Box Breakers, Bridge Makers

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Judgmental people who can’t relate to the concept of grace say “I know you” with condemnation and keep you locked in a box, expecting you to trip and fall because of blemishes in your personality and past.

Merciful people who’ve experienced grace say “I know you” with understanding and love you anyway.

Filled-to-the-brim-with-grace people say “I know you” with no agenda, love you, don’t bring up your past mistakes, hold no grudges or judgments, and encourage you to keep growing. They don’t confine you to a box that’s filled with all your mistakes. Instead, they embrace your own unique self and see how the rough places can be flipped (e.g., “stubborn” is also the flip side of “persistent”). They break the box and turn the broken pieces into a bridge where reconciliation is possible.

Isn’t that last one the epitome of the Gospel message? Isn’t that like Christ? Aren’t we all broken pieces that, when put together, create a beautiful mosaic?

Someday, when our lives are finished here on this Earth, none of the things we think matter now will matter at all.

Always be willing to work at relationships. Personalities will clash, but somehow they’re all meant to mold you, and the other person, for good. Look for the good, let go of the bad, and move forward in healing. It isn’t always easy, but not much that’s worth anything is. Refuse negativity, embrace joy and peace, see situations from another’s perspective, and find some common ground.

We need more people who are box-breakers; we need more of the full-of-grace people. And, in turn, we need our “selves” to be full-of-grace box breakers too.

Just some thoughts on a Sunday evening…

P.S. —  Recently, I had a good time talking to Jesus while washing dishes. At one point, I asked Him to help me break through all areas of my life — to not just do what’s necessary, but also what’s possible and what seems impossible (following the St. Francis quote) and to be better at being a kid of His.

Later, as I walked by my open Bible (earlier, I had accidentally caused the pages to turn from the passage I’d been reading yesterday when reaching for a piece of paper), the thought came to me to see what was on that page.

As if in highlights, I read: “The Breaker, the Messiah, will go up before them. They will break through, pass in through the gate and go out through it, and their King will pass on before them, the Lord at the head” (Micah 2:13, Amplified).

I love when He does things like that. Yes, He will go before me and cause the breakthroughs as I keep walking with Him. And He’ll do the same for you. Be encouraged. He is with us always, through everything…in the good times and in the times that aren’t good…

He’ll break through those places in life where you thought you were stuck…whether that’s in grief or loneliness or illness or unforgiveness or depression or anxiety, or even in daily ruts or being caught in your own mind. Whatever it is, He is there waiting to help us. I love Him. But He loves me/us more. Isn’t that something? Right in the middle of our “stuff,” He is there with arms wide open to hug us back to wholeness, to cheer us on to victory, to help us with whatever breakthroughs He knows we need. Just like a good earthly father would do, only better…

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Resurrection Seeds…

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Some friends have seen our garden…the one with the tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants…the one with the basil, rosemary, lavender…and the sunflowers. I take pictures and show them online. I love to garden, and I love harvest time. But some would have a hard time believing those pictures and that garden are one and the same.

I wonder sometimes if they think I’m embellishing the truth—that maybe the pictures are from another season. But, no… You see, the pictures I post are close-ups. Every plant gets its close-up shot, sometimes several, especially the sunflowers.

You can’t see the weeds that grow abundantly right now, that I don’t have time to get rid of. You can’t see the chain-link fence that they grow next to, nor the small space they inhabit. But when you get up close, you see the magnitude of their beauty.

The same is true of God. He’s right there in the midst of our weeds, next to our chain-link fences that keep some people out of our lives and keep unhealthy ones in, right there in our closed spaces where we sometimes feel we can’t escape or even breathe well…or closed-in spaces that make us feel safe but offer no room for growth…

But right there, there is God, up close and personal if we really look for Him… And, as Scripture says, if we go after Him with our whole being, He will let Himself be found by us.

Jesus is just like that sunflower that turns its face up toward Heaven, then bends toward us, leaving resurrection seeds… Such grace, such beauty, such power for all of us who would want Him beside us in this garden of life…

Dining Rooms & Garden Treasures

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Last May, while out in the garden planting more sunflower seeds, I was talking to God about my mom. She was in her fifth month of defying the doctors’ prediction of having only weeks to months to live — at the most, six months, they said.

I knew they were wrong. After she had broken a hip, I heard God tell me that she would live and not die, that it wasn’t her time to go Home yet, which was different from my dad, who went Home after battling lung cancer when I was a young teen.

