Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for - I got to see "z"-tulips - wow!

 A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Song of Songs 2:

10 My lover spoke and said to me,
   “Arise, my darling,
   my beautiful one, and come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
   the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
   the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
   is heard in our land.


This weekend while on my road trip I got to do something that I have wanted to do for many years. I got to see the Washington tulip fields in full bloom. Wow  - when God paints it is spectacular.  I had to get up at 5:30am to be able to fit this little side trip into my busy day. It was well worth missing a bit of sleep.

I'm pretty tired and need a weekend to catch up from my weekend.
  
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

 
 These flowers have been a sight that has drawn people from mile away to come see them. Their lovely beauty will soon fade. This weekend however, they were arrayed in full splendor.

We got to these fields early and there were only a few other photographers out taking photos. My friend Ryan went back later in the day and said that you could not even find a place to park there were so many people trying to view the tulips in all their glory.

I realized some things while on my road trip. There are some parts of my life that I shut down and avoided because those activities were things that triggered memories I wanted forget. It dawned on me that in so doing I have perhaps distanced myself from parts of God's intended design, plans and purposes for my life.   I realized in one of the classes I took during the conference, that I have allowed my mind to develop but my heart is about 3 sizes too small in comparison. In some ways I have been like a fish trying to live in the trees rather than living in the water and fully realizing the joy of swimming and doing things that I was created to do.  Forgive me Lord - for allowing pain and fears to rule me.

I realize how I need to allow my heart to bloom and grow for God's plan to be fully accomplished in my life. I am looking back now at some of the things that I have avoided and seeing God restore and bring back some things that once brought me great joy. I'm not sure exactly how those things will
unfold. I realize that I have over developed some other areas.

I certainly accept God's sovereignty and believe that the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord. He is so patient with me and has allowed me to develop in other areas. He has been patient to wait until I could get to a place of seeing what I have done to myself as a result of stuffing, burying things, avoiding feeling pain. God never forces his way into the secret or hidden places. He waits for us to relize that we need him. That we can't make it on our own.  Then he comes.

Alas we have come to the end of the A-Z Challenge posts for this year. It has been a really positive experience in my mind. Thanks A-Z team for all that you have done during the challenge to encourage bloggers. I will continue to try and visit the blogs of other participants - congratulations to those who made it through the alphabet in April.  I know for some A-Z challenge, was about having to post daily.  I have been positing Monday - Friday since July 2011 as part of reaching my own challenge goal of writing a 365 day daily devotional. So I would be thrilled if you would follow along and be doubly blessed if you would pass my site link (http://devotionals-margot.blogspot.com/)on to your friends. I always enjoy your comments and would welcome suggestions for things you might like me to write aout in future posts.

Prayer: Dear Lord,
Help us to bloom and grow. If there are areas in our lives that have been left un-developed or avoided because of some deep wounds help us to allow you to come. Bring your healing, help us to forgive, to repent. Help us see those things we have viewed wrongly and begin to see them through your eyes. Give us the grace to view things through a new grid and enable us to discover the parts of your plan that we have been afraid to walk in. Allow courage to rise up in each of us that we might like these flowers be arrayed in your splendor as we walk more fully in your design and purposes for our lives. 
 


My favorite of the photos I took.


Add caption

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yikes

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV1984)
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Taking Photos while driving - not recommended!

Ha - my concordance on my phone lists four topics for "y"- all compelling I might add.
Yarn, Year, Yoke, Young Men. So I think I might just tell you about my road trip.
We finally got on the road about 4 and arrived at our destination about 11:30pm

I drove the first part of our journey while Ryan snored in the front seat and Rob had turned my back seat into a mobile office. We stopped once at McDonalds and then again a bit later stop at this very quiet restaurant for dinner. We walked in and it was like walking in to a library. Hushed and silent - well it was till we arrived. The waitress comes and greets us at the door and invites us to sit wherever we like. To which our pastoral intern responds, by walking up to some young couple sitting quietly at a table and speaking to each other in whispers. He turns and tells the very short young waitress  " Ok I want to sit here" and then says to the couple, "Can you please move." After that everyone was laughing and the place no longer felt like a library. I think the waitress was actually relieved to have a break from the quiet.  So I suppose my Ryan story counts for young men.

The drive from Spokane to Mount Vernon Washington on the Seattle side of the state requires driving up over and through the Cascade mountain range. Its a lovely drive in good weather. Our weather for most of our drive was drizzly rain. Thankfully we changed drivers after dinner and Ryan who tells me he likes driving takes over. I think he liked driving until we got to driving conditions that reminded me of the scenes in Star Trek where the ship takes off and goes into light speed. For miles we drove through this blinding warp speed like snow, sleet, rain and toss in a bit of fog for good measure. Of course the lines on the road are just a suggestion. I think the state of Washington must save millions conserving on line marking paint. Ryan did a great job at white knuckle driving.
My Quiet Room

So we got to the hotel and the guys were booked 3 to a room and I would have had a room mate but she had a conflict and was not able to come on the trip. So I have a lovely room all to myself. I realized that I am not really used to being alone. I do plenty of things alone and I wake up early to find quiet space but I always have dogs, kids and family members around. So I found myself kind of wandering around my lovely large room all by myself. It was quite nice, just a different kind of quiet and alone than I am used to. It was late so I decided to call it a night.

The Library where I am writing this post.
Today the guys have headed to a ministerium meeting and I have about an hour to kill in the church library before the women's meetings that I am to attend begins. I've not been to these meetings before so I'm not sure what to expect and only have a fuzzy idea of where I'm supposed to be when. My plan is to just kind of go with the flow. I'm sure I'll be brought up to speed soon enough. For now I have found a quiet place to write. I even have the internet password which makes working on this post so much easier.

