Saturated: Want to Improve your “Image”?

It’s late October and my roses are thriving…

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Amazingly, with these unusually mild autumn days, the bushes that burst forth and quickly faded in the summer sun are now blooming again with a fragrance and petals that linger longer.

What a remarkable fall this has been!rose 04

It must be the perfect combination of gentle autumn rains, sunshine, and oh so pleasant temperatures.

As I compress a few pictures and play around with the saturation, I smile:

“unedited” shows reality, true colors in natural light… but, how alluring to adjust the contrast!

 

Softer shades look mysterious, romantic; while full saturation makes the colors glow on my computer screen in an unnatural glory.  But, I want to show you “reality”, because unedited life is beautiful,

rose unedittedOur eyes are limited to the human spectrum of “ROY-G-BIV” and color blind to every other letter in the alphabet in God’s spectrum, a limitless heavenly color-wheel that puts Crayola to shame.

What do I look like to Him?  What if I could see as He sees?

And, I wonder, what would I look like if I “saturated” myself in HIM?  (letting Him bring out the best in me, allowing my weaknesses as well as my strengths to display for all the world His power and glory made perfect)

When I pray, when I read and mediate on the scripture, when I worship, and when I stop and listen, just being still in His presence, my life takes on new shades, new hues, new colors; everything becomes clearer, brighter, hopeful, meaningful!

rose 02 s hueHow often do we try to self-adjust the image of our life to make it appear more fulfilling, exciting, mysterious, bold, vivid, successful, impressive?  If we were honest, we’d admit we try to impress others to alter our impression of ourselves.  It’s our own insecurities that cause us to even care what our life “looks like” to others.

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When the world feels flat and colorless, it is not the time to saturate our days with “more”… (more drama, more activities, business, material things, charities, relationships, to the point of drowning…) in an effort to improve the “image” (or “self-image”).  That’s when we most need to come before the LORD and allow Him to make adjustments.

rose 02 sat.When we try to alter the picture ourselves without being real with Him, our lives have that “trying-to-be-perfect”, artificial, airbrushed, touched-up, flawless “twinkle-in-the-eye” look that screams “FAKE!”.

Worst of all, beside the photo-shop version of “us”, the “real” appears even more dull and flat.  Instead of feeling better, it leaves us forever “less than” in comparison.

The solution is being open and vulnerable before God, exposing ourselves before His loving gaze and to basking in the light of truth.

Oh, to see ourselves through the unfiltered lens of God’s grace!

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How beautiful our redeemed lives are, unedited!  Oh, that we would see ourselves in a purer light, glimpse the reality of who we are and where we are in the grand story God is writing.

roses petalsSomewhere between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after”… after the curse, after the fall…

This is where we live, and our eyes are opened and have become dilated, accustomed to the darkness, the fog, to the pressure and demands of this world.

In Christ we are accepted.  Still, we want to know we are beautiful…

“We were beautiful”, just as we were created, before the fall, before our sin, before shame, before self-protection and fear.  Our fig-leaf self-improvements, or self-illusions, have only made us superficial, ever more and more insecure, ever more discontent looking for bigger, better, sharper, brighter.

roses 05We stared at our image in the mirror so long, yet walked away not allowing the LORD to change us (James 1:23), till we no longer were able to make an accurate assessment.

Our perception of perfection was distorted to the point that we couldn’t see how “fake” we had become in our cropped and edited lives.   We were oblivious that we more resembled an artificial flower and less and less the beautiful, delicate, and fragrant “us” we were created to be.

But now, Step into the light of His presence and let truth saturate.

“The things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”!  (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – hymn by Helen H. Lemmel)

  • Step back and look at the original, the real “YOU”, knit together by God, unique!
  • Take a good look at God Himself.  You were made in His image.
  • Look to your Savior, Jesus the Christ, into whose image you are being conformed as the Spirit transforms you as you renew your mind.

rose 06Yes, we are frail.  We are fragile!

