Monday, 14 August 2017

Shattered Mirrors & My Messed Up Mercy


When it comes to mercy, I wish I could be more like a river, but sometimes I’m just a trickle.

Perhaps, it has something to do with the broken 'trinkets' I lug around.

Take for example, my magnifying glass. It works incredibly well... except that it’s broken... the focus is all off.

Huh? That doesn’t make sense to you? Well, allow me to explain.

In moments when I encounter the folly of another wandering soul, another sojourner on this journey of life, I whip out my magnifier. With preposterous focus, it highlights the flaws and faults of the unsuspecting culprit until they loom literally larger than life. 

Yet, when I turn this same lens back on me, it has a [not] surprisingly opposite effect. With 20/20 vision it shines the spotlight on my ‘rightness’ while any error on my part fades out of view.

Any logical person can sense that something is awry with my trusted magnifier, but I stubbornly hold on to it. Why wouldn’t I? It strokes my ego just so.

A broken magnifier would be bad enough, but what’s even worse is the shattered mirror I tote around. If it weren’t so splintered, I could see the truth about myself. A clearer more accurate focus would be achieved. You know, one that shows that of all the sinners I am chief. (1Timothy 1: 15-16) But no, so broken is it, that I don’t see myself at all. What’s worst? It’s been so long, it’s as if I’ve even forgotten what I looked like... forgotten the scars I try to hide.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  James 1: 23-24

This combination... magnifying the faults of others while not being able to get a good look at myself, leads to the biggest problem of all. You see, the broken shards of my mirror have allowed my ‘me-toos’ to leak right out of the bag. That inclusive sentiment... the one that comes alongside my brother - my friend... that whispers ‘I understand’ - ‘I walk the same road’... that softens, welcomes and loves with open arms.... GONE... slipped right out of my heart without me even realizing it.

I think of the prodigal son... how much he had screwed up... how much he didn’t deserve the reception he got. With my ‘if you know better, do better’ justice scale, I am the older brother. I do not welcome this brother of mine. My scale, which vacillates between mercy and judgment, tips towards judgment.

But, maybe it was the gaping hole caused by judgment that convicted me... made me realize that something was wrong. Something needed fixing and I needed help.

As the older brother, I, too, was in desperate need. I, too, need mercy. With my goody two shoes checklist personality type, perhaps it just took me longer to realise it. 


So, I started first with the magnifier. Since the focus was totally off, and it was never intended to be used this way, I took it right back to the Manufacturer. Thankfully it was still under warranty. Yay for lifetime protection! 

When I got it back the difference was astonishing! Now all I could see were specks in my brother’s eyes while large planks and logs were floating around in my eyes. (Matthew 7: 3-5) And that wasn’t all... as much as I tried to keep it locked in his direction, it kept pulling away, steering away from us and up toward God, it just kept refocusing on the amazing attributes of God and all that He has done for us. (1 Timothy 1:16) I didn’t even remember it was supposed to work this way. It’s like it was shouting to me... reminding me ‘it’s not about you... or him... or her... it’s all about God’.

My new mirror is even more amazing. It doesn’t show the reflection I’d expected... the one that the world tells me is there. The one I believe I would have seen before. Rather, it’s like I’m seeing double. For each time I peer into this mirror I see not just me but us... I see us, as we really are... chosen and cherished children of God. I see the ‘gold leaf’ of Jesus’s blood that beautifully paints over our cracks and flaws. The scars we don’t have to cover up when our story merges with God’s beautiful story of redemption... but that open our hearts to receive and give mercy.


And just like that, I 'see' the truth... the shocking ridiculous truth that God continually offers me mercy. Me, the older brother, the one who doesn't show mercy well. Sometimes though, I find it hard to receive it. I mean, when you stop to think about it, I really don’t deserve it. And I have this scale, you know, and it tips towards judgment... even for... no especially, for me.

But wallowing in judgment is not a pleasant place to stay... and God calls to me. Reminds me that I’m fully known yet loved by Him.  So I reach out, and I feel it, too. The beautiful shock of a welcome party I really don’t deserve.

I feel mercy. 

I become the younger brother... the one fully aware of my transgressions and overjoyed by the sweet taste of mercy

And that helps me to understand... that my dear brother... sister... husband... friend and I - we’re in this together. We walk this path together. We all make missteps, sometimes intentionally, and we all need mercy. It’s a true ‘me-too’ moment, and my ‘justice’ scale tips to the side of mercy.

