Broken and Whole

2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “Now we have this treasure (the gospel) in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not us.”

You can hear or read thoughts and theological reports on this verse all you want. But until you get it, you just don’t get it. I’ll throw my aha in the ring today, see if it speaks to you.

I am made of materials that will perish, yes, that’s true in the long run. But this verse isn’t speaking to that. It’s speaking to the part of me that is my nature, my being. On my best days I see myself whole and on my worst – completely broken. How can both be true?

Visualize a beautiful clay jar on a fireplace mantel. See it fall to the hardwood floor. Maybe it was placed too close to the edge. Maybe the earth shook. Maybe someone knocked it off on purpose. If we give human attributes to the jar, maybe it was tired of being on the mantle and thought the floor looked exciting. Regardless, it’s now broken on the floor.

Beauty distorted and purpose lost. Pieces large and small scattered.

But Someone with power decides it is worth repairing. They gather the pieces and put the puzzle back together. But, here’s the thing, there are pieces missing. Little shards that turned to powder on impact, that larger chunk that flew under a piece of furniture, one triangle that bounced back up and into the ashes in the fire. So when the jar is ‘whole’ again, it’s altered.

I’ve seen this dramatized. At this point someone places a light in the jar and we all get the point. Now the light of the gospel shines through us! AHA!! But today it doesn’t end there for me.

Life is a long series of this process. We fall or jump off the mantle many times and each time, pieces we thought vital to our existence turn to dust or are lost. And yet, the Someone with power gathers our brokenness and pieces us back together. And each time there are more spaces between where the light within shines out.

I am both whole and broken. If I could draw, or create a digital image of this it would look like pieces suspended in air but you could still see the form. The more life I live, the more empty spaces for The Light to shine through, unless….

Because, as we say, nature abhors a vacuum, we start sticking pieces on ourself. Something seems to be missing so we try to patch ourself up with inferior materials. And the more we patch the more misshapen we become and the less spaces for The Light to shine through.

So I choose to allow the tension of being both whole and broken. The pieces that are missing from my life are gone. If I try to fill in with lesser materials, thinking that will make me whole, I become lopsided and fall again.

I am whole. I am broken. The light within me is the Good News of the God who loves me enough to continually put me back together.

Let Him shine.

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Contentment and Longing

Last night was one of those nights when I just couldn’t get to sleep. But it was different than usual. I wasn’t worried or obsessing. I was just awake.

My noise machine was going on one side of me and my precious husband was snoring evenly on the other side. His snoring makes me smile. I know that sounds crazy! Apparently I snore like a wild banshee, but he snores like one contented.

In my head I sang a song from the Baptist Hymnal,

“My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine. For thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious redeemer, my savior art thou. If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”

And then a Nicole Nordeman song,

“I wanna feel my heart on fire now, let the safety net burn down. Throw my arms out wide, let your love collide in me. I wanna run with my heart on my shirt straight into the wind, maybe get hurt. I thought living safe meant living stronger. No longer.”

When I hold contentment and longing together in my hands, it might seem to create tension. But no. Because I am content, I can experience longing in a whole new way.

It is precisely because I am content in His perfect love for me that I may long – sincerely desire – more. More for me? Well sure. Why wouldn’t I? His love is perfect, amazing, overwhelming at times. But it’s more than my contentment I desire.

I really do “wanna run with my heart on my shirt straight into the wind”…knowing I will probably experience hurt. But if my one wild heart can display even a small portion of His vast love to someone who doesn’t know it yet??? Worth it. Every time.

Concepts held together in tension. It’s tough. You can’t fit either thing in a box, there’s not one right answer. Next time you feel like you’re being challenged to a one or the other box to check, ask yourself, why can’t it be both? Maybe the choice is clear, but at least think it through. Spiritual maturity requires prayer, thought, research and a willingness to question. Keep growing!

The Awe and Accessibility of God

I open my eyes like the lens of a camera. A tiny cameo at first and I see His face. I can’t describe it to you, I just know it’s Him. As the scene opens up before me, I see His upper body, hair, arms, hands. And the throne. The glorious wonder of it!

I look up. The seraphim. Flying and singing. Their wings beating in time with their calling, “Holy. Holy. Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.” I lose count of the times they call. The praise is glorious.

