Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Often my GPS and I don't agree on the route I should take to a given destination. Sometimes, the coordinates are off and it doesn't instruct me to turn until I've already passed the road I should take.  Other times, I simply don't like the route I see ahead and navigate on an alternate route.  Whatever the case, I often see the words RECALCULATING appear across my TomTom screen.

A few days ago, a friend tagged me in a Facebook post.  As I read the comments of others on the post, I saw one from someone I didn't recognize.  Attempting to establish a point of reference, I used the nifty little mutual friends button under her profile. I was stunned that even though we've never met personally, we share mutual friends from six different states.   Even more interesting, on my end, those friendships were formed during five different seasons of life.  As I thought about this real life illustration of the six degrees of separation theory, I couldn't help but think of my personal journey and all the twists and turns along the way.  I thought about what Kevin and I like to call "kingdom connections".  In other words, the relationships God has orchestrated through "intersections" on our journey.  Often, these relationships have been used in a way we could never plan on our own for Kingdom Purposes that are so much bigger than us.   Over and over, we have experienced the truth of Proverbs 16:9 

A person may plan his own journey, but the LORD directs his steps. (God's Word Translation)

Often, we've stood in awe and sometimes even giggled when, in hindsight, we see His plan come together in a way we never could've dreamed up on our own.  He truly does see the beginning and the end of the journey - and all of the rest stops in between.

During a recent school day, Jaedyn and I were studying Michelangelo and his work on the Sistine Chapel.  I smiled to myself as I discovered that Michelangelo, too, had a malfunctioning GPS.   His journey took a much different twist than he initially planned.   Interestingly enough, Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter.  He had no experience painting other than minimally dabbling in it in art school.  He had no skill at all in the medium that would be used to produce the beauty that is the Sistine Chapel.     
While working on a sculpting project for the pope’s tomb, Pope Julius II requested that Michelangelo shift his focus and paint the grand Sistine Chapel.  He would not take no for an answer and he would not consider anyone else but Michelangelo to do the work.  Michelangelo preferred the commissioning of the tomb, a project that ended up taking 40 years to complete due to multiple interruptions.  To say Michelangelo was less than thrilled about painting doesn’t begin to describe his reluctance to take on the task of the chapel.  Finally, stepping way out of his comfort zone and his giftedness (or so he thought), Michelangelo agreed. He spent four grueling years on the project, working many hours with his arms over his head in a backbreaking position to produce a masterpiece.  Those four years produced such misery in him that he penned a poem to a friend detailing the torture that it produced in him daily. He ended with an affirmation that he shouldn’t have changed his day job: “I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.” 

500 years later, The Sistine Chapel is still the most visited room in the world.  It is still an amazing work of art that is visited by almost 5 million people annually. In addition to the chapel’s volume of visitors, the portion of the chapel’s artwork entitled “The Creation Of Adam” has become one of the world’s most recognizable and widely reproduced images. It depicts the hands of Adam and God reaching for each other.  It is seen on walls far beyond the borders of Rome.  In fact, the image hangs on my own bedroom wall.

Who would've ever thought that a sculptor-enticed-to-be-a-painter-against-his-will would, in misery, produce something so meaningful to generations of believers and non-believers?  How could Michelangelo have ever comprehended that a simple detour in his life would produce beauty that would have such a wide reaching impact? How could he have predicted that a season of such personal pain produced his life’s greatest work? 

I’m so glad I serve a gracious God who does not share my tunnel vision.  He always sees the big picture. There are no blind spots with Him.  He knows the best route, even when I stubbornly get off course. 

