Soil and Roots…

On a recent visit with my in-laws, my mother-in-law was pointing out the great job that her gardener had done on the new landscaping and sprinkler system.  But we noticed that the parkway planter area that held a large beautiful tree, was quite dry.  She told us her gardener assured her, “Even though the soil doesn’t seem like it’s being watered enough from the top, the roots were getting plenty of water from the surrounding soil UNDER the ground.”  He told her what to look out for with the tree to make sure it was growing and not suffering from lack of watering.

I have not been able to get that story out of my head for weeks now.  And here I sit at a new coffee shop and I realize that the mural on the wall in front of me…it’s a painting of roots!  Okay, Lord, I get it!  I’m digging in!!

Jeremiah 17:8 say, “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is exactly the verse that came to mind when my mother-in-law was telling us about her tree.

I would not say I have a green thumb…nor a black thumb…just hands that are really good at purchasing new plants when the old ones die.  Why do you think they sell plants at the grocery store?!  But I have managed to keep quite of few philodendrons alive (and mostly well) in my kitchen and living room.  Indulge me a bit while I share my “gardening” observations.

I have six plants in my kitchen and four plants in my living room.

The 6 plants in my kitchen are fabulous!

One of them I received from a friend who was moving out of state and couldn’t take it with her…my “Jenn plant” has managed to stay alive and green for the 5 years since her family moved. I think it thrives because I notice it more and water it more often…it reminds me of my friend and I pray for her and her family every time I see it.

The larger plant on a stand by the window is the one that thrives the most. I believe because it’s closest to the sunlight, it grows the best. It has the benefit of weekly watering and is daily bathed with the rays from the sun. There are two other plants on the little kitchen sink window ledge that live well with partial sun as well.

Now, the two to the left of my kitchen window, that’s another story. They are in smaller pots, which means that there is not a lot of space for their roots to spread out. But the pots are just so cute…and the shelf they sit on doesn’t really have space for a larger vessel. They are little out of my line of sight, so I know I wait too long to water them. They look quite wilted and give me little hope that they will “spring back to life” just because I water them  But every single time I take them down and give them a good watering, a few hours later I look up at them and they’ve been revived!  It’s amazing what a little water can do!

Well, then there’s the plants in the living room.  We don’t really get any sunlight in there, at least where I have the plants. Those pots are regularly the ones I have to repurchase new plants from the store. They start out full and lovely and after time, I’m watering pots of dirt with one stalk of three or four sad leaves on it. And they don’t perk up at all after the watering.

So what kind of plant are you?

Do you put yourself in a place where you are being watered and cared for?  Do you soak in the sunlight when it’s available?

Do you slowly lose your stamina until there’s almost nothing left?

Or are you the tree planted with deep roots?

When we make the decision to stand firm in our relationship with the Lord, and let Him water the roots of our life in Him, we can withstand ANY kind of storm or drought. Even when the topsoil of our life is dry and dusty, we can still grow and bear fruit of who God is in our life. We need not fear anything because we know Who we are rooted in.

Taking time each day to be rooted in God’s Word ~ that is the only way to remain standing and not sway or break with the ever-changing moments life will bring.

Think of a palm tree. I’ve lived in Florida – palm trees galore. I’ve witnessed the strength and remarkable flexibility of these trees during storms. Being born and raised in Southern California, what is more iconic than the palm tree lined streets of the city suburbs and beaches? Here, the greatest characteristic of these trees is that depending on where they are planted, they are either straight and tall, or they seem crazily slanted…but both features are simply because they desire to be in the full gaze of the sun’s light.

Palm trees are amazing to me when you see them bending like crazy-straws during a hurricane but when the storm is over, it regains its composure.  How?  They have an incredibly fibrous root system that goes down into the ground very very deep.  The palm has roots that keep growing, that continue to gain nutrients to sustain their life, and a leaf system that overlaps the branches all coming from one common trunk.

I mean, I am so excited just thinking about the similarities here between my life as a Christian and how God made palm trees.  I mean, besides how cool they are, what a life lesson they are to us ~ and I know that God does not do anything haphazardly.

Do we remain steadfast and let our roots go deep with God? Do we yearn so earnestly to be in the light of the Son, that we may look a little like a “bendy-straw” to those looking at our life? Do we look like we’re going to simply break in half during the storm of life? Do we regain our strength and stand tall when the storm is over? Do we continue to bear fruit in the midst of a drought?

I know these plants.

Sometimes I contently sit in my “little pot” waiting to be watered but slowly dying inside because I don’t go where the sunlight will strengthen me. But I want more of those times when I’m seen, watered, and cared for by Gardener. Unlike a plant in a pot, I have to be an active participant in the watering!

I know this tree.

More and more I am the palm tree. I know the value of sticking close to God’s Word and burrowing deep so that the roots of my heart and soul are planted securely within the truths of the life He has intended for me to live.

I am this tree.

I’ve been the tree in the desert, the tree with the dry topsoil, the tree that still survives because the roots are deep. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I don’t have the market cornered on staying strong in the midst of the storm. I just know that trusting in the One who refreshed me with water from the spring of everlasting Life in Him.

