Recently, my church had its end of the year award ceremony for the Awana ministry. For an end-of-the-year gift, Traci and I decorated big cereal boxes with colorful scrapbooking paper and put each girl’s name on the box. When we were done, I put little gifts inside the box for them. They were toys they could play with over the summer.
The art form we used is known as decoupage. Decoupage actually comes from the French word “decouper,” which means to cut out or cut from something else. Traci had seen the idea on Pinterest, and she also heard about it from a friend. She thought it would be more fun than just buying a bag and giving the girls gifts. I like doing crafts, so that’s what I did with help from Traci. It was fun, but a very time-consuming process. To do this, we used Traci’s manual die-cut machine. The die was placed onto the paper and then the whole ensemble was pressed between two plates. The entire ‘sandwich’ was then passed through the die-cutting machine, sequentially cutting out the design.
It reminded me of something similar to an old jack-in-the-box toy because it had an easy-to-turn lever. For the most part, I was able to do it once Traci lined up the paper. However, there were a few times when the paper got stuck, Traci had to get a new piece of paper, and I tried again. The key was to make sure that my hand was directly on the lever, moving it up and over, and then the paper could pass through the machine’s rollers with the right amount of pressure applied to cut the die into the different shapes of the letters to spell each girl’s name.
The problem occurred when my hand was on the handle, but my fingers that were helping me were turned to the side while I was rotating the lever. That’s when the paper got stuck and was stopped from coming through. I got a lot of resistance. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and we were done with the letters in no time and moved on to the next step.
This minor struggle reminded me of how, even as Christians, we run into trouble when we try to do things on our own strength instead of turning to God and saying, “What is your will in all of this?” When we haven’t been gathering with other Christians, reading our Bibles, and praying to God regularly, we can be like the paper that doesn’t pass through the rollers; our hands, or in this case our hearts, aren’t in the right position. However, when our hearts are in the right position, we can be like the paper that passes right through the rollers without any trouble at all.
I think people often misunderstand Philippians 4:13 which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In many conversations I’ve had with people over the years, they seem to believe that if you just have enough faith, you should be able to do whatever you put your mind to. For instance, when people look at me in my wheelchair, they seem to believe that if I just had enough faith, I could rise out of my wheelchair. All I have to do is believe that God will make that happen, and He will. Not necessarily.
People often don’t think about what the Lord told the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That means that we can ask God for something, but if it’s not God’s will for our lives, it won’t happen because it’s not supposed to. God wants to use our struggle to reach people in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. A hardship that sticks with you is not a mistake.
How about you? Is your heart like my hand on the die-cut machine that was in the wrong position? Are you stopping God from coming through with the answers to help you, or is your heart in the right position and you’re depending on God for strength? Are you ready to be shaped into the perfect form God has in mind for you?
Help me to have my heart in the right position, and be like the scrapbooking paper that passes through the rollers whose die is shaped into the perfect form you want it to be. I can’t wait to see what other great surprises you have in store for my life. I know that no matter what happens, you’re always good.
Here’s an example of what Decoupage looks like.. Traci is right behind me She’s the one who told me about it. I had fun making the boxes with Traci. To learn more about decoupage, click the link below.
Amy, Author. “What Is Decoupage? Learn from an Expert!” Mod Podge Rocks, 10 Jan. 2021, https://modpodgerocksblog.com/decoupage-learn-from-an-expert/
Author’s Note: Philippians 4:13 is in the New King James Version, and 2 Corinthians 12:9 is in the New International Version.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my grandma, Eleanor Giese. She passed away in December 2020. She left quite a biblical legacy for the family. We buried her in January. I was thinking about something she would often say when other people in the family, including myself, were concerned about some of the small things in life.
We laid Grandma to rest at New Hope Community Church in Sunland, California. This was her second home. She was part of every ministry. She served there for over 20 years until she had to move to an assisted living facility in Alhambra, California because she needed help taking care of my grandpa. She lived to be 100 years old. March 21, 2021 would have been her 101st birthday. What I remember most about my grandma is her smile, and the way she was always so happy, and able to laugh.
