Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Cracked Pots Leak

As I get older and reflect on the paths I've traveled, the detours and the rocky roads, the peaceful paths that were flat and were surrounded with beautiful scenery and free from obstacles, I can't help but wonder how many of them could have been different had the path before it changed.

Do you take the time to think about such things?

We could have been born in any time period, in any country, in any family but God placed us in this time, in the country or state or town we are in, in the family we are born into, for a purpose.  You didn't get to pick where you started out on this planet or the circumstances you were born into, but God did.

Some of us were born into really difficult circumstances.  Some of us never knew one or both parents.  Some of us moved around so often that any roots that started to embed into the ground never really had a chance to provide nourishment to our souls.   Some of us were raised around violence, some around addiction, some were raised around both.

We don't get to choose our start.

Some of us were born into affluence and privilege.  Some were born into very strict and religious families.  Some of us were born with no religious base.

We didn't get to choose our beginning.

Some of us have had, or still do have, a hard time reconciling how a loving God would let a child be born into the really hard stuff.  Really, what kind of God would do such a thing?

Some of us were born with behaviors that were normal to us, but to someone on the outside they are labeled as abnormal.

We didn't get to choose our design.

And yet, the Bible says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that God ordained  all the days for us before one of them came to be.  How does one reconcile that statement, especially the  part that says God ordained all the days of our lives when thus far, the days haven't been all that great?

Let's get rid of the word ordain and use a different word, one that is used in the Hebrew definition.

The Hebrew is yatsar - and the short definition is "formed."  Other words used to describe yatsar are fashion, formed, planned, potter.  It gives more a sense of design and creating like a potter making a beautiful vase, moulding it into a perfect form for a perfect use.

We, you and me, we are being formed by the hands of God, moulded into a beautiful vessel, placed where we are for the times we are in.  As His hands molded us as a potter holds soft clay in his hand, kneading and wetting it and placing it on a potter's wheel then placed in the kiln at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time, we are the vessel, designed by God.

So those painful days of your childhood when you wondered if anyone cared or those lonely days after your spouse left, never to return - those are the days formed for you forming you.  Those are the days the Potter already knew about and had already placed in His hands to mold into a beautiful vessel.

Maybe you feel like you are being kneaded a little too roughly, maybe you feel like the temperature of the kiln is hot enough thank you!

But the Potter, He's using the right amount of strength and water and heat to mold the vessel for its future use.  The Potter knows how long to knead the clay to get an even amount of moisture in the body of clay to make it more pliable, more moldable.  He knows how much air is in the clay that needs to be taken out so it can be shaped into the designated vessel.

The Potter knows how hot and how long the vessel needs to stay in the kiln to remove all the water from the clay so to strengthen and harden the permanent changes being made to the formerly unshaped clay form.  If the vessel isn't in the kiln long enough, it will not be able to serve the way it was designed.  It may crack, crumble, or just fall apart.  The decorations may cover the flaws but it will never serve well the purpose to which it was first designed.

I agree with you, it seems He likes to mould some of us a little bit longer than others.  Some of us seem to be in that kiln for more time than is necessary too.

But, do you want to be a broken or cracked or crumbling vessel, looking good on the outside but of no value for service?  Or would you rather see your life, your entire unchosen life as part of the Potter's gallery, not just to look at but to be used as it was intended all along?

Maybe when you were waiting for rescue as a child or crying those lonely tears night after night, God had His heart in your hand, moulding it, shaping it, giving it form to be a vessel of purpose.

That's where I choose to live.  That's where I choose to find my purpose and reason and the answers to the ceaseless whys.

Because.....God is the Potter of my heart and yours.

That's why.


Psalm 139

Photo by Rhonda Piper Photography

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Closed Doors and Battered Knuckles

"I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." 

Those are the words of Jesus.  He did not desire or wish to please himself but to please the One who sent Him.


Jesus did nothing but only what would please His Father.  He didn't go looking for ways to please himself, to put himself first, to make his name known, to get ahead in life, to do what was best for him.

He did not zeteo, he did not search for, desire, require, or demand that his own needs were met before meeting the needs of his Father who sent him.

