big thing… even within the church.

I just can’t wait for another revival, or “move of the Spirit…”

Please, don’t me wrong, those things would be great, but is that what I should be waiting for? Or should I simply be living my life to the full right now, with what I have, with who I know, and with the tasks at hand.

Isn’t this what Paul exhorts us to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 when he says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quite life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Honestly, I think this may be the key to thankfulness… because I cannot be thankful for what I have until I stop putting all of my thoughts and effort into wanting something else.

So, let’s stop the letting the lies of discontentment steal our joy and life.

Let’s trust that the Lord is truly faithful…
whether hoping for a husband, or a better job, or better body, or children, or bigger house, or money to give, and time to share…
let’s just appreciate what we have.

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