This morning, as I was hanging my laundry on the line in descending order of weight and size, I took my time to drape the last few articles—with stains—facing the sun. Nothing can disintegrate mustard spots and fade the vilest blotches of blood like a June morning’s piercing rays. Last week I hung a white tunic up with a mango mark that hadn’t come out in the wash, and hours later I reeled it back in without spot or wrinkle. Okay, it still had a few wrinkles—we’re at the mercy of the wind for that—but the yellow fleck had forever fled from the sun’s penetrating gaze.
That wasn’t the first time this morning I’d aired my dirty laundry, though.
I hauled my basket full of soiled cares and sullied concerns to my prayer place and washed them in the water of His Word. I let His mercy pour healing agents into the rinse as I scrubbed every anxiety over the washboard of His wisdom and commands. Ours is no quick-cycle chemical cleansing—prayer is a ‘roll up your sleeves’ kind of rewarding work.
Sometimes I get up from on my face before God fully cleansed and refreshed. Other times, like this morning, I find there are things that just don’t come out in the wash.
So I hung them up on my faith-line. I tethered them to mercy, and secured them with trust—carefully positioning each one before the Son’s face. He sees them, I know. They don’t stand a chance against His penetrating gaze.
Clouds might get in the way, this is true. But out there they will stay until He comes through.
I like to think that prayer is a little like doing my laundry. I have to keep up with it or I don’t have anything to wear. Sometimes a gentle rinse cycle is all I need. Some requests get put through the wringer. And some things just have to hang and dry.
… purify yourselves and change your clothes. Genesis 35:2
Ah, spring—and a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of…
Mud, of course.
The snow’s finally beginning to melt around here, and underneath it all is lots of muck—in my front yard, anyway.
Looks like there’ll be a little more excavation going on, and in the meantime we get to enjoy everything the bulldozer trudged up.
I’m saying enjoy because the neighbourhood kids and I have been finding really cool rocks to paint. We spent the afternoon out front with newspapers spread across the patio blocks–and painted everything from ladybugs and bees to Easter eggs and each other.
I must say, Haley’s execution of me is remarkable—it looks just like me. Of course, Sammy doesn’t think so, but these children are too young to appreciate the beauty of painting a fresh face on every morning.
I figure, if you’re stuck with a front yard full of rocks and dirt, you might as well make the most of it.
We sure did.
It’s going to take some work, though, to get the lawn looking good again—wouldn’t want the front yard like this the rest of the summer. Want to go back to the way things were, before it all got dug up.
I’m wanting some other things to go back to the way they were, too–before some things inside of me got all dug up; when nothing was more important than the nearness of God.
“If you, Israel, will return,
then return to me,”
declares the LORD (Jeremiah 4:1).
We’ll have to rake up all the soil, dig out the rocks and get rid of the weeds and other debris that was churned up.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
and no longer go astray…
It will all need to be levelled out before planting grass seed,
“Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
circumcise your hearts…
Spring’s a good time to get things ready; to realize–some of those mountains that just won’t budge?
Can only be taken out one little stone at a time…
Moses was a problem child.
Okay—you may not think a little crying in a basket, while floating down the Nile River was actually ‘problem’ material, but I think it’s easy to see, if we keep on reading—that Moses did not step out of Egypt on his way to the Promised Land, with all of Israel in tow, as the most humble man on earth.
In fact, I find it especially exciting to discover just how quickly he was capable of ticking God off.
And let me say—I love to read about other people’s faults and failures in scripture. It motivates me to do better when I know other people have gone on before me and… well—messed up, because that gives me permission to do the same thing. No one pointing fingers in my face and taunting ‘I told you so’s,’ no lectures and no feeling like I have to sail on into eternity with ne’er a blooper or blunder to be had—for I surely would never make it.
But I don’t want to suggest that I’m making light of messing up. It makes me shudder to think about the way my attitude used to be, when I discovered God, in His grace, really did forgive me for sinning even after I’d given my life to Him—ho hum, God will forgive me… again.
