31 Days of Imperfection, God-Sighting Saturday

God Sighting Saturday {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 22}

Each Holy Saturday, I try to comprehend, just a little bit, of what that day might have been like for Jesus’ disciples.  The person for whom you gave up everything to follow was just beaten and killed.  What now?  Everything you based the entire last 3 years of your life on seems pointless.  You saw what He did, you saw He had power and authority, but why didn’t he use it… why didn’t He make them stop hurting Him?  There were many other times where he did the impossible and escaped death.  Why not now?

Like I said, I TRY to comprehend, but to be honest, it’s really hard.  Because I know what Sunday brings.  I know that Easter is coming.  One of the joys of working in a church is that you get to be a step ahead… Good Friday service is barely 10 minutes over and we’re breaking out the lilies.  Where as this “2nd day” is just a joyful day of preparation for THE 3rd day, for the first followers of Jesus, it was the day in which they questioned EVERYTHING.  They gathered together to grieve not celebrate.  They prepared, not for his resurrection, but to anoint their dead teacher the next morning.

In all this, I guess what I realize is that many times the ways in God works seem really messed up.  He works in an upside down and backwards kind of kingdom.  We want healing from an emotional burden and we have to walk back through the pain.  We want to be the greatest and he calls us to be the least.  Someone hurts us and we’re called to turn the other cheek.  We’re to love and pray for our enemies.  I don’t know about you but when I start to look at all of this, it seems kind of backwards… kind of imperfect.  Yet even when things seem broken, messed up, and imperfect to us… they may be the very things God uses to bring about the greatest joy.

We wouldn’t have Easter without the cross.

We wouldn’t have redemption without a payment for our sin.

We wouldn’t have joy unless our Savior went through the deepest despair.

 

I’m sure to those disciples on that Holy Saturday 2000 years ago it seemed as God’s “perfect” plan was anything but.  Why would their teacher just give up?

Because he loved them with a perfect love.

While we may have trouble contemplating what this “2nd day” was like for those disciples, I don’t think we have too much trouble remembering other “2nd days” in our lives… times when it didn’t seem Easter would ever come.  But we can remember the same hope we have today… Easter IS coming and God’s got a PERFECT plan whether we see it as that or not.

Soon… light will break through… soon … we will see the empty tomb… soon… joy will be restored. Hold on.  Easter is coming.

31 Days of Imperfection

The Essense of Brokeness {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 21}

Nothing I could say today, quite captures what I want to say about what’s in my heart.  This blog post, The Essense of Brokenness is the closest I’ve seen in the last few days.

Read it today and give yourself time to ponder…

It was when Jesus was broken that his life purpose was fulfilled… when he, though perfect, picked up all of our imperfections, the greatest miracle the world has ever seen, occurred.

I just wonder what he might be able to do with our brokenness?

31 Days of Imperfection, Books

Because God’s Love is Perfect… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 20}

“Because God’s Love is Perfect, I Don’t Have to Be”

Before I got past even this chapter’s title in a book I’m currently reading (A Confident Heart by Renee Swope), I knew it would likely have things to say to inform my 31 Days of Imperfection blog posts.  Within a couple pages I was overwhelmed by how much the author connected to where my heart was on this month-long journey.  I hope you enjoy a few quotes from that chapter as much as I did:

“We don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We surely don’t want people to see the peeling paint of our imperfections and the rotting attitudes in the wood boards of our minds.  It’s embarrassing for people to see our flaws and failures, so we work hard to look like we’re doing fine from a distance.  Sometimes I think we tell people we’re fine even when we’re not, because we want to be fine.  Or we hope by saying we are fine, eventually we will be.”

Oh, how I know this path in my life… we want to be fine… we long for it… and maybe, just maybe, if we act like it enough, we can even trick ourselves into thinking we’re fine.  The hard part is that sometimes we actually succeed in doing just that, and that is the most dangerous place of all to be.

“What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even though we’re flawed.  Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close.  So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we’ll convince Him and everyone else that we’re fine. … Slowly we begin to believe that we have to be perfect to be loved and accepted.  We know we never will be-but we’ll die trying, won’t we?  For much of my life, I put expectations of perfection on myself because I thought if I let others see my weaknesses and insecurities they would think less of me…”

I don’t think Renee is alone in believing that lie.  Don’t we all have a part of us that believes that if we let others get close, they’ll walk away… if we let others really see, they’ll think less of us.  Oh, how many times we struggle, perhaps even daily, with these lies from the devil and in the process block out the very community we need in those times when we’re not fine.  We live in that tension of longing for someone to notice that we’re in pain, but doing whatever we can in our power to keep from being seen.

