Saturday, 23 May 2015

He Brings Dead Things Back to Life

There’s a magnolia tree right smack in the middle of our front yard. Once the long winter ended and spring decided to begin, we waited for the magnolia buds on this tree to start blossoming. Everything else around us was turning green, colour popping up everywhere, but this magnolia tree… it looked like it was in the dead of winter. 

My sister in law looked at the buds one day and declared our tree what I had feared it was: dead. I was so sad. I kept expecting it to bloom because you could see the buds on the branches. But the buds were dried up, frail, easily broken. Every day I pull into our driveway I mourn this tree because I know the potential of it’s beauty.

Here is what a magnolia tree looks like when it’s in full bloom...

But then…Oh, guys! This may be the highlight of my entire week. My husband, my son and I were out on a walk this morning. As we walked back into our driveway I noticed this...

“Kevin! A blossom! A magnolia!” I was shocked and so thrilled.  How did this happen? This tree was dead. All I could think of as soon as I saw that single magnolia was this: God brings dead things back to life. We all thought this tree was dead, but if there is life springing out of it then it is most certainly not dead. 

I feel this tree's pain. It is working so hard to burst life out of those buds. Isn’t this just like us at times? Aren’t there things in our lives that we sometimes resign to being dead? Don’t we work so hard at times to bring those dead things back to life? And we forget…

We forget that the Creator of us is the creator of LIFE. Yes, death is imminent and it’s part of life here on earth. But, hear this… death is NOT the end of the story. 

This is our Hope. Jesus came to die so that death would not be the end of the story. After Jesus died on the cross, the disciples and all who knew and loved and believed him… they were so confused. How could this be? Wasn’t He the one who came to save us? What are we supposed to do now? Without our leader, our teacher, our Lord?

3 days of excruciating waiting. And then… Jesus was raised back to life. He was raised back to life so that we could also be raised with him. 

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)

God came to give us eternal life (1 John 5:7)… but he also came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). Abundant life doesn’t start in heaven. It actually starts here, on earth, as we live in communion with our Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit works in us and through us. 

So back to this magnolia tree. Even if this is the only beautiful magnolia that blossoms from this tree, I am going to bask in it’s beauty each time I look out my front window, remembering that God gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence. (Romans 4:17) 

There may be things in our lives that feel dead…a friendship, a marriage, dreams, goals, something in ourselves. It’s not our job alone to fix it. Just like there was nothing I could do for that tree but hope and wait. We simply let the life-giver breath life into whatever it is... and we hope and wait and pray.

…and then marvel at the beauty of this thing that was once dead…but is now brought back to life. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Lean in

Lean in

I sense the Lord saying these two words to me lately. What do they mean? 

I always love to start with definitions… languages are fascinating to me and I think definitions give us a lot of wisdom. The word ‘lean’ means this:

be in or move into a sloping position 
It also means…
cause something to rest on or against 

Be in. 
Rest on.

Be. Rest.

God is constantly calling us to himself. And not just so we can do more for him, but so we can simply be with him. The more my relationship with Jesus grows, the more I realize this simple truth. 

As I learn to simply “be” with God, a lot of things happen. When I’m with him, I see a reflection of who I am. In Jesus, I am already “in Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear this:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come.

Sometimes I think we forget all of the treasures we have in Jesus. Not because of anything we have done but because of what He did and is doing in us. 

So what happens when we lean in?

When I lean into Christ, I can’t help but worship him.

When I worship him, I come alive and realize more of my need for him... his beauty, his love, his perfection.

When I realize my need for him, I am able to receive his love.

When I receive his love, I am reminded of who I am in Jesus. I am redeemed, pursued, loved, chosen, forgiven, gifted, equipped, clothed with strength and dignity, commissioned.

When I am reminded of who I am in him, I can live in freedom and truth.

When I live in freedom and truth, anything in possible, isn’t it? We can throw off the chains that entangle us, we can lay our burdens at his feet, and walk through our day with confidence that the Lord is so close.

When I am aware of how close he is and that with him all things are possible (Matt. 19:26), I become more of who I am. I can pursue those things he’s put in my heart because HE has put them there. I can let go of any desire to be perfect or have things together, because in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). 

As I become more of who I am, I allow him to do HIS creative work in me and through me. 

He has so many more dreams for us than we even have for ourselves. He wants us to go after those things that make our hearts come alive, because he’s the one who put them there when he created us.

