What Am I Covering Up?

A large, purple plastic bowl lay upside down on the cement slab of our back patio. The bowl had been there for several days, untouched like the pile of discarded, mud-caked sneakers next to the back door.

Assuming the old bowl had toppled from the patio table, I stooped to pick it up.

My stomach lurched.

Beneath the purple bowl was a wet mess of rotting … cat puke.

My cat pleads the Fifth Amendment, but Someone covered the puke rather than clean it up.

“I didn’t want anyone to step into the mess,” Someone later explained.

Covered it up? Were you ever planning to clean it up?   

But even in this ….disgusting cat puke hidden beneath a purple bowl, I had an AHA moment about SIN.

Shuddered to think people, even those closest to me, might look “beneath my bowl” and see my disgusting sin.

Lips sealed, fingers crossed, do I hide sin behind good works? Masquerade as a good Christian, wearing blinders rather than confront my sin?

Out of sight, out of mind, I fool myself.

 “Oh God, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you (Psalm 69:5).

 “He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28: 13).

King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder. When David covered his sin, he suffered.

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:4)  

When David came to his senses, he humbly came before the Lord.

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my heart” (verse 5).

Heaven forbid I cover my sin by comparing myself with others; pat myself on the back. I’m not as bad as….  

“Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else’s view, carries the same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior (Matt. 5:21-30).” ~ John MacAuthur

The only remedy for sin involves uncovering our guilt.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us ours sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Scream for Help

“Get over here now!”

The young mom screamed at her two-year-old son who trailed behind as she marched into the women’s restroom.

Stopping at the entrance, the boy began to cry. The mom hollered from within, “Shut up and get in here!”

The toddler stood his ground, wailing. The mom emerged, grabbed him by the shirt collar and carried him into the bathroom.

My neck grew warm. I hurried into the bathroom, ready to intervene for the defenseless boy.

Just as I entered, the mom smacked his bottom and fussed at him, “hurry up and pee.”

Then her angry commands turned to pleas, “Stop crying!”

Heart pounding, I walked to the open stall and stood in front of them. The boy gazed up at me, whimpering, while the mom yanked up his pants; her face bent towards the floor.

“I know you’re exasperated.”

I spoke softly, hoping a gentle answer turns away wrath.

“Perhaps if you didn’t scream at him, he’d stop crying.”

She didn’t respond.

 “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Without looking up, she spoke succinctly, “I have this under control, Ma’am.”

Certain the situation was defused, I left them alone.

Minutes later, she came out of the restroom carrying the quiet child, his head on her shoulder. Was this the norm? Screaming fits between mother and child? He who screams loudest wins?

I shuddered to think how she handles conflict in the privacy of her home. I feared for the child. Even if she doesn’t beat him, no child should hear his mother’s berating tone.

But as much as her behavior repulsed me, I longed to reach out. Show her a better way.

Would she receive my words? Accept my help?

 Even now, my heart remains heavy.

Is Jesus’ heart any less grieved by what He sees?

A hand is reaching out in the sky for help Stock Photo - 11432611“MY Hand is not shortened and it is ‘stretched out still,’ longing and waiting to be allowed to bless and help and save.

Think how tenderly I respect the right of each individual soul. Never forcing upon it My Help, My Salvation.

 Perhaps in all My suffering for humanity that is the hardest, the restraint of the Divine Impatience and longing to help, until the call of the soul gives ME My right to act.

 Comfort My waiting, loving, longing Heart by claiming My Help, Guidance, and Miracle-working Power.”—God Calling

And so I pray even in this … for that mother to know the love of Christ.

Does a Broken Spirit Hurt?

  I’m done!” I fussed. “I refuse to plant something else in that hole!”

Those angry words, along with the memory of my husband and daughter chopping down my Japanese maple, were like television re-runs in my head a week after the fact (previous blog).

I’d confessed my sin before God and apologized to my family for my emotional outburst, but I’d rewind the tape, stuck in self condemnation.

I knew I was forgiven, but the weight of sin and my inability to walk in a manner worthy of Christ held me captive.

When I shared my sorrow with others, I was told to lighten up. “You’re justified in your anger. I’d be furious too.”

