Who Do You See?

Do you see what is in front of you? Or what you want to see?

Several years ago my daughter-in-law and I went on a trip with Kids Around the World. On our way to our destination, we had a long layover in Paris and took the opportunity to visit the Louvre.

By Victor Grigas [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

After roaming the halls filled with beautiful artwork for several hours, we came to a crowded room. At the end of this room, surrounded by people taking pictures and selfies, was the Mona Lisa. We didn’t even try to get through the crowd for a close look. I remember thinking it is smaller than I expected (a common first impression, apparently) and it isn’t anything special (sorry, art lovers).

What really blew me away though was what I saw when I turned around. On the opposing wall being virtually ignored by all those Mona Lisa worshipers, was a massive painting (22′ 3″ x 32′). Impressive in size, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese depicts Jesus’ first miracle where he turned water into wine (John 2:1-11).

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkytheneoncat/4208121163

While I won’t get into the historical accuracy of the painting, it is a beautiful work of art. Much more impressive that the Mona Lisa. Yet, people flock to the Louvre to see her and have their picture taken with her. Then, the vast majority of them walk out of that room giving Veronese’s work little or no notice. The whole scene (in the room, not in the painting) just struck me as ludicrous. People were so intent on a tiny painting of an average woman that they couldn’t see (or didn’t care about) the larger painting.

The scene in that room at the Louvre made me wonder how often I do the same thing. Do I only see what I want to see about God? Do I focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in my life? Do I miss the larger picture? Do I miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do I fail to see what He is doing because I’m hyper-focused on some detail that really isn’t all that big? Or do I take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of my life?

Luke tells us of a time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). During his visit, Martha was distracted by all the things she had to do for Jesus and his disciples. Mary took time away from those very same preparations to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Mary was totally focused on Jesus. Martha was more than a little put out because her sister wasn’t helping so she went and complained to Jesus. Jesus recognized that Martha was worried and upset, but he also let her know that Mary’s priorities were right–only one thing in that home was necessary. Jesus.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [the things you need] will be give to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Like Martha, do I get so caught up in the details of my day that I forget Jesus? Or am I like Mary who focused on Jesus and his words? Do I focus on the things of God first?

How about you? Do you only see what you want to see about God? Do you focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in your life? Do you miss the larger picture? Do you miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do you fail to see what He is doing because you are hyper-focused on some detail that really is not all that big? Or do you take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of your life? Do you seek the things of God first?

 

 

 

 

Broken

In my family we have experienced four broken arms, a broken finger, a broken hand, and even a broken skull. We have also had over a hundred stitches between us. There have been multiple x-rays and the occasional CAT or MRI. Sometimes we rush to the immediate care or emergency room. Other times we postpone the trip far longer than we should because someone is in denial about the severity of their need. As a general rule, however, when we feel as though something is broken, we seek medical attention.

As humans we treat our souls much the same way. We rush through life, never dreaming we might need to ask for help. Eventually something happens to cause us pain. Many times we recognize that the hurt is because something within us is broken. Occasionally we seek help. Yet, more often than not, we wait until the pain of our brokenness is unbearable before we seek the attention of the Great Physician–God Himself.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
–Psalm 51:1-2

Psalm 51 was written by King David when his sin of adultery was confronted. He was broken. He didn’t seek God until his brokenness was made obvious. In this psalm, David cried out for mercy and healing. His brokenness led him to God.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
–Psalm 51:10-12

David didn’t just ask for healing. He asked for restoration. He knew that God’s salvation would bring joy–in spite of his brokenness. He recognized that he needed God’s help.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
–Psalm 51:13

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
–Psalm 51:15

When David asked God to heal his brokenness, he wanted both joy born of salvation and a willing spirit to sustain him in the future. With that sustained joy and willingness he would then teach other broken people about the Physician who could heal their brokenness, too.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
–Psalm 51:17

David’s sacrifice–the thing he would give to God–was his brokenness and newly humbled heart. With those he pleased God. With those he received healing. With those he would share God’s salvation with others in need.