“Oh how I longed for someone to see past the exterior façade and look into the secret places of my heart. I wanted to be known and loved for who I was. Yet if I let my guard down, I was afraid someone would say I was too sensitive or too serious.”

This makes me think of pastor’s sermon this last weekend, especially the part about how we let what other people think of us run our lives instead of letting our actions flow out of who we are in Christ.   We fear what others think or will think and so we fall deeper into isolation which never helps the original situation of why we weren’t “okay” to begin with.  You see, God created us to be in community and relationship… with each other and with him.  We need each other.  We need to hear each other’s stories.  Most of all, we need to remember that we have a God whose love truly is perfect and because of that, we don’t have to be.

31 Days of Imperfection, Devotional

Open Our Eyes, Lord {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 19}

I think sometimes we get so blinded by our imperfections that we forget that we have a Savior who can heal if we’d just ask.  We forget that our imperfections may be the things that draw us closest to Christ.

Open our eyes, Lord.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was an ordinary day… like every other day.  I just sat, begging, by the side of the road.  Hoping that SOMEONE might notice me and give me something to eat. 

There was something going on… a big crowd going somewhere. I really have learned to figure out a lot of what’s going on around me just by what I hear.  I mean, I guess I don’t really have a choice when I can’t actually see what’s happening. 

It seemed like maybe just a group heading toward Jerusalem for the festival coming up later this week, nothing out of the ordinary… happens every year.  It’s fun to sit here and listen to the conversations of the families walking by, excited for the celebration in their future.  But this group seemed different than just another family.  I asked someone what was going on and they excitedly told me, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!” before running off to catch a glimpse.  

I don’t know what came over me… it was completely out of character, but I just began to shout.  “JESUS!  SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!  JESUS!  SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!”  I was calling out again and again.   I didn’t know what it was inside of me, but there was something in my heart that just KNEW He was the One… He was the One who could heal me… and not just my eye sight.

As I shouted, everyone just kept telling me to be quiet and get out of the way.  But I just kept shouting louder and louder.

Later people told me that he stopped and said “Call him.”  But all I knew is that someone came up and said, “Cheer up!  On your feet! He is calling you.”  Jesus, of Nazareth… calling ME!  Before I could even think about what I was doing I threw off my cloak, jumped up and made my way toward him, not even caring that if, for some reason, he didn’t heal me, I’d have no way to find my cloak again.  And then, I heard his voice… the voice of Jesus….

“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabbi, I want to see.” was all I could mutter out in the presence of the great teacher.  

“Go” Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” 


I can see. 

I, Bartimaeus, yea, the blind man… can see!

He said “Go”, but really I couldn’t help but follow, for not only did I see the physical things around me for the first time… I could see that this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, was unlike any other…

31 Days of Imperfection

Pure Delight {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 18}

Sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store talking on the phone with a friend.  Life is overwhelming and she needs a friend to just talk through it with.  I gladly listen, I encourage, I pray.  Getting food can wait; some souls need fed.

My mouth may be saying the words, but my ears are need the reminders too…

“It’s okay to be overwhelmed by life at times. “

“We don’t have to have it figured out.”

4:8 your brain.” (Philippians 4:8 – Whatever is true… dwell on these things.)

And as the prayers rise from across hundreds of miles through a phone line, and to heaven still the same, we both are humbled by a perfect God who loves and cares for us imperfect people.  One who sees our needs… our imperfections… where we are lacking… and places us right smack dab in the place, with the people, with the gifts that will fill those needs, perfect our imperfections, and make up for where we are lacking. And from what I know of this God, He likely finds pure delight in every second of that filling and perfecting.

Boggles my mind.  Comforts my soul.  Restores joy.

31 Days of Imperfection, Lent

A Sabbath from Perfection {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 17}

About a month ago, I blogged about some new realizations I’ve been having about the concept of Sabbath keeping.  In summary, I realized that while I was good at not being at my job for a 24 hour period, I very rarely took a true break from work.  My “days off” were filled with shopping, cleaning, running errands, and the like and I was desperately needing some ongoing, consistent, times of restoration.

I’m now about 2 months into a journey of re-discovering true Sabbath and I must say that I love it more and more each week.  🙂  Sure, there have been plenty of things that have tried (and at times succeeded) at stealing that time.  The things of this world press in especially as a church worker during Lent.  Heading into Holy Week has been crazy, but I’ve realized in those busy, expectation-filled time is when I need that Sabbath the most.  The reason why (at least for me personally) is DIRECTLY connected to this 31-day focus on imperfection.

