Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7 Things Parents Need To Navigate the Teen Years {and 7 Promises God Makes to Meet Those Needs}

I look into her eyes, marveling at the nuances in color, at the glowing golden tans mixed with deeper browns that finally melt into the infinity of the pupil.  The human eye is an incredible miracle!  I am standing nose to nose with her – another astounding fact.  This child in adult skin is a phenomenon, a marvel, a sensation, a wonder, a “non-pariel”…a sweet teenager with blue bangs.  A “Warrior Woman” in the making.  And after a rough stretch with friend issues, God has provided a small, solid band of like- minded “warrior women in the making”. 

But this post isn’t about middle school friend angst or what God meant when He called her a “Warrior Woman” during my prayer time two years ago.   Neither is it a post where I share tips for parents struggling with their teens based on my own current counseling work, as it started to be. 

Why, you might ask? Because.  Last. Week.  Happened.

You’ve heard that when you are preparing to teach a lesson, God walks you through it first?  He did.  I did.  Sweet Teen lived through it too! I have a degree and some experience, but what I truly am is a fellow traveler with you, imperfectly leading a teen through the forest of adolescence and to the mountain top of adulthood.   Every one of my imperfections I continue to have  is an indication and an invitation.   They are an indication that I have a need that can lead me to His provision.  They are an invitation to the Lord to intervene according to His promises. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Having a "Different Spirit"

One of my favorite Old Testament heroes, Caleb, was said to have a "different spirit" - 

 "But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it."
Numbers 14:24 

He was one of the two spies that didn't just follow the crowd {Numbers 14}.
He had a warrior's heart...{Joshua 14}
He wanted the hill country of Hebron because there were giants there {Joshua 14}
Hebron is derived from a word that means "to unite, to be joined to" {Hebron}

What can these brief snapshots teach us?

Here is what my heart says:

To be called a Christian means to follow God, and Him alone.  Sometimes "the crowd" wants to be comfortable, and I must be so tied to God, so united with Him, that He is more important to me than the will of "the crowd".  In that by itself, a warrior heart is needed!  But a warrior heart also longs to conquer the giants in the land - all of them!  A warrior heart doesn't shrink back, but takes the fight to the giants...in my own history - hiding, shrinking back, fitting in - was how I coped and survived...but God seeks to invade my history and nurture that warrior's heart!  I recognize it and follow it most of the time...but sometimes I don't, when those of my immediate family don't recognize the leading of the Spirit in me.  That's the hard place.  My warrior's heart is intact everywhere else:  the world, our church family, my friends.  But my immediate family takes a different approach.  And that is one of the giants as well!  When family can take the place of God, when family can become an idol...that is a giant that needs to be slain!  As a wife, as a mother, as a Daughter of God, I need to find the path to being a "tendor warrior" with them, and truly with everyone else as well.  Yes, to be joined to, united with, the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit means I am united with the ultimate "tender warrior".  Where I am struggling, when I am struggling - that could mean I have walked away from Him unawares...

Lord, forgive me for my self-sufficiency...I turn my heart back to You, and You alone.  Guard me and help me use both weakness and strength to abide in You, and enjoy the flow of life from Your in-exhaustible source!  Amen.

Another resource on the sin of "self-sufficiency" here: The One Thing That Shuts Out God

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Open Your Eyes to Beauty -

I took this photo at the Japanese Gardens in fort Worth this spring....

“Every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him. That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting — so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake. If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.”
                                                                                          — Steve DeWitt, "Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God In Everything" 

A foot bridge at the Japanese Gardens...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Transformed Through Beholding His Glory {Art Exercise #2}

In my first "exploring purpose through beauty post" I shared about the word "transformation" found in 2 Corinthians 3:18:

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Here is the relevant part, copied for you:
 The Spirit exhorts us to be transformed and that transformation is by beholding His glory, (not by working out our salvation) -  transformation is a work that He does  as we spend time in His Presence (not a work we achieve in our own efforts!)   And that is exactly what this word “transformed” means! It is metamorphóō (3339 - from 3326 /metá, "change after being with" and 3445 /morphóō, "changing form in keeping with inner reality" – properly, transformed after being with; transfigured(Metamorphóō is the root of the English terms "metamorphosis" and "metamorphize.")
So, we are "changed after being with" - and we are being changed as we spend time with Him, with no separation - and that seeing His glory is like looking in a mirror...

