Sunday, December 16, 2012

*gasping for breath*


I'm a pretty terrible blogger, eh? No posts for a few months...tsk tsk. Well, I promise there's a good...very good...reason behind my delinquency. Think school. And papers. And tests.

I don't know about you, but for me those items generally take priority over blogging to a handful of disinterested followers. :)

I'd thought I'd kick off my free time with something sweet and simple - a few new graphics for you to enjoy! The first two are banners specifically sized to function as Facebook cover photos, and the last is a teensy little icon I whipped up on a whim in between classes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stars and Dots

In 1997 Max Lucado released a whimsical storybook for children entitled You Are Special. It was a book that I grew up on, and I still remember the moments when my dad would pull out it out and start reading to me the story of a little wooden Wemmick named Punchinello.

"Wemmicks?" You stare at me blankly. "Punchinello? Say wha?" Ohhhh yes. The Wemmicks. Those silly little wooden people who, to my knowledge, have yet to discover any real worth apart from stars and dots and probably to this day know next to nothing about how much their Maker loves them. And Punchinello. Ah, Punchinello. The saddest Wemmick of all who taught me and dozens of other 90's kids that, well, "You are special."

The premise of the book is simple: what's most important is what God thinks. However, instead of spelling it out in so many words, Lucado decided to use an ingenious illustration involving little wooden people called Wemmicks. They're all special, of course, but seem to need validation from each other to find any real worth. This validation comes in the form of stickers in the shapes of dots and stars. When a Wemmick performs a noteworthy deed, such as singing the most beautiful song or balancing precariously atop a stack of wooden crates a mile high, the other Wemmicks gather around him and reverently apply the star stickers. However, for those who trip on pavement stones or just can't seem to skip a rock across the water, the Wemmicks are also there to plaster the miscreant with loathsome gray dots.

Such is Punchinello's fate. He can't do anything right. He's the odd fellow tripping over the paving stones and unsuccessfully attempting to skip rocks across the water. He isn't special. He can't possibly be. The star-less bespeckling of dots all over his wooden body are enough to verify that. And he can't do anything about his gray-dotted destiny. That's just the way life is.

Until he meets Lucia. Unlike all the other Wemmicks plastered with a mix of stars and dots, the stickers just don't stick to her. Stars and dots alike fall off. And what's more - she doesn't even seem to care.

Punchinello is dying to know why the stickers won't stay on Lucia and why she doesn't care. When he finally works up his courage to ask her, she smiles and tells him "It's easy. Every day I go to see Eli."

Eli? Who is He? And why is He so important?

You see, Eli isn't just another Wemmick. He doesn't even live with the Wemmicks in their village. In fact, he lives down the road and over the hill and away and away and away.

Who is He, then?

Eli is the woodcarver.

The Wemmicks are His own unique creations, carved out with His chisel and fashioned in love to be perfectly who they are. He loves His Wemmicks, even if they have become a little preoccupied with stickers, aren't perfect most of the time despite how many stars they've acquired, and don't really even know Who He is.

Punchinello swallows his fear and timidly approaches the wood shop, desperate to know what it is about Eli that makes the dots fall off. Hearing Punchinello tiptoeing around the corner of the massive wood shop, Eli calls out, "Punchinello?" He picks a very shocked Punchinello up, sets him on the work bench, and begins to tell the downtrodden Wemmick something very important. "I think you are pretty special," He tells him.

But why is Punchinello so special? After all, can't Eli see the dots all over his green outfit? Doesn't He know that the dots mean Punchinello is useless, a failure in the eyes of everybody? How can Punchinello possibly be special?

"Because I made you," Eli gently reminds him."And I don't make mistakes."

And therein lies the powerful message of the story. Punchinello's value doesn't lie in how many stars or dots he has accumulated, and neither does our value lie in what people have to say about us. Even thought Punchinello was clumsy and unpopular, Eli loved him, because Punchinello was His own special creation. In the same way, even though we humans sin and make a general mess of things, God loves us unconditionally because we are His own special creations. And He doesn't make mistakes (Isaiah 43:4; Isaiah 46:4).
That's a significant amount of back story, but it's essential to understanding the main point of the rest of this post, namely a poem that I scrawled out not so very long ago. I was inspired by Lucado's illustration of stars and dots and consequently did what any sensible person does when they're inspired: I grabbed a pen, sprawled out on my bedroom floor, and got to it.