But years of correction, and facing up to the consequences of my actions—and realizing all that I missed because I didn’t ‘get’ the whole concept of obedience before—have been whittling a deep sobriety about the seriousness of sin into the softened flesh of my once arrogant attitudes. I know that God did not come to earth to humble Himself as a man, teach us how to live, and pay the ultimate sacrifice with His life—to spend the rest of eternity winking at our mishaps or just overlooking them. The whole thing is far too serious to make little of.
Even so—I think He purposely put things in scripture so that we would take heart; realize that our human natures will never be perfect this side of eternity, and have hope that, if He can work miracles in other people’s hearts, He can do it for us, too. There’s no going forward until we can make peace with our mess-ups.
I think we should consider that God—the one who said that with Him, one day is as a thousand years; who is slow to become angry; who waited decades while Noah built the ark for people to repent–that God is the same one who went from zero to exacerbated with Moses in their very first conversation.
Could we put this in perspective? Because I don’t think you’re getting it. Picture this—Nebuchadnezzar captures and enslaves the Israelites. He sets up an image of himself and makes everyone worship it—and tries to burn those who don’t in a fiery furnace. And what does God do? He sends him out into the wilderness seven years to humble him. What amazing patience on God’s part. We are talking about a God who waits years and decades for people to learn from their mistakes.
Now Moses argues with God on his very first encounter with Him. That would not be a good idea under any circumstances—but Moses keeps on arguing with Him until God is actually infuriated—on their first encounter! The God who is slow to become angry! Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Moses heads out in complete disobedience to do what God was asking him to do and God is ready to kill him.
Yep—God had already told him to circumcise his sons, and–for whatever reason we could fathom–Moses just didn’t seem to think doing what God said was all that important because off he went without having done it; as though God didn’t really mean it; as though he could pick and choose what to obey and what not to obey. Compare that to Abraham and Isaac and you see a whole other attitude at work.
And God had had it this time—his second blunder and God was ready to take him right out. If not for his wife’s quick thinking all of history would have gone down differently. God was dealing with a problem child—He had His hands full with Moses way before the rest of the gang just about drove Him around the bend in the wilderness.
Now, I’ve been around almost half a century so far–and, I have to admit, I can’t say that I’ve seen anybody yet who’d make me think we’re not ALL in this together–the whole problem lot of us.
But here’s the hopeful part. When it was all said and done, and Moses had come to the end of his days–even though he still couldn’t enter the Promised Land because of his sin–God let him see it, took him home peacefully and honoured him so much He buried Moses Himself.
And God made it known for all the ages to come, that he was the most humble man on earth back in the day.
Wow. Everything Moses went through—from the time he thought it was okay to argue and disobey, to getting close enough to see the Promised Land with his own eyes, all of everything along the way—in the hands of a God Who works all things together for our good; made him the most humble man on earth. That means there’s hope for us, too.
And you know what that means, problem child—one day (though you may not believe it looking at yourself now), God might very possibly bring you into eternity—the most humble person on the face of the earth.
I’m hoping to be just like my dog, Loco, when I grow up. Not that I want to bark at strangers and follow myself around the house all day—just that I’d like to be as consistently happy as she always is.
From the moment I surface beneath my mound of blankets to hit the snooze button for the first time each morning, until I submerge again into the sandman’s shadows—she’s happy. And she’s not just ‘happy’ happy, she’s ecstatically thrilled about everything. If I get up from reading, a wagging tail propels her into spirals around my feet. Any sudden movement brings on a whole new carnival of contentment; a gala celebration.
If she goes outside she’s overjoyed. When she comes back in she tears up the floorboards with her enthusiasm. Even if she’s sound asleep and I slip quietly by, her tail—as if stirred by my overwhelming presence—wags at my passing. She’s no less enthusiastic about everything life has to offer than she was nearly a decade ago when she christened the threshold of every happy moment at the altars of our affection, with her wiggling wee bursting bladder.
Everything with her is as new as a freshly spanked baby’s bottom—she lives on the delivery ward of blessings about to be birthed; the cusp of perpetual penchant.
She’s the sound of an ice-cream truck on a sunny Saturday morning. She’s new furniture and old books, slapstick comedy, clowns and every happy thing you could conjure up.
