A Day at the Forge: Are You in the Fire?

A Day at the Forge

Last weekend, my family and I said goodbye to our normal Saturday activities, donned safety glasses, work belts and hammers and drove to an open forge event hosted by our local blacksmith association. The resident blacksmiths handed us skinny rectangular sticks of metal and announced we would be transforming them into BBQ forks.

Utter incredulity must have shown in my eyes as I eyed the extremely unforklike piece. Would they be handing out magic wands as well? Perhaps it was possible to simply stab a steak with the sharp corner of the metal rectangle and call it a “modern art”?

Are You in the Fire?In spite of my extreme doubt, my partner for the day (my dauntless 13-year-old daughter) seemed completely unfazed, as did the rest of my family. Their confidence caused me to suspect this feat might just be possible. They had, after all, been to this event once before. I was a rank beginner.

And as Darren Bush teaches on his Art of Manliness website, there are 4 things a beginner blacksmith needs:

“ A thing to heat your work, a thing to hold your work, a thing to put under your work, and a thing to apply forces to your work.”

We split up into pairs and got to work. As I began to get a bit more comfortable with the process of heating the steel, working it, and heating it again, I began to notice the spiritual applications of what was happening around me.

The 4 Things A Blacksmith Needs

1. A thing to heat your work

This was my favorite place to be – in front of the forge. It was an uncharacteristically cold day for South Texas and I was grateful for every moment I got to spend standing near the heat source! A hand-crank fan moved air to make the fire hotter, and the glowing bed of coals sat ready to receive the metal and heat it so it could be worked.

In the spirit realm, I’m not naturally drawn to the fire – to the trials used to shape me. Probably you aren’t either.

We don’t want to suffer (or even be uncomfortable!) because God didn’t create us for suffering. He made us for the Garden, before the Fall.  He created us for the home Jesus is even now putting the finishing touches on for us. But between now and then, we need to be sanctified, made holy.

If we want to work metal without cracking it, it needs to be hot.  We too need the forge fire to heat us up and make us malleable so that God can accomplish His work in us.

2. A thing to hold your work

Hot metal + bare hands = sizzling pain. They say every blacksmith either has been burned or is waiting to get burned. Our 11-year-old son was the family burn victim for the day, unconsciously making a grab for something with his ungloved hand. Ouch! He learned quickly the importance of tongs – something to hold your work. Or gloves on BOTH hands. When you and I are in the fire, our Heavenly Father is the one holding the work – putting us in the heat and removing us at the right time. We are safe in His hands. He doesn’t stick us in the coal and leave us there to be destroyed. He is in control of the entire process, the entire time. And He doesn’t make mistakes and need to scrap His work and begin anew.

His care is infinite, His purposes sure, and His timing perfect.

3. A thing to put under your workAre You in the Fire?

The anvil is a critical component of blacksmithing. If you don’t believe it’s necessary, try hammering a red-hot piece of metal on your kitchen table and see what happens! The anvil – solid and unmoving and able to take the heat without itself being changed – is the foundation for the work to be done.

I see this foundation in the spirit realm as the knowledge that God is good and that He loves you. This is the only foundation that can take the heat and the hammering without buckling under the pressure.

On it, we can trustfully endure the process without fear, knowing that we are held in the hand of our Father, on the sure and strong place of the knowledge of His loving goodness.

4. A thing to apply forces to your work

Don’t we all love to whack at things with a hammer now and then? I have to admit, my favorite part of making our Christmas peppermint bark is crushing the starlight mints with a mallet. The art of blacksmithing is more about precision and control than about smacking the daylights out of everything, but a good hammer is a basic tool for every smith. I believe God works on us the same way – with precision and control, applying just the right amount of pressure at precisely the place that needs it.

The Miracle

The miracle occurred – the transformation of a stick of steel into a reasonably nice looking and functional tool. It didn’t happen easily and it didn’t happen painlessly, but at the end of the day we were all happy with our creations and looking forward to returning next month.

The miracle happens in our lives too. God patiently and painstakingly conforms us to the beautiful image of Christ as we allow Him to work in us.   Over time, we begin to see the wonderful results.

Can we refuse to allow this to happen?

Sure we can.

Trials and tribulations happen to everyone. We don’t get to sign up for the trial of choice or refuse the package at the door.

But we can allow ourselves to become bitter and unmalleable in God’s hands. This does no one any good – it doesn’t get us OUT of the trial, it just ensures that we will likely have to repeat it later!

A better response is humble, trusting acceptance.