The morning women's meeting was good and and the facilitator Lenore asked the question what do women in your church need beyond the basic little black dress. She then had us get into groups and gave us post it notes to write down our ideas. Then the ideas were sorted on to a wall. Here are some of the stickies  - I suppose I have to agree with those who wrote coffee and chocolate.  There were a small number of ones that talked about bible study, prayer, spiritual growth. The overwhelming number of sickies were things that were very relational.


Then we had lunch and then another set of meetings where the topic was Enneagrams. In a nut shell it was t tool to help you discover your personality. Can't say I totally understand it at this point but I got a book to read to try and figure it out. I guess I'll get back to you on that one. It was interesting.

Then there was dinner and a large group service. They had a Russian worship team that was pretty good and a choir and a guy that could really play the pipe organ well.

Then out with our group to kind of un wind from our day of meetings.

Now I am back at the hotel and should really go to bed because I need to get up and be out the door by 6 am if I want to go and take photos of the blooming tulip fields. Then we have more meetings and lunch.  The we head to another church for a different meeting before heading back on the 6 hour drive home. Some time in there I am suppose to speak for 2 minutes about the transformation of our church.  - I'm kind of taking things as they happen. I actually planned out what I want to say - but who knows what will actually come out of my mouth. Generally when I speak the Lord gives me the words to say in the moment.

Yikes and we are supposed to be awake for church on Sunday  - not sure what that's gonna look like.

So yikes what a day and what an adventure. Yikes we are almost done with this A-Z challenge. It has certainly been fun.

Let me pray for you and then call it a night.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
I pray that your peace would come upon those who are reading. I pray that you would quiet their spirits in this moment and allow them to hear your voice. I pray Lord that you would help each reader to know you more fully and that you would walk with them.  May they find joy and peace as they spend time in your presence. Help them rise up with faith to carry on and courage to make the changes you are calling them to make in their life. Give insight and inspiration and direction for the next steps in their journey with you. 





Friday, April 27, 2012

X Marks the Spot

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

X Marks the Spot where I should tell you a little about my blogging adventure so far.
I started this blog July 6th of 2011. I had felt for several years that I wanted to write a year long daily devotional. I had made a stab at it during the National Novel Writing Month Challenge in 2009. It wasn't a novel but I was writing. I managed at that time 30,000 of the 50,000 word goal some of the 20 unpublished post are left over from that challenge. I've used a few as back ups on days when I was not able to write something new. I am a pretty scattered type of person. I have bunches of things going on and my life is often like that circus act where the clown is standing on a ball and holding poles while spinning plates on the ends of poles. At the same time I am careful to protect time for the things that are important to me. I love to write and have journaled for as long as I can remember 
but those stacks of journals were only benefiting me.  I have about 20 blogs that I have started and most of them have a small handfull of posts before I got busy with something else. Some of them I post to periodically as I am inspired but most just contain the remains of abandoned projects.

Going into this adventure I had to bust past my self doubt and fears of not being able to keep up with a  daily writing schedule. What if I couldn't think of anything to write, what if I got too busy or sick?
I worried about really being open and sharing my private thoughts and beliefs. I had to bust past my feelings of imperfection and failures but more than that I had to be willing to share bits of those stories. I knew if I just wrote daily in a word processing file that I would not have any built in accountability. Accountability is important for me it helps keep me on track.  I had a when I started a very small handful of friends who were reading what I was writing. The feedback I was getting from them was that they were indeed finding my posts helpful and were looking forward to them.   As my confidence and number of posts grew a bit I began to let my facebook friends know about my postings. I'm still small potatoes compared to a lot of the A-Z blogs that I have visited but one should not despise small beginnings. 

So here's where I am at this point.


2611 pageviews - since I started July 6, 2011 and I have posted M-F since that time.

237 posts, last published on Apr 26, 2012 (217 have been published)
 11 followers + another 11 that follow by e-mail 
I have people I know stop me in person or or on facebook who make a point to tell me they are 
enjoying my posts and they are not among the official followers in my stats.  

The Beloved project
The Tree of Life
I guess I have not really been terribly concerned by the stats. It does help me to have the accountability of knowing that people are reading. I suppose the world would not end if I missed posting one day. I found in dieting that if you take a diet vacation it usually takes longer than you planned is a lot harder to get back on track. So I prefer to stick to the plan which is to write and post Monday though Friday. It is for me an indicator that God's hand is upon me and helping me to accomplish this task. I have found of late that God gives me visions of big things that from the starting point seem to be well beyond me to accomplish. I have learned that little by little I get from here  - to there. Often my original idea is just some thing I see in my head and its usually kind of sketchy or whispy. I can see it but not totally and I don't usually have it all figured out at the beginning. I just make a point to experiment and work on it and little by little things like the Beloved project go from a sketch on a piece of paper to a finished project.

This blog adventure has taught me the discipline of writing daily. It has taught me how to write regardless of how inspired I am feeling. I find myself wondering what I will do when I get to 356 posts. Will I continue? I know I have a lot of editing that will need to happen before I can do published versions of this project. I guess at this point  - I can't see beyond the goal of completing 365 posts. I suppose I will know what to do once I get there so for now I will be busy about the task at hand.  I have found that I really enjoy the time that I spend writing each day and I am glad that people are enjoying what I write. I know when I finished the Beloved project I felt at loose ends for a little bit. One thing I did find out by posting progress photos on facebook was that I had gained a following of people interested in my art. So I asked them what they would like me to do next. I put up a poll with several suggested ideas for people to vote on. Little did I know that they would add their own ideas and people would vote on those too. So they voted on a project called The Tree of Life which was not one of my own ideas. I originally thought it would be a big project like the Beloved project
Butterfly Project
Lighthouse Project

The River Project
but never got to the place of feeling like I could see and understand the project and in the interest of getting on with something I chose to do a smaller project and posted those project photos. While I was trying to figure out that project I did a Butterfly project that someone requested. I did a bunch of jewelry and pins that can all be seen in my Artfire tab above. Then I did a 3 dimensional Lighthouse project. Then the River Project a big interactive prayer area at my church.   So I have been busy in the midst of this devotional writing project I have done a number of projects. I have large painting project that I've been asked to do and I posted some of the design ideas for that in my W post.  That one is a challenge because I have not really done any serious painting in probably 30 years. It seems it is God's plan that I dust off my brushes. I will be posting progress photos for that once I get started. There is a Facebook badge on the right of this page if you would like to follow my projects. It probably gets the most frequent project up-dates on the things I am working on.  I will also be posting to The Bits and Pieces Blog tab at that top of this page.

