A few years back I picked up a sketchbook and began what I call ‘chicken-scratching.’ My little doodles are nothing to write home about, but, I do so enjoy it. I have one little book filled with drawings of flowers and leaves. But, while staying up in the woods at the prayer cabin last November, I decided to try my hand at something a bit more difficult.
After trekking through the woods looking for just the right subjects to try my hand at, I shot a few photos and then headed back to the cabin to give it a go.
Recently I showed my sketch to a friend of mine. She couldn’t make out what in the world it was. That made me laugh out loud! “I guess you’re not looking at the next van Gogh, then,” I said with a wink.
I was having coffee with a friend just before the new year was to begin. As is typical for this time of year, we were discussing some goals that we both had for 2015. There were the usual suspects… getting in shape, being better about making time for friends, being on time for an appointment (I was 6 minutes late to coffee that day… ugh.) But then my friend threw out a new one. “I’d like to spend time this year seeking God’s will for my life, and actually doing it,” she said. It caught me by surprise, how she stated this with such intention, as if there were this package somewhere in her house with a big bow on it, a package that she’s walked by many times in the preceding days, months, and years, but for whatever reason, had chosen not to open. And when she did open up this package, there it would be, beneath layers of tissue paper—her God-ordained purpose—laid out perfectly and there for the taking.
If only it were that simple, seeking and finding God’s will for our lives. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. My personal favorites are Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, and Garry Friesan’s Decision Making and the Will of God. Both are good reads if you are seeking the face of God. Both helped me understand how finding God’s will for my life had less to do with focusing on myself and what I was to do and more to do with focusing on Him and what He was already doing.
I am fascinated by the concept of “finding” God’s will for our lives. Many people tend to believe that finding God’s will is like looking for buried treasure, that it’s out there somewhere but I have yet to put my finger on exactly where it is or what it is. “I’ll know it when I find it,” they muse, “but God’s not showing it to me just yet.” Some believe that if we could just get a hint as to where it’s buried, maybe a trail of bread or a column of smoke rising up from its burial spot could lead us to where it is that our purpose in life is buried. Perhaps God could send a lightning strike to guide me to that X. Then I would know, then I could do!
The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.
George Matthew Adams, The Christmas Heart
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
Thanksgiving. That blessed time of year when we stop all of our activity, gather with family and friends and recount all of our many, many blessings. We at Heart Matters find ourselves overflowing with joy and gratitude this year. Thank you dearest readers for your words of encouragement! Please keep them coming! We love to hear from you!
We are also grateful for the wonderful love gifts God sprinkles in our lives. His latest sprinkle is the addition of Jo Bender to our writing team! We just know you're going to love her as much as we do!
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...
I wish that I was quick-thinking, or had a quick wit, or was just plain quick. I’m afraid I am a bit of a plodder. More turtle than hare. Slow, but, steady. Studious. Strategic. Prefer a good book to a big crowd. Always have...and at nearly 57 years of age...probably always will.
13 2Moses sent out men to explore the land of Canaan... 25after exploring the land for forty days, the men returned. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land.27This was their report: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.28But...the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified!
30 Caleb tried to quiet the murmur amongst the people saying, “We must go...because we are more than able to do it!"31But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go..." 32So they began spreading this bad report: The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. 33We even saw giants there.”
14 1Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.2Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest...
We arrive at the field. Their noses are urgently pressed to the window. I open the car door and Mia goes flying out to the left, Daisy to the right. Both are hot onto the scent of….who knows what.
To my dogs, this place is heaven. These acres of gorgeous rolling meadows with wide paths mowed out, curving to the left and then gently flowing right. Here Mia and Daisy get to be what they were born to do: hunt.
So Mia bounds like a deer—all 100 pounds—through the tall grass off the mowed path, looking to unearth any unsuspecting birds, running crazy patterns just to release her energy. When she flushes out pheasants or other wild fowl and they take flight, she holds her head a little higher, her gait becomes a little faster, and her tail wags a little more merrily. Yes, she is the pheasant warrior.
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog
For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.
I planted Allium bulbs this past weekend. I’m so excited! If all goes well, large purple globes and petite blue orbs will greet me next spring.
I have come into the deep waters–the floods engulf me. I am worn out from calling for help! Do not let the flood waters engulf me or the depths swallow me up.
Psalm 69:1-2, 5
I woke up with a start. Sweat beaded my brow. My heart was racing. My arms aimlessly beat the air. The nightmare seemed so real that my bed and surroundings did not. I blinked in the darkness trying to get my bearings.
Be joyful in the Lord your God. For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains come. The threshing floors will be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.
In the last days I will send My Spirit on all people. Then your sons and daughters will speak God’s Word. Your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Yes, on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
The Christian church has tended to forget the religious value of dreams.
Morton Kelsey: Dreams: A Way to Listen to God
I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Ezekiel this summer. It’s not a book of the Bible most folks spend a lot of time in. One reason for this is all of the supernatural visions and dreams that Ezekiel has. They can be very confusing to understand.
Stuart Briscoe wrote a book years back based on Ezekiel, titled “All Things Weird and Wonderful.” I like that title! It is precisely because it is weird and wonderful that I was drawn to sit down with it for a spell.
I determined from the get-go, however, not to read it analytically, like we Americans tend to do with almost everything. Instead, I took my reading cue from Jesus, who said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Children accept things at face value. They are neither put off by fairy tale images nor do they try to relegate those images to hard, discernable facts. They get swept away in the imagery, as if they were there in the story experiencing it for themselves. That’s what I wanted to do.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re dreaming, and in your dream someone starts to chase you. So you set off running. Only, to your horror, you discover your legs are sluggish. Try as you might to pick up the pace, you find yourself running in slow motion.
Professionals who study our dreams say that this occurs because our mind, though sleeping, functions as though it is wide awake, whereas our bodies go out cold; they are limp and unresponsive.
That’s sort of what sin does in our lives. It makes us sluggish, slow to respond. Like a ball and chain around our ankle, it hinders us from running as fast as we can away from it.
We’re in a wet weather pattern in my little corner of the country. Day and night storms redevelop over the same oversaturated areas, flooding farm fields and basements. Streams and rivers spill out far beyond their banks...mudslides wreak havoc.
Sometimes the weight of the world feels as if it rests directly on my shoulders. I'm a burden-bearer by nature, so it only stands to reason that whatever happens to ail this poor, old world of ours, ails me, too.
I anguish in prayer over Ukraine, I pray for a change of heart for Putin, I grieve deeply over the young girls stolen from their family's and forced to relinquish their faith in Nigeria. My heart breaks for the tens of thousands of folks flooded out of their homes in Serbia.
I am awakened at night over the state of affairs in our country. All the violence. The perversion. And the impact our adult decisions are having on our children.
We Heart Matters Publishing gals care about women. Their joys. Their struggles. Their everyday, ordinary lives. We write from those very same places hoping to uplift, challenge and encourage your soul and deepen your faith.
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I’m turning 62 this year. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
I am currently finishing my degree in relational communications and plan to graduate in the spring of 2020!! I am thankful I have had time to grow, heal, appreciate a slower pace of living, and to invest more time into relationships with family, friends, and God. Through this process I am learning what I want to prioritize in my life and figuring out ways to make that happen. Most of all, I am figuring out that life is all about process, taking steps closer to where I want to be and celebrating the little victories but also accepting that there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way.
Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.