Are You Hot?

 

 

I had a moment of enlightenment this evening. And I choked on it.

I was standing at a window, pondering a decision I had to make. As too often happens with me, I was waffling between one option and another—and the less risky option was winning.

With the thought still fresh in my mind, I turned to get a drink from the water cooler. As I poured a glass of room-temperature water, I glanced up at the calendar that hung on the wall. The Bible verse said, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)

The verse was especially meaningful to me at that moment, with my insecure thoughts. But I let the words roll off my consciousness, returning to the thought of my “safe” decision, as I raised the glass of water to my lips.

One swallow was all it took—instant choke. For some unknown reason, I can not drink tepid liquids—my throat seizes up, and I’m left coughing and gasping for breath.

In mid-wheeze, another Bible verse suddenly appeared in my mind: “Because you are lukewarm—–neither hot nor cold—–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

Whoa.

I had been studying my decision from a decidedly lukewarm point of view. I knew exactly what I wanted, but didn’t think it was possible, so was resigning myself to settling for less. I was being lukewarm—and if I admitted the truth to myself, I approached far too many other daily decisions in the same way.

I caught my breath and looked out the window again. What would happen if, just this once, I cast aside the tepid option and went all-out, full-tilt for the choice that required all my fire, enthusiasm, and confidence? The potential for failure was huge. But like the quote says:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

I know what I’m going to do.

So how about you?

Are you hot or not?

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor

Published in: on July 15, 2008 at 8:09 pm  Comments (11)  
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God Answered

 

 

I was writing at Starbucks for the day. The internet wasn’t free, so I decided not to go online—I thought I would probably get more work done that way. I planned to write blog posts; but I soon found that neither my flash drive nor my laptop contained the drafts I intended to finish. My drafts are backed up in email, but I didn’t think it was worth the time or effort to log on. So, instead, I organized some story files, then decided to go through the blog drafts I did have.

I opened the first file in a series of three that I had jotted down, but never developed—a “Goal Quest” series. I didn’t feel particularly qualified to guide others on their goal quests today, but I opened it anyway.

I was facing a short paragraph that confronted me with an unexpected challenge:

“Get away by yourself to a quiet place, and take a good look at your life. What is your purpose? What do you want to accomplish? Write down everything that comes to mind, and study the list. What is important to you? What do you want to do?”

I had written the words weeks ago, but I never expected myself to be the audience. Shocked, I took in my surroundings. Cool and sunny, peaceful if not silent. Quiet. I had nothing else to work on, so I started writing down the answers to my questions. I finished with this:

~~I want to live independently and freely

~~I want to drive my own transportation; go where I want whenever I want

~~I want to write and create freely in a peaceful, relaxing environment

~~I want to live the most I can live, without limitations of worry, health, or fear

~~I want to be free to be myself

I saved the document, looked out the window for a minute, and wondered—How? I felt the vague notion that I needed action steps for my goals. I thought perhaps taking action steps would prepare me for the time when the goals become reality. So I opened a new note and began typing the first goal that came to mind:

Goal: Buy/Lease a mini SUV

Action steps: Practice driving

I stopped there. It felt aimless. Preparing is good, but how do I achieve what I’m preparing for? Feeling a sense of the ludicrousness of the situation, I opened up the second document in my Goal Quest series. Maybe I had some pointers for myself, I thought.

The first thing on the page was James 1:6-7:

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.”

A beautiful tune began playing in Starbucks then–I could only half-hear it. I caught the words, “Got in her car…”

I looked out window again, watching all the mini SUVs fly past. Two young women, one pushing a stroller, appeared to my right, walking along the sidewalk in front of me. I thought of the future, of having a family. Facing all these goals I had just written, the goals I wanted so much, I reflected that my lack of faith is what’s crippling me. I can’t see how to achieve what I desire most. I feel like I’ll be stuck here forever. I panicked at the helplessness.

I turned to the Lord on a cry of my heart: “How??”

My eyes fell on the young woman who was now at my left. She was pulling her sweatshirt jacket over her shoulders, and suddenly I saw the words printed across the back in big, bold letters:

DO WORK

“Oh, God,” I whispered as tears stung into my eyes. “Oh, God.” I’ve been hearing the word “work” for months, in answer to my pleas. I know the work I need to do, and I’ve been trying to do it. But I still feel frozen by fear and doubt…doubt that it will accomplish anything. Doubt that I can accomplish anything.

