My Father’s Sweater

Spin Me Around the StarsI’m not sure how old I was when I claimed and started wearing my Dad’s old brown cardigan sweater. I think I was around eleven, but I do know I continued to wrap myself in it till I was fifteen. I think I must have felt like I took on something of my father’s nature when I wore his sweater. It was soft with wide, flat ribs and moth holes in the sleeves – definitely not a “Mr. Rogers” sweater, but perfect to wear on chilly nights out in the garage.

That’s where you could find my Dad almost every night: at his workbench repairing something one of us had broken or building something amazing. I thought my Dad was the smartest man on the planet. None of my friends’ fathers sent Morse code messages on a radio or made science-fiction movie sound effects with a home-built Theremin. None of my friends got to watch miniature lightning shows in their garages from a Van Der Graaf Generator!

Somehow I felt secure in that sweater (and in on some great secrets) standing beside my father at his workbench, even when I had to stand on tiptoe to see what he was doing. I still associate the smell of hot solder and freshly sawn wood with Dad and can hear the sound of his table saw ripping through boards on their way to becoming furniture. He built a split-level ranch-style dollhouse for me, complete with a fireplace with hand-carved “bricks”, a chandelier that worked, and real tiny shingles on the roof. Dad went through several very 1960’s phases, too, most of which involved the overpowering (and probably brain chemistry altering) fumes of melting plastic that became bunches of grapes and the clacking, conservation of momentum and energy-demonstrating plastic spheres of a “Newton’s Cradle.”

My father let me help him plane wood, drive nails into odd bits of scrap wood, and sweep up sawdust, all while wearing his old brown sweater. When I was a sophomore in high school, Dad helped me draw out, saw, sand apply sealer to, and wrap with copper wire a walnut hardwood bangle I put on a necklace that looked, very much before its time, very much like the Nike “swoop.” I felt so proud that my father was a builder and creator who guided me to create as I stood beside him, wearing his sweater, at his workbench.

Maybe those hours spent in Dad’s sweater standing at his side account for some of my freedom and desire for intimacy with God, my Heavenly Father. Oh, if I could, I’d love to stand beside my Father God at HIS workbench and see what HE is creating!

Do you know what’s cool? My Father God lets me help with his projects. In fact, he WANTS me to get involved! Those amazingly validating times when I get to speak some word of affirmation to another person or meet someone’s need absolutely delight me, because I sense that I’m standing at my Father’s side and can almost see him smile. What amazes me, though, is what God my Father gives me to wear while I’m at his bench: not an old brown sweater, but the righteousness of Jesus! “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10

Today I bought three pair of shoes for the church “Kicks for Kids” fall shoe drive for children in impoverished school districts. On learning I why I was buying the shoes, the clerk at the sporting goods store gave me an extra discount. Knowing my ABBA and what he likes to do in people’s lives, I asked the clerk how I could pray for her, and if she knew Jesus. ”Well, yes… but…” she replied, and then told me she’d ask prayers for her young daughter Sharon with Type 1 Diabetes. Aha! My Father God handed me a ”board” of his word and prayer to sand, and I jumped at the chance to pray for this woman, her daughter and whole family, and share how cherished, chosen and beloved this woman is and how much she means to God. I believe God intended our meeting to do more than put shoes on three children; he also wanted to put his love in the heart of someone who needs to run back to her Father and needs to know he welcomes her.

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth…. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 2: 14-15; 4:1-2 NIV

How many days, how many times, does God my Father hand me some work from his heart to help him build into the life of another person? Hmm, how many times do I completely miss seeing hammer placed in my hand, the opportunity to work beside my Father in building his Kingdom in hearts and lives?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58:6012 NIV

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” Zechariah 4:1-7 NIV

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Mathew 5:13-14 NI

It takes my breath away sometimes when other people see my Father through me! Oh, God, let me stand beside you at your workbench as you create beauty, goodness, honor, kindness, integrity, compassion, truth, love, and living faith in the lives in this world so precious to you. Guide my hands and heart and words and prayers to help you. And wow, thank you that through faith in Jesus I get to wear a garment that looks like YOUR nature! You ARE the smartest Father in existence, and I want to be more like you. Thanks that you invite me to spend time by your side!

