Different is Just Different

We all have at least one.

That friend or family member who knows the “right” way to do EVERYTHING.

And they cannot tolerate any one else’s method or opinion or idea if it doesn’t mesh with theirs.

He or she is often very good at what they do.  But the problem arises when being good at SOME things is interpreted as being good at EVERYTHING.

No one is good at everything.

Including me.

It has been a steep learning curve (and 54 years!) for this “A” student to figure out that my way is not always the best way.  My viewpoint is not always the right one.

I have a log in my eye as big as the log in the next person’s and I am just as incapable of pulling it out on my own as they are.

Truth is, different is just different.  It’s not better or worse.

You may be a night owl.  I am an early bird.

You may need to dirty every dish in the kitchen to make that favorite recipe.  I like to minimize mess and clean as I go.

Are you a social butterfly?  I’m almost a hermit.

I’m often judgmental about other people’s methods and choices when they are not the ones I would use or make. 

I need to stop doing that.

God made each one of us for His purpose in the world and for His purpose in the Body.

How very boring and awful if we were all made alike!

When I’m tempted to forget, I remind my heart with this verse:

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

God has work that He planned JUST FOR ME.  And He has work that He planned JUST FOR YOU. 

You can’t do mine and I can’t do yours.

So let’s appreciate our differences and make room for one another to walk the path God has made for each of us.

 

 

 

Facing My Inner Pharisee

 

In centuries past it was common for Christ followers to fast.

They fasted for many reasons:  to consecrate themselves for a task; to seek answers to prayer; observance of seasons on the church calendar; or for strength to overcome besetting sin.

Today, fasting has fallen out of favor in most western churches-deemed unnecessary or an attempt to gain favor with God by “works”.

That’s unfortunate.  

Because fasting has never been about making points with God, it’s been about removing self-reliance from our spiritual vocabulary.

It’s not about demonstrating personal fortitude or displaying self-righteousness, it’s about recognizing my weakness and desperate dependence on Christ.  

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are – dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.

~Hudson Taylor

Like the Pharisees, though, I am apt to make much of my “sacrifice” and little of Christ’s sufficiency.  I want to bargain with God and rise in the ranks of His favor because I’m so “good”.

It doesn’t work like that.  

I was almost to the end of a 40 day fast when Dominic was killed.

I am physically unable to fast 40 days consecutively so, for several years, I had done an every-other-day fast so that it equaled 40 days.

At some point in the first week after Dom ran ahead to heaven I remember crying out to God, “What exactly do You want from me??? I’ve done all that I know to do in an attempt to live up to Your expectations, and yet it is never enough!”

And (not then, certainly!) but at some point in the nearly 3 years since, He answered, “Your righteous acts are as filthy rags. The only sufficient sacrifice is My own Son’s blood.”

THAT was humbling.

Because even though I would have given the same answer to anyone else who thought they could “work” their way into God’s good graces, obviously the truth of it had not seeped into the fabric of my being.

I WAS trying to make points with God.  And I was angry He hadn’t taken that into consideration and spared me the pain of burying my son.

We often mock the Pharisees for thinking that “getting it right” means “being righteous”, but I understand the temptation to substitute acts of righteousness for relying on relationship through Jesus Christ.

The one means I am in control, the other means I have to follow and give up control.

If there is one thing I’ve learned through child loss that I cannot forget for even a millisecond is: I am NOT in control.

I am utterly dependent on Him for life, for breath, for saving AND sustaining grace.  

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.

Ephesians 2:8-9 VOICE

Fasting from food is relatively easy.  Fasting from my tendency toward self-righteousness is much harder.  

This year, as I observe Lent,

as I fast,

as I add in holy habits,

I am asking God to help me remember that I am not trying to win His favor,

I am making room to hear His heart.

be-still-760x760.jpg

 

Nothing Wasted

My grandmother used to make beautiful quilts out of cast off scraps friends would bring her by the bagful.

She never shopped in a quilting store with color-coordinated bolts of fabric lined up like watercolors against the wall.  She didn’t purchase a kit with pre-cut squares or fancy appliques.

quilt-fabric-wall

She took whatever she had and made it work. Even the ugly scraps were made beautiful when placed “just so’.  Bits that others found too small to be useful were melded together by her skillful hand into lovely gifts that continue to bless me and others.

She never wasted anything.  

God doesn’t waste anything either.  

When I consider the stories of Moses, Joseph and David I can see how all the events in their early lives shaped them in preparation for the work He had for them later on. Hardship, blessings, training and waiting were molded together by His skillful hands into precisely the vessel needed to carry the Good News to that generation.

quilt-stepping-round-the-mountain

As a young mother, I dreamed of many things God might do in and through me and my family.  I thought I could envision the quilt He was making-the arrangement and the colors.  I never imagined so many dark patches would be part of the pattern.  

I don’t like this chapter of my life in many ways. But it is a chapter God is writing and will use to mold me into what He wants me to be.

I don’t expect that I will know this side of heaven what He is making from the bits and pieces, but He has promised it will be a masterpiece.

So I want to be pliable-even though it is painful.

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

 

 

Choosing to See Wounded Hearts

I can see her all the way down the aisle-even if she doesn’t say a word,  I know.

I know.

widow

She‘s carrying a burden wrapped in love and buried deep inside.  Someone she poured life into is no longer here.  The missing and the daily sorrow is etched on her face even as she smiles.