My friend Ryan wrote a great blog post yesterday about why art is important to God  - Link to Ryans Post   I guess one thing I have seen increase massively as I have daily grown to make spending quiet time each day with the Lord a priority in my life. I find I have incredible amounts of creative energy. I have no shortage of ideas for writing, and mosaic and music projects. I am finding what the word says to be true. If we abide in the vine  - we can't help but bear fruit. After about a year of being pretty consistent about spending daily time with the Lord. Something changed in me about a year ago. God healed some deep stuff and it has allowed me to somehow move steadily from project idea to project reality in many areas of my life. Its kind of all a big wild adventure and I'm not always sure where we will stop next but I'm having fun daily walking with the Lord. 

So X Marks the post where I have rambled on and on probably not in an x-ceptional way. I guess I just needed to x-press more about what I have seen God doing in my life.  I hope you have found it interesting. At this point it will have to do I have run out of time. 
I'm writing this on Thursday and I need to get kids to school, I work all day in the church office today, pick up kids from school and then leave on a 6 hour road trip to a ministry conference with with Rob, my pastor and Ryan, our pastoral intern. Should be interesting and is likely to create some wonderful blog fodder for future posts. Stay tuned. 

My friend Donnie has stayed up all night working on tuning my car up for the trip. He's a blessing  - Perhaps you will add him to your prayers that God would bless him for all that he does to help around the church and all the little things he does to help here at the house. He needs physical healing from seizures that result from a brain injury.  It would mean a lot to me if you would add him to your prayer list today.

Prayer:  
I pray that what ever God wanted you to see in this post will jump out and inspire, motivate, compel you forward towards His plans and purposes for your life. I pray that somehow you will be encouraged and that you will have found some nugget of hope and that faith would rise up in you to take that step into the journey that God has planted in your heart. I pray you will find the courage to take the first step, or the next step. That you will push past the self doubt and fear of failure and run a good race that He has specially marked out and created just for you. 



Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Walking

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Written by my friend Karen Stahl

3 John 1  

2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 



 When I was thinking about W - I thought about writing about "Who am I"  and telling you about me and my family and some of the stuff we do. Not a bad idea but then I found myself thinking about my daily journey and decided W is for walking.  Instantly the poem in the corner came to mind. My friend Karen read her poem By Walking I Make The Road  to me two visits ago. I fell in love with it instantly. It kind of sums up my approach to life. It is by little steps of faith that we get to our final destinations. It is the little things I do to make a difference, little things done with great love that change the world. I try to keep Jesus central in my life. He's not just a Sunday obligation for me He is the reason that I live and so He is interwoven into all that I do and all that I am. I don't go around telling everyone I meet about him. I just live him, and endeavor to be a living bible. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Love them till they ask you why. If someone asks I have an answer. They are not really ready to listen till they want to know something.

I try to practice being aware of his presence as I go through my day. I have an inner running dialog with him going on in my head a lot of the time. I try to be very open and honest with Jesus. If I am struggling or failing miserably at something I talk to him about it - I don't try to hide the places I fall short of his standards. He see's, he knows already so we might as well talk about those areas.
When trying to solve problems, I allow myself to come up with my best guess of what might work. Then I allow myself to test and experiment with that idea to see how it works. The I try to remember why I am even bothering to try and solve this problem. I re-evaluate how well my idea has worked. I might adjust it here or there or toss it out completely and try something new.  I don't get all hung up berating myself if something does not work or go like I planned. I simply go back to the drawing board and try the next idea. 

When I find that I am stuck - I wait, I pray. I look around to see what if anything I can do. Generally there are things I can do  - so I do those things. Somehow by the grace of God answers come and I get to the end of big projects step by step.

Whats next - Heres a few family photos.  Yep I live in a house full of men thankfully the dogs are girls. Actually they are a great bunch. We have a tiny house and a lot going on. I would be in big trouble if Better Homes and Gardens decided to come with a camera crew. Our house is pretty lived in and there is a lot of life happening in every corner.  - Well I'm out of time for this post and need to get on to practicing piano and getting out the door for music lessons.

I pray that God will bless and keep you. That his face will shine upon you and be gracious to you. That he will be very present in your day as you endeavor to walk in his way.
Well I'll catch you tomorrow for x - yikes what to do with that letter - wait and see.

Niah 14  - Creativity Unleashed

Husband Marco  - loves to DJ
Me - writing with help
April May - Good Dog
Best Friends - Donnie & Gracie
Cai 11  - Always a delight


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Virtues

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Source: etsy.com via Rashida on Pinterest


Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV1984)   
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, 
holy and dearly loved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, 
humility, gentleness and patience.  
13 Bear with each other and forgive 
whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  
14 And over all these virtues put on love, 
which binds them all together in perfect unity.

There are a number of virtues listed in this list but it is love that keeps them together in unity.
So lets look at the list of virtues and perhaps we will discover some undeveloped areas that could use a little attention.  Jesus lead us as we tackle this list, give us eyes to see the places we are lacking. Lord I know you love us right where we are today but you are always calling us to come up higher by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to will and to do what you desire.

