March 2010

Last weekend we were out of town at our daughter’s volleyball tournament.  All the girls were so excited to be staying in a hotel together without their parents in the room…and perhaps the parents were excited to have a hotel room without their kids!!  The first evening we all had dinner together at a local restaurant and it was a fun time for the families to get to know one another off the court.

The next afternoon we were trying to put plans together about where we could go and thought we had it down when…it all fell apart.  The girls were whining about the plans, other parents just dropped their kids off at the hotel and took off, the coach turned a cold shoulder and walked away in the middle of a conversation without a word.  In a nutshell everyone simply chose THEMSELVES without thinking of anyone else.  And as they did…I followed right along with them, but mine had some really good “righteous justification”!!

In my heart (and with my husband) I simply said “I’m done!”  I was done trying to help pull together someone else’s plans…I was done worrying about how the girls with no parents around were going to get something to eat…I was done trying to communicate with a person who is repeatedly inconsiderate and immature.  (I did go to the pool to be the “lifeguard on duty” because I didn’t want anything to happen to the girls…but I did it with a very bad attitude!)

I was sinking into the very thing that I was so mad about – selfishness, doing your own thing, individualism.  And the sad thing?  I kind of knew it, was trying to slap a “Jesus label” on it to make it all right, and wanted to wallow in it for a while.  With my teeth gritted, arms crossed and eyes narrowed, I proceeded to state my very good case before the Almighty.

It was the next morning, however, when He answered me back.  It was that gentle answer of God that pierces you to the core and makes you feel undone…don’t you love how He speaks?

I am reading a book right called The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton.  It is about meeting God in the church year.  In it the author made this statement:

In recognizing our sin and, with it, God’s mercy, we become able to face – and embrace – the reality that we are utterly dependent on God.  The ashen cross we receive on Ash Wednesday, which reminds us of both our origin and our destiny, could be interpreted as a clarion call for charity.  For charity begins with humility, the recognition that we share a common origin and a common destiny: we are all dust and to dust we shall all return.

(And here is the part that gripped my heart.)  The despairing response to this declaration is “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  The Christian response is to turn, marked as we are with the sign of our mortality, to the Lord’s table where we do indeed eat and drink, but soberly recognizing in the Bread and Wine  the body and blood of Christ who died that we might live…It reminds us of who we are – human beings who depend utterly on the mercy and lovingkindness of God.  Knowing this, we can extend to others the mercy God has extended to us….”

At this point I had to close the book because I was so fully convicted and my head was swimming.  It is true that I am called to dine at the table on the body and blood of Jesus.  Iif I am a Jesus follower (which I am) then that is the very food that sustains my life and gives me the energy to move in this world.  In this meal that Jesus gave us, I feast on love, sacrifice, forgiveness, laying down my life, justice, kindness, compassion, holiness, death of my own will and probably a million other things that I don’t yet even comprehend.   I dine on HIM and it is more than enough.

But what about all these other people?  The ones that make me really frustrated?  Though they may not come to the official communion table, the food I receive there can come to them.  As we are together, do I offer them the mercy I have tasted?  Do I take the morsels of forgiveness and compassion out of my pockets and share them?  Do I offer them a long drink of love?  I guess I began to wonder if…in my everyday life, do I give others a taste of the very body and blood of Jesus?

On the last day of the tournament, the girls won their first match and we had an hour and a half until they played again.  Many of the girls were hungry and we were trying to figure out how to get some nourishment into them.  Our family had bought some Subway sandwiches before we arrived that morning just so we would be sure that our kids wouldn’t be starving.  As I reached into our bag to pull out my Veggie Delight, I knew there was a girl on the team who is a vegetarian.  I have a really tough time with this girl – her attitude, how she talks to the other girls – but I knew what the Lord wanted me to do.

I asked her if she wanted half of my sandwich, to which she gratefully smiled and said yes.  I unwrapped that sub sandwich and as I broke it in two I swear I could hear the words, “______, this is Christ’s body given for you.”   I am pretty sure she didn’t hear it, but I did.  And that act of sharing my Subway sandwich became an act of worship.  I wanted God to know that I choose the way of the communion table – to give up my life for the sake of another.  And I wanted the world to know just of little of what God tastes like.


I went for a walk yesterday.

I followed the trail through the woods, down to the beach.  And once on the beach, I asked God to enable me to see a small item or two that might be a gift from Him.   I have been struggling with so much in my heart during the Lenten season and have had a tough time sensing His presence.

I walked on a quiet coastline – my only companions, the birds scavenging for bits of crab or sand dollars.   The outgoing tide had pulled its blanket back to reveal a coastline inlaid with stones, drift wood and other debris left by the ocean.

My eyes scanned the ground…for what I was not sure.  A shell?  A special stone?  And then I caught a glimpse of a twinkle – a reflection of the (rare!) bright morning sunshine.  I bent down to find my gift in my hand…a piece of sea glass.

As I continued to walk I found a few more of these treasures, some translucent white and others a shamrock green.  As my fingers massaged the pieces and they rolled around in my hand, I asked God to help me understand the gift.  Here is what was whispered to me:  “Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace…”

I breathed in those words and then I understood.  In my hands I held broken pieces of glass and much like the broken pieces of my life, when they are freshly broken they are far more dangerous.  They can cut and wound and inflict much pain.  Given up to the sea, these glass pieces go on a journey – probably a very tumultuous one.  They are rolled and rocked by the waves, carried in and out with the tides.  They are tumbled upon rocks and scraped across the rough sand…I am sure (to the glass) the process is a brutal one.

The outcome, though, is quite different.  While perfection is not their destiny, their sharp, jagged edges are smoothed by the sand, rocks, and “wave upon wave upon wave…”  They adorn the sea shore with spots of color and, most importantly, they can be picked up with no fear of cutting the hands that hold them.  Their brokenness remains, but the time traveled in the ocean takes their edges off.

It made me think of my broken places…of how God has taken those pieces on a journey that has sometimes felt severely brutal and yet as each new drowning wave crashes upon me, I hear the words “grace upon grace upon grace….” I cannot deny the existence of this brokenness…it is more real than I wish it was.  But I also know that God is smoothing out the razor sharpness and destructive edges.  The color of the brokenness remains the same, but in the waves of God’s making, it is tempered and frosted.  It is as though those broken places become colored by Grace –  they are not so shiny, so vivid, but frosted – more quiet and at peace.

O God of the oceans, rocks, waves and sand…help me trust you with my brokenness.  Even when it feels brutal, let me remember that it is Your grace – tempering me, changing me and creating something beautiful out of my broken scraps.

Found this prayer by Bonhoeffer and it fit – as though it were the very blood passing through my heart into every vein in my body.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray

And to concentrate my thoughts on you;

I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,

But with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you there is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways,

But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,

And enable me to live now

That I may answer before you and before men.

Lord, whatever this day may bring,

Your name be praised.