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

 

Release

This morning I’m coloring my hair, a procedure I’ve been doing to cover those persistent grays since the ripe, old age of twenty-four. (Thanks, parental genetics!) In the process of waiting a short twenty minutes for the color to set, I will then find a darker hue has been released to shine in all of its glory.

Only twenty minutes… and a transformation will occur.

If only everything in me could be released so easily.

Unfortunately, transformation that truly counts – those inward workings of my heart – generally takes a lot longer than twenty minutes to be released. Freed from wrong perspectives, from my often befuddled ways of thinking, from my anxiousness and worries about things which will most likely never take place in reality.

Let’s face it, release is sometimes slow in coming.

Especially when I long for it so.

Why does it tarry?

Why does true transformation not work its magic in a twenty-minute time span? Can you imagine how encouraging that would be? To be changed in mere moments?

But then what would be the benefit or the challenge of persevering faith?

A faith that waits to find fulfillment.

A faith that lingers long where heaven meets earth.

A faith that tarries where the presence of God has come, intent on dwelling together.

A faith that experiences release one wonderful moment at a time, savoring each new taste of freedom.

In just a few more minutes, I will be able to wash out the old, gray dullness and find a vibrant brunette staring back at me in the mirror.

In contrast, I daresay I will spend the rest of my life gaining glimpses of transformation that shine from the inside out. But faith keeps me looking, continually pursuing yet content in the hope that, glance after glance, I grow into the woman whom grace is releasing me to become.

philippians313webThis post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday, where a group of us write about a one-word prompt. You can join us at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

Open These Hands

Sometimes I clench them tightly,
bent on holding,
intent on keeping
things to myself that were never mine to possess.

Sometimes I clasp them together
with anxiousness,
deftly squeezing out any chance of
peace and calm infiltrating their locked doors.

Sometimes I play childhood games with them,
pretending they cradle people
with fleshly pews for sitting and
fingered steeple hovering over imaginary church.

When really, my hands are the Church,
an extension of Your body,
broken to cradle the sins of the earth
and spill out new life where death once reigned.

So why do my hands not shadow Your own?
Why are they slow to heal and comfort?
Why do they hesitate to reach out with love?
Why do they not scatter glory?

Why do these hands You created
for openness
so often remain clutched together,
trembling in fear of being seen?

Pry them free, Master,
and make them fit for more than
clutching and grasping
to fill themselves.

Release this heart to open hands,
and open these hands to release this heart.

IMG_2455This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday’s word prompt of “hands.” You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

Convinced of Nothing

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

I am convinced of something, and that something is that I am convinced of nothing. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me, but then again, that is often the way of truth.

Truth frequently convinces me of the nonsensical, persuading me to believe that nothing is both impossible and possible when it is held firmly in God’s hands.

In this particular case of Romans 8:38-39, truth calls me to hedge all bets on the reality that nothing can separate me from the lavish love poured out for me at Calvary’s cross.

NOTHING!

But some days I don’t live according to truth.

Some days I step away from my convictions.

Some days I attempt to add to the nothing that is before me, daring God to be faithful still.

I know the Bible clearly says that NOTHING can separate me from the love of God that is mine through Christ Jesus my Lord, yet I all too often live as if that were not so.

I allow myself to be fooled by something other than the nothing that is promised.

I give voice to the doubts that tempt me to believe that I have somehow been overlooked by the eyes of my all-seeing, ever-present Father.

I listen to the taunts that accuse me of being unworthy of grace. The lies that rise to cloud out the wonder of a merciful God who judges with righteousness and truth.

There is always the tug toward something when God has taken a stance on the side of nothing, and has purposed to remain there for all the days of my life and life beyond.

Where will I side?

Today, I deliberately choose to be convinced of nothing.

7079653793_5bb7888383_zNothing ever could separate us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxx0vPDfv0Q

Today’s post is written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday’s one-word prompt of NOTHING. You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

 

 

Providing Presence

I just finished watching the attached video of my friend’s son Brady and his heart for a greater cause. I couldn’t help but think of how fitting today’s Five Minute Friday word of CLOSE was for what I had just viewed. I hope you will take the time to watch this powerfully moving video.

CLOSE: being near in time, space, or relationship.

Close calls us toward something or someone.

Close calls us to close the distance.

To draw near.

To be faithful to sharing the Hope that is found in Jesus.

It’s hard to see clearly from a distance.

It’s hard to experience the pain, the loss, the sense of hopelessness that prevails in another’s life unless we dare to bridge the chasm and come close to that person and their particular situation.

Close sees.

Close provides a presence

Close means that someone else is aware of our plight.

Close stoops down to visit us in the midst of our hopelessness and despair.

Close comes with compassion that moves us to action on another’s behalf.

Close reminds us that God is with us.

That eternity has moved in, drawn close to bridge the chasm of sin with the righteousness that only a holy God could provide.

