Mosaic

When our plane landed in Minneapolis last Wednesday morning, I could only think of one thing: Where’s the nearest bathroom? My two cups of coffee that morning, combined with the anxiety of what I was about to undertake (being the main speaker at a retreat that included adults – yikes!) had me scanning the terminal for restroom signs as soon as I walked off the plane.

After finding one, I hooked a right and rushed in, only to be brought to a standstill by the sight of this:

Mosaics are fascinating works of art. Small pieces of colored tile or glass perfectly placed in patterns that, when you step back, blend visually into a larger picture. From far away, you would barely know the individual pieces exist, but the closer you get, the more you see how their unique shades and shapes work together to form the picture.

Our obedience to God is beautiful to Him. Though we’ll never get it all right, every day He presents us with hundreds of opportunities to follow His lead and choose His ways over our own! Every time I obey, I’m placing another piece in the mosaic of what God is doing in and through my life.

Some pieces are easy and obvious – I know clearly what God has asked me to do and there is little to no stress involved in my choice to obey. These pieces are often routines in my life or things that my personality naturally bends toward anyway.

Some pieces are just awkward and odd. At almost 40 years old, I know myself well and yet I daily sense nudges to do things I would normally put on my “weaknesses” list. It’s tempting to ignore the Spirit’s leading and discard a piece that doesn’t seem like a good fit, but I always find out He has a perfect spot for it I couldn’t see.

Some pieces are sharp and scary. In these instances, it’s not that obeying is going to cause some discomfort, it’s that it’s probably going to hurt. My first reaction is “No way!” because I don’t think I need them. Jesus can be pretty persistent, though, so swallowing my pride and just placing the piece is usually the best option!

The third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes opens with this truth: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (3:1) This well-known verse is followed by a list of potential “matters” we face as we do life on this planet. Our days are filled with choices and the writer, King Solomon, acknowledges the variety and polarity of the work God has asked us to do – it’s complicated!

However, he sums it up by saying that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” (3:11) Our close-up view looks like a mishmash of mismatched bits, but since He stands outside of time, He sees the completed work. Some of those obedience pieces we hold in our hands may seem meaningless, unfitting, or unwanted, but He’s got a perfect spot for every one.

As he sums up the book, Solomon writes: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (12:13) With God as the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful designer of our mosaics, what else do we have but to obey? It can seem so hard in the moment, but just a glimpse of His perspective should be motivating enough!

Last year, Anna and I worked together to make a plaster garden mosaic. I was pretty excited that she got this as a gift and also pretty excited she was going to need my help with it – I’d always wanted to do one of these!

The instructions suggested laying out our pattern on the table before setting the pieces into the wet plaster. This seemed silly since, in my mind, the pieces were going to easily shape and fit themselves together like the picture I had in my head. It’s a good thing I obeyed, though, since it ended up being a lot harder than it looked!

I’m so glad I’m not designing what God is doing in and through my life. As the ultimate Designer, God sees the completed larger picture and has hand-crafted every piece that makes it what it is. I’m not in control, but every day I have the privilege of holding the pieces He’s given me and every time I obey, I put one of those pieces in its perfect place. My obedience cannot and will not earn me salvation or any ‘extra’ love from God, but it sure is beautiful to Him!

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Plus

We did the math: A warm, sunny, fall day, plus an afternoon free of after-school activities, plus a four-year-old now confidently riding a two-wheeler equals one thing – time for a Desilets family bike ride! As Tim and I packed up the bikes, water bottles, and snacks, we wondered, “Why don’t we do this more often?!” We picked up the girls from school and headed over to the Schuylkill River Trail for a fun-filled adventure.

But less than a minute in, the fun quotient of our excursion went into the negative as the frustrations began to add up. Our failure to check the pressure in the bicycle tires (or bring the pump to remedy this problem) left one kid instantly in tears and unable to continue. Plus, our “if I don’t get food within five minutes of leaving school, I lose my mind” child had apparently neglected to eat the snacks we packed for her and quickly ran out of steam. We could have stopped and turned around right there, but our youngest was having none of that – she came for a bike ride and she wanted a bike ride!