Compassion: "An attitude of care and concern, grounded in pity and sympathy towards others. Christian compassion towards others should reflect the compassion of God for his people."  
The Dictionary of Bible of Themes  I should care for others like Jesus cares for me.
He understands me. He loves me even with all my faults and failures. He is concerned when I make choices outside of his design because he knows they will come with consequences. He knows what he designed each of us to do and be. He gives us gifts to help us.  He allows me time to figure things out. He makes room for me to be part of what he is doing, even though I bring to the project, a messy dynamic. Much like a little child trying to help mom clean the windows. Yeah I helped but now mom has a wet child to clean up and streaky windows and probably mud tracks from where I got sidetracked and  I thought I should help water the flowers. That child enjoyed helping and did learn a bit about helping and will likely want to help again. We need that kind of hands on training, that says here try this way and allows for personal discovery to take place. God has designed us and knows how we are to work. He knows that be will not be happy or at peace doing things he never designed for us to do. Compassion must be marked by action. It is not just feeling sorry and gossiping about that poor person with someone and calling that prayer and concern. Compassion is saying I know you are struggling let me walk beside you for a while and carry your pack. Let me be a sounding board while you try and sort through this. I can't tell you what to do but we can come up with a plan of things we think might work and give them a try. We probably will need to adjust some things but we can celebrate the little victories as we work together to over come the trials and difficulties that we face on our life journey.  Ephesians 4:32 (NIV1984) 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Kindness: "The quality of compassion and generosity, characteristic of God’s dealings towards the weak and poor, and demanded of believers. The kindness is also shown in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ."The Dictionary of Bible of Themes  I need to look around and remember how God has been kind to me. He shows me kindness even when I don't deserve it. Even when I have not lived up to his expectation or example. He realizes I am weak, poor and broken, he knows I have limits. Some things will remain broken till I become strong enough for God to help me deal with that. I may have some poor vision and need corrective surgery, I may need a knee or hip replaced but God and any good doctor is going to deal with that or, that bleeding, infected wound first.

So did you know that failure to  acknowledge Gods kindness is a sin? Hmm so I should probably try to recognize and acknowledge the kindness of others as well.  Romans 2:4 (NIV1984)
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? Oh wait did you get that - what leads me to repentance is not someone holding up a picket sign, or screaming what a rotton person I am, or throwing accusations like rocks. It is not kicking someone when they are down. It is not lording my rightness over someone and demanding they do it my way or the highway. Dealing with people like that is rooted in insecurity not in love.  God's kindness leads us to repentance. God gave us a free will and so he will not make us do things his way. He leads us, he sends us examples, he inspires us. He is kind to us and there for we are more apt to listen to what he has to say.

Humility "An attitude of lowliness and obedience, grounded in the recognition of one’s status before God as his creatures."The Dictionary of Bible of Themes  
James 4:6 New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud
   but gives grace to the humble.”  Just when you were polishing up your humble button and thinking it means to be a door mat to others. Its a command  1 Peter 3:8 (NIV1984)
  8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble" These are qualities that do not grow off on our own but grow as we have to live and deal with people. It means that my opinion is not the only one in the room, my way is not the only way. It mean I can't just storm off with my toys when I don't get my way. It means allowing someone else a chance to shine. If the goal is to live in harmony it does not mean we all must play the same note. To do so makes for boring uninteresting music. Sadly it is a problem for most churches. We set about to find people just like us rather that embracing each others differences. We don't need a church of all hands and no hearts. We all have different gifts, callings, and functions with in the body. Humility is recognizing how we fit it to Gods bigger plan and design and making room for others to find their place as well.   
Gentleness: "An expression of compassion, seen in God’s dealings with the frail and weak, and expected of believers in their dealings with others". The Dictionary of Bible of Themes 
Dang it, I guess that leaves out throwing stones and demanding that others do things my way. 
James 3:17 (NIV1984) 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
How does God deal with us in our weakness? How do we want God to deal with us when we mess up? Might be some clues there in how he would have us deal with others.

Patience: "The quality of forbearance and self-control which shows itself particularly in a willingness to wait upon God and his will. Believers are called upon to be patient in their expectations of God’s actions, and in their relationships with one another."  We are so used to fast food, instant gratification, sit coms that solve big problems in thirty minutes or less. Now this verse today tells me that I have to be willing to wait upon God and his will and I have to wait and be patient with others too. This is when you need to remember that we can't really do any of this with out the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So before you go off feeling like a dejected worm of a failure. Lets ask God to come in and help us with all of these virtues.

So here's the kicker. "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. " Christianity was never ment to be walked out in isolation. Nor is it good if everyone is just like me. When we have a grievance we need to go to that person and try to work it out. If that does not work we take a friend to help mediate. If that does not work we go to our church leadership and ask for help. We may have to take a time out to allow each other to process but we have to come back and continue to work it out til we can come to a place of peace and resolution. Sadly how we do church is when we get offended or don't get our way we just go find another church were the people are more like us.  I can't see my own blind spots and neither can you. Sometimes one foot has to say to the other - hey you are stepping on me.

Well... not the exhaustive study on any of these virtues. Heres the link back to our passage at Bible Gateway. Colossians 3:12 -14  In the right hand corner across from the verse are the words "Show Resources" That gets you to the Dictionary of Bible Themes, the commentaries. Theres a lot of great resources to help you dig a little deeper. Its time that we begin to learn how to pick up the spoon and feed ourselves. You alone will stand before God regarding your personal spiritual growth. Its not your pastors job to do it for you. God is massive - there are endless treasure and things about Him to discover. Your life as a believer should never be dull - there is plenty to do and always more to discover. Quit waiting for other to do it for you. Get off the bench and into the game. Ask the Holy Spirt to train, teach and lead you into all truth.






Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Undeveloped

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

The first idea
Hebrews 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

I have a friend who was considering having me do a large mosaic. We are discovering that the costs of shipping a larger project or even doing a road trip to deliver it are more than her budget. So we are having to rethink the project. Could you paint it? She asks me. I suppose I could, but I realize that I have not really done any serious painting since I was in my early 20's. She does not know it, but I realize that painting is among the things that I put away with some dreams that died about that time in my life. You could say I laid them to rest... In reality I locked them away, I imprisoned and avoided them. I avoided doing things that triggered those memories until I could not even remember why I avoided those things. While at this point I think I have finally put those memories away in a right and healthy fashion. It seems that God is trying to give back to me some of those things that I avoided doing because they were triggers to that past. I realize that they are undeveloped things that become a whole new adventure to try to reacquaint myself.

2nd Idea
I was thinking at first that I needed to revisit those memories but I realize that I have already done that and they are at a place of peace. I guess I am hoping that serious painting is much like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget how. Bike riding is another thing that God has given back to me. I did not have to re-learn how to ride. I just have to go out and ride and realize - oh my gosh - how much I love riding.  The feel of the wind on my face and arms, and the sun on my back, it is exhilarating. My mind races and runs while I am riding at at tremendous speed. So many thoughts and ideas, so much inspiration. I am overwhelmed with a thankfulness for having been given back something that I had lost.

The 3rd and most recent idea.
So now to think about painting. I would need paint, and brushes, gesso, and some grace to experiment and reacquaint myself with painting.  It adds a whole lot of unknowns. I have felt old insecurities try to rise up today. I have had a bit of anxiety over my own ability to do this project. What if I can't capture the idea that I have pitched to her using a bunch combined, photoshopped images.

I will push past this and start into the project and be posting photos for folks to be able to follow along on facebook or by using the Bits and Pieces Mosaic Art Tab at the top. I gotta get to Z first so that gives me some time to sort out some of the unknowns.

Just like I stopped riding my bike and painting and those things have not developed as a result. We can have undeveloped areas of our heart, character, our emotional or spiritual or educational development. We may have areas that because of some hurt that we stopped developing. Our growth in that area has become stunted. I think part of the healing process is getting to a place where you can again go on to grow and develop.

I know that God is working in my life. He is patient with me on days like today as I process and attempt to look to him even though self doubt and insecurity tries to rise up and intimidate me. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He is the one who stood in the middle of a storm tossed seas and commanded the waves to be still. Jesus in your name I speak to my own waves of fear and doubt and insecurity and I tell them to be still.


Prayer:
Dear Lord,
You know the places of doubt and fear in our lives. Those places where we choose to worry rather than trust you to lead us. Be my shepherd and lead me beside those still waters and restore my soul to a place of peace in your presence. Help me to know that you walk beside me and you help carry the burdens. Thank you for the obstacles that reminded me that I need you like the air I breath.  I am not self sufficient I depend and trust and rely on you. Help us see the areas in our own lives that are undeveloped and allow you into those places to heal, transform and set us free so we can develop and grow.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Time

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Psalm 31
14 But I trust in you, 
O LORD;
   I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands; 



It is Saturday and much like I expected in my S post, I have chosen to sit... well at least for a while. I have had a wonderful morning of popping in on various A-Z bloggers and leaving little notes to encourage them on their journey to Z and as aspiring writers in various stages of that journey. I finally got hungry and had to go make something for breakfast. As I stood at the stove cooking my omelet the idea for T presented itself. 

T is for Time - My times are in your hands Oh Lord. Today you might think that time is a magazine, that I might pick up at my leisure to flip through its pages on some whim. There are days when I wish I could jump in the Tardis with the wonderful Dr Who and journey to various points in time and see what really happened or what might happen in the future. My kids and I love watching Dr. Who and my oldest often dresses and looks a wee bit like David Tennant. It has a science fiction, historical fiction kind of twist to it all that we all enjoy. 

Time is an interesting thing, when we are children it moves at a snails pace and as we grow older it races forward at an alarming pace. I've heard some interesting explanations of why as I have often longed to revisit a long an boring summer only to realize that while things slow down a bit in the summers now there is no going back to being a child with little or no responsibilities. Time marches on and none of us really know how many days are allotted to our journey called life may be. I have to admit that I struggle to wrap my mind around the idea of heaven being timeless.  Eternity is a bit to big for my little mind to grasp. 
I know for me -

I feel a responsibility to have at least tried to use the gift called time wisely. I try to have done something with my day to bless and encourage others. To leave some kind of footprints for others, who will follow behind me. I think it must be somehow hardwired into me, the idea of it being somehow very important that I leave a legacy that will speak to others beyond my time. Honestly I don't understand it but it compels me forward and urges me to not allow my days to become a mundane existence of mind numbing escapism or to become so busy in the pursuit of a pay check that I forget to stop and smell the roses.  

At age 50 I still think I have plenty of time but I know without taking purposeful steps to accomplish the things that I believe God has set before me to do, that those things will become dreams that vanish. I don't want to look back someday with a bunch of regrets for things I should have said or done. 

The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.  ~C.S. Lewis


Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.  ~Carl Sandburg

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.  ~Charles Caleb Colton

Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can't buy more hours.  Scientists can't invent new minutes.  And you can't save time to spend it on another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.  ~Denis Waitely

I think my favorite time quotes is this one shared by Kermit The Frog. "Time's fun when you're having flies."  I suppose there is some truth to that  - when you are enjoying the journey time is fun. When one can pass through a day without collecting regrets I suppose it is a day well lived. 


