Posts tagged Beauty
The rain in the night brought rough waves and ocean gifts the next morning. As the tide rolled out it left a trail of treasures like opened toys on Christmas morning. The large lump on the beach drew special attention. Walkers swerved to look at it and continued on their clipped pace. Children, held firm by watchful mothers, stopped to gaze from a safe distance. Even ever-hungry seagulls took a tentative peck at it. For more than an hour it was a topic of wonder and sadness— another jellyfish washed ashore.
It was my friend, Heather, who kept going back to it over and over. Finally she leaned close —observing, waiting, watching and then she bee-lined it back to our lounge chairs.
“I think that jellyfish is still alive,” she said, slightly out of breath. In a moment I was sitting there processing data:
It may have been alive, but its now been out of water too long.
Do we care if a jellyfish is alive? After all, that is one less potential sting in the gray Atlantic water.
How does one rescue a jellyfish?
She looked at our non-response, perplexed. “I see things moving on it,” she insisted, as if we had not heard her or believed her. “Its gill things are flapping.”
“It’s trying to breathe, I guess.” I said out loud. Something about that statement shocked me into action. A flurry of activity followed. With a float, a small umbrella, and smaller courage, we marched back down the beach to see our potential patient or corpse. It was a cannonball jellyfish but its normally dome head was flattened on one side like a ball that had lost its air. Still its wavy fringes remained a deep red. I slid the jelly onto the float with the umbrella, walked knee deep into the water, and slung the gellish blob back into its salty home. And we waited.
It bobbed in the water on its side the same way it had landed in the water. A wave rushed over it and then we only saw the dome head. I expected it to come back toward me in the tide so I stepped back out to ankle deep water. But instead of coming toward me, it went deep and was gone.
I stood there in a holy moment. Why had I just let that creature lie there for so long suffering? Why had I assumed its condition instead of investigating? Why had I been so slow to respond to my friend’s urgent face and plea for help?
It was just one stupid jellyfish. Who cares? But it wasn’t. It was me, and my friends, and all of us lying on the beach. Someone had taken the time to stop and look at us. Instead of leaving us for dead, or looking at our misery out of curiosity or warning, or trying feed off our helplessness, someone took the time to lean down, get close, and look for signs of life. Someone bothered to bring us back to the Living Water.
After high-fives for our heroic rescue, Heather told us that the brain is in the jelly’s dome. “You could see things working and moving in there.” she said with wonder. The true wonder is that she had to get close enough to see that. She had to risk herself to rescue it.
Rescue. God’s heart beats with a desire for rescue. Take time today to look at people around you. Who lies helpless on the beach in need of someone to get him or her back in the water of life? Don’t assume you already know the diagnosis. Look for signs of life.
You don’t have to take them home to raise. Just give them a push back in the right direction so they can breathe again.
Be the person that makes a difference. Be the person who responds to a cry for help. You never know whose life will be saved. It might be your own.
Photo by Heather Terflinger
Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality of God’s grace.
I have these random memories. Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me. One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.” (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)
“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride, independence, superiority. Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar. I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING. I only wanted to do enough to make Chuck act better for me. After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.
So I did. It did. God did. I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction. God was up to something better for me, for us. My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice. Jesus knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.
From years 10-15, there are lots of memories and journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”
Funny now to think of it all. I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day. 8030 days. Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk. Sometimes, He pulled us along, His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…
“Look at Me.”
“Expect Me to Change Things.”
“Believe for Good.”
I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me. In that world of marital staying power, I am only a youngster. But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment. He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.
His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?
Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time. After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here? I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”
Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work. With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows. Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.
Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.
I almost pulled up the plant last weekend out of disappointment. I thought it was dead. After I put it in the ground last fall, I expected it to be one of the first things to bloom this spring. Forsythias are budding all over town and yet mine was only woody sticks. But yesterday, though still looking “mostly dead” there is one small branch of yellow life.
It prompted me to go look at other plants and trees I thought were dead. Sure enough, tiny buds or slightest shades of green were pushing up from the ground or out of brown bark. Just like the Lord said last week, “Spring is coming.” Hope indeed is pushing tender buds out of cold winter earth once more.
As I pulled dead stalks of flowers and scraped away mulch and leaves where buds should be, the Lord prompted me to consider the difference between New Life and Life from the Dead.
We love to say that Easter is about New Life. (Don’t even get me started on the Easter Bunny.) But New Life is looking for growth where I planted bulbs last year, or hoping for a positive pregnancy test. That is, we look for new life to come from seed that we have planted.
But Life from the Dead is altogether different. Death leads to decay. Dust to dust. No one goes to a cemetery and expects to see a living person. No one goes to ashes or corpses and expects flesh or breath. And here rises a much more powerful hope.
We love, and are loved by, the God of the Resurrection. He is the One who brought life and breath back into the dear, mangled body of Jesus. This is the true miracle of Easter. There was no hope left hanging on the empty cross. But when God called His Son back to life, then True Life began. A life beyond the curse, a life full of truly living hope became ours through Him.
Life after death. Life instead of death. Life over death.
When Jesus came out of that grave, it wasn’t just about forgiveness of sin. It was about the Life that is now possible to us. In us. Through us.
Jeremy Caris said in church yesterday that God’s principle of “what you sow you will reap” is an eternal spiritual law. And God in His goodness and mercy, “sowed Jesus” on our behalf so that we might reap a life that is far more than we dreamed possible.
It is a wondrous thing to consider the meaning of Resurrection Sunday. It is a life-changing thing to consider where does my hope come from? And what do I believe God can do in me? Bring New Life? or Life back from the Dead?