Stars and Dots

A star for me,
should I live 
my life in such a way
as to please mere men.
And should I fail,
they tell me so. 
For instead of a star -
shining, golden with their praises -
they give me a dot; 
all their scorn in a 
that clings to my flesh
and whispers "You are nothing."
My heart inclines to believe.
For is this not the lust of humankind,
the way we spend our eternal days,
in craving applause,
fading for lack of praise,
to be heard above the noise?
Stars, stars,
from ones who know not their Maker;
dots, dots, 
from those who do not know their own weakness.
And yet all the time,
above the noise,
He is singing,
singing over us!
If we would but cease our frantic madness,
become blind to the stars,
blind to the dots, 
deaf to the voices lying to us,
then we would hear...a song 
that makes the stars grow dim
and the dots become as nothing.
A song that declares,
"I have called you by name,
I have made you;
You are Mine!"
And then?
For even stars cannot compare 
to the brilliance of
His love. 

(See Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:1-4.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Music Video From the Annie Moses Band

I'm very excited. Very, very, very excited.

A certain band released a certain music video that I've been waiting for since May of this year.

And I thought that you might like to enjoy it. ^.^

Ladies, and the occasional gentleman that might wander this way, may I present the Annie Moses Band!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pure Insanity

I LOVE journaling. Gimme my go-to writing instrument (a Pilot "Precise V5" Extra-fine Rolling Ball pen), the warm glow of my bedside lamp, and a quiet evening, and I'm set to scrawl out twenty pages or so of whatever comes to my mind. Whatever comes to my mind. That means government officials could make a good case to incarcerate me for mental instability based simply on the contents of my journals.

But I like it that way. Journaling helps me open up and unearth all the little secrets hidden beneath my skin that I didn't even know existed. And, most of the time, the very act of putting all my thoughts to paper is a way for me to get honest before God in a way that verbal praying doesn't allow. I once had a rare moment of brilliance and captured the essence of that idea, writing, "'s almost as if these journals are their own gateway, an entrance into the very presence of God." I've written everything from the secular to the sacred, letting my pen go with the flow of my heart. Sometimes my words are soft-spoken and whisper prayers; in other cases, I eek out my frustrations in some kookier ways.

The following entry is a case-in-point:
September 11, 2011
 I would wish upon the world sanity and with it an escape from the ludicrous, self-induced chaos that plagues it.
At the very least, I propose sending the majority of Earth's population to another planet. Once this is done, then those who possess at least a measure of sanity could find each other and cease risking their mental health.

Or maybe the sane ones could pack off to another planet and leave the bedraggled rest of the populace to their own devices.

Ah. Whatever the case, a split is most certainly called for. I think I'll telegraph Pluto (probably their most advanced form of communication) and negotiate immigration affairs.

Will update when more is known.



I really did write that. Eeek.

But it really was a very valid rant on the blight of general human insanity. Not the think-outside-the-box-and-break-the-cool-status-quo insanity (that's the one I'm pleasantly plagued with), but the insanity that occurs when we try to live life apart from the way God designed life to work. I've watched people seemingly lose, as they say down south, their "ever-lovin' minds" by choosing to reject God's way and go with the flow of whatever the culture...or their friends...or their boss...or their girlfriend/boyfriend...says.

Sometimes the errors they make are so blatant that I want to punch something and scream, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHERE IN THE WORLD DID YOUR MIND GO?"

And then God whips back my mental punching bag and plants His truth right in front of me like a hybrid wall of bricks, concrete, and steel ringed with barbed wire on top. And my mental fist connects rather solidly - rather painfully - with that mass of immovable truth.

"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall"
(1 Corinthians 10:12).

 *winces* Oh, hello, Pride. Ummm. Wow. This is awkward.

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience" (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So...I'm capable of being just as stupid? Even though I think they're making some pretty terrible decisions right now, I could turn around tomorrow and do something just as bad? I could "lose my mind"? 