What was supposed to equal stress-relief resulted only in stress-increase, and as we drove home, we wondered, “Why do we ever do things like this?!”

It’s discouraging when your best intentions end in frustration. You have a vision in your head of how something is going to go and expect the real-life outcome to match, or even exceed, your expectations. But when mistakes and mishaps occur (often one after another) you wonder if it’s even worth the effort!

This happens in our relationship with God as well. We all have next steps the Holy Spirit is leading us to take, and though they sound good ‘on paper,’ there’s a good chance that even with our best intentions, things won’t go the way we expect them to. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend who doesn’t know Jesus, getting involved in a ministry, starting a Bible reading plan, or kicking a bad habit to the curb, we often start out saying, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” but end up thinking “Why did I even try?!”

Although there’s no mathematical formula to following and living our lives for Jesus, the apostle Peter does encourage believers to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) I don’t know about you, but I sure do want and need all of those things in my life “in increasing measure”!

In Matthew 6, in His teaching on worry, Jesus assures us that rather than being distracted by the toil of adding things to our own lives, we should “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (v. 33) Notice that it doesn’t say “you will add these things,” it says they “will be added”.

In God’s Kingdom, He does the math and as we “make every effort” to take those next steps, He’s adding to our lives the goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love we’re seeking! Unfortunately, the method He uses to create those qualities almost always involves circumstances and people not going or doing things according to our expectations. Even our best intentions have some element of self-focus and it’s through frustration and trial that ‘self’ gets subtracted to leave room for His character to be added.

Though our perfect Desilets family bike ride didn’t happen that day, we did learn a few things – always leave a spare pump in the car, and make sure the snacks get eaten! But more than that, through the frustration, we all had at least some small amount of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, or love added to us that day.

God’s math doesn’t always compute in our heads, but the solution is clear to Him. He’s not asking you to take that next step because He needs you to, it’s just that every time you do, He gets to add more of “these things” to you. It may not work out as you had hoped, but the “increasing measure” of His character in your life will always be a plus!

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Paddle

You may think that as an ‘adventurous’ family, we are skilled at all things adventure. It may come across that we are ‘naturals’ at the activities we do in nature. Our photos may give the impression that we do these things with ease. And though this may be true about some of our endeavors, it’s certainly not true of them all.

Take canoeing, for example.

Each summer I gladly and confidently hop into the front of one of these unstable, narrow vessels having somehow blocked out the memories of how poor I am at paddling! I’m quickly put in my place, though, with the first strong gust of wind or direction-changing current. I can turn on the elbow-grease for a few minutes and attempt to remember some of the “special strokes” to help us recover, but it always seems like I don’t have much to offer!

However, as my well-schooled-in-canoeing husband always reminds me in those moments, my job at the front of the boat is simply to paddle. The steering and guiding of the boat is his job from the back, and as long as I am willing to consistently put the oar in the water and pull back, no special strokes or skills are required!

How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth!
(Psalm 116:5-9)

The writer of this Psalm, overwhelmed with the goodness of God in his life, wonders in verse 12:

What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?

Although we can in no way ‘make things right’ or attempt to ‘balance the scales’ for all that God has done (even a lifetime of effort couldn’t make up for an ounce of just the gift of salvation through Christ!), we do have something to offer Him. We can’t pay Him back, but we can show our gratitude by giving our minds, hearts, ears, voices, hands, and feet to the work He’s doing on this earth!

Unfortunately, for many of us, we put our paddle in the water, run into a pile of waves, and panic – feeling like what we have to offer is totally inadequate. But I think we could learn a few things from the widow in Luke 21.

