Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are you in there?

"Is the face that I see in the mirror the one I want others to see? Do I show in the way that I walk in my life, the love that you've given to me? My heart's desire is to be like you in all that I do, all I am. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Do they see Jesus, Jesus in me? Well it's amazing that you'd ever use me, but use me the way you will. Help me to hold out hearts of compassion and grace. A heart that your Spirit fills. May I show forgiveness and mercy, the same way you've shown it to me. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Do they see Jesus in me? Well I want to show all the world that You are the reason I live and breathe. So You'll be the one that they see when they see me. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Oh, do they see Jesus in me?" (Joy Williams song)

I remember as a child, I used to have a full-length mirror in my room mounted on the wall by my closet. When I would play "dress-up", I would stand there and look at myself all dolled up in my "costumes". As I would get dressed for school, I would twist and turn to see how I looked at every angle. I used to pucker my lips and pretend I was kissing a really cute boy. I used to look at myself and see all the imperfections; all the things I didn't like about myself. Most of all, I used to put on my mom's wedding dress and dream about the day I would wear it for my wedding (and did). I didn't look for Jesus in my mirror. I didn't think about my reflection being Jesus-like at all. At the time, I was more concerned about how I "looked on the outside", not if others saw "Jesus in me".

As I've grown (in height and years), I know now that I should have been more concerned with what others saw "in me" than how I "looked on the outside". It's not easy, though. For as much as I'd like it to always be Jesus' face when people look at me, it's not always the face that they see. I get angry with my husband, my children, and other people, and Jesus' face is NOT what they see. I lose my patience and yell at my husband, my children, and other people, and Jesus' face is NOT what they see. I make mistakes and say things I shouldn't and Jesus' face is NOT what people see. However, I hope that when I tell/show my husband, my children, and my friends that I love/appreciate/respect them, that they see Jesus' face projected through me. I hope when I write these weekly offerings, that Jesus' face is evident in me; at least evident that He's working IN me. Jesus is in each one of us. And it's important that we let others see that. But most of all it's important that WE SEE JESUS IN OURSELVES.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Not Fair

(This one's for you, mom...)
A very old man lay dying on his bed. In death's doorway, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven. There, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table, were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world as a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table. The aged and withered hand, shaking, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife. "Stay out of those," she said, "they're for the funeral."

IT'S JUST NOT FAIR. No, it's not. Life isn't fair. No one ever said it would be. Jesus didn't die on the cross for us because it was "fair". He died for us because of his amazing love for us. Is it fair that some people have everything, while others have nothing? Is it fair, that when the power went out on Sunday night (during the Steelers game, mind you), that although we had power back by late Monday afternoon, our neighbors just a few hundred yards down the street, didn't have theirs back until today? No, it's not. Is it fair that all the little kids get picked last for kickball in gym class? Or, that in high school, if you're not part of the "popular crowd", you just don't belong. No, it's not. Is it fair that when you're lying on your death bed, and your wife makes your favorite chocolate chip cookies, you can't even have just one? No, it's not.

Do you know what IS fair? Doing something with all of you - heart, mind, and soul regardless of when you're picked, or what crowd you belong to. What's fair is playing the game of life as best you can regardless of the cards you've been given to play with. We don't have a choice who are mothers/fathers are going to be (or who they're NOT going to be); we don't get to choose if we're going to be short or tall, blond or brunette, black or white, or what color our eyes are going to be. We don't get to choose if we're going to get cancer, or Alzheimer's, or any of the other diseases that make us question "Why me?". We don't get to choose who's going to die or who's going to live. Those are things we don't get to choose. But, we do get to choose to live each moment as if it were our last. To live for today, and every moment that's in it. That's fair. We have been given the most amazing opportunity by our Savior, Jesus Christ, to do it RIGHT and to the BEST of our ability. We've been given LIFE. And in that life, we've been given 365 days every year; 24 hours every day; 60 minutes every hour; 60 seconds every minute for an unknown length of time. And even though I don't know how many days/hours/minutes/seconds I have left, I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to tell my husband how much I love him at least once every day. I love you, Don, even more than the day I first fell in love with you. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to tell my girls how proud I am of who they are, and what they are becoming right before my eyes. Allison & Ava, I am so proud that God has blessed me to be your mother. And even more proud to watch as you learn about and love Jesus more and more with each passing day. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to spend just 10 minutes alone every day with my thoughts in prayer. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to spend 30 seconds to say "Thank you" to those who have been instrumental in helping me become the woman I am today - Mom and Dad, Gramma Bentley, and God to name just a few. I'd say that I have enough time to know that although not everything in life is fair, I can do my best to make what I've been given - fair enough for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You can't judge a book by its cover

