Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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The Man In The Mirror

In Lesson 2 of The Bible Study Guide I write:
“We learn about God and his ways by reading Scripture day after day, year after year, relying on God’s Spirit to teach us spiritual truths, as 1 Corinthians 2:10–13 states.
When our reading of and obedience to Scripture is combined with teaching by God’s Spirit, we are strengthened to endure and to persevere through the difficulties of life, whether our difficulties be small or great.”
I recently read a post by Bill on his blog “Unshakable Hope,” which vividly and poignantly captures thoughts on the question of “Who am I becoming?” as I look into the mirror.
I can see the changes physically when I look in the mirror in the bathroom. What about the changes, and those that need to take place, when I look into the mirror of God’s Word? Who am I becoming?
Read James 1:21-25, quoted here from The Living Bible:
So get rid of all that is wrong in your life, both inside and outside, and humbly be glad for the wonderful message we have received, for it is able to save our souls as it takes hold of our hearts.
22 And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. So don’t fool yourselves. 23 For if a person just listens and doesn’t obey, he is like a man looking at his face in a mirror; 24 as soon as he walks away, he can’t see himself anymore or remember what he looks like. 25 But if anyone keeps looking steadily into God’s law for free men, he will not only remember it but he will do what it says, and God will greatly bless him in everything he does.
I’m reblogging Bill’s post, “The Man in the Mirror,” in the hope that you will be as challenged as I was by what Bill writes. I listen to what Bill has to say because he is living proof of the truth of God’s word. He is living out our unshakable hope in Jesus Christ.
Read his post and see why I say those things.
After you’ve read Bill’s post, I encourage you to leave him a reply, then come back to my blog ,brokennesstobeauty.wordpress.com , and leave me a note. I’d like to hear from you. What did you get from Bill’s blog post?
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,
with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another … “ (Colossians 3:16)

(Reblogged from “The Man in the Mirror,” posted August 3, 2017, on Bill’s blog “Unshakable Hope,” https://unshakablehope.wordpress.com/author/bsweeney60/ )

Unshakable Hope

Can you imagine going a whole month without seeing yourself in a mirror?

If you’re a follower of my blog, you know that I’ve had ALS for almost 21 years, and that I’m totally paralyzed and home-bound. In addition to an excellent nurse visiting me once a month to confirm that I’m still alive, a very nice lady also comes to our home once a month to cut my hair. She came the other day to cut my hair so Mary maneuvered my wheelchair into the bathroom in front of the dreaded mirror (mirrors don’t lie). “Who is that guy with gray hair and big bags under his eyes?” I asked myself.

You see, unless I ask Mary or my caregiver to place me in front of the mirror, which, for obvious reasons, I rarely do, haircut time is the only time I have to face this 56 year old…

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Encounters Along the Path

I met Ethel[1] on the bike path again today. We walk early in the morning to avoid the southern California heat, and sometimes encounter one another. Ethel is a woman of God. I’m always happy to see her.

This morning we talked about our mutual concern for the homeless men and women we see on the streets around our homes. We’ve both said, “Lord, what can I do? What would You have me do?” Ethel is a woman of prayer, and a woman of action in obedience to the Lord. I’m convicted and encouraged by her.

Colton Avenue biking-walking path

 

As we walked and talked, Ethel and I were surprised to discover we both have concern for the same homeless man. At different times, independent of one another, we have seen him sitting outside a small church building along our walking route. His name is Tommy[2]. I know this because every Thursday morning Tommy attends the same Bible study at church that I attend.

One day, not long after I started attending the Bible study, Tommy walked into the building, backpack in hand, and asked if he could join us. Our group, used to homeless men and women around our church, welcomed him into the Bible study.

Every week Tommy gets his cup of coffee, opens his Bible and appears to follow along. He contributes to the discussion at times. But Tommy’s mind lives in a parallel universe; his comments make no sense to the rest of us. We listen politely and try to respond as best we can.

I began praying that God heal Tommy’s mind. I pray for him the same as I pray that God heal the bodies of those who are sick or injured. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Those works are at the root of all that has gone wrong with us spiritually and physically; mind and body and soul.

The New Testament gospels overflow with demonstrations of the destruction of the works of the devil by Jesus and his apostles as they taught the gospel of the Kingdom of God, healed and cast out demons. The final blow to the devil was Jesus’ death and resurrection. The major battle has been won.

Now we are in the mopping up period after that decisive battle; we live in the age of the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Since God the Father gave Jesus all power and authority, Jesus has commanded us, his followers, to continue his works in his world. He gave us his Spirit to do these works.

