Are You Skilled?

I am studying my way through Exodus again, and as usual there is always fresh bread regardless of how many times I have read my way through this fabulous book.

In chapter 28 God is “detailing”  the Priest’s garments that are to be worn in the Tabernacle. What caught the ear of my heart was WHO God requested to make the priestly garments.

Verse 3 reads: (God speaking),”And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for GLORY and for BEAUTY. You shall speak to all the SKILLFUL, whom I have FILLED with a spirit of SKILL, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary expounds on this verse: “..The BEST artists (were) employed in the making of them (the priestly garments) , whose skill God, by a SPECIAL GIFT for this purpose, would improve by a very high degree, v. 3. Note, Eminence, even in common arts, is a gift of God, it comes from Him, and, as there is occasion, it ought to be used for Him.”

 This leads me to some wondering…

What skill has God given you and how are you challenging  yourself to become SKILLED? (in case you’re wondering I am asking myself the same question!).

If God has given you a skill, you have been given responsibility not only to use it but also to become good at it!

In my opinion, I think there are too many “pew sitters” who think it is a “holy” miracle to use their skill (talent, gift) WITHOUT excellence. There has been implied church teaching  for years (mostly by cranky, misplaced people) telling us that to be skilled or eminent means that you could be proud, or worse yet, guilty of self-glory! 

Play it safe saint! Suck at what you do for God, and guarantee your integrity and “holiness” and a place of honor among the humble! 

We create or own epidemic of fearful, cowardly believers who sit..

and sit..

and sit.

Volunteer anyone? AH no, I’m not “good enough”, “I can’t”, “I’m not as good as so and so”, “it’s safe here in my padded pew.”; ” Oh, by the way, does my bottom look like it’s widening to you?”  

Hmmm, should I answer that? Yes, I’d say your bottom just may be taking up the seat beside you with contagious stench…Why just look at you, rotting there in your cozy pew, your skills becoming waste in your hands!

Okay, I know I am playing hard ball…BUT..

Why are we so afraid of being SKILLED?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How attractive would the gospel of Jesus be if the church CARED about serving God with our BEST Instead of a half cheek job? What if  we LIVED lives of courage to grow and change and become the BEAUTIFUL bride God desires us to be?

…..

It is near impossible to emerge from reading Exodus 25-31, and chapters 35-40 without concluding  that God is a God of DETAIL! Details, details, details!! Details that REQUIRE EXCELLENCE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF BEAUTY and glory TO HIM!

Listen to this, (I just have to write this scripture out it is so amazing to me!): “Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “see the Lord has called you BY NAME Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has FILLED him with the Spirit of God, with SKILL. with intelligence, with knowledge, and with ALL craftsmanship (boy, much was required of that dude!), to DEVISE artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in EVERY SKILLED CRAFT. And He INSPIRED him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has FILLED them with SKILL to do EVERY SORT OF WORK done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fined twined linen, or by a weaver-by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” (Exodus 35:30-35).

WOW!! The Word of God tells me that He has not changed, this truth applied against itself means that He is TODAY for me who He was in the above scripture…(did you get that? See Mal. 3:6; Nm. 23:19; Jas. 1:17) This means we can trust God to fill us with all manner of SKILL today!

Think about what this could mean for the Bride of Christ! Think about what this would mean for us in relationship, in our homes, in the marketplace/businesses!

Perhaps our joy and our strength would be a fragrant aroma if our skills were imprints and handprints and images of our Holy God par excellence (note: I am not implying perfection.)

So how ’bout it?,

When is the last time you asked God to bless the skill He has given you?

Do you believe that He will be lifted up and “mirrored” as a result of HOW you use your skill?

How are you stewarding your skill?

Enjoy your skill! Practise, learn and celebrate it!

Your Creator GAVE it to YOU for a specific purpose!

….

Don’t be a pew potato, get in the game…

 

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Do Flowers Cry?

I awoke to a beautiful Autumn morning!  As I ventured out onto my back patio with my morning coffee, the chilled morning air kissed me with reminders that summer had gone into hibernation.  I took a seat in my old wicker chair and celebrated the glory of a new day. The birds were singing, the breeze was playing with the dried grass on the hill before me and the changing leaves seemed to be clapping with the wonder of the entry of a season of slowing.

Peace wove its way through me as I sat there…

After an hour or so of awaking to the day I decided I needed to put on my gardening gloves and groom my perennials…. my gardens were beginning to look like a shaggy dog in need of a haircut.