How good are you at putting yourself last?   Not good?  Me either.  Me is who I always think of first.  Then when I'm done thinking of me, next on the list come my husband, my kids and grandson, then maybe, mayyyyybe God's pleasure fits in somewhere around line 9 or 10 of my list of those I try or find important to please.

The transliteration of the actual words Jesus used say this:

 not I seek the will of me but the will of the one having sent me.

Jesus didn't seek the will of me (himself) but the will of the one having sent him (God).  Ugh.  Jesus, really now, you're hitting too close to home here.  You're getting in my business a little bit too much.

His desire was to do what God wanted him to do.  He pushed aside the temptations to do what He wanted to do over and over again.  He was tempted in the same ways we are, yet he didn't give in to the temptations that were ever present to put himself first and his Father last.

What in the world does that look like?  How can we even begin to comprehend, let alone imitate such behavior?

Well, one step at a time.  One wish at a time.  One desire at a time.  One want at a time.

I knew someone once who told me that the way she prayed for God's will to be known for her was praying that no door opened that He didn't want her to walk through.  It was a real hard formula.  (wink wink). Just a simple prayer and a simple trust that God would open the doors He wanted her to walk through and close the doors He didn't want her to enter.

Now some of us will try and try and try to break down doors that are clearly closed, even getting bloody knuckles and sore shoulders from continued knocking and attempting to break them down.

When we believe God is telling us to do something and it's not just our will that is hoping God is agreeing with us that it would be a good thing to do, through my friend's example say something like this:

"Jesus, if it is your will for me, and I want your will to be done (I think I do anyway), not mine, Lord Jesus, if you want me to have or do ________ than I will not do anything until the door opens wide to have or do ________."

Even Jesus asked God for a different game plan than what he was facing.  Remember?  He said, if there is any way for this cup to pass, if you are willing, yet not my will but your will.  And God had him killed.

That was God's will.

Wanting God's will over our own will is not going to bring all sunshine and roses.  Some doors that open we will be certain they should have stayed shut.

Some doors that stay shut we will not be able to understand why they stay shut because we know what's on the other side of the door is not bad.  It's not evil.  It's not unholy.  It's pretty good stuff on the other side.  But when those doors stay shut it's not because they're evil or unholy, it's because they are not a part of God's will for YOU.

You may be able to hear the party and the laughter and the joy coming through the door, but if it's not God's will for you to be on the other side of that door, you shouldn't go in.

Stay on the side of the door where his will for you rests.

Make your every decision from here forward on this premise.  (Or something like it anyway). Lord, I want what you want.  I surrender to what you want for me.  I know what you want for me could be really hard and painful and even mean giving up some things that I really enjoy and bring me closer to you, but if you don't want me to have them, then I don't want them.  I want what you want.  I don't want to walk through any doors if you aren't on the other side.


Be careful what you pray for.  If you want a closer relationship with Jesus, He'll see to it that you get it, but it won't be in ways that you design.  The doors you thought he would open may remain locked tightly and the doors that do begin to open you may be a little apprehensive about walking through.  Butremember how faith works during times like that He will keep you safe, He will be with you every step of the way.  And just start walking.  One foot in front of the other.

The footing will be unfamiliar, the light may be dim, but He'll be sure to carry you through whether you feel him with you or not.  He's there.  Cheering you on, reminding you that He has been where you are.  He fought and won the temptations to quit that you will face.  Nothing you will go through as you seek His will over your own will be too hard for him to carry you through.

Just trust Him.

Hold on tight, don't let go.

Begin seeking not the will of "me" but seek the will of Him.

He's so worth it.


John 5:30     Luke 22:42     Philippians 2:5-11     Hebrews 4:15

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There's More to the Story

It's getting close to that time of year again.  I saw evidence of it in Hobby Lobby the other day and glimpses of it in Walmart too.  The sparkles are going up, the red and green and gold and silver are beginning to line the shelves.  I remember when I used to be so put out that "Christmas" was up for sale earlier and earlier each year, but now I feel better seeing Christmas in October.  I think we need the reminder of the story earlier in the times we are living in now.

See, the story goes that Christmas was celebrated because the birth of a baby, far away in a war torn country was born to save the world from its sins.  It's such a wild story, isn't it?  Over 2000 years ago, a baby, a baby for crying out loud, was born to affect me and everyone I know, here, now in 2014 and for all time before and after.

