I saw a picture on Instagram this morning from @desiringgod. It quoted Psalm 40:2: He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of my miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
My grandfather died on Friday, and we bury him tomorrow, so wasted time and wasted days are on my mind a lot right now. What occurred to me when I read this verse is just how literally I’ve always translated it. I’ve always thought of this verse in terms of how God has saved so many people from lives of addiction and lawlessness, and how grateful the ones I’ve met are for it.
Today, that’s not what I’m thinking. Sometimes, for some people – myself included – what that miry bog and pit of destruction really look like is a life of luxury, and plenty, and abundance, but none of it has the stamp of God on it. I’ve driven my nice cars and worn my nice clothes and gone to my nice churches and still had the stink of the grave all over me and no sign of God anywhere in my life to be seen because I was so busy living for myself and not thinking about God AT ALL! I’ve been selfish, self-centered, and self-righteous. Thinking I had my act together – and looking like it, too – but never letting God into all the parts of my heart. Trying to behave well, without trying to be well. And those days were empty and wasted and more disconnected from God than people could possibly imagine.
Yesterday and today I have been fretting over the fact that I did not bring a suitable outfit for my grandfather’s viewing, only an outfit for the funeral. The bottom line is: I’ve not been to enough funerals to remember that there’s usually a viewing or visitation beforehand. Besides that, I got a frenzied call from my mother after my grandfather’s second seizure on Friday, asking me to bring her and my father some things from their home, and we live eight hours away from my grandparents. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, my mother was crying and distraught, I’d just heard my grandfather most likely would not still be alive by the time I arrived, and I could not think straight. All of this before 9 a.m. on Friday. And now, here I sit, just a little over 48 hours later and I am worried about the fact that I “should have” thought about a simple change of clothes.
That’s pit of destruction, miry bog thinking. And I am just done!
My grandfather loved me. He is even better able to love me now. My family loves me. The most important thing is that I do what I do out of love for all of them. Because 2 days from now, nobody is going to remember OR CARE that I didn’t have appropriate-enough clothes for 2 functions. What’s going to matter is that I showed up and served as I could with my whole heart because I love these people and they are suffering!
I refuse to let Satan cajole me, rush me, or make me take my focus off of being present for my family over a simple change of clothes. People are rushing around trying to please everyone, making sure they have decent clothes to wear. On the one hand, it is endearing. It really is. Everyone trying to make these days as they should be. But on the other hand, all this rushing around over a change of clothes has people stressing over something that we have been told in Scripture not to worry about.
Granted, I may not look as beautiful as a lily of the field when I show up at my grandfather’s visitation, but God will be judging my heart, and it will be in the right place, whether my outfit is quite the one I’d like or not.
P.S. – this is not a slam on the folks who are trying to make sure they have appropriate clothing. At all. This is their way of relieving some of their own stress. I am all for allowing people to grieve and process the way they need to, especially when that means auto-pilot can kick in and alleviate some stress of having to think about what’s being prepared for. All I’m saying is: Stressing and Rushing are not how I best serve people. I drove 8 hours to get here. I am not spending another 4 hours of my short time here driving to town, picking out an appropriate outfit, and driving back from town. I don’t need any more clothes because my heart is adorned well enough.
P.S.S. – God was gracious to me, and ON ACCIDENT, I happened to pick up one extra shirt that will go quite nicely with the nice slacks that I brought. I thought about putting it back down when I saw I had carried it out of the bedroom, but I just didn’t have strength enough to go back into my bedroom and stare at more clothes, feeling helpless and confused about what and how much to bring.
Two years ago, (12/05/2014), I took a Facebook quiz that gave me probably the most accurate results I’ve ever gotten from any of the tons of hokey Facebook quizzes I’ve ever taken. The quiz was entitled “Which Justice League Superhero Are You?” Much to my husband’s great delight, I got “Wonder Woman” (he’s a huge fam). Normally, I am a fan of being associated with anything that my husband is a fan of because – ya know – it’s been 23 years and I like him and he likes me and, well, why not?! And besides, what girl in her right mind wouldn’t want to be Wonder Woman. But before I get too off-topic, or start “fan-girling” (as my kids would say), let me tell you: what got me most “excited” (thought I’m not quite sure that’s the right world) was the description behind the results. Here is VERBATIM what I was told:
You are an idealist and a mediator, able to see and respect different viewpoints and to encourage others to embrace acceptance and compromise. You have a deep love for people in all of their diversity and empower those who are underrepresented and less powerful. You are honest and expect others to be honest in turn, even if the truth is painful. Some people are intimidated by your ideals and consider you to be a radical, but you will never let ignorance and cruelty stop you from believing in what’s right. Others might consider you a naïve dreamer, but you are wise beyond your years and your selfless defense of other people is invaluable.
