resting on

Lately, I have been thinking about a hymn I learned when my children were little. It is not commonly sung on Sunday, but I sometimes wish it were. The first time I found this hymn was while reading Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot. I could only read the lyrics, but they struck the bedrock in my soul. The words are honest, but full of hope, just what I need when I am facing uncertainty.

This morning as I drove to work the sun was beginning to rise. The sky in front of me still clung to the darkness of the night, but behind me the sun was beginning to flood the sky with light. It was such an image of hope for me as I faced a long day of work and errands.

I knew I wasn’t going to be facing it alone. I could rest in the truth that God was going to be by my side as I spoke with people during the day. He was going to be with me when I picked up my son at school and dropped him off at the soccer field.

I don’t have to be in prayer with my knees bent and my head bowed. I was in prayer when I praised him for the beauty of the sky. Or when I spoke about the husband God blessed me with in life. I was in prayer as I laughed at the ducks’ antics when I pulled into our driveway. God was meeting me where I was, as I was, no more and no less.

I think that’s why this hymn resonates with me. God is with me as my shield and my salvation. I can rest in Him when I am worried about something. I can find strength in His character and His promises. He will fill me where I am lacking and He will be with me all the days of my life.

Dear One, I don’t know how your week was for you. It may have contained good news or bad news, set backs or triumphs. I hope that this weekend you will take the time to use the words of this hymn as a prayer, a pleading if need be. Ask God to meet you where you are, as you are, and help you to rest on Him and in Him.

Blessings. xoxo

  1. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
    We go not forth alone against the foe;
    Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
    We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
  2. Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
    In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
    Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
    Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
  3. We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
    And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
    Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
    “We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
  4. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
    Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
    When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
    Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

Lyrics by Edith Gilling Cherry (1872-1897)

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the T-word

In this age of making our opinions known, the concept of Truth being the final answer has become undesirable. It is better to use emotional triggers, straw man defenses, red herring approaches, anything that can divert someone from the Truth. Life choices that were once frowned upon, have been converted into emotional arguments of unfair practices to keep others from being happy.

I have heard others scold and make extreme practices that must be completed to give someone access to God. To the forgiveness He offers, the joy and peace He brings to His children.

Dear Ones, please do not believe the Liar. Scripture is clear, the Truth is found always and forever in the very person of Christ. John 14:6 says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through me. The enemy, however wants us to believe that we do not need Jesus to get to God. In fact, one popular perspective is that there are many ways to get to God. Some say through a particular prophet, good deeds, sacrifices, even through martyrdom, they can access God. No Jesus required.

Truth speaks otherwise. Truth says that human beings do not have to try to access Heaven on our own. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32). Truth says that Heaven has come to us. Heaven contained all of the forgiveness, grace, deeds, sacrifices, and redemption that would be needed. It came to us, in the body of Jesus. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me (John 8:42).

The enemy seeks to twist Jesus’ words, to twist and turn us from the very hope and peace offered to us. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 b). First Peter 5:8 describes the enemy this way; Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The enemy is called a thief determined to steal from Heaven; The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

Precious Child of God, do not let the emotions of others cloud the Truth that have been spoken, the Truth that have stood without fault for two millennia. Jesus Christ is the One, the Only, the Truth. He is the gate- the door, the only way to Heaven is through Jesus.

Before you lose hope that you cannot possibly make it into Heaven because of your past, the things you’ve said or done- remember the thief on the cross. He entered Heaven that day on Golgotha when he died (Luke 23:40-43). He only repented, asked Jesus to remember him. No deeds, no sacrifices, no atonement, just repentance. That is all.

We are all sinners, gone astray, in need of the Shepherd, the one who will seek and save the lost (Isaiah 53:6, Mark 6:34, Luke 19:10). The One who has paid our debt, the One who will and Who has loved us since before time began (Jeremiah 31:3). No emotional arguments can stop the Truth from speaking (Luke 19:40). There are no subtle tricks that can be tried, God is the Truth. There is nothing else we need.

I for one, am grateful. I have Jesus, therefore I have all I need (Philippians 4:19).

Amen and amen.

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Oil

As a young driver, my dad taught me how to check the oil in my car and if needed, how to add a quart. He made sure I understood that without sufficient oil in the engine, it would eventually break down and the damage could be irreversible.

Fast forward a few years. I was in college, commuting each day to school, as well as working. My schedule seemed jam-packed and I often was rushing to campus. I would add gas when the tank was low, but I got out of the habit of checking the oil level. Months went by and I noticed my exhaust was very cloudy. I chalked it up to the air temperature when the exhaust hit it, after all, it was winter in Chicago. Then it got worse. And worse.

