Monday, October 31, 2011

The Journey Beyond My Comfort Zone

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Photo by Margot Cioccio

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing 
of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything.


My stomach feels queezy, I feel over whelmed and afraid. I'm sure I will be ok but I've realized that I have begun a journey beyond my comfort zone. The first step of that journey was to talk to the manager of the farmers market about a space. Which I did. The next step was to decide to be there this past Thursday thru Saturday. For the record I made my booth fee and a tiny little bit beyond. Pretty much a wash. However I made some good contacts. There is a shop owner who want to either buy some of my product to re-sell or have it in his shop on commission. I believe I am to not give up but to keep being there and trust the Lord even though my sales were not remarkable. Its a step of faith. In addition to that my "stupid" phone died and I needed to up grade to a new "smart" phone. So now I have a really cool I-phone which allows me to be able to swipe credit cards from my customers. I know you techy folks are saying whoo hoo for you Margot. For me it is a little on the stressful side. It reminds me of the first couple weeks with my new computer - which I love now. I was terribly stressed out by it at first and I feel much this same with this new phone. I'm sure I will love it in time. Right now I am dealing with the learning curve. Uggh. In addition to those changes the Lord told me earlier this year that he would open up opportunities for me to travel. This week I am going to a conference and representing my church. It is a big confrence that one had to be invited to be part of - it will be all about church revitilization. I'm sure it will mean lots and lots of great info to process and figure out how to make useful. I have a bunch of homework I need to do before I leave on Friday at 5 am. I'm multi tasking and watching some of that now. 

Can I tell you that in my comfort zone I am very brave and may appear that I have it pretty together. The journey beyond it is terribly frightening and I am making myself write this now - while I am feeling freaked out so you know that I am just like you. I remind myself that courage is not the absence of fear but rather pressing through to do the things that God has called you to do. I will remind myself to trust the Lord. I will remind myself of the "whys" for going through coaching training, and for taking these other steps of faith. I will remind myself of the journaling exercise I gave my coaching allies this past week.

In it there is this dog on a leash and he is all mouthy to the big scarry cat. He pretty much says if I was off this leash I would chew you up and spit you out. Oh ...but then the leash snaps and he can suddenly do the things he has been barking about. He doesn't, he is terrified and he turns around and ties himself back to the leash and starts barking bravely again. Ok... so that is kicking my butt, because I don't want to be like that dog back on the leash. I can say I want to do ministry, mosaics and coaching and my leash has snapped and I am terrified just like that dog. I am however choosing to press through my fear into the unknown land beyond my comfort zone.  I know faith becomes real when you actually have to use it and trust God to lead you through the uncertain and the unknown.  I know without faith we can't please God. I want to please Him. I want to become the person He is calling me to be. I want to become someone who inspires others, who is invited to speak and minister. I want to be able to lead my coaching client through to reach their big dreams. I know you can't lead others where you have not gone yourself. I know that these things I am facing are God's challenges for me. They may not seem like much to you. The things that have me freaked out are probably no big deal to you. You have your own things beyond your comfort zone and I hope that God will use post to challenge you to begin that journey beyond your comfort zone into the new adventure that God has for you. I know as I keep going these things that seem so frightening and overwhelming to me will become my new comfort zone and I will in time have to press on beyond those boundaries.

Even writing this is helping me - because I had to identify the fear and face it. Now I just need to breathe and be thankful that God has allowed me to feel and experience this so I can write about it. I have told the Lord in the past that I want my walk to be like the one described in the book of acts. They were seeing the wonder of God at every turn. It was a big adventure, and they got to see God heal, save and set free people. I can bark about wanting such a life until the leash snaps and I have to trust God or tie myself back up and keep barking. I know in my heart the only real choice is to trust God because He will give me the adventure of faith that indeed stirs my heart.

I have come to the end of writing this and the feelings of overwhelm and panic have subsided. I know I will be able to sleep. I am thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be transparant before you, I hope I have left some footsteps of faith that you may follow as you encounter your own fears at the edge of your comfort zone.


Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Thank you for helping me to identify and face the overwhelm and fear I was feeling. Thank you for helping me to remember that your adventures are full of excitement and challenges. I choose to live a life of faith with you step by step day by day. Thank you for the adventure. Thank you for helping me to trust you inspite of the fear I was feeling. Thank you for being on the other side of it to hold me in your arms. Lord I choose to trust you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Tell of His Kindnesses

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Isaiah 63:7a


I will tell 
of the kindnesses 
of the Lord,
of the deeds for which 
he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord 
has done for us - 



I am sitting her in the early morning trying to gather my thoughts and come up with what to write today. One of the things I wrestle with is what verse to use if you want to send me suggestions I would be happy to receive them. There are days that I read and flip through my bible and they are all my favorite.

Yesterday I found myself wondering how would I explain my devotional to someone who was not a believer. Dictionary.com says

de·vo·tion·al/diˈvōSHənl/

Adjective:
Of or used in religious worship.

Synonyms:
devout - pious - godly - religious - prayerful
 

In an essay from the Metropolitan Museum of Art I found the following "Every stage in the creation of a medieval book required intensive labor, sometimes involving the collaboration of entire workshops. Parchment for the pages had to be made from the dried hides of animals, cut to size and sewn into quires; inks had to be mixed, pens prepared, and the pages ruled for lettering. A scribe copied the text from an established edition, and artists might then embellish it with illustrations, decorated initials, and ornament in the margins. The most lavish medieval books were bound in covers set with enamels, jewels, and ivory carvings."

Back in the early days of the Church the practice was to gaze upon an icon - a religious painting that generally depicted the life of Christ. Later the in the monasteries great care was given to copying of the private prayer books, letters and teachings of the church. A monk would spend much of their life in solitude copying the bible or some other literary work and adding decorative embellishment to the pages. One of the most amazing of these is the Book of Kells, an Irish manuscript that contained the four gospels.  Here is a link to a nicely done mini documentary about the Book of Kells. It shows many of the pages. I got to see one of the copies of the Book of Kells when I was in California a few years ago. I am amazed by the detail and the artistry and I have a sense of wonder that God would call or put on the heart of someone or perhaps a monastic community to create such a book of devotion to God.

So what is a devotional? In my case it is a collection of inspirational writing from a Christian perspective. It is one of the ways I worship and honor God with my life.  I started to think about the word devotional and I realize it is much like the word blessing it does not mean much to anyone outside of Christian circles. Which leads me to think about who is my adudience? My target is believers, some who know me and some who don't who want to be encouraged in their walk with the Lord.

One of the things that I love about books is that they allow you to see into the mind of someone else. Books remind me that I am not alone. That there are others who have faced similar life challenges to my own. One of the things that I personally work on is to be more transparant and I have found writing to be one of the ways that I can be more open and honest about the things that I encounter on my own joureny to follow Jesus daily.

