Friday, December 20, 2013

Star Search

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
Matthew 2:9-10, KJV

The Magi were guided by what they believed in their hearts to be true. When was the last time you journeyed an unknown path by faith? Join the wise men on their arduous journey today at the link below.

Star Search

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Chosen Vessel

“He saw two boats at the water’s edge … He got into one of the boats.”
–Luke 5:2-3, NIV
I was recently invited to join a team of writers for ZooKeepers Ministries: A non-denominational ministry founded on Titus 2 dedicated to helping women and families around the globe find harmony in their homes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My first 5-day devotional series began this week. Please join me each day as we examine how to become vessels God will choose to use.

The Chosen Vessel
Day 1: A Steady Boat 

Day 2: A Ready Boat

 Day 3: A Weathered Boat

Day 4: A Perceptive Boat

Day 5: A Receptive Boat

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


"My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare."
Psalm 25:15, NIV 

I am a third generation artist, and for an artist a camera is an indispensable tool. My introduction to serious photography began in college. I am not sure how many cameras I have owned since then, but I know I have driven my family senseless snapping photographs. I sport my camera daily like a wrist watch―not wanting to miss a moment of God’s spontaneous entries on the pages of my life.

Even now as I write, a butterfly has become entangled in a spider’s web outside the window only inches from my desk. Because my camera is within reach, I am able to capture another divinely orchestrated moment. This unassuming creature is oblivious to the fact that it is being held captive by not one, but two predators―a spider and the unrelenting lens of my camera.
The butterfly sits motionless as if to assess its unexpected turn of events. I too am still. It flutters but only for a split second. No panic or frantic display of energy is exhibited; simply one brief effort to see, if indeed, it is caught. Powerless to fly, it submits to its tethered state. I continue to maintain my vigil. Then, a sudden burst of wind shakes the web. Its captive is set free.

Life throws unexpected difficulty our way. We spend countless hours and energy trying to free ourselves from discomfort. Perhaps, like the butterfly, we would spend less time in captivity and with minimal after effects if we simply chose to be still and allowed God to intervene. Our unyielding efforts only ensnare us further and cause us to miss what God ultimately desires for us to see.
God desires for us to know him―to capture our hearts through any means, at any place and at any time. He wants to manifest himself not only through the obvious but through what, upon first glance, we perceive as ordinary.
Take a second look at your surroundings and allow life to come clearly into focus. Look beyond the obvious, and expectantly wait for God to speak. He longs to capture your heart.

 Please visit my blog, Bringing Life Into Focus, at the link below.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's All in the Packaging . . . Or Is It?


"What matters is not your outer appearance . . . but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”
―1 Peter 3:3–4, MSG 

Most of us are familiar with the quote, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Well, I must confess―I do. As well as canned goods, household products, smartphones, cars, appliances, and just about anything that boasts a price tag. This mindset was etched into me as an advertising design major in college. Our classroom mantra was, “Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.”

In the world of advertising, appearance does matter―big time. The successful sale of a product is dependent on its packaging. It may be a lousy product, but if it is packaged well, it sells. The opposite is also true. A product may be incredible, yet remain on the store shelves due to poor package design. Most of us can attest to this fact, having bought a product that we quickly became dissatisfied with because it simply did not measure up to its outward show.

As for mankind, Scripture is very clear on how we are to present ourselves and on how we are to receive others. Taking wholesome pride in our physical appearance is important, but nurturing our spirit must take priority. Cultivating character not only pleases God, but it shapes our perception and acceptance of others. God looks at the heart, while people judge by the outward appearance. We see this play out daily as society continues to elevate and reward those who are attractive, well educated, and talented, while others are aching for someone to invite them to participate in life.

As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I have seen the heartache of those considered “less than,” as well as their delight when someone reaches out to include them in activities. Those who are willing to invest themselves in socially challenged individuals, regardless of the cause, often discover inner qualities in them that are refreshing: unconditional love, a desire to please, pride in a job well done, sincere empathy, selflessness, the voice of truth, and unlimited forgiveness.