Yes, you poor deranged self. Apart from God's grace (1 Cor. 15:10; John 15:5), you are dead to any impulse that would lead toward doing right. In reality, you should be doing everything wrong! The Apostle Paul understood this reality clearly: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. " (Romans 7:18). In and of ourselves, we're pretty useless when it comes to doing good - when it comes to pleasing God. That's where His grace comes in.

"And God is faithful" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Get that? While this statement clearly reminds us what a faithful God we serve, it also shatters our self-sufficiency, that clingy hang-up that tells most of us human beings that we can do it ourselves. First, in verse 12, we're reminded that we're just as "accident-prone" as anybody else. Second, we're told that we all deal with temptation. The final death-knell for our pride sounds when we read "And God is faithful." It's almost as if this author (Paul, again) is saying, "Now, let me tell you how messed up you really are apart from God. And once you've figured out that there's nothing you can really do about it, let me reinforce that idea by saying, point-blank, that God is faithful. Not you. Not your friends. God is faithful." 

But don't get down because you've just been blindsided by the reminder that you can't live a holy life on your own. Celebrate! Rejoice! Get excited! Why? Because there's another meaning to that phrase that should fill you with joy. What is it? Well...God is faithful! Not, "God is sitting in heaven cooking up fire and brimstone for you." Not, "God is experiencing an intense hatred of you." No! God is faithful! 

"For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you..." (Ezekial 36:9).

Today, I just pray that God makes us realize our utter need for Him (Matt. 5:3) and shatters our pride. That's where revival starts, after all. And then, I pray that He will remind us that He is faithful, that He is for us, working beyond our weaknesses to showcase His glory in our lives. For when we are weak, then He is strong (2 Cor. 12:10).

" I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need." -C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's Almost Monday!

Let this be your prayer as you head out into a new week! Trust Him, seek Him, and submit to His will - and be prepared to have a truly amazing Monday...and Tuesday...and beyond!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Well, I've been running around like one of those chickens (you know, those presumably headless ones), but I have a moment to share some miscellaneous graphics with you. The first is a 1024x768 wallpaper (an extinct size, I know, but...) and the last two are sized specifically to serve as Facebook cover photos. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ardent Lovers

Ever feel as if you're just a little too average - you don't hate yourself, but then, you're not exactly thrilled with the person you are? 

"If only I looked like _______"

"I wish I could ________"

We all experience moments of identity crisis. Mild or absolutely untamed, these feelings of insufficiency are normal. But we must never let them go unresolved. Why? Because God, our Creator and the Lover of our souls, has already definitively resolved who we are in His book (Psalm 139:16) and longs for us to come to grips with the fear-shattering reality of His love (1 John 4:18). "You are precious to Me," He declares. "You are honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:4). Subtle fears like "I'm not loved," "no one wants me," "I'm not anyone important," etc...all of those crack and crumble to dust in the wake of His love.

If you haven't figured it out yet, get ready:

You are His treasure.

*contemplates photo* Yes. Enough said. 

The King is enthralled with your beauty.

Just let that sink in. He is enthralled with your beauty, inside and out. Not just happy with, satisfied with...but enthralled. The King - God - looks at you with perfect love and says, "Very good." 

Honor Him, for He is your Lord.

Your response? Don't simply absorb the glow, the warmth of His love, although there are certainly moments when being still in His presence is the best thing you could do. But don't settle into a cozy spot on the couch and never leave your comfort zone, merely content with a me-oriented faith.  Only ungrateful people respond that way. Get up, get out, and share the love that has so richly been gifted to you. The prophet Micah put it rather succinctly: "Do what is right, mercy, and...walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the late 1800s/early 1900s, was one person who undoubtedly grasped the potent reality of God's love. During her life, she saved the lives of over one thousand Indian children who would otherwise have died or experienced a living death in the Hindu temples due to the harsh beliefs of the Indian culture of that day. On God's love, she wrote:

"God wants lovers. Oh, how tepid is the love of so many who call themselves by His name. How tepid is our own - my own - in comparison with the lava fires of His eternal love. I pray that you may be an ardent lover, the kind of lover who sets others on fire." -Amy Carmichael

Because of the love that has been lavished upon you, be a God-lover who goes out and sets others on fire. And don't forget...

