Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I am strong--or at least I think I am. Sometimes in my decorating, I function more like a mover than a decorator. (I could give Two Men and a Truck a run for their money and become One Decorator on a Mission.) I so want the results now that I have figured out how to move grand pianos, wall units, and bookcases--sometimes by myself--if no one is there to help! Sofas, chairs and tables are cake. It actually gets funny if men happen to be around and I walk by carrying a big upholstered chair or a four foot mirror. They always say, "Here, let me help you", or "I'll get that"--which I appreciate but am so used to doing it myself, I don't think twice about asking for help even when it is right there. I load the van/car with things until there is not one ounce of room for as little as a Hershey's kiss! Then unload it and do it again. People actually stop and ask questions as they go by--"Tell me you're a decorator!" "How do you carry all that stuff?" I have gotten quite good at packing a vehicle to capacity. I lack an "Anthony" to do all the carrying in my "designing women" moments.

I am not as strong in the gym as I would like to be, nor do I go often enough to make progress. Those once/twice a month workouts do not seem to do a thing! Nonetheless, I am surprisingly strong.

So why and how can I be so weak to carry certain things? Things as simple as nick-knacks or as simple as a stack of sheets and a bedspread set? What about something as tiny as a box of old necklaces? This week, I have been moving my mom out of her 3-room apartment. She has been happily living in what I call a college dorm for retired women. They are so funny. However, unloading it and closing it up has not been easy or fun.

I remember carrying all those things in with enthusiasm and excitement, unloading bags from my shopping trips (even if it was at flea markets and garage sales) to bring her goodies to make her place prettier. It was so fun to bring them in, put it all together and see her enjoy it. I never noticed those bags being nearly as heavy coming in, but I really notice their weight going out! The same bedding going out is so heavy that it makes me cry. The same shoes on the journey up the elevators were not nearly as heavy as putting them two steps out into the hall. Necklaces carrying years of memories put into boxes for someone to construct new necklaces from seem heavier than grand pianos. Strange isn't it?

I have felt so weak these last few days. I have hated it! I’m almost too weak to even begin. I have questioned myself, "Am I getting sick? Do you suppose I am just getting old? Wonder what the early symptoms of cancer are, I am so tired; hope I do not have the beginnings of some disease. I think I will sleep a little longer. 6:45 sounds a lot better than 4:30". Between meetings, decorating, and grandbabies I found every reason not to get started, but finally the time had come that I had no choice...

Clearing out her apartment was upon me. You have never heard such moaning! My mom? No, me! It was like looking at a cow grazing and knowing you had to make it into steak. Where do I begin? Where do I put it? How do I get started? I think it was more like a pet cow--I felt way too attached. So miserable. I didn't let mom come to see it--I could not have dealt with two of us--I had my hands full with just me! Why? What was such a big deal? I don't know exactly, I am still processing it. I didn't do this moaning so much aloud as I did inside. I think that was half the battle--to do what you do not want to do-- and still be nice about it. Such effort! I was on the very edge or precipice of falling off into an ocean of tears and it was as if only a thin rope held me, and it was a rope of anger. It was digging in and squeezing too tight. I kept trying to adjust it, loosen it, undo it, or take it off. I did not want it. I don't know exactly what it was, but I was trying my best to be nice about it and know that God is only good and that somehow this will make sense in time to come. I needed faith for what could not be seen, but in Whom I have seen time and again in the past.

My heart found strength just in time when I read Isaiah 46:1 "...the things that you carry are burdensome". I had to blink my eyes and reread it "...the things you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast." God had my full attention; it was as if He had seen where I had been! He had been watching. Yes, this is too heavy! How could it weigh so much and be so small? How does it exhaust me when I can literally work for hours and hours until someone has to stop me because I could go all day and still keep going? How can 9 hours seem like 90 days and three rooms feel like three floors?

"...The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast... listen to me... you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same, and even in your graying years I will bear you! I have done it and I will carry you." Isaiah 46: 1, 3-4

Whew! What a game changer, brain changer! He has been carrying me and will continue to carry me--but the things that I carry were never meant for me to carry! They are too heavy and He knows it! He is there! He is watching me carry this upholstered chair and is saying, "Hey, do you want some help?" I walk on by with tears in my eyes wishing someone else were there to carry it. I am unaware of His offer, of His mighty arms of rescue, and of Who is carrying whom. As I carry the little knick-knacks and realize this is the end of life--knick-knacks out in the hall for someone else to take--I realize why it is so sad. Is this what it all comes down to? Do your kids have to go through your stuff and find someone who wants it or will haul it off? There are so many things now out dated, wrong colors, worn out, or a difference in style. That scenario would be sad. That is what it can be for some.

