Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Beauty from Ashes

In previous years, since the fellowships in which I have encircled myself haven't celebrated any corporate Ash Wednesday ceremony, I have remained aloof to it.  This year however, it has come to my attention.  In researching it and finding the origins to be so closely connected to my Jesus, I have begun to marinate in verses of Scripture to do with ash in the days leading up to it.

Of the almost 45 references I looked through, I found some to be so heart binding as well as various connections between them, which have evaded me previously.

-I have held Genesis 18:27-33 dear to my heart for years because of the intimacy that is evident between God and Abraham as the man tugs at the heart of the Deity he loves and respects much like a child to a parent in attempt to influence His decision.  This time Abraham's acknowledgement of his being "nothing but dust and ashes" influenced me to once again acknowledge my "nothing but dust" condition before my Holy God and His Son.

-On through chapter 19,  I read all the great lengths to which God went to save the few from destruction culminating with these words, "{God} remembered Abraham and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived" in verse 29.

-As I read all of this in one sitting, when I arrived at Jonah 3, I was overcome with just how opposite  the King and the Ninevites reacted in heeding similar warnings given to Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis.

- The account of Mordecai in Esther 4:1-3, the reply of Job in 42:1-6, the proclamations of Isaiah 61, and the words lovingly embedded through Hebrews chapter 9-13 all speak to the heart behind what is commemorated and acknowledged on Ash Wednesday: "though I am nothing but dust" I anticipate Your salvation through Your Son who withstood the 40 days in the desert, completed the work He came to do on my behalf, became the sacrifice that I needed to cleanse my sin, and ultimately arose to prepare a place for me to be in Your Presence.  I look forward to celebrating that in 40 days (minus the Sabbaths) from this Ash Wednesday.

Yes, it can be just another religious ceremony; it can be mere actions with no meaning; it can become an idol if not carefully checked.

I have a dear friend whose house burned years ago and her sister had framed some words including the "beauty for ashes" for her.  That frame usually sat on my friend's mantel and I read them often when at her home.  It's image stuck with me in later years as I experienced heartache, distress, and mourning.  I have usually associated ashes to be those of broken dreams and defeated hopes, but what is pressing me on this Tuesday night, on the Eve of Ash Wednesday is the beauty He can bring forth from the ashy remains of my sin not merely my shattered dreams.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Target: Be good. Do right.

This has been my focus since I can remember focusing.  Don't get in trouble; don't make authority mad; don't reap negative consequences.

Only problem: I am not good.  And as I get older "right" can seem fuzzier and fuzzier at times.  Sometimes it is just plain fuzzy and other times my sinful bent and maturing tendency to justify warp it until it favors my children's pictures when my camera is not on action mode.

That is why Grace is essential for me and astoundingly it is also SUFFICIENT! ( I still can't attempt to wrap my brain around that without becoming dizzy)

 As Grace continually arrives on the scene the overwhelming desire to bask in the Good, move in the Good, follow the Good,  and imitate the Good blots out everything else.  Be good.  Do right.  The same and yet oh so different.

 Once again, as so many times before in the last 36 years, He blinded me with an oxymoron.  He flipped life over.   Up is down; East has become West. But His Love, His Constant, His Truth, His Saving Grace has not changed.  It is still the Core, the Axis, the mental gymnastics bar on which my perspectives flip. I begin to glimpse that in order to bask, to follow, and to imitate, there must be a bit of a rebel inside me.  (Me? A rebel?)

"How?!?!?!?!" you ask. "How can targeting good (under Grace) and a rebelliousness coincide within one person?!?!?!"

In our culture (as I mature I now see in any culture), to follow Truth most often means moving against the norm.  To swim upstream.  To counter.  Rebel. To feel the mass with whom I love to hang go about things differently, head in a different direction, grow increasingly distant.  I am not for knocking anyone over in the process just inching another way.  I have initially planted and am forging ahead opposing their inertia while attempting to gain my own.  Once in a while faltering and quaking are apparent; it is exhausting.  I have sensed myself spinning as they brush by.

Eventually the dust settles.  Familiar words echo in my heart,  "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)  The words, although comforting, have new meaning.  However exhaustion is still winning in the flesh; the journey is acknowledged as unfinished. There will be more losing (frighteningly and hopefully) for His sake and their will be more finding (anticipating the Day).

Quote:  "The world certainly was designed with a sense of humor, wasn't it?  Inside every truth and every appearance, there's a bit of opposite tucked inside."  -The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

That word: "NEVER"

I thought I was careful with it.  I tried not to say it much, ...and then I got married, ...and then I became a parent and realized even though it may not have exited my lips, it had left a definitive path out of my brain.  (somewhat of a slimy one similar to a slug or snail)

I have since found that the lips were too often involved as well.