I have been encouraged by so many writers through the years. I was recently given a book writen by a missionary named Sarah Young. It is called Jesus Calling. It is written as if Jesus was speaking directly to you. I enjoy reading it along with a collection of other devotionals that I keep through out my home.
I quite often will stop during my day and read a page from one of these books that is near at hand.
It is one of the ways that I regroup and focus my thoughts on Jesus. 

The verse I selected today is about telling of the kindness of the Lord. It is a kindness of the Lord to me that He leads me to books and allows me to see Him through the eye and lives of others both living and long departed. It is a wonder to me the legacies left by believers through the centuries. It reminds me that Christianity did not begin in my generation but God has sent others before me in time and inspired them to write and inspired others to preserve those writings for future generations. I read a facinating book a while ago called how the Irish Saved Civilization that tells how it was because of the monastic communities all over Ireland that collected and copied what ever literature they could get thier hands on, that are the reason that many of the writings of the past have even survived.

So I am thankful for God's kindnesses through out history to preserve the writing of the past. That the saints that have gone before have left foot prints for others to follow.  I suppose in my own writing that I hope to somehow leave my own foot prints for others to follow. That you would know how great the Love of God is for you. That you would inspired to know the Lord more. In our walk with the Lord it is not just book knowledge. You can be a biblical scolar and miss knowing the person the Bible is about. Our God is so wonderfully creative that He wants to speak directly to us and he will use certianlly the words of the Bible but He speaks in sunsets and through the kindness of a friend, and in the quiet of our hearts if we will be still and listen.

It is a kindness of the Lord that He wakes me early while my family still sleeps. That in the quiet morning hours that He listens to the thoughts of my heart. He leads me to read and speaks peace to my soul. He brings refresing and re-fills me in His presence and I know He sends me out to greet the day and to be His kingdom ambassdor.

Dear Lord,
Remind us each of your kindnesses through out this day. Help us to not over look the gifts of grace and mercy that you leave for us. Thank you for the notes of your love found with in your Word. Thank you for the thoughts and writings that you have preserved to inspire us by the lives of others. Thank you for the quiet morning and for your Spirit to go with us through the rest of the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Pure Flowing Waters

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Drawing and Graphic Design by Margot
Psalm 46:4-5 4 There is a river whose
streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.

I dreamed of someone falling into a very pure river in the far north in Canada. Those who fell in did not come out in the near vicinity to where they fell in, but were pulled out or found their way to shore miles down the river. The boat captain explained that because the water was so pure it moved anything that fell in it ahead very quickly.

Its an odd little dream but I am very visual in how I learn so it was rich with meaning for me. In this dream, it was not me that fell in to the water. It was a friend. They fell into the water or jumped I don't know for sure on that point. The river moved them far ahead. One thing I've noticed about when God speaks to me in dreams is that the people are symbolic of a type of person.  In this case the friend represented always feels that they have lagged behind me in their spiritual walk. So the message to me is to get people to the river who feel they are lagging behind, If they could get into the flow of the river, God is able to move them ahead swiftly in their journey with him. What would take years of walking on foot can happen in moments if we get into the flow of His living waters.

If you are a person who feels you lag behind in your walk with the Lord, fall or jump into the river already. The boat captain was able to move ahead quickly and seemed to know the right place to pull people out of the water. It seemed to be quite a fearful thing to those on the shore. The person might drown or be swept away and never seen again. I suppose when we are ready to move on with God there are always people who would hold us back and remind us of all our duties in the land of familiar.  They are stuck and they would prefer you stay stuck with them. At least in that stuck familiar place everyone knows the rules and they can all be miserable together. Its safe and predictable - not much happens there. It is a brave soul who decides to go on with God into the unknown.

I highly recommend the book The Dream Giver   I found this video of an interview with the author. If you are getting this in your e-mail you may need to visit the actual site for the links. He talks in it of people wandering in a land that is not their destiny. That the dreams that we have are never in the safe confines of our comfort zone we have to press through our fear to go after them. It is worth watching the video. He has some inspiring things to say. When I first read The Dream Giver it rocked my world because I just could not figgure out what my dream even was. For a long time I was troubled as to why I did not seem to have any big dreams.  It has been a long journey of discovery for me to realize that I had taken my dreams and locked them up along with a good portion of my heart. The fear for me was to face the past and let my heart and the dreams out of the trunk that I had locked them into becasue they had become too painful. For a long time the fear for me, was to even go near the trunk and I did everything in my power to try and forget that it even existed. You have your own set of fears that you need to overcome to persue your dream.

Today I pushed past one of mine and went and talked to the manager of the Spokane farmers market. I have made every excuse not to show my mosaic work. Granted in the past I have spent an awful lot of time sitting in malls selling my art and crafts. I have been saying that I would love to be able to make a living doing art and coaching. I have been working on the coaching. The art I have been working on but I have not had any real plans of trying very hard to sell any of it. I do have it posted on line in my Artfire shop and I do a lot with photos of my art at my on line card shop. I have recently added new Cafe Press shop with t-shirts, journals and framed prints using images from the Beloved Project.
This is a step of faith because I have not felt God's hand had really been on me doing the sit in a booth and deal with the public type of shop. The first step was to go talk to the manager of the farmers market which I did today. Tomorrow I will set up for Thursday, Friday and Saturday and be open from 10-6 and I guess test the waters to see if this is something the Lord wants me doing in this season. It is a step of faith I feel led to test. I guess I have been pleasantly surprised by the interest that people have expressed in my art recently.  I guess I'll let you know in a future post how it goes. If nothing else I have pushed past my barriers where I have resisted the whole idea of doing art shows. So I am saying ok - I will try and see what God does. I guess you could say I am dipping my toes in the water of this river to see if it is one that God would have me go in any further.

The river that I talked about earlier however is more of a river of Gods presence. You can try really hard on your own strength or you can come near to God and allow his living water to rush over and through your life.  I have always said that people are changed if they can connect with Gods presence even for a brief moment. Imagine what God can do if you jump all the way in to the river.

In the dream there were lots of worried folks on the shore. There were folks on the boat with the captain. Which is where I was because I was talking to him about what was going on.  There may be more to it but my role it seems was to encourage people to come to the river. To go into the Lords presence a little more than before. Those of you who feel like you lag behind - might want to jump in and allow the Lord to move you ahead in His plans and purposes for your life.

Dreams for me are like puzzles that I need to work out. I suppose the Lord could just tell me but I think there is something to me figuring it out on my own. When I do figure it out - I then own the truth and am more able to actually do something with it. Thats how coaching work - we help people figure out their own puzzle pieces.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, You know where each person reading this is in their journey with you. You know if we are on the shore, or in the boat with the captain or jumping in the water all the way. Where ever we are you long to meet us there and take us further. Help us to hunger for more of you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Changing Colors

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Job 38:14-15 The Message
As the sun brings everything to light,
   brings out all the colors and shapes,
The cover of darkness is snatched from the wicked—
   they're caught in the very act!


