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Be Radiant

Be Radiant

Is 60:1-2 TPT
Rise up in splendor and be radiant, for your light has dawned, and Yahweh’s glory now streams from you!
Look carefully! Darkness blankets the earth, and thick gloom covers the nations,
but Yahweh arises upon you and the brightness of his glory appears over you!

I woke up this morning thinking about all the people around me who are expressing the Lord in some creative way. Those verses in Isaiah no longer felt like a mysterious promise of something in the future. I saw His glory rising on His children everywhere. All those who have been seeking and obedient to step out, to press on, to not give up their creative work even when they feel their gift is small, their offering inferior.
As you have given yourselves, your time, and your gifts to God, He is raising you up. As you lift the name of Jesus, the name above every name, He is being glorified.

Like the moon lights the darkness with the reflected light of the sun, so we reflect the glory of God in the despair that covers the earth.

Art speaks. It tells stories in the language of the heart. Each creative work carries the voice of God. As trees, rivers, and flowers express God’s beauty, creativity, and love, so our art speaks light in a world filled with sadness and fear.

It’s not the beauty or perfection of the work as measured by a critic’s standard that makes our art valuable—it is the fingerprint of God; the heart of God coming through our brush, our pen, or musical instrument. When His voice lives in me, in you, when He is at home in us, everything we create is uniquely ours and God’s. No one can produce the expression of God that I do or that you do. God is to you and through you something the world is crying to see, to experience in their hunger, fear, and pain.

HIS GLORY

I do not argue the technical merits, features, or importance of a work of art or piece of writing or music, but one thing I know. If God is in you, then God is in your art. He is in your creative work. The Spirit of God living in the spirit of you and I, the artists, writers, poets, musicians, sculptors, inventors, and makers of all kinds touches all that we make.

As we send our work out into the world to speak, it shimmers in ways we do not even understand. His glory in you and I and in our work begins to fill the earth. Our art can take God places no person can go. It can touch parts of people’s hearts that they don’t even know exist. Our art can begin to heal wounds people aren’t even aware they have. God’s Spirit can speak so loudly and clearly through our creative works. Which is why it’s critical for us to do this work. To steward our creative calling.

SEEDS

Creating artistic work is a spiritual matter. Its effect can only be measured by God. Its impact can only be delivered by God. I don’t know how to measure or judge God’s outcomes. 

Counting seeds in an apple tells me how many trees might grow from this one fruit but it doesn’t tell me how many more apples will grow on all those trees. There is life in the seeds that we have no capacity to see. There is the touch of God’s life within seeds that we have no ability to measure.

That’s how I am with my creative work. I get all excited seeing that I’ve finished something or I get discouraged, wishing I was creating more or better work, while God waits, oh so patiently, for me to plant the seed so He can bring forth the life He’s put within it.

OBEDIENCE

I’m learning to obey this call to create. To honor this gift. To give God time to be with me in my creating. I’m learning to make room for it. Intentionally, giving space in my schedule to create. There’s been a shift in how I think about being creative. I used to struggle to give myself permission to make art. To create stories. But a few months ago, I felt this call became a point of obedience. He was no longer gently coaxing me to follow Him down this path. He was there. Standing in front of me, asking me whether I would write or not. Giving me a choice to decide whether I would follow Him in this. Or not. And I understood how very important artists and their creative activities are to God.

DESIGNED TO CREATE

We are authors, poets, musicians, sculptors, and artists because God calls us that. Long before there were art critics or success standards, there was art. There was God’s expression of creativity and love.

God created us artists before a single day of our lives began. While He was thinking of us with love, God designed us to create. He called us artists. If He has said it is so, who can say it is not? No one. Not even us. We, who are sometimes so unsure of what we carry, cannot say against the voice of God that we are not creative. That we are not artists.

Our art, our works, speak life, peace, and hope because we live with God. He is in our very cells. He is in our creating. We are anointed to create and our works carry God into the world. Wherever it goes, our work speaks to hearts in words only they understand. Heals in ways we cannot imagine. Write, sing, paint, sculpt, draw, craft and create….

It matters more than you know.

Blessings on all your dreaming and making!

An ending and a beginning

An ending and a beginning

Nothing prepares you for an immense loss.

No amount of mental stretching makes you fit for the experience.

