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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

I decided as my daughter was taking her photography class three days a week, instead of sitting in the library for three hours I would take Ceramics 1 – and learn how to work with clay. My true interest in taking the class, was to learn the potter’s wheel.

 

On the first day, the professor showed us around the studio and we came to this one room with a huge mixer.

 

“Don’t worry about it if you don’t like how a project turns out. You see these two bins?”  he pointed to two huge plastic trash cans.  “Throw it in here along with any clay that may be to dry.  The water turns it to a “slip” like substance.  Then we add powder clay to it and it becomes re-usable clay.”

 

What he didn’t say was how bad it would smell due to bacteria breaking it down which I learned about later.

 

Ceramic illustration

Knowing that I was starting the class, I chose to study what the Bible says about the potter. When I got home it hit me.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)

 

As I think about my how life has been working and changing and healing I thought about the “slip” in the classroom.  My life is the clay.  What I think is too big of a mess up or the flaws are just too damaging I can’t be used, it’s just not true. Sure, It’s been tough.  However, the great thing is God will take everything in the past, present and future, and mix it with His love, and heals me through the work of the Holy Spirit (the water) for my good and His glory and make me even more usable.

 

Cool huh?

 

It sure doesn’t feel good sometimes. In fact, it smells pretty bad as the Holy Spirit illuminates things, and not necessarily of my own doing.  But through the Word, prayer and even other people this lump of clay will be recycled and made to be used in beautiful ways I never thought imaginable.  That’s hope, and I will not be rejected by the love and creativity of the Potter.  He has a purpose for me and will use the flaws, mistakes, struggles and trials to accomplish it.

 

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter;

we are all the work of your Hand”. 

Isaiah 64:8

 

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“Change is mandatory for extraordinary results.”

 

I noticed this quote on an electronic information board. That day the words cut like a knife, not just because the words were truth, but the changes I have been going through have been less than easy.

 

In fact, I would relate it to a wrestling match, except I was getting body slammed by my past which has influenced my present.

 

I was angry. Angry at people and yes, even God. I questioned why would He wait so long to have me deal with these things? Because it didn’t just affect how I see myself, but how I view God and the way He sees me.

 

This particular wrestling match lasted a month. Tears, fatigue, and anger were constant companions.  I felt black and blue, emotionally and mentally.

 

What I’m beginning to realize is that through the brawling, even when the fear is overwhelming, that’s where hope is.

 

In the messiness and wrestling, with each blow I’m breaking through the cement of my heart so that I’m able to receive and accept God’s love, and healing.

 

These struggles are not only the gateway to healing but also to sanctification which is a fancy word for the process of purifying, to make me holy, to make me clean.

 

I guess another way to look at it is restoring of a home.  An old house has to go through some tremendous breakage, sledge hammering, pulling up and tearing down in order for the new to be put up.

 

Wrestling things out can be part of that process in our lives. God is the master renovator and He will take His time to do things right. He will contract the work through His Spirit and even through other people, if He sees fit.

 

The change is mandatory in order for me to move forward.  It’s hard. Oh, my is it hard, and terrifying at times. However, the results He gives will be extraordinary and for my beautification. That is something I am anticipating with excitement.

 

Oh, and don’t think this is a one – time deal.  He is wrestling and renovating along with us until we are called home.

 

 “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6  (NASB)

 

 

 

 

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I wasted time a few weeks ago waiting for my daughter to finish work. Walking a few shops down, I found a wall hanging with this statement, “Until God opens the next door praise Him in the hallway.”  My first reaction was, “Yes, Lord I am in the hallway, but there aren’t any doors to open.”

 

I smiled to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks.

 

I’ve stepped out temporarily from ministry, which started a strong tug of war. The two sides pull hard with the intent of winning. On one end of the rope, confidence.  I have made a good decision to rest.  One the other end is busyness and the need to be back in the race.  As I talked to a friend about this struggle, he mentioned a devotional by L.B Cowman Streams in the Desert which gives a wonderful illustration of the periods of rests in our lives.  This is the author’s take on the period called rest:

 

 “There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music.  In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests.  During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song… He (God)* brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent.  We grieve that our part is missing in the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson.”  (Cowman pg.43,44)

 

Resting periods in my life (a masterpiece) is part of the grander piece. Sometimes these come as hardships, illness, struggles and trials or the everyday mundane.  These rests are times of silence and solitude in which He uses to grow me in my relationship with Him. God is the composer and conductor of my life and He creates rests for reasons.  Some reasons I see some I don’t, but all are for His glory and honor.

 

I love what Margaret Feinberg said in her book Fight Back with Joy, “Always be suspicious that God is up to something.” Even in the resting there is the hope that God is going to do something wonderful through it.

 

For me there are a couple of reasons for my rest: 1.  to grow closer to Him which in itself brings about rest  2.  To understand better who I am in Him, and how He sees me.  There is probably more to it, but that is what I’m observing now.  How cool is that?