The King is enthralled with your beauty. 
Honor Him, for He is your Lord.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fall Fashion Inspiration

I don't know about you, but I've been ready for fall to make its annual appearance. It's time for golden light so thick that you could swim in it. It's time for jeweled treetops, crystal blue skies, and crisp air that sets your heart to dancing.

Ah. Fall.

I absolutely love the creativity our Creator displayed in His orchestration of our seasons. Each one marvels the senses and is a complete work of art in itself, reflecting God's excellence and love of beauty. And there isn't just one beautiful masterpiece of a season, either; there are several!

(Wow. Three short paragraphs, and my mind is already blown. I think I tried to type out at least five different conclusions to that above paragraph.)

So. It's fall. That means a wardrobe mix-up. Yay! While clothes aren't to ever be the focus of our lives or serve as our identity - that God's position - they do give us a fantastic outlet to express the creativity that God built into our personalities. Thus, I rarely tire of sticking this top with those pants, draping several necklaces over shirts to see which matches best, or posing in front of the mirror and debating the flats-versus-heels-and-which-color question. It's just fun! (And let's not forget some fun updos and tricks for my hair...)

When it comes to picking out my clothes for the day, I can get so caught up in looking great and boosting my self-confidence that I often forget that, really, I'm not the center of attention here. The apostle Paul wrote a crystal-clear reminder in 1 Corinthians 10:31 - "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (empahsis mine).

Guess what?  "Whatever" includes what I put on in the morning. Now, that doesn't mean I don a dumpy tee with Scripture emblazoned on the back and a burlap sack as a skirt so that people will only think about Jesus when they look at me. On the contrary. They could be debating my mental stability (or lack thereof). BUT - wear cute clothes, please and by all means! Enjoy expressing your unique, God-give personality through how you dress. 

Nevertheless, consider what people will note about you - or Jesus Christ, Who you represent (2 Cor. 5:20) - by observing what you wear and how you act. Are they thinking, "Wow. What an attractive girl with a good taste in clothing. She's not flashy, but she's looking good - I bet she's a really nice person" ? Or are they too distracted by tight pants or a low top, or some bling that, you know what, is just a little over the top? Allow author, pastor's wife, and speaker Carolyn Mahaney to clarify my point:

"Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel. The world doesn't judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior. People don't necessarily want to know what we believe about the Bible. They want to see if what we believe makes a difference in our lives. Our actions either bring honor to God or misrepresent His truth." -Carolyn Mahaney

 How we dress and our motives for doing so really do impact our ability to shine our lights in the midst of a very dark world. If I'm overly focused on my appearance on a certain morning, I've noticed in retrospect that I usually miss opportunities to share truth with someone who really needed it, love on someone who was hurting, or serve as an example for a weaker Christian or unbeliever. Maybe, however, I just throw on an outfit without much thought. Look back at the end of the day, and I might have distracted a brother in Christ from thinking pure thoughts, missed a chance to model the holiness of Christ before an unbeliever, and overall just really messed up my testimony.

So the next time you head for the closet, and before you get excited planning your next outfit, take a moment to commit your wardrobe to the glory of God. Purpose in your heart to model Christ - in all His holiness, love, and grace - through the clothes you wear and your action while wearing them. Let that little light shine, and you might be surprised at just how bright it is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Thought for the Day

I encountered a pretty powerful thought on Pinterest. (Yes, yes, I was pinning. Guilty as charged.) But I wanted to share it with you.

 "A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart."

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Grand Obsession

It's only been very recently that I've joined the great virtual pinning phenomenon known as Pinterest. (Anybody heard of it?) In all honesty, I really do enjoy scrolling through all the miscellaneous photos, videos, quotes, and links that are to be found in its endless archives. Being the EXTREMELY visual person that I am, I get a big kick out of browsing through the mass of digital files. Dreamy photographs, breathtaking scenery, adorable puppies, clever quotes, interior design ideas, fashion that I'll never afford...