I was on my way to an appointment when a policeman pulled me over and advised me that I could no longer drive my car since the “cloud” my car created obstructed the vision of other drivers on the road. I finally confessed to my dad that my car needed attention. It was towed back to our house and my father and brother began the tedious job of repairing it.

I had blown a head gasket, the radiator fluid had gotten into the engine block. After hours and hours of work, parts, frustration, and tenacity, my car was back together. What wasn’t known until the end, was that my driving the car as I had actually cracked the head. It was permanently broken.

The only thing I needed to do to prevent this was to check the oil level regularly.

As a believer, I have learned that if I am not checking my spiritual oil level, I will continue to run for awhile, but I may permanently damage myself in the process. I might attend church regularly and even read a devotional here and there, but daily time with God, truly listening to His voice, is crucial for me to be effective where He has placed me.

My personal health continues to be a struggle with doctor appointments and various medications to try and specialists to meet with from week to week. There are days when I cannot get out of bed and will call into work. This past week I stayed home and slept over eighteen hours. My physical body needs me to care for it as symptoms continue. My soul needs me to care for it, too.

We need to take our spiritual engines to a certified mechanic from time to time for a tune up and overall inspection. While I can check the day-to-day running of my soul, I need someone who is wiser than me to make sure the deeper parts are functioning as they should. I need accountability.

On our faith journey we sometimes start to believe that we have it all figured out and that we don’t need someone to check on us. But it is when we start to believe we are doing just fine, going along as we have, that we are in danger of causing widespread and permanent damage to ourselves and to others.

We have all read of leaders who started out well, made an impact and helped hundreds or even thousands of people through their platform. But somewhere along the path, they may have started to believe his or her own press. They were capable of assessing themselves, they didn’t need someone to come along and ask the hard questions, check under the spiritual hood. As time went on, the engine started to smoke, things stopped working like they should. Eventually, that person had to step down from his or her post. All because the simple task of checking the oil became unimportant.

Dear Ones, who is holding you accountable? Who is asking the hard questions? Who is not taking your pat answers without pressing further? As this world continues to try to run ahead without Jesus we must be running at our best performance, not limping along, trying to go ahead on our own. We are called to be light to the darkness, help to those who need it, and the hands and feet of Jesus until He returns.

Let us remember that we cannot run the good race and win the prize when our spiritual car is in the shop, unable to carry us forward. Let’s make sure we check our oil regularly and see the mechanics, proactively, not after the damage is done.

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passwords

Everyday I enter passwords into security systems on my technology to access my work programs or even just an app on my phone. Some of my passwords are simple numeric codes, others are a combination of twelve characters with letters, numbers, and symbols. If I mistype my passwords I immediately see a notice that tells me my access has been denied. Sometimes, the systems will only allow me three attempts before I am fully locked out. Then I  have to contact someone with the authority to allow me another chance to try again.

Passwords keep out those who don’t belong and allow only the privileged, those who are in the know, inside. This is the way life was for everyone in the first century and prior. If you were rich, if you held a position of power, if you were part of the elite, then you had access. Access to food, freedoms, even participation in certain decisions that others would never have.

During the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, Jesus went to the Temple and cleared out the money changers and merchants. It wasn’t that they were bad, it was that they had taken over the area assigned to the Gentiles for prayer. Those who were not able to enter the inner courtyard for prayer because they were not Jewish. The Temple was created for all to come and pray and bring offerings to YHWH, the Lord God Almighty. But somewhere along the way, the Gentiles were “locked out” and not given access to the outer courtyards.

But when Jesus came, He changed things. He said that all should have access, no more passwords were going to be required. Scripture explains, And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life  (Matthew 27:50-52). You see, the temple veil separated even the most devout from the place where the Ark of the Covenant rested. The spirit of God was said to dwell in this Shekinah- where the Glory of Glories was to be found.

Jesus death tore the veil in two, from top to bottom. His death and subsequent resurrection gave us the all access password to approach God without an intermediary. No longer were offerings going to be needed. Jesus was the One, the last sacrificial Lamb, who died, once- for all. Through Him, we have salvation, we have hope, we have eternity. We are restored to God, made holy through Jesus’ blood shed for us.