So even when I look a bit slanted, or a bit like a crazy bendy-straw, just know that I’m in the process of reaching out to be as close to the Son as I possibly can! Come join me!

Blessings,

René

Jeremiah 17 verse 8

 

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Don’t pay for the Fancy Water…

On our recent trip to China {totally love that I am able to tag along with Tony on his business trips} I noticed something at each of the hotels, each room we were in had at least two free 16oz. bottles of water. With tags or coasters that encouraged the guests to take the water with various sayings…”stay hydrated” ~ “water is life” ~ “hydrate your mind”.  Although they offered these free water bottles, that  by the way, were replenished daily whether the original bottles had been drank or not, there was also one illustrious extra-large bottle of “fancy water” – a well known name brand.  But that one you would have to pay for.

So each day, the guests have to choose – drink the free water or pay a ridiculous amount of money for the name brand water.

Hey, I was just excited that all of these hotels offered the choice…and yes, I’ll take the free water. Every. Day.

Once we arrived at our 3rd hotel, and the free bottles of water continued to appear, I couldn’t help but think about the life-giving water that we are freely offered by Jesus.

How often have I gone for “the fancy water” & by-passed what the Lord is offering to me as a gift?

So what do I exactly mean by “fancy water”?

I want to be very clear here that the examples I’m about to give are NOT bad or wrong…it’s just that sometimes we place a higher level of dedication and interest in the name brand stuff.

When an author comes out with a new book, I’m clicking on amazon to buy it faster than I should. {Seriously…if y’all are interested in reading/studying just about any Christian book/devotional/study that’s been released in the last ten years, I’m sure I have it & I’ll let ya borrow it!} Sometimes I make myself stop & simply place it in my “book list” for a future purchase.

  • I’m on email lists for online bible studies and daily/weekly devotional.
  • I’m in several different bible study groups on Facebook.
  • I follow a myriad of amazingly gifted & talented speakers, authors, and singers.

All of these things are good.  All of these groups are beneficial to my spiritual growth. All of these people speak/share scriptural wisdom, and are also vulnerable enough to share with thousands of strangers via their insta-stories, what God is helping them work through in their life at the moment.

However…..

When I count on scrolling through social media to get my fill of God’s word through inspirational quotes, meaningful scripture verses, or heartfelt stories ~ I’m drinking the fancy water. 

But wait you say…social media is free! 

Yes ~ but I’m paying with my time.

I’m paying with “quick fix” mind set. 

Let’s be real, if someone were to ask you at the end of the day what the most inspirational post you “liked” that morning was…would you be able to answer them? I know most of the time I couldn’t. I might remember the basic gist of a few but not word for word.

John 4:10, “Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

So what’s the “free water”?

It’s Jesus. It’s Him as the Living Word. It’s Him as the fountain of Living Water.  

It’s Jesus. The One with whom we will never thirst again.

When I spend my time reading the Bible ~ apart from bible study time ~ and truly dig in deep asking God to reveal to me what I am to learn that day about His character, then I am truly refreshed. 

The best moments of reading my Bible come when I am searching to know more of who God is and not “what’s in this for me” mode.  The more I know about God, about the Bible, about the story of the Bible…the more that God will reveal to me about who He wants me to be…who He has created me to be for Him.

The Living Water Jesus freely offers to us came at a great price.

It is free to us because we can never {like. Ever. Ever. Not. Ever.} come close to living a life that would earn our way to eternity. Jesus died on the cross, along with all our sin, and rose again so that we could have the gift of bring free of the death that sin brings…the permanent separation from Him will not happen to those who receive the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. 

John 7:38, “ The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Read your books.

Attend bible studies in your church or online.

Follow your fave people on social media.

Just don’t stop there. 

Actually, don’t start there either.

I’m guilty of this more often than not, so this blog is for me just as much {or more!} than maybe for you. I honestly appreciate the time you have given to read along with my musings of the day. 

Stay hydrated with the Water of Life and your heart and mind will be hydrated as well.  Enjoy the time you spend with  the Lord, praying & reading scripture.

You will come away refreshed without one iota of regret for the time spent with your free water. I promise!

Blessings,

René

John 7 verse 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations and Preparations…

I absolutely LOVE to have parties & get-togethers!! To the point it drives my sweet husband a bit crazy. 

I mean, what better way to get your house clean than to prep for a party! Right? In our almost 27 years of marriage, we have moved 14 times…yep…fourteen! And every single time, we’ve hosted family & friends for a birthday party or holiday celebration within a month of our move in date. My family indulges me, even in the midst of my crazy, to help get the house in order.

Boxes are unpacked, items put away, pictures are hung on the walls, and drawers are filled. And okay, whatever I don’t know what to do with in the moment, stays in the box and goes into the garage! Come on…you’ve got a few (or 20!) of those boxes in your garage too!! 