Read Psalm 51.

Are you feeling broken?
Are you in denial about the seriousness of your need?
Have you taken your brokenness to God?
Are you experiencing the sustaining joy of salvation?
Are you willing to be used by God to tell other broken people about the God who can heal them?

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

If you’re following along, I’m in the middle of a self-imposed challenge to keep 2 rooms in my house clean enough that with 5-minutes’ notice I would willingly invite guests into my space.

This experiment started with a thought I had one day that the discipline I demonstrate in the way I keep my house is a reflection of my spiritual discipline. So I wanted to learn what God might say to my heart, as I stretch myself to do something different, and actually clean my house regularly.

I’m about half way though my 66 days and last week, the wheels came off!

Life was clicking along great. My husband was helping, I was experiencing satisfaction in the work of my hands, and peace in my soul.  God was speaking truths to my heart.  It was AMAZING!

Then I got sick.

We came back from the Believe Middle School conference, where we spent the weekend with the BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL KIDS IN THE WORLD along with around 8,000 of their friends from across the country. My souvenirs were a headache (I love you guys, but you’re music is loud) – and a cold.

If you’ve never heard of CIY’s Believe Conference, check it out HERE!

My cold was nothing special, a small fever for a day, laryngitis, coughing. All the usual symptoms of the spring-time plague.  But with it came the kind of self-pity that lets you justify laying around on the couch while the rest of your life falls apart.  And it did fall apart.  Not a dish was washed for a week.  Floors went un-swept – and I didn’t lift a finger, except to whine and point to my tissues as my husband walked by.

Of course I shared with Gene, and then there were two of us sniffling and dragging around the house. Once the cold ran it’s course, I realized I had once more let things get out of control, and there was quite a bit of effort needed to bring the house back into order.  I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t been able to fulfill my commitment.

I sat down the next day with my journal in hand and asked, “OK, what can God teach me from this?”

One of the things I love about God is that He is so quiet, strong and steady. He just waited for me to finish beating myself up over my failure.  He waited for me to finish mourning that I had been unsuccessful and waited for me to run out of words.  When I finally finished writing and put down my pen, my heart heard him add His two cents:

Speaking English puts us at a disadvantage sometimes. In English we typically define “perfect” as without blemish.  But the idea of perfect in scripture is less about being without blemish and more about being complete.  Having everything you need.  So a puzzle is perfect when all the pieces are in place.  A Birthday Cake is perfect, when all the candles are lit and it is ready to function in its role.  And my house is perfect when I have my priorities in place, not when it’s spotless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul asked God to take away something Paul viewed as a “thorn”, but God declined, telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, when I am at my weakest, God has put all the pieces of the puzzle into place so His power can do its thing.

You see, my 66-day journey is not about having a spotless place to live, its about taking one step closer to the One who’s power is perfect when I’m not.

 

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

On my journey to explore holiness and housekeeping, it’s been 7 days into a 66 day experiment to keep two rooms in my house “5-minutes to clean”. If you missed my first article, check it out here.

Just to recap, I’m exploring the idea that how I discipline myself with my housework is a reflection of my spiritual discipline, so I’m attempting to keep two areas of my home clean enough to be company ready in 5 minutes, and more importantly – look for the spiritual lessons I can learn while doing so.

I‘m happy to say, the first 6 days were a great success! I loaded the dishwasher after daily meals and wiped down the stove every day.  I gave the floor a quick sweep and even cleaned out the refrigerator, because clean on the inside is important too!

As I approached each task, I prayed, seeking wisdom and insight. There was such a sense of peace, and I felt closer to God than I have in a very long time.

Waking up in the morning to a clean space was a new adventure for me, and I have to say, I liked it a lot.

Now you may have noticed I started by saying I’m 7-days into this journey and the first 6 were wonderful.   This is not a typo.  Because you see, on day 7…my husband came home.

He was traveling the first week, so my first 6 days were solo.

