Becoming His Vessel-I am Just the Clay

I sit on the shelf patiently expecting and waiting my turn to become whatever the potter desires. The day finally arrives. He lifts me from the shelf and begins the creative process. Expectantly, I sit in the Master’s hands; He warms me as He gently kneads what has always been hard and unbending. My thoughts race. I dream of all that could be, now that He has chosen me. I imagine me as His vessel. What might I become?

The gentleness of His molding suddenly changes in intensity. He pours water over me, squeezing and pushing me into shapes I never expected. He adds more and more water as continual pressure increases, making it nearly impossible to breathe. Wait, this is not what I expected.

I am picked up in His warm hands once more, but this time I am unexpectedly slammed down onto a fast-moving object and my life spins-out-of-control while more water sloshes over and around me. All ability to think or understand what is happening to me vanishes. I only hold on and hope to survive this process. 

Time seems to stop as this spinning continues. Without warning, the Masters’ hands reach down amid my whirling confusion; they encircle me, direct and move me where He desires. Something glorious is taking place; the spinning appears to be changing me. The old lump of clay that I was, is now transforming. My lost joy erupts with newfound anticipation of old dreams, dreams of becoming a vessel usable to the Master. The spinning and movement under His hands is exciting. This is it, what I have always waited for. I am becoming His beautiful creation. 

The spinning slows and I am sure that I am complete, that I have made it. All that I have endured is over. It’s now time to “kick-back” and “be who He created me to be.” I am lovingly lifted off that uncomfortable spinning wheel and carried with great fan-fare across the vast room and placed at the back of a dark shelf. As day after day passes my excitement wanes. Ok, now what? 

The Master seems to have forgotten me; waiting, waiting, and waiting as my once moist, pliable form becomes dry, hard, and crusty. Confusion settles over me as this new process continues. Then one morning He reaches in and pulls me down from the dark shelf, he turns me over inspecting closely every area. My Master has seen me again. He has not forgotten me. He sits with me and lovingly picks up small detail tools and carefully scrapes off the dried pieces that are “just not right” for His plans. It is uncomfortable, but I know these adjustments are coming directly from His hand and must be part of His ultimate process.

I feel the temperature change as the Master walks me across the room again, this time is different, this time the shelf is a rack and the dark quiet place is full of heat that grows stronger with every minute: I am sure I will not make it out of this one the same. I can’t do this anymore; this process is too difficult.

Days pass as I am again left alone, forgotten and struggling with questions, confusion and anxiety; crying out for this to end. Slowly, the heat subsides and fresh air swirls around me. I can breathe again. I notice a change in me, who I am, has solidified. A few more days pass as I rest in this newfound transformation, wondering—Now am I who I was created to be?

The Master again picks me up, dusts off what the heat drew out, turns me over and over in His hands as He admires what the heat has accomplished. We walk over to a new table and this one looks so beautiful; brushes and pots of exquisite shades of color cover it. He places me amongst them and chooses specific colors just for me, each brushstroke a gift. I receive each stroke with elation and expectation. This is His original plan, and I am overjoyed. This is it! I am ready. What does He want me to hold? My dreams of becoming His vessel for His glorious use have now arrived. 

I sit and savor the experience of receiving all of His gifts and glory and observe what a beautiful vessel I have become. Yet, the Master returns and lifts me off the table again. I expect Him to place me on a beautiful shelf to be viewed, but I suddenly see Him taking me to a glowing hole. It is growing hotter as He places me on a board and slides me further into the hole. The fire’s heat intensifies and is worse than before. What is happening? I thought this process was complete! I am beautiful and have all of His gifts. Why am I here? What did I do?

As the heat becomes unbearable, something unexpected happens. Instead of fighting the process, something rises inside of me. The previous heat in my life unknowingly accomplished the strength to yield to this extra heat I face today. That faith in the Masters’ plan reached up from inside, accepted and fought forward, embracing whatever was to come from this process. This time, as the heat cools and the board slides into retrieve me, I no longer look at anything but the face of the Master as He smiles at what He removes from the fire. “Your will Lord, not mine. Use this vessel to pour out your love and glory to those around me. Fill me up and pour me out,” escapes from my heart to His.

