Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Strengthen Yourself in the Lord - Pt. 2

I've been so encouraged by Bill Johnson's book Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, and wanted to share some of the gleanings that have particularly touched me. This is the second post, so far, of the things I've been learning from this wonderful book. To read the first part, go to Strengthen Yourself in the Lord – Pt. 1.

The enemy uses lies to make problems appear bigger than the solutions we carry.

God never sets us up to fail…only to grow.

Staying Connected to Your Destiny is the title of Chapter 2, and the focus is on knowing who we are in Christ and who He created us individually to be. One of the key phrases that stood out to me was
You become what you behold.

What do we fix our eyes on? Where is our focus most of the time? Do we zoom in on the problems, hardships, frustrations, inadequacies, and let them take center stage?

Scripture exhorts us to ‘fix our eyes upon Jesus’ (Heb 12:2), and the famous hymn nails it on the head:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth,
Shall grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

That’s the point the Bill makes in this chapter…the problems we face become insurmountable when we focus on them, but they fade into the background when confronted with the glory of Jesus. That doesn’t mean they disappear and we live a carefree life. It just means that we recognize the omnipotence of our King, and choose to dwell on His character and nature. The more we come to know Him, the more we become like Him, and we can face the challenges of this world with greater courage and confidence.

In YWAM we teach about developing that deep, intimate walk with the Lord, where we hear His voice, understand His will for our lives, and follow Him wherever He leads. The fruitfulness in our lives flows from this place of intimacy with the Lord.

Johnson reminds us to ‘jealously guard our intimacy with the Lord’…it is the key to stewarding our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

When we face challenging situations, we can look at them from two angles:

1. The situation is a test that proves and strengthens our character and faith to walk in our purpose, and shows God that He can entrust us with more of Himself, or

2. The situation is a temptation away from God into bitterness, doubt, anxiety and disappointment.

If we are not stewarding our hearts and guarding our intimacy with the Lord, we may find ourselves blaming God, wallowing in self-pity, and basically allowing satan to run riot in our lives.
But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the reality of who He is starts to flow into our lives and transforms us into His likeness. We grow in our faith. We overcome the obstacles. We win the battles.

I want to live a victorious Christian life. I know what happens when I blame God for my hardships and turn my back on Him. For 13 years I experienced the void of living without Him. I never want to go through that again.

Help me, Lord, to see You and Your power and Your glory, rather than fret about whatever problem I am facing at the time. Help me to remember that You are with me in my battles, and that You already won the victory! Help me to grow in faith, in perseverance, and in maturity as we walk through this journey together. Help me to become more like You, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Princesses, Daddies and Batmen

Just a week after we got back from furlough, the string of Birthdays began, starting with
3 year old Keziah...

Displaying some of her presents

At the pool party with her friends

Her princess birthday cake

Under the skirt!

Two weeks later it was John's birthday...his was a little less exciting...he just got a lemon meringue pie!

Then it was 7 year old Aidan's turn, and he wanted a Batman theme...


Aidan's friends at his pool party

The Batcake

It's a lot of work, especially the cakes, but it's worth the joy on their faces.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I look at my life, my character, my attitudes, and
I see the miraculous transformation that only God could accomplish through His Holy Spirit.

I used to be like that ugly Monarch larva, crawling around on my belly through the muck of life.

But God lifted me up, and wrapped His loving arms around me, and began to work in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit, in my life. He breathed new life into these dry bones. He conformed me, and continues to transform me.

Every day I emerge a little bit more, being made into the likeness of the Son a little bit more, shedding the old me a little bit more.

How can I resist such a metamorphosis?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Strengthen Yourself in the Lord - Pt 1

I'm reading Bill Johnson's Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, and am encouraged and challenged by the strategy King David used to face tough situations. The basic premise of this book is that today's believers need to learn how to 'count it all joy' when facing turmoil at home, work, or within our families. How not to crumble in the face of adversity. How to encourage ourselves when no one else is able, or willing, to encourage us.

So the first chapter looks at the life of David, a man after God's own heart, who faced serious rejection and persecution.

