Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Masterpiece in the Making

A few years ago, I was in Italy with a group of student leaders. Since you can't go to Italy without taking in their artwork, we visited the museum exhibiting Michelangelo's David statue. The creation of this statue fascinated me long before I ever saw the piece itself.

In the late 1400s, a group called the Operai commissioned several prominent sculptors and artisans of the day to create twelve statues of characters from the Old Testament. They provided the blocks of marble, very expensive during that day, and set the sculptors to work. Work began on the David in 1464 but after initial carving, it was abandoned. The story goes that the block of marble was left to the elements for twenty-five years. The Operai was very upset because not only was the block of marble expensive but also represented  difficulty in labor and transportation and it was now a shadow of what it had been when work first began on it. At 26 years old, Michelangelo begged the Operai to allow him to complete the David. From 1501-1504, he painstakingly carved the statue, shaving away the parts damaged by the elements and carving features in great detail, leaving behind a masterpiece.

If you hate history, I hope you stuck with me because none of that is the reason I love the David statue. Michelangelo took a piece of marble that was a wreck, had been abandoned, was weathered, and already marked up, and he turned it into a MASTERPIECE. He was willing to work on a piece of marble that everyone else had abondoned and make it something beautiful.

I believe that is exactly what Jesus desires to do with us. He takes who we are, broken, weathered, abandoned and takes a chance on us...convinced He can and will turn us into a masterpiece. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" He no longer looks at us and sees a broken block of marble but a beautiful statue that He is transforming into His likeness and displaying for others to see His glory! That is so humbling to me.

Micahelangelo also looked past the surface. He chipped away at the marble for years until it reflected exactly what he desired. All the messed up pieces were just excess that he cleared away. Proverbs 25:4 says, "Remove the dross from the from the silver and out comes material for the silversmith." Jesus removes the broken pieces from our lives so that He sees nothing but the righteousness of Christ shining back at Him.

Isaiah 64:8 says, "O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand." Just like Michelangelo chiseled away until the masterpiece of David was revealed, so the Lord molds us in His hands, shaping us, removing the impurities, and transforming us into a MASTERPIECE IN THE MAKING! Be encouraged that no matter how messy your life has been, is, or will become, you are NEVER so broken, weathered, and abandoned that Jesus won't take a chisel and begin to mold you into a masterpiece. He loves you that much!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Busy Holidays

The holidays are here. I absolutely LOVE this time of  year. In Texas, the leaves are just now beginning to fall and winter is already nipping at our heels. I love the colors and the decorations and the hot drinks and yummy food and family time.

But there is one thing that I hate about this time of year....the business. It is terrible!

In the midst of the chaos, the parties my family just HAS to go to, the shopping for just the right gifts, the fun but busy family time, I often forget to slow down and remember and enjoy what this time of year is all about. Unfortunately, the most important part of my life suffers during this time of year, and ironically, it is the only reason we celebrate both of these impending holidays. My time with the Lord decreases drastically.

Interesting, isn't it, that during a time when we should be celebrating HIM, we have created so many traditions and fun activities that He gets a back seat concert pass instead of an on-stage acting role?

This post is short today...but here is my challenge to you and to me as the holidays arrive...Enjoy them, enjoy the business, tradition, activity, celebration, and time with loved ones, but if it begins to creep in and take the place of your relationship with the King of Kings that we are celebrating, then SLOW DOWN. Cancel something and stay home. Slip into your room and spend time honoring Jesus, the One we are worshiping. This season will be much more significant with Him as the main character on stage.

"Be still and know that I AM GOD. I will be EXALTED among the nations, I will be EXALTED in the earth." Psalm 46:10

Celebrating Jesus Christ first and foremost this season,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Broken People, Beautiful Messes

My life theme in 2009 was beauty from brokenness. I went on a night hike around the base of Pike's Peak with a few friends that summer. My friend, Ben, asked me to share my story while we were walking. It's hard not to be honest and feel close to the Lord when you are standing on the side of a mountain, gazing up at the blackest sky and the Milky Way.

"Ben, I am a broken mess right now. And I am so thankful that that is the Lord's specialty."