No exercise in being strong or tough prepares you.

There is no way to know ahead of time just what places of your heart will break.

No way to experience just how deep the loss will be felt until it happens.

If not for Jesus, the loss of my husband, Mike, would be too heavy for me—the weight of its emptiness would crush me.

Mike was my best friend. The one who believed in me long before I did. The champion of all my efforts. The one who made a safe place for me to explore God, writing, and art. He brought daily laughter and kindness into my life. He introduced flowers, bubbles, cartoons, and joy into our life together.

When God called him home in August, my life changed forever.

“The past is prologue.” Shakespeare

Every ending is a beginning. For me, this ending opened a new awareness of God as comforter. Jesus as the lover of my soul. Grace as an empowering force that holds me each day and enables me to see a new future. To live, hopefully, in a new beginning.

Life is a series of changes, transitions. Stretching my faith. Calling me always ever deeper into intimacy with God. Calling me to explore who He is for me and with me and in me.

Increasing my awareness that every breath I take comes from a love for me so deep I can’t even imagine it.

There are new rhythms to explore now. New things to see and draw my focus. I’m walking carefully. Watching where my foot falls next. But always aware God is with me. Still leading. Still making a path before me.

I’m exploring an unknown, unimagined, future from His heart and a call to explore the newness in what looks and feels sometimes like a barren land when I can’t let go of the ending and face fully the beginning.

I’ve been asking God how to mourn as though I don’t* and I see as I mourn any loss—of a dream, a career, a place, a person, I see I don’t move at all if I’ve got one arm holding onto the ending and one reaching toward the beginning.

In faith, with trust, I must fully embrace the new. In surrender and sometimes forgiveness, I must let go and turn my back on the old dream, old place, old way of living.

One day, I felt God nudge me to write down all the goodness I received from Mike. All the things he brought into my life that changed me. I saw the legacy he’d left within me.

I felt the heart of God telling me to take those things and live them for others.

Hunger for what is gone can never be filled. It can only consume me. Immobilize me.

But if in trust I surrender it to the One who knows me best and loves me most, I can face the new beginning.

His plans and thoughts and love do not stop because I experience great loss. Darkness and light are alike to Him. He is with me through the valley of the shadow of death. No matter what kind of death we’ve encountered, His life, light, and love will forever be calling us forward into exploring the unknown mystery of new life.

 


*1 Cor 7:29-31
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

 

Facing Reality

Facing Reality

The Kingdom of God is an unseen realm. 

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 NIV

Every born-again child of God is invited to facing reality in this unseen kingdom.

FACING REALITY

What does facing reality really mean? And I also ask, “whose reality am I facing?”

For over 14 years I worked in community development. My job was to imagine a better future and create a plan for the community to accomplish it. If we cannot imagine or envision a different reality than what darkness shows us then there is not much scope for dreaming or achieving.

In my job with communities I told stories of what they could be because they couldn’t imagine what they had never seen. I found other cities that had been transformed—cities like theirs—and as I shared the ideas, the residents began to have a vision for a different future. A future with hope in it. They could see a new reality.

Every once in awhile people will tell me I need to face reality, by which they mean I must see and be overwhelmed by the darkness as they are. I must become miserable or hopeless or angry because surely any halfway intelligent person can’t look at the world and not fear.

But throughout the Bible we hear God telling His children, His followers, to fear not. To trust and be at peace for He is with them. Every person who met God saw a different reality than the rest of the crowd. 

Noah built a boat in a land where some scholars say there had never been rain.

David put a stone in his slingshot imagining, believing in a God who was with him. A God that no one else could see. And truly no one else saw a reality in which David was victorious. But God did.

When people say I must face reality they point to governments, crime, inflation, or some broken local system; some freedom no longer available; some future without hope. I heard someone say that fear is simply imagining a future without God in it. It’s like faith pointed in the wrong direction. Fear is having more belief in the darkness than in the light. 

THE RENEWED MIND

“The renewed mind reflects the reality of another world.” I think Bill Johnson said that.

Everything, every single thing, in our ‘real’ world was born from an unseen world. The earth formed, stars created and named, our very breath given by a God we cannot see. By a spiritual Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

There is only One who created everything. Every amazing thing from atoms to the Milky Way – from fish that glow in the dark to our complex human bodies. Every system in creation was designed, given, and is upheld by the God we seek. By the God who loves us.

