My Heart's Home

July 12, 2011

Dust in the Wind

Filed under: Freedom,Grace,Healing — My Heart's Home @ 12:24 am

(Paraphrased from John 8: 1-11)

There she stands. Cowers. Trembles. She’s one amongst the crowd. The hoity-toity scribes, Pharisees, and economically prosperous all thumb their noses at her, this woman covered in dirt. As they cast their judgmental glances upon her, she feels helpless, forsaken, tormented. They are inches away, hurling their insults, accusations, and spittle. Pointing fingers like hair-triggered pistols aimed to kill, not maim. Their fists white-knuckled around stones they are eager to throw. Her heart is their bull’s-eye.

She’s the adulteress… The one judged guilty as sin. 

Another joins the angry mob. On her knees with back bent low, she watches His sandals stir up dust. Through strands of hair possibly streaked with tears, sweat and others’ saliva, she sees Him in the sunrise.

The only One who stands in her defense.

The crowd demands stoning as her atoning; they ask Jesus if He agrees. He kneels in the dirt beside her. His fingertip traces in the sand. They demand His response. They want to know if Jesus agrees with them, this crowd of finger pointers.

He does.

The woman’s heart sinks, like her shoulders, in despair. She’s outnumbered. All hope is lost. She’s doomed. Not one is on her side. She braces herself for stones to bruise, cut and silence her heartbeat once and for all. She waits for blood to spill. Her own.

She feels their hateful glares sear her alabaster skin like a torch. She watches stone filled fists rise and swing like bows bent to hurl sharpened arrows… She holds her breath…she tightens her jaw…she winces and shuts her eyes. Maybe the end will come quickly. One blow to her brow and the deafening crowd will be hushed forever.

Wait! Not so fast.

Jesus no longer kneels. He stands upright in front of her, facing the crowd. He stands for one who cannot. He becomes her only ally, her friend, her Savior. They pause to let Him speak. He tells them they can stone her, but there is ONE condition:

“He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

The clamorous crowd is silenced. He kneels again beside the woman. His finger paints in sand. The crowd is perplexed. What do they see? Is He writing their names and listing their sins, one-by-one, as if turning pages in private diaries? (I like to speculate He was, although Scripture isn’t clear.) Are they thinking, “How does He know what I did last night, last week, last year?” Are they ashamed and embarrassed by their own hypocrisy? The logs in their eye? Their Scarlet Letters being exposed for all to read? Their sins hanging like soiled laundry in the light of day? You betcha. (At least I like to picture it this way!)

The adulteress raises her head slowly and peers into their eyes. Young and old cringe as their sins reflect in her tears.

Their raised hands fall.

Their pointing fingers bend.

Their heads held high bow.

Their self-righteous indignation blows like dust in the wind under Jesus’ finger. 

The woman listens to the most beautiful sound she’s ever heard: stones dropping and shifting sands. As each accuser turns and slithers away like snakes into grass. Only Jesus remains. He stands beside her and asks, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has anyone condemned you?” I picture Him smiling and gazing at her lovingly.

She answers, “No man, Lord.” Then Jesus says to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Grace. Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound.

I wonder where the adulteress woman went after this encounter with Jesus… Do you think she hotfooted back into her lover’s arms?

Yes, you betcha, all the way.

And He never let her go.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1

“You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” – Matthew 7:21

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June 25, 2011

Choose Virtue Over Vice

Filed under: faithfulness,Grace,Love — My Heart's Home @ 3:25 pm

Life is all about choices. We make a plethora of decisions daily without a second thought. Most are auto-piloted, robotic and routine. We don’t deliberate over the mundane. Most of our decisions are made unbridled, with loose reigns, and without reserve. Sometimes it’s beneficial to ‘be slow to speak’ as the Bible says or we may go about our days with our toxic tongue’s tail wagging behind us.

Or we may be caught with that tail between our legs.

Either way we’re bound to trip.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

Ever been around someone who can’t control their tongue or wrath? They spew toxic venom whenever they open their mouth and are quick to raise fists and pummel anyone who stands in their way? A raised hand raised me, so I know how it feels firsthand. I had welts upon my body from the belt they beat against my alabaster skin. One too many times. It was not a pretty picture. I choose to forgive today because I don’t want their bitterness to rub off on me. I don’t want to scar my precious son by carrying around wounds that have never healed. He and my husband deserve all of me, 100 percent, WHOLE and I intend to give it to them.