Rejection 1 - King Saul, who had treated him like his own son and given his daughter in marriage to David, turned against him in jealousy and pursued him for a decade to try to take his life.

Rejection 2 - David's own countrymen, who he had just saved from the Philistines, were ready to hand him over to Saul.

Rejection 3 - The Philistines, who had welcomed David into their territory and given him a city to live in, refused to let him and his men go into battle with them...they sent him back...rejected.

Rejection 4 - David's own men, all social outcasts themselves, upon learning that their city had been burned and all their families and possessions captured, turned on David and wanted to stone him.

When David stood alone, with the whole world against him, and his life threatened on all sides, what did he do? Who could he turn to? David's entire future, and his very life, depended on his reaction to this dire situation.

1 Samuel 30:6 records David's response: "But David strengthened himself in the Lord."

David didn't collapse in a heap of self-pity, or start casting blame, or even run away. Instead, he reached out to God...he clung to his Maker and he was strengthened. What was it that enabled David to keep his heart and faith in God steadfast, even in that darkest of days?

1. David had seen God deliver him from the paw of the lion and the bear, and from the giant Philistine Goliath, and those experiences had built a faith in him that enabled him to rely completely on God for the victory. We have to face the battles and see God win in order to grow in our faith.

2. David led a life of worship and praise long before he was anointed to be King of Israel. In the quiet of the countryside, tending his sheep, David poured his heart out to the Lord, and connected with Him heart to heart. We also need to connect heart to heart with God.

Those years of rejection and testing groomed David to handle the glory and responsibility of the Kingship that awaited him. It strengthened his ability to believe and walk in the Word over his life that he would become King of Israel, even when the circumstances seemed to completely oppose and deny his destiny.

Some questions I'm asking myself:

What challenges or tests am I facing that seem to threaten the calling God's put on my life?
How do I respond in the face of rejection, when there is no one left to encourage me but myself?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newsflash!! The Caped Crusader hangs up his coat

The Caped Crusader with Great Granny Margie

The Caped Crusader in the forest

The Caped Crusader picking peaches

From Aug 15th through Oct 30th, the Caped Crusader, aka Noah Wright, fearlessly protected the Wright family on their travels around the Pacific Northwest (USA) and the city of Boston (UK). With undaunted courage, the Caped Crusader defended against potential enemies at the beach, in the speedboat, near the campfire, on the Hiawatha trail, at the park, and even in the dangerous aisles of Wal-Mart and Tesco. Always alert and ready for danger, the Caped Crusader refused to be caught with his guard down, and wore his infamous Raincoat Cape around the clock, including in bed. The few times he reluctantly relinquished his Cape for washing, he diligently stood by the washer and dryer until the Cape was clean and dry, and immediately replaced it on his golden locks.

On Wednesday, the 29th of October, the Wright family returned to Uganda, but the Caped Crusader remained caped, even in the African heat. The following day, the Wrights drove to their family home in Arua. As they entered the compound, the welcoming group of friends and teammates surrounded the truck, jumping and ululating and waving leafy branches. The Caped Crusader remained in his car seat for several minutes, observing the pandemonium and surveying the landscape. Once he ascertained that they truly had reached home, he jumped out of the truck, leaving his faithful Cape still tangled in the car seat straps inside. He never put it on again.

His mission was complete. Noah Wright and his family were safely home.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

When love lasts forever...