In the busiest times of my life, the expectations seem to be the greatest, and the more distant I get from who God’s meant to be.  Like today’s sermon talked about, I get more focused on what I can accomplish or what people think of me than who I am.   Sabbath creates automatic space for me to set aside any expectations and just simply BE.  Sabbath demands nothing.  Instead it invites me to remember that I’m NOT perfect and I DON’T have it all together and I don’t need to.   By refusing to meet anyone’s expectations… especially my own, for one 24-hour period a week refreshes me to be able, the other 6 days of the week, to sort through all the expectations and really be doing what God wants me to do our of who I am in Him and his calling on my life.

Taking Sabbath is also a very important reminder to me simply that I’m NOT perfect, that I’M NOT GOD and He doesn’t expect me to be.  It reminds me I need rest.  It reminds me that I need to be filled.  It reminds me that I can’t always be the strong one and that sometimes I need to cry on someone else’s shoulder.  It reminds me to seek out relationships with family and friends instead of disappearing into my own little world.  It draws me into deeper relationships with others, and most importantly with God.

It says, “it’s okay to let things be.”

Today, I was reminded of a blog post I read around Christmas time called “Present Over Perfect.”  One passage sticks out to me each time I read it:

And the same is true at Christmas. You can show up with your perfectly wrapped grab bag gift & your perfectly baked cookies…and your perfectly resentful and frazzled self, ready to snap at the first family member you see.

Or you can choose to rest your body & nourish your spirit, knowing that bringing a grounded, present self to each holiday gathering is more important than the gifts you bring.

While this was specifically talking about the Christmas season, I see applications of this in my everyday life.  I can make every phone call I need to make, visit with every person that I want to see, check off every item on my to-do list, and have a perfectly clean house, but lose focus of why I’m even doing those things. I can so easily forget that there are real people behind them and that I, too, am a real person with real feelings.  Even if the dishes have to stay in the sink another day or a phone call waits till next week, keeping Sabbath refreshes me to be able to go back at it strong for 6 more days.  Instead of working myself into the ground, I let myself be grounded in the truth of who God’s made me to be.  Taking a Sabbath from perfection helps me focus on the things that really matter… like many of the things Shauna states in her post I mentioned before:

Present over perfect.

Quality over quantity.

Relationship over rushing.

People over pressure.

Meaning over mania.

Especially as we head into this holy week, which is notably one of the busiest times of the year (especially for church workers) I invite you to remember to not lose sight of what really matters… take some moments to be grounded in Christ and his great love for you.  Take a break from perfection and just simply be.

And now, it’s time to turn off my computer and my phone and go enjoy some Sabbath! 🙂

31 Days of Imperfection

Messy Hearts, Messy Lives, and a Messy Savior {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 15}

I sat in my kitchen last night … sad.  As I thought about the past few days, I was reminded that we really do live in a broken, hurting, imperfect world.  While it doesn’t take much to realize that, this truth has been right in my face everywhere.  From friends who are suffering physically to hearing one youth after another share last night what a rough week it’s been… from emotional pain that loved ones are walking through to stories of broken relationships: the hurt in this world is very evident.

Our lives are messy.

But right in the middle of this mess, our Savior comes.  I was reminded of this truth last night as the high school youth spent the evening making the communion bread that we will use in worship next week on Maundy Thursday and Easter.

As we recounted the stories of Passover and the Last Supper… as we pierced the bread just like our Savior’s body was pierced…  I was reminded that our God isn’t afraid of our mess.  Instead, he came right into the middle of this mess and got messy himself.

He was born in a barn; his first bed was an animal’s feed trough.

He bent down, spit on the ground, made mud, put it on a man’s eyes and healed him.

He touched lepers when everyone else ran away.

He defended ones that others just wanted to condemn.

He was beaten, whipped, mocked, and nailed to a cross.

 

He got messy and then claimed victory over the mess so that one day… the mess from our lives will be gone forever. 

 

Thank you God for not being afraid of our mess.  While we stand here in the middle of it all, it can seem so overwhelming at times.  Remind us that you are bigger than our mess, that you lift us out of the mud, out of the slimy pits we find ourselves in, and put our feet on a rock.  Give us a firm place to stand until that day when all this mess is gone forever.  Thanks God.  Amen.

 

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  (Psalm 40:1-3)

31 Days of Imperfection

(Im)perfect Love {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 14}

This morning I found myself thinking more about yesterday’s post about looking back at times when our past keeps us from action in the present or future.  I think one of the biggest hindrances for almost every single human is remembering times when they were hurt in relationships before.  Maybe someone did something that betrayed you, or a loved one died, or someone had to move away.  Whether the loss was intentional or not, these situations often keep us from wanting to love again.  We’re afraid that if we love again, we’ll just be hurt again and we’re not so sure that’s a risk we want to take.

