Happy Accidents–A Lesson from Bob Ross

While most kids my age were watching the Simpsons and the Rugrats, as a young child I marveled at the skill of Bob Ross, a Christian painter who had a “how-to” painting program on PBS. I can’t imagine kids these days sitting around watching that type of show, but it was something I found inspiring.

He would take these globs of paint and turn them into glorious masterpieces of art. My favorites were always the oceans. The way he painted the waves, the shades of blue-green, the way he made the painting appear to glimmer—it was magnificent.

But more than all of those things I remember something he said while teaching the viewer how to paint. He said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Sometimes he would purposely throw a stray mark in the midst of the beautiful picture only to prove his point. Skillfully working around it, blending it, and adding new colors he made it appear as though it was done on purpose.

Yesterday was a “Bob Ross” moment for me. A few weeks ago my digital camera took its last picture. Since then I had been using my phone to take pictures, but the quality was not the same. Knowing we were about to take a trip to Disneyland (we’re leaving tomorrow!) I was concerned about cataloguing the memories in my usual way—photos. My husband reminded me that we had an HD video camera which could also take pictures. So, I decided to figure out how it works and see if the pictures would be “acceptable”.

I took my daughter to AWANA and it happened to be a beautifully scenic evening with storm clouds glowing in the setting sun. I used the opportunity to snap some photos and quickly realized the quality of this HD camera was far superior to what I thought I had in my now broken digital camera. And then that phrase popped into my mind from nearly two decades ago, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

In that moment I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. What I understood to be an inconvenience was actually a blessing. If my digital camera had not broken a few weeks prior, I would not have had the foresight to try the HD camera, and would have missed out on a glorious photo shoot—a divine photo shoot. Few things please the photographer in me more than an awesome sunset or scenic sky picture and those of my friends on Facebook will attest to that fact. But I have never had the privilege of capturing God’s beauty as I did last night. I have no words to express it. Every time I look at those photos I am in awe of my Savior. He planned that moment and in His great generosity He encompassed me with extraordinary feelings of wonder and worship.

Truly God plans all of our lives in such a way. There are no mistakes—even when we deliberately stray the canvas of our lives with ugly strokes of paint. The Master Painter simply takes His paintbrush and makes our mess beautiful. Beauty from ashes; this is the story of the redeemed. This is my story, my painting, and I am so grateful He takes the brush and continues to daily paint my picture with His infinite wisdom and care.

Lord Jesus, on my knees I confess my doubt, worry, anxiety, and disappointment—my unbelief. Help my unbelief and increase my faith ever more!

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Many are the Plans…

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans…

I’ve waited patiently for three years (ok, not so patiently) to enroll in Bible college. I’ve wanted to transform myself from the uneducated hack to the educated hack. It’s taken this long for the finances and timing to be just right. Finally I was able to enroll at Liberty University in a two-year program to receive a diploma in Biblical studies; I also decided to take a hermeneutics elective. Once the transaction was completed, confirmation in hand, I was overwhelmed with excitement.

Then the door-bell rang.

Oh right, the home-school curriculum for my daughter arrived.

As I pulled out the books, manuals, instructions, and lesson plans I was overwhelmed. “Many are the plans” sang ominously through my head. Indeed. I was planning on spending the day finishing my other year-long course in journalism. I had one lesson left and was super-pumped to complete it. Searching through the instructions, guides, manuals and products-to-buy lists included in the box of curriculum materials, I realized it would take at least 3-5 days to sort through it and develop an organized lesson plan. Whoever thinks home-schooling is easy, or lazy, or whatever, they are sadly mistaken. It’s like being a “real” teacher minus the pay (when done appropriately).

Many are the plans…

On top of home-schooling and being a student myself, I was reminded of all the things I still had “to do”. The list was endless.

A 45,000 word manuscript to finish before Novemeber’s conference; 6 books to read and review in the next month; articles to write for two different websites (besides this blog); a backyard landscaping project; church ministries and other activities…my head was spinning. Oh, and I almost forgot, there is approximately 500lbs of dog poop (a rough estimate) in the yard calling out to me, “Scoop! Scoop!”

So so so many are the plans…

But—it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. I can make all the plans I want, I can sign up for every ministry, activity, conference or course but it is only through God that my plans prosper. If indeed they are HIS plans. Otherwise, I don’t have a prayer.

So, this morning I found myself taking a step back. Instead of attacking my “to-do” list, I listened to Psalm 118-119 on audio, read from Isaiah, and spent some quiet time with God asking Him what HIS plans were.

My new plan consisted of listening to the Holy Spirit as he guided each step of the day. I pray the Lord’s purpose prevail in each moment of each day of my life for His glory and my freedom.

Lord, I want your plans and purposes for my life. Thank you for providing wonderful opportunities, answering prayer, and giving me the desires of my heart. Keep my eyes focused on you every minute of every day. Let your plans alone prevail over my life.