I am currently chewing on my latest serving.  At least I saw it approaching (served by my precious kiddos) and so I just began to gather the seasonings necessary to get it down: zesty self-humor, splash of hopefulness, and pinch of nuttiness.  So far it hasn't been as difficult to digest as some past "nevers."

It has even had a bit of appeal as though maybe I daresay I am developing a taste for it.

I can say that my lists  of "nevers" are changing. I sense that my "never wills" list is growing shorter (I am learning not to add things) as is my "never haves" ( I am being afforded opportunities to mark things off). These are added bonuses of growing older and hopefully wiser.

(currently on menu: homeschooling)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mission: Overcome

It is another one of those seasons...one where the brokenness of the world is SO evident around me.  I know the brokenness is always present but it isn't consistently apparent especially with those I love so deeply. I am not sure if in TRUE reality it comes in waves or if I just am more aware of it at some times more than others.  Kind of gives a glimpse into what God endures continually for those He loves SO DEEPLY.

I am currently watching marriages struggle and limp along, doors to dreams and hopes for life direction be slammed shut for precious young families, the health of one of the BEST people I have ever met continue to fail, medical procedure after medical procedure being performed, and loss of loved ones to envelope others in debilitating grief.  I hurt and yet I am numb.

And yet I also see newlyweds experiencing the joyous awkwardness of being unified in life together, babies being announced, expected and born, marriage proposals inciting anticipation, accomplishments being achieved, adoptions being completed, and children laughing all around me. I am joyful and full of hope.

I miss the naive girl that postulated at one point in her life that "everyone experiences pain and if you get it all over with early you can enjoy the rest of life". While I miss her, I like the more seasoned lady in the mirror who is anticipating the quoted "Peace on Earth" of the Christmas season to not mean an absence of fighting or chaos but  to triumphantly mean His Peace and Quiet Settling in the spirit despite the chaos and suffering.

I hear my peers contemplating life purpose. I watch people pursue the "American dream". I observe my own children's diligence in school, golf, Scout rank, being the "buzzer beater" at PE, completing that awesome Beyblade attack, and creating this spectacular __(so many things can go here ) today.  I complete continuing education credits, pack lunches, fold laundry, etc.  I live and love in the monotonous and the awesome.  Life marches across my face with more laugh lines than tears.

And Solomon's words echo loudly in my ears reverberating louder than the blood pumping through my veins: "all of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (throughout Ecc. 1  & 2)

 I wonder at purpose, I wonder more at HIS Purpose.  I have begun to question if purpose can Truely be revealed this side of Heaven.

And then He encourages me with Revelation 2 & 3! (I have to admit this is the first time I have ever been encouraged by something out of Revelation; I usually get utterly confused at what minutia I do comprehend. It has only seemed to say,"it is going to get REALLY BAD before it gets better!" Also I usually bog down as I realize I have done most everything done by the churches plus some and I am only one person!!)  But this phrase, "to him who overcomes", oh what balm, what sweet soothing ointment to the soul, repeated over and over near the end of each specific church description.  Not "to him who is flawless," or "to him who is disciplined" or "to him who makes fantastic decisions"or "to him who succeeds in this life".  "TO HIM WHO OVERCOMES!!!"  It doesn't really even matter to me what the listed consequence is, just to have the hope of overcoming--as a promise that overcoming is possible.  Target: take heart, be of good cheer, overcome!

 John 16:33 " I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world." (and ALL of  John 17-oh my!)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rain, Rain, Let's Play Today

As I blogged the pictures from our rain fun on the other blog (www.disbellfam.blogspot.com) , I couldn't help but correlate rain play to life.  This may be a stretch but for me it was a clear picture.  For rain play and fulfillment, conditions must be just right!! Timing is everything.  First it must be the perfect season for the water temperature to be enjoyable on the skin. Second there should be no lightening for safety reasons. Third it must be a convenient time to get wet so as not to wreak havoc on clothing, hair or valuables, etc. For me personally, it has to be in a location where bare feet or flip flops are too.  (Soggy socks do not allow me to enjoy:)

 In much of my life I have experienced this! In some of my life I have missed this.  There is so much to be said for the delayed gratification of waiting for the perfect moment coupled with the spontaneity to jump into the moment!  Ready and set with exact amount of prayerful anticipation minus the killjoy of too much expectation to dive in and live fully in His creation of that second in that place with those other creations.

It seems our cultures (both secular and religious) lose sight of that. Either they are completely impatient or they wait to buy, sell, or participate out of obligation or extremely high expectations.  Both of which leave them disappointed!  "Wait" is far removed from "no", but our culture has made them a synonym. "Hope" is FAR removed from "demand" or "require".  To hope in God's promises is different than to attempt to control Him by our human actions.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Jesus and books

Two short sentences following one of the greatest accounts shared through Scripture.  I have read them repeatedly in my life but I think in previous moments I have been so emotionally enveloped in the description of what my Savior and Friend had just experienced on my behalf as well as his interaction with Peter in the previous verses that I have overlooked them.  (This too is one of my favorite accounts in the Bible).

