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Sunday grace

“In the body of Christ, how one person breathes affects the whole body,” writes Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way.

The final chapter, “Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken,” is scrawled with underlines. I identify with so many of the words.

I feel a bit broken this morning. Broken by cares and concerns. Because the world is broken, and all the programs and politics and plans cannot fix it.  We are living in brokenness.

Through the night, I wake and breathe prayers for ones I love and hold dear. My first thought of the morning is the same.

Out my kitchen window lies the beauty in my back yard, so lush and fully green. I hear birds chirping and singing, the tiny wren with the biggest voice singing his heart out. Flowers in colors bold, and I am stunned at their offerings, how they keep coming back each year in spite of my sometimes neglect.

The earth was called forth, creation was completed and called “good.” And it was so very good. But something has happened to it, to us. Sin has wrecked havoc on the planet, on its citizens. And what are we to do?

We must share our brokenness, open the cracked heart and let each other in. Let the desperate cries of the wounded be heard as we acknowledge our own broken. For none of us are whole on our own. We hold each other up. We rejoice together and celebrate. We weep with another and grieve. We feel the pain when one of us is bruised.

We must seek with open hearts to model the One and only perfect man who came into our brokenness and was susceptable to it. He didn’t turn away from our mess but instead walked right up and embraced the leprous, the bleeding, the outcast, the demon possessed, the dead, the sinner.

He allowed Himself to be fully broken in full view, shamed and forsaken. And then He showed us His scars.

Can we be so vulnerable and share our scars, our pain? We must if we are to enter into the suffering of one another.  To have true fellowship and relationship, there must be an open heart reaching out to another open heart.

Put away the perceived perfections, stop pretending we have it all together. Because we don’t. We don’t.

It takes humility to admit I am broken and in need. And it will be grace that binds up my wounds with healing oinment. If I am willing, someone will be at my side, helping my woundedness heal. With tears in her own eyes, she will embrace me and say, “It’s OK. I’ve been there too.”

Sunday grace.

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If these walls could talk

It was late summer or early fall when we moved into our house so long ago. And if the walls of this place could talk, oh the secrets they would tell.

My dad was the chief contractor when we build our first and only home in 1976. It was always his dream to build his only daughter a house. He built it strong and sturdy; it has stood the test of time and tempest for forty years.

My Sweet William and I lived in an apartments when we married, newly weds adjusting to life together as one. We were completely different personalities coming from totally different backgrounds. It was like cold and hot air moving toward each other until the swirl becomes a potential tornado.

We had no idea what we were in for.

Our son was three years old when we moved into our forever home. I recall tender, sweet memories of being his mom. High chairs, potty training, and bicycles. First grade, middle school and graduation. Drum lessons, soccer practice and boy scouts. Carefree childhood, homework, and his first real job. The accomplishments, the worry, and the prayers.

Every mother knows the joy and sorrow that accompanies raising a child. It happened within these walls.

I was with child twice more in this house, and I lost both babies.  We cried and could not understand. And how do you explain to the small son that there would not be a brother or sister coming?

We had parties, sleepovers, and play dates here. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, inviting family and friends. I fixed so many meals and cleaned up after them. I packed about a zillion lunches.

We had fun here. Games and jokes and silly antics brought relief when stress threatened to crush us. Laughter is always a good medicine.

The dating years were interesting as the one an only son brought girls here to meet us. The young woman he finally picked was his perfect match. We loved her from the start.

We held grand-babies here, one after the other, nestling them in our arms and watching them grow, loving on them every chance we had. Those were precious times when childish merriment echoed once again through the halls.

We cried a bucket of tears as well. We grieved our losses and comforted one another. We climbed hard, rocky mountains and we braved terrible storms. Sometimes we felt like we were drowning; sometimes the fires of tribulation scorched us. Sometimes we wondered if we would recover.

At times we needed spiritual surgery, our lives infected by disobedience and wayward hearts. We  were torn apart like a piece of cloth pulled in two, leaving ragged edges on our souls.

But God did not leave us there, all battered and wasted. His discipline is for our good. His purpose is to redeem the rubble, to rescue the perishing, to welcome home the prodigal.

In all these years, all these trials, all these experiences, God has been good. He was working in the darkest shadows when we were fearful. He was working in the long night seasons, and He always brought the dawn.

If these walls could talk, they would tell some tales. But the overarching story is one of redemption and triumph. God takes our feeble efforts and worthless failures and remakes them into something new and beautiful.

Even in an old house like this.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” — Hosea 6:1 NIV

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Welcome to our world

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Invisible put on flesh and bone.

Spirit came as helpless baby.

Immortal was mortal for a season.

The Ancient of Days constrained Himself to time and space.

Infinite God was made into infant Son.

The Sacred became the Sacrifice.

The miraculous Being remained a miracle.

And we still behold His glory.

Welcome Holy Child Jesus to our broken world, our broken hearts.

Mend us as only You can.

Come and make your home in us.  Today.

