Friday, November 30, 2012

Oh, The Things We Pull Out of Our Hats

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I am doing my devotionals this month using the old time radio show the Cinnamon Bear as a spring board for my topics each day. I am a firm believer that as Christians, we don't have to only drink milk from Christian cows.  We should be salt and light in the cultures that we find ourselves living as kingdom ambassadors. We should not just be huddled away in our churches waiting for the rapture while the communities around us go to hell in a handbag. All around us people are celebrating the Christmas season. We should be able to spring board from the things of life all around us into things about our life of faith in Jesus. We should be able to do this with out being obnoxious and beating people up with the good news. So this month I am trying to demonstrate how you can take secular story and find ways to talk about kingdom principles and belief with the people around you. "Love them till they ask you why?"

 The Cinnamon Bear originally was on the air in the 1937 and was designed to be listened to every day except Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is  a delightful story that I was commissioned to do illustrations for earlier this year. The paintings you see with each post are my art work and at times I make some of them available as cards, posters and other items. If you see a illustration that you would me to make available for you as a print on demand item I invite you to contact me at

Here's todays episode link to the Cinnamon Bear story.
Since I only write on Friday's for Healing Stream Media if you want to take part in the rest of these devotionals please visit my blog at If you are a reader of my blog I also invite you to check out the many wonderful writers who post daily for Healing Stream Media as well as enjoy the great music on their 6 stations

2 Peter 3:9(NIV1984)   
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Read more:
2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Read more:
Oh the things we pull out of our hat is my topic today. In the Cinnamon Bear Story the kids meet a magician named Presto.  He is not a very good Magician he has gotten his training from a correspondence school. The kids are hungry and ask him if he can pull a ham and egg sandwich from his hat and with a wave of his wand he pulls out a pig and a chicken. Its the makings of a ham and egg sandwich.

This episode was evidently written in the post lul of the Thanksgiving holiday when you are happy not to see another meal made from chicken or turkey. My mom is visiting this week and was feeling the same way and came up with the great idea of pancakes and sausage for dinner. Pancakes and popcorn are things I never, ever make. While I am never tempted by popcorn my mom makes some darn good pancakes. Mine always turn out half cooked on the inside. I decided long ago that I would leave the creation of pancakes to others. This episode in my opinion is like my pancakes a bit half baked.

My favorite quote from this episode is "The rabbits keep following me around and demanding carrots" ~ Presto  What grabs me from this episode comes from that quote. Presto had pulled about how the dozen or so rabbits out of his hat that are now following him around and demanding carrots. It makes me think of the consequences that follow us around when we take things into our own hands and try to pull a solution out of our hat rather than wait on God.

"I'm convinced this is one of the greatest temptations facing any true Christian: to act hurriedly on our own when it appears God isn't working fast enough." ~ David Wilkerson

The Old Testament is full of stories of people who got ahead of God. People who got tired of waiting for God to act and took matters into their own hands.

Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting for God to give them a son. Sarah hatched a bright plan of giving her maid servant Hagar to Abraham to bear a child for them through her.

Lots daughters decide there are no men left after Sodom and Gomorrah to give them babies. They decide the thing to do is to get their father drunk so they can become pregnant by him. They give birth to the Ammonites and the Moabites. If you've read your bible I should not have to tell you that the Ammonites and the Moabites cause a lot of trouble for the nation of Israel.

King Saul gets impatient waiting for Samuel the prophet to come and offer the sacrifice and decides to make his own sacrifice. It was not lawful for anyone but a priest to make the sacrifice. Saul was a king. He had been given instruction to wait and Samuel would do the sacrifice and they would be spiritual ready for the battle before them. I Samuel 13:8-9 (NIV1984)
 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.  So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering."From that point on God favor no longer rests on his reign as king. Samuel is instructed to anoint a new king. David is chosen but then has quite a few years before he officially becomes the king.  David refuses to take matters into his own hands even though he has been anointed to be the next king he will not depose the standing king.

Things always become a sticky mess when we are impatient and take things into our own hands.
There are times when we may even feel forced to take action because like Saul the people around us are loosing confidence in our leadership. It was not a one strike and your out thing with Saul, there were repeated incidents where he demonstrated that he would choose his own means over trusting God. This is not the place we want to be in our relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 81:12 (NKJV) says "So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels." I am not talking about waiting because you are afraid to take a step of faith. I am talking about the times when God's answer is no or not now. It is in those times when we stubbornly demand our own way and take matters into our own hands. Its in those times that we end up like Presto with a bunch of rabbits harassing us for carrots. We may have thought we had troubles before but by taking matters into our own hands we generally end up increasing our troubles.

Prayer: Lord help us to trust you especially when your answer is "no" or "not now". We don't like having to wait. We want solutions and we want them now. Help us to see the bigger picture of what you are doing. Help us to realize that the surface problem we want fixed is usually tied to some deeper things that you are dealing with first. Help us to realize that it does no good to remodel the bathroom with new paint and pretty fixtures,  if all the pipes are bad. Help us to submit to your deeper work of healing in our lives. Lord make us well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Desires and Fears

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Today we get to hear from Wesley the Wailing who alway has a tummy ache.
"It takes so much to smile a smile a frown in so much quicker"~ Wesley Whale

1 John 4:17-19 (NKJV) 

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Wesley the Wailing Whale
He is actually fond of tummy aches because it gives him something to wail and moan about.
Sometimes  we start to identify who we are with our problems. If Jesus were to remove that problem from our lives we would be forced to re-imagine who we are. Generally it is easier to just wish things would change and talk about what you would do and moan. 
With my coaching there is a journaling activity that I like to use with people called The Leash.