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (Luke 21:1-4)

Of all the gifts dropped off at the temple that day, Jesus pointed this one out because it was different. Being God, He knew what was going on in the widow’s heart and knew what had been going on in her heart up to that point – and He wanted everyone else to know, too.

Jesus knew that in order to even begin her journey to the temple that day, she had to admit that she had next to nothing to offer. As a widow in this time and culture, she likely had no way of providing for herself. Those two small coins were all she had and in that moment of decision to pick them up and start walking, she had to be willing to admit to herself and anyone else who would be aware of her offering, that she was poor. She had to admit that in comparison to the other gifts offered that day, what she brought to the collection boxes was very small.

Jesus also knew that she had to be brave enough to offer it – even if it meant humiliation. This was a huge risk because of the public nature of the offering. She would be opening herself up to potential ridicule over her small gift. She might even be scolded and told not to even bother giving it! In the face of all the impressive gifts being given, she would surely be looked down on by others.

And lastly, Jesus knew that she had to be willing to give it all. If she was going to give anything, she had no choice but to give all that she had! And she did. In the original language, instead of saying she gave “everything she has” it says she gave her “bios” – her “livelihood” – she gave the entire means she had of sustaining her “life” at that time.

Jesus pointed this out, making clear to everyone who was listening that an offering is more about the size of the willingness than the size of the gift! Whenever you offer your mind, heart, ears, voice, hands, or feet to serve, you’ll likely feel that what you have to offer is drastically “less” than what others are offering. But the work of God’s Kingdom is not about the impressiveness of your talents and skills – it’s about your willingness to consistently and simply paddle.

What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?

In comparison to what God has offered me – I have next to nothing. His kindness, goodness, mercy, protection, and salvation are things I can’t even comprehend, let alone match. But “next to” nothing is still something! Whoever you are – you have something to offer. There is some way that God is calling you to get involved in His Kingdom work. It may not be impressive, but at the very least you have hands and feet that can mop a floor or prepare a meal!

Like the widow, though, you have to be brave enough to offer it – even if it means humiliation. When you put yourself out there to serve, there’s a 100% chance of awkward, a 100% chance of feeling inadequate, a 100% chance of feeling like you’re not making a difference, a 100% chance of failure (on some level), and a 100% chance someone won’t approve of your offering. The question is – are you willing to offer what you have anyway?

The hardest part about being the front-paddler in a canoe is trusting that what you’re doing is helping! According to canoehowto.com’s instructions on canoeing basics, “It’s hard, but the paddler in the front must resist the urge to steer! That’s entirely the responsibility of the person in the stern (back) of the canoe, you’ll end up working against them if you try.”* In those moments when the canoe seems to be headed off-course and you’re efforts aren’t making a difference, you can trust that the back-paddler is in control and will get you to your destination!

We have a tendency to hold back when it comes to serving – not because we think we’re too good for it or because we’re selfishly holding on to what we have to offer, but because we don’t understand how valuable our small offering is. God doesn’t need you to serve, He can do whatever He needs to do on His own (yep, He’s that good!). But He has uniquely formed your whole life, your “bios”, to be an offering.

We can’t pay God back, but we can offer our lives to be involved in what He is doing in this world. You may have next to nothing, but next to nothing is still something. If you’ll just take a couple wobbly steps into the boat and start paddling, He will steer and guide your effort exactly where He wants it to go!

*https://www.canoehowto.com/canoeing-basics/how-to-paddle-a-canoe/

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Stickers

Their stickiness is irresistable – setting them apart from simple, plain, boring pieces of paper. Glittery stars and hearts, or better yet your favorite Disney characters, and you can attach them to things!

As a mom, I have a love/hate relationship with stickers. They are a fun prize, an easy activity, and our motivation to survive those long waits in the doctor’s office. But when they don’t do what they’re supposed to do – when they don’t stick because they’ve lost their stickiness (after being moved 17 times in the car ride home) – they result in great frustration!

