STICKY SITUATION

Last Sunday, at the church we’ve been visiting for the summer, just after the worship songs had ended and folks were settling down to hear the Word, my husband suddenly bolted for the door.  This was so out of character that I sat perched on the edge of my seat, staring after him in open-mouthed puzzlement, as he stood mostly outside, his foot holding the door open, bent over.  Was he sick?  Should I go see about him?  Pretty soon he strode back in and spoke one word into my questioning countenance:  Tick.

Shudder.  Considering I’d walked through the same grass he had around our camper, it took willpower not to go on a search and scratch mission over my bodily territory, but I waited for the service to end before making my own hasty departure. 

I’d already been pondering sticky things that weekend, ever since our daughter made a comment about somebody having “sticky energy.”  I’m not quite sure what that means, but I tried to picture it, and it wasn’t pretty.  What came to mind was the image of a man with ugly names…such as Unmerciful, Grudging, Deceptive… sticking to his person —well, like ticks.  

Whatever sticky energy was, I knew I didn’t want any of it.

The truth is, though, we’ve all got a few ticks that need extracting.  Even as I pondered sticky stuff, a particularly hurtful memory floated to the top of my brain and attached itself like a blood-sucking insect. “Why can’t that be gone?” I mentally hollered, and I determined that I had to find a solution.

Whether tick or attitude, if something is stuck to you, the only thing to be done is to remove it. Or have somebody remove it for you if it’s stuck someplace where you can’t get at it, such as your heart.

Here’s what I want you to do:  get on the floor, face-down, in a worship position. Personally I tuck my feet under me in a yoga Child’s Pose, which is lower-back friendly, like this:  Extend your arms on the floor, palms up. Breathe deeply and allow your meticulous Heavenly Father to go over all of you—spirit, heart, mind—and pluck off any ugly thing stuck there.  Let Him name whatever it is:  Unforgiving; Bigotry; Enslavement; Bitterness.  You might even hear the word Pride if you’re lying there thinking you don’t have anything stuck to you.

Imagine the ugly thing dissolving into the beauty of His wounds. You’ll be amazed how much lighter you’ll feel.

Now you need a salve, something clean that will stick to you in a healing way and will remain captured in your heart into Eternity.  Breathe more deeply and imagine the Oil of the Spirit trickling upon you, soothing, restoring.  Hear words meant for you alone spoken over you, such as:  Trust; Thrive; Beauty; Laughter; Light; Well-being; Encourager; Truth-speaker.  Allow the words to sink in until you can picture them written on your extended forearms, like tattoos.    

Then go forth, my friend.  I’ll just bet your energy will be anything but sticky!

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SUTURES

Here’s a story that doesn’t involve boats.  My girlfriend (same one whose kayak was hard-stuck in the rapids in our last story) hasn’t been feeling great lately.  She told her hubby, who was trying to tease her into perking up, “You need to succor me.” Hubby, never having heard that expression before, came to her later with some token of appeasement, and said, “I’m suturing you.”

This has been our river chuckle the past couple weeks, “I’m here to suture you.”

But really, chuckles aside, isn’t that what we’re all here to do? To suture each other?  “To bind up,” as it says in Isaiah 61:1, “the brokenhearted.” To tenderly mend ripped souls.

No doubt, you can succor someone from a distance.  Stick a stamp on a pretty card, and you’re done.

Aah, but to suture somebody…you have to lean in close.  You have to put your hands on them and probe until you are intimate with their deepest hurt. Breathe with them through their secret fear. Mingle your tears and blood while you search with them for healing.

To be a surgeon of the spirit might take some sweat.

It will definitely require being very intentional in your daily walk…an acute ear to hear the unspoken word…clear vision for clues that a heart is bleeding out.  Even a stranger might be in need of a stitch.

