Day #5 and #6 Life is as test, a trust and temporary The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

AmberOBrien"

So tell me Sweet Sister, what is weighing on your heart today? A messy relationship in your family or at work? An Illness? A struggling or hurting family member?  Rick Warren says that “Life is a Test, Life is a Trust and Life is a temporary assignment” 

I wrote the poem Pieta’s Peace during a time when I grieved the loss of my brother Billy and my daughter struggled as well at college. When we grieve for ourselves or for a loved one who is struggling we have a choice to pass the test of trusting God and surrendering with open arms those people God has put in our lives for a short time.  

I couldn’t stop gazing at her hands. Carved from white marble, her hands did not tightly grip her dead Son, but instead gently cradled his limp body upon her lap. Her left hand lay open with its palm facing upward as her beautiful, serene face admired her lifeless son.

One of the highlights of our trip to Rome consisted of my husband and I touring St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica Catholic Church is one of the largest churches in the world as well as a masterpiece of architecture containing numerous chapels and altars lavishly decorated with renaissance paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. Such a large collection of beautiful art overwhelmed me, as I knew I could never take it all in within a single visit.     

Despite the numerous pieces of religious art on the ceiling, walls, and even the floors in the massive cathedral that holds the tomb of St. Peter, I felt drawn back to those marble hands. The hands were Mary’s in the masterpiece The Pieta by the world-renowned sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo.

The Pieta depicts the moment when Jesus was taken down from the cross and his mother, Mary, was able to hold him one last time. I stared in awe that a sculpture chiseled out of stone could mesmerize a crowd 1500 years later as we stood in silence taking in the heart-wrenching scene. When I had left our home for our trip, my heart felt heavy with concern over one of my children who was going through a rough patch, and this masterpiece seemed to specifically whisper to me through the ages.

After watching her son suffer and be crucified, Mary’s hands still rested open as Jesus lay on her lap. Meanwhile, my heart and hands were gripped tightly with fear and anxiety as I worried about our daughter who just recently started college. She did not seem to be thriving socially and wanted to transfer to a larger school that offered more classes in her major. She was attending the school where her father and I had met. A place filled with great memories, but where I initially struggled, too. During my own freshman year, I endured tough hallmate and professor situations and felt that I benefited from these refining challenges. I later thrived as I found like-minded friends and classes that I enjoyed.

So while I was on this trip, many questions continued to linger in my mind; “Should we make her stick it out and insist that she stay? Would this put her behind if she were to come home and/or transfer? Wouldn’t the best thing long-term be to make her stay and allow her to adapt in due time?

As I looked pensively at The Pieta, I felt as it contained a special message from above, so I decided to read up about Michelangelo and his timeless Pieta. I googled his name and learned that at early age of six, after losing his mother to a long period of illness, Michelangelo was then sent to stay with his uncle who was a stone cutter. After suffering such a tragic loss at a tender age, Michelangelo obviously knew the agony of grief. Perhaps, though, he also learned how God can reconcile loss as he began his career as an artist using the skills he learned at his uncle’s workshop.

The word “pieta” literally means “pity, compassion, and suffering.” Michelangelo wrote later, however, that he did not want his Pieta to represent death, but rather to show “the religious vision of abandonment.”  Abandonment. Yes, that is what those open hands are demonstrating.

I interpreted the scene as Mary trusting in God’s love and goodness and giving back to God the gift that was given to her so many years before. I wondered if the sculpture that took two years to complete was Michelangelo’s gift back to God. Maybe he learned as a young boy the secret of abandonment and found the serenity reflected in Mary’s face. Perhaps he wanted to share with others the peace found when one holds onto people and things loosely.

Later in our trip, I reflected on perseverance and remembered the times in my life when not giving up had actually become a detriment. When my children were younger, I wanted us to be a musical family so badly I insisted that me and all three children take piano lessons. I had visions of us all around the piano playing Christmas carols. Each night, I faithfully spent time playing songs over and over, hoping that I would be able to start a musical tradition for our family.  Playing with two hands did not come easily, yet I faithfully practiced for two years as I encouraged my children to do the same. I remember one day my piano teacher turning to me and asking, “Do you enjoy playing the piano?” I realized then that I no longer enjoyed it, and that I had hit a standstill in my progression. I asked myself what did I enjoy doing? My answer was writing poetry. I loved the satisfaction of creating a poem – spending hours mulling over each syllable and line, and the inevitable joy when my poem finally came together.