There is a thick cloud of smoke rising. The beat of the seraphim wings is fanning the flame of the hot coals on the altar of sacrifice and creating a thunderous sound combined with their call. The glory and the awe are almost too much for me.

And then I become aware of myself. There is silky fabric under my knees. The train of the robe of the Lamb who sits on the throne is under me. I am kneeling on the stairs leading to His throne. How did I dare to come so close? All my shame overwhelms me and I beg for mercy. Forgive me!! I am unworthy. Unclean. Unholy.

One of the seraphim brings a living coal to His Hand. He touches my lips with it and pronounces me clean. I cannot move. I want to cry out in protest of my unworthiness but cannot. His sacrifice has made me worthy.

As my mind settles I hear Him asking, “Who? Who shall I send? Who will go for us?”

The amazing reality of this vision of Isaiah is that it is for each of us. In our humanness we are all the same. Yes, unique and uniquely gifted, but all human. His call is to each one of us. He is both the Almighty and Ever-living One and Jesus – the One who’s sacrifice tore the veil.

I respond, “Here I am, send me.”

God is Sovereign. I have free will.

I usually try to make sure I’m staying balanced in what I’m reading. Something for my head, something for my heart, something for my hands. I don’t read from all those sources every day, but pretty close.

Working through IF:Equip’s latest AD volume was so good for my head. I guess when you look back on history, unglorified and real, it’s tense…but in the past. The current tension we live in has a ‘to be determined’ state. But looking at the past…as rough and painful as it has been, people survived. And amazingly, so did the Church.

God is Sovereign. I have free will.

So how do I know that I’ve turned my free will toward God instead of away from Him? Let’s be honest, people have done and continue to do some terrible things in the name of god.

I’m working through this Jesus Calling study guide on Experiencing His Presence. One of the pieces I read today had us put ourselves in the story of the healed leper in Luke 5:12-13. I read, I felt most connected to the leper. Then she asked two questions, “…what do you feel when you fall to the ground and beg? When Jesus touches you?”

I’m writing, somewhat Sunday School-y, “I’m used to being on the ground. I spend most of my time there. And I don’t feel much of anything. I have leprosy.”

And when Jesus touches me?

When Jesus touches me???? I feel. I feel! I feel. The tension in my shoulders drains. The pain of being alone and unfeeling leaves my soul. I am flooded with a thousand feelings all at once. My life is restored. And when I have given my whole, painful life to Him and received that kind of healing? It translates into compassionate love for others.

God is sovereign and I have free will.

When those two realities combine, anything is possible.

If I am willing to admit my leprosy, receive His healing and participate with Him in restoring relationships? That’s how I think we know for sure that we’ve turned our free will over to Him. As we experience personal healing through Him, our hands desire to work His plans and not our own.

We can be the change because we are changed.

Letting Go

I’m sitting here in my favorite spot watching fall. Literally. Watching fall. There is no wind to speak of and yet I am watching leaves fall like a rain or snow storm.

It just makes me wonder…most people I love say their favorite season is fall. Why? Ok, that isn’t a real question. Obviously it’s the beautiful colors and bearable temps and promise of yummy Thanksgiving food. But, is there another, deeper reason?

{Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians and we recently watched his latest movie, Cinco. He does a whole bit on fall. Check it out. You’re welcome, Netflix.}

We’ve put dates on season changes. Why? Have you ever once known the seasons to change because we turned a calendar page? ….and now….drum roll please….here’s fall!! Nope. It doesn’t work that way. When the climate does the things it does and the earth’s rotation does its thing…I’m no scientist, ok? But even I know the seasons change when it’s time to. (Please don’t prepare your comments on global warming. This isn’t really about that.)

Here’s the main point. Seasons come and they go based on certain things that trigger change. Our personal seasons are the same. We grow and change and enter new seasons of life. Usually with a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. And we have a tendency to see certain seasons of life as better or worse. But they are all good and important.

I think learning happens in the tension of the change window. You know how we tend to complain during season (or time) change? Hard to adjust. Don’t know what to wear. Freezing to death, burning up. Well, we do the same thing during the change windows of our lives.

What if we/I, just rolled with it?