No matter what the cost.

Several years ago I ordered a free bracelet. It was designed as a tool for people to monitor their success at eradicating complaining from their lives. The goal is to wear the purple band on one wrist and try to go 21 consecutive days complaint-free. If you find yourself griping, you switch wrists and start over. The Founder, Rev. Will Bowen, thought of the bracelet in 2006 to help make the world a better place. His idea exploded and more than 6 million purple Complaint Free bracelets have been sent to people in over 106 countries.

Fast forward five years and I’m still waiting for my free bracelet to arrive.

My question is:

Should I complain? 

I considered it; however, the organization probably doesn’t have a complaint department, so what’s the use.

Instead, I decided to wear my own bracelet, not purple, but 24-karat gold. And for the next 21 days I will refrain from complaining. I will choose virtue over vice. (Please add me to your prayer requests!) Especially on Sunday. Sometimes our sinful nature rears its ugly head when we least expect it…as we’re approaching or circling church parking lots:

‘Why is that person going so S-L-O-W?’

‘Why aren’t they signaling?’

‘Whoa! Did I just run over the pastor?’

I will pray God transforms my heart as he conforms my mind. Every time my brain is tempted to poison my tongue with venom, either about myself or someone else, I will choose to hold that thought captive and replace it with words that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. 

One day this filtering may become second nature and I won’t give complaints and criticisms a second thought.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

I don’t know if I can change the entire world, but at least I will impact my immediate world.

And that’s the best place to start: in my own backyard.

*I wrote this post before attending church Sunday and guess what my pastor challenged the congregation to do? Memorize Phil. 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” 

———————————————————————————–

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…” Phil. 2:14-16

A Complaint Free World People complain to everyone except the person who can resolve their issue and then can’t understand why the situation doesn’t improve.

A Complaint Free World Complaining can be thinly disguised bragging. People complain about others to subtly say, “See? I don’t have their character flaws.”
A Complaint Free World When you complain, you take your fears and give them form.

May 21, 2011

Bitter Pills

Filed under: Freedom,Grace,Healing,Parenting — My Heart's Home @ 1:18 pm

I recognize her gray hair and cringe. We share the neighborhood. She walks shoulders hunched clasping toddler’s hand. They cross pavement. She is silent, but her voice is familiar. Her rages penetrate walls and echo down quiet streets. Too often.

School buses arrive to transport students home. I park as the two draw closer. I pray for courage to approach, if led, but hope I’m not. I close car door as they walk in front. I am brave. “Do you remember me?” I smile and rub the toddler’s shiny ebony bangs. She grins and nods. I tell her, “You’re so sweet.”

The grandma mutters, “No she’s not.”

Her words hit me like a rubber band. Did I hear correctly? “What?” I ask, staring at the lady’s wrinkled face. “No she’s not,” she snaps matter of fact, confirming my hearing’s intact. Gobsmacked, I keep smiling and rub the toddler’s bangs again, “Oh, yes you are. You’re sweet, aren’t you?” Grandma speaks as if sharing a secret, her pupils shift to the right corner sockets, “Looks can be deceiving.” I want to cover the girl’s ears.

No child’s heart deserves poisonous darts.

I focus on the one who has no voice, “You’ve always been nice to me, haven’t you?” She nods then her head hangs low like her bangs. I hope she clings to my affirmative words like a buoy when that tight grasp is released. The grandma retorts, “You don’t have to live with her.” I look straight in her squinted eyes and say as lovingly as possible, “That’s MEAN!” She continues without blinking, “She can be SPITEFUL.” (Without pointing fingers I know who the spiteful one is.)

Her lips stiffen. My skin crawls.

This bitter pill is hard to swallow.

“But she eats stuff like that up whenever anyone says it.” I sense the urge to inquire about Susie Sunshine’s childhood, but refrain. Her actions speak louder than words.

I extend grace. “Must be a handful taking care of all these kids, huh?” There are four others under her ominous cloud whose wings are being clipped. “Yes, and then they want their mommy who’s at work all day.” She continues avoiding eye contact. “You love your grandma, huh?” The child nods and smiles. Grandma watches, then scowls. “No, she doesn’t. Her brothers don’t either, but that’s OK.”