Now…who wouldn’t want that kind of description?! Right?!
Before I go any further, let me just say, for the most part (and I mean, like 99% of the time, the results I get from these quizzes are bogus. And I only take them for fun. However, I always answer the questions honestly simply to see how accurate an assessment is being offered.
This one is extremely accurate, of me at least. And in case you’re wondering, NO, I don’t think it’s accurate because I want it to be. But I have had many people come into my life over my 42 years and the ones I’ve had the time to get to know the best, and who’ve gotten to know me truly, have all said the same thing.
However, lest you think I’m about to break my arm patting my own back, I would like to tell you why I am sharing these quiz results with you.
For most of my life, I have wanted to be a part of the in-crowd but was relegated to the shadows. For just as long, I have known this was treatment NOBODY deserves. But because most people believe they are bound by stupid, societal, “supposed to” rules which perpetually feed an unfair and imbalanced caste system, we are all subjected to various forms of “ASSIMILATE OR DIE.”
However, I have not lived my entire life on the outskirts. In fact, I have been right in the thick of the in-crowd a couple of times in my life, and MOSTLY I was happy to be there. I felt like I had finally made it, like I had received all I had ever wanted. You know what I found? “ASSIMILATE OR DIE” is in full effect within the group too. While there are profoundly unbreakable rules in place designed to keep outsiders OUTSIDE the group, there are also just as many rules in place to keep insiders to the group in their place.
I never enjoyed being an outsider. I always thought people surely must not know what they were missing. Cliques were so stupid. However, as much as I couldn’t stand being an outsider, the constraints of being part of the in-crowd are worse FOR ME.
The safety of the in-crowd hinges on a willingness to jealously and zealously guard the borders of the group. But I could not do it. I would not.
People are people. Status doesn’t matter. In-crowd, outsider, doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is your story.
What’s more?! I’ve felt more accepted by outsiders more often than I’ve ever felt accepted by the in-crowd. And the kicker: I didn’t have to sell my soul to get it. Furthermore, I’ve learned some of my most profound theological and spiritual lessons from the outsiders.
You see, one of my closest friends was THE major outcast in the town where she grew up. Another dabbled in witchcraft in her youth. Yet another has tattoos the likes of which would have been looked down upon by many of my more “supposed-to” prone friends. And the man I’m married to is someone I’d have never been allowed to date. One thing they all have in common (besides me) is they all have a story I’ve seen many folks balk at getting to know because they are good, “supposed to” stories.
Being part of the in-crowd, too often, has required that I set aside such foolishness as thinking everyone’s story deserves to be heard. Maybe it is naïve of me, but I’ve always thought the passages in Scripture where Jesus healed lepers and touched the most untouchable ought to be our leading examples of how to treat people. If Jesus could minister to lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors, surely those who call themselves Christians ought to be ministering to the addicts, prostitutes, homeless, etc.; to ask them to obey Scripture by not preferring the rich and giving them a seat of great honor in our temples.
If that makes me naïve or a radical so be it. If it makes me an idealist, FINE. If it’s intimidating, so be it. My only response is: if my way of thinking somehow threatens your way of life, perhaps that says more about you than me. Personally, I’ve spent enough of my life apologizing for believing what the Bible says and choosing to be obedient while good people go unknown and outcast for failing to live up to the fickle and arbitrary standards of a small group of “supposed to,” clique-ish folks who think they’ve arrived when really, we’re all still just trying to make it.
Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God and see how many interesting but saved-by-grace outcasts He leads you to.
You’ll be amazed!
November 27, 2016
A little something God gave me
Nobody accuses the rose of being ugly simply because they get stuck by a thorn.
The Rose does not apologize, explain, or make excuses for its thorns, or try to understand why God made it the way He did.
The Rose does not stop being beautiful or smelling good because someone has mishandled it and gotten themselves hurt.
God did not ask permission to make the Rose. He did not consult other roses or people who had been pricked by other roses before He made more.
He doesn’t ask the Rose to understand. He only asks the Rose to be a Rose, scent and thorns and all, without apology, trusting that He knew what He was doing when He made it.