Lean in, Be in, Rest on, Dear friend.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Your Passions = Your Art

Yesterday I got a new laptop. I haven’t owned my own laptop in about 4 years. We decided to take the plunge. For several reasons but ‘tax return’ being the main one. :)

Later that night, I asked my husband if we should return it. More of a rhetorical question, really, but my husband reassured me we had made the right decision and deep down, I agreed. I’m just not used to making such big purchases for myself. It felt extravagant and uncomfortable. 

This post isn’t about getting a new laptop or making big purchases. It’s about what happens when we search the desires in our heart and bring them before God. Let me take you back to early yesterday morning… before this new laptop thing was even on my radar. 

Baby went down for his nap and I decided to write in my journal. What came out on paper was that I’ve been feeling a bit restless lately. There are things- passions, desires, dreams- that the Lord has put in my heart. One of those passions is writing. I love writing. It is a practice, an art, that I’ve always loved, even as a young girl. I have stacks upon stacks of journals I’ve written throughout the years starting at the age of 8. 

Everyone has a way they feel comfortable expressing themselves to the world. This month my husband is filling in for the pastor at our church so he’s writing sermons every week. We were talking the other day about what it would be like to picture his sermons as art- blank canvases he fills with colours, expressions, interpretations of the world. No two canvases will look the same. He will probably develop a stylistic approach over time, but this occurs as your art, your skill, develops. 

So back to the laptop thing. If I love to write and writing is a way I express my art to the world, then I kinda need a laptop. :) Sometimes, as women, or maybe even more so now as a mom, I find it’s difficult to prioritize myself. Can I get an amen?! I’m learning that in giving so much of my time and energy to others, I need to be careful not to push down my own passions and things I love to do. Our priorities definitely change as our life situations change. I believe everyone, regardless of where they are at in life, has passions that make their lives more full, more beautiful. You are the only one that can offer your unique, beautiful art to the world. 

So…what is your passion? If you’re not exactly sure, you could try asking yourselves these questions:
What makes me come alive?
If I had 30 extra minutes in my day, just for myself, what would I do with it? 
What activities make you feel like more of yourself?

Is it cooking, writing, painting, gardening, preaching, editing, running, marketing, mothering, cleaning, fixing, teaching, singing, overseeing, listening, sewing, taking photos, sketching, decorating…etc.

There’s an amazing book written on living our art by one of my favourite authors, Emily P. Freeman. Check out “A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art you Were Made to Live”

Friday, 8 May 2015

What do you need today?

I’m learning  to answer this question: What do I need today? This question is so essential, yet many of us don’t give it any thought. We are so good at putting everyone else’s needs above our own. And we often end our days tired, weary and frustrated. Is there a better way? I would rather end my day feeling whole-hearted, at peace, alive, whole. Maybe still tired...yes...but in a great way.

We learn in the bible that our body is a temple of Jesus. But our body is not merely physical. It includes our minds, hearts and spirits.

What if we asked ourselves these four questions...

What does my spirit need today?

What does my heart need today?

What does my mind need today?

What does my body need today?

Often the answers to these questions will be different, depending on the day, what season of life we’re in, what our lives currently look like.

Some days our spirits need to dig in and have a deep, much needed conversation with God. Other days, our spirits need to simply be still before Him and listen.

Some days our hearts need to be given permission to be sad or frustrated. Other days, our hearts need to be allowed to feel happy and light.

Some days our minds need to be challenged and molded. Other days, our minds need space to be emptied of all the clutter.

Some days our bodies need exercise, movement, invigoration. Other days our bodies need to move through the day stillness and rest where we can find it.

There’s a rhythm to our needs. We are multifaceted. We need work and rest. We need connection and time alone. We need time to play and time to be still. We need to laugh and we need to cry. One is not better than the other. One adds to the other.

While it’s true that, based on our individual personalities, we each may need more of one thing than the other. But I believe that living into all of who we are is essential.

...What do you need today?...

Does your body need to jump in a pool and soak up some sun? Or does it need to lay on a blanket in the shade and look up at the sky through the trees?

Does your mind need space from endless social media images and hearing other people’s opinions?  Or does it need to read an amazing novel with an exciting plot and be challenged to see life in a new way?

Does your heart need a good laugh with a friend over coffee? Or does it need a good cry over some things in your life that are hard right now?

Does your spirit need to be invigorated through music or the study of God’s word? Or does it need to be still and simply receive all He has given?

The question is not whether one of these things is better than the other. The question is... what do you need today? Tomorrow might be different. But what is it you need in this present moment? In order to feel whole-hearted, at peace, alive, and whole?

Can you give yourself permission to ask yourself this question today?