Friday, January 27, 2012

The Gift of Forgiveness

Lord, do I have to write about that?  It's so embarrassing and it makes me look bad.  Can't you give me something else to write... Nothing?  Okay, here goes...

God taught me a lesson last week about forgiveness.  One of the great calling cards of Christendom has always been, "Come to Jesus and find forgiveness of sin."  Hmmm...that's nice, but I think I'll come to Jesus for comfort and guidance.  I don't really have a big need for forgiveness.  I mean, it's nice that he died for my sins and all, but wasn't that a little extreme?  Did I really need that?
If you've never felt guilty then you probably have wondered why God made such a big deal over having Jesus take the punishment for your sins.  I remember as a kid being taught that I should pray prayers of confession.  So I would try to think of something to confess.  Sometimes I would just mutter the standby phrase "forgive me when I fail Thee."  I figured that would cover whatever it was that I had done, but didn't really feel guilty about.  I certainly never felt like I deserved death which is what the Bible says is the wages of sin.  That was until one day when I saw myself the way God sees me....ugh!  I could fool others and even fool myself, but I wasn't fooling God.  He saw my heart and it wasn't pretty.  After that revelation, I learned to appreciate the gift of forgiveness.  But something happened recently that reminded me again of how HUGE it is to be guilt free.
Last week I heard that our friend Betty was dying.  Even though I hadn't seen her in months, I thought I should do something to help.  I offered to do anything that was needed and her husband graciously invited me to vacuum.  I approached their house with a bit of fear and trembling, but they were gracious and kind.  Matt showed me how to use the fancy vacuum system and then went upstairs to take care of Betty.  I thought I should dust before I vacuumed so I started with the mantle.  I picked up a picture, took one swipe...and knocked a little bird to the floor... oh no.
I was there to help and to be a comfort and I broke something.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't want to bother them.  I didn't want to upset them.  I didn't want to add anything to what they were already dealing with.  But I think most of all, I didn't want them to regret letting me come over.
So I put the little bird and its beak on a shelf... in the closet... and closed the door.  I hid my sin.
Maybe I thought I would find some glue while I was cleaning and I could fix it.  Or maybe I thought that no one would ever find it there and that someday I could bring some glue when I came back.  Or maybe I thought it would just go away.  Whatever I was thinking, it was wrong.   You can hide your mistakes and your broken pieces from the rest of the world, but they don't go away and what you are left with is guilt.
I finished cleaning the house and had a wonderful visit with our friends, but it was tainted by guilt.   I KNEW that I wasn't as great as other people thought I was.  I knew I wasn't as great as I thought I was.  The longer I kept my secret, the bigger it became until it was HUGE in my mind.  I knew that they would think I was a terrible person--not just for breaking something, accidents happen--but for HIDING it.  I couldn't even tell Richard what I had done because I was so ashamed.
Have you ever felt those things?  Do you feel those things today when you think about the broken pieces you have hidden in your closet?  Did you know you can be free from those chains?  Do you know how?  I knew what I had to do.  I admitted my guilt via email.  Whew! Just the confession felt good, but would I be forgiven?
Here is the response I got...

Dear Marlo
Please do not be concerned about the bird. I completely understand, and we do not place any real value on things. I will glue it and no one other than you and me and God will ever know :-) You blessed our socks off! I am so sorry that you spent even a few moments burdened by this. Please do not think of it further. That kind of thing happens fairly often when we have groups over, it is part of the joy of sharing His home... We love you and are so blessed to know and enjoy being with you--so if you want to come back please do!  No need to bring glue :-)

Oh blessed forgiveness.  What a gift we have that we can approach the throne of a holy God with pure hearts--not because we have never sinned, but because we have been forgiven.  If you bring them to him, God can take those broken pieces that you have hidden away and make them into something beautiful--something that he can use.  
I know because that's what he did for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Day at a Time

