You Are His Masterpiece, Part I

The above picture was painted by one of my daughters. I am the delighted and proud mother of several talented artists. One daughter in particular must paint to relieve stress and quiet her soul after a season of busyness.

Watching her take a blank canvas and deftly apply color to create a picture depicting beauty, depth of feeling and a sense of wonderment is truly inspiring. She seemingly adds a little of this, and some of that, and voila! She has created a masterpiece!

Do you think of yourself as God’s handiwork? I usually do not. Yet, God fearfully and wonderfully knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs, (Psalm 139:14 ) Just as an artist carefully considers which colors to combine; God also thoughtfully takes talents from His storehouse and doles them out generously to His children.

We are His created masterpieces.

Do you, like I, ever feel the need to demurely reject that title?

Ephesians 2:10 instructs us on how we ought to view ourselves,”we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just as I am so awestruck and proud of what my daughters create, God looks at us the same way. Isn’t that fact just mind-blowing? God looks at us with pride!

That alone should boost our self-esteem!

When we downplay our gifts and talents we are downplaying God’s goodness. We are effectively telling Him, “It’s nothing.”

While we don’t wish to sound arrogant, we can politely say “Thank you.” At least in American culture that is socially acceptable. Then we can take the focus off us and our gifts and highlight the giver of that gift: God.

You are God’s masterpiece. He delights in His work, and He certainly delights in you! Relish in that revelation! Because He certainly treasures you and me!

Be silent?

Milan sank into the soft sheets, the cool cotton comforting her as her mind reeled, refusing to retreat or relax.

She was angry; and everyone in the know would deem it her right. The world was not treating her fairly. She was beaten and defeated, and she didn’t know why God had allowed it.

She was tired of living like this.

She flopped over on her side, trying to recall the girl she used to be. Where were those positive thoughts now? Where had her gentle smile hidden? How had her heart hardened so?

Sighing, she slowly turned onto her back. “Lord, what has happened to me?” she wondered. She recalled the years she’d start her day with Scripture, days long-forgotten.

“In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”

Her eyes popped open at the Psalm so forefront in her mind.

“Lord, how can I search my heart and then be silent? There is so much wrong with the world, with my world.” Anger surged again. She had done nothing to deserve this pain and agony. Yet, she had to deal with it.

She wanted to yell and scream, burst forth with a blistering outpouring of accusations.

“Be still and know, I am God.”

This reminder actually slowed her racing heart and halted the tortuous thoughts.

Long ago, she had known how to live out that Psalm: Let go and let God.

I don’t need to solve it. My part in this equation is to simply trust.

“In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds search your heart and be silent.”

Her nightly ritual of replaying the days infractions had built up negative emotions. Negative emotions not reined in had caused negative thoughts. Negative thoughts playing like a broken record both prevented her both from being silent and from barricading herself from sin.

Oh Lord, I’m so sorry.

In her overwhelmed state, she had chosen to see only the hardships. When she chose to be silent before the Lord, she knew she was loved.

Her life details didn’t instantly improve, but the journey was no longer solitary.

She knew she didn’t need to decipher it on her own.

She folded back her covers and climbed from the bed. After kneeling in heartfelt prayer, she stood, that characteristic smile in place.

She opened her Bible to Psalm 4 copying verse 4 on an index card. She taped it to the bathroom mirror where she was sure to see it several times a day.

Heart lighter, she wanted to be certain she never forgot this one ever again.

 

The Most Excellent Way

“But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 12:31- 13:2 NIV)

I knew what I should do. I certainly knew how Jesus would respond in this situation. I knew how he wanted me to act. The problem?

I didn’t want to. This instance truly perplexed me. I simply wasn’t feeling it.

And that bothered me.

Rereading I Corinthians 12:31- 13:2 reminded me that good deeds, kind words, and a friendly smile don’t mean a thing without love.

Romans 12:1 reminds us “love must be sincere.”

Wow, that day I truly felt a fraud. And that day, I knew exactly where to place the blame.

Medication.

Those pesky steroids were to treat a severe allergic reaction. I should only need steroids for a few weeks. But, oh, to have my mind messed with for a few weeks!

Knowing the cause and suspected duration eased my mind somewhat. I knew I would continue to do what I should, even though I wasn’t feeling it at that moment.

But, what happens when those loving feelings are MIA for extended periods of time? What does it mean to consistently find ourselves just ‘going through the motions?’

