Fragrance? Free!

Has someone you passionately love ever treated you like an enemy? Ever sat across a courtroom facing someone you longed to give your life for, who was set on destroying yours for the sake of his or her own perceived happiness? My heart has cried out, “God, do you have any idea how much this hurts? Do you have any idea how I feel?” And then I remember in a certainty that stills my cries that yes, he does, because in answer to my first questions, he both was, still is, and did.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past three years, it’s how broken God’s heart is precisely because he ferociously loves us, we who are bent on doing things our way for our own ends and would be quite happy if he’d look the other way, or better yet, go away, and let us. As much as I love Jesus, more often that I’d like to admit I ask him (without realizing I’m doing it) to vacate his throne as Lord of Life and let me call the shots.

That’s why Jesus had to come, why there is this event called Christmas, and why it is inextricably tied to the crucifixion and the resurrection and Jesus as our King and high priest of a new covenant. In short, yes he knows exactly how I feel because he felt it.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4: 14-16.

I need to remember that truth. One year after Christmas I asked my husband to split a piece of the trunk of the aromatic fir-tree we’d admired for weeks and turn that log into a cross-shaped candle holder for us to use on our table at both Christmas and Easter, looking forward and looking backward to see both as one astonishingly loving whole, offered by a heart of wholeness who wants that wholeness for each of us.

Can a heart be both broken and whole? When it’s God’s, yes, and here is my disclaimer: in no way do I measure or explain God by my experience. Rather, I understand or at least try to make sense of my experience through who he is.

Thirty-nine years of loving someone who would turn against and reject me makes no sense. Yes, interject the concepts of co dependence and misunderstanding motives and differing love languages, and the destruction can be explained, but it still makes no sense. There is no victory, no glorifying God, no ”happily ever after” that ends any truly satisfying story – and we all want out stories to end well. I will not dishonor anyone by verbally patting you on the head and tritely mouthing, “Well, if you learned something, it was worth it.”

“Better luck next time” still sounds like second place or a limp consolation prize, and all of us want desperately to be winners. The only thing that makes this make any sense for me is if I’ve somehow come to know and experience more deeply the immeasurable love of the Heart who was rejected so I truly and eternally never would be. A friend recently told me – and yes, I did know this, though I wish I didn’t first-hand – that a rose gives off its greatest aroma when it’s crushed. From my vantage point stuck here in this time, honestly, that stinks.

This only makes sense and I only bear it if what comes from my crushing is the pure fragrance of Jesus’ love that can somehow linger as the scent of truth and validation in other people’s lives. For that I’ll taste the tears; for that I’ll be “hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed and hang on to the promise that “God, who said,’ Let light shine out of darkness,’ WILL MAKE his light shine in (my) heart to give (me) the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 6

Did God do this? Did he destroy our marriage? No, all that junk that people write so many self-help books about did. Selfishness did. Thinking of a lover like an enemy did. Can God make anything good come from it? I still fervently hope for much better than I can ask or imagine, but for starters I gladly take this essence and oil and fragrance of how relentlessly God loves me and desires relationship with me. He did, still does, and always will. Now that’s validation and deep reward, a “happily ever after” that does come true for me and for you if you let Jesus take his throne and welcome you to sit in arms that felt what you feel for the sake of  forever with you.   That’s the ending I long for: to be a winner just by letting Jesus love give me deep wholeness! 

 

With a smile I hear him say,”You want a piece of me?” and I shout ,”Yes!”

 

Your  “…BUT …” to move: Jesus, this _______________________ really stinks. You know it; you felt it yourself, BUT you felt it so that I can know _____________________________________________. Truly, make my life a Designer fragrance, and you can call it ________________________________________________________!

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Move Your ". . . but . . ."

Rose Jackson ©9/21/2000
(Roller coasters make me queasy, but I can and do have fun on this one. Can you find Ethan and me?)
Yet another post on the power of truth. This is more or less my signature message.

“Yes, Mom, but . . . ”
“I will, Dad, but . . .”

Every parent knows these phrases are actually kid-speak for “No.” ” Yes, . . . but . . . ” is camouflage meant to disguise, “I don’t want to, and this is why. . . .” or “I won’t, and this is why. . . .” The little word “but” is a simple conjunction and a powerful word we use to negate and contrast. Significantly and subliminally, it shapes our thoughts and attitudes, raises our emotional fists for a fight, and rationalizes our bad behavior. More dangerously, “but” can place a gate in the way of God’s blessings and our intimacy with him. ” . . . but . . . ” dismisses whatever comes before it and zeros in our emphasis and focus on what comes after it. Our “but-s” become our priority and overshadow everything else. Our “but –s” get in the way of our peace and contentment and even living faith-full lives.

