I Love the Imperfection

Last week, I went into an antique store to browse old furniture. The man who worked there showed me a handmade fireplace mantel. He pointed to the scratches in the wood, and the uneven design along the front. Then he caressed a round, black stain on top of the mantel where a wet glass or candle had stood.

“I love the imperfection of it,” he said.

“What did you say?” 

“I love the imperfection,” he repeated, “because that’s what makes antique furniture unique and have character.”

Unique is not a word I’d use to describe the queen-sized bed frame I recently bought. It was manufactured in China, came in a cardboard carton, assembled by yours truly, and seemingly without defect … unlike the reflection of imperfection that stared back at me from a hazy, antique mirror.

I combed my hair with my fingers and left the store asking myself, do I love the imperfection in myself or others?

Absolutely not! I’ve been programmed from birth to look my best, be my best, and do my best.

Imperfection, the flawed condition of humanity, hides behind good intentions and exasperation. “I’m sorry, but I’m doing the best I can!”

But my very best falls short of the commandment to “Be perfect just as my Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Why would a holy, perfect God love me; the poster child of imperfection?

I try to wrap my mind around His love and grace, but imperfect emotions distort my vision. I return to His Word where truth resides:

And put my faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Earthly perfection is impossible this side of heaven. But like the Apostle Paul, I can be “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

IF I rest in that knowledge, I can stop striving to be perfect, and instead, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”(Hebrews 12: 2,3)

Since my visit to the antique shop, I have enjoyed the warmth of a crackling fire on a winter’s day. The polished wooden mantelpiece is smooth to my touch; it is not old or unique. But the words of a stranger, “I love the imperfection,” stirs my heart because it shows me how God “whose way is perfect” used even this to bring Himself praise.

Rainy days and Mondays

It’s Monday evening and my husband says, “You’re in a mood, today. You know that right?”

I nod, and take another bite of cold salad.

“Is it the rain?”

I pause to hear the drumbeat of water falling from the sky. This is not the patter of little feet dancing on my roof.

“We need the rain,” I sigh. “But I miss the sun.”

The sun: that giant, fireball that emanates warmth, and light, and draws my eyes upward to celestial heights.  I know the sun’s still there if I could just fly above the gray clouds that hang over me like a heavy tarp.

When I’m in a melancholy mood, I browse through my spiritual journals, hoping for previous insights or a spark to fan the embers. On this particular January day, several years ago, I’d written in my God Calling journal, “Today is gray and cold. I lack joy and feel indifferent towards the Lord.”

The enemy loves to use January weather to derail me.

In that same journal, I’d underlined a sentence, “You must say ‘Thank You’ on the grayest days. You must do it. All cannot be light unless you do. There is gray-day practice. It is absolutely necessary.”

There’s the formula to an improved mood. Did it work?

I turn the page where I’d written about an awesome worship time with the Lord, and the verse. “He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I scan scribbled words, written from a heart anchored to God in the storm, “We are on a life journey which consists of hills and valleys where our vision is limited. We can’t know what’s coming around the bend. So we take one step at a time, knowing He is with us, and “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NAS)

I close the journal, my scrapbook of heartaches and joy-filled God moments. I’m not sure what plagued my soul back then. Perhaps it was the rain. But I know how I escaped the pit of indifference and despair.

I sought the Lord even when I wasn’t in the mood. I praised His name and said ‘Thank you’ even when I didn’t feel grateful.

“I am your God. Your Great Reward. Yours to look up and say, ‘All is well.’”

And so He is, and my soul is well, even in this…..

Rainy days and Mondays.

Please Send Stamps

A belated Christmas card arrived in the mail this week. It was from a female inmate whom I’ve been corresponding with during the past year. Her handwriting was bold and neat. She wished me well, thanked me for sending her a package of Christmas cards with postage last month, and after her signature, she added a postscript:

“Could you please send stamps?”

“Why am I not surprised?”

As a volunteer jail chaplain, I teach Bible to women inmates, and on occasion, I correspond with some of them when they go away to prison. I understand their need for positive relationships and spiritual encouragement while they’re behind bars. It’s a mutual blessing.

But this woman never ends her letters without requesting something from me.

Sometimes I feel she’s taking advantage of me. Even Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

But on this particular day, her request for stamps struck a nerve.

 How often do I pray to my Heavenly Father, without adding my laundry list of needs and wants?

“I love you Lord, thank you Lord, but could you please send: a job, healing, financial aid, help, wisdom, success, new car….”