Think of a mental image of a dog pulling wildly at its leash, barking like crazy at a cat, as if to say, "Just lemme at 'em." The cat looked mean – and was just about as big as the dog. All of a sudden in the middle of a ferocious bark, the leash snapped so the dog was free to go after the cat. He looked astonished. Scared to death. He quickly grabbed the leash, and runs back and ties a triple knot. Then, he could again safely strain at the leash and bark with gusto, "Just lemme at 'em."

Jeff King, a writer who's blog I follow wrote another insightful post about the man at the pool of Bethesda. He titled the post What Do You Want. Here's the link. I think you will enjoy it.

In his post he talks about how we have two levels of need.
Level one is the superficial. "Level two is being well. This speaks of a deeper,
more holistic view of healing. It reaches into the core of our being to create meaning
and purpose. It deals with significance, security, mission and value." ~Jeff King

I love it when writers like Jeff see something that I completely missed in a bible story. I don't love it but I am helped when people around me unknowingly hold up a mirror for me. I can so easily see faults in others but I realized I can only see them because I do the same things in other ways. Ouch. I have to take that dang plank out of my own eye before I can help others with the speck in theirs. That was for free, bonus material - I got off on a side note.

Like the story of the leash we can think that if we just solved our superficial level one kind of need that we would be well. Most often there are deeper need that really must be met first. Just like the dog we really don't want to be free because then we would really have to step up and really do all those things to change that we have been moaning about. I love this quote 
Samuel Seal

“Every story of an obstacle has a shadow story of desire. The obstacle contains yet conceals the desire. What you seek is camouflaged in what you fear.” Tony Stoltzfus
Ok so I read that and I say ouch. It forces me to look at those things I want and ask the question do I want that bad enough to face what I most fear. For me one of the things I say I want is to intimate and deep relationships with people.  I have to admit they are also what I most fear. To have intimate and deep relationships one must be willing to trust people, one must be willing to come out from behind the walls that we build. One must be willing to share the parts of our selves that we are afraid if others see them that they will no longer like us. I can be a very good actress and act the parts that I think people expect of me. It is harder to put down the mask and be open and honest about what I really like, or feel called to do, or how I am feeling.  I have to get past my own protection mechanisms that I have put in place.  I am a master at changing the focus of a conversation away from myself. Most people are self absorbed enough to not even notice. I catch myself doing this even with people I trust. I have to push myself to circle back and say one of my defense mechanisms kicked in and actually share the real answer not just what I think they expected to hear. Sometimes it takes me longer to process through things. For example while it is easy for me to write openly it is difficult for me to talk openly in a conversation. I don't like it when the focus is on me. I get really un comfortable. My flight or fight reflex kicks in. Not being much of a fighter my tendency is to run away. For a long time I thought I was unique and alone in my fears. As I have gotten brave and opened up to others I have begun to realize that we all struggle and put on various masks to hide what is either shameful to us or precious to us from others. On the shameful side we fear that if people knew our dark places that they would no longer want to know us. We miss out on deeper friendships because we are afraid of loosing the shallow ones that we already have. On the precious side of things we are so afraid that others will criticize and pick us apart like they do on American Idol that we don't share the precious gift for fear that it will be trampled and damaged. 

Well I am out of time for today. I trust I have given you plenty to chew on for one day. I would love it if some of you would comment from time to time. I so thankful to those of you who do give me feed back and for those who do hold me accountable.

Prayer: Lord help us to take a hard look at that desire/fear thing. Help us to get beyond what ever our surface need or desire is and allow you to come in and heal the deeper broken places in each of us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On the brink of the immense inkwell...

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

On the brink of the immense inkwell....

Cinnamon Bear and the kids run away from the ink-a-boo battle and jump in the root beer ocean. They even see the silver star floating by not too far in the distance.  

Crazy Quilt saves the day. "I just wanted to show you about how sorry I was about the silver star."~ Crazy Quilt

"Crazy Quilt is one of us now and we're glad to have him" Says Jimmy

They named this episode Weasley The Wailing Whale because he is the next character introduced in the story. We will get more about him tomorrow.

Here's the link todays episode.

Today I think the real story is about how we once stood on the brink of the immense inkwell. We all deserve punishment. We all have sinned and fallen short of God holy standards. We are all like Jimmy, Judy and the Cinnamon Bear who have been sentenced to be pushed into the immense inkwell by the Ink-a-boo blotter people.  Judy starts into a bit of a pity party. Jimmy is ready to fight and Cinnamon bear says they should not give up because something always happens. Of course something does happen because we need our little band of star seeking heros for the story to go on.

