God’s grace— a stark and rewarding reality

The other day I saw a mother whose son had acted out at school. The boy snapped and made some poor choices in words and attitude toward a classmate. He was emotional about what happened, as was his mother. Taking him by the arm, she pulled him aside where she spoke to him quietly and then hugged him tightly. As she returned to her group of friends, she sheepishly started her Rolodex of excuses. He did not have enough sleep the night before. The classmate who started the argument is not a nice kid. A strong sense of justice is inherent in her son’s demeanor. He really likes his other classmates. The list was received by caring faces who coddled soft excuses for her son’s behavior. Haven’t we all been here? The inexcusable child. The coddling mother. Friends who struggle with telling other friends the hard truth. Enter, grace. Ah, amazing grace. Such indelible grace makes us feel better about our lackluster selves. [Pause] But God’s grace didn’t hide in the shadow of excuses for our behavior. It stood on a hill in our shame, bloodied and naked for the entire world to see. God’s mercy came to earth for our deeply depraved souls. So, if we minimize our personal “crud” as a way of feeling better about ourselves, the sober awareness about our redemption gets sidelined in the process. We miss out on why grace was so amazing. Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself...

Keeping the shutters of our hearts open

I Corinthians 3:16  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? Every morning after making my bed, I open the white plantation shutters above the headboard in our bedroom and I stand in the sun’s light that brightens the room. As I slide the anchor bar upward, I call to mind something my mother told me 5 years ago. She and I were in a conversation about the heart and the spirit of God. She said to me, “keep the shutters of your heart open. Let the light of the spirit of God come through and touch those around you while it simultaneously comes back and touches you. Keep your heart an open conduit.” Every time my fingers move over those shutters, I clearly see the image my mom spoke of: the image of God’s spirit in me flowing out around others and then returning back into my life. In my mind, it is the quintessential picture of how God’s love flows through and in all situations. Also in the picture of that motherly advice, I am reminded of a certain role I have to play. That role is to open, and keep open, the shutters of my heart in order to allow His presence the room to roam. Oftentimes, especially with relational conflict or struggle, my desire is to shut down my tender heart as a way to block uncomfortable conflict or vulnerability. It is quite natural for me to do just that in difficult situations. But my mother’s gentle advice held the idea to leave myself open, still allowing God to move during those...

Truthful Terrariums

Twentieth century technology has opened access roads to real time events of people everywhere. Our world has evolved into a technological dinner theater of sorts, where we are all actors in our stories and sometimes in the stories of others. This never-before-snapshot of the world in which we live is fascinatingly instant in its delivery with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ leading the pack as great vehicles for sharing our lives with others. Before this century, rapid-fire texts and instant downloads were unheard of. As a young girl I remember trying on clothes in front of my bedroom mirror. Yet now, instead of a physical mirror hanging on our bedroom or bathroom wall, we gawk at brightly cloaked rectangular mirrors fixated in the palm of our hands. I watch my daughter fire out sequential messages to a group of friends allowing mass market appeal to decide which of her outfits makes the cut for the day. Who could have known our little fingertips would become one of the largest assets of the modern day global economy? Yet, as we place our vanity before the world’s mirror of insta-likes, compliment trolling, and uber-hits on social media, if we are not careful, this binary tree of reality and make believe could have the same emptiness as Adam and Eve’s apple. Its filter-focused postings tend to romanticize non truths about our make-believe lives. Before long our house of tricks may come crashing down as we glimpse double chins or rough looking skin in our side view mirror. Ecclesiastes 7:29 “This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone...

Agenda Bruising

Luke 10:38-40 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I wonder if Martha’s agenda got bruised when Christ called her out in Luke 10. Mine would have, especially if I was “doing” something I thought useful and important while Mary sat star-struck at the Messiah’s feet (I can see Martha’s eyes rolling at Mary). Martha was making things comfortable for her guest. She was doing a good and customary requirement in preparing her home for him. I would guess that her right to exercise the word “but” to the Messiah was invoked: “But, Lord, I’ve worked so hard.” (translation: Lord, my work is just as important as Mary’s attitude) “But, look at me!” (translation: Notice me!) “But, how can what she’s doing be better?” (translation: Lord, I’m jealous that you are interested in her more than me) “But, Lord, I did this so you would notice!” (translation: I need you) There there, Martha. What if deep down you have a need— a need to be noticed in a place where emptiness grows? What if you desire to validate a version of you, without addressing your connectivity issue with a Savior? Mary recognizes her inadequacy because of her awareness that she is...

Honor and Rebellion

Urban definitions for a rebel: Someone who does not conform to popular trends; A person who questions established rules; Someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action, Not swayed by what others think; A true rebel stands up for what they believe is right, not against what’s right. Somewhere between exiting the womb and stomping through the world, I became a rebel at heart. I have not always, however, used this character trait in healthy ways. I remember in my early 20s audibly voicing to God my intention of abandoning my faith and the belief He loves me. I quickly stumbled down a road of deep loneliness and despair. For many years I grappled with the lie that sin is free, fun, and no harm to others. Eventually by grace, God carried me to a place of better understanding who He is and who I am to Him. Twenty years later, I often wonder if those innate parts of me that lead me to think deeply and question often could have run toward better goals, and not such damaging ones. For years I considered my renegade spirit a bad thing. In my head there were two options: get rid of it, or bow down to it. Seeing it as a mistaken part of my chemical make-up, I questioned it as a gift from God. How could this part of fierce DNA have worked with the sweetness of my Christ-centered soul? Could those feisty parts of my character actually produce goodness? Is there a way to rebel without sin? Enter the image of Christ— powerfully intense, impassioned and righteous...

Echoes of Eden, and the Case of Perfectionism

  Sometimes I find myself partnering with perfectionism to restore my belief that I am strong, independent, and loved. When I complete a task with every detail in place, it makes me feel fully competent. This feeling of competency saddles up next to my personal worth and I take it as an indication of how well I’m riding in this life. However, other times, perfectionism looms overhead like a black cloud. As it funnels closer and closer, I hear the words “not good enough” and my thoughts darken. My mind translates whatever task I failed to achieve as an overwhelming lack of worth, esteem, respect, and confidence. These feelings initiate an emotional storm where my sense of self gets washed away. Our world longs for perfection. Our obsession with beauty and youth is one small reaction to that longing. I seek perfect experiences in many areas of my life: my relationship with God, safety, provision, health, children, family, love, and the list goes on. But I don’t believe God ever intended the longing for perfection, or these echoes of Eden, to fall into the either category of pride or self-loathing. When I get caught in between these two harsh realities, I remind myself that God’s garden was perfect. Ezekiel 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.   I become aware that perfection on earth falls flat as it is measured against the...