Beautiful Things

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Beauty.  Our culture is obsessed with it.  During a commercial break you can almost always find a slim, long-legged girl, or a sleek sports car.

Recently television has discovered what some people already knew – that there is a deeper kind of beauty, one that goes beyond the surface and resonates on a soul level.  In the last few years, there has been no shortage of home makeover shows, weight loss shows, and even shows about taming your pet or child.  All of these shows portray restoration on some scale.  Witnessing something restored makes us catch our breath, remember how to hope, and in essence, shows us the beauty of God and his kingdom.

My oldest two children are now in school (and yes, that’s a beautiful thing! 🙂 )  After becoming active in our school’s PTA last year, I was asked to consider taking more of a leadership role this year.  I had been trying to cut down on the things I committed to, so I was initially going to decline.  After several weeks of prayer though, I felt God leading me to accept.  I was perplexed.

This year, God is unraveling the mystery of why He had me say yes.  While working for our local church I learned how to build and lead teams of volunteers.  I had no clue last year, but this is the exact skill set I needed this year to work with the PTA.  (God is amazing like that.)  We are blessed to be a part of a great school, but even so, schools in our state have it pretty rough right now.  Their standards have increased while they’ve watched their funds and other resources decrease.  As a former teacher, I know it can be tough to keep a good attitude, and see any hope in the current situation.  The skills God equipped me with, along with the place He has put me, has allowed Him to begin restoring hope in the eyes of some school staff members as projects get completed…and THAT is a beautiful thing.

Tim Keller has a sermon titled, “The Inside Out Kingdom.”  I think I’ve listened to it five times now.  (Listen to it here or here.)  He speaks of something he calls ‘gospel goodness.’  As he points out, the gospel itself is offensive.  It brings us face to face with our sin and brokenness.  It is painful to acknowledge that brokenness, and to then release it by stepping into the forgiveness Christ offers.  What shouldn’t be offensive is the ‘gospel goodness’ we, as believers, exude.  In fact, our ‘gospel goodness’ should be attractive. God restored us to a right relationship with Him when we accepted Him as our savior.  Each day He is continuing to restore us to be the men and women He created us to be.  Our lives should be an overflow of this goodness.

17″Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: ” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Many accounts of Jesus tell of him meeting physical needs, bringing restoration to an Earthly situation before He offered restoration on a spiritual level.  (Woman at the well, feeding the 5,000, healings of all kind are just a few I think of.)  I wonder if this was because He knows it’s hard for us to comprehend soul restoration without first seeing a physical example of restoration.  I also think that’s one reason he could often be found hanging out with the people who had some issues.  Who better to restore than those who much to be restored?

So where are we hanging out?  What projects of restoration are we involved in?  Andy Stanley said, ‘Do for one what you can’t do for all.’  We don’t have to be involved in world restoration (although that’d be amazing), but we can simply help one person…one day…one time.  It won’t be convenient, just as it wasn’t for the Good Samaritan (read it here).  It also might not be rewarding on the surface – you may not get thanked, may not get your money back, and may not get any recognition at all for your good deed.  BUT, you can rest assured knowing you blessed the heart of the one who restored you.  How are you bring God’s kindness, love, and grace into the world to restore it one moment at a time?

Could you live in a neighborhood you might not normally choose in order to help restore it?  Could you give to those who could never meet their needs without help?  Could you apologize to that person you’ve held a grudge against forever?  If you can’t do any of those, you can pray and ask God to show you where He wants to use you to bring restoration.

God is beautiful.  He created beauty.  He will restore His followers and His Earth to a kind of beautiful we can’t imagine.

 

You know I couldn’t leave you without a song, so here’s one that I’ve loved for a while now.  Click here to listen to the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

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In Your Hand

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“Touch the Sky” by Hillsong United

First, you MUST listen to this song.  MUST.  LISTEN.

Now rewind back with me about 20ish years to the awkward and dreaded middle school years.  In middle school my relationship with God was just beginning.  I had professed him as my savior when I was much younger, but had only recently realized He was real, alive, and always there with me.  I remember I was laying on our trampoline in the backyard one night when I clearly heard Him speak to me.  There are only a few times in my life I’ve heard God speak that clearly – so clear it feels audible.  He said that He wanted me to serve Him with music.  I remember coming in and telling my mom because it was so bewildering.

As a result, through the next 20 years I was always involved in music of some sort.  I sang in our church choir, was a member of our high school chorus, played the sousaphone/tuba in our high school marching band (yes, I’m trying to dig up a picture for you…because it’s predictably hilarious!), and was even in a musical in high school.  After that, I went on to join an a cappella group at NCSU, Anno Domini, and then sing as a member of the worship team at Hope Community Church in Raleigh, NC.  In my mind, I had checked this call to “serve Him with music” off of my list.  Done and done.

“What fortune lies beyond the stars?
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb.
I got so high to fall so far.”

Now fast forward to about 3 years ago.  At this point I thought I “had it all,” and in a lot of ways I did.  The directive to “serve Me with music” was tucked away in a dusty corner of my memory, because I had checked that off my list.  I had already done that and had moved on to bigger and better things.  I was a wife to an amazing man, a mother of 2 (about to be 3), I had a job I LOVED, working at the local church, and I was tutoring homeless children in math at a local housing ministry.  We were even financially secure by the measurements of our culture (although at that time we thought we didn’t have enough income – how hilarious that seems now!!).  If I had put my life on paper, it would’ve seemed so great.  In fact, all of those were great things!  What I wouldn’t have put on that list though was how often I struggled.  I had consistent meltdowns which were made up of many tears, lots of questioning my life, and feeling overwhelmed in my schedule but underwhelmed in my soul (Lysa Terkheurst penned that phrase here, which described me exactly.)