My new community group met for the first time last night. I was amazed at how many said that  "broken mess" perfectly describes their life right now. Maybe you are there, or maybe you can remember a time in your life when you have been there. You felt or feel unworthy or confused or hurting or lonely or angry. I have to tell you, you are in good company. The Jesus that I serve specializes in making broken people incredibly beautiful.
  • Moses - He was kicked out of the only country he had ever known (Egypt) for murdering a man and then was rejected by one of his own people, but the Lord used him to lead Israel.
  • Paul - He killed Christians! He stoned them, threw them in prison, and then the Lord caused him to lose his sight. Paul was a broken man when one of the very men he persecuted showed him the way to Jesus. He was beaten, rejected by his own people, and thrown in jail multiple times and the Lord used this broken man to change the world.
  • Rahab - This woman was a prostitute and lived in a city that the Lord had doomed to destruction to make way for His people Israel. She hid some of the Israelites and the Lord spared her and all her family. She is an ancestor of Jesus Christ!
  • David - He was a king and a man after God's own heart who slept with another man's wife, had a baby with her, and had that same man killed to cover up his own mistake. Talk about broken. Yet, the Lord heard David, used him, and still called him a man after God's own heart, and made him an ancestor of Jesus Christ, as well.
  • Solomon - This is the man who wrote Ecclesiastes and spent the whole book talking about the meaninglessness of life. He had tons of wives, was the wisest man to ever live, owned everything his heart desired, and was king of God's people, yet he was unhappy. But God used this man to build His temple. 
  • Esther - She was taken from her home, her family, living in a foreign land under a government that wanted to kill her people, the Jews, and she was forced to go before her husband, the King, to beg for her life and the lives of her people. God used her boldness to save a nation!
  • Ruth - She lost her husband and the rest of her family except for her mother-in-law. She committed to moving with her mother-in-law to a foreign land and then worked to provide for both of them. She was an ancestor of Jesus, as well!
  • Mary - She was unmarried when the Lord placed Jesus in her womb. Her fiance didn't want her, her people stoned those who were pregnant outside of marriage, but the Lord changed her brokenness to beauty and she became the mother of the Christ child.
  • Gideon - He was from the smallest tribe of Israel and one of the weakest in his family and the Lord used him and a handful of mighty men to do battle for Him.
The Lord's specialty is healing and using broken people. This is SO encouraging to me. Check out these verses...they are promises that the Lord will use and walk with you through your brokenness:
  • "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
  • "Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
  • "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
  • "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
This is the Lord that I serve...one who meets you in your brokenness and doesn't let you go through it alone. Curl up in His arms and let His love heal you in your brokenness. He is so worthy and so desirous to make something BEAUTIFUL out of the messes in your life! He is the ONLY One who can accomplish that kind of miracle.

Listen to this song by Amy Grant called "Better than a Hallelujah." One of the lines says, " We pour out our miseries. God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are. The honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a Hallelujah." I pray that you will be encouraged and see the beauty that the Lord WILL BRING in your brokenness!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dark Skies and Unknown Waters

Just over three years ago, I stood on a beach on the California coast. It was pitch black. Sounds and lights flickered from a carnival down the beach, but from where I stood, it was still except the lap of waves. I was with a friend and we had kicked off our shoes to walk in the sand. I couldn't see the beach, where I was walking, or the water line. I could only hear it.

In the darkness, my lack of bearings scared me. I feared walking into something that I couldn't see. The moon was the only thing distinguishing the sky from the water in the blackness. I hung back on the beach. Without warning, my friend lifted me up and rushed me into the water. The water was freezing. It encompassed my feet and lapped at my jeans. I looked down, but I still couldn't see the water. I could only feel it.  My fear of what I couldn't see in the waters and in the expanse before me kept me rooted to the spot. Only the ocean floor beneath my feet and my friend's hands on my back kept me oriented in the darkness.

Part of me wanted to rush into the waters, allow my eyes to adjust, and my head to dip under the waves and enjoy the feel of the water on my skin. I had always been drawn to the water. It was a calming place for me. The gentle rush of the waves and the cool feel on my skin has always been a source of relaxation. But here, with something I couldn't see, I was scared.

I am such a visual individual. One of the verses I wrestle with most is 2 Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, and not by sight." Sometimes, I need that friend to grab me and walk with me into a situation in which I am dying to go, know I should, but fear is keeping me rooted back on the beach where I can see. That is wrong on my part. The Lord asks, "Do you trust me, even when you can't see what you are walking into? I'm that Light on the horizon giving direction. I know what you are about to go through. Do you trust me?"

I am constantly praying that the Lord will give me the faith to follow Him even when I can't see. It was never my plan to move back home after I graduated, to not have a job that I enjoy doing, to not have my own space and life that I am figuring out. But the Lord had different plans for this next chapter. He had a dark oceanic expanse stretching before me with disappointment, rejection, and blessings and lessons I never would have imagined I would have when I stepped into that dark water back in May. My life is a journey of swimming through the water toward that moon hanging on the horizon. I am learning to face my fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind." I claim that promise. Because I am a child of the God who created that moon, that dark sky, and the ocean, I have His power on my side. And there's that love word again. I am surrounded by people who are willing and sometimes forceful enough to push me out of my comfort zone into the vast unknown. They love me enough to do that. The Lord loves me too much to leave me imprisoned in my fear. He gives me a sound mind, an ability to have peace in the midst of my uncertainties because He is Sovereign and in control of my oceans.

I love these gentle promises from the Lord. He walks with me through my fear. He guides me even when He leads me into stages I can't see. Have you been there? If you are a recent college graduate, like me, then I know you are there. Do you see His hand in the darkness even when you can't see the road beneath your feet? Do you see the moon shining on the horizon in the midst of your dark unknown? He shines a light and it pierces that uncertainty. He is a God who is strong enough and so faithful that I can walk by faith and not by sight, even when I am scared. I want to trust Him fully. I know that He is good. And I want to follow Him no matter what. I pray that if you are lost right now, that you will see the goodness of Jesus and the peace He brings. He walks with you through those dark skies and unknown waters. He has a beautiful plan for you, and it does not involve fear. It involves faith and His peace.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

No fear,