Express His Glory in Your Life

Heartsong AART

Birthing a new program feels like extended labor.  My gratitude to those who labor with me and listen as I seek to articulate the vision of my heart.  I wanted to share part of the labor with you for feedback, prayers and interest.  We have a new booklet, A.A.R.T., Animal Assisted Relationship Training, which outlines the sessions currently in development to aid in discipleship.

This piece of Heartsong will grow with other animals but the heart remains the same:  to see Christians LIVE out the calling God has placed within them.  Future endeavors include a children’s workshop of “Buddies or Bullies” that will use the characteristics of bunnies to point out bullying tactics.

Coming up in June there will be a Servant’s Fair aimed at helping more folks enjoy the opportunity of growth found in serving others.

Later this year, a Joy in the Journey workshop will help people capture their personal stories and see God in their lives.

For now, though, here is a sample of what A.A.R.T. will provide:

ABCS of Safety, Security & Significance: In the Garden of Eden, the choice to reject God’s one command cut humanity off from the Need Meeter. When we seek to meet the needs that God built into us…instead of seeking Him…we sin & become captive to that sin. Restoring connecting to the Father begins the process of healing…and fulfillment…and loving ourselves. From childhood to senior citizen, we must find how Christ is the answer we seek and understand how to apply that answer to diverse situations.

Acceptance by God restores IDENTITY for individuals; it provides strength for life in a changing world. When roles or actions give a person identity, they never learn the unique design God gave them. “Who am I” is a necessary question because the answer gives stability. AART activities help us see through our facades. Scriptures focused on identity in Christ & being treasured by God. (Psalm 139:13-14)

Belonging to God restores boundaries that provide safety and security. In the natural world, safety is an increasing concern from childhood to old age. Involvement with animals requires learning to be observant of body language and danger zones. It is easy to appreciate the value of fences, reins and lead ropes. Extending those truths to the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices is the goal of the coach in the follow up. (Psalm 46:1)

Calling of God restores purpose to lives. The Word tells us God has created us for good works…and for connection to Him. He treasures His children and cares for them. Using the natural needs of animals (nutrition, coat & hoof care, exercise), coaches draw parallels to caring for the body as the temple of God and caring for others. (Eph 2:10)

Who am I

I have one eye that is used a lot but I cannot see.  What am I?

You see me where I never was…and really can never be.  What am I?

If you say my name, I disappear.  What am I?

If I drink I die, if I eat I’m fine.  What am I?

Riddles are kind of fun, aren’t they?  If you want the answers, join the Six-Days to Abundance journey and let me know about it.  I’ll send the answers on! 

But did you ever consider that each of us is a bit of riddle?  We spend much of our lives trying to answer that question, who am I?  It is a critical question because it is the foundation of our lives.

Whether we know it or not, we make our decisions based on what we believe gives us worth.  We choose our actions, our friends, even life-time pursuits based on what we feel gives us ‘value.’  In fact, who we understand ourselves to be is a life & death matter.  The heartbreaking reality is that over 44,000 people commit suicide every year…and that’s the reported suicides.  Life is difficult.  Without understanding the value of this life we have, we end up assigning value to parts of life.  Those parts will not hold up to the rigors of life.  Identity rooted in the Giver of Life grows stronger as the years progress.  It is the only foundation for life.  So, how do you define yourself…do you even know?

Write an advertisement for yourself.

What would someone need to know to know you?.

What do you come up with?

Wife.  Athlete.  Or maybe disabled.  Mom.  Divorced.  German or Italian.  Teacher.  Pet owner.  Couch potato.  High School drop-out or PhD candidate.  So & So’s child…or parent.  A Christian, a Muslim.  Jewish.  Homosexual.  Prisoner.  Addict.  Pastor. Winner.  Loser.

 All of those are important but anyone of those things can change (even ethnic heritages are sometimes not what we thought).  When things change, you will still be you.  So ‘who are you?’

We are each a riddle…until we go to the One who created us.

You (God) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13

God is the Giver of Life.  As Paul said to the Romans, in Him we live and move and exist.  The only way to know who we are is to go to Him.  God has given us life to search out the answer to the question of identity.  He calls to us throughout life and sent Jesus to open the way for us.  The choice to go to Him is ours.  What often drives us to Him are the disappointments that comes with a faulty understanding of self.

