Monday, October 17, 2011

Starting From Scratch

My husband and I moved to our new home seven months ago. Since that time, we have completed several renovation projects, including the kitchen, bathroom, foyer, den and one bedroom. It has been a hectic time for sure, but the work has been worth it.

When we first saw our house, we realized it would need a lot of attention. It was built in the 1920's, and hadn't had a lot of updates since then. It had been on the market for several months without an offer, and we figure that most people wouldn't want to have to deal with such an extensive "face lift". The house, though humble, is in a beautiful location, and that is what really sold us on it. The "makeover" isn't finished yet, but we look forward to making it our own.

Since moving here, we have been watching a few of the home renovation reality programs that are on television. We are curious to see how others go about fixing those "old house" issues. It's interesting to see people's reactions when they are looking at houses to purchase, even newer ones. So often, they will turn their noses up at a potential home because, for instance, they don't like the color of the paint in a bedroom, or the type of counter top in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the house is beautiful, well built, and shows to perfection. We just shake our head, and laugh, saying "I wonder what they would have said about this place...likely 'tear it down', or 'total gut job'". We are amazed at how fussy people sometimes are, and how they can't see past even the smallest "imperfection" in the houses that they look at.

Recently we hosted a get together for my husband's family. One of them commented that it was a good thing that we could see past what the house was, and envision what it could be. Yes, it did take some imagination, but we knew it could be transformed. It just needed some new life injected into it.

I've been thinking how thankful I am that my Heavenly Father could see past my "imperfections", and envision what I could be in Christ. In my personal renovation, I needed a total "gut job", a whole new heart. And now, He continues to mold and shape me, tearing away my old "infrastructures" and making me more and more dependent on Him. He didn't just paint over the old wallpaper, He stripped it bare, and applied a coat of His own righteousness, with a lifetime guarantee, impermeable, and spotless. The new life He gave me is eternal; I won't ever need any "updates".

What a hope and a promise He gives us, when we come to Him, dilapidated, run down, already condemned. The results are fantastic, not even to be compared with any "reality renovations" that we could see here on this earth. Look to Him to bring you "up to code"; His code of perfect holiness. You can never do it on your own. He is the one and only Master Builder that can.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2Cor. 5:17)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Best Is Yet To Come

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:31a)

I'm sitting on the sofa in my living room, listening to the wind whistle around the house. It has been raining off and on all day, and the leaves are being pulled off the trees at a rapid rate, making their way across the landscape to settle at last, somewhere in the distance. Out for a walk earlier with my granddaughter, I admired the multicolored carpet that the leaves from a big maple tree on our property had made. My granddaughter said we were on a 'nature walk'. Clipboard in hand, she was documenting all the nature-type things that she saw: a bird, a bug, a hummingbird....she is only five years old, so the spelling was a bit off, and the huge letters covered almost the whole page. But I am glad that she is noticing nature, and learning to appreciate it.

Many times, especially since living the country, I am moved by the scenery and the weather that I encounter. The sights, sounds and smells can be entirely captivating. Indeed, I wish I could somehow keep them captive. The blue of the sky, the sight of cows happily munching in the field, their tails lazily swishing away the flies. The sound of crickets, the bright colors of the birds that visit our bird feeder, the smell of the air after a summer rain. So many things that bring a burst of joy and praise to my heart. I wonder why I am so entranced sometimes. I wish I could hug it all to myself, bottle it up, preserve it all somehow. There is so much beauty that just happens, seemingly without effort, that we take for granted. We drive by, sit in the midst of, or even complain about (when the weather is less than pleasant) so many incredible vistas.