As I read further, I noticed this chapter is actually talking about carrying idols. Verse 1: "Bel has bowed down, Nebo stooped over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome - a load for the weary beast. They are stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity. Listen to Me, ... you have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. To whom would you liken Me, and compare Me, that I would be alike?" These idols cannot do a thing! They can't carry you--they cannot even carry themselves! They are bent over and have to be carried.

We become like what we worship. (Psalms 115:4-8 Check it out!) If we are living for things - just pretty houses for pretty house sake, collecting things or jewelry - - kids, mates or jobs can all become idols--even church or school all can become idols. They will stoop and fall; they cannot rescue you when you need it, cannot hear you when you call, will not deliver you. Are you carrying things that God never meant for you to carry? Are you seeing the idols stoop and fail? Good! Then you are ready to be carried and know God for who He really is. I am feeling His strength today; His arms are strong. What a good place to be! I am much closer to His heart and I hear His voice much louder. Come on up--there is room for you too!

And Bonnie, thanks for the help!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can Blind Men Make Mirrors?

What would a mirror made by a blind man look like? How clear would it be? How accurate or distorted would it be? Oh, the framework could be gorgeous and the smoothness of the mirror glasslike, but would it reflect the right image? It would seem to me that a blind man could not make a perfect mirror, by nature of the fact that he is unable to see the reflection accurately. This is certainly not to diminish the abilities of the blind or to find the exception, but just as a general true thought. It doesn't seem like it warrants a lot of debate, but more of a shrug of the shoulders and a nod of the head with a half smile, "Yeah, I guess not".

So what's the point? I think we have been using mirrors made by blind men! We have used them and looked at them for so long that we cannot recognize how distorted they are, but our soul tells us differently. There is an ache inside that hears and knows a hint of something else--something different than what we see in the mirror.

All of us have seen these lies, have heard these lies, and have felt the sting of hurt caused by these lies, but rarely do we question just how reliable the mirror we are looking at. The question occasionally comes up when a child or young woman kills themselves because of what they have seen in the mirror. We realize then that these mirrors made by Hollywood, magazines, television and books are not true. But, within no time, we are back in front of them--primping and bemoaning the wrinkles and stretch marks that we see.

These mirrors continue to be used daily to dress ourselves, to gain an "accurate" picture of who we are, and then to draw conclusions about ourselves and those around us! The Bible calls them lost, blind, and those in darkness, but they are our mirror makers! They are our image builders! They are even our rulers of measurement! Does that make sense to you? Doesn't that seem as senseless as putting on make up in the dark? Who could convince you, that although they were blind, they were makeup artists? You’d have your doubts, I hope. No matter how good a designer was, could they design clothes, choose fabrics and fit people if they could not see? Or could they put together a lovely room that is beyond function --all the way to beautiful? Yet, I think I swallow the lies and fall for the standards put on me by “blind men”.

Long ago, you may have figured this out and wonder what planet I’m from that I’m just now getting this. I have long known the principle but have just discovered the ridiculousness that blind men are the mirror makers for all of us. This is not to be down on the blind, they often and oddly enough don't use the mirrors themselves. A while back I spoke to a young man that had lost his eyesight from an explosion in Iraq, just months before. I sat across the table as we ate and asked him what his biggest discovery was in the event of going blind. His answer was staggering..."I’ve discovered that I see people better now. I used to be attracted to or find myself drawn to only beautiful people, but now I hear their hearts and am attracted to them for what they say instead of how they look." Whoa, now that’s a lesson! Because of our desire to be politically correct, I think we can even wonder if it is okay to ask a question that would limit the abilities of the blind. But, I think it is legitimate to say a few things would be limiting. I am on a plane right now, and would be quite disturbed to find that the pilots were blind. Although I have been a passenger in cars with some I called into question their ability to see, I would not willingly get into a car with a blind driver at all-- let alone in rush hour, over steep mountain passes, etc. I am seeing the folly of my own placement of trust in where and how I perceive my value and image.

What do the distorted mirrors tell us about ourselves? We are ugly or beautiful, too fat or too thin, too short or too tall, too young or too old, our nose is too big or our ears stick out too much, our teeth are not perfectly straight nor are they white enough, our skin is too pale, or too dark, too wrinkled or too plain, our hair is the wrong color, it is not a cute haircut--try again next month and if by chance somehow you like it one month it never gets cut the same way twice. Oh, what a mess! Has anyone been there with me? (I know you that are approaching fifty have had to have at least a glimpse) Have you ever stood at the mirror pulling your skin up, sucking your tummy in--wishing that magazine face and body was your reality? Chances are it’s not even their reality--you know--you have been using the mirror of the blind man, too. The Bible calls itself a mirror. It is the mirror of divine accuracy. We are made in His image, uniquely designed. Our hairs are numbered, we are his workmanship--His master piece. We are His one of a kind design. We are His dwelling place and we are in His thoughts constantly. We have a future and a hope for we are His beloved, accepted in the beloved. We are complete in Him for we are His delight. We are precious to Him and loved by Him.

