Friday, March 18, 2011

God's Work of Art

Fjord in Alaska - The Warming House

Mountain View

A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently.





Hello friends! Before I share with you today, I want to say that our family has been watching the events unfolding in Japan. We are very sorry for the tragedy you have suffered and pray for those of you who have been affected by the destruction there. We have a God who walks with us through every trial and who always succeeds in bringing some good out of the bad. In the process, He demonstrates Himself to us so be watching for Him as you progress through this time. As my friend, Will Wyatt says, "The truest thing about God is what He says about Himself in the Bible." As you deal with hardship, stay focused on what He says about Himself there. Know that God cares about your struggle and so do I. Please send me an email to thewarminghouse@gmail.com if you have any specific prayer requests.


"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will  not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:2-3a

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Last fall, I went on a long hike with a friend of mine. We began to talk about her paintings and she told me there had been one painting in particular that she had not been able to sell to interested buyers. With tenderness in her voice she explained the reason why. She didn’t think anyone would ever be able to love it as much as she does. I replied, “That makes sense. You’re the creator. You have lovingly shaped it. No one can love it like you do.”


Then it hit me. The same is true of God. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made man in His own image.  No one can love us like He does because He is our creator and we are His creation. We are His works of art and unique expressions of His heart.

There is always more tweaking that can be done to any work of art whether it’s my friend’s paintings or my writing. The work is rarely truly finished or complete. It always feels as though there’s more that can be done to bring it to perfection so we lovingly view the work and make changes here and there to bring out more beauty . . . to make it express the creator’s heart more accurately.

Again, it is the same with God. Because of His love for us, He takes great time with us. We are incomplete without his touch. He sees our value and potential, and never gives up on us. His goal is to perfect us - to mold us into the image of His Son. Just as a work of art is helpless to paint itself, we are helpless to make ourselves complete without God's creative hand.

“. . . he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6


There is a painting in my home that reminds me of this very thing. It’s an incomplete painting my grandfather was working on when he died of cancer. The upper half of the canvas is alive with muted colors of green, brown, and light blue. The train station in Joliet, Illinois stands to the right under a sky of billowing clouds. The tracks in front of the building form an “X” where the Santa Fe crosses the Rock Island line. Devoid of color, the bottom half of the painting is sketched in pencil only. The ghostly outline of a man trudges along the tracks, the weight of his years apparent as he walks in a stooped position leaning heavily on his cane. His other hand clutches a rectangular bag holding his life’s possessions.



My grandfather had a deep affection for the railroad. This piece of artwork was certainly a labor of love. Despite his illness, he invested himself in it until his final days. He had titled it, "Near the End of the Line". Incomplete and unfinished, every time I see it I am reminded of the fact that God isn't finished with me yet. With infinite patience, He sees the changes that are necessary in my life. His intimate brush strokes lovingly shape the contours of my character into the image of His Son. (Romans 8:28)

When I first became a Christian, I didn't see beyond the initial "transaction" of getting my ticket to heaven. In the years that followed I lived life apart from God, looking for significance, love and security in all the wrong places. The things I received from the world were just a cheap imitation of what God desires for me. There was so much more and I was missing it altogether. God wanted to be a part of my daily life, walking through each day in relationship with me. He wanted to progressively place His nature/character within me. He waited patiently for me to recognize this and when I did the great adventure of my life truly began. Following His lead and living for Him hasn't been easy. There have been many struggles, suffering, and even persecution, but He has been right in the middle of it all. The reward has been His presence - even though I sometimes doubted it. He has given me strength and helped me to persevere through the hardships that have confronted me. He has taught me about Himself, and is deepening my faith - even when I'm angry with Him or don't understand what He's doing. With the mistakes and terrible choices I have made in my life, it was (and still is) astounding to believe that He would want to invest Himself in me in this way. The sacrificial investment He makes in each of us proves that He is truly a God who loves and cherishes those He has created.


What about you? Have you considered the fact when you "accepted Christ" it was intended to be the beginning of a journey? Have you realized that God wants to invest Himself in your development? Trust me, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. Abortions, affairs, addictions . . . nothing can destroy His love for you. You are His creation, He couldn’t love you more, and He ain’t done with you yet! He will never force Himself on you so consider what your life might look like if you were to align yourself with Him and give Him creative license to mold and shape you into His image.




