Thy Word Is A Holy Flashlight

Devotion:  Profound dedication.  Earnest attachment to a person or a cause.

My profound dedication and earnest attachment is a not linear.

It is circular and comes back on itself.

It gets tangled in other affairs.

My profound dedication and earnest attachment is like the necklace I have that is fine and delicate.

I  must put it away properly after wearing it or it will twist and form the tiniest of knots.

I need a small needle, some bright light and a surgeon’s patience to untangle  the silver threads  in such a way so as not to break them.

I must be still, except for my thumbs and index fingers and of course,  my eyes, which squint for direct vision.

Lately, I’ve been  practicing “lectio divina” ,which means divine reading, as part of the soul training part in a book called “The Good and Beautiful God,” by James Bryan Smith.

It is here that the holy flashlight shines.

It is here that I see the tiny knots in my life that must come under the prick of a needle.

My profound dedication and earnest attachment is being challenged by the Love Chapter, this week’s reading.

When I read the words slow, when I reflect on the phrases long, that’s when the light grows brighter.

I write the things that come into my spirit and I see where the tangles have been all along.

Love is patient – I am not patient. It is a work for me, a struggle. I am so easily distracted by the next thing that the present thing goes undone.

Love is kind -I am kind to children. I am kind to the elderly. I am kind to cashiers and waitresses. I am kind to people I like. I am not always kind to people I love.I am definitely not kind to bad drivers. I am not kind to people I perceive as rude. Or stupid. These unkindnesses are my knots.

Love does not envy – I do not think with love thoughts when I see favoritism and unfair preferential treatment.

Or nepotisim.

I have gossiped about this.

This knot is going to take some work and hopefully will not leave serious damage.

Love does not boast – I wouldn’t say I was a boaster and perhaps by saying this very thing, I am boasting. Perhaps I have a blindspot. Because I will not say I am boastful person, certainly does not mean I am not prideful.

Love is not proud – The pride in me tends to be quiet. It is a family trait that we blame on the Scots. It manifests by not asking for help, by keeping mum about problems and by keeping an arm’s length between me and people. I am afraid it’s because I cry much too easily and I am embarrassed by my tears. This knot will require a delicate touch.

Love is not rude – I am an interrupter. It is a rude habit forged over years of verbal processing. It is a knot that irritates.

Love is not self-seeking -I have desired acknowlegment. I have desired respect. I have wanted favor for myself and my children. I have manipulated to get it. A knot of shame.

Love is not easily angered – This is a knot that shows up mostly  in my car. This knot needs no squinting to be seen.

Love keeps no record of wrongs – This knot, where I held my father personally responsible for crimes of the heart committed forty years ago, is almost completely untangled.  What a relief.

Love does not delight in evil –  I do not relish anyone’s cum-uppance. That vengance belongs to God has been imprinted on my heart early on is His doing, not mine.

Love rejoices with the Truth – Yes! The spirit leaps within me whenever Jesus, the Truth, is talked about, sung about, loved about.

Love always protects, love always trusts, love always hopes, love always perseveres – I do,  I want to, I try, I am trying.

Love never fails – My love does. Jesus’ love does not.

Because He has no knots, no entanglements.

He said He wants to make me like Him.

He wants my profound dedication and earnest attachment to be without hindrance or flaw.

It is why He always comes to me carrying a flashlight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bubble Bath Skills Or Not

I simply wanted to take a bath.

Not a shower where I would have to do all the work, but a bath.

A bubble bath.

The kind where the water is  almost to the rim of the tub and it’s hot and the bubbles are soft and you slide slide slide into the slink until you exhale the breath of letting it all go.

Tonight the cosmos shifted for a brief moment and suddenly there were no children in the house. Whisked away, they were, to some other universe. Now let me say this about children, even on- the- cusp- of- adulthood children:  When they are present, a mother is also present.  With, to and for them. This is as it should be, the sweet privilege of Being There.

