I often help my granddaughter with her online school assignments via Skype. Today, her assignment included a discussion of the poem, “Work in Progress*,” by Jon Jorgenson. We had an delightfully enlightening chat, but I think the work may have spoken to me more than to a pre-adolescent girl. She accepts that she is a student and her vocation right now is study (which one cannot do until they accept both a state of ignorance and the capability of changing that state. Some call the trait meekness.)
I often feel frustrated because I think I should be further along in spiritual maturity by now. The poem helped me remember I am also a work in progress. I’m still changing. Sometimes grace comes in the form of an overheard lesson.
A hundred-year old record was broken here this week. A record for cold. The leaves, many of which are still green, froze solid on the trees. A bird, seeking warmth, flew into the house via the chimney. My husband’s search for warm gloves turned up eight meant for the left hand and one for the right. It looked like the right failed match any of the lefts.
We weren’t ready for this.
Many miles away this same cold front is dropping snow on massive wildfires that surround a city. A friend posted photos today of steaming earth where threatening flames roared the day before. She joyfully expressed thankfulness.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand what on earth is going on. While I mourn the death of the last of my pretty little flowers, I rejoice with my friend for answered prayer and preservation of something much bigger.
Today this passage in Genesis showed up where I was not expecting to see it. I appreciate the reminder. While we need to change our exploitive ways and take responsibility for tending the earth and its resources well, ultimately God is the one who created its intricate workings. He is the one who holds it all together. He’s got this.
My child, never drift off course from these two goals for your life: to walk in wisdom and to discover discernment. Don’t ever forget how they empower you. For they strengthen you inside and out and inspire you to do what’s right; you will be energized and refreshed by the healing they bring. They give you living hope to guide you, and not one of life’s tests will cause you to stumble.
I didn’t see it until I was out in bright sunlight at the picnic. The grease spot, or the butter badge as my grandson calls it, sat in a prominent place on my bosom. It was too late to change my clothes. The options seemed to be 1) ignore it and pretend I hadn’t noticed (aka denial) or 2) make a joke about it.
I have good friends who understand clumsiness. If I joke, they will respond with self-deprecating stories that start with, “You think that’s bad…” The truly sympathetic might drop a blob of mustard or ketchup on their own shirts in solidarity. We could call it the sympathy badge.
No one is perfect and being reminded of that fact keeps us humble, but denial is living a lie and joking can be acceptance of shame as a way of life. I still need to get the spot out.
The thing is, walking in the light exposes things we would rather not have people see, or even see ourselves. Sympathy might relieve tension, but it doesn’t remove sin stains. After a while dirty clothes lose their novelty. They are simply, well, dirty. If we truly believe that God is who he says he is, we (and others) will see continuing change in our lives.
When I looked out the window and saw this white begonia in the sunlight, it reminded me of the beauty of holiness. I saw it as an invitation to explore what it means to live in the light.
There is a verse in Hebrews 10 that talks about provoking each other to good works. I’m not talking about walking around whilst virtue-signaling and condemning others for their flaws. That’s not provoking goodness; that’s provoking a punch in the nose. I’m talking about inspiring each other to walk in the light without fear of what will be exposed because it has been dealt with. Sympathy doesn’t inspire; sympathy accepts. With a sigh of resignation sympathy alone says, “Oh, well. It is what it is.”
I believe God loves and accepts us as we are, and he is the one who convicts and cleans us up if we let him. He loves us as we are, but he doesn’t leave us covered with filth. He’s a good father, not an indulgent one. Sins are dirty spots that have consequences, some minor, and some that play out for generations. Sin is a stain that hampers relationships and keeps us from becoming who God intended us to be.
Mercy is great, but grace is greater. Grace empowers us to become more than we have been. Grace is not an indulgent excuse to keep on repeating the same thing we needed mercy for. Grace empowers transformation.
When we agree with God when he points out that we have made poor choices that weren’t motivated by his love or his goodness for others or for ourselves, he cleans us up. Sometimes the process is like having your hair washed and sometimes it feels like a major makeover. It depends what he wants to reveal, what he wants to work on, and our cooperation. Once he starts, he is faithful to complete the job. His light makes us pure.
“This is the life-giving message we heard him share and it’s still ringing in our ears. We now repeat his words to you: God is pure light. You will never find even a trace of darkness in him.
If we claim that we share life with him, but keep walking in the realm of darkness, we’re fooling ourselves and not living the truth. But if we keep living in the pure light that surrounds him, we share unbroken fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, continually cleanses us from all sin.
If we boast that we have no sin, we’re only fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, he will be faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I lost the tag that told me the name of this little rose bush. It blooms just as happily without it. I’m fascinated by flowers of different colours springing from the same root. It brings me joy.
Unity is not uniformity, but neither is unity a random occurrence, without anything in common. I have known groups formed around the concept of unity that were so accepting of almost any idea they no longer have anything in common. That’s not true unity any more than response to a man-made rule that forces everyone to dress the same and act the same is true unity.
Unity in the spirit is about receiving from and responding to the same source, the way these lovely roses receive nutrients from the same root and yet each bloom expresses itself in a different way.
Unity is more than having faith in whatever. Unity is having faith that is connected to the One who is faithful. True unity is about being and rooted and grounded in the Creator’s love.
“Now may God, the source of great endurance and comfort, grace you with unity among yourselves, which flows from your relationship with Jesus, the Anointed One.Then, with a unanimous rush of passion, you will with one voice glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!
This morning a friend posted a question: How would your life change if you lived fully loved?
That’s not what I saw, at least the first couple of times I read it. What I saw was this: How would your life change if you lived fully loaded?
She not the kind to promote violence, so I rubbed my eyes and read it again. I realized the way I saw her question at first was actually the answer to her question.
Love is a weapon. Love takes down fear, hate, disappointment, division and hopelessness. Love heals the wounds that wound. Christ came to restore our hearts and relationship with our heavenly Father, the source of all love.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we remember that the church began with a group of people meeting in one accord in one place when the Holy Spirit came upon them in power. They were, in a sense, fully loaded by the One who loves perfectly. They went out and changed the world.
How would life change if we, together in one accord, lived fully loaded on love?
God’s love would be seen in demonstrations — demonstrations of power, first in this place, and then in the whole world.