But inevitably, “crazy-town mom” would rear her ugly head & the beautiful event we were preparing for would be scarred with one of my freak outs. It’s hard sometimes to look at photos of various events from past because they are marred (in my mind at least) by my unrealistic expectations that I poured out on my family like boiling tar over the walls of a castle onto the enemy. It still makes me cringe, and I once again have to give those guilt feelings to the Lord and ask Him to touch my heart & mind with His grace…and grace for my family too.

Over the years, the intensity of planning parties has lessened for me because the true value of these times of celebration is about the people. It’s not about the platters & bowls matching perfectly on an expertly laid out serving table.  And thank the Lord, I stay away from Pinterest…no judgement for you if you have all kinds of things ‘pinned on you party boards’…I just know that for me, it would be more of a burden than a joy.

But I LOVE to celebrate….like, EVERYTHING!  I have boxes in the garage for every holiday…Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Fall, Thanksgiving, and of course Christmas (those take up the most space).  And yes….there is a difference between “Fall” and “Thanksgiving” decorations!!

I’ve been known to put in silly  notes to my kids lunches all the way through high school!  I love to arrange tea parties and coffee dates with friends, just because. Surprising a special teacher at school with treats or their favorite Starbucks drink. Baking cookies during the holidays and throwing old-fashioned “cookie exchange” parties.

I simply LOVE to CELEBRATE!  After all these years, I’m finally getting better at the “pre-celebrations” part!

Several years ago, September 9, 2013 to be exact, my husband’s first book was released!  It was so exciting!  He had worked on it for over two year in-between his day job and keeping up with all of our family adventures.  So of course, I wanted to throw him a party to show him how proud we all were of him.  We wanted to celebrate his accomplishments!

He wanted to go out to dinner with just our family.

So of course, I organized a surprise party for him with our friends and family!  Appetizers for the guests to enjoy until we got back home and yummy desserts to enjoy after we arrived.

I had the task of making sure he didn’t go out to our “garage fridge” so he wouldn’t see all the goodies. Then, I had to figure out how to get him out of the house. The errand I created wasn’t one where we would get dressed up, and I thought, “What does it matter? We’re celebrating his achievements, not our wardrobe!”  I had our three girls ready to spring into action to set up food & decorations after we left. I remember how surprised they were when I told them, “Y’all know where all the serving platters are, you know what food we’re serving, have fun with it, get creative & use whatever you want.”

They just stared at me like I’d spoken in a foreign language. Finally one of them spoke up and said, “Anything? Are you sure? I mean, usually you want things in a specific way.”  And they were right…they’d seen “crazy-town mom” one too many times. I assured them that I would be happy with whatever they did & wanted them to use their creativity. The best part…I meant it…and they believed me.

Oh, and my sweet husband was completely surprised & loved the party. No stress. No craziness. Just celebration!

But what really has spurred my recollection of that party was the “party weekend extravaganza” we recently enjoyed. 

Yes…ENJOYED…every minute of it!!

I enjoyed it thoroughly because I let go of my unrealistic expectations & control. I remained completely present at every event. Not allowing myself to jump to the next one. Each celebration was unique unto itself & could not be repeated.  The help that was offered, was gladly received.  The friends who helped set up and clean up were immensely appreciated. Dirty dishes in the sink for days…didn’t matter because that’s what a dishwasher was for and there was plenty of time later for that.  The people were the important parts of each celebration to focus on.

Within three days, these were the fabulous memory-making parties our family was involved with:

Friday night – High School Baccalaureate for our youngest daughter, followed by a family dinner, and a 10pm showing of “Wonder Woman.” ~ which was amazing!!

Saturday morning/afternoon – High School Graduation (our last daughter graduated..so this was really “it” for high school!), followed by her party.

Saturday evening ~ drove an hour-ish to my nieces “California Baby Shower”…she is such a cute pregnant momma!  So wild that I’ve known her since she was 3 months old and now she’s married and about to become a Mom!

Sunday morning ~ Family Wedding Shower for our oldest daughter.  What a joy to meet with all of her fiancé’s side of the family.  And seriously….my first baby is getting married!  WOW!!!  This shower was lovingly given by his side of the family,  and it was truly a blessing to simply “showing up” and celebrating my girl and seeing how loved she was by her new soon-to-be family.

Sunday afternoon ~ Visit with my father-in-law for his 94th Birthday.  It was worth the hour long drive to see him for a quick bit and tell him how much we love him.  He is not a great health right now, so it was important we go and see him instead of just calling.

Sunday evening ~ Visit with my parents, brother and sister-in-law to celebrate and early Father’s Day (another hour-ish drive).  Our middle daughter was in town for the graduation and Tony and I would be out of the country on the actual day.  Since this was the busiest day, we decided that we would have dessert and coffee instead of a full meal.

Then….back home! Exhausted but happy!

Each of these events were special and worth celebrating fully!  We made it to each one on time (um…yeah….first time to get to graduation ceremony and did NOT have to take the satellite parking shuttle service back to the venue thank you very much!) and I allowed myself to have fun at each one.  Because I was not thinking of the next one!

It was a whirlwind weekend for sure, but absolutely none of the photos that were taken have even a hint of “crazy town mom.”  I love that!