"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14



Fireside
Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.



A couple of years ago, my niece earned herself a nice, fat speeding ticket. To make matters worse, she was ticketed in a town she had been forbidden to travel to that weekend. My sister-in-law was trying to figure out how and when to tell her husband what had happened. 

I looked at my sister-in-law and asked, “Why are you worrying about this? You aren’t the one who got the ticket. Your daughter did. She should be the one to tell her dad.” This made sense to her so she had her daughter meet with her dad to tell him the news. Consider the value of what she learned in the process.


Out of love for their children, many parents often think the best thing to do for their kids is to protect them from the consequences of their mistakes and bail them out of their troubles. I've seen this in the classroom setting, on the playing field, in the church, and in the community at large. But is bailing them out the best thing for them? If we discourage our kids from accepting personal responsibility for their actions, how are we preparing them for life? How are we preparing them for healthy adult relationships? How are we preparing them to be productive members of society? Who’s going to bail them out when they’re adults and how are they going to learn from their mistakes now so they don't make bigger ones in the future? What kind of people will they become?

For those of you who are Christians, think about this:
If your kids never own their mistakes, how will they ever receive salvation? Salvation requires recognizing personal sin and imperfection. The Bible explains that we are all sinners and have no godliness in us (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12). We are enemies of God because of our rebellion against His ways and our desire to do things our way. (Romans 5:10, Eph 2:1-3) We must accept responsibility for this.


In his book "Radical", David Platt shares the truth that "salvation consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for His grace."

In order for our kids to enter into a relationship with God through Christ, they must be able to look long and hard at themselves and acknowledge that they aren’t perfect and that they do make mistakes.

Something to think about . . .

Here's a great book recently released by my friend Rod Handley, Founder and President of Character That Counts. Rod speaks, writes, teaches, and shares his testimony about the importance of accountability. His newest book, Life in View of Eternity, teaches character qualities to teens and adults. It was developed for use in school settings, but can be utilized in the home, with athletic teams, in youth groups and more.




http://www.characterthatcounts.org/productsnew.html


Pinecones and Twigs
Just like gathering nature’s treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you’ll find here – a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.


Are you a pastor or leader of a women's ministry? If so, look around your church or community for a deserving single mom. (This should be easy because there are so many who are deserving!) Submit her name and a short description to thewarminghouse@gmail.com. To honor single moms and all they do for their sweet families, I will be giving away several massage gift certificates for Mother's Day.




A Steaming Hot Mug

Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out


Submit your stories (150 word maximum) to thewarminghouse@gmail.com for publication to this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God’s compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you’ve done to teach your children compassion; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ. Can’t wait to hear (and share) your stories here at The Warming House!

 

Thanks for stopping by The Warming House. Until next time, remember that you are a work of art. God sees your potential and wants to perfect you because He created you and has chosen to love you.

Enjoy the View!

Lisa


Monday, March 7, 2011

Scholarship Winner


Mountain View
“A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel back to our beloved Africa. Actually it isn't "our" Africa. We weren't born on that continent, and we don't live there now. However, the times when we've had the good fortune to go there, we have felt very much like we're "home". While we were there in 2009, we went to see a man named Joseph Cummiskey. We had met him on a previous trip and had heard that he had started an organization called Uganda Hands for Hope in the Namuwongo Slums. The Namuwongo Slums rest on the edge of wetlands in the capital city of Kampala. Their primary area of focus is to provide assistance and opportunities to the children and families of the slums so that they will eventually be able to lift themselves out of poverty.


Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope
Link to Uganda Hands for Hope:


When we met up with Joseph, we toured his facility then were taken on a little excursion into the slums where 7,000 people are packed between the bottom of a hill and a swamp. Many are displaced refugees who have fled ethnic and political violence in places like northern Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most of the residents are single parents.

As we walked through the slums, hungry goats wandered freely as they searched for rare spots of grass. A puppy looked up at me with a defeated gaze as it trudged aimlessly across my path, its ribs clearly evident beneath its fur. Residents of the slums approached a makeshift market stand leaning precariously at the edge of the dirt path. I can remember having to step carefully across the ground cluttered with piles of garbage, open sewage, and pockets of standing water. We were told the homes made of mud, cow dung and straw were constantly at risk of collapsing under heavy rains and flooding. As I took in daily life in this community, the monster of inequity, unfairness and need roared in my face.



Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

People have commented to me in the past that they refuse to go on mission trips because they fear moments like these. They don’t want their hearts to be ripped out. I agree. It’s much easier not to know. But is it right to live unaware? Is ignorance what God intends for us?



Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

 
In a mundane, comfortable life it is easy to slip into apathy. How many times do the experiences in our everyday lives break through the barrier of indifference? How many times do those experiences deeply move us? Was this experience in the slums what it means for God to break my heart for what breaks His? To share in His pain? To grieve over the suffering of His creation? There was truly something holy and intimate about that moment as He allowed me to feel His heart.

As I struggled to absorb all that I was seeing, I thought of the car that waited for me across the street. It was my means of escape from this nightmare. Beyond that car, was a plane ticket that would take me away from this continent. Beyond this continent lay a home country where there is abundance and infrastructure and social services for the poor. In that country is a comfortable home with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a soft, cushy bed with warm coverings and soft pillows where I can lay down at the end of the day. But the residents of the Namuwongo slums are stuck in a lifestyle they cannot escape.

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope
        The Namuwongo slums are a dry and barren land in need of hope - the kind of hope that is not dependent on circumstances. The kind of hope that’s available to everyone – rich and poor. The kind of hope that is eternal and unfailing. It is the hope found in Jesus Christ and the future He provides that is free from all this worldly struggle. I felt an urgency within me to share that hope with these people.

"In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade - kept in heaven for you . . ." 1 Peter 1:3-4

"And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev. 21:4


Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

        As I considered the desperate need for Jesus, other needs screamed louder . . . the need for adequate shelter, food, sanitation, health care, education, and more. If I truly loved these people enough to share the good news about Christ, how could I overlook their daily pain and suffering? If I professed to love God, how could I bypass the needs of those He loves and created in His image?

      Then I wondered . . . how would these people receive our claims about a God who provides when they struggle daily just to survive? If they cannot see God’s goodness in their surroundings, would they be able to receive the verbal news Christians profess of His goodness? Would they embrace the truth about God or would they reject that good news based on their suffering? Would all of my words about God’s mercy be lost in their quest for food and survival? Hunger makes it difficult to focus, to play, and to work. Survival instincts kick in. Every thought, every act, and every breath is centered on finding food. How would these people receive the news about the “bread of life” (John 6:35) when they are so desperate to find bread?

      When Jesus began His ministry, he taught in the synagogues and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. As He taught and preached, He was confronted with the immediate physical needs of the people. Because of His compassionate sensitivity to human need, He often “healed every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).  Whether it was healing a leper, helping the lame walk, or feeding 5,000 hungry people, He did not teach to the exclusion of immediate physical and emotional needs (Luke 7:22). He sincerely cared about (and addressed) the needs of the whole person. The news about Him spread and many people from the surrounding areas came to Him (Matthew 4:24-25).

      We can talk all day about kindness and compassion, but to many they will only be empty words. Life has taught them differently. Some in our world today have been so severely damaged that they believe kindness and compassion don’t exist anymore. They don’t trust anyone and believe there’s only one person you can rely on - yourself. To them, the world is cold and uncaring. Some see Christians as a bunch of people who want to tell them what to do and how to live. The church has alienated them and doesn’t seem to know they exist. Church buildings are just pretty little playgrounds for perfect little people who don’t have a clue what real life is like. So words are empty. You can speak of the love of Christ all you want – but it means nothing. What they need is to be shown. Only then will the words become real.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18


      How might the world respond to the good news of Jesus Christ if we were to share the compassion of Christ through our actions and not just our words?

      Our mission trip scholarship finalists have allowed God to break their hearts with the things that break His. They are courageously taking action as they make themselves available to God and allow Him to demonstrate His love and truth through them. 

      Many votes came in for our finalists and each one of them is deserving; however, the person receiving the most votes at The Warming House is:

Kristen M. 

      Kristen will be traveling to Brazil in June. Congratulations Kristen! You will be receiving the $2,000 scholarship.



      Congrats also to Alexandria, Aubri, Shantell,  and Terry/Janna who will be receiving $250.00 for their trips. Please prayerfully consider supporting these individuals personally. Their cause is most definitely worthy.

