To Set Me Free and Release the Bloom

At first thought, today’s Five Minute Friday word prompt of BLOOM brought this image to mind:

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Soft flower petals, sweet scents, and vibrant colors naturally mix together to bring about those lovely blooms.

Except when they don’t.

True to my word study nature, my first task was to peruse the definitions for bloom. And there it was, tucked amidst an overwhelming list of words as I scrolled down the page of The Free Dictionary website:

1. A bar of steel prepared for rolling.
2. A mass of wrought iron ready for further working

Hmmm… it had never occurred to me that a bloom could refer to ironwork. Guess that proves I’m much more apt to grow things than I am to weld.

With peaked interest, I began further exploration and discovered that there is a furnace known as a bloomery.

furnace runningThis ingenious invention has been around for centuries and is basically used to heat and change an ore, removing other elements of gasses and slag (sounds appealing, doesn’t it) and leaving just the metal behind.

Techniques and terms like smelting; reduction; roasting; and fluxes all combine to bring about the desired effect – a pure and free metal, prepared and ready for further working.

Wrought through fire.

Hammered and shaped at the hands of the Master Smith.

Yep, it’s safe to say that I am a bloom in process.

Undergoing changes. Passing through the fire. Hammered by trials. Blown about by temptations that bring self to the surface where they can be blown away by the breath of God forcing His life into me.

All because of love.

I am continually undergoing change.

Changes carefully controlled by the loving hands of my Master Smith.

Changes meant to strengthen me, and not to harm me.

Changes meant to give me hope and a future.

Changes meant to free me and make me a vessel of honor, fit and useful for every good work.

Prepared for the Master’s service.

Never left to myself in the fire, I join with the infamous trio who defied Nebuchadnezzar’s edict, and am met in the flames by One whose presence sustains the heat for me.

No matter how much I sweat. No matter how intense the flames. All is for my benefit.

No matter how much I sweat.
No matter how intense the flames.
All is for my benefit.

Grace upon grace forged in the furnace of His all-consuming love where the only things that burn are the things that held me bound.

Wrought with care by One who holds me closely to Himself through the rising temperatures.

I am the bloom, and He is the Smith who knows the way I take.

He knows.

Not one second of heat is wasted.

Not one pounding of the hammer is without purpose.

All is done to bring about the beauty that Father sees within me.

To set me free and release the bloom.

But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. - Job 23:10

But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. – Job 23:10

This post was written in conjunction with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. Click on over and check it out: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

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Constant Through the Trial and the Change

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging consistently the past few weeks. Unlike the title of today’s post, my writing has been less than constant through the trial and the change. And let me tell you, there have been a lot of trials and changes around here lately.

At the top of the “change” list has been the marriage of a son, which occurred this past weekend.

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And as far as the trials go, well, let’s just say that most of them are not worth mentioning. Amongst so many life adjustments, it’s good to have a constant. Something unalterable, consistent, steadfast.

That one thing that remains steady when life is fluctuating and shifting on so many levels.

In the midst of all the roiling emotions that accompany the wedding of a child, I was blessed to be reminded of one of my life’s “constants.” When I looked up to greet the smiling face of a friend who has known and loved me even longer than my own husband has, you can imagine my sense of relief and joy at her presence. Shelley has been my BFF since high school and has stood beside me in cheerleading uniform, bridesmaid dress, and bridal gown.

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Last Saturday she stood beside me once more as I donned the garb of mother-of-the-groom. I can honestly say that seeing her at my son’s wedding was one of the highlights of my day and was a blessed reminder of just how fortunate I am to have a “forever friend.” A rare constant who has remained throughout the changing seasons of life.

From the days of sharing secrets of teenage crushes to the moments of finding our “Mr. Rights,” through the struggles of motherhood and the mixed emotions of “letting go” of our all-too-rapidly-growing adult children, Shelley has been there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes as a lifeline on the other end of a phone line, and sometimes standing right beside me – close enough to reach out and hug.

But always there. Always constant in her love for me.

It’s not like we see each other often or talk on the phone weekly. Our lives and callings have led us states apart, which is all the more reason why Shelley’s presence this past weekend was such a blessing to me. Not only was she there to rejoice with me, she was there covering me in prayer. And that’s the kind of friend I need. The kind of friend who views every occasion as a time to lift me before the throne of grace. The kind of friend who impacts my life with words spoken to the One who gifted us with our friendship and has held us together through the years.