And I think it begins with you.  We tend to patch and darn our own torn places on the run, don’t we?  As long as our wounds don’t seep too badly, maybe nobody will notice we’re broken, right?  But there is a Healer, a Surgeon with His own scars, who knows all your boo-boos, who loves you tirelessly, who will suture you with the finest of stitches.  You just have to sit still before Him. You just have to relinquish the time for Him to un-darn your messes and sew you up, finally whole.  Be still with Him today.

Then tomorrow…put your hands on your loved ones.  Look into their eyes, listen intently.  Think of your lives together as beautiful embroidery, even if it looks like chaos now, and suture, ever so tenderly.  Try this for an entire day, even if that arrogant teenager deserves the razor of your tongue.  Especially when that grumpy spouse could use some unraveling.  Suture instead.

And the day after that?  Well, surgeon friend, there’s a whole waiting room just outside your door.

WHAT I LEARNED AT THE BEACH

Laz-ing away on the beach last weekend, I watched two little kids: pink-suited girl about four and toddler boy with sippy cup.  Little girl had her towel spread just so and assumed the position for sunning, face-down, arms spread…for about three seconds.  Then a seashell distracted her, and she sat up and examined it.  Sippy boy flung sand at her, so she flung more back, then resumed the sunning position…for another three seconds.  Then she had to situate her towel even more perfectly before resuming the position once again.  Pretty soon, she had to see who might be watching her and locked eyes with me, thirty feet away.  Now she became prissy and self-conscious as she gathered her little body and tried to rearrange, no longer satisfied with her position.

Meanwhile, sippy-cup boy wandered toward the ocean, eliciting verbal admonishments and finally foot chase from bikini mom.  Pink-suited girl joined chase and plunged into the surf herself, hauling the boy out, feet dangling, still clutching sippy-cup.

I would like to think that I’m nothing like sippy boy; surely neither instigating a riot, nor plunging head-long into danger, nor holding too tightly to my possessions.  Surely not.

But, oh, how like that little girl I can be!  How many times have I assumed a worship position only to become distracted?  My eyes focus on some chore that needs to be done; my mind wanders to something “more interesting”…like my own unworthy self.  This is a shameful, painful admission.

And I must question other areas of my life.  Perhaps I don’t intentionally instigate sand-slinging, but am I intentional in making peace?

Am I more concerned with getting my worship situation just right than with the eternal God who invites my worship?

I don’t even have to ask the next obvious question…I know how self-conscious and self-absorbed I can be.  Physical expressions of worship, especially when I’m not alone, don’t come naturally to me.  How grateful I am that the Lord knows my heart; yet, have I missed a blessing by being prissy and self-conscious in my public worship?

What does come naturally is being the “hero.”  How cool is that to plunge into the surf and rescue a stray brother (or sister), especially if I think it will please my heavenly Parent!

Here comes the truly hard question.  It’s really not about anybody’s approval, not my fellow worshipers, and really, not even my Father’s, because that makes my motives all about me.  The real question is, where is my heart?  Do I truly know and care about what’s going on with my sippy-cup siblings?  Am I being the hero because I deeply love my sisters and absolutely desire their most prosperous well-being?

If only I can do away with pink bathing suits (literally and figuratively) and don the simple linen of an humble, loving saint!

Okay, ladies, let’s hear your heroic stories…or bathing suit tales, whichever!

 

COLDWATER THANKS

Easter Sunday, I had an epiphany of sorts.  My Holy Week had been everything but holy—stressful, worrisome, irksome, sick cat, hurt foot—you name it.  To top that off, gratitude was giving me a hard time.  Not that I didn’t truly desire to express my thanks; it just seemed, in light of the magnitude of My Lord’s gift to me, His awful sacrifice to save my worthless hide, that any thanks that I could muster would just be too pathetic. A mountain-top experience, it was not.

But on Easter afternoon, late, after church and family time and naps, my husband and I rousted ourselves from the couch and went for a drive.  We took a back road my husband had never been on, one of those narrow, winding roads meandering up the mountain.  I had driven it, once, a dozen or so years ago, when our ladies’ group had an overnight retreat in a fabulous borrowed house.