Here's the verse for today's post from Acts 3:19 (NKJV)
19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, 
so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,"
I thought the part about your sins being blotted went well with our blotter people in the story today. The story of course is not written like the Chronicles of Narnia to share a Christian message. I am using it more as a spring board to show you that we can find ways to share the truths of the kingdom even from the ordinary things all around our lives. For example when my Children were little we talked about how Santa was a good man who gave gifts to people. We focused on how we should be givers. We talked about how Santa was a prentend story and that it is fun to pretend. We talked about how God gave us wonderful imaginations so we could create wonderful stories. We talked about how the story of Jesus is a real story that we can truly believe. I never wanted my children to find out that they had been lied to about Santa and to make the leap that they might have also been lied to about Jesus. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about how they decided to deal with the subject of Santa with their own children. It was just my personal conviction and I how I felt led to handle it with my own children. My children still love watching all the Ho Ho Ho Christmas movies. They had a wonderful time pretending all sorts of silly things in their younger years. We learned very early the difference between pretend and real stories and our focus at Christmas has not been all about the gifts we will get but more about how we will be a blessing to others.

Anyway I am hoping that you will see that even in ordinary secular stories like the Cinnamon Bear can be spring boards that you can use to talk about faith in Christ. Even in this episode there are probably a number of directions that could become discussion starters.
You could talk about courage and not giving up in the face of danger. How Jesus helps us when we fear. There are quite a few "Fear not" verses in the bible. I have a friend who made a daily flip book and filled it with a years worth of verses for her mother who struggles with fear. 

You could talk about forgiveness, how Crazy Quilt felt bad and wanted to demonstrate how sorry he was for steeling and then loosing the silver star. There are lots of bible stories and examples of how God forgives us even with all our flaws and imperfections.
 I guess the one that jumps out for me today is the image of the immense inkwell. While the idea of an inkwell is less familiar to children of today as an artest I can remember using an ink well and the pointy calligraphy pens. That ink would stain your fingers for a long time. You had to be so careful not to slop it or drip it. If you got too much in you would use a very absorbant  paper to blot or carefully soak up the excess.  The thought of what would happen to Cinnamon bear if he were pushed into the immense ink well, you would never be able to get the black ink out of a stuffed toy. Jimmy talks about being a good swimmer but is told that the ink is un-swimmable. You just sink and sink and sink. It makes me think of Revelation 20:15 “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” I can hear some of you thinking how could a loving God do such a thing? God does not send anyone to hell it was created for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) God however is just and in his mercy has provided a way. That way is to believe in Jesus, that his sacrifice was enough to pay the price for your sins, past, present and future.
We all are stained by sin but when we accept what Jesus has done for us God looks at Jesus and he is more than enough even though we fall terribly short of God's holy standards.
Think about how great God's love is that he would send Jesus to become a spotless lamb for all of us who chose to accept and believe in what he has done for us. Its not that we have to clean our selves up between salvation and actually getting to heaven. We can't begin to be good enough to earn or deserve this pardon that God has given us through Jesus. We can get our selves in to a Christianized rut of thinking we need to read the bible enough and pray enough and be kind and generous enough. If that is how we are approaching living a life of faith we are still trying to earn God's approval. Turn it around an make your goal as you live a life of faith that of knowing Jesus more and more. Ask him to lead you in his word. Begin to recognize his love and mercy as you are going through each day. 

Prayer: Lord help us if we are still stuck in the idea of having to preform for you acceptance. Help us to realize that you love us right where we are today. You want to do a transforming work in each of us. Help us see that you are not waiting for us to be good enough. Help us to gain a better understanding of how we are to live a life of faith in you. Help us to realize that we once stood at the edge of a type of immense inkwell, under a sentence of judgement. Thank you for stepping in and taking the punishment that we deserved.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shame & Secret Ink-a-boo Boundary Lines?

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Here's the link to the Cinnamon Bear Episode #4

2 Timothy 2:15 - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Shame or Secret Ink-a-boo Boundary Lines? We see a bit more of what makes Crazy Quilt the Dragon tick. He is bound by fear and shame. He feels bad for not only stealing the silver star but now he has lost it in the Root Bear Ocean. He wants to make things right with the Cinnamon Bear and Jimmy and Judy but about that time the Ink-a-boos show up and he runs away. 
A great big dragon afraid of an army made out of blotting paper and swords made from pointy pins. Shame and fear do often walk hand in hand in our lives. We get trapped in a vicious cycle of trying to measure up, falling short by yielding to our base sin nature, feeling the shame, and then fear follows along to remind us that we not only don't measure up, we are a coward as well. 

Our verse today from 2 Timothy talks about how we don't have to be ashamed if we correctly handle the word of truth. So today if you are feeling like you don't measure up, your not good enough, or you are waiting to get your act together before really turning to God. I can guarantee you are feeling shame not just because of your failures but because you have not yet correctly handled the word of truth. 

Romans 3: For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We sometimes get the idea in our heads that we need to be a good enough Christian to somehow be worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus has made for us. My pastor shared a wonderful example on Sunday from the Old Testament. When a person brought a sacrifice to the high priest, it was the sacrifice that was examined to see if it was spotless not the person brining the sacrifice. 
We can get busy thinking we have to clean our selfs up to approach a holy God when all along the  sacrifice being examined is Jesus. It is Jesus that is spotless and it is his blood that covers us and pays for our sins past, present and future. 

