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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

“Set back to wind,” she wrote. The Spirit fills us, pushes us along, just the next gust or the ever-present breath. No sinking, no long-range course for us. Like the wind.

John 3:8 – “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I love the wind. Strong or gentle, wrapping me or rattling my window, my eyes light like Galadriel’s going to sea. Calling, like I’m supposed to be there, in it. Hard to only watch. And what am I watching? Not really the wind itself. Family is careful to remind me that I am not seeing wind, but its impact. Transfer of energy. But the wind takes a long time to get tired.

Rain in the wind. Hair in the wind. Eowyn’s flag atop Edoras in the wind. Trees in the wind. Windy City. Windmills. Wind on my face. A sail-ship powered by the wind.

Romance of Sail by Frank Vining Smith
Romance of Sail

All my life I’ve wanted a picture of a ship. I’m picky. It has to be a beautiful ship on a beautiful sea. And the ship can’t bee too modern, or a pirate ship either. Ships in bottles excite me. I love anchors and the white and blue of a sailor, white ropes and wooden floors and round windows.

Comprehend my delight at finding the perfect substitute for my ship picture or ship-in-a-bottle: a model of a ship, about a foot long, unpainted. As soon as it’s made I will place it in prominence in my room, to inspire like wind in my room every day of the year. Such are all my decorations, bits of memory pointing me to love others, worship God, walk in the spirit, quest for the truth.

 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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We got Prince Caspian for Christmas at our house.  Some movies offer what no books can: moments of sight and sound and emotion woven together.  My favorite in this movie is Peter, High King, sitting back against the table of Aslan’s sacrifice staring at a carving of Aslan’s face and realizing that in his humanness, Peter is insufficient.  Peter fails.  And Aslan is always faithful.  Perhaps he imagines the look on Aslan’s face when Edmund returned, forgiven.  Now Peter knows too.  And has to go on. 

 

At the beginning of Prince Caspian is another moment.  If you’re not watching closely, you’ll miss it.  For just a second the view that had been following Lucy and Susan beneath the rail-station arch pauses to focus on the lion statue beside it.  The sight is full of memory, as though the roar from Narnia is trapped in that lion.  For a while I ignore the scene’s progression and I think of the year between leaving the Wardrobe and now.  

 

One of my dear friends had the opportunity to spend a semester at Oxford, England.  Surrounded by faith-friends and the sites of our favorite literature, my friend whose strength is imagination was four months in legendary England.  Now she is home, just in time for Christmas.  She grew while she was away, I know.  And maybe we all could have predicted how her return would affect her: “It’s like stepping back out of the wardrobe,” she says.  I see four children tumble onto the wood floor of a clean old attic. 

 

And I want to ask her, “Do you look for Aslan everywhere you go?”  I mean, you might hear a tune and think of fauns, or see some architecture like Cair Paravel’s.  A turn of phrase might bring back the voice of an old friend.  Just looking at the face of one who was with you there could bring it all back.  But mostly I think that those who have returned from Narnia would have learned to watch for Aslan. 

 

Of course Aslan is only a type of the true Lion, my King forever and Redeemer coming-back.  Jesus is the ever-present, always active One whom I can always seek.  Do I look for Him everywhere? 

 

It always reminds me of John, the disciple Jesus loved.  After three years of a close relationship – three years walking and talking and eating, crying and laughing, with God Himself! – this man says good-bye to his Friend.  Buoyed by the hope translated to the gospel he would write decades later, the hope of presence and return and friendship and comfort, he marched on through life.  But I wonder if sometimes he didn’t sit in the darkness and miss his Savior with all that he was.  Imagine his excitement to literally be a part of Revelation, to be in those visions, to see again One – hesitantly, as though John had pictured this moment so many times that he might only be dreaming again – like the Son of Man.  Familiar face, glorified, more like the few moments on the mountain than the months in the dust.  And John is back, Jesus speaking to him, comforting him, rewarding his hope.  But there is more to do.  John’s work on earth is not finished.  He is sent back to write the last words of the hope of new testament. 

 

Sent back.  Held back.  Cannot follow.  Kept waiting.  Watching.  Can’t sleep because you’re standing on the walls, straining eyes to see.  Can’t despair because the words are true, Jesus is coming back.  Must follow, because readiness is imperative for the return of the Bridegroom.  Readiness that glows with anticipation and faith-full faithfulness. 

