The Potter and the Clay

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8

potterClay is made from various organic materials, some of which may contain impurities.  It starts as a ball of clay that doesn’t really have any meaning to it.  As it is shaped on a potter’s wheel, it is pinched, pulled, stretched and squeezed into a shape.  One of the things that the potter must do first is to make sure that the clay is centered and balanced on the potter’s wheel.  The potter must also hollow out the middle while ensuring a good foundation at the bottom.  As the potter continues to shape the vessel, he may choose to add features to make it unique.  For example, the potter may add a spout to turn the vessel into a pitcher.  After the vessel is designed, it is put into a kiln.  The kiln is set at a high temperature which helps to remove the excess water from the clay.  The clay becomes hardens and becomes stronger.  The final steps are to seal it with a glaze or add decorations which makes it ready to use.

It is easy to see why God referred to himself as the Potter and us as the clay.  Before we have a relationship with Christ, we are like that ball of clay.  We are full of raw material and impurities that need work.  As we begin to learn about God, He begins to mold us.  God makes sure that we are centered on Him and that we have a proper foundation.  He shapes us through life experiences, people in our life and those who minister to us.  As we are stretched and pulled, we are also given spiritual gifts that help add uniqueness to our vessel.  It may be like a spout so that we may pour out our gifts to others.  We are put through difficult situations that get the excess things out of our lives so that we may become stronger to serve God and others.  It is only when we accept Christ into our lives that He purifies us, forgives us of our impurities and sin and comes to live in our hearts to guide us every day.  Without that personal relationship, the vessel is not complete.

Do you know what happens to the clay if it is not fired in the kiln?  It doesn’t become a hard vessel that can be used.  It may be so beautiful as it sits on the potter’s wheel.  It may have the most intricate features and decorations and look perfect on the outside.  However, if it isn’t fired in the kiln….SMASH!  With one blow, it becomes a ball of clay again.  Just like the clay that cannot become a strong vessel without going into the kiln, we cannot be a complete vessel without a personal relationship with the Lord.

The art doesn’t stop when the clay comes out of the kiln.  Sometimes it falls and breaks.  Life isn’t always easy, because we don’t just sit on a shelf where bad things can’t happen.  Do you know how it can still be beautiful?  God picks up our broken and shattered vessels when life is hard and tragedies happen.  He takes those pieces and can still use them to make something new.  In the end, we are always a beautiful creation to God.

The Lion and the Lamb

 

March – A Lion and a Lamb

March is flying by very quickly.  I hope that your year is progressing along in a way that is drawing you closer to God.  I pray that you are able to see the abundant life that God has to show you and teach you new ways to adore Him in all the things around you.  I always remember my grade school days and the art projects that centered on whether March came in as a lion or a lamb.  It always refers to weather and we would inevitably decorate a paper plate as a lion or a lamb after we saw the weather for the first day of the month.

As I was thinking about this, it reminded me how God is referenced as a lion and a lamb.  How can God be referenced as two animals that are completely different and probably would not do well if they were in the same area together?  A lion is fierce, shows courage, and calls his own species to him by letting out a loud roar.  A lamb is meek, gentle and follows his shepherd or other sheep.  Yet the Bible refers to God in both ways.  One particular place where God is referred to as a mighty lion is in the book of Hosea. Hosea 11:10 says, “They shall walk after the LORD:  he shall roar like a lion:  when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.”  God is referred to with a lion’s roar which denotes His power.  His loud roar extends to all parts of the earth.  He calls all of us to tremble and fear Him so that we will also obey Him.  Sometimes it takes a loud voice or a startling event for us to tremble and remember that God is calling us to Him.  God is the Lion of Judah that sits upon the throne in heaven as a King.

The Bible also refers to God as a lamb.  The Old Testament uses a lamb in many stories of sacrifice.  It was the sacrificial lamb that was used to represent the Lamb of God that would one day come.  Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were used to offer atonement for sins. In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.  John 1:29 says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  When Jesus died on the cross for us, it was the ultimate sacrifice and the final sacrifice to take away our sins once and for all.  It didn’t mean that we would not still sin but it offered the chance for forgiveness to all of us if we ask God for it.

The lion and the lamb are two very different creatures but we have those characteristics in the same God.  The same God that would let out a loud roar to call us to Him is the same one that sent His own son to the cross to be the sacrificial lamb for us so that we may be forgiven.  In this world of chaos, storms, struggles and despair, we know that we have God who is both a mighty lion and a gentle lamb.  He will roar when we may be having trouble obeying Him.  He will be that soft lamb, ready to cuddle and forgive us when we humble ourselves.  Whether March enters like a lion or a lamb, we should start turning our focus to Easter and the events that led up to the cross and the ultimate sacrifice.