I KNOW God wants Christians to “devote ourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). His Word says “pray without ceasing” for the details of our day including: our daily bread, to avoid temptation, forgiveness, when we’re suffering, for each other, for those who persecute us.

“Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

However, because God cares for me, shouldn’t I also seek God for Himself alone; with no personal agenda than being in His presence?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4, 5)

The Christmas card is now taped over my desk as a reminder:

Spend more time praising God and less time saying,

“Please send ….”

                

Touchdown


I’m snuggled beneath warm sheets when my alarm clock pesters me to rise and shine. I stumble out of bed, sleepy-eyed, and head for the kitchen. Friends are coming to our house after church to watch televised football games.

First order of business: brew myself a hot cup of French-pressed coffee. Within minutes, my full cup sits idle on the kitchen counter while I hurry through my to-do list. If there’s one thing I know about my “men folk,” they want their appetites fed the moment they walk through the door on Sunday afternoons. So I melt Velveeta cheese, make a taco bean dip, and dice lettuce and tomatoes for our Mexican feast. 

Husband and son stroll into the kitchen ready for church as I rush by them to get dressed. But when I re-emerge from the bedroom with Bible and purse in hand, I’m informed there’s a change in plans.

Our company canceled.

Seriously?

Self-centered thoughts surface and swim in my head like blood-thirsty sharks. What about all the food? Do we invite someone else? I wish I’d known an hour ago.  

Instead of lending a voice to my thoughts, I apply scripture. I put a “guard around my mouth” (Psalm 141:3) and “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)    

 


   

   After church, my husband stands in the kitchen scooping tortilla chips into the quesadilla dip. “Tastes good, Karen. I’m sorry our friends couldn’t come, but you’re handling it well.”

  His comment makes me grow two inches taller. “You’re right, especially when I consider how easily I got frustrated last week. Do you know why I didn’t get upset today?”

“Why?”

I point to my Bible laying on the kitchen counter next to my cup of cold coffee. “I’ve been in God’s Word and prayer for the past few days. It makes all the difference in my attitude.”

My husband hugs me and heads for the man cave to watch the kickoff. I stir Chicken Tortilla soup that’s been simmering in my crockpot for hours. Its variety of spices, amplified by heat and time, has created a culinary delight.  

The slow process reminds me of my spiritual sanctification. There’s no such thing as microwave holiness. Sanctification, becoming more like Jesus, is a life-long process.

So today’s change of plans and my response is another opportunity to “be conformed into the image of Christ” and “bring Him praise.”

My husband turns up the television volume as I ladle hot soup into three bowls. There must have been a touchdown because I can hear the fans cheering through my wall. I imagine the football player who scored is raising his arms in victory. 

I love the similarity to my life.

Okay, so I fumbled the ball last week. It’s not the end of the world.

Nothing’s wasted.

Even though some days seem like baby steps, I’m learning how to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10).

Today is Sunday, the beginning of a new week, and when I compare my calm reaction today with last week’s critical spirit, I know by God’s grace……

I scored a touchdown.  And that’s something to cheer! 

 

It Must Be Me


Monday morning greets me in a pretty fashion, but I emerge from bed and hurry out the door with … an attitude.

 Meet with people, fulfill commitments, and run those errands. At the end of the day I’m … frustrated.

What’s wrong with that person? Why can’t that place be more efficient? Can you believe the price of gas?

Tuesday brings more of the same … frustration.

I feel like a kite tethered to earth. I could soar to great heights if it were not for that person, that situation that drags me down.

By Wednesday, I’m in a MOOD! “Get Out of My Way!

Life feels like a maze and I’m running into walls, bumping heads, hitting dead ends. Is there any way out?

That afternoon, I get alone to open The BOOK and meet with God in HIS WORD when it DAWNS on me!!!

It’s not them, him, her, or the price of gas. It’s ME.

In my tyranny of the urgent, I’ve raced through each day without eating my BREAD. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who cones to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

JESUS: The “wonderful counselor, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) has been absent from my mind these past few days … even though I know in my heart He is “Immanuel, God with us.”

Frustration wanes like the moon while the Holy Spirit convicts my soul. I’m the root of the problem, the common denominator of all my frustration. Fatigue would have me stay at home, but it is Wednesday night so I go to church where no one knows I have an attitude.

When the sermon is over, I participate with other saints in the Holy act of communion. With head bowed and eyes closed, I confess my rotten, horrible, bad attitude…AND the “lack of quality time spent with Him” that led to such a dismal state of mind.