This is the point in the story where God began to transition my life and show me my lack of surrender to Him.  I became a mother of 3 (and lost my brain for a while – any moms out there feel me?), and at almost the same time God spoke to me about moving our kids from daycare to staying home with me.  God has a sense of humor you know, as being a stay at home mom was never ever (ever ever) on my list of “things to do.”  To top it off, we moved to a different house, in a different city when God called my husband to be a pastor.  My husband took this new (very rewarding, but very demanding) job, and also signed up to begin his masters degree.  I switched my job at the church to leading the childrens’ program at our campus and quit my tutoring job only to pick up a teaching job in our new city.

In summary, I went from crazy to crazier.  I was in denial about the whole surrender thing.  I have always been determined and headstrong.  Man, was it evident during this time of my life.  Looking back, I know God let me go through this to bring me to the point of surrender…and surrender is exactly what happened.  At the end of that school year I cried uncle.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I looked at my life and it was NOT what I wanted.  Deep down I knew I was doing a lot of things, but neglecting what really mattered.  I wasn’t being the wife to Chip or mother to my children that God called me to be.  I didn’t have time for relationships, time for God, time to create a nurturing home to live in, and I definitely didn’t have time to just. be. still.

“My heart beating, my soul breathing.
I found my life when I laid it down.
Upward falling, spirit soaring.
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”

When I admitted to my lack of surrender and cried out to God, He sprang into motion.  He clearly called me to give away one of my jobs, and He took the other job away.  That left me JOBLESS.  What?!?  The girl who had had a job since middle school, the girl who loved to work, now found herself with no job.  Nothing.  Nada.

That was ten months ago.  These ten months have been filled with a lot of hard times.  I have argued with God.  I have been afraid because we are living on less income than we ever have.  I have had to give Him ugly feelings like anger, jealousy, and frustration. I have had something similar to an identity crisis as I realized that my whole life I had gotten my value from my work instead of my God.   These ten months have been rough, but they have also shown me beauty like I’ve never seen before.  I’ve seen more of who God is.  I’ve felt how sweet it feels to have time to enjoy this life He has given.  I now know more than I’ve ever known that He can be trusted as I’ve watched him provide for our every need.  And although I still don’t know exactly what it looks like going forward, I’ve found the strength to answer “yes,” to that call He gave me way back in middle school, the first time I ever heard him speak to me.

I had never answered “yes,” to serve Him with music during my adult life because it didn’t make sense.  It didn’t make sense because I was the girl who excelled at school, who found success leading and problem solving.  I was also the girl who had realized something consistent in each of my past musical experiences.  In every one of those situations I KNEW I was surrounded by people who were infinitely more talented than me.  I don’t say that to try to solicit sympathy compliments.  It was and is just a fact.  I could sing just fine, but there were always those people that could SANG.  Know what I mean?

“I don’t have perfect pitch like many singers do.”

Surrender.

“I get SO nervous sometimes when I sing that I forget the words.  Who does that??!”

Surrender.

“I can’t sing nearly as well as ___.”

Surrender.

“I don’t even know the names of the notes.”

Surrender.

“I can’t even play an instrument except for the tuba.  God, the tuba does not count.”

Surrender.

“Why in the world would you use me to lead his church in worship?”

Surrender.

In Exodus 4:1-17, Moses had a similar conversation with God.  You’ve gotta click the link and read it for yourself, but the quick summary is that Moses had an identity crisis.  He thought he was a prince, but after murdering someone he fled to the desert where he got some sheep and a wife.  Then God called him out of shepherding, and asked him to do something crazy, that didn’t make any sense.  Moses confessed he wasn’t a good speaker, yet God called him to go speak to His people and to Pharaoh – the most powerful man in Moses’ world.  At one point in the conversation God asked Moses what he had in his hand.  It was his staff.  Although his staff was just a stick, it represented who Moses was.  God asked him to lay it down.  When Moses did, God made it into something else entirely.  It became the instrument used to make water flow from a rock and split the red sea.  Just like the staff, when Moses laid down his own life, plans, will, and fears, God made his life into something else entirely.  He made him into something beautiful.  His name has been remembered and spoken through the ages.  His name could’ve been associated with murderers, but instead it is synonymous with greatness.

What’s in your hand?  What is that thing God is calling you to do?  What is He calling you to lay down and surrender in order to open your hand to what God wants to give you?  God knows all about surrender.  He also knows all about you and what’s best for you.

“What treasure waits within Your scars?
This gift of freedom gold can’t buy.
I bought the world and sold my heart.
You traded heaven to have me again.”

“Find me here at Your feet again.
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender.
Come sweep me up in Your love again.
And my soul will dance.
On the wings of forever.”

Beautiful Monday

Monday mornings at my house are usually cranky and chaotic.  I almost always wake up, look around, and realize that the fun of the weekend has left a disastrous mess to deal with on Monday.  Our family then struggles through the mess to try and find what we need to start the work/school week, and inevitably leaves some (all) of us in a less than positive mood.  Lately, the Holy Spirit has been trying to show me the beauty He has for me in the midst of the chaos.  SO, from now on, Mondays will be dedicated to finding the beautiful things in our midst and reminding us of the great love our Creator has for us when we are willing to look at it.

Today’s reminder of beauty came in the form of a podcast. This podcast from Tim Keller, explains the creation story and the song God sings over us in a way I’ve never thought about.  If you have 30min (in the car, doing chores, exercising, etc) check it out at:

iTunes: The Song of Creation by Tim Keller

The Song of Creation by Tim Keller

 

What is beautiful about your day or past week?  Words spoken, words read, music, something you saw?