>Orange Colored Dreams

> I know autumn is here when I start counting pumpkins instead of sheep at night. In my opinon, a fall without pumpkins is like a summer without watermelon. Or a wedding without the groom. Seriously, it is that important. Stout, orange, and oh so handsome. Totally swoon-worthy.

I am always dreaming up new ways to keep us close. Not just the cute fellas lining our front porch (and walkway, and driveway), but I’m really talking about their cousins of the Libby’s 100% pure-bliss-packed-in-a-can variety. Around the end of August, pumpkin makes an appearance at almost every meal — pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast, pumpkin yogurt or quesadillas for lunch, and pumpkin chili for dinner.

Yes, dear friends I’m obsessed. Just ask my sisters who watch in incredulity as I fill shopping baskets and kitchen cupboards with an ingredient they thought was reserved for pie. But don’t worry. The fascination usually fades with the season…to be replaced by a new love.

I only wish I could keep my thoughts occupied with anything so harmless. Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t stop at pumpkin, but is always running headlong to places it shouldn’t. Then fears, doubts, jealousies, and preoccupations with the good opinion of others consume me and expose me to all kinds of temptation.

And I struggle and beat my fists in the air and resolve that I will never allow my thoughts to spin out of control again. But just a few moments later, I find myself once again entangled in unkind judgements, covetous schemes, and self-gratifying contemplations. Wearied and frustrated, I eventually decide it an endless fruitless cycle that I can’t do anything about.

But then I open my Bible. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It’s dangerous to think that what goes on in our mind is harmless. God’s desire if the meditations of our hearts to honor Him and bring Him glory. Any thought that does not put Him first does not bring Him pleasure. Our minds are the battlegrounds where sin is either triumphant or vanquished by the truth of God’s Word. It is true that my thoughts are flawed and “prone to wander”, but God’s Word lasts forever and is not bound. In season and out of season, it never returns void

“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). My spiritual life can only withstand temptation if my mind has been placed on the altar and immersed in the life-giving, purifying words of God. The Lord who searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9) speaks specifically to my needs: my weakness, inadequacy, doubts.

It discerns the true state of my heart, enables me to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replaces wrong thoughts with a new preoccupation — the preeminence and glory of Christ.

My mind, Lord, is yours. Work Your cleansing power and change it by Your grace into a sanctuary — a place of worship where the offerings of my thoughts bring a sweet savour before You. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

I’ll be back to talk about ways God’s Word speaks to our thought life. But not before I share some of the pumpkin recipes that are crowding my brain.

You didn’t think you were going to miss out on that, did you?

Advertisements

>Beautiful Reflections

>Every girl desires to be called beautiful. This desire, when inserted into the cultural worldview of media and advertisements, emerges as a lust for physical beauty. We are convinced when looking through the world’s mirror that satisfaction, happiness, and success are synonymous with the perfect outward appearance. When this is our focus, we can’t see beyond the glittering, blown up, digitally-altered images presented to us everywhere we go.

I know because I’ve been there. I have cried in front of the bathroom mirror because what I saw fell far short of a beauty ideal. In desperation I have attempted to recreate myself into a new image. I have spent time and effort towards this end and been jealous of other girls who seemed to already be there.

All this time I was looking in the wrong place to fulfill my desire for beauty. I was looking in the mirror of this world for affirmation and acceptance, but as a child of God, this is not where my reflection is found. Rather, I see myself clearest when I look into the Word of God and learn what my Heavenly Father says about me.

He tells me that my body is important because it is His dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). It’s purpose is not to bring glory or power to me, but to serve as a vessel of worship for the glory of its Creator. And where God’s presence dwells, the place He transforms to draw attention to His mercy and grace, is beautiful. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” (Psalm 84:1).