Though I knew this intuitively as a parent, I never recognized the power of this little word in my own life until one day when I was complain – I mean, explaining to the Lord why I was feeling so unhappy with my circumstances:“Yes, we have friends here, BUT all the other people I care about are all the way across the country.” No thunderous voice rang out from the heavens, but I heard distinctly in my mind a soft “Ahem,” followed by a firm, “You need to move your but.” Startled, I instinctively cried out loud, “What? What did you say? Was . . . was that you, God?”


A settled spot in my spirit told me it was God’s Spirit speaking to me. Once I recovered from my initial shock and confusion, I slowly realized that both halves of my complaint were true, but I was focusing on the second phrase and disregarding the first. Where I put my “. . . but . . . ” profoundly influenced my attitude. It determined whether I would be grateful or miserable, agitated or at peace, doubting or believing. I understood that I had a choice to make. I had the liberty to choose where I would put my “. . . but . . .,” my focus, my attitude, and, as a result, my faith.

All that truth bundled itself up in one simple shift: “You need to move your but . . . ” !

Examine my complaint again and see the difference one small shift makes: “All the other people I care about are clear across the country, but we have good friends here.”

In any circumstance, usually more than one thing is true. Even in the worst of circumstances, one of those truths is always God’s positive truth. Changing what comes after my “but” to God’s truth – to what is in my situation working for good – puts my focus on what I have, rather than on what I lack. It shows me God’s faithfulness when things aren’t going the way I expect or want. It makes my priority what is eternally true, rather than what’s of fleeting value. Maybe you can identify with one of my examples:

From: I know you’re doing good things in my friend’s life to show her you love her, BUT she doesn’t recognize them.
To: I know my friend doesn’t recognize them, BUT I know you’re doing good things in her life to show her you love her.

From: I know I should and can respond with love, BUT he always talks to me so sarcastically.
To: He talks to me so sarcastically, BUT I should and can respond with love.

From: We do have a roof over our heads, BUT it’s one repair after another lately.
To: It’s one repair after another lately, BUT we do have a roof over our heads.

From: I know you have a plan for good, God, BUT I certainly don’t understand how this fits in that plan.
To: I don’t understand how this fits in your plan, God, BUT I know you have a plan for good.

Do you see the difference? If I move my BUT in front of what’s true and positive, my focus will follow. Think that semantic shift doesn’t really change anything? Oh, yes, it powerfully does! That move re-directs my thoughts and attitudes, and my thoughts and attitudes influence how I live out my day.

“Okay,” you say, “that’s great, but (there’s a . . . but . . . ) you don’t understand how bad my situation is. What if the only truth I have is negative? What if I don’t have anything positive to move my BUT in front of?” Hey, I have some pretty stinky things going on in my life, so I understand where you’re coming from. The truth is, life is sometimes downright awful, BUT the truth is also that we always have a true and positive “. . . but . . .” to make our priority and focus. I just learned I have no cartilage and such bad arthritis and bone spurs in my right wrist that I need hand surgery, and my left wrist will soon follow suit. Genetics strikes again! BUT my doctor and physical therapist are amazed that I have such mobility and strength in my right hand. Do you think it matters to my attitude and in my daily walk where I put that . . . but . . . ?

If you think there can’t possibly be a positive . . . but . . . in what you’re facing, just look at these BUT’s in the Bible:

“. . . BUT you are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, who lifts up my head.”
Psalm 3:3

“. . . BUT the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.”
Psalm 9: 18

“. . . BUT those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
Isaiah 40: 31

“. . . BUT I (Jesus) will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16: 22

“. . . BUT take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

What I hear Jesus saying when he contrasts and asserts, “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you . . . .” is, “Life may seem like this, but with me in the picture, it’s actually like this . . . .” Jesus -all he means and does and is – is the positive truth that’s always in every circumstance and relationship in my life!

Feel free to appropriate any of these but-s for your own life today! Try a little experiment. First, think about something that’s bugging you or putting a negative focus on your life. Look for a positive truth there, too, and flip those two truths in that circumstance in your life. Next, dare to claim one of Jesus’ . . . but . . . ‘s for what seems impossible or unlivable:

It’s true that __________________________, but _______________________________.

Jesus, you know that ____________ is ______________ in my life today, BUT I know that you promise ___________________

Oh, my family would tell you what a pain I have frequently been in my “but-s” and their lives. The great news is that we can stop being pains in and creating pains from our “but-s.” Once we see this truth and are willing to move in a faith-affirming direction, the Holy Spirit can remind us to move our “but-s” away from negative, destructive thoughts and attitudes that hold us in bondage,and move our “but-s” in front of God’ unchanging truth. I know God wants that peace, liberty,and joy for all of us. Ask him today to show you where you need to move your “but,” then expect and experience a liberating change!

Heavenly Father, I see I’ve been focusing on ________________ instead of on all that you are, all that you do for me, and all that you promise to do in me. Show me your truth and promise in this area of my life, too. I want to live in liberty,hope, faith, victory, compassion, passion, and love. Thank you for helping me move my “but” in your direction today! In Jesus’ name, Amen!