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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

Dear Daughters,

 

The famous painter Bob Ross said, “Anything we don’t like, we’ll turn into a happy little tree or something, because as you know, we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents.”

 

Through my second semester of ceramics, I found this to be true, however, on a deeper level. I took this class because it was something I always wanted to learn. There was something fascinating about making something on a wheel that turns at a high rate of speed and made with one’s hands. The second reason was that in scripture, (Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-6) God is compared to a potter and I am His clay, and I wanted to understand this concept in a deeper way.

 

I can’t tell you how much I have learned concerning the relationship between God and us through this class. But the one I do want to share is in your hand. God doesn’t waste anything. What you may find as unfair, failures, mistakes, hardships, aggravating, or even downright a waste of time or energy, God pulls, stretches, smooths, bakes and glazes to make you beautiful.

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Collapsed Bowl

 

This item in your hand was intended to be a bowl. Because it didn’t get centered properly it collapsed. I suddenly saw beauty in it, of what it could be. I placed a rose in the center. At first, I didn’t know why and interestingly enough as I write this, it came to me. It’s important, especially Florida, to have intentional burns. The purpose is to kill invading foliage as well as protect the area around it from devastating fires. But what it also does is clears the way for new growth of certain plants and trees that are getting choked out. The rose is a representation of new growth that comes out of the hard times, mistakes and the past years of your life.

 

Glazing is the cherry on the cake.

 

To me, the bowl is one of the those “happy little accidents.” The reality, on the other hand, is altogether different. God knew your life before you were conceived (Psalm 139). Yes, He could have changed things but then you wouldn’t be who you are today.

 

You are unique. There is no one like you in the world. God molds and shapes you through the hard times, failures, mistakes and what you may feel like an unfair past or struggles. God wastes nothing. He uses every situation, activity, a person you meet to turn the ugliness of life to mold you into the beautiful treasure you are. The hard part is allowing God to push, pull, smooth and place you into the fire. You must be willing for Him to do it, because He is a gentleman He won’t force the beautification process on you. Yes, it hurts at times and fear may creep up along with all the excuses you throw at Him for not wanting to walk the path.  It’s messy. The question is are you willing?

 

Isaiah 61:3 states:

 “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planning of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

 

He takes the ashes and turns into beauty to show the world of His splendor. You are molded into His likeness to show the glory of what He can do in someone’s life. Isn’t that awesome?

 

Love,

Mom

 

I wish I could give each reader one of the “happy accidents” as a reminder to you that 1. you are not an accident 2. beauty will made out of your hard times, and 3. God will get the glory for it all.

 

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and see you in the new year.

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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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Proverbs can be a hard book for me to read in a couple ways. First, there doesn’t seem to me to be a flow.  In one chapter you can jump around in various themes.  For example, in one verse you read about the tongue, in the next money, the next laziness, and then back to the tongue. Second, sometimes it’s hard to see how a concept applies to me.

 

The latter made an impact with me recently.  In this book of wisdom, the author talks in several places about the adulterer and their ways.  Being a married woman I have never gone after someone other than my husband.  I also know like everyone else, I am susceptible to it if I am not using wisdom and discernment.

 

I went on a walk one morning and prayed.  I proceeded to tell God I have no idea how to apply chapter 5 of Proverbs to my life. Be careful what you say to God.  The Spirit spoke to my heart. “How about the idols in your life?”

 

The Old Testament is full of stories about Israel exchanging God for idols.  I’ve even mentioned it in past blogs.

 

He continued, “Lately you have consistently chosen things before Me.  You have committed adultery by running to them as if they will fix things, bring satisfaction or fill a void.  Sometimes you to go to them out of habit, and other times you make a deliberate choice.  Yet in the end the situation isn’t better or changing, and you still feel empty, just like one who is cheating on the spouse.  It satisfies in the short term but in the long run, it causes strife within you and it comes out to affect others.”

 

I realized that the things of this world can and will seduce me away from the God who loves me unconditionally, who seeks my best always, who stands by my side through struggles and heartaches. The best part is He is ready to fight for me.

 

God has a plan for me.  He desires a relationship with me that is like no other.  When I run to the arms of the world and all it offers in the way of stress relief, problem solving, comfort, peace, joy, love and the list can go on, instead of turning to God, I am committing spiritual adultery.

 

Some may say that’s far-fetched.  Is it?  I am considered the bride of Christ (Revelations 19:7) along with all those who belong to the “church body”.  If Scripture is correct and I believe it is, when I put God where He belongs at the center of my life, I’m faithful, when I don’t I’m not.

 

It’s not easy to hear.  When I realized this, it became depressing to think about.  But praise the Lord, there is reconciliation when I confess what I have done, and acknowledge it as sin.  Then turn from it and return to my first love. (Revelation 2:4-5).  Like the prophet Hosea reconciled with his prostitute wife, God will be reconciled to me and that reconnection is unlike anything else in the world.

 

“Adulteress!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.”

James 4:4 (HCSB)

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The church is not the block and mortar building standing on the street corner.  The church is the people.  It broke my heart when I read of an individual who lost a family member in another state and received no support from the church.  The individual felt that the church was becoming cold.  Others echoed the same sentiment.

 

Tears came to my eyes.  Now I don’t know the full story, but this is how the person was feeling.  I thought about the church I attend.  It’s not perfect, however when it comes to love and support they give it.  My first thought was where was their Sunday school or friends.  Then It turned into – was this person even connected.

 

My husband attended a teachers meeting the other week.  They told of two stories.  The first was a believer who entered the hospital suddenly and died.  When the pastor arrived there were three others from the congregation there.  The second, and individual passed and the church didn’t find out about it until months later.

 

These two individuals attended the same church.  Yet there were two drastically different responses.  When the staff researched, what they found was one was connected and involved, the other just came for services.

 

The support was two sided.  The first individual made it a point to be involved.  They attended a small group, may even was involved with a ministry.   The other didn’t.

 

I have had three family members die within the past ten years.  We have received cards from the deacons and pastoral staff, cards from the other members of the church body.  It was surprising to me how many showed up for the memorial services because these family members did not attend the church with us.

 

A friend of ours just had a celebration of life party.  She has cancer and stopped treatment.  More than two hundred showed up for the last minute potluck dinner, to pray for her.  she and her husband are greeters.  Every time there is an opportunity to serve they are at the doors.

 

I can’t tell you how surprised I was when the chapel at church was packed to overflowing at my sister’s memorial service.  People, I wasn’t expecting to see there, walked in for me and my family.

 

In order for the church to function and support as they should, each member must do their job.  Especially in a big congregation.  We aren’t gathering just to Connect with God.  At my home church we go by the C4 principle

 

C1 –  Connect to God – through teaching of the Word – service

C2 – Connect to Others – being involved in a small group Sunday School

C3 – Connect to Ministry – serving the body of believers outside of the SS

C4 –  Connect to the world – Missions – going (locally, worldwide) or                                                        supporting via financial

 

Are you connected?  Are you involved with a Sunday School?  If not, try a few out and attend the one that you can be encouragement to others as well as be encouraged.  If you aren’t finding something to get involved in – dare I say it – find a church that you can or better yet, ask your Pastoral staff to start a ministry using the talents God has given you.  My pastor has said, people have met with him and mentioned a ministry the church should have and he tells them great idea why don’t you head it up.  They need you just as much as you need them.

 

“and let us consider how to stimulate on another to love and good ; , not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25 (NASB)

 

 

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