So you may notice if you are reading at the Devotional Mosaic site that I changed the colors. They felt good when I first started but lately they have just felt too cutsie. So today I decided they needed a bit of a face lift. I have been thinking a lot about who it is that is reading and what would make them feel comfortable. Well I decided you'd love to meet me in a coffee shop. So cutisie is out and coffee shop is in. So I hope you will join me Monday - Friday or on the weekend to catch up in our little Mosaic Devotional Coffee Shop. If you would invite your friends to come too, I would be delighted.

When God shines his light on us it bring out the colors and the shapes in us. I know over the past months the Lord has been shining his light on some dark and forgotten places in my life.
I think the change of colors is an outward working of an inner change in me.  I think we can get stuck in places in our past and can kind of stop growing in that place. I have had some very stuck places where the little girl and the young woman just could not seem to grow up.  Mostly because I locked them up because I could not deal with the emotions they both felt. I decided it was easier to lock up my heart and ignore it.

In chapter 6 of The Sacred Romance,  John Eldredge writes the following.
"Can it possibly get any more uncertain than this? We so long for life to be better than it is. We wish that beauty and love and adventure would stay and that someone strong and kind would show us how to make the arrows go away. We hope that God will be our hero. Of all the people in the universe, he could stop the arrows and arrange for just a little more blessing in our lives. He can spin the earth, change the weather, topple governments, obliterate armies, and resurrect the dead. Is it too much to ask that he intervene in our story? But he often seems aloof, almost indifferent to our plight, so entirely out of our control. Would it be any worse if there were no God? If he didn't exist, at least we wouldn't get our hopes up. We could settle once and for all that we really are alone in the universe and get on with surviving the best we may.  This is, in fact how many professing Christians end up living: as practical agnostics. Perhaps God will come through, perhaps he won't, so I'll be hanged if I'll live as though he had to come through. I'll hedge my bets and if he does show up,  so much the better. The simple word for this is godlesssness. "

I've been watching past seasons of Lost with my family. In a nut shell a bunch of strangers survive a plane crash and are stuck together on a tropical island. You watch them struggle with deciding if they should keep waiting on the beach for a rescue or find a way to make the best of their situation and get on with life. I think there are times in our life that we can get emotionally stranded on our own island. Our plane that was to take us to our destination crashed in route and we some how survived. Now what do we do? Where is faith? Is it in believing God to come and rescue that old life we had before the crash? Or is faith seeing that it was some how all part of God's larger plan? I still have a long way to go in the Lost story - so I don't know if they get rescued or not. So no spoilers if you know the ending.

It makes me think however of how we can get emotionally stuck at certain points. I am terribly stubborn and can persist and miss the obvious for a very long time. I am starting to realized that there is really no going back to the point of the crash and ever resuming the script of the story, had the crash never happened. Who knows who may cross our path or walk with us again at some point. Those things are left in the hands of God who writes the script. I think faith is believing that those things that happened are within the plan of a sovereign God. He is able to take the things that the enemy of our soul meant for our destruction and turn it to our good. So I am finding that I am able to begin to walk away from those crash sites in my life. From those places were I was emotionally stuck, I am beginning to see my heart able to grow up into Gods plans and purposes for me.  It has taken courage to allow the Lord to shine His light on those places. I am still a work in progress but I am seeing signs of new life and growth in some areas of my life and heart.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Take us back to those crash site in our lives. Help us to view it from your vantage point. Help us to see where you were in all of it. Help us to get a better grip on your sovereignty. Help us to grow daily to trust you and your plan. Take those places where our hearts have been stuck and help us to heal in those place and to begin to once again grow and thrive in your plans and purposes. Thank you for your healing and your tender mercies that are new every morning. Shine your light our our lives and help us to see the changing shapes and colors.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Digging Deeper

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

This is an idea for a mosaic called Angel of Mercy
Habakkuk 3:2
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
   I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
   in our time make them known;
   in wrath remember mercy.

 

I am this morning reading in the book of Habakkuk. It is in the Old Testament and is found among the minor prophets. I am reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 

You may not have ventured into the minor prophets or even spend much time in the Old Testament. For me many of my favorite stories and verses are hidden within the pages of the Old Testament. Today I happened to open my Bible to the book of Micah and I had on those open pages underlined five passages that at one time or another spoke to me and still speak to me. I often underline and write notes in the margins of my Bible. Some of the verses that I found underlined were Micah 6:8 He has showed you, Oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  I don't have to work too hard to understand that one. Even Jesus talks about mercy in the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, they will be sown mercy. I might need to study to unlock the depths of what mercy is and why its something that Jesus says we are blessed or happy when we practice.  

 

 I stayed up a too late and I am a bit tired and it is nice to be able to open up my Bible and be reminded of things that have ministered to me in the past. So I flipped on into Habakkuk and came to chapter 2 and found the passage that spoke to me in a deep way today. It reads, I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.  2 Then the Lord replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald my run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it spakes of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. 

There is comfort for me in knowing there are those who have gone before me who have also been shown things by the Lord. They had to exercise faith in their time as I must in mine.  When the Lord shows me things, mental pictures in my head, visions, or dreams. I usually write them down. I don't always understand them. They are often like bread crumbs along a trail for me to find and follow as I learn to walk with the Lord and to trust Him. The things he shows me, I don't generally talk about much - most of the time because it is more like a clue that was meant for me to follow. Other times the Lord may show something to me for another person. I recently had three dreams about a young woman in our congregation. In all three dreams she was in a large stadium like crowd. A light from above shone on her alone in the crowd. In the first two dreams I merely observed in the third I heard a voice say look and the name of the person. I can speculate on what it might mean. In my experience dreams that come in threes usually mean that they will happen soon. I suspect it means that she will stand out among the crowd and be selected for something the Lord has appointed for her to do and be. In her case I felt led to share just what I saw in the dreams. Perhaps it will encourage her to not give up on the dream the Lord has planted in her heart. Because the Lord showed it to me tells me to make her a focus of my prayers.

Sometimes the things I see are there for me when I need to encourage myself. When I am unsure of the next steps. I go back to the things that I know and I search those things again to see if I missed something. Perhaps the Lord will shine a little more light on the path. I am reminded of Jeremiah 6:16 This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'

 

Today, I move ahead and find Habakkuk's prayer Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known: in wrath remember mercy. I'm back again to "Mercy" it seems to be running through many of the verses I am reading today. There must be something in it that the Lord wants me to see. So I press in to discover what He has for me today. 

