Monday, August 25, 2014

i trace the rainbow through the rain...

My Daddy, Eston Willis, was a wonderful Bible teacher. One year he led a small Bible study in our home. Each week, we would gather, open in prayer, open our Bibles, and he would begin by quoting the same Scripture, Romans 8:1, at least seven times before we began...
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Something about the repetition of those God-breathed words moved God’s Truth from my head to my heart. The eighth chapter of Romans begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation”… For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord—Romans 8:38-39

The verdict is final.
The case is never going to be re-tried—irrevocable. On that we can rest—we are accepted on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Take a few minutes
 to enjoy the Gaither Vocal Band’s rendition of the classic hymn by George Mattheson, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go...
O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee
I give Thee back the life I owe
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be
O Love, that will not let me go.

O Joy, that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be
O Love, that will not let me go.

O Cross, that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from Thee
I lay in dust life's glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be
O Love, that will not let me go.

O Love, that will not let me go.

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.

Monday, August 18, 2014

feeling stuck? just imagine...

Imagine Mosaic in New York City's Central Park

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.—Ephesians 3:20

When I am feeling stuck, engaging in what some call, “analysis paralysis,” I find it helpful to apply the power of our God-given creative imagination for inspiration and problem-solving.

Imagination is a powerful entity.
It can cause the hair on the back of our neck to stand up, our spirit to soar, or our face to blush. Imagination is the power that holds our beliefs together; we believe with our imagination. Imagination is the wellspring of faith and hope. Our biggest and best dreams for ourselves and others rise from the imagination.

When we have been hurt, our imagination is wounded.
As a result, alienation and belief in bad news replace belief in good news. We may have...
  • a feeling response that can become frozen into resentment.
  • an anger response that can become frozen into negative reactions of rage or passivity.
  • an interpretation response that can become frozen in negative attitudes, perceptions, biases, and beliefs.
As a result, our imagination becomes paralyzed. Attending to our wounded imagination is a path through forgiveness. Forgiveness expands our horizons and invites us to retrieve the positive and work through the negative. Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The answer depends entirely on how you see it. “How you see it” is called “perception.”

There is the story about the blind men
and the elephant. Each man named and described the animal according to his experience of touching only one part of the elephant’s body. The man who held the trunk “perceived” the elephant to be a large snake; the man who held the leg “perceived” the elephant to be a sturdy tree. In the same way, we “perceive” life—depending on what our experience is.  Our experiences generate our expectations and our perceptions. We interpret life experiences, and we form expectations and perceptions, attitudes, and assumptions.

All of this activity is the work of the imagination.

It is also the work of the imagination
to reinterpret and reform repeated assumptions and expectations. Forgiveness demands that we take another look so that our imagination can reframe our narrow interpretations. Forgiveness includes the decision to refocus or enlarge the context…walk a mile in another’s shoes. 
When we enlarge the context, we refocus, or we see it through a wider lens.

Imagination is the work of seeing through a wider lens.

If we remain stuck in a negative interpretation
of an old offense, we will experience resentment whenever we think about it, or about the offender. We will never be able to grieve and let go; we will seesaw between rage and resignation; we will never allow anger to surface and put us back on the journey of forgiveness. If we insist on telling and retelling our bad news stories of the past, we simply recycle the bad news and pass it on to the next generation. We pollute the emotional environment; we remain stuck in lifeless memories instead of looking for a more positive side of things long past.

When you enlarge your perceptions
 using your creative imagination, you at least allow for the possibility of healing. You give yourself the opportunity to turn from the negative aspects of your past, to get rid of the excess baggage, and to face the journey into the future with hope.

When I served as the
Florida Department of Education State Consultant for Gifted Education, I was frequently asked to provide technical assistance to school districts regarding strategies to improve creative and critical thinking skills for students.  I have identified some of those strategies here to inspire us to think creatively using our God-given imagination.
The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old questions from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.—Albert Einstein.

The formulation of a problem determines the range of choices:  the questions you ask determine the answers you receive. Write the problems you want to solve as a question. Use the phrase, “In what ways might I…?” to start a problem statement. This keeps you from settling on a problem statement that may reflect only one perception of the problem. Keep asking this open-ended “In what ways might I…?” question allowing your creative imagination to flow.