So don’t judge a book by its cover. Take a moment to look inside others. In doing so, you may discover an amazing story―one that God delights in.

This week, look beyond the physical appearance of someone others reject and invite him or her to participate in life. Yours will be enriched. 
Please visit my blog, Bringing Life Into Focus, at the following link.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Fourth Watch

“About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.” ―Mark 6:48b‒50, NIV
Waves crashed against the ship’s hull only inches from our pillows.

 “What would it take for this ship to capsize?”

“Cruise ships are built for high winds and rough seas,” my husband assured me.

Moments later, “Are you sure we’re not going to tip over?”

My husband’s words always comforted me. It was not what he said so much as the quiet confidence with
 which he said it.

As the waves continued to swell, so did my questioning. But when I sensed the confidence beginning to ebb from his answers, I quit asking.

Wide-eyed, I waited for our captain’s “All is well” to spill from the ship’s PA. The announcement never came.

I can certainly identify with the disciples’ fear: fear that shrouds God’s presence in storms. For the disciples, it was the fourth watch of the night: the blackest part of the night, the eleventh hour. Their white-knuckled hold on the oars began to slacken as the strength seeped from their arms.

Then―Jesus appeared.

He wasn’t running. He wasn’t frantic. He was calmly walking on the water. And he almost passed them by. The way he chose to come was more than the disciples could reason out. Who walks on water? Consequently, they opted to believe he was a ghost, as if that held some shred of logic.

This aspect of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus would be humorous if it was not so similar to our own experiences. We have all been blinded by fear. Fear places our focus on what could happen rather than on what is real. Ghosts are not real. Jesus is―though he does defy logic. As do the supernatural ways he chooses to intervene in our situations.

Jesus was in complete control of the elements that threatened the disciples. He could have halted the storm with a single word. But instead, he chose to speak to the disciples’ fear. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus was already master of the sea; he wanted to be master of their souls.

It takes spiritual eyes to see the supernatural ways in which Jesus intervenes in our circumstances. As long as the disciples were afraid, their perception of him would be skewed, and they would miss the reality of his presence in their storm.

Cry out to Jesus. Allow him to speak to your fears and open your eyes to his presence in your storm. Be encouraged: the source of your problem is under Jesus’s feet. The waters that threaten to overwhelm you are the same waters that will usher him to you.

Do not let him pass you by. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Silent, Not Absent

“Be still and know . . .” ―Psalm 46:10
My husband is away today. Fly-fishing on the river; always anticipating the next Big Catch.
As for me, I am enjoying some solitude as I slip off to my quiet place overlooking the lake. I am not lonely here, just alone. There is a difference.  A place of silence is exactly that . . . a place of silence. The quiet does not mean I will not hear my husband’s voice again. It’s simply how it is for now. I wait in anticipation of my husband’s return and the stories he will tell of the “big one” that got away.
I have been thinking a lot today about silence. What it is and what it isn’t. My sister lost her husband several years ago. She lives alone. For her, there is no expectation of hearing her husband’s voice. No expectation of his return. The reality of her aloneness has become loneliness. Her quiet is more than silence―it is absence, the place where no hope resides.
Today, nestled in my quiet place, I am hopeful I will hear the voice of my Lord. His words have been few lately. Or at least, I have heard few. Why? Not sure. But I am okay with it. You see, his silence does not mean his absence. It’s just how it is for now. I have been here before. And for the moment, simply being in his unseen presence is enough. He has promised he will never leave me nor forsake me. (Deut. 31:6) He has promised; he will return. I wait in anticipation of the familiar ring of his voice and the stories he will tell.
I am still, and I know.
He is silent, not absent.
I have hope.
You do too!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Partners Against Crime

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of
love, and of a sound mind.” ―2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

Only a few days had passed since our home was invaded and I was still suffering the psychological aftershocks of the intrusion. Stepping outside to sweep the porch, broom in one hand, alarm panic button in the other, my eyes scoured the woods surrounding our home.