This night, though, I did not have to be anywhere or be anything.

The husband had retired early and I was left.

Alone.

Without company.

Without duty.

I was okay with this.

I’d spent the better part of the day outside pruning and weeding.  The pebbled space near the foundation of the house had been taken over by crabgrass.

For hours the back was spent bent doing the low work of  yanking and pulling stubborness lodged in dirt.

Later I worked under one of the maples, its base in a shambles of  fallen over lilies having bloomed a month early and now in mid-August looking October tired. I bent again with shovel and rake and dirtied myself up in good shape.

My feet took the brunt of it, poor things, snug in old clogs catching dirt clods.

When the house went quiet, I saw my feet were not fit for the fresh sheets I’d put on the bed, so I decided a bath was the best remedy.

My sister had recently given me some bubble bath for my birthday and I was looking forward to trying it.

I pushed the tub faucet all the way to hot, released the bubbles into the waterfall and shed my gardening clothes.

I stepped into the tub and let myself down down down into the white froth and laid back and suddenly realized I needed something to  rest my head.

I pushed my weary self up and reached, dripping, for the purple towel, thick like a pillow and quickly jumped back into the water.

Folding the towel proved difficult for some reason and I twisted in the water to try and position it without getting it wet. Once I got it where I needed it for maximum comfort I reached over the rim and felt for the book  I’d  left on the floor. I managed to pluck it with two fingers and bring it up over the tub’s edge.

Settling my head, I opened the book.

I waited. I shifted and slid deeper into the water. It wasn’t comfortable. Where was the bubble bath bliss I’m supposed to be experiencing, I wondered.

I shifted again. This is when I realized I’d lost…. padding. My built in backside cushion had somehow deflated.  Is this normal?

I decided not to think about it and commenced reading.  The words were a blur.

I need glasses to read.

They’d been left on the sink.

I dropped my book on the floor, rose slowly for the second time  and with one leg, stepped over the edge of the tub and tried to reach for the glasses with the least amount of dripping possible which meant I was doing an Olympic caliber split, naked and without padding.  I quickly came to my senses and decided it would be better for me, my husband and the emergency room attendant if I just walked over to the sink. Pools of water on the floor can be mopped.

Back into the tub I went only to find the big purple towel fat and floating, much of the tub water receded into its purpleness.

Standing knee deep in bubbles, I attempted to wring out the towel, fold what had become a five pound purple blob and repositioned my ever-decreasing padded self, bones and all, back into place.

The water was lukewarm.

I sat up to turn the faucet on for more hot water and heard  the sound of something weighted sliding into the water.

The purple towel blob.

It was at that moment something came from the deep recesses of my mother brain and reminded me that  I do not possess bubble bath skills.

When the children were little we lived in a little house. The bathroom was little, too, and  built into a loft and the roof line wasn’t tall enough for a shower.

With five small children I learned the Art of the Three Minute Bath. I could wash my entire body and my hair, plus shave my legs, in the time it took a normal person to brush their teeth.

It wasn’t like I had a choice. I knew from hard-learned experience I  couldn’t risk the children deciding to play Barber Shop by giving each other haircuts or  give them time to wonder  what the kitchen cupboards would look like painted with a coat of peanut butter.  The only other alternative was to stay dirty for the next ten years, but I am a prideful and vain woman and I couldn’t handle the eccentricity.

I pulled the plug.

I put the water splashed book on the rug, placed my glasses on the edge of the tub and rose slowly for the third time.

The purple blob sank back into the frothy mix.

I toweled and realized I never actually washed.

So much for soaking the dirt and grime of the day away.

I looked down.

My feet were pristine.

Two pretty little things;

fresh and pinked up on the white rug.

I was reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter that if the feet are clean, then the whole body is clean. I am totally overspiritualizing,  but I decided then and there since my feet looked so good, I was clean enough for one night.

I wrung out the purple blob one last time and cast it into the utter darkness of the washing machine abyss.