  • If I am what I achieve, what happens when I fail?  My identity…my sense of self bottoms out.
  • Or what if I achieve great things…think of the celebrities who have ended their own lives or whose lives are stolen by addictions….and still can’t find fulfillment?  The praise of others is not life-giving.
  • If I build my life on my children…or a spouse…and their quest takes them from me, what is my foundation?
  • Or if my identity has been in my job and my company closes, how do I face the rejection that comes with job-hunting?
  • What if I made one bad choice that haunts me for decades?  Is that the sum of who I am?

No!  The stuff of life is where we live out who we are…it is not supposed to make us who we are!

We find out identity by going to the maker.  We recognize that in other realms of life.  Take a look at this picture.  What is it for?  You can click the picture to find out but thepoint is we go to the creator (or one who has experience) to find out purpose.  

With the precious gift of life, why would we not do the same!?  We want to be the masters of our fate, but the ways that seem right to us often create havoc.  Jesus came that we might have abundant life!  Listen to who the Master says you are…and then live with awe for His love and the masterpiece He has wrought in you.  Give yourself to the world and to revealing Him.  You will be blessed and so will the world!

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Image result for identity in Christ verses

There are countless resources aimed to help Christians embrace the identity that comes with faith in Jesus.  This is one.

Living out this identity is a life-time challenge that requires us to stay connected to God and others.  It gives us a foundation for living.

All that we search for is found in Jesus. Let Him Love You! 

It astounded me to read a poster on the wall of the Lowe’s Family YMCA that stated their purpose as helping to bring unity to body, mind and spirit.  The poster had Christ’s words from His prayer in John 17.  Most non-profits began with Christian ideology…few retain those principles.  As I reflected on the ‘rightness’ of their purpose, the evidence of lives not in unity pierced my own heart.  Even secular studies confirm that as much as 90% of illness comes from wrong thinking and failure to give our physical bodies what they need.  We have authority in this world over our own minds and our own bodies.  We exercise that authority by placing ourselves under the authority of the God of the Bible.

 

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  John 17:21

Unity.  We do want it…but we usually want it on our terms which immediately puts unity out of reach.  Unity can’t happen until we welcome Jesus into the details disrupting our 15747529_1799284616976374_5369443153573163066_npeace.  Problems aren’t our problem.  Jesus already overcame the world.  Our problem is not allowing Him to be the way to Peace.

That sounds sort of good…and sort of judgmental, doesn’t it?  I promise you, it is all good.  Jesus has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves:  open the way to abundant life.  He is the way, and if we examine His life, we realize the way is not easy.  It is ‘simple’ but incredibly difficult and requires embracing suffering.

Embracing suffering is NOT being a martyr.  Martyr’s choose where they will suffer based on their own preferences and for personal reasons:  meeting their own needs in the name of sacrifice.  Christ did not do that.  He sacrificed Himself to restore us to the Father–because that is what the Father wanted!

Unity comes when we are as passionate for the desires of the Father as Jesus is!

While Jesus willingly did what we cannot, He will not do what we can do!  We have responsibility for our earthly lives.  Our minds and our bodies are ours to surrender.  We must choose thoughts that line up with God’s…and activities in line with His laws.  When we don’t, we don’t have peace.  We don’t have health.  Our bodies will break down and our emotions run amok.  Check out this definition of amok…it astounded me in its accuracy and the fact that is in the DSM as a psychiatric disorder.

Running amok, sometimes referred to as simply amok or gone amok,[1] also spelled amuk, from the Malay language,[2] is “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior”.[3] The syndrome of “Amok” is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR).[4] The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy (e.g., a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be termed as “running amok”.)

God is passionate for unity.  He not only allows our lives to press us toward Him…press us toward life…He designed us to need Him.  He is unity and peace and life.  If your world feels like it has run amok, ask Him where His priorities have been set aside for your own.   Choose God’s priorities and He will do the work, you will find the rest you seek.  If you choose your own priorities, you will suffer and struggle as you try to do what you feel is right and good.

Where is your mind or body running amok?  What do you need to change:  your view, your actions?  Ask God…ask a friend for ‘truth in love’ and accountability.  Peace is possible.