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One of the hardest things about growing in our faith is that the things we learn seem to have a hard time sticking. We listen to a sermon, read a quote, or hear a song that moves and inspires us. We are reminded of a truth about God or see ourselves in a new way because of what He’s done and we know we’ll remember those words forever!

But by the next day (or even the next hour) the details of life and work and family have invaded and we’ve moved on. I always have really high hopes after I read the Bible in the morning that “THIS time I’m gonna make it stick!” And then the next morning I open to where I left off and realize I never thought about it again!

Mark 8 tells the story of Jesus miraculously transforming a small amount of food into enough to satisfy several thousand hungry people. We love this story because not only does it prove that Jesus had God’s supernatural power, but it also shows that He embodied God’s great compassion.

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” Mark 8:1-3

Jesus knew that with this many people in such a “desolate place,” (v. 4) His supernatural power was their only hope for food – so He made it happen: “And they ate and were satisfied.” (v. 8) Amazing! Everyone was not only fed, but they were full!

So now it was time to settle in and let Jesus continue teaching, right? That’s the picture I always had in my head, but verse 9 says that after they picked up the leftover food, “he sent them away”. He gave them the food so that they could go!

As we see from verses 1-3, the provision was meant to prepare them for the journey. They couldn’t stay there forever with Him – not just for logistics’ sake – but because His words for them were not meant to just be heard! They were meant to stick by being applied to their daily lives.

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One of the true marks of motherhood is going out somewhere, noticing that people are looking at you a little strange, and realizing there’s a random sticker stuck to your arm or better yet – in your hair! It may be embarassing, but it also makes me smile to think of my girls and wonder who decided I needed to be decorated that day.

A couple months ago, I committed to praying daily for a specific list of people in my life. I’ve never been good at remembering to pray for others, so I decided to set reminders in my phone every hour or so throughout the day. This seemed like a great idea, but after a couple days I was beginning to get overwhelmed as I thought about how I could best pray for each person. I knew if I didn’t make a change soon, I would just end up giving up!

One day, after closing my Bible and having a “That was so good! I hope I remember it all day!” thought, my first prayer reminder notification went off. I was in a hurry, so since the thoughts from my study were fresh in my mind, I decided to pick one, narrow it down to a simple phrase, and pray that for the first person on my list. Then I used the same phrase for each person I prayed for that day.

And guess what? You can’t pray the same phrase 12 times in a day without remembering it and without thinking about how it applies to your own life. All of a sudden what I read in the morning was finally sticking throughout my day!

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This weekend we had company coming from out of town, which called for a kids’ bedroom cleaning. If you’ve been upstairs in our house, you know this is big deal! Our three girls share a room and the bigger they get, the more stuff they accumulate – which means the floor of their room is a rare sight.

When things were picked up, I stood back to take in the view (because it may only last a day) and noticed at least seven old stickers stuck to the wood floor! For all the times you want something to stick and it won’t, these stickers are stuck because years of daily life have walked all over them. They are pretty much ground into that floor and not coming off anytime soon!

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97) God’s words can not only satisfy our hearts and minds as we read them, but they also have the ability to remain in our thoughts as we go. It may take some effort on our part, but when we apply His words to the mess and chaos of daily life (especially when we feel like life is walking all over us), that’s when they really start to stick!

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Aha!

When my friend Sue and I drove into Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, we were in need of a break. After three days of driving, crowded parks, and catching up on each other’s lives, these introverts needed some quiet time – and Sue’s “Secrets of the National Parks” book showed us exactly where to go.

The trail to the “White Rim Overlook” was a short 8/10 of a mile to a majestic view of the canyon. Most people visiting parks like this head straight for the “famous” views or hikes, so the parking lot for this trail was almost empty. There were no people in sight and it was remarkably quiet – Perfect!

We quickly parked, grabbed our stuff, and headed out. After seeing the sign for the trail, we continued on, following the small rock tower ‘cairns’ that marked the path.

