The Potter’s Clay

Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

This may be my perception, but it seems like we are never closer to God than when we are infants or the moment we are edging nearer to the end of our lives.  It just seems these are the times we have absolutely no guards up or pretenses, demands, or influences.  It is a purity of state when we are laid bare and all that is before us or all that is behind us loses its hold over our thoughts and feelings.  We are His clay and we are more malleable during these moments than any other time in our lives.

I have two daughters, and I remember holding them at birth.  They were lost and frightened when not within my grasp, but once they returned from a nurse’s check-up and wrapped back in my arms, their worlds fell into place.  They were safe.

Neither of them had an agenda or notion of the world outside of my arms.  They weren’t influenced by anyone other than the comfort and love of their caretakers.  Looking at their sweet innocence, I knew the blank slate would soon be written upon by my own triumphs and shortcomings as a parent and the big bad world I couldn’t protect them from.  For now, their faces were still freshly kissed by God and each day they awoke set them on a course that would shape and chisel them one life experience at a time.

I feel like the definition of our life between birth and death is equivalent to being a teenager.  We think we have it all figured out, we know what is best for us, and our opinions of people and world happenings are ironclad.  Just read Facebook and you can see how set in stone one person is from the next regarding everything from politics to the best way to make Beef Stroganoff.  Is there really only one way?

During these in between years, we are molded by so much more than our Father.  Our culture has taken a hold of our attention and won’t let go until we pass.  Each day in the progression of our lives we fall further and further away from the kiss on the forehead from our Father who picked the time and place He would send us here in order for us to find our way back home to Him.  How scary it must be to send His children off into the world knowing our decision will ultimately bring us back to Him or away from Him for an eternity.

I am witnessing the end of life for my mom, and it struck me how much we revert back to the beginning of our lives when our independence is not formed but our dependence is necessary for our survival.  I recently bought a baby monitor for my mom so my dad could hear her during the night and be there when she needed him.  Her bed was moved downstairs because the stairs were too hard to navigate.  I felt fear that she was sleeping downstairs on her own.  What if she cried out during the night?

Our independence can pull us away from our Father just like our children’s independence causes them to pull away from us.  The one-year-old walker tries so hard to outrun us as they head towards the one thing in the room we don’t want them to have.  Our dependence makes us softer and more pliable and willing to hold the hand of the one who is caring for us.  It makes us migrate towards the source of the warmth and safety of the security they provide.

My mom is unable to read my book.  Her focus is limited and reading wears her out.  She asked me to read it to her, and it was one of the most precious experiences I have ever had.  She closed her eyes as she laid in bed and I read the words to her.  She was softly breathing and once in a while I slowed down to see if she was asleep.  She cracked open an eye to look at me and then I would pick up where I left off.

I sometimes wonder if I wrote the book for my mom.  The timing is just too perfect for me not to wonder.  When I read it, I believe it gives her peace hearing about how much her Father loves her, and the purpose of our life is to learn of Him and know He is waiting for His children with open arms if we are just willing to find Him.

I pray that God allows us the time for me to finish reading to my mom.  Her heart is so ready to hear of His love for her and how His forgiveness makes us as clean and lovable as a newborn baby.  She is soft and pliable, and I can feel the hands of our mighty Father molding His child, holding her in His arms, and feeling her dependence on Him to protect her from the shadows of death.  Christ defeated this and is slipping His Shoes of Peace onto her feet.  I pray that I allow myself to be this open to my Potter during these in between years, and I can’t wait to feel His kiss on my forehead once again.

Light a Flame

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Flick. Flick. Flick. Tshh.

When the lights go out from a storm and someone lights a match, where do you think all of the people in the room will look?  They will look towards the light.

It doesn’t matter how big or expansive the room is, how beautifully decorated or expensive the antiques are because when it is dark, everyone craves the light.

With the small diameter of space now lit from the match, people can make out the faces of their loved ones who are sitting near the dancing flame.  If you are far from the flame, most likely you will gravitate closer to its ability to illuminate the blackness.  No one wants to stand in the dark alone.

As everyone draws closer, their expressions can easily be read and a sense of stability of where your body is in space is reassuring.  All of the people you care about are now within your visual proximity.  The forgotten luxuries of the room stay forgotten when darkness claims their space.

Do you sometimes feel spiritual darkness when you go about your day?  Maybe it’s in your place of work, when you are talking with a friend who is not a believer, or maybe when you walk into a room and feel the heaviness of a seemingly hopeless situation.  If you have experienced this before, you can practically feel the lead weight of the cloak draping the room and be discouraged into thinking there is little you can do to change the circumstances.  The thing is with Christ we have a burning eternal flame within us.  It doesn’t matter how shadowed the climate may feel because even with the tiniest of flames, the darkness will flee.

