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Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:38

Beauty Hunting

I learned a new phrase the other day: beauty hunting. It’s active pursuit of discovering beauty in the world around you. Isn’t that great?

Francis Bacon wrote “Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite”. Beauty, in all its forms, inhabits the world around us. Maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to move past the pain of the past year. It’s okay to grieve losses and celebrate beauty at the same time. God promised us beauty for ashes in Isaiah 61, it must be around to find. Looking for delightful moments allows us to peek at the limitless creation around us, and it redirects out minds to hope and restoration.

As a new empty nester, I need some hope and restoration. Actually, the first thing I’m doing is retiring the word empty from empty nest, because empty evokes hopeless emotions. But we are far from hopeless. We are ready to thrive! Transformative nest doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a better description. There’s a fresh life full of adventure – and beauty – waiting for each of us. For many, life slows down, and you can finally take a deep breath, look around and take in all sorts of lovely things and moments. Beaty hunting!

In this new season of life, I’m looking for fun to rejuvenate my spirit. So, let’s make a game of this. When you are out and about, see if you can observe beauty with all five of your senses. For example:

  • I see an older couple holding hands.
  • I hear the giggle of a child. (Isn’t that the best?)
  • I smell freshly baked bread.
  • I feel the cool breeze after a thunderstorm.
  • I taste the wonder of a pour over coffee.

Beauty promotes joy and elicits wonder, reminding us our creator put good in the world for us to enjoy. Beauty permeates all of life, spilling out of the ordinary. Allow it to seep into your soul and redirect our sensory input from the negative to the positive. Don’t ignore difficulties, but let beauty keep them in balance.

Beauty hunting creates memorable moments in a normal day. Broaden the scope of its impact by describing why something is beautiful to you. What we see as beautiful often comes from experience.  That older couple mentioned above represents resiliency in marriage. They remind me of my parents who shared 57 years together before my dad passed away. Time tested they remain together with a bond that cannot be broken. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s true about that random couple I saw but to me, that’s what they represent. Continue with the list and ruminate on each beautiful observation. Linger over the details.  

Beauty hunting can look however you want. You can do it alone or with a group; it starts great conversations! It can be used when out to dinner and the conversation wanes or on a walk through a familiar neighborhood. Our souls yearn for the lovely in our lives to touch us deeply and produces joy and peace.

Try it and email me your observations! Everyone needs a little beauty.

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Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 01 July 2021 14:55

My name is Victory!

Ephesians 1:13 (ESV) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,Sealed with the promise

Destiny was born to a drug addicted teen and left at the hospital to be placed in foster care. Her little, puffy body struggled as she, too, craved the drugs she received during her prenatal development.

Cindy and her husband were looking to adopt another child. Cindy heard about little Destiny through a chance meeting, but their lawyer said it was unlikely because the baby was born in a different county and the birth mom had given up custody. They left the courthouse downcast and uncertain of the future of their little family. 

Cindy questioned the promise she heard from God; did He indeed have a plan?

Against the odds, they received the call informing them the judge ruled in their favor. They could pick up their baby immediately! Destiny, renamed Victoria, became a permanent member of their family, sealed through the legal action of adoption. Now, 10 years later, she recognizes her own name in Scripture. With great joy she exclaims, “There, that’s me, Victory!”

We, too, can rest assured that God has adopted us into His family. Ephesians 1:11-14 assures that God chose us; Jesus invited us into the family and the Holy Spirit keeps an impenetrable bond. This Holy Spirit’s seal protects us from rejection from God’s family; the adoption is permanent (2 Corinthians 1:19-23). The Trinity guarantees our place in the family. What a delightful assurance for each of us that we have a place within God’s Kingdom — a right to be called God’s child (John 1:12).

Paul knew Roman adoption erased all history of the son when he became a member of their new family. The child did not choose the family, the family chose the child. Often quite wealthy, they chose a child to bear the family name. Forgiven all past debt, the child gained the rights of adopted family. This guaranteed their inheritance and place in Roman society.

The same is true for God's children. God chose us, we accept this adoption through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit inside of us bears witness to this (Romans 8:16). Our debts are forgiven by the promise of the new covenant through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Mark 26-29). Holy Spirit Himself seals us permanently, becoming our guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22).

Paul’s goal in the book of Ephesians is to explain the principles of the gospel. The promise held in place by the Holy Spirit’s seal secures us from Satan. It proves our authentic identity in Christ as we stand before God (John 5:24). It confirms our testimony that we truly belong to God (1 John 4:6), for the Spirit of truth resides in us. This is where our confidence lies, in the deep understanding that nothing breaks this guarantee. This seal is permanent, a mark identifying us as a child of God.

Like Victoria’s name changed, so does ours. We are a symbol of God’s victory over sin and death. My name is Victory!