You may be walking through a season you don’t understand.  Things may not have turned out the way you expected.  Maybe you, like Michelangelo, feel like you’re in the wrong place or stuck in a job that is out of your skill set.  Perhaps life has dealt you a blow you weren’t expecting and it is difficult to see the horizon through the bends in the road and the fog in front of you. It is possible that you will not know for years how he is using mundane and painful circumstances in the darkest days of your life to produce fruit in a season yet to come.  Look for connection points along your journey.   You’ll be amazed to discover the intricate ways he steers and intersects your life to accomplish His purposes.  He delights in details.  Stay the course and don’t despise the route He sets before you.  It may not be the fastest route – sometimes it may seem you are taking the stairs rather than the elevator – but it will get you to your destination at the perfect time. Remember, sometimes the slower route is the most scenic. 

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Ps 37:23 NLT

Crossing The Jordan - Part 2

In Crossing the Jordan, Part One, we began to explore our role in following the Presence of God and carrying it in front of others as it relates to the journey of the Israelites in Joshua 3.  Today, as I’m rereading the passage once again, verse 5 is glowing at me in neon lights.  Here, Joshua gives an order..not just to the officers or the priests..but to ALL the people.  He tells them to CONSECRATE themselves. Some translations say consecrate; others say sanctify, make holy, or purify. This command from Joshua was similar to the command Moses gave the people in Exodus 19 at Mt Sinai.  In both situations, God was about to do something spectacular and He wanted His people to prepare for His Presence.

What does it mean to purify ourselves?  Yes, Jesus set us free from sin when He sacrificed His life at Calvary.  Salvation is a free gift that we only have to accept.  We may no longer be required to go through the ceremony of “purification” that the Israelites had to perform, but we DO live in a fallen world.  Evil is in a constant battle with good.  Distractions are everywhere, and many things are competing for our attention.  Some days, we may not even feel saved.   God is always with us, but sometimes, the circumstances of life cloud our vision and reduce His importance in our lives.  I don’t know about you, but those times don’t make me feel like I’ve crossed the Jordan to “freedom” on the other side.

Sometimes, it’s busy-ness and simple neglect of our relationship.  Other times, it may be outright blatant sin that we’ve allowed to creep in and take priority in our lives.  It may be bitterness or unforgiveness in our heart that separates us from Him. Perhaps it’s the guilt of past wounds or mistakes that make us feel like we’re never quite worthy to be in His presence. 

Water has to go through a purification process before it is drinkable.  Air often needs to go through a purification process before it is safely breathable.  Gold must go through a purification process in order to discard the less precious metals and allow it’s true value to be recognized. 

Joshua was commanding the people to purify themselves because “tomorrow, the Lord will do AMAZING things among you.”  He was urging them to take special care to make themselves clean because God was about to show up in an amazing way.  Like the water, air, and gold, it takes a process to remove impurities from our lives and hearts. It is not done haphazardly or carelessly.  It takes time and focus. People’s lives depend on the impurities being removed from water and air.  Gold will never be worth its true weight with the less desirable metals attached.  In the same way, we must separate ourselves from sin and pursue purity if we desire to experience the fullness of His glory.

So what does the purification process look like for us?  Rather than a magic formula, each of us needs to find the answer individually through Bible study and prayer, since Jesus wants us to have personal encounters with Him that allow us to be shaped to look more like Him. However, a great start is intentionally focusing our hearts and our minds solely on Him through devotions, worship, prayer, & fasting.  As He begins to speak to our hearts and deal with us on our own issues, we may find it necessary to make some radical “clean up” moves.  (In my head, Dora and Barney are singing their clean up songs and getting rid of clutter J).  Our process may involve some sacrifice, throwing out some things that are cluttering up the God-shaped hole in our lives.  It may require pushing away our plates or turning off our favorite shows for awhile out of desperation to see the AMAZING move of His presence that is right around the corner.  It may require new habits and new hangout spots, even a new vocabulary. Sometimes when we want to see the Amazing, we have to do the Radical.