This came to mind when something happened during the burial service when we were laying Grandma to rest. After the minister said his remarks, a few verses were read that reminded us of Grandma’s character. Then my mom, my cousin Linda, and I each took a turn sprinkling her ashes under a tree in a planter that had a lion and a lamb statue. Obviously, this is not something you do every day. When it was my turn, my mom helped me.
As I leaned my body forward to sprinkle my part of Grandma’s ashes, my mom tried to help angle my hand so it would go in the right direction. Cousin Paul asked my mom, “Do you want me to push her forward?” My mom shook her head no. She should have let cousin Paul push me forward, but she thought I was close enough. It turned out she was wrong. As I said, this is not something you do every day. Anyway, as we lifted the bag, and began to pour Grandma’s ashes into the planter, because my wheelchair wasn’t close enough, some of Grandma’s ashes ended up inside the planter, and some of them ended up on the outside spilled over onto the wall. When we were all done, we washed the ashes into the planter.
At first, I was upset. I kept trying to scrape the ashes off the wall, and throw them in the planter. I wanted it to go perfectly. Then my mom reminded me of something. She said, “Grandma Giese would find it comical. She would laugh and say, “’It don’t matter.’” I thought about it for a minute and then I calmed down when I realized that my mom was right. It reminded me of how my grandma would say that about many things. She learned how to brush off little things like that and just focus on strengthening her relationship with the Lord.
Grandma grew up during the time of the great depression when people didn’t have a lot of money. So they shared many things. For instance, a whole family shared one pair of roller skates.; yet yet no one complained. They were just happy to have the things they had, as well as each other. Grandma surrendered to every situation life handed her, including when she had to go into full care. Because of that, she was very pleasant to be around. The nurses often talked about how they enjoyed having her around because she was so easy to take care of. She was a true servant of the Lord who always had a smile on her face. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she is wearing the beautiful crown of life that the Bible talks about in James 1:12 where it says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Lord, teach me to have that same smile like my grandma and to say, “It don’t matter,” and focus my eyes heavenward on the things that matter to you. Amen. See you soon, Grandma. Enjoy heaven.
*Author’s Note: Here’s a link to the church my grandma attended and served at for over 20 years. At the time, it was called Sunland First Baptist Church. Now the church has been renamed, but they still carry on many of the same traditions. When my mom and I went there to check out the facility before we buried my grandma, we saw a whole bunch of children getting out of school, and families playing on the playground. It was a grade school, and the kids were in uniforms. Grandma loved children. She would be thrilled to know that her home church is still thriving in the middle of the pandemic. https://www.newhopesunland.com/
Here’s my part of sprinkling Grandma Giese’s ashes. Can you see some of her ashes that spilled over onto the outside of the wall?
Sitting next to me is my mom, Rosemary, and my cousin Linda is standing next to me. I’m holding Lady on my lap. She’s a Chihuahua. She was Grandma’s dog. My mom and I take care of her now. She loves to snuggle, and get real close to people! My mom gets up before I do. When she wakes up, she brings Lady into my room every morning, and we snuggle together in bed before it’s time to start the day. She loves to bury herself under my covers. It’s another way for me to remember my grandma. She was such a warm, family-oriented person.
