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“Suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Magical characters reach from movie screens and beckon me into their world. Theme parks offer fresh visits to childlike wonder. Incredible masterpieces fill museum halls and garden paths. I relish each chance to drink in the inspiration of imagination.

The Father molded each of us in His image. He crafted unique works of art, kissing individual personalities with a different spritz of His creative sparkle. In a delightful chat with a 72 year old Christ-sister yesterday, we explored our different means of reflecting God’s ingenuity. When I shared my work as a writer, she first defined herself as devoid of creativity. Yet, as we talked, her amazing talents with children shone (along with other strengths) as brilliant examples of imaginative gifts. The Lord engineered our differences to glimmer in harmonizing shades as part of His glorious design.

Imagination inspires, motivates, uplifts–a fantastic blessing. My coaching and writing professions require consistent supply of this priceless resource. I cannot inspire unless I drink copious doses of inspiration. My incessant thirst deems me ever thankful for each sip of creative fuel.

While magnificent, imagination fails to bless us as an end unto itself. Creativity must encourage the soul to seek something greater. Inspiration toward anything less than true hope leaves us empty. Our sparkling kisses of ingenuity must reflect the Father’s love to others. Each imaginative work which honors His touch will transform others’ souls.

In the midst of a bleak, discouraging world, we need splashes of inspiration more than ever. God designed us to “poke holes in the darkness until light bleeds through,” as Margaret Feinberg so eloquently put it. Hope must radiate from the edges of all our creative endeavors. Imagination glimmers with us on earth for a season, a beautiful tool to point others toward eternal hope.

What creative works will God use from your spiritual and natural gifts to offer hope? Comment and share with all of us, so we can inspire one another to persevere in His work of providing hope.

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Yellow and white blooms wilted under the blood moon. Their papery remnants clung to the vine until autumn’s breeze tore them away. For a day or two, the evidence of fallen beauty littered gardens across the countryside. Within the base of those flowers who had used their season to pollinate beyond their temporary moment of loveliness, something more substantial had developed.

Lacy petal-cardigans slipped away to reveal which ones carried deep-colored treasures. Gourds expanded from the places once held for them by passing flowers. Skins thickened and bubbled with warts and valleys, guarding the prize within. Stout and solid, their weight anchored them more and more in steadfast positions. Each tough vine-dweller grew while patiently awaiting the harvest.

One must look deep to find the gourd’s riches. Beyond the tough, uneven skin lies a wealth of nourishment. At its life’s end, the harvester breaks open the body to feed his family with vitamins, minerals, seed protein, and fiber. Extra seeds and inedible matter provide an entire garden from one individual hull. He wastes nothing from the pollinated vinedweller’s life.

I gaze across the pumpkin patches and butternut squash displays, considering the investments of my time dwelling on Christ’s vine. Have I pollinated the inner station of my soul so it will bear lasting fruit for generations to come? What part of my life will feed the family of God after my body’s earth season has ended? How much have temporary things distracted me from investing in the eternal?

Lord, help me stay focused on things of lasting value instead of the less important matters which pass away. Pollinate my spirit and expand my heart. Let my thoughts grow solid and steadfast in Your Truth, impenetrable to the pestilence of toxic attitudes. Cultivate rich nourishment within me until I am beautiful in Your sight, regardless of how I appear to passers by. Make me gourdgeous to You, Lord. Thank You, for planting me in Your garden.

What about you? Ready to grow gourdgeous on His vine?

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . .I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8

“I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . .Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Phil.1:20-27

“if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” – Phil. 2:17

I’ve cleaned out my closets and set the extras on the porch for charity pick-up. One toy waits in my trunk to be joined by others. A few more canned goods will go along to the donations tent. Somehow, it seems I should offer more to the huge need in my community.

I scan my home and tap my chin. What have I missed? Have I something else to spare, another resource I’ve kept in reserve?

Need has mounted in our area, as it has elsewhere. The tearful shimmer in the eyes of gaunt children grows familiar across the face of the earth. Many adults share the Christmas wish to give while their hearts ache for lack of funds. I heard these stories this week, while I gazed into the eyes of God’s beloved children. And I prayed for them …

I now realize the most valuable resource to offer one another could not be found on a closet shelf or purchased in a store. I couldn’t transfer funds to provide for the greatest need online. Wealth cannot afford more of it, nor can poverty keep it at a distance. The best gift remains accessible to all, as it was the very first Noel.

God wrapped Love in warm fingers and toes, then laid Him in the arms of ordinary, homeless travelers. He gave more than we could fit under a tree. Into receptive hearts, His love continues pouring in such abundance that we have ample supply to share with all those around us. The more we ask, the more love He showers upon us.

Let us not forget to give the priceless gift, the single offering which honors the purpose of Christmas. In the mall, at the grocery store, in line, or on the phone, show others we care. Love the different folks around us. Ask strangers how they are, and take time to hear their stories. Regardless of our financial situation, if we avail ourselves of the abundant supply from Christ, we can all spare a little extra love this year.

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