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Archive for June, 2014

berries

I examine the underside of my forearm post berry-picking.  Ragged.

Even with long sleeves and snake boots, the brambles always seem to get the best of me.

Black raspberries sprawl out among the weeds for as far as I can see.  A grateful host to this favored member of the rose family, my backyard delicately draws me day after day.

I consider the thorns.  Moreover, I consider the consistent nature of my treasures.  I must trespass through the timber to track them, but they always turn up right on time.  I pluck the bushes bare of black ones only to find today’s unready reds respectfully ripe tomorrow.

I think of Eden.   Why do we not see paradise when it stretches in front of us?  I think of manna.  How can we desire more; different; better when we’ve been given the very best?  But we do.  We invite the thorns in our self-centered discontent.  We forfeit perfect provision in exchange for poison.

Still, he gives.  He gives the thorns.  Grace.  He gives the wounds in proper portion.  The roses will come, but now they must wait.  He measures out the pound of cure where prevention has not preceded.  He appropriates the pain in order to position the pandering passions of the perpetually imprisioned.

Only a deliberately forgetful father could manage to land a self-consumed exile in a place where both pleasure and pain penetrate in perfected partnership straight to the most permanent places.

The rose family.  How could I have not known?  Everything worth anything is protected; difficult; laborious; risk-bearing.  A wise man once told me I would never obtain a rose without first climbing over the thorns.

Careful.  I must be more careful.  Painful pricks ever remind me.  Regret.  Somehow an armful of scratches seems a small price to pay for a basketful of blackberries.  I think of Eve.  Somehow a body full of brokenness seems just as small a price for an unblemished bride.

Could it be?  Could a world full of the fall’s frailties really be so small a price?  Could the grand schematic really include both the roses and the thorns on purpose?

It could.  And it really is ok.  Funny thing about schematics…I never could read them right.  Daddy was an engineer.  He always knew just what they meant.  Sometimes he even wrote them.  I am assured in my recollections just how true it is that my divine daddy is still the director of this debonair display.

I examine the underside of my forearm post berry-picking.  Ragged.

Even with long sleeves and snake boots, the brambles always seem to get the best of me.  But I heard the pastor say that one cannot carry an old rugged cross withoug winning some sharp splinters in the process.  It really is ok.  I love berries.  They remind me of my daddy and my father.

  Following love always demands sacrifice, but it is so small a price for such a grand reward.  I know there is a barracade of thorns.  Reach for the rose anyway.

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speeding

Dense fog covers the highway.  Slow down.  I remember yesterday’s warning and I stop speeding.  For the remainder of my trip I think of him.

Grace.  The man in uniform extended grace as unexpected as his presence.  No ticket was issued.  No points were affixed.  Despite my best attempts to let luck run out, life number nine was not the end.

I live speeding.  I’ve been stopped at least half a dozen times in the past year.  I have no excuse.  Generally, I don’t even have a reason.  The tickets don’t faze me.  But today I am changed.  Today I was overcome with gratitude when I turned onto that foggy 25 mph road where I was stopped the day before.

I thought about what I would say if I was stopped again and it grieved me.  Then, a miracle for the girl who married a drag racing mad man.  I slowed down.  I drove 25 mph for the several mile stretch through town.  During what had always felt like a total waste of time, I looked around.  I gave thanks.  I appreciated my surroundings and the laws that seek to protect them.

It was grace that slowed me down.  It was grace that corrected my hellbent rebellion.  It is grace that makes me stop and think about the goodness of the law.  It is grace that grieves me when I find myself breaking it again.

It grieves me.  When the mercy of a man who owes you nothing but a forceful demand for retribution shows up on your doorstep, all that’s left to do is take a good, hard look at your own careless, sneaking rebellion in light of his goodness.  One cannot help but grieve.