We’ll talk more about the signs and wonders that followed in our next issue, but just know this. True freedom ALWAYS comes with a price.  It is costly, but hindsight always shows it to be worth the sacrifice.  You’ll see that crossing to the other side of the Jordan comes in a miraculous way. When He writes our stories with His Presence, the results always top a Hollywood Blockbuster. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Brickmaster

Whew!  It's hard to believe winter is actually over (especially with the extended cold and snow season).   Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years passed.  The pages turned on Valentines Day and St Patricks Day.  Even the Easter Season has come to a close.  And I have been missing in action from blog-land. In an effort to catch up, I am posting some articles that should have been posted a few months ago.  Please forgive the time lapse.  But...its a new season!  Here is the first, published in the Winter edition of the Victorious Woman newsletter I am honored to be a part of.

The Brickmaster

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
(Psalm 127:1)

Like many 9 year old boys, my son is a certified Lego fanatic. Grandiose fighter jets, intricate submarines, and transforming robots captivate his attention. He is meticulous about following the manual and assembling each tiny piece in the correct place, in the proper order, to make a masterpiece.  A few years ago, we had a Lego mishap in our home that rocked his world.  Friends visited while he wasn’t home and found their way to his room.  Before I realized what was happening, in mere minutes, his masterpieces had become true fighter jets.  As they crashed together, the pieces became a jumbled mess. Kevin and I spent hours sorting and separating the pieces, the best way we could, to begin the repair.  When we broke the news to Jaedyn, he was devastated.  He didn’t even want to look at his beloved Legos. For over a year, they remained in the bags we had sorted.  He refused to touch them.

Recently, we discussed redecorating his room.  With a vision in mind, he finally was coerced into opening a bag containing one of his ships.  It was painful to watch as he began the process of reconstruction, instruction manual in hand. Most things had to be torn apart to be put back together.  It was exciting to see his hard work pay off with the first finished project to display in his new room.

One day, he called me into his room. There was a brick missing.  He could not continue building without it.  I dug through bag upon bag, trying to find the elusive piece.  Several times, I thought I had the one.  Each time, he pronounced it the wrong color, shape, or size.  In frustration, I wondered why he couldn’t just substitute the piece I offered. But, even though it looked good to my eye, it didn’t do the job properly. It didn’t fit. Other pieces couldn’t build on it securely to make the envisioned piece if it didn’t have the attributes called for in the instruction manual.

Sometimes, I feel like one of those Lego ships.  Sometimes, I feel broken after a battle and feel like I’m in a bag fighting for air.  Other times, I try to order the pieces of my life without consulting the “instruction manual” God has given me for success. His Word holds the key to wholeness. Studying the manual is my only hope for finding the right pieces to fulfill the vision God sees for my life.

As women, our hearts are pulled in many directions.  Our minds run a thousand miles a minute with a never ending task list to be accomplished.  We wear many hats and fulfill many roles. We may feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the day, or enough love in our hearts, to accomplish our goals and succeed in the many facets of our lives. Out of frustration, it is easy to hastily build with pieces we think will do the trick.  However, when using counterfeits, we soon find ourselves out of balance and dysfunctional.  Like a car running on unbalanced tires, our life becomes a bumpy ride.

At the beginning of the year, it is customary to refocus and examine the things in our lives that need attention. We set goals, dream, and determine to “start fresh”.  It is a good time to return to our manual, the Word, to see what God is speaking about building us.  He desires that we live a life of wholeness and purpose that can only come from proper balance and the right pieces in the right place.  Don’t be dismayed, discouraged, or disillusioned if your current season doesn’t feel very purposeful.  Purpose defined by the world is counterfeit, like using the wrong Lego. Wiping snotty noses, sorting smelly socks, and teaching bedtime prayers are purpose in the life of a young mother.  Holding an aged hand, sitting quietly by a bedside, and listening to stories are purpose in the life of a caretaker. Whatever season you’re in, live it and build on it with the pieces the manual instructs.

We must remember that building a masterpiece is a process.  The stuff epitaphs are made of at the end of the journey is built upon colorful bricks from different life seasons.  The finished product may have been torn apart and rebuilt numerous times along the journey. It is tedious work, and sometimes trial and error.  That’s why it comes with a manual.