Why was I spending my time on what I struggled with instead of spending my time on what I enjoyed  doing? Why wasn’t I sharpening the gifts that God had given me instead of trying to force the gift of music he hadn’t given me? Then I asked myself: “Am I doing the same thing now to my daughter?”  It must not have been easy for her to ask to leave after one semester.  Did she need a fresh start and a new direction?  A redo?

So I took my hands out with palms up and pretended my daughter was in my arms and lifted them up to the hotel ceiling as I kneeled beside the bed. I released her to God and said, “I give her back to you. She is Yours.” I continued to pray this “prayer of abandonment” whenever an anxious thought gripped me. As my husband and I discussed options, I kept releasing my own expectations as we sought God’s will for her. As I handed over my daughter into His loving, strong arms, I felt peace. Peace as beautiful as Mary’s serene Pieta face as she calmly gazed upon her son.

My husband and I decided at the end of our trip to work on helping our daughter to withdraw so she could have a fresh start at a new school. She began anew at a closer, larger school that contained more classes that fit the major that she enjoyed. She now thrives in classes designed specifically for her desired major, as well as socially with the sorority she joined when she transferred. And I am trying to each day to hold my hands with palms open facing up and intentionally release any concerns up to God, trusting that He cares about every little detail.     On the entire six hour plane ride home from Italy I joyfully penned The Pieta’s Peace, my small gift presented back to God with open hands and a grateful heart.  

#4 Made to Last Forever The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

AmberOBrien"

“When this tent we live in —-our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home He himself has made, which will last forever.     2 Corinth. 5:1

Perspective.  Did  you feel like the caterpillar today? Were you crawling along over dirt facing one obstacle after another (leaves and twigs?) not aware of the sky above and all the beauty around.

Rick Warren explains “Earth is the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity. It is the practice workout before the actual game; the warm-up lap before the race begins. This life is preparation for the next.”

Have you thought of Death being a birthday into eternal life? 

A beginning of a life in a home with no sin, no tears, no sickness, no grieving, no pain and suffering.

A beginning of a life in a home filled with Jesus: who is Love and beauty and light beyond our imagination.

The labor of earth ending as the cocoon of our bodies fail and our souls soar.

Perspective. Stop looking at the twigs in front of you and look up. Turn. Turn your eyes on the one who conquered death and broke free from the three day cocoon of the grave.

Day #3 What Drives Your Life? The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

AmberOBrien"

“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.”   Isaiah 26:3

I am directionally challenged. In fact, my family insists that I will go the exact opposite direction that is required, if given a choice. When leaving an elevator, I will turn nine times out of ten the wrong way, even when I try to think about focusing on going the opposite way as I first came. I learned as a young driver to stop at the nearest gas station to ask for directions before I drove too far in the wrong direction. If I knew I was lost and didn’t ask for directions, I would drive faster in a frantic panic and make matters worse for myself. What a horrible feeling to be lost and not know which way leads to home.

What a gift my GPS is! My children cheered and jumped up and down when I first received one on a long past Christmas morning. If I now go off track, my GPS reminds me to just “recalculate”  and eventually I will get back on the right road.

My favorite part of all is to push the button “Home” and I can have peace that eventually I will arrive at my favorite destination.

What about you my sweet sister or brother? Do you have a spiritual GPS? A God Positioning System?   Have you pushed the “Home” button and now have God’s peace that no matter the detour that you will reach your heavenly home?  

Today’s point is Ponder is “Living on Purpose is the path to Peace.”

Sit in quiet and ponder what direction you are driving in and what kind of fuel is driving you.  How do you spend the majority of your Free time? Who are the people who have the most influence on you? Are you asking for and receiving the help of the holy spirit to guide you?

No matter how far you have driven off the “narrow path” to Heaven, at anytime you can “recalculate” and ask God for Help to direct you back to Home.