A Little Inspiration from Isaiah

“Don’t fear anything except the Lord of the armies of Heaven! If you

fear Him, you need fear nothing else.”

Isaiah 8:13

 

“See, God has come to save me! I will trust and not be afraid, for the

Lord is my strength and song; He is my salvation. Oh the JOY of

drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation!”

Isaiah 12:2-3

“But the Lord of Hosts is exalted above all, for He alone is holy, just,

and good.”

Isaiah 5:16

People-Pleaser

Suggested Reading: Judges 8:22-27

What Sunday School hasn’t recounted the story of Gideon? He was called by God; he doubted; he looked for signs and he eventually defeated the Midianites without laying a hand on them. Gideon: what a hero! Even heroes fall when they take their eyes off the One who gave them their title.

All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping [the ephod] there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” (Judges 8:27)

This is the end of Gideon’s story. Just like Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 17-20), it ends on a sour note. Israel did have peace for forty years because of Gideon, but they also worhsipped idols. Gideon listened to the wrong voices. The people were so enamoured with what Gideon had accomplished they wanted him to rule. Rightly Gideon declared it was the Lord who would rule over them, not himself, (vs.23) but then the story takes a weird turn. After proclaiming the Lord’s rule over the people, Gideon asks them to hand over their jewelry which he proceeds to make an “ephod” out of. In an attempt to please both God and man, Gideon had a lapse in judgment by creating an idol the people would “prostitute” after.

Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt. 6:24)

We’re constantly going to hear voices from the world, family, friends, and other Christians, but the only voice that really matters is God’s. If we’re constantly trying to please people and God, something will falter; usually our spiritual walk. Let’s purpose to be God-pleasers; devoted to His truth and despising what opposes it.

Promises in the Rain

“Mommy, mommy!” Samantha raced into my bathroom where I was comfortably relaxing in the shower.

“What is it?” I poked my head out thinking someone or something was on fire.

“Mommy, it’s raining!”

“Ohhhhh….” was the resignated realization of a promise I had made to her the previous weekend. The weather report had predicted rain, and she had begged me to let her play in the mud puddles. I agreed. Then the clouds opened up and it didn’t rain. I had succesfully dodged that bullet, until today.

“Fantastic,” I thought, “I have so many things to do today, and standing in the pouring rain while my 4 year old jumps in the mud isn’t on my list.”

You need to honor your promise.

Sigh. “Ok, Lord, I will honor my promise.”

I got out of the shower and ready to stand in the rain. It occured to me I should bring my camera and record the one time I agreed to let my little girl splash in the mud. Samantha was in her pajamas and flip-flops and we set out. I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings. The pouring rain, the trees bending under the wind, the smells of fresh moisture, and even my daughter covered in mud. It was like viewing a movie in 3D for the first time, everything came alive to my senses.

rain

I lifted my camera and began snapping pictures, thankful for the marvelous beauty God was showering despite my reluctant obedience.

puddles

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Samantha, discovering her dirty feet, decided two hops was enough and wanted a shower.

muddy flip flops

I took that time to catalogue the beautiful treasures God had given me through my camera lens. If I hadn’t obeyed the Spirit’s prompting, I would have missed out on a glorious experience; an opportunity for reflection, praise, worship and teaching my daughter that she can trust me to follow through on my promises.

fresh pathway

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

I learned a valuable lesson this morning. I need to slow down and take time to reflect on the treasures around me:

birds nesting,

birds nesting

flowers resting,

flowers resting

trees growing,

trees growing

and children playing.

muddy Samantha

There’s more to my world then finishing the next project, making the next phone call, or cooking another meal. I need to remember God’s faithfulness and love and delight in his handiwork and maybe the day won’t seem so hectic after all. Sometimes I just need to throw that “list” in the wind and dance in the rain.

“It is good to praise the Lord.” Psalm 92:1

pink flowers

I Wanted A Piece Of Fruit; God Gave Me A Smoothie

For the last few days all I have been craving is a good piece of fresh fruit. That doesn’t sound so complicated I suppose….except for one little hitch. I can’t afford to go buy one little piece of fruit right now. It’s not that I don’t have food in my house, or that I have a puffed out bloated tummy like a starving child in Africa. No, I am well fed. It’s just a tough time for us, and right now we have no grocery budget, and have to make due with what we have in the cabinets. None of that happened to be fresh fruit or any type of fruit juice. *sigh* Ok, not the end of the world, I can drink some water and pretend.