After a few minutes, though, we started having trouble. In our experience thus far, the National Park trails were well marked – at every turn there was a cairn and any place you might be tempted to veer off was blocked off. But this trail was all over the place and the markers seemed few and far between!

At one point our hike came to a halt – we couldn’t see a trail marker anywhere! Since we were not interested in getting lost that day (especially when no one else was around), we had a couple options: Keep moving and risk getting lost or retrace our steps to find the trail again.

I’m not one to give in and go back, so I took the next step in front of me and “Aha!” – there it was. That mere 2 and 1/4 feet (or whatever my stride length is) made all the difference – the next cairn was now in plain sight and we were on our way!

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? I know I have moments every week where I feel at least slightly lost, overwhelmed, or just unsure of what the right choice is. I always wish in that moment that I had someone who could show me – with 100% assurance – what my next step should be.

When Paul prayed for the church at Collosae, he knew that one of the things they needed most was God’s direction and guidance, so he prayed that they would “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Paul knew that God was the only one with that 100% assurance and His desire was to “fill” His followers with His perspective.

The thing is that it’s not just about knowing what to do – it’s about actually doing it. As Paul went on, he mentioned why God would give the knowledge of His will: “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10a). The knowledge, wisdom, and understanding they received from God was meant to define their stride as they walked.

And then if they did that, something really cool would happen – they would end up “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10b). It turns out that it’s a cycle: God gives the knowledge, we act on it, and then He gives us more! “Aha!” Knowing what to do in the unclear only becomes clear after we do what we already know to be true. As Ellicott’s commentary suggests: “Do and thou shalt know”.*

Recently, I was at an event for one of my kids and in my sitting-there-forever-waiting boredom, I opened Facebook (mistake number one). It had already been a stressful day, so I was hoping for some fun pictures of my friends and their families to make me smile (why would I ever think that?). But instead, I clicked on something I never should have clicked on (why do I do these things?) and read words that I could never unread.

I quickly spiraled into panic-mode. I was trapped in a room full of people and I couldn’t get in touch with my husband (who normally calms me down in these moments). I couldn’t stop the words from running over and over in my brain and I felt totally lost – I was overwhelmed and I didn’t know what to do. I prayed and prayed, “God, why is this happening? What do I do? Please help! I need Your peace!”

But a few minutes later, instead of feeling peace, I started feeling like God was telling me to go talk to another mom at the event. “Are you kidding me?” I thought, “I’m a mess! I don’t even know her and You’re expecting me to do this NOW? You give me the peace first and then maybe I’ll do it.” I sat there stubbornly for the next few minutes thinking I must have heard Him wrong – surely He wouldn’t expect this socially-awkward introvert to do something like this on a day like today!

But… I did it anyway. And guess what? Half an hour later I had pretty much forgotten about my stress – I had had a wonderful conversation, learning about someone else’s life instead of focusing on my own, and “Aha!” – it was there that God gave me the peace.

There are so many times that we don’t know what to do – times where we feel lost and overwhelmed and we want God’s help! We want Him to fix the problem or at least show us what we need to do to fix it! Last week, as my friend Emma and I were studying this passage, she said, “Sometimes we just can’t let go of our stressful situations because we don’t think we can move on until it’s all fixed. We have to get THIS taken care of first! But maybe it doesn’t work that way.”

The problem is that God’s “will” is not my happiness and comfort. His will, according to Colossians 1, is Jesus. So instead of the peace we’re expecting, according to author and speaker Jill Briscoe, “He gives you courage”.** And every time I use that courage to obey the next step He has put in front of me, even if it’s just one single stride, and even if it’s in a completely different direction than I first thought, “Aha!” – He opens my eyes up to even more of who He is.

At the end of our White Rim Overlook hike, Sue and I stopped to look at the trail sign that we had blown by in our rush to start the hike. “Aha!” There was a good reason for our confusion – we had taken the wrong path! We assumed the trail went straight ahead when, in reality, it went to the right. Thankfully, in our confusion and wrong turns, the paths had met up and we did not end up on the 2.7 mile “Gooseberry Trail”!