The manual helps us recognize the pieces we need and where to activate them in our lives. It helps us recognize counterfeits that well-meaning others suggest as a substitute for the real thing.  It teaches us about the fruit of the Spirit.  It shows us how to build a firm foundation for ourselves and our families. It teaches us about moderation, modesty, grace, forgiveness, marriage, parenting, evangelism, health, giving, and prioritizing. Within its pages there is a formula for success in every area of our lives.  It is steady and sure. Though seasons change, His instructions remain the same.

This year, I am making a concentrated effort to return to foundational truths, even if I need disassembled to be reconstructed the way He planned.  His masterpieces are complete and whole, lacking nothing.  There are no “misfits” with the Brickmaster!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sweep Around Your Own Front Porch

This weekend, I got an overwhelming urge to Fall-ify our house.  Our curb appeal has had a split personality since September.   The oversize mum and collection of pumpkins combined with the leftover summer wreath have been a very eclectic mix.  Something overcame me on Saturday, and with the scent of pumpkin pie and the anticipation of Thanksgiving family gatherings at the forefront of my mind, I decided my home needed some autumn attention.

As visions of Pinterest projects danced through my mind, I convinced my wonderfully accommodating husband to journey into the attic.  :)  Once again, I'm thankful that he loves me unconditionally, even if he occasionally rolls his eyes at my requests.   Armed with boxes having yet to be unpacked, I tackled the tablescape in my dining room before journeying to the front porch. (Note: this no longer resembles a homeschool table and all further studies will convene to the desk in the schoolroom where they belong instead of trickling over to my Better Homes & Gardens photoshoot...at least until after Christmas!  Now my kids are the ones rolling their eyes.)

I suppose a sliver of my desire to nest came from the sudden realization that I completely missed the homey decorating of my favorite season last year.  At the peak of fall, we were in full travel mode, spending maybe 3 or 4 days in our temporary home the entire month of October.  In fact, last October, this same weekend, we were here in Cumberland interviewing for the position we are now serving in.  I remember whispering quietly with Kevin late Sunday night in a hotel room with the kids sleeping nearby as we searched the internet and newspaper for available homes.  I remember finding the perfect home for us on a less than perfect street...and wanting to turn my head and cover my children's eyes as we drove down that street to view the house.  The elaborate..and frankly, scary...Halloween displays on many of the houses made me want to immediately do a U-turn.

Just a few days ago, those Halloween decorations came back to haunt me.   This is home now, and I still want to turn my head and cover their eyes when we drive home each day.  But this is the season we are in.  And, truth be told, although I am not a fan of Halloween, I adore Autumn.

As I stood on my porch giving it a Fall makeover, I thought about those houses.  I wished their porches could be free of skeletons, spiderwebs, tombstones, and scary faces and instead could reflect the beauty of the season...like mine.  And then,  moving things around,  I discovered an intricate spiderweb in the corner.  It was a masterpiece...and it had obviously been there for some time, receiving no attention from me.  As I looked closer, I saw that though my porch was being decorated with beautiful things, it was in desperate need of attention that a new wreath on the door would not solve.    As I picked up the broom and begin to rid my porch of the cobwebs, dust, and debris, the Holy Spirit whispered quietly to me "Sweep Around Your Own Front Porch".

My broom stopped its motion as the words began to penetrate my heart.  I thought about how I might have judged who was living inside the houses down the street by what the exterior looked like and the decor they chose to represent them.  My heart filled with sadness as the more I cleaned, the more I realized how much had gone unnoticed on my own porch simply because the pretty wreath on the door had drawn my eyes upward.  As I walked around the exterior of my our house, I found more tell tale signs of neglect.  Don't judge me, but I found Christmas wreaths from last year still leaning on one porch.  Granted they were no longer hanging, but they had never made their way to the attic.  I said don't judge me :).

