Level Ground

I had knee replacement surgery a few months ago.  If you have had this or similar surgery, you know the recuperation period can be painful and sometimes scary.  Even though I’ve been walking a long time, I had to learn how to walk with this new knee.  At first, I had to use a walker, then I was able to use a cane and finally I was able to walk without either.

The scariest part of learning to walk again was being on uneven or sloping ground.  Anything that might cause a fall meant I was extra careful.  You see one leg was stronger than the other and it was hard to rely on the weaker leg.  I had to take it slow and watch where I put my feet.  The first time I walked down the sloping driveway to the mailbox was a victory. 

I’ve been through this twice so I kind of knew what to expect but that didn’t make it any less scary.  I didn’t need the walker or cane any less this time.  In the same way, as I go through difficult circumstances in life, I need to be careful where I walk.  I need to watch where I am ‘putting my feet’.  When this life gives me scary, uncertain times, I need to rely on God’s word and His Holy Spirit for support.  They are like my walker and cane; I can depend on them until I am strong again.  No matter how many times I have been through different situations, I need my support to see me through the next one to level ground.  They are my pathway to the next victory.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.”  Psalm 143:10 (CSB)

Imperfect

I grew up in a dysfunctional family (as so many others did) where we always tried to keep it within the four walls of our house.  I learned not to talk about what was wrong in the family, to put on a smile and pretend that everything was just fine.  I learned to hide the truth because the truth would bring shame on the family.  As an adult I continued to pretend that everything was always fine, not letting anyone know the real me because they might not like the real me, the imperfect me. 

I see my own imperfections all the time, but I am learning that it is ok to not be perfect regardless of what society tells me. I think it may be so much harder today to let our flaws be seen.  We see all the ads on how to be more perfect (to get rid of our wrinkles, have a cleaner house, drive the perfect car).  Celebrities show us how to reshape our bodies to a certain image.  Filters let us post pictures that hide all the bumps and lumps.  Social media encourages us to only post the good stuff, so we get likes or followers.  But the Bible is full of imperfect people.  God’s word does not use filters to hide the bad stuff.  It puts it right in front of us.  Some of the most admired people in the Bible had huge flaws but were still used by God. 

Here are just a few examples:

  • Rahab was a pagan prostitute who helped the spies of Israel escape.
  • David is probably the most famous king of Israel, but he committed adultery and murder.
  • The beloved apostle John had a bad temper.
  • Martha was so busy being hospitable she missed out on sitting at Jesus feet.

Everyone, except Jesus, who has or ever will live on this earth, is imperfect.  So today I encourage all of us to stop pretending; let it all hang out and see what God will do with our imperfection. Don’t worry about whether there are dirty dishes in the sink and toys all over the house, if you have the perfect clothes or if you don’t have any makeup on. Just listen to what God is saying to you and let others into your imperfect-ness.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. “  2 Corinthians 12:9 (CSB)

Harvest

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:35 (NIV)

I wrote the following paragraphs at least a year ago:

“This morning I decided to pull up the tomato plants that I eagerly planted months ago.  I was tired of tending them now. I took a bowl and harvested the last of the ripe and semi-ripe fruit on the vine.  I looked at each tomato, was it ripe or close enough, did it have any flaws, any bug bites, was it damaged by the wind or not enough or too much water, was it worth picking?  I looked at the ones that fell on the ground; were they hurt, or could I add them to the bowl.  As the bowl got fuller, I got pickier, discarding some that I might have added earlier.

How thankful I am that Jesus is not like me harvesting the tomatoes.  He doesn’t tire of tending to me or you. He doesn’t discard those of us that have been bitten, bruised and damaged by life.  He carefully cradles me and you in his arms, heals the bumps and bruises and loves each of us regardless of our state.  There isn’t a ‘no vacancy’ sign in Jesus’ bowl, it’s big enough for all who believe. 

My prayer today is that if you are bruised or broken by life, hurting, or discouraged, you will turn to the One who can heal and love you as God intended. Know that Jesus will embrace you and love you just as you are. “

As I reread those words, I recalled how I felt that morning; I just didn’t have it in me to keep tending those tomato plants.  Sometimes today I look around at all that is going on and I feel tired of trying to keep going amid all that I see.  But I remember that Jesus called on us to continue just as he continued all the way to the cross, to the grave, to the resurrection.  To continue isn’t to just exist; for me it is to be a worker in whatever way I can. 

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

Continue. Finish Strong.

Scandalous Faith

I was recently reading the passage of scripture about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment while he was surrounded by a crowd of people.  I’ve read that passage many times but this time the commentary that was given talked about how scandalous that would have been at that time in history.  You see this woman had a bleeding problem that forbid her to participate in society like most women could.  She was considered unclean which meant she could not go to the temple to worship, could not participate in normal social activities; it meant she was excluded.  In today’s language she was “canceled.” 

The commentary described what this woman did as ‘scandalous faith’.  She did what was forbidden; she risked everything to touch the hem of Jesus garment.  She was willing to be further ostracized because the possibility of healing was greater that the potential risk.  She had nothing left to lose. 

Touching someone’s clothes would hardly be scandalous behavior today.  Given what is seen as acceptable in society today, I’m not sure what would be considered scandalous; except perhaps standing firm in my faith, speaking up about my faith and keeping on doing the best I can to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who will hear.  Maybe that is what it means today to have ‘scandalous faith’ – to speak up and step up even if society cancels me, even if friends no longer want to be connected to me, even if I’m considered crazy or dangerous by some.

Yes, I want to think I could have scandalous faith but I wonder if I would be more like the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night rather than during the day when everyone would see.

Matthew 9:22 (NIV) Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “Your faith has healed you.”

A Grandmother’s Faith

“I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced is in you also.” 2Timothy 1:5. (CSB)

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he states that Timothy’s faith grew from his grandmother and mother’s faith. I have seen a grandmother’s faith grow in my own family. My maternal grandmother, Nanny, was instrumental in my childhood as someone who loved me deeply and showed the love of Jesus to me.

Nanny and Papa were never rich in worldly terms. They never owned a house or a car. They worked hard all their lives. Nanny worked for a coal mine company store when I was a child and later had a corner store in her Bessemer neighborhood. She and Papa had a good-size garden every year to help feed not only the family but neighbors as well.

I remember summer visits with Nanny so well – Sunday and Wednesday meant church. It didn’t matter that she had worked all day on Wednesday, cooked three meals (homemade) and taken care of her grandchildren – it was Wednesday so we went to church. Saturday meant getting ready for church on Sunday – iron the clothes and polish the shoes. I mentioned that Nanny and Papa didn’t own a car – they didn’t drive at all. So going to church meant walking most of the time. Sometimes the pastor would pick us up, but I remember many long walks to church and back with her. I’m not sure how far it was in miles but it didn’t seem long because Nanny would tell us stories along the way. She always made sure we had a quarter for the offering plate.

From her I learned the values of getting up early, working hard and being generous. She was the first person in my life that I remember who truly had faith in God and demonstrated that faith by her life. Even though I didn’t always live a life that honored God, her example never left me. There was always a tug on my heart and soul that I think eventually brought me back to where I am today. Nanny was never rich as the world judges but she was rich in love and faith.

After my older brother, David, was married he accepted Jesus. He and his wife, Diane, went to tell Nanny and they said she responded with “I knew it. I was praying.” Never stop praying for the children in your life – even if they are adults now. Never doubt that how you display God’s love, grace and mercy on a daily basis will not be fruitful. It may take more time than you prefer but in God’s time you will see a result. Whatever winding path the children in your life may be on today your living example will remain with them.

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go Ito the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1