I’m thankful that the Lord is helping me to grow in this area because He created me with a love for celebrating my people!  What I do with that gift is either honoring to Him or honoring myself.  We all know which attitude is better to have.

When I’ve tried to prepare for a party with the intention of impressing those in attendance, it has rarely gone how I expected it to go and end up regretting choices, being ashamed of a negative attitude I allowed to take hold of me, or worse yet, making my family feel like they cannot do anything well enough or good enough simply because it’s not how I would have done it.

I believe God will bring back this “Celebration Weekend” to my mind whenever I start giving “crazy town mom” the keys to the party bus!

God wants us to celebrate…it’s in our nature because it is in HIS nature to celebrate!  The Bible is full of celebrations and feasts, and not one of them was to glorify the host or the party planner.  They were to honor Him….for His goodness, His mercy and grace, His protection, and His joy and love that He has for us.

In no way have I reached perfection in the party planning adventures…but I’m getting much better. I’ve become an expert of the “quick clean” ~ which is nothing to really be proud of…just being honest here…seriously though, don’t open my bedroom door!

But when people leave my home, I want them to go away from the house with a smile on their face, a lightness in their heart, and a feeling of being refreshed because they had been celebrated…they had been warmly embraced and made to feel welcome.

Don’t be afraid of the celebration…of the party planning…of the organization of it all.  Once you have the idea of a party, give it back to the Lord and He will guide you in the steps of the preparations. He really does care about you and how you want to celebrate the people in your life.

So go plan that party!  It’ll be fun!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Celebrations blog

 

A New Calling…

Today, I am living in an “in-between” frame of mind. It is Wednesday morning in Shanghai and it is early evening at home in SoCal. My mind is in two places at once and so is my heart.

I had to write this fine before the memory subsides…that is, if it will.  I wasn’t even sure that I was going to post this for “all to see” but that is the point of sharing what God has laid on your heart.  Let others know so that they can partner with you!  Our stories and our experiences are meant to be shared.

I left the hotel after having breakfast with Tony (my man!), to walk down to the local Starbucks. Yeah, I know….but sometimes you just need the smells & tastes from home.

As I stood outside at the corner waiting to cross the street (or should I say, waiting to play tag with the myriad of cars, pedestrians, scooters, and bicyclists) I was struck by this thought….

“How many of these people know the Lord.” 

I can tell you that I normally don’t have that question running through my mind unless I’m in a situation that I’ve prepared myself to be in. Does that resonate with anyone else? I think living in America, I just figure that everyone at least knows who God and Jesus are. They may or may not believe in Him as their Savior, but they have heard His name.  I mean, I am a “tag along” on Tony’s business trip, not on a purposeful, planned for, missions trip.

The next moment, the Holy Spirit begins to whisper a directive to my heart…a promise of sorts. One that I’m totally unprepared to hear. 

“These are my people and I am calling you to love them. I am calling you to be available to serve my people in ways you have only begun to imagine. I am calling you to love my people around this world who are desperately seeking Me but don’t know how to find me.”

I began to feel completely undone in my heart, the tears started to well up in my eyes, and I was both thrilled and terrified to begin to ponder what all this means.  So I guess I was terrifrilled?

So, not wanting to scare anyone around me as I walked down the street, I let my heart ask the questions.  I was already crying, talking out loud would bring way more attention than I wanted to garner.

“What are You talking about Lord?” 

~ I’m telling you to love my people. You have Me so you have the ability to do that.

“How am I supposed to do what you’re asking?”

~ I gave you the gift of writing and conversation, so use that.

“Do you mean I’m literally going to travel the world?”

~ You have a passport & a 10 year travel visa to China, don’t you?

….ps….I love it when the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor in His answers…

“Okay, what do I do now?”

~ Just listen to My voice and you will know My plans for you.

Um….okay….

But being me, I want to know and I want to have it all figured out…now. 

I will tell you that even now, sitting at a window table in Starbucks, the tears are once again pouring down my cheeks. My heartbeat quickens as I think again about what I feel God just told me. And once again I think, “But what does that mean??” 

The Lord is so good…because as soon as I ask that again, He begins to bring memories to my mind of past conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had this past September with a sweet godly woman, Mrs. Trevor Yaxley, as I sat with her in a lovely restaurant overlooking a small pond that was mostly covered with water lilies. I met her because I had the privilege to travel with Tony on a business trip to Snells Beach, New Zealand.  {seriously…it’s so cute!}

Her husband owns a Christian animation company that Tony is connected to via one of their films.  On one of our last days in town, she asked to take me to lunch. It was one of those moments where you meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve known them your whole life.  

We talked about our kids, stages of life, and what we saw the Lord doing in our life.

If you know me, you know that I love to write and speak/teach within church ministries to women of all ages. My hearts desire is to be a published author and speak to women all over. Admittedly, when I shared this with her, I meant “all over” to be just around the country…the US…safe places. 

She said to me, “Why not the world? What about China?”

{insert sound of tires screeching here}

Wait now…what?!