It really all comes down to - believing that Jesus is a sufficient sacrifice to atone for your sins. Its not his sacrifice plus your good behavior. It is only His sacrifice there is nothing that you can do to earn or deserve what He has willingly done on your behalf.  

As for the Ink-a-boo's and their secret boundary lines. We can be bossed around by our fears or we can face them and see them for what they are... someones grocery list on blotting paper. 
The words we fear when seen in the light of Jesus are really nothing to fear. Jesus takes our laundry list of sins and cancels them. He wipes the slate clean. How do we live from the point of salvation to getting to heaven? Do you really truly believe Jesus is enough or are you still striving to somehow be a good enough believer to make God proud of you. Its a really easy trap to get caught in. The enemy has us right where he wants us, living lives filled with shame, guilt, doubt and fear. That is not what Jesus want's for you. He wants to transform your life, not by your power but by His. He wants to help you to see the places where you are still being held captive to the old dead ways of thinking and believing. He wants to embark on a journey with you to know Him more. Today He wants to show you how he loves you. How He wants to help you walk in greater freedom. 

The question you have to ask yourself is do you believe that His sacrifice is enough to cover all you have ever done, are doing and will ever do? If you are still trying to be good enough.. you need to stop and asking him to help you get the foundation of the good news that He brings. 

Prayer: Lord help us to stop striving and trying to some how measure up and earn your favor. Help us to once and for all shake free of shame, guilt, fear and doubt. Help us to learn to trust you and to be daily led by your Holy Spirit. Help us to really grasp the magnitude of what you have done 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Crazy Quilt Dragon

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

The link to episode #3 of the Cinnamon Bear Radio Show

Galatians 5:16-20 NIV Life by the Spirit

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

Even Weary Willy is not a bad guy, he does come back in this episode to help. To re-cap, Crazy Quilt has stolen the silver star which in the world of black and white characters that makes him the bad guy. I don't want to give away spoilers to the story but he's in my mind a character like River Song in the Doctor Who series, or Mr. Gold in the Once Upon a Time Series. Severus Snape in the Harry Potter books, or in the classic Treasure Island, like Long John Silver. These are round characters that keep the story wonderfully un predictable. They flip flop or seem to change camps and one is never really sure where their loyalties lie. Maybe in the end they are not really on the side of good or evil they are simply looking out for number one.

I've been thinking about this post for the last couple of days trying to decide where to go with it. Crazy quilt as you will find out, is not a bad guy. He seems to be a good guy but much like us, his old sin nature gets the better of him at times.

"Oh I suppose I deserve it for giving way to my baser self. If you only knew how weak I am, when something beautiful and shinny attracts me...." ~ Crazy Quilt.
He does ask for forgiveness but alas the star has fallen into the root bear ocean. While we are forgiven, quite often we have consequences resulting from our own sinful choices or the sinful acts of others that affect us for a very long time.

We all have silver stars, thing that seem all shiny and bright. Things that we think if we only had -____ our life would be better. There are times when we don't want to wait for Gods solution to our need, and we try to take matters into our own hands. Times when we have tried to steal someone else's blessing. Even the great king David fell into this trap. Your silver star is the thing you have made your source of light. For David it became another mans wife, named Bathsheba.
For you it may be money, or power, or recognition or some other thing or person that you think will fill that deep deep need or broken place in your life.  All of the characters I mentioned above are a bit twisted and broken because of some earlier life experience. They seem to flip flop based upon who needs and values them the most. Crazy Quilt wanted the silver star, its almost like an addiction to shiny sparklie things. He kind of reminds me of crows or magpies who steal shiny things. Maybe we too at times are drawn to the glitz and supposed glamour. If we could just have that silver star then we would be special, valued, needed, wanted.

Today I challenge you to allow the Holy Spirit to show you what has become a silver star in your life. What thing do you want more than you want Gods will and Gods way. It likely even a good thing, and maybe even something God plans to give you. Recommit to trust Him to meet your real need, His way in His time. Don't steal the silver star God has given to someone else.

Lord, help us to identify the silver stars that we would desire to steal and take into our own hands things that are out side of your will and plans for us at this time.  Help us to trust you to meet the deep and unmet needs of our hearts and lives in your way and in your time.

Source: via Margot on Pinterest

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dealing with the Weary Willy's in your life

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Earlier this year I was asked to do a series of ornaments based on the old time radio show called the Cinnamon bear. The tradition was to listen six days a week excluding Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I thought it might be fun to write a devotional to go with each episode which will mean I will be posting on some Saturday's to make this work.
I meant to start on this project and have it all ready to go and set to auto post. Alas I got busy with other things so my plan is to re listen to each episode and create a short devotional point that you could share with family members as you listen to the story together. If you are listening by yourself, I hope it will help you to re-gain a bit of childlike wonder and imagination. So I will include the radio show link so you can listen to it and I will post a photo of the ornament I created for each episode. I may include some product links to things featuring the ornament artwork. So join me as we unpack each delightful story between now and Christmas. 

"We're only as big as we think we are" Paddy O'Cinnamon. In our story today the children have to de-grow to be able to go with Paddy O'Cinnamon into Maybe Land. I am reminded of the verse in John 3 that says "30 He must become greater; I must become less. 

"Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation." ~Augustine

I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble - Helen Keller

I have learned that much of my spiritual progress does not come directly from God, but through my ability to humble myself and hear Him speak through imperfect people. --Francis Frangipane

But enough on Humility, what I wanted to talk about is how to deal with the Weary Willy's in our lives. You may have met some folks like Weary Willy, I call them energy vampires. Weary Willy was not a bad guy, he was just totally self absorbed.
He is totally unaware that by sucking all the soda pop fuel from the yellow airplane that he would leave our adventurers stranded. 
I don't want to give the story away and I hope you will take the time to listen to this episode.
My post will make more sense after hearing the story. 

"Some people bring unexpected lightness and comfort to your life. They crackle with energy, practically electrify you with their presence. And then there are those who leave you feeling stressed out. Or guilty. Or exhausted down to your very last molecule. I call them energy vampires, and obnoxious or meek, they come in all forms. The sob sister, for one, always considers herself the victim. The world is always against her, and she'll recount every horrible thing that has happened to her, wallowing in every perceived slight. The charmer is a constant talker or joke-teller who has to be the center of attention. The blamer, on the other hand, doles out endless servings of guilt. And then there's the drama queen, the co-worker who claims she almost died from a high fever or the neighbor who lives in extremes of emotion—life is unbelievably good or horrifically bad." By Judith Orloff, MD in an article called Energy Vampires

Willy is the intellectual charmer, the constant talker and joke-teller who has to be the center of attention. He's is much bigger than our little adventurers and is able to just take the soda pop, and is not even remotely concerned about how his actions effect those around him. So what do you do with those energy vampire sorts. 

I would call myself a professional extrovert because although I enjoy being around people, I am really at the core an introvert. I recharge through quiet alone time. I am very aware that I must keep a balance. Sometimes like the kids in our story I find myself burned out, exhausted and crashed. There are times when I have a bad case of compassion fatigue. 

Some things that I have come to realize. 
We choose the people who make up our inner circle. Even Jesus would withdraw to quiet places with just the 12. Back when I was selling Mary Kay we were taught that we are affected by the five people we spend the most time with. Are the people in your inner circle encouraging you to be all that God created you to be. Do they believe in you, and stand with you. Do you mutually give to one another, life or is your relationship terribly lopsided?  I have to set boundaries with some people, the ones that just take take take, or are generally negative  I want to be a guiding light not just a shooting star. We are called to show people the love of Jesus but we can't give if we are personally running on empty. 
Galatians 6:9
 (NIV) Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

This verse does not mean that we must just keep giving and giving. It does not mean we must be a door mat for others to walk upon. We started out today talking about humility. I want to say that false humility sometimes puts us in a postion of thinking we need to be  a door mat. We think by allowing others to use us and walk on us that we are somehow being spiritual and humble. There are things that God created you to be exceptionally good at, and while your head does not need to swell it is ok to be talented, gifted, resourceful, and wise. It is ok to be who God created you to be. He wants you to be the very best you possible. He wants us to shine like stars in this dark world. Sometimes we are so falsely humble that we begin to discount the amazing things God is doing in our lives. I like this quote that I found at in an article about Humility. "By humility we acknowledge that God created us for his purposes and not for our self-glorification. By humility we acknowledge the dignity of all God's people. By humility we cool the angry passions of others. By humility we can turn enemies into friends. A humble demeanor is not a denial of our worth as individuals. Rather, it is the tool that allows us, insofar as possible, to be on good terms with all persons."

There are times when the Lord does indeed ask us to lay down our lives and our desires for the sake of others. There should also be times when others lay down their lives for us.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says  "To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven." It is important to be led by the Holy Spirit. There are times when we need to go, go go and go some more - and there are times when we need to rest. 
I have had to learn that if I don't take care of me, I won't be able to take care of others. 

I found the following in the IVP New Testament Commentary 
"Our public care for one another must be matched by integrity in our private walk before God. Note how corporate responsibilities and individual accountability are woven together in this section:
1. corporate: restore him gently
2. individual: watch yourself
3. corporate: carry each other's burdens
4. individual: each one should test his own actions . . . each one should carry his own load
5. corporate: share all good things with his instructor
6. individual: do not be deceived . . . a man reaps what he sows
7. corporate: do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers"

Isaiah 50 says “The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned.

If we do not abide in Jesus on a continual basis we become dead branches. We must be connected to the river of life that flows from His presence if we are to be wells of salvation from which the weary may drink. 

Prayer: Lord help us with the Weary Willy's in our life. Those who take and give no thought to how their actions are draining and damaging those around them. Give us the courage to stand up and say no - I have nothing more to give at this time. Lord help us to make a point to stay filled up by being found regularly in your presence. Fill us to overflowing. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Cinnamon Bear Episode 1

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Earlier this year I was asked to do a series of ornaments based on the old time radio show called the Cinnamon bear. The tradition was to listen six days a week excluding Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I thought it might be fun to write a devotional to go with each episode which will mean I will be posting on Saturday's to make this work.
I meant to start on this project and have it all ready to go and set to auto post. Alas I got busy with other things so my plan is to re listen to each episode and create a short devotional point that you could share with family members as you listen to the story together. If you are listening by yourself, I hope it will help you to re-gain a bit of childlike wonder and imagination. So I will include the radio show link so you can listen to it and I will post a photo of the ornament I created for each episode. I may include some product links to things featuring the ornament artwork. So join me as we unpack each delightful story between now and Christmas.  

