Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Artist At Work

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)

It started out as a simple school assignment, but turned into something much more, in more ways than one.

My son Michael's 7th grade Social Studies teacher assigned her students the task of making a pyramid. There were no specific criteria given about how tall, how big, or what type of materials needed to be used. She simply encouraged the students to use their imagination.

When my son told me about the project, I immediately put on my crafty-mom hat, and started thinking about how much foam core board I would need to cut three triangles and hot glue them together in the form of a pyramid. But when Michael told his daddy about it, the project took on a whole new twist.

Before I knew it, we were all at Lowe's shopping for lumber and nails.

Lumber and nails?  I said to my husband, as if he had forgotten, "Ummmm, honey, it's a 7th grade project." He smiled and simply replied, "I know."

You see, I only had a vision of how much sawdust was going to be strewn into my house during this new found project, and I certainly didn't understand how a few 2x4's could be turned into a pyramid.

But my husband had a clear mental vision of what could be, and we just had to trust him.

Being a builder at heart and by trade, his mind could see the amazing end result before the building process ever began, even though my mind could not grasp it.

He and my son spent hours in the cold garage, measuring and sawing boards, and nailing the wooden pieces together. Step by step, a pyramid began to evolve, as we anxiously awaited for my husband's vision to become visible to the rest of us - and when it did, I have to say,  it was amazing.

Here is the finished product after my son painted it with spray paint.

Now that it was finished, I could see my husband's vision with great clarity, and we all celebrated the 'A' that was surely in my son's academic future.  But then something else amazing happened.

You see, my heart had felt burdened lately with concerns about the future; questioning why God is allowing certain hardships, and wondering what good could possibly come out of them. So as I marveled at this work of art crafted by the hands of my husband and son, God softly whispered to my heart, and said "Tracie, this is exactly how I am working in your life right now."

This gentle whisper, which my heart so desperately needed to hear, helped me to remember that God has a vision for all of us - a vision that we may not be able to see, much less understand, but one that is more wonderful than we can even comprehend.

God can already see what the future holds for each of us. Since the beginning of time, He has had a plan, and His Word assures us, in Jeremiah 29:11 and numerous other verses, that those plans are wonderful.

Wonderful plans for a future, and a hope. Plans not to harm us, but to help us prosper. Plans to bring us joy and peace. Plans to draw us closer to Him, and increase our reliance on Him alone.

In the same way that my husband had a clear mental picture of what he planned to build, God has a clear vision of what He is building in our lives.  We just have to trust that He knows best, and let Him work.

If you are struggling today, with people or circumstances or worry, will you trust that God has a plan? Will you trust that The Artist is at work in your life, even if you cannot imagine or "see" what He is building?

Although I may not always understand His ways, especially during times of trial, I can take comfort in knowing that God has a clear vision of each masterpiece He is creating. What peace it brings to know that even though I cannot see what is to come, our Creator and Builder of life, can.

And I have no doubt, that when it is finished, it will be amazing, in more ways than one.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Found, Healed, Delivered

I had heard His voice loud and clear.

It happened as I was sitting in the sanctuary many years ago, head bowed in fervent prayer, basking in the glow of the forgiveness that God has just poured all over my heart.

I was just one woman in a crowd of many women attending the seminar that morning. One woman trying to keep my emotions intact as I felt God moving deeply in my soul through the words of the speaker.

Suddenly His voice echoed so loudly, that my eyes burst open and I glanced around to see if anyone else had heard it. Since I didn't see any commotion, and no other women were appearing confused, dismayed or frantically gazing upwards with a look of "who said that!?" on their face, I determined that I was, indeed, the only one who had heard Him. It was a divine message, meant for me alone.

He simply said, "Tracie, Go... and share". (interpretation: "tell your testimony") My immediate answer was "Of course, God! Whatever you say! When can I start?"

NOT! Instead, I quickly and adamantly said "No God. Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt... NO". In fact, I got into a bit of an argument with God, wondering if He was confused and just didn't realize who He was talking to. Not only did I have no intention of "going", I had less intention of "sharing". I was convinced that God had made a mistake in calling me, a broken soul, to serve Him, a holy Savior.

But of course, God does not make mistakes. He simply knew my future, and my purpose, long before I did. He knew that His mercy and grace could wash away my sin, but only my obedience could truly heal my soul.