As I began my work of gathering the stems of flowering plants to cut, my child mind had a child-like thought, “Do flowers cry?”

I was deep pruning, which meant even some of the flowers were being cut away. Plants need to be cut back in order for new and stronger growth to occur. The plant carries no resemblance to beauty in this in-between stage, but as it continues to grow, the pruning pays off by producing a vibrant plant.

I know you know where this little illustration is headed, but before I take you there,  I want to share with you about a transaction that took place while I was cutting away the dead plant growth and discovering some of the flowers were falling as well. My inmost being was gathering a very painful, literal lesson while my hands worked. I could feel the hands of God around mine, and I found my life in the life of the plant.

No, I’m not “physco” (just in case you were wondering…).

My Divine Gardener has been deep pruning my life for five years. It is though the garden of my life has been in a perpetual season of cutting back, removals and change. So often I have wondered what, if anything, is being re-planted, or if any new growth is emerging. Often my head has been slugging to tell my heart that it’s still alive, and that eventually the Gardener just might rest His hand.

What other option do my plants have but to stand still within my working hands? I suppose if my name was Alice they could talk back to me, (maybe even bite me!) but no, they yield themselves to the process of greater beauty. Perhaps this is why we are instructed in the Word to be still and trust God in our “pruning season”? We have the option to fight, to run, to resist, to talk back, to grow bitter, sad, angry, self-pitying, and even to quit, and yet we are called to the higher ground of simply “being still” and to “knowing” that the Gardener knows the why behind His work.

Listen to what Jesus taught in the book of John:” I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit HE PRUNES, THAT it may bear MORE fruit…..abide in me, and I in you. As the branch CANNOT bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, UNLESS you abide in Me. I AM THE VINE; YOU ARE THE BRANCHES. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING” (15: 1-5).

Isn’t it amazing how so much of the Word of God is illustrated to us through Creation? What if He had not chosen to create tangible beauty for us to touch, and see and smell and taste and hear?

If I can trust my own gardening hands with the life of my plants, than surely I can trust the hands of the One who not only created the plants I steward, but who also created me!?

He alone knows the why behind the pruning, He alone sees my life as a whole, it’s past, present and future. 

By my “being still” (Psalm 46:10) I am “abiding”. I am walking with intention and in knowledge that God is in COMPLETE control of my life.  Trust comes as a result of this knowledge which leads us into an intimate relationship with the Divine Gardener. Trust in Him will KEEP me abiding, living in and walking alongside and in stride with HIS ways for my life, even as He removes the unproductive parts of my life.

Another thought remains;  in the pruning of my plants, the root is not disturbed, it remains secure with its vein like fingers reaching deep into the earth. Life emerges from the root, life is found in the root. The above ground splendor of groweth is there BECAUSE of what the ROOT produces, and not that of the flower.

God is our life source, our “root”, the “vine” (read the above scripture again), and the why behind the beauty in our lives.

In all of God’s pruning, He WILL NOT, nor will He EVER CHANGE (James 1:17, Mal. 3:6).  He remains the constant constant, (yes, I meant to repeat that word..).

…..

I sign off today with a quote from Parker Palmer:

” Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.” (from Palmer’s book”Let Your Life Speak”)

 ENJOY your Autumn season dear reader,  and as with every season, “this too shall pass.”

What do you want?????

This past winter I re-read ” The Creative Call”- by Janice Elsheimer.

In the second chapter she writes of the exercise of listening , and being co-creator’s with God. Elsheimer lifts a proverb in this chapter: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). 

As I reflected on this little verse I remembered the question Jesus asked of the blind beggar in Luke chapter 18: 35-43:

“As He (Jesus) drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, TELLING HIM TO BE SILENT. But he cried out ALL THE MORE, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus STOPPED and COMMANDED him to be brought TO HIM. And when he came near, He asked him, “What do you want me to do for you? He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your FAITH has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and FOLLOWED HIM, GLORIFYING GOD. And all the people, when they saw it , gave PRAISE to GOD.” 

Another question emerged into my curious mind; If proverbs speaks of hope deferred bringing sickness to the heart (perhaps not literal sickness but rather a felt heaviness or sorrow), and longings realized bringing life ( like that seen in a tree), then would it not be accurate to conclude that the longings and desires of the heart are intended to be met with the question of God?

“What do you want me to do for you?”