How a person responds to the Rose says more about that person than it does the Rose. We may get mad about being stuck. We may stomp the Rose, dig it up, burn it, or kill it by some other means, BUT the Rose is still a Rose. It can’t not be a Rose.
The Rose does not shrink away from sunlight because someone got hurt. Day after day, the Rose turns its face to the sun and shares its beauty with the world.
Some appreciate the Rose for its beauty, others for its scent. Most respect the fact that there are thorns. They know they are looking at a Rose, and they look for the thorns so they know where they can and cannot touch.
Others don’t realize they are dealing with a Rose at all and are stuck before they do.
Is this the fault of the Rose?
Some people might chide the Rose, asking it to apologize for being so offensive to the one it stuck. They may even suggest the Rose cut off its thorns so as to avoid any future injuries to loved ones, stating that, losing the thorns won’t affect the flower’s face, its beauty, its fragrance, or its life. Surely that would not be too big a price to pay for one’s friends.
And, those people are probably right. Most likely the Rose would not be affected the loss of a thorn or two. But for how many thorns will this hold true? For how long? Exactly how much of a plant can a person cut away before killing the plant?
How long must the Rose suffer at the hands of those that only wish for the beauty of the Rose but none of the care of the thing?
How long would something so beautiful survive at the hands of such careless, ignorant, or thoughtless caretakers?
After all, it was not the Rose was not the one who was careless.
Surely the poor Beauty would begin to shrivel up and die. Roses, thorny as they may be, require specific care. The Master Gardener knows this and can provide just the ideal conditions.
The Master Gardener can look at the Rose, diagnose just exactly what is needed and set out a plan of care tailored to the roses specific needs that will cause the Rose to flourish and thrive.
Sometimes, this might mean that pruning and dead-heading are needed in order for the more established stems to grow stronger and sturdier. Painful as it might be for the Rose, the end thereof for the plant, as a whole, is a hardier plant, capable of producing bigger and more fragrant blooms.
At other times, a complete uprooting and transplant is in order. For a myriad of reasons, the Rose simply may not be thriving. The Master Gardener alone knows the signs.
The Rose, upon being removed from the ground, may be certain it is about to die. But the Rose is at the mercy of the Gardener. He will place the traumatized Rose into a new place He has lovingly and knowingly prepared for the plant. And the Master Gardener knows that the Rose will need some time to recover. The Rose may even fail to produce blooms for a while, as the roots re-establish themselves.
A less-experienced gardener may mistakenly believe that he has killed the plant and proceed to yank it out of the ground and fill in the hole. But the Master Gardener is patient, unwilling that His precious beauty should perish. The Master Gardener gives the plant the time, love and care it needs (care for a sick Rose – not care for a thriving violet), and He waits.
The Master Gardener does not belittle or berate the Rose for failing to thrive. He does not accuse the Rose of being rebellious and unwilling to bloom, when He is the one who uprooted the Rose in the first place.
The Rose – His Rose – is at His mercy.
But…that is the safest place in the world for the Rose to be. And the best thing for that precious Rose to do is to rest in the knowledge that the Master Gardener knows what He is doing.
All the Rose must do is be the Rose it was created to be and bloom where it was planted.
The method of study that I have chosen for this year’s study is called S.O.A.P. notes. The acronym stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. For much the same reason behind my needing to do this EVERY day for the discipline, I also need a system, otherwise, I may just end up reading a passage (whatever passage) and not doing much else with it. My hope is to use this method as a way to “work hard so that I can present myself to God and receive his approval, to be a good worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and, likewise, to “train myself to be godly” because “godliness is much better (that physical training) promising benefits in this life and the life to come” (1Timothy 4:7-8).
Before I begin sharing my S.O.A.P. notes, I want to let you know what books I’m using for the passages I’m using this year.
The main book is: God’s Words of Life from the NIV Women’s Devotional Bible. I take a verse a day from each chosen section. If there are not enough verses to fill out the month, I draw from God’s Promises for Your Every Need. If there was not a corresponding section, or if I did not have enough verses that weren’t duplicated, I pulled from the Topical section of openbible.info and bible.knowing-jesus.com. Finally, the bible translation I am using – almost exclusively – is the New Living Translation because it’s the one I most enjoy reading.
Though we are not Catholic, my family typically does something in recognition of Lent, which begins – very conveniently for me and this study – on March 1st. The subject, at least, in part, is going to be fasting. So, as of now, March is the only month for which I do not already have a schedule.
Much love in Christ, Patty