  • I think of the talented Michael Jackson: so unsettled, ever striving, obsessed with externals of appearance and acceptance, yet never satisfying his soul.
  • I think of the beautiful Karen Carpenter who starved herself attempting to quiet a nagging lie, while singing “I feel on top of the world…”
  • And more recently tragic, I think of Robin Williams with such an amazing ability to pretend and draw us in, make us laugh and cry, yet for complicated reasons he ended his time upon the stage too soon.  His reality was too much and not enough.

All are presenting, if only attempting, a façade to the world that “all is well”.

Yet, in Christ ALL IS WELL!  In Christ, we are made strong.  We are made whole.  We are conquerors.  We are forgiven.  We are secure, accepted, freed.  We are sheltered, comforted, shepherded.  We are called, equipped, sent out with purpose and hope.  We know who we are, Whose we are, why we are here, and where we are going!

This is my prayer for you:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  (Eph. 3:14-19; btw, I’m claiming v. 20-21 for you as well.)

SATURATE – “to supply or fill to the fullness” – Webster, 1828

Allow the LORD to fill you up, like a sponge, ready to be emptied to be filled up again.  You don’t have to just get by, just doing the best you can in your own strength.

“How?” you ask.

  • “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
  • Delight in His word.  (Ps. 119)
  • “Be still and know that He is God.”  (Ps. 46:10)
  • “Seek His face continually.”  (1 Chr. 16:11)

You were created and re-created in Christ for life, abundant life; for beauty that would last, for fragrance that would bless your world and especially delight your Creator.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Eph. 5:1-2)

If you saturate yourself in the light of His presence, you will be fruitful, ever-green, and fully-alive in every season.  (Ps. 92:14, Ps. 1:3, Rms. 8:5-11)

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More Personal Thoughts:

Since reading George Muller’s narratives over the weekend, I’ve been praying “LORD, … all for Your glory.”

LORD, You are my Master (Rms 14:4; 1 Cor. 4:1-5).  Less and less I care what I look like to others except for the sake of Your glory.  May everything I do make YOU look good; cause You are good!  I want my life to “Add to the Beauty” (-Sara Groves) and do nothing to distract or detract from Your marvelous, perfect beauty.

I’m loving Hillsong’s “Scandal of Grace“.  “Oh to be like You, Give all I have just to know You…”  It’s a prayer of my heart, to return to the garden, to walk with my LORD. (lines of “In the Garden” slip through my mind – a hymn by C. Austin Miles)

I am “keeping my eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2), “abiding” in Him, “walking (living) as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:6).  Following His example, and letting the Father be my image consultant.  How I appear to others is no longer my concern.  I have placed my reputation as well as my own esteem (no more “self-estimation” for me) in His hands.

A Little Mid-Night Excitement

… and to think, less than 48 hours ago I asked the LORD for “an adventure”, wondering if anything exciting ever happens to “middle aged Americans”.

Last night, at about midnight, I stood less than a foot away from a bear.

Photo: Wikipedia (public domain) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_black_bear

Handsome recently replaced the knob on the front door for an easy open lever handle.  So now, when our hands are full of groceries, we don’t have to set things down as we maneuver our way to the kitchen, but it also makes it awfully easy for a black bear to pay us a visit without knocking first.

We stayed up late last night watching a movie, and as my Good Lookin’ Man was at the kitchen sink getting a drink of water, he looked out the window and called, “Hey, Babe, come quick!  There’s a black bear coming out of the woods.”   By the time I was off the couch and in the kitchen Handsome said, “He’s climbing on the porch.”  I went down the hall to the front door, and there he was.  With each step I took forward, he took one as well; until we met each other nose to face, separated by just a pane of glass.

Only inches apart, I quick locked the door and took a step back.

Moments later, Handsome and the boys were right beside me staring into the black furry face.  “Yup, that’s a black bear, but he’s only a small one.  Probably only 200 pounds or so.”

200lbs.  Small?  That’s almost twice my size.  That’s not small in my book.