Would provide.

Did provide.

Close steps in to nest among the finite pages of life, dusting hearts with traces of Father’s glory.

Daring us to give the gift of hope, to tempt others to believe that they are seen when they feel dishonored and devalued.

Close shows up and reminds us of love.

Close pulls us all together and reminds us that we are one.

Called to the Cause: http://youtu.be/jhQJRsJUoTQ

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* This post was written in conjunction with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday and the challenge to write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. Click here to join us: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

 

With Every Grateful Breath

Linking up with Five Minute Friday to write on the word “grateful.” You can join me by heading over to http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

Grateful –

A word that grows the more it is pondered and expressed. How can I possibly come to grips with a grateful heart in a mere five minutes, when it is a word that entices me to spend my lifetime replaying its magnitude? A word that invites me to relive the wonders of a life overflowing with undeserved grace.

I am grateful for a love that was extended to me while I was its enemy. Not just an innocent bystander, but a villain in need of redemption. Picture the worst criminal that comes to mind, then insert my portrait in his place, for when I position my life against the holiness of Christ, that is where I find myself.

A twisted Hitler both denying and pursuing the King of the Jews… Yet, in the fullness of Father’s limitless grace, He rescued me.

HE rescued me.

Gathering me to Himself.

Redeeming me from the ash heap.

Cradling to His chest one utterly spent and broken.

Calling me His daughter.

Granting me His surname and His presence for life.

My Jesus. The beloved Groom of this harlot soul.

From the words of Psalm 40 to Jude 24, I rise as one reborn…

God heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord… As for me, I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me…

Now to Him who is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God my Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

May my life reflect a thankful heart that captures redemption with its every breath, until that breath is consumed and released by the fullness of glory with eyes unveiled and soul set forever free.

Forever grateful. OldRuggedCross_Sept06cropBWsmall.sized_

My Red Thread of Words

I am never more honest or real than when I am writing. Never more vulnerable or open about the questions and my seeming lack of answers. My ponderings toward praise; my wanderings toward doubt. These words pour across the pages of my journal, emptied out in drops and rivers. The skewed perspective that comes from this solitary view of mine as the writer.

This seemingly insignificant, yet significant, paradox of me.

And God.

And faith.

And not faith.

Sometimes I find myself dangling by a lone, red thread of words connecting what I feel in the moment to what I believe and hold as Truth eternal.

The joys that flit through my days, lighting up my sky like firefly glow twinkling through gathering dusk. The pain that tears through seasons of my soul, swirling angry winds at will, leaving me disoriented and shaken in the wake of so much hurt. The unknowns that rise to threaten this refuge of known and true, thundering their accusations against my firm, if teetering, foundation.

If God is _______ then_______?

The writer in me fills in the blanks with words best describing my wounded heart. From whispers of doubt to shouts of belief, I pen the faith that holds me steady through it all. Words that draw me toward truth even as lies circle their quarry, awaiting the moment I lower my guard. The lion prowls continually, seeking to devour, yet never quite being able to overcome the One who resides within.

The One who holds me steady as I grasp that lone red thread of words unraveling redemption’s story.

My story.

The writer pours line after line upon empty pages, letter after letter falling into place to frame the essence of me. Completing the puzzle with fragments and run-ons and choppy prose bearing my likeness. Scattered thoughts brought together with precise randomness framing this mixed-up, multimedia collaboration of me.

Releasing myself through words only to capture myself more completely, in both the questions and the answers I discover.

The writer journeys day by day.

Leading me toward myself.

And toward God.

And finds us both a little more along the way.

IMG_3906This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday’s word prompt of “Writer.” You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

When Mighty Comes in Unexpected Ways

It’s hard to switch into “grown-up” mode when My efforts have been directed toward penning children’s missions’ blogs, writing a kids’ musical, and coming up with five dramas to be reenacted at a Vacation Bible School, so I’m a little behind on here. But that doesn’t mean that my mind has been idle.

I’ve taken lots of time to think on the word prompt of “mighty” from last week’s Five-Minute-Friday challenge, and I’ve seen God display that very might in small and unexpected ways all week long. Perhaps because I’ve been purposefully looking for Him to show up.

He does that, you know. Shows up when we are looking. Comes out of hiding when we are willing to notice.

He’s made His presence known so blatantly a few times this week, that all I could do was shake my head and smile. He literally had me laughing out loud last evening at the immediate answer to a flitting thought that skipped across my mind. I think He likes to make me laugh. In fact, I’m sure He does.

While I may be breaking the rules of the “five minutes” part of this blog challenge today, I’m pretty certain that the “unedited” part will remain, so forgive my errors and my over-extension on the time limit as I pour out my heart on the marvels of God’s might:

MIGHTY

Reigning unleashed – yet powerfully contained – within fallible, flawed, earthen clay. Now that is mighty.