 

Do you look for Him everywhere? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Excellence is something that has been part of me for at least 15 years.  Of course, it came easy to me to be excellent in academics, or in Bible memorization.  In Awana as a third grader I joined my first Bible Quiz team.  At the time I was completely naïve, unaware of the competition or the tension or even of the possibility of winning.  The thought never crossed my mind.  After finishing both segments of the quiz, speed (like Jeopardy) and multiple choice (with paddles we raise into the air), my team sat clenching each others’ hands in nervous anticipation.  To our utter astonishment they called our team for first place.  The group of us screamed our way to the front to receive our medals and trophy.  And excellence in Bible quiz was my goal from then on.  

 

In a history of grace, God granted that I be on a winning Bible Quiz team for six years straight, unprecedented.  Everyone wanted either to be on my team or to finally beat me.  I didn’t stop working hard, because each year I desperately wanted to win.  There were no assumptions that I would win no matter what.  But I did think that if I kept giving it my all, I would be rewarded.  There was no second place, no third, no fourth – and certainly there was no place between fifth and fifteenth.  So when as a freshman I suffered my first defeat, it felt as though I had crashed into a lightless chasm.  It didn’t matter in the slightest that we had placed third.  The fact was I went to win, and I had failed. 

 

There’s more to the story, of the journey God continued leading me on through Bible Quiz until my senior year – and how I got to share the lessons as a coach.  But today I want to write about that concept of no place but first.  No success without the best.  This is a definition of excellence. 

 

I’m reading a book called Godcast (review coming soon of course), a collection of single-page devotionals written by an Assemblies of God pastor and radio/tv host.  In chapter 196, Dan Betzer writes about mediocrity in the house of God.  Now I’m no advocate of demanding perfection in the worship performance each Sunday, or of dazzling buildings on which no expense was spared.  Nor do I think that God always wants us to have a well-polished speech to deliver as Sunday school lessons, Bible studies, or sermons.  Sometimes He wants us to be the humble vessels through whom His message can be spoken.  And whether you know the words you’re going to say or not, every teacher should have properly studied, meditated, and prayed for what he is going to say. 

 

Yet the message is inspiring.  As a teacher, do I say, “Well, I read over the passage a couple times, and I have an illustration, so I’m all set”?    How many times have I as a blogger decided I didn’t feel like revising my post?  And what about as a Christian?  Do I consider myself good enough as long as I’m not really bad? 

 

Every Monday night I attend a Bible study.  Presently we are going through Galatians, and I’m wrestling with the implications of grace and Christian liberty.  What is legalism, and how should we reconcile Christian holiness with Christ-given grace?  One answer that seems clear at this point in my life is that legalism says “If I follow the rules, I am good.”  But isn’t that what Judaism proved impossible?  Grace is the other side, the side that so delights in the life bought through Jesus’ death and given through His resurrection that it delights to please God, not flirting with the line of trespass, but safe and free well inside the bounds of God’s righteousness. 

 

I can’t help but mention that this doctrine of Galatians meets a complementary parallel in Romans, wherein is found the association between faith, grace, life, and righteousness. 

 

God calls us to excellence, to the extraordinary experience of walking in the Spirit, turning aside neither to the right or to the left, each action born of faith and love and Christ alive in me. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

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A man came into my office today, and told me a story of his cocker spaniel. 

 

As a puppy, he trained it with treats to fetch his paper each morning.  On Sunday the doggy didnt because the weekend paper was too heavy.  Actually he subscribed to the two Denver papers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.  Each morning the dog faithfully retrieved his papers. 

 

Eventually the man canceled his subscription to one paper, and sent the spaniel out the first winter morning about six AM, in the fresh fallen snow, to get his one paper.  He watched it run out into the snow, and disappear behind a drift to get to the driveway.  But the dog didnt come back.  A little annoyed, he went back into the house to put on appropriate clothes for snow-trekking. 

 

When the man came back, following the markings in the snow from the dogs pounces, he had to follow his dog half a block away to the top of the hill on which his house sat.  The faithful dog had searched in the snow until it found one driveway in which the second paper was visible, and had the news obediently between its teeth. 

 

Think if we did that.  Given a task, our determination and loyalty was so great that we would go through any trouble and keep going until we accomplished our assignment.  Do you see the above and beyond excellence exemplified by the little spaniel? 

 

Philemon 1:21, “Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.”

