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!


Finding Your Design: Mercy

In Romans 12, we find the Father giving gifts to people.  Contemplating those ‘gifts’ as individual design can be eye-opening!  For further information, visit the Discipleship Coaching – Design page.

Are you a Mercy?

MercyThe final design in Romans is that of Mercy. Those with a mercy design rarely have enemies, and they are a safe place for wounded hearts to come. Not the folks to take risks, they avoid conflict unless they are fighting for others. Immature mercy design folks are often too willing to allow injustices to themselves, in fact. Mercies find it easy to enter into the presence of God and that ability helps them to be a great conduit of holiness.

At the root of giving mercy can be a stubbornness that opens the door to living a life of self-gratification. Unwilling to confront others, the Mercy can be paralyzed from action. A victim spirit may settle upon this design. Designed to be those who relieve the pain of others, avoiding confrontation simply makes sense to the mercy because confrontation is likely to cause pain.

The beautiful authority or design of Mercy is to reveal the heart of God to the world around them.

Glory Story: WHY, God?

Mom, Mary and GrandmaGod answers “Why” questions.  He is not angry when we ask them; in fact, I think He likes them.  God wants to reveal Himself to us, and He is always the answer to ‘Why?’  There are special people in the world who help us see the magnificence of the ways of God.  Mary Daly is one such person.  Born with Cerebral Palsy caused by a traumatic brain injury, God provided her with an inheritance of faith.  The precious gift of a loving family and a faith-filled mom and grandmother built a solid foundation for Mary.  She understood from her earliest days that God had a great plan for her life; Mary knew that the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 did not exclude those with different abilities!

But that did not mean life was easy.  Multiple surgeries and excruciating physical therapy assaulted her body.  Doctors said she would never walk.   Life in a self-absorbed world cut Mary in different ways.  When her physical limitations inconvenienced others, she found herself tossed aside. “I was the friend who was always disposable, biodegradable and recyclable.”

Mary shares that she questioned why God chose her to bear such burdens.  She wondered why God healed others and not her.  She questioned if the CP was a punishment of some sort…was God mad?  Did she deserve this?  Did He really love her?

Those griefs tore into Mary’s soul; ‘deep depression and crippling anxiety worse than the debilitating orthopedic pain’ blocked her view of the goodness of God.  In that darkness, He continued to work and give gifts that helped her through.  A love for horses became the key that unlocked the mystery of the love of God!Therapeutic horseback riding had been one of the best parts of Mary’s physical therapy.  She developed a love for horses from those experiences.  A family trip to Yellowstone National Park that included horseback riding built on that love.

“I was free to soak up every ounce of God’s great beauty with each beat of the horses’ hooves,” Mary enthuses.

A desire for more of that freedom—and formal riding lessons–began building in Mary.  Questions plagued her mind:  Could she balance well enough to ride?  Would her walker frighten the horses?  Would others accept her?  Would there be a stable willing to work with her?

Complicating (one might think) the whole idea, Mary had just moved 350 miles to a tiny, rural county to attend college.  In God’s inimitable way, she found in her tiny town a stable owned by a physical therapist—with a trainer who welcomed the challenges presented by a rider with cerebral palsy.  God began to reveal His loving watch-care.

At the stable, the trainer chose a quiet, thoughtful mare named Annabelle as Mary’s mount.  The clouds of doubt about the love of God began to roll away.  The very first day of riding lessons, the trainer invited Mary to try a trot just ‘like every other student!”  Amazed and overjoyed, Mary soared around the ring.  Annabelle helped Mary gain core strength, balance and stamina.  Practicing the post strengthened her leg muscles and soon Mary joyfully proved doctors wrong by walking a few steps on her own!

Before long, Mary began to desire a horse that could offer more challenge.  She loved Annabelle but wished for a bit more pep.  The trainer suggested a beautiful black named Jett.  Though Mary promised not to lose that special bond with Annabelle, she soon became a fond memory.  God gently pressed on Mary:  ‘remember those friends who left you?  It was not you; it was part of life.’ Understanding eased the losses of the past and increased her ability to accept her own worth and value.  It also helped Mary to see life from a fuller perspective, and relationships became easier.