We buy fire insurance with the hope that we never need it.  In the natural realm, it works reasonably well.  Even if the policy is not that good, fire insurance works well to gives us peace of mind and even a poor policy will mitigate the devastation if a fire happens.  So, a fire insurance policy is a solid investment for our earthly concerns.

Kilroy fire

December 19, 1976 – childhood home

Eternally, though, fire insurance is another story.  In fact, it is a false hope based on deadly deception.  Faith as a ticket out of hell is really a ticket to a dead end.  On earth, fire insurance is bought with hope that it will never be used.  In the spiritual realm, there is no such hope.  Death is a certainty.  It makes sense then that much more care be given to eternal insurance…assurance.

Just as earthly death is certain, Scripture reminds us that faith without works is dead.  (James 2:17).  That verse is not speaking about earning salvation.  Salvation is not based on us; it is faith in the completed work of Christ that saves.  But faith is evidence of what we believe; if we don’t act as if we believe, where is the evidence.  James 2:17 is saying that the way we live reveals the faith we possess.  Faith is belief…our actions reveal what we believe more than our words do.  Our minds can agree to something but unless we actually believe it, our hearts will not feel it and our feet won’t walk it.  Fire insurance faith gives mental assent…living faith gives united assurance.

Walking out faith

The shoes we are to wear as armored believers are Good News Shoes!  Our walk is to be one of peace…restored to a loving relationship with the One True God.  Any time our lives have ‘compartments’ or places where the sweet peace of God is not felt, we need to stop and seek the face of God.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God–unless we allow it to.  James tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.  The cry

max and marie hands fire

Picture from my in-laws living room after their home was destroyed by fire.

of the Father’s heart is ‘come to me’ — Christ’s prayer before He endured the cross was that we would be united with Him because He was united with the Father.  Total immersion in the holy goodness of God is the desire of God for each of us!

No matter what the battle feels like…the raging war and waves of horror…the end is sure.  The life of faith requires the death of self.  And death is not pretty.  Have you walked in the valley of death with a loved one?  The physical and emotional toll is great.  Scripture says Jesus endured for the joy set before Him.  That is our hope as well as we battle through to confident assurance of our unity with Him.

Engaging in Battle

Make no mistake:  spiritual battles are real and necessary.  Putting to death the old man is not easy.  There is a deadly, dangerous self-protective deception that can keep us from ever seeing the depths of our own depravity.  We can study the Word and love its beauty–and think that our studying and appreciation for it is enough.  It is not.  Appreciating art does not make me an artist.  The Word is pure and holy–but we are not.  Mental assent does not create unity with God.  Fire insurance faith is not assurance.  It is a deception that can kill.

So, how can you know?  Eternal life is the gift of God Himself.  Read that slowly.  It is not a gift of God…it is God.  Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; we live it now.  We live it when we receive it.  When we receive the gift of God, there is a war between good and evil.  It is a war that is won but it is not one we can excuse ourselves from.

But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses. I Timothy 6:11,12

And never give up.  It is always too soon to quit!  Press on for victory by renewing your mind with Truth from God…and then committing to act.  Strongholds come from conditioning of the past…negative thoughts & actions that you cannot control are conditioned responses.  What you have conditioned yourself to do can be changed as you remove anything that does not align with the Word of God.  Seek unity with Him and the double-mindedness that kills will be eliminated.  That is the death of self…that is participating in the crucifixion.  It will be painful…but it is the only way to life.

Seek to know God.  Surrender to His way.  Sacrifice to obey Him.  

And see the miraculous ways He works.  God is faithful.  Christ is victorious.  

Beautiful Body

Eyes that see beauty are a gift from God!  We live in an image-crazed world longing to see beauty, to find substance.  The selfie craze cries out of hearts trying to find something.

But real beauty is a buried treasure one must dig deep to see and enjoy.   The Prophet Isaiah spoke of this Truth as he described the coming Messiah.

My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.  Isaiah 53:2

Jesus’ body suffered tremendously as He walked the ‘way of suffering’ to open the way for us to enter into eternal life and union with the Father.  Neither His beaten body nor the path He trod appeals to us in our natural mind.  It has no beauty on the surface.