It's a wild story.  I understand why many don't believe it.  It's crazy.

But we got used to the story, we got used to those who poo poo the story.  Santa Claus got thrown into the story to at least take away from the main focus of the story, Jesus, so that those who don't believe THE STORY can at least benefit in some way from the reason behind the story.

And so it goes, around and around on the church calendar so that the retail calendars can have a piece of the story too.  The story starts getting unpacked around September and October and hangs around until December 26th at midnight where it all gets packed up again, or at least till the after Christmas sales are over.

I wish the rest of the story would be told.  Oh wait, that's Easter.

We know that story pretty good too, believer and doubter alike.  Jesus got crucified, placed in a tomb and rose from the dead three days later.

Got it.

It doesn't get the commercial effect that the Christmas story gets but we do have a bunny thrown in to get the focus off the star of the story - Jesus.

Did you know there's more to the story?

See, if you live your life between part A of the story -the baby - and part B of the story -the resurrection - with those the only highlights of your everyday life then you've probably missed it.

But there's more to the story.

It's the chapter that goes beyond a baby and a cross and heaven, but instead tells the story of faith and courage and bravery and hope and surrender  being possible all because of Part A baby and Part B resurrection.

See the rest of the story involves you.  You are, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."

The baby did come to die for you and grant you eternal life, but the baby also came to regenerate your life, to bring new life to it.  Life that has purpose and meaning.

He couldn't just tell you to be perfect like He was if He didn't first make a way for you to be perfect in His sight.  When that little baby grew up and lay his life down for me and you, yes it was for the awesome gift of eternal life, but it was also for the awesome gift of walking with Him now, not just when you die.

He made a way for you to be able to follow the teachings He taught while He walked on earth.  He made a way for you to rise above the inclination to do the opposite of what God wants and instead walk freely in what is His best for us.

God does it all so that we can be all we were created to be.

That's the rest of the story.  That's the part that's missing from Christmas to Easter and Easter to Christmas.

You are the "more" to the story.

You are.  Your life is the "more" to the story.  The life that has Jesus at the helm, not as a copilot but as the pilot.  Walking with you through everything that life throws at you, the good, the bad and the ugly.  The tedious, the small, the big, the heartbreaking. You were not meant to face any of it alone.  We were meant to face life as Jesus gave us the example to.  In deep abiding trust and willingness to surrender our ideas and plans and fears to the God who wrote the story, -Part A, Part B and everything before, in between and after.

I hope in this season when you are scrambling to plan meals and buy gifts and decorate and you find yourself looking forward to when it's all packed away, that you ask the question, "how do I fit into this story?"

You are the only one who knows what God has been trying to teach you all these years as you've muddled through the holiday season.  Only you can ask Him what the "more" to the story is.  Only you can ask to be shown how you fit into the rest of the story.  Only you can want to know the more.  I wish it for you, but I can't make you want it.  Only you can want to know more.

Do you?

Or are the two chapters of the story enough?  Are the two chapters helping you face the hardest thing you've ever faced in your life?  Are they getting all your questions answered?  Is your list of "whys" getting shorter each year as you go from Part A in the story to Part B?  If they are, great, this post isn't for you.

But if you're honest enough with yourself to say, "no", then know that God hears your call.  If you want to know the more, he longs to show you the more.  And if you don't, he's ever the gentleman and will continue to love you as He always has.

The story we've been told is beautiful.  I can't imagine my life having not known either Part A or Part B.  Please, Lord, let your story continue to be told, not just when the calendar and and stores say its time, but let the story blend into our story, our boring everyday life stories.  Show us how that baby and that cross and that empty tomb matter for our heartbreaks and disappointments, our joys and our sorrows.

Let us ginosko "the rest of the story."


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Truth in Translation

I was in an antique store the other day, just browsing, killing some time and not really finding anything that jumped out at me.  As I walked around the quaint little store that was once a house I found myself in a former bedroom where all kinds of things you might find in a bedroom were - just the antique kind.  Hairbrushes, water pitchers and dry sinks, mirrors, etc.  There was a closet that did not have a door on it and it had several shelves that were packed with mostly linens and "fancy things" (a term I learned at my Grandparent's auction to describe needlepoint, cross stitch and anything hand made).