Wondering whether I would recognize the driveway leading to the house, I kept glancing at the amazing view toward Pilot Mountain and remembering the spectacular dawn I had witnessed from that house.  Then, around a curve, quick glimpse of the house, and yes, that ridiculous forty-five degree turn-back up the steep driveway!

I mused about the ladies who were on that retreat—a few I haven’t seen in years; one shared her struggles and still hasn’t gotten her act together; another shared her heartache, and still bears that burden daily. I pondered whether anything we did that weekend mattered.

And then I had a flashback.  Friday afternoon, before the retreat began, my friend Sherry and I went ahead to prepare things.  Stirred up two pots of spaghetti sauce, as I recall.  Laid things out just so. I remember walking the halls of that huge, two-story home, praying as I went, and knowing me, simultaneously ruminating over all the many details for the evening ahead.

As I passed one of the bedrooms, through the open door, I spotted Sherry on her knees, praying.  On her knees, in every bedroom, praying over the ladies who would be arriving soon.  The fact that most of those ladies never went to bed is inconsequential in Kingdom currency.

My epiphany:  Those prayers mattered then, and are in effect even today. This is how to thank my Savior.  Do the things that matter, the things that last forever.  Do it especially for messy people; do it faithfully whether or not you ever see the outcome.

Jesus called it giving a cup of cold water in His name.  Doesn’t have to be something big or dramatic.  Saying “thank you” to Him just means being intentional about the things I do in His name.  I’ll leave the outcome and the rewards to Him.

So…Ladies, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  We’ve journeyed through twelve weeks—an annual quarter—of AS YOU GO.  Originally, I pictured a postcard-sized booklet, with tear-out sheets for ladies to carry daily “as they go.” Perhaps an online venue is what God pictured instead.

What’s in store next?  I’m not entirely sure what He has in mind.  I can see a series on healthy living, but my desire is to follow wherever He leads.  Meanwhile, if you started late or skipped weeks, perhaps He will lead you to catch up.

I thank you ladies, some whom I’ve never met, from the bottom of my heart.  Your enthusiasm has blessed me greatly.  Let’s meet back in a couple of weeks and find out where the next journey will take us.

Your Sister-in-Christ, Sheri

RESURRECTION FASHION

Observation:  Just about everybody I meet is “broke down.”  Friends are worn out, frazzled, overwhelmed; strangers on the street just appear beat.  Half our church, it seems, is limping, and the other half snorting and hacking from the pollen.  Not to mention the ones with broken bodies and broken hearts. Life tramples us all at times.

Yet here we are at Easter, the time when we contemplate Jesus’ death and celebrate with wonder His resurrection.

If Jesus’ death and resurrection provide our victory, then why, pray tell, do so many of us seem on the edge of defeat?

Let’s explore this question together.

Day 1:  “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 6:11

Maybe one reason we’re all beat is that we’re dragging around a dead body.  Picture a butterfly with one foot hung in the cast-off cocoon.  That’s us.  We’ve been set free to fly, to soar to heights of victory on the winds of the Spirit, but we can’t quite shake off that dead cocoon. In Galatians, Paul exclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) Christ in you is the butterfly; your sin nature is the cocoon.  Sure, in this world, we can never quite kick off the cocoon, but we can practice soaring.  Go outside, right now, and flap your arms in elegant butterfly motions.  This free-to-fly creature is the real you, the one you get to be for eternity.  Let that truth lift your heart one more day.

Day 2:  “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Rom. 5:5

And speaking of hearts, yours is overflowing, whether you feel it or not.  In fact, the more God empties His love into your heart, the lighter it becomes.  What happens is, we pack so much baggage around our hearts, that instead of overflowing with hope, they kind of ooze and mix with the garbage and become rank with hopelessness.  This time go to your sink and fill a clear glass with water, let it overflow continually.  This is your real heart, the way it will look in Heaven.  Walk more lightly today, Sister, knowing the full measure of hope that is yours.