About a month ago after a brief walk in the woods, a friend and I accidentally surprised a bear not far behind the barn.  We backed away slowly, hearts pounding, and made a wide circle down towards the neighbors and then back up towards home.  That afternoon, I was about 30 yards away from the furry fella, and even that felt too close.

bear post barn
Sorry, no bear pictures from that day either, but this photo was taken about where I was standing. And, if you can see my little dog peeking out from behind the tree in the center of the picture, he’s about where the bear was standing.

And just the other morning, our nearest neighbor dropped by to say he saw a bear by our bees.   Thankfully he was scared off before knocking over the hives, but this morning Handsome and I went to the local hardware store to pick up electric fencing just incase he comes back again.  (I hope to avoid a repeat of the “romantic bear adventure” from a few years ago.  Even today, Handsome and I remember that impromptu “date” a little differently.)

bears post bee hives
Our hives. We keep adding supers, extra layers, as our bees multiply.

(This particular hive seems especially strong and hearty, making a lot of honey as well as multiplying in size. It survived this past winter that was brutally cold; so we are going to do all we can to hold on to it.)

It’s a busy time for a bear as he prepares for his long winter’s nap, but I’m praying he’ll find nuts and berries elsewhere.  But just incase he comes poking around again looking for a midnight snack, I lectured the boys that we are going to check the lock before bed from now on.  I imagine that black fur-ball with claws only a simple paw push on a latch away from standing in my kitchen… I shutter just thinking about it.

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Today, I am thankful for the adventures of country living, but I’m even more thankful for the LORD watching over us with countless uneventful nights.

I was tempted to run a “”what if” line of questioning:  What if that bear had placed his paw on the handle before I had reached for the lock? 

… okay, I was more than tempted.  I asked Handsome that question probably ten times before falling asleep.  But, rather than freaking out, it was in waves of nervous laughter and thankful prayers of, “Wow, LORD!  You were right on time.”  And, “Thank You, God, for prompting us to move and having us see that bear coming.”  And, “Thank You for watching over us every other night of our lives.”

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Thanks, LORD, for answering every prayer, even casual, hap-hazard prayers that are more of a fleeting thought sent Your way.  I’ll try to be a little more attentive when I say, “LORD, would You….?”

But, I’d like to add a PS to that off-the-cuff request from the other night.  Please continue to pair my adventures with safety.  I am oblivious to the potential dangers of my requests.  I do want adventure, excitement, gloriously “fully alive” abundance in my days, but I desperately need Your  supernatural protection.

So, for all this, thank You.

I love, You, LORD.  You surprise and amaze me.

I thank You for every adventure,

also for all the less than adventurous days,

but especially for the uneventful nights.

Familiar

imageThis place and You…

It’s so familiar.

For 13+ years, this corner has been “ours”.  Just coming over to this chair and sitting down, I feel closer to You.  We’ve met here time and time again.

Before I even say, “Hello again, LORD; here I am…” I have that eager tingling in my ears, expectancy… I’m ready to hear.  And, You never disappoint.  Even if I am not blown away with the profound, I hear, “Keep on seeking.”  or “What was the last thing I told you?  Do that!  Keep at it. Persevere.”  But, more often than not, You have a fresh Word, alive, timely, practical, wisdom revealed, a message just for me.

“Familiar.”

That’s the perfect word.

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Like I said to Handsome last night in pillow conversations, “how nice to be comfortable, to take for ‘granted’ my daily wish that my Beloved will come walking through the door, happy to see me, wanting a kiss, to never question your faithfulness or your love, just to know without a hint of question or doubt that ‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'”

That’s how it is with You, LORD; only You are more constant, more sure!  You come to me.  You delight in me, and I delight in YOU!

“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man…”  PS 146:3

“…hope in the LORD; for with the LORD is unfailing love.”  Ps. 130:7

You are the fulfillment of every longing.  You, even more than my Handsome husband, fulfill Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 description of love unaltering.  You are “an ever-fixed mark”, “the star to every wandering bark”.

I can’t help but sing with the Psalmist (116) in reply to Your faithfulness, “I LOVE THE LORD… I will call on Him as long as I live.”