That was the summer of 2000. It was a day that turned my life upside down, as I tried to grasp the reality that God not only forgave me for my sins, and loved me despite them, but that He had a plan to use my past for my purpose. His purpose.

My obedience did not happen overnight. But little by little, step by step, faith encounter by faith encounter, God softened my heart to see and believe that His ways, and His plans, were better than my own.

With each baby step, I learned to trust God more, and eventually let Him replace my shame, with His grace and healing, from the inside out. My obedience to follow Him, and be transparent with others about how He had changed my life, opened the door for my heart to finally be restored.

A few years later, at another seminar, I had another God encounter. The praise and worship leader was singing the song "It Is Well", and I could feel the Holy Spirit hovering all around us. Then God spoke again, loud and clear, yet more gentle and confident. This time, He simply said "Tracie... it is well."

And I smiled, with a tear of joy trickling from my eye, and said "Yes sweet Jesus, it is well with my soul."

Shame and guilt no longer had any power over me, because God's love had become the presiding power over my life. I was no longer that broken, throw away person as I mentioned in today's Proverbs 31 Devotion. I realized I was loved by a Holy God. And so are you.

Do you believe that you are loved by God, despite the sin in your past or present? Do you believe that all it takes to be forgiven, is to ask God for it? Are you willing to forgive yourself, and let go of your hurts?

Are you ready to be free from shame and guilt, and embrace a new you that is filled with the Holy Spirit instead? Are you ready for God to have power over your life?

Do you want to be healed from the inside out?

Dear Jesus, you know the sins of my past, and the things I struggle with right now. I ask for your forgiveness, for everything. Wash me clean, make me whole again. Restore my soul. I want to be found by you. Help me to forgive myself, and protect my heart when negative thoughts and emotions threaten to steal the peace that You provide. Speak to me Lord, in a way I will understand. I long for healing and restoration and to be delivered from shame and guilt. Help me to have an awareness of Your voice, and to listen intently when you are speaking. Show me how you can bring glory out of something that the devil meant for evil. I trust you Lord, and I surrender all to you. I commit to obeying You when you call, even if You call me to do something that seems beyond my capabilities, and out of my comfort zone. I believe that my obedience, even if it's hard at first, will lead to blessing. Today, Lord, I surrender my life to You. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer today, will you leave a comment, and share with us how God has touched your heart today? We are definitely not alone in our need for forgiveness, redemption and restoration, yet there is power in knowing that we are not alone in our insecurities and our struggles and our heartfelt need to be healed.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Allow it to be a day that turns your life upside down - for the glory of God. If you are willing, God will deliver you from your sin, and turn your past into your purpose too - a purpose that is uniquely yours and divinely orchestrated - intended to bring you freedom and joy that you never thought imaginable.

Then you can sing that old song with a new twist... "Found, healed, delivered... I'm Yours!"

*If you have not asked Jesus to be your personal Savior, click here for some information that can help you make that important decision and take the first step towards true healing. DO YOU KNOW JESUS?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Have you ever felt depleted?  For the past few weeks, that would describe me. 

I have simply felt depleted... empty... alone... without direction... needing focus... tired of problems... tired of the same ol' stuff to face everyday... frustrated with waiting to see God's purpose in pain... wanting more.

Spiritually depleted. Emotionally depleted.  Physically depleted.  Can you relate?

To compound the problem,  I have also been feeling guilty for feeling depleted. After all, hasn't God blessed me in so many ways? Shouldn't I maintain that unshakable joy that the Bible promises? Shouldn't I be stronger in my faith when adversity strikes?  Is God ashamed of me for the way I am feeling, after everything He has done for me? 

But despite how I should be feeling, I had to admit to myself, and to God, that my heart felt empty.  I desperately longed for what I once had - a passion for Jesus that fueled my every thought, every action, and every behavior. But somewhere amidst the tsunami of problems that have flooded into my life lately, my unshakable joy and passion got swept out with the current.

So lately, I have been on a quest to find it, and God has been gently leading the way, pricking my heart with reminders of His love, and touching my soul with gentle reassurances that He is still there, with open arms.

For example, my sweet friend Wendy Pope wrote an article in the P31 Woman Magazine this month which discussed how she had recently experienced a down time in her faith, and one day God led her to the words of King David in Psalm 13:3, 'Restore the sparkle to my eye or I will die.'  (NLT)

When my eyes fell upon this verse, my heart leapt.  It was as if the light bulb came on in my head, and I realized that what had been missing, was my sparkle! I had allowed the problems of life to drown out the voice of my Savior, and as a result, my sparkle for Jesus and life had become dull, rusty and unnoticeable. I have been praying each day every since, that God would restore the sparkle to my eye.