Prayer: God, we praise You and thank You that You made a way for us to join Your family. Forgive us when we forget that Your adoption is permanent. Thank You for eagerly receiving us when we turn back to You. Thank You for the promise fulfilled by Jesus, and we delight in knowing the seal of the Holy Spirit is on each of us, changing our life course to victory. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 01 June 2021 20:13

Embrace a Zoe Attitude

 

We volunteer at an inner-city community nonprofit on a regular basis. I love the people, and some are becoming like family. As I planted flowers, some of the neighborhood boys asked to help. Carefully, I showed them how to pull the plants out of the plastic pots. I explained how to pull the roots loose as to better spread in the new soil. Finally, I demonstrated the depth of the hole they were to dig. Two of the boys worked together on planting one plant and decided that was enough.

“What else can we do Ms. Leslie?” They asked

“UH…” at a loss I looked around. I noticed large chunks of dirt clods in the new soil. “Break apart the clods!”

And they did. With great glee they hacked away at the chunks. It was fun to see the boy’s exuberance as they went about their task. As the dirt flew around me, their excitement inspired me to complete my job. The joy of children makes any job fun even with dirt raining down on me.

In John 10:10, Jesus promises to give us life “and have it to the full”. Other Scripture versions use the word abundant for full. Abundance means we have more than we need of something. It is an overwhelming supply. A full to the maximum resource. An abundant life, the “Zoe” in the Greek, is one that is full and vibrant. It is a genuine life that is full of gratitude, one that recognizes that God blesses each of us. These blessings are not necessarily financial or even health but rich in relationship - the joy in knowing that Creator God wants to spend time with me.

After a year of uncertainty, it’s harder to live this way. I realized my daily routine brought security that 2020 upended. Returning to the true source, Jesus, I find that inner joy.

Jesus promises this life to all who follow Him. It is not an event. It isn’t found through service or recreation. It is found through trust in Jesus. No matter the circumstance, God stays with us. Our advocate is standing up for us, walking through it with us, and inspiring us on to do whatever each day holds. This is the Zoe life. The life that is full and genuine. A life that is worth facing each day, knowing that the God of the universe invited us into something greater than ourselves. We are to embrace a Zoe attitude in all we do.

WHAT A GIFT to grasp this way of life, each day recognizing that Jesus relishes living this life with us, the Zoe life promised to us.

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 29 April 2021 17:38

Easter shoes showing me the way home.

 

As a little girl, my sisters and I received a new Easter outfit every year often including a new pair of white patent leather shoes. I felt grown up as the heals clicked down the church hallway. We paraded into church with our new dresses, Easter hats and our fancy shiny shoes. Those were special shoes, marking for the most important day of the year.


This year my Easter shoes looked different. Our church sponsored a stay-home mission trip. We served local organizations in various ways to help alleviate much of the added work that this difficult year brought.
Assigned to staining a deck and ramp of a warming center, I tried to work without inconveniencing the residents, but that proved more difficult than I thought. We could not lock the windowless door, so several people accidently stepped out onto the wet deck. Redirected to the other exit, most quietly respected the request.


At the end of the day, my white shoes were covered in red stain blotches. I sent pictures to my kids asking them to guess what I had done that day. Various guesses related to blood commenced, entertaining us with the silly humor we like to share.

But one moment from that day captured my attention.
Two men approached the ramp hesitating and unsure of what to do. I apologized for blocking their entrance, inconveniencing their normal routine.
One replied, “It’s okay, you are making our home beautiful.”


This caught me off guard, he said “home”. Home implies permanence, a dwelling place for family. A place I regarded as temporary for those suffering setbacks, a place of rescue and even sanctuary but not home. His comment humbled me and reminded me of how little I really knew of other’s sufferings.


Holy instances like these, cause one to pause and reflect. Straining to see behind the supernatural veil, I captured a glimpse of Jesus in that moment.
Jesus, as Messiah, had no home but He abided in the Father and we abide in the Christ. When we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus, and we are truly home. Discussing this with my son, he drew my attention to Psalm 91:1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty”


That man’s pleasant response reminded me that he was not the only one at home in that instance. I too, found my home there because Jesus was there in that man’s words. As I write this, I am reminded that maybe I mislabeled the needy person in that circumstance. Truly after a difficult year, I was the least of these and this man’s humble spark of gratitude in a life of hardship, deeply ministered to me.
Now, my stain-spattered Easter shoes remind me of the promise that my eternal home will always be in Jesus.

 

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 05 January 2021 19:07

Revive!

Inward revivals radiate outpng

An inward revival radiates out. You can’t help it because the joy of the Lord bubbles out flowing onto anyone that passes. This is who I want to be in 2021, no not just want CALLED!

My hope does not rest in the current circumstances of our world. Darkness wants to rule over us and tell us this situation or that situation will steal something from us. Honestly, I’m not interested in the opinion of man, whether I agree with the opinion or not. In the long run it doesn’t matter. My hope resides in the promise that God is with me. No one can take that from me.

I believe God told me last summer to go and serve Him no matter how I feel. He can protect me but there may be “deep waters” I will have to go through, and He will be there.   (Isaiah 43:2) So I served, one eye on the circumstance and the other on the Lord.