Ah but today - the sun is shining, which is currently a novel thing here in the Pacific North West and I can hear my bike saying - "come now is the time to ride". 


I am thankful that my times are in the hands of the Lord. He holds the future and the past. He knows what tomorrow will bring my way and so I will trust him with it and do my best to share with Him this moment and the next as I progress forward within the passage of time. 


Geesh .... I feel terribly eloquent and quote-able - quick before my head swells and I can't get out the door to ride my bike... I should end this post. Love you all - thanks for following along. Thank you for those who post comments - you bless me in ways you don't even begin to know - Thank you. I am always humbled to think that God would use my words to touch the hearts and lives of others. May you make the most of the time you have been given for His delight and glory.  


Prayer:
Dear Lord, 
Help us to value and use wisely the precious gift of time. Help us to not spend it in despondency, complacency, fear, depression, guilt, shame but to take those things to you, and allow you to help us find true peace in living life in your presence led by your Holy Spirit. We are unshackled by the power of your love, help us grasp and accept that you have fully paid for our sin. Let us live to know and love you more.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Surprise Me

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
 

Surprise Me with the Verse of the Day from Bible Gateway


““Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV1984

The A - Z challenge folks added some cool buttons that I have added on my page under the A - Z participant banner on the left side of the page. (E-mail folks - pop in some time for a visit - I do try to keep things fresh on my blog page.)  So I've recently added a follow me on Pinterest button. I have boards of pins of things I've found while surfing that I like plus boards featuring my own art. Anyway back to the new buttons - they load a bit slowyly but they are kind of cool because there are a couple thousand participant and the it would be nice to visit them all. I can tell you now, I won't get them all visited before I reach Z. I like the surprise me button because it randomly picks someone from the long list of participants and sends you off to visit their page.  I had tried to intall the buttons last week but had problems with the button code. Today it seems to be working. So it may not look like I've been visiting but I have been going to the A-Z participant page and just working my way through the list. The surprise me button is much more fun. Thank you to all of you who have visited me and left comments - you are awesome and I am trying to get time to visit each of your sites.

So "S" is for Saturday a day that I usually use to catch up or get a little ahead. I however have been running hard all week so I might just decide that "S" is for sit. Anyway today's post idea spun from the surprise me button. I realize that I kind of like surprises. I don't like it when my life gets too predictable  - you know that whole get up, go to work, go home routine that sometimes gets broken up by a go to Mc Donalds. I guess I like my life to be a bit more interesting and so I try to keep a sense of wonder and awe as I navigate my day. I am mindful as I deal with ordinarily reasonable people who have bad days, when it becomes evident that they are struggling - to not let their stuff push the old buttons in me. Sometimes people just have a bad day - I know I do from time to time.  There is always a temptation to get sucked into other peoples drama and I have found that it is better to step back and simply pray. To allow God to show me if I have in someway added to the stress load of another. If so I should endeavor to make things right. While there are always things we could do better it sometimes the surprises and figuring out how to overcome current problems and obstacles that pushes us to do a better job or to be victorious.

Yesterday we realized that for some the work at the church seems like a tedious and thankless job.
Staff jobs at churches start out with a manageable list of tasks and before you know it you have this mountain of stuff that others some how think is your problem. Time to put on that "Just say No" t-shirt.

I have found one really has to know where their  boundary lines lie. I have to be aware of my own limits and be able to step back from it all and make sure I am allowing the Holy Spirt to lead me and not doing stuff because it screams to be done. It may not be mine to do. I realize that there are ebbs and flows in church life.  We have come through the Easter season and that is always a busy time and I put in a lot of extra hours of my own choosing. I need to remember that it is ok to coast a bit between things. I have to realize that some things just won't get done until a volunteer rises up to take it on and that its ok to wait on God to raise up the right people. These are some things I have discovered through the years of being in and around ministry.

I had to step back about this time last year because I was sick and dealing with my own issues and had some compassion fatigue and burn out. Its ok to step back but don't run away or storm off leaving all your projects in boxes for other to try and carry on. People are more important than any project take some time to rest and re-evaluate but don't in your frustration nuke all your relationships. Sometimes we need to help people recognize the signs of stress and burnout and help them to take a step back in a right way from the whirl wind of things that seem to endlessly need done.

Sadly when people get tired and burnt out they often take on various offenses. What might not have been a big deal when they were not tired becomes a heavy weight, a drain, yet another thing that needs done that no one will notice unless it is not done. To often leave and go lick their wounds and feel bad because no one comes to beg them to come back. Its not that they are not missed but they left in such an awkward way that no one knows what to do.  Often they just need some rest but then things are awkward and it takes courage to make things right and work through issues. It seems easier to just move on and not look back. Its not always everyone else - sometimes its us. We took on too much, we allowed the tyranny of the urget to suck us into its ever demanding and thankless wake. There is a flip side we need to as kingdom people do a better job of encouraging one another. Sadly it is easier to throw stones.

You know the sound guy only gets noticed if there is a problem like feed back during a service and then all eyes turn around to register their disapproval. Staff and leaders work hard and all you hear are the complaints, the problems. So that started me on a little rabbit trail of my own. What can I do to help encourage and appreciate the people around me. How can I recognize their faithfulness, hard work and commitment not just to our church but to the cause of Christ and his kingdom purposes. How can I help them resolve the little stuff and not just sweep it under some spiritual rug until it becomes a big festering ugly mess.