I just about spit out my coffee! What in the world was she talking about?? What do I want to do that for? I’m a stay at home mom with stuff to do at home. {side note…don’t let anyone make you feel like you are “just” a mom….it’s the hardest job!}

You see, she & her husband have contacts all over the world including China. With their company, they do a lot of business with people in China. That coupled with knowing that Tony travels to China sometimes, she said, “The next time Tony goes to China, you should go with Him. God has a plan and I see you speaking to women all over the world about how much God loves them & wants to pursue them.”

Women from all over the world? Well, living in Southern California, that is definitely possible because of the melting pot of culture we live in. So, okay, sure…women from all over the world.  Check!

To be honest, when Tony found out that I could accompany him on this current trip to Shanghai, I didn’t remember that conversation with this lovely woman. I thought… “Yay…free trip to China? Let me go get my travel visa!”

Which brings another memory swirling to my mind.

When I picked up my Visa at a little Chinese travel office in Pasadena, the man & woman that were there were so happy to see me. I was greeted with smiling faces, “We have been waiting for you Miss René.” What? They are just being good business owners. But still…it totally caught me off guard. I got my wallet out of my purse to show them my ID & receipt of purchase, they checked all documents, and handed me my passport back. 

It was open to the page where my new 10 year visa had been secured. The gentleman said, “You have many trips ahead of you. Please enjoy my country and my people.”  

Um….okay….

Is that something he said to everyone? The woman behind the desk seemed just as enthusiastic in wishing me many good travels ahead.

Back to reality….My heart is once again struck with this memory, more tears are threatening to fall down my face. 

Isn’t that basically what the Holy Spirit just whispered to my heart a short bit ago as I decided to take a walk instead of going back to my room to read?

“These are my people and I’m calling you to love them.”

Right before we left for this trip, I took a friend out for a pre-birthday lunch at one of my favorite places in San Marino called Julienne’s. {If you go…buy a loaf of their Rosemary Currant bread…it’s amazing!!}

I was telling her about a funny thing that had come up for the trip. Tony actually has events & meetings set up with three different companies & the schedule was packed! So much so that he was double-booked one of the mornings. Lo and behold, the contact for one of the meetings asked if I would go in Tony’s place. Well sure, happy to help out. 

Then a few days later, I found out that I was expected to give a speech…in front of 50 members of the press, and about 150 other attendees. Good thing I’m not afraid of public speaking!! Thank you Jesus!!

I shared this with my friend at our lunch, and jokingly said, “My first speaking gig in China.” Haha!! She finished her bite of meatloaf and said, “Why are you laughing. It could be the first of many. You don’t know what God is going to do.” My friend Carla is one who hears so clearly from the Lord, speaks with conviction, and does so carefully as to only share what she hears the Holy Spirit says to her. When she has prophetically spoken over me, I know it’s something to pay attention to.

I didn’t end up giving my 5 minute speech but that was fine.  However, I felt a stirring in my heart during the mtg, but didn’t know why…until I heard God tell me that Tony & I would soon visit this city. Really? Me too? That doesn’t make any sense?  Tony is the business guy. What will I be there for?

Nonetheless, I did my job as VP of our Animation company, and all was good. Then our contact came over to me & said, “Come over here. Someone wants to ask you a question.” Turns out that “someone” was a local newscaster from the city that was hosting the press conference; and along with my interpreter, we had about a 5-7 minute interview. All I know is, there were far more then 200 people who saw that.

What does God have planned??? 

I don’t have anymore to go on right now, but I tell you what…I’m gonna be paying extra attention from now on!  I never have really had an experience where God’s plan has been perfectly laid out before me to follow.

I’m not nervous about the future. I have lived enough of life’s joys and challenges, that I EXPECT to be surprised by God and how He chooses to work.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit sometimes I wished that He worked according to my time table; but I’m always more grateful that He doesn’t. My journey of faith has been one of great triumphs and desperately low defeats. But my faith has grown stronger with each step. Strong enough that even when I get freaked out about life, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that His plans are the best…that His direction for me is the most fruitful.

So now, I wait. And I watch. And I dig deeper into God’s word to receive His direction.

I share this with you to ask you to join me in prayer ~ to see God’s path & to boldly walk through doors of opportunity, to love His people all over the world. 

Thank you for reading this & thank you for your prayers!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Street in China by hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Careful, your mask is slipping…

I was recently watching a show that I had recorded on TV, called Kingdom of Heaven, taking place in the 12th century during the Crusades, set in Jerusalem. {http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1}

It was very fascinating to me that the king of Jerusalem at the time was not a well man, he had leprosy. But that did not stop him from ruling the country. His birthright deemed it so and he did his job to the best of his ability. It was interesting how he wore a metal face mask to hide the ravages of leprosy that had attacked his face. For every day tasks he had a plain mask, where the only thing you could see was his eyes. It was a little unsettling to be able to hear him speak but not see his mouth or his lips moving. The mask was solid in the area all around his face except for his eyes. What I found very interesting was that when he knew he needed to go to war with the enemy, with all of his frailties and disfigurement, he knew as the king he had to be the one to lead his people, his army into battle.

He did not dress down for the battle either. He put on his full armor.