*forces attention back on blog post*


Like all the other new trends popping up in the world of social networking, Pinterest has its pros and cons. You can use it as a tool to share God's truth (which, I might add, pertains to every aspect of life) and have a little fun on the side, or you can sit there for hours having fun and subsequently rationalizing your horrendous waste of time by saying you were doing it for the common good (of whom, I'm not entirely sure...). Or, you can kind of skip through it blithely, pinning here and there, enjoying yourself, giggling at the cute puppy faces, sighing at the wedding dresses...

Ah. The wedding dresses. And the guy in the tux. Now comes the entire point of this discussion. :)

Pinterest (and Facebook before it) seemed to brimming with photos from girls dreaming about their future significant other. They might look like this:

 Or maybe they're focused on things a little more spiritual, like this:

Or this:

But they're all pretty much the same. Same overall message: boy meets girl, boy smiles at girl, dear-future-mister, holding hands while the sun is going down behind them...

Now, come on, girls. You know you like this kind of stuff. I'm right there with you. I think it would be AMAZING to have a hidden photographer waiting to snap a shot of the moment when my future husband proposes to me. And I certainly think there's nothing more important in a man than his relationship with God and a love for His Word.

But isn't a whole album entitled "Here Comes the Bride" or "We Can Dream" featuring photos like this just a little...much? Even a considerable smattering of such futuristic pins in any album might be a bit over the top. Think about it. Does the word "obsession" come to mind? For me, it definitely does. We want to find our soul mate, somebody we can love and be loved by, a good and godly man that we can share the rest of our lives with. It's a natural desire and a beautiful one, placed in our hearts by the God Who the very source and fuel of pure, perfect love. Nevertheless, I would suggest that perhaps there's something wrong when we plaster our lives with dreamy reminders of our romantic aspirations - however spiritual they may be.

My father, one of the wisest people in my life, once noted that humans are created to be obsessed. It's built into us just like love and fear and joy and all of the other emotions that make us what we are. We were created to be obsessed with our Creator. However, because our world is fallen and sin has defaced its beauty, we tend to be obsessed with everything BUT our Creator. Like fashion, electronics, trends...our future Mister...

Are you getting the idea? Instead of being obsessed with dreaming about whoever God might have in our future, why not celebrate the beautiful life He has already given us - and be obsessed with Him?

John Piper put it well: "He is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him."

Make Him your grand obsession. He'll take care of the rest.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Bit of This and That

So I don't currently have much time to write a decent post on anything, but I figured a few graphics might suffice. Now, they're not the greatest, and none of them correspond to the others - making them a kind of random mash-up - but you might appreciate them all the same. There are four 100x100 icons, two 500x250 banners, and a 1024x768 wallpaper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

As Surely as the Dawn

They go by various names.

"Dry seasons."

"Times when God is silent."

"Days when your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling."

"Spiritual deserts."

But whatever Christian lingo we end up tacking on to these scenarios doesn't really make much of a difference. We've lost a certain vitality, that power-packed edge that seems to fuel our Christian walk, and we want it back. God seems far away; we can only attempt to re-live the times when we'd open our Bible and get that soul-zap of encouragement.

I've recently been sloshing through this scenario, and while it hurts, I've committed to hold fast to the truth. What more can a child do, than trust in the unchanging character of her Heavenly Father?

Nevertheless, I've needed some encouragement. And God knows that. He led me to this passage:

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
    now He will heal us.
He has injured us;
    now He will bandage our wounds.
In just a short time He will restore us,
    so that we may live in His presence. 
 Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know Him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
    or the coming of rains in early spring.”

As I read this, I can only sit and contemplate in awe. Hosea is issuing a challenge - "Oh, that we might know the LORD!" - that echoes in my heart. The mental picture created in my mind is one of a race (cliche, I know, but it fits perfectly). Your breath is being snatched away, your muscles are screaming, your head is pounding - but you press on. The finish line is ahead; why on earth would you stop running and forfeit a chance to win? 

"Let us press on to know Him."

I could sit here, clacking away at the keys, delivering my thoughts on this sentence...but is there really anything more that needs to be said? Hosea doesn't engage in in-depth philosophical language. "Just. Do. It. Press on."