In the beautiful way that the Holy Spirit writes parables for me to understand, I realized that if I'm not careful, it is so easy to fall into this same trap when relating to others outside the realms of seasonal decorating.   I'm talking to myself here, but I know I'm not alone.  We are quick to find fault in others for the inadequacies or bad choices they wear like a billboard on their chest.  But all the while, beyond our smug got-it-all-together exteriors lays a neglected heart corroded with debris that needs our attention.  Jesus address this in Matthew 7:5 when he instructs us to remove the beam out of our own eye so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother (or sisters) eye.  It's so easy to ignore what we need to fix when our vision is clouded and our attention diverted by what annoys us most about others.  We need to examine the hidden places on our porches, the nooks and crannies, where it is easy for things to creep in unnoticed when our focus is in another direction.  Things like jealousy, bitterness, busyness that leads to lives out of balance, mediocrity, and pride can cause nasty, sticky spiderwebs when left unattended.

When I am offended by others or pass judgement on them in some way,  I need to look at myself and make sure my curb appeal is all that it can be.  I need to let Jesus sweep away the dust that has clouded my eyes from seeing the truth.  Upon closer examination, I may find areas like the trail the birds left on my doorstep..that take more than just a broom and need a deeper cleansing.  Like my porch needed a pitcher of water, my heart may need the cleansing river of the Holy Spirit to saturate it.

In a few weeks, the ghosts and goblins and all other signs of darkness will vanish from the porches of my neighbors.  I hope they are replaced by more festive decorations as we journey into the true Holiday Season.  But my primary responsibility is to make sure my entryway is swept, welcoming, and maintained regularly.  I'll make sure the glass on my door is sparkling clean to reflect the light of the season.  I'll do the same with my heart.  May I sparkle enough to reflect His light clearly to a world in need of hope.  And may I always, when tempted to complain about the neighbor's landscape, get out my broom and sweep my own front porch first!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crossing the Jordan - Part 1

This blog is the first article in a series I am writing for the Worship Central Newsletter.   

Anyone who enjoys listening to folk or gospel music or reading poetry has, no doubt, frequently come across “the Jordan” as a point of reference.   As I was reading in the book of Joshua recently, I came across a passage in chapter 3 that seemed to jump off the page.  I have revisited that passage several times to try to dig in and see the relevance that it has  for us here at Worship Central. 

It was verse 6 that first seemed to light up for me in neon lights.   The specific phrase that stood out was Joshua’s instruction to the priests responsible for carrying the Ark of the Covenant.  He told them to take the Ark and “Go BEFORE the people”.  In obedience, they picked it up and went ahead of the people, toward the Promised Land.

The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God.  It was a place of Holiness and reverence.  The Israelites didn’t fight a battle or make a journey or take up residence anywhere without the Ark of the Covenant being center stage.  They regarded it as their lifeline because they knew that their lives, literally, depended upon it’s presence among them. They didn’t treat it lightly.  They couldn’t – because they had not yet experienced he freedom of the cross.  They lived under strict law and didn’t have the right to gain access to the presence of God on their own. 

The Israelite priests and Levites had great responsibility.   Here, they were instructed by Joshua to GO AHEAD of the people with the presence of God.  In verse 2, the people had been instructed to LEAVE THEIR POSITIONS and follow the priests and Levites as they passed by them. They were told as they followed, they would receive DIRECTION on which way they should go, since they didn’t know the way before them.

There are many things in this passage I want to explore in the coming newsletter editions.  In reading about Jordan in Wikipedia during my research, I found that “Crossing the Jordan” represents Freedom.  In our pursuit of Freedom, I want us to realize that we are both leaders and followers.  When we are in a leadership role (as each of you are in choir, frontline, band, or technical support), we are expected to carry the Presence of God and to go AHEAD of the people.  We can’t lead people to a place we have never been. Yes, we are on a journey together, but someone has to point the way.  There is freedom, deliverance, and direction in HIS PRESENCE.  But we have to go there first before the people can follow.  In our private worship at home and in our worship during rehearsals, we are beginning to “carry the Ark”, so to speak. We are practicing His presence and preparing our hearts so that, when we get on stage, it is more than just a musical performance.   We are preparing to help others Cross the Jordan.