Wow! These are scary times we live in, aren’t they? 2020 has turned into quite a year! As if dealing with the coronavirus isn’t enough, after George Floyd was killed, many cities were under curfews until people could learn to be responsible. Stores and buildings were being looted, vandalized, and set on fire. In the few places where I saw protesters around my city, I saw many people standing in streets shouting, “Defund the police!” and not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Now, due to reports of more people being tested, numbers of the coronavirus are going up. We didn’t get to have fireworks for the Fourth of July. Now the CDC is advising people to take similar actions with other holidays. Some states have shut down and returned to phase one just when businesses were starting to open back up. Some businesses have suddenly had to permanently close down due to financial hardship, causing people to lose their jobs. School districts are trying to figure out how to open safely, educate students online, or explore what their other options are. Parents who never would have imagined themselves homeschooling their children before are now doing it. Restaurants are only allowing takeout orders; a few places have outdoor seating, but not very many. When my mom and I go to a restaurant, we have to wait outside until our order is called. They won’t even let us get our own drinks. Some restaurants are only taking orders through apps on phones, online, or in drive-thrus. I’ve heard stories of some pastors who don’t believe that the statistics the news is giving for the virus add up. They feel that the government has gone too far with what they’re asking the church not to do. These pastors are holding services inside of their church buildings, just like they did before the pandemic. They’re taking a strong stand for God and trusting that He will protect their congregation; obeying God rather than men. I’ve also seen pictures in the news of protesters, who would love to see the church doors closed for good, standing outside the church during the service and fighting with attenders. In some states, people are so fed up with their governors that they’re trying to get enough signatures on petitions to get them recalled. Then, as if the world doesn’t already have enough chaos in it right now, some areas have had fires because the weather has been so hot and dry. We have, as some people are calling it, “a pandemic on top of a pandemic.” Personally, I think we have a pandemic that keeps snowballing and piling pandemic after pandemic on top of each other. It seems like this pandemic is never-ending. Even when the economy does open up again and get back to “normal,” whatever that is, the world will never be the same again. There will be new regulations. The news media is telling us that doctors believe the coronavirus will come back every year just like the flu does. Some people are wondering, “When will a vaccine be developed?” You may be a Christ-follower asking yourself, “How can I respond to all of this? How can I help the world?” Those are good questions.
I’ve given this a lot of thought, done a lot of research, and talked to many people who I trust. This is one article I’ve rewritten many times trying to figure out the right thing to say. I know this is a sensitive subject, and I understand how powerful the written word is once it gets out there; especially in this day and age where we have so much social media. As I’ve been trying to think about the right thing to say to help guide people, I wondered, What would Mister Rogers say about what’s going on in our world? How would he handle it? After all, he often tackled some pretty tough subjects on his famous program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Subjects like the assassination of Robert Kennedy and racism during the civil rights movement.
Many people may not know that Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. In the 2018 documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? someone said, “Fred’s theology was, ‘Love your neighbor, and love yourself.'” Those are almost Jesus’ exact words found in Matthew 22:39b where He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I found a video clip of Mister Rogers explaining the importance of taking care of that part inside you that allows you to, ‘Love your neighbor, and love yourself.’ Click here to listen.
Mister Rogers demonstrated this in May of 1969 when he did an episode with Francois Clemmons remembered by many people who grew up with Mister Rogers Neighborhood. He was known as Officer Clemmons on the show. He was the first African American to appear in a recurring role on a children’s show. In the 2018 documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Francois Clemmons recalled, “They didn’t want black people to come and swim in their swimming pools, and Fred said, ‘That is absolutely ridiculous.’”
In response to the racism going on at the time, Mister Rogers invited Officer Clemmons to soak his feet with him in a wading pool on a hot day outside of his neighborhood house. The same year it aired, the Supreme Court ruled that pools could not be segregated by race, according to the New York Times.
Mister Rogers was a civil rights activist in a very unique way. He didn’t march, shout, hold up a sign, or even sign a petition. Instead, having a black person play a character on the show, and letting the audience see them being friends was enough to make a statement and change the world. In 1993, just before Francois Clemmons retired from the show, he and Mister Rogers recreated the same scene, but this time, Mister Rogers helped him wash his feet just like Jesus did in the Bible. (By the way, the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet can be found in John 13:1-17.)
Now is a great time to learn and practice, ‘Love your neighbor, and love yourself.’ Here are some examples of how to do that in today’s culture. Send a friend or family member a text message or email, set up a zoom chat online or call each other on the phone. We all have cards sitting unused in a drawer; mail them to those people who are not tech-savvy. Offer to help your elderly neighbors with their grocery shopping or yard work. Don’t forget to wear your masks and stay six feet apart from each other. If you need help knowing how far away that is, a good way to measure it is to use a standard pool noodle. That’s what my church is using to help people know where to sit when we meet at our outdoor amphitheater for the service.