My first thought was to do something nice for the ushers who will have to deal with the changes presented by the new bulletin I've just created. Rather than 3 folds they now have two pages folded in half and must use a long arm stapler. I know un expected change can sometimes set a day off in the wrong direction. So I wanted to do something so they know that their service is appreciated.  So as I left the office yesterday I asked my pastor can I get some Million Dollar Bars or something nice to do for our ushers.  I wanted to buy some candies that I could attach cute little cards to and some how communicate our appreciation. So the ushers are getting the Whopper of a great job treats in the photo above. I also wanted to do something special for our leaders and staff. It has been a rough and rocky road bringing this church back from nearly dead. Have to chuckle when I think of the line in The Princess Bride, where Miracle Max says that "Nearly dead is still slightly alive." He makes up a magic pill and as the company of un sung heros leaves they wave and say..  Have fun stormin' da castle. Valerie: Think it'll work? Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.
Our journey has been filled with plenty of miracles but we are still having to asses our assets as we go about trying to storm the castle to take back what the enemy has stolen or simply take new ground for the kingdom. 

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me 'splain.
[pause]
Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry' Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape... after I kill Count Rugen.
Westley: That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying.
Fezzik: You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful.
Westley: I've always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?
Inigo Montoya: There is but one working castle gate, and... and it is guarded by 60 men.
Westley: And our assets?
Inigo Montoya: Your brains, Fezzik's strength, my steel.

We are all at various stages of burn out and exhaustion but great stories are written about characters who overcome incredible odds.  Ah  ha - I found Rocky Road bars. A bunch of nuts held together buy gooey marshmallow. Not sure if they will pick up on that subtle humor. I think we are all a bit nuts and the Holy Spirit is the marshmallow that holds us together. Kingdom life is a bit sticky. Might we all be like Fezzik and notice the little signs of healing in each other. "You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful" We all need encouraged and we could all do a better job encouraging and recognizing the healing, and the things others are doing that go un noticed. 

The other idea came to me as I stood in the check out line and saw the Mentos. It crossed my mind that I could make a card that said "We wanted to take a mo-mento to say a BIG Thanks for all your hard work." I'm still not sure what budget category this little adventure is going to come out of - we don't  run on a big budget. In fact I print our weekly statistics in the bulletin each week the ratio of weekly giving to weekly need is still way, way off. It is all part of our inner city dilemma of how do you do church for the poor in America. Let me tell you it is a different dynamic than I have ever had to deal with in my 30 years of ministry.  We have been given a window of grace by our denomination to figure that out. I get to share for 2 minutes at a conference next weekend about our journey - I would appreciate your prayers that I would communicate Gods heart.

So for some, my fledgeling efforts may be met with "sorry its too little to late" and they are right. We have not done a very good job of thanking people or recognizing their efforts. I pray that God will refresh those weary souls and help them to be able to realize that they are loved and appreciated.
Thank you First Covenant Church! It has been a blast, and we're only getting started!

For others like our new intern  - well let me just share the photo he posted on facebook.  He must have stopped back into the church in the evening because I made a point to drop off the goodies while no one was there. So most folks will find their treats on Sunday.

 Granted there are plenty of others that I still want to do little things to thank and encourage - I in no way got everyone on this pass. I gotta come up with something special to do for the folks that come early and make the coffee and bake the yummy things that are provided each Sunday following our service.  Then there is the older lady that saves paper clips and brings them in so we don't have to buy them. Gotta love her - she's a treasure.  What about the folks that stay late to vacuum.  Oh and that thankless job of keeping the toilets and the bathrooms presentable. Did it ever cross your mind that someone had to do that job even if its a paid job they still should be thanked somehow.

One of the other things I recently felt led to make available for folks is a table in the back with blank notes. My hope is that people in the congregation will take the time to encourage one another. My intent in all of this is not that these things be from me but from the church as a body. I'd like to see us create an Encouragement Club of sorts that might get together and do these kinds of little things on a regular basis.

 Revival and change,  I have found begins with me - am I willing to repent, am I willing to change, am I willing to hear the call of God and respond to it. So rather than gripe about what is not being done by others I am choosing to set an example in hopes that others will see and say  - "hey thats cool - I wanna help".  I have long agreed with the statement "Small things done with great love can change the world." So while these are all small things, it is my hope that God will some how multiply and somehow incorporate into the DNA of who we are the ability to express our gratitude and thanks as a people. This was what God put on my heart - what is your little part and how will you set forth to make a difference by doing something small with great love?

Most of you reading are not part of my local church family but I want to challenge you to realize that your Sunday service does not just happen. Someone has to plan it, and people have to step up to help in various ways. My challenge it that you look around and realize the behind the scenes things that people are doing and find some way to encourage and thank them.  Lot's of folks think being a pastor is an easy job  - after all they only work on Sunday ....right? ....wrong!. It is a job that quickly over flows in to every area of your life. If someone has a crisis - who gets called in the middle of the night?  In a big church a pastor or leader my wear one hat  - in a small church you just roll up your sleeves and change hats all day long.  Most people don't see the behind the scenes inner workings of church. I do and I am tremendously thankful for the people who give and give and give some more.

Rob, Tonia, Bill, Bill, Kadee, Frances, Lydell, Ryan, Maria, Marco, Neil, Donnie, Anika, Kelsie, Niah, Cai, Nicole, Mike, Diana, Gertrude, Gary, Rachel, Dusty, Trenton, Tyler, Lindsea, Lisa, Jan,  Kelly, ... the list goes on and on and most of them won't see this but perhaps my readers will pray for these folks that God will refresh them and help them to be able to actually feel his love. Sometimes I think we are so broken that love can be flowing all around us but we can't hold or realize it because we are broken vessel it all just leaks out quickly. and in some way and need to allow God to fix us. 

So anyway I realized yesterday that we have a problem  - people are tired, feel un appreciated and I have a choice to make. I have to go to God and say "what would you have me do" how can we be victorious and overcome. So be watching for my e-book 100 ways to Thank and Encourage the Folks who Make Church Happen. Well I have 3 of the 100 but one should not despise small beginnings. Not sure if I will do that project or not. Right now I am collecting and posting my own ideas on a Pinterest Board you are welcome to follow along.

