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!