Seeing Our Creative God

“So often we miss life’s beauty because we’re too preoccupied with it’s flaws.” -Ann Spangler

 

Did you forget God created you in His image? Or that He created the ground you walk on and grass you seem to mow 24/7? Or the cat who keeps calling your new patio cushions home?

I think we become so engrossed with what’s wrong or “what just has to be survived” rather than remembering the Creator who made it, Who thought it out of absolutely nothing to reflect Him.

It may seem rather Pollyanna-ish to think about it, but when you start to see a person as a fellow creative image of Him, created by His hand, you tend to approach them differently. You value them in a different way and the time you are given to interact and engage with them. It reflects our God, His creativity and absolute sovereignty in situations and our lives.

When we focus on the flaws of this life, even in ourselves, we miss the absolute wonder and creativity of the God who created this world from nothing, created us from mere dust of the earth, who brought land to life and animals into being. What if we focus on His beauty and creativity in our day rather than the flaws or ways we wish it were instead? I truly believe it brings Him joy and we get to give some praise back when we are able to celebrate His creative character in those small ways in every single day.

Self-Storing Treasures

Recently two separate self-storage facilities have been built within about three miles of my house. One is actually within about 50 yards from one that has been in our area for several years. I keep thinking about those self-storage facilities as such a reflection of our culture and environment now. If you turn on your television, you can see it in shows such as Hoarders and Storage Wars. We want all the stuff and we want it for ourselves.

It’s even more apparent within us. We store up knowledge (not a bad thing), emotions, feelings and even Christ. We self-store thinking that if we keep it to ourselves, we are better off. If we store up the blessings and giftings from God that we are doing this life the right way because it’s how it plays out in our culture.

But we are so wrong…

What we define as treasures, they reflect where our hearts are. And what we do with those treasures, those gifts and blessings, well they also tell us where our hearts are. Time is a treasure to some…but how are we spending it? Money is a treasure to others….but how are you spending it? What about your gifts and talents? Are they being spent or stored up?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

For a long season I stored up my own treasure, in my own self-storage unit you could say. I pulled it away and packed it up thinking that was what I should be doing. Packing away treasure that I defined instead of spending it for what it was made to be spent on. When I took the time to break down and really examine these verses in Matthew 6, I found that my treasure is worth pulling out of storage because it has a better return on investment in heaven than by storing it away. My heart is with the treasure I spend for His glory and good…not the one I pack away in self-storage and keep for myself. It does no one any good to hoard my time, my talents…these treasures I have been gifted, especially me, but most importantly the God who gave them to me.

What today do you need to unpack from self-storage? What do you define as treasures of your life-where your heart is invested by time or money or your talents? How are you storing them up? Where are you investing your treasure, here on earth or in heaven?

The Gifts

It’s closing in on 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. April in Tennessee has decided to be a snowy/rainy/wind-chill freezing kind of thing. It resembles more February than it does spring time in bloom. I haven’t showered and I have consumed two very large cups of coffee and one slice of toast. I am in my favorite winter pajamas.

I was thinking about how my singleness looks, about the contrast of life with my friends who text me photos of their kiddos or the friends I see posting about their babies sleeping through the night or husbands whisking them off to fun birthday weekend surprises. There are days, moments, times where I get that sinking jealous feeling of it all. I love seeing their lives, but there’s a small ache within of coveting, of wondering and of doubt that it will happen for me too.

But then there are moments like these, where I find the freedoms of my life to be quite nice. Where there aren’t plans for the day, or worries over planning around nap times. Singleness looks different for each person living it, just like marriage and parenting and pretty much every single thing about living life. One thing is sure though, is that this life and the time we are given for it is a gift.

This morning as I was choosing my time in the Bible I found the words of Paul to a fellow believer to be something I needed reminding of as well. Timothy was around my age as well, called to minister at the church at Ephesus at the time we read Paul’s words to him in 1 Timothy. And some of the people had taken to legalism in the church, things that were good and created by God were being used as a form of legalistic religion instead by the church to set themselves apart as more holy or more devout.