How would YOU answer this question today?

I sat for hours attempting to answer this heart probing question! It played my nerves like Beethoven’s fifth! I may as well been sitting in a confessional booth ADMITTING not only to myself, but also to my hearer, a sacred secret from my most “secretest” place…..Do I really have to answer this question?

The deeper truth was that I was AFRAID to answer, afraid of its power and implications. I knew it would wreck me with responsibility to act with purpose and intention over its discovery. Despite my merry-go-round of ‘buts’ and blaming and shrinking back I could find no escape to its probing sword awaiting an answer from MY heart and from MY lips.

This time I knew there would be no avenging foe of silencing, I would have to stand up against every bully, whether imagined or real.

The question again:”What do you want me to do for YOU?”

What keeps you from answering the call of this question?

Clearly the blind man’s answer came because of his faith, he knew what he wanted, and because God knew others would discover Him through glory given.

It is worth noting that the longing in the blind man’s heart was met with bullying voices attempting to SILENCE him. What if the beggar had listened? What if he shrunk back into vows of silence to appease the crowd?

I marvel today at the tenacity of his courageous heart; “But he cried out ALL THE MORE!” (Way to go beggar boy, you are now one of my heroes!). He would not be silenced, he KNEW what he wanted, and he answered the question without hesitation.

The blind beggar had asked the  question of WHO it was that was passing him by, I believe his crying out was a RESULT of his existing faith in the power of Jesus TO SAVE HIM, to answer the cry of his heart! He did not have sight, but he had been given ears and a voice (Perhaps he had an advantage over the rest of us?) His faith was not built on vision but on what he knew to be true of Jesus.

Matthew Henry comments on our initial verse today (Proverbs 13:19); “There are in man strong desires of happiness; God provided for the accomplishment of those desires, that they would be sweet to the soul…”

Henry’s comment on Jesus’ question: “the prayer of faith, guided by Christ’s encouraging promises, and grounded on them, shall not be in vain; nay, it shall not only receive an answer of peace, but of honour (vs.42); Christ said, “receive thy sight, thy faith has saved thee. True faith will produce fervency in prayer, and both together will fetch in abundance of the fruits of Christ’s favor..”

Place yourself within the life of the blind beggar….. What has left you blind and begging? 

Your Savior Jesus walks by you and asks the question; “What do you want me to do for you?”

How would you answer?

How will you answer?

May God give you courage to ask, and may He give you the courage to act.

Faceless, Nameless Children…

I had a very strange dream recently.

It left its imprint in my heart and in my mind.

In my slumbering vision of the night, my husband and I were taking a hike deep within a rugged, mature forest.

As we approached a partial clearing we could see an elderly gentlemen walking among some rustic, abandoned cabins. My husband, being a social butterfly, stopped to chat with the man, while I continued walking.

I was not hiking for long before I came into another clearing, a meadow.

The meadow floor was painted with grass that had given way to the colours of fall. An old, tired looking tree stood as if standing guard in the middle of the field. I also toke note of a large rock poking its grey, rounded nose out of the grass at the base of the tree and decided it was a perfect place to sit down.

As I sat down, the meadow began to fill up with little children. Their little legs running, making their bodies busy with activity. I noticed almost immedietly that something was odd about them, very odd indeed. It became quite obvious to my watching eye that they had no faces.

Three of the children approached me as I sat there, three little boys. Only one of them had been given a name. His name was “David”, he told me. The other two children accompanying him, stood there faceless, like blank canvases void of detail and colour. While my eyes were missing their expressions, my ears could hear what their faces could not tell me.

They were in deep, soul agonizing pain over having no name, no identity, no home.

I managed to give the second child the name “Josiah”, but by the time I turned to the third child all I could do was pick him up and cradle him with the arms of a mother comforting her child. I began to weep, not with any kind of ordinary weeping, but a weeping that surged itself through the muscles of my heart, a riveting pain for all the children running lost in the dream world meadow. I was so transliterated into the dream that I literally awoke from my tears.

I lay there quietly.The clock told me it was the middle of the night. The only sound to be heard were the snores coming from my husband’s tired body.

I couldn’t  sleep.

My heart was in pain and my mind awakened by the “movie” I had just found myself in the middle of.

I pondered what life details had found themselves colliding in my sleeping mind without my consent?  My curiosity led me further, was my dream symbolic of the restlessness of mankind searching for identity and purpose and a sense of “home”?