Three helpful things to know when you’re in the fire:

  1. You are safe, even when it hurts. God is in control of how much, how long, and how intense.
  2. You are loved, and His love means there is great purpose in your trial.
  3. You are not going to be here forever. Trials always end.

The final results will not be revealed until we are finally home, but when they are, what joy we will know for every moment we submitted and allowed God to perfect us.

I’m praying for you that for the joy set before you, you will patiently endure until the day of His return.

If you would like to read more about how to face the forge fire of trials victoriously, you’ll want to read this excellent post by my friend Leisa Lorenz!

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

 

Dare to Have a God-Sized 2018

January – A Season of Grace

There seems to be a special grace in the month of January – a brief period between the boxing up of the Christmas decorations and the head-first plunge into the brisk waters of a fresh, new year. A golden opportunity to be seized or squandered – a brief pause in which we can see with clarity and set the tone for the New Year.

Like the starkly beautiful forms of naked trees of winter, the underpinnings of life are visible during this brief season of grace. Choices and goals normally concealed by the thickly clustered leaves of activities are revealed to be reconsidered, and wisdom quietly invites us to choose well.

Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - winter treesI’m not just talking about noticing that our jeans are uncomfortably snug from holiday overindulgence and resolving to sign up for Zumba or Boot Camp, although that could be a good thing.

I’m talking about our goals, choices, and habits that will define us over a lifetime, and the chance to reflect and recalibrate that feels uniquely fitting for this time of year.

What goals are in your heart for 2018?

One thing I know for sure as I look ahead to the rest of the year – in the words of John the Baptist:

“I must decrease, and He must increase.”

I need more of Jesus this year than ever before.

But to have more of Him, I will of necessity need to have LESS of some other things.

What am I willing to sacrifice to see a fresh move of God in my life?

Sleep? Self-indulgence? Free time? Commitments that are good but keep us from what’s best?

Are We Asking the Right Questions as we set our goals?

I wonder – what kind of 2018 does God have in mind for me? For you?

Are our goals paltry in His mind and unworthy of our calling, though they may seem lofty and nearly unattainable in ours?

What is in His heart for you and your family this year?Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - woman with Bible

How does He desire to add to, detract from, or change what we are focused on?

What does He want to empower you to do in this world?

How does He want to grow your faith and mine?

I suspect God’s ideas would blow our minds, scare us to death, and energize us like a bolt of lightning all at the same time!

Are we willing to have the 2018 that GOD wants us to have?

A New Year For Those Who Dare

My prayer for you and for myself is that God would make us willing to pay the price to fully engage with Him this year and to see His plans for us come to pass.

To dare to have the 2018 that God has in mind for us.

Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - man prayingIt’s okay if you don’t feel that daring, but really wish you did. He can work with that!

Let’s move past weight loss goals (although I have those as well!) and really dig in this year and see what God will do.

If you are ready to recommit to the disciplines that form mountain-movers, drop me a line and let me know. I’ll be praying for you as I recommit to them as well. Time with Jesus, time in His Word, fasting, obedience.

Not new, not trendy, not glamorous.

But nothing new, trendy, or glamorous forms solid people of faith who are able to hold out life and hope to others drowning in anxiety and disillusionment.

There aren’t shortcuts, there’s just plain old obedience.

But through this process of decreasing so He can increase, I believe we will position ourselves for a 2018 that is full of His power and presence.

Are you ready?

With faith, hope and love,

The Beautiful Journey

A Christmas Celebration Fit For a King

I can hardly believe Christmas is almost here. I feel like I have just emerged from a whirlwind of school, shopping, soccer tournaments, and sickness and have been deposited, right-side-up and breathless, in the week before Christmas.

The shopping is done. Almost. Everyone is over their colds. School is winding down, and the soccer season is over.

Now the sacred moments, like graceful deer grazing in a snow-covered meadow, can softly appear in the wake of all the activity.

The moments that take the true richness of the Christmas season and reveal it to our wondering eyes.

A Christmas Celebration Fit for a KingAnd it would appear that we Americans have some funny ideas about the true meaning of Christmas. While waiting patiently (well…trying to!) in line at Wal-Mart last week, my eyes were drawn to a large, attractive sign in front of the in-store banking institution. The enticing Christmas colors and sparkles promised a cheerful holiday message of some sort, but when I read the words I was mortified: “Spend like you WANT to this holiday season”, the sign called to hapless shoppers, inviting them in to apply for loans for Christmas shopping. No mention was made, of course, of how it would feel to begin the New Year saddled with debt for gifts that already lost their sparkle.

