Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love The Ones You're With

Recently my daughter was searching for something n our attic, and came across a VHS video labeled "My First Year", which was a recording of the entire first year of her life.

My three children and I all stopped what we were doing, and for the next hour, laid on the bed watching this video, laughing until we cried.

It was a typical first-time-mom video. You know - the kind where the baby is videoed for ten solid minutes, while she was just laying there - doing absolutely nothing except looking adorable. Then we watched the baby coo. Then we watched the baby turn her head. Then we watched the baby as she lay helpless in her swaying baby swing with a wide eyed look of "what's happening to me?!" Then we watched the baby cry... and so on.

Every "first" was recorded, from baths, to swimming pools, to Easter outfits, to birthday parties. Every minute of her little life was too precious to miss, and definitely video worthy.

It brought back so many sweet memories of the beginning of my little family, and all the ways God has blessed us and transformed our hearts since that time.

But amid the laughter, my heart was also touched with bittersweet memories. Memories which had been misplaced somewhere in the recesses of my mind as the years had passed.

My eyes burned with tears as I saw my paternal grandmother celebrating Morgan's first Christmas, smiling as she watched her play on the little baby bed of which she had knitted little blankets and pillows for. The sound of her voice was such a sweet memory, like music to my ears. She had died of cancer when Morgan was only eighteen months old.

I watched my maternal grandparents hold my daughter, and ooh and awe over her, as I stood proudly in the background - with large bangs and bright blue eye shadow. But today, they are both walking with Jesus as well.

I watched as my husband's Grandfather, and his precious full-of-life Aunt, laughed and talked with the family over a Christmas holiday, both of whom passed away way too early due to unusual tragedies.

I watched my sweet sister, beautiful, healthy and vivacious - years before she was diagnosed with the debilitating disease of Multiple Sclerosis.

As I watched scenes from my past play out on the screen, I was reminded of people who were once in our lives, but are now no longer a part. I saw how some people once were, but how their lives have drastically changed. 

Yet at that time, the thought of change occurring.... was not even a thought. We took the present, and the people in it, for granted, simply because we were just living our ordinary lives. Taking for granted that those people would always be around, and that life would go on as 'normal'.

Although many of the memories were fun to revisit, and it was hilarious getting a glimpse of the strange choices of hairstyles and clothes that we all had back then, it also was a reminder of how quickly life changes, and how short and priceless it truly is.

When all those experiences were recorded eighteen years ago, things were so different. People were so... there. Lives were so in tact. But life would soon change, we just had no idea what those changes would be.

As I watched the video, my heart flooded with sweet and painful memories, I felt a compelling desire to treasure the people in my life, and not take them for granted, as I so often do. I certainly do not mean to take them for granted, but when doing normal life, we just don't expect the present to change.

 I also felt a sense of urgency to call and tell all my loved ones that I loved them, just because. To forgive someone who I had been holding a grudge against. To overlook the little idiosyncrasies of other people instead of letting them get on my nerves. To have patience and adoration for the important people in my life, and not be passive in my relationships.

To love the ones in my life with my whole heart, while I still have them to hold.

Every minute of our lives is not video worthy, but every moment with the people we love is a priceless gift. Dare we take those moments for granted for one more day?

Is there someone who needs to feel your love today? Is there someone who you need to tell them you love them... just because?

There is no better time like the present.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

When Transformation Becomes Beautiful

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

This is a popular verse, usually referenced with respect to steering away from sinful thoughts and behaviors, and to be in the world, but not of the world. But as I was considering this verse recently, I saw a new twist about being transformed and my curiosity was peaked.

The word "transformation" comes from the Greek word μεταμόρφωσις, which means, metamorphosis.  In my opinion, the term metamorphosis more clearly describes what God means when he tells us to be transformed through His power. You see, when something experiences metamorphosis, it completely changes, on the inside and the outside. Once something has morphed from its old state, into its new state, that change is obvious to everyone.

An example of a true metamorphosis would be an insect that completely changes its biological structure. For instance, what starts out as a tiny larvae, turns into a worm, then builds a cocoon, and emerges as a butterfly. The insect completely changed from one state to another, from the inside out.

That is what Romans 12:2 is encouraging us to do in Christ - to allow Him to change us completely.  Not partially. Not just the areas that we dont mind changing. Not just the things that we wanted to change. But completely. So that He can create His masterpiece in us, even when we cannot see what He is building, just as I talked about in today's Proverbs 31 Devotion.

A 19th century German philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche was best known for his statement "God is dead". The death of God movement in the sixties is sometimes technically referred to as "theothanatology" and promotes the belief that humans are no longer able to believe in any supernatural order since they themselves no longer recognize it - which basically means, that since there was no evidence that peoples lives and hearts were changing as a result of their belief in God, then He must certainly be dead.