A “. . . But . . .” to pray: Oh, ABBA, Daddy, Father, you are incredible! All creation, all wisdom, all power, all authority, all goodness, all truth, all justice, all righteousness, all life comes from your hands that are still building, repairing, restoring, and creating today and every day. I may feel small, untalented, inarticulate, incapable, BUT standing by your side wearing YOUR righteousness, I know you’re calling me to ____________________________________________________ beside you and I know you’ll guide me as I ___________________________________________________. Tap me on the shoulder in my spirit every time you have an opportunity for me to tell someone or show someone how much you love and care for them, and give me the courage to know that, even if my words are simple, limited or halting, or not as fancy as some others might say, and even if I don’t know where in the Bible the words come from, they are still your words sent to strengthen, build up, encourage, correct in love, restore, repair, and create a place for YOUR hands to work in another life. I give you permission to destroy my excuses right now, and here they are ___________________________________________________________Help me to remember it’s YOUR work, not mine, and YOUR Spirit, not mine, truly at work in my encounters with others; you jut need me to open my mouth and open my heart so YOUR words and love can come out. I hope others see YOU in me! In Jesus’ name, amen! Holy Spirit, I‘m listening ___________________________________________________

Advertisements

God is NOT a good idea!

IMG_1401God is not a good idea. I took that thought apart when I helped Dr. Walt Kallestad write a book on understanding the basics of Christian faith. If God were simply an idea, a mental construct, a convenient way of thinking to explain the Universe or the sense of moral order, right and wrong, that exists in most people –at least the emotionally and mentally healthy – then we’re all in big trouble. I think of how many “good ideas” I’ve had that failed, but more terrifying, I think of the “good ideas” men have had over history that have wiped out entire villages and decimated nations. No, if God is only a mental abstraction, then there is no help or hope for any of us, no existence beyond seven or eight decades of getting up every morning, raising children or going to a job, to what end?

I vividly remember taking a shower one Saturday night when I was seventeen, when the thought of a universe without God struck me. The bleak emptiness and total senselessness of a universe, a dark lifeless vacuum, void of God sank me to my knees on the wet tile, my head in my hands. The moment of terror passed, and the next morning I was singing in the choir about the great love that’s ours in Jesus. I worshiped, reaching in my heart with thanks and gratitude that God is very much alive, real, and a Being of indescribable power, love, creative splendor and intimate relationship far beyond any “thing” I can imagine!

We were Methodists, of the traditional John Wesley “heart strangely warmed” variety who acknowledged God’s Spirit as a very real and immanent, personal presence in our lives. Perhaps my love of worship stems from the fact I was born, after a long labor, late on a Sunday morning. My father rang the bell in the steeple of the church in our tiny town every Sunday morning, and that January 22, after a tedious night with my mom in the hospital in the County Seat quite a few miles away, Dad drove back to church, rang the bell, then drove back to the hospital in time for my long-awaited debut.

I recall some of the very traditional liturgy, or form/pattern/ingredients of worship, I grew up hearing in the services every Sunday with a grateful heart that somehow the Responsive Readings, Apostle’s Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and weekly singing of the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost…”) after the Bible reading and the Doxology (“Praise God from whom all blessings flow”) after the offering never became mindless repetition to me. In fact, I look back on those elements of worship with a warm glow in my heart and do miss them in the Sunday services of the non-denominational church I attend now, where lively and deep praise songs take center stage in worship.