Likewise, the Church, the Body of Christ on earth today often fails to draw gasps of awe as one looks at it.  We are often bruised by the ungodly attitudes we allow to mar our image but in the eyes of God, He sees something different.

The lyrics below will give you a glimpse of His view…if you click the link, the song will play as you read on.

How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
with His light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.
How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

Read more: Twila Paris – How Beautiful Lyrics | MetroLyrics

water aerobicsChrist’s love for the Bride compels me to look for beauty everywhere.  He sees beauty when I cannot.  My frequent prayer is to more consistently see with His eyes.  That is a prayer He loves to answer.

God is creative in His answers and chose to let me look with Him at my aqua-cize class. Working in water with a noodle offers some unique challenges–and a fair amount of laughter.  Standing on a floating device tends to create some chaos.  Noodles pop off from under people and whack others in the side of the head.  People tip over and legs can get stuck up in the air as a noodle gives buoyancy muscles can’t counter.

Each person in the class brings a different set of strengths and weaknesses to the pool.  The uniting goal is improved health but the individual realities impact the outcome.  Physical injuries, limited muscle strength, lack of coordination, past experience with water, self-consciousness, feelings of inferiority…they all play into the experience.

The beauty is that progress is made simply by staying the course.  Falling off the noodle and getting back on gives as much benefit to the weaker participant as completing the exercise gives the stronger participant.  In the aqua-cize class, encouragement to one another is frequent.  The success of one is hope for another.

Do you see the parallels for the Church?  We share a common purpose:  that the world may know our great and glorious God.  We share the very gift of God dwelling within us and the power of the Holy Spirit compelling us.  Like the individuals in the class, though, we have weaknesses and self-absorption that sometimes hinders us.  We tip over; sometimes we ‘slap’ others (figuratively only one hopes); and at times, we feel like failures.  But as we press on for the joy set before us, God accomplishes His purpose…in us and in the world!

We can only begin where we are…whether in an aqua-cize class or as a disciple of Christ.  Fixing our eyes on the goal brings forth beauty otherwise hidden.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the Cross.  As Jesus prayed for you and I before He went to the Cross, His plea was for the unity of believers.  That unity does not come by fixing our eyes on differences, pointing out failures and critically assessing one another (or even ourselves).  Beautiful unity comes as we fix our eyes on Christ and determine to know only Him.

Do you need a word of encouragement?  Be humble, let someone know!

Do you see someone struggling?  Look for the beauty of effort and speak life!

Philippians3_14

Spring!

Spring-time brings out the hidden gardener in most everyone.  The tender green buds on trees and the first flowers make our hearts sing–and anticipate the joys of summer.  The visions–and memories–of long summer evenings, splashing water and fun with friends.  There is a longing in our heart for simple connection with others.

Spring reminds us of summer’s possibilities.  God made our hearts to long for what is right and good.  Connection with others is one of those good things that often goes wrong.  God created humanity because He craved relationship.  The challenge is that in this fallen world most everything conspires against honest, loving relationship.

With Christ, the challenges of relationships become spring-time possibilities!  Improving our relationships with others propels us deeper into relationship with the Father.

We love because He first loved us. 

Trying to do relationship without the love of God creates sickly, broken connections.  A relationship can only be as healthy as the sickest person in it.  We can’t bring health to others; that is an individual choice.  But we can show the way.

The only way to a healthy life with healthy relationships is tending the Garden of our own souls…and thereby making disciples of others as we go!   

garden

In Genesis 2:15, we see God’s plan for humanity:  tilling and protecting the garden.  Partnering that with Jesus’ teachings in Luke 8:4-15 instructs me in pursuing healthy relationships.

The parable of the sower in Luke is used typically in a salvation context.  Considering it as transformational  truth helps us fulfill our purpose of caring for the world God has placed each of us within.  God has placed each of us in a unique garden, with individuals He loves and longs to have in relationship with Himself.

Christ, the Sower, came into the world to seek and save the lost—and destroy the work of the devil.  He tells us, “So send I you.”  As the Sower, Christ said some seed falls on hard, dry ground; some falls on rocky places, some on weeds and others on good soil.  In the parable, the Word was heard in every case.  The results varied.

As the keeper of my heart, the gardener of my soul, I must ask myself:

  • Where am I hard and dry?
  • Are there rocks – hurts or sins blocking my fruit?
  • What weeds of treasure, pleasure and worry are crowding out the Word?