Out of this unseen realm comes a reality stronger than death. A love that cannot die. Cannot be silenced. Beauty that never ends…every book I will ever write, every vision I will ever see, every plan I will ever need comes from an unseen realm.

This reality with things I can see and touch, things with mass and form is the fragile one. The unseen reality of my Heavenly Father, of my God, is the substantial one. The one that cannot be destroyed. Its elements are eternal. The space-time continuum does not exist in His reality. Only in ours. He made it for us-for our world, a place with scientific restraints where we could begin to know Him. To have relationship with Him. Exploring the boundaries of who He is and who we are and what He’s given us in creation: naming animals, discovering hundreds of ways to employ a peanut – ways God knew when He created the little legume. Hundreds of ways that are designed into every realm of life. Ways He has always wanted to share with us. 

THE CALL OF LIFE

My biggest challenge is in thinking I can manage this life and its reality without Him or that I’m on my own and supposed to do it all myself. Not understanding that His heart’s intention was always to unfold it all with me. To share the mysteries of His reality with His children. To let us stand on the mountains and hear how He flung the stars into space. To wander the desert with Him and see springs come alive under our feet. To experience real life. The true life in our Father, our God, that never ends.

His reality always produces life. Everything it touches rises up in answer to the call of life. A life so big, so thick it pulls us into eternity when we choose it. When we choose Jesus we encounter a reality that is full of life and light and beauty. A reality not dependent upon how I am treated, what people say, or what the circumstances around me are doing. The anchor of my reality is held fast in an unseen world. 

And yet we look at one another and say, “Be real, darkness is winning.”

I’m not willing to face that reality. I don’t believe in it.

In fact, I choose to not be part of the darkness – to not spread the darkness. I choose to be a seeker of light. God is in everything in creation. Every single creature, every single one of us. We cannot keep Him out or stop Him. He can be found. He wants to be found by us.

In God’s reality you and I are alive and free. We have each become all He dreamed we would. In this reality, where He calls us, woos us with His faithfulness, we bow to our Warrior-King-Savior who fights for us, not the dark thief who only enslaves us with lies. When we face God’s reality, we hardly even see the liar because the light of Jesus is so bright.

Only God knows what is real. Reality is not what we observe or experience or believe to be true based on the only facts we can see. Reality is what God knows to be true. Reality is something I will never see if I don’t ask God to show me what it looks like to Him.

We, God’s children, God’s artists, writers, and poets are the storytellers of His reality. Painting, writing, dreaming, sharing the the glory and hope of the unseen realm with those whose hearts are longing for a place, a future….a God who loves. It is an adventure to face God’s reality. A joyous exploration of real life.

Heavenly Father, what do you want us to know about being connected to your Heavenly realm? to your reality? Where, how, and to whom should we go and share Your future and hope and reality for them?


TEACHING: LIVING IN HEAVEN NOW  Bill Johnson

WORSHIP: HOLY FOREVER Jenn Johnson

The Ungiven Fear

The Ungiven Fear

What I don’t give to God cannot be touched by Him. Cannot be healed by Him.
He cannot show me the truth of any of the things I don’t or won’t give to Him.
Like the boy who gave his bread and fish to Jesus. So trusting and small, yet so big in the hands of Jesus.

I recently stumbled upon a better way of giving my fears to God. Fear has been a driving force nearly all of my life. Someone said that the enemy has only a few things in his arsenal to use against us. Fear, guilt, and shame are the things he uses most effectively to move us off track, keep us distracted, or to immobilize us completely from experiencing God’s good intentions for our lives. That’s been so true in my life.

I’ve been listening to Jamie Winship, the author of Living Fearless. He teaches about our identities and truth-telling with God. About a process of simply bringing our real fears to God and asking Him, “What do you want me to know about this?” This situation, this fear, this circumstance, this confusion, this darkness.

I’ve done something like that in my prayers, but I wasn’t actually asking God what He wanted me to know. I was asking God what He wanted me to know so I could fix the thing. To make the outcome what I wanted it to be. I did not consider He might have a different outcome in mind. Or a different path. Or even a place of peace in the midst of the storm. I was pushing for peace that came because I knew I was going to have my results one day soon.