I miss them, but I don’t worship them. I don’t worship the old structure, but at the same time I don’t worship the absence of the ”traditional” structure and presence of “tradition-free” services. I agree with the comment I heard one Sunday that the only difference between a rut and a grave is how far down you dig. God never meant real worship to be a rut or a grave, mindless and heartless routine completing a required ritual, like checking off boxes on a to-do list. I strongly suspect God created worship as a vehicle to carry us right into God’s love for us, the Holy of Holies itself: God’s heart. In true worship my heart meets His and becomes the room, the space for the Holy of Holies. How can I bring an angry, judgmental,selfish thought into That Presence?

I enter the Holy of Holies;I enter through the blood of the Lamb.

I Enter to worship you only; I enter to honor I AM.

Instruments or voice only? Sitting or standing, arms raised or decorously in laps? Oh, please, what’s the difference, if truly loving hearts are encountering the fiery heart of God and praising his love for them? Enjoy the beauty, forget condemnation, and see the splendor in the Lord, not the “faults” in each other’s styles and forms! I need moments of silent, wordless reverent awed awareness down on my knees, and I need  the exultation of laughing and dancing in the midst of unconditional love.

Worship isn’t about what or how; it’s about Whom! I don’t worship a form, style, tradition, or experience; I invite God into my life by running into his presence to be lifted and honored and revered and enjoyed. God inhabits, lives in, the praises of His people, and yes, I dance right in the ”pew’ when I feel overjoyed by my Father God’s love for me. Look away if love disturbs you, or join me in a happy dance if you don’t care what anyone but your Daddy thinks.

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. Psalm 33:1-3 NKJV

Worship in its truest and most satisfying is real heart-felt, in the present and Presence praise, recognizing God is God and we are not, God is good, God is real, alive, personal as well as holy, God is here wherever here is, approachable as well as completely lofty and apart, and wants intimate relationship with us, with ME, with YOU! Whether I worship in my own house, worship while I walk the dogs, or worship in a church with others, it’s healing, comforting, depression-countering, en-couraging, and powerful as a weapon of spiritual warfare.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Psalm 96: 1-9 NKJV

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. Psalm 47: 1-2 NKJV

I don’t cling to tradition and disdain contemporary, but I don’t disdain tradition as irrelevant. There is beauty to find in it all, every expression because our God is beautiful.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100_ 4-5 NIV

Hearts sang with passion when Isaac Watts’ “Joy to the World” erupted as radical praise and worship in 1719, and we feel that when we sing it today. I find such freedom in worship, such delight in connecting with God and praising, even when I attend a different church or different denomination. In one church I loved being part of, the arts school affiliated with the church regularly brought dancers, singers, artists and even aerialists to add beauty, awe, wonder, joy and life to our worship. I keep my hands at a respectable height yet raised about mid-body in more conservative churches, raise them high in others, kneel on kneelers in some fellowships, kneel right on the floor in the row of chairs in others when I feel the weight of God’s holiness and goodness, repeat the written prayer along with the priest or pastor and everybody in some churches and offer up my own words along with everyone else after a particularly moving “7-11” contemporary song in others, seven words sung eleven times and nobody gets tired of singing!

Our family spent two months in Beijing, China in 1984, and “church” there meant meeting with Christians from literally all over the world in one of the embassies. The International Fellowship had no pastor that summer, so individuals from the congregation took turns leading worship and giving a message. If one of the Africans was preaching, you could count on being there for two hours. If a European or American spoke, we were likely to be out sharing lunch within an hour. What fun to meet and enjoy being God’s kids together, singing songs that might be unfamiliar, praying silently or out loud, in unison or each in our own words, but recognizing and drawing close to the same Lord, Father, Savior.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3: 7-18 NIV

    htps://youtu.be/ApbdXzhlunc

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. Psalm 92: 1-4 NIV

The truth is that I don’t worship God because I’m required to, or because a narcissistic God demands praise and worship. Honestly, I worship God because I NEED to! I need to connect with the reality and person of God, to encounter His love for me as I reach toward him, some days to dance ”in His arms,” some days curled up in His lap in my wing chair, some days with my feet splashing in a stream, some days flat on my face on the floor in my bedroom, but as often as I can in the company of other Christ Followers, whatever their denomination, tradition, or “flavor,” in the power and joy and reverence of our combined love, gratitude, and communal vision and passionate purposes before our mutual Father God.