It was so astonishing to see him enter the battlefield dressed in his finest linen edged with intricate gold stitching and amazingly intricate patterns of other gold fabric that had been woven into the garment. But what was even more fascinating was his mask. The mask he wore was absolutely stunning. It had been carved with beautiful flowers and vines that intersected all over the whole thing. When he met his enemy in the middle of the battlefield he spoke with strength and determination and was able to settle their proposed battle without any bloodshed.

Upon his death he wore another mask that was darker in color to reflect the somber situation. The last words he spoke to his sister were, “Please remember me for who I am and what I used to look like in my youth.” You see, she had not seen him in his disfigurement.

He had servant’s that took care of him and his decaying body…and were sworn to secrecy. And I don’t believe it was from embarrassment, I think it was from a place of honor and respect. But after this king had breathed his last, the sister removed mask ~ his beautiful & perfect mask ~ to reveal a face that was hideously disfigured by the leprosy.

She was of course shocked, but you could tell the sadness in her eyes was simply because her brother was now gone. Not because of what he looked like.

So how many masks do we wear throughout our life, our day?

When we are feeling disfigured spiritually by the sin in our life, we put on a mask, and use beautiful garments to hide what is really going on underneath. We have different masks that we wear depending on who we are with. A mask with our family when we are out in public. A mask when we are with our family behind closed doors. A mask that we wear when we are volunteering at our kids school. The mask we wear at work every day. Maybe even the mask we wear with our spouse?

Most of the time I think that mask we tend to put on is just a regular, simple and fairly ambiguous mask. The one that says, “Life is great!” when it really isn’t.

The more beautiful the mask, the more disfigured the soul. The harder we try to distract from the ache of our soul, the deeper the lines are at carved into our mask. We don’t want to let anyone know about what is really going on…

  • Anxiety
  • Financial problems
  • Eating Disorder
  • An abusive relationship
  • Difficult children that are getting out of control
  • Addiction problem
  • And the list goes on and on.

So what happens when that mask slips? When our frustrations and fears get the better of us and we begin acting out of control?

Luke 12:2-3 says, “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (HSCB)

How much of our life stays covered and hidden from the Lord?  NONE of it! The masks that we have so cleverly and carefully fashioned over the years, will fall away in the instant that we come before the Lord, humble ourselves, and ask Him to make the beautiful the disfigurement of sin.

I John 5:12-15 reminds us, “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. (HCSB) {emphasis mine}

The Lord came to earth for YOU…to bring you back from the depths of sin and eternal death.  He does not want you to experience the death of sin, so He has given us the gift of His salvation.  There is nothing we can do to earn it.  There is no need to wear a mask of perfection for Him…because He can already see beneath the mask.

From personal experience, I know what happens when you remove the masks you where in your life. Freedom happens. But it isn’t easy. God expects us and wants us to be a part of the recovery. We have to be determined to operate within the power and strength of HIS might…not our own.  When we try to do it on our own, the mask will pop right back on!  Don’t save the mask, no matter how beautiful you think it is!  THROW IT OUT!

You find true freedom in walking the path as the person God created you to be, flaws and all. You will bring honor to the Lord when others see that you struggle in life, but more importantly, you put your faith and hope in the power of the Lord.  When the mask comes off, we are proclaiming that we are not perfect, but we are perfectly LOVED by the Creator of the Universe.

And if you have any doubts as to where “the mask” fits into the spiritual battle armor (Ephesians 6)  we are called to wear?

It doesn’t.

There is NO mask.

When the mask comes off, our countenance will tell the story of God’s redemption and His love.

Matthew 5:16 declares, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” {emphasis mine}
Take off your mask today ~ choose to live in the freedom of eternal life ~ and share with others the great glory of God’s salvation!
Blessings,
 René
Luke 12 verses 2-3

 

 

 

Abundant Heaps…

When you read that title, what are the images that come to your mind?  Something that  you collect?  Something that has been given to you?

Is it the ominous laundry room with the floor scattered with heaps of clothes and towels and everything that came out of your child’s closet…that is really clean but they didn’t end up wearing it but didn’t feel like hanging it back up again? Do you see the pile of bills on your counter that need to be gone through to figure out which one needs to be paid first…Or which one you can pay at all? Is it the stack of stuff that ends up piling up around the house with things that you haven’t had time to take care of yet… The magazine stack, that project you’re working on, the Bible study book that you been looking for and it’s at the bottom of one of those piles? We all have those kinds of and piles around our home. We’ve all been there, we’ve all taken that day to clean up and get everything put away and in order. But in the blink of an eye…they are back!

Thankfully, there are better kinds of “heaping abundance” that we have the opportunity to fill our lives with.

The first heaping abundance gift that can be strewn across our life is grace. The second heaping abundance that we can allow to pile up in our soul is kindness. And the last one, certainly not the least one that we can carry around is an abundance of love. His Love.

OK, so picture with me that pile of stuff on the kitchen counter (you know you have one)but now imagine it was a pile of grace. Think of grace as something that you can see, something you could touch, something you know you would never run out of. How wonderful it would be when you found yourself in a stressful moment of your life, there was a magnanimous amount of grace offered, all you had to do was to go to that pile of grace on your counter and take what you needed!  And lo and behold, there was so much you were able to give some away at the same time. To be able see that pile of grace out of the corner of your eye and be comforted to know that God gave you that abundant heap of grace to use in your life.