I let the feeling soak in–the feeling of hearing God speak. And then my ears caught a few more words from the quiet song in the background:

“You’ll never be alone, no matter what. You’re going to be okay.”

I cried all the more. It’s the answer to all my prayers. The key I need to unlock the future I desire so much. I will work, and God will make magic out of it. Somehow, for the first time, the realization sank in. I believed it.

The future is now.

I left Starbucks, and walked back into my busy life with a new, soul-stirring sense of peace and security. God will make it work.

Pop picked me up, and as he turned the ignition, the car radio came to life in the middle of an advertisement for the new “Chronicles of Narnia” movie, which debuts this weekend. I heard Liam Neeson’s rich voice–as the character of Aslan the Lion, who represents Christ–ask:

“Are you prepared for the wonder that awaits you?”

Yes, Lord. Yes.

 

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And God Spoke through Peacocks and a Cable Guy…

 

Peacock Blue by StacyJMT

 

As I awoke this morning, my thoughts filled with a certain dream of mine. Not the singing-the-National-Anthem at-a-Dodgers-game in-your-skivvies kind of dream. The goal-in-your-heart kind of dream. The one that fills your waking hours, and sometimes seems as unlikely to occur as the Nation Anthem solo.

This was a morning when the dream seemed far from being achieved…mostly because of my own shortcomings, as I see them. It can take a long time to wait for a dream. After a while, waiting becomes the status quo; and it begins to seem as if the dream will never be anything more than its name.

I turned over to take up my Bible for morning meditation. As I did, my eyes fell on a Dasani water bottle on my nightstand. Sunlight filtered through the semi-transparent label, catching my attention with a beautiful blue-green color. I had a passing thought that it would be a lovely color to use in one of my art pieces; then picked up my Bible, said a prayer, and opened to a random page.

Nothing is ever random in God’s universe. I found myself looking at Ezekiel 39:8: “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.”

A little ripple of shock, followed by excitement, went through my heart. The Lord had heard me, and was telling me that my dream would come true. It reminded me of the Daily Word devotional for this date–“With God, all things are possible.” Even if I couldn’t see how.

So I arose and went about my day. Who knows—maybe, somewhere ocean-deep in my heart, I didn’t really believe my dream would come true. In any case, God must have thought I needed a clearer message. So He sent me peacocks.

Peacocks. Four of them.

I live in the Central California coast—like, in a condo, in the middle of an area that has streets, industry, homes. No zoos. No aviaries. The wildest bird I’ve ever seen here was a white dove.

But today there were four magnificent peacocks taking a leisurely stroll across the deck outside my window. All I could do was stare at them. Peacocks.

With beautiful Dasani-blue feathers.

I watched them, bemusedly, till they disappeared. Who knows where they came from or where they went.

A few minutes later, a cable guy knocked on the door. On a Saturday. And we don’t have cable. However, our DSL is coming up for renewal, and we’ve been thinking of changing to cable. That has been my job, to research the services, and discover which company and which plan would give me the bandwidth speed I need for video conferences. I’ve been distracted with this—I’ve been fretting about it, trying to figure it out, worrying that I wouldn’t get it done in time, doubting that it was even possible to get faster internet where we live.

Suddenly, there was the cable guy on my doorstep. He gave us a flyer that had every plan we could possibly need on it. Told us that they would be installing cable in other condos around us next week. Mentioned that there were no contracts to worry about, no installation fees, no prime-time slowdowns of service. Just effectively answered every one of my questions, dispelled my worries, and took the matter out of my hands, giving me exactly what I hoped for.

Peacocks and a cable guy.

When something that unusual happens, I can’t help thinking that there must be a reason. Within moments, it sank in.

With God, all things are possible.

I may think this dream of mine is way out there, too impossible to come true. But so are peacocks in a condo complex. I may think I need to work extra hard, earn my dream, be worthy enough before it can come true—do a whole litany of tasks before I can have what I want. When all along it’s really a gift of God’s grace, which He will lay on my doorstep at exactly…the right…moment.

Dasani blue. Whenever I see it, I’ll think of peacocks, a cable guy, and God’s clear, eclectic voice speaking to me on a sunny Saturday.