Is it possible? I mean, can love really last forever?
Depends on how you define love, I guess.
I've been on furlough for over 3 months now, traveling around the UK and the US with my family, and for some reason the issue of divorce and dissatisfied marriages seemed to slap me in the face. It was all around me...young couples and old, friends and family. No matter the situation, pain was there. The fallout hits far more people than the original two.
I know all about the fallout...I'm a product of divorced parents. I know about that pain; what it feels like to grow up without a dad; the hurtful things kids say on the playground; the feeling that something's missing...and the hardening of the heart because the missing piece cannot be retrieved.
It's a messy thing, divorce.
As I was listening to people's stories and watching my friends in pain, I wondered, "How do we turn this Titanic around? How do we protect our marriages, and fulfill those vows we made before God and man?"
It's not THE answer, but a friend handed me a sheaf of papers one day and said, "Try that on for size." It was the 30 Day Encouragement Challenge for Wives, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The basic premise is that for 30 days, you're not allowed to say anything negative to your husband, or about your husband to someone else!
Yikes! I wondered if I could make it for even 1 day! On top of that, each day has specific areas in which we find something encouraging to say to our husbands.
"Dear Lord," I prayed before starting the challenge, "You know my tongue, and You know I can't do this without You. So please help me with the words that come out of this mouth, and control this horrible little rudder that so often steers my marriage onto rocky ground!"
Guess what? It was amazing. Yes, it was hard, especially the first few days, but once I got used to it, I started to see things in a whole new light. Once I quit focusing on the negative and being critical about everything, all those annoying little things seemed to lose their annoyingness. They just didn't matter that much anymore. And I started to have a whole new appreciation for my husband that was normally hidden under a cloud of criticism.
Actually verbalizing that appreciation, and actively encouraging him, was harder than it would seem, but it got easier and easier with each passing day until I started encouraging him about all kinds of things that weren't even on the challenge.
After a week or so he found out what was going on. "Ohhh," he said, "so that's what happened to you!"
Kind of embarrassing, but heh...the one thing I've learned from all this stuff is that we have to keep trying to build our marriages stronger. I hate eating that humble pie, but if it means getting closer to my husband, and replacing destructive habits with loving ones, I'm ready to do it. Because I want to make it work.
I know it's not easy, and I'm not judging anyone whose marriages haven't worked, but we have to ask ourselves, "What kind of a legacy are we leaving our children? How committed are we to fulfilling those vows?"
There's a great movie out now that has this same encouragement challenge as it's theme, but it's called the Love Dare and the husband is the one who does it to save his marriage. The movie's called "Fireproof" and I highly recommend it. The website has a couple's quiz and full couple's check-up, if you like those sorts of things.
If you're interested in any of the ideas shared above:
30 day encouragement challenge:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The River of God

In Ezekiel 47, God gave Ezekiel a vision of a stream of water flowing out from the temple and down towards the wilderness. The further the stream flowed, the deeper it got, until it became a river too deep to walk across.

At New Wine in Newark, UK, this last week, Ian Parkinson talked about the river being the power of God, flowing from His temple to the wastelands, where everything was dead and lifeless. Once the river touched this wasteland, a transformation occurred that brought life and abundance and joy.

New Wine Newark: Kingdom Come

We all have wilderness times or areas in our lives that feel dead and barren, but the touch of the power of God can birth hope and life into those places. There are also wilderness areas in our communities…physical places where nothing much good happens, where there is a lot of brokenness, hurt and despair. God’s touch can restore, rebuild and renew lives and families, but the river of His grace and power must flow to those areas.

Question: Are we as Christians carriers of the power source of the God we follow? Do we bring hope and the promise of new life to the hurting people in modern-day wildernesses around us?

An interesting point is that the further away from the temple the stream flowed, the deeper it got. Translate that to today, and it says, the more we move out of the church and turn our focus towards the lost and needy, and reach out to them where they are, the more we will be releasing God’s transformational power. The goal is not to get more and more people into the church…the goal is to get more and more of the church out to the people.

If we stay ‘too close to home’ (ie. Wrapped up in lots of church activities but not impacting the lost of the world) then it’s like we’re sitting on the riverside dipping our toes in the shallow waters that just splash over our feet. But as we reach out to the broken, and spend our lives pursuing them with God’s love, we’ll go deeper and deeper into that river until we reach a point where we have to choose…do I stay where my feet can touch the ground and I have some semblance of control over my life? Or do I let go and plunge in, immersing myself in God’s river and letting Him control and direct my life? Do I trust Him enough to relinquish everything for Him?

How far in am I ready to plunge?