I will admit that the times in my life when I have been far less than grateful, it is due to my own selfish desires.  I allow myself to get caught up in what I think I deserve and many times hold the people around me to standards that are impossible to reach. Over the years in a variety of circumstances God has humbled me and reminded me that there is nothing  more powerful than for me to be able to show grace to others. The beauty here is this is when they will see Christ in me. I do not want to reflect an untrue representation of Who the Lord is, but I do that every single time I do not show grace.

One of my daughters recently pointed out to me in an extremely passionate way, to remember that we have no idea what other people are going through and it is up to us to react in a way that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”  It’s not about us…it’s about how we serve those around us while honoring the Lord at the same time.

I don’t believe it’s just talking about a 9-to-5 job scenario. It is in all that we do. It is in the carpool lane on the freeway. It is in the line at the grocery store. It is in the way that we discipline our children when they are young. It is in the way we treat out teens as they are growing from child to adult. It is in the way that we support our husbands after a long hard day. And it is in the way that we treat those around us on a daily basis. Don’t you want that abundant heap of grace around your home… Around your life?  Every day!!‬‬

That brings us to kindness.

What if our soul, the deepest part of our soul had kindness flowing out of it like the never ending pile of clothes in the laundry room? How would your life be different if you pretended that you were carrying around a basket, burgeoning with kindness!  If you bumped into someone they were bound to get some on them. If you tripped and fell, kindness would spill out all around you. If you were sitting having coffee with a friend and you began to quietly attend to the “laundry” in that basket, more than likely your friend would be able to join in and share in that moment…they would be encouraged to participate in an act of kindness. You know how a bunch of clean towels fresh out of the dryer feels so scrumptious & warm? What if you offered your child, your friend, or your spouse, the opportunity to be wrapped in the warmth of your kindness?  Doesn’t that sound delicious!!

With our heaping piles of grace and the warmth of kindness…we dive into love!

I will admit that my favorite part of any meal is dessert. Who doesn’t love to peruse the dessert section of the menu!  When I think about having a “heaping abundance” of love, I will tell you that the first thing that comes to my mind is the huge ice cream sundae called “The Zoo” made famous by Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in Southern California. It has so much ice cream in the bowl that it borderlines on the obnoxious. As my 6th birthday was drawing near, all I wanted to do was have my party at Farrell’s so that my mom could order The Zoo. Because this ice cream sundae was so heavy it was actually carried in by two employees on a specially made tray that was secured on two poles. The two waiters would put this contraption on their shoulders and then two other waiters would lift The Zoo Sundae onto it. But the spectacle didn’t stop there…not by a long shot!  As they emerged from the back of the restaurant, The Zoo was lit up with sparklers and there was someone walking in front of it banging on a huge drum. There were whistles and shouts and everyone in the restaurant knew that someone special was about to be celebrated. At this point, any available wait staff had joined in the parade, and they would all come to the table, march around the party goers, then stop where the birthday person was sitting.  I’d seen it a bunch of times, but this year it was my turn. One waitress helped me stand up on the chair and encouraged everyone in the whole restaurant to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. As the sparklers died down, I blew out the huge candle on top and got to choose the first scoop. I think there was about every kind of ice cream in that thing and at least five kinds of toppings oozing over the top. And of course the crowning glory of it all was probably an entire can of whip cream and a handful of cherries tumbling down. I probably still have all of the plastic zoo animals that hung around the edge of that big silver ice cream bowl, tucked away somewhere.

So considering that this was about 40 years ago, you can see the impact is still there. I can hear the drums and the whistle, I can hear the excited shouts of the waiters announcing that it was my birthday. I can still see my little self standing up on the chair because I wanted to see what was in the bowl. This is the kind of heaping love, the love of Christ and the love we have for Christ that should be brimming to overflowing in our life.

How would it feel?  How would it be to life with the overflowing love of Christ? We could move forward in every part of our life with that much more kindness and that much more grace. We would be able to walk into a room and be ready to celebrate everyone we come in contact with. Whether we are meeting with one friend at a coffee shop because they’re having an extremely difficult time in their life. It can be when we walk onto the campus of our kids school with a ready heart to show the love of Christ to other parents, teachers, and the staff. We can walk around our neighborhood, the grocery store, the gym, everywhere… And people will see that there is something different about us. The way that we carry ourselves. The countenance on our face! Is it daunting to think that some of the people we interact with in our life, that we are the first or possibly the only picture of Jesus that they will see? Absolutely! But it should not be a burden to carry all of this love. It needs to be a joy! Something to share at a moments notice so that people can hear about the love that The father has for them.

Heaping Abundance of Grace.

Heaping Abundance of Kindness.

Heaping Abundance of Love.

Today ~ maybe your grace, kindness, and love are more of a small stack rather than an abundance heap. The best way to grow in all of those areas is simple really. Just practice those characteristics. Do little things to show others that you care, even if you don’t know them.