The people in my life will reveal the answers to every one of those questions.

Look around at the people God places in your path.  Listen to the reactions of your heart to the folks you want to love—and be loved by.

Where do you feel hardness?  Is it in response to a mother’s words that feel like criticism or perhaps a spouse’s disregard for you?  Will you let the shield of Jesus absorb the hurt and His love flow from the wound?  Or will you give place to the enemy and respond in the same spirit of unkindness that wounded you?

What rocks become visible?  Are you throwing stones or feeling the blows of accusation?  There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Unconditional love is the beautiful, unique attribute of Jesus Christ.  He alone can heal 3920658201_f1654af939_zhurts.  Relationship with Him will align those who walk contrary to the Law.  Feel His love, show His love and watch how He connects hearts.

And then there are those weeds…those things we love that are so much lesser than Him.  People get in the way of getting what we want and relationships die.  Sometimes the weeds show up as good things we desperately desire—and will do whatever we must to have them.  They drag us from His presence.  Sometimes they appear as problems we cannot solve…but we kill ourselves with worry trying to do the impossible.

Relationships are God’s idea because they partner with Him to transform us into the likeness of Christ!  Embrace the spring-time possibilities.

Are there ways we can pray with you for His glory

to be seen in your life this year?

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Difficulties and disappointments are guaranteed to come to every life.  The outcome of every situation is our choice.  We can follow the path of the Overcomer, or we can choose to blaze our own way.  Following Jesus will lead us to worship and the fulfilling presence of God.  Going our own way will lead to greater devastation and paralyzing weariness.

The choice seems easy; who doesn’t want victory?!  The reality is the path to victory demands stepping out in faith.  That path demands knowing the Promises and ways of God…and walking in them even when they seem impossible.  On the other hand, the weary path seems wise at first.  We trust the knowledge we’ve accumulated; we rely on our natural abilities and intellect.  It feels safer.  It is a deception.

The passages that precede Jesus’ words above lead us toward the desire of God–intimate fellowship with Himself.  Jesus explains the necessity of abiding in the vine–living in His love.  We love the concept and in quiet times, our mental agreement feels adequate.  But the power of the passage comes when we live it out in the dusty days of life.  Living in the love of God gives strength when the people around us are unreasonable and unkind.  Staying in the vine gives us nourishment when life is draining us with failures and insurmountable problems.

As Christians, we are on a mission to take the glory of God to the hurts of the world.  We can’t idolize the quiet spots; they are to be enjoyed but we have work to do!

So, what do we do with those heartaches that come into our lives?  First, we must remember that what we see is incomplete and in part, an illusion.  We are to live the G Morel flickr.comWord in the midst of the difficulties and enjoy the presence of God through intercessory prayer.

Intercession is so much more than taking God a to do list.  He knows the burdens that weigh upon us.  What He asks of us is to bring those burdens to Him and seek His view.  God has a good purpose and plan in all things; He has the power to produce what He desires.

From the earthly perspective,3241925633_310c42121a_z our problems loom large and feel impossible.  We often beg God to take them away.  In those times, we are carrying loads here that He wants us to bring into His presence.

Intercessory prayer becomes worship as we see inside the Father’s heart and feel His powerful presence reassuring us.  From the eternal perspective, problems relate to aweseom purposes we rejoice in when we seek His understanding.

The Truth of the Word is to be transformational–not tiresome.  Just as intercessory prayer is not a ‘to do list’ for God, neither is obedience to God.  Obedience is doing the will of God with a heart that trusts in His goodness in every situation.  A heart that trusts in Him enjoys His presence so much, lists of sin are unnecessary–because sin separates from Him.  Living Truth in the dust and difficulties of our days is not about getting everything right.  It is about being transformed by the Truth of Love so we can rise victorious over every circumstance.

Weariness comes when our list of ‘do and do nots’ consumes us more than His beauty.  “Love your enemy” is a burden until I see my enemy from God’s view.  “Do not covet” is impossible unless I see the generosity of God who meets my every need.  External measures of life tire us out; a heart resting in Him exceeds any ‘list’ and fills us with energizing life.

When we are growing weary, we are to take that as a reminder to WORSHIP!

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