 I focus again on the one who’s never heard, who’s been silent for too long. 

I see my reflection.

I enter the school and wait for my son’s kindergarten class to be excused. He runs toward me, “Mommy, look what I did today?” He hands me a crayoned picture I can’t wait to hang on fridge. I smile and give him the biggest hug. We spend the afternoon playing games, giggling and eating ice cream.

As sun descends, I swoop up my son and his favorite froggy. I place them gently on our bed. “You can sleep with us tonight.” He grins and shouts ‘Wahoo!’ Bouncing to his feet, he throws arms around mommy’s neck and kisses cheek hard.

We rest on shared pillow as moonlight cascades.

I cherish these moments. Before I know it the sun will rise and he’ll sprout wings leaving mama bird’s nest…

To soar beyond. 

With my unconditional love always within reach.

I pray all children learn to soar, despite life’s bitter pills.

The view is so much better from above.

“No other success in life—not being President, or being wealthy, or going to college, or writing a book, or anything else—comes up to the success of the man or woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up and call them blessed.” President Theodore Roosevelt.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24

“Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

“These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be drowned in the sea with a large stone hung around his neck.” Matthew 18:6

“Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

May 6, 2011

Mother of Pearls

Filed under: Encouragement,Grace,Parenting — My Heart's Home @ 1:44 pm

Nacre pronounced /ˈneɪkər/[1] or “NAY-kər”, also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up pearls. It is very strong, resilient, and iridescent.
Let’s be honest, mothering is a thankless job. There are no promotions, no holiday bonuses, no end-of-the-week paychecks, no raises, no Going the Extra Mile awards, no sick days, no vacations and no leave of absences. There is no thunderous applause at the end of the day for a performance well done. We wipe noses, tears and butts day after day, month after month, year after year. We comfort, cook, clean, cater, chaperone, chauffeur, calm, chase, cleanse, challenge, cajole, compliment, congratulate and once a year get a card on that mother of all days.

If our kids don’t forget.

Hyperbole, perhaps, but similar to Bad Hair days motherhood can dish up some harried bad days! We’ve all been there: Leggos lodged between toes, Cheerios scattered on floors and chocolate pudding smeared on doors. Tempers, tongues and tears can’t be tamed. We ride the ups and downs of child rearing (and potty training) like a never-ending seesaw. Sometimes we need a Time Out. But overall motherhood is the best job in the world and we wouldn’t switch titles with anyone! The hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the laughter, the joy our children bring to our lives is priceless. We wouldn’t trade these bountiful benefits for all the world’s accolades and applause! (Do I hear an amen?)

I’ve only been a mommy for six years, but I’ll never forget the day that title was bestowed on me: April 2, 2005. As I held my newborn in my arms I promised to take good care of him, protect and unconditionally love him for the rest of his life.

And I meant every word.

That doesn’t mean he never irritates the heck out of me. Sometimes he does.

That doesn’t mean I don’t lose my patience with him. Sometimes I do.

That doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He’s not.

Neither am I.

Show me a perfect parent and I’ll show you the Holy Grail. Not happening. Like mothers everywhere, I will make mistakes, fail and wish I had a gazillion do over make-up days accrued on my timecard. But I don’t. That’s why grace and forgiveness are so vital to our relationship. I must be an example of God’s unfailing love and be willing to ask his forgiveness when I fall short.
I must treat him with respect and dignity, as I would want to be treated. I must be willing to let him grow into the individual God created him and not try to stuff him into some preconceived mold. I mustn’t clip his wings, so he’s fearful to fly. I must become his greatest fan, cheerleader and advocate, so when life’s blows try to knock the wind out of him, he’ll know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—someone stands in his corner, offers him a refreshing drink and won’t let him fall. A little voice inside will whisper silencing all others, “Stand steadfast with your slingshot, son, and slay Goliath!”

If I want my precious boy to sprout wings soaring confidently into the unknown one day, I cannot do this alone. I must seek wisdom, discernment and guidance from my Heavenly Father daily. I need God’s strength, grace and mercy. Some mornings I can barely open my eyes, let alone my Bible, so I’m grateful God covers me with His merciful blanket and doesn’t expect perfectionism. I just do the best I can leaning on His strength. Parenting is a huge responsibility. My most important job on earth will be:

To point my son to the One who will forever wrap him in His loving arms, long after he’s outgrown mine.