What a message! “Spend like you want to, and never mind the consequences!”

Is that what Christmas is about – lots and lots of presents that we can’t even afford?  Is that the way to honor the One we celebrate?

I will admit, no one likes to feel poor at Christmas. We have had the years of mandatory homemade gifts, the wishing there was more to go around, and the tension of wanting to bless those we love with something they will enjoy, and not having the money to do so. Not fun.

But not the end of the world, either.

If you are having that kind of Christmas this year, I understand that tension and my heart goes out to you.

But the truly poor this Christmas, I believe, are not those who can’t afford a lot of stuff.A Christmas Celebration Fit for a King

The truly poor are those who do not see.

That kind of poverty is not solved by more cash or gift cards, and it results in a Christmas devoid of true meaning.

Those afflicted by this kind of poverty don’t see their need for the infant King who came to dwell among us.

They don’t see the incredible miracle of “God WITH us”.

They don’t see the wonder of fulfilled prophecies and the sweeping grandeur of God’s timeline from eternity to eternity.

They don’t see the mystery of the infinite God making Himself small and enduring deprivation, hunger, coldness, and suffering for A Christmas Celebration Fit for a Kingpeople who would misunderstand, mock, and crucify Him – and doing it all for love.

They don’t see the poignant beauty of that rough feeding trough that disguised the costliest gift of all time.

Oh, that we would all have eyes to see, this Christmas, the glory and the wonder of a love so incomprehensible.

We don’t have to have anything special this Christmas except eyes to see the wonder and a heart open to receive the Gift and the Giver.

That will truly make it a Christmas celebration fit for a King, regardless of what may or may not be under the tree.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours –A Christmas Celebration Fit for a King

The Beautiful Journey

Roots and Shoots – The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitude

What’s Faith Got to Do With It?

Is there a connection between our faith and gratitude?

What does faith have to do with our ability to be grateful?

Most of us understand that gratitude is a choice.

Dr. Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Our circumstances don’t dictate our attitude; we do.

Our attitude, in turn, has the ability to propel us out of our circumstances.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeHal Urban quotes a study in his book, Life’s Greatest Lessons, which concluded that up to 85% of our success in life is due to attitude, and ability only makes up the remaining 15% (p. 40, Life’s Greatest Lessons).

That is both a sobering statistic and an encouraging one. Sobering, because it puts the responsibility squarely in our court. Encouraging, for the same reason.

You’ve surely heard the old axiom, “attitude determines altitude”.

What then, is the basis of a positive attitude? What enables us to live each day with grateful hearts?

Faith is the Root; Attitude the Shoot

I believe a great attitude and a truly thankful heart are the outgrowths of the root of faith.

Sure, we can go about it another way, and read lots of books on positive thinking.

We can try to patch up our bad attitudes and give ourselves a 30-day thankfulness challenge.

Or we can look below the soil and see why our lives are producing what they are.

Our basic, bedrock level beliefs are the roots of the shoots that spring up in our daily lives.

If the shoots need to improve, we need to check the health of the root.

Very much like in math, where one small miscalculation takes the equation on an entirely different trajectory to the wrong Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitudedestination. The trajectory of our lives will take us where our root beliefs determine, whether or not we admit those beliefs to ourselves or others.

A healthy root of faith that God is, that He is good, that He loves us, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him will produce shoots of trust and gratitude (which will be seen in our attitude).

A root that has been (and here my garden knowledge becomes thin and spotty) attacked by grub worms and eaten through will produce very different growth…poor, stunted, and withered.

The root of our faith will always determine the health of our attitude.

Do I truly believe that my steps are ordered by God, that I am here to serve Him and to allow my life to bring Him glory? Or do I believe He is untrustworthy, doesn’t have my best interest at heart, has “done me wrong” and owes me better?

Those beliefs, even if we don’t consciously admit them to ourselves, are the basis for our attitudes and actions. The root determines the fruit.

Does a healthy, solid root of faith ensure a carefree life? No, it sure doesn’t. We will still have struggles, disappointments, and heartaches like everyone else, but even in the midst, our faith will enable us to see evidence of God’s care. We will be able to look back over the path already traveled and see many reasons to be thankful. Faith will enable us to live in the tension between who God is and what we see what our natural eyes before everything in this world is made right once again.

Root Health Check

If we discover that the root of our faith needs some attention, what can be done?

