Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Broken Pieces..." ~2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

     There's a beautiful church in the little town where I grew up, built with ancient stones and colorful stained glass windows.  The first time I visited it as a child, I stood amazed.  I couldn’t concentrate on the message, the songs, the people.  Just the windows.
     They were amazing.  The sunlight poured through the color, changing the scenes minute by minute.  They told the story of Christ.  Scene by scene, image by image.  They  showed His suffering, His glory as clear as day.  Without using a word.  Amazing.
     I was an innocent little girl then.  But those windows stayed with me as I grew.  As a teenager, I sang a favorite “special” over and over in our little country church.  It was called “Broken Pieces.”  The words are embedded in my mind, even today.  The song was about God being able to put things back together, when life has fallen apart.  At the time, it was just a song I memorized.  But it seemed to speak to my heart somehow.   I realize now that God was preparing me, even then.  Giving me tools.
     Fast forward many years, my well-ordered, perfectly-planned life had fallen apart.  I was filled with pain, ugliness and sin.  Broken.  Shattered in a million tiny pieces that ripped my heart and soul apart with every deep breath I took.  I couldn’t go to work, couldn’t see friends or family, found it impossible to walk into church and face people.
     But I could pray, and  I did.  Constantly, without ceasing, asking for Him to restore me, rebuild me from scratch, make me feel whole again.  Take the ugliness away.
     And amazingly, over the days, months and years, He began to put my pieces back together.  One tiny slice at a time.  It seemed an impossible, time-consuming task.  It seemed hopeless.  Pointless sometimes even, at least to me.
     Some pieces were jagged and rough.  Some smooth and liquid.  Some ware dark and stormy, others clear and pale.  But patiently He worked, day by day, reattaching the shreds, fitting the tiny pieces gently together and pouring His grace in the cracks.
     And a funny thing happened. The more scripture I studied, the more I prayed, the more I suffered, then the more He revealed Himself and His truths to me.  I lived in His world.  I depended on Him completely, trusted Him deeply, relied on His strength, wisdom, and forgiveness to get me through each hour, each long day.  And all that time He was rebuilding me into His plan.  In His grace, He still is.  All these years later.
      As I say often, my favorite Bible character is Peter, without a doubt.  Peter, Jesus’ loudest cheerleader.  The one who pledged to witness and protect.  Big plans, big promises, loud praises for all to hear.  But God knew Peter was shallow.  Nothing to back up the claims.  No spiritual depth or knowledge.  And when the chips were down, Peter folded, fell apart.  The hardest thing for Peter, I think, must have been the next morning.  Waking up to the truth and the consequences.  Waking up knowing the world as He planned it was shattered and broken.  Wondering where to go from there.  Feeling like an embarrassing failure. But Peter is a story of redemption.  Of God slowly and lovingly rebuilding him from the ground up.  And in the end, God used him mightily, in spite of his own weaknesses.  He put Peter’s pieces back together again, just like in the nursery rhyme.  Just like me.  Me and ‘ole Peter have a lot in common.  
     These days, I can’t look at a stained glass window without tears springing to my eyes.  For they represent what I strive to be.  Many jagged, hopeless, shattered pieces that have been restored to make up colorful, changing pictures of Christ.  That’s me.  Stronger than before, better in spite of the breaks.  My edges have been smoothed, my gaps filled in.  Yes, I am a work in progress.  I have to be maintained, patched up here and there.  But I am so much stronger and better that the big shallow piece of clear glass that I once was.
     And I hope as people look at me, at my jagged pieces, my different colors and textures, as they delve more deeply into my picture, all they will see are the images that are reflected of His life, His work, His grace and forgiveness.  His amazing, patient, loving Restoration.