This weekend Audra got out the baby books.  They brought back memories of a happy time in my life.  I loved when my kids were little.  I loved being able to put them all in the bathtub together.  I loved laying next to them while they fell asleep.  I loved carrying them on my hip.
But those days are gone.
Today they take showers--long showers by themselves.  Today I get a goodnight kiss, but no one needs me to stay in their room to ward off the bad guys.  Today they are too big to be carried.
I started reading Jacob's book and all of the cute things that he used to do and say.  For example, when he was 4 we saw a funeral procession.  I was driving so I pulled the car over and explained what was going on.  When I pointed out the hearse that was carrying the body of the person who had died, Jacob said, "Why didn't that person go to heaven?"  I told him that when you die, your body doesn't go to heaven.  He thought about that for a minute and then exclaimed, "You mean just your HEAD goes?!" Smile.
I  haven't written in his book in a long time, because burping and playing loud music isn't as "cute" as shooting pretend arrows with a clothes hanger while wearing underoos and cowboy boots.  But as I was watching Jacob sit on the couch and play his banjo, I thought, "This is a happy time too."
How did we go from playing with a flyswatter to playing a banjo?
From wearing a super hero cape to wearing skinny jeans?
From playing in the dirt to photography?
From eating "kie-coos" (cookies) to making crepes?
How did it happen?  It seems like a long time ago and yet seems like it was yesterday.  All of those years, and all of those changes--from baby, to boy, to teenager--happened one day at a time.  I realized as I watched him that today was going to pass into tomorrow and into the day after that and into next year and then one day he would be a grown man.
One day at a time.  
So I am determined not to spend my time missing the boy he was, but enjoying the young man that he is.  Because tomorrow he will be different--maybe not enough so that I can see it--but not the same as he is today.

Lord, our lives are made up of years and our years are made up of days.  Each day is important.  Each day is a gift.  Help me to make the most of this day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I wasn't dreaming of a white Christmas

Early Christmas morning I woke up after having a very vivid dream.  In the dream, I was at a crowded event waiting to hear a speaker when I looked out a large window and saw lightning in the distance.  It wasn’t normal lightning.  It was coming straight down from the sky to the earth--again and again.  I rushed to the window with several others to see what was going on.  As I kept watching, I saw tall buildings start collapsing.  At one point I was close enough to see the faces of two women who were being crushed between two buildings that had fallen towards each other.  All I could do was watch.
Then I woke up.

It was a strange dream to have on Christmas morning, but I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it except for what happened next.  After my shower, I opened my One Year Bible to the daily reading for December 25.  It included Revelation chapter 16 which says in part,

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air.  And a mighty shout came from the throne in the temple saying, ‘It is finished!’  Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed.  And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth.  The great city of Babylon split into three sections and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble.”

I know it sounds crazy, but I saw it and then I read it.  I dressed quickly and went downstairs to tell Richard what had happened.  Death and destruction are not your typical Christmas conversations.   We had presents to open, a ham to cook, and fun things to do.  Besides, the sky was clear and the ground was steady so I after telling Richard, I just wrote everything down in my journal.

The next day when I had time to think about what had happened, I wrote this,
“Wow God! You let me see that before I read it—the lightning and the buildings falling.  It’s a vivid reminder that we will have to face your wrath someday.  You will not let sin go unpunished.  Show me how to help those women in my dream before the end comes and it’s too late.”

I’m not a prophet.  I don’t claim to know when the end of the world will come.  I don’t even anticipate it happening in my lifetime.  But I do know that an end WILL come.  Everything we can see is temporary.  It is all passing away.
What is seen is temporary.  What is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

This earth will not last forever.  It will wear out just like my favorite jeans, but Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies.  But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. (Isaiah 51:6)

You (Lord) will roll (the heavens) up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.  But you remain the same and your years will never end. (Hebrews 1:12)

(Heaven and earth) will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing you (Lord) will change them and they will be discarded.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end. (Psalm 102:26-27)

So where am I going to place my faith? 
In my house that is falling apart? 
In my bank account that is dwindling? 
In my husband and children who are mortal? 
In my friends who come and go? 
What is there in this world that I can cling to when everything is falling apart? 
Nothing in this world.

There is only One who never fails.  
Only One who never changes.  
Only One who never ends.

On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

And maybe… just maybe, God showed me what he did so that I would tell you that.