I rummaged through the shelves and the piles of blankets and quilts and pillow cases and in the back corner of a shelf about three down from the top were some books.  I'm always on the lookout for old hymnals so I thought that was what I might have found.

I had to move several items off the shelf and place them on the bed to get to the books, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised.  I hadn't found hymnals, but I had found Bibles.  I believe to be written one in Swedish and one in Norwegian, at least that's what Google translate tells me.  One was published in 1905 and the other in 1951.  Not horribly old, but perhaps belonged to someone my grandmother's age and her mother's age.

It's intriguing to think about who they belonged to.

They are both fairly well read and both previous owner's liked to underline as there are many many red lines under some of the same verses that are underlined in my English bible.

The Word of God is what binds us.  The Word of God is what divides us.

Only the reader of the Word of God knows how the Word speaks to their heart.  I'd like to think that this man or woman holding these Bibles underlined them because they spoke so loudly to them in the darkness, like the Word speaks to me many times, that they wanted to come back to that spot over and over and over again. One will really never know, and it's really none of my business why a passage is underlined.

But it is intriguing to me that a person, who perhaps only spoke Swedish or Norwegian, was moved, for whatever reasons, by the same words that speak to me in English.

God's Word speaks to every language, every tongue, for all time.

Won't it be a beautiful thing in heaven when the language barriers are gone, the doctrinal divides are erased and we worship and praise with one voice, one tongue calling out to One Name.  The name that saves.

Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is Anyone Out There?

My daughter and grandson visited recently.  My daughter shared a story of the day she and Zeke left for the airport to come visit.  They had gotten up in the middle of the night to catch a 6 am flight and so it was dark in the car as they drove to the airport.  My grandson was awake in the backseat, facing backwards of course, and as they drove along it was quiet.  They didn't know if he was awake or not until about fifteen minutes had passed and they heard a muffled,  "dah?"  (Muffled because of the pacifier in his mouth).  My daughter said that it sounded like a question, like he was saying, "is anyone there?  I'm in the backseat by myself in the dark.  Hellloooooooo!"

We got a good chuckle out of that and I've been thinking about how much we all can feel like Baby Zeke may have been feeling that morning.

We're buckled into a carseat, no real control of anything, facing backwards, it's dark and the only sounds we can hear is the sound of our own breathing.  I've felt that way a time or two.  I've even given that muffled question, "Is anyone out there?  Helllooooooo?"

I came across a neat passage this morning, one that had been highlighted years and years ago, one that really had nothing to do with any circumstance I was in at the time, but as I did often back then, I highlighted it because when I read it, it felt like God was speaking it to me.  I couldn't relate to the actual circumstance of the context of the verse, but still God's word spoke loudly.  Loudly enough that I highlighted the words.

"And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped."  Exodus 4:31

Now I wasn't a slave of Egypt and I certainly wasn't Moses when I read those words for the first time, but it spoke to me then and it speaks to me now.

The LORD is concerned about me and has seen my misery.

He doesn't have us locked up in a carseat, facing backwards calling out in the darkness, not hearing us and not knowing where we are.  He hears us when we call to him.  He is paqad for us.  He pays attention to, observes with care and practical interest.  He attends to us even when it seems we're locked up in the dark.  He's there.

I think the biggest lie rejectors of Him believe is that He doesn't care.  Perception can be reality, but perception does not define reality.

His concern for us is immeasurable and sometimes hidden, but that doesn't mean He doesn't care and He's not there.  Circumstances may hide our view of Him but our circumstances never hide us from His view.

If you dig into the story surrounding this one verse, you will see that not only did and does God care for His people, but He goes to great lengths to rescue His people from their misery.

What's your misery?  Where do you not see God working?  How long have you felt you are locked in a carseat facing backwards in the dark, thinking you're all alone?

I hope you find comfort and hope and a new refreshing of trust that God is concerned with your misery.

Then do what the slaves of Egypt did, bow down and worship him.

He knows your misery, your aneyam, your affliction, whatever causes you suffering.

He knows and He sees and He is concerned for you.  Worship Him, not your suffering.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

How Big is Your God?

I climbed a mountain recently.  Literally.

Not Everest, but a mountain nonetheless.  