When people are not walking in the light, where do you think they will look?  They will look at the burning flame of the fruits of your spirit: your love, your joy, your peace, your patience, your kindness, your goodness, and your faithfulness.  Without even saying a word, your light will be a beacon for people to gravitate towards.

Some will do whatever they can to squash your flame, some will hold up their hands to block the light from their eyes, but some will come.  Regardless, no one can ignore the existence of your light, but they do have a choice as to whether they want to walk towards it or away from it.  Their decision initially may be to walk away, and that is okay.  Keep shining your light because one day they may get tired of hiding in cold shadows and want the light that you have.  Then you can tip your candle to light their wick and that is how we will light the world with Christ’s love.  One small candle can light a piece of a room, but many lit candles will illuminate the whole space.  We can never underestimate what God can do with the match that Christ burns in us, so don’t give up—keep on shining.

Through the Storm

I wrote the following poem when I was in my twenties.  I had just experienced a devastating loss, and I thought I was going to burst from the pain and hurt.  When I walked into work, the first line of this poem came into my mind, and the rest spilled out in less than ten minutes.  When the words started to form, I was in a desperate search for pen and paper to capture what was flowing like a person who is ready to vomit and runs to make it to the trashcan on time.  It’s a pretty disgusting analogy, but I felt like if I didn’t write it down quickly, I would miss the paper, and it would have been lost forever.  Over twenty years later, I still have it memorized even though it’s in a folder under my bed with the rest of my heart explosions written on random pieces of paper I grabbed to capture my thoughts.

I think I memorized this one because it gives me comfort still.  It captures a moment in time when all seemed lost until my Savior stepped in.  I don’t think these moments of pain ever stop coming on this side of Heaven, but when they do come, it’s a wonderful reminder that we don’t have to panic or get caught up in the gust of wind that seems to be tossing us to and fro.  The winds don’t own us—Christ does.  I thought I would break down the poem into its parts and talk about how important it is to let go and give into our faith.  God’s promises never fail no matter how big of a storm is brewing.

To follow my train of thought, you can insert your storm experience that seems to be overtaking you right now: a broken marriage, a wayward child, a sick family member, a broken heart, a lost dream, a missed loved one…

In a whirlwind I became, that treacherous gust ripping the plain,

How often have we created a windstorm in our lives by willingly stepping into a situation that wasn’t good for us or getting caught up in the cyclone from circumstances that were out of our control?  Whatever the reason, we suddenly find ourselves whip-lashed by the spinning and churning that occurred faster than we could put two thoughts together.  It quickly feels like forever ago since we last felt normal.  Our stomachs are aching from the constant chaos, and we wonder if this will ever stop.

Then midnight struck creating a lamb, within the eye of this horrendous sham.

When we have a second to breathe and take inventory of the situation, we wonder what is the best course to take.  We process and plan trying to decide if we go left or turn right, what will be the potential outcome?  We feel out of sorts and disoriented and the solution can seem just as far from our grasp as the problem.  Which road is the right one?   Which decision, life choice, or focus will help to stop these winds?

Leary, tired, and dizzy I was, horrified, crazed, and lost because

When those feelings of being overwhelmed are almost too much to take, we wonder if we will ever experience peace and joy again.  Every effort forward can feel like walking through a big pool of Jello®—a ton of energy exerted with very little movement forward.  Why aren’t our attempts at fixing the issues working?  Why are the solutions so elusive and the problems so overbearing?  We are trying after all!  Our best efforts are futile and our need to control the circumstances becomes weaker and weaker. 

Across the perimeter of this soulless storm, loomed the other half booming its warn

Time’s up!  No rest for the weary.  No solution=problems are still winning.  Our thoughts, our desires, our every fiber of self-will can’t seem to erase this fortress around us.  Why is this not leaving!  Round two can feel like it will take us out.  Another marital argument? Another bill that is months overdue? Another doctor’s appointment or referral to a specialist?  Another bout of depression or fear of the future? A funeral arrangement that was unexpected and left you broken?  What more can we possibly take?

That once again I will be ripped apart, unless I offer God my heart

Deep down we always knew the answer.  We struggle against the ties that are binding us and try so hard to solve our own problems.  We know this, but that doesn’t keep us from trying it on our own.  Is God really bigger than this problem I am facing?  Does He even care that I am drowning right now?  Does He even notice that I am coming up for a breath and my head is barely above the water?  God does notice and He does care very deeply, but  He can’t force Himself upon us.  He wants us to humble ourselves, lay down our self-will, and offer up to Him our faith and trust.  Can we do that?

To guide, protect, and love me from this shadowed, cold, lifeless twist

This issue, this problem is all encompassing.  I may be getting a glimpse of the truth that maybe my problems are bigger than me.  They are towering over anything I throw at them and they are looking at me and laughing.  They have no concern for me and will toss me where they may.  Will I keep letting them?