Day 3:  “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access through faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Rom. 5:1-2

And speaking of feet, yours are shod in princess shoes.  Yes, they are!  You walk in hope and stand in grace and live in the rich shalom of God, where everything is as it is meant to be.  No, it may not feel that way today, but in the unseen Kingdom, it is.  You are, and forever will remain, the King’s precious and most-loved daughter.  Now I personally don’t own any shoes fit for a princess; maybe you do.  If so, put them on.  If not, cover your feet in flowers and pretend you’re wearing princess shoes.  Marvel at your true identity, and raise your hands to your Father, the only King!

Day 4:  “…in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37

Speaking of hands, yours is holding a sword, which proves that you are victorious.  It may not feel that way—whether you’re going through a major difficulty or a minor annoyance, you just want it to end, don’t you? And when it drags on, you think you’re defeated.  But what does Paul say our sword is?  The Word of God. (Eph. 6:17) And what does our Word for today tell us?  Through God who loves me, and because of Jesus Christ my Lord, I am…say it out loud together…MORE THAN A CONQUEROR!

Day 5:  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Rom 8:18

On your head, you wear a glory hat.  I kid you not!  If you could only see the pictures from my childhood of my mother and her two sisters modeling their fancy Easter hats!  I don’t know where that particular fashion trend came from, but I do know that our promised reward is a shining crown of glory. (1 Pet 5:4) I’m not exactly sure what that fashion accessory means either, but I’m pretty certain it involves finally being transformed into the likeness of my glorious Lord.  You see, bonnets aside, Easter means that God’s wrath has been satisfied.  His justice, which demanded that the guilty be punished, rained down on the cross until Jesus, as Mark Buchanan put it, was totally obliterated.  His mercy deemed that you and I, the guilty, be declared righteous, and rewarded as such.  Our reward is this: Forever, we will reflect Jesus’ glory.  You can begin today.  Even though your feet may be dragging and your glory hat a bit askew, put that hat on today and shine, Sister, shine for Jesus!

May your Resurrection Sunday be most blessed!

NEVER A WASTE

Just days before Jesus’ death, a woman named Mary emptied a bottle of perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet in an outrageous act of devotion.  Judas groused about it.  This week, a vocalist at church, introducing a song about this event, commented that Judas thought Mary’s act was a waste.

A waste.  I keep thinking about that word.  About all the believers who have emptied out hours of hard work and harder prayers only to have somebody tear it all down.  Was it a waste?

This week, let’s explore how we can anoint Jesus’ feet even today, even in the face of criticism.

Day 1:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Have you ever read all that the priests in Moses’ time were required to do?  It was hard, dirty work!  Today, He calls you to be a priest, and it’s still not an easy job.  It requires praising wherever you are, serving wherever He puts you, and praying over whomever He puts you with.  Begin to anoint Jesus’ feet today, on your knees, with your tears, if necessary, as you praise your wonderful Lord.

Day 2:  “’I am giving you the service of priesthood as a gift.’” Numbers 18:7

If serving Him as priest is a gift from His hand, then don’t you think He intends you to find joy in it?  Yes, serving Him is a privilege, an honor, a supreme responsibility.  But it can also be a hard, thankless job. Can you even measure the hours you’ve expended teaching the Word, add up the dollars you’ve spent feeding the hungry, or count the tissues you’ve consumed wiping little noses?  He can; He remembers every second, every penny, each snotty hankie.  Take the gift He hands you; then empty it on His feet as you joyfully serve as priest for Him today.

Day 3:  “’I myself have selected your fellow Levites…as a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord to do the work…” Numbers 18:6

Okay, so you’ve worked hard at something…led the music at worship, started a ministry, worked at a job you felt was your calling…and now it’s over.  No matter why it ended, it’s tempting to look back and ask, was that just a waste?  Listen, if you only learn one thing from me, hear me well:  Your God will put the people you need in your life at exactly the right time.  Look back at that “waste” now; do you see them?  Your fellow Levites, your sister-warrior-priests, working alongside you? They were, and still are, a gift. Now anoint the feet of the Giver with your gratitude and your prayers over these, your priestly sisters.