Paul works through identifying the issue and encouraging Timothy in the fourth chapter of his letter. There nestled in between how to treat church members and the mystery of godliness is a small paragraph on ministry, and this phrase: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” It reminded me that I too neglect the spiritual gifts given me by God, those that are specifically designed just for me by the Creator of the universe. He knew I would be the only one that could use them in such a way for His kingdom and His purpose in such a time as this.

He knew that the still-in-her-pajamas, unshowered single gal on a Saturday morning would use the gift given her for Him in the way He designed her to use it. Just as He did the friends who are married, who are parents, who are divorced, who are single too. He has given gifts that reside in each of us that I often forget and neglect, letting doubt fuel the misuse or nonuse of the gifts, letting the words of others cause my gifts to look like obligations or ones I wish I could return. But then I remember the words of James just a few pages over from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Inconveniences

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NKJV)

In the aftermath of traveling (by foot and ship), preaching to hardened hearts and skeptics, converting those whose hearts were opened to the gospel, and casting out demons in Christ’s power and authority. Even just one of those exhausts me in reading about it. In the midst of all this, Paul and Silas were met with opposition which took a violent turn into floggings and imprisonment. All of this after being directly guided by the Holy Spirit to go to this exact place.

And what are Paul and Silas found doing at midnight, of all times, in prison ? They are praising God and singing hymns. And the prisoners are listening to them, as one would a beautiful piece of music, with delight and intent.

I don’t know about you all but I whine and complain about minor inconveniences in my daily life. Like a busted water pipe, missing a workout, a car not starting, traffic, stress at work. I don’t automatically and with voice raised sing hymns and praise God in the midst. I admit that freely because it’s not my natural tendency.

But it should be as a child of God. Just like Paul and Silas.

They were specifically and unjustly being punished for their faith. For preaching the gospel we know today and Christ which we call Savior and King. They were experiencing true persecution, and not just inconveniences we too often feel in our every day life. And yet, they were rejoicing in the God who had led them there by His Spirit. More than that, those in the jail were listening y’all.

People are listening, watching as those of us who are believers react and respond to life, circumstances, situations and inconveniences. They see what it is we truly place our hope and faith in when we face the dark of midnight.

Paul and Silas were living testimonies that circumstances don’t define our hope, our joy, our faith, the gospel, Christ Himself. Not a bit of it weighed them down as they were bleeding and chained in that prison. They knew where God intended to have them, to use them, to spread His truth and His word at just the right time, that no one else would be fit for that time and those men in prison.

Maybe you’re not called out to international missions, but you are called as a believer to carry the gospel with you each day, in each interaction and circumstance. And how you respond to the stressors of this life could be the only glimpse of Christ a person might have, and that you were called to be in that place at that time, even if it’s an inconvenience to you, it could mean eternity to someone else.

Because when you continue to read in chapter 16 you see a jailer and his family believing and receiving Christ as their hope and redemption. That is worth the inconvenience of your time and your life.

From Frustration to Prayer

Sometimes I say “Oh Lord” when I hear about the shenanigans friends get into or when I glimpse the exasperating self-checkout where people who apparently have never experienced how to ring up things decide today is a good day to do just that…with their incredibly full cart.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of Lauren Daigle…while I cook, in the shower, working out, cleaning the house. If I could describe my current mood, it would be “Lauren Daigle” because she just seems to be singing what my heart and mind are feeling right now. One particular song has slowly become something I am praying instead deep within, and I find my cries of “O Lord O Lord” have been a welcome comfort instead of exasperation and frustration. It reminds me that He is right there with me, when I often like to lie to myself that He’s not, or He’s left me. He doesn’t. He hears. He meets me in my desperation, my loneliness and says “This will be made right.” It may not be mine to see, or experience, but it’s His.