Its probably a good idea to stop and ask the Lord to lead me by His Holy Spirit into the truth in His word that He wants me to discover. I know it is a prayer He will answer because I know I am praying something that is agreement with His word. He says if I ask for wisdom that He will give it and not hold back.

What exactly is mercy? I run across it all the time as I am reading. On a whim I search "How many times is mercy found in the Bible. According to wiki.answers The KJV uses it 262 times and the NIV 124 times. That seems like a lot to me and so I will dig in deeper to try to discover what it means. 

How will I do that you may ask. I will try find what that particular word meant in Greek and Hebrew because a lot of words are bigger and more of a concepts then what our English translation may be able to communicate. I will take a peek at the commentaries written by others. I will begin to read through some of the 124 verses i my NIV Bible using my concordance. In the end I will own the understanding in a deeper way.  All this does take time and I probably will not discover all the riches to be found in one day. You may not be prepared to dig deeper at this point. I don't know if you've ever tried to did a hole with a teaspoon. While teaspoons are good for measuring out sugar into your coffee they are not the most effective tool for digging. Here are some things I use to did a little deeper that you may want to add to your Bible study tools collection. 

I use more on line tools then I used to in the past. I've talked before about Bible Gateway I have that in my book mark tabs and probably use it every day.  I use it to search for the verses that float to the surface of my memory. I can usually find them by searching key words. I also use it to look at how various Bible translations interpret a passage. 

I've recently discovered  http://www.biblestudytools.com in looking up the word mercy there I find the following: Several Hebrew and Greek terms lie behind the English term "mercy." The chief Hebrew term is hesed [d,s,j], God's covenant "lovingkindness." In both the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX) and the New Testament, the term behind "mercy" is most often eleos [e[leo"] in one form or another, but oiktirmos/oiktiro [oijktirmov"/oijkteivrw] (compassion, pity, to show mercy) and splanchna/splagchnizomai [splagcNIVzomai] (to show mercy, to feel sympathy for) also play roles.

God in his mercy sends His son Jesus, to live among us to feel all the kinds of things we feel as humans.  Today I am tired. I can know that Jesus understands. When he was tired I see him going to a secluded place to pray and be with the Father.  So I am endeavoring to find a quiet corner to write, and think, knowing the Lord understands. I love it that he leads me to verses to help me remember his Love. I love reading the word because it helps me to know better the God of those words. My goal in reading the Bible is not just a religious discipline or exercise but more of a relationship with the one who breathed those words in to the hearts of the men who wrote them down.    

Today I don't intend to really write on the topic of mercy as much as to encourage you in your own journey to dig a little deeper. There is always more of God to discover and to know. I wanted to share with you a little of my quiet communion with the Lord this morning. You may also be tired and weary today - rest in the knowledge that He does understand and he does want to meet you and hold you in His arms of Love. 

Prayer:                                                                                                                                                 Dear Lord, Help us to go a bit deeper in your Word to know you more and to try to really seek to find the things you have hidden there just for us. Help me get a better handle on your mercy and what it means to me personally and how you want me to express that truth to others through words and actions. Lord help us to draw near you when we feel tired and in need of refreshing. You are the source of living water flow through me now.

 


 

 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Note to Self

Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Click Here to Order this Journal
Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things 
will be given to you as well.

I am realizing at 12:03 Monday morning that I should have written this earlier. I actually did start on one, but was not sold on the direction I took with it. The easy thing would be to let myself off the hook and say I'll just write something inspiring in the morning. But I'm a little peeved at the moment because of something my husband said about me not finishing things. I always finish them just not on his time table.  I tend to view life as a journey and I happen to have a number of creative interests. I will work on music for a while and then set it aside for a while and focus on writing or art. None of them ever stop in my mind. The rests in a piece of music are just as important as the notes that are played. There are times when I don't feel very well understood - this is one of them.
It already forgiven but I feel some what compelled to explain how I see things. Perhaps I may at some point need to see them in a new way but here's where I'm at today. 

When I was in college the teachers all said I needed to focus on one area of art. I just could not pick one area only to work on. I'm sure they were right. I just am not able to give up my sense of wonder of the creative process as it is worked out in a variety of mediums. There was a long time that I beat myself up for being so scattered and not being able to focus on just one thing. I did try to narrow my focus and fit myself into the box of others expectations. Something in me kind of died when I had to do art or music because that's how we payed the bills. It stopped being art and became manufacturing. Music and Worship became the dog and pony show. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

I know it may appear that I am just blissfully led along by the Holy Spirit with no thought of tomorrow. I do try to live today and be led by the Holy Spirit today. Even in that I always have goals that I am working towards. I have systems in place to deal with the scattered way my mind tends to work. I am purposeful about creating structures and frameworks with in to be creative. I know when I begin a project what it will be in the end. I hold both the present state of the project and the vision of the final end in my mind. When I can't see ahead clearly I stop and try to find more clarity. I have been thinking about the script of my life and what it might look like if I was given a new script.  I liked this quote " What would that script look like? If you can fill in the blanks on that one, you have imagination. If you can see the blanks being filled in you have faith. And if you have faith, you have your new reality. Jesus defined reality." Laurie Beth Jones

For the longest time I kept the creative process as something that I only employed for art projects. I have found that it works for life too. If I can see the thing in my head I know I can get there. I don't know the details on the how, or when. If I can see it. I have faith to believe that God will get me there or he would not have shown it to me. Sometimes I have to search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. Sometimes I have to stop and wait till the picture in my head gets a bit clearer. It may seem I've set something aside for a time. The circumstances may look like there is no way to get from here to there. I have learned you may not be able to see around the next bend in the road till you get there. You get there by taking the steps of faith before you today, and the next. You keep going. Its not a double minded kind of thing where I have faith one day and doubt the next. The stuff the Lord shows me I hide in my heart, I don't always understand it all but I have learned to trust that he will give me more clues as I continue to believe and trust Him to lead me into His plans and purposes. So my kind of scattered approach to life.... I've come to believe its just how God has wired me. So rather than try and turn myself inside out to be something that I am not. I have learned to go with it. While I might have been able to become amazing in one area I have chosen to be better than average in a variety of things that I love to do.

In my life coaching studies there are some interesting project forward five years kind of exercises. I think they are great. They push things out far enough in the future that you can begin to see what is important to you. Once you can see what is important you can begin to take action to move towards doing more of what is important and less on the distractions.  I have always approached my life from the perspective of I don't want to wait till I retire to do the things love to do. I want to do them all the time. I probably could have been more responsible and made more money. I have told people that have challenged me and tried to judge my life by their standards of success, that you need to measure with the right yardstick. I love this quote “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ― Albert Einstein
I would rather do the things that make me happy today, to make time for the people and the things that are important to me today.  Why - because none of us really knows how many todays we will have. I have never wanted to look back on my life and regret that I did not spend it doing the things I love.