If someone has a birthday coming up, do what my special needs group is doing and have a drive-by birthday. Meet a group of people in a public place and form a caravan line to that person’s house. Have the birthday person wait outside on the porch or in their driveway, and bring them decorations for the front porch, the garage, and the yard. Honk your horn when you get to that person’s street and wave. Here are two birthday signs my mom and I made for two of my friends who recently had birthdays.
Everyone signed them, and we then gave them to the birthday people as if that was their birthday card. We put them where neighbors who drove by throughout the day would be able to see them. At one of the drive-by birthday parties, we, the birthday guests, were handed cake as we drove by. We’re still finding ways to celebrate; even in these strange times.
For those people who live with their loved ones, spend time talking to each other, watch a favorite movie, read, or listen to an audiobook and talk about it. Go for a walk, cuddle with your animals, have a family game night, do puzzles, eat in the backyard, or on the front porch. To cool off, run through the sprinklers, wash the car in your swimsuits, spray each other with the hose, throw water balloons, paint rocks or draw chalk art on the sidewalk. If you like to bake, take plates of baked goods to your neighbors. My mom has been talking about taking cookies to some of our neighbors. Let’s follow in Mister Rogers’ Christian example and come out of this having learned how to be better neighbors who know how to care for each other as Jesus would. As Mister Rogers said, “There are many ways to say I love you. There are many ways to say I care about you.” How can you show someone you love and care about them today?
Thank you for the Christian example of Mister Rogers. I pray that everyone reading this would start thinking about what ‘Love your neighbor and love yourself’ really means and live it out as Mister Rogers did. Help us to use this time to grow closer to our families and become better neighbors who care and love each other the way you would. I pray for anyone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with you; that they would invite you into their hearts and say, “Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Lord, you hear a sincere heart. Revelation 3:20 says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” Thank you for being patient with us as we answer the door of our hearts and for loving us unconditionally. Thank you for being my neighbor.
Author’s Note: If you have any thoughts or ideas on how to love your neighbor, go ahead and post them on my blog; let’s have a conversation. Please make sure to click on “I am not a robot” so your comment goes through. It’s how I make sure everything stays clean and honoring to God. I’m also going to put two clips of Mister Rogers’ episodes below. The first is the clip from 1969 that changed history. The second is the clip from before Francois Clemons retired from the show on February 24, 1993. He and Mister Rogers sing “There are many ways to say I love you”; have a listen. Maybe it will give you some ideas on how to love your neighbor during this time. I look forward to hearing from you. I also found the full-length episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood that was aired on television on May 9, 1969, on Vimeo. If anyone would like to see it, Click here. Mister Rogers, thank you for changing history and showing us how to love our neighbors.
I mentioned Mister Rogers being an ordained Presbyterian minister. If anyone is interested in an in-depth look at the ministry of Mister Rogers, I have two more articles on my blog that emphasize it. The first one is called, “It’s a beautiful day in the Neighborhood… The Ministry of Mister Rogers.” Click here to read it. The other one is called, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? What I Learned from Mister Rogers About Life.” It’s a personal letter to Mister Rogers, thanking him for the impact he had on my life. I talk about some of the hidden biblical messages I see now as an adult as I look back on the program. Click here to read it.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
During this time of the coronavirus, my mom and I haven’t had my attendants come to our house so that we make sure we are abiding by the social distancing guidelines. That means writing things are done a little out of routine. I don’t mind though, I’m enjoying it. I’m getting more writing done than ever before. It’s great! However, you know how I’ve often said that with cerebral palsy, repetition is the key so that I don’t forget how to do certain movements? Well, just before this whole thing with the coronavirus, Jessica and I were going to start a new YouTube series. Originally, what you see with pictures was supposed to be on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, just before our nation went on lockdown, Jessica got the common cold and wasn’t able to come over to my house to help me. When I found out our nation was ge.oing to be on lockdown, that’s when I decided to make them into articles so people could have something to read, and also to keep my brain active.
