Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for June, 2015

Getting Free and Clear

Photo Credit: M.G. Kafkas

Photo Credit: M.G. Kafkas

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” I Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

Peter wrote us a list comprised of mostly “inside out” problems. Clearly, he took to heart Jesus’ teaching on cleaning the inside of the cup.   I imagine Peter listening intently as Jesus confronted the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV)

This truth in Peter’s first epistle has come to us English speakers as a call to “get rid of” these inner sins. (“to rid oneself” is to relieve or free oneself of something unpleasant or undesirable). In ancient times, Norsemen and Germans used the word “to rid” to describe clearing land.

So what do I need to clear out of my personal territory?

I am most struck by envy because I struggle mightily with that invisible ugliness in my heart. Each week, I avert my eyes from the magazines displayed along the grocery check out line- not because they horrify me. On the contrary, I am irresistibly drawn into the world of the beautiful, the famous, and the rich. I wish my life were more like theirs.

“Envy is nothing more than a hostile form of self-pity.” Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Groups, Inc.

Other cannot see my envy – unless they look closely and notice its secondary effects. According to Proverbs, its cancerous corrosion actually makes us less healthy: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

The antidote is “a heart at peace” or, put another way, “godliness with contentment”, as Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy.

“Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have.” I Timothy 6:6 (CEB)

To sum up, it is not enough to do good works, look great on the outside, and paste on a smile to mask our malicious, envious thoughts. Keeping silence and hiding our insides makes us very effective hypocrites, not true disciples.

Let’s obey Peter and get rid of it all, clearing our lives to make room for all the lovely stuff that God has ready to grow in us.

 

He Broke the Mold When He Made Us

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

God broke the mold when He made me.

And He did the same with you!

What is so very difficult is to appreciate how He made us because we often de-value ourselves.

“Borrow Somebody’s Dreams” Photo Credit: Stefano Corso

I love birds, flowers, and nature. Weeds attack each spring, pushing up, uninvited, through the seams in my driveway. I can’t bear to spray them with chemicals, so I plunk down on my behind and painstakingly pull each interloper out one by one. My neighbor passed by and looked at me like I was crazy. Why not use his favorite brand of weed-killer? I just couldn’t do it.  His property is so well-manicured and I value and admire that.

But I have to be me.

I cry easily. If a friend confides in me about a problem, tears start leaking from my eyes. I hug and I pray and make phone calls later on to check in. My husband is a professional counselor and he doesn’t emote when faced with the crises of others; he is practical, level-headed, and unshakeable. I admire and respect what he offers.

But I have to be me.

I am a grandmother now and my precious granddaughter comes over each week. Last time, after we splashed in the little baby pool together, I fed her strawberries from the tiny patch growing by my back door.  Her other grandmother preserved all her children’s lovely clothes pressed and treasured between sheets of tissue paper. I enjoy the photos of special family events in which our granddaughter is dressed in heirloom garments. I admire that and am grateful.

But I have to be me.

When we look in the mirror, do we see our unique gifts and personality?

If we can’t appreciate them, let’s imagine our Heavenly Father standing behind us with His hand upon our shoulder, repeating these words from David’s psalm: “I created your inmost being; I knit you together in your mother’s womb… You are fearfully and wonderfully made because my works are wonderful.”  (Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14 re-phrased)

Be your wonderful self today.

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