There is another thing that mixes in with all that. It is the verse Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. Call me crazy but I believe that verse is true so I have made it a kind of compass for my life. As a result I have put much of my time and energy into my relationship with the Lord, and that has spilled out into a lot of things.  I heard an illustration once that people are more attracted to dolphins than sharks. Dolphins love what they are doing, they are fun and playful. Sharks are out for the kill. So I try to take the dolphin approach to influencing people. I endeavor to live my life and love what I am doing and I trust that somehow God makes me flavorful and salty. You take a bite and it makes you thirsty for living water.

Well its 1 am and if I'm going to function tomorrow I need to go to bed. Please forgive the typos its late and I'm sure it will be months before my editor gets to this one.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, Help us to seek first your Kingdom purposes. Help us trust that you are able to get us from where we are today to where you want us to be in the future. You understand how you wired us. You know our strengths and our weakness and you have created on purpose and you know when to step in and do a sudden transforming work and when to walk us through a day by day, little by little, character growing change.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I AM

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Malachi 4:2

But for you who revere my name, 
the sun of righteousness will rise
with healing in its wings. 
And you will go out and leap
like calves released from the stall. 

We had a very late Spring this year. The days that the sun came out were very few and far between. I know on the days the sun did come out it seemed to bring with it a sense of healing and refreshment.
The relief from all that had been grey and terribly dreary. On those days people were out and abou almost like the frisky calf in the verse above that would leap and rejoice in its warmth. The verse above talks about those who revere or honor God’s name. He is called many names but what He calls himself is “I AM” In those two little words are contained the answer to everything we would ever need.  They are so small that they are easy to over look and so we must by faith add to those words, the thing we need. I am your provider, I am your healer, I am the vine, I am the God who breaks through, I am Salvation, I am peace, I am your healer... 
 “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. ” Gen 15:1
I am the LORD, who brought you out Gen 15:7
I am God Almighty ; walk before me and be blameless. Gen 17:1
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen 28:15
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.
Exodus 3:15 This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.


and AM are two very little but very power filled words. I stopped in Exodus but you could keep going and find our more places where God says I Am and the words that follow.

Can we even begin to wrap our wee minds around something so big - I think we miss a lot of what God has provided for us because we look at God through our own limitations and failures.
My kids and I have been watching the science fiction show called Dr. Who. In the show the Doctor has a time machine space ship that is designed to blend in and go un noticed as a police call box. When you open the door to that ship it is massively bigger on the inside. I AM is like that - it blends in and it is easy to miss among so many other words. If however you enter into them you will find how vast they really are. Just in those two little words is so much of God to discover that in our life times I am sure we can barley scratch the surface. If I reverence “I Am” and don’t just focus on the words that follow and my own lack and neediness there is healing and reason to rejoice. In Him is all that I need, all I will ever need. As we spend time with I Am each day, more and more we begin to realize that he really is everything we need. John 14: 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Things to Ponder:
How many I Am verses can you think of or find in the Bible?

Did you find the I Am verse that corresponds to your present need - Write down and begin to stand on it.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,  Thank you for truly being “ I Am”. Thank you for more and more revealing yourself to me. Thank you for always being available to me. For helping me to humble myself before you and to be able to admit that everything I need is found in you.  Rise up in me with healing in your wings and take me to a new level of trust and faith in you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 3 Scripts

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that in a race 
all the runners run, 
but only one gets the prize?  
Run in such a way 
as to get the prize.


I've been thinking through a question I read this morning in one of my coaching books. Here's the senario. Steven Spielberg has heard about your story and wants to do a full feature move about your life. So he is sending out 3 writers. The first writer will tell your story and how it will play out if you just keep doing what you are currently doing. The second writer will tell how your story spins out because you made one significant change (you meet a new person or move to a new place kind of change). The third writer tells your story from the vantage point of you becoming the person you've always wanted to be, doing the things you've always wanted to do.

So for me my first stop on this journey was to realize that the story is never about the supporting characters. To realize that I have trouble seeing myself in anything but a supporting role and to discover why. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with playing a supporting part. I suppose that's fine if that is truly what God has for you to be. But what if... I'm stuck there because I never considered trying out for a lead part? Honestly for me I've been content to work mostly behind the scenes on the make up or painting the scenery or doing the tech work.  How many movies are made about the dolligrip or the first assistant. Clearly they are important, they do get their names in the rolling credits that hardly anyone reads except maybe their mom.

I'm having to think about this because not too many months back I finally got free from some chains that had kept me bound for many years. So I have been evaluating my life in light of that new found freedom and trying to sort out what I'm going to do with it. So this three scripts thing is a great tool for me to think about what I want and what I will need to do to get there.  I've written about getting free from these chains in other posts so I won't repeat that here. I had owned the idea that I was not ever enough. I've spent a lot of time in the shadows of others because I just could not see myself as anything other than a supporting character.

Anyway Jesus helped some other folks re-write their stories. You remember Saul on his way to stone and murder those who were challenging the religious statutes quo of the day. On the road he encounters a bright light from heaven that blinds him. He hears a voice saying Saul Saul,  why do you persecute me? You can read the story in Acts 9. You'll find that Jesus gave him a whole new story.

There's another story about a women Jesus meets at a well. She can't even go to the well during the customary times. Her life is an embarrassment to herself and others after all she's had five husbands and the man she is living with is not her husband. That might fly in our culture but that did not work back then. You can read her story in John 4. Next thing you see her doing is proclaiming to the whole town about this amazing person she met at the well.

There was the woman caught in adultery. Jesus writes in the sand and her accusers walk away. She got a new story. Theres the lame man at the beautiful gate. Peter and John on their way to pray help him rewrite his story and its started with 'silver and gold I have not but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus rise up and walk."  Look at the disciples, they go from fishermen, tax collectors and pretty ordinary guys to become the leaders of this new thing called back then "The Way" that we now call Christianity.

Maybe its time for you and I to take a look at a new script. Thats what Jesus wants to do for all of us. Do you want script one, script two or the amazing script number three?  So if Jesus is offering us all the choice of scripts why are so many stuck in the land of ordinary.  I will remind you of the story Jesus told in Matthew 13 called the Parable of the Sower. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

In every case the seed was good and had great potential. Lets say you are the seed and the scripts are the ground of your life. There are things written into each script that set the limits on what you are willing to allow the Lord to achieve in your life. In script number one the cares of day to day life are eating up your seed. You are running around putting out fires. You may not have a very clear idea of what you want or if you do there are obstacles that stand in the way. Maybe its the same old tired excuses or just simply not seeing yourself playing any other part than the one you currently possess.   In script number two, you make that one change and you are so excited only to find out that no matter who you are with or where you are, life is still full of challenges. Ugh you chose to change the circumstances when what needed changed was you.  Script number three is the one where you allow Jesus to come in and transform you. To redefine what is possible. It will take change and work to play that role. You'll have to stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility to begin today to make small but significant changes. One step of faith after another towards the vision that God wants to help you to see and move towards. 

