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Recently, I had the immense privilege of speaking to a group of graduates. This week, I thought to share the speech with you. Enjoy!

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Success. How does one measure it? Is it by the school you attend? The degree you attain? The position you hold at work? The size of your bank account? The size of your home? The price tag on your car? Can it be measured by what others say or think of you? Can it even be measured at all? And if it could, what would it look like? Read the rest of this entry »

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I love art in its many forms. When I paint, I often come to a point where I must ignore the inner critic that whispers this particular painting may not turn out. It would be easy to agree with it since in its unfinished state, around the halfway mark, the painting may look weak, messy, and rather, well…bad. Likewise, when directing, if the audience were to arrive a few days too soon, they might wonder how the play could possibly come together by opening night. And lumps of clay – at the start of being formed – look rather formless.

No one, except the artist,  knows what is being fashioned. The canvas doesn’t know it will soon be a masterpiece, the glob of clay doesn’t know what it’s being formed into or even what purpose it will serve. The players can’t always see the vision of the director. But despite the messy, chaotic bits, each turn into something of purpose and beauty.

Just like art taking shape, so you and I become beautiful the same way. We are living works of art, created with purpose for a purpose. Like paintings, plays, and clay in progress, our lives may not have taken full shape yet; they may appear to be unfinished works. Every dab from the Master’s brush, every bit of advice from the Director, and the gentle pressure of the Potter’s hands applied to shape the clay, all serve to form individual masterpieces.

As we become more beautiful, our job is not to question the Maker. We don’t tell Him how to position His brush, where to dab the paint, and what quantity or colour to apply. We do best when we allow His beautiful colour to infuse the canvas of our lives, listen to His careful direction, and are pliable to His loving touch.

Sometimes, during painting I make a mistake. The paint goes on thicker than I would have liked or the line not quite right, but when looked at differently and worked with, it can often be turned into something that gives the painting some unique feature or added character. So too, if an actor accidentally forgets a line and choses to improvise, it can produce some of the most amusing and lively parts of the play. Even the glazing on a piece of pottery may unexpectedly mix with another glaze to form a new and extraordinary colour. Likewise, God somehow miraculously uses the mistakes we make to form beauty.

So do not be discouraged if you think you should look different, or better, or even appear a bit messy. Don’t despair if you’ve messed-up. You and I are unfinished works. And as works-in-progress, our Maker is diligently caring for His masterpieces for His glory and others’ good. You’ll be amazed – and others blessed – by the end result.

Know that: “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

May you remember that you are a masterpiece – a cherished piece of the Master!

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  1. Do you feel like a masterpiece?
  2. Take time to reflect on Ephesians 2:10.

 

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecc 3:11

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We live in a 130 year-old home. There is a great deal of maintenance needed to keep it in decent repair. It seems there is always something in need of attention: some wood rotting here, some paint peeling there, or chips requiring touch ups on the wide baseboards. Our old home is never in perfect condition!

Which rather reminds me of life.

In my experience, there is always something falling out of place or already in need of repair! The trouble is, we live in a world that whispers we need to have life figured out and have it all together. It tells us we need to make plans and goals and make them happen. That we need to somehow strive but also be centered.

But what would happen if we began to think that instead of things falling out of place, they are actually falling into place? That the parts in need of repair aren’t something to bemoan, but instead celebrate that we’re under construction. What would happen if instead of being centered, we make Christ the center? Instead of comparing, we grow grateful for what we’ve been given and trust God will meet all our needs according to His riches? And instead of frustrating ourselves with the pursuit of perfection, we rest and accept that God will make all things beautiful – even the messes.

Because here’s the truth: God made you, He loves you, and there isn’t a thing you could do at this moment to make Him love you any more or less than He already does. You might not feel like it, but, thanks to Jesus, you are already perfect in God’s sight.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”

Hebrews 10:14

God sees us as perfect, but I love the rest…we are being made holy.

That explains the messiness.

God sees you as perfect, but loves you so much that He is willing to lead you to further beauty. A fancy word for that is sanctification. If we are in Christ, we are being made more Christ-like. This means the rough and rotten bits are being removed and repaired. That can be painful and discouraging. It can look messy and unkempt. It may appear that things are falling apart. But take heart, it’s your loving Father at work doing what He does best.

You know, if you look at our house from the street, you can’t see the paint chips and rotting bits. Like your life, take a few steps back, try to see it more as God does, and things will look a lot more beautiful.

May you find courage today to embrace and celebrate God’s handiwork in your life!