This analogy of clay in the potter’s hands is much like our lives. We are continually in the process of pressure and heat, changing from who we are to who He wants us to become. The process may seem complete, yet until we hear “well done, good and faithful servant,” that process will continue to be a fight forward, a yielding and a transformation. Ultimately, we can only become a vessel for honorable use, when we can say, “Your will, Lord, not mine. Use this vessel to pour out your love and glory to those around me. Fill me up only to pour me out again.”

Up from the Ashes

In the midst of the pain and loss a seed is found – life will move forward, life will spring forth, life will be green again as it rises up from the ashes.

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I often ponder the parallels found in the truths of scripture shown through the natural and spiritual. Many such, have been in the forefront this year.

As last spring began, the lush tall forest trees of the west coast stood strong and vibrant, never knowing what the next season would bring. Spring soon led into a scorching summer as flames consumed over 8 million acres that now lay in ashes – those same lush forests destroyed.

An interesting fact occurs in the midst of forest fires – the seeds of life are spared, hidden and protected – they are surrounded by a hard safe shell that allows them to spread, land and in the midst of the nutrient ash – in time – they will bring forth life. Seedlings of life will begin to turn the black and gray colored hills and mountains into soft green life.

These last 6 months have left much in ashes across our country. Thousands of lives will never be the same due to floods, fires, and hurricanes but also from accidents, drugs, suicides and disease. They too, never expected to have their lives lay at their feet in ashes.

However, strength and new life will arise. If the ash lies at your feet it doesn’t look or feel possible, but somewhere deep inside faith stirs, then rises up to keep moving forward. Somehow that seed of faith has been hidden and protected. In the midst of the pain and loss a seed is found – life will move forward, life will spring forth, life will be green again as it rises up from the ashes.

In the midst of the ashes believe that Jesus has a plan – a protected, hidden seed within you. Your story is not over – trust in your Heavenly Father. He loves you, never leaves you, walks with you, is faithful and good all the time. Trust Him to bring life up from the ashes.

Is 61:2b-3 He has sent me to comfort those who are sad, those in Zion who mourn. I will take away the ashes on their head, and I will give them a crown. I will take away their sadness, and I will give them the oil of happiness. I will take away their sorrow, and I will give them celebration clothes. He sent me to name them ‘Good Trees’ and ‘The Lord’s Wonderful Plant.’(ERV)

Psalm 30:11 Then he turned my sorrow into joy! He took away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. (TLB)

Beauty in the Fire-Pit

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Our warm summer sun continues to march forward toward fall as its rays have allowed sunflowers to flourish in my yard this year, like no year previously. Its rays have also limited our ability to burn our fire-pit – it sits unused, filled with scraps of yard wood, weeds etc. To my great surprise my fire-pit now boasts of a single beauty – yep – a sunflower. Right there in the midst of all the debris – right there where no water has been provided – right there where only rock supports its roots – there erupts a single beauty, her head held high – a single sunflower.

 As I contemplated this flowers unusual bedding choice I began to see a spiritual abstract. Beauty can come out of the midst of chaos, out of the midst of barren dryness, out of the difficult places we live in. From the depths of our pain and loss beauty can emerge.

     How does that happen in our lives?

It comes from the exceptional quality of seed that the cross of Jesus provides us, as well as a choice of our heart. Being willing to allow the Spirit of God to heal, strengthen and mature the seed of faith that’s been dropped into our mess is a decision. If we look to Him right there in the midst of the chaos, right there where all is barren and dry, right there where all is hard and difficult – suddenly there will erupt a single beauty, her head held high. A victorious example of who He has created you to be will proudly stand in the middle of your fire-pit.

Your God is faithful to bring beauty out of the most unexpected difficult situations in your life. He has lovingly offered you the seed of His son, it’s been placed within your heart – you only need chose to receive it, believe it and wait. Trust Him to complete the work – His time is perfect – His time produces the beauty hidden in that dark barren place.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Experiencing His Fire – Open the Door!

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I stand outside – the howling wind and the cold drizzle of rain a constant discomfort. The flickering glow, the desire for warmth, the obvious peace that waits, draws me to the window like a “peeping tom”; looking through the glass that separates me from what I desire.