To You belongs silence [the submissive wonder of reverence], and [it bursts into] praise in Zion, O God; And to You the vow shall be performed.

O You who hear prayer, To You all mankind comes. Wickedness and guilt prevail against me; Yet as for our transgressions, You forgive them [removing them from Your sight]. Blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near To dwell in Your courts. We will be filled with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. Psalm 65:1-2, 4 AMP

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Palm 42:1-5 NIV

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, help me look inside myself and see if and where I’ve been rigid, mindless, heartless, judgmental, relegating worship to some archaic practice out of touch with today, or decrying the freedom of expression in other churches. Show me where I’ve been judgmental about Believers who enjoy tradition for the richness they feel. Where do I need to re-think worship, Holy Spirit? _____________________________________________________________________I truly want to worship and praise you, God, but some days it’s hard. Some days I feel dry as a bone and no praise can give life to me. BUT on days when I’m dry, and feeling empty, Holy Spirit, come and refresh me. Remind me WHO you are, God, remind me of your love, Jesus, and broaden my vision of praise and worship. I want to be alive in you, God! I know you want that, too, so as I say amen in Jesus’ name, Holy Spirit, I’m listening, and I’m willing to __________________________________________________________________________ as you stir me, whether I think I might look silly or not! Come, Father God in the power of your Presence and let’s together _____________________________________________________________________________

DO do What You Need to Do in Me!

I’m just not the bling and sequined frou-frou kind of girl. I do like to get dressed up, and I enjoy wearing jewelry and perfume, but I’m just not a ruffles and matching purse/matching shoes/matching nail polish/matching bling woman. I’m not even sure I’d feel comfortable doing that if I could afford to (which I can’t). I hear from God in analogies, and while I admire other speakers who get to deliver the pretty boxes with ribbons and bows kinds of messages, God never seems to speak to me through pretty, girlie things. I “hear” him through tent stakes, roller coasters, and cheeseburgers. Nevertheless, I was surprised this morning by what God used to teach me something: picking up after my dog in the side yard.Jengasitstight2

All I intended to do in the yard this morning was take advantage of rain-dampened ground to pull pesky spurge, the bane of my gardening, from the back yard. Weeding is unpleasant enough, but as I crouched down working my way beyond the orange tree, I came to a huge patch of spurge smack in the middle of a field of doggie doo. Aargh! I like dogs, but when our son wanted a pet ten years ago, I voted for a hamster – they only live a couple of years, and they don’t shed all over the house. My husband staunchly vetoed my vote, asserting, “If we’re going to get a pet, it’s only going to be a dog.” This is the man who innocently remarked, “Gosh, honey, I didn’t stop to think you’d be the one home with the dog all day,” when we were housebreaking our adorable Springer Spaniel puppy Katie.

Flash forward through ten years of me brushing, feeding, medicine giving, ear cleaning, ball throwing, bone cooking, daily walking, hair vacuuming, and doo-doo picking up. Yes, our son used to do some of the walking and picking up, but he moved away to college four years ago. Yes, my husband occasionally cleans up the back yard and walks the two dogs (we now have our older son’s dog also) maybe two evenings a week and sometimes on Sunday mornings, and yes, he’s the one who works to buy the dog chow and pay the vet bills, but this morning, as usual, I’m the one whose nose is eighteen inches away from the recycled dog chow covering the back yard, and I’m not happy about it.
Two thoughts, “We could hire someone to do the yard work but no, we can’t afford it,” and my habitual complaint, “Why does it have to be me picking up the poo? He has time in the evenings to do a little bit if he really cared. I’m not the one who wanted a dog!” had only briefly, sarcastically flashed through my miffed mind when, on their heels like Katie after a pigeon, came the thought, “Even if you hired someone to pull the weeds AND pick up the doo-doo, it wouldn’t take care of the real issue. What stinks the most is not the doo-doo in the yard, but your attitude. . . .” I knew that idea didn’t come from me! God patiently humors me a lot, and I recognized his heart in the thought. Hiring someone to clean the yard would still leave me with doo-doo in my heart, and a stinky attitude is not what God wants for me, or what I really want for myself.

