Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nobody does it better

Nobody creates beauty better than God. Nobody.  Interior decorators and designers must take cues from His gorgeous creation of hues and of the way He combines those colors with textures. Oh, the way God puts colors together! I've heard someone say they think God's favorite colors are blue and green because there is so much sky and so many trees! Maybe. But it's all beautiful.

I just took this picture while My Hubs and I had a refreshing lunch on our deck today. The trees are just beginning to fill out with leafy shades of green. And the clear blue sky...oh, that shade of blue didn't come from a crayon box. Nope. God came up with it first.

Today my sister, Julie, sent me a photo she recently took of teal-colored robin's eggs in a cozy nest -- all perched on top of a bush. These glorious colors look fake don't they? But what they really are is perfection because man did not make them, God did. Look at that splash of yellow in that flower. Ahhhh. Beautiful! 

These tiny lavender flowers in our front yard look like intricate pinwheels. Oh, there are many sides to God... He's wonderfully tender and at the same time He is all-powerful.

Ah, yes, there's that beautiful sky today, making a wonderful backdrop
for the pinks and greens of the tree in our front yard!

The purple iris looks sort of like an animated character in a movie, doesn't it? The petals are very delicate and the stem is very tall and green. 

"'Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?' declares the LORD.'" (Isaiah 66:2)

Do you see HIM in all His beauty?

"How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all!" (Psalm 104:24)

I have learned that God speaks to us all the time. All the time. He speaks through our Bible reading and prayer, through worship music, through other people's encouragement and wisdom, through the Holy Spirit inside us and through His glorious creation! 

I have learned to find great joy and comfort in acknowledging God's presence in His creation. He wraps it around us, ya know! When My Hubs and I were enjoying our outdoor lunch together today and I looked over at those trees against the bright blue sky, a little breeze made the leaves flutter on the branches. Birds were chirping. I thought, "these are all God's gifts for us to enjoy" and it made my heart smile. He was with us out there. Yes, God's beauty and His glory were with us in our back yard. 

"Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord REJOICE." (Psalm 105:3). 

We were rejoicing.
psalm 34:3

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jesus is My Night Light

There's a lighthouse in our kitchen. That thought popped in my head late last night when I was walking from our bedroom through the dark family room into the kitchen area. I didn't hurt myself or trip on anything in the dark because there is a little night light plugged in the wall beside the toaster oven. It is a little red and white striped lighthouse! And it gives off just enough light to scatter the darkness. Just like His grace. He gives us enough grace for the day. Awesome thought isn't it? 
(Yes, I really did go back to our bedroom and get my cell phone to take these pictures in the middle of the night! Well, I've learned when inspiration comes I need to respond. I knew when that thought "There's a lighthouse in our kitchen" came in my head that God wanted me to write about it!)

God is in the absolute, minute details of every area of life! And the writer in me loves His analogies to things in our lives. You know, like "What fellowship can light and have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). It obviously can't because it only takes a little light, even the tiny bulb in a night light can scatter darkness in a room. Cool, huh? 

And then Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12). 

When we are HIS, we carry His light in us at all times. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ"' (2 Corinthians 4:6).

He commissions us to carry on His work here on planet earth by being the light! He tells us: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house [Yes, like last night for me!] In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). 

God's light gives us life! "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:5-7).

Jesus is our light in the night. He lights our path: "in Your light we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  It's a dark world we are living in and the dark does not like the light. Why? Light exposes hidden, dark things. Darkness wants to continue being dark. 

That's our battle as Christians. We want to love others into His light so they, too, can see the joys and power of belonging to Jesus and shining for Him.

Jesus shines His light to give us life. I used to think Jesus is the lighthouse. Period. Well, yes, He is. But I've been also pondering that maybe we are His lighthouses and Jesus is the light shining in each of us to help guide people to Him.

We are the Body of Christ! We are the light of the world! Let's shine on for His glory!