Day 4:  “…they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Rev. 5:8

And what about all those “wasted” prayers?  You’ve prayed hard over something, someone, and nothing has changed.  Were those prayers a waste?  No, your earnest petitions are, and for eternity will be, a sweet savor before your Lord.  Go ahead and lavish the feet of Jesus with your most intimate prayers.  He hears and is blessed by them.  Even though His larger purposes are at work, and you may not receive the answer you desire, He will remember your prayers, and He will bless you bountifully in surprising ways.

Day 5:  “When the disciples saw it, they were indignant.  ‘Why this waste?’ they asked.” Matt. 26:7

Be advised:  even well-intentioned people are going to hurt your feelings.  In another story, the whole crowd ganged up a woman with a perfume jar.  Even so, she received Jesus’ nod of approval.  His approval is still all that matters; in fact, criticism from the peanut gallery may very well be a sign that you’re doing the right thing.  Consult with trusted believers, if necessary, then go ahead and break that perfume jar for your Lord!  Nothing that you do for Jesus with a pure heart is ever a waste. It’s never a waste, and that’s a promise.

400 Years

What can happen in four hundred years?  Well, considering that in 1612, the Pilgrims had not yet landed in Plymouth, an entire continent can change radically in four hundred years. Yet to God, for whom “a day is like a thousand years,” four hundred years is barely a half-day.

Now consider Israel:  major periods of Biblical history can be divided into four hundred year spans, give or take, depending on whose reckoning you go by.  What happened during those paltry half-days of Almighty God’s time?  Let’s take a look and see.

Day 1:  “God heard their groaning and He remembered…” Ex: 2:24

Groaning. Imagine a people who had been enslaved four hundred years!  God had made a bunch of promises, and then abandoned the whole crowd, apparently.  If you were in their sandals, an Egyptian whip at your back, would you demand that God account for His whereabouts the past four centuries? Today what are you groaning about? Does it seem God’s gone deaf or taken a hike? Write your issues in large letters and hold the paper up for Him to see.  Or shout them aloud, if you dare.  Then watch and see what our God who hears will do.

Day 2:  “Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them…They were in great distress.” Judges 2:15

Frustrated. Now imagine yourself among a people who marched into the Promised Land in great victory, only to have all expectation fizzle pretty quickly. Imagine you’re a wife, hauling water and tending babies and milking goats. You’re frustrated that after four centuries of judges, your husband is still out fighting battles he knows he can’t win. Today, are you frustrated? Do you wish God would show up with something besides defeat? Then do what the people finally did in Judges 20:14-23. Go to a holy place, take some encouraging people with you, and ask God for victory.

Day 3: “Elijah…said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions?’” 1 Kings 18:29

Indecision.  If any one thing characterized God’s people during the centuries of the Kings, it was their inability to decide, once and for all, that God is Sovereign.  Time and again, God revealed Himself and His purposes, yet the people remained unconvinced that God knew what He was doing.  Today, are you plagued by indecision? Not sure what God’s telling you to do? My wise friend, Melanie, taught me this: Go back and do the last thing He told you.  God may withhold a new revelation until you have been obedient in the last one.

Day 4: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:14

Silence. Four hundred years, God was completely silent.  Not a single word for the people from the prophets until The Word, Jesus.  Meanwhile, the people waited, longing and watching for the promised Redeemer. Today, have you been endlessly waiting, watching, while God has remained silent? Fix in your mind that Almighty God doesn’t answer to you.  Write a prayer of praise, and continue to acclaim His worth, no matter how long He remains silent.

Day 5:  “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son…” Gal. 4:4

Here are some facts we can glean from God’s half-days. God is faithful, and His grace is astonishing.  He is all-powerful, mighty warrior, and within His will there is always victory.  Rest your soul in these facts.  No matter how disappointing, confusing, frustrating your situation may seem, your God knows what He is doing, and it will all work out for your best, even if takes a half-day or so.