If she were a drink she’d be champagne; if she could fly she’d alter the earth’s orbit. She lives life like it’s some huge pie eating contest—gobbling up all she can before time runs out.
And, it’s not as though she’s any stranger to hardship, either.
Oh, the troubles she’s seen…
She just knows how to bounce back from it is all. She doesn’t know anything about letting circumstances keep her down.
So, yeah—that’s pretty much the way I’d like to embrace the rest of my life. Living like it’s a walk in the park, because truthfully—sometimes it’s more like a walk down the plank.
And as much as we’d like them to be—trite and shallow canine comparisons, however clever—are not enough to keep some of the very sobering situations and circumstances from seeping inside and petrifying the very marrow of us.
We can’t always tear up the floorboards to the next adventure when the next adventure is another disappointment or letdown. Sooner or later, exuberance buckles beneath the last straw. It’s not all that easy to wag your tail in that place, much less sit up and beg for more. But God doesn’t expect us to, either. He promised to find us wherever we’ve been scattered to—bring us back, bind up our injuries and strengthen us. That’s where I’ve been lately—getting all bandaged up and better.
I can’t help feeling more exuberant about life again, though I’m nowhere near altering the earth’s orbit yet. Some of those circumstances and situations are just as foreboding.
Still–I aspire to live life like my loco little dog–in a carnival of contentment; on the cusp of perpetual penchant–bouncing back from the brink like it was just a nasty old bath or something.
I have to confess–God has been nothing but GOOD to me. Lately I feel as though I am living under the Divine downpour of His love and mercy. At every turn I hear His still, small voice of compassion–from the wellsprings of His goodness–bubble up from inside of me; cleansing and healing, and washing all the debris right out through my tear ducts. I think I would always like to rest in this place. Feels like grace to me…
I have found there
at the end of the day;
dressing my injuries–
drawing the weeping
pouring clean water over
all my sin.
When faith is frayed
on grace I lay
and rest my
And still I long
not just go till
the end of the day
to find there was grace
all along the way.
This is a cleave poem. I was first introduced to them while spending a lot of time on a writing/reviewing/critiquing site. This genre, created by Phuoc Tan-Diep, was introduced to the site by a very talented writer. I’ve since discovered that the art of combining more than one poem (I read one that had four poems in total) goes back well before cleave poetry. But, since that is how I learned it this is what it will always be to me.
I also like the ‘cleave’ concept–that each thought leans into and is dependant on the other. We are left with a tapestry of words to wonder over; woven works of art having something truly unique to ponder depending on which way you look at them. And when you read one all together it is like taking a step back to gaze on the complete picture.
Last night I was thinking of Job, and how much better his life was after his suffering was over. God blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. Sometimes we forget that suffering will end, and that, if we are truly trusting it to a faithful heavenly Father, our lives can only be all the better for it. That’s what inspired this one.
Read it through first as one complete poem; then read each side separately. There are three distinct poems or variations of thought in this.
If Job became blessed
more than he was before are
the cruel arrows of those who
plunder wasted, should we mourn for
the suffering, despair? Knowing— they
rise up now and shall
in the end be comforted
Part of today’s message at church was about taking off our old selves and putting on the new. Sure sounds easy enough up in the balcony, praising with the angels. But, I know this week I’m probably going to get stuck in my old ‘me.’
I’m not really the ‘button-up-the-front,’ dress shirt kind of self you can just slip in and out of on a whim–more like the smothering, ‘too-tight’ turtleneck type that gets stuck around my shoulders while I’m trying to wrestle me over my big, fat head. I might need someone else to grab an end and give me a good yank.
I was thinking about this on the drive home: how changing isn’t always easy. Getting rid of some of the old things is… well, it’s hard. For one thing, I can’t always remember where I’ve left the new self, and sometimes I feel like–at least the old me’s got me covered.
You know what I mean: it’s hard to stop being angry at someone when you feel like it might leave you naked–exposed and vulnerable again. So, I just want to hang onto that outfit a little longer while I rummage through the house and find that forgiveness jumper. And, anyway, I like the way it enhances my curves. Oh!–you said it gets on your nerves.