If we believe that Heaven really exists, and that there is no poverty, or pain, or distress for the rest of eternity, then we must recognize that now…this life on earth…is our only chance to reach out to the unlovable, to bind up the broken-hearted, to get our hands messy in messed up lives, and bring them the touch of that river that can transform their realities.

The goal is not just to save a few souls and then get rescued off this earth and taken up to Heaven…the goal is to complete the assignment Jesus gave us to bring Heaven to this earth.

PS If you want to learn more about New Wine, visit

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God's gifts

I've been reading Jan Karon's "Mitford Series" books about Father Tim and the work God has given him. These books are multi-layered for me...on one level they are enjoyable reading, on another level they are encouraging stories of a guy trying to do what God has called him to do with all the challenges that involves, and on a third level they are full of good quotes! (not to mention cooking recipes) Father Tim is well-read and keeps a quote journal, and we readers are blessed to dip into his journal as he shares some of the things other authors have said that touched his heart.

It's inspired me to start my own quote journal, and here is one from George MacDonald that got me to thinking...

" Man finds it hard to get what he wants
because he does not want the best.
God finds it hard to give
because He would give the best
but man will not take it."

How many times have I shunned God's best because my stubborn eye was fixed on something else?

We just celebrated Noah's 4th birthday, and I found myself wondering if he'd like what we gave him. It was important to me that he be happy with his gifts.

How much more does God want us to be happy with the things He gives us?

Noah's new bike

The labour-of-love Frog Cake

Gifts from his friends

At the pool

Noah is one gift from God that I love and appreciate very much.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pet frogs and versatile chickens

At the end of a long day, I thank God for these sweet faces that lift my spirits...

My sweet little Kezi

Like father like son...

no, not the frog!

The love of frogs...

Not your typical childhood pet...

...but at least it's an attentive one!

It can masquerade as a parrot...

...or just chill out in the afternoon sun.

My happy little trio. I love them.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cacti, worms, and other gifts from God

I'm still processing the concept I pondered in my last post titled 'when prayers seem to make the situation worse'. There are no straight-forward answers, but a murky picture seems to be emerging that points back to the sovereignty of God, no matter the outcome of our prayers. We just can't see the big picture like God does.

Chung-Ming Kao, writing from prison, captured this truth beautifully:

"I asked the Lord
for a bunch of fresh flowers

but instead he gave me an ugly cactus

with many thorns.

I asked the Lord

for some beautiful butterflies

but instead he gave me
many ugly and dreadful worms.

I was threatened.

I was disappointed.

I mourned.

But after many days,


I saw the cactus bloom
with many beautiful flowers

and those worms became

beautiful butterflies

flying in the wind.

God's way is the best way."

Sometimes we give up before the cactus blooms and the caterpillars metamorphose...we don't have the patience, we want the answer NOW.

But God simply says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Thank You, Lord, for the cactus and the worms, not just because of what they'll become, but because of the work they do in me in the meantime. Your Grace is sufficient for me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

When prayers seem to make the situation worse...

Have you ever prayed for something, and seemed to get the opposite of what you asked for?

Not long ago I read the following prayer-poem in Amy Carmichael’s book “God’s Missionary”:

“Searcher of spirits,
Try thou my reins and heart.
Cleanse Thou my inward part,
Turn, overturn and turn.
Wood, hay and stubble see,
Spread out before Thee,
Burn, burn
Savior of sinners,
Out of the depths I cry,
Perfect me or I die:
Perfect me, patient One,
In Thy revealing light,
I stand confessed outright,
O to be holy!
Thou wilt not say me nay
Who movest me to pray.
Enable to endure:
Spiritual cleansing Fire,
Fulfill my heart’s desire.
Make pure.”

It really touched me and led me to cry out, “Dear Jesus…that’s my prayer too! I know You see all the junk in my heart…the useless talk, the selfish ambition, the lack of quality time with you, the pride, etc. etc. I know Your desire is as strong, or stronger, than mine…to cleanse my inward part and burn all that junk away. I cry the same…’Perfect me or I die!’ I am undone…I see my sin and it sickens me. Give me strength and grace and power to endure the spiritual fire, and through it all, Lord, make me pure!”