Was I being watched? Would the intruders return? Would my life ever get back to normal?

Shortly, I heard loud, disturbing thuds coming from inside the house, followed by the sounds of our daughter’s high-pitched cries and her feet pounding through the kitchen. As she swung open the storm door, I simultaneously hit the panic button, sending siren screams throughout our sleepy neighborhood.

Breathlessly, my daughter shouted, “Mommy, Mommy, the washing machine is bumping!”

I stood there―heart pounding, siren screaming, wanting to laugh, wanting to cry. The predators had left remnants of fear in their wake. They had stolen something far more valuable than possessions. They had stolen my peace.

 Peace. We do not realize its value until we no longer possess it.

As easy as it is to justify, I was walking contrary to scripture―living in a spirit of fear. Sound mind? I suppose it left, hand in hand with peace.

Fear initiates irrational responses to our circumstances, and sometimes an irrational antidote is required. For me, the spin cycle of the washer jolted me back into reality―the reality that God will never leave me or forsake me, that he has promised me peace in the midst of my crises.

Are you being watched? Yes.

Will the intruder return? Yes.

Will your life ever get back to normal? Yes. But, not until you take back what belongs to you.

It’s time to put down the panic button, pick up the sword of the Word, and stand firm on its promises. Then, with your shield of faith, resist the enemy’s schemes. The enemy can take your peace only when you hand it over to him.

Walk hand in hand with peace; fear and worry will flee.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Barren Places

"Oh Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery
and remember me, and not forget your servant."
―1 Samuel 1:11, NIV
Hannah was barren and near the point of despair. Her deepest hurt, however, did not come from her inability to conceive a child or the fact that she was one of two wives. It was not a result of being humiliated to the point of despondency or of being misunderstood. Hannah's intense pain sprang from her belief that she was forgottenforgotten by God himself.

All of us experience times of barrenness: periods when no fruit can be seen from our toil, junctures where our lives lack direction, times when our prayers appear to go unanswered. Seasons of barrenness often give way to intervals of losing sight of God or wondering if God has lost sight of us. According to Scripture, God's eyes roam throughout the earth seeking someone whose heart is fully committed to him, yet we wonder if we are even on his radar. We expect to be betrayed by man, but God? The thought is nothing less than gut-wrenching.

Abram's wife, Sarai, is a clear-cut example of one who in her barrenness lost sight of God and his promise. Unable to make sense of her situation and God's apparent lack of concern, Sarai relied upon her maidservant to build a family for herself. Her decision produced a son, but it also birthed the unwanted companions of guilt and regret. The repercussions of her faithless decision resulted in immense pain not only for herself, but for her family and generations thereafter.

Guilt and regret are no strangers to me. I have invited them along as companions numerous times as I have tried to build a future for myself by running ahead of God and his perfect timing. Time and again, I succumb to doubt even though I have realized countless promises of God in my life. By taking matters into my own hands, I try to remedy the profuse bleeding of my heart. My decisions are driven by a fear that God has forgotten methat my desires will be left unfulfilledbut the truth I see in Scripture contradicts my fears. Will my actions ever consistently reflect the fact that God is ever faithful to his Word and that he always makes a way in the desert?

We should be encouraged by the story of Hannah. Even though God was silent, Hannah never stopped praying and trusting his faithfulness. As a result, "The Lord remembered her."

Are you looking to someone or something other than God to build a future for yourself? Cease striving to produce your own fruit. Instead, like Hannah, continually offer up the fruit of your lips and expect your loving Father to perfect all that concerns you. He will remember you. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Paint Box

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life."
1 Thessalonians 4:7, NIV
I tore into the plain, brown paper, wrapping and squealed with delight as my eyes fell on a shiny tin box filled with fresh watercolor paints just begging to be placed into the hands of a young artist. Quickly, I found some paper and lost myself in my creation. It is sad that my budding artist career came years before the day of refrigerator magnets. However, my masterpieces always found a place of honor in our home.