“Okay, I’ve tried the positive thinking thing before,” I countered.  “Cleaning up the dog poo is a way to show our son I love him, because he loves the dog. That gets me through three minutes of picking up, maybe. Jesus, I need you to really get hold of my heart in this.” This morning I needed more than just a cheerful veneer, because I want this change to be lasting. I don’t want weekly deposits of resentment in my heart. I want a clean heart more than I want a weed-free, poo-free yard.

God gave me the thought, “Bless your husband as you pick up the poo. Yes, I know you’ve tried before, but this morning make it not just words of dry obedience, but truly bless him.” So I did. As I looked up, I saw opportunity all around for plenty of blessing!  I prayed, “I don’t like what my hands are in right now, but bless the work of his hands today. He works so hard for us. Give him satisfying work to do with his hands, because I know how stressed he feels doing nothing but paperwork. I know I’ve made some stinky choices he has had to ‘pick up.’ This doo-doo reminds me that he hangs in there with me when I’m not so pleasant to deal with.” I honestly felt a shift in my attitude. God moved through my willing-to-change heart. If I bless his hands as mine are doing something I don’t want to do, then this doo-doo can become a springboard (a Springer board?) for God’s healing changes in me.

Can you guess what I heard from my husband that evening?   “I had a great day today!  I actually got to sit in the cockpit and play with the radio.  Maybe next week I’ll get a ride to check things out!” God blessed him even as I was praying.  Retrospectively, that made the doo-doo duty, while not pleasant, even something better: rewarding. I could almost hear the laughter in Heaven. Gosh, God is fun! Why don’t I remember that in the middle of my messes?

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you

to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent

to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body,

arm yourselves also with the same attitude,

because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”

1 Peter 4:1 (NIV)

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 8-9 ESV

 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24 ESV
Has someone else made choices that leave you with doo-doo to deal with?

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying! I’m not promoting co-dependent behavior or cleaning up other people’s messes and removing consequences of poor choices from them. I’m talking about my heart, your heart – how we handle the fallout of choices other people make that impact our lives in burdensome, frustrating, irritating, even painful ways. Society often tells us the answer is to get rid of the doo-dropping person. Sometimes, and in cases of abuse, that is the safe and appropriate thing to do. For most of the messes we deal with, though, that isn’t a good, healthy, or effective solution, and it doesn’t deal with the heart issues that are left behind. Sometimes you can’t change what you have to deal with or get around it: you just have to pick up the doo-doo. But you can choose your attitude, and choose to bless, which can change you as well.

I can’t get rid of our dog Katie; our son would be crushed, and I’d actually miss her, too. As God revealed to me this morning, though, Katie isn’t the critical issue. It’s my heart that matters to him, and thank God it does! My husband and I can work out the clean-up schedule . . . or I can keep blessing him as Katie drops me reminders!

I share my own flawed humanity here in hope and faith with one of you who needs God’s transforming power to turn something stinky in your life into an avenue of blessing and healing for your heart attitude today. I’m confident no women’s ministry director will ever ask me to speak on this topic, so this is the only place you’ll hear it.

Maybe one of these days yet God will give me a message through a pretty box with ribbons, or jewelry, or nail polish?
A “ . . . but . . . ” to move: Father, as much as I want to, I don’t have the persistent commitment in myself to change my stinky attitudes – and I admit that sometimes I don’t even want to. I’m quick to spot the doo-doo from other people’s choices and often blind to the messes in my heart, BUT you are kind enough to both reveal them and set me on the path to healing and peace IN mind. I don’t want to live in denial of what’s going on in my life; I want your sound mind and wholesome, positive attitude in everything and with everyone I deal with, even when those things and people don’t change. Thank you that you DO do in me all it takes to transform _________ and ME into an avenue of blessing!