You will be amazed
at how your continual re-wording of the "In what ways might I...?" question will increase your creative thinking skills of Fluency, Flexibility, Originality, and Elaboration—the four primary strategies for developing and improving creative thinking or imagination:
  • Fluency is the ability to think of many answers to a question, to list many possible solutions to a problem, or to generate a number of responses. Fluency is being able to think of lots of plans or ideas.
  • Flexibility is the ability to change your way of thinking about a problem or situation. It is the ability to think of alternative ideas and to adapt to different situations.
  • Originality is the ability to think of fresh or unusual designs, ideas, responses, or styles. People who are original are independent and creative in their thoughts and actions. They create things that are new, different, or unique.
  • Elaboration is the process of expanding an idea by adding detail. To elaborate, you must understand the original idea and see a way to clarify or improve it by adding specific details. You are elaborating when you add to, enlarge, enrich, or expand descriptions, designs, drawings, explanations, instructions, reports or stories.

Take a few minutes to enjoy MercyMe's I Can Only Imagine...

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.

Monday, August 11, 2014

one of those moments...

Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.—Exodus 3:5

It was one of those moments…my senses were more alert, more intensified, more attuned to the mysteries that swirl in and around us, more aware of God's presence. It was about 7:30 in the morning, when I opened the door to go to work, the brilliant rays of the morning sunrise came bursting through our neighbor’s tree, directly into my eyes. 

I paused, amazed at the beauty, I moved slightly to the right and I couldn’t see the sun’s rays, moved slightly to the left and I couldn’t see the sun’s rays, but as I returned to the center point, for what seemed to be several minutes, those rays shown straight into the eyes of my heart, and I suddenly became conscious of His Presence. I stood very still, almost frozen in time, actually not wanting the moment to end, thanking the Lord for the beauty He created, and for drawing my eyes and my heart to appreciate Him all over again. 

I shared my experience with a few people…they just laughed it off, kind of made fun of me for thinking it was anything special, but in the innermost part of my heart, I knew it was the Lord. I was totally captivated by the stunning beauty of those rays, perfectly symmetrical, glowing so intensely. I even spoke out loud saying, Lord Jesus, Thank You, Thank You, You did that for me! Just for me!

The memory of that moment makes me crave Him more, remembering the experience makes me yearn for more of His personal touch in my life, makes my senses truly alert, more attuned to the mystery that is our Savior. I'm looking forward to experiencing Him more and more, alive and active in my life every moment of every day...Praise His Holy Name!
Seek, inquire of and for the Lord, and crave Him and His strength (His might and inflexibility to temptation); seek and require His face and His presence [continually] evermore.—Psalm 105:4 Amplified

Take a few minutes to be encouraged by this wonderful hymn by Bill and Gloria Gaither, We are Standing on Holy Ground

When I walked through the door I sensed God’s presence…We are standing on holy ground and I know that there are angels all around…

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.

Monday, August 4, 2014

this day and that Day...

four-faced clock at Grand Central Terminal in New York City
It was almost 9:30pm on Saturday, December 22, 2007, when our family first stepped into the beautiful Grand Central Terminal in New York City and snapped this photo of the famous four-faced clock over the Information Booth, which dates from the original opening of the building in 1913. Little did we know, but we were about to be amazed and in awe as the eight-minute Grand Central Kaleidoscope of Lights Show began to unfold its fantastic musical sights and sounds to the delight of everyone in the building that night. 

Looking up at the vision of lights on the massive ceiling and walls was so inspiring. Watching the famous four-faced clock ticking off the minutes of “this day” and the heavenly vision of lights and sounds lifting my heart to “that Day,” I was reminded of this quote:
There are two days in my calendar: this day and that Day.—Martin Luther
We all have “that Day” ahead of us…that Day when our hearts will stop beating…that Day when our families and friends get the news that we are gone…that Day when we see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face-to-Face. Our blessed assurance of the certainty of “that Day” dramatically affects the way we live “this day”…in the light of eternity. 
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.—Psalm 139:16 
If an instant of time be conceived, which cannot be divided into the smallest particles of moments, that alone is it, which may be called present. Which yet flies with such speed from future to past, as not to be lengthened out with the least stay. For if it be, it is divided into past and future. The present hath no space.—The Confessions of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Book XI, Chapter XV, There Is Only A Moment of Present Time
When we step out of time and into eternity everything will be one big panorama. We will see the past; we will see the present; we will see the future—perfectly unfolded and it will all work together for good to those who love God—and it will make sense.—Pastor Ray C. Stedman

