Searching for Beautiful

Looking for Beautiful

I painted this from a photo I took while in Bisbee, Arizona about five years ago. What a charming little mining town it is! We were walking down the old streets near the Copper Queen Hotel and I saw the most beautiful garden. It just screamed Paint Me! You can’t tell anything about the location by looking at this painting. My camera captured a tiny sliver of a moment in time. I found the beautiful because I was looking for it and I chose to ignore everything else around it when I painted it.

This is a reminder to me to focus on what is positive and good. The Apostle Paul, brilliant man that he was, said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.Phil. 4:8

There is a lot of opportunity to be frustrated or anxious by events happening in our world. We have to sift through a lot of noise and despairing views to find beautiful lately. The not so beautiful seems to get way more attention. But we have been called to think about what we think about. Maybe we have the opportunity to bring joy with acts of kindness and compassion. We can also seek to acknowledge kindness in the actions of someone else by speaking a blessing over them.

There is opportunity in every direction to be in opposition. Sometimes we must take a stand. But it is more important to be loving and grace-filled than to be “right.” We can be right and be hateful. But Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 We are to love. It is hard in these days where right is now considered wrong, truth is now hidden, and dark calls itself light. But Truth will win out. And shining the light of Christ’s love is our primary mission statement.

Heavenly Father, help us to watch for Your hand at work in our world. Please help us to reflect Your love in our lives as a beacon of hope to others. And help us to spend more time searching for beauty and truth than despairing about ashes and chaos. “…provide for those who grieve a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

Help us to love one another as You first loved us, Lord, and help us to focus on the beautiful.

Bisbee, Arizona
Cheryl

Meet, Know, Follow

As we move forward on the paths of life, we will encounter loss. It may come gradually over time slowly filling us with anguish. It may happen suddenly causing profound and devastating shock. But loss is unavoidable and however it happens, we are forced to face the changes – ready or not.

I met Jesus in my mid-twenties after years of rolling my eyes and changing the subject when He became a topic of conversation. I was searching for Him even though I didn’t realize it was HIM for whom I was searching. One day, God found me. To my amazement, I met my Savior and was captured by the “Hound of Heaven.”

Over many years I came to know and build a relationship with Jesus. I studied the Bible. I attended a church learning under a Godly pastor. I began to recognize Jesus’ voice leading me, and as the years went on and the pain of loss began to tear deeper into my world, I clung to Him. I trusted His faithfulness and great love for me even though I did not understand much of what was happening in my personal life. I KNEW He loved me although I lived shrouded in emotional and relational struggles. He did not take away my pain, but He was there with me everytime I cried

God led me through one painful step at a time. After many difficult years, He led me slowly out of that hard season of loss into a time of joy and abundance. I learned that although He may not answer my prayer as I expected it should be answered, He did have an answer. And it was one I never would have dreamed.

FAST FORWARD Loss continues to follow me of a different sort. From my youngest years I knew I would sing. It was just built into me – even though the reality of it scared me. I first picked up a microphone to sing a solo before our church when I was in my mid twenties. I was terrified! But the joy of communicating a powerful message with beautiful music was like nothing I could have imagined. I continued to sing for over 4 decades loving the sense that I was communicating from the depths of my soul. I sang to an Audience of One regardless how many faces were in front of me. God heard. And each person sitting in their seat heard, each receiving it themselves – as one. Singing was one of the ways I defined my life. Music was a Big Deal to me.

About three years ago, I realized my “instrument” wasn’t working as it always had. I felt as if I had somehow swallowed someone else’s vocal cords! My range was rapidly changing, my high notes disappearing. I lost confidence in my ‘identity’ as a soloist. I realized it was time to hang up my soprano hat. And that has been and continues to be difficult for me. I have lost part of what had been part of my identity. Yet I FOLLOW Him where He leads. I trust Him as I walk the path of my life: sometimes in light, sometimes in darkness – not often knowing what lies ahead for sure. But I TRUST Him, wherever He takes me.

If God has seemingly taken something important from you, I know it hurts. There is grief and sadness, confusion and pain. There is a period of mourning for our loss – there is no way to avoid that. But He is always there! He KNOWS. He CARES. He DOES have a plan for our lives and it likely looks nothing like we had imagined.

Here I sit. Writing to you. Painting now and again when my paintbrushes scream to be taken into the light. 🎨 I could NEVER have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would write – that I would PAINT, for goodness sake! That I would care so much to share what the Lord has taught me over 50+ years of holding tight to His hand. That my paintings would bring a smile to someone’s face is such a surprise. Writing and painting did not happen until my voice began to fade away…

I pray these words might encourage you in your season of grief or loss. He is FAITHFUL and He will continue to use you in ways you may not have yet considered.

I have followed and trusted Him these many years since He ‘caught’ me. And Jesus has loved me well. He has forgiven me for every mess I’ve made, for every heart I’ve wounded, for my anger and frustration and hurt for so many years – He has loved me and will love me, to the last breath I take. And He is there for YOU. All you need to do is call out to Him and invite Him into your wounded heart.

Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

Meet, Know and Follow Jesus is the mission statement of my home church, Traditional Service at Sun Valley Community Church, Tempe, AZ

You Raise Me Up

Here Comes the Sun

When you’re going through difficult times, friends and family can provide such good medicine! How grateful we’ve been for a ribbon wrapped grocery bag full of provisions of thoughtfullness, a box filled with homecooked goodies and a plate of cookies left at our front door. The wrapped pointsettia sitting on the doorstep, text messages of love and concern, funny caring cards, the phone calls, “What do you need? What can I do?” It’s interesting that the needing and doing have been done even just in the words of the text or the voice on the phone. We have felt loved, cared and provided for.

Outreach. Fellowship. Compassion. Provision…Definitions of love in action. Jesus answered the important question like this, ”’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Luke 10:27. It seems that loving God with all you have translates into loving others as you would wish to be loved. It may not require doing a thing other than praying a heartfelt prayer of intercession asking God to do what only He can do. But when the Lord lays thoughts of someone in our mind, we should trust He has a call for us to make, an email to send or a mission to accomplish. We are, after all the hands and feet of Jesus.

Lord, before anything else, I thank You that You are as close as your whispered name. We are grateful for your presence when life is uncertain and challenging. Even when we feel unprepared for our circumstances, we know nothing is a surpise to you. And You walk with us, often carrying us as we soldier on. Help us to remember even as we struggle, that others are hurting and may need a touch from us. And keep our eyes focused on You, Lord. You are our strength and our shield.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” Colossians 3:12-14