Obviously to me, and anyone else who claims Jesus as the only Savior of the world, this is an extremely blasphemous, offensive statement, and a grossly false assumption, because we know and believe that the Holy Trinity is alive and well.

However, did Nietzsche have a point with his underlying comment that if you cant see real life change in people who claim to believe in God, then God must not really be present in their lives? I think he did.

You see, when we accept Jesus as our Savior, and commit to living a life that brings glory to Him, we are called to a radical transformation - not just one that we claim, but one that people can see happening in us.

This act of transformation begins with God rebuilding our heart from lost to saved, our mind from sinful to righteous, and then our life from mundane to purposeful.

When we truly undergo a radical transformation of the heart, mind and soul, our outward behaviors and actions will become a new creation, obvious to all who see us. So if we say we are in Christ, but there is no metamorphosis occurring in our life, are we really transformed?

People are usually not impressed by looking at an ugly gray cocoon, but are always impressed by the beauty and splendor of a butterfly when it emerges from that cocoon. Of course our goal for transformation through Christ is not to impress anyone, but our goal should be for others to see the beautiful transformation that has happened within us.

When people see physical evidence of what an invisible God is building in our lives, only then will they be interested in discovering Christ for themselves.

Even though we have no idea what He may be building, we can always have faith that it will be a masterpiece, just as we told in Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. "

When God builds something beautiful, people notice.

How might God be transforming you, or building you, into something new?

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fingerprints of Grace

When we think of a fingerprint, we rarely think past the thought of a smudge that our finger leaves on a surface. But a fingerprint is actually so much more, especially when it comes to leaving fingerprints of grace.

A fingerprint is an impression of who we are, left on something or someone we have touched. It is an indention of our unique makeup,  pressed upon something or someone else. It leaves our mark, and is sort of like our signature card for every move we make in life.

It is a unique external pattern of our internal DNA that nobody else in the world has besides us. A science article I recently read said that when fingerprints form, they are dependent upon "the exact position of a fetus in the womb at a particular moment and the exact composition and density surrounding amniotic fluid that's swirling around the fingers as they touch surrounding structures."

So the entire development of a fingerprint is so chaotic within the confines of a mother's belly that among all the people who have ever lived, or will ever live, there is virtually no chance of the same exact pattern ever forming twice. Even identical twins do not have identical fingerprints.

I find that fascinating, and when pondering the concept of Gods grace, as mentioned in today's Proverbs 31 Devotion, I began to consider not only how God has left His fingerprints on me, but how we leave our unique fingerprints of grace on other people.

The story of my life is covered with God's fingerprints of grace, as is yours as well.  All my precious memories, my blessings, and even my most painful scars, are evidence of God's fingerprints of grace in my life. As I thought about this analogy, God pricked my heart to ponder if, and how, I had left my fingerprints on anyone lately.  Not on their physical bodies, but on their spiritual hearts. 

I began to consider how much I treasure the grace that God provides to me, especially knowing that it is only given because of His sovereignty, not because I deserve it, yet how I often forget to extend grace to others, especially if I don't feel they deserve it. 

This whisper to my spirit prompted me to spend some time in prayer, asking God to make me aware of how I could 'touch' someone in the near future, with grace from me, as an extension of Him.

I also asked that He open my eyes to see if I am withholding grace from someone who needs it, and if I am, to infuse me with the courage to offer it as freely as He offers it to us  - with genuine love, and no strings attached.

I then recalled the verse in 2 Corinthians 9:8 which says "And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others."

I was reminded through this scripture verse that grace is not a gift to be kept to ourselves, but a gift that is meant to be shared.  When God leaves His impression on our hearts, we should feel so moved by His touch, that we feel an overwhelming desire to leave our fingerprints on the lives of someone else.

Are you thankful for God's fingerprints on your life?  Are you thankful enough to reach out and touch someone else in His name today? 

If God is bringing someone specific to your mind right now.... someone who needs your grace, and maybe even your forgiveness, but whom you have been withholding grace from .... will you consider leaving your fingerprint on them today?  Is there someone you don't even know, yet you may know about, who might need to be touched by God, through your touch today?

If so, consider leaving a quick comment about who God may have placed on your heart, so that we can all pray for each other,  but also for your own accountability to follow through, especially if it may take a lot of faith and courage to do so.

There are lots of ways to leave our fingerprints on people we know and people we do not know; people we love, and people we find hard to love. If God calls us to step out in faith and touch someone, then it is because that person needs to have our specific mark left on them. A mark which is unique to who we are, and one that no one else can leave. A signature card of who we are in Christ, and an indention on their hearts, with our initials.

So who will you leave your unique, God-inspired impression on today? When the day is over, where will your fingerprints be?

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