And then it dawns on me... maybe I don't need to carry a scale at all. Maybe that's not my calling.

My trickle of mercy widens, and I am enabled to be merciful just as my Father is merciful... and it is beautiful.


******************
What about you?
Do you find it hard to receive the mercy God, our Father, offers?
Are you towing around broken gadgets and scales that mess up your mercy?
There is hope, my friend.
God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.
May we freely receive and freely give.
And may God make us rivers of His mercy.


Thankful for His mercy,
Carlie

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Have You Forgotten to Prepare for Joy?


My flowers didn’t bloom last year.

It had been a long hard year, and when summer came, I was really looking forward to them. But they didn’t come.

As I drove around the island I would look longingly at other flamboyant trees and wondered what happened to mine. I wondered if something was wrong with them... if there was something I should do... you know prune them, treat them, call in a specialist...

But my Mom kept saying, “Carlie, every tree is different. They will bloom when they are ready.”

Sounded like good parenting advice to me, but I still missed my flowers and I secretly searched for ways to fix the problem. For that is what it was... a problem.

But my Mom was right, for this year, my flowers are back in full radiant splendor.

Now, each morning as I walk out to the porch, I am amazed at the vibrancy of my flowers and the resulting joy they bring me.

But, it makes me think about God, about his absolute sovereignty... about His control over nature, time and events and even more... about my response to His timing and control.

Yes, I know, I’m a bit strange... my kids accuse me of finding a life lesson in everything, but I can’t help it... it’s just the way God has made me. (smile)

Anyway, am I ‘happy’ only when my ‘flowers’ are blooming? 

What happens when there are no blooms... when I’m going through a drought... a lean period... do I trust that God is still in control even then... that He has a plan... a good one... the best plan for me... even when I don’t understand? 

Or do I try to grab the reins out of His hands... sulking all the while? 

Do I lose my joy when the 'flowers' don’t bloom?

Joy. 

That word has been teasing me for the last few years. 

Having lost two key persons in my life within the last two years and fallen into a survival mode mentality, I was in desperate need of ‘morning’ and the joy that comes with it. I was waiting for my 'flowers' to bloom... for the challenges to be gone... for life’s pieces to all fit together... for there to be smooth sailing.

But... it never quite gets there. Does it? If I wanted joy I had to find it despite the uncertainty of life. I knew where to find it too, but somehow it kept eluding me. Was I doing something wrong?

Had I forgotten to prepare for joy?

Christmas in July

The words of the Christmas carol had been playing in my mind for months. Had I missed something? 

What did I need to do to prepare?

And just like with my flowers that year... I saw it as a problem that I needed to fix... something that I needed to do.

But the answer was to be found nestled in an unlikely place within the words of God.

‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,’ Hebrews 12:2

There are two precious keys buried here:

‘Looking to Jesus’... forgetting who I am and remembering who He is... the author and finisher of my faith.

‘Who for the joy set before him endured’... he submitted to the Father... accepted His will... even as he endured the suffering... He accepted that His Father’s plan was best.

And it was. I am so thankful that He bent His will.

And therein lies the secret.
The secret to joy lies in gladly surrendering to my Father’s will... in keeping a quiet heart before Him... by accepting that He knows best and trusting His plan. It frees me from trying to control life... to gladly serving the One who does.

But glad surrender can be painfully hard. 

I struggle to let go. I want to but ‘what I want to do I do not do’. Romans 7:15

Yet each day... rather each moment offers me a new opportunity to hand over the reins of my life... to accept the offer of a peacefully sweet hope-filled relationship with God... and to prepare for joy His way... by simply surrendering to Him. 

I’ve since learned that ‘Joy to the World’ is not really a Christmas song (thanks David Jeremiah), rather it is a song that joyfully looks forward to the millennial rule of Christ... a time during which all who have surrendered to Him will experience joy to the full.

Now I feel better, now I understand... until that glorious time joy will remain a fight.

I see it clearly. 

On days, when I let go, when I surrender... when I keep a quiet heart before my Father... even when my ‘flowers’ don’t bloom... peace comes and joy flows. 

But there are days when the struggle is real. When convinced that I can find it nowhere else, I fight for joy in God.

And this is how I fight.

'See and savorJesus anew,
Offer my life as a living sacrifice,
Yield to God’s love and plan for me.