In His Word, my Father tells me that my desire for beauty transcends the physical. It will never be met by the empty promises of this world because it is deeper, higher, and more enduring. In essence, my longing for beauty is a hunger for Christ because true meaning and life is only ever truly satisfied in Him. Only when I identify with His likeness can I discover the “something more” that I was made for. I was created to be transformed into the glorious beauty of Christ, who on earth was not considered physically attractive and yet was beauty incarnate. He is beauty in me and the closer I am to Him, the clearer I see what true beauty really is.

There is something infinitely special to a girl when her father calls her beautiful. How much greater to be pleasing to the eyes of the Father who made her. “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him” (Psalm 45:10,11). I am learning that the way to beauty is one of total surrender — soul, mind, and body, ideals, hopes, disappointments, frustrations — all of me committed wholly to God’s restoration of beauty within me.

A godly beauty that being filled with the Holy Spirit, does not flaunt itself but in gentleness and quietness draws eyes to Jesus. A “grace-full”ness that recognizes God’s grace to me and seeks to extend that grace to others. A life dedicated to compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness, and adorned with love.

I want to attract others to my spirit, not my clothes. My service not my make-up. Christ’s identity, not mine. For one day I will behold Him no longer “in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” and I will know fully what I’ve only glimpsed here: He is the Fairest of them all.

~ Taken from notes from our last Bright Lights meeting on beauty ~

>What to Wear?

>Sunday mornings can be very chaotic in our home. With five showers, five breakfasts, a confusing interchange of teeth brushing, hair drying and shoe scavenging, it is a mini miracle every time we all manage to be in the van by 7:40, showered, combed, and shod.

Every minute counts. That’s why this past Sunday morning I felt extremely frustrated with myself as I stood motionless in my pajamas for a full five minutes, paralyzed before my closet door.

Sometimes knowing what to wear can be a real dilemma. When I emerged from my room quite a while later (and only because if I waited any longer I would have to go to church with a wet head), my floor was strewn with evidence of my inward indecision. Getting dressed requires much more mental energy than I possess at 6:45 in the morning.

This Sunday, I wondered if I needed to get my priorities straight when I contemplated skipping my devotions in order to have more prep time. After all, I was getting ready to go to church right? I would be reading my Bible during the service – couldn’t my quiet time be excused?

Andrew Murray observed, “In all our efforts at practicing Christianity, the temptation is to give more time and interest to the outward means than to the inward reality.” Scripture mentions very little about adorning the outward self but gives specific instructions for clothing the “hidden man of the heart”:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17).

Most of us would be laugh at the idea of going out in our pajamas, slippers, and bed hair. Why then aren’t we concerned about facing the world ill-equipped? We can’t assume we are prepared for the trials of the day if we have not been first properly clothed. We need the daily cleansing because meekness, mercy, and humility are not natural to us; without constant renewal, we easily fall back into our assertive, vindictive, and proud ways. That is why we are told to “put on” these things – they require a conscious dressing of our spirits.

We can stand the evil day when we come before the Lord and His Word with a willing heart and ask Him to imprint His character on our hearts – to cleanse our unrighteous thoughts and motives and to fill us with His humility, mercy, and meekness.

It is after all His face we should be looking for in the mirror. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)

I am resolved to be vigilant about clothing my inward self. It may require spending less time doing my hair so that I can spend more time in the Word. It may require going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. But I am willing to deny some luxuries for this earthly temple that in the little sacrifices, I might gain that “which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3, 4). “Wherever you go and whatever you do, at home or abroad, do all with a desire for union with Christ, in imitation of His character and disposition. Desire nothing as much as that which exercises and increases the spirit and life of Christ in your soul so that you are changed into the same character and spirit of Jesus.” (Andrew Murray)

>Have You Been Nourished Today?

>

Friday morning, I stayed in my jammies a little longer than I usually do. Perhaps I was just feeling a bit lazy or perhaps I had been too slow in claiming a shower before my mom or sister. Or perhaps I was just reveling in the opportunity to relax and not rush after the harried last few weeks. Yes, I think that was it. I had just finished off my morning cup of green tea and was dusting off the living room in that glorious leisure of doing a job that doesn’t have to be finished at any particular time. Those kind are the best. 🙂

So anyway, I was almost finished when I heard my name being yelled from the basement in a half-panicked voice mingled with a half-attempt at being nonchalant. “Becky! You don’t have a piano lesson today, right?”