But I was let go.  No penalty.  I got away with it, right?  I should be laughing.  But, no.  When forgiveness finds us, forgetfulness about our most famous failures is not an option.  No.  There is only one option – slowing down, grieveing over our misconduct, and living a life filled with newfound appriciation for the grandiose gift we were freely given.

Will I ever break the speed limit again?  Chances are I will, albeit unintentionally, still fail at times.  I do know this, though, there scarce will come a day when I drive 60 mph through that particular 25 mph stretch without slowing down and remembering the goodness of that one man’s grace.  His road is safe with me.

Furthermore, when I am struggling to extend grace to those who have offended me, I will ever think of him.

No amount of punishment changes a heart as stubborn as mine.  That’s why Jesus came extending lavish grace.  He knows tickets don’t really faze us.  Bit and bridle may change behavior, but only grace and mercy bind the heart to blithe obedience.  That, my dear readers, is why the gospel works and prisons do not.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyoVJfADlwo

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maleficent


Surprising as it was creative, Angelina Jolie’s new movie Maleficent captured my heart. Expecting a dark story line about a sinister witch, I came out reminding myself never to jump to hasty conclusions about either sketchy or squeaky clean characters until the whole story is told.

Disney hit the mark once again successfully finding a way to make identifying with their main character effortless and natural.  Let’s face it, unless you’re under 16 and going through a Gothic phase, Maleficent is an unlikely role model at first glance.  As a Christian, home schooling mom of three young girls who has never once been tempted to paint my fingernails with jet black polish, making Maleficent my mentor is no small feat.  Nevertheless, Disney managed to do just that.  *Spoiler alert* Here’s how:

Maleficent did do something terribly selfish and wrong as we were schooled by the original Sleeping Beauty  – this much is true.  It is what was done to her before that act that changes one’s heart about who she really is underneath.  An unimaginable evil had been done to her by the only man she’d ever trusted – by the only man she’d ever loved.  He had all of her and he stole the part of herself she held most dear for his own greed.

Maleficent took revenge.  She made sure the pain she had experienced did not pale in comparison to the pain she inflicted.  Still, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Maleficent learns as much after the fact.

When Maleficent was maimed by the one she loved, she was still very strong and powerful, but, she was no longer free.  She allowed the immense pain felt in her heart and the entrapment of her circumstances to turn her whole world black, color her decisions dark, and drive her to do evil.  She was no longer happy or kind or full of joy as she had always been before.  Because of the magnitude of what she suffered, she forgot how to be who she really was – the leader who protected others from evil.

That is the crux of the story.  That is how Disney wins.  Everyone wants to believe they are a good person who, once in a while, does bad things when seriously provoked.  No one wants to believe they are a bad person who is acting out their true character when evil emerges from within.  Unless, of course, they are innately evil in which case they may identify more with the king in this film.

It got me to thinking…are there really good people and bad people?  Is it really that simple?  Many will say, “Yes.”  I believe the answer is, “No.”  There are only changed people and unchanged people.  By the end of the movie, Maleficent was among the changed.  She was as beautiful as she had ever been inside and out, only now she was mature in her beauty and her character.  I guess she had to be an ugly duckling for a moment in time in order to get there.  I guess we all do on our way to forgiveness, grace, and maturity.  One cannot grow in grace if she need never find a reason to extend it.  She cannot learn to forgive if she is not first grievously offended.  One cannot learn selflessness without having to sacrifice.  She cannot fully mature if she is not tested and proven through a whole life of trials, failures, successes, blessing and adversity.  Even Jesus Christ in all his perfection was not fully mature in obedience until he walked through his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” ~Hebrews 5:8-9

Maleficent’s anger and and revenge only lasted a moment.  She was not the monster we all thought she was all these years.  She was simply hurt.  As the old adage goes, hurt people hurt people.  But she learned how to love truly through forgiveness, grace, and mercy…just like non-Gothic stay at home moms who love Jesus and are afraid of witches.  Matter of fact, I believe that is the only way it has ever been done.

Bravo, Disney.  Maleficent was magnificent!

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