I am acutely aware that warmth, dryness and contentment are available if I chose to open the door.

Making the choice and opening the door allows a new adventure to materialize before me. What could be seen from the outside does not compare to the experience of hearing the fire crackle and the sizzle of wood in the hearth that begins igniting new senses; the smell never experienced before now swirls as smoke and wood meld together with bone deep warmth in this new atmosphere.

What I thought I understood about this experience – this presence of fire – its warmth, light and peace – are nothing like its reality; an outside looking in experience is like experiencing a mountaintop through a photograph. This new experience of the very presence of God has exploded into a new inexpressible encounter at the feet of Jesus.

Have you chosen to open that door?

In church, never churched, or anywhere in between; you may find yourself still looking through the window, thinking you understand all that is inside but never partaking of all that is available to you free of charge.

Don’t wait outside, cold and wet, wishing for something more; yield to his call to open the door and walk into His presence. Come join him in front of the glowing fireplace that is filled with a roaring crackling fire – just waiting for you to experience and enjoy with Him.

 

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you;seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.(ESV)
(Revised excerpt from Fall’s Yield – J.K. Sanchez “Yield to the Call and Open the Door” 2015)
Photo courtesy of Geerati@Freedigitalphotos.net

Cloud By Day – Fire By Night

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As Israel was led into the wilderness the very presence of God was visually present to direct their way. A cloud by day to lead them and fire by night to give them light, both leading them into the purposes of God, being a people who belonged to a living God.

The Holy Spirit presents as a type of internal ‘cloud by day and fire by night’. Now dwelling within us, a gift given, a helper introduced, a comforter placed within, that small still whisper, a light leading us into the purposes of God, our true purpose being found as a child of the living God.

That voice, my internal ‘cloud by day and fire by night’ has been present in my life for decades, bringing me comfort in the midst of loss, direction in the center of chaos, peace and joy through this life’s journey. His presence is a source of continual strength, that whispered warning, that voice of instruction and encouragement, a presence that leads me daily into the purposes planned for my life before I was born.

As you hear a whisper beginning to stir, silently pulling your mind to its presence, the still small voice of the Spirit of God is drawing your attention. He is present to bring you direction – both to lead and to warn, a constant presence of a loving God.

That voice, the voice within, the voice of the Holy Spirit, dwells in each of us and becomes louder as we listen. His presence can shape, correct, and lead our lives as we step into a place of believing, receiving, and anticipating His whispered voice.

Today I walk as one who desires to follow that ‘cloud by day and fire by night’, whose presence now resides within me, whose voice I lean into daily, whose warnings I take seriously, whose instructions I endeavor to follow spontaneously, living as one who belongs to my savior, Jesus Christ – a true and living God.

Exodus 13: 21-22 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. (ESV)
John 15:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (ESV)

(Artwork courtesy of D.L. Sanchez)

Purifying Fire!

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Let the glory of your purifying fire reign over my life Lord!

As we enter into the grace of Jesus Christ, yield to his Lordship, accept his claim of possession over us, long for and dwell in His daily presence, we begin a process of being refined in the presence of His consuming fire.

This lifestyle costs us everything! It is when “more of him, less of me” gets real, as we proclaim – Yes, Lord! Send me!

Though the cost is great, it is in this place we begin a life of overwhelming abundance. In this place we dwell on His heights and depend on his provision for all that sustains us. On Christ, our rock, we lay strong defenses for all of life’s circumstance – for He alone is our strength and joy.

When we enter this yielded consumed place we find our lives are no long ours but belong wholly to the one who paid in full the debt we owed. This is the place where we step into the works of the kingdom of heaven, we begin to see the river flow out of us, the lame begin to walk, the blind see, the oppressed and captives are set free.

With great joy and in complete abandonment, I willingly, longingly wait in His presence to be so consumed by His fire that there is nothing left of me!

Yes, Lord! Come Holy Spirit and let the glory of your purifying fire increase and reign over my life Lord!

Mal. 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiners fire and like a fuller’s soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. (ESV)

Titus 2:14  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

(Image courtesy of Toa55 @ freedigitalphotos.net)