Bubble bath skills or not, I have dominion over the purple towel.

A Voice of One Calling

Voices.

Words of wisdom and clarity slicing through the muddle and fog that humanity seems to continously stubble through.

 

Words that come from the holy place to reside inside a man or woman for a brief hour in the grand clock of time marching.

Words that speak truth.

Words that speak The Truth.

Will there be another  man sent from God?

Perhaps a woman assigned a position for such a time as this….

A Deborah.

A Nathan.

An Esther

A Daniel.

A John.

A Billy.

Yes, that Billy. Billy Graham.

I’ve been thinking of this man often the past couple of years. I have read his books. I have seen him on television. But this is not why I’ve been thinking of him.

He just pops into my head for no real reason except for me to ponder, to reflect on the little I know about his life.

I know he has remained faithful to one message, that Jesus is the only way to God, that the cross is the only way for forgiveness to be real and tangible and settled.

I know he has spoken this message to millions of people over the course of his lifetime.

I know that he has not watered this message down for anyone, not even a president.

A blip on the radio two days ago said Billy Graham was in the hospital being treated for bronchitis. It said he is stable. It said he is resting comfortably.

It also said he is 93.

So, I wonder.

When this man dies, who will God raise up to take his place?  Who will be the man or woman God chooses to speak both Love and Truth into the culture?

Who will be chosen to speak simply about Jesus?

Who will say His name with awe and love dripping from their lips before presidents and kings?

Who, at this moment, has the caliber, the integrity, the lack of guile forged into their spirit to humbly speak the things of the Kingdom without compromise or celebrity?

I wonder who God has prepared  to stand against the buffeting winds of the cultural downslide.

Who will speak it?  The Word, that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God seems to like choosing people whose assignment is to carry a sword in their mouths to speak before throne sitters.

When Billy Graham leaves the skin tent his was born into and steps into the arms of his glorious Saviour as a beloved son, who, right now at this moment, is waiting in the desert place, waiting to be nudged by the Holy Spirit onto the global stage with the words  “Make ready the way of the Lord on their lips?

 

A Tale of Two Shepherds

The bus stops at the place where the road dips and the slaughterhouse rests on a little rise.

Kenny Barton pulls the lever and the door opens.

He looks up in the mirrored rectangle and watches my sisters and I come down the aisle.

He grins big, tanned and leathery, the lines dug deep on purpose around his mouth.

I think his teeth aren’t real.

He waits, his right hand on the lever, while my littlest sister hesitates, short baby legs slowly stepping down each step of the bus and onto the broken asphalt.

We wave Kenny Barton good bye and the three of us make our way up the incline toward the house.

I smell blood.

My throat goes tight.

There’s been some slaughtering.

I shift my lunchbox from one hand to the other.

I step into the back of one of my sister’s leg.

Both of them have moved in tight and I misstep.

We come to the top of the rise and Swenson’s Slaughterhouse leans back into the landscape like it grew out of the dirt.

The blood smells new and sweet.

There it is.

A just butchered cow is hanging from a hook above a channel carved into the floor near the open door.

I always look. Even when my stomach flips, I always look at the open carcass. White, then pink, then red.

Headless body swaying, swaying, swaying.

I watch the blood drain into the channel and without letting my eyes drift past the cow’s tail, I know the dog is lying there; a lying down german shepherd with tongue hanging over the channel filled red.

Brown and black sides heave in the heat. Long nose twitches.

My sisters and I huddle closer.

Don’t look at the dog.

Don’t make eye contact. Look straight ahead.

I can see the dirt driveway to our house up ahead. It’s not far. We could run, but my littlest sister wouldn’t make it without falling. It’s what the shepherd would want anyway.  The small one. The vulnerable one.

He pretends to be a good dog,  lazy-like, eyes pooled brown, watching, watching, watching.

I know different.

The moment we pass he will make his move.

When he can no longer see our faces and he has our backs in front of him, that’s when he will bolt.