Approve what is excellent. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Mary had a little lamb,

 

What warm, comforting thoughts that line brings!  Sitting in mama’s lap, holding close a stuffed animal, we dreamed of undifferentiated balls of fluffy white softness (for what child in the city has a true representation of a lamb at that young age?). 

 

Whose fleece was white as snow;

 

Forget metaphor.  Think of emotion, the emotion created by a child’s imagination stimulated by these words.  Snow is not a familiar event to every child.  But it is always a marvelous occurrence, to gaze out on a dazzling wonderland of tiny, soft flakes. 

 

And everywhere that Mary went…

 

This little child of the tale is quite recognizable.  She’s on the move, just as all of us can remember being from our earliest memories. 

 

The lamb was sure to go.

 

Think of the glorious comfort of loyalty.  Who doesn’t desire a constant companion?  And better, one that follows wherever you want to go. 

 

Do something unusual today.  Sing as many verses as you can remember of Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Do you appreciate more how much it meant to you as a child?  Sing it out loud.  Sing it to a friend or a stranger.  Try not to get yourself a psychological evaluation. 

 

You’re welcome. 

 

To God be all glory. 

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Whether I thought I needed it or not, the topic has continually reappeared in my life the past few months.  This summer the theme was supernaturally empowered change – the change directed by spending time with God, devoted to prayer, majoring my life on the word of God.  And now, with less change than I expected – or felt called to do, maybe God is wooing me away from my distraction and hitting this change from the other direction.  “Spend time with Me,” He says. 

 

I love my life.  Most days are wonderful.  My mind is always engaged.  I read, and write, and get things done.  Etsy has welcomed me into its world, even though I don’t have any sales yet.  Church activities fill my week, and in the spaces I get together with friends: talking or doing ministry together.  Some days are so filled with searching the Bible for answers that when I go to sleep after midnight and have energy to read only a short Psalm or less with my God, I feel that’s ok.  And I sincerely don’t believe I have to be legalistic. 

 

And then sin creeps in, little thoughts or words out of control or no energy for the priorities God has given me.  Last night, well after the second or even third lesson from the odd place about filling up one’s own spiritual life in order to pour out love and grace to others, I had just enough energy to quickly read Galatians 6, finishing my book of the week.  This was in between TV, movies, ice cream, internet articles, email…  And I felt vaguely guilty putting the Bible away. 

 

When I woke this morning, ambitiously early, instead I lay there realizing how little I’d been talking to God about my days and my life.  We had a chat, but we need more. 

 

God’s grace is amazing.  Tomorrow I’m meeting with some co-Sunday school teachers about our next series, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (based on the book by JoAnna Weaver).  It so happens that about a year and a half ago I purchased the book for about two dollars, recognizing the title as popular with friends.  The topic didn’t really interest me that much, because I’m Mary.  I’m lazy sometimes, and love to study and be with Jesus more than to work hard and get things done.  So I was going to give the book to our church library, but never got around to it. 

 

Since I conveniently possess this book, I decided to read the first couple chapters to be up to speed with the other ladies who are teaching.  I’m on page 8, still feeling that Martha isn’t really me in general.  And then all the past weeks’ lessons and hints towards “Be still and know that I am God,” come gently back, triggered by a word or a sentence or one of the author’s testimonies. 

 

Sunday evening a friend offered to loan me her apartment for a week as a place to get away quietly with God, to worship.  Friday I was remembering times in the past when I’ve worked through things with God by house-sitting for friends.  Compared to my busy, noisy house, the quiet loneliness of an empty house is enticing.  I have any number of getaways at which I can stop in the midst of errands, rebel against tyrannical schedules, and take time to pray.  The library has a walk around the outside where I do lots of energetic discussion with God.  And I have a membership to the center for evolutionary propaganda in our state, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – which if you filter the comments about Darwin, evolution, adaptation, ancestry, etc. is a very peaceful place to focus on God’s marvelous creativity and design. 

 

But to kneel and pray, to sing out loud, to sway to the chorus of faith scarcely held silent in rocks and trees and hills, one needs to be alone.  To cry out to God about the confusion of life in the world, lifting up specific names of friends and situations – essentially to do anything sufficiently open as to derive any conclusions – privacy is important.  Time is important. 

 

Beyond that, though, there is the daily remembrance that God is there.  I need to be aware of His presence, leaning on Him for every good work that He prepared for me to do.  Where does my help come from, my peace, my joy, my attention to the needs of the world for a reason for the hope that I have – if not from Him?  Does He not deserve my every breath, all my worship? 