Whose knees know no ground to pray and offers me no light of way

When we bend to our problems and succumb to their whims, we give up our strength, close our eyes, and silently pray that this will all end soon.  We make the decision that we will deal with the aftermath then.  God wants more for you than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.  He sacrificed everything to give you the best, and He is ready to lead you away from the darkness and into the light.

So I chose my hand to reach for Him, praying that He could stop the winds,

That moment when we finally humble ourselves before the Lord.  Why did this take so long?  I tend to go through this cycle with each setback that comes my way.  Sometimes I have to be brought to my knees in my stubbornness before I allow the truth to come into my heart that this isn’t for me to bear on my own.  Whether we allowed this twist to enter our lives with open arms or it hit us from behind, God is with us, He will restore our peace and joy, He will forgive us if our sinful decision caused the fury, and has the answers that we seek.  Then I remembered:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1 NIV).

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps. 55:22 NIV)

Then the Hand I thought was gone, turned my lamb into an immortal fawn.

I feel like I ran a marathon.  All of the struggle to maintain control and all of the fighting to convince myself I can do this by myself just made the winds blow stronger.  My Lord took them from me.  Whenever I cast my cares on Him, He never lets me down.  My pride keeps me at the helm of my ship through wind and rain, but my Lord often has to remind me who the real captain of my life is.  Christ is my guiding light and saving Grace, and He is yours, too.  Let Him calm your winds.  Lift up your Shield of Faith and let the winds be diverted away from you allowing you to experience His calming presence.  It’s a personal decision that we have to make daily.  Our shields are much more effective when they are put out in front of us and not held behind our backs.

I pray for the winds to be calmed in your life, and you feel Jesus wrapping you in His wellspring of love and mercy.  In Jesus precious name I pray.  Amen.

The Dreaded Weather: Fibromyalgia’s Nemesis

Two days ago on January 11, the weather coming home from work was seventy-one degrees.  I live in the Midwest, and this is unusual weather for this time of year.  Today, we are under an ice storm warning and upon waking, the temperature was in the twenties.  That is a fifty degree drop in temperature in two days!

To create a perfect storm, today is Friday the 13th and there is a full moon.  I can’t make this stuff up.  Fibromyalgia sufferers know what this means.  A collective sigh can be heard around the world.

Our bodies are human barometers, and I believe we tell the future weather patterns better than any weather person out there.  It starts with that telltale part of our body that lets us know something is brewing.  For me, it is my left hip.  The questions commence: Will this stop here, or will it boil over into a flare-up?  Then the panic and pleading follow: Please don’t get worse!

My body decided to not play nice, so now I am entering through the rabbit-hole.  For an added bonus, the foggy brain is visiting and making me feel like a bumbling fool.  I love feeling like a ventriloquist’s puppet and when my mouth opens, I have no idea what will come out. I meant to say “doctor’s appointment” but what came out was “McDonald’s.”  I love the collection of facial expressions I receive when my words don’t match the context of the conversation.

Sometimes I wish that my ears were like a mood ring.  When different levels of the fibro symptoms occurred, my ears would turn a different color.  At least that way someone on the outside could have somewhat of an idea of what I am battling on the inside.  Can you relate?

If I had dark purple ear lobes, that would mean I’m in a lot of pain and my fibrofog is so bad that you may need an interpreter to understand what I am saying, or at the very least, give me five minutes to process what you are saying, so I can come up with a semi-intelligent response.

By the time I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I dwindled down from a newly professed, on-fire Christian to a lukewarm puddle collecting at the bottom step after a spring rain.  I took God off of His throne and determined He wasn’t big enough to handle something as life-transforming as this.  How could He be?  My life suddenly went from saved to impossible.  Wasn’t He supposed to protect me from this?  I  had just made the decision to become His child after all.

If this sounds even remotely like you, don’t listen to this lie.  I listened for too long and I can tell you the outcome.  I became bitter and lived in a world that I didn’t like or understand.  I stepped into a place that enveloped me in a cold embrace, and I stayed there out of spite.  I didn’t want to believe in a loving God who would allow this to happen.  It just didn’t make any sense to me.

God does love you, and this is not out of His control.  When we left Eden, we entered into a home that has broken our DNA.  Unfortunately, what shakes down from this manifests itself in different ways in different people.  Some people have arthritis, some people have depression, some have cancer, and some have our plight.  The combinations are endless, but our suffering isn’t.  God created perfection in Eden that we evicted ourselves from.  We chose a place He never intended for us to stay and made a way for it not to be our forever home.  We will suffer, we will have pain, and we will have sorrow.  What we have to decide is if whether or not we will have faith: Faith that He can hold us and carry us through, faith that He will never leave us and carry us during our most difficult moments, and faith that He knows our name even when we feel forgotten.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (NIV).  God is holding you in these moments, and our broken DNA isn’t enough to break His promises.  We aren’t in Eden with all of its perfection, but God in His perfection chose to be with us. 