So now when I cry out “O Lord O Lord” I know He’s already at work, but He’s there in the midst listening. I know my prayers are reflective of a God who is with me, a God who hears, who wants me to cry out to Him instead of in my own frustrations.


Part of Lauren Daigle’s “O’ Lord” is quoted below in how I have been praying it out. Maybe you needed it today or tomorrow. Maybe you needed to recognize your heart and mind have needed to cry out to God in a way that only you and He communicate. Whatever the means, know He’s listening.

Though times it seems
Like I’m coming undone
This walk can often feel lonely
No matter what until this race is won
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

Your strength is found
At the end of my road
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face This I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!

Oh! O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

The Adulterous Single

I thought a commandment didn’t apply to me.

Yep, one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

It’s the one about adultery. Because I’m a single, I definitely felt like that just didn’t apply to me. I’m good on that one God, because obviously, doesn’t apply! That was my exact thoughts. Mark it off, I’m good.

But here’s the thing on this. I don’t have to be married to commit adultery. Obviously the very literal line of thinking leads to sexual immorality, whether it’s pre-marital or any of the other related immoral acts related to sexual relations. The one that hit me though was that I have a propensity to an adulterous heart. A heart that puts so much above my covenant relationship with God. A heart that will easily lean into work, people, stuff with more love and focus, giving itself away above my first love, that love with God.

Ouch.

Adultery does apply to me as a single individual. It applies to all of us, regardless of our marital status. It is a heart issue, it’s a covenantal issue. One that starts with God and my heart, not at the altar with another individual.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

Never has that verse become more vivid, breathing and real than looking at it in the context of my adulterous ways in relationship with God. Everything I do flows from my heart. Every action, thought, word…every bit of it, and if my heart isn’t committed and pursuing the love of God in all things? Well that’s where the convenient opportunity of adultery slips in. When I am not guarding that fickle heart, being on consistent watch of it’s consumption and output, then it’ll easily wonder to other, lesser loves. It’ll pursue side pieces that catch it’s eye rather than God Himself, the One Who has proven faithful and good, over and over again.

As much as I’d like to believe I have that adultery thing on lock-down as a single gal, the truth of the matter is that I am far from it, and it does apply to us all. My adulterous heart should be the guarded heart, giving life to the relationship with God and not to the other pursuits that so easily ensnare and entice me from my first love.

Fighting the Storm

Sunset from window

Sometimes a picture can communicate more of what you want to say than words.

It felt like the darkness, the clouds were trying to swallow up the sun as a late afternoon storm rolled in on Monday. The sun kept fighting back the clouds and the storm and I could see it’s fight through a window at the gym.

The sight got at my heart because that’s where I’ve been recently. Unsure of the clouds creeping in and the storm that seems to be forming. I had been wrestling for a couple of weeks on a good thing, a decision that was good and confirming where my heart was leading but that ultimately was not the best thing. Over the weekend I was affirmed in what I felt was where God was leading. Once I voiced it to one person, just one person, I could feel this darkness creep in and a storm brewing. I could feel myself bristle up for a fight because I was choosing the best God has intended and not this very good thing that isn’t for me.

To see that play out visually just hours after I’d started to get that notion was just for me. But maybe it’s for you too. Maybe God needed you to hear, to see, to read that the thing you decided on and now feel the darkness creeping in is what He wants for you. He wants that very best thing, and not the really good thing you said “no” to right now. He wants that obedience in what He has long been calling you towards, reminding you of. The darkness doesn’t want that, Satan doesn’t want you going hard after obedience because it scares him when you are in God’s will, in relationship and fellowship with Him pursuing after what He’d have for you.

May this bring you hope, affirmation, confidence in the fight ahead. The sun always fights back against the encroaching storm. The Son already fought it off so that you could be in Him in all things. When the storm comes. When the clouds creep in. When the devil would have you doubt and fear the very best God has for you.