Perhaps, but God used that felled tree to prune my heart and rip out the root of bitterness  that had been growing inside of me long before that autumn day.

And the process was painful.

Not unlike a broken bone whose fracture has to be re-aligned in order to heal properly.

The image of wearing sackcloth and covering my head in ashes as a sign of repentance became a Biblical truth that finally went from my head to my heart. And left me …

Broken.

Which isn’t a spiritually bad place to be.

Because Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

For that’s when spiritual transformation and healing begins.

Because the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Not unlike the sinful woman who brought an alabaster jar of perfume to a Pharisee’s house where Jesus was dining. “And she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them…Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:36-50).

As God restored to me the joy of His salvation, I longed to be like that woman and show my adoration towards Christ who forgives sin and tells me to “go in peace.”

Instead of pouring perfume on His feet, I erased the tape of re-runs in my head.

And where the Japanese maple once stood in my yard, I ate my words and planted a fragrant Italian Cypress.

Ever green; ever a reminder that even in this situation,

Beauty can rise from ashes and mourning turn to joy

When Christ is allowed to be the Gardener of my soul.

Which Church Does God Attend?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”

Voices rose in unison, but it was high school students instead of a robe-clad choir that sang the lyrics.

Harmonious music filled the building, but it was acoustical guitars rather than a piped organ that played the notes.

Florescent lights rather than religious fresco paintings stared from the ceiling.

Wooden bleachers instead of mahogany pews,

A plain wooden cross on a concrete wall instead of stain-glassed windows….

This was the scene in a high school gym, chapel service in a Christian school.

No visual match for the magnificent architecture and religious artifacts I’d witnessed on a trip to Europe where Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox cathedrals dominated the landscape.

And yet, in this remote, unassuming school, God’s Spirit was present.

Wooing teenagers; igniting hearts for Christ.

Youthful hands, raised heavenward, proclaimed God’s holiness.

Troubled souls came forward and asked for prayer.

As a parent, I worshiped with the student body; observed a glimpse of God’s grace and glory revealed in “His church” which isn’t made of bricks and mortar.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

 Can I wrap my mind around that fact?

Regardless of church affiliation or denomination, as a follower of Christ, I belong to the:

Body of Christ (Romans 12:5)

Bought with His blood (Acts 20:28)

Brought together as one to “worship Him in Spirit and Truth” (John 4:24)

“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

 Surely the splendor of a cathedral is reminiscent of Solomon’s Temple; a microcosm of God’s own beauty and majesty.

But Jesus told a Samaritan woman the place of worship isn’t important. How people worship matters.

“Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4: 21, 23,24)

God is spirit, He is everywhere.

And “the spirit or the soul of man, as influenced by the Holy Spirit, must worship God, and have communion with him. Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

Even in this place….chapel service at a high school gym.

My Space

     The young girl within me giggled when I walked into the hotel room. It was immaculate. And there was a king-size bed just for me.  I plopped down on the pillow-top mattress.

I can watch whatever on television. I can stay up late reading. I can eat crackers in bed…it’s all my space.

Odd those ten hours of space would trigger my emotions.

I remember being a child on family vacations. Long hours driving down the highway in our Ford station wagon. My younger brother stretches out on the back bench seat, his feet crossing the imaginary line we agreed upon.

“Mommm, tell R…to get on his own side!”

As a teenager, if little brother walked into my bedroom uninvited,“Mom, tell R… to get out of my room!”

In my twenties, two spaces became one. Not only did I have to share my personal space, so did the groom. After the honeymoon, I had to ask, “Honey, may I have some closet space for my clothes?”

Then the children arrived and there was no space. They thought nothing of knocking on my bathroom door.

“Mommy!”

“Can’t it wait?”

“Tell J….to leave me alone.”

Now that two of our children are grown, I have more space. But some days I want it all to myself. Don’t ask me why. I only know, for one night I had my space. And it was good.

Then came self-imposed guilt.

I thought of the excellent wife described in Proverbs 31. According to verses 15 and 18, she didn’t have any space. The woman “gets up while it is still dark, and her lamp does not go out at night.”

Then again, perhaps we aren’t so different. Many a day, I rose while it was “still dark” to feed my babies and rock them back to sleep. Plenty of “nights” I stayed awake to stroke my children’s feverish brows.