I had no idea it was going to be like ‘Groundhog Day,’ either. You know–the movie where he keeps waking up the next morning and starting the same day over? No matter how many times I take myself off–I’m all wrapped up in me the very next morning. When I was young I had some friends who carefully laid their clothes out every night before they went to bed– I also had some friends who stuck my head in a snow drift till I thought I was going to faint–I just can’t live up to trying to be like my friends anymore.
This is why I’m glad the pastor reminded me that I have to let God change the way I think about things–by getting into the Word. It’s all by grace–I can’t earn it, or be good enough to do it, or feel bad enough to get it right. God does it–but I have to ‘co-operate.’
And, BOY, do I really want to learn to get it right. God is forgiving–this I have discovered with great delight–but, people? Honestly, sometimes sitting out in an arctic snow bank in my birthday suit with a pack of ravenous wolves seems more appealing than apologizing for a sudden slip of the old nature. Especially if my ratio of old to new days is one in ten, and no one even notices the other nine. Dressing to the ‘Nines’ doesn’t always cut-it with other people–which is probably a good thing because putting off ‘falsehood’ is right at the top of the list, anyway. It’s the first thing to go.
I was thinking about that, too, because, let’s face it–we’re all a little deluded about ourselves, and sometimes we’re just the last to know–wouldn’t it be easier if we could rip off each others’ outfits, instead? Cause I sure wonder if some people aren’t getting dressed in the dark… What’s that? Did I get this log suit at the lumberyard?
When I asked Diane to be the next PRP she was hesitant. She may be the life of the party (most of the time), but she’s also pretty private, and having your personal life splayed across the World Wide Web is not for everyone. She did agree, though, with minimal arm twisting and bribery (just kidding), and here’s how that went:
Me: What are some of the things you like?
Diane: Cherry cheesecake, silence, sounds in the woods, amusement parks at night, walking in the rain, walking when it’s a full moon, loud rock music while driving, singing out loud, blueberry picking, potato chips.
Me: Pet peeves?
Diane: Coming home after work and the dishes aren’t done.
Me: How was it growing up in a remote Northern Ontario village?
Diane: Positive: running through overgrown bushes, singing, falling into my own imaginary world where I was in control. Knowing the people that lived around me, no one was a stranger. We had freedom to walk anywhere, anytime. Once, at two in the morning, I walked along a railway track about half a mile long without any fear. I was fourteen at the time, and we didn’t fear for our safety. If we did get hurt it was within our own circles. Outdoor skating and swimming at a nearby provincial park. Everyone was invited to weddings. Town activities were fun because you knew everyone.
But, we were often bored, and the town had its own pecking order. We were isolated from the big cities–no playgrounds, malls or restaurants. Activities were limited and everyone knew too much about you.
Me: Describe your family life.
Diane: I am blessed with a man who is kind, gentle, and dedicated. He has been patient, caring, understanding, and stood with me through many shared hardships. Together we brought four children into this world and dedicated our lives to raising them. He and the children have been my greatest pleasure and joy to this day. If everything disappeared from my life, all would still be well as long as they were in it.
Me: You’ve often mentioned a ‘Turning Point.’ What was that?
Diane: At seventeen I went to a retreat with a Catholic youth group. By this time I was broken inside and didn’t know what to do about it. I had built many walls to protect myself from people, from allowing them to hurt me in the ways they had. I went for a weekend of spirituality, what I received had a major impact inside of me.
One of the events was a two-hour time of prayer. Praying without books or beads was foreign. What would I do? After what seemed like five minutes the announcer said we were at the end of the two hours. I was in tears when the lights came on, and something was different inside of me after that. I was alive. I could feel joy, happiness, and freedom–emotions I had tucked away. I found myself volunteering for activities (not something I did).
I loved every moment of the rest of the retreat. It was like I was floating, in love and loving life. But, I tucked all those wonderful feelings back where they belonged when I had to return to the real world. It would be years later when I felt that love again, when, at twenty-four, Christ opened the door for me to see who God was and the love he had for me. It continues to be a journey of healing, and I have found myself many times needing grace, forgiveness, and mercy.
