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INSIDE OUT RESTORATION

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I returned from a ten-day trip to Northern Italy exhausted and exhilarated; exhausted because of the long journey, and exhilarated by sites I had only seen in travel brochures or read about in history books. It was a lifelong travel dream with many ‘pinch me’ this can’t be real moments.

Words or photos cannot portray the beauty of the many cathedrals I visited or the emotions that surfaced each time I touched buildings and sculptures that dated back to the Byzantine era. As I stood in the center of grandeur palazzos with thousands of other tourists, I was overwhelmed by how small and insignificant I seemed in comparison to the backdrop.

The massive cathedrals embossed with gold mosaics, jewels and artwork from ancient times have immeasurable value and are irreplaceable. Many buildings are in disrepair and being renewed continually to preserve the integrity of their foundation.

That is how God works with us. No matter the backdrop of our life or how much we are in need of repair, He lovingly works to preserve our foundation. As we stand in the palazzo of life surrounded by the masses and feeling insignificant, He whispers

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 (ISV)

Jesus stands ready to renew us from the inside out. Our souls are irreplaceable and have been purchased by the immeasurable value of the redemptive power of His blood. No one is insignificant or small against the backdrop of the cross.

We are not so unlike the crumbling facades of the many ancient buildings burdened by the elements of time. It is only after the exterior is stripped down to the original foundation that the true damage can be assessed and repaired.

Jesus stands ready to erect the scaffolding needed to renew you from the inside out. He will power wash the accumulated dirt from your soul, restore the foundation on which you stand and renew you to your former glory.

God is in the restoration business!

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TIME TO BE RENEWED

renewAs I prepare for an upcoming trip to Italy, I find myself spinning around in every direction. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done before I leave. As I race against the clock, stress hives (that itch like crazy) have taken up residence all over my body. To me, they are a divine indication that my mind, body and spirit need to be renewed by my Creator.

It’s so easy to take on too much at one time and I’ve never been one to pace myself. I tend to jump into umpteen different projects all at once within an unrealistic time frame. Part of it is my personality type, but the rest is a stubbornness that refuses to listen to the quiet inner voice telling me to slow down.

Yet, even in my stubbornness God continues to patiently urge me toward a time of renewal and He is not above presenting physical signs, like my hives, to warn me it is time to back away from life situations. My creator knows when it is time to allow my mind, body and spirit to be renewed by Him.

God divinely notes when we are in a life overload moment. He remains persistent and lovingly directs us to the foot of the cross to find mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Today, I find I am way overdue for a renewal, perhaps you are too. If God is calling you to step back from the chaos that currently surrounds you, then take time to meet with Him. He can empower you to move forward with renewed strength in both body and mind.

“…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

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THE LAST GOODBYE

exhaustedI slumped onto the sofa like a wet noodle after the last few guests departed our annual holiday party. It had been a success with plenty of food, beverages and outdoor activities for every age group.

The day concluded with family sitting around a fire pit where big kids set off fireworks and little ones waved sparklers. It was a wonderful family day, but after the last goodbye, I collapsed in total exhaustion like it was my last hurrah.

I have always considered myself to be tenacious, ready to take on any challenge or task with everything I’ve got. However, the next day when asked to help disassemble the outdoor party canopy, I quickly realized my body parts had finally caught up to my age. Unable to lift the heavy framework, I was assigned a new job of grouping the pole extensions by their assigned number. Even that required reading glasses due to the small print size.

My giddy-up was gone and I no longer possessed the strength needed to complete the task at hand. It was time to say my last goodbye to youthfulness and accept the limitations that accompany the aging process. Don’t get me wrong, we should do our best to stay fit, eat healthy and seek out life adventures; but we should do so with an acceptance of our limitations.

Jesus certainly experienced what it was like to collapse from total exhaustion. Look no further than the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed,

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42

Jesus wasn’t assigned a new job just because the weight of the cross or the sin of mankind was too much to carry. The outdoor activities planned for His party included torture, beatings and being nailed to a cross. In light of this, my exhaustion and limitations pale when compared to what Jesus accomplished as his body collapsed in death and spoke His last goodbye, “It is finished.”

Jesus’ last goodbye to us gave birth to eternal life; my last goodbye to guests gave birth to a 2-hour nap.

While putting away tables, chairs, food and outdoor games from the weekend party, I considered that I am not being nailed to a cross, eating my last supper or sentenced to death for my religious beliefs. Yes, I may be weary, tired and aged; but I’m not wearing military dog tags, navigating through mine fields or looking at my child’s photo inside a combat helmet.

Our youth may fade, but the glory of the privileged life we enjoy remains intact. Because of the selfless acts of love imparted by others and their allegiance to uphold our freedoms at whatever cost, I am able to sit by a fire pit with my family, watch grandkids light sparklers, eat from a bountiful table and curl up on the sofa like a wet noodle at day’s end.

When faced with utter exhaustion and your strength seems like sand in a sieve, you are not alone. Our ability to face life’s challenges and understand all the fine print it entails requires the help of others and an acceptance of our own limitations.

The last goodbye doesn’t mean we can no longer function, it only means we may require the strength of others or a higher power to get the job done. All we need to do is ask.

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LEANING AGAINST THE WIND



sailboatSome of my best life lessons have been learned while leaning against the wind with my sails pointed in the opposing direction because I refused to be navigated by the tailwinds of popular opinions.

In my mid- twenties, I participated in catamaran races at Higgins Lake in Northern Michigan. There were times tailwinds were so strong you would glide across the lake on one pontoon. It was smooth sailing. Then, there were races where it was a struggle to reach the next marker because head winds forced you to sail in a zigzag pattern. It was a struggle to move forward, but there were no other options other than sit, sink, or sail.

In today’s world, Christians are continually faced with views that oppose and challenge our faith and moral beliefs. We find ourselves leaning against the wind while others glide forward on one pontoon; they appear to be winning the race. But are they?

Whether by choice and or an unexpected change in wind direction, our Christian faith grows when we are faced with adversity. It’s easy to sail through life with a belief system based on popular opinions, liberal attitudes and no regard for biblical principles. But being the first to the finish line doesn’t guarantee a trophy. Unless we point our sails toward God’s finish line, we lose the race.

Are you currently leaning into the wind because your Christian beliefs are being challenged? Hold tight to the ropes of your sails and know that when you ‘come about’ you will be pointed in the right direction. Allow the Word of God to navigate your direction in life; it’s your only GPS in a world ripe with opinions and beliefs that contradict fundamental Christian values.

Don’t fail to lean against (or into) the wind when necessary to stay on course to the finish line. Let Jesus guide your sails when faced with adversity. You may not take first place, but you will finish with your integrity and Christian beliefs intact.

“And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong” (James 3:4).