Your own “ . . . but . . . ” to move: Tender Father, I struggle so with a bad attitude over ___________________________ BUT I trust you, and I know you will help me have a better attitude about ____________________________________________. I give you permission, Holy Spirit, to show me any “stinkin’ thinkin’” in my heart and thoughts, and I ask you to replace them with thoughts of ways I can bless ______________________________________________________________. God, you are the Creator and author of creativity, so I dare to ask you for creativity in my attitudes to create in me a truly clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. I know this is a prayer you’ve been waiting for me to offer up, so I know you will help me! Thank you, and I look forward to the new ideas, attitudes and gratitude you’ll put into my heart through Your Spirit in my spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen! Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________________________________________.

Sea Glass Wars

The Sea Glass War

Rose Jackson © 7/15/2008

sea-glass-2

The rocket attack came from out of the blue. My husband Cliff and I were standing in the long line in front of the auditorium the night of our younger son’s final high school chorus concert, when Chris called on my cell phone to ask if he could borrow some money so a fellow singer who hadn’t had dinner could get something to eat before the show. Phone in hand, I turned to Cliff and explained, “Chris wants to borrow some money to help . . . .” I asked my husband if that would be okay, and he angrily fired off, “He’s your son!” Whoa – where did that come from?

Shell-shocked, I couldn’t imagine what provoked his angry attack or even what his comment meant. I didn’t know we were at war! Our son came out to get the money and told me it was for a good friend from church. “It’s for his friend from church, Anna,” I related to Cliff, thinking an explanation would help, and he snapped, “Don’t tell me that. I don’t need to know!” Two rounds fired! This was no accidental friendly fire shooting! Instantly my defensive shields went up. I felt angry and confused, but I couldn’t lob any verbal grenades back at my husband because the women’s ministry director of our church was standing three people ahead of me. Trapped! I was pinned down, unable to defend myself.

Usually I’d launch a verbal retaliatory strike, or at least set the launch codes and fire later when I had the opportunity. This night, though, I resolved not to return anger for anger. I didn’t want to cause a scene in line or ruin the evening, but I also didn’t think it would be healthy to let the incident go and pretend this conflict never happened. “I’ve responded that way too many times in the past, and it only made me resentful,” I recalled as I took a deep breath. What to do? In an unusual step back from the brink of mutual annihilation, I decided to de-escalate, make a hopefully permanent change,  and quickly resolved to look for a way to deal with the conflict in a way both respectful to my husband and healthy for our relationship. I silently sent a prayer SOS, “Jesus, please tell me how to handle my anger,” and held my fire.

I didn’t say anything when we got home that night, but the next morning I prayed again to discern a positive way to express my feelings while bringing a healthy resolution to the issue for both my husband and me. At the breakfast table I calmly told my husband, “I feel your words last night were intentionally hurtful. Would you speak to people at work the way you did to me?”

“No,” he said, “but I don’t think what I said was hurtful.” Inside I was thinking, “Oh, come on,” but I made a conscious choice and effort to quickly subdue my frustration. “Would you speak to your associates that way?” I repeated. My husband replied that he wouldn’t, because no one at work would speak to him the way I did. Puzzled because I hadn’t said anything nasty to him the night before, but feeling a peace that surely came from God, I replied, “Your comment indicates that you do realize the words were hurtful.” I honestly, simply stated, “I can’t think of anything I said last night to merit those hostile words. Did I miss something?”

I’d presented my case without becoming defensive. What would happen next? Amazingly my husband’s demeanor changed, and he acknowledged that he had been angry and intentionally used those words to drive home the fact. At that point we were able to identify what had actually angered him, discuss the situation, and come to a healthy resolution.