Prayer:
Dear Lord
Help us to not just sit down and cry when we hit a bump in the road but to stop and sit on that bump and ask you what we might do together to overcome.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Lord open our eyes to the little things that others are doing for your kingdom and help us to celebrate and encourage their part in the collective whole.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Reconciliation

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Romans 5:1-5

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 

While I was considering what "R" word to use - passed a page in the back of my bible that said The Eight Jewels in the Ring of Reconciliation. On the page there is a drawing of what looks like a mothers ring with multiple birth stones.  It gives the passage Romas 5:1-5. Next to each stone in the ring are the verse and the name of the jewel. It gives one other verse Luke 15:20-22. I don't know if this is something like the Romans Road that everyone sort of knows but I have seen it there and wondered why it was in the back of my bible. So anyway I thought we might try to find out together. 


Peace: The first stone from verse 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That one makes sense to me. As long as you are trying to justify and atone for your own sins you have no peace. What you have is guilt, shame and a constant feeling that you are just never going to measure up. That is not a pleasant way to live. Sadly many people think that they need to get their act together before coming to God. Some even after turning to Jesus still feel like they have to perform to please him. If they just pray enough, read the word enough, do enough good things. Even though they are believers they are are constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop or for God to get fed up with them and their constant failure. 
Justice must be satisfied. Wrong has been done and someone must pay the penalty. The good news it that while God must be just he is also love and because of that love he has sent Jesus. You are that slave trapped in the bondage of the old life of sin and he comes and redeems you.  Its nothing that you deserve, or have any merit that makes you worthy of redemption. It is not that your are special. His call goes out to everyone ..."turn to me and be saved"  Isaiah 45:22
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

Access: The second stone from verse 2 reminds me that we were once separated from God.
Even the best and the brightest of us fall horribly short of Gods intentions and will for our lives.
We have gained access by faith into the grace in which we now stand. I have faith that the sun will rise and that if I sit on a chair it is going to support me. The question is do you really believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, that no one get to the father except through him. (John 14:6)
It is faith that that opens the door way to the grace or undeserved favor of God.

Hope in Joy: The third stone. I liked the commentary from the Reformation Study Bible. "New Testament hope is the assurance of something not yet fully experienced, and quite different from uncertain, wishful thinking. That this hope will not be frustrated is guaranteed here and now by the love of God that the Holy Spirit pours into believers’ hearts" We have joy in knowing that our sins are forgiven. That God chooses to remember them no more.

Joy in Suffering: The forth stone. Too many of us signed up for the "God loves everyone or the bless me Jesus club" at the first difficulty we are ready to bail or blame God. I had to get a grip on this concept about a year ago. I was reading about mother Teresa. I just could not understand how she could suffer and deny herself of so much for the sake of Christ. I thought well maybe its just a Catholic thing that I don't understand. I talked with my pastor and he said "Margot you need develop a theology of suffering" I've come to realize I don't have to go looking for suffering - life is full of it. The question is how will I respond to it in the lives of the broken. What will my attitude be when its me that is suffering? Our view of suffering is often not getting that close parking spot that we had prayed for.
Romans 8:17 "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." The Jesus I follow was willing to lay down to leave the comfort and glory of heaven and lay down his life for me. If I am his follower perhaps I should follow his example and lay down my life for others.

Perseverance: The fifth stone.  I think I will let the word speak for it self here.
Hebrews 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

James 1:3 -4 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 5:11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Character: The sixth stone. I'd like to tell you the journey to character is an easy one.
I like this definition given by Wikipedia "Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual's durable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. Moral character primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another"  What are your durable, unshakable moral qualities. The things that you will stand for what is right and true in the face of ridicule, hardship, persecution. Its not the stuff like telling the truth only when its convenient but consistently telling the truth even if it costs you personally.

Hope and Love: The last two stones. I'm sure any of these stones could be expounded upon. There is much more that could be said and I am merely scratching the surface. Perhaps you will dig into your bible and mine some of these jewels for yourself.

Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. God put in us through the Holy Spirit because of his love the ability to hope.  Faith holds on believing God is able, Love lets go and trusts leaving it in the hands of God,  Hope stands between and holds them both together in light of Gods will and greater purposes. 

Lets take a look at what that one last verse is. 

Luke 15:20-22 Its the Prodigal Son. 
Luke 15:20-22(NIV1984) 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was 
filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms 
around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven 
and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
   22 “But the father said to his servants, 
‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. 
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

If you have squandered your inheritance and have been living in the pig pens of this life. The Father will not chase you but he waits, he longs for you to come home. Dear one - do you hear him calling you. While you were still a long way off - the father sees you coming. He is filled with compassion. He runs to you and throws his arms around you and kisses you. 
All you can think of is how dirty, and broken, what a sinful wretch you are. Know that the Lord loves you in that moment and he does not say to the returning son go hose yourself off - geesh you stink. 
No he tells his servants to bring the best robe and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 

Let me take a little turn for those who are already with the father.  We his servants are to help that son into his robes. None of us should forget where we have come from on our own journeys. We were once that returning son. 

Hmmm did you notice that the father gave the son a ring of reconciliation. Eureka - I get it  - it was a treasure that I had to dig for but I'm glad I took the time to finally see what that box in the back of my bible was all about. That would be a cool ring to wear - When someone would comment on it you could say... Let me tell you about it.  What a beautiful tool to help tell the story of reconciliation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for your reconciliation. I pray that the things I have written will strike a chord in folks and that they will dig in to know you more.  I pray that those who are still a far way off would not be hidden from you. That you would welcome them with arms of love. That we your people would follow your example and help pick up each other when we let you and each other down. Help us walk in the power of your grace.