It was one of those middle of the night Jesus wake-up calls. I was having terrible dreams anyway so the tug to get up was a relief. I grabbed a blanket off the bed and sat in a chair in the dark. Chuck’s steady breathing was the only sound.
The last comment I remembered from my dream was “where is my heart?” I just sat there in a half awake stupor trying to sort real from spirit from dreaming. It was so bright outside that I thought the moon was out but as my eyes adjusted I realized the white was snow.
I walked out into the kitchen and saw my snow- covered deck. “It’s supposed to be spring,” I mumbled to myself. And as I pondered the paradox of snow in March, the lesson began. “Your heart?” The Spirit pressed on me.
“My heart is covered in snow. It’s supposed to be blooming, but it’s covered in snow.” I whispered quietly.
“But Spring is coming,” He said.
“You’re gonna have to do something about this snow first, ” I said, half joking, half begging. Then I heard a line from a song. “All My love is for you, All My Love is yours.”
I stood there barefooted, wrapped in a blanket, stunned…
This conversation has been persisting for almost a week now. And Jesus, being the “Faithful Strength” that He is, has been so patient, so tender, so encouraging.
Here are some points to ponder thus far:
Don’t rush the process. God is taking His own sweet time in bringing relief and revelation to me. So I am choosing to slow down, cut out, start fresh, whatever it takes to be able to listen when He brings insight.
Confess the hurt. God is really challenging me to not fake, dismiss, or minimize the season. My heart is really going through the ringer. He is revealing wounding, sin and potential all in one loving step. Only God can do that well. But a few true friends can ease the journey. So He has asked me to share, but to share with wisdom. “Above all else, guard your heart.” Don’t hide it, guard it.
Believe in the promises. Just because the route changes, doesn’t mean the destination has. God has not changed His promises so He has asked me to stand on Him even when everything is shifting. I can be uncomfortable, even miserable, and STILL be in Him.
All My love is yours. Hard to feel sorry for yourself and believe this at the same time. He has given medicine for every cut, and comfort for every heartache. True to His nature, He has also given humor.
Look at the photo I took just yesterday. I rolled out ready to scrape off a layer of ice and the Lord stopped me. “Oh look,” He said. “There is ice on your car. But it is melting. I wonder what is melting the ice?”
“Very funny. You are so very funny. The sun…. or is that the Son? ” I said laughing. “I got it. I got it. The Son will melt the ice on my heart.”
Thank you Jesus. Your presence is our every hope.
Time to get serious. The WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections” is really challenging me about why do we want what we want? And why are we rarely satisfied with what we want?
You can watch the classes online for these revelations about desire gone awry and its rescue. But for a sobering affect, I am sharing this photo from one of my summer cleansings.
66. Actually 66 pairs of shoes. There’s a good excuse or story about each pair. Sure some of them are old. Sure some of them are “special occasion” only. Some were from Goodwill, some were gifts. But stilll…66 pairs of shoes? Really?
I made myself pull them all out on the floor and look at them. It was gross. It was excessive. It was gluttony of a different kind. I had a flashback to high school when I had only four pairs of shoes. I had a flashback to my Zimbabwe trip in 2010 when the children and adults had No pairs.
I want to share part of my personal mandate. It was a holy moment when Jesus whispered a secret in my ear of where we were going together. (Only in part you understand, He rarely gives us full detail.) And after a moment of incredulous joy I took a deep breath and said, “Wow, how are we going to that?”
“You must reorder your life,” He said.
That was in December 2011. And in the last 13 months He has continued to refocus my energies and attentions. He has brought books about simplifying, fasting, and letting go. He’s revealed moments of just how deep the affection for “more” really is in my heart. One moment was while we were on vacation. The beach condo we stayed at had a wickedly beautiful walk-in closet. Chuck and I walked in and giggled, “Yeah baby, how about this?” “This is what I need,” I said. “I hate how small our closets are at home.” I have an ongoing battle with my clothes being hung and put away, therefore clothes are often in piles on the floor.
Fast forward a couple of weeks through times with the Lord and some very pointed books about excess. I stood in front of my small but sufficient walk-in closet and I said out loud to the Lord, “How about I get rid of enough clothes to fit in my closet instead wanting a bigger closet for more clothes?” I felt Him nod in happy agreement. Hence the reason my floor was covered in shoes.
Does it sound noble that I whittled my collection down to 33 pairs? Can I actually stomach the thought of that many pairs of shoes even though some of them are only worn once or twice a year? This is just one area of balancing that I am going after.
Here is what I am doing. You are welcome to join me. I am flushing my excess throughout my whole life. We swept our bedrooms, including the girls’ rooms. If I don’t curb my “more” appetites, how will they learn they don’t “need” every toy, shirt, shoe, and stuff, stuff, stuff. They are so much happier now that there is room for “them” in their room, instead of their stuff. Then there are the books, our junk piles, my food choices. (Perhaps, just perhaps, Starbucks and Diet Coke is not a constitutional right.)
I asked a ministry that serves the homeless if they would take our clothes. “Gladly, the homeless wear coats all year long,” she said. I put two coats in the box and was thankful and humbled that I had so many to choose from.
Here is the bottom line. God is asking me, and maybe you, to slough off those “things” that require our time. What do I spend time doing? Is it really necessary? If I didn’t have that, would I live? Would I have more time? more space to think? more energy to be with Him?
Not a hermit mindset, but a free one. More is really attainable. But it probably starts with less.
You can watch the WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections.” online for more revelations about true freedom.