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  1. In what areas of your life might God be at work?
  2. Can you follow Him as He leads you through the mess and out the other side to beauty?

illumelation-nyinabulitwa-crater-lakes-uganda-kibale-top-of-the-world-brosisYou shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. ~ Exodus 20:3-4

Not far into our marriage, I noticed my husband wasn’t making me happy. This was disconcerting because, after all, wasn’t that the reason I married him in the first place? During my teens, I had crafted a list of attributes that my life’s mate needed to have, and my husband met all the criteria – except hair and eye colour! So what happened? Had I made a mistake?

As I thought over the disappointment I felt, it hit me. My expectations were faulty. My husband wasn’t meant to be my “everything”. He wasn’t meant to be my primary source of joy, meet all my needs, and be there for me every waking moment. I was asking him to be something he was never designed to be. I had set him up as God, and he wasn’t equipped for the position. He had become an idol in my life.

Husbands and wives are meant to love, honour and serve one another. The Bible even talks about a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…(Ephesians 5:25), but this was different. This wasn’t pointing to a lack in my husband, it was pointing to a lack within me. Instead of going to God as the primary source of my joy, peace, security, affirmation, and love, all my hopes were wrapped up in my husband lavishing these on me, and when he didn’t, or more accurately, couldn’t meet my insatiable need for these things, I felt cheated.

It’s not just husbands who are flung into this precipitous position. It may be friends, other family members, or even our children whom we place in these lofty locations.  But they, too, are unable to meet our idealistic thinking of the role they are supposed to play in our lives. I wonder if that’s one reason why there are so many broken relationships in this world. People were never meant to fill the hollow places. The space is too large to fill, the emptiness too vast, the amount of attention required too great.

There is only One who can fill the void: the One who created you with an innate need for Him. And yet, instead of intimacy with God, we look to all sorts of things to fill the emptiness: people, toys, clothes, food, drink, and fleeting fun. But all of these, when put before – or in place of God – are idols. They are temporary, counterfeit imposters attempting to take the place of the real deal. And we wonder why we’re unhappy. Why we’re dissatisfied. Why we feel empty.

Not all things we esteem are bad, but God wants first place in your life. What idols are blocking your view of God? Look at what you spend the majority of your spare time doing, or thinking about, and you might find an idol or two. Do they matter more to you than your relationship with God? If so, confess them, remove them from their pedestal, and put them in their rightful place in your life.

May you put God in first place in your life with no idols before Him.

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  1. Make a list of what matters most to you.
  2. Look over the list and see if anything on it trumps God in your life. If so, make the necessary adjustments to put God first.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:14

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Years ago, while training for a marathon, I managed to get shin splints, plantar fasciitis and some of my toenails even fell off. But none of this mattered. I thought only of the goal – to complete the 42 km race. Once, my non-runner husband joined me for a run. Halfway through, he questioned why I love running when it’s so painful. But it was a passion, and I put up with the pain during training when I remembered the reward of finishing well.

Recently, I described to my daughter that anything worth doing – even those things you enjoy –  will have some dislikable elements. It takes a great deal of hard work to accomplish worthwhile things. There will be uphill climbs, pain to push through, difficulties you must rise above, moments when you wonder if you should give up, and why you ever wanted it in the first place. But in the end – once you are passing through the finish line – you know it was worth it.

Jesus understood this struggle all too well. He endured pain, rejection, shame, betrayal and beatings. He did so knowing He was moving forward toward a much greater purpose. The cross was His finish line and he dragged himself uphill, bone weary and brokenhearted so we could be fully forgiven, have an intimate relationship with His Father, and have abundant, eternal life. He was fully aware of His purpose, and though exceedingly difficult, did not allow Himself to be dissuaded from accomplishing it.

Jesus understood the enormity of His purpose: that He was sent to take our sin on Himself and die in our place. No small or simple task. And though it may have appeared final, the cross was not really the end. Jesus also conquered death when He rose again. And now, He is at the right hand of the Father cheering for us.

“Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” ~ Romans 8:34

And so, we too have a purpose and must not lose sight of the finish line. We must press on toward the goal. We may face uphill battles, rocky terrain, storms, and pain. We may suffer rejection, betrayal, and feel beaten down – in all these ways we partake in Christ’s sufferings. We may run with others for a time, and then at times utterly alone. But we don’t allow ourselves to lose sight of our destination and the One who allowed us passage there.

Our finish line is our final heavenly home gifted to us by our ransomed Savour. Like a substitute in a relay race, when a runner is absent or injured, Jesus is our substitute. He went in our place making a way so we can reach the finish line. Through Him, we are forgiven, redeemed, and accepted. Our passage is paid in full.

But though it appears so, the cross and heaven secured is not the end for us. We need to share this good news, pass the baton, cheer other runners on, and encourage them to the end so they too can cross the finish line to eternal life.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

~ Romans 12:1-3

May you run the race well and cheer others to do so too.

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  1. In what ways are you struggling to run well? Ask Jesus to help you regain ground.
  2. How might you encourage a fellow “runner” to keep on?

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