With our day-to-day lives we will always have passwords to apply to systems for access. But, O Best Beloved, Precious Child of God, we need only call out to Jesus. Invite Him into our hearts, to clear out the money-changers and merchants who are trying to sell us a worthless bill of goods. To allow Him to access our hearts, souls, and minds and change them for all eternity.

It’s time for the all access pass, no more passwords.

 

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the day after — just another day

I returned to work today after the weekend and the discussion turned to what everyone did over the past few days. Since yesterday was Easter, the conversations included any Easter activities.

But the focus didn’t ever come to what yesterday really was celebrating. It was not about family, the pictures, the chocolate, or the egg hunts. It was about the empty grave. It was — it is– about Jesus being raised from the dead. Defeating death, triumphing over Hell, providing us a way to be restored to a pre-Genesis 3 relationship with God.

The day after Easter is just as important as the day of Easter. I stood in church on Sunday nearly dancing in place as I praised Him for paying my debt. My hands were held high, eyes closed, cheering for Jesus’ victory over sin. He rescued me from so much more than I will ever fully understand this side of Heaven.

I am praying for the same joy I sang with and felt on Easter Sunday will not be put away with the dishes and decorations. I want the sense of urgency I felt when I first became a Christian to share the truth of Easter with others. It used to propel me in conversations with others, to tell them all about the Jesus I knew. The Jesus I was learning about in Bible studies and from personal reading.

We all tend to fall back in our routines after something amazing, as if we are saying, That’s nice, but there are other things I need to do now. What else could be more important than sharing the love and sacrifice that Jesus made for us? How can we truly say that we are “all in” for Jesus when the next day we act like nothing happened?

When the disciples realized that Jesus had been raised from the dead, there was no stopping them. The same men who were hiding from the authorities in a locked room (John 20:19) would soon be speaking before thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). They would face torture, prison, and ultimately martyrdom for what they believed. The day after was the first day of their new found strength and faith in the Jesus they followed.

My prayer for both of us, O Best Beloved, is that we will not forget the day when the very gates of Hell were broken by the Lamb of God. May we go forward, not as meek lambs, but as lions, roaring out the truth of Who our God is and what He has done for all of mankind.

May it not be just another day.

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all we need

Tonight many people will gather at their houses of worship to remember the Last Supper shared by Jesus and His disciples just hours before He was betrayed. Hymns and choruses will be sung, prayers will be spoken, and a sense of solemnity will come over those gathered. This night is not like other nights on the Christian calendar. It represents the culmination of Jesus’ whole life and ministry.

From the moment Mary was visited by Gabriel in Luke 1 a timer began for all of humanity. Every action, decision, prayer, conversation, miracle, healing, was in accordance to God’s perfect plan of salvation. The men and women Jesus met during His three years of ministry. The children He held, the ailments He healed, the forgiveness He offered to them was a glimpse of what Heaven would be like.

Now, on this evening during Passover, these thirteen men gathered together in the upper room of a home in Jerusalem. They would recite the stories from the original Passover, when Moses led the Israelites out of bondage and into the Promise Land. Each item they would eat would hold significance for their journey. The bitter herbs, the salty water, the unleavened bread, all items that would remind of the sadness, the pain, the loss experienced during their years in slavery.

The same kind of pain and loss comes in our lives today when we have not received Jesus’ salvation. Jesus stood there with His disciples and explained that He would be offered up as a sacrifice for all. Jesus gave His last command to the disciples in those moments before they left for the Garden of Gethsemane (John 13:33-35).

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is all we need. Jesus love for us, salvation through His sacrifice on the Cross, and loving one another-just like He loved us. No fanfare, no groveling, no payments, just acceptance of His sacrifice and loving others sacrificially.

May we do this every day.

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if, then

It has been easy to forget this is Passion Week and we are less than 48 hours from Good Friday. I found myself re-reading John 15, some of the last teaching Jesus would give the disciples before going to the Cross. He reminds them the only way to grow in their faith is to remain connected to God in prayer and study (John 15:1-11).

Jesus continues to tell the disciples they are more than students, they are friends, dear to Jesus’ heart (vs. 12-17). It’s when we read verses 18-27 that the tone take a different turn. Jesus doesn’t sugar coat what is going to happen to the disciples once He ascends to Heaven. He tells them that if He was persecuted, then they will be persecuted because they follow Him. If the people who followed Jesus listened to Jesus’ teaching, then they will continue to listen to the disciples’ teaching. The disciples should therefore, not be surprised when the world treats them badly, hating them as the world did Jesus.

