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Posts Tagged ‘bitterness’

We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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Finally, we have our first blanket of snow. Nothing like the huge crippling dumps they’ve been having back East. But enough to cover the bleak brown of frozen earth with a breathtaking mantle of white.

I was out late the night it began snowing, inside and unaware of what Mother Nature was doing. While I shared a bible study lesson with my ladies, she was not so gently sifting the fluffy white stuff down around us. The landscape had changed drastically when we left our study and walking out into it took our breath away – partly because of the great beauty and partly because of the bitter cold wind swirling ice particles around in a high energy ballet.

Driving home was a bit of a challenge but at the same time I had to rejoice in the beauty. When I turned up my long driveway I actually stopped the car for a few minutes. Nothing had traveled the drive since the snow started falling so it was an absolutely perfect diamond studded, blindingly white carpet stretched out before me.

I stopped because I didn’t want to ruin the scene with tire tracks. Eventually I moved on, keeping my eyes on the perfection ahead rather than the ruts left in my wake.

That scene is such a perfect picture of our life in Christ once we’ve accepted His blanket of forgiveness. In the first covering of cleansing we stand in dazzling perfection, every sin covered by the grace of God. But soon something comes along to interrupt that perfection leaving tire tracks. The devil sends someone to drive across our flawless landscape.

We aren’t ruined but we’re changed, not quite as peaceful and perfect.  Before we know it, we’ve become a crisscross of hurts and damage, mistakes, sin and sorrow.  It’s critical that we choose to keep our eyes looking ahead to the vision of dry earth completely transformed by a white gown. Don’t look in the rear view mirror to the blemishes.

The only cure for tire tracks – a new snowfall. With our God there is an endless supply of cleansing – spring, summer, winter and fall. It is suspended there waiting for us to call out. As soon as we do the gates of heaven will burst open and release an abundant supply.

Silent and soft, it’s always in the forecast. The more we need the heavier it falls. It will drift into every scarred and broken crevice, settle in every valley, make the mountaintops more thrilling, fill the empty spaces, hide the ugly places.

It’s God’ forecast of forgiveness.

God’s blizzard of blessing.

God’s amazing Grace.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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 This morniMB900262644[1]ng I was looking out the large window of my office, watching eight deer forage for food under a light covering of snow. Graceful, beautiful creatures in a winter landscape worthy of a Christmas card cover.  I’m sure my face reflected the peace and sense of contentment the scene outside my window evoked.  Psalm 42 immediately came to mind.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Shattering that peaceful reflection just minutes later, I caught a news flash of the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut leaving twenty seven dead, eighteen of them children. I am sitting here now with tears streaming and a million questions running through my head.  How can something like this happen?  How can anyone feel anger so deeply it would lead them to this type of action?  I’m so confused. And I find myself crying out to God. 

“Why, God?  How can you let something like that happen?  I get that we live in an imperfect world and I get that you never promisCed us smooth sailing or lives exempt from sadness or pain.  But this? 

I am thousands of miles away from the tragedy and I want to run out of my office, pull my own grandchildren out of school and shelter them forever. I don’t want them to have to grow up in a world so ugly and so evil.

I am furious at the 20 year old shooter, angry at whomever or whatever brought him to this point, and to tell you the truth – I am upset with God.  I want Him to turn back the clock, bring those children home tonight to the parents who sent them off to school this morning never dreaming what lay in store.  I want the world to stop hating and hurting people. I want the peace on earth that songs of this season harmonize about and that the Bible promises.

The hardest part for me is being lulled into a picturesque, isn’t it pretty, all is well state of mind when at that very moment unspeakable tragedy, chaos, and ugliness was taking place.  Where is the justice in that?

The rest of Psalm 42, when I take time to read it, speaks to my mood.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where 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?” Psalm 42:2-3

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. Psalm 42:4

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 42:5

This is a “yet I will praise Him” time for sure. I can’t make sense of what happened this morning, or for that matter on any given day when the world out-shadows the glory of heaven.

Sometimes I praise Him with joy so overwhelming it lifts me off my feet and threatens to rupture my heart muscle it is so powerful.

Sometimes I praise Him when I’m walking through a ho hum time, my emotions too lazy to cause a ripple on an ekg.