…That is, just like Peter, the finished picture I want to reflect.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Angel Sightings..." ~Matthew 26: 47-56

     Most days I move through life uninspired and un-amazed.  It is my belief that most of us do.  With my husband working out of town and my children grown, there are many weekdays that I am robotic like in my daily life.  Wake and have Bible study, hot shower and hotter coffee, long drive to work, eight hours of work, drive home, cook, wash dishes and laundry.  Read a little bit (or sometimes a lot). Sleep, wake, rinse and repeat.  It’s called the “daily grind” for a reason.
     Most days I find relief in this reliable repetition.  I am thankful for the predictable parts.  
Most days I am okay with the sameness of my days.  The lack of drama.  
     But once in a great while, without warning, a day comes along that demands a little more. 
     Once in a great while, I wake and feel rebellious.  I drink an second cup of coffee, read a few extra pages, stop at the grocery store on the way to work.  In my own tiny ways, I break the daily cycle.  (Even in my great rebellions, I’m not too adventurous! Ha).
     Yesterday was such a day.  I deviated from the norm by reading a few extra chapters in my Bible study, and ran across something that changed my perspective for the entire day.  Love when that happens.  It’s like a sweet, heavenly cupcake sent straight to me from God.
     I was reading in Matthew about Jesus defending himself.  He was saying He could call down twelve legions of angels to help Him if He wanted.  I looked it up.  That’s around SEVENTY-TWO THOUSAND  angels…I imagine them with swords, muscles and sweet voices.  The beautiful blond haired female angels of my childhood get all mixed up with the long-haired muscled men with flaming swords found in my adult Bible studies…my mind just takes off trying to picture them.  The image in my head is vivid.  Seventy-two thousand!   Probably more!
     All day yesterday, when my mind should have been on the piles of work on my desk, concentrating on my job duties, it was in the clouds imagining angels in heaven instead.
     I think we get bogged down in the ordinary here on earth.  We stare at ballgames and nightly news, bills and dirty dishes.  We stress over wrinkles and weight loss.  It’s so easy to make these our priorities because they are right in front of us.  Facing us.  Taunting us.  Taking our time and money.  Draining our energy.  Demanding attention.  These are the things that seem important.  Things that have to be dealt with.  Real and tangible.  They are “earthly’ things.
     That’s why a day like yesterday was such a gift.  Because right in the middle of my earthly duties and predictable daily schedule, God gave me some very dramatic heavenly thoughts.
     All day I imagined those angels.  I don’t think they are dealing with dirty dishes this evening.  I don’t think they dread the bills in the mail or worry about gaining weight.
     I think they are singing today.  Praising today.  Every day.  I think there are at least SEVENTY-TWO THOUSAND of them up there having a big celebration right this minute.  Clean, beautiful, happy.   Free of stress and schedules.    Close your eyes and think of that.    
      All my life I’ve heard of storing up heavenly treasures…concentrating on heavenly things…yesterday was a day when that made sense.  I got excited.  I felt ready.  I would have gone on to join them gladly if God had called my name.  Instead he just gave me a glimpse of what is to come.  A little slice of heaven in my mind.  A cupcake to start my day.
     I get too caught up in this earth.  I forget that I am just living in the first chapter of the book.  Maybe even just the introduction.  These are the opening credits.  I’m not even into the body of the book yet.  The body of Christ.  There is so much fun up there waiting on me!
     I am so excited to get there and see what it’s all about.  I am so excited to stand in the middle of seventy-two thousand angels singing and praising.  I can only imagine.  I can only imagine.  I can only imagine.  They are waiting on me and I can’t wait to meet them!
     For today, I will carry on with my “rinse and repeat” cycle.  I have already broken up the routine by taking time for extra reading and writing this morning.  I will go to work and sit quietly at my desk for the next eight hours.  I will look very earthly on the outside, with my wrinkles and weight gain.  But if only you could look into my heart and soul, you would see what I am imagining, anticipating.  Worshipping, praising, beautiful angels.  Thousands of them.  
Praising my Lord.  With me standing right in the middle, singing with the loudest voice of all!