 

Yes, I’m in a hallway right now that has no doors. I sit and wait in expectation when not only a door appears but opens and I walk through.  Praise God.

 

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

 

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It’s been a long time since I have visited Solitude with the Father. Deep down I have longed to be here, but God has had different ideas. Which brings me to the word for my year; Hope.

 

In today’s world the word hope has strayed from its original meaning.  It’s usually associate with a “maybe” connotation.

 

The true meaning of hope is “expectation, expect with confidence.” As I have been studying this word, I found a hard saying by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

 

“…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope;” (Romans 5:3-4 NASB)

 

Here it comes.

 

“and hope does not disappoint…”

 

The first time I saw this I froze, tears welled up and a little anger welled up with the tears.  If hope (anticipation and expectation) doesn’t disappoint, then where was the transformation I prayed for last year?  Where is the totally changed person I expected?

 

The only transformation that came was a deep depression, where I would do anything to go to a far away place and be alone.

 

I was praying and in the Word daily, yet nothing changed except the dusk turned to darkness without even a flicker of one star. It was terrifying.  I have fought bouts of depression before, but nothing like this.

 

The last part of verse five says

 

“…because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

How could this be because of God’s love? The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. “Christine, hope is expectation without your expectations to be fulfilled. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open — not set and stubborn. Hope doesn’t disappoint because transformation springs from the love of God. In trials, hope is the expectation of how God is going to refine you.”

 

What I realized, God is going to transform, and grow me in any way He sees fit.  The depression was allowed, why? To show me, now is the time.  The time to take care of deep seated issues, fears, anxieties. I was going to need help with it.

 

It’s been a process.  And it isn’t over yet.  But one thing I do know, because I belong to God as His beloved child, I have hope that healing will come. Transformation will come. Experiencing God in ways I never thought possible will come. Experiencing stillness and knowing He is God will come.  I also know that it may not be in ways I think, but they will come.

 

It’s exciting and scary at the same time. With my eyes, ears and heart open to Him I wait in expectation with exuberant anticipation of what He will do. I have seen glimpses of Him through the dark. In fact, there are little holes He has punctured to let streams of light in.  He will continue to work through the trials to grow me.

 

That is the best kind of hope.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55: 8-9

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In March I took solitude to a whole new level.  This in turn caused an increased hunger for it.

 

When I started this journey of solitude, the desire to have more time without the distractions and noise of the world grew.  The opportunity arose in March.  I went to a silent retreat weekend led by Laura Petherbridge.

 

How would I face almost a full forty-eight hours of no phones, computer, TV and absolutely no talking?   I admit I find it difficult to talk to God in my head,  so I have to talk out loud, so for me it was not total “silence”.

 

Communication was limited to two counseling sessions.  We could not even talk at meals.  That was a little awkward when you’re at an Abby and even the monks can talk to each other and your group sits there just looking at each other or our food.

 

My goal centered on this:  no expectations.  Let God be God and listen to what He had to say.   Apparently I went in with expectations, for the first morning I felt frustrated. I desperately wanted to pick up phone, call my mentor, JoAnn, and go home.

 

My greatest fear came true: God’s voice was non – existent.  I sat in the counseling session and cried and cried.

 

Laura looked at me paused then said, “Perhaps God is not giving direction because He wants to heal some things first.  You expect the “hallelujah” moment when all He wants you to do is be still, soak Him in and heal some of the perceptions you have of yourself. You struggle with a lack of trust, fear, even hatred of self.  I feel God is wanting to heal rather than give direction.” We sat in silence for a few moments.

 

“You’re also a doer,” she continued, “ You have to do and do and do in order to be a good Christian and what you really need is to learn to be. Then balance the two.”

 

I sat there stunned, but refreshed.  I realized solitude isn’t always about what God wants me to do.  Many times it’s just to sit and be still.

 

Laura spurred me on, “Let God speak to you and tell you who you are in Him.  Find verses so that when the enemy plants seeds of self loathing, mistrust, or fear you can say ‘It is written… say the verse’, and he will flee.”

 

When I left the counseling session my first reaction was “Okay, God let’s get those verses.”  But then the thought immediately came, “No, just be.  He will show them to me in His time, in His way.”  I found a fountain outside, sat down and enjoyed the nature around me.

 

The rest of the weekend went well.  I basked in who He was, my Father.

 

I discovered in a deeper sense, that solitude centers on relationship.

 

God will tell me when He is good and ready and most importantly when He knows I’m ready to hear that “next step”.

 

One verse that stood out to me that weekend was Song of Solomon 7:10:

 “I am my beloveds and my beloved desires me.”

 

God desires me.  His desire for me, is to know Him in a deep an intimate way.