Ethel and I know God is at work, and we get to be part of it. When two people independently have burdens for the same person, are praying for him, and reaching out to him, you know God is up to something.

God wants to reach, redeem and restore Tommy.

Will you join us in seeing the Kingdom of God come to life within Tommy?

[1] Her real name, with her permission to use it.

[2] Not his real name.


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High Expectations: Met

Home again. I feel relief flood through me as I pull into my driveway. Home safe, after driving for an hour in high-speed traffic, negotiating southern California freeways.

Last week I attended the first ever SoCal Christian Writer’s Conference held on the beautiful campus of Biola University in LaMirada, CA. I’d never been to LaMirada, never been to Biola,  and of course, since this was the very first annual SoCalCWC, I’d never been to it either. A big bundle of firsts!

Meeting in Calvary Chapel at Biola U.

There is always  trepidation as I anticipate travel to a new location, meeting new people, and the need for pushing myself out of my introvert’s alone-place of comfort and security.

Thank goodness for a user-friendly GPS to find my way to Biola in LaMirada. Thank the Lord for his presence with me (even introverts don’t like being absolutely alone), and his grace to help me move out of my shy self to meet new people and even make new friends.

But why would I put myself through these challenges, three times now, to attend Christian writer’s conferences? Because I have learned that I need these events. Each time I’ve attended a Christian writer’s conference my expectations have been met on two levels:

The anticipated—the things I figured I’d take away—learning  new information, gaining tools of the craft, and receiving encouragement. Experts in the fields of writing, publishing and marketing spoke in general sessions, classes, workshops, and one-on-one appointment times.

The unanticipated—the surprises—one time a challenge to create a different book title (that’s why I have the hope-filled Brokenness to Beauty book title, the biggest take-away from my second conference), and most special of all, making new friends.

One of the most important aspects of a writer’s conference is simply being around other writers who are passionate about their writing and getting it out there for others to read. Their enthusiasm is almost infectious. It gave me a boost I sorely needed. Writers need other writers and where best to find them than at a writer’s conference.

SoCalCWC 17 Faculty intros

A significant factor of a Christian writer’s conference is that the people involved are also passionate about Jesus Christ and his kingdom. This creates added impetus to get our words, the message God has laid on our hearts, into the hands of our readers.

The SoCalCWC met and exceeded all my expectations, both the anticipated and unanticipated! I’m glad I gathered up my courage, braving freeways and meeting new people, to attend. Kudos to director Kathy Ide and all who contributed to make a great conference.

 


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Finding Hope

“All of us need hope to move through life. We become especially aware of this when faced with circumstances beyond our control. When our lives are falling apart, where do we find hope to move ahead each day?” (Excerpted from Lesson 4 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life.[1])

Suffering and trials come in all forms, from serious health issues to extreme poverty due to war and political turmoil. I am familiar with life-threatening and life-altering health problems. Raella, however, has lived under the threat of war, poverty and starvation in her country of South Sudan. She is suffering things I know nothing about.[2]

But I do know the way to hope is the same for both of us.

How can I say this with certainty? I didn’t think it up myself. It comes from an authority much higher than me. In fact, it comes from God himself.

Listen to what Paul, under the inspiration of God, wrote in Romans 5:1-5 (HCSB):

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Photo by Gertop

Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord brings us peace with God and ultimately hope, as the Scriptures here reveal.

But there’s more! God is the God of hope. I got that right out of the text too. Romans 15:13 (HCSB) says:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Faith in Jesus Christ brings us into the place of peace with God, who fills us with joy and peace so that by the power of his Holy Spirit who comes to live in us, we overflow with hope!

Hope originates in God. It becomes our own through a restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures say in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have discovered that this Word is Jesus, God come in flesh to bring us redemption, forgiveness of sins and peace with God. We call his coming into the world as a human, the Incarnation.

Raella has discovered this truth too. In fact, she has seen “the Word (become) flesh” through a group of women. She has seen Christ Jesus in the women who lead the She Is Safe (SIS) Transformation Group she joined[3].

Through this Transformation Group Raella learned skills to start her own business so that she wasn’t dependent on a job that didn’t exist. She learned good business skills and saving and lending practices along with the other women in the group, so they can help one another. She also learned other vital life skills.

In her own words Raella says: “Today I have saved enough with my new business to rent a small house. My children are in school.” (This is significant where primary and secondary education is not free as it is in our country.)

Raella is lifting up her life, and the lives of her children, above their trying circumstances.