God turned what could have been explosive and damaging into something healthy. Because it was unexpectedly healing, and because I felt enabled to uncharacteristically say something that maintained my dignity while still respecting my husband, to me the encounter was profoundly beautiful. Years ago I wrote an analogy comparing anger to broken glass on a playground, shiny and attractive, but you’d warn your child not to pick it up because, attractive as it looks, broken glass easily cuts anyone who handles it. Anger cuts and wounds relationships. If she or he picked up a piece of broken glass, you’d immediately ask your child to either drop it or carefully hand it to you, so you could take care of it safely and properly. In the analogy, I wrote that the proper thing to do with anger is hand it to Jesus so he can dispose of it safely.

After our “chorus line” battle, though, I realized Jesus did more than just dispose of my anger. When I resolved to respect Cliff and our relationship and placed my anger in his hands, Jesus transformed it into something precious that restored rather than destroyed. Shards of broken anger became beautiful like rounded sea glass, a powerful affirmation to keep choosing my resolution. At www.americancraftworks.com/TheStoryofSeaglass.html I found a description of the process that turns trashed, broken bottles into beautiful sea glass:

“The ocean’s saltwater and sand combined with the various tides act like a giant rock tumbler & (sic) eventually turn sharp broken glass into beautifully rounded frosted jewels that wash up on the shoreline. . . . !”

I handed Jesus the broken glass of my anger and he returned to me healing communication with my husband, something beautiful to be valued and prized like a sea glass gem. That day I changed my reaction and witnessed a battlefield turn into a beach.

Our feelings are our feelings, but we do well to look deeply within and pray to discern the hurt, disappointment, or expectation unmet that pushed a ”hot button. “We all have them hidden inside, hurts, slights, fears and insecurities in childhood that we didn’t know how to process unhealthy ways then. The longer I go through life, them ore broken people I find: people with wounds from an absent or present but controlling and rigidly unloving father, abandonment either emotional or actual from their mother, burying deep inside them the questions, “Will anyone love me for who I am? Do I matter to someone? How can I find the love I need?”

Legitimate needs and questions, but how we express them to others can bring healing or raise up like quills on a porcupine’s back, pushing others away with our angry barbs aimed at them personally, rather than expressing the need we have in clear, positive ways others can respond to.

God has much to say about anger.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19: 11 NIV

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. James 4:1-2 ESV

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16: 32 ESV

 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person… Matthew 15: 18-19 NIV

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil….

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:26, 29, 31-32 NIV

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[a] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.,,,

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3: 8-10, 12-13 NIV

 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:1-18, NIV

Please, If you are, or have a loved one with, a deeply entrenched chronic anger issue, please seek professional help for both the angry person and the one(s) living with them. It may be rooted in a deep wound All of us easily speak before we think, and we tend to react, rather than respond, when someone ”pushes our buttons.” My prayer for myself and others is a cry, hands lifted to God, to help me/us do what we instinctively can’t, and bring to the light of His healing the hurts that lead us to speak harshly. What beautiful gems God can make of us when we give our anger to him for his understanding, compassionate, and passionate healing. The wonderful truth is that God WANTS to heal our wounds!

A “…BUT…”to pray: Oh, Loving Father, I do feel angry when __________________________________, and when I do, I know my words can wound like broken glass. You don’t condemn me because I have needs and desires, BUT please help me to see deep inside myself to the root of the emotions that drive me to express my needs and expectations in hurtful ways. Holy Spirit, I open myself to you now and give you permission to show me things you long to heal deep within me _____________________________________________________________________ . People in my life do irritate me, including ______________________________________________________.Help me to respond in Godly, honoring, solution-focused ways when ______________________________ says _____________________________________________________. Put a guard around my mouth, Holy Spirit, and the next time that happens, help me to lift it to your hands to shape my response and turn the broken glass into a beautiful gem. In Jesus’ name, Amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________________

