Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tree of Life | A Dream Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV)

Monday, August 13, 2012

"The Big Picture" | Romans 8

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified...For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:28-30, 38-39 KJV

I sit here staring at this landscape and find myself thinking... Did I really give that away? 

I remember how excited I was to paint my last depiction of our vacation last year to the mountains and area around the Vail Mountain Range of Colorado. My inspiration for this painting was an adventure on horseback early one morning. As we rode along the rocky terrain of the Four Eagle Ranch a few miles outside of Vail, our guide began to tell us it takes something like a hundred years to grow 1 inch of the sage brush that literally grew out of the rocks and covered the ground. Most of the bushes stood two or three feet tall. Some stood even higher. 

As we rode along the fragrant, dusty green sage branches brushed against the legs of our horses and tickled the tips of my Chukas in the stirrup. I had never really seen anything like it. I mean yes there are sage brush and bushes here in Texas. And if you go west, there are long stretches of dry parched earth that go on as far as the eye can see. Tumbleweeds roll and pump jacks lilt back and forth in their work-a-day way. But, I have not seen anything like the growth of sage on that ranch in those rocks before. 

When I returned home I began to Google pictures of Colorado Sage Brush and found a picture of a tiny brown bird called a Sage Sparrow. It sat among the branches of the sage brush with its little brown feathers laid back in relaxed peace. 

I began to think a lot about that little bird and decided to paint and depict the little bird in sage through paints. I pulled out a 16x20 canvas and dialed in the landscape. I had been practicing a new learned technique of creating horizon perceptions and so my mountains reflect that very thing. Before i knew it I had the picture completely sketched in and ready to complete. 

This picture sat nearly finished in my closet for about six months waiting for its owner to surface. You see, I knew the meaning of the picture, but I did not know that recipient. 

Just before I took my leave from my position on staff in Pastoral Care I found the owner. The person for whom this painting was always intended. 

A friend serving in a position where he met so much opposition at every turn it would be impossible not to feel beat up or beat down whichever way you find it. You see, there are times in life when we slip into a place of authority and purpose and meet opposition. Not just opposition to what we do, but literally opposition to who we are. I think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as well as their friend, Daniel. And, so I told my friend that I had finally settled on the painting that I would give him for his birthday, that had taken place some four months earlier. He smiled enthusiastically and said, "I can't wait to see it." 

A couple of weeks ago I delivered the painting to the Ministry Center. And the message resonated so beautifully with my heart even though it was for someone else. Perhaps it will bless you, too. 

You see, I knew the passage for this painting to be Romans 8, but even then I didn't know the relationship. I shared with him in a note that I felt God wanted him to know what i had realized about this painting. The purpose of the painting was to demonstrate the delightful little bird on one of the bushes in the foreground. It is like the point of the picture is this little bitty bird in this great big picture. 

Did you get that? The entire purpose of the big picture is the little bitty bird. I realized that God had positioned my friend for this particular season within the big picture of His eternal plan and that not only is my friend the focus of the picture, right now he is the reason for it. That God has His eye on Him and has not missed a moment of anything that is happening in his life. 

What is it that God might be saying to you about your place in the big picture? Perhaps you should take a moment to ask Him about that yourself. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"The Labor Of Rest" | Hebrews 4

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience." Hebrews 4:9-12 NKJV
For the past three years I've had the privilege and the honor of working everyday and serving alongside some of the most passionate people in God's Kingdom with regard to the identity and freedom of His children. 
Bob Hamp not only held the position of Executive Pastor over the department I served in, but he also has been the man I considered to be my pastor and more importantly he is a friend. 
Bob recently made a journey called "Sabbatical" and without sharing too much of his story. He enjoyed a paid extended vacation where his sole purpose would be rest. Bob shared with us in a department meeting before he left that his journey of rest had a theme, "Go wherever I want, stop whenever I want and do whatever I want." Sounds like a tentative plan, right? 
His goal to completely immerse himself in the labor of rest. He wanted disrupted sleep cycles and to lose track of days. His desire seemed to be to lose Himself in the pleasure of God. 
At that meeting members of our department settled our hearts in and engaged God to pray for Bob and his wife as they entered into rest for the first time in his professional career. One by one people began to deliver words. And by the time we had made our way around the table many of us had seen him enjoying himself as a little boy. More than a few of us saw him playing in water and one of us saw him in the "Magic Kingdom" with mouse ears on. 
I saw the picture very clearly that I painted for him above. A little boy just overflowing with water being doused and immersed with joy. I told Bob that day that I could remember when my son was small and used to go out to play that something remarkable seemed to happen. When he played hard and returned home he was not tired, but instead he was re-energized and refreshed ready to go again. 
"The Labor of Rest" is a heart gift for a man who has so beautifully poured his life out for the benefit of others and now is receiving the pleasure of God as he returns from a season of rest. My prayer is that he will indeed live in that place until God calls him home.