Magnify the Lord

I love the recorded verses in Scripture about Mary, the mother of Jesus.   She asked an honest question when presented with an impossibility.  “How can this be?”

Yes, don’t we all ask it sometimes?

Even in December when Christmas is upon us, there can be unsettling news, the impossible thing sent to our door.  A friend’s wife died on December 25 two years ago and he is still trying to adjust.  A widow is missing her husband more this year than last.  Grandparents request prayer for a granddaughter going through chemo.  Siblings wait with Hosparus at the bedside of their mother.   A young mom tries to figure out how to celebrate when divorce has recently torn the family in two.

Nightly news speaks of murder and mayhem, disease and death.  Brokenness is no stranger and heartache takes no holiday in December.

And Sweet William and I deal with our own disappointing news.

As I read Luke 1 this morning, I marvel at the young Mary as she visits her relative Elizabeth.  From what I understand, Mary hurried there most likely to get away from doubting questions about her unplanned and unexpected pregnancy with her wedding vows still in the distance.  This was not a pleasure trip but a running away from judging stares and threats of stoning.  And Joseph, her betrothed, he was not standing by to defend her.

Mary’s heart must have been heavy, even fearful, as she knocked on Elizabeth’s door.  When she saw her elderly relative’s swollen, rounded belly and then heard Elizabeth’s greeting, “Blessed are you among women . . . ” Mary’s response changed to Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Her confusion turned to praise, her fear into rejoicing.  Her song echos in our ears from generation to generation.

Mary lights a spark of praise in my own heart this morning, even in confusion, even in unanswered questions, even in an uncertain future.

The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father wrapped Himself in flesh and became acquainted with sorrow.  The suffering Messiah walked among us to share our heart breaks and to catch our tears.  He offers the gift of hope in a hopeless situation.  A nail-scared hand reaches out to save when we are falling.  He gives joy even when the spirit of heaviness threatens.  He has done great things.

My soul does magnify the Lord.

Broken and spilled out

When I was in my 40s, my nest was suddenly empty. Having only one child means one day the nest is full and the next day it’s empty. Travis went away to college, leaving Sweet William and me to bump around the house alone.

The Lord in His graciousness, knowing how my heart was, filled me up with a group of young people where we attended church. They became a drama team. We began to work on skits and pantomimes, performing at church services, our own and others. We even traveled to Michigan where we put on a workshop for the youth there and performed several times during the weekend.

It was great fun and a lot of trial and error. The kids could drive me absolutely up the wall sometimes. But most of the time, I was so proud of their efforts and their sincerity as they portrayed Bible scenes or humorous skits, all with the purpose of glorifying the Lord.   I so prayed the truth they acted out would take root in their hearts and draw them closer to Jesus.

One of the songs they performed was called Broken and Spilled Out by Gloria Gather. It was made popular by singer Steve Green. The song tells the story of the woman who brought her precious ointment and poured it out on Jesus feet.  The fragrance of the perfume touched the senses of all who were witness to her loving deed that day.  Jesus commended her for her act of love.

I’ve been humming that song a lot lately. It think it must be because I’ve felt broken and spilled out in the last several weeks.

I know I’ve been broken because the tears keep spilling out.

Sweet William and I have been through some trauma together. Recently, it has taken more out of me than I had in reserve.

I’ve given this some thought, and have come to the conclusion that being emptied out can be exceedingly unpleasant.  There is still so much of my self-will left in me.   My flesh and my spirit do battle quite often.

As Paul said in Romans 7, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (The Message)

There are times I think to myself, “O wretched woman that I am!  Who will deliver me from myself?”

The answer, of course, is Jesus who took all my punishment for my past, present and future sins.  Thanks be to God for the victory He won on the cross!

I am so thankful for the promise that though I am faithless, He remains Faithful! 

I am often struck by the profound thought that God never gives up on me, no matter how long it takes. He is the Potter who is committed to conforming me into the image of Jesus, molding, squeezing, remaking, so that I will reflect Him more and more in my motives, thoughts and actions.  I often think He surely must be getting tired of me by now. 

How many times have I prayed, “Lord, I want to do your will.”  Or “”Make me more like Jesus.”  Or “If you can use anything, Lord, You can use me.”  I’m finding out He takes those kind of prayers seriously and begins to make it happen.  It can be a painful process.

Giving up my own agenda, my own wants and desires, my own will can be likened to the woman who gave her most precious possession.  You see, my self-will is pretty important to me.  It can become my most treasured possession.

Sometimes life takes a turn toward hard and uncertain days or weeks, even years.  It becomes God’s means of molding me, even breaking me if necessary.  I am His project and He will not give up.

The wonder of this brokenness is that it results in more room for the Spirit to fill me up with Himself.   Empty of myself, I can be full of Jesus.   Perhaps it is the way to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (I Corinthians 2:14).

Ah, now that is a beautiful thought.  It makes being emptied out a transforming and beautiful process.  It means I’m growing, I’m becoming, I’m on my way to reflecting the image of my Savior more and more. 

There isn’t anything else that is more important than that.

Have you been broken and spilled out?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.