That is how I discovered truth in the inward parts. I didn’t know those were my thoughts. My motives. I didn’t realize I did not trust in my Heavenly Father’s plan. Not really. Not when I wasn’t seeing anything change in my circumstances. I knew what His blessings should look like and they weren’t coming my way. And I was afraid. Afraid I was too bad, too unfaithful, too broken for Him to give me what He said was mine. Afraid I would always fail. Afraid I would reap all the consequences from a life not lived well. All the consequences that were surely due me.

One morning recently, I heard the Lord say my true challenge was my biggest fear and I had made that fear an idol. I was serving it. Listening to its lies more than I was listening to God’s truth. I was spending time, energy, and resources on trying to change things because I was afraid. I was working in my own strength and with my own reasoning. I even made prayers to God encouraging Him with His own Word to fix the problem as I saw it. I didn’t see the true issue. I needed Him to show me the actual truth, which was that I was bowing down to the god of fear and it was stealing the life, the hope, and my future from me. I was threshing wheat in a cave like Gideon because I was afraid.

I was led to see how Gideon finally accepted the identity word God came to give him. The identity of Mighty Warrior. Gideon’s first act of obedience before he fully experienced his true identity as a mighty warrior was to tear down the idol that had been built because the people feared the gods of the Amorites.

That morning, The Lord asked me to tear down my idol to fear. To serve only Him not fear of unknown outcomes; not fear of others’ opinions; not fear of hidden disasters waiting for me. To serve only The Truth. Jesus. Bow only to Him. To ask Him each day, in each thing I encounter, in each fear that comes what He wants me to know about it. What is His truth in it. And then what He wants me to do with it.

As unbelievable as it sounds, the fear is gone. Nothing changed in my outward circumstances but the white-knuckled grip I had on each moment of every day is gone. There is peace, yes, beyond understanding, filling my heart, spirit, and mind. There is trust that He truly has it all figured out and ALL His intentions for me are good. That He always intended to take me to a promised land not have me die in the desert. I just didn’t believe it when all I saw was an empty landscape covered with gritty sand.

It is not the mountain in front of me that is my problem. It’s my fear of the mountain. It is not the river in my way that is the real challenge. It’s my lack of trust in God’s Word when He said, “Speak to the mountain and it will move.” When He said, “I am taking you to a land of promise that is yours and I will make a path for you, even to parting the sea that stands between you and my promise.”

“Do Not Fear. I will be with you.”

I know now that every time I am afraid I must tell Him and ask Him what He wants me to know about the circumstance. I heard Jamie say that fear simply points to a lie we believe. That was true for me. I believed the lie that God couldn’t want to be good to me when I had so many times not followed well. The lie that God didn’t care about this area of my life. That I was not worthy to have a solution and it made me afraid and unbelieving.

God came and reminded me His Word is the ultimate Word over everything. That His love for me is never ending. That He is with me always. That ALL His ways are for my freedom. For my relationship with Him. For my transformation. His mercy is new EVERY morning and all I have to do is receive it.

May you be blessed with a fearless journey today and always.

Hugs & Blessings, dear friends,

Belinda

Next time I’ll tell you what I’m learning about receiving!

 


TEACHING

Getting Your Identity from God: Jamie Winship

WORSHIP

No Other King: JesusCo

 

The Christmas Yes

The Christmas Yes

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. Luke 1:45

——

Jesus keeps quietly, gently inviting me to follow Him into places I’ve never been. Places with people. Creative environments with artists. Even into unfamiliar business trails. He keeps asking me to say, “Yes.” “Yes,” to His request that I follow Him into a vast unknown kingdom land.

Mary’s Yes

In reflecting on the birth of Jesus, and Mary and Joseph’s part in this great event, I saw the Christmas Yes. I saw it was Mary and Joseph’s response to God that made Christmas come alive for us all.
They were waiting. Looking for the One who had been promised to come. Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ birth 700 years before He was born. Generation after generation had waited. Until all they knew was waiting. Until the day an angel came to Mary.

In that one moment, that one choice, Mary’s life was forever changed. As was ours.

As Mary said, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word,” in that minute she must have known where her yes could lead her. She must have known she could be shamed and rejected by her family and friends. Shunned by her betrothed and the community. Although the prophecies spoke of the virgin birth of the coming Messiah, who would ever believe that it could be her?