With my mom, I witnessed a miracle. She had been in intense pain, but as soon as a Catholic Charismatic deacon prayed over her in Jesus’ Name, the pain left immediately and her back straightened. Nurses ran around telling everyone it was a miracle, and the doctor at the rehab facility wanted to know if she hid pain. To this day, Mom has not needed to take a pain pill after leaving that place.

Back to the garden. While planting a seed, I looked back at her house, the house I came home to as a newborn.

“Lord, I had always wanted to build Mom a dining room.” It’s always been one of my regrets, but finances never allowed for it.

My mom grew up very poor. Her parents were sharecroppers, and the house they lived in with Mom’s brother and sisters would be classified as a shack to most people. Their little house had dirt floors and the windows had no glass or screens, just wooden slabs to pull down over them.

And the one thing she’d always wanted was a dining room. She never had a formal dining room. Even this old house now only has a space in the kitchen for meals.

One of the only times I saw my mom shed a tear was when we were driving around town several years ago, and she pointed out a neighborhood she liked, and told me that she and my dad were going to purchase a house there, one that had a dining room, but he had gotten transferred to Germany instead. And so they rented this house and came back to it later.

Back to the garden again. After I talked to God about it all, I felt His Presence so strongly and sweetly. I felt He was right there beside me. I then broke up new earth along the fence, but my shovel hit something. When I bent down to get rid of the “rock,” I instead pulled out a spoon. It was a piece from my mom’s set of tableware. For a while, I just stared at it. It just seemed so odd.

Many years ago, the fence had beautiful wild white roses growing over it. My dad had planted them, but later years, my mom had dug them up because of too much maintenance. Maybe the spoon somehow ended up there during a lunch break while planting, or after one of our summer backyard picnics.

As I dug again, the shovel hit something else: half of my dad’s old Diners Club card. And then I found some old siding from when the house was first built.

And then I ran inside and cried a little bit. Because although I didn’t hear an audible voice, what I heard in my spirit was this: “Your mom may not have had a dining room here on Earth, but don’t worry. In Heaven, she’ll have the most beautiful dining room with a feast that never ends. And not only will I be there waiting for her, so will your dad.”

It was truly a magical moment in so many ways. A healing moment. A reassuring moment. Alone in the garden, but not alone at all. Jesus was with me. Jesus is with us — with all of us who want Him. And that makes all the difference.

One year and one month later, I still have that spoon and diners club card, and still with the dirt on them, in a clear plastic bag. It’s reminder of God’s goodness.

And Mom is still here with us. We went outside today and I pointed out the three cucumbers growing, and the peppers and eggplant, and all the new little sunflowers growing along the fence – that will, by the end of summer, be about eight feet tall.

If someone ever tells you there’s no hope, don’t believe them. There is always hope. And if the answer doesn’t go the way you want, like with my dad, just know there’s a reason, and one day, if you keep trusting Him, and keep building your faith in Him, He’ll make it all work together for good somehow.  He always has the last word, and He always will.

P.S. — I hope you find your own kind of spoon, Diners Club card, and tile someday too…

God Gave Me Flowers!

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On Facebook, once in a while you’ll catch posts from friends whose husbands/boyfriends sent them flowers. I love that! Such lovely expressions of devotion…

Well, last Sunday, after the neat experience finding that Scripture card (see previous blog post), I had on my list to pick up some marigolds and begonias at the garden center.

On the way though, I stopped by the local hardware store. A clerk asked me, “Would you like some flowers?”

“Flowers are on today’s list!” I told him.

And then he showed me an almost-empty section with five little raggedy plants sitting in their plastic pots. A sign with them had “FREE!!” marked across the sale price.

“This is all we have left,” he said. “They’re not in the best shape, so we’re giving them away. Do you want them?”

I have a heart for raggedy plants (and animals!). “Sure! Thanks! What are they?” (Only one sported a flower.)

“All but one are marigolds.”

And that made me smile.

Thank you, my Love, for the flowers you gave me!

P.S. — Isn’t it something that sometimes when God gives us a gift, He wants us to nurture it until it’s strong and beautiful to behold? (Oh! And I bought the begonias at half price with coupons at the garden center.)

Salty Words…

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Last Sunday morning, I found this little Scripture card in my room. I should say, I almost stepped on it. There it was…in my path, perfectly centered, right-side up, staring at me. I picked it up and read, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

Just the previous night, I’d been talking to Him about my language—that I want to tame mine, because sometimes it can be just a little too salty… It’s not an everyday occurrence, and everybody has “stuff,” right? But I want to be better than that. I don’t want the first thing to come out of my mouth—when, for example, an infuriating news story airs—to be a curse word. It’s too easy.