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As I put my most recently filled journal on the shelf along-side all the others in my closet, I ended up sitting on the floor reading through the first one that caught my eye…

Time is racing.  Where does it go?

January 2006…

I was right here, in this same corner, day after day, waiting to bring my Little One home.  Page after page, prayer after prayer, my heart poured out in ink.

You were right on time when I thought You were slow to keep Your promises.

I’m still here and so are You; yet so much has changed.  — Like Pastor said a few weeks ago, Nothing really stays the same, especially in relationships (specifically our relationship with You, God).  We’re either slipping/drifting away or moving forward/closer/nearer.  — So, I come to pursue You and thrill in the nearness of years of knowing.

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It’s gorgeous outside, and I am sick today… and, surprisingly, I am happy about it.  LORD, You have worked a wonder in me over the years.  I am amazed!  You’ve taught me to accept what each day brings; knowing that You bring every day with new mercies and graces.

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More than just the weather and the season, I don’t feel like I’m “missing out”.  I’m in Your will.  What You’ve promised me is more wonderful!  I wouldn’t trade what You have planned for anything I could imagine.  Your thoughts are always higher and your ideas, better!

Even now as the skies grow darker as grey clouds and evening hours move in, I am anything but “under the weather”.  You and Your creation, it’s all too glorious!  The views from my windows are as a picture hung on my wall, painted by God with living colors

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.You tuck a gift, a blessing into everything.  When my physical body can’t keep up, You make me rest, slow down, and my spirit is brought to life.

So as I come to my cozy prayer corner, this familiar favorite place…

meet me here.

You make it feel warm and inviting, yet new and exciting.  Thank You!

 

How I Journal: a peek inside

Journals are “free space”, a wide-open place to pour out crowded thoughts.

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They are a “bank”, a safe place of remembering, for storing up ideas, special moments, phrases, quotes, conversations, prayer requests that might otherwise be dropped in vast caverns of short-term memory and misplaced somewhere along miles of wandering rabbit trails.

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As I close another journal and start fresh on clean white pages, I thought I’d give you a peek.  Here are my thoughts, sort of like this blog, raw and sometimes sloppy, colorful and sort-of scrappy, run-on and free-verse:

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Sometimes I have three or four journals of all shapes and sizes (ranging from tuck-in-your-purse pocket-size to three-ring binder) going at a time:

  • a prayer journal (writing out lists or entire prayers, a place to record prayer requests I receive from friends, then highlighting answers for later encouragement)
  • a blessings/thanks-giving journal (Ann Voskamp’s challenge of recording 1,000 “gifts” or the classic list of 10,000 Things to be Happy About are great examples of this type of journal)
  • topical journals (collections of verses and quotes along with magazine articles and clippings on peace, organizing, words, timelines, or notebook dedicated to information in preparation for a particular event or study much like Elizabeth George’s “five fat files” described in A Woman After God’s Own Heart)
  • sermon notebook (outlines and highlights from Sunday sermons as well as messages I hear on the internet; BTW – a great time to listen is when I’m preparing dinner or folding laundry)

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But, most consistently, I keep one small journal in my tote bag (along with a small, clear zipper bag with pens, colored pencils, a glue-stick, and tape).  I write everything in there from phone numbers and addresses, to midnight brain-storms and long phone conversations doodles.  I tape in business cards, pretty ribbons, leaves, and snips of old scrapbooking supplies.  Each book is a unique collage of my month.

(When I look through magazines or flyers/catalogs as I sort through the mail, I clip words or pictures that resonate with me and keep them in a small envelope in the back of my journal to paste on a page as it applies.)

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I don’t write everyday.  I just keep it handy.  I find it helpful to be able to “see” my thoughts and not just having to think them.  (And, if my notebook begins to feel too sloppy and cluttered, or if I feel I’m entering a new season, I start a new one.)

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Hope this inspires you to start a journal, or journal in a fresh!

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My prayer for you:

May paper and pen help you pour out the deep things of your heart before the LORD.  May the words you record in your journal be a blessing to you as you recall the best memories and the revelation of truth that the LORD will give you in the coming days.