Anyway, the point is, the steps to make the heart weren’t fresh in my mind. One day, when I was home with my mom, I tried making the heart the way Jessica showed me, and I found that my brain got stuck. After I flattened the ball, I tried to pull my fingers about two centimeters, and then I just couldn’t get the hang of how to form the bottom of the heart. As much as I tried to do it over and over, I just couldn’t do it the way Jessica showed me. That’s how long it had been. Even though Jessica had written out the steps, they didn’t make sense to me anymore. It showed me how much Jessica had been giving me cues throughout the process, and instructing me.
Finally, my mom showed me a new method. After I formed the ball, I smashed it down with my palm. Then, I pulled it at the top like Jessica showed me. Here’s what I did differently: I turned the heart over to make the edges smoother. After many times of practice, I finally got it.
This experience reminded me of how easy it is to forget God’s promises that He has kept to us when we don’t acknowledge Him on a daily basis. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I had a lesser degree of cerebral palsy; then I could drive and walk without my walker. If I had better fine motor skills, I could draw my own illustrations for my books, make my own jewelry; the list goes on and on. However, I feel better when I remind myself of the scriptures and the many more adventures I’ve had that I might not have had if I didn’t have cerebral palsy. I also feel better when I realize how good God has been to me through the years, and how good He continues to be in my life. Then I’m able to praise God again, and proclaim His goodness. Moments like what happened with the play-doh are reminders of how important it is to practice certain movements on a daily basis. In the same way, it’s important for me to depend on the Lord for strength on a daily basis. Without Him, I am nothing.
Help me to remember to turn to you for strength on a daily basis. Forgive me when I get too distracted and don’t spend time with you, and when I forget your promises and grow bitter about my disability. I know that without you I’m nothing. Help your word to dwell in me richly. Amen.
“ I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
This is the last step in making a completed heart. This could symbolize what a new heart being transformed by God looks like. Perfect! I’m not going to go through the steps, because they are pretty much the same as last week. Please read “God sees things from a different angle; Mirroring Obedience.” You can also look at my previous posts before this one in the series. However, I will say this: It took me a while to really see that yes, I really did form a heart and apply the right amount of pressure on the sides to form the bottom. It was another one of those steps where I don’t know how many times it took until I got it right, but I got it eventually, and that’s what matters.
Anyway, when we finally get to that point where we say, “Oh God I can’t take it anymore!” That’s when He says to those that come to Him with true repentance, “Let me show you the benefits of having a new heart modeled after mine.” When you have a lasting physical challenge as I do, eventually you have a heart that stops desiring for physical healing and longs for our world to have a deeper, spiritual healing. A heart that has its eyes fixed on heaven and starts praying and weeping for our nation. Someone with a new heart begins to see that those who don’t follow Christ actually have, as one of my camp speakers put it, “A human disability.” Amen! Many times, I’ve looked at our culture and thought that most people are too independent for their own good. Like I’ve said many times, a transformed heart is one that is not so self-focused on the world’s idea of physical healing. A transformed heart takes the attitude of the blind man found in John chapter 9 and says, “Okay Lord, show me how you want me to display your good works in my life and proclaim your goodness to the world. Take my life and completely transform it as only you can do.”
“Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:16-18
The next step of forming the heart was one of the hardest parts. After I formed the top of the heart, the next step was to pick it up, turn it around, and make it so that the top of the heart was close to me and the bottom part was away from me. Then I had to keep pushing the sides in a little bit harder and harder. This was the step that kept making me think, “Oh yay! I’m getting what definitely looks like a heart.” I looked closer and realized I was forming all kinds of shapes; but not a heart. I formed so many shapes that I don’t even remember how many times it took before I formed the heart; even as I was trying to mirror Jessica who was right beside me. All I know is that after much practice, I finally did it! In the meantime, Jessica kept saying “breathe.” At one point, Jessica began making her own shapes with play-doh, just to see how much I could do on my own without her instructing me. It was difficult, but finally, my hands and brain communicated the right messages to each other and I did it! Usually, learning to do something like this takes a couple of weeks. Somehow, after many times, I did it that day. It was amazing because that day it was only my second time doing it along with making the other pieces. Here it is:
It reminded me of how easy it is for people, especially in today’s society, to “mirror” Christianity and talk the lingo but not mean it. One time, a pastor by the name of Gordon Kirk (he was filling in for a while after our old pastor retired and our church was in the process of finding a new pastor) referred to it as, “Bumper Sticker Theology.” If you’re one of those people who has a Christian bumper sticker on your car, does your life reflect what it says on that bumper sticker?