      I want to thank our scholarship participants for allowing The Warming House to be a part of their journey, and I thank you for voting. It's been a great experience.  Hopefully, we can do this again next year! As you missioners go out, we'll pray for you and expect God to demonstrate Himself in big ways - both in your life and in the lives of those you serve.




Fireside

Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.





 As parents, we love our kids and want what’s best for them don’t we? That’s why we taxi them to practices, games, dance lessons youth group, and other activities – endlessly! We do our best to provide for their needs and give them things for their enjoyment. As you do these things for your kids, have you ever considered the benefit of balancing all that you’re doing with something very different – something that isn’t focused on them? What I’m talking about is something that helps them look beyond themselves toward the needs of those around them.

 As we help our kids become increasingly aware of the struggles of those around them, they develop gratefulness for what they have, gain a new perspective about their own struggles and life situations, and develop a heart of compassion. I can tell you that there’s a very special and unexplainable quality within kids who have a heart of compassion. Truthfully, God is the one who develops compassion within us; however, as parents, we can work in harmony with His purposes by doing what we can to make our kids aware of the life situations of those who are struggling and by giving them opportunities to help someone else.


 Each of you hears stories of suffering on a daily basis. Sometimes the number is staggering and the needs are overwhelming. There’s a story I heard this week that hit me hard. I have never met these people, but I can’t get them off my mind. I will share their story with you then humbly invite you to consider sending notes of encouragement to TJ and Tanya. If you want to, you could use this as an opportunity to teach your kids compassion by sitting down as a family to share this family’s story with them, then have each family member write a note or draw a picture that will bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to this couple who needs it so desperately. (This might also be a good opportunity for a youth group, Bible study, or Sunday school class.) To TJ and Tanya, your words will be like water on dry, sun-scorched land, and your family will be a beautiful reflection of God at this dark time in their lives. What a privilege it is for God to use us to wrap His arms around those who hurt.

Here’s their story and contact info.

 TJ was driving his son (and only child), Taylor, back to college for the start of his last semester at Texas A&M. The weather was stormy and icy. Another car t-boned them. TJ tried to save his son by throwing his body over Taylor. When the ambulances arrived, Taylor had already reached his home in heaven. TJ is currently in a wheelchair and sling because of injuries to his collarbone and leg. On top of the tremendous emotional trauma of this loss, Tanya and TJ are experiencing great financial struggles. Medical expenses (no health insurance), student loans that now have to be repaid, and funeral costs are all adding up - and their only car was totaled. There are more details but out of respect for their privacy, I have left them out.

 Although this is an extremely difficult time in their lives, TJ and Tanya are standing strong in their faith and continue to trust in God. If you would like to send notes of encouragement, you can send them to:

TJ and Tanya Gillespie
c/o Cornerstone Baptist Church
Attn: Shaun Wilkerson
P. O. Box 130
Trenton, TX 75490

"Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
To weather the storm.

And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world will know
That we're not alone."

Lyrics from Matt Maher's song "Hold us Together" (See my playlist)


“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (New King James Version)



Pinecones and Twigs
Just like gathering nature’s treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you’ll find here – a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.

In my last blog, I announced that those who subscribed to my blog would be entered in a drawing for a Sunshine Earth video. Congrats to winners Lisa, Suzy, and D Macchio!


Before winter leaves us, I want to share my favorite soup recipe with you. It's comfort-licious. This recipe doesn't have the healthiest ingredients, but it's so worth the splurge!


Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 whole chicken breasts (cooked and cubed)
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can Rotel
1 lb. Mexican Velveeta cheese
2 cups milk

Simmer all ingredients in a crockpot for two hours. Serve over tortilla chips crushed in the bottom of a soup bowl. *Don't allow soup to bubble while simmering.

This is a great accompaniment to any meal - or it can be a meal all in itself. I have served this with quesadillas or taco salad.


A Steaming Hot Mug
Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out

Submit your stories (150 word maximum) to thewarminghouse@gmail.com and I will select some each week for publication on this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God’s compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you’ve done to teach your children compassion; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ. Can’t wait to hear (and share) your stories here at the Warming House!

So good to have you here at The Warming House. Hope to see you again. Until then . . . stay warm and cozy,

Lisa