I love these verses from the book of Job: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?… Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand… Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (Job 38:2, 4 & 21)

In our limited human knowledge and wisdom we tend to think things should be done a certain way – especially when we’re overwhelmed. But when we ask God for His knowledge, we can expect His direction might differ from the way we thought we should go. It may even be completely the opposite!

What situation do you need God’s guidance in today? The word for “understanding” in Colossians 1:9 comes from the idea of two rivers meeting – it means “a putting together in the mind”.*** So ask God to pour into you the knowledge of His will, meet it with a step of obedience, and get ready for the “Aha!” on the other side!

*http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/colossians/1.htm
**IF:Gathering 2017
***http://biblehub.com/greek/4907.htm

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Shockproof

“These will be perfect for us!” I said to Tim. With our very active, fairly disorganized lifestyle, ‘shockproof’ phones would surely suit us well. I had done my research and the Samsung Galaxy S5 was said to be one of the most rugged phones on the market – I even watched videos of it being dropped onto cement and run over by a car! So we signed the contract and each became the proud owner of a Galaxy S5 – the “Sport” (a.k.a. even more rugged) version.

But, alas, within a couple months, even with our extra-tough cases, we had both cracked our screens! We were, of course, *shocked* because this wasn’t supposed to happen. It was hard to accept the fact that even our best efforts couldn’t prevent the cracks from forming… and that we were now stuck with damaged screens for almost two more years!

In my early years of being a Christian I thought I was strong. The cracks I had from my childhood hardships and teenage mistakes were erased. Because of Jesus, I had overcome and was ready for any challenge that lay ahead of me. I was going to make a difference in this world, no matter how hard things got, because nothing could be too hard for Him! I genuinely believed I was shockproof.

But time after time I’ve found myself broken – shattered by circumstances and people – or most often, by my own sin. It turns out I’m much more fragile than I thought I was and just because I have the power of Jesus inside of me, that doesn’t make make me immune. Every time I think I’ve got it all together, another crack appears – and most of the time I don’t even know how it happened!

In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul encouraged the believers by reminding them of the incredible gift they had been given: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” As believers, a light has been powered on inside of us so that we can see the truth about Jesus and then help others see it, too.

Which sounds great… until you read the next verse:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (v. 7)

Clay jars, like glass phone screens, are fragile and easily broken. No matter how strong and powerful the light inside of us is, that doesn’t mean the container is unbreakable. Our human bodies, hearts, and minds are prone to cracks. Notice the “we” and “us” of this verse. Even Paul – the writer of a large portion of the Bible, a man who gave his entire life to growing the church and who did give his life in refusal to stop growing the church – even Paul knew he wasn’t shockproof.

When I think about this it frustrates me. Why would God do things this way? It doesn’t make sense! If you were going to choose a “vessel” for your “light,” why would you not search for the strongest thing you could find? Why would you purposely choose something weak?!

It reminds me of the scene in the gospels where Jesus walks up to Matthew, a despised tax collector – a man who betrayed his own people by working for the enemy and, in his selfishness, likely stole from them as well. Matthew was sitting at his tax collector’s booth – he was literally sitting in his sin – when Jesus looked him in the eye and said, “Follow me”.(Matthew 9:9)

Every time I watch this scene in “The Bible” series (Episode 7, about 10 minutes in – check it out if you can!) it breaks me all over again. It just doesn’t make sense! Why would Jesus choose someone like that? Why would He choose someone like me? He knew from day one how fragile I would be and how many cracks I would take on and yet He still looks at me, in the middle of my darkest moments, and says, “I choose you“. WHAT?

It turns out, though, that this cracked-up life of mine is exactly what He’s looking for. Because my cracks remind me of where I came from and how much I don’t deserve anything that God has given me. They remind me of how He’s worked in my life by covering every single one of them with His grace, peace, and love. And when I look at them, I know without a doubt that I have no room to tell Jesus how He should do His work.