It also reminded me of how, when we have a problem, we might ask God, “God what are you doing?” In the case where I was trying to learn to make the heart with play-doh, I could easily cry out the words in Romans chapter 9 and say, “Lord why did you make me like this?” (I can’t tell you how many times I let out a big sigh as I was learning to make a heart with my limited hand dexterity.) The Lord says to me, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Over time, as I’ve grown in the Lord, I’ve begun to understand what that means and how God’s plan is perfect, even during the times that I really don’t like my physical challenges. NOTHING in my life is a mistake! Often, God sees our problems from a different angle. In my case, I often say if I didn’t have my cerebral palsy and the challenges that go with it, would I care about spiritual things as much? Could I write these stories and share these messages? I don’t think so. Would I have a deep understanding of Jeremiah 1:5, and be able to talk to my Awana girls about inner beauty the same way I did in 2017? I don’t think so. Without my challenges that God allowed to stay, where would I be spiritually? Only God knows that. By the way, here’s a photo of the Christmas present my Awana girls gave me after I did my lesson titled, “How becoming a Christian is like becoming a vase.” If you’re interested in seeing the devotionals I wrote while I was learning to make a vase in preparation for my Awana lesson, click on the link labeled “Play-Doh,” and scroll through it. It’s the first one on the left under “Rachael Benson Blog.” You can’t miss it. Why am I able to talk to kids and other people about that stuff? Because I need help with things most people take for granted; like getting dressed, combing my hair, and taking a shower. I could go on and this would be a long post, but I won’t.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing bad about Christian phrases on bumper stickers, but it shouldn’t be the only way we know Jesus. It should serve as a trigger to make us think about Him and want to get to know Him. I pray that many of us are using this unusual time to get to know the Lord more. If this virus was going to happen, thank goodness for today’s technology! There are so many ways to stay connected through the Internet. Even if you can’t physically go to church right now, many churches are having their services online. Set up a zoom meeting and do a Bible study that way. Where there’s a will there’s a way. It’s all a question of how badly do we really want to see a change in our lives? How badly do we want to have true peace? God gave us free will. While He desires for us to obey Him, He’s not going to force anything on us. God doesn’t want us to be robots, but instead, He wants our love for Him to be genuine and sincere.
If there is anyone out there reading this who doesn’t know the Lord as their Savior or has questions about anything I wrote, please feel free to post them on my blog. Just make sure you click on “I am not a robot,” or your comment won’t go through. I moderate comments to make sure everything said on my blog is clean. It’s just one more way to make sure I honor God with my writing. I love hearing from my readers!
Help me to have a desire to get to know you more so that I can mirror a reflection of your son Jesus, and make people want what I have. Help me to use this time in our nation to be transformed by you day by day, until you bring me home to heaven.
Author’s Note: Here’s a link to my church’s website. They have a kids’ church service at 9:30 am on Sundays, and the main service is at 10 am. The kids’ service has a funny puppet named Stew, and the songs are energetic and lively. They’re perfect for the whole family to dance to. It reminds me of Vacation Bible School. Click on the link below:
Also, if you want to go beyond watching the church service, different pastors of the church are putting together devotionals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s neat to hear everyone’s perspective during this time. I especially enjoyed the devotional done on Friday, April 24, by Pastor Peter. I felt like he wasn’t really preaching a sermon, but instead, he was telling a story. It was perfect for a writer. Scroll through the Together page to listen here.
Here’s the other church my mom and I have tuned in to lately. This is my brother-in-law’s church in Atlanta Georgia. Their pastor is big on reaching out to the community. He shares many stories from his own life experiences to illustrate the points he makes in his sermons. He’s quite easy to listen to.