When I look at my circumstances, they don’t look desirable. In fact, one could say they “suck”.  Someone told me the other day, “It always seems that bad things happen to good people. And you’re better than me because at least you go to church, and look at all this stuff happening to you. I don’t understand it or think it’s fair. You derserve better.” I suppose if I had entertained that line of thought I could have easily talked myself in to one massive pity party like I have done so many times in the past. But this time I knew it would be different. This time I had trust. This time I was not going to allow my circumstances and the storms of life to affect my attitude and spiral me into a fit of worry. Hey, if I have to live off of cereal and bread for two weeks, then so be it. I’ll live. It could be worse. In the past I would have been freaking out, wringing my hands, upset because I couldn’t eat exactly what I wanted. Upset because I didn’t know how rent was going to be paid or how needs would be met. Having major anxiety attacks and major anger problems. But this time was different. God got ahold of me. I knew that no matter what, I was where He wanted me to be, and He was my Provider. I knew I could trust Him. It might not be what I wanted (No Steak and Shrimp, God??) but it would be what I needed. So I relaxed and let God take care of it. Trusting God didn’t change my circumstances. It changed ME. That’s when the light bulb went on. This whole thing isn’t about crying out to God when I need something and watching him fix it and make my life easier. It’s about trusting Him even when my circumstances DON’T change. It’s about loving Him, praising Him, and fixing my eyes on Him even when everything around me gives me every reason to lose hope. To turn my back and complain. To say “It’s not fair!”  First God wants my undivided attention. He wants my trust in Him, and he doesn’t want that trust to be conditional based on what He is doing for me. Just think…if everything was always so grand in my life, then would I really appreciate or even notice the awesome ways God moves around me? Probably not. God isn’t just in the big things, He is all around me in the little things, in all the details. And he wants me to SEE HIM in it, and PRAISE HIM for it! Every day should be an AWESOME GOD day! Not just the days that are going well, or the successful days or the happy days. God allows these things in my life to show Himself to me in an even more intimate way. What a loving and nurturing God! He says:

“‘I will satisfy with…abundance and my people will be filled with My bounty.’ declares the Lord.'” Jeremiah 31:14(NIV)

Well, you wonder, did your awesome God give you your fruit?? Let me tell you. My dear friend surprised me with a couple bags of groceries, after a day at the park. Along with that was a bag a freshly picked oranges from one of her neighbors trees. When I brought the groceries home and started unloading them, I quickly realized that not only was God involved, but He was ALL OVER this! Every item pulled from these bags was something my family normally eats, and some were things my daughter had been asking for for weeks! Now, mind you, my friend was not aware of any of our normal eating habits, likes or dislikes. All she had was the leading of the Holy Spirit, and she followed it! As my daughter slept during her nap I took one of the bananas my friend gave us, and two of the fresh oranges. Found some ice cream in the freezer, and made myself a wonderfully delightful, fresh fruit smoothie. And as I sat there in the couch in silence reflecting on the awesomeness of my God’s provision I thought, “Hey, all I wanted was a piece of fruit, but God gave me a smoothie!”

What’s my point? Simply this: God allows us to face things in our lives to reveal Himself to us more through our circumstances and through other people. He used a friend of mine today, who I have only known for a few weeks, to greatly bless my family. Her generosity and kindness was God honoring and her faithfulness to Him is no doubt going to be rewarded. But how could she have served unless someone was in need? In the same way, all of us have needs or circumstances, and God makes us, as His children, a perfect match to fulfill those needs in each others lives. We just have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, and be obedient to His voice. Maybe we should look at trials differently. Maybe we should take a moment to stop, and ask God to show Himself to us. What is it that He wants us to see? Who is it He wants us to help? Who is it that He may use to help us?

The bottom line is that He uses all of us to enrich each other, but ultimately He is the sole Provider, and the sole Caretaker.

“Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” Psalm 16:1

Preserve-(Hebrew definition)

a prim. root; to hedge about (as with thorns) i.e. to guard; to protect; attend to…etc.-beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep(-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save, sure, (that lay) wait (for) watch(-man)

If you look at the original Hebrew definition of “preserve” you see all that it implies. We could re-phrase this verse in many other ways to understand it further, based on this definition, and therefore gain a greater knowledge of how God truly cares for us.

Mark me, O God…”

“Look narrowly after me, O God…”

“Observe me, O God…”

“Regard me, O God…”

“Save me, O God…”

“Lay wait for me, O God…”

“Be my Watchman, O God…”

“Put a hedge about me with thorns, O God…”

“Protect me, O God…”

“Attend to me, O God…”

“Be my Keeper, O God…”

He IS our Hedge, our Keeper, our Protector, our Attendant, our Watchman….He regards us, He saves us, He observes us, He looks narrowly after us….

What a God!! What is there not to trust? Even in the small things, in the big things, in ANY thing. HE IS THERE, we need to look for HIM, and He will be found. Allow Him to use your circumstances for His glory, before you throw up your hands in frustration. Ask Him to satisfy your soul with His goodness, BEFORE your circumstances change.

“For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9