Every year, before Christmas, I spend time reading the prophecies of Christ’s coming and the gospel accounts of His birth. I love to think about all of it. I love the way the truth of the season is threaded through the Old Testament and the New. I like to make notes of little tidbits of grace or wisdom that God highlights for me.
I used to love winter. Anticipation grew as leaves turned to colors of amber, terracotta, burnt orange, and umber. Trees would lose their coverings and soon the whiteness would fall covering the ground in a blanket of sleep. I adored being the first one to step out onto a field covered in white and leave the first footprints across the scape. I didn’t even mind the cold as I wore sweaters and many comforting layers and adorned my feet with new slippers.
The tingles began around my heart, moved down my body, flowed through my legs, and right out my toes. The lightness that wrapped around my heart came from only one Source.
God and I had just done some business I didn’t even know needed doing.
My husband pulled the car into the church parking lot. I said something. He responded. I started feeling edgy. He doesn’t want to be here, and neither do I. Complaints started rising in my heart and mind.
This is the latest devotional blog I wrote for Pandora's Box Gazette. I hope you enjoy.
I woke up disturbed. The dreams I’d fought all night now eluded me. Everything inside churned. My heart beat like a bass drum—slow, deep, hollow. My thoughts searched for a quiet place to land. My spirit couldn’t rest.
There are so many new names now . . . names that weren’t often heard when I was a kid. There are names that have stood the test of time like Mary or Bob or Naomi or David. The names that intrigue me most are the ones God says.
When my son was a baby, while on his back, he could hold his legs up at a 30-degree angle for many minutes.
Another time, I saw a toddler go from being flat on his back to suddenly sitting straight up. No struggle or anything.
My brother used to wrap his arms around a light pole and pull his body up to a 45-degree angle off the side. Amazing to me!
Core Strength. Physical therapists stress its need. Gyms make money providing equipment to enhance it. Hard work is necessary to achieve the goal.
I’ve seen pictures of men and women with rock-solid muscular abs. People are not just born with those well-crafted abdomens. It takes years of hard work.
There’s another kind of core more important than physical strength which leads my mind to a question.
How strong is my Spiritual core?
Max Lucado once said that Jesus reached a point of knowing who He was. I’ve always wondered if He knew from birth. Or was there a time in His human life when He thought, “Oh, I know who I am.”
Maybe spiritual core strength begins with that moment when we say, “I know who I am.” Perhaps it’s in reaching the point of personal identity knowledge, we will quit wondering, searching, people-pleasing, or fighting within ourselves.
Perhaps it’s that one instant we say, “I know who I am.
I am God’s child. He is my Father. I was made to walk with Him, to be in relationship with Him. Nothing else matters.”
Our spiritual core strength then is based on the deep connection with Him.
The devil tries to make greater priority of other situations or relationships. We seek approval from this person or another. We desire recognition and identity in a job, or a ministry, or in what someone thinks and says about us. Satan tries to convince us that how we look to the outside world is of primary importance.
For many believers in God I know, coming to grips with His identity doesn’t pose a problem. Followers of God will come to a place of understanding Him as Creator, Lord, Sovereign, Redeemer, and much more.
We learn to trust Him. Put our faith in Christ. Treasure the Father’s love. Accept God’s gift of forgiveness. And we learn to give over control to Him so we can learn to live in relationship with Him.
But, knowing individual identity is more problematic.
I read a children’s book, again by Max Lucado, where one little character wasn’t bothered by happenings around her while many others were. Why? Because she knew the craftsman who made her and trusted his love for her. She had confidence in belonging to him.
When our identity is in God, our spiritual core strength helps us believe God’s words when He said He would never leave us to deal with life alone. (Hebrews 13:5) In trusting our identity in Him, we can take Him at His word when He said nothing would ever take us out of His hand. (John 10:28) We can have confidence because He said nothing can separate us from Him. (Romans 8:38-39)
By spending time getting to know who God is through His word, your Spiritual core strength will build as you come to understand who He says you are. Let Him be your foundation so when the devil attempt to skew your priorities,
the faith God gives you will be the core you rest upon.
Photo used with permission
The five-year-old little girl sat hunched over her picture. She picked up one color, without taking her eyes off the paper, she moved her hand back and forth. Dropping that crayon, she grabbed for another one, drew her bottom lip into her mouth and the color transferred from what she held in her hand to the masterpiece before her. Many times, she would bring me her picture. I made the mistake of asking her what it was … but only once.