And sometimes, like right now, I praise Him even though I’m weighed down and weary with crying.  Even though I am crying out “Why”, I am still singing “How great Thou art”. When fear and doubt and anger and confusion play basketball with my soul, I choose to see myself on the winner’s bench with my Coach’s hand on my life and on the dysfunctional world in which I live.

My soul does long after you, God, more than it longs for understanding or explanations when horror happens. I am hungry for your touch, thirsty for your living water, and desperate for your strength and your love to help me overcome the battles of life is this harsh world.

Please join me in praying for the families who are living this latest tragedy, for a society where this type of thing happens all too often, and for each of us individually that we might be a healing salve in a mortally wounded world.

By day the Lord directs His love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

 

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A work related experience this past week made me do something I never, ever do – cry. I am not a weepy person, I seldom get overly emotional in situations and I pride myself on being able to handle stress very well. But this particular incident, for some reason, took me right over the edge.

It involved a co-worker and a communication issue where I believed I’d thoroughly done my part but was caught up short when the co-worker adamantly insisted I had done nothing. I was blindsided. I felt like I had been made a fool of in front of my boss and to be honest, the co worker blatantly lied.

When in a situation like this, our first reaction is to fight back. I wanted to defend myself by listing out every action I’d taken over the past year in an effort to prove myself right. I desperately wanted to win this battle, but, so did she. It could have gone on for a long time with my poor boss the victim for having to sit through allof the she did, she said, I did and I thought stuff.

So, I gave up and walked away feeling like dirt on the bottom of a shoe.  I, who never ever cry in public, had to shut my office door and whip out the Kleenex.  In fact, the whole situation hit me so hard I thought I was going to have to leave for the rest of the day. For me, that is  extremely unusual  but I was really shaken.

 With due respect, I have to say my boss showed concern and checked back with me to make sure I was okay.  I wasn’t, but I was better.  And the reason I was better was this – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is tucked under the plastic cover of my desk. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The verse ends with Paul stating “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I’m walking tall I’m not thinking about Jesus. When I’m bent over fighting tears I’m crying out His name. Do you ever wonder if God get’s lonely for the sound of your voice so He decides to let a little crisis in to remind you that’s He’s waiting?

He pulled me out of the pit I was in and bolstered me to make it through the rest of the day. Was it a huge, devastating storm I went through? No. It was more of a heavy shower that forced me to practice some recovery methods. Now, I’m a little better at handling rain because I’ve practiced again. When the big storm hits, I’ll be up for it.

Am I rejoicing in that confrontation with the co-worker?  Absolutely not. But am I rejoicing in a Savior who never fails to bail me out? You bet I am.  I’m remembering again that I have a God big enough to supply all my needs (Phil 4:19), a God who fights to prove my innocence (Psalm 37:5), a God who will give me perfect peace in chaotic times (Isaiah 26:3) and a God who enables me to face any giant (or co-worker) out there (Phip 4:13).

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

 

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Often when we quote Romans 8:28 (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.) we sit back waiting for God to miraculously change our circumstance or at least show us the purpose of our current crisis.

This week I got a lesson in how we might end up being one of the ‘things’ that work for  good and not the direct recipient of the result. (You mean it’s not all about me?)

Thursday a friend came to share with me how bad stuff has just been piling up on her lately.  She happens to be someone who has just recommitted her life to Christ and is on fire and enthusiastic, wanting to learn more, do more, and feel more in her Christian walk.  I talked to her about being “under attack” and about how satan is not happy with her new direction. She left firm in her resolve to press on.

Friday I met with my worship team to go over the music for Sunday and explained to them that I was not feeling at peace with my choices and I didn’t know why.  So we practiced, worked out all the kinks and left feeling prepared for the service.

Sunday morning during my quiet time God spoke to me about changing the worship set.  That’s a risky thing to do at the last minute when the team has already practiced.  But I felt the strong urging that someone needed encouragement in the area of forgiveness and the vastness of God’s love.  So I made the change, apologizing to my team who I am happy to say is very flexible.

The Pastor’s message Sunday was inspiring and encouraging. It focused on Peter, who after a failed night of fishing, was told by Jesus to go fish again. He was discouraged, exhausted and, as a seasoned fisherman, sure that lowering the net again was futile. He said something like “Been there, done that, Jesus.” (My very loose translation.)  But, at Christ’s urging, he did it and the result of his obedience was amazing. A great lesson in persevering even when things seem hopeless.

Following the service three things happened and I realized what a privilege it is to be a “thing” in the hands of God.

