Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shattered Pots

Isn’t life as a believer such an incredible journey? I mean, you truly never know what to expect. Things can change in a heartbeat. I don’t know how anyone could ever say that being a Christian is boring. Living a life that is being guided by the Creator of the Universe is anything but.

In fact, there have been times when I have desired boredom in my life. I would ask God,
“Can’t things just be normal?” I would desire to have moments where nothing is really going on, life is just sailing along. This hardly seems to happen, though. But that’s okay. You see I have also found that when things are sailing along, my connection to the Lord decreases. I really don’t have a need for him if everything is hunky dory.

There is a specific part of the journey that I think can be the most difficult—even more challenging than dealing with relationships, our careers, illnesses, or any other “outside” event. It is the journey that we take within.

You see, we are constantly being molded and shaped. He is the potter and we are the clay. He continues to do His work within us. It isn’t always easy to be on that wheel. Sometimes we look like nothing more than a mess. Other times we begin to take on the form of something quite beautiful.

Then there are times when we seem to be almost complete. As we are shaped into this beautiful creation, we are removed from the wheel and we think this is finally it. We are now everything He foresaw. He is ready to put the finishing touches on us and display us. But to our shock, instead He shatters us. He breaks us apart and begins to start all over again.

What a minute! What is this? Why are you breaking me God? Have you been there and felt that way? While it might seem like cruel and unusual punishment God knows what He is doing. He knows the flaws that still need some work. He knows the cracks that need to be filled. He sees the discolorations. His work is not through.

Recently I felt just like that piece of pottery, suddenly shattered to the ground. He began to show me some things that I had no idea were even there. It’s almost easier to deal with those things that you already know are an issue. But when He reveals something that you didn’t even realize existed, it can be difficult to receive.

However this journey was unlike any other because it was a combination not only of what He was doing within me but it also involved outside sources. There were things happening in relationships that I could not understand and was frankly, quite frustrated about. It seemed like too much. How could I possibly deal with all of this?

Then I came to the realization that I am at that place where He KNOWS I am ready. He wouldn’t be putting me through this if He didn’t think that I was ready. So that actually confirmed to me that He has more belief in me than I have in myself.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Ignore Your Ingrown Toenail!

This past week I had dinner with a friend. It’s a special friendship to me because she was my oldest son’s teacher when he was in 6th and 7th grade. Almost five years later, we remain friends.

Her family recently went through a scary experience. Her husband ended up in the hospital when an infection spread through his leg. How did the infection start? It started with an ingrown toenail. It got so bad that they literally had to cut open his leg to allow the infection (puss) to ooze out. He is still at home, unable to work.

As she was telling me this story I couldn’t get over how something that would seem so insignificant, like an ingrown toenail, could turn into such a dangerous infection. If he had gone much longer without seeing a doctor, it literally could have become deadly.

I didn’t realize at the time how that story would turn into a spiritual lesson. The very next night was my church’s Wednesday evening Bible study. We are going through a video series on one of my favorite Bible teachers, John Bevere.

The lesson that night was about sin. He talked about how one day believers will have to give an account to God for their works and how some of those works will be burned up. Suddenly the story of my friend’s husband came into my mind.

God was showing me how sin is like that ingrown toenail. It starts off as something we think is pretty insignificant. “Oh, it’s not a big deal if I watch…” or “No one will know if I…” or “I will just do it this one time and then never again.” There are many scenarios of sin that can play out in our lives. These are sins that we think are really no big deal.

But what can happen? If we don’t treat the ingrown toenail, or our sin, it can cause an infection. The infection starts off pretty small, contained to that one area, our toe. Yet without getting a handle on things, before we know it the infection begins to spread.

If my friend’s husband had continued to ignore the pain in his leg, it could have turned deadly. Keep in mind that the pain in his leg he was experiencing he didn’t associate with the ingrown toenail. He didn’t put two and two together. That can happen to us. We have sinned and something in our life begins to happen and we don’t realize that it was because of our sin.

Keep ignoring it, keep letting it spread and we can experience spiritual death. Thankfully he caught the infection in time to have it cut open and dealt with. God will cut open and deal with our sin, too. Suddenly we are exposed and now we have this mess to deal with. It’s not a pretty sight, as I am sure my friend can attest to.

One of the things that stood out in the Bible study was how God cleanses us from our unrighteousness. His leg had to be cut open and cleaned out. God does the cleaning. We don’t have to do the cleaning. But he had to make sure the wound was bandaged and kept clean. We must do the same. Once God has cleaned us out, we need to make sure that we stay clean. That means we don’t go back to our sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Don’t ignore your ingrown toenail!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Handle the Word of God Carefully

If you don’t already know I have three children who are 11, 13 and 16. I assign them weekly chores that pay a certain amount, so one chore is worth a different amount than another chore. I also rotate their chores every week so they aren’t doing the same ones. It’s a system that I have down pretty pat.

No today’s blog is not a parenting lesson. Something struck me about all of this that connects to the Word of God. It will make more sense in a moment.

My three children are very different from one another. They have different personalities and interests. The way they approach their chores is very different, too.

To protect their identity I won’t say who…but I have one child who not only does every chore on the list but will sometimes take another child’s chores if they don’t want to do it. This child doesn’t mind extra work if it will provide extra money.

Then I have another child who won’t do extra chores like that first child but will do whatever needs to be done, just enough to get by with a little bit of money.

Then there is the third child that usually doesn’t earn their full amount of allowance at the end of the week because that child has done less than was assigned and allowed that first child to take on some of their chores.

Which brings me to the parable of the talents, a parable that has been interpreted probably hundreds of different ways. Now here is what I think. I try very hard to not interpret as much as I do try to apply a Biblical principle to our lives. Interpretation can be a slippery slope and I would never want to be accused of interpreting falsely. So I choose instead to find an application for the parable of the talents. Just something to keep in mind…

Let me just break all down for you. A man is going on a journey and so he has to leave behind some of his property to be taken care of. I am the mom who is going on a journey called “life.” I am trying to make a living, run a household, take care of three children and be a loving wife. I need some help with some of my things, so I assign chores to my children.

He gives each one of his servants a different amount of talents. Every week I give my children different amounts of chores which equal to different amounts of money that can be earned.

Each servant handles their talents differently, just as I have already shared that my children do with their chores. One of the servants doubled what was given to him. That is like my first child who does more than their assigned chores.

The next servant earned just a couple more. That’s about as comparable as I can get to my child who usually does no less and no more.

Then there is the servant who not only didn’t earn more talents but actually hid the talent in the ground. This is like my child who would rather bury the chores and not even think about them.

The parable of the talents can be applied to our lives in so many different ways. It can be applied to the way we handle money, how we use the talents and skills that God has given us, how we deal with responsibility and yes, even how my children handle their chores. I think taking something from the Bible and finding a way to apply it to your life is great. Jesus used stories and parables all the time to try and make a point.

However we have to be careful, as I said in the beginning, about interpretation. In my work as a writer, I enjoy reading other writer’s work. However there are times when I literally cringe because I read something that just doesn’t sit very well with me.

We have to be careful that we don’t take scripture and turn it into a mandate. We shouldn’t try to put our own interpretation into what it means and then declare to others that they should interpret it the same.

Interpretation has created a lot of false messages. Just last night my husband and I were watching 20/20 which had this segment on about a family who teaches their children that God hates America, Jews, gays, and those who fight in the military. They were interpreting God and His Word to be based on hate. All I could think was that I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

The great thing is that sometimes we may get a particular message from Scripture because that is something God is trying to speak to us about personally. We need to be sure that we handle it the right way. We need to handle the Word of God carefully.