A few months ago, we were finally able to upgrade to new phones (yay!). But, honestly, I kind of miss the cracks. No matter how annoying they were, there was a certain camaraderie I felt with other people whose screens were also shattered. It was an easy conversation piece as we swapped stories on how it happened – and it was never offensive to ask the question because mine was obviously broken, too.

It’s frustrating to look at our lives and realize we’re Matthew. But that means we’re Matthew! Because “while Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10) Sometimes our brokenness, even when it’s a result of our own sin, has less to do with us and more to do with those who can relate to us and meet Jesus because of it.

We’re not shockproof, but maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t know why God would choose us, but maybe He knows something we don’t. Maybe the cracked ones are the best ones because they allow the light to shine though. And maybe all those fracture lines in our glass reflect the light of Jesus a little differently than we otherwise would.

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Glasses

20/20 vision is something I’ve always been proud to have. I’ve never questioned whether or not I was seeing something accurately and when other people were struggling to read a sign up ahead, I could always see it perfectly.

It wasn’t until I got married that I realized how much I took my clear vision for granted. It was so hard for me to understand that my husband needed his glasses on in order to see things! I remember trying them on and being shocked at how different our eyes saw the world.

In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul addressed some issues they were facing as a body of believers. One of those issues was confusion and debate about what ceremonies and traditions Christians should follow. Along with that debate came a whole lot of judgment, which Paul knew would only cause division and pain.

So, after presenting a clear explanation of the thing that brought them together in the first place – the gospel message of salvation through Christ alone – he reminded them to “let no one pass judgment on you” (2:16) or “disqualify you” (2:18) based on “things that are on earth” (3:2).

In the following verses, Paul points out that instead of focusing the how of church it’s the relationships within the church that need the attention! He tells them to put away the “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk” (3:8) of the “old self” (3:9) and instead put on the “new self” (3:10). As recipients of completely undeserved peace with God, they could also “let the peace of Christ rule in [their] hearts” and live as “one body” (3:15).

Unfortunately, you and I both know this is easier said than done. The “earthly things” are all to easy to focus on, which means we disagree often and just can’t figure out how others could possibly see things so differently than us! It’s amazing how quick those “old self” ways rear their ugly heads, resulting in division and pain.

In verses 12-14, Paul lists those attributes of the “new self” we can actively “put on” in order to prevent this. Love, when chosen, (even in the midst of disagreement), “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (3:14). Because even though we’ll never be able to clearly see life through another person’s eyes, we can try to put on their glasses.

In any disagreement or difference of opinion, instead of throwing a blanket judgment on someone, we can choose kindness by asking questions and learning about that person’s life. We can choose humility by trying to see things through the lenses of their past experiences and preferences. And in that, we might even find it easier to have compassion and find forgiveness. “Bearing with one another” might not be so difficult if we took simple steps to see things from the other person’s perspective.

Recently, I again became aware of how much I took my perfect eyesight for granted when I ended up at the eye doctor myself. Over the past year or so I’ve noticed a decline in my ability to read road signs and things like digital clocks from across the room. I am almost 40, so I assumed this might be a normal – but my doctor informed me otherwise. It turns out I’ve developed a slight astigmatism and will need to start wearing glasses when I’m driving at night. Yikes!

But I remember the moment I put them on for the first time. I called Tim right away to tell him that the whole world had just gone HD! I had no idea that I wasn’t seeing clearly until I put those glasses on – and saw clearly.

When Jesus prayed for us in John 17, He didn’t pray “that they would do church this specific way” or even “that they would all agree on everything” but “that they may all be one” (17:21). Being one doesn’t mean we see everything the same way, but instead that we simply make the effort to step into each other’s shoes and look at things from another perspective. And you never know – putting on the “new self” glasses of “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” may just give you clarity you never saw coming!

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