A real life big bad wolf, fresh blood staining his tongue, the shepherd named Prince will suddenly run for all he’s worth because of the thrill. Because of the evil delight he has in terrifying three little girls.

Evil is like that. It is a coward with fangs.

It is a coward fully protected in military gear possessing an arsenal of weapons turned on innocent victims at their most vulnerable of times… during their leisure.

What is the remedy for such evil…such cowardice hell-bent on destruction just because….?

“The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes at him with his teeth.

The Lord laughs at him; for He see his day is coming.”

My sisters and I pass the wolf dog, the counterfeit prince, and true to his nature,  he springs toward us.

Our minds say walk, but our hearts pound out run, and we do.

I get behind my sisters and let them run ahead of me because I am the oldest, not because I am fearless.

We hear Prince’s low growl turn into a raging bark.

We run and we do not turn around.

We run and we hope.

Hope that believes he won’t snatch a leg or arm flailing awkward in its pushing, pushing, pushing of our bodies.

Hope that believes we will outrun him this time.

Hope that believes we will be rescued.

We reach the driveway.

A voice suddenly calls “Hey!”

It is a voice that carries over the road and past the field and over the stone wall to our driveway.

It is a voice that commands obedience and  immediately the dark prince turns abrupt and slinks, hind end low, head hung down.

Mr. Swenson calls his dog with a word and a tone and the dog obeys.

He is on an invisible leash, but a strong leash it is.

The day I hear of another shooting, another broad stroke of evil it is like I am back on a little road in Grantham running from a senseless blood-crazed dog and there is nothing I can do to save myself.

I say to God on that day….what is going on? Is there no safe place?  What do I tell my children?  My grandchildren?

The voice comes instantly. A voice that carries over the confusion and past the fear and around the questions of my heart.

Read Psalm 37

I run to the Word. To the place the voice tells me to go.

“Do not fret because of evildoers….”

“…for they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb.”

I am rescued from the terror that tries to steal peace.

“Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.”

I am comforted by the real Prince, the Prince of Peace.

“…the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble.”

I listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and I am saved.

 

Grace Is A Sword

It lay down perfectly. Seams went straight and tight.

Before the chic I- must- have- ceramic- tile, it was a good choice for a hundred year old not so quite plumb kitchen floor.

It has taken a foot pounding, dog jumping, slipper slipping assault,  not to mention dish breaking, milk spilling, mitten dripping abuse for fifteen years.

Then there was  under the standing.

Under the early morning breakfast standing, praying the beginning of the day.

Under the after school snack standing.

Under a conflicted teenager standing.

The weight of waiting.

Determined not to let the sun go down on anger standing.

Eventually all that pressure.

Seams moved apart ever so slightly.

Yesterday I lifted up the rug and there it was.

Black.

Old glue, black and congealed,  had seeped through the seams and adhered to the tile face.

Tarred. Marred.  Scarred.

The poor old floor had given in to the pressure.

What was hidden was now revealed in all its blackness.

No  scrubbing. No elbow grease.

Stronger methods are needed to conquer the black.

Grace is a sword.

Double edged like a razor.

Able to cut the black away on the first stroke.

Able to pick up the chaff and polish on the second.

 

Grace glints sharp against the assault of the enemy of my soul who says I am finished in my sin, the black that seeps from me sometimes when I am under pressure.

The pressure that squeezes out the angry face, the hurtful words, the accusations.

I need the grace blade that cuts away only the parts that hurt, that stain and disfigure, but leaves what He intended in the first place.

Grace comes hanging on a cross and I am not finished.

I am not destroyed.

It is finished. Every stain, every blemish, every sin is destroyed instead.

Nailed to the cross.

The cross puts everything back in its rightful place.

Grace that hung on a tree straightens everything out.

I am made clean by the blade of the Grace sword.

No more black oozes from the pressure.

Only Green.

Life-Bringing Garden Green.