Let the person behind you who only has one or two items go in front of you at the grocery store. When you notice someone is trying to move lanes on the freeway, slow down a little bit and wave them over. Instead of pointing out the one or two things that are still a mess in your kids room, compliment them on the part that they DID complete. Tell your husband “thank you” when he empties the dishwasher or take out the trash or walk the dog or gets up in the middle of the night with the baby.

All of those things will speak volumes to the people around you and they will have a glimpse of what it is to be covered by the warm, inviting, generous joy of the abundant heaps of grace, kindness, and love that is shown through us by Jesus.

Blessings,

René

Hope is like a belt buckle…

Yesterday, heard a pastor on the radio talking about hope. In that same day I visited my daughters’ high school to watch her sing with the worship team in chapel, and the teacher that spoke to the student-filled auditorium that morning… You guessed it – it was on hope. Later in the afternoon I read several posts from different Christian authors that I follow and all of their messages were about hope. In the evening on my drive home, the host on the radio program I was listening to was talking about hope. So it seemed very clear to me that God was calling me to investigate hope a little bit more and write them down for today.

Now I know my Bible enough to know that in terms of clothing analogies the “belt” in the Christian armor of God, is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). But as I heard the pastor speaking about Hope on that first radio program, he mentioned that hope is really the connection between the past and our future.

Whether it is something that is happening later in the day or even the next day, that is our future because it hasn’t happened yet.

Hope is something that is look forward to.

The radio pastor was encouraging us to remember what we have hoped for in the past and how God has answered those prayers, so that can fuel our hope for whatever it is we are looking forward to in the coming days, months, or years to come.

When I heard this analogy I have to admit that I immediately pictured one of those huge cowboy belt buckles! All blinged out and personalized for the owner.  Come on ~ you know what I’m talking about!!

I got to thinking more of the function of a buckle. The belt buckle must be connected to both ends of the belt fabric, in order to be effective. If we as believers are putting on our spiritual armor every day, which must include the belt of truth, we can in a sense, buckle that belt with the power of hope. Hope in the Lord!

When we know the truth of God’s Word then we can increase our confidence and walk in the hope that the Lord provides us. It says in Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  And not only that,  but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character,  and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (emphasis mine).

All of these things rest upon the other. Instead of looking at this list of virtues as a list as if they were all separate, imagine something different with me. Imagine the wood-shake siding of a cute little beach cottage. Each layer is built upon another to create that effect. So it is the same with all the characteristics that are named in this verse. We don’t get to skip some and just choose the ones that we want, or the ones that we think are going to be easier to attain.  That would leave holes in the siding and make the house susceptible to outside dangers.  So it goes with our spiritual life.

romans-5-verses-1-5

Honestly, we can hope for a great many things. But hope is nothing if we do not have truth to base it on.  Hope is not effective in our life if we do not have faith in the one who gives us that Hope.

I think Romans 5:2 summarizes this concept beautifully ~ “We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

One way to promote the growth of hope in our own lives is to be immersed in community with other Believers.  I have had a variety of experiences in my life that caused great suffering for me.  Had I not had the partnership of those around me to pray for me and lift me up when I did not have the stamina to do so on my own, I shudder to think where I would be in this life.  In fact, scripture tells us of the joyful command from God to be in community.

Hebrews 10:23-25 says, Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering,  for He who promised is faithful.  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

A pastor at my church is well-known for saying, “remember in the dark what God has done in the light.” When we feel that we are in a dark place, that we are suffering, that we are feeling alone, we can take that walk of faith to remember all of the other times that God has lifted us out of a dark place. The moments of suffering that are replaced with rejoicing.

As we think on these things and as we look to scripture to bolster our spirits, we have our faith renewed and that will give life to a new hope in our heart for whatever it is we are trusting God for in the future.

With trust, faith, and hope…these three characteristics in our life are not a guarantee of ease or of even getting what we want or hope for. They are there to sustain us no matter what the outcome of our situation is. It is very difficult when the prayers that are lifted to the Lord from a heavy heart come back to us with the answer of ‘no’ or even the answer of ‘wait’. We do not have any guarantee of comfort, an easy life, or a life without suffering in various degrees.

What we are promised is that no matter what we go through, Jesus will always be by our side.

Forever and ever, Amen!

psalms-136-verses-1-and-26

Each New Year {especially} starts off with so much anticipation of what is yet to come. Sometimes the year ahead turns out exactly how we had hoped. Sometimes there are tweaks here and there, and sometimes our life is turned upside down.

These are the moments to choose to hold tightly to the hope that is in Jesus Christ. To choose to praise and worship the Father knowing that He truly does have the best in mind for us. God is not in the business of granting wishes or making our dreams come true.

But He will absolutely {and every time} give us what we need.

And what we need is to be filled with His Spirit so that we can shine the light of His glory to the world around us. The people in your realm of influence: be it in an office, a classroom, your own home, or your neighborhood. The Lord has put you right where you are for a specific purpose.

He has a plan for you, and it is good.

Blessings,

René