She knew exactly what she’d created and could tell me every detail about each part of the drawing. The work of art came from her heart to her mind and out her fingers. She distinguished the beauty in her creation but her description and purpose for the drawing held the real treasure.
I’ve heard other artists and creative people talk about what they’ve designed. Often a light shines from their eyes, the passion for the project coming through as they spoke with excitement. Even at times when a picture or story hasn’t turned out quite the way they’ve planned, still a love for the process of creating wove through the energy of their words.
Masterpieces are often a mirror of the heart of the creator.
One of my favorite Bible verses says that we are God’s masterpiece. It goes on to say we’re created in His image to do what He planned ahead of time for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
God, the Creator of all things, designed you and me, individually, according to what He had in His heart then to His mind.
My young friend’s creation can’t change itself to be different than how she created it. Unfortunately, we do try to make ourselves into something God never intended. I certainly have. I’ve tried to mold myself into someone else’s expectations. Over my life I have wasted days trying to be different than I am. And I’ve worked to find purpose in places contrary to God’s plan for me.
This has ended in frustration, fear, and self-induced turmoil. I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of others. We bring on our own struggles when we try to be someone unlike our Creator made us.
Many people wonder about their own identity. We beat ourselves up over who we think we should or shouldn’t be. We shed tears over wondering why we struggle within ourselves with self-doubt or criticism. We might even wrap our identity in one thing but if that job or commitment changes, we don’t know who we are anymore.
I experienced this when health kept me from being involved in areas of ministry and touching lives in person. I believed I was what I did. I spent hours before God crying over what I couldn’t do anymore. My identity rested in doing.
My perspective had to come face-to-face with God’s.
Because we can never truly understand who we are without God’s perspective.
God has a plan for you and for me. When we focus on who He says we are rather than what we think we should be, life is much more fulfilling and purposeful. You are His masterpiece and He created you with a plan. Ask Him for His perspective and let Him lead you to be the mirror of His heart in you.
I love to bake. I create goodies for others to make them happy. And when I’m stressed, I go into the kitchen, grab a recipe, and lose myself in the process.
A new recipe popped up on my iPad for brownies. A favorite at any time. The recipe said to melt chocolate chips and butter together and while still warm, stir in the cocoa. The instructions went on to explain the process of putting the cocoa into the warm or hot mixture would help the cocoa to bloom.
I thought yeast needed to bloom. I know flowers bloom.
I didn’t know cocoa would have a richer depth of taste if it bloomed.
The writer of the recipe was correct. The taste held a fullness that would make any chocolate hater change their mind. The texture was like pudding on the taste buds. Why?
Because the cocoa bloomed. Who knew? When exposed to the heat and stirred rapidly, the cocoa dissolves and releases all those dark-flavored particles of goodness. I’ve been baking with cocoa for years and didn’t know this. Blooming increases flavor and deepens the quality of the experience of eating.
Doesn’t this apply to so many areas of life? Bulbed flowers have to be in dark places before they can bloom. Carbon has to be exposed to pressure before becoming a diamond. These are just two examples.
So why do we expect daily life to be any different? I have a wonderful hand-drawn and painted picture of a brook with rocks on its banks. The water is so clear you can see the stones through the liquid and due to the colors and brushstrokes, it’s almost possible to hear the gurgling of the stream. The words written across the picture are: “The brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks.”
I’ve witnessed the strength of a human when struggling to provide for their family, when health issues have weighted them down, and life seems unfair and storms seem to churn all around. These are the people who have stood tallest and had the most beautiful spirit.
When we allow God to use the most difficult circumstances in life to help us bloom, His beauty can shine through as we acknowledge His authority. He can take life’s most fragile moments and make us powerful witnesses to His grace and strength in and through us.
We may not enjoy the pressure, heating, or stirring needed to make us bloom. However, when we allow God to use the difficulty as He wants, others will enjoy the beauty developed through each hardship.
What causes me to bloom the brightest? Is it when the sun shines and life is good and easy? I wish life was like that but that’s not how God works.
He uses the darkest night to help us appreciate twinkling stars. God allows storms to strengthen tree roots and make flowers grow. He permits heated trials to teach us to rely on Him and learn to trust Him.
Some of the most beautiful people I know have gone through situations that would make most people run away and yet they’ve stood firm. In the process, the beauty of God grew richer each day as they remained holding on to God.
Where is God asking you to bloom today? Letting Him shine through you will allow beauty to deepen and grow. Bloom on, my friend.
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