With Love, Your Fellow Seeking-One

Fill Me Up Again

leaves are falling

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my favorite season is the shortest of all

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the calendar says autumn doesn’t end until December

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but when trees are bare, I feel an emptiness as I wait for the blankets of snow to hide the nakedness of the earth

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I’ve walked this path before… on the verge of vulnerable, tottering the precarious edge of the “in-between” of fall and winter.

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As if a sneeze could sweep away all good habits of seeking, quiet-times, and long walks as the colors dissolve into a twiggy grey and shades of blasé.

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“Be alert.”

“Be on guard.”

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

As I look back at pictures of brilliant color and then glance out the window and see the fade beginning, I sense His warning.  “Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation.”

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It is the tendency of this devoted seeker and prayer warrior to coast at this time of year rather than wage her annual fight with sloppy, discontented, and impatient thoughts, needing “the next thing” (holiday, house guest, hunting season, book, project, event…) to be content. (What a lie I “fall” for!)

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I will not choose distraction over devotion, solitaire over solitude.

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[Evie’s “tree song”, as I called it as a tiny tot, plays through my mind (in bloom, in green, in full color, and in stark charcoal contrast on white); I was made to seek, standing tall and strong wherever I am, in every season.]

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and, I pray…

the same prayer I’ve prayed since September 1st,

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“Teach me contentment,

Show me how…

to be ‘at rest’ as I labor

to be at peace in the ‘in between’

to be filled with You in the emptiest lull of ‘in the meantime’

to see the beauty in the ‘in process’, making slow and steady progress

to not say, ‘when such and such happens…’ or ‘if blah, blah, blah…’, ‘then, I’ll be thankful, then I’ll rejoice, then I’ll be happy’;

but instead, to enjoy You now,

to give thanks for the gifts of moments, people, life, challenges, growth, character development, sufficient grace, and little things, even laundry and dishes that are blessings piled up,

to weigh significance from an eternal perspective and insignificant the light and momentary suffering.

You’ve told me before.

Remind me of ‘the secret of being content’.

Let not this middle time be emptiness.

Fill me up,

and fill me up again!”

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I’m typing this for you, Dear Seeker, as an opportunity to remind myself of “the basics of seeking” that keep me from slipping down the rapid decent towards apathy and neglect of my soul that leaves me feeling distant from my loving Savior.

The Basics of Seeking

  1. Show Up  (Don’t wait. I drop to my knees, wherever I am, even right before my children sometimes, and pray.  Starting right here, right now is the turning point, not waiting until “I have time” or the house is clean or tomorrow morning… now!)
  2. Pick a Time and Place  (Time:  My times are first thing in the morning, towards the end of the school day when my kids are finishing up their independent work, and again right before bed.  —  Place:  It helps me to “recreate” and bring new beauty to my cozy corner.  That could mean gathering all the books and papers that have accumulated, choosing a few favorite pens to place in a mason jar, lighting a candle, or trading out quilts and pillows for more seasonal colors and fabrics, etc.)
  3. Gather Your Tools  (Bible: choose a translation, Notebook/Journal: be ready to write down what you learn and key verses the LORD impresses on you.  Hymnal or collection of lyrics of favorite songs: I encourage you to start a collection if you haven’t already; Psalms, poetry, and songs speak to the soul.  Other Items: Place in a bag or basket, or organize on a small table or bookshelf, any other items that you may use in your time alone with the Lord:  pens, prayer lists, Bible Study guide or reference tools, or a devotional, etc.)

I do not do the same thing every single day, but in each season I develop a basic daily routine that makes my time with the LORD an ever changing, yet simple and familiar gracefilled dance.

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October 10th, tomorrow, is another special day for God and me.  (Every month, I have a prayer day; generally I plan them for Jan. 1st, Feb. 2nd, Mar. 3rd, etc…)  Why not plan “a day/afternoon with God” of your own?  Look at your calendar and schedule a “date” with the LORD.  (Sunday afternoons are a favorite of mine for planning extra down time to walk a little closer and seek the LORD.)