Gene’s been home for 10 hours now and there are shoes, a suitcase, and dishes already out of place. You see, he did not sign up for my little experiment, nor did he know anything about it.  It took me about 2 hours before I started to become stressed, and short tempered.  That new-found peace evaporated.

What happened? Can my sense of well-being really be so precarious, that adding 1 person into the mix makes my house of cards come tumbling down? What does that say about me?

So I sat down with my journal to uncover what God was trying to teach me through this little hiccup in my experiment. There are SO MANY lessons I could pick out, but here is what He said to me that day.

People are messy. But that’s not a bad thing.  It was so easy to keep my life in order when I was on my own.  Without distractions.  Without conflict.  But neither was there any laughter when Gene wasn’t home. There wasn’t anyone to share the victories, or help carry the burden either.

With a little conversation, I laid out for Gene what I was trying to do, and now, I’m not the only one loading up the dishwasher! So even though people can be messy, the burden is lighter when it is shared.

Here is my lesson from God. People are messy but worth it.  What good is a clean home, if there is no one to share life in it?  I think God views us that way too.  I sure know I’m a mess!  But God still wades into a relationship with me, bringing his patience and Grace every day,  God said it Himself:  “two are better than one…a chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12)

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean

When I married, over 30 years ago, I was young, foolish, and oh so unprepared for the responsibilities of a household. On top of it all, my 2 new sisters-in-law were straight from Marvel Comics and Better Homes and Gardens! They were Wonder Woman and Martha Stewart (before her prison time that is).

Donna was a woman finishing her degree, working full time, raising 3 boys and whose house was always spotless!  Lucy, was Super Mom – attending every football and basketball game, feeding her family organically before that was trendy, and again, with a perfectly clean home. Me? I couldn’t cook and half the time I had to wash dishes just to try!

I adore my two sisters of the heart who are 15 and 20 years my senior. Through the years they took me under their wings, taught me how to cook, clean, and other life skills. One thing I haven’t mastered from them though, is their self-discipline. You see, my house cycles from tidy to chaos like the tides come and go. I clean it up…I mess it up….I clean it up….I Mess it up. I can’t even lay the blame on kids because we don’t have any. It’s all us.

I call it “20 minutes till clean” and my friends know to give me 20 minutes to get things in order before they drop by. For years I’ve been ok with that philosophy….lately though I’ve been thinking…

You see, God has filled the world with mirrors of the spiritual realm. For example, God is faithful, like the rising of the sun, and even our families are designed to teach us about our relationship with our spiritual Father.

So, I can’t help thinking that my philosophy of housekeeping is a reflection of my spiritual health. To my shame, I can see the parallels to my story. My spiritual life is good for a while, then I mess it up, God comes and cleans it up, and I mess it up again. Over and over God and I do this little dance. Doesn’t He ever get tired of cleaning up my mess?

The bigger question is, do I tolerate my God life being 20 minutes from clean?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT saying you have to be perfect before you come to God, or to stay in a relationship with Him. Jesus did all that work! And we stand perfect and blameless before God, wrapped in the righteousness of Christ! – Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

It’s more like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder and inviting me to the next level of depth in my relationship with God. I can hear Him saying… “it could be even better. Let’s try something new…”

He’s been talking to me through the scriptures. Here are a just a couple to think about:

  • “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way”  (Col 1:9-11)
  • and again “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written ‘Be holy because I am holy.'” (I Peter 1:15-16)

Can I honestly say to I live that way? Not so much.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to let my discipline in the physical realm remind me to pay attention to my spiritual discipline. If I fail, I’ll learn to lean more fully on God’s grace – win-win!

I’m told it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. That means my target is May 15. I’m going to pick 2 rooms – my kitchen and the bathroom.

Instead of 20 minutes till clean, my goal is  to keep them 5 minutes till clean, and each day when I’m doing dishes, sweeping or dusting, I’ll think about my relationship with God, I’ll look for ways to be more holy, ways to be more like Jesus every day.  Check back and see how I do!

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™