How many children (adults) are really truly lost?

How many children (adults) are longing for “home’? HOW MANY ORPHANS ARE THERE?

Are they longing for identity that comes from a name given only by God?

Jesus says in the book of John; “I am the GOOD Shepherd; I KNOW my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–I lay down my life FOR THE SHEEP” (Jn. 10:14-15).  Earlier in that same chapter Jesus said: “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep LISTEN  to HIS voice. He calls His own sheep BY NAME and leads them out, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow him BECAUSE they KNOW HIS voice” (Jn. 10:1-18, read for full context). 

In Psalm 139 David writes of the intimate knowledge God has of us; in verses 17-18 he writes of God’s thoughts for us outnumbering the grains of sand; in verse 16 he writes that EVERY one of our days were written before even one day of our lives existed Also in Matthew 10:30 Jesus states that “even the hairs of (our) head(s) are ALL NUMBERED.”

Isn’t  possible that God, the Master of miniture details, has a name FOR YOU? A name given to YOU, to define YOU? A name given to prove that you have a unique identity in His eyes?

Names were not careless give-aways in the Word of God, they were given BECAUSE of their meaning.

I know my God-given name. I asked this of  my Creator and He answered! I can tell you that HIS name for me unseated every lie I had ever believed about myself; I am desired and I am loved and I am held by arms that will never let me go.

Are you a frantic, faceless child running with a heart of pain and no identity?

I encourage you to turn to Jesus, HE is the shepherd waiting for you; He is the ONLY one who can and will paint your life with identity.

May your encounter with the “Good Shepherd” rock your world, and may your running be the result of freedom instead of frantic searching.

 May we receive answers of our own identity so that we may love every orphan into theirs.

Are you Exhausted?

Have you ever faced a day feeling like you had been squeezed like a grape?

Like someone had spent your flesh like cash while you were sleeping in the night?

Or felt “cooked” before a day of ingredients made themselves known?

Listen to this:

“He (God) gives POWER to the faint, and to him who has NO might He increases strength. EVEN YOUTHS shall faint and be weary, (of what I wonder?), and YOUNG men shall fall EXHAUSTED; but they who wait for the Lord shall RENEW their strength; they shall mount up with wings LIKE eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

In verse 28 of this same chapter we read that God is everlasting, that He is the CREATOR of the ends of the earth, and that He does not faint or grow weary.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

GOD is everlasting! In other words, there is NO END to Him or of Him, He IS FOREVER!

GOD is the CREATOR of the ends of the earth! In other words, HIS hands created, extend around, hold, and control THE ENTIRE PLANET OF EARTH!

GOD does NOT faint or grow weary! In other words, He never becomes a smoldering wick, His flame burns continuously and forever, His energy is optimum AT ALL TIMES; His mind and heart alert and present with us ALWAYS. God does not need “a break” from our lives…EVER!

 If by this point in you are questioning my “other words”, read for yourself : Psalm 139; Psalm 103; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

…..

About the word picture of the eagle in the scripture cited earlier;

Have you ever watched an eagle in flight?

They soar,

and soar,

and soar.

It is as though they were created to fly with little movement required from their enormous breadth of wingspan.

The obvious is obvious…

An eagle’s wings are created instruments of flight; a flight of power fueled by stillness… how often have you seen an eagle flapping it’s wings?

Isaiah forty speaks of a “mounting up” with wings like an eagles if we “wait for the Lord”.

Have you considered what it would be like to lay upon the back of an eagle in flight?

I have considered this unattainable option in the literal sense, it kinda looked like a crazy cartoon gone bad! But when I consider it in the metaphorical sense, I see a life of soul rest and a mind stilled by complete trust in God. I see a life that can and will “soar” effortlessly because of a sacred, secure knowledge that my life will not “crash”, and God will NEVER change.

The Word of God says that in my waiting (trusting) in the Lord, I will run without weariness and that I will walk without fainting ; In otherwords, I will not give up on life!

I sign off today with a questioning of wondering: What if we actually lived like we believed this?

OPEN YOUR EYES!

I sometimes wonder how those who are blind among us can see more than those of us who have been given sight!?

I have heard that with the loss of one of our five senses the other four will kick into a gear of higher intensity.

True?

I wonder…

And then I reflected some more…

How differently would I live if my MIND was fully present in every one of my five senses? (Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell).

What would I experience of God if I learned this discipline?