Of course, within days I’m fighting with my husband, shouting at my kids and generally despising everyone I work with. My journal entry reads, “Fight this battle for me, Lord…Without You I am just an angry selfish woman…Help me! I hate to see myself revert back to the old ways. I thought I was changing…I need your strength, comfort, reassurance, guidance.” I was filled with condemnation and beat myself up for being such a loser.

A friend of mine recently got serious about a mild form of asthma she’s had, and bolstered her faith to pray for healing. Her teammates surrounded her, laid hands on her, and proclaimed healing in Jesus’ name. Three days later she had the first serious asthma attack she’s ever had.

One last example…John and I got serious about our prayer times together, and started praying for each other before going to bed. We want to see God work in our marriage in a new way and draw us closer to each other as we seek Him together. A few days after we started this, we went for a lunch date and had a painful discussion that ruined our meal and our date.

As I prayed with a friend about it, I was reminded about my ‘perfect me or I die’ prayer, and my friend’s healing prayer, and John and my nightly prayers, and how in each case we seemed to get the very opposite of what we prayed for. Our prayers actually seemed to make the situations worse.

But did they? Or did they stir something up that in the first instance looks worse, but is just preparing the way for something better? Like the dross in the refiner’s fire that bubbles to the surface and gathers there in all its hideousness until the goldsmith scoops it all away and leaves the pure, refined gold. Was my anger and my friend’s asthma attack and my fight with John all part of that dross? Is God answering our prayers by bringing to the surface whatever is in the way of His work in our lives so we can deal with it and move on?

I like to think so, because the God I know wants the best for me, not the worst. But purity and growth and change don’t come easily. Paul exhorts us to press on towards the goal, to strain for the prize (Phil 3:14). Strain rhymes with pain, and the two go hand in hand, but if we can remember to keep our eyes on Jesus, and trust His strength, not our own…I believe we’ll see the victory in these areas where we struggle. But the key is to remember that it’s not our power or might that will win the fight, but the grace of God working in us.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Becoming like little children

It's amazing how contented and happy kids can be stomping around in a pile of mud. They get dirty...they don't care! The dirtier the better. No worrying about getting the mudstains out of their clothes, or the dirt out from under their toenails. No worrying what nasty parasites might be lurking in the sludge, just waiting to burrow into their skin and bring some kind of crazy sickness. No fearing that there might be a sharp stone or stick hidden in the mix that will stab their feet. Just worry-free fun, a total abandonment to the moment, no greater concern than enjoying the present.

Recently God has been speaking to me through the well-known verses in Phil. 4: 4-7..."Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything , by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I need that guard over my heart and mind. I'm so good at fretting and plotting how to fix
everything...I can get caught up in the possibles and not dwell in the's so easy for me to think I've got the inside track and everyone just needs me to show them!
But all I really want is that child-like peace...I want to play in the mud without a care in the world; I want to sit in the dirt and have tea parties with my friends; I want the joy of the Lord to shine in me.
I catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when He said, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3) It doesn't mean we become naive, but rather trusting. Not immature, but dependent on His grace. Not childish, but humble.
Dear Father,
Make me into the daughter you created me to be. Help me to find my joy in live in the trust You with all the cares and ask You for whatever I need, and trust that You will provide it. Put Your loving guard around my heart and mind, that I might learn to love as You love, to think as You think, and to become more and more like you every day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Struggle sticks closer than a brother...

I laughed when I read that sentence...Struggle sticks closer than a brother. Mary Farrar wrote that in her book "Choices." She went on to say,

"Struggle is actually a vital part of the process of growing. Consider a tree. Its roots are empty hands stretched out to the earth. It is dependent on the sun, the air, the clouds, and the soil. But a tree doesn't sit there passively. No, in order for a tree to be healthy and grow, it must struggle. It must put forth an enormous amount of energy every day to raise the water and minerals from the soil to its leaves. It has been estimated that the work of a large tree on a given day equals the amount of energy expended by a person carrying three hundred buckets of water, two at a time, up a ten-foot flight of stairs.