Worship music fills the room, but silence seals my lips as I seek forgiveness. I mentally run to the cross where I “drink His blood and eat His broken body” in remembrance of Jesus the Christ who died for me.

Praise music reaches a crescendo. With tear-stained cheeks, I stand with upraised arms. Frustration, as well as guilt, subsides…..replaced by another attitude.

An Attitude of GRATITUDE

 

Lasso the Moon

 

     My cell phone beeps. There’s a text message from my twenty-something son.

“Look at the moon.”

     I hurry outside in my slippers and stand on my front porch, mesmerized. It’s

the kind of moon one sees in children’s picture books. Any second, “the cow will

jump over the moon.”

     On this clear, winter night, the moon appears closer to the earth just as my

son’s phone text shrank the miles between us. Is my grown

daughter, living on the opposite coast, enchanted by the moon tonight?

     I once thought loving my children meant giving them the moon. 

    When they were young, the moon was within my reach. A trip to the zoo brightened a cloudy day. A Happy Meal was like winning the lottery for a five year old.

     It was easy to lasso the moon.

     Now two of my children are adults and giving them the moon is like finding the end of a rainbow. Their trips to paradise are on the horizon beckoning them like a mythological siren. Their toys might as well be the Golden Fleece.  It’s no longer within my power to make their dreams come true.

     And I wonder. Would they be happier if I had shown them how to enjoy Earth rather than shoot for the moon?

     We didn’t live beyond our means, we enjoyed simple pleasures. But did my attempt to fulfill their every heart’s desire breed expectations that give birth to disappointment?  

     In contrast, when we looked beyond our own hedges and rang the Salvation Army bell, or walked for life, we learned the reality behind “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).    

      In pursuing dreams, we must remember the moon is cold and barren.

      We dance by the light of the moon which is a reflection of the sun.  Likewise, true joy comes when Christians reflect  “the LIGHT of the world.” 

     Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”        

           

    

Broken

It is nine days into the New Year and I’m just now packing Christmas decorations. Thirty-two years of Christmas past can’t be shoved thoughtlessly into a closet.  

Round, colored ornaments go into boxes with individual slots that resemble egg cartons. Hand-made ornaments and souvenirs, that look ordinary to any stranger’s eyes, are swaddled in tissue paper and placed in protective plastic bins ….accompanied by family memories I revisit every year.

I also collect nativity sets that require special handling. My favorite one was purchased in 1981 B.C. (before children) when my husband and I first moved to California. The figurines are wide-eyed children, forever young, although there are signs of aging: Joseph’s broken staff, the angel’s missing halo, and the shepherd boy’s glue-filled cracks.

When the Shepherd fell off the mantle, years ago, I glued him back together like Humpty Dumpty with the exception of a hole that remains in the back of his head. Nobody notices. We have to get close to see the scars and know he’s BROKEN.

I’ve been broken more than once. Have you…………..

Ever felt brokenhearted over the death of a loved one, or by the betrayal of someone who “supposedly” loved you?

Ever been like King David who felt alone, “forgotten …like a broken vessel?” (Psalm 31:12)

Has chronic pain, anxiety, or depression given you a “broken spirit that dries the bones?”(Proverbs 17:22)

Nobody notices. We have to get close and personal to see the scars and know someone’s BROKEN.

Psalm 147:3 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Sounds patronizing, but I know His Word is true. Three miscarriages in a row taught me to rely on the Lord to bind up my wounds from a broken spirit, and show me I could trust Him even in this.  

God restores broken lives, but brokenness is a good thing when it makes us aware of sin and leads us to repentance. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)  

Before I wrap the Shepherd boy like a mummy and place him in a box, I put the tip of my index finger into the hole on his head.

Thoughts trigger. Wasn’t it Thomas who insisted on putting his finger into the holes on Jesus’ nail-scarred hands? The apostle refused to believe in the resurrected Christ unless he also put his hand into the hole on Jesus’ side (John 20:24-28). And when this proof came, Thomas cried out, “My Lord, and My God.”

Tears spill on my cheeks, “Lord, life is hard, forgive me when I doubt your love and goodness. Your ‘body was broken for me’ (1 Cor. 11:24and that is all the reason I need to bring you praise.

      With that happy thought, I wrap tissue paper around the broken Shepherd boy and place him in a box, to rest in the coming year next to Jesus.