Writing these devotionals is a daily step of faith for me. In script three for me I can see myself in the part of inspirational speaker, writer, life coach and artist. Yikes its a lead role. It feels really big kinda scary. I am having to learn to dream bigger.  I'm having to allow the Lord to challenge my old tired ways of thinking.  The first step was to get free of those chains of self doubt and unbelief. I had to then realize I have something of value to say.  I've had to get past my fears of being transparent and open and to begin to let people see the stuff the Lord has been building in me all these years as I have worked in the shadows of others. I know I am a work in progress and I know the script writers are before me as they now stand before you. What will you choose? 


Our verse today says all the runners run but only one gets the prize. 
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Do you even know there is a race? Perhaps are aware of the race but you are content to sit in the stands and cheer the runners who have decided to run. What if you got up out of the bleachers and put on some shoes and headed for the track. What if you began to train and work with a coach. What if you decided to run. What if you decided to not just run but to compete for the prize. What if you got to the place where you believed you could win?  What if you won?  The good news is the race is your very own and you are competing against the you in the various scripts. The bigger question is what kind of race do you want to run?

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Forgive us for limiting your plans in our lives. Forgive us for looking at the circumstances, our flaw, failures and weakness and thinking that has anything to do with your equations. You who have begun a good work in us are faithful to complete it. Lord help us to begin to think about how you might want to rewrite our story for you glory. Help us dream bigger and have the courage to begin to take steps of faith towards that dream. Lord walk with us every step of the way. With you all things are possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oh The Thoughts In My Head

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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Psalm 119:105 
Your word is a lamp to my feet 
and a light for my path.

Today I could write 10 devotionals there are so many thoughts running through my head. I don't know if I will be able to capture them all or not. Inspiration is like that for me. I can go through long seasons of dryness and suddenly the rains come. When the rains of inspiration come I am glad that I did not give up and by faith went ahead and plowed my fields and planted my seeds. I am glad that during the dryness I never stopped believing that God would provide in His time. 

I had a wonderful revelation while driving home just now. I was thinking about something that someone said about dreaming about the future. They said if you are going to dream about the future be sure you take Jesus with you. I realized the it is also true that if you are going to traverse the past it is a good idea to take the Lord along with you. On our own we really are not equipped to make sense of either the future or the past without Him. 

Its funny to me how one thought springboards me on to the next. I found myself thinking about what the future might look like. I had this revelation in that moment that it really was not all that different than today. I would still be walking with the Lord, I would still surround myself with people I love and who love me, there would be new challenges, and problems and new victories. I thought in that moment, if the future I am looking for is one with out lifes challenges then what I am looking for is heaven. For the day that those things come to an end is the day that I will stand face to face with the King of Glory and all that is left of my life journey will be to hear him say "Well done".  Even in that I realize the end of one journey is to begin another. It reminds me of the last pages of the Narnia series in a chapter called Farewell to the Shadow-Lands. They find themselves in a Narnia that is more real and more beautiful than the Narnia they had known before. The Faun tells Lucy "The further up and the further in you go, the bigger every thing gets. The inside is larger than the outside. I love the final page that says "And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the begining of the real story. All thier life in this world and all thier adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

I think about the journey of the Beloved project. It is done now and it captures a moment in time,  a snap shot of a moment in time. It is a final chapter and beginning of brand new adventure story.
It was a journey to see, to understand, to feel and to know that project. It was a journey with bright spots of inspiration and long hours of laying glass. Its done now, for me it depicts the end of one journey and the beginning of another.  I realize that life is much the same type of journey there are bright spots of great revelation or excitement or wonder and then there are days of walking through deserts and trying to fix problems and put out fires.  There are times when it feels like we have lost our way, and perhaps we have wandered from the path into places that were never intended for us. There are times when I was stuck and had to stop until something changed that allowed me to move along again on that journey. Even the stuck spots are not so bad.  There are times when we need to stop, rest and regroup.

Jesus stands ready to take your hand and to journey with you. Where is he taking you? What will the future hold? I have decided that whatever it is - I will be ok in it.  I am determined to go there with Jesus and I know that He will be with me then as He is now. I think that each day is an opportunity to know Him more. So today I choose to focus on Him and not the obstacles that seem to block my way to someday. I am confident that I will never exhaust the magnitude of His thoughts, or the wonder His creation. There is always a little deeper and a little more of Him to know. The splendor of the King and the lover of my soul, in Him I find a new place of peace today. I realize that there will always be some part of my heart that is in need of repair. Whatever part He happens to be working on will seem like a big deal to me at that time. He will tells me then as he has told me time and again in the past, I'm here with you, you will be ok. I love you just as you are in this moment and I will love you just as you are in the next. The same will be true in the future. It is not my perfection that He desires it is my presence. He simply loves to be with me. Not because I'm so great, but because I am His. I am His Beloved and He is mine. In this moment that is more than enough for me.

Life is about taking the next step to follow Jesus. There will always be something ahead that is around the bend that I just can't see till I get there. In the show Dr. Who where they are traveling back in forth in time. They call those things in the future that we wish we could see "spoilers". It spoils the wonder of that moment if you know how it will work out in advance.  The question to me is will I trust the hand that guides me? Will you?

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
You know the plans you have for us. You can see around the next bend. You are the light that illuminates our darkness and shows the way before us a few steps at a time. Help us each to find a new level of peace in your presence regarding both the future and the past. Help us to not miss this moment in time because we are worring about the future or still somehow chained up in the past. Come be with us in this momement and in the next and the next for however long this life journey may be. Thank you for the people who will grace this day. For words of encouragement and the little bits kindness both given and recieved.  Thank you for your tender mercies and that they are new every morning. Thank you for today and for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yes, No, Not Now

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
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Psalm 27:14

“Wait for the LORD; 
be strong and take heart 
and wait for the LORD.” 

Waiting for something you want or think you want is often a frustrating. 
Questions fill our thoughts like how long do I have to wait? When will God hear my cry? Why can't the Lord just fix my situation now? Why do I have to go through this? Why won't the Lord heal me now? Why won't the Lord give me a baby today? Why won't God provide a job? Why won't God give me Mr. or Ms. Right, Why me, Why, Why?

We can begin to think God is against us, that He is punishing us for something. We might think if I am just good enough God will be pleased and answer my prayer.  In our prayers we begin to bargin with God. If you give me ______ I will make some great sacrifice.  We try to manipulate the King of the Universe.

