Stepping into Freedom

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Have you ever assembled your paints and brushes and canvas, or sharpened your carving knife and fondled that perfect piece of wood, or pulled the new fabric out of the shopping bag, and then asked yourself the question, “What should I make?”

For me, deciding on subject matter is the hardest part of creativity. I collect potential. It’s easier to spend time imagining possibilities and gathering materials in arts and craft stores, or stationery stores, or fabric stores, or writing app stores, than it is to decide what I want to say. Always there is the fear deep down somewhere, What if it’s not good enough? What if I waste time and materials and create disappointment that doesn’t measure up to what other people are doing?

Sometimes I need a nudge to just do it already. Painting as a form of creative worship moves me out of my comfort zone. Way out of my comfort zone. People are watching. Time is limited. I’m an amateur. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The musicians at most Sunday services play for less than thirty minutes. In the circle my friends have invited me to hang out in, a weekend conference with a guest speaker provides three sessions with a total of about one and a half hours in which to paint something.

I don’t even have as much time trying to decide what to paint as I usually spend trying to pick a Netflix show. Sometimes I have ideas before I get there. Sometimes nothing.

This past weekend, as I prayed about it while the band did their sound check, I remembered a picture I had in my head as I listened to people worshiping God one morning recently. I saw a pretty scene with an inviting path. Then it was as though the camera pulled back and I realized my point of view was behind barbed wire. An gate opened. When I looked up I saw the words written over many prison camps in Europe in World War II: Arbeit macht frei. Work makes free.

But I saw them in reverse. I saw them from the point of view of someone inside the prison camp who knew too much, someone who knew those words were not true. Arbeit macht frei was a ruse meant to placate people who were anything but frei.  I understood. I had worked and worked for years and still didn’t feel good enough — and definitely not free.

I asked the Lord what this was about. I understood it was an invitation to step out of the captivity of believing the lie that if we work hard enough, if we prove ourselves invaluable to God, if we perform well enough to impress him, he will notice us and accept us into his kingdom.

In my vision the gates were open, not only for me, but for everyone who responds to his call to come away with him. We are free to step out of imprisoning thoughts of having to earn his love. We are free to step into all the beauty he has for us. We are free to walk with him now, knowing the Creator of the Universe as the Lover of Our Souls.

So this is what I painted, imperfect as it is. I choose to step into freedom. I choose to step into all he has for me. Jesus Christ sets the captives free.

Then we cried out, “Lord, help us! Rescue us!” And he did!
His light broke through the darkness and
he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow
and snapped every one of our chains.
So lift your hands and give thanks to God for his marvelous kindness
and for his miracles of mercy for those he loves!
For he smashed through heavy prison doors and
shattered the steel bars that held us back, just to set us free!

Psalm 107: 13-16 TPT

Every Moment

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Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to him
that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.

In his shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me,
for he hides me there in his holiness.
He has smuggled me into his secret place,
where I’m kept safe and secure—
out of reach from all my enemies.
Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,
singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!
Yes, listen and you can hear
the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord!

Psalm 27:4-7 The Passion Translation

Worship: The Starting Point for Acquiring Wisdom

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The starting point for acquiring wisdom
is to be consumed with awe as you worship Jehovah-God.

To receive the revelation of the Holy One,
you must come to the one who has living-understanding.

Wisdom will extend your life,
making every year more fruitful than the one before.

(Proverbs 9:10, 11 TPT)

There is Always, Always Something to Be Thankful For

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

We Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving back in October, but every day is a good day to be thankful, so I’m ready to celebrate again.

Someone asked why Canadians changed the date. Apparently Martin Frobisher held the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1578, forty years before the Pilgrims arrived in the new country — not that it’s a contest. I found out that I have deep roots in Canada, but I am also a descendent of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, so I feel entitled to be thankful at least twice a year.

In fact, I am entitled to be thankful every day of the year. I don’t say that lightly. I don’t always feel thankful, especially after weeks of cluster headaches and other unexplained physical torments. Sometimes the sacrifice of praise is just that — a sacrifice. It’s not easy. Sometimes it comes through teeth gritted in pain or a heart broken in sorrow.