I am just thinking out loud here. But I believe the thing I am trying to put my finger on is the notion that all of it is sacred. All of it is Gods signature, His calling card, His reminders to us that He is the Designer, Creator and Sustainer of it all. I don't mean to imply that He is literally in all of it, but everything that He has made is good. He said so Himself. Yet even as I wonder at the beauty of it all, I am aware in my heart of hearts that my appreciation and praise falls far short of what is deserved. And too, even the beauty itself has fallen, with the rest of mankind, because of Adam's sin. It, like us, has yet to be restored to its original glory. I so look forward to that time, when all is as it should be, and God's perfect plan of redemption has come to fulfillment.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Recipe for Success

I love cookbooks, and recipes in general. When waiting for appointments, I often copy out recipes from magazines in the waiting room, hoping my name isn't called until I finish. Sometimes they make it to the kitchen, but more often they find their way to the garbage or recycle box the next time I clean out my purse. My collection of cookbooks is always evolving; when I find I have too many, I vow not to buy any more, then pull a few to give away. I have a few favourites: "Loony Spoons", "The Best of the Best of Bridge", and my absolute best favourite, "The Purity Cookbook". I bought that little gem the first time hubbie and I went grocery shopping together, just after we were married. It cost, I believe, $2.99 at the A&P store. Its' pages, now falling out, are batter spattered and stained with all kinds of spilled ingredients. Held together with duct tape, (the book, not me :o) I still refer to it for recipes that I made as a newly-wed, nearly 39 years ago. It definitely holds sentimental value, and I won't be giving it away, ever.

I enjoy trying new recipes, though. And if I am feeling confident enough, I will change the ingredients around, just to be creative, or try to improve on the original. Some people claim that they can't cook, but cooking isn't that hard. You can whip up some pretty good dishes, if you have some basic skills, and a good recipe. You just have to follow the directions.

Lately, I have been striving to lose some weight. Now, in addition to cookbooks, my bookshelves have seen a variety of "diet" books come and go. Some were foolish, and unbalanced. Others were sensible, and very do-able. If you just follow the instructions. And after thirty-plus years of "practicing" weight loss, you would think I would have it mastered. After all, the information that I need to be successful has been at my disposal. But it isn't that easy. It's one thing to have the knowledge, still another to put it into practice. That takes discipline, which usually equates to self-denial, in my experience. Oh how I wish that losing weight were as simple as cooking. That I could just follow the directions, and get the desired result.

I find my Christian walk somewhat like that. The Bible is full of instructions. Admonitions, commands, and principles are laid out in Scripture. It`s all there, and I just have to follow the directions to get the desired result. But I don`t always. Because, like dieting, it takes discipline, and self -denial. Not that I look to my performance to earn God`s love or approval. I know that I have that in Christ. But, like every child of God, I would love to see some progress, some victories along the way. My humanity is all too often a stumbling block to success. Like Paul, the thing I want to do, I don`t do, and the thing I don`t want to do, I keep doing. It could cause me to throw in the towel, if it weren`t for the fact that I know my God is working in me, and has promised to finish what He started there. And like Paul, I can say

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin. (Romans 7:25)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sola Deo Gloria

This is the most beautiful time of year, in my opinion, in my part of the world. The leaves are slowly transforming into a breathtaking array of color, and set against a piercing blue sky, it is a spectacle that can take your breath away. Even as they lose the last remaining leaves, I find the sight of bare trees against a dull, grey horizon hauntingly beautiful. More and more, as I consider God's handiwork in nature, I am compelled to marvel, and give Him thanks and praise for the glorious vistas that He presents to us every day.

This morning, over breakfast, I happened to glance at the cover of a magazine that my husband had been reading, and the words "Honor Nature"
leapt out at me. The article talked about capturing the beauty and reality of nature in the artist's work. Nothing wrong with that. But the title is representative of an attitude in the world that falls so short of the truth. "Nature" as a whole, is nothing less than the outworking of an infinitely brilliant and benevolent Creator God. It is not, as some would indicate, a "Mother" or a force unto itself. No, it is designed, created, and controlled by the eternal sovereign of the universe. Of course, not everyone holds to this belief, but I stand on it, nonetheless. Hearing nature referred to as something that, in and of itself, deserves praise, respect, or fear, provokes a response of defense of the honor and glory of God in me. It is God, and Him alone, who provides the landscapes, the animal life, the sunrises and sunsets, that we enjoy each and every day. It is Him that has painted the beauty of nature on the canvas of the universe. He holds it all together, and is faithful to bring the seasons in their order, the rain on the just and the unjust. We would have no beautiful art, or music, if He did not inspire and equip those artists and musicians to try and capture the reality of His creation. To Him alone belongs the honor and the glory. There. Just had to say it.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
(Psalm 19:1-6)