If we are a believer the fact is that God hears us and he responds with one of three answers. Yes,  No, or not now. Clearly the Yes answer is not a problem for anyone but how do you know if God is saying "no" or a "not now"?
There is a great "Not Now" story in Daniel 10 in which Daniel has prayed and the answer to his prayer is delayed by 21 days. There was a battle between Gods messengers and a demonic force called the prince of the kingdom of Persia.  Dan 10:12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. Dan 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days:
Daniel during his time of waiting is a good example of how one can wait in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. One thing I notice in the passage above is that He set his heart to understand. In verse 3 we find out that during that time Dan 10:3 I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. I believe this is what it means when said earlier "chasten thyself before thy God" He chooses to spend his time waiting in self denial and prayer. I don't believe he was having a hunger strike like Ghandi to force God to do what he wanted. 

There are some spiritual disciplines that we perhaps don't practice much in our busy fast paced life. We see Daniel practicing them while he waits for God to answer His prayer.
Things like silence, solitude, self denial and prayer are meant to be ways that we get to a place of being better tuned in to God not as a way to force His hand to do our will. As we practice these disciplines of spending time in His presence it is not God who bends to our will but we who begin to be transformed to be more and more Christ like. We begin to desire what God wants. 
 
I was reading recently about the intimacy of silence. Oswald Chambers writes "Has God trusted you with a silence - a silence that is that is big with meaning? God's silences are His answers."  "It struck me that I am not very silent. Yet at the same time I there are things that I can be silent about because, I am confident that the Lord has heard me and that if his answer is No he will change my heart. If not there is some reason why the desire of my heart remains and so I can wait with confidence knowing that God is working.  Mother Teresa writes "If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen: for in the silence of the heart God speaks." She also said " Listen in silence, because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of today. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God." Silence is something that she practiced daily. She says to foster and maintain a prayerful atmosphere of exterior silence one should practice the following disciplines. 
~ respect certain times and places of more strict silence
~ move about and work prayerfully, quietly and gently
~ avoid at all costs all unnecessary speaking and notice
~ speak, when we have to, softly, gently, saying just what is necessary
~ look forward to profound silence as a holy and precious time, 
   a withdrawal into the living silence of God. 
Jesus models silence for us as well. He starts his ministry with 40 days in the wilderness. No food, no friends, just silence, solitude, self denial and prayer. Through out his ministry we see he going to a quiet places to be alone with God the Father. If Jesus needed to be silent and get away from the hustle and bustle it might not be a bad idea for us to follow His example once in a while. 

Waiting is not something that most of us enjoy. It often is filled with worry, doubt and fear. I don't believe those things are the posture with which God desires for us to wait. 
I believe he is looking for us to wait in a posture of trust and hope. 
The word most often translated “wait” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew qavah. Qavah means 
(1) “to bind together” (perhaps by twisting strands as in making a rope), 
(2) “look patiently,” 
(3) “tarry or wait,” and 
(4) “hope, expect, look eagerly.”

Some folks idea of waiting is more like whining, they go from person to person pouring out their sad predicament. They won't go and talk to God directly they try to get everyone else to pray for them. They are afraid of what He might tell them. He might tell them that the answer to their request is no. God delights to give us the desires of our hearts our timelines don't generally line up with His. There is something of value in waiting. It produces character, and patience, is causes us to grow in trust, and hope. It is not a waiting while we worry that our verse today is about, this is a waiting that is filled with hope and expectation. We know God has answered and we know what He has for us will be good we just don't know when. 

Waiting is all about the passage of time. Jesus taught in Luke 18:1 in the story of the persistant widow that we should pray and not give up.  1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 

If we can take our situation, our desire, our need to the Lord and lay it before Him and say "Not my will but yours Lord" then God can take that thing and give us His peace regarding it. He can tell us no this is not for you - let me change your heart. Or he can say yes this is for you - just not yet. I am working and the things that need to happen in you and others involved are not yet ready. Here let me cause patience to grow in you. Hold on to the things I have shown you. I love it that you are waiting expecting and trusting me. 

So, is Gods answer to you a "No" or a "Not Yet"? The place to find out is to go and spend time with Him. Don't just barrage Him with un-ending prayers of a hopeless lament. He does not want to join you at your pity party. What ever it is lay it before Him, lay it down at the foot of the Cross. In silence listen to what He has to tell you. 
Psalm 46:10 says " “Be still, and know that I am God;"

Prayer:
Dear Lord,  
I lay down my burden before you. I give it to you because I am weary of trying to bear it on my own. You know my heart, I have been open and honest before you. I'm sure I have not been perfect but my desire is to please you. Help me to be still, to listen to hear if you are saying "no" or "not yet". Lord if it is no, I choose to trust you to change my heart. If it is not yet let that hearts desire remain and burn brightly as I wait expecting the goodness of your provision in your time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bridges of Growth

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
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1 Corinthians 12:4-6  

There are different kinds of gifts, 
but the same Spirit.  
5 There are different kinds of service, 
but the same Lord. 
6 There are different kinds of working, 
but the same God works 
all of them in all men. 

I was given a lovely inspirational book on Courage and Inner Strength by a friend for my birthday. I have been enjoying reading through the collection of quotes and poems.  One spoke of the times when we feel lost and like the world is collapsing all around us, as being like bridges of growth. In those times we have no idea how we will make it from moment to moment. Yet somehow we do make it through that day and the next day and the next and before we know it we are looking back and we realize that we have grown.

I find that more and more I am thankful for the challenges that come my way. Not that I go out looking for them and I do my best not to manufacture problems. I do sometimes feel like I live in the land of missfit toys. So many of the people around me are struggling with mental illness, or the effects of brain injuries, or emotional trauma, or poverty of some sort. I seem to have swallowed a magnet that draws people who are broken and hurting and needing someone to believe in them. I must have at some point traded up to a bigger magnet because for many years people said I had swallowed a kid magnet and was always ministering to kids and teens. I'm not sure when it changed but I look around and I know that it has changed. I think many of the things I have been through have been bridges for growth that have given me greater compassion.