She and her children have a safe place to live. They have food to eat. The children are getting an education. All because Raella found the SIS Transformation Group and because she has worked hard to put into practice what they have taught her. Make no mistake, Raella has very little of this world’s wealth. She works hard at her business to bring home and save enough for a roof and food and education.

But business skills are not all Raella learned in the Transformation Group. She learned about the God who loved her enough to send his own Son to die to provide for her salvation.

She knows it is true because of the women giving of themselves to teach and train her in the Transformation Group. These SIS trained leaders are “incarnating” the Word of God, putting flesh on the timeless truths of God’s Word.

Because these followers of Jesus found a way to bring new skills and the Good News of Jesus Christ to Raella, and hundreds of women like her, she now has hope. These Transformation Groups are the “hands and feet” of Jesus to the Raella’s of the hard places in the world, places like South Sudan.

Raella’s testimony doesn’t stop with being filled with joy and gratitude for the good things in her life as a result of her training. Out of her poverty she also tangibly lives out her gratitude: “My first offering is always to God because he has given me hope.”

My heart was smitten when I read her words. Am I as grateful as Raella is for the grace of God in my life, for the hope he has given me? Is my first offering–skimmed off the top of my finances–to God because he alone has given me hope?

God has given me so much in every way. Am I living out his truth the way Raella and the Transformation Group leaders are, even in their unimaginable circumstances in South Sudan? Am I putting “flesh,” my own flesh, on the truths of God, living them out sacrificially for others every day?

Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 remind me that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

God help me—God help us—to whom much has been entrusted, to be faithful and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May we be found putting his Word into practice every day so that the Raella’s around us see Jesus in us, and find hope.

In upcoming posts I hope to share with you some ways God is leading me to live out his truths here in southern California, as well as give you updates on the progress of the writing and publishing saga of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty.

Stay tuned.

[1] Brokenness to Beauty is available here on Amazon as well as other online outlets. The Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty is in the final stages of writing, soon to be published.

[2] Not her real name.

[3] Transformation Groups are self-help groups led by She Is Safe-trained local women. Learn more about the ministries of She Is Safe at SheIsSafe.org.


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Surprise!

God is always surprising me.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to present a workshop on prayer at a women’s retreat, I silently gulped and said, “Yes, Lord.” Then I responded (audibly) in the affirmative to the lady asking me if I would do the workshop.

It is humbling to have someone ask me if I’d do a presentation on the subject of prayer. I’m still a learner in that field. I always will be, of course. And to consider speaking publicly, well, that is nothing short of miraculous.

That I can say “yes” to speaking in front of people, and on the subject of prayer, is a wonder to me on two fronts:

1) I can physically do it and

2) I have material already compiled from which to draw to put together such a presentation.

A few years ago I never could have agreed to talk in front of people for an hour. I have MG (myasthenia gravis, a severe muscle weakness) and have been extremely weak for most of my life. The miracle is that I have been stronger for the past eight-plus years than I have been since I was thirteen years old, and I now can do public speaking!

Even though I planned this workshop to be an interactive Bible study time, not an hour-long lecture, I still had to do a lot of talking. My ability to speak this much is the gracious and miraculous work of God. It is the answer to many prayers prayed over the span of more than forty years.

I also had what I needed to present in the prayer workshop. A few years ago I had finally said “yes” to God about writing the book Brokenness to Beauty (and I’m now writing the Bible study guide to go with it; a work in progress), and I had already thought through and written much of the material I used for this workshop on prayer.

Though I wasn’t at a loss for what to say, I did earnestly pray for direction from the Lord to narrow it down. Volumes could be said about prayer (and volumes have been written on prayer), but it certainly wouldn’t fit within that one hour time frame. I needed to speak to what these ladies needed to hear. Only God has that information. He again answered prayer.

Most important to me when I speak or teach is to direct women into the Word of God. If they forget what I say but hear what God says in his Word, I will have been successful.

I initially thought I was going to the women’s retreat (hosted by our former church) in order to take it all in for myself, enjoy the beautiful mountains around the retreat center, and especially to see many dear friends I hadn’t seen since moving from Bakersfield to Colton last fall.

As it turned out, not only did I get to do those things, I ended up with the privilege of serving God by serving the women who came to the prayer workshop. What a great weekend we had!

 

Did I mention God is always surprising me?

I was mighty tired after driving the three hours it took to get to the retreat center, the busy weekend and the three hour drive home, but I give thanks to our great God for giving me the strength to do it. He truly “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Photos of women’s retreat by Alayna Condon and Lindsay Long.

Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com.