 

As much as I wanted to hear where I was headed, I needed to hear that the Creator of the Universe desires me.  He desires all of me; every strength, every weakness, every flaw, every single part of me.  He loves me that much.  He desires to make me into more than I could ever dream. But most of all He wants me to be still.

 

How about it?  Is it too big of a risk to take some time to be away, at a park, away from the distractions of the world, and be still before Him? Go without the phone, or expectations and let Him direct the time.  He may just want you to enjoy a walk through His creation.

 

Be amazed and awed in the One who desires you.

 

If you are interested in attending a silent retreat, either click on Laura’s name within the blog or go to the link below.

http://www.laurapetherbridge.com/speaking/silent-retreats/

 

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If you have read this blog over the past few years you might be saying to yourself I must have miss read the title.

 

I assure you, you have not.  It was time for a change.  For me, as a mother of three, volunteer, ministry worker and every other “hat” I may wear, the newest discipline I’m learning to practice and desire more of is solitude.

 

I enjoy the quiet moments of being home listening to quiet spa- like music, aromatherapy oils and a good book.  However, even at home I stare at all I have to do and many times can’t relax.

 

As I mentioned in the past, Jesus took time for solitude and the importance of taking the time to be away from the busyness of life to just focus on God. My relationship with Him is important enough to practice solitude.

 

This is the “atmosphere” I believe God desires to bring with the words typed here.   When I was thinking of a new title the only one that came to mind was Solitude With the Father.  I couldn’t get away from it.

 

When I picture a place of solitude I think of a small one room cabin in the mountains with a roaring fire in the stone fireplace, with a Bible, journal and pen or pencil.  No TVs or smart phone or any phone for that matter.  It’s just me and the Father together reading, talking and listening.

 

The hard aspect of solitude is that what I hear does not always bring about warm fuzzies.  If I am really present and willing to hear what He has for me, I have to be open to receiving the correction, discipline, and changes He want me to make.  It’s not comfortable at times.

 

I have cried, been angry, disappointed, and on cloud nine as I have met with Him.

 

The silence can also be deafening.

 

My desire, and I believe it’s God’s desire, is that Solitude with the Father is a way to continue to share my heart with you and many things that the Father has placed there.  This is a place I hope you will find encouragement in the hard times, a place to grow in your walk with Him, and even a place that spurs you on to make changes and seek Him out in your own solitude time.

 

 

 

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It’s hard to believe that Christmas is here again, and it’s even harder to believe how little I’ve written this year.  Both were brought to mind when I heard “The Little Drummer Boy” playing on the radio the other day.

 

The first brings cheerful thoughts, lights, food, family and of course the music.

 

The second makes me cringe just a little.

 

God has given each of spiritual gifts and talents to use for His purpose, honor and glory.

 

For several months I haven’t been doing what He has called me to do.  Some of it has to do with fear, doubt and perhaps a loss of joy in it.  But as the little drummer boy he gave his best to the king in the manger, I should be a steward with what He have given me

 

I also realized that perhaps I have relied on my own ideas of how to use them and not taken into account that yes there has been disobedience but there has also been obedience. Once a month I send an e-mail out to a group of ladies to encourage them in their walk as well as those who are in my Bible study group.

 

For me the the little drummer boy song reminded me of the gifts, talents, and skills the Lord has given me. My job is to be obedient in using them for His honor and glory.  By doing so in essence I am laying them at His feet, giving them back to Him as a gift of appreciation.

 

It doesn’t matter how big or small they are. The question that needs to be asked is “Are we obeying the Gift giver by using them for Him?

 

My middle daughter Emily has a talent for photography.  Last year was frustrating for her. She got passed over for award after award to fellow students who were at a lower level.

 

I asked her “Would you prefer all the medals and trophies the world could offer or would you rather hear ‘Well done my good and faithful servant. You have used the talent I have given you for My purposes and honor.’ ?”

 

This year she won top in show, and her picture is hanging at a museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  What was the picture of?  My sister’s funeral.  The caption expressed sadness, but that it was a celebration of life.  Individuals who read it may ask how can death be a celebration? A seed may have been planted that will cause them to seek God.

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When we’re obedient – we’ll also be held accountable – in using what He’s given us, He’ll in turn use it in ways we never knew could imagine.

 

Are you using the gifts and talents God has given you?

 

Just as the little drummer boy gave all he had, give God your “Finest gift”. Don’t neglect them no matter how unimportant or insignificant you think they are.  Rely on Him to give you competence to use them so that He will receive the honor and glory.

 

If you’re not His child you can give your finest gift, your heart.  No matter what you’ve done, or what you think can and cannot offer Him, give Him yourself.  There’s nothing more He would love this Christmas than to adopt you as one of His own.  (See the tab “Invitation” at the top of the page)

 

Matthew 2:1-12; Matthew 25:14-27; Luke 21:1-4

Have a Merry Christmas and Wonderful New Year

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