Growing Toward the Light

I like painting. I know I’m no Michael Angelo or Rembrant but I truly enjoy being creative and expressing myself through art. Most times I start a picture with an idea or simple plan of what I want to paint and pray that God will work through the creative process to not only help me put together a picture that glorifies and honors him but that helps me better connect to Him as He shows me glimpses of His love and light. This often happens immediately when I decide a picture is finished but sometimes the heavenly impressions and thoughts don’t surface for quite some time.

That is what God has been doing through this simple painting of a tree that I crafted about a year ago. I was always drawn to how the tree featured was not only basking in the light of the setting son but how it was almost smiling and leaning toward the source of these life giving rays. However, it was not until recently that God gave me the image comparison to us as humans being like the tree and God the life giving light that we so need and long for deep inside our hearts.

The Bible often uses trees as a metaphor for us as human and in fact one of my favorite examples of this is in the very 1st Psalm verses 1 thru 3: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

The Bible is also clear that God is not only love: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16 but that He is also only light: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5.

However, beyond these parallels I began to see through this picture two important keys to life if we are to grow our lives towards the light.

First we must keep our heads up towards heaven and our eyes firmly fixes on the light which is Jesus. I love how in this picture the tree has a heavenward tilt looking up to the sun and the sun is shining down with a smile of love and blessing. I liken this to the first three verses of Colossians 3: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This sentiment is also echoed in the soothing hymn “Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus” which proclaim the truth that as you “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace”.

Secondly, we must lean on and even into the light if we are to grow above the negative, harmful, unwholesome and unholy STUFF of the world and walk in the light of Jesus’ love. Just as the tree in the picture above is leaning towards the nourishing rays of light, real trees in nature do the same thing. They most often grow high and tall to get above the canopy and closer to the light but they will if needed grow at an angle or even curved just to reach a clear opening to receive the sunlight it needs to survive and even flourish. I love how the hymn [can you tell I love hymns :) ] “Leaning on Jesus” directs us to lean on Jesus and we’ll be “safe and secure from all alarms”. Romans 12:9 puts it more directly this way: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

All in all, I’ve found that when I strive to keep my mind set on the things above and rest on Jesus, my load is lighter, I experience more of His joy and His holiness is more evident. Then the sweet fragrance that is Christ can be an aroma that not only fills my life but draws others into the light of His love.

 

Do you feel called to be a leader?

Hopefully, those reading know we all have gifts, callings and work that God wants us to do and as the body of Christ no one person’s skills, talents and jobs are more important than anyone else’s. And we are all needed in order for the body of Christ to work properly and at it’s best. This includes followers and leaders both. :)

However, if you feel called by God to be a leader here is what He’s asking you to do: Go through, go through the gates, Clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, Remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples. Isaiah 62:10.

First as a Believer having gone through the gate of Jesus, you must make it a priority to follow God and obey His commands to the best of your ability. By doing this you will not only be showing people the way but clearing the way for them to follow. If you can make good choices it will inspire others that they can do it. too.

Secondly, you must influence your environment in such a way that a road is raised up above all the yuck of the world that the people can walk on daily making it easier for them to follow Jesus. This task also includes removing tripping hazards and things that could cause people to stubble or even fall. You are to not only build up a highway but make it smooth and safe for traveling.

Lastly, you must maintain this way of walking in the light of Jesus’ love for people by setting a godly standard of following God’s commands, laws and statues. This will insure the work done continues to endure and produce fruit providing peace, hope and joy for those traveling on the way.

While this is all done for the benefit of the people you lead and by way of leading serving, the strength, encouragement, comfort and joy among other things are all provided by God who continuously surrounds, protects, leads, guides and goes before you clearing and cleaning your path. If we let Him, God will do for us what He did for Joshua and the Israelites: But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. Deuteronomy 9:3.

So if you feel called by God to be a leader? GREAT. We need more godly leaders who will pray fervently first, obey God above the world and then see the following: I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. Isaiah 45:2.

And if you feel called by God to be a follower. GREAT. We need more godly followers that will prayerfully think for themselves [as Believers we are all filled and guided by the Holy Spirit and should yield to His leading first] and then set out to follow God and accomplish whatever task He sets before you. :)

2019 North Texas Expo Update

Well, God was so faithful in giving us another great Expo in NTX on Saturday! He did amazing things as always working through the hearts and minds of His people to bless others in His name. And to think 3 weeks ago we did not even have a site due to the flooding!