As on-call wife and mom, I carved my space out of early mornings and midnight hours. Then I learned to share that space with God.

How can a woman be a good steward, serve her family, and minister to the needy without enough space?

The same way Jesus handled the masses and moments of each day.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed” (Mark 1:35 NIV).

Need space? Rise early while it’s still dark, and pray…

Even in this season of life.

Put on the Oxygen Mask

By Saturday morning, I was tapped out.

All week, I had been with people. Serving some. Listening to others vent. Now I needed to visit jail for one-on-one counseling, but I had nothing left to give.

My head pounded. My body was like a limp rag. How can I share the gospel when I can barely remember my name? I had to reschedule.

Too often, helping humanity seems more exhausting than yard work or housework. My back may ache as I pull weeds or push a mop, but I’m on autopilot. At the end of the task, I feel productive, even energized.

When it comes to people, particularly listening to their problems, I’m drained. That’s because I absorb people’s moods like a sponge. Think I can fix them. Fall back into people pleasing.

“You’re an answer to prayer,” someone told me, after I resolved her problem. Now I have the problem.

Practically speaking, I must:

Set boundaries

Stop rescuing

Say NO…without guilt.

Spiritually speaking, I must:

Meditate on the Word

Ask for Wisdom

Obey God’s Will 

   In Mark 1: 21-38, Jesus spent the day in Capernaum healing many people with various diseases, and casting out demons. Verse 33 says “the whole city had gathered at the door.” So how did Jesus avoid burn out?

 Verse 35:  “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out to a lonely place, and was praying there.” 

Simon hunts for Jesus and says, everyone is looking for you.” But prayer was a priority. Jesus understood His purpose (verse 38) and wasn’t going to be derailed by everyone’s demands.

If Jesus, in his humanity, had to pray and seek the Father’s will, then I must:

  • Have the mind of Christ so I can…
  • Have a sacrificial servant’s heart so I can…
  • Have His love and strength to help others without sabotaging myself. 

Bottom line, I must:

Remember prayer gives me a right perspective so I can respond properly to my relationships and problems. 

In other words, “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

And take a deep spiritual breath.

 

 

 

  

   

Still the One

Open Bible. Read His Word. Pray.

I’ve got the routine down. But this morning I’m only going through the motions.

Check my spiritual pulse. It’s as though I’m flat line_____.

No inspiration. No spark.

Need the Holy Spirit to jump start my heart.

Driving to jail for Bible study, I pray, “Lord, restore to me the joy of Thy salvation.” How do I show others Your power when I feel the lack?

Can’t trust my feelings. Hold onto the facts.

Twenty women dressed in red, with faces hard as the concrete walls. Television blares. Inmates engrossed in board games ignore me. Loathe who I am.

I wait until one adventurous soul brings her Bible and joins me at the table. And then another. We are three women gathered in His name. Take turns reading Scripture aloud because God’s word “will not return to Him empty, Without accomplishing what He desires…” (Isaiah 55:11).

One time a paralyzed man came to Jesus for healing, but first Jesus forgave the man’s sins. “Which is easier,” Jesus said, “to say to the paralytic ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘arise and take up your pallet and walk?’ But in order that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins –He said to the paralytic-– ‘I say to you rise, take up your pallet, and go home’ ” (Mark 2:9-11).

And he did. More important, his sins were forgiven. Just like myself and two inmates.

His Spirit lives within us. But the goal is to let His Spirit reign.

We read, discuss, and pray. Three lit candles shining in the dark. Not knowing someone watches and waits to come to the table, drawn by the light.

“Will you pray for me?” the woman asks when the other two have left.

Like the paralytic, she wants the tangible rather than eternal. Prefers a prayer request instead of a personal relationship. Still I pray, hoping she’ll seek Jesus who rescues sinners and then answers prayers.

I leave the room. Hurry down a long hallway, listening to my heels click on the cement floor. Watch the video cameras watching me.

Metal doors snap unlock so I can open and close. One door after another until at last I’m on the outside.  I soak up the sun’s warmth as a fresh breeze brushes my face.

I feel His pleasure, the joy of His salvation.

Because Jesus is the Living God. Still healing. Still forgiving.

Telling me, “Arise.”