 

 

 

Day 2 You are not an Accident The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

AmberOBrien"


But as for you, O LORD, you are our Father, and we are clay, and you are out potter, we all are the work of your hands.  
 Isaiah 64:8

So if you were sitting in The Potter’s workroom what type of clay container would you be?  A container women would use at a well to carry home water on their heads to their family? A terracotta pot containing a small candle that would give light and warmth to others? A pot that would some day be full of rice and feed a banquet of people?

Or do you Sweet sister feel like a clay pot who has a crack from a broken heart? perhaps you hold the ashes of regret or past mistakes as an urn might hold ? Do you feel as if God has left you alone on the shelf? When you look at yourself in the mirror do you wish that the potter had made you a taller thinner pot like a tall vase? Do you wish you were covered with Gold and diamonds?

How this must grieve our father Potter that we would question His goodness and wisdom when He lovingly created us. You are His masterpiece and everything about you was carefully thought out for a good and noble purpose.  God doesn’t make mistakes. He waits for us to say “Yes” to the role His has established for you before He declared,

Let their be Light.

Mary said “yes” to being God’s vessel to carry the Light of the World even though she was young and poor.  King David was chosen not for what he looked like from the outside but God said that “Not as man sees does God see, because a man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”. ( 1 Samuel 16:7)

Throughout history God has used the overlooked, the weak, the rejected, the barren, the small, the old, the young, the sinner, the sick, the lame, mute and  blind etc…to impact the world for God’s kingdom the most…………because light shines brightest through clay pots that have cracks.

So perhaps sweet sister your cracks and imperfections ( perhaps your broken heart) are just the part of you that will allow God’s light to shine through to others as your purpose on this earth is slowly revealed during our 40 day journey.

 

Day One: What on Earth Am I Here for? 40 Days

AmberOBrien"

40 days.  Forty days is what we have Sweet Sisters as we journey into 2017 and read The Purpose Driven Life together.   In the Bible, Noah endured 40 days of rain, Moses and His people 40 years in the desert, and Jesus was tested for 40 days in the desert. Forty is a time of Testing in the Bible that produces growth and depth.    In modern times, the reality show Survivor is also based on this 40 day time period. A lot of growth can happen in 40 days. We are going to spend two days on each of the 40 chapters so we really are going to do this over Eighty days sweet sister….So I am hoping for twice the powerful impact  on our lives.  Are you ready?

“I was made by God, for God”  Say it out- loud my sister.

The God of the Universe wants to spend time with you.

The Holy God of the Universe wants to have a love relationship and just spend time with you.  We are selfish, broken and sinful and yet He continues to woo us.

How can we comprehend something so incomprehensible?

Just keep saying it over and over “I was made by God, for God”

 

 

 

An exciting 40 day journey is about to begin…. Because wise women still seek Him.

AmberOBrien"

 

Happy Three king day to you my sweet sisters! On this 12th day of Christmas,  celebrations are occurring all over the world to commemorate when the three wise men finally found the infant who was going to save the world. In Puerto Rico boxes of grass are put under children’s beds as a way to attract the camels of the three Kings. The children wake up to gifts (toys) to symbolize the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the biblical three kings presented to the King of Kings.  

What about you? Are you actively seeking the King of all Kings? Have you found out why you were put here on this earth?

Starting on Monday January 16th the local Bel Air, Md sisters will be seeking out God’s purpose for their lives by studying Rick Warren’s best seller, The Purpose Driven Life.  If you do not live close enough to join us physically, please consider finding this book and taking this 40 spiritual journey with us. I will be posting insights and questions from our small
group discussions and your sweet sisters will travel with you during the three months of January, February and March.

Come join us Wise Sister…..because Wise Women still seek Him.

 

What will you do or not do in 2017? That is the question.

AmberOBrien"

Dear Amber:

What is your New Year’s resolution? and How can I stick to mine? I am stressed about picking the right goals and following through.