Here's the Link To Listen to Episode #1

Isaiah 41:10
do not fear, 
for I am with you; 
 do not be dismayed, 
for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you 
and help you; 
I will uphold you 
with my righteous right hand.
In our story today the kids find a telescope and are able to look at a tiny Cinnamon bear in a new way.  While it can be helpful to look at things in new way, sometimes we can look at things and because of fear we can magnify them to be a bigger problem than they need to be. 

Our fear can at times paralyze us and keep us from taking that first step on the journey that God has called us to take. Our verse today reminds us to not fear or be dismayed because God intends to strengthen you and to help you. 

Today look through your imaginary telescope and magnify the Lord. See the Lord as big and see your problem as small. Look at in a new way in the light of the Lord who desires to help you to overcome it. 

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

Prayer: Lord help us to not be paralyzed by fear. Help us to magnify you and to look at our problems through the lens of your great love for us.  Psalm 34:3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.




Thursday, November 22, 2012

100 Things I'm Thankful For

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I thought I would post a activity for you to work on when you have a chance.
Maybe after your turkey dinner or sometime during this weekend. Hope you are having a wonderful day!  I've been enjoying Thanksgiving with my family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful Quotes

A Devotional by Margot Ciocco

Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving! ~ Margot
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—” 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 NIV1984

Well Wednesday has almost gotten away from me. It is evening and my plans of writing in the morning and in the afternoon have passed me by in a whirl wind of lessons and errands and chores and cleaning and pacing, my day has slipped away. We are soon heading to my moms to celebrate Thanksgiving at this point we are packed and waiting for my husband to get home from playing at a big community Thanksgiving dinner put on by Union Gospel Mission. 

He has just called and is on his way home. I will be thankful for the grace you extend to me on days when my posts are less inspired.  I will try to be a bit more inspired tomorrow.  I found some thankful quotes for you to think about. 

"Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, 
for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever 
you shine the light of your thankful thoughts. "
Alan Cohen

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
    Author: Albert Schweitzer

I was looking around on Pinterest and found a few quotes I thought I would put in this post.

Source: via Emily on Pinterest

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Artists Journal

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Philippians 1:6

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you 
will carry it on to completion until 
the day of Christ Jesus. 

Today I started a new kind of journalling project. For years I have filled uncounted numbers of spiral bound note books. I've vented, I've dreamed, I've been inspired, I've been confused. They have been an outlet for me when I have felt lost and alone. When I have felt misunderstood. When I've felt I could not talk to the people around me. When I have felt their own burdens too much to expect them to help me carry mine. I have written. I have stacks and stacks of these journals. I am learning more and more how to let people in and how to be open, honest and transparant.

I want this journal to be different. To start with I'm not using a book filled with blank pages. There is something about blank that is intimidating. I have found myself recently inspired by old music books and the musical print on the pages. A while ago my church was getting rid of a lot of old stuff. I picked up a small stack of old music books. I did not know what I would do with them. They have sat on the shelf for quite a while. Today as I thought about the canvas upon which I wanted to create this journal, I remembered them.

In the book Shelter for the Spirit by Victoria Moran, that I have been reading shared about how it is important to write down the things that you want to do. "Right now put down this book and get out a pencil and a piece of paper. Write down everything you want to do before you die. It doesn't have to be reasonable. Just write it. Visit a pygmy tribe in central Africa. Write it. Locate by best friend from sixth grade. Write it. Learn to speak Icelandic. (why not? Lawrence of Arabia did.) Write it. When you catalog your heart's desires, its sets in motion of chain of event that is indeed uncanny. It's as if your subconscious reads the list and sets about to make it happen." So today as I started this new artists journal I started to think of the things I want to do.

So I am writing on top of a previously printed and published pages. I want to fill the pages with quotes, and paintings, drawings, and my thoughts. I included this quote by Isaac Newton "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

I want this journal to not be one that I shove away in boxes or under desks hoping no one ever reads and finds out what a mess I have been and often still am. I want this one to be more of a legacy of inspiration that perhaps will one day sit on my children's or grandchildren's coffee table. One that someone could flip through and find encouragement and little nuggets of wisdom.

I will probably work on this journal on Monday, my resting day. I want it to become filled with things that feed my spirit. I have not even gotten to the beautiful pages filled with music yet - today I filled the title pages.

In the book Jesus Life Coach by Laurie Beth Jones she writes " I believe that each person consciously or subconsciously lives out a script that he or she has been given. The question is: Who wrote it? 

When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, her script was basically" fallen woman, living in sin, hiding out from society." Jesus met her where she was and gave her a new script: "bold woman, excited about life, telling her friends, supporting a new movement." 

She goes on to say "leadership is the art of changing parts or rewriting scripts - of redefining reality." I realize I am re-thinking mine. Why did I become an artist rather than a scientist. Why do I love music more than math. Is it just because someone noticed and encouraged those gifts when I was young. What lies have I believed that have kept me from overcoming the obstacles to become what God intended for me to become. If my life before me is a blank paper or canvas before me what will I decide to write or paint upon it?

