An Artist’s Touch: Sifted and Cherished

Scroll down to April 9th to catch the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Scroll down to April 9th: the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Although God may sift you in the trials of life, you are cherished beyond measure by Him.  Believing the truth of His love is critically important.  Knowing this truth leads to an understanding of His perfect grace and the salvation which results from it.  The knowledge of grace is intended to make us feel free, loved and saved by Him.

Free, because we see that a relationship with Him and eternity beside Him is guaranteed, based on His promise alone, not on anything we do.  Once saved, there is nothing we can do or undo to change His gift of grace.   Nothing else is needed except faith in Him.  We are not even saved by the strength of our faith, but by the grace of Him in whom we are faithful.

Recognizing that, then, makes it easier to endure the trials of this world.  The fall from perfection created the troubles we live through, but the God who loves us and has redeemed us through His Son can use those trials to draw us closer to His side and deeper into the shelter of His wings, refining us in the process.

It all has to do with perspective.  To an artist, perspective is the concept of making three dimensional objects appear three dimensional on a two-dimensional surface, such as paper or canvas.  Perhaps you can imagine a painting of a trail through the forests that is rendered with such depth that you feel as if you could step into the picture and travel where it takes you.

There are various techniques artists use to add depth and reality to their pictures, making two dimensions seem like three.

I believe we often see spiritual things in just two dimensions: the here and the now.  God, the Master Artist, sees things in multiple dimensions. His perspective is complete, ours is not.

God is a master of technique, with an eye for the perfect perspective.  He sketches with broad strokes, light touches, working with shadow and light, creating, erasing, adding in depth and character as we walk with Him.

He sees our future, individually and how it relates to others whose stories we will enter. He sees into the depths of our spirits and the hidden hurts of our hearts. He perceives the inner workings of our thoughts and knows the words of our lips and movements of our hands before they become reality.  He knows how He wants to render the picture of our lives and how each moment blends with the lives around us.

His perspective is the most excellent.  To maintain a right perspective for our lives,  we must focus on Him, trusting His great vision and the kindness of His love.

Several years ago, my daughter’s cat, Chloe, jumped onto the kitchen windowsill and knocked off a little vase which sat there.  Part of the edge broke away when it hit the sink.  The fragments were too small to glue back in place, so I intended to throw it away.  As I walked to the trash can, I re-read the words on its surface:  Live   Love   Laugh. 

A friend had given the vase to me years ago while I was in the hospital recovering from a serious infection.  At that time, I didn’t feel like living, loving or laughing, but I kept the vase.  I now know that God used that time of sickness in my life to teach me about Himself, to grow my trust in Him and to move me forward along the path He had for me.  I’m so thankful for that trial, although it was very difficult for me and my family.

Slowly, I replaced the vase on my windowsill, turning it so that I could see the brokenness.  It became more beautiful to me as it took on a deeper meaning: Our promise of life eternal with Him cannot be taken away by the brokenness of our world or our lives, because we live  with His Holy Spirit in us.

We have God’s love and presence with us always, through the sifting of trials, and we can laugh (rejoice) through those trials, because in Him and by His grace we are free from sin and cherished by His heart.  Through it all, we can trust that He is in the process of making us like His Son.

My prayer for you: that you will live in Him, love Him because He first loved you and laugh with joy in your spirit because He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

If you are not yet God’s child, have faith that He sent His Son to die for you.  Confess your sin and accept His grace.  Pray in your heart and believe in your mind.

1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Summer Heat

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Making salsa is a labor of love for me.  My husband, Brian, who likes all things spicy, is especially fond of homemade salsa.  I’ve made it for years, although last year my tomato crop failed (or should I say I failed the tomatoes?) and the winter’s cold was intensified by the alarming lack of spicy summer heat on our shelves. Once you’ve had homemade salsa made with sweet, vine-ripe tomatoes and flavor packed jalapeno peppers, store-bought just doesn’t satisfy.

“Make the first batch hot,” Brian said.  Well, I aim to please. Twenty-three ounces of fresh jalapeno peppers, combined with tomato sauce, garlic, onions vinegar, salt and water went into the kettle.  I had the fleeting thought that the quantity of peppers might be a bit much, but, I told myself, he does want it hot, and every year, the heat level of the peppers varies slightly.  Perhaps these are milder than normal, I considered. Until the first batch is made, there is a slight and mysterious unknown.

When Brian got home, the salsa was unveiled.  As the steaks cooked on the grill, he sampled the year’s first batch.  “It’s hot!” he said.  One taste was all I needed to realize that his comment was an understatement.   He did, however, enjoy the salsa and appreciated all my work, but I daresay even his eyebrows were scorched by the heat.

The wheels were turning in my head as to how I could save that labor intensive batch.  My best solution is to make the next one without peppers and combine the two. Clearly, I have unfinished business, until it’s right!

It’s frustrating when a gift we work hard at doesn’t turn out like we want it to.  Even if the recipient is genuinely appreciative, as Brian was, a gift that isn’t what we imagined it to be can leave us feeling disappointed in our efforts.  We must chalk it up to learning and head back to the drawing board.

What is it like, then, if we get a gift that disappoints us?  Perhaps we were hoping for something different from what we were actually given.  What should our response look like? Once again, I invite you to step inside the Living Free Series at Family Life Baptist Church, Aylett, to explore that answer.

It’s OK to be chained to your stove by a pot of simmering salsa that needs almost constant stirring, but the chains of insecurity that hold us in place aren’t OK. They need to be broken by He who is the Freedom Giver: Jesus Christ.  Break the chains IN HIM, WITH HIM, FOR HIM.

James 1:17 (NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.