Why not use all Your power to make Yourself known in spectacular ways?

Why not choose the biggest and the best to show Yourself to this world You have created?

But instead, You choose to place your power within me.

A simple, humble jar of dust…

Surely it would seem more fitting to shine Your glory through a golden, gem-encrusted vessel.

But that is not Your way.

Your way is the path of humility when all others would choose the path of greatness.

Your way is to empower the weak to show Yourself strong.

Your way is to sustain the broken and fill the empty with Your all-sufficient grace.

Your way is to pour Your might into… me.

To think You would choose to display the essence of Your presence within one so unworthy is a mighty big thought to wrap this earthly mind about.

But I see that it is Your goodness that causes You to do so.

It is Your mercy poured out in lavish abandon that causes You to reside here in the fragments and smoking debris of my life.

Finding You here, blazing gloriously in the ashes, proves the power of Your might in the grandest of ways.

Holy, nail-scarred hands embracing my sins.

This is where Your power is unleashed.

This is where love is most gloriously displayed.

This is where the world sees and knows You

Where I see and know You.

Here in the fullness of Your might cradling the smallness of me.

P1010447“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

 

 

 

A Willing Heart

will·ing
/ˈwiliNG/

adjective
1. 
ready, eager, or prepared to do something.
2. Done, given, accepted, or borne voluntarily or ungrudgingly.
3. Disposed or inclined; prepared
4. Acting or ready to act gladly; eagerly compliant

Am I willing to eat spinach?

Thus reads the handwritten note in the margin of my Bible in reference to Isaiah 1:19: “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land…”

My own words were penned there years ago as I pondered to what exactly the “good of the land” was referring. As much as I’d like to think it was a dessert buffet which God was offering, chances are this particular “goodness” did not include cheesecake and ice cream. When faced with unmet expectations, it’s amazing how quickly all pretense of a willing heart runs helter-skelter pulling obedience after it.

The truth is, what’s really good for me may not be to my liking, especially when it postpones its arrival until after the painful hurt or exhausting trials have stretched my weary heart. Often, the truly good looks a lot like convincing a child to eat her vegetables when a slice of chocolate cake is staring her in the face. And the battle of wills ensues.

How often my heart is like that young child. Crying and wailing my way through a meal, refusing to take a bite of the nutritional while grasping for that which has no value. Unwilling to try what looks so unappealing. Determined to snack on the unhealthy while neglecting the very thing that is meant to build up my strength.

Willing and obedient are tough adjectives, indeed, but I so want them to modify my heart. To turn my desires to that which is beneficial as I voluntarily follow the ways of God and thereby find the true goodness that He offers.

Even when He asks me to eat spinach.

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This post on Willing was written in conjunction with Five-Minute- Friday. You can join us at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday.

Big Stories Start Small

Zacchaeus was a wee, little man…. If you grew up attending Sunday school class, chances are you immediately finished the rest of this line with …and a wee, little man was he.

Big stories start small, and the story of Zacchaeus’ interaction with Jesus is no exception. This man of small stature could not even see the Messiah through the crowds of people flocking about Him, but in desperation to get a view of the Savior passing by, little Z. ran ahead of everyone and climbed a tree. I doubt if he expected Jesus to even notice him hidden there in the branches, but not only did Jesus notice the smallness of Zacchaeus, He invited Himself over for dinner.

Jesus invited Himself into the life of smallness with BIG plans in mind.

Jesus’ plan of salvation would radically transform the hated tax collector into a disciple of Christ. That one small seed of salvation took root and grew into a stalwart producer of righteousness. How else can we explain the heart transformation that caused Zacchaeus to repay everyone four times the amount of money that he had stolen from them?

A small decision to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus became a story big enough to be repeated through the centuries. Thousands upon thousands of children and adults alike can sing a song about Zacchaeus, a wee, little man whose life was changed by a BIG God. Today, that man known for being small is also remembered as living BIG for Christ.

Looking back through the pages of the Bible, it is easy for us to see BIG stories, but that is only because we have the perspective from history’s side of the tale. In reality, most of the BIG stories started with smallness.

A word… the universe came into being.

A babe in a basket floating down a river… the deliverer of an enslaved nation.

A shepherd boy… the king of Israel.

Five loaves and two fish… a meal for a multitude.

A mustard seed of faith… mountains move.

A babe born in a manger… salvation for all mankind.

One small, empty tomb…  the defeat of death for eternity.

In God’s kingdom, the humble are exalted. Servants reign. The last finish first.

Small becomes BIG.

Take a lesson from Zacchaeus as you go out of your way to get a glimpse of the Savior. Who knows… today may be the very day Jesus looks at you and invites Himself over to your house with BIG plans in mind.

 

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This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday, a weekly challenge to write from a word prompt and link up with others over at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Join us today in writing about “small.”