We can’t constantly pour out love if we haven’t first been replenished and refreshed with the love of Jesus. When relying on our own strength, we have a limit. A limit I often reach much faster than I’d expect.

But, when I take my time with Him, His word, and fix my thoughts and attitude on Him, He pours His love into me. I experience those moments where words spilling from my lips aren’t mine, but His. My actions and reactions aren’t my flustered or frustrated response to a surprise situation but a reaction steeped in grace and baked in love.

No, I’m far from perfect, even off steroids. My response is not always seasoned with the joy of the Lord.

Thankfully, I know the One who is perfect. I know the One who is the very definition of love. And, amazingly, He generously pours His portion into my heart when I intentionally sit at His feet.

Naturally, His way is the most excellent way. His way is love. Love is the most excellent way.

 

Reflections:

When do I struggle to love?

What steals my time from the Lord?

 

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your great love, a love that is truly never-ending. Thank You for offering to pour that into me, whatever I need for each day. May my life reflect You and Your love, and may I remember to take the time needed to sit at Your feet, so You can replenish and overflow my heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blog Hop! Inspiring True Stories

On Wednesday, August 10, seven authors will share their inspiring stories of God’s grace. My story will post on Wednesday at 9 am. I will also included teasers and links to the other stories. Make sure to stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for a great moment of inspiration to keep your day in perspective!

Blessings,

Stefanie

Father’s Day: A Thank You to Men of Integrity

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” I Corinthians 16:13

Today in the United States, we celebrate Father’s Day. While much of the time it’s the mother who receives accolades for raising the children, I know I could not do it without my husband. I know many, many women who feel the same way!

Dads everywhere, we want to publicly thank you!

Thank you for dragging yourself out of bed everyday to work and support your family.  Whether you log in long hours in construction, home late and wearily dropping into bed as the sun sets in the evening, or if you are the businessman leaving for yet another business trip, you are working hard at the work you’ve been given to do, and you do it without complaining to support your family. Thank you!

Thank you for spending those precious moments with the kids in the evenings.  When your little preschooler wants to ask just one more question before being tucked into bed, and you patiently answer, aware that these moments will not last forever.  When your tween needs a playmate and you stop what you’re doing to play the Wii or cards with this child who isn’t really a child much more, you are building much more than a new high score.  That person is realizing his importance as a human to someone paramount in his life. When you teach your teenager how to drive, not only are you imparting a necessary life skill, but you can so easily reaffirm who that new driver is as a person, encouraging her in all challenges in life, (and also saving the mother from much stress!)

Thank you for doing those little things that often go unnoticed.: taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher on the weekends, planning for a financial future. Helping around the house, even with one small task is a great reminder to your wife that she’s not alone in accomplishing these never-ending household chores, and builds her appreciation of you!

Thank you, men of integrity, who choose to look at all women respectfully.  And when women don’t make proper choices, you treat her respectfully anyway, refusing to let your mind and your eye wander. Not only does your wife appreciate this more than you can imagine, but your daughters understand how women should be treated. Other girls you influence, girls at church, your kids’ friends, the neighborhood children, all note how you respond to others.  The silent message you are sending is screaming one of integrity; Thank you!

Thank you, husbands of faith, who lead their families in times of thoughtful conversations, helping each member to search for and draw closer to God. You take your God-given responsibility seriously, and do not shrink from it. Without your leadership, we would not be recognizable as the people we are today.

Thank you, husbands who keep your marriage vows, and still search out romance with the woman you married, treating her like you did when you were dating.  The years go by, and work and children consume your thoughts and your time, but a standing ovation to the men who still carve out creative dates with the woman they chose so long ago!

Children are a blessing, and marriage is a gift.  Yet our world does not always applaud you for all you do, all the temptations you must refuse to keep you faith and your family intact. Above all, we want to publicly thank the men of integrity who put their faith first, allowing it to set their operating standards.  We love you and we thank you!

 

Reflections for this week:

How can I encourage any men in my life?

How can I show appreciation to my father and/or my husband?

Commit to praying for your father and/or your husband.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for giving us earthly fathers to help us understand who You are. Please strengthen our fathers, drawing each closer to You so that he in turn can lead his family to You.  Please bless these men and their efforts, in decision-making for their families, in the work they do to support their families, and in their own spiritual lives. They can not teach what they do not know, Lord, so please draw each closer to You. Thank you for our fathers, Amen.