I invite you to celebrate with me and the amazing group, Rend Collective, link below:

My Lighthouse by Rend Collective

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Color of Jesus' Love is Blood Red

Drops of blood began to fall from Jesus' tortured body, long before He was brutally nailed to a wooden cross. He was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing what was ahead. And yet, He willfully submitted to the will of His Father in Heaven. He knew what was coming...He was going to take on the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world.

He had to suffer excruciating beatings with a multi-stranded whip made with metal and bone fragments in it to tear the flesh.  Soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and pressed it on his head. They mocked Him. They spit on Him. They beat Him. Jesus endured because He knew why He came to earth. He did it for love.

 And then, after his beatings they crucified Him! "Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death. Nails were probably driven through the wrists rather than the palms. The weight of the suspended body made breathing difficult and painful. Involuntary efforts by the legs to ease the pressure greatly increased pain in the feet. This ordeal continued until the exhausted victim could no longer breathe; this might take several days." (ESV commentary on Matthew 27:32-37).

He loved His disciples and lovingly prepared them for what was going to happen to Him. "And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the 12 disciples aside, and on the way He said to them, 'See we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and He will be raised on the third day'" (Matthew 20:17-19). 

Yes, hallelujah! Jesus is alive. After His resurrection He met with His disciples to encourage them. "Now the 11 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:16-20).

So why do [we] Christians always seem to sing and celebrate the name and person of Jesus? Why do we have hope and strength? Why do we have power to overcome? Why do we talk about Him all the time? Why do we gather for prayer meetings? Why do we gather on Sunday mornings? Why do we daily read our Bibles?

Because we KNOW Him. 

We know what He has done for us on the cross.
We know of His love for us. It's unconditional. It's forever. 
We know we need a Savior to take away our sins. 
We know we are powered by Jesus. 
We know we can't take credit for anything. 
We know everything comes to us sifted through His loving hands.
We know Jesus promises to always love us, provide for us and protect us. 
We know Jesus is truly trustworthy. 
And we like that. We like that a lot.
And just think. He did it for love.

Polly :)
"Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His Name together!
psalm 34:3

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Maleficent or Magnificent? We Have a Choice.

Ever notice how hard it is to be around a humble person when you're puffed up with pride? Oh, sorry, maybe it's just me who sees this in myself. Pride is so manipulative and brings out a very rude, controlling spirit. We begin to believe the lie that we are better than everyone and we know better than everyone! We're easily angered and very controlling. Anxiety and stress are our constant companions, too, because people around us are not doing what we want them to do! And we're not getting the attention we believe we deserve. Wah! Wah! Wah! It's just not working for us, is it?

Of course not. God "hates pride and arrogance..."  (Proverbs 8:13). But in His wisdom He will let us squirm and struggle in our prideful state until we get it and repent. King Nebuchadnezzar learned that hard lesson and said about God, "everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble." (Daniel 4:37). God always gives us warnings in Scripture about such sins as pride: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). He is always teaching His children so our relationship with Him can grow deeper. That's how much He loves us. He is amazing.

I know pride has the potential to be a very powerful spiritual bondage because it blinds us to the truth. When we have fallen into the pit of pride we don't see that our behavior can be devilish and can turn into this:
Hah! Yep. It's Maleficent, one of Walt Disney Studios Animated Villains! Please allow me creative license so I can say, "This is what our pride looks like on the inside." I don't see an ounce of humility here!  Nope. 

But God has promised a magnificent life for those who humble themselves and come to Him with child-like faith. In fact, He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

"Child-like faith is mature faith. It is wise to have this  kind of faith. It believes God the Father is in total control of all things. It buds, blossoms and bears fruit in the Father's unconditional love. We are talking about how little children who are delightfully alive and free from their burdens because they love and fully trust God as Father. It's like watching young children [us] who are fully aware they are dependent on others [God] to meet their needs; physically, spiritually and emotionally. We are the little children and God is our Father!"