Then last weekend, on a very last minute decision, I decided to start a new bible study at my church. I went with anticipation, hoping that God would have a word for me... and discovered that He actually had three.

Space. For. Grace

As I watched Beth Moore enthusiastically begin our study of James, her words pierced my soul.  She explained that when problems were pounding our hearts, God's purpose was not to leave us broken and empty, but to create a space for His grace.

These three words sunk deep into my heart as I realized that while the devil was trying to create an emptiness in my heart through the circumstances of my life, God was creating a perfect space that could be filled up with holy grace that would bring back my sparkle.

Suddenly - I felt the feeling of depletion fade away. I felt full... of Him.  I felt fidgety with enthusiasm.  I even felt a little sparkle begin welling up in my heart, flickering with excitement at the thought of dancing in the dark again. Friends, it was the best feeling I have had in a long time. I felt fueled to begin again, with a fresh attitude, a new sparkle, an appreciation for how God works, and a zest to do all He is calling me to do. Even if it means swimming against the current with every ounce of my being.

As a smile crept across my face, I felt confident that God was smiling too. 

A new year doesn't always bring a new attitude or great joy. These things only come through prayer, and a commitment to pray for God to keep us full, even in the middle of a tsunami.

If you have been feeling depleted lately, I encourage you to tuck Psalm 13:3 into your heart. Tape it on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or put it on your car dash, but no matter what you do, allow it to begin seeping into that space in your heart which has been left gaping open by hurt or adversity, and then ask God to fill that empty space, with His grace.

In the words of Beth Moore, the only thing that is supposed to be empty.... is the tomb.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Making Some New Year's "Adjustments"

The practice of new year's resolutions dates back over 3000 years to the Babylonians, and is still going strong today. When a new year rolls around, millions of people feel an obligation, if not pressure from society, to make a few resolutions, all the while knowing that they will probably be unsuccessful in the end - again.

If it's such a vicious cycle, why do we keep doing it year after year? Why do constantly make resolutions, only to fail the majority of the time? The truth is that making resolutions seems to bring hope and possibility for a change in certain areas of our lives that we feel is much needed and wanted. We feel a sense of empowerment about a fresh start and a new beginning..... until reality sinks in and meeting our goals gets harder and harder.

The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results. If this is true, making resolutions every year could potentially make us all insane!

This can be the year to break the insanity cycle, by focusing on making positive adjustments one little step at a time, rather than life altering resolutions that may never be met.

resolution: a solution, accommodation, or settling of a problem, controversy, etc.

adjustment: harmony achieved by modification or change of a position

Hmmmm.. would you rather start out the year thinking about all your problems or shortcomings and what you must do to resolve them, or thinking about meaningful things that could benefit from a little tweaking to bring more harmony into your heart and life?

Anyone can make a resolution to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise daily or be more frugal or financially responsible; yet, only those who are willing to take an inward look at themselves will have the courage to tackle the challenge of making outward life "adjustments".

Adjustments, that if given the right focus, can have huge impact on our spiritual and physical well-being.

1 Timothy 4:8  "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (NIV)

This verse is not saying that we should not care about our physical state, but that we should care about our spiritual state more.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are God's temples, and we should treat them accordingly. However, Timothy encourages us to find a balance between making physical goals which affect God's temple,  and spiritual goals which affect our heart for God.

New Year's "adjustments" can be determined by simply asking ourselves a few questions about areas of our life that may be in need of an adjustment, and then being honest enough to admit the answers. 

We can consider things such as our attitude, our faith walk, how we treat others, our willingness to forgive, how we handle conflict, and the setting of daily priorities.  We may need to look at how much time we spend with God, and whether or not we typically seek God's wisdom and direction about decisions in our life, or if we turn to other people for advice instead.

Regardless of what type of goals we set - whether they are adjustments, or resolutions - we need to pray about them, making sure that the motivation behind every goal is fueled by knowing that the desired change will be pleasing and glorifying to God.

When we make positive adjustments on the inside, the adjustments we desire to see on the outside may become a reality as well. Inward change always drives outward change.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever. (The Message)

So what "adjustments" might God be calling you to make in 2012?

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