Leave your positions.  Forget about who you are and what you “do”.  You are a worshipper and a leader.  Follow the Presence and carry it in front of others.  Freedom is at stake.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


COURAGE.  I've been thinking a lot about this word lately.  What does it take to step out from the expectations of others and make a bold statement regardless of what anyone thinks...just because you feel deep in your heart it is the right choice?  When you peel away the layers of opinions, suggestions, expectations, and even rejections from others - sometimes the decision in front of you looks a lot different.  Often, we are intimidated from making a choice our heart knows is right - or we determine to settle snuggly in the boat instead of daring to chance walking on the water - because what our heart is whispering seems outlandish.

Sometimes it means making a choice that seems foolish by nature - like David who choose to shrug off the expectations of heavy protective armor and face a giant with the simplicity of stones and a slingshot.  When I set out to pinpoint what courage really looks like, I found this definition:

Courage is summoning strength in the face of life's difficulties or, sometimes, life's horrors. It means proceeding in spite of pain, cost, or risk. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the deliberate decision that action is necessary regardless. Courage acknowledges uncertainty, but perseveres because of conviction and resolve. 

I really like that 3rd sentence..."Courage is not the absence of fear, but the DELIBERATE decision that ACTION is NECESSARY regardless".  Many times in life, I am guilty of playing it safe and waiting for the answer to come - or the problem to work itself out.  But when I look at the example of those before me, I'm beginning to see that all Jesus followers at one time or another possessed a crazy courage that called their faith to action.  They pushed past the walls of "normalcy" to unchartered territory in a desperate quest for solutions.  As they summoned that courage, faith sprung to action, and the walls fell.   But the key?  They took the first step.  Made a bold move.   Acted in obedience that defied logic.  They had COURAGE.   They silenced the negative voices around them and focused on the VOICE of TRUTH.

Great leaders and history makers of more recent days have also had much to say about courage.

Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway.     ~John Wayne

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind, next to honor.    ~Aristotle

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.    ~Mark Twain

Courage is grace under pressure.    ~Ernest Hemmingway

There are no easy answers but there are simple answers.  We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.  ~Ronald Reagan

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex.,.it takes a stroke of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.    ~Albert Einstein

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face...we must do that which we think we cannot.    ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.  ~Winston Churchill

Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Get out and get busy.    ~Dale Carnegie

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.    ~Alan Cohen

And finally:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.  Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  ~Steve Jobs

There is a common thread.  To break a chain, accomplish a great feat, live out your destiny....fears must be faced.  Norms must be redefined.  Courage must be embraced...and we must STEP OUT.  Away from the noise, the limits, the narrow viewpoint of others.   To live our passion, we must take risks.    

I'm so thankful that when I gather up the courage to stand up and step out of the boat, I have a promise that walks with me over every wave. It's an ageless promise that stands the test of time from the one TRUE voice of truth.  He will be with me.  His voice calls across the ocean..and there is peace as I focus on His face and take hold of His steadying hand.

Joshua 1:9 NIV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Make it personal!: Back To The Classroom With RENDI

It's back to school time and I just had to share a great idea for your classroom if you are a teacher, Sunday school teacher, or home school mom.  These also make fantastic teacher gifts!  These can be personalized any way you like & ordered online at my Rendi website https://juliewilson.rendistyle.com.  They will ship directly to you via fedex - within 48 hours of ordering.

Make it personal!: Back To The Classroom With RENDI: The air has an edge of crisp and the sun seems to be getting sleepier, rising just a little later each day! Going back to school is bi...