I’m learning a lot right now in my personal devotion life about the truth that if there is fear involved, then it can’t really be love.  See what I mean in 1 John 4:18…

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

As I said, I’m still learning about this and don’t have it CLOSE to being figured out, but I think it actually has something to do with being okay with imperfection in relationships.  If we could figure out exactly how to be in relationship with other people, if we could discover a way to take away all the risk, I don’t know if those relationships would be worth it.  Isn’t that why God gave us free will in the first place?  He loved us so much but if love was forced into this perfect risk-free box, it wouldn’t really be love at all.  Despite the risk of us turning our backs on him again and again and again, He desired perfect love, which is messy love and risky love.  He wanted real love even if it mean he’d have to die for us.

While there is risk involved, we somehow, by God’s grace, must learn to step past that fear because, as the passage says, “one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear and love can’t reside at the same time because if we’re living truly in the love God’s given us, it drives away all fear.

My perfectionistic personality then wants to “figure it out” to “make sure” I’m loving the “right” way.  Yet what I hear God saying in this passage and the ones before it is this: Don’t worry about if you’re loving “right” just let me love you and it will all flow out of that.  Here is the above passage more in context:

“And so you know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.  In this way love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

Love is worth the risk.  Not only do we need other people, other people need to see Jesus’ love through us.  It’s not about figuring out how to love or if it’s okay to love it’s all about KNOWING and RELYING ON the love God has for us.  If we’re drowning in God’s love, we’re going to be okay.  If we’re drenched in it, other people will take note.  If it’s overflowing in our lives, they’ll get covered in it too.

Perfect love drives out fear. 

We love because He first loved us.

We don’t have to figure out how to get rid of that fear on our own, we just have to seek Love Himself and fear will pack its bags and disappear.

Even if we do get hurt again, God’s love… his PERFECT love remains.  We can trust in that truth and let our hearts rest in that when fear wants to creep back in.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. … This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”  (1 John 3:16,19-20)

31 Days of Imperfection

Looking Back… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 13}

This morning I received a text from my mom with a picture of the first house I lived in.  She was in the neighborhood at a meeting and decided to drive by. While we moved out of the house when I was somewhat young, the picture evoked many memories from the house… girl scout cookies stacked to the ceiling waiting to be delivered…  evenings spent in the bathroom or hall closet waiting out tornadoes (of course the KS girl would mention tornadoes!) … mornings standing on that porch while dad let ME decide whether or not I was going to wear a coat … sharing a room with my sister.

Thinking back on those memories makes me think about how our past impacts us in the present and is a part of who we are.  For example, many of the memories I shared above have shaped who I am today and how I relate to my family and people around me.  I grew up knowing my parents cared for me and supported and encouraged me.  They likely would have much rather just paid for girl scout camp, but spent hours walking and driving us around to get orders and then to go back and deliver them.  They taught me to work hard even if it meant they had to work hard too.  Through things like knowing how to stay safe in a tornado, I learned to trust hat my parents would always do whatever it took to protect us and that God was our ultimate protector.  Instead of forcing me to wear a coat when I didn’t want to, my dad encouraged my independent heart and let me go out on the porch and decide for myself… and live with the consequences of my decision.

Our past impacts our present and our future and this is true when we think about imperfections from our past as well.  Many times we look back at the sins and regrets of our past and try to ignore them, hide them, cover over them, do anything but pay attention to them.  Whether we like what we see when we look back or not, it’s a part of who we are and to ignore parts of our past means we ignore and discount part of ourselves.  A Bible Study we recently went through in lifegroup on the book of Esther said it this way:

“You cannot amputate your history from your destiny. ”

In Esther’s case, it was her Jewish origin… her “history” that allowed her to step up and save the entire Jewish race from destruction.  She could have tried to deny where she came from, but that would have done no good for her, her family, or the Jews.  She was called to be vulnerable and share her history in efforts to make an impact.  We are created to shine and share God’s love wherever we go… that is our purpose.  Sometimes the parts of our lives we least want to remember, that we least want to share,  are the places through which God’s grace, forgiveness, love, and perfection can shine through most glorious.

This Lenten season is a perfect time for reflection.  Look back… are there any imperfections that you’ve tried to ignore?  Are there parts of your history that you just wish weren’t there?  Ask God to help you stop trying to amputate that part of your history but instead to heal from it and then use it as a part of who you are as you shine His perfect light into dark, imperfect lives around you.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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 the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)