With God, anything’s possible.

Even the unlikely.

 

Photography by Stacy J-M Taylor

 

Stressing Action, Instead of Acting Stressed

 

CA Winter Snow

 


“…obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:20

After spending too much time working last night, I went to bed way too late, missing my 10pm “quiet time” for relaxing that has been my goal recently. After that, I slept through the morning alarms and woke up late. Immediately I felt anxious, thinking I’d never be able to get everything done today that I should.

I took up my Bible to get a word for the day, thinking to myself that I didn’t have a lot of time to meditate. The Book opened to that verse above, the last verse on the last page of the book of Matthew. I thought, “The Lord is giving me a quick glimpse to help me in my day, without taking a lot of time to read.”

Then I glanced at the next page, the start of Mark. My study Bible starts each book with a description of the author, the historical setting, and the theme of the work. Phrases from this book’s description nearly leapt out at me:

“The main characteristic of this Gospel is action.”

“The book of Mark stresses facts and actions rather than themes or topics. Although it’s the shortest of the four Gospels, it is often the most detailed.”

Action. Take action, do the things I need to do today. My day will be a short one—especially since I must stop at 10, I need that relaxation time—but, like the book of Mark, it can be most detailed.

Stressing “facts and actions” rather than excuses and dilly-dallying, I can do it. I can make this a worthwhile day.

Blog post done, and off I go to do the next thing.

 

The Three-Letter-Word

 

There is a subject that has been heavy on my heart for many months now. A recent, feeling post by Jesse Loop has reignited it to the point where words are starting to flow out of my heart and through my fingers.

It’s the subject of the “three-letter-word.”

Brains are whirring. I know, mine did. It’s hard to come up with a foul word that only has three letters. A word that makes you wince inwardly at the mental picture it brings up. A word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you think of what it means, and how it is used. A word that many people try not to say in polite company. Yes, that bad.

And mousewords is gonna say it on her blog.

God.

The very thought of God has become detestable to many…because of the way He has been portrayed by those who call themselves His people.

Sexual abuse in the name of God. Child abuse in the name of God. Emotional abuse, spousal abuse. Racial discrimination. Religious intolerance.

Too often, the result is that the victim of abuse recoils from the God whose name was used in the justification of unconscionable actions. Others who witness such abuse and discrimination are disgusted by many so-called “Christians.” The righteousness in their souls shrinks away from being associated with such a “God.”

And people are driven away.

So what do I think when I hear someone say that the actions of others have caused them to turn away from God? Do I think, “You’re doomed.” “You must be a bad person, or you couldn’t say that.” “You better repent pretty fast, or there will be hell to pay (literally).”

No.

When someone turns away from God, my heart cries. Not because of the hellish doom they are facing.

Because of the incredible love they are missing.

And God the Father of all cries with me.

The “sinner” is not the person who has been hurt and has turned away from the thought of God out of revulsion for what has been done in God’s name. The sinner is the one who claims to be a Christian, and yet would do something to harm the body or spirit of another.

The damage may be done out of selfish interests, or out of misguided good intentions. Either way, the result is the same.

One is driven away…and that’s not the one who needs to fear for their eternal soul.

So how do I know this? God said it. When one looks at the Bible, words on paper, one finds a very different perspective from what is often taught by people. Clear the air of complicated prose about damnation, and read the words of Jesus. Among many teachers of God’s law, Jesus was not a popular fella. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” the teachers muttered.

In response to that, Jesus told four stories. Stories of ones who had been lost from the fold, missing for some time, caught up in wild living, or consumed by the love of money. In these stories, Jesus portrays God as He is—One who understands the ways of the world, and does whatever it takes to rescue the lost ones. No condemnation from God—He rejoices at the return of the ones He loves.

Which is to say, everyone.

Those who considered themselves experts on God sneered at this perspective. What Jesus said in response to them still holds true today, for anyone who turns the name of God into a three-letter-word.

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Those of us who call ourselves Christians, and those of us who have been hurt by ones claiming that name, all need to remember this.

God Himself is really a four-letter-word.

Love.

 

Chris’ Large Calling Card

@Kellyd has asked for details on the stained glass window I designed, so here they are!