Coupled with hope, the sacrifice of praise is a pure, distilled form of worship, I think. It leads us to the table in the valley where the feast is kept.

“Yet, will I praise you,” the Psalmist wrote. “Your lovingkindness endures forever.” Praise re-focuses our attention on the character of the God of all comfort. Thankfulness helps us remember his provision. There is always, always something to be thankful for.

This week my two youngest granddaughters (on opposite sides of the country) both celebrated losing first teeth on the same day. I am thankful for their joy and evidence they are growing up.

This week the tax department told my husband he owes them more money. I am thankful that he still earns money and for good healthcare that doesn’t leave us destitute.

This week a friend dropped by with flowers, other friends prayed for me, my kids and grandkids called, I got to know a nephew better (what fascinating adventures he has had!). I am thankful for caring fellow-travellers on this journey.

I am thankful for a nearly blank calendar which allows me to rest when I need to.

Mostly I am thankful to Jesus, the Lover of my soul, who never leaves or gives up on me and still gives me songs in the night.

Lord, you never fail me. Thank you.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

(Hebrews 13:15 NIV)

 

Finders Keepers

 

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I lost my finder.

My talent for losing keys, wallet, and phone is the butt of jokes in my family. All of them hear me say, “I just had it in my hand!” regularly – like every time I am late for something. My adult kid and her spouse bought me several of those little electronic dollar coin-sized devices that are supposed to keep track of important stuff, like keys wallet and phone. I call them my finders. I appreciate the help. They have rescued me more than once.

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One evening this week I drove out to favourite spots about half an hour away, hoping to catch golden hour light. Frankly, I forgot to account for the advancing season and early mountain shadow on that side of the valley. The window of opportunity shrunk rapidly. I took a few photos, then came home.

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I know I had a finder on my car keys at Munro Lake because I noticed it coming out of its stretchy pouch that hangs on my keychain. I put it back in. When I pulled them out of the ignition at the next stop, the finder was missing.

I searched the car, including under and around the seats. I checked every pocket in my clothes and in my camera bag. Then I checked again. And again.

I must have dropped it somewhere in my meanderings. Losing an item whose only purpose in life is to help me not lose things was just too embarrassing. I had to find it before the jokes started. My phone should help me track it down, right?

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The next morning, I went back to the same area –with my camera, of course. The morning light was wonderful. The birds gathered in the meadow preparing for their flight south. The breeze blew sweetly and the sun glistened on the grass. Heavenly.

I checked my phone. It located my key finder… last known location …28 km away… two weeks ago.

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That was no help. I walked up and down the Peavine road looking for a shiny object. I went back to Munro Lake and Mineral Lake and Moyie Lake – eventually. The morning felt like that time my friends kidnapped me when I turned down an opportunity to go on a picnic one perfect spring day because I thought I should study.

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I felt like God kidnapped me this time. I felt his love and his presence as we walked and talked. I was in no rush. I didn’t want to leave.

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Four hours later, after I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look, I said, “When I first got to know you, Lord, you showed me you were with me by finding things for me. Could you do that again? I know it’s a just a little tracker, but I can’t find it myself. I’ve looked everywhere. I need you.”

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I saw people carrying kayaks toward the beach and took a few more photos. Then I went back to the car. I opened the door. There was my finder! On my car seat!

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Today a friend was talking about sensing God’s presence. We don’t call him down to be in our midst. He’s here already. He promised he wouldn’t leave. He seeks our presence. He delights in us. He wants us, our attention. Our awareness of him increases by focusing on him through whatever means he invites us to worship. For me that often means being out in nature.

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Spending time with the Lord is not an escape from reality. He wants us to bring that awareness of his presence into everything we do.

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I wonder if God feels like I do sometimes when I’ve gone to a lot of work to prepare a meal for my loved ones and they can’t hear me call them for diner because they have ear phones on, or are engaged in heated discussion with someone, or think they can’t take time away from work. I’m there. I’m just not on their radar at the moment.

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It wasn’t my finder that needed finding. It was me. I’m glad God kidnapped me.

Thank you, Lord. That was a delicious meal. You are beautiful.
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