Shaping Us Into Something Beautiful

Psalm 66:10  For You have put us to the test, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.

This week we went to one of our local museums to see a demonstration of blacksmithing by one of our friends. He does this as a hobby, but I was impressed with his knowledge of both the history and the craft.

The main ingredients of metal work are the firing and the hammering.

Living with a person who has a mental illness can feel like that. Fire and hammers.

When it feels like the heat and the pounding are too much, I cry (i.e. complain) to God. I get weary of the tension of not knowing what our family member’s day will be like. Will he be calm today? Will he get anxious or even volatile in response to even minor things?

Why, God, can’t you just heal him?

When a blacksmith heats the metal to a glowing red, he can pound it into the shape he wants. He can then put it into water or oil to cool it down.

So it is with God’s work in my life. There will be those times of firing and hammering, but there will also be times of respite. And when I come up out of the cooling water, I’ll begin to look like what God is creating me to be.

Take heart, my friend. God  is making your life into something beautiful.

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Level Ground

Psalm 143:10  Teach me how to do Your will, for You are my God. Allow Your good Spirit to guide me on level ground, to guide me along Your path.  (VOICE)

I recently started walking every evening around my neighborhood. My reward is good health, but there’s also another reward.

Sometimes I find money – a penny here, a nickel or dime there, or occasionally even a quarter. (Sometimes I don’t find anything, but that doesn’t keep me from looking.)

Another thing about my neighborhood is that no matter where I go, it is either uphill or downhill. While I long for that level ground, I know that the ups and downs boost my physical health.

I got to thinking today about how my walking routine is a lot like my spiritual walk. It’s full of uphill and downhill, and both are good for me. Struggling uphill, especially those steep mountains of discouragement, teaches me to breathe in deeply from the Holy Spirit. Once I am on the downhill side of my problems, I can look back and see how God took me through them.

And the coins? Those are little rewards that show me I am on the right track. Times when I know I am following God’s will, like being in the right place at the right time to be able to serve someone

It sure would be nice to have level ground to walk on all of the time. But just remember that God has a path for your life, and all of it benefits your spirit.


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Trusting a Good God

Psalm 118:1  Give thanks to the Eternal because He is always good.
    He never ceases to be loving and kind. (VOICE)

Trusting God has been a life-long struggle for me. When things are confusing or chaotic or just plain scary, my default state of mind is to distrust that God is actually on my side.

Living with a person who has a brain disorder can be messy, and having control of my environment is impossible. God has been speaking to me lately about trusting Him and His plans for my life. And living with a mentally ill person is part of that plan.

 I love this verse from Psalms because it’s unequivocal in its declaration about God. The words “always” and “never ceases” state plainly that God’s basic nature is one of goodness and love and kindness.

If that’s true – and God’s Word is always true – then I can know without a doubt that whatever He allows into my life will benefit me by helping me grow closer to Him and to develop more of a Christ-like character.

You and I may never understand fully what God is doing, but we can always count on the fact that He will never do anything that contradicts His character. Everything He does is motivated by His love for us. So we can rest in the knowledge that the One in control is perfectly good and loving and kind.

I had a quotation on my desk for years. I don’t know where I originally found it, but when I ran across it again this week, I put it on the wall where I’d see it every day. It’s like a booster shot for my faith.

“When you can’t see His face, trust His heart.”



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God’s Extravagance

1 John 3:1a  Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.

U.S. National Park Service Saint Mary Lake

We’ve just returned from a trip through Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. It’s some of the most extraordinary landscape God has created.

Throughout Montana I saw something else. At the edges of some fields across the state there were crosses.

Seeing those crosses reminded me that no matter how amazingly beautiful the scenery is, God’s love, shown through His sacrificial death, is even more wonderful.

In the midst of the mental illness journey, the marvels and wonders of God’s creative power reminds me of the comfort and stability of God’s extravagant love.

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The Pattern I Can’t See

Psalm 147:5  Our Lord is great. Nothing is impossible with His overwhelming power. He is loving, compassionate, and wise beyond all measure.  (VOICE)

In the complicated and irregular world of my stepson’s mental illness, nothing is more important than my relationship with God. The assurance of His love and the knowledge that He knows exactly what I am going through can hold me up when I would otherwise fall into a crumpled mess.

Yet, I sometimes get discouraged when my prayers seem unheard. I don’t see much progress in my stepson’s battle with his brain disorder, but I have to believe that God is still in control. Even if I don’t understand how God works, I know that He allows, in His unlimited wisdom, those things that will help me grow.

One time I heard about an illustration that Corrie Ten Boom used. We see our life like looking at the underside of embroidery work, full of ragged ends of different colored threads, lines crisscrossing in random paths. God sees our life from the top, from His vantage point. He sees a beautiful finished piece of art, His own handiwork.

So I am learning to trust Him as I move forward. It may seem like He’s far away, but He’s not.


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Freedom in Christ

Galatians 2:19  The law has provided the means to end my dependence on it for righteousness, and so I died to the law. Now I have found the freedom to truly live for God.  (VOICE)

Sometimes in the stresses of everyday life, especially life with a mentally ill family member, it’s easy to forget to be grateful. This past year I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal in which I’ve listed things both big and small which are blessings from God. Things like family and friends, clothing and shelter, flowers and sunsets. Even little things like the cute dogs across the street that entertain us with their wrestling. Generalities and specific details. It all gets recorded.

photo by Nachoman-au

Tomorrow, the Fourth of July, is a favorite of mine. It reminds me that we live in a wonderful country with freedoms that some of our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world only dream of.

As you celebrate this year, whether it’s a picnic or fireworks or a parade, pray for those who can’t enjoy those blessings so easily taken for granted here.

And especially be grateful for the freedom we have because of what Christ did on the cross.

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My Big God and My Small Problems

Psalm 8:1  O Eternal, our Lord, Your majestic name is heart throughout the earth; Your magnificent glory shines far above the skies.  (VOICE)

On our recent vacation we drove half-way across the country to be with family. I love that drive, even if it is long.

The variety of landscapes never ceases to amaze me as we travel from mountains and through the high desert, past farms and ranches, across wide rivers and alongside dry creek-beds. We spent a week on a lake that had eagles and loons. We experienced a rain storm and some magnificent sunsets.

When I think of how God spoke all of this into existence, it’s impossible to comprehend how powerful He is and how limitless His creativity must be.

Even so, why is it that I act like He can’t take care of my problems? Why do I feel like my issues are either too small for Him to be bothered with or too big for even Him to handle? Why does it feel like my stepson’s mental illness is an impossibility even for God?

I get this way when my range of vision is too small. That’s one reason why road trips are valuable for me. When I look at His creation in just this small part of the universe, things are put into perspective.

The Bible says that even the littlest thing in my life doesn’t escape His notice. Imagine, the great God of the universe, the Creator of everything, is interested in little ol’ me.

Our problems are small compared to the bigger picture. Our time here on earth is so short compared to eternal life.

So be encouraged. We’re all in the same boat here on earth, but we sometimes need to look up at the stars and remember how big our God is.

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