Paint by Number
Life would be better if it was like a box of chocolates. You certainly never know what you’re going to get. But, life is much more than that. Nothing and no one controls your destiny, except you. Ultimately, you decide your future.
The other day, God showed me a vision – a picture of how to live my life.
The room was pitch black with a spotlight illuminating a small chair and a painting easel. Holding my palette of colors, I sat staring at the white, untouched canvas. Then, nothing happened.
As the blank canvas awaited my first stroke, my mind’s eye foresaw inspired colors covering the paper. Picking up my brush, I anxiously paused. Feelings of failure consumed me. What if I couldn’t make something beautiful of my life?
Ashamedly, as I lowered my brush, I whispered, “I don’t want to mess it up.”
God gave me a good life to work with. But, this is me we’re talking about. I could totally screw it all up. What if I change my mind mid-stroke, and then the painting – my life – doesn’t look right?
Life would be much simpler if it were just paint by number. You know… those pages in children’s coloring books where you fill in the right color paint in a shape with a corresponding number. That way, we all could follow a set pattern to make sure that whatever ends up happening on the canvas of our lives isn’t ugly.
Then, I heard a calming voice say, “That’s not what I want from you.”
God impressed upon me in that moment something I’ll never forget. Even as I struggle to find my place in His plan, I think back to this picture.
With a color-coordinated number in each sketched segment, the artist could easily follow the set system to fill in the painting. But, our lives aren’t meant to be replicas of past believers. We aren’t called to live our lives like our fathers or mothers. God has spoken us into existence to be ourselves, to fulfill our personal calling. No matter how outlandish your call may seem, the Lord has created you – and you alone – for it.
Right then, an overwhelming peace flooded my soul. As long as God is my focus, I can’t make my life anything that He won’t consider a beautiful work of art.
When faced with life-changing decisions, many of us rush into panic mode, frantically questioning our ability to make ourselves useful. Our imaginations can paint the worst pictures focusing on every possible bad outcome.
For the most part, God doesn’t reveal our entire life plan to us. But, that’s so He can show Himself faithful and give us the opportunity to obey Him. God wants us to willfully listen to His voice, not robotically respond to a pre-set life. He gave us free will to see what we would do of our own accord. Even if you make a wrong move, He will show you how to make what seems to be a failure a part of your life’s masterpiece.
Allow your life to be guided by the voice of a true artist. He won’t let you down.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out — plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)
2 Kings 4:32-34 32When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm.
A wealthy woman asked her husband to make a room for Elisha so that whenever he and his servant came to that town they would have a place they could stay. In return Elisha asked God to grant her desire to have a son. She was very concerned when he made the promise, because she did not want to have false hopes. Sure enough, a year later she had a son. Don’t be afraid to believe that God can bring to pass the desire He has placed in your heart.
One day the boy had a headache and then died. The woman ran to Elisha and told him, “Didn’t I tell you not to raise false hopes in me?” Then Elisha knew something was wrong with the boy. He immediately sent his servant to run and lay his staff on the boy while he followed. When the servant laid the staff on the boy, there was no change. There are times when we do what we believe the LORD is directing but we do not see results.
Then Elisha went into the room alone with the boy and prayed. If our first leading does not bring results, pray. Ask the LORD what to do next. Apparently, at the LORD’s direction, he did what sounds like artificial resuscitation. He did this not once but twice. The first time brought some results, but then he repeated what the LORD had showed him a second time. Then the boy awoke from death.
Remember: If the LORD takes away what He has promised you, trust Him. Even when you have acted at His direction and seen no results, trust Him. Do just what Elisha did. Pray! Ask God what to do next. Then keep doing that until He directs you otherwise or you see the answer.
Just Keep Swimming!
by Katherine Britton, crosswalk
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1
On Saturday night, I let myself go limp in front of the TV. The blur of activity, newness, and ridiculously hot weather the week before had exhausted me, so a complete mind/body check-out seemed in order. I don’t have cable and I didn’t bother to turn on instant streaming, so my viewing selection was pretty limited. I soon found myself watching Finding Nemo.
Remember the part where the all-important scuba mask slips down, down, down into the dark gorge? Marlin panics and goes after it, only to swim frantically back out of the darkness. Then the crazy blue fish with a short term memory problem frolics her way into that same blackness with nary a care. A moment later Dory comes back to encourage Marlin. “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills,” she says, “When life gets you down, you know whatcha gotta do?” “No, I don’t want to know watcha gotta do.” “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”
Not that I’m taking lessons from a digitized blue fish, but Dory’s attitude reminded me what perseverance should look like. It’s not that sitting on the couch and taking a break was evil in itself, but my can’t-go-any-farther attitude was. That attitude indicated that I was slogging away in my own strength and had run out of energy without looking to the Lord for supernatural help. At points like that, even though I know the answer, “I don’t want to know watcha gotta do” to keep pursuing what God has called me to do. Wallowing in my exhaustion seems so much easier.
Sunday evening, someone reminded me that, “when life gets you down” and you’re exhausted, God’s faithfulness has the chance to shine through. The end of my rope is the beginning of grace made evident in my life, providing the strength to “keep swimming” even though I’m exhausted. And He gets the praise, because I know that strength is no longer something in me. His mercies are “new every morning” (Lam. 3:23) and enough to keep me moving in the direction that He encourages me to go. My responsibilities are just one more way to bring me to my knees and let the Lord refresh me with His grace. After that, I can keep going in His mercy, and even sing while I’m at it. His faithfulness never ends.
Scripture Reading — 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. — 2 Corinthians 8:2-3
A Nigerian neighbor came knocking at our door. He had come a couple of weeks earlier too. At that time he had pleaded for a job that would bring him some needed cash to support his family. The task I gave him was beneficial but not essential. Every morning, with digging tools in hand, he was there, smoothing out some rough places in our yard and making them plain.
But on the morning when he came again, it wasn’t digging tools he had in hand. It was a chicken—a live one! In the Hausa language he said something like, “For you, sir. Thank you for giving me a job to do. I want you to have this chicken.”
I pictured that chicken—one of a tiny flock picking up scraps of food and blades of grass on the compound. I could picture our neighbor telling his son to catch that chicken so that he could bring it to our home. He didn’t have chickens to spare, but there he stood—with a chicken to give to us.
How gracious! How generous! Out of his own meager resources, this brother in Christ generously gave—even beyond his ability. He was like the Macedonians, who embodied the grace of giving. I was humbled by his generosity—and even troubled! Such grace!
Lord, you have richly and graciously blessed us. Please give us a spirit of joy and gladness that gratefully blesses others in our giving. In Christ, Amen.