It's a fight for an 'even when' joy. And the best part is I don’t have to fight alone, for even the very desire to submit, my Father lovingly provides. How blessed am I? (Philippians 2:13)

******************

What about you?

Have you forgotten to prepare for joy?
Clinging onto the reins of control?
Are you willing to surrender?
Yes, I know it’s painful, but it is so worth it.


To read more about the fight for joy in God, feel free to visit John Piper at DesiringGod.org.


Blessings,

Carlie

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

When You Need to Forget Who You Are


Sometimes I just need to forget.

I’ve written a lot about not forgetting – about the intense desire I felt just after my father’s death, the fresh, urgent need not to forget his intricate nuances; about the key to knowing what to remember as we seek to live out our ‘believe’; about never wanting to forget the reason behind our beginning (homeschooling); and about the clarity that comes from not forgetting what I really want for my children.

I’ve even implored you to remember never to forget.

But sometimes I need to forget.

Simply forget who I am.

Now I realize this may sound particularly foreign, even detrimental, in a culture that promotes the countless benefits of healthy self-awareness and a robust self-esteem. But nonetheless, I am convinced that there are times when a needle eye focus on my ‘self’ is the last thing I need. 

Let me explain, and maybe then you’ll agree that you need to forget too.

When I’m in the middle of yet another ‘fight’ - my back against the wall and my fists up, it helps to forget…

When I’m so deep in my own troubles that I can barely see my ‘brother’ let alone offer a helping hand, it helps to forget…

When my plans all fall apart, and I wind up feeling like a failure, it helps to forget…

When I feel completely unprepared or ill-equipped for the task before me, it helps to forget…

When the dross of old or repeated sin dulls my joy, it helps to forget…

When fear seizes my mind and paralyses my body, it helps to forget…

When I wake up another day and the grief is still so thick, it helps to forget…

When the millstone of comparison weighs me down and tells me I’m not enough, it helps to forget…

Yes, in all these times it helps to forget who I am and remember who God is.

Remember that He is the victor when it feels like I’m losing the battle. [Psalm 76] 

Remember that He is 'the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts [me] in all [my] troubles' so that I can comfort another. [2 Corinthians 1:3-5]

Remember that He has a plan for me that is far better than anything I can imagine.

Remember that He is able and willing to equip me for whatever He calls me to.[2  Peter 1:3]

Remember that He is faithful and just, offering always to wipe away my sins and 'restore the joy of... salvation'. [Psalm 51:12]

Remember that He is Love and that His perfect love drives out my fear. [1 John 4:18] [1 John 4:8]

Remember that He is my 'refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' [Psalm 46:1], and nothing can separate me from His love. [Romans 8: 31-39]

Remember His incomparable gift of calling me His child - 'fearfully and wonderfully made' in His image. [Galatians 3:26] [Psalm 139:14]

But, these are not the only times I need to forget. Perhaps even more importantly, on the roller coaster of life I must choose to forget who I am not only in the valleys but during the mountaintop highs as well.

So…

When the birds are singing, the flowers blooming and life is rosy and bright, I need to forget…

When my family is prospering and my kids succeeding, I need to forget…

When the accolades are high and the criticisms low, I need to forget…

When there is more than enough for my family and me, I need to forget…

To forget who I am and remember who God is.

To remember that 'every good and perfect gift is from above'… from our heavenly father.[James 1:17] To remember that it is not about me, and that if I should boast may I boast in the Lord alone. [Jeremiah 9:24]


So, my friends, I hope you understand now why sometimes I need to forget who I am. Focusing on me- in the good times or bad- can leave me trapped in a place I don’t wish to remain. Only when I stand in awe of God and behold Him in all his glory and majesty, holding Him in highest esteem and humbly accepting who He says He is and who He says I am, does it help to remember who I am.

All because of Him and all through Him.

Then and only then, my sadness turns to joy, my fear to courage, my worry to peace and my selfishness to love. I am filled anew with hope as I remember that His Spirit dwells within me, that His power is available to me and that He delights in me. 

Yes, remembering who I am is so much sweeter when I take some time to forget. 

******************

What about you?
Are you in one of those times? One of those peaks or valleys?
Do you need to forget who you are 
and remember who God is?
I pray that you’ll use this as your personal invitation 
to take some time today to forget.
And while you're forgetting 
I hope you will enjoy my new playlist 
that has helped me in remembering just who God is. 

Blessings,


Carlie