"Humility is the key! God wants all of His children -- from the very young to the very old -- to humble ourselves, and joyfully and gratefully look to Him as our Sovereign Protector and Provider." (Excerpts from Totally Devoted 3, "Child-like Faith is Mature Faith")

A prideful person is usually impatient. A humble personality is more willing to joyfully wait, knowing the Father will take care of everything in her life.

Yes, we have a choice.

psalm 34:3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

spring always follows winter

Take a look at this photo. What do you see? 

What did you notice first: the vibrant, lively pop of yellow and deep green of the daffodils? Was it the fruitless, skeletal tree branches casting an eerie shadow on the wooden fence? Maybe you saw the dry pine straw peppered with crackly leaves leftover from a previous season?

This picture was taken in early spring, it was March. The temperature was 49 degrees that day. Obviously spring was coming but there were still remnants of the previous season. I call it in-between seasons.  And it's just like God, the Creator of all things, to insist that the daffodils break through the soil while the temperatures are still in the 40's and 50's. It is God who decides when the seasons begin and end. 

That's how He deals with us. We all know what it feels like to have our own personal winter. It's can be an overwhelming season of a breakup, a breakdown, disappointment, loss, pain, sickness, grief, frustration or ongoing discouragement. We feel the chill of loneliness because we hurt and we decide to cut ourselves off from others. It's a mistake to do that because we are the Body of Christ, but sometimes we let our winters take over and we decide to wrap ourselves in the harsh, unrelenting, ongoing ice storms of life.We don't run to God for comfort and help.We run to worthless things. Idols that don't love us back.

We shudder in our winter season because at times life is hard, and we forget that spring is coming. God promises "...weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5) and "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy..." (Psalm 30:11).

Yes! Life can be hard! Yes, for Christians, too. But we know we have a Lord and Savior who controls the seasons of life and the seasons of each of our lives. We look to our Creator who invites us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

And our lives are filled with joy, too, knowing that spring is coming for each one of us! "'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hop and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you"'( Jeremiah 29:11-12).

Grace, one of our daughters, left the Atlanta area to go shine for Jesus in the Los Angeles area. Her goal was to serve as a worship leader in a church and then work into appearing in shows in Hollywood.  She has lived there for seven years, appeared in 80 or so TV shows as a background actor, and  performed in musical theater. She has faithfully persevered in making connections and shining radiantly in the darkness there. After seven years, Grace was hired as a worship leader (she has a MA in Worship Arts). She's blossoming as she chooses the worship music each week, creatively arranges music, invites other musicians to join her team and sing for the glory of God. It has happened. And she is shining in her musical gifts. She's been like those daffodils.

We have to be like those daffodils. God commanded them to push through that cold hard soil and blossom and be fruitful and beautiful with who they are!  They had to break through and persevere through the harsh ever-changing weather.  It was their time to burst forth and glorify Him in their new season!

He's saying that to all of us. 

psalm 34:3

Copyright 2014 Totally Devoted 4
Copyright 2014 Photo by Polly Balint, Totally Devoted 4

Monday, April 14, 2014

GOD is totally devoted

Mercy Mornings

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself,
'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'"
 (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God is totally devoted to the love and care of His people. "Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." (Lamentations 3:32-33). 

I can testify to His faithfulness. In 2007 my precious husband, Don, had a stroke during the night. We were shocked because there were no health issues and he exercised regularly and ate well. I  didn't know it was a stroke, it was the EMT guys  who efficiently showed up in our bedroom who said, "He's having a stroke!" We rode in the EMT truck straight to the hospital and Don ended up in ICU. Relief temporarily showed up for us the next morning when Don was able to sit up and feed himself breakfast. A few hours later he shocked the hospital staff in ICU with another stroke. It took away his ability to speak, to remember his own family at his bedside, and couldn't feed himself. At the same time my beloved mother was in hospice in Coral Gables, FL --and we live in Atlanta, GA.

Don was in ICU for a week. When we brought him home he had to learn to walk, talk, and feed himself through going to the hospital three times a week for 8 weeks of physical therapy. But while Don was still in ICU my mother was  rapidly slipping away as I was keeping in touch with my siblings in Florida. I knew I wasn't to leave Don's side even after we brought him home because he could barely function. 