Dear Sweet Sister:

I understand your stress.  I have spent the last few days in prayer and study as I attempted to make my yearly goals for my body, mind and spirit. I talked to my physical trainer who encouraged me to pick a physical and a nutritional goal. I studied my monthly planner who encouraged me pick a theme (word of the year) to set my priorities and to make goals for all of my relationships: Family, friends, business. The stress mounted as I thought about all the people in my life and how I wanted to help them all and yet with another year passing, I know how little time there is in every day to accomplish so much.  So instead of an excitement over the new fresh year, soon I was feeling overwhelmed with all I felt I “should” accomplish.  I see why some choose to just not make any goals at all…..the fear of failure is crippling.  But I for one know that people that set goals accomplish more that those who don’t and that writing them down and coming back to them increases the likelihood of them being realized.  If a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or to not to do something” then our focus should not only be on what we plan to do in 2017 but also what we plan not to do.

So what should we do Sweet Sister?

First, what should our number one focus and priority be as Christians ?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden of sin that clings (distracts us) to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”        Hebrews 12 : 1-2

 Our goal to to run after Jesus keeping our eyes fixed on Him,  to stay on the narrow path and to invite as many of our friends and family to come join the race.

So ask yourself these two questions?

  1. What is weighing me down or distracting me from following closer to Jesus?           Is a person, social media, a hobby, an addiction,  T.V., clutter, love of sleep..?…..What do I do first when I wake up instead of spending a date with Jesus? What do I need to take away so I have more room to grow in my relationship with Jesus?
  2. How can I be sure to stay close to Jesus in 2017? Do I need to go to bed earlier? wake up earlier? make a pact to not look at emails or Facebook until I  have sat in quiet and became still before my Lord and Savior? To not exercise my body until I have exercised my soul? Maybe decide to read the good news before I  read or watch the depressing news on T.V.

We are promised be bear good fruit if we remain close to Jesus. So this needs to be our Top priority. He will guide us each morning as to all the other goals.  We don’t know what the future will hold and what we will face, but if we meet with God and walk and talk with Him on a daily basis, we will know at the right time what we should do.   When we have our “date time” then we can ask…How can I take better care of the body you gave me?  How should I handle this business decision? How can I show Love to this person who really rubs me the wrong way?

Now this is really important Sister. Write down what you plan to get rid of and hand it over to Jesus.  You need to make room for Jesus and so some housekeeping must occur in your heart.  Don’t just think about it….write it down. now:) 

Next, write down how you plan to improve or add your personal relationship with Jesus.  Will you make a commitment to not look at Facebook or emails when you wake up? Go to Church every week? Join a small group bible study?

Just as an athlete makes sacrifices and trains with others that are like- minded, as Christians we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and  find like-minded sisters to keep us accountable and encourage us.

So Write down what you will remove from your life or only do after you spend time with Jesus……….and then write when and where you will meet him for your daily “Date”.  I have a special place and chair and if I fail to allow for some good, sweet time to chat with Jesus and tell Him what’s on my heart, I imagine in my mind’s eye that He quietly waits until I do make time. Love is patient and He will not force His love but quietly waits for us to make room.   I hope we look back on 2017 as the year that no matter what happened around us or to us that we kept our eyes fixed on Jesus and we persevered in running the race.

A Mid-Life Christmas

AmberOBrien"

A Mid-Life Christmas

Husbands please be patient
I know we now both agree
Your wife is far from perfect
Just like your Christmas tree

Our needles are brown and shedding
Our bottoms have grown too wide
Once firm branches are now drooping
Too tattered for trimmings to hide

Don’t look too close is now our plea
Your search might be mistaken
And please don’t look around fretting
“All her youth has now been taken”

Let the wise farmer prune and weed
Be patient and explain with glee
“I’ve been given a perfect wife
For she is all God Knows I need

When Choosing a Christmas Tree

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sisters,

I wrote this poem 27 years ago as Dave and I were picking out our first Christmas tree. I remember shivering in the cold, being perfectly happy with many trees we spotted along the way. But Dave keep searching for the “perfect tree” which we all know is not a thing. (Or a perfect wife). This poem was my tongue-in-cheek way to find the good in having a husband who takes soooo long to pick out certain items. So I hope, sweet sister, you will look for the good in those around you this Christmas. Sometimes when I get frustrated or angry, I make a list of 10 good qualities about my husband. Focusing on the good changes perspective. Perhaps the best gift you could give yourself and your spouse this Christmas is to start making such a list right now.

Think and write on what is good in your life.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  (Philippians  4:8)