I’m on a new quest. Each morning I’m watching for change. When I have my quiet time, I read a short devotion and then close my eyes and ‘take my temperature’. I ask: what’s going on inside me today? Did I read words that challenged my thinking? Will I meet people today who will help me grow? Am I listening twice as much as talking?

It’s short. It’s simple. It’s challenging. And I recommend it. Jump into change like we loved watching our kids jump into big piles of leaves! Maybe it’s exactly why we love fall.

Doldrums Busters

I finished listening to Jen Hatmaker’s book, Of Mess and Moxie last month. Then got to go to her tour with Nicole Nordeman and there bought the actual book because I’m that girl. I’m the one who has to touch everything in the store. So, I went back through the book making notes, folding down pages and copying recipes. But the chapter on doldrums really hit me because I’ve been there all summer and dang it!!  Winter is knocking at the door. So here is my adaptation of Jen’s list of what to do when doldrums strike. (Not for real depression, just doldrums.)

1. Make a list of everything you are behind on. Every. Little. Thing. This is critical. Not only do you get to lament over all the crap you have to do, but also you see how little time most of it would take to accomplish. Oh the little foxes, how they spoil the vineyard. And BONUS, you made a list, so that’s an accomplishment right off the bat. Make that your number 1, then when you’re done you can instantly check one thing off!!!
2. Create a house chore chart. Jen has all those kids, right? We do not. Here’s my proposal. An adult chore chart. Only 1 item per day for each adult in the house. No one monitors anyone except themselves. Did your chore? Give yourself a sticker! But only 1 chore per day. ONE. I predict this will cut down on laundry for me. I’m OCD with laundry and dishes. Nothing else.
3. Create a brag board. See above regarding kids…so this is an adult brag board. Never underestimate the power of catching someone doing something good. If it’s just you and the hubs? Perfect. How strengthening to your marriage would this be?? If it’s just you? KEEP PATTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK. It really will work. You. Are. Awesome.
4. Make a list of all the practices that make you feel healthy. All. Of. Them. Pajama Day. Reading. Drinking a coffee/a glass of wine (not the bottle, you want to feel good not bad), Cooking together with music. Dinner and a movie out. Dinner and a movie in. Porch time with friends. Starbucks with friends. I’ve got a million of these, so do you.

Bottom line. I love Netflix bingeing as much as the next gal, and that could go on my list on number four. But if it is my only go to during the doldrums, I will be down for the count. So, that’s why I’m not putting it on that list. I’m sure I will do it. But it won’t be life giving. So there.

So. What do we do when we fall and fail? Send up the SOS. Text your girlfriends. Be honest. Let them know it’s an SOS. Maybe add a number 5 to the list…Create an SOS girlfriend list. Not a text group, because different needs may call for different friends. But pre make the list of names because when doldrums strike, you cannot think.

We will only have fall for one hot second. Enjoy it. Then it will be winter and the doldrums will hit us hard. Be prepared Girl Scouts! We can do this!!

Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro: the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting; an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something.

Light and shade.  Contrast.  Shadow.  Black and White?

I was recently waiting for a friend at a counter.  This counter.

IMG_5290

It made me think.

We love to draw lines.  For some reason it’s important for humans to put things, and people, in categories.  Draw a box.  Put people in their places.  Check it off.  Neatly.  Everyone in their place.  It’s all black and white.  Really?  Is it really?

Look at that picture carefully.  Even the black and white backsplash isn’t purely black and white.  Look at all the nuance and contrast.  Which part was a mistake?

The longer I live the more I realize, most of the time when I feel challenged by people or new thoughts and ideas, it’s because I feel my black and white world expanding and I’m struggling with it.  If everything was really black and white it would be so much easier, right?  Not even possible.

…an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something.

When considering new thoughts or meeting new people it’s important for me to remember that I can only engage the experience from one direction – my personal perspective.  Every single thing I think or feel is due to a lifetime of experiences that have led me to this moment.  I don’t know about you, but my life experiences are anything but black and white.  Nothing.  Not one thing fits into that square box we like to check off.

So why do I try to put others there?  I see from one perspective, and so do you.  We try to put ourselves in the mindset of others, but it isn’t really possible.