 

Thank you for reading!  Please return by Monday, June 23 for the next post.

Peace, MIA

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Many times this past week, my peace was threatened. How often I reflected on last week’s verse, “Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”  Why do I feel weary, overwhelmed, and unprepared?  The answer: too many things which I permitted to distract me from God.

What things?

Girl drama.

Broken refrigerator.

Wasted food.

Stinky refrigerator.

Girl drama.

Need for doctor appointment.

In bed too late.

Wake up too early.

Deadline looming.

Girl drama.

Broken play set.

New diet.

No refrigerator.

No food.

Must grocery shop.

Girl drama.

Need chocolate.

Really must grocery shop!

In ultimate frustration, I escaped into my closet to pray. As I stumbled onto my “prayer step,”  my words tumbled out.  My gaze bounced about until I forced my eyes closed, blocking out the multitude of distractions: clothes needing folded, shoes needing cleaned, boxes needing a home.

As I finished my prayer, I opened my eyes and my gaze landed on the plaque I’d hung a few years ago.

It’s words of wisdom silenced my heart and calmed my mind: “Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

I had not been still in days.  My quiet time was rushed or paused before it got started.

I hadn’t given everything over to Him.  I was pitifully attempting to do it on my own.

He does care about my daily concerns and frustrations.  I realized I had not even asked for His agenda before I went rushing into mine.

Did I remember to acknowledge Him and humbly recognize how small my concerns, my inconveniences are? No.

During the next moments in prayer I thanked God that this time the chaos drove me directly to Him.

Five minutes later my world hadn’t changed but my response did.

Nothing could change the fact that, regardless of all the other stuff, I am a child of God.  Nothing, no broken refrigerator, no girl drama, nor lack of chocolate.

Grateful God had straightened me out for the moment, I exited my closet with peace in my heart.

Reflections:

1) What threatened your peace?

2) Where do you run when your peace is threatened?

3) Do you have a specific place where you can go and talk to God, alone, undistracted?

4) Identify items that  ‘Get you every time,’ taking your focus off God.

5) How can you retrain your reaction pattern?

Thanks for reading!  Please return by Monday, September 23, for the nest post.

Rest For the Weary

“Come to me all who are weary, and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Who comes to mind when we think of “those who are weary?”

Asian Christians awaiting sentencing in prison?

Pastors whose congregations are dwindling?

Men who hate their jobs but must return to work?

Moms who desperately want to reach their children but have no earthly idea how?

Children who can’t understand why their parents can’t get along?

In can be anyone.   At times, it’s everyone.

Jesus is there, waiting for each weary one to come to Him, claiming that promise that we can rest in Him.  That we will be able to rest in Him.

Note that He doesn’t promise to remove the burden, but to be yoked with us, sharing the weight of all our cares.

As we yoke ourselves with Him, we learn from Him.  The Scripture tells us He is gentle and humble in heart so we do not need to be afraid. We can go to Him as a hurt child wraps her arms around her Daddy’s neck, sobbing into his shoulder.

Jesus promises both “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” and “I will supply all your needs.”

He will supply the strength to persevere tomorrow.

He will supply the desire to journey down the road before us.

He will supply the faith we need to not only get us through whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, but He will use those circumstances to help us to draw closer to God along the way.

Reflections:

Monday: When I experience weariness, what do I do?  (Give up, call a friend, eat lots of chocolate?!?) Do I ever consider running to God?

Tuesday: How can I make talking to God my knee-jerk reaction when I’m frustrated or weary?

Wednesday: Consider His promise in Matthew 11:28-30.  How can I claim it, when life seems overwhelming?

Thursday: Identify people in your life who seem weary.  How can you encourage them?

Friday: From the lists of weary people you compiled yesterday, act on your responses to how you might encourage them.

Thank you for reading!  There are so many millions of blogs out there, (literally!), that I truly appreciate you stopping by.  If you could use encouragement yourself, or someone to pray for you, please feel free to contact me at my email address: Stefanielynn3@gmail.com

Please return for the next post by Monday, September 16.

Painful Parenting: The Prodigal’s Brother

Ever felt negative about a certain someone appearing at church?

Read Luke 15:28-32. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Imagine how the father felt: so joyful his first-born was back!  And, so desperately distressed his second son saw the first and shuttered, shunned him, and said, “Why?”