"Let us press on to know Him."

What I do gain from this is the awareness that Christian life is not - has never been - easy. The subconscious assumption that salvation is the gateway to an early spiritual retirement is a lie. Children of God are called to a great adventure, an epic trek, which includes (cliches again; beware) mountains and valleys; streams and deserts; sun and rain - the instruments by which God refines us into the image of His Son. 
"Let us press on to know Him."

He will come. As surely as the sun rises in the morning, as surely as it rains in the early spring - He'll come. He'll restore.

"Let us press on to know Him."

 If you're dealing with a similar situation, I hope these musings have encouraged you. Breath deeply, and take a moment to listen to this song (performed by Brooke Fraser and Darlene Zschech). Your Heavenly Father is faithful; He'll come. Just trust.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Frame

 This bit of rambling poetry (if that is what it may be called) was prompted after peering closely at the heart of a beloved sister in Christ and seeing the struggle that lay beneath the surface. Like the rest of us, she was battling for her identity in a world that refuses to give a satisfying answer. Her war is our war - a war from the beginning of time that we wage against "evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). We must remember in the midst of it all that our "real [lives are] hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3) and that in Him is life, and life abundant (John 10:10). Isn't that the heartbeat of grace?

My Frame
With one eye I seek Your glory;
The other craves the glitter
Of a world that is fading.
One foot
Firmly planted in the Kingdom,
The other
Scuffing about for a softer ground.
But I'm not a demon,
Masking the truth with lies and telling myself
With one breath
That I'm "all in,"
Then mumbling a straddler's half-hearted prayer.
God, You know me.
You know this fragile frame,
Dust to be caught on the softest wind,
In a moment blown away.
Help me to know myself,
To look past the veneer of stereo-typed humanity
And see the war that rages in my very soul.
Teach me the meaning of words that only my ear seems to know,
Words like "grace"
And "freedom"
And "forgiveness"
And "redemption";
And oh, teach me how to understand Calvary!
Show me that grace is my gift and my responsibility,
That I should not "use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh"
But "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly" before You.
For when my days are done
And my number of breaths spent
Then before whom else will I stand,
To whom else will I be called to give account,
But my Savior
And my God?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

I try not to be guilty of flaunting my ignorance, but I recently did so in a conversation with a friend. We were discussing, of all things, the importance of Memorial Day. In the spirit of revolting against meaningless traditions (which, you'll admit, do exist in the trappings of American life), we both casually shrugged off Memorial Day as another excuse for grilling hamburgers and taking trips to the lake. (And has anybody else walked up their driveway to get the mail, only to feel like an idiot when the empty mailbox reminds you that, hey, it's another government holiday?)

But I was wrong. While Memorial Day may seem to be a generic re-run of July 4th, it isn't.

Since its establishment as a national holiday on May 5, 1868 (under the name of Decoration Day, due to the fact that observers decorated the graves of dead soldiers with flowers), Memorial Day has been the herald of heroes who loved their freedom, their country, and their families more than life. Their courage and sacrifice give us the freedom to grill those hamburgers and take trips to the lake and grumble when the national postal service decides to take a day off.

We're remiss if we just glaze over the holiday with red-white-and-blue tablecloths and potlucks. The very, very, VERY least we can do is pause and thank God for the heroes that lived and died for the United States of America.

So, then:

To all the families who have lost loved ones in the fight for freedom: thank you. To all the heroes who fought long and hard and survived to share the victory in this life: thank you.

John 15:13 says it best: " There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." Happy Memorial Day!

(For more information on the history of Memorial Day, check out this site:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's On Your Tongue?

 I know firsthand the fine line one often has to walk when it comes to communicating with others. Words, phrasing, context - it's something akin to tiptoeing through a mine field. Since verbal communication is arguably still the most important way we interact with others (despite the overwhelming popularity of tools like Facebook, Twitter, and...oh yes...Blogger), it's often the hardest to navigate peacefully. All too often, we open our mouths and subsequently find ourselves victims - or perpetrators? - of unkind speech. We never meant to say that...or did we?