We can pray, along with the centurion, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief!”. We can ask Him to remove from us that which blinds us to His goodness and to give us eyes to see Him as He truly is. We can immerse ourselves daily in His life-giving Word and allow the measure of faith He has already given us to grow as it is tended.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeMy daughter recently planted some herb seeds. She has made several herbal remedies lately and is branching out into cultivating her own plants. If she simply poked the seeds into the dirt and went on with her life, it is highly doubtful that she will have flowers and leaves to harvest later on. The young plants must be carefully tended, watered, placed in the correct amount of sunlight, and kept weed-free. They must be sheltered enough, but not so much that the wind can never reach them, for without adversity neither plant nor human will grow.

Such is our fledgling faith. If we are trying to increase our faith, it must be tended. It needs to be watered daily with God’s Word, given the light of His presence, and the practice of being put to use in real life trials and tribulations so that it will be strengthened and proved real. Everything about our lives can be greatly impacted for the good by a daily choice to be grateful and have a great attitude, and our choice to have a great attitude is given wings to fly by the faith that grounds it.

What choice will you make today?

Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours to all the American readers, both here and abroad!  May our hearts be truly thankful.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

Why We Need Thanksgiving

Some of you may have seen the turkey meme going around Facebook that says “Back off, Santa! This is my month.”

Sandwiched between the more profitable Halloween and the mega-fest of consumerism, Christmas, Thanksgiving airtime seems to shrink more every year.

I must admit, I agree with the turkey.

For rushed and harried denizens of the postmodern era, a season of thankfulness is a blessed balm to the soul.

The shopping season is pushed on us earlier and earlier each year, it seems, crowding out the solemn pause that should accompany our Thanksgiving feast.

Why We Need ThanksgivingSales and dollar figures blot out images of Pilgrims, sacrifice, and suffering. The crumbs from the last bite of pumpkin pie are barely brushed away before we dash out the door for the madness of pre-sales.

But…isn’t all this just normal?

Why not simply take the path of least resistance and allow ourselves to be swept away by the treacherous current that would rush us past the shores of quiet contemplation? Why not just relax and be carried and jostled along with myriads of other hapless shoppers in the quest for more stuff to cram in our over-stuffed homes?

Because Thanksgiving is more than the day before the Black Friday sales.

Thanksgiving is a way of life, a spirit, and the way to enter into the presence of the Giver of all good gifts.

Thanksgiving is what grounds us in reality and guards us against excessive consumerism.

Without it, we are blind and grope in the dark for things which cannot restore our sight. Thanksgiving is what gives us eyes to see the many profound gifts we daily take for granted.

Legs, with which to get out of bed, and which give me independence, the glory of which I may never fully grasp.Why We Need Thanksgiving

Eyes to see the brilliant sunrise over the horizon, the tousled heads of my sleeping children, and the smiles on the faces of the precious souls I help serve at our church food pantry.

Ears to hear the sound of my husband’s voice praying over our meals, to be filled with strains of music, and the joyful songs of birds.

A sense of smell to savor the aroma of brewing coffee, an apple pie in the oven, bubbling under its flaky crust, and the tang of wood smoke on a crisp, cold night.

A sense of touch to feel the cozy, soft blanket that enfolds like a gentle embrace; to feel the silky lengths of my daughter’s hair, and the safe, honest, work-roughened hand of my husband as he holds mine.

These treasures were given to us – given! Many of us make it all the way through the long days of our lives retaining every one of them.

If we own a Bible, we own an even more valuable treasure – one that many have shed their blood and persevered through desperate danger for us to one day be able to own freely. Many countries today do not offer that freedom.

The freedom to live and worship as we choose, if we have it. Many don’t.

The ability to love, because One considered us worth loving.

These are among the things most precious, and for which we should be most thankful.

Why We Need ThanksgivingWill you accept the challenge to see through the lens of thanksgiving and to verbalize your gratitude? Thanksgiving, by definition, is gratitude expressed – thanks given.

Is there someone today who needs to hear the kindly spoken words that you are thankful for their life? That they matter to you?

Is there a blessing that has gone unnoticed for which you can express heartfelt gratitude today?

My challenge to myself and all of us is, every day for the rest of this month, to choose to express gratitude to those around us and to our Maker.

Then, when the dazzling lights of the Christmas season momentarily blind us, we will still be able to see.

We will enter that season solidly grounded by the preparatory work of feeling and expressing our gratitude and seeing the bounty we already embrace. We will firmly hold to the thread of thanksgiving that will sew the seasons together, uniting our thankful hearts with the coming of the Christ child, and we will then truly experience the joy of both.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. – for great inspirational quotes on gratitude, check out this post:
https://daringtolivefully.com/gratitude-quotes