The prodigal’s brother did not share in his father’s celebration, and that stole his father’s joy.

He reassured his other son.  In essence, ‘Yes, I know you’ve done right. And everything I have will be yours, you will receive your due.  But we must celebrate the return of your brother, because he has found his way. We certainly did not want him lost forever!’

I wonder how God feels when we can’t rejoice when someone lost, finds Christ, and wants to sit beside us in the pew. Most ‘good’ Christians are enthusiastically receptive, unless that newly saved soul happens to have a history of hurting us.

Someone’s conversion can be hard to swallow if he’s already acted to leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

How did the prodigal’s father respond?

Surely the prodigal’s actions had severely hurt his father.  Yet, his father celebrated his return, possibly thinking, ‘he’s back, we must be making some sort of progress!’

When that irritating person from the past is in the pew before us, we must ask God to cleanse our hearts, to help us rejoice at His working in someone’s life.  It is not our right to judge him, questioning if he is worthy.  Because at the end of the day, not one of us is ever ‘worthy.’ And, it’s not about any one of us.  We should not journey through life with a “me-focus.”  It’s not about me.  It’s about God, calling out to each of His children, and each one of us coming to Him.

We all receive grace as a gift and we should not, even mentally, deny that gift to anyone else.

Reflections:

Monday: After reading about the other brother, how do you feel? Do you ever think of that brother as selfish?

Tuesday: Did the father become irritated with the other son because of his limited sight?  Can you imagine our limited view ever effecting God in the same way?

Wednesday: Examine the heart.  Is there anyone I need to rejoice with or for, who has recently found Christ and needs my support?

Thursday: How easy it is to become consumed with my world, my feelings.  Yet, not one of us knows everything.  Prayer:

Lord,  I come before you now, recognizing how self-centered I am.  Please remove that limited sight, and give me Your eyes Lord, help me to see things as you see them.  Please help me see the intrinsic value in each person who crosses my path today.  Please, let me be an encouragement and not a hindrance to them.  Amen.

Friday:  As often as we make mistakes, God is more than willing to forgive us when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart.  Spend some time reflecting on what that forgiveness means to you.

Thanks for reading!  Please return by Monday, September 9, for the next post!

Comparisons Kill

Read Luke:25-30  “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.  ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

He was back.  The one who left others to do all the work. The one who had worried Father for practically forever.

Now, he was back. And, by all appearances his time away had not been well spent. And yet, Father was beside himself, running out to meet him before he even darkened the doorway. And, the fattened calf was be killed.  There would be feasting tonight.

Why are we celebrating?  Why the fuss?  Haven’t I done all that was expected?  Wasn’t I the honorable son?

Comparisons can kill.  They steal life from our hearts, silent our spirits, and ruin our relationships.

God doesn’t want us comparing ourselves to one another.  He has a specific plan for each of us.  We don’t need to envy other’s gifts and talents, spouses and kids, careers and faith.  We don’t need to believe those lies of, “I deserve more,” or, “My life would be so much better if I only had that set of circumstances.”

Comparisons kill by taking the focus off the blessings God has given and pointing  to what He has not.

Comparisons kill by halting obedience to God’s plan for my life by my choosing to distractedly daydream about someone else’s path.

Comparisons kill by pushing me into a pit of self-pity instead of fixing my focus on God guiding me down the path He authored.

Compare yourself only to the person you saw in the mirror yesterday.  Improve upon that person, her faith, her actions, her thoughts. Above all let God lead.  Because when you choose to follow Him, you never suffer by comparison.

Reflections:

Monday: How do I suffer when I draw comparisons? How do my relationships suffer?

Tuesday: What comparison have I been absorbed in, which has succeeded in distracting me?

Wednesday: How can I let it go?

Power verse: Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

Thursday:  How can I be a better person today than I was yesterday?

Friday:  Prayer: Heavenly Father,  All knowing, all loving, almighty God.  In Your wisdom and love, You created me.  With all my character flaws, fears, and failures.  Yet You see me as You envisioned me when You created me.  Because of Jesus, You are not distracted by my flaws.  Please help me not to be distracted by them either.  Please help me to fix my eyes on You, and spend my time working on becoming who You want me to be, not what I would like to be.  Because Your plan is always better than anything I could ever author, Lord.  Thank you for loving me and never giving up on me!  Amen