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness," the famous actress Audrey Hepburn once said in a long dialogue summarizing how to be a beautiful woman. I find it interesting that she got the whole thing rolling with a adage on how to properly use the words sitting on the tip of your tongue. At its heart, Audrey's suggestion was more than a feel-good, look-better-by-being-nicer, pop-culture-morality quip. Instead, it almost directly mirrored a characteristic of one of the Bible's most famous characters: the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. 

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
{Proverbs 31:10}

Substitute "woman" for "wife" in the above verse (because to be a virtuous wife, one must first be a virtuous woman), and it's immediately apparent that Proverbs 31 isn't just the go-to chapter for wives and homemakers-in-waiting. It's a set of guidelines for every daughter of the King who wants to live to please her Heavenly Father and shine as a light in this very dark world. (If Proverbs 31 is a new one on you, then take some time here and now to read verses 10-30. Go ahead. The rest of this post will still be here when you're done, I promise.)

I've known about - studied - the virtuous woman for years, but recently one of her characteristics - the one Audrey Hepburn mentioned -  jumped out at me in a way I couldn't ignore.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.

Nope. Can't ignore it. If it said something like "She wants to say wise things and when she speaks she tries to say nice things that don't offend people," then I could just move on to verse 27 (which, incidentally, would also need a rewrite, since I can tell you down to the tiniest detail what the bread of idleness tastes like). But it doesn't say that. It doesn't mention trying, attempting, wishing - it talks about doing

"She opens her mouth with wisdom..." The heart of this kind of woman is so bent on seeking and applying God's wisdom to her life that when she opens her mouth, wise words practically fall out. She has intentionally focused on becoming wise - reading and obeying God's Word, interacting with older believers who share with her from their depths of godly wisdom gained by experience, etc. - and not without results. What's in her heart is coming out. And it's looking - errr, sounding - good. Her speech is reflecting the heart of a wise God.

"...and on her tongue is the law of kindness..." Notice that Solomon (the author of Proverbs) didn't say, "She tries to say kind things" or "She says kind things" or "On her mind is the law of kindness." No, indeed! First of all, kindness isn't expressed here as a wishful thinking process. This gal actually is kind. She actually says kind things to actual people in actual scenarios with actual results. (Getting the picture?) Her desire to be kind has made the trek from her head to her heart to her tongue.

Second, notice that what's on her tongue is vividly described as "the law of kindness." Now, when you think of the word "law," you probably think of police officers, the Ten Commandments, and court rooms. That's exactly the idea implied here. The virtuous woman has a tongue that's ruled by kindness, just as our roads are ruled (in a loose sense) by the police officers patrolling them. Hers is a tongue whose every word is dictated by the God-given laws that make kindness what it is: "of a sympathetic or helpful nature: of a forbearing nature: gentle: arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance : of a kind to give pleasure or relief" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). 

I don't know about you, but I get the message. God has a heart for women - and men and children - to be intentional about guarding their speech and using their words to bring Him glory. This includes everything from the obvious, like obscenities and their derivatives, to the subtle, like snapping back at another person or (*gasp*) gossiping.

Why don't you do what I'm doing: surrender your tongue to God's law of kindness and ask Him to control the words you say (Psalm 141:3)? Make a resolution to be the kind of person who opens their mouth with wisdom and has the law of kindness on their tongue. It's not easy, but you can depend on God to help you every step of the way. He is faithful!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Diamonds and Spiders' Webs

When an April rain shower meets hushed sunlight and the radiance of God's incredible world, I can't help but snatch the camera and snap a shot or two.

Days like these take my breath away, and I inevitably find Maltbie Davenport Babcock's song "This is My Father's World" running through my head again and again:

This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world, he shines in all that's fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
                   This is my Father's world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!

 This world bears His glory, and we are witnesses to it with every waking moment. That's certainly something to celebrate. Delight in His handiwork!

 "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature...." (Romans 1:20).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

When Daddy Says I'm Beautiful

Just the other day, I found myself once again in front of the mirror getting ready for an event later that afternoon. Whilst I was engaged in bemoaning acne, uneven skin tone, and other belligerent facial elements, my MP3 player was connected to its color-coordinated speakers and cycling through the "shuffle" setting.