The stable itself helped Mary began to develop a network of friends. The common bond of love for horses, the camaraderie of sore muscles, opportunities to encourage and be encouraged: all worked together, allowing Mary to be a participant instead of a spectator.  All of life began to make more sense.  For the first time, she understood her brother’s love of sports.  In the midst of life, Mary understood:  God wanted to be in the middle of her life too.  God did not want to be outside looking in either!  He wanted to be the center of her life, the answer to every Why?!

In the context of life, God began revealing Himself!   Mary began to see beautiful answers to her questions; the answers had never been far from her.  They had been waiting for Mary to work them out in the midst of the things she loved.  The foundation gifts of faith, hope and love that she always possessed helped her move into the answers as she followed her dreams.  The adventure had only just begun.

Just like the love of God that has no end, her dreams grew.  First, it was a saddle.  “Just having my own tack seemed like the greatest thing in the world,” thought Mary.  Indeed, she did enjoy that, but a bigger dream kept nudging in:  she really wanted a horse of her own.  After much prayer—and plenty of research, Mary approached her mom:

“God shows me little glimpses of heaven on the back of a horse,” she pleaded.

Before long the search for a horse began.  Visit after visit to farms with horses for sale produced no horse that matched Mary and EclipseMary.  She began to wonder if God was telling her to move on and find a new dream.  As they looked, Mary continued with riding lessons and grew in confidence.  Finally, her mom found a horse she felt was perfect!  Mary and the trainer were not so sure.

Since there was one more visit already scheduled, they went to see the horse.  He was a large, 15.2 hand black beauty named Eclipse.  Mary fell in love with his looks and his personality, and the trainer agreed, but Mom struggled with the height—and her affinity for the previous horse.  Mary won her over, and Eclipse became her new partner in the grand adventure of life.

Eclipse intuitively seemed to understand both Mary’s needs and her desires to take on new challenges.  Pole patterns, dressage work and doing diagonals kept them busy. Mary, deeply desiring as much independence as possible needed Eclipse to have some additional training.  Mary used a mounting block at the stable but had no option for trail rides.  Her trainer suggested finding someone to teach Eclipse to lie down for her to mount.  Excited by the possibilities that would open up, Mary and her mother began searching for the right trainer.

The loving watch-care of God soon became evident with another miraculous provision.  In a chance meeting at a local family restaurant, the Daly’s learned there was a world-renowned trainer right in their community.  Despite a typically  With the trainerpacked schedule, Mary’s story moved him, and he made room for Eclipse. The question of God’s love continued to be answered as Mary realized: “Everything I had prayed God would bless with me was mine.  God has sent ‘angels to watch over me along this beautiful journey.  I really do have a wonderful life!”

Mary’s story is one of extreme challenge and extreme blessing; yet it contains truth we all can see.  God works in our lives in whatever way will draw us closest to Him.  Nothing is too hard for Him to transform.  Nothing is beyond His love and care for us.  His ways are not ours; they are better.  His love in the midst of life gives the answer to Why.

Mary and Grandma

Mary’s beloved Gams, Elizabeth Barron Auld “Bep” McElwee, moved to heaven this past week. This story–and all future adventures–are lovingly dedicated to her.

Growing as a Servant: Appreciate unique design

God created each soul in a design perfect for their time and place in history.  Let me say that another way:  God loves the way He made you.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made!  The servant of God learns to appreciate the unique design of God–in himself and in others.  There is no perfect human being; there is no pathway to perfection.  As children of God, we are on a journey together and together, we reveal the beauty of God.

Moses is a wonderful role model for those of us growing as servants.  The first lesson Moses learned was his inadequacy.  Choosing his own plan and timing brought disastrous consequences.  Serving God is holy ground!  When Moses grasped that concept, he was undone.  His inadequacy choked him, and he tried to excuse himself from service.  God gently helped him understand his unique design–and the power available when he placed his strengths into the hand of God.

Exodus 3:2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Releasing the rod to the Lord produced a ‘snake’ that Moses feared, yet picked up again.  Our strengths in the hand

of God may look unfamiliar; they may give us a bit of fear…but the servant picks them back up.  Our strength in our hand brings death; our strength in the hand of God sets captives free!

When we learn to value our design–stop wishing we were like others–we learn to value others as well.  Growing as a servant gives space to others to grow as well.  C.S. Lewis put it this way in his masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters:

“[God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents–or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.”

How has God designed you?  Do you like your design–He does!  What can you place in the hands of God for Him to use?

Heartsong provides assistance to ministries looking to improve their serve…and to individuals longing to know where they fit.