I LOVE to read. I LOVE to read EVERYTHING. Mysteries, science fiction, inspirational, non-fiction, fiction, romance, drama, you name it. There aren't many books I won't read. But you know which ones I enjoy the most - Reader's Digest Condensed Books. First of all, there are 4 books all together in one handy-dandy book! How great is that? Secondly, if you take the cover off the book, all you see is a plain, hard cover. No indication of what's inside. No titles, no authors. No preconceived notion of what type of story(ies) you're going to be reading. Because it's Reader's Digest, you know the books inside are going to be really good, things you can sink your teeth into. But, if you look at the cover without the dust flap - it's just another book. No frills, no thrills. No indication if you're going to find a murder-mystery to the tune of Agatha Christie, or perhaps a law story by John Grisham. Or, maybe a great adventure down a winding river in a raft and the hero gets tossed overboard, and... You don't know what you're going to get until you get past the outside plain, hard cover. You just don't know. You know the old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover."

The same is true of course, for people. I'll never forget the first day of registration for Marching Band at Slippery Rock. My parents were with me and when I gave my name and high school at the registration table, the girls' faces lit up and they said how excited they were I was there. I felt great, at first. I was already accepted by these people and the only thing they knew about me was my name, what instrument I played and where I went to high school. The only thing was, it wasn't great, not at all. They didn't know ME. They didn't bother at that first introduction to take off my dust jacket to see what was underneath. They didn't know who or what I was under the high school I came from, or the instrument I played; they knew me for what they saw on the outside. They didn't know how I felt to be there, in a strange place, with strange people, virtually all alone. They were only excited to meet me because they knew the school I came from had a strong competition marching band and a great band instructor. They had pre-judged me based on the colorful high school cover I had wrapped around me. At that first introduction, no one bothered to look beneath the dust jacket to see the soft, plain cover of the real me underneath.

We are so quick to judge people based on the outside cover that they wear, that we often miss out on opportunities to meet amazing people. We've all done it. We're not perfect. We're not supposed to be. Only God is perfect and He knows we're still learning. So, the next time you walk into a book store, instead of looking at the covers on the books, go to the section you like, whatever it is, and just pick up a book and start reading. Ignore the cover, ignore the author, just grab a book, open it up and start reading. You don't even have to start at the beginning. You may find you don't like it at all, or you may find that you love it and don't want to put it down. No matter what happens, at least you have taken the time to look beyond the dust jacket and see what's truly important - the content inside...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Broken and Beautiful

Several months ago while putting together the media for this service, I stumbled upon this blog through a different website I was looking at (Christian band - tremendous music/tremendous group. We have several cd's that we'll loan you if you'd like to hear them - just ask. Or, you can find them on youtube - Selah) Anyway, this blog drew me in completely and immediately. I'm not one for reading people's thoughts online, but I have become addicted to this one. The writer is the wife of one of the members of Selah and she shares a very personal journey about her life and the struggles she's gone through/continues to go through after the death of their youngest child who died 2 hours after birth this past April. And most recently, the loss of their 3-month old nephew to SIDS.

In one of her blogs, "The Past and the Pitcher" she talks about how in one of her "books on grieving the loss of a child, the author suggests smashing a piece of pottery as a form of therapy." Not quite sure why, she broke the pitcher, on her front porch, at 10 o'clock at night... Afterwards, God spoke to her and told her to put it back together again. So she did. As she started putting the pitcher back together again, (imagine a porcelain pitcher shattered, jagged edges pricking at your fingers, no idea where to begin, all those pieces), she talks about how she started thinking about her past and the mistakes she made and still regrets. Things she thought she had forgotten about, but had only buried for a time. As she was putting the pitcher back together, she "began to realize that this pitcher was my life, and every piece was part of a story that He had chosen to put together."... "Every nook and cranny whispered to me, until at last it stood in all its imperfection." She was now mended and filled with His spirit.

I can't imagine the time it took to put that pitcher back together again. I don't know that I could have done it. I do know that I was crying uncontrollably as I was reading about it because I've been there - broken and in jagged pieces. Have you? Have you been broken and then put back together again by someone who cared enough to take their time, to share their love and healing touch? It's a wonderful thing. It's a beautiful thing. It's an awakening. It's a chance for a new beginning.
Each of our lives is one big pitcher - full of cracks and sometimes broken in a thousand pieces. The thing is, there is always someone there to help us put the pieces back together again. His name is Jesus. He will never let us forget how beautiful and worthy we are even in our brokenness. He will help us to put the pieces back together and move on, move forward. He knows where all the cracks and breaks came from, and it's okay because He loves you. He died for you. When your pitcher is broken, don't think of it as just another break, but an opportunity to begin anew. Let each gap in your pitcher be a reminder that "there is the potential for more of Himself revealed in you." Let each piece be a reminder that you've been given a fresh start and He will be with you each and every time you are broken and beautiful.