 


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Don’t go out undressed

 The following is reposted from

 A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW OF FICTION

A LOOK AT FICTION AND OTHER BITS OF CULTURE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE BIBLE

a blog written by Rebecca LuElla Miller.

Her post, titled “Combating Satan,” was so convicting and right on I wanted to share it with you. I keyed in on what she said about most people stopping too soon when they talk about the Armor of God, as listed in Ephesians 6. I’ve noticed the same thing. We certainly want our bodies to be fully clothed when we leave the house. How much more do we need to be fully outfitted spiritually, wherever we are.

Combating Satan

 

Scripture, of course, is the only reliable source of information on the subject of combating Satan. In Ephesians the Apostle Paul names the armor we need for the battle we’re engaged in “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12b).

 

I’ve most often heard the armor identified as the list in verses 14-17: truth, righteousness, the “preparation of the gospel of peace,” faith, salvation, and the word of God. Each of those elements Paul aligns with physical armor of his day.

Too often that’s where we stop since the metaphor stops, but Paul went on to name another vital element we need in our battle against the schemes of the devil—prayer.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

Pray for all saints. Pray for those who are charged with proclaiming the gospel.

Years ago when I wrote a series of posts about Satan, I couldn’t help but think about C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. This little book contains supposed letters of instruction from an under-secretary of a department in Satan’s organization to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. At one point he gives his thoughts about rendering prayer ineffective:

 

The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether … If this fails you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by actions of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. (pp. 33-34)

Screwtape goes on to say that should “the Enemy” defeat Wormwood’s first attempt at misdirection, all is not lost. He can still disrupt “his patient’s” prayer by getting him to pray to a “composite object” constructed from images of “the Enemy” during the Incarnation and images associated with the other two Persons, coupled with the patient’s own reverenced objects: “Whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him” (p. 35).

It seems to me this “keep them from praying” strategy might be all too real. How many churches dropped their prayer meetings? How many Christians dropped their family prayer times, their before-meal thanks, their individual quiet times?

And when we do pray, how much of our time is filled with requests rather than praise and thanksgiving … or confession? How many of our requests are for ourselves rather than intercession for all the saints and for those who preach the word of God? When we intercede for others, how much of our prayer is for what’s happening physically rather than for what’s happening spiritually?

Lest you wonder, I’m feeling quite convicted.

This post is a revised version of one that first appeared here in June 2019.

https://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/author/rebeccaluellamiller/

 


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It takes a village … or a few friends, at least

I have to write the final lesson, Lesson 10, of my Bible study. In the last two days during my allotted hours for focusing on writing the Bible study I have: read the three chapters from my book the lesson is based on, written a prayer letter (and mailed it), written the note that goes on the Mustard Seeds’ March receipt to be sent to donors (a monthly task of mine), made several phone calls, read an email letter from the Christian writer’s conference I’ll be attending in June, and glanced at other emails. Though all these were necessary activities, I was not too focused during my writing time, to say the least.

my-writing-desk

Oh, but I did research some quotes and word definitions for Lesson 10. In total I’ve written about one paragraph of new copy for the lesson. In the last two days.

Obviously, I’m not moving ahead very fast here.

But I had a thought that could help me a lot, based on prior experience.

Last year I worked with a small group of ladies over the summer and into the fall as I wrote my way through developing the first several lessons. I’d write a lesson, give it to them, we’d meet one day a week and go over it, and they would give me their feedback on the lesson. I found their insights and participation of great value. (And it was fun being together.)

Then I moved.

I’m happy to be where I am but I don’t have my little group of friends to bounce my ideas off of. I miss them. I need the feedback of other women as I write a Bible study for other women (and men too).

So I’m going to beat the bushes for a few friends who would be willing to give me feedback to my questions and manuscript as I work to write the last lesson of this Bible study rooted in the book, Brokenness to Beauty. If you’ve read the book (hey, it’s available on Amazon if you don’t have it. It’s a good read, so I’m told) and if you are interested in joining such a group, let me know.

One benefit to you would be to get the inside scoop on what I develop for this final lesson in the ten lesson Bible study. I’ll send you documents to review and give feedback on as we work through the lesson.

I’m one lesson away from completing the Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty. Consider being a participant in propelling me over the finish line toward publication!

Leave a comment in the comment box on this site if you want to be in a beta study group with me for Lesson 10. You can also message me on facebook.

Or leave me a comment just because you want to chat. I’d love to hear from you.

And have I mentioned you can pick up my book in hard cover, soft cover or e-book, online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Bookstore for e-books,  and WestBow Press Bookstore. I also sell and ship the soft cover version. So many ways to get it!

front-cover-copy