Shame had always been a constant companion. I would never look anyone in the eyes. When someone spoke to me and I was expected to look at them, my heart would beat faster, my body would stiffen and I felt like I was shrinking. Anyone outside my comfort zone would trigger these reactions inside of me. I know it’s difficult for most people to engage in conversation and interact with others but, for me, it went beyond the ordinary. So, I avoided interacting with people. Making appointments and answering the phone were difficult and I had to prepare myself for those conversations. Over the years I have conquered these hang ups.
Me: What’s the biggest breakthrough you’ve experienced lately?
Diane: I love the woman I was made to be–now. I was the girl they laugh at in high school for growing up to be fat with kids hanging on her hips (as though it’s a tragedy not to remain a knockout).
Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of my life. But, my weight was not embraced with such joy. When my stomach started bulging out I hid it with loose clothing. It’s the mushroom that got the best of me. I never looked at a mirror for years, only at my face. I never wanted to see those bulges. I would never look at myself in a picture. I had aged. I was fat. I avoided these things… until lately. I love who I am with the bulges. Not that I promote being unhealthy, for those reasons I try to eat better. But, I am who I am. Not perfect, but full of many things that have blessed my family and others. I bring to society the good and the flaws.
I cannot fully explain why, but today I can look at pictures of me, knowing that I am who I am, the person who, should we meet, would want, somehow, to be a blessing to you.
Thanks, Diane. You sure bless everyone you come in contact with–just by being plainly, remarkable you.
As a believer, I love the Easter season. As a not-so ‘politically correct’ Christian I’m not so much into chocolate bunnies and eggs. Let me rephrase that: may it not even be imagined that I might be trashing chocolate in any of its many mouth-watering amalgamations–it’s just that they have no significant meaning for me in relation to having my sins forgiven and my life restored. Although, a therapeutic dose of chocolate goes a long way in alleviating many an ill. Isn’t that a proverb somewhere?
I also don’t expect most people to ‘get it’ the way I do. It’s up close and personal for me. You can’t really appreciate an oasis till you’ve been wandering around in the desert dying of thirst for a while.
As someone who really does believe the resurrection message I don’t think there could be a bigger picture of people coming face to face with Jesus, for the first time, in a tangible telling way than that of the two men crucified beside him.
Like most of us, they mocked at first. So much for a ‘no show’ God who never bothers to make an appearance when I need him most. What has God ever done for me? There was no reason for pretenses here. And yet, one man’s heart softened and repented, while the other’s was filled with disdain and loathing.
The rest were nowhere near comprehending this. Some were just in the crowd watching with genuine curiosity; even compassion. Some were walking right on by, and some were forced a little nearer than they wanted to be–like the man who was made to carry the cross.
Perhaps, like the two thieves, the most critical place to get to is ‘face to face’ with the cross and our own undoing. No more excuses, no escape plans, not even the remotest possibility of earning any favor. Just the opportunity to accept it . . . or not.
two men out of borrowed time
walk the green line, fulminate
railing bane on spittle chime
gawking crowds who love to hate
two men feel the twisted ropes
that tear through flesh and raucous screams
two asphyxiating hopes
sucking marrow from their dreams
two men who never learned to live
now required of them to die
raging criminals must give
payment for their crime
two hurl insults spewing hate
at a callous stolid god
his failure to abet, berate
the acrimonious swift rod
two are raised to hang and thresh
as silent from the ground is lifted
the hideous, grisly, shocking flesh
crusted, bleeding, seeping, sifted
and one would see a lunatic
and one Divine descent
one a monstrous casualty
and one the offering rent
one would damn an impotent being
and ask what of his claim
and one with comprehending seeing
would hang his head in shame
one would see in blood’s reflection
the filth encrusted deep
and hear in anguish’s inflection
pardon for depravity
and one would leave this cold world railing
not see the crimson ransom, dear
nor comprehend salvation’s failing
as the Father’s coming near
but one would suckle mercy’s breast
born of faith’s unfailing womb
and carried to eternal rest
be spared for ages come, the tomb