No matter the distance between us, I am confident that Shelley always has my back – even when it’s from her knees.

Contrary to the polite comments posted by long-ago friends on our most recent photo together, we really have changed – more than a bit. And although most of the changes have taken place inwardly, I see the maturing of my own face reflected in the slight “laugh lines” (NOT wrinkles, mind you) around the eyes of my friend, the strands of graying hair covered over by a “quick fix” of L’oreal, and the aging of skin that once glowed with the youthfulness of teenagers.

But my friend remains beautiful still.

In fact, I’m certain that if we live to be 85 or 90, I will look at Shelley and still see her as one of the most beautiful people on planet earth. Because I’m confident she will still be glowing with love. And I daresay, she will still be bending her knees to cover me with her prayers, even if those aged knees can only bow in her spirit.

Because that’s the kind of friend she is.

And the kind of friend I want to be.

The kind of friend who has your back… from bended knee.

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It’s More Than a Pipe Dream

A few weeks ago, I heard a Christian leader share that there was a movement of people wanting to go back to the “old ways.” He justified this statement by telling of the current trend of churches in his area that are purchasing pipe organ extensions to place on keyboards. While I am unconcerned as to what type of instruments you may prefer to be played during your local church’s worship time, I cannot help but wonder about the truth of his statement. Is it really that folks are wanting the sound of a pipe organ over a keyboard, or could it be that there is something much deeper in the longing?



Perhaps what they are really longing for in a gathering of Christians is not so much a particular sound as it is a Presence. A Presence that manifests Himself in unconditional love and transformed lives. Could it be that the real thing missing in the lives of many of today’s Christians is not so much the absence of a particular style of worship or rituals, as much as it is an authenticity toward living a LIFEstyle consistent with the Gospel?

You don’t have to look further than most Christian families in America to see that our influence over the culture is becoming absorbed by the culture itself. The statistics themselves attest to the alarmingly high rates of divorce and infidelity among believers. Work ethics of Christians are not proportionally higher than anyone else’s. Our busy lives are just as full of extracurricular activities that pull us away from each other. And our morality is slipping day by day as we tolerate behaviors without truth.

Perhaps saddest of all, our power to overcome the frustrations of life seems just as diminished as that of the regular Joe next door.

Where is the abundant life of which Jesus was talking?

Where is the sacrificial living?

Where is the Christian who will go the second mile when he has only been asked to walk one?

Where is the power that is supposed to make all things new?



I believe that what people are looking for is not so much a return to the “old” ways as it is to finding a real relationship with lasting impact. Now, I’m not trying to set up a legal list of dos and don’ts concerning Kingdom living. (Obviously that did not work out for the scribes and pharisees, so why not learn from their mistakes?) Nor am I suggesting you live aloof from others for fear of being corrupted by a sinful nature. In fact, I believe quite the opposite to be true — it’s time to get messy for Jesus.

All throughout Scripture, you will find Jesus hanging out with “sinful” people, those who were considered the “unworthy” ones, the “outcasts,” the “less-than-desirables.” But Jesus didn’t party with folks to no avail. He impacted lives by His presence.

He lived in a way that drew others to Himself — in a style that the disciples were called to emulate. In a style that we are called to emulate. A style that changes lives.

But this type of living takes devotion. 

It takes intentional choices.



It requires a removal of self and an invitation to let Jesus come in without stipulations or restraints.

It takes a purposefulness in choosing God’s way over our own so that He may increase in us in startling ways.

Ways that are different than simply listening to a pipe organ pound out hymns of praise.

Ways that challenge us to rise up and pound the love out of life even as we offer ourselves to be poured out for others.



Real Christianity is an offering.

It’s placing ourselves at another’s disposal, even at the cost of our own inconvenience.

It’s loving enough to risk being hurt.

It’s living open-handedly enough that we are assured of being taken advantage of, yet living beyond caring that we are.



Real life in Jesus is dwelling in a state of continual metamorphosis.

Allowing the old life to be overcome.

Changed.

Transformed.

Made new.

Bit by bit.

It’s choosing to clothe ourselves with the garments of praise as we put on the characteristics of Christ.

One thought at a time.

In a way that is noticeable.



It’s a journey that will take a lifetime of REAL living with REAL people in REAL circumstances that stretch us beyond ourselves and our own power time and again as we rely upon a REAL SAVIOR…

All the way to eternity.

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