Watch Your Giants Fall

If we do what is difficult, God will do what is impossible.  This was a quote that I heard on the radio this week as I was driving into work. It reminds me of a verse Luke 18:27 where Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”  It reminds us that God has provided a way for us to have eternal life and can also help us overcome difficulty.   It takes faith to look at a situation and believe that it will change.

When you think about people in the Bible that allowed God to use them to do something difficult, it reminds us that there isn’t anything impossible.  God blessed Abraham with descendants as many as the stars in the sky.  He was with Job when his world had crumbled all around him.  He used a Jewish woman named Esther to become queen so that the Jewish people would be protected.  He saved Joseph when his brothers had tried to kill him and later Joseph was able to save his family from a drought.  There are so many stories that help us to see how God can do the impossible.  My favorite is the story of David.

David was the smallest of Jesse’s eight sons and probably the least likely to become king but he was anointed by Samuel to replace Saul.  David showed that he could do something impossible by killing Goliath, the nine-foot giant.  He first had to choose to do something difficult by taking a few small stones and a slingshot.  After proclaiming God’s name, he took a stone and slayed the giant.  It is such a great story that is told in many childhood Sunday School classrooms and Vacation Bible Schools.  Now as an adult, close your eyes and think about yourself in that area as David steps forward with the stones in his hand facing a giant that stepped up to the line.  The giant is laughing at this little boy with rocks in his hand.  David isn’t afraid because he knows God is ready to fight for him.

There is a song that is played on Christian radio called “Giants Fall” by Francesca Battistelli.  The chorus says:  Don’t you be afraid of giants in your way.  With God, you know that anything’s possible so step into the fight, He’s right there by your side.  The stones inside your hand might be small but watch the giants fall.”

small stonesSometimes we face difficulties in our life and we want to just hide until they pass.  From personal experience, I must be careful not to just stay in bed and wait for it to be over.  Truthfully, the difficulty may not pass until we face it head on and keep moving.  Facing a problem can help you become stronger because you learn to trust God during the situation.  It can be anything from just physically moving from one room to another to overcoming anxiety or dealing with a difficult person.  Don’t put your head in the sand, put your head up to the sky and give that problem to God.  Start each day with a fresh breath as you inhale the strength of God and exhale the difficult problem you are facing.  It may even take a couple of breaths – inhale strength of God, exhale the difficult problem.

If we do what is difficult, God will do what is impossible.  Live this way, facing life head on and believing in God who gives you strength and courage.  Then, watch your giants fall!

Building Your Child’s Foundation

As we are quickly approaching Spring, I hope that you are growing in the Lord in 2017.  I am still reading through the Bible and am now reading in Exodus.  “Exodus” is a Latin word derived from Greek Exodos, the name given to the book by those who translated it into Greek. The word means “exit,” or “departure.”  The book tells the story of the Israelites and how they came to the Promised Land.  Exodus lays a foundational theology in which God reveals his name, his attributes, his redemption, his law and how he is to be worshiped.  The book begins with Moses’ birth and at that time, Pharaoh was becoming more and more afraid of the Hebrew people.  The Israelite population was growing and he was afraid that they would take over Egypt.  Therefore, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew baby boys to be killed.  When Moses was born, his mother hid him for three months because she saw something special in him.  Then, she made a basket and placed him in the Nile.  He floated down river to where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing and she took him and asked her maids to find a Hebrew mother to nurse him.  His mom was able to still give him nourishment even though he would now be raised as an Egyptian.

As I read the beginning of the story of Moses, I thought about myself as a mother.  Would I be able to do that?  Moses’ mother saw potential in him and knew that God’s hand was upon him.  God gives us our children to raise for roughly 18 years until they become an adult.  I have to take a breath when I realize that Hannah is almost 14 and time doesn’t seem to slow down.

When they are babies, we are teaching them how to eat, walk, talk, use the bathroom and dress themselves.  It is here we can begin that spiritual foundation by praying with them, singing with them and telling them Bible stories.  As they become preschoolers, we are busy teaching them letters, numbers, colors and how to tie their shoe.  We also teach them that tantrums are not acceptable even though we know they are still learning to express their feelings.  As an elementary school child, they are learning that education is important and that character values are also important.  We are making sure they know how to respect others and show manners.  Then they enter the teen years, our final push to make sure they can be responsible adults.  We continue to make sure that they understand the importance of learning but we also work to strengthen that spiritual foundation.

Moses’ mother made sure that he had the proper beginning and made sure that he would live to the potential that she saw in him.  Moses wasn’t completely without fault as he grew up.  He doubted himself when God first approached him to save the Israelites.  However, he listened, obeyed and trusted in God’s plan.  If we never give our children the proper foundation, how do we expect them to grow into a Christian that could be used by God to do great things?  Our job as a parent never ceases.  We must continue to pray and guide them every day.

Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach them [scriptures] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Faith Created Simple

small stonesThis past year I have learned that Faith is created in simple things.  The things that I used to worry about or get frustrated about seem insignificant now.  The sudden death of a loved one can change that.  It helps you refocus and look at life much differently.  You start to appreciate the sunsets, admire the blooms on the trees and appreciate each breath and heartbeat that you feel.  The simple things become what is important.  For me, my faith is stronger because of those simple things.  Writing has become a therapy for me and it helps me to express myself in a way that goes deep, beyond the surface of everyday life.  It helps me to share this new faith journey.  It is a faith created simple by the little things that I encounter each day.

I am a Cherished Woman

It is 2017.  We have a new President, Donald J. Trump.  We also have alot of controversy over a Women’s Movement.  I am not sure that I am all into it because it seems to contradict the way that I feel.  I realize that there are those who calmly stand up for equal rights for women and I respect that.  However, the extremists show vulgarities on social media and TV that do not line up with how I intend to raise our daughter, especially now as a single parent. I was forced into being a single parent.  I did not seek it.  I would do anything to have my husband by my side but his life on this earth was shorter than we planned.  So here is my plan.

I will raise her to know that she is a cherished woman.  She is cherished because she was created by God.  He knew her long before we did and He knows every beautiful red hair on her head.  One day, I hope that she will be cherished by a man who loves and respects her.

I will raise her to know that she can do anything that she sets her mind to do.  She can do any job that makes her happy — whether it is being a stay at home mom, a marine biologist or a corporate executive.

I will raise her to know to respect herself and others.  I will teach her that protesting with vulgar signs, things on her head or body is not respecting herself or teaching others to look to her with respect.  If she wants people to hear her feelings, arguments or discussions, she will do it in a respectful way.

I will raise her to know that she had a wonderful father who respected his wife.  As his wife, I submitted to him as the head of our household because that is what the Bible says.  Submission does not equal bullying and does not give permission for a man to control his wife.  Mike always encouraged me to follow my dreams and grow as a woman, wife and mother.  He supported me in all things and we made decisions on things together.  My hope for her is to find someone like her dad — someone who will help her to follow her dreams as he leads the household in the way God directs.

I will raise her to know that she can be beautiful on the outside but it is more important to be beautiful on the inside.  She should live her life with a heart for God and a heart for others.

Let’s all commit to raise our daughters (and sons, if you have them) to be a generation that won’t have to protest because they will be living in a generation that loves and respects one another.

 

Birthdays

January 7 was Mike’s birthday.  It was always a challenge having a birthday right after Christmas.  One, it really sneaks up on you!  I always wanted to have Christmas decorations put away.  In my mind, there needed to be a separation between Christmas and birthday décor.  Two, the weather was a factor more times than I can count.  I remember one time coming home from a birthday dinner on a sheet of ice.  I think my knuckles turned white.  Third, it was hard to decide what to get him.  Christmas day football games always seemed to determine whether I get something with Dallas Cowboys on it or not.  If the season didn’t end well, he put his Dallas fan wear away and expressed his disappointment.  The upside was that if I decided to get him clothes, I got really good deals on after Christmas sales!!  Mike always liked red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.  One birthday, I even decided to make it from scratch!

A birthday is a time to celebrate another monumental moment in life.  As a child, we looked forward to birthday parties, friends, and reaching certain ages.  A birthday reminds us of our birth, brings us gifts, shows us faithfulness and lifts our hearts like balloons to the sky.

Our Birth.  We have all heard stories about the day we were born.  It is a time for celebration – after all, it is our one and only BIRTHday.  One of my favorite verses is Psalm 139:13, “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.”  None of us were created by accident.  God put us together just as He planned.   He created us to love and praise Him so that one day we would have a spiritual birth and invite Him into our hearts and await eternal life with Him.

The Gifts.  Everyone likes gifts!  I think the best birthday gift I gave Mike was a shadow box with a shirt from his favorite college team, Vanderbilt.  It also had a picture of us three attending the game and the tickets we had to the winning bowl game.  There is something about opening a wrapped gift that fills us with anticipation and surprise.  God gives us gifts every day.  We just have to see them.  They may not be wrapped in pretty paper.  They may be small or they may be large.  1 Corinthians 12:4-5 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.”  If you have never taken a spiritual gifts test, do so.  You can find one at www.spiritualgiftstest.com.  My main gift is the gift of faith.  This pertains to encouraging and building up the church and not being surprised when God answers a prayer or moves in a special way.

Faithfulness.  God is faithful to remind us that each birthday is a gift from Him.  We aren’t guaranteed another year.  We are to live each day to encourage and lift each other up, like balloons at a birthday party.  It also reminds us that we are one year closer to being in the presence of the One who created us.  Growing older isn’t a bad thing.  It is growing closer to the day we spend it in heaven.

It is hard to believe that I have had to celebrate the last two of Mike’s birthdays without him.  I celebrate the 22 that I spent with him and, like the past two years, we sent balloons to him in heaven.