"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." -John 21:25

These words proclaim the Power and Efficiency of Jesus Christ as they simply stand on the page, from the 33 years of life to the 3 or so years of ministry.

If I already can't fathom what I know about Him doing, how much did he really do? I allowed my mind to wander through my memories of the first time I saw the library in the animated film Beauty and the Beast  and continue through my tour of the library at the Biltmore in Asheville. These two experiences alone, as minimal as they are, created awe within me.  As the realization struck me that John did not have the experience of holding a modern book or walking through a Barnes and Noble and seeing binding after binding lining shelf after shelf, these words grew in size and meaning before my eyes "the whole world would not have room". John also did not know at this point how many years the Body would continue in this world following the resurrection to be able to testify to what the Arisen LORD would do through hearts down through the ages! Already he is exclaiming that the world could not hold the accounts which is in reality a fraction of what He has done! What POWER!! what GLORY!! Whom and what shall we fear?!?!

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Flipside Farah"

I have a friend who has recently dubbed this title for me. She recognized before I did that I can usually find another perspective about most any topic.  While I find the humor and love in her comment, I do struggle with indecisiveness because of this strength.  That is the thing about human strengths; they usually cause an opposing weakness.  In my youth, sermons about being "lukewarm" used to weigh upon me heavily because of this but as I have grown in knowing Him, I have been able to see more clearly when I am experiencing empathy or perspective and when I am being spineless mush.

Lately, I have been watching many of my friends take and project their "stances" on issues whether personal or political.  On one hand, I envy their decisiveness having made up their mind and stated their position. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder: will they be able to still stand in that circle they have drawn five or ten years down the road having had more life experiences hurled in their direction?   I certainly have experienced refinement of opinion in my own life many times! (Granted there are some things that are black and white)

There are also many of my friends that truly believe that I have certain stances on many issues and yet we have never even discussed them.  For most of my life, people have made decisions on whether to include me in an event in their life based on where they thought I stood about certain things.   A couple of my friends who are pastors' wives and I have repeatedly lived through  how people adjust their words or behaviors as soon as they find out to whom you're married.  The people who know me BEST know that I have intricacies weaved throughout my views on things.  

In processing this, I began to ponder if this is what Christ was emphasizing when he stated, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)  Oh, to know Him so well and our friendship to be strong enough as to see intricately how He sees things, to do as He does, to love as He loves!  Many times in Scripture He surprised those around Him (and me) with the stands he took, as with Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the woman with the alabaster jar, and several times with Peter (just to name a few).  As for me I hope to remember to stand for the fact that I am wrong, to stand to love all other people who are wrong with me, to seek to follow the way through the Word,  and most of all to love the One who is right and good, righteous and true.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Rhythm Amongst Utter Confusion

As I read "God also said to Moses, 'I am the LORD.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. (Exodus 6:2-3) I heard a beat.  Was it a drum, was it bass?  No, it was a heartbeat.  Flashbacks of David teaching a group of students about God's heartbeat for humanity flew across my mind.  My heart did backflips as I realized this was one of those beats in that repetitive rhythm that awes me.

I have always loved a good beat.  From my childhood, living near the high school football stadium, hearing the drums lead the march into the stands to songs on the radio to a drumroll just before a reveal or punchline.

I admit I don't always comprehend the beat of His Heart for His ways are much higher than mine so I usually look like I have two left feet when He asks me to dance.  I even searched and dug back through Genesis to see how Abraham referred to him. Remembering that Moses is believed to have been the author of the Pentateuch most likely during the 40 year wandering in the desert helped appease my brain's snivelings of defiance. This is the name Moses had come to know as the LORD's!   In this passage God is telling Moses: I am introducing myself to you and the Israelites that are captive in Egypt in a way that has not been done before- as One who redeems, Breaker of your bondage, One who will be with you.  So listen up, watch, and experience! It will be NEW and I am letting you be part of it!

There are so many beats that make up the rhythm of His love for humanity from the first beat of Creation to the last breath of Jesus on the cross to the crescendo of his ascent first from the grave and then on to the right side of the Father- all of which were NEW, NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. A cloud passing by a cleft in a rock, delivery of a promised land, a Most Holy Place, a virgin birth, a child teaching scholars; it goes on and on.

 So why does my own heart and soul pound so with anticipation and excitement?  Because it is continuing steadily building until that day that He reconciles it all, when He seals His claim to us for eternity, and removes the separation for good! One can't even guess what that NEW THING WILL BE or who gets to participate!  But He knows!