In Laurie Beth's book she puts questions at the end of each chapter. In one she asks the question "Which old stories, like old camels, do you drag with you? A few weeks back I tried to answer that question in one of my many spiral bound journal. "For years I have believed my life was off course. The best I could do was settle for second or third best. For years I have believed I was not enough. That it was my lack in some way that kept me from the best story or my hearts desire dream life.
For years I have been above average but not really good enough to be sought out and paid well for my skills and abilities." Guess what I don't believe those lies anymore. They are part of an old script that I am tearing up and tossing in the trash. My life is not off course. I am enough to be sought out and paid well for my skills and abilities.

Her second question in that chapter was " What would it be like if you could be handed a new script today? Would you take it?  I took the time to try and answer that question in my journal. I tried to write out what I thought I would want the new script to contain.
I guess I will leave you with that question to ponder for yourself.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the journey and for the things you help us to see and discover along the way. That you will complete the good work you have begun in each of us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

There God Commands His Blessing

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 133, “this is where the Lord commands His blessing and life forever more.”

The Bear Brawl Debate Tournament
I saw something this weekend while helping about 15 hours Friday and Saturday at a Debate Tournament my boys were involved in. I had gone to the parents judges training meeting in the morning. I've judged before but I wanted to show parent support for the training and it never hurts to get a refresher because I am still a novice judge. During the meeting the teacher and coach for the team expressed how discouraged he was in the last couple of months. There have been lots of laws that have changed that complicate his job as a teacher. Even good changes bring with them the stress of getting used to doing things a new way. He's been a teacher for a long time and knows getting parent help is always an up hill battle but this year with all the changes and a father figure in his life being sick and dying caused there to be a cloud of discouragement that he was struggling to shake. I had planed to be a judge just on Friday in my effort to slow down. There were two other parents who were able to help here and there during the tournament but this teacher was pretty much there the rest of the time alone with 18 of our kids and about three hundred other teen debaters. I felt led to offer to help on Saturday after I got done with my morning music lessons.
So it has been a very long weekend and today (Sunday) I am running the kitchen for our homeless meal that will feed about 150 - 200 people.

What I wanted to bring out was that Saturday morning I got up like I usually do but my head was filled with an elaborate idea of how to create a student lead debate team. So I wrote it down, printed it and stuck it in my purse to give to the Debate Teacher /Coach. I spend a lot of my time working with the church and I expect God to bless his church. What I realized this weekend is that God's hand of blessing is on me as his child. His blessing goes where I go. Most of the time I am in Christian settings and I can't see my individual effect of a carrier and courier of his presence and blessing. This weekend I found myself in a place with good but non believing people and they were struggling. I saw an opportunity to begin loving them till they ask why. My kids have been involved in this program for the past two years and will potentially be involved in it another six years.

So I saw something happen. On Saturday, I shared my idea with the other involved parent and with the coach. Both lit up with excitement. The coach said "this is the first time in weeks that I have hope." He had previously talked about not taking the team to the next tournament because of his sick and dying loved one. But later in the day shared with me how he was ok and glad he had gone to see him a few weeks ago and now felt he did not need to be there after he died. I think he was relieved to have been able to talk to someone and express his pain, and sorrow over the situation of his loved ones illness that causes the physical heart to harden.  Today I was thinking how the word says what ever we bind on earth will be bound and what ever we loose will be loosed. So I prayed for this man and asked God to bind this disease that has caused this mans heart to harden. I have asked that God would loose or release his healing presence into this mans life. That He would begin to reverse the hardening process. I ask myself if I believe that my prayers make a difference. I do. The Lord allowed me to see this hopeless situation. I may be the only believer praying for them. They may never know that I prayed. I don't know this man and will likely never even meet him. I do know the coach who cares about him like he was his own father. He shared when he went to visit that this sick man was all about caring for him. Encouraging him about his teaching and listening with great interest to the things that this teacher had going on in his life.  When I left Saturday evening the coach came and shook my hand and said, "thank you I will sleep tonight for the first time in a long time."

I was able to step into this situation because I have settled myself down and waited for God to direct me. I was not too busy to step into this situation this weekend. I got to see the Lord use me in a might way among good but unbelieving people. While I sat at the group table being a kid wrangler I completed a printable document for the idea that I shared. I'm good at that kind of thing and had time to kill. The coach asked me to send e-mail both documents to him and he will work on finalizing them today to present to the class on Tuesday and the idea will go into effect immediately. I realize that God has given me entrance into the life of this coach and these parents and students. I had the gift of time to give and it made a way for me in this situation. I had the gift of wisdom to give and I was able to roll out a plan like Joseph did to Pharaoh. Suddenly I will become a parent advisor to the team and I will bring the tangible effects of God's love into a place where it was not formerly.