To truly see the beauty He has bestowed upon us, we look deeply and intently at Him, and see the truth of our own being reflected in His face...

To see our own beauty, we have to see His beauty...

To put it another way, from the opposite point of view, if we perceive God as a "big policeman in the sky", we may become a "policeman" ourselves, punishing the wrong doing we see in ourselves or in others...or we may become avoidant, trying to elude His imagined disapproving gaze.  Or, if we view Him as being unjust or abusive or uncaring or uninvolved with His creation, we may totally reject Him.  

The transformation occurs when we behold Him as He IS,  
not by beholding some wrong image of Him we have created in our own minds... 

My favorite way of "seeing" Jesus....the Lord my Shepherd
 I actually own prints of the bottom left and center left pictures...

Art Exercise:

The next step in our exploration of purpose and beauty will be to explore the beauty of God.  Jesus is described in many different ways in the Scripture.   Today you will pick one of those ways, and find images and words that reflect that image of Him, and collage them onto a piece of poster board, wood, or canvas.  You don't have to have many, but I would say that the very bare minimum would be 5-7.   Remember to "audition" you collage elements before you fasten them to your base.  You can even use items that fit your image choice, giving your piece a 3-D effect.  

Journal and share what this aspect of God's nature means for you.  This will help you gain deeper insight in how you connect to God.

And of course you can also do this exercise MY favorite way - digitally!  Above is my collage for the exercise - just for a sample...I think I might have to do a more in depth piece to really explore the name...

To help you with this exercise, I am including a brief list of Jesus's names and titles as well as links to a more comprehensive lists.  The Old Testament names always bring images to my mind...and here are some New Testament ones - Bright and Morning Star, Author of our faith (I see words with this name), Peace, the Vine, Friend of Sinners, Light, Light of the World, Living Bread...Alpha and Omega.  There are so many to choose from!

Found on Google

{click on the titles to go to the linked page}

That's A LOT of information, so to make it simpler to find the description that you wish to work with, try this:  look at the first five descriptions.  Does any of them "speak" to you? If yes, use that particular image.  If no, move to the next five, repeating till you find the image you want to work with.

When you are finished with your collage, consider sharing it on the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CindyFort.at.12Tribes.

We will do some comparison between this collage and the first one soon {if you missed the first exercise, you can find it here or copy and paste this in your browser http://cjfort-artandlife.blogspot.com/2015/03/exploring-our-expression-of-beauty.html}. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"You are beautiful - perfect for your purpose - a vessel for divine glory..."

“I long so much to make beautiful things.
But beautiful things require effort—
and disappointment and perseverance.”
~ Vincent van Gogh

Image credit

I go through this in my art making! I'm glad van Gogh shared his creative thoughts...

Lately I've been thinking about the beauty that God has woven into creation...and the other evening, at a meeting with other moms, the conversation turned to the beauty of this earth, and this is the fallen world, the one groaning for redemption as we all hurtle through time together...

...so much beauty...

...and then the Lord reminds me of the list of "beauty" scriptures I have been thinking about 
and making graphics with...

...and He reminds me that van Gogh's quote is about our work to develop skill, 
the repetition, 
the beginning,
the middle,
the beginning again...
learning to silence the inner critic...
crying out to Him in agony
wondering if we really heard Him 
in pursuing creative endeavors...
the reassurance,
the beginning again and again...
until the habits 
of creativity are formed...
and we see the primitive beginnings 
as an avenue to get to our present skill..

...and God said...
that even though He always blesses
our practice...

He didn't have to practice
when He created 
each one of His daughters...
He created each of us perfectly -
no "do-overs"...

...we are beautiful...
...and what we might consider a "mar"...
...is only because we aren't looking only to Him...

"You ARE beautiful,
perfect for your purpose -
a vessel for divine glory..."
He says...

{...and what can my response be, except to worship in awe...}