As Simple as it Gets

As Simple as it Gets

I couldn’t find the bunnies, flowers or rainbows in my circumstances. I was so crushed yesterday, and I recognized my deepest grief is the contradiction between what I know and read of God from the Word – nothing shall be impossible for God – and what I see in the free will He allows us all to walk in, often to the wounding and discouragement of others. What I heard for 18 months was a grand and hideous silence and contradiction. This morning it even hurt too much to let God’s word in and listen to any of my favorite Bible teachers. That contradiction slapped in my face again was more than I could bear.

“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. . . . Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive (intermittent) brook, like a spring that fails?” Jeremiah 15:16, 18 NIV

So, the question to me on my morning dog walk was simply which side of this razor’s edge I’m going to fall on. Do I believe my circumstances reveal the character of God, or do I believe somehow, against all the grief within me, that God’s character gives meaning to my circumstances? I want with every fiber of my being for God to change my circumstances, BUT . . .

I love, I hope, I’m crushed – I rise in love, I hope, I’m crushed – I crawl back up to my feet in love . . . . I genuinely understand why sometimes people feel death would be easier than this life. BUT . . . it all comes down to the cross, and the cruelty I see Jesus bore for me. He was taunted, and their taunts were true. He COULD have called down legions of angels and taken himself off the cross, but the end of Jesus’ pain would have begun eternal torment for all the rest of us. Real, raw honesty here today, I have come close to despairing of life, just two months before God brought the faint dawn of a new hope into my life. I don’t doubt for a minute that there is someone who will read this and identify exactly with my feelings. Keep reading!

It all comes down to the cross. For love, Jesus emptied himself of all his majesty and rights as Deity and took our betrayal and rejection of him, even my imploring questions now. He loved, he hoped, he was crushed, he rose up in love. What could it have meant to Jesus to be stripped – willingly, but stripped nonetheless – from all that incomprehensible union with pure joy and love and Oneness with the Father? Whatever it meant, it meant winning me.

No, I’m not at all equating myself and my suffering with Jesus. It’s just that now I begin to understand the ferocious depth of his love for me. He IS love. I don’t BEGIN to grasp how much, but I desperately want to soak myself in him.

Words water down the impact of this truth.

Aaugh . . . as much as this still – hurts isn’t strong enough a word – grinds me to dust emotionally, I will not let my circumstances and the horrifying choices someone else is making inform me about the nature and love of my Jesus. Whatever meaning comes out of this in the end, it will be the meaning LOVE incarnate gives to me.

“Come under my wing,” God whispers, and we cry out, “Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you “ Psalm 143:9

“Shelter Me” by Tab Benoit

The earth can shake the sky come down*

The mountains all fall to the ground

But I will fear none of these things

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Dark waters rise and thunder pounds

The wheels of war are going round

And all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Hide me underneath your wings

Hide me deep inside your heart

In your refuge – cover me

The world can shake

But lord I’m making you my hiding place

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:7-11 NIV

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues. Psalm 31: 20 NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 1-10 NIV

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . Romans 8:28 . . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31 NIV He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 NIV. . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth , . . . nor anything can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:38-39 NIV

A “,,,BUT…” to pray: Sometimes God, and it might be right now, it feels like the whole world is against me because ____________________________________________________________________________. I tried to _________________________________ but __________________________________. BUT God, help me remember hat YOU are greater than the world, and if YOU are for me, then you must have a plan to bring something good out of _________________________________________________________________. Show me where you are, Father, and Jesus, help me truly feel in my deepest heart how much you love me. I never asked you about your feelings on the cross. Jesus, what did you feel? Can my love for you bring you joy? It CAN! Then I trust you enough o give you ______________________________________________________ and let you work something good from ___________________________________________________. I have to “hand it to you,” so I will, by a choice of faith. What do you want to tell me today? Amen in Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening ________________________________________________________________________________________