As daughters of a professional artist, my sister and I loved nothing more than to spend the day at our father's studio, where there was always an abundant supply of paper, pencils, paints and paternal praiseeverything a young Rembrandt might need. It was only natural for me to follow in my father's footsteps.

I well remember one particular day in fourth-grade art class. Our assignment: to copy a picture of a bird on a flowered tree limb. I intently set about my work, only this time I was unable to measure up to the high standards I had evidently laid out for myself. As a result I resorted to plagiarism. I discreetly laid my paper over the pattern and traced the image with meticulous strokes. Later, as my teacher held up each work of art before the class, he politely asked me if I had traced mine. Of course I answered, "No," and in my naivety, I believed I had fooled him.

Today there are instances when I am still unwilling to put in the effort required to acheive the optimal result, not only in my life's artistic expression, but its spiritual expression as well. My impatience produces halfhearted efforts and a sprint to a premature finish. Developing artistic skill takes a lifetime of dedicated study and hard work. The same is true when it comes to maturing in Christ and living out his purpose. Our Heavenly Father's standards for living a pure and holy life are high, but he has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Our approach must be intentional. Fulfilling God's vision for our lives requires prayerful time in his presence, intensive study and obedience to his word, and an earnest resolve to follow the Holy Spirit's lead. There are no shortcuts, no patterns to tracesimply his footsteps to follow.

I still have my childhood paintbox. I find it intriguing that the wells once filled with fresh, vibrant, and varied colors now all contain the same dull shade of dirty brown. The result, I am sure, of a young child artist in such a hurry to paint her masterpiece that she didn't take the time to rinse out her brush.

More than a generation later, I must ask myself, "Am I still impatiently tracing an image other than my own, or am I willing to follow the unique pattern my Father has marked out for me?"

Monday, April 1, 2013

Unshutter the Clutter

"Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"John 2:16, NKJV
As a child, I shared a bedroom with my older sister. She would clean up her side of the room and then "graciously" give me the things she no longer wanted. Later, when her side was neat, she would turn and fuss at me because my half was cluttered. Today, we reminisce and laugh.
My oldest daughter will be the first to tell you I keep a clean housemuch to her chagrin while growing up. However, as I "mature" and my energy dwindles, I am frequently tempted to shutter the clutter. More times than I care to admit, I give our house a lick and a promise, and then I renege on my promise. From a visitor's vantage point, our house looks put together. Just don't open the drawers and closets, nor, heaven forbid, the attic. Doing so may resemble comedy shows of yesteryear, when opening a closet door is met with an avalanche of junk and canned laughter.
Today, TV reality programs, which showcase hoarders, serve as entertainment. However, hoarding is neither entertaining nor laughable. An excess of clutter in our homes may be the symptom of a deep psychological disorder. Hoarders not only cling to things of value, they cling to mounds of things which have no value at all. Most of us cannot wrap our minds around this type of thinking, and yet; the reality is, we often replicate it.
There are days I mentally shutter the clutter. I hang on to thoughts of no redeeming valuethoughts which in the long run will prove harmful. I shelve grievances from the past and hold on to an orderly list of offensesall signs of a serious spiritual malady.
In the temple, the Scriptures tell us,  even Jesus did a bit of spring cleaning. He rid the temple of its clutter with zeal as he overturned tables and tossed out the money changers. He had zero tolerance for things that would desecrate his holy place. Zero should also be our threshold of tolerance for all that desecrates our body: the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Spring is the season of renewal. As the last dead leaves of winter give way to fresh buds of new growth, we too are able to shed all that reeks of death. Fling open the shutters. Reveal what is hidden; expose it to the Light. Now, BREATHE. The moment we rid our temples of sinful clutter through confession, Jesus removes it as far as the east is from the west, never to bring it up again.