Colossians 1:9-12 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
After I formed the ball, the next step was to flatten the ball and begin forming the hardest part of the shape of the heart. Flattening the ball was the easy part. I just pushed down on the play-doh with the palm of my hand and it became a lump. The next step was to pull my finger down to the center and stop about two centimeters. I was beginning to form the top of the heart. Many times I kept going past two centimeters and having to redo the heart. Eventually, after watching Jessica, practicing several times, and Jessica finally saying, “Stop right here,” my brain started to get it. As I’ve said many times before, repetition is the key. I got the hang of it and I finally figured out where to stop.
It reminded me of how even when we come to Jesus, the transformation in our lives doesn’t just happen right away. Depending on what our lives were like before we came to Christ, many times God has some “spring cleaning” to do in our lives before we can be used by Him to minister to others. It takes time before we are able to put away our old practices such as foul language and self-centeredness, and really, truly begin to walk in His ways. But again, as I’ve said before, God is always working on us until we get home to heaven. After we’ve spent time getting to know Him, through things like reading the Bible and talking with other Christ-followers, He gives us a longing to do good deeds that would honor Him. We begin to see that everything we do in our day can be used as a ministry to help others. In my case, I volunteer at my local hospital and at the Awana program at my church. At the hospital, when people see my wheelchair, they often have questions and want to know what it’s like because they themselves might have to use a wheelchair. Even if I volunteered and wasn’t in a wheelchair, I don’t think it would have the same kind of impact on people as it does with the wheelchair. Even though it’s hard at times, the wheelchair helps me relate to people. Some Christians have told me that they can see God’s light shining in me. What they mean is that a lot of people wouldn’t expect someone like me to have such a positive outlook on life. I appreciate the compliment, but it didn’t happen overnight. I had a lot of love and support from my family, as well as a God-given, strong desire to get to know Him and share these messages with you. Thank you, Lord, for the desires you’ve put in my heart to get to know you. I can’t wait to see what other lessons you are going to teach me about you so that I can grow in my faith and understand more about who you are.
“So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
The first step to creating a heart was forming the shape of a ball. For the most part that was pretty simple. I was able to take the play-doh of the container and roll it around using the palms, but it took a few times. As I held the play-doh in my hands I had a hard time not squishing the play-doh and just giving it a light touch. I started forming the ball and then my friend Jessica helped me smooth out the edges and form the shape even more until it was perfect. One of the challenges with my cerebral palsy because of the spasticity in my body (that’s a fancy word for muscle tightness) is to get the part of my body I want to use (in this case my hands) to relax and touch things lightly so they can do the right motion. My friend Jessica and I had set aside a whole day to work on all the steps that go into making a heart and give the pieces time to harden up before we started the series. We didn’t start the series when we thought we were going to because Jessica had gotten sick. By that time, I had forgotten that a few weeks ago my mom had moved the pieces to another spot. I remembered when I saw some pieces Some papers had to be moved off of a chair looking for something and the ball rolled off the placemat and onto the ground and broke into pieces. I was not happy! It’s just a little thing, and fortunately of all the steps the ball is the easiest if I had to redo something, but with cerebral palsy simple movements and forming simple shapes take time. I was upset with myself for forgetting to remind my mom to move the steps to a safer spot. Since I can’t physically move things myself asking someone, “Could you put this here or there?” is my way of stay organized and this time it was really important! Ugh! Here’s the broken ball.
So recently I redid the ball. It was very hard to keep pieces together. The play-doh kept falling apart. My mom finally took the container of play-doh and put some water in it to make it moister so the pieces would stick together, and it worked. While I did most of the ball myself, forming the shape, etc. My mom did help me smooth it out. Here’s the finished ball.
It reminded me of how we often come to God even if we’ve known His son Jesus as our Savior for quite a while. Just like the verse says we’re like spoiled pieces of clay that need to be reworked. How many times have you found yourself thinking, “I can do this.” As you struggle and struggle until you’re so frustrated you want to throw your hands up and scream, “I can’t take it anymore!” When we cry out to God and say, “Lord I need you!” I believe that’s when God says, the master heart surgeon” I’ve been waiting to hear you say that.” He picks up and begins to form that ball our hearts into a vessel that can be used by Him. You know your heart is being transformed when through that hardship, you say, “Lord what are you trying to teach me? What shape do you think is best for me to be used by You?”