And I don’t want to be caught sleeping on the job.

My child is bound to get under my skin and irritate the heck out of me like a nasty splinter. And sometimes I’ll crawl beneath his flesh and poke and prod like nobody’s business. Living within close proximity year after year it’s inevitable we’ll grate on each other’s nerves.

As his mother I must remember my character is being shaped, molded and refined just as I am trying to shape, mold and refine his character. I need to model Christ at all times, so he will grow to reflect and mirror Christ to his family one day. This can only be accomplished on my knees in humility and reverence before my Maker and by reading and obeying His Word.

Otherwise, as an imperfect person living in a fallen world, I am bound to make a mess out of motherhood.

So next time your little one (or big one) gets under your skin (or you get under theirs), remember you are both pearls in the making:

Unlike gems that are mined from the earth, pearls are formed from living organisms.
And no pearl is ever formed without a little irritant.

May we all display shimmering iridescence, luster and a soft inner glow so we become unlike any other gem on earth.

And our children have the freedom to grow likewise.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18


April 1, 2011

Dirty Ovens

Filed under: Encouragement,Grace — My Heart's Home @ 8:15 pm

I confess. My oven is filthy. It’s way overdue for a good scrub down.

Even self-cleaning ovens need a little elbow grease.

Maybe it’s last on my priority list because it’s a hidden mess. Unless you’re Hansel or Gretel I don’t expect you to peer inside my stove. (Only a white-gloved busybody would do that and I know better than to invite them to my home.)

My ‘To Do’ list runs a mile long:

Finish reading ‘Life of Pi’ and half a dozen other books.

Make dental appointments.

Schedule mammogram appointment. (Yippee.)

Finish homework for two Bible studies.

Prepare to lead next Monday night’s Bible study.

Sell items on Ebay.

Buy items on Ebay.

Find out the sex of my baby guinea pigs.

Get the daddy fixed, so there will be no more surprises.

Finish writing my book.

Pull weeds.

Plant flowers.

Pull more weeds.

Pack away winter and unpack summer clothes.

Reupholster my wicker furniture.

Replace garbage disposal.

Organize walk-in closet.

Catch up on three years’ worth of scrapbooking.

Upload photos to order books online from now on.

Paint deck.

CLEAN MY OVEN.

I have a dirty oven. What area are you hiding behind closed doors? Maybe it’s your basement, closet, garage, fridge, attic, under your bed.

We all have messes we don’t want exposed.

Last weekend we had guests. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their older daughter. It was great motivation to whip out the vacuum, broom and duster, since they’ve never visited before. I cleaned from top to bottom, east to west. All except one area. I figured: “they’ll never look inside my stove.”

We ordered pizza, but unbeknownst to me, my sister-in-law is now on a special gluten-free diet. Subsequently, she brought her own meal. Then those dreaded words were spoken:

“Can I use your oven to heat this up?”

~ GULP ~

“Um, sure, just apply this blindfold first.”

We laughed, I apologized, then she confessed her own dirty messes. Sigh.

No judgment.

No criticism.

No finger pointing.

After all, doesn’t everyone have areas in their lives that could use a little Spring cleaning? Nobody’s life is spotless.

On some level, don’t we all have dirty ovens?

Everyone harbors invisible mites, dust bunnies and cobwebs in the recesses of their heart. (If you don’t agree, let Jesus remove your blindfold.)

I told my sister-in-law I love being around her because she’s always so encouraging, positive and non-judgmental. She replied, “Life is hard; we’re all just trying to do the best we can.”

GRACE

Gotta have it. Gotta give it. Gotta love it.

Isn’t it refreshing to be around others who exude grace?

Do you wear white gloves pointing out the messes in other people’s lives, yet conceal soiled fingernails? If so, it’s time to remove them and extend grace-filled hands today.

Maybe the person you need to show the most grace to is yourself. Be your own best friend and allow yourself some slack.

Remember, Pobody’s Nerfect.

We’re all just trying to do the best we can.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

“He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” John 8:7

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” Psalm 145:8-9

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