The Battleground

Well, I did it again.  ­­I stepped onto Satan’s playing field without wearing any protection.  Man, do those fiery darts hurt.  It seems like when one or two are flying in my direction, I can easily put up my shield and take cover.  Lately, I have had dozens blazing a trail aimed directly at my heart, and I think I’ve chucked my shield, shoes, and helmet thinking I could run faster without them.  My face is in the dirt, and they are hitting me at full force. 

Why are these lessons always so difficult to learn?

I wish God’s armor was a one stop shop deal and when I put it on, it never comes off.  Just as Christ’s grace is renewed each day, so is our decision as to what we put our faith and trust in.

I always seem to forget that part.

These fiery darts can take any shape.  They can look like a stressful workday, a sick child at home, a pile of laundry sitting in the corner with no known date in mind when they can be touched, a wet and muddy dog that had a blast outside and made mud art on your carpet, or crazy clusters of happenings that seem to be occurring just so you can develop whiplash wondering where they are all coming from.  Some of these darts Satan orchestrates, and some are just the fallout of the lives we live in a world that is not Eden.  Eden didn’t have laundry or illness.  It certainly didn’t have internet—the powers that be at the large phone company accidentally canceled mine when they meant to switch over my TV service—or hour long phone waits to get things straightened out.  I sure wish we lived in Eden.  It sounds nice there.

My mornings have been hectic, and I’ve jumped on the hamster wheel again.  Do you have one in your house, too?  I hate that thing.  It makes me tired.  As I’m running around my bedroom trying to figure out my day and battling emotions that are bubbling up from everywhere, God told me to sit down.  I thought I was imagining it because seriously?  Do I have time to sit?  I felt His presence tell me again to stop what I was doing and sit.  I slowed down the wheel with one foot and jumped off reluctantly.  I really didn’t think this would do me any good, but I sat.

My feet dangled over the side of my bed, and then my head began to bow.  My hands came together with my fingers intertwined and rested on my lap—I began to pray.  I gave up to God my heart’s fears and worries.  These He already knew, but He needed to know that I was going to unpack them and hand them over to Him.  He needed to give me the drink of water from the ever bubbling well of Jesus’ sacrifice because He didn’t die so I could keep riding my wheel.  I relented and humbled myself before my Father.

As I spilled my guts, I felt like God was pouring out His love for me.  You know those moments in your life when you have the flu and are too sick to get out of bed let alone shower?  When you finally are on the mend and take that first shower, you feel like you washed off a week’s worth of dirt.  That’s how I felt.  Even though I showered for work, I felt like I showered for the first time in a while.  God’s love was washing over me, and it felt amazing.

Take a moment to stop and be still.  Wherever you are, find a quiet spot in your world to just sit.  Be with God and let your Father wash his love over you.  Ignore the fiery dart that you don’t have time for this or being still won’t help.  God’s been waiting a long time to spend a few moments with you.  Let the creator of the universe, the ever-present and ever-powerful Father of your life have a few minutes of your time.  He is watching you on the wheel, and it breaks His heart.  You were meant for so much more than this.  Let Him show you through His eyes what He sees for your day.  I have a feeling it won’t include wasting time boiling over canceled internet service.  His visions and ideas are of far greater worth and so are you.

The Sword of the Spirit

sword-of-the-spiritWe carry a very powerful sword—the Word of God.  It can do so much more than a typical sword, but how many times have we left it untouched, hidden under the laundry collecting dust?

It can do so much more than a sword hammered out of metal, but how many times have we left it untouched—hidden under the laundry collecting dust?

For many years, my sword seemed awkward and cumbersome, and I dreaded dragging it wherever I went.  What was its purpose?  Did reading His Word really do anything extra special?

Satan did a work on me, and I believed him when he said it didn’t.

God’s Word is the only offensive gift that He has given to us to do battle with our enemy.  He didn’t outfit us with multiple weapons because He couldn’t think of anything else to give us; He gave us one weapon because it is all that we need.

When I began to actively open His Word and lift up my sword, what I deemed cumbersome, He revealed freedom.  What I assumed was awkward, He unveiled strength.  When I feared conviction, He enveloped me in love.  Why did I listen to the lies of my enemy?  Why do any of us?  He will say whatever and do whatever to convince us our sword is not needed and it is a pain to carry.  He knows intimately that when we open our Bibles, even a few words will make him flee.  Of course our enemy will whisper to our tired and weary minds that our weapon is of no consequence.

Ignore him!  Dust off your sword and fight.  It will only take a few seconds to read a sentence or a phrase in God’s Holy Word and this alone will take down your enemy.

When was the last time that you picked up your sword?  Your enemy wants you unproductive, worn out, fearful, and to stay hidden.  Are you letting him win or are you ready to fight?