I admit I can’t live my life without you. I’m a mess. The weight off this world is too much responsibility alone. I need you to come into my life and be my master heart surgeon. Rework my heart and my life into the shape that seems best to You. I can’t wait to see what shape that is.
In my new series, “Transformed for special purposes,” we’re going to talk about how I learned how to make a heart with play-doh as I faced challenges with my hands that come with having cerebral palsy, as well as the biblical lessons I learned while I was doing it. Each week, I will share verses about the heart and how God transforms our hearts when we let Him.
For instance, in my case, for me, transformation means acceptance. Acceptance of the challenges that come with my disability, focusing on how I can bring glory to God by helping others, and how I can share the gospel. A verse that has become a favorite of mine over the years which gave me the idea for this series is Romans 9:20-21 where it says, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” I believe God created us all for a purpose to be used by Him and share His love with others in some way. As we discover how God transforms our hearts, my hope is to get people thinking about how they can use their gifts and talents to honor Him.
We’ll talk about the gospel in a nutshell. We’ll talk about how God who is the master heart surgeon, comes into our messy lives and performs heart surgery through our longing to do good deeds, obey Him, and follow His ways. We’ll talk about how lasting challenges change our attitudes about certain things, which allows God to purify our hearts even more as He prepares for us a place in heaven where we can one day be with Him if we have a relationship with Him now. Ultimately, God’s idea is for our hearts to be modeled after His heart. As we allow God to transform our hearts, people will begin to take notice, and we begin to discover more about God’s goodness that we wouldn’t discover otherwise. As Jesus tells His disciples when they ask about the man born blind, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3b. Please join me on the journey as we see God transform our hearts and let’s grow in faith together.
This is a small glimpse of my writer’s office. I’m in my room.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
Have you ever tried to figure out something for a long time, and then later, when you finally figured it out, you said to yourself, “Why didn’t I notice that before? How did I miss it?”
That’s what happened to me the other night. Because of this whole social distancing thing, in order to stay connected to each other, my Awana group decided to do an online video meeting. When it was time, I typed in everything I was supposed to and logged on. Everyone could hear my voice, but no one could see my face; I couldn’t figure out why. I looked all over my computer screen. Finally, when the meeting was almost over, my mom figured it out. My webcam was on top of the computer screen. It had a button right in the center that needed to be pushed to be popped up. My mom pushed the button, and it worked! Everyone could see me! That’s right! How many times did Jessica say, “Look up.” Duh!
I felt so silly!How did I not notice that when Jessica and I had done all of those videos for my YouTube channel in the past? After I thought about it, I realized it was because my mind had been so focused on writing and memorizing the scripts, and trying to convey my message, that I didn’t notice everything Jessica did to help me make it happen. Sometimes that’s what happens when I can’t physically do something for myself. If I don’t have to think about something, I don’t. Oh well, now I’ll remember where the button is next time and in the future.
It reminded me of how hard it is for us to see the obvious, small lessons that God is often trying to teach us. Lessons that shape our character to help us become more like Him. Many times, while God is allowing us to go through something, at the time, we may ask, “Lord, what are you doing?” The Lord says, “Trust me.” After we get through the trial God allows, if we have the right attitude and we turn to God for help, we can look back and say, “Here’s what I learned about God while I was going through this. Here’s the jewel that was added to my heavenly crown.” When you get to the end of your trial, can you honestly say, “God is so good?” What jewels has the Lord added to your heavenly crown so far?
Help me to pay attention to the small, obvious lessons you’re trying to teach me that help shape my character. Remind me that while I’m here on earth, I’m in training for heaven. Thank you for the reminder that true strength is only found in you. Help me get through my trials well, so that I may earn many jewels on my crown, and we’ll have a big welcome home party in heaven.