In spite of any of her doubts, Mary honored God more than all those others and said, “Yes.” From then on, this seed God planted in her was His work. He formed this child in her womb.

Joseph’s Yes

And then I thought about Joseph. About the angel that kept showing up in his dreams and giving him messages from God. I found four records of his encounters with an angel as he slept. In every case, Joseph’s response was the same: he immediately got up and obeyed the directions given. This was Joseph’s yes. Complete, immediate obedience.

The Ungiven Yes

I thought more about my own, “Yes,” to God. When He speaks to me of His plans or purposes for my life, His dream seeds. Is my response, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word?” Or when He speaks quietly, softly nudging me to make more room for Him in my life, is my response to immediately rise and do what He said?

As He comes to me planting promises of who I am in Him. Of where we will go together. And my “yes,” like Mary’s, is an abandonment of trust that opens my life to His work within me. His forming of something within me I do not recognize and cannot see until I say, “yes.” Then, in expectation, I watch Him create this work in me. I wait as He births this promise. This “yes” requires only that I believe in what He has said.

I realized I was fairly good at giving Mary’s “yes”. The one that signifies a level of trust in God. In who He is and in His power to do the work. I say, “yes,” knowing the how and when is up to Him. What I don’t do so well is Joseph’s “yes”. The “yes” that requires obedience. I say my “yes,” expecting God to do the rest. I saw that in Joseph’s “yes”, he understood there was a responsibility to God, to Mary, and to Jesus and he was committed to do whatever God said to steward these lives placed in his hands.

I found Joseph’s immediate, obedient, “yes,” so amazing. I don’t always do that. I tend to ponder and then wonder if I really heard from God. I wait, sometimes thinking perhaps I need confirmation. I may look for a Bible verse. Many times I just forget about the words because I am not sure they are real…

In my author journey, I have not seen that God’s call on my creative life requires a commitment. That there is a responsibility attached to my “yes”. That when I say, “Yes, I trust you,” I am also receiving an assignment to go and do. To follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and act.

I was so convicted by Joseph’s, “yes.” I had to sit with God and repent for the many, many times I did not acknowledge His word to me. I prayed for empowering grace to trust and obey. Trust like Mary did. Obey like Joseph.

Trust and Obey

There’s a fullness in the lesson of Mary and Joseph’s faith in God. There was an expression of trust and an expression of obedience. Mary surrendered to God’s work within her womb. There was not one thing she could do to form the Messiah child within her body. God planted the seed of this child. She had faith in His word over her life. She had an absolute trust He would fulfill all that He said. Her only part, as far as I can see, was her “yes”. Her willingness to be what God called her “favored one.” Mother of the Messiah. Her response was one of surrender. As God chose her, she chose Him.

One “yes” in our lives is our willingness to be what God calls us, whether it’s artist, author, craftsperson, singer, poet or architect. To trust in the word the Lord has spoken to us about what’s in us. To surrender to His life within us.

Joseph’s instant obedience to the word of the Lord was a different expression of faith in God than Mary’s, but without his immediate action, the mother and child would have been in danger and could have died. It’s obvious that God knew when He chose Joseph, He had found a man whose heart was committed to God.

I am inspired and convicted by Joseph’s “yes” to God. I know I need to listen more clearly to God to understand better what is His work and what is mine. What is He birthing and what am I being asked to steward in obedience?

The Event

Another thing that struck me was the context of Mary and Joseph’s faith. After generations of waiting, He was coming. The Messiah. Their trust and obedience opened the way for the birth and protection of the son of God, Son of man, Jesus.

We sit in a similar place today. Waiting. Waiting for the Beloved Savior to return. Foretold so long ago, we have almost despaired, but He’s coming back. All that God said will come to pass. Our “yes” today, our faith and obedience, ushers in His kingdom. Advances His kingdom in us and through us. Our “yes” gives Him permission and room to fulfill His word to have a bride without spot or wrinkle. To form in us and act with us in bringing Jesus to the world in the way that He dreams. Each one of us has a Christmas Yes waiting for our response. A “yes” of trust and a “yes” of obedience.

The Blessing

In the Name of Jesus, I bless you as you trust and obey. May the seed of your “yes” be watered this day with the love that falls from heaven and brings new life to you and all God’s planted within you.