A few days later, when he was able to walk again we took our adorable, four-legged family member, Puah, a black lab, to the vet because we suspected something was terribly wrong. We were correct in our assumption. She was in severe pain and full of disease. Don and I sat on the examining room floor with her while the doctor injected a shot to put her out of her misery. Tears ran down our faces and into our laps. As our grief grew so did God's grace and it was enough to keep us going.

When we got home God impressed an urgency upon my heart to make a call my brother, Jeff,  -- where my mother was being cared for  -- and ask him to put the phone to my mother's ea. I sensed I was supposed to read a couple of pages from my journal to her. I had described my sweet memories of her and my love and gratitude for her.  The funny thing is, I wrote those pages months earlier and had saved them. When Jeff put the phone to Mom's ear, she was slipping into a coma but I read to her anyway. I had a sense she would know I was speaking to her. I had written about her love of family, her love of life, the legacy of golf and her joyful, party-like attitude. I started to sob before I finished reading but kept on until I finished pouring out my heart. I kept thinking, "She hears you."

My brother was crying on the phone when I finished. He said, "Polly! Polly! She heard you! She heard you! And you described her perfectly! That's Mother!" I believed him. I believed God wanted to show me His compassion and let me speak to Mom because I could not be there in her last days on earth. God helped me in my pain.

All my siblings had gathered at Jeff's.He asked me if I would send him a copy of my journal pages. Then he said, "I think we should have this read at her funeral." I was deeply touched. They agreed it should be included. They told me the pastor read my journal pages to everyone at Mom's funeral. So I got to be there and give her honor as my mom. God knew my heart was broken and as His child He was continuing to show me His faithfulness and care.

As for my sweet hubby, he has remarkably and miraculously recovered in such a way that he is back to working full time... and enjoying an active lifestyle again!

All glory to God. His mercies are new every morning. "Great is Your faithfulness." 

psalm 34:3

Copyright 2014 Totally Devoted 4, Devotion #1
Copyright 2014 Photos Polly Balint

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Feast on THIS! :)

The second half of Proverbs 15:15 says, "...the cheerful heart has a continual feast." The first time I saw this verse I was drawn to it. I dug in my Bible commentary to see exactly what is meant by a continual feast. It read, "Life is as joyful and satisfying as the days of a festival." Whoa.  Who doesn't want to have a continual feast? Words began to pop into my mind. Festive. Party. Celebration. Joy. Fun. Peace. Wow. I want that.  All of it!

I dug a little deeper into my  Bible to see where else Proverbs 15:15 would lead me. Three more Scripture passages were listed: "A happy heart makes the heart cheerful..." (Proverbs 15:13);  "A heart at peace gives life to the body" (Proverbs 14:30) and "Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance to come; celebrate it in the seventh month" (Leviticus 23:41).

I was so drawn to wanting a life like a continual feast that I wrote a devotion about it in my third book, Totally Devoted 3! I called it, "Join the Party!" I wanted to share it! Other references in my devotion included  "A merry heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22) and "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart and good news gives health to the bones (Proverbs 15:30). I also quoted, "Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). I ended the devotion with this: "Join the party. It never stops. There is always something to be joyful and thankful for when you are His." --Totally Devoted 3, page 41. You get the picture.

And a group from Northern Ireland has been singing that same message from the rooftops all over the world, apparently. They're an amazing, talented and boundlessly creative musical group called Rend Collective. Wow. They are so good I'm posting about them on the same day I viewed one of their videos for the first time! Yes. That good. Worship. Praise. Joy. Creative. Talented. Yep.

Here's the video [link] I saw this morning that got me hooked on their joyful tunes and worshipful lyrics.  It's called The Art of Celebration Story. It's seven minutes of pure joy and inspiration!

May our lives become a continual feast...all for the glory of God!
With love and joy and blessings,
psalm 34:3