These thoughts emerge as I have studied my way through the book of Exodus.

Exodus is my favorite book in the Bible. It is a book of deep complexities and yet obvious simple truths about the character of God. I have gleaned much from this great book about who God is and who He is not.

In chapter three we read the story of the Burning Bush.

I was led into discovery of a new truth through this old classic story. First it was highlighted to me that it was “the ANGEL of the Lord that APPEARED to him IN THE FLAME of the fire out of the midst of the bush” (Verse 2).

Secondly, Moses LOOKED; and as he “looked”, his curiosity was spiked because he could see the bush was not consumed by flame (verse 2).

Thirdly, Moses made a critical life altering decision, in verse three we read of it, “I WILL TURN ASIDE TO SEE this great sight, WHY the bush is not burned.” (I think Moses had a little Nancy Drew in his blood!).

Fourth, “WHEN the Lord saw that he (Moses) TURNED ASIDE TO SEE, God called to him out of the bush” (verse 4).

God appealed to His created curiosity within Moses! What if Moses had not “turned aside”? What if he had continued on with his work and missed the weird science? What if Moses mind had not been engaged with his eyesight? What method would God have used then to capture his attention?

I wonder…

How about you?

Are your eyes wide open? When is the last time you consented to the child within and “turned aside to see?”

Can you hear the word’s of Jesus reflected in this story? “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like LITTLE children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, whoever HUMBLES HIMSELF like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4). The context of Jesus’ words here are in response to the disciples’ desire to know who would be the “greatest in heaven”; Jesus was teaching on humility and of living a life reflective of His life. But why use the child as an illustration? Why teach on behavior reflective  of a small child?

Do you ever wonder if the secrets and mysteries of the “Kingdom of heaven” lay answered through the curious, simple, humble faith of a small child? The senses of small children live awakened and alive to details that are life-giving and insightful. Small children don’t spend copious amounts of time thinking about themselves, they are too busy on missions of discovery.

Was Moses so humbled by his sin and made little by its broken, haunting secret (he was a murderer remember? Ex. 2:11-15) , that his soul stood ripe to be appealed to by child-like curiosity?

I am not suggesting anyone commit murder to discover a child-like heart. Perhaps the first step is simply to take a little soul inventory around our senses.

Are you ready to “turn aside to see” ?

Marry your mind to your senses and discover a life of wonder!

The Beautiful Bride

Just nine days ago my little red-headed “Sweet-Pea” walked the center aisle of a little old church and committed to live the rest of her life with her German prince charming.

As her dad and I waited with her for the old wooden church doors to open to the bride`s walk, my heart heaved  inside my chest; I was fighting to restrain the waterfall that threatened to cascade my face! I was attempting desperately to honor the loving suggestion our daughter gave to me as we stood there waiting for her musical que to walk down the aisle: “mom, don’t cry.”

HOW CAN I NOT BABY GIRL? Yesterday I held your infant body in my arms and covered your face with kisses and today you are walking  away from home to start your own with the man of your desire and love… how can I not cry?

Where did the time go?

How in the world did you grow up so quickly?

As her daddy and I walked with her to “give her away” I stole a sideways glance at her face, “O precious sweetheart you are so beautiful”, I thought.

Her entire body exuded joy and confidence as she stood with her man before the preacher. As we began to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, her sweet face revealed a heart that knew well the truth she sang….she had waited a long time for that day…”Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me…”

Yes and amen, GOD has been faithful, He has been good; He has covered our daughter with His faithful love and lead her to this monumental time in her life… and I, her momma, am overwhelmed and thankful that her Creator God did not leave my side for a moment as I sought Him in prayer to know HOW to guide her life. I have made many, many mistakes as a momma, but this I KNOW I did well before God, with HIS strength and mind… I LOVED her…I committed my life to that dance of many rhythms and colours.

I  have been blessed to have had such a journey with a child.

Three months after I was married I was given a medical prognosis that my womb may never know a pregnancy.

The beautiful bride of nine days ago was (is) our first-born daughter…she is our miracle ( as are her sister and brother!!).

The wedding day was a day of great celebration, the embers of it lay warm within my heart and mind.

…..

My thoughts are scrambled today and my grammar stinks!…my mind is slowly finding life again after processing so many wedding details; I simply wanted to “drop in” with a short blog note as I emerge from my cave of sleep and rest.

A new chapter now begins for me…

O what will we write about next heavenly Father?

Hmm…I wonder…