 

Yet again, God did not call us only to a list of works.  What we do is an overflow of our relationship with Him.  As though while walking with God, He lifts a table by own end and says, “Here, grab that end.”  When I was little I would help my sister rearrange our room.  (She still rearranges her room an average of five times a year.)  I love to help and all, but I know full well that while she was investing all her strength in her end of dressers and beds and mattresses, I was only the balance point, contributing very little strength to the operation.  This is what it’s like when I join God in work. 

 

To quote from page 5 of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, ‘ “The better part!” I say to God in the midst of my own whirl of activity.  “You mean there’s more?  I have to do more?” 

‘No, no, comes the answer to my tired heart.  Jesus’ words in Luke 10 are incredibly freeing to those of us on the performance treadmill of life. 

‘It isn’t “more” he requires of us. 

‘In fact, it may be less.’

 

The same point was drawn out of John 6 in a sermon I heard when visiting a friend’s church plant this month.  We were in John 6, and it reminded me of a blog post I did last year, This Grace is Made for Walking. 

 

Verse 24 says the people went seeking for Jesus. 

 

Jesus reveals their true motivation in verse 26: they wanted Jesus so that he would feed them again.  Rather than eating of the bread of life, desiring Jesus Himself, which would leave them filled forevermore, they were looking for little doses of temporary food. 

 

Verse 27 says that the food that endures unto everlasting life is what the Son of man shall give unto you.  Give.  Eternal life, the satisfaction of a relationship with God, is a gift. 

 

But in verse 28, the people respond, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”  They still haven’t gotten the point.  What shall we do?  Do?  Work? 

 

Verse 29 contains Jesus’ refutation, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  The work is belief.  The work is a gift.  The life is a gift.  Jesus was sent.  He is near to those who would seek Him. 

 

The pastor compared this to Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” 

 

We neither come to God by works, nor follow Him by works.  The work of God is that we believe on Jesus.  This is the food that endures unto eternal life. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Friday was one of those days in one of those weeks from one of those months.  My closest friends are out of the country or on their way out.  One will be gone for a whole semester, to the blissfully romantic Oxford, the Oxford in England, full of history and literature, thought and conversation.  In England there is rain, there is beauty, there is architecture, there are accents!  What’s more, she’s going to study worldviews in a small class of 9 Christian young men and young women, doing life with them.  Already she sends home emails reveling in happiness beyond her expectation. 

On Friday I was feeling rather alone and untraveled.  Autumn is here with an air of adventure, and none has knocked on my door.  But God is quite the gracious Giver of good gifts.  He blessed me with hours of conversation in the evening.  Friends gathered and the casual conversation was whether God changed His mind, and the way He ordains intercessors for us against His wrath.  Then we officially talked about jealousy, but we didn’t say much on that topic.  What actually happened led into a discussion on grace and glory, predestination and the rights of God versus the rights and capabilities of man. 

Even though we didn’t delve into jealousy, our text was 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Charity suffereth long and is kind.  Charity envieth not; Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”  Charity, or LOVE, does not envy.  It is not jealous.  Love is the call of all Christians towards their neighbors.  Jealousy prevents us from entering into their happiness in the way Paul describes in Romans 12.  The simple reminder that love is my call was enough to convict me of my attitude towards my friend.  So I decided to rejoice with her.  (I really am absolutely delighted for her experiences, and excited for their impact!) 

But the grace and the lesson didn’t end.  Deciding to rejoice with her, I was yet challenged by my friend’s confession of happiness.  Her email bubbled over with enthusiasm for life and people, and happiness at being where she was.  Once she even wrote she can’t remember the last time she was so happy.  When was the last time I was simply happy?  What did it look like? 

The privilege and delight of seeing a friendly face can light my face with a smile, and untroubled happiness.  Knowing God is in control and He’ll take care of the details is blessed happiness.  Knowing I am blessed is reason to be happy.  And I am so blessed.  So I set out to be happy. 

Saturday I went to Steeling the Mind Bible Conference, put on by Compass Ministries.  I imagined the happy me, which is much easier to live out when brought to mind!  Should I see a friend, I would be happy.  Should I spend the day with my dad alone, I would be blessed.  Should I get encouragement in my walk with God, I would have assurance that He was heeding my days.  And He was.  He let me know. 