What to do?  What to do?  

Making a decision without her better half to help her is overwhelming.  She wants to cry but holds back the tears because, “What would people think?”

So I go up to her and tell her what I think:  “Would you like some help?”

That opens the floodgates.

“I’m looking for hairbands-something to match my white hair.  I have so little left-losing it because of stress, you know. “

Silence while I help her look.

“My husband passed three months ago.  We were married 60 years.  I just can’t believe he’s gone.”

I tell her about Dominic-brief version-so she knows that I understand.

“He’s not suffering anymore and I guess I should be better.  But I just miss him!”

I take her hand and look into her beautiful eyes-eyes that are full of love and compassion and sorrow-and tell her that she will miss him as long as she lives.  That’s how we’re made.

Great love means great grief.  A shared lifetime can’t be severed by death.  We carry that sorrow because our hearts still carry the love.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

And I tell her that no one has the right to rush her along. Her wounded heart is a witness to love.  It’s a tribute to her husband and the life they shared.  It’s testimony to the power of God in her that she can bear the wound and still remain.

We prayed, and hugged and both went away refreshed.

Walking wounded has made me much more aware that God places people in my path who are wounded too.  

I want to be the person that stops, no matter what.  I want to be who God created me in Christ Jesus to be.  I want to walk in the good works He has laid out for me ahead of time.

It’s a way of redeeming this sorrow and weaving something beautiful from  my tears.

God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would do good works. God had planned in advance those good works for us. He had planned for us to live our lives doing them.

Ephesians 2:10 ICV

ephesians2_10

Grace for Right Now

It’s funny-or maybe not-that God will weave a theme through a day or week or month.  

He will put the same word in front of me in multiple places, speak it through different people, sometimes even (literally) plaster it across a billboard.

This morning it is grace.

Abundant, sufficient, enduring grace.

A precious friend is approaching her son’s first birthday in heaven.  She writes about it here .  In her post she says, “At one time I believed in the Doctrines of Grace…now I am certain.  Because in my own strength, my own thoughts, my own power, I would have walked away.” 

Yes!  That’s it!  In my own strength I would have walked away.  The pain and sorrow and isolation and horror of burying my child would have driven me from the Presence of Christ.  

But His grace keeps me near.

Another mama lamented that she did not know how she would survive missing her son. She’s fresh in her grief-not yet a year has passed since she said “good-bye”.

Oh, how I remember those early months!  How it was a genuine struggle to simply get out of bed and face a new day knowing it was another 24 hours without the earthly companionship of my son.

I thought about how I was able to keep going and wrote this reply:

“I am so very sorry you are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless right now. After the sharp stab of loss, I think helplessness is the most frightening thing I have felt in this journey.

When I am overcome with the sense that I will never make it, that I can’t go on, that I am not going to be able to put one foot in front of the other for even one more hour, much less one more day-I cry out to Jesus and tell Him that.

I have never gotten an audible answer, or a miraculous phone call or a perfect note in the mail-BUT I think in the moment of absolute surrender, the moment when I know with certainty that I can not do this without His supernatural grace, mercy and strength, HE gives it to me.

Nothing changes.

I’m not whisked away to an island where things are better or different-my son is still gone-my heart still hurts, my mind cries out that I want him back.

But I receive the grace I need for that moment and I do take the next step.

After being the kind of person that always had a plan, a list, an idea of next week, next month-I’m now a person who lives right now.

That’s the only way I can make it.

Enough grace for right now.

Praying that the Lord overwhelms you with His love, grace and mercy and fills your heart with His hope when yours is gone.”

Immediately this verse of “Amazing Grace” came to mind:

brought-me-safe

 

And then Ephesians 2:

But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

Ephesians 2:4-10 Phillips

It’s grace-start to finish.  

So when I struggle to find my way, fear that I will lose it forever, question that a WAY even exists-

God in His

abundant,

sufficient,

and enduring grace,

draws my heart back to Himself.  

 

 

Prayers I Still Pray

Prayer has been difficult for me since burying a child-I’ve written about that struggle in a previous post.

I have yet to find a comprehensible way to think about both the sovereignty of God and His goodness, free will and predestination.

So I find myself incapable of praying for things like safety for my children, freedom from disease or specific outcomes in difficult circumstances.

Instead I pray the prayers of Paul, straight from Scripture-prayers that focus on expanding a person’s understanding of Who God is, how much he or she is loved by God and the development of godly fruit in his or her life.

THESE are prayers I can still pray, I hope they are helpful for others in similar circumstances.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Glorious Father, I thank you for_______, and I bless them. I ask You to give _____the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that ______may know You better.  Enlighten the eyes of ______’s heart, so that they may know

  • the hope to which You have called them,
  • the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints,
  • And Your incomparably great power for them because they believe, the power of the resurrection and the ascension which seated Jesus at Your right hand where He is above all rule and authority, and power and dominion in this world, and all things are under His feet.

Fill ____with all the fullness of Jesus in every way today.

ephesians 1_17

Ephesians 3:15-20

I call You Father, and I pray

  • that from Your glorious riches You will strengthen______with power through Your Spirit in their inner being,
  • that Christ may dwell in ______’s heart through faith,
  • that ____will be rooted and established in love,
  • that____may have power, with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
  • that ____will know this love that surpasses knowledge,
  • that___will be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.

I give You all the glory, for You are able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to Your power that is working within us.

ephesian320