Romans 12:2 inspires me to get both eyes on the Lord and away from the dark. It now seems customary to share negative opinions, showering them over whomever is nearby. I repent of any way I have contributed to this and ask God to transform me. Our mind holds the key to renewal when we willingly surrender our thoughts to Jesus.

Reading through this verse let’s dig in and apply it. When we daily allow Holy Spirit to transform our way of thinking we learn to live God’s will. This good plan, Agathos in Greek, holds a promise to not only possess a good nature but a useful one. A usefulness that bubbles over with joyful and honorable actions. This alone is complete we don’t have to do anything else and others will notice the change.

Fill us

 

With that I am letting going of criticism and embracing altruism. Although not necessarily the antithesis of one another the first often hampers the  care for others. Revive my spirit Lord so that I can revive others.

Father forgive me for my wrong thinking. Help me to shed my cultural mindset and to daily look to YOU for renewal. Mold my heart and mind to you so that I am empowered to love the way YOU love. In Jesus Name, AMEN

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 31 October 2020 12:47

Thanksgiving, Pandemics, and the goodness of God.

Savor the flavors of Gods goodness

Thanksgiving 2020 feels like un-holiday. For many of us, extended family will not gather. Full tables with empty chairs make for a bleak celebration. Such an outlook can contribute to our despair instead of filling us with gratitude. We need to tilt this holiday on its side. This year will be different but not bad. Gratitude, the center of this holiday, focuses on what we celebrate the good opposed to focusing on what we’ve lost.

In the book Beautiful Resistance by Jon Tyson, he highlights the importance of celebrating God’s goodness. This reminds us that He provides the blessings in our life. It forces a pause to look for the good in the busyness of life that we often overlook. I don’t want to do that anymore; I want to embrace the good.

There are multiple Hebrew and Greek words used for the word good throughout Scripture. Its complexity becomes apparent when we search it out. Good, such a simple word, how could it be so complex? The difficulty rests in using words to describe our God. His perfect holiness transcends our own understanding and words fail. Good describes one’s nature as pleasant, agreeable, joyful and happy but it also means excellent, distinguished, upright and honorable. It describes the personality as possessing integrity, virtue, and purity. Further we see it described as precious and beautiful, full of kindness with an upright heart. Wrap that all up with gentleness, mildness, and meekness.

Read through those words again. Let the richness of each word envelop you with its strength and comfort.

Studying God’s goodness reminds me of a plentiful feast. After a season in which much was stripped away, we find a rich banquet set before us. We crave refreshment and sustenance as we sit down to God’s rich table. We take a bite, savoring the flavors as they stimulate our neglected taste buds. At the end of the meal we sit satisfied that God’s goodness met every need. When we nourish ourselves on the complexities of the word it revitalizes us, feeding the joy inside of us.

Psalm 23:6 reminds us that God’s goodness pursues us. God sends good, pleasant, agreeable, and beneficial circumstances into our lives for our welfare daily. Our job is to look for it. Even in times of suffering, good will surface. Caught up in what we don’t possess blinds us to the present blessings. We simply need to turn and let the goodness chasing us catch and surround us. No matter what God is good. That is worth celebrating.

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 03 October 2020 12:31

The Dragonfly Effect

 dragonfly effect 2

 

Dragonflies played a lovely part of raising our son. To pass the time while his sister napped, we
counted the dragonflies that sunned themselves on our neighbor’s roof. As he grew, he learned
to capture these delicate creatures and bring them to me for study.
 
Dragonfly eyes dominate the tiny faces of these odd creatures giving them excellent vision.
While our vision sees in shades of three primary colors, the dragonfly sees way beyond that, up
to 30 different primary colors. Their vision captures much more of the vibrancy of the light
spectrum, they even see ultraviolet rays!
 
Body heavy, these fascinating insects look like that couldn’t get off the ground. Yet, their
iridescent wings glimmer in the sunlight as they fly. Masters of flight each of their wings work
independently allowing them to catch their dinner on the fly. At 30 miles per hour they can eat
hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
 
I can relate to the dragonfly. I feel like I’m awkward and unable to do what God calls me to each
day. But if these baffling insects can traverse the air with acrobatic stunts, I too can learn live in
the way I am designed. Free to fly as God leads and seeking the vision to see His next steps. This
is how I see you as well.
 
Dragonfly women fly because they are fruitful, linked, and yielded.
 
        F: Fruitful, bridges to other generations and builds relationships that bring unity to the
            body of Christ. We recognize we need each other but we also value the next as well as the
            previous generation as dynamic members of our community.
       L: Linked by these bridges, we depend on one another because we yearn to nurture
           each other as well as be nurtured. A vibrant woman thrives in community.
       Y: Yielded to the Holy Spirit, we desire a close relationship with God that builds our
           confidence and anchors our identity in Christ. We release insecurity through living as God's
           child.
 
When we learn to live this way, we recognize God esteems us as His daughters. Our mid-life
centers around renewing and restoring ourselves recognizing we are still needed. We are a vital
part of our community.
 

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 
Published in Devotionals