Sound familiar?

As my appearance all but underwent  "urban renewal" (as comedian Bill Cosby once put it), my musical accompaniment played the likes of Tenth Avenue North, Darlene Zschech, Kari Jobe, Newsboys, and the O.C. Supertones...ignoring, of course, the Christmas ditties still lingering on my playlist long after the season to be jolly had passed.

I've never been especially ecstatic about my physical appearance. Even though I believe that external beauty is temporary and not nearly as important as a beautiful heart (Proverbs 31:30), I still have to grapple with how the culture defines "beauty" and tell my fickle heart to be still (Psalm 131), to stop seeking an identity in anything other than Jesus Christ (Col. 3:3). It's a daily arena for battle, and satan knows that. He'll come at me with everything he's got, and I'll start to weaken and let my armor down, leaving my heart vulnerable to his lies.

Sometimes, however, I won't even give the whole makeup/hair/clothing routine a thought. It's just something I do almost involuntarily, especially when my schedule is busy. That's the situation I found myself in the other day. Not really consciously engaged in what I was doing. The music kept on playing, a background noise that I wasn't actually listening to.

Until this song started playing.


*cue smile*

I have an incredible daddy, who not only takes the time to tell me I'm beautiful, but has spent his life teaching me how to have a truly beautiful heart in the presence of God. I still remember the very first time I heard this song (when Annie Moses Band performed it live at our church), and I'll never forget how the tears started streaming down my face. This was a song about me and my daddy, and about all the other daddies and daughters in this world.

But beyond celebrating the incredible, encouraging relationship between a father and daughter, this song reminds us of an even greater relationship: the one that exists between God the Father and His daughters who have had their sinful blemishes washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the incredible mercy and grace of our Heavenly Father (Romans 5:21, Romans 8:15), He looks down on us and says, "I have called you by name; you are Mine. You are precious to Me. You are honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:1, 4). Our Heavenly Daddy says we're beautiful.

And that's the very first thought that entered my head, as I stood in front of the mirror poised with an eyeliner pencil in one hand. My Daddy says I'm beautiful. Here I am, not even concerned about today's cosmetic forecast, and He chose to speak to my heart because He knows its weakness. What a God I serve!

God was reminding me - and you - of the unbelievable, radical truth in Zephaniah 3:17:  

"For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With His love, He will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."

 Take the time to hear Him singing over you today.

Do you struggle with the "beauty game"? How has God shown Himself faithful in this area of your life? Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When Facebook Status Updates Aren't Enough

I tend to be a wordy person.

Thus, Facebook posed a real challenge to me, in that status updates were limited to a certain number of characters - frequently leaving me with no choice but to trim away at a lengthy thought, condensing it into something the text box would actually accept.

Then Facebook decided to lose the limits and let pretty much any number of characters slide. Now your status updates can be pretty much as long as you want them to be. Nevertheless, they still pose a problem: in a cursory scan of your news feed, who's going to read the update that consists of several paragraphs of someone's thoughts...however good they may be? And I, quite frankly, have a lot of things (thoughts, music, graphic art, you name it) that I'd like to just get off my chest and out into the big wide world.

 Thus, "The Beautiful Side."

Now, before I run headlong into the world of blogging, I think one clarifying disclaimer is necessary: I am not the main point of this blog. "The Beautiful Side", just in case you think otherwise, isn't about me. I'm not planning on pouring out the contents of my journal or cranking out worthless dribble about how many times I've visited Starbucks and the health benefits of drinking coffee regularly (although heaven knows I love the stuff). I want "The Beautiful Side" to be, first and foremost, a place of refreshing. A place of ministry, where you don't meet with a frail human's opinions and frivolous pursuits - but where you meet with God and the liberating  truth of His Word (John 8:32). My heart's deepest prayer is that you encounter God. That's all that really matters.

Whether it's through artwork, poetry, or thoughts from my journey as a Christian walking in her Master's steps, I want you to be encouraged and reminded of God's incredible love for you. 

So welcome to "The Beautiful Side"!
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