The verse I used today from Psalm 133 is in effect because I brought unity into this situation. When I align myself as a believer with others - it is there that God commands His blessing. As a believer I am supposed to be salt, a preserving agent in the world. I am supposed to be light to bring hope, wisdom, insight and and direction. You and I are ambassadors of the King of kings. We don't have to preach at people. We need to love them till they ask us why? When they ask they are ready to hear. When that opportunity comes we are told to be ready to share why we have this great hope. 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect"

Prayer: Help us to see how our presence brings your blessing into the places we go. Help us to not be so concerned with our own struggles that we miss what you are doing all around us. Help us to love the people around us till they ask why. Help us to be ready to tell them how you are the best decision we ever made.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fog and FROG

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

In the fog it is good to remember FROG - Fully rely on God 
If you have ever had to drive in the fog you know that you can only see what is immediately ahead of you. Its taken me a while to figure this out but I have been experiencing a kind of spiritual fog lately. To be honest I have been a bit put off and frustrated by it. This morning I was read the November 16th page of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. She writes "The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment." Then I recall recently having prayed for the Lord to help me stay in the present with him. I've spent a lot of time in the past year allowing Him to heal me of past brokenness. Generally it is easy for me to see ahead, sometimes like with my art work the Lord gives me a mental picture of what the finished work will look like. I generally try to get as much of the idea down in a quick sketch or in words. Those brief mental pictures help me know where I'm heading. The Lord does that for me with life sometimes too. Particularly as I am praying He will sometimes let me see the roots of a problem or a future purpose. It is as easy to overly focused on either the past or the future.

The tendency with the past is to not let go  and have to deal with the weight of regret, shame or guilt. In working through the past I have had to forgive and repent and put memories away clean. One has to leave all the whys and what ifs in the hands of the Lord. One has to face the lies that have been believed and look at various situations with the help of the Lord from his perspective.
With all healing there is a time when surgery has been preformed, and a recovery period has passed.  For a time getting well is your entire focus. Eventually you are well enough to go back to daily life.
For me what followed was a desire to try and map out the future. For a time hopes and dreams became my focus. Actually trying to sort out what hopes and dreams were the right ones to pursue.
Even with my art when I see a brief mental picture one still has to figure out the best way to get there. It is a journey and along the way there are happy accidents. There are things that I try that I don't like a and I paint over them, or I have to chisel off the glass that I'm not happy with. In the end my version of the project is never exactly like the mental image I first saw. It has evolved and become my own expression of the idea that I briefly saw. So I think even when I think I see where I'm going I realize that along the way it will become my own life expression. I will try some thing and not like how they work and I allow myself the freedom to experiment. If something does not work I don't consider myself a failure. I evaluate and learn what I can from it. I come up with a new way of solving the problem. My best guess of what may work given what I presently understand and given what I presently have to work with. I try that realizing it may or may not be the final solution that I go with in the end.

Anyway recently I realized I was to easily distracted by both the past and the future. I asked the Lord to help me stay in the present with Him. Interestingly I am realizing His answer has been to give me fog. Fog is forcing me to stay in the immediate present. It is forcing me to trust him to lead so that I won't walk off a cliff. Part of me wants to look and the fog and thing oh know there are unknown dangers ahead that I can't see. I just know they are there and I can't mentally gear up to prepare for them. Then it dawns on me that even with the fog I am still allowing myself to focus on the fears of the unknown future ahead of me rather than the present. I stop and check myself and my situation is there anything else I can do in this moment. I could stop worrying about the unknown. I could stop spinning various outcomes.  I could stop resenting the fog. I could learn to know the Lord in this moment. Is He presently with me? Am I presently with Him? Can I allow Him to just hold me till I feel safe again?

The fog is not something for me to fight. I have no power over it. I can't make it lift. What do I have control of in the fog?  My attitude. This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). I can bind fear, doubt. I can loose His peace. I can rest knowing that fog does not last forever. If the Lord has given me fog, he must know that I need fog presently.  We put those side blinders on horses so they won't be spooked but keep their eyes only where the handler is directing them to go. It might be a particularly tricky or treacherous leg of the journey and I need to trust the Lord to lead me through. He knows how he wired me. He knows what will spook or overwhelm me. He knows what is too much for me to bear.

Funny so I was trying to find a photo of fog to put with this post and I came up with nothing except a frog. The only photo that jumped out at me was one of a frog mosaic that I had done a while ago. So I started working on a card using that image. As I started thinking about what text I could add to the card. I remembered that FROG stands for Fully Rely on God. Which is what one really needs to do in the fog. God leads me like that with little bits of humor to lighten things up a bit. I can be way too serious at times. Hope my FROG card will brighten your day and make you smile.

Dear Lord, I know not everyone reading is dealing with fog. Some have a clear vision of the path that lays before them. Help them not to become complacent but to stay near you and to not think they can do it all by them self. For those facing fog, I pray that you will give them your peace. I pray that you will reveal yourself to them in a new and deeper way. I pray that you will give a greater revelation of your love and care for them. Be near us Lord allow us to know you more fully today. Thank you for this present situation and the places and people that will fill our day. Help us to take the hand of that friend or loved one. We may not know the answer but we can pray and encourage one another to not give up. To look to you Lord even when we feel confused, disappointed, discouraged. To know that its ok to put a name on how we are feeling or facing but in the end help us to stand on your truth.

God's Original and Final Intent part 5

This is my final paper for The International Healing Rooms School of Transformation in Spokane Washington. Its is very long paper so I ...