The happy tune I was humming caught in my throat. “Oh no!” I threw down the Lysol and scanned my watch. 9:50. And my piano student was coming at 10.

How could I have forgotten? I bolted up the stairs while my mind did cartwheels trying to figure out how I was going to make myself presentable in ten minutes. I denounced my folly as I grabbed the top clothes in my drawer and scolded my reflection as I pulled my hair up into a ponytail. A quick brush of my teeth, a dash of blush and I was down the stairs again. Just in time for the doorbell.

I am usually not so lax in forgetting appointments. If it is written on the calender (this piano lesson just happened to not be written on the calender), I am most times ready and accounted for. And the stress and embarrassment (how I look before my shower is always questionable) of moments like Friday morning motivate me to be accurate and cautious in the future.

There is a particular appointment, however, that, if not consciously anticipated, is easily overlooked. Although it occurs on a regular basis, if I do not make a deliberate effort to meet it, it will be forgotten. And despite the fact that this meeting is the most important of my day, its significance is too often undermined. But when missed, it leaves a void.

In our ever-present schedule of “things to do,” where do we place meeting with God? At the top? Somewhere in the midst of everything else? Falling of the chart? In my reading of Exodus, I have been impressed with the importance of having a daily appointment with the Lord. Not only is it beneficial for spiritual growth, it is necessary!

Consider this verse: “And he (Moses) was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Exodus 34:28).

I don’t think any of us would be able to go one whole day without eating. We have programmed ourselves to know when feed and nourish our bodies when it is hungry and when we forget, our empty stomach prompts us to fill it quickly! Are we as sensitive to our spiritual needs as we are to our physical ones? Matthew 4:4 says that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The nourishment for our souls come from spending time in His presence and in the reading and meditating on His Word.

Moses recognized the value of spending time with the Lord. His communion with God on Mount Sinai was enough to fill all his needs – he was able to go forty days without physical nourishment because the words of the Lord sustained him. Job had this same mindset when he said, “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Do I come to God’s presence for sustainment? When I neglect my appointment with the Lord, it is like depriving myself of food for an entire day. Weakness and fatigue result and spiritual growth is stunted. Days when I skip or forget my devotion and prayer time evidence these symptoms. I grow weary in well-doing, faint of spirit, and short of temper. Because I have failed to nourish my soul with the Words of life, my energy is short lived and my day often ends in frustration.

Making communion with God a priority of every day is vital for the Christian. If we look to Him to fill our needs then we will lack nothing. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15,16).

What are these needs, these desires that God alone can satisfy? Psalm 19, one of the most beautiful depictions of Scripture, describes four functions of the God’s Word:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. It fulfills our need for conversion and wisdom.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. It provides us with joy.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. It gives us a standard of truth.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. It protects us.

Because these needs of conversion, wisdom, joy, truth, and protection, can only be satisfied through communion with God and His Word, it is so important that we come every day for nourishment! I have begun to regard my quiet time as an appointment – the most important one of my day. I put my Bible in a prominent place so that it is the first thing I see when I wake up. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). I know that if I do not come to God’s presence in the very beginning of my day, I may never get around to it and I also don’t want to face the day without being strengthened in the Lord!

Spending time with the Lord each day requires discipline. Just as there are days when we rush out the door without stopping for breakfast, we can convince ourselves that there is “no time” for Bible reading and prayer. However the hunger pangs and weakness that follow are evidence that nourishment is necessary. And I am finding that the more I learn to value my quiet time with the Lord and the more I look to His Word to satisfy my soul, the less I even consider skipping that time. I see my daily need and know Who the only Source of provision is. How could I neglect meeting with Him?

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 16:35)