When Jesus came, He brought with Him the very light of Heaven itself, which shone on all the things done by those He encountered. If a sin was not known before, now in the presence of God it was known. Then sin must be addressed to become right with God- plain and simple. The world, though, does not want to acknowledge Jesus, His authority, His holiness, or His redemptive power.

The world wants to remain in the dark. But John 1:4-5 say, In him was life, and that life was the light of me. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. In the days leading up to Good Friday Jesus reminded the disciples of all they had learned. Much like a teacher preparing students for their final exam before graduation. Jesus encouraged the disciples to remember to love each other as He had loved them. To remember troubles are normal this side of Heaven. He told them to be prepared and to pray for wisdom (John 16:1-4).

Hearing news stories and reading news feeds on social media is enough to make me ask God why, a lot. But then I read these words in John and I remember, I am not home yet. I am still here, drawing breath, working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), but with the secure knowledge that my faith is secure because of the Cross. Because Jesus died for me and because I accepted His gift of salvation. There is nothing else that gives me peace, nothing else that helps me hope.

Jesus is my firm foundation, anchor in the storm, and because of Him I know that the troubles of this world, though difficult, painful, and burdensome to experience– they will not overwhelm me. I can stand (Ephesians 6: 13) as Paul wrote, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). 

This Easter, I pray that as we stand free from persecution in church we will remember our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Those who are praising God for His Son, but doing it in secret because of persecution in their countries.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!!

 

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It’s not over yet

In the morning when I wake up, I find myself assessing what hurts and what doesn’t hurt. I have been battling chronic issues for over a year now and each week seems to add another layer to the process. I have seen specialists, my primary physician, had multiple tests, and nothing has come back with the AHA moment to explain what is wrong. It has been a frustrating and tiring time for me and my family. I still have more doctor appointments and follow up appointments to have as well. My hope is that some time soon, I will have a name for the problem. In the mean time, I take the medications I have been prescribed and muddle through.

I have friends and family who have battled various cancers, too many of whom have lost their battles. I have watched a dear friend figure out how to go forward when her husband died of a sudden heart attack. Marriages have broken up over infidelity, children suddenly left with one parent after the other walked out. I have had former students struggle with addictions and depression, each day is a decision of falling down or getting up.

It is overwhelming to see all of the pain and heartache and not be able to go in and fix it with my own hands. It seems hopeless, that the game is over, the fat lady has sung, and it’s time to stop trying. Then I hear a whisper, My timetable is not your timetable. I know what the outcomes will be, when it will be over, and how much more there is to come. Believe that I have this situation well in My hands. Trust me.

Second Peter, chapter 3, is full of this kind of thinking. Peter writes what will be his last letter before being executed by Nero’s regime. If anyone would be able to understand hopelessness, it would be him. But that’s not how Peter writes. Instead he tells the fellow believers to remember that what God sees and what we see aren’t the same. There is a separation here on earth that we cannot breach. When people tell us to forget about God’s plan or challenge us for being foolish to believe God has a bigger view of things than we do, we must come back and read these words.

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day,” (2 Peter‬ ‭3:3-8‬ ‭NASB, bold mine‬‬).

In other words, it’s not over yet. The scoffers, critics, complainers, etc. may tell you that there is nothing good that will ever come out of your battle. Your faith is just a crutch, that you are a fool to believe that God has a bigger view and plan than what you can see right now. I admit, that the hardest part of this is when the scoffers don’t see the outcome. When you can’t lord over them when the clock runs down and you are the winner.

You see, sometimes God’s plan and outcome are for the other side of Heaven. The person whose cancer has been going on for so long, may be healed– but it might be in God’s presence, not yours. Or the chronic health issue, may be something that God allows in your life for a purpose He understands and knows, but you don’t. Which begs the question, if you can’t see the outcome here on earth, in your time, will you still believe? Will you still trust? Can you allow your faith to grow, knowing that you won’t know it all before Heaven?

O Best Beloved, please know that I am not speaking platitudes. Life is hard, even with faith. What I do want to encourage you with is this, redemption, restoration, renewal, everything our souls long for will be made true through Christ. The hope we have to get out of bed in the morning, is a small portion of the Hope we have in God. The trust we have to believe that one day God will make right what has been taken away from us by sin and death in this life.

Peter ends his second letter with these words, But grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18). With all that Peter did not know and understand of God’s purposes and plan, he did know that growing in our faith was what mattered. No matter the battle, the struggle, the sorrow, the loss. May it be so with us.

To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen, indeed.

