Archive for category Creativity & Personal Value

An Impartation of Grace?

Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.

For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.

In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

I hope not.

What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.

Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.

But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.

He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.

But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.

To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.

I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.

The only thing left was operating without emotions.

Which only compounded matters.

I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)

Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.

And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.

He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.

And when it was over I was free.

Free from guilt.

My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.

I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.

Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.

I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.

But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.

If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.

I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.

Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.

Praise Your Holy Name.


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Ruth 15: From Empty to Full

After the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, all the characters in this story find fulfillment. However, Scripture emphasizes the fulfillment that came to Naomi. She is emply and unfilfilled at the beginning of the book with no obvious source of support. At the close she receives provision and protection through the marriage of her daughter-in-law Ruth to Boaz, and she is blessed by the birth of the son named Obed who will continue the line of her husband Elimelech and herself.

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Ruth 14: Boaz, Elders, and the Competetion

Boaz determines everything will be in order before he takes Ruth as wife, so he arranges a meeting where he reminds the other kinsman-redeemer or obligations and rights.

It was enough. Boaz establishes his position and takes care of the competetion. Accomplishing his purpose requires moving carefully and wisely through the legal procedures of the time.

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Ruth 12: Boaz Responds to Ruth

Did Boaz have an inkling ahead of time?

We don’t know, but we do know his response. Yes, he’s interested. However, he cannot ignore details, and he must attend to them.

So Ruth learns about another aspect of faith. Sometimes we step out, only to discover we must wait for God’s answer.

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Weekly Insight: When Jesus Comes to Visit

Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and who ever receives Me does not receive Me but Him who sent Me.” (Mk. 9:36,37)

Do you every visualize Jesus?

I’ve visualized Him since I was a child—perhaps the age of the child Jesus lifted up in this verse—long before I received Him as Savior.

But I always visualized Him outside and, unless the story indicated otherwise, He stood.

In fact, I’d been a Christian a long, long time before I could think of Him as confined by a house. In my mind He always stood on a hill where he breathed air washed by breezes that blew directly from the Sea of Galilee. And when that viewpoint expanded, it didn’t expand enough to place Him within an enclosure.

But a vigorous Jesus who preached from the side of a mountain and who walked for miles to get from one village to another is only part of the story. Sometimes Jesus really did enter into people’s homes.

One day a friend suggested that Jesus had a house of His own in Capernaum. Mk. 9:33 tells us, They came to Capernaum, and when He was in the house…. My friend thought the verse refers to the house He lived in when He was there.

Well, that had never occurred to me. But in light of the text, I had to admit He was in a house at the time. And I supposed He could have had a residence of His own. Really?

The story begins in verse 35 with, Sitting down (in the house), He called the twelve and said…

A discussion with His disciples follows. Then, in the first verse of the next chapter we read, Getting up, He went from there….

The point is so simplistic that many will wonder where my mind had been. Apparently Jesus not only lived as a man who taught outdoors to large and small groups. He also lived with people indoors. He picked up children while sitting in a home.

This when lighting was poor—before electricity.

He visited, He taught, He reasoned, He loved, He laughed. And much of this happened within the confines of a building. The synagogues He visited—as was His custom—were buildings.

This somehow gave Jesus another dimension in my mind.

When we love someone, we want to know all about them. I still enjoy hearing stories of my husband’s childhood. What contributed to his becoming the person he became. I smile and sometimes I hurt when he lets me in on his past.

And that’s the way it is with Jesus. Sometimes I wonder about His days. I wish I knew details that haven’t been recorded. I like to imagine being in the crowd when He taught on the hillside. When He taught from an open boat.

I want to delight in the joy of dreaming about this Savior who loves me. I want to think I could be a child playing while my mother prepared dinner. Then, when I least expected it, my Jesus would reach down, pull me up onto His comfortable lap, embrace me, and use me as an example to illustrate Truth.

Or perhaps, instead of being child, I’d be a mother busy meeting the demands of the moment, wishing I could enjoy visiting with Him while hearing Him says the best part in life is loving Him. Or perhaps I’d be married to a man who would follow Jesus by leaving home for long periods of time. That wouldn’t be so wonderful.

But then I could look ahead to the times when Jesus visited, when He finally came through the door into my daily life.

I believe God uses our imaginations, and it can carry us many places. Good and bad.

Imagining Jesus when He lived on earth is good.

And there is another way to imagine Him. With eyes open or closed I can welcome Him into a building right now. I can imagine Him entering into the building I call home.

Into my kitchen or living room. The den. The office area of our guest bedroom where I’m working on the computer right now.

Lord, You are here.

Thank You.


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Weekly Insight: The Quest

 After an unusual week, I searched my files for something ready-made to post, and I found a rambling discourse. Even though it fails to express my appreciation, it seems almost  appropriate because today we celebrated my husband’s birthday (I think he knows I appreciate him) and because this Wednesday we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July. So, with a few last-minute changes, here’s a new twist: something from the files.

 Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mk. 12:30)

I love my family more than life. I really do. They even define who I am.

Yet I’ve loved God more than them for many years—all the while loving them more deeply because I loved God first. I simply know that apart from God, raising children and rejoicing in grandchildren would be meaningless. I believe a person needs to belong to something bigger than their earthly family.

I believe people need to find and understand their place in the family of God.

The family of God, identified in Scripture as the Church, is not a closed, limited group of people. It’s people bonded by relationship through their relationship with Jesus. It’s always growing, adding numbers as it includes new Christians who seek God’s grace.

So what’s my place in this family? How does my place change as I grow in grace or mature in the family of God?

I love my country and hope I’d be willing to die for it. I really do. My country even defines who I am.

Yet I love God more than country—and believe my citizenship is more productive because I love God first. To be an effective citizen, I need to belong to something bigger than an earthly kingdom.

I believe people need to find and understand their place of service as citizens in their country.

This bigger kingdom, identified in Scripture as the Kingdom of God, is more than a static group following rigid rules. It includes people bonded together under the authority of Christ, our Head. The authority of Jesus and His Kingdom is expanding as people respond to Christ and live the life of grace He offers.

So what’s my place in my earthly country? How does it change as I grow in grace and mature so I find my place in God’s kingdom?

I love my God and I get a bit frightened at times when I think I might not be willing to die for Him. More than anyone or anything, He defines who I am.

I turn to Him daily for strength and support. Although I’m a better wife and mother and a better citizen because of Him, that isn’t why I love Him. On a realistic but admittedly selfish level, I love Him because He loves me, and I need the daily reassurance that it is so.

I believe people need to find and walk in God’s love because He makes us better people.

But God is bigger than my need. Bigger than the needs of all people put together. And He’s willing to listen to the smallest prayers.

My focus changes when I turn to God apart rather than to family and country. I seek Him for selfish reasons, but He lifts me above my selfish desires. With Him, it’s not about finding my place, or fulfilling my obligations, or striving to serveas I want to serve.

This God of the universe reveals Himself and visits me. He’s made my life rich as I’ve struggled with heart-rending disappointments. He’s all about grace—and walking with Him is about His ability to establish a foundations of grace when I feel bereft. He gives and gives and gives some more.

Understanding this God is an impossible quest. Especially during a strange week when I have trouble thinking straight. But He’s bigger than my fatigue. Bigger than my quest, even. And the search—the journey towards understanding—fulfilles my deepest longing. He is worth everything.


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Weekly Insight: Creativity in a Garden

In the beginning, God created…. (Gen. 1:1)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:36)

So, if God is the creator, and if we’re created in His image, we can conclude that we have the ability to create!

This week, Ken and I visited my brother and his wife.

It was a good trip and a hard trip because he is not well. And that means she also faces major difficulties. But we so enjoyed viewing Betty’s beautiful garden—watching birds visit the feeders and birdbaths. And, of course, the glorious array of flowers.

Because we did quite a bit of driving and because we used up quite a bit of emotional energy, I’m posting something simple.

But there is a theme. And I’ve already clearly laid it out. It’s this: We’re created in God’s image and He is a creator. So we are creative beings.

Every single person who has lived, or who is living, or who will live, is creative because we are all created in God’s image.

Yes, we’re created to create.

Creativity has many forms. Over the years I learned to create by preparing meals, sewing clothes, keeping up a home, etc. Then I learned to write news articles, write papers about literature, and eventually write lesson plans.

Other people create things beyond my scope. They might design machines or, equally important, make repairs necessary to keep them running. When I kept having trouble connecting to the internet, Ken discovered I could press a single key to solve the problem. Talk about creativity! The possibilities are endless—and they impact every activity of life.

To relate this focus on creativity to our week, let me explain that our sister-in-law Betty is creative in ways I can only admire from a distance. She’s painted pictures. And I think some of the photographs she’s taken of her grandchildren rival those of professionals.

And Betty creates gardens.

I’m drawn to gardens because they offer color and beauty. Compared to Betty’s perspective, that’s a limited viewpoint. She chooses varieties she finds interesting. And she works with our master creator—the first gardener. Her flowers are more than window dressing—although they serve that function well.

But the purpose of this post is not applauding Betty’s talents—remarkable as they are. Rather, it’s an invitation to think a bit about creativity in general—

And your personal creativity in particular.

Have you thought about your ability to create? Thought deeply about desires and how to fulfill them? Have you discovered creative potential that surprised you?

I don’t think anyone ever explores all God has placed within them, so even if you are finding creative outlets, be open to explore new avenues of expression. We just don’t know all God might have for us down the road.

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