1)     The friend who was under attack came to share with me a brand new crisis, heavier than all the rest.  Of course, the crisis wasn’t a good thing, but her reaction to it was. She had been so touched by the entire service and was encouraged to press on and to keep her heart clear of bitterness and anger. If you knew her situation you would realize how that kind of attitude in the midst of this particular crisis is a miracle.

2)    A second member of the congregation came to me after the service to share how the music choices that morning were right on and how her son leaned over to her and admitted the message in the music was for him and the sermon that followed was just what he needed to move forward.

3)    At a church board meeting Sunday evening I received two amazingly uplifting offerings of encouragement, letting me know that my ministry was very much appreciated and recognized. To really understand the impact you would have to know that I have recently emerged from a season of great oppression when it came to my ministry, one in which I was stifled and at times even criticized for the same things I received encouragement for at that meeting. And the example used in the encouraging comments was the service earlier that day.

I got to be a “thing” working together with a sensitive, sincere, gifted Pastor, a scattering of hurting people, and a beautiful lesson about the bits and pieces of what we say and do under Christ’s direction.

What a privilege to think that God uses scraps of humanity like me to touch the lives of scraps of humanity like you who will in turn touch the lives of scraps of humanity in places we don’t even know, forming the gorgeous quilt of God’s people.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10-11

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I had one of those unexpected surprises this week.  You know the kind that comes out of nowhere and smacks you over the head.  Only this once smacked me in the rear bumper – not mine, the one on the back of my car.  I was royally rear ended while stopped at a traffic light.  The young woman who hit me was so distracted by whatever she was doing she didn’t even attempt to apply the brakes before meeting the brick wall of my Lincoln.  Her car was totaled.  Mine was significantly damaged.  Thank God I and none of the six people in her car were injured.

The big question is always “did she have insurance?”  Well, yes and no.  She was driving her father’s vehicle which did have insurance in effect.  However, she was driving with a suspended license and was restricted from driving his car.  The coverage may or may not be valid. Not only was she driving with a suspended license but she had two children in the car, a baby and a toddler, neither of whom were secured in any kind of child restraint.  To add to the picture, she had spent the morning telling a judge she couldn’t serve jury duty because she had no license and couldn’t drive , therefore her father would have to drive her to the court house and wait for her each day to drive her home.  The judge excused her.  I think that may be perjury or contempt of court or something. 

With my damaged car and my sore back from the impact I have been struggling with the fairness of the situation.  I am a law abiding person who follows the rules.  I wear my seat belt, never haul kids around without having them in car seats, carry insurance at all times and obey the speed limit (almost always).  I am hit by a person who has no regard for rules and no respect for the legal system obviously.  The repair to my car will probably have to be covered by my own insurance.  And – in the end, when all the details had been recorded and all the paperwork exchanged, the policeman investigating the accident allowed two men in a pickup truck to hook up to her car and tow it away, with two little ones still inside, no car seats, and her behind the wheel, no license. 

It’s easy to get cynical, questioning why I should follow the rules when others don’t.  Why should I pay for insurance when inevitably I will be hit by someone who doesn’t?  Why should I suffer (sore neck, sore back, head ache) for another’s poor choices? 

The answer of course can be found in Colossians 3:22 where we are told to “obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

Obedience is a central principal of a life lived for Christ.  Any disobedience, be it against God’s law or the laws that govern my earthly life, is sin.  Sin separates me from Christ.  I can’t find any scripture in my Bible referring to life being fair or to there being exceptions to the do-not-sin rule.  Instead I am told that to show “sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” I’m to obey the rules even when no one is looking.  It has nothing to do with fairness or equality.  It has to do with an honest and committed relationship.

In fact, obedience that is accompanied by suffering was initiated by the Christ I serve, who never asked “why should I suffer (pierced hands, pierced feet, pierced heart) for another’s poor choices?” 

God calls me to be His light in every situation with the goal of that light shining into a heart that has none.  Instead of lamenting the unfairness of the situation I am choosing to pray that something in my demeanor reflected the grace of God.  I am hoping that my example of being responsible enough to carry insurance and a valid driver’s license will have some influence on the other driver’s thought process before she gets behind the wheel again.  And I am giving it to God who in the end is the only one who can soften a disobedient heart.  Will you join me in my prayer for a young woman named Ruby who needs Christ’s touch?

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…”  John 17:20

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