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Refunds and returns

My junior year in college I was engaged. As the wedding date came closer, many people started to give me bridal shower and wedding presents. I dutifully opened them and wrote my thank you notes, looking forward to using them in my new home. It was a surprise to all of us, when my fiancé called off our engagement just three weeks before the wedding. Suddenly, those who had so joyously given us presents to make our house a home, were asking for the presents to be returned. It seemed since the gifts weren’t going to be used the way the givers expected them to be, then I wasn’t to have them at all.

When you have received a gift you didn’t like, you may choose to return it. When the item is taken to the store, the employee will often ask why you are returning it. It could be due to color, size, style, even its function, whatever the reason, you don’t want it. The very item someone spent time selecting for you, means little to you because it isn’t what you needed, wanted, or liked. It just didn’t fit.

I started thinking about Grace and Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. What if we looked at Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and decided it didn’t fit with how we thought that we should be saved? So we took the gift of Grace, the sacrifice of God’s Son, and returned it, unopened to God, and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Before that sounds ridiculous, just remember that every day, even every hour, someone in this world does exactly that. It could be your brother, your parents, your child, it could be you.

Jesus came to Earth to offer the amazing gift of Grace through His death and resurrection. There is no other way you will find healing, forgiveness, grace, mercy, love, joy, or peace. Sure the world may offer ways to experience these things, but not one way will bring you the eternal healing, love, joy, or peace that comes from accepting Christ’s give of your salvation through Him. We can try believing there are many ways to God, but it’s just another example of the return. We don’t think that we want only one way to Heaven, so we invent other paths. Other spiritual leaders may have profound wisdom, but in the end, it just leads to a brick wall. No way over and no way out, unless you turn around and go a different way.

Easter is really all about the exchange. No refunds or returns. Instead, it is about the sin Jesus took on Himself-in our place- and carried into death and Hell itself. He took all of it. The sins of Adam and Eve, the sins of your great-great-grandfather and your great-great-granddaughter, Jesus took them all and paid the price for them. His death was the payment. As each person learns of this payment, it becomes the opportunity for choosing to accept this gift or handing it back to God and saying, “No thanks, I am going to keep looking.”

Best Beloved, what are you doing with the gift God is offering to you? Have you taken the package and opened it, saying, “Thank you, God it’s just what I wanted!” Or did you return it, unopened, wrapping paper still around it? We all have to choose. If you don’t make the choice, then by your indecision, you will have made a decision.

My prayer for you and for those in my life who have yet to open God’s gift, is that this Easter their eyes and hearts will be opened to see what God really did that Good Friday so long ago. May we see it as it truly was, a Great Exchange for you and for me, if only we would receive it.

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artistry

I had the chance to go to the Art Institute while I was visiting family in Illinois. Of all the museums in Chicago, it is my favorite. The visitors treated each gallery much like a sacred space, silently taking in the paintings and artifacts on display. I found the Impressionists gallery images drew me in, made me pause to reflect, and brought joy to my heart. Manet, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, their work hanging on the wall, leaving a piece of their minds, hearts, and even souls for thousands to see each day.

One of my favorite pieces is a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh. As his paintings evolved his brush strokes changed, his feelings being left more and more on each canvas.

Other images I love include the Haystack series by Monet, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat, and Van Gogh’s pastoral scenes.

Each painter used his or her own technique and approach to capture their subject. The brush strokes of Degas are different from Seurat’s pointillist approach, which are different than the broad strokes of Van Gogh.

I see God’s hand in each of us the same way. We are created by the Master Creator, but each stroke, each shape of ourselves, even our emotional self, is different. When I watch my husband as he creates a meal, I see God’s handiwork. My husband makes a dish with ingredients that complement instead of compete, with the results often bringing praises to the cook.

Walking around our farm I see God’s fingerprints on the trees, the sky, the way the fields undulate, the sound of the geese calling to each other in the sky. During the days of Creation in Genesis, God could have chosen to make five different types of things and called it good. But instead, He created colors, sounds, sizes, textures, scales, feathers, furs, and skins all diverse from each other.

When we create with words, music, numbers, or food we are recreating the same moments. We are sharing in the artistry of God, not as His equal, but as a way of expressing our gratitude to His diversity.

 

Best Beloved, do you understand that you are a work of art? A masterpiece? We were created in the image of God, His masterpiece, unique, with His special touches, His blessings, His design.

In the morning when you look in the mirror, remember this truth. We are looking at priceless images, just as if they hung on the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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