After saying for years that I wanted to attempt the Chimney Tops Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains I did it and nothing could have prepared me for the experience.  I'd been told by family members who had hiked it in the past that it was steep, it was brutal on the heart and lungs going up and brutal on the calves going down.  I winced when the hikers cringed with calf pain the next day, but still nothing could have prepared me for the actual feeling of the calf pain until I experienced it for myself.

What on earth was I thinking?

But....this out of shape, more gray hair than natural color, woman did it.  Climbed a mountain.  

Now some of you may not think this was a big deal, some may even think the Smokies aren't anything like the Rockies or the Alps or the Himalayas, but to me this was a mountain.  (And according to the information board at the trailhead - the Chimney Tops Trail is 1400 feet in two miles, which is very steep!  Even if you're not out of shape and have all your original hair color!)

If you've ever driven through the Smokies, or any national park, you know how big nature really is.  And how small we are in comparison.  As we were driving to the trailhead and climbing higher in elevation, I began to feel really small.  And the problems and concerns and the earthly junk that is forever harassing started to get smaller as the mountains grandeur got bigger.

But then we started hiking and the view got more contained again.  I could only see what was in front of me (mostly on the ground as I looked down to make sure I didn't trip) and once in awhile as I looked to my right - ah, steep, straight down with big tall towering trees that you couldn't see the beginning or the end but just the vantage point of eye level - and looking to my left was mostly rock and dirt and bushes. And more rock.  

When it was still easy.

Thankfully my husband, who sweats profusely kept us at a slow pace to keep his sweat pumps at bay so my heart and lungs thanked him as we continued the climb with stops every few minutes to look back at where we'd been and look up and see how far we still had to go.

The first sign we got to after starting the trail said 1.1 miles to the top!  Ugh!  You mean to tell me we haven't even gone a mile???????!!!!!!!!!!!

But as we kept climbing and stopping and climbing and thinking surely we're almost to the top, I kept thinking more and more how big this *$%^&$^&(* mountain was and how (*^&%&^$$# small I really am.

My daughter and son-in-law, both in awesome shape and with their original hair color stayed a good pace ahead of us with the promise that we were "almost there."  Then there were the climbers coming down the mountain, those who had already made it, who were refreshed, who were smiling, who were talking without thinking their lungs would explode - thooossee people - they'd meet us and say, "you're almost there!"

Show offs!

Only a gazillion steps to go

Don't tell me I'm almost there if I'm not five steps from being to the top and still have a million to go! I thought grudgingly to myself.  Oh wait, I think I did say that aloud a few times after they had passed.

But finally, finally, we made it to the top.

Well, almost.  Not technically THE top, but pretty close.

This is where we started hearing we were "almost there".  Not!

Not "there" either


We scaled a little of the flat rock which was the ONLY way to the very top, but the thought of having to come down the same flat rock, which by the time we got there was very HOT from baking in the sun did not appeal to me.  And I had a little bit of a thought that I really didn't want to be on the news that evening as the lead story, "out of shape gray haired woman falls off the top of Chimney Tops Trail coming down." 

As close to "there" as we were going to get

The real "there"

The view from our "there" 

We didn't make it to the top but we sat and enjoyed the view from our "there."  And as I sat, I saw how big a mountain really is.  And I thought about how much bigger the One who made the mountain must be.  And if the One who made the mountain is so much bigger than the mountain itself, then the worries and problems and harassment that took a ride up the mountain on my shoulders with me that day really are small and they were the ones that got thrown off the top of that mountain that day.

God, the creator of mountains and trees, really tall trees, and life and all things that make life worth living, is bigger than any small thing that I carry around with me. 

My worries.

My fears.

My disappointments.  

He's bigger.  Much, much bigger.

The things we're facing in this country and this world now seem very, very big and very, very scary.

But you know what?

God is bigger. 

I thought I was small, imagine how he feels!

 Now we can be the happy ones who made it!

Sometimes it's good to look back at how far you've come so you can keep climbing.

Keep climbing.  Stop to catch to your breath and enjoy the view.  Don't stand too close to the edge, but keep your eyes on the trail.  Look back once in a while to see how far you've come, and when you turn around to look to see how far you have to go, just keep going.  One step at a time.  One foot in front of the other.  The view and the sore excruciating relentless calf pain for a week after is worth it!