A wise man once said, "whatever came to me, I looked on as God's gift for some special purpose. If it was a difficulty, I knew He gave it to me to struggle with, to strengthen my mind and my faith." That idea has sweetened and helped me all of my life. ~ Anonymous 

The kid magnet thing I spoke of earlier. During that season of my life I was barren and it seemed that having children was not in God's play book for me. For a while I thought it was God punishing me for the promiscuity of my youth. I finally got over that and was able to receive God's forgiveness. It was still 15 years before God would give me children of my own. In those years my life was very rich with children.  Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD.  In that season I sang and sang and I got to minister to hundreds of children. The season has changed and I think it started with a prayer that went something like this. I was reading the book of Acts and my prayer began to be I want to live a life like the believers in the book of acts. I want to see God do mighty miracles in peoples lives. I don't just want normal American church where folks go to be entertained. I want to be in the middle of people who are desperate for God. Who know they can't make it with out Him. I want to be in the middle of people who like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who would say in the face of death "17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  I want to be around people who believe that God can and will deliver them. Who even if he does not will serve and worship him to their final breath.
I suppose one should be careful what they ask God for, I am however privileged to walk daily among such a people. God has answered that prayer and made me ambassador in the land of missfit and broken people. I suppose I fit right in because God has patched me back together so many times that I have lost count. In that land I am inspired by people of tremendous faith and courage. These folks are overcoming things that are not for the faint of heart. I have found that in our brokenness that we need each other more than people do who are not so broken. We become living stones in a spiritual house. 
A bit more from the passage in 1 Corinthians 12  21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 

I guess my point of this devotional is that the things you are facing can be bridges of growth in you life and you don't have to travel alone.  When you are broken you quickly realize that you need others and surprisingly others need you and I think that God is pleased when we begin to work together to accomplish His purposes. We each come to the table with something to offer and much to gain.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help us to walk across the bridges of growth that you have placed in our lives. Lord help us to reach out to the people around us. Help us to not look upon our own brokenness in despair thinking we are of no value. Help us to realize that God is pleased when we bear with one another in our weakness. When we are weak He is strong. We are your hands and feet so help us realize that I may be the hands and while another may be the feet and until we learn work and walk together we sit like the lame man at the healing pool in John 5 waitng for our healing. When perhaps our healing is found in learning to depend on each other.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Known by the Scars - Forgiving Ourselves

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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 Psalm 103:10–14

10  He does not deal with us 
according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11  For as high as the heavens 
are above the earth,
so great 
is his steadfast love 
toward those who fear him;
12  as far as the east 
is from the west,
so far does he remove 
our transgressions from us.
13  As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion 
to those who fear him.
14  For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. 
 
He remembers that we are dust....
I had a difficult day and have accomplished very little. All day I have had a sinus headache that nothing has seemed to touch. Made of dust and afflicted by dust or pollin or mold maybe the change in the atmosphere. I don't know what my problem has been today but I am glad that the Lord knows my frame. He knows that I have good days and I have day that I struggle. I know that the Lord shows compassion to me but it is very hard for me to give myself much grace. I am always pushing myself in one way or another. I should have just gone back to bed today but I kept trying to get my head together and I wandered through my day in a painful kind of fog.  I'm still dealing with the lingering effects of it. 
 
This may not be my most inspired post, but someone suggested that I write about forgiving ourselves for the past. So I find myself sitting here wondering if there are things that I have not forgiven myself for from the past. I don't like those kinds of probing questions. If someone were to ask me a question like that I would find a way to turn the focus of the discussion off of myself. The questions would linger and bother me for a while until I could figure out why. The past is very fuzzy to me. I think because when I have been through traumatic or difficult things I have always had to be the strong one. Maybe I have not needed to be but I thought that I had to play that role. It is often very long afterwards that I get around to processing things.  I suppose I have not really forgiven myself for all the things I have stuffed and blocked and chosen not to deal with. I am thankful that the Lord is very patient with me and in some quiet moment He will take me and help me see some neglected place that I have not really let Him into. I'm also thankful that He does not make me do too much navel gazing. When He does it is with great compassion, and understanding. He knows I am dust.
 
It is difficult to forgive ourselves when we have fallen short of our own expectations, feel we have failed God or the people we love. If we don't forgive others we open ourselves up to torment. You might read The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant and remember that the story ends with the following comment."This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." That story is about us needing to forgive others the way the Lord forgives us. Most of us can at least agree that we should forgive even if we are not always able to. I generally tell people who are stuck and unable to forgive someone that forgiving them does not mean that what they did to you was ok, it does not trivialize the wrong of it. It does acknowledge that you understand that the Lord has forgiven you and to follow Him I must forgive those who have wronged us in some way.  

The topic however is not about forgiving others but is about forgiving ourselves. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. When we choose Jesus we don't get what we deserve. You may feel you've been dealt a lousy hand in the game of life. Some of the things that happen to us are not fair. Some things leave scars that don't go away. The wound will heal but the scars remain to tell the story. I'm reminded of an old song called Known By The Scars by Michael Card. The chorus says "The marks of death that God chose never to erase. The wounds of loves eternal war. When the kingdom comes with its perfected sons. He will be known by the scars. 
 
I sometimes wonder why God just does not step in and prevent us from getting damaged and broken in the first place. I've concluded that before we were broken we didn't think we needed Him. We were convinced that we could handle things on our own. My thoughts turn to think of my own brokenness and how God so tenderly takes all the shattered pieces and lovingly takes what seems to be hopelessly beyond repair and puts it together in a new way. That is one of the reasons I love making mosaics. They give me hope. I can take broken stuff and turn it into something beautiful. God the master artist does that with us. Once we come to the end of our self sufficiency and humbly admit we need help, He steps in to help us.  

I look at my own scars and wonder if I am somehow defined or known by them. They are a reminder not just of the things that caused the brokenness but more so of all the places that the Lord has healed. To some those scars may seem to be ugly, shameful things, to be hidden. I know I have looked at my own battered heart with distain at times. What would God want with something so mangled and broken. I am coming to see that those scars must be somehow beautiful to the Lord. They are marks of death that He has chosen not to erase.
 
I know that I often minister out of my brokenness. Its not me but God who pours his compassion out to others. Because of my own scars, I can understand, I can be trusted. I think there is something to being known by our scars. People with similar scars seem to be able to connect in a deeper way. Its an odd thing. God delights to use broken vessels. So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
 
I don't know if my post has touched a nerve for you or not. If the Lord is speaking to you about something take the time to let Him in. He can be trusted. Sometimes the process of healing can be painful. Wounds that need cleaned and stitched. Bones that need to be set. Sometimes limbs must be removed. There may even be echos of what has been lost or removed. I'm not sure they ever go away, forgiveness and repentance make them less painful but they seem to be another kind of scar.  

Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
We come to you broken, wounded, and damaged. Its a mix of things that has caused it. Some of it is our own fault some the fault of others.  Lord we don't begin to know how to fix it. It has in many cases taken us a long time to give up on our own devices to fix our selves and to finally turn to you. Will you come now and mend and heal us. Will you come and restore hearts, minds and bodies that are damaged by the battlefield of the fallen world we live in. Will you make a way where there seems to be no way. Help us to forgive others, thank you for forgiving us and help us to release it now and forgive ourselves. Will you come and make the rough places smooth. Will you help us to not look at the scars with disdain but with thankfulness for your tender mercies, your grace and your love.