The smiles and joy of the Lord seen on so  many of the 808 participant, volunteer and even exhibitor faces was clear evidence of God’s presence and working to touch lives as only He can. From the horse painting, zip line and delicious food to the rock wall, petting zoo and gracious welcoming cheers, we heard lots of thank yous from attendees through out the day and afterwards. :)

As one mom of three boys including one with a disability put it, “Thank you so much for all the work you do to pull this event together.  My boys attended this year and last year and really had a wonderful time.” Just as importantly, she went on to say, “Your event really helps give true perspective about life to all 3 of my boys.”

Please know that Leanne and I so appreciate everyone who prayed, gave, networked and served! It is always encouraging to see the awesome blessings God pours out when His people come together as the body of Christ to be the hand and feet of Jesus here on earth! So thank you for all everyone did to make this Expo another God blessed success and a special call out to our super intern, Julia [who is a “get’r done: gal], our host, Valley Ranch Baptist [who graciously opened up our facility for our use], the Venture Church youth [who worked tirelessly all day for set-up as well as serving during the event and even staying to help tear down and load the equipment trailer] and of course Gateway church [who provided over 100 buddies], too!

If you’d like to see more photos you can follow the link to NTX Expo photo gallery on our website: https://access-life.org/ntxexpo and we even have a video of the zip line at: https://videopress.com/v/ESwBWhMi.

We hope to be back at the lake next year so be ready for the boat rides, kayaking and fishing again!

2019 East Tennessee Spring Fling Update

On Saturday, May 11, Shady Grove Methodist Church hosted its eighth Access-Life East Tennessee Outpost “Spring Fling”. The theme for this year’s event was “Celebrating Birthdays” complete with balloons, birthday cake, and ice cream to honor the 80th birthday of key volunteer, Barbara Suttles.

The annual “Spring Fling” is a recreational opportunity for individuals with special challenges and their family members  to experience fun activities in a safe and loving environment.

After playing a variety of games (bowling, Connect4, BINGO, and custom-made games), the participants enjoyed crafts including decorating mini-tote bags, making a take-home flower pot arrangement, and making a caterpillar on a leaf. Easel painting was a big hit, too. The Sunshine Ambassadors entertained with their dance routines and everyone enjoyed group singing.

All in all there were twenty-three participants, twenty-four family members, and twenty-eight volunteers making this another God blessed success!

Easter Blessings

Just as joyful as Christmas is in hope, encouragement and love,  Easter is in victory, power and finality.  Jesus’ journey is complete. He has risen and lives in eternal victory. The reward for His triumph is the free gift of eternal life for all people who will but choose Him. What a Savior and what a gift! Abundant, overcoming and victorious life on earth and an eternal home with Him in heaven forever.

What is even more amazing is that He continues to work everyday through the Holy Spirit seeking out His lost sheep. I love the way Jesus says it in John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Wow, how glorious a Savior to pursue us moment by moment!

God is so faithful despite the fact that each of us has chosen to go our own way like it says in Isaiah 53:6 “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” How great it is to serve our risen Savior, Jesus.

His Victory is complete, His work is ongoing and our home in Heaven is secure. Amen!

Resting in God’s Arms of Care

Well, both the Belize outreach trip and the West Palm Beach Expo are in the books for 2019 and we are pooped. It is always a fast paced, packed and rewarding first two months of each year but afterwards Leanne and I need some down time. And yes I mean “need”. :)

Rest is not just a want and desire we have from time to time but it is a vital need we have as humans. We are finite, mortal, weak and even frail and cannot maintain a high energy work pace indefinitely. Even Jesus took time to get away and rest. And as a genuine need, God always provides for us each a time and place to rest if we will take advantage of it.

God’s provision for rest is always safe, secure, holy and wholesome to restore, refresh and rejuvenate us as only He can on every level of our being. So today take time to rest. Enjoy God’s presence, the blessings He provides and maybe even take a nap. It is a great gift He offers us everyday.

Here are a couple of verses to encourage you as you take step back, shift into a lower gear and rest in the tender caring arms of Jesus. And as the old hymn “Leaning on Jesus” says you’ll be “safe and secure from all alarms”.

My presence will go with thee, and I will give thee rest. Exodus 23:14

I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8