For example, the second-to-last speaker was a woman raised as a Muslim.  One of her many points was that Muslims live in fear, not only of non-Muslims, not only of “monsterous” Jews, but even of each other.  Women obviously fear men, who have essentially absolute power over them.  They also fear the envy of others, by which the jealous party would, they superstitiously believe, put a curse on them: the evil eye.  Envy and fear of envy separated the community, leaving no room to trust anyone.  Jealousy is a serious issue. 

In the British Isles, there is rain.  Here the past week we have had rain more days than not.  Friday night it rained.  Saturday night, too.  I’m afraid to sleep for missing some evidence of God’s grace reminding me that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  But even sleep is a peaceful, cozy gift. 

This morning at church we watched part of Beth Moore’s teaching on the Blessing of Asher.  Asher is a Hebrew word translated either Blessed, or Happy.  Leah named the second son of her handmaid Asher, after years envying Jacob’s love of Rachel and jealousy over his affection.  At last she simply named a son “happy,” content and blessed, going forward straight on the way, fruitful.  And Beth Moore taught us not to be responsible for the happiness of others (or of ourselves!);  happiness is a gift by the grace of God, so we ought to seize our happy moments, with gratitude. 

A friend blessed me with a compliment when I needed the encouragement, and her husband even offered to help diagnose my poor car whose Service Engine Soon light has been on and off for over a year (but I haven’t found a good mechanic to fix it).  My day was really too amazing. 

After church I sat in a meeting of youth leaders, pondering the high school girls small group of which I’m a part.  And I realized that I’ve been running around, forgetting to be God’s vessel, forgetting the blessing it is to share life with these ladies, forgetting that when I walk with God, I will want to and be able to connect with the girls in love.  There doesn’t have to be a formula or a schedule.  If I want to see them, this won’t be a burden.  In my life I’ve observed that happiness (and pain at times, and many other things besides) comes through people, through fellowship, through getting deeper into relationships and community.  Do you realize what release I remembered and reclaimed? 

Finally, on my way to visit my aunt in Greeley, CO (and my grandparents and a few cousins, an uncle and another aunt), I was riding in our big, truck-like van, watching light glint off the ring that reminds me of God’s presence and claim on my life.  So often I ask Him for things, but today I thought of the way characters pray sometimes in biblical dramatization novels by the Thoenes: “Blessed are You, O Adonai, who…”  So I started.  God is blessed for being, for doing, for giving.  Blessed is He for knowing the end from the beginning.  Blessed is He for ordaining good works.  Blessed is He for holding my friends in His strong hands.  Blessed is He for being my sure refuge and comfort.  Blessed is He for the blood He shed, and for reminding me of His faithful covenant through the Lord’s Supper this morning.  Blessed is He for the celebration that the Lord’s Supper is and represents, the community of saints waiting for the Beloved.  Blessed is He for hearing my prayers.  Blessed is He for being Almighty. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Don’t ever buy from Anthropologie again.  Buy Etsy, direct from the designers.  Support home-based industry.  Enable the little person, the small business, the artist. 

Looking for a unique gift?  Etsy is the place.  It’s the permanent online craft fair.  But we aren’t talking about the craft foam Christmas pins, or the surplus of bead-pets and keychains – these are crafts in the old fashioned sense of craftsmanship. 

For example, this week I bought a leather stick barette/hair cover.  Or you could buy candles, your next purse, a huge supply of independent fashions, quilts, jewelry, wallets, or those heatable/freezable bags with herbs in them that are so in vogue.  Find a favorite dealer or two, and check back on their products. 

Now – I’m not necessarily advocating you spend a lot of money.  But if you are going to buy a nice gift, or spend money on a new outfit, do Etsy.  If you’re worried about sizing, learn to do measurements; it’s more accurate anyway. 

I intend to move into Etsy soon with some handmade items from my inventory.  Stay tuned for an update! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“When we exited the museum, walking out into the green trees that line the banks of the Brandywine River, I noticed that the world seemed a different place. The colors appeared to be deeper and perhaps brighter than before. The random ambiguity of the branches of the trees seemed to be pointing to some hidden meaning in life. I began to realize that those few hours of intently looking at the paintings had refocused our eyes, had refreshed our vision.   So I encourage you to go the web sites of artists like Makoto Fujimura and Sandra Bowden, open your eye making them available to be refocused so that you can turn and see the world around you in a fresh way. Even as great literarture [sic] teaches us to listen to the world, great art encourages us to look at the world with new eyes.” – by Michael Card
 
What have you seen today?
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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