Three words that have been rolling around in my soul for awhile now. Each one speaks to me on several levels. Here’s what I’m thinking:
I like to see myself as a writer and an artist and one thing that’s imperative in the process of creating anything is inspiration. Nothing happens without it.
For the past couple of years not much has been happening around here—at least not in the realm of writing or drawing or painting.
No inspiration! Period. Zip. Zero! Nada…
Not only has there been no inspiration, there has been no motivation. That’s something I’m not accustomed to being without! Motivation is something I’ve been struggling to regain for way too long. When I think about writing, or drawing; gardening or cooking and posting about it—my ideas simply fade away or get shelved altogether. Apparently it is possible to play solitaire or look at facebook until the urge passes. Who knew?
For many years, clinging furiously to the notion that everything I write or draw must be used to motivate and inspire others, I have held the belief that all inspiration comes from the Lord. This belief makes months of being uninspired and unmotivated completely unacceptable. How in the world can I inspire or motivate anyone when I’m dry as last autumn’s leaves myself? For some unknown reason I’ve never really embraced the precept that creating could simply be doing something that “makes my soul happy.”
Last year, in April, I posted the question, “Who am I now?” This year, it seems, I’m not all that much closer to an answer. This is profoundly troubling.
When I searched Scripture for “inspiration” Paul’s letter to Timothy came up, reminding me that I became a believer because I trusted the Word which tells me Christ is alive; that He came to offer an abundant life, an eternal life. It reminds me there is always more than a little inspiration in the Message of the Gospel. It reminded me that my HOPE is in Him.
Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.
If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. 1 Corinthians 15:15-20 The Message (MSG)
Integrity is such a strong word. Within its meaning I find so much of what my soul cries out for right now It speaks of unity and wholeness. It speaks of honesty and—here’s an old-fashioned word for you—steadfastness.
Somewhere it is written, “No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.”
Lately we have seen several situations touch our life where just a modicum of integrity would have made a world of difference. Both with immediate family and close friends I have watched people cause irreparable damage to someone they claimed to love, all the while waving the banner of Christianity. This my friends is not integrity.
During this long dry spell, I’ve written about forgiveness and overcoming challenging situations. I’ve posted encouraging words on the timeline of a dear friend facing the loss of a loved one. I’ve looked long and hard into the mirror of God’s Word searching for answers to explain why bad things happen to good people. And, I have come to the conclusion that unity, honesty and just a modicum of integrity would have prevented so.o.o many heartaches.
Again, I found Scripture to substantiate all that integrity says to me in the writings of Paul when he told Timothy, “Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” St. Francis of Assisi put it this way, “Preach the Gospel all of the time. If necessary, use words.” Now these were men of integrity!
From this day forward, I shall demand integrity, not only in myself, but also, in those who are allowed to be part of my life.
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. 1 Timothy 4:10-14 The Message (MSG)
So…that being said…I come to the third of the i words. The writer of Hebrews views intensity like this:
Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated him in public! Parched ground that soaks up the rain and then produces an abundance of carrots and corn for its gardener gets God’s “Well done!” But if it produces weeds and thistles, it’s more likely to get cussed out. Fields like that are burned, not harvested.
I’m sure that won’t happen to you, friends. I have better things in mind for you—salvation things! God doesn’t miss anything. He knows perfectly well all the love you’ve shown him by helping needy Christians, and that you keep at it. And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them. Hebrews 6:8-12 The Message (MSG)
Being intense has not always produced the results I was looking for. Behind me lies a string of failed attempts at mentoring young women in the ways of peace. I’ve always believed that once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of the Lord, and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on them...they would experience a changed heart and mind, and develop the same intensity toward the things of God that hold me to a daily level of hope in Christ Jesus.
Some of the time my attempts have produced (by the grace of God) the intended results, but all too often they have resulted in those loved ones turning their backs on it and washing their hands of the whole thing.
I can’t begin to tell you how sad these “failures” have left me, how they’ve hurt my heart.
This year, as the time approached for renewal of the domain and hosting for the Contentment Cottage I seriously considered turning my back on it and washing my hands of the whole thing.
“What’s the point?” I asked.
“Nobody cares.” I wailed.
“Look at the numbers,” He answered.
“What? Lord you know I’ve never written or posted based on the numbers. I though we agreed that was up to you.”
“Look at the numbers.” He repeated.
So, I looked. And the still small voice that guides me said, “If two or three thousand people came to your door each month, asking for inspiration or motivation, or simply to sit and share a few sweet moments in peace, would you turn them away?”
No! Of course not!
“Would every one of those be blessed and tell you, ‘good work’?”
No… of course not.
“Would the lack of response cause you to withhold your blessings?”
No, Lord. Of course not.
“Then carry on. I want you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish.”
What more can I tell you. Contentment Cottage remains online until further notice. The Lord will supply the inspiration. I will continue to get the Word out with all the integrity I can muster (by His grace). And If my message is too intense for some, may there be one, or two, who are blessed and changed by it. That’s all He really asked, isn’t it.
As they continued onward toward Jerusalem, they reached the border between Galilee and Samaria, and as they entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, sir, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go to the Jewish priest and show him that you are healed!” And as they were going, their leprosy disappeared.
One of them came back to Jesus, shouting, “Glory to God, I’m healed!” 16 He fell flat on the ground in front of Jesus, face downward in the dust, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a despised Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the nine? Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?”
And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
photos in this post are not original to Contentment Cottage. Artist credit unknown.