"That is major struggle. You see, struggle is okay. Struggle is part of growing up. The key in the midst of our struggle is that we have our roots tapped into the right source - the pure, unpoisoned, vitamin-rich water of God's truth. The best we can ever have will come from the hand of God - as we follow hard after Him."

I like that. It's very liberating. It makes struggling look like a good thing, not just a difficult season that one has to get through and then get on with life. More like a long-term process of growing closer to God.

I used to feel ashamed of my seemingly endless struggles...I thought maybe I was too immature, maybe I had too much junk from my past, maybe I just didn't bear enough spiritual fruit to stave off the struggles. As if a mature, pure, fruitful person shouldn't have struggles.

But according to Farrar, struggling is where the growth is. And when I think about my struggles, they've often come after I've prayed one of those prayers that goes something like, "Dear Jesus, I'm tired of being this way. Please change me! Transform me! I want to become more like You!"

And then, WHAM! Smack in the face comes another challenge to which I usually react wrongly and then beat myself up for being worse than I was before I said the prayer! But after some time of agonizing and pouring my heart out to God and being broken before Him, I start to see things a little differently, and I start to feel His amazing love for me, and little by little I see the change in me. And that gives me the courage to do it again..."Lord, there's this other problem I see in me...I'm sick of it. I don't want it anymore. Burn it out of me, Lord!"

And then, WHAM! Back in it again.

It can be pretty exhausting, all this refining and purifying, but it's worth the pain to realize that God is molding me, and I am drawing closer to Him. And He graces me with deeper understanding of who He is, and who I am in Him.

The struggles are not in vain...the struggles are the stepping stones to the throne of Grace.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Prison...a different kind of molding

Isaac (top middle...smiling) and Kelvin (above) are normal guys with sadly common lives. Isaac was in the Ugandan army, had some personal problems he wanted to sort out, took leave to sort those problems, and didn't go back. He got caught eventually and was imprisoned for desertion...he got two years.

Kelvin had the usual family problems growing up...alcoholic parents, lots of fighting in the home, no sense of stability or love. His parents took the money that would have paid his school fees and his school uniform and spent it on alcohol. The neighbors mocked him. The rejection burned inside and set down roots. Not surprisingly, he also became an alcoholic and drug user. He was imprisoned for possession with intent to sell...3 years.

I met these two guys when I joined an on-going prison ministry. Every week we'd go and teach from God's Word and try to encourage the prisoners. Then we started an Alpha Course. Isaac and Kelvin were among the students. God touched their hearts and they gave their lives to Christ. The change in them is's like watching the caterpillar transform into a butterfly. Now they are leaders within the prison over their fellow inmates, and God is shaping them.

I don't pretend to understand what they go through in prison. Just yesterday Kelvin was asking if we could help them with laundry soap, as the prices have gone so high they can't afford to buy it anymore. The guys have to get their own soap for bathing and washing's not provided by the prison. And they want to be clean. They may be prisoners but they're not animals. They still have their dignity.

I'm a wimp when it comes to my molding sessions with soon as the fire gets hot I get all depressed and frustrated and discouraged with my lack of maturity. I can't imagine how I'd cope in Isaac and Kelvin's shoes. Watching them struggle to persevere and keep a positive attitude has challenged me a lot. How do I respond in the face of hardship? opposition? sickness? They are confined...I am not, but sometimes I think I confine myself with my own negative thinking.

What is the key to freedom? Giving it all to Jesus...all of it. Every day placing my burdens before Him again and again and saying, "I don't want to carry anything other than the yoke I share with You." He knows how much I can handle, and He knows where He wants to take me. When I just let go of the reins and hold His hands, instead....I experience that freedom...not a sense of nothingness, but a sense of being carried and cared for by a deeply loving Father. It frees me to be who He made me to be. And that's what I long for...just to be close to my Dad and live to please Him.