Yeah, sometimes a good curse word just adds a little punch to the air and lets you at least release some pent-up frustration in a quick way. I once had a poetry professor tell us that the reason we curse is because of the beginning and ending sounds of those words, and that regular ol’ words like “chair” just don’t have the same effect. Hmm… Interesting, but not sure I believe that entirely. One thing I don’t do is add His name to the other words. I have done that in the past, but it didn’t sit right in my spirit; it grieved His Holy Spirit… And that’s something I never want to do again.

And here we all are. Human beings on this planet that’s in chaos in so many ways. I don’t want to add anymore chaos on any level, on any personal level. When I hear those horrendous news stories playing on the television and radio and computer that you can find 24/7, I want my first reaction to be, “Jesus!” Not as an expletive. But as a prayer. I want any type of friction to be a catapult to prayer. I choose to place my “self” under His ways—not to be “better than” anyone else or to be “holier than thou” or to be any other “thing” that people might label you as being for wanting to improve your inner life. (Whew!) Yes, I want to tame my tongue, and thereby create another type of inner peace, a peace that does go way past comprehension, that makes you feel that though the tumult in the world is spinning around you, it’s not affecting your inner person—that if you really get quiet and listen, when you’re really at peace, you can hear Him, you can hear His still small voice, the Prince of Peace…

Now, I know going on and on about salty words might sound ridiculous to some; after all, they’re just words. Right? Or wrong? Words are powerful. Words we think, words we speak… I want to be better than the easy choices I sometimes make with my words. I want my will to master my own “self” to be stronger than what’s easy. I want to be an expert at using my words wisely, spoken or written.

It’s neat when God gives you encouragement and signs along the way, helping you grow as a human being. That little Scripture card, by the way, was a complete surprise and really got my attention. It seemed to appear from out of the blue. I later realized that when spring-cleaning, I’d placed some papers together on a table, and some of those cards were mixed in with those papers… Maybe one was on the edge and, when I walked by, that card fell off and onto the floor. Or maybe God had one of His angels to handpick that card out and perfectly position it for me to find. Either way, it was a gift and a reminder that He cares…and longs to be active in our lives and to cheer us on with encouragement and instruction.

And isn’t that something? A God who longs to be active in our lives… If every person on the planet would choose to listen in peace and to act in peace, soon the words spoken would be of peace and hearts would be transformed in the process…all around the world…

“See You In Forever!”

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This past Friday I attended another funeral. This one was to say good-bye to the father of one of my childhood friends.

Funerals are difficult. You hurt for the people left behind; you hurt for the one who’s left, knowing their presence will be missed, that we’re all connected, and that when one of us is gone, something seems off kilter. Maybe, in the first place, because we were never supposed to die. Yes, I believe what Scripture says. It all makes sense when you take it all in — not just parts you pick and choose, but the whole picture, as much as we have of it on this side of life…

The morning seemed a little ominous at first, as there was a chance of rain. But while under the tent at the graveside, the partially overcast sky on this hot summer day was welcomed, and there was an unexpected refreshingly cool breeze during the service…

The pastor was amazing. A man probably in close to 80, he had a kind heart and warm smile. And when he spoke about God, you knew he knew Him, not just about Him. As he shared Psalm 23 and other passages, he didn’t read them; he knew them by heart, and he said them just the way you would imagine Jesus saying them.

He also reminded us that death is not the end, and to remember the good times, the happy memories. It’s always comforting to remember that these bodies of ours are just our vehicles for getting around on this planet. Won’t it be something to wander around Heaven someday…when we’re not restricted by gravity and time and boundaries of all sorts… My friend’s father is having the time of his life right now — and, along with Jesus, I’m sure his son met him at the gates and they had a beautiful reunion… I can just imagine it… And all the hurts and scars from this life melted away in an instant. Pure joy. Pure peace. Pure beauty.

At the end of the service, after the Naval tribute and the folding of the flag, after the prayers and blessings, after talking with the family, I saw the pastor start to walk away, and saw him brush away a tear. I got to talk to him for a bit, and as we parted, he reminded me that I was his sister in Christ.

“See you in Forever,” he said, and then repeated that with a bright smile and a wave.

Yes… See you in Forever… I love that. Heaven is Forever…

I attached a picture of a statue of Jesus that was near the grave of my friend’s brother. It kind of looks like He’s parting the stormy sky, separating the dark clouds from the bright blue sky. He does that for us, doesn’t He? He separates the death and casts it far away…forever…

By the way, as the day went on, the sun came out more and more, until those clouds were completely gone… I love when He does that…especially on days like that Friday.