Tuesday, September 13, 2016

He Paints with Passion

She came to Ohio from Florida with a paintbrush packed in her bag.

The Lovely Women's Conference had only just begun when Bonnie Joy Kelley was called on stage to the blank canvas set on an easel that waited for her there. As the worship team sang in the background, all eyes were on her as she dipped her brush in the colors before her and then kissed the canvas repeatedly with broad strokes that moved to the flow of the music. Mesmerized, we watched, eager to see what the Spirit was saying to us through the picture He was painting through her hands.

But our concentration on her activity soon turned to confusion as the accumulating images and colors didn't seem to merge into any recognizable form. For the life of me, I couldn't make out what she was painting. I thought to myself, What if she's just not feeling it tonight? What if she came all that way only to have God go silent the minute she is standing in front of 500 women, all eager to see what she will produce? Is it really a “gift” if she has to explain what she is drawing when she's done?

Suddenly the music seemed to be ending, and she likewise put her paintbrush down on the palette beside her. Then she took the canvas in her hands, turned it upside down, and set it back on the easel.

A collective gasp went through the room, for there before us was a picture of a woman lovely in every detail, reaching up with her hands as if in praise or grateful prayer to the God Who created her. Then came the applause and shouts of praise and amazement at what we had just seen.

More than just a cool way to start off a conference, there was a message in that moment that came to me later. Each of us is likewise God's masterpiece, our lives a blank canvas on which He is busily creating a work of beauty and wonder that will deliver a message of His love to a watching world. But sometimes in its creation we are hit with circumstances that we simply don't understand, difficult situations that fill our hearts with sorrow and our nights with tears. As Laura Story sings in Blessings, those hard times can cause us to doubt God's goodness and question His love. We wonder what on earth He is doing and if He really has any better idea how to work out our problems than we do ourselves.

Yet God pleads with us not to give up on the process before the end of the song! While the music is still playing, the Artist is still at work. And sometimes God has to turn our lives completely upside down before the beauty in them becomes apparent. It's then we understand that all the seemingly random brush strokes that we so railed against at the time were full of tender purpose and life-changing love... because the brush was held in the Master's hand.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.”
(Philippians 1:6 AMP)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bestselling Advice

I'm in a reflective mood as summer slides to a close this weekend.

One of my biggest enjoyments of the months just past was reading the book "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes, a recent bestseller about two people who find themselves in a difficult relationship. It happened repeatedly in the story that when they were in a particular difficult moment in their journey together, one would turn to the other and say, "Tell me something good." The resulting conversation would take their minds off their current heartache and focus it instead on happier times, replacing the current pain with thoughts of hope and joy.

Perhaps I loved that line so much in the book because we have the same opportunity in our relationship with God. On our most difficult days we can turn to Him with the plea, "Tell me something good!", and He responds with chapters of love and promises to come, written to us and kept for us to find in His Word. Or He sends friends to share His "Good News" in the form of hugs or favors, just when we need to be reminded of His love the most. Perhaps He just sends The Comforter Himself to allow us to feel His touch and presence in something we see or experience in the world around us.

But I realized recently that God makes the same request of us. On our loneliest or most pain-filled days, God is not oblivious to what we're going through. He comes alongside us and whispers gently, "Tell ME something good!"...because He knows that if we verbally rehearse what He's done for us in the past, repeat aloud what He's promised us in the future, or speak our thanks to Him for the blessings that abound even in our pain-filled present, we can't help but have our faith restored and our hearts filled to overflow with hope and joy once more.

May those words be our mantra as we march into Fall, then...that we make it our business to daily tell God something good, and then listen and receive what He surely will say to us in response.

"Even though troubles came down on me hard, your commands always gave me delight. The way you tell me to live is always right; help me understand it so I can live to the fullest." 
(Psalm 119: 143-144 MSG)
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