Time: 1996. Place: Tinley Park, Illinois. St. George Catholic Church was doing a renovation, which would include a new, 10-foot-tall stained glass window in the children’s area. My parents donated two windows–the children’s window and a crescent-shaped etched glass window. I was picked to do the design for the etched glass window (one of my first public speaking experiences, giving that presentation to the committee…nervous? Naaaahhhh….) and chose to donate my services.

The window was to depict Christ standing with His arms outstreched, welcoming the viewer. How to draw the Lord? That was a challenge, an awesome one. We always think of Him as a “carpenter.” I did some research, and discovered that the original Greek word we translate as “carpenter” was “tekton”–a term which describes a person who is not only a craftsman, but a scholar, an architect, a construction engineer. A tekton would do more than work with wood; he would design houses and temples, hew the stone, cut the trees, cart them to the site, and build from his design. Emaciated figures from iconic representations were entirely inaccurate. A tekton would be pretty buff…for lack of a better term.

Keeping this in mind, I created a drawing that I hoped was as realistic as possible–feeling my inadequacies every step of the way. But I drew strong hands and muscular arms–a Savior needs to be strong. I tried to give Him a lean, intelligent face; and my Mom requested a bit of a smile, since the Lord of the Bible stories always had a sense of humor. Once I had the drawing as right as I could make it…

I erased it.

Sad part of graphic design, it wasn’t possible to translate the details of a pencil drawing into etched glass, so I simplified it as much as I could while still keeping the impression I hoped to capture. The drawing was full-size, four feet high. (Apologies for the scanned photographs–poor quality)

Design for Etched Glass Window by mousewords

Here is the final result of the window:

Etched Glass Final

At least they kept my design for the hands…Well, moving right along.

Some time later, when the design for the children’s window encountered some problems, the church asked me to do that one, also.

The extent of my stained glass design experience was drawing fan artwork based on Disney’s incredible designs for “Beauty and the Beast”; but I was up for the challenge. I undertook the research project into the window–and for us, this was pre-internet, so it was like the dark ages. Like…I had to read books and things.

I also studied every stained glass window I could lay eyes on. I studied the construction as well as the design–the placement of rebars, the capabilities of detail. I dove into my drawing head-first, figuring that what the company needed from me was a basic design. I thought to myself, their engineers will fix the rebars later. But of course, I still did my best to make them as close to accurate as possible, working from the designs of the other windows in the church, among other resources.

The window was to depict Jesus and the children; my parents had ideas on what they wanted, but left the rest up to me. I thought back to my childhood–how, during church services, I would spend most of my time staring at the beautiful colors of the windows, while the sermon blended into words in the background. I thought to myself, a child may not be listening to the message of salvation in the sermon; so let’s see if he can find it in the window. I put myself into my childhood, and tried to depict a picture of Jesus as the Bible describes. Not distant and iconic–warm, friendly, caring, strong. Someone a child would want to be close to.

Here is the final result–ten feet high, my large calling card:

Chris' Large Calling Card

Being a writer, I also wanted to tell a story in the window. The service, after all, lasts about an hour, and colors can only hold so much attention. So I put as many curious details into the design as I could, so a child could imagine a story about the scene. There are also different ages, so that any child can relate. One youngster is playing in the sand at Christ’s feet; the littlest one is safe in His arms, playing with His hair, as babies do. The teenager has his hand on the Lord’s shoulder; a younger boy is sitting nearby, listening; a young girl is giving Him a hug.

Stained Glass Window by mousewords, St. George Church, Tinley Park, Il.3

Shortly after I completed my design, I moved out of state. I never saw the completed windows until ten years later.

When I walked into the church and saw that towering window aglow with afternoon light, it was unreal. That was my drawing. I could see my hand in the style–I knew the way my fingers turned, made lines. I was looking at a representation of something very personal to me–my art. I wondered if that’s at all similar to having children–to look into another face and find signs of yourself. The window company had basically just photocopied my design–rebars and all. They used my lines to the exact detail, and it actually WORKED. It hadn’t collapsed. Oh, my. The edification…

Even though I had done my research, I wasn’t aware of the full capabilities of stained glass. So when I drew the faces, I made them very abstract, not realizing that details could be painted directly on the glass. The company used my drawing as an outline, and had one of their artists paint details into the features. This artist did an amazing job.

So that’s the story. My calling card. Thrilling in its inspiration to me. A bit too big for a business card holder, however…