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your amazing sovereignty. You wove me together in my mother’s womb, saw me before I was born, and have already recorded every day of my life. You charted the path ahead of me and laid out every moment before a single day had passed. I don’t have to fear because you are with me, before me, behind me, surrounding me. Help me to live this day in the light of eternity, amen.

How about you? In what ways do you seek to live each day in the light of eternity? These Casting Crowns lyrics: When I’m lost in the You my future is a memory, from the song, You’re Already There, gives me a wide-angle view of my life...a little glimpse of what it will be like when we step out of time and into eternity and see the panorama of the past, the present, and the future all-at-once...He's already there...
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.—I Corinthians 13:12

Take a few minutes to enjoy the Casting Crowns song, You’re Already There
"When I’m lost in the You my future is a memory,"

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart as an encourager.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Your love is extravagant...

The praise and worship time in the evening service was coming to an end. I had my eyes closed, lost in the music, feeling the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so real, as if His arms were wrapped around me. I opened my eyes and looked down at the Bible book cover on the seat in front of me. It was as if my Savior was speaking to me through the words I was reading on the cover. There was an embroidered daisy with three small petals gently drifting down, and beside each petal were the words...
                    “He loves me”
                                  ”He loves me”
                                                ”He loves me”
...usually a girl playing the daisy game alternately speaks the phrases, "He loves me," and "He loves me not," while picking one petal off a daisy for each phrase. The phrase she speaks when picking off the last petal supposedly represents the truth about the object of her affection loving her or not.

As the music faded and I sat down, I knew I had just experienced one of those moments. There was no doubt in my mind or my heart, I knew it was real, it was the Truth, my Savior loves me with an everlasting love and underneath are His everlasting arms...He loves me...He loves me...He loves me...

In his book, The Ultimate Conversation: Talking with God Through Prayer, Dr. Charles Stanley writes, “Your intimacy with God–His first priority in your life–determines the impact of your life.” Stanley goes on to say there was a time in his life when he wrestled with knowing God more deeply. He couldn’t identify what the encumbrance was, no matter how much he sought the Lord and prayed. Then, he called his four closest friends, who were all godly men, and said, “God is trying to teach me something, but I don’t know what it is and I need your help to figure it out.”  He says they conversed for several hours.

Finally, he writes that one of the men said, “Charles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.” 
Stanley says he did this and quietly the man asked him, “Imagine your father just picked you up in his arms and held you. What do you feel?” The friend knew Dr. Stanley’s father had died when he was nine months old and that his loss had had a tremendous impact on Stanley’s life.

Dr. Stanley says he immediately began crying, and he continued weeping for a long time. Still, Stanley says, he did not understand what was causing so much emotion. The friend again asked, “What do you feel Charles?” Stanley writes, “The feelings were so overpowering, it was a long time before I could answer him. At last I replied, “I felt hugged, like I was warm and secure. I felt…loved.”

He realized that until that day, he had never really experienced God’s love. He said he told others about God’s love, but had never truly sensed it for himself. Stanley says, “That day changed my life. The time with four of my friends transformed my ministry and everything I felt about the Christian life; the Father’s love had become real to me and extremely powerful.”

Dr. Stanley invites us to do the same, writing: “I challenge you to do the same. Put your head down and imagine the Father holding you. You may be surprised by the emotions you feel. You may, as I did, realize His overwhelming love for you. You may realize that you’ve been running away from Him all of your life when all you’ve wanted to do is feel safe in your heavenly Father’s arms. Be still and allow God to deal with whatever emotions and issues arise. He will draw you into a deeper, more intimate relationship than you have ever known. Trust Him.”
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. —Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Take a few minutes to be encouraged by Darrell Evans’ song, Your Love Is Extravagant...
Your love is extravagant...Your friendship intimate...I find I'm moving to the rhythms of Your grace...Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place...

Was this encouraging to you? Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Hearas an encourager.


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