Have you been around little children lately? The age that doesn't know they are not measuring up to whatever mirror the world has made and they just enjoy looking at themselves and talking to themselves? They are so beautiful wrapping themselves in clothes too big and shoes clunking as they struggle to walk themselves to the mirror. When they see themselves, they tilt their little heads and smile and speak to their own loveliness to their self? They see beauty and pleasure that is breath taking. I wish we could all still see that in ourselves for that’s what I think God sees in us. His divine design, his pleasure and delight.

Which mirror do you want to believe? Which mirror are you believing? Are they the mirrors of blind men or the Creator himself?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Unforgettable Grace

Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I am not a farm girl. I grew up on a lake and lived in a resort setting. I realized this all the more as I traveled to the southern part of Chile a few years back. We were met at a small airport by a man in a Jeep. He was going to take us to meet with the indigenous people of that area that he had been working with for years.

In just a matter of minutes I went from the hi-tech world of flying to jeeping in the unmarked fields of the Chilean outback. We turned off a paved road and literally bounced along a tree lined field until the trees eventually led us to a river bank. Baffled by what we would do to cross a rather wide river in a Jeep, I was surprised to see us pull up on some logs that were strung tightly together. We got out and pulled on a rope that was attached to other side of the river to another tree. Some sort of pulley system pulled our logs with the Jeep on it to the other side. We got back in, as if that were an everyday occurrence, and continued our bouncing along a rutty path up the side of the Andes Mountains.

We came to an old gate, swung it around, and followed an even smaller path to a house-like sort of hovel. The wood and mud held itself together somehow in an non-engineered sort of way. There was a dirt floor, some crude furniture, a window and a fire inside. An open door allowed the animals to freely roam. We sat at the table - thrilled to be guests in their home, but also just a bit in a cultural twilight zone. It was like opening a National Geographic and stepping into a photo. The smell of dirt, fire, and animals made it pungently real. There was a pile of dirty dishes across the room that a cat was licking that bore every indication they would be used as our dishes next. Our hosts were not even five feet tall, and they wore clothes that were obviously their only ones and had been worn for a lengthy period of time. They were extremely kind and smiley. I hurt for them as their smiles revealed their desperate need for dentistry.

The woman was tending the fire and preparing unidentifiable food. There was a chicken under the table that was pecking at my red toenail polish. I about turned the table over in surprise at the first peck. I tried to resume my position graciously as they laughed over my awkwardness. Continuing my gaze around the room, I was amused to see Coke bottles and a small TV that was hooked by wires to a car battery. My eyes wanted to check every detail of the room, but my brain kept telling me to refrain, as the more I saw, the more I recoiled.

My dilemma to continue my investigation was interrupted as the woman who carried the hen out from under the table urged me to follow her. I stepped out of the “house” and rounded the corner just in time to see her take this chicken by the neck and whip it around and around up over head. What on earth was this? She then lowered the hen and cut off its head and turned it upside down before I could even process the scene in order to look away. The strong mountain wind whipped the blood all over her legs and skirt and down onto her socks and into shoes. Somehow my appetite left me and I followed her back into the house where she plucked it and put it in the pot with the other things I couldn’t quite make out. The cat jumped down and made a feast of the new pile of entrails she had just made on the floor next to her. It was my first experience with freshly prepared chicken. The greenish white frothiness that gathered on the top of the pot was ladled off and thrown into a dirty dishwater barrel in which just minutes later, she washed the dishes and set them before us on the table. It was an unforgettable meal.

Now, as I read through Leviticus, I can’t help but think how thankful I am that we no longer offer sacrifices for our atonement with God. It seems as though it would be a bit raw. It’s so ugly, bloody, smelly and offensive. The result---forgiveness, must have far outweighed the process.

There would be a lot of questions around such belief as well. Depending on who you were and what you had done, you had to figure out what kind of sacrifice you were to bring: goat, bull, lamb, turtle dove, pigeons, sheep or rams; male or female. The questions of what to cut, what to remove, what to burn, where to put the blood, where to sprinkle, or when to pour it, all had significance and meaning. Then there’s the question of what if you had no animal and you had to bring a measure of fine flour, how much flour, oil or no oil, to pour the oil on it, or mix the oil in it, with or without incense, fat or no fat? How about the lobe of the liver and kidneys, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, is it offered up in smoke on the altar as food or by fire for a soothing aroma? Does this sound a bit confusing? For sure, it sounds disgusting and gory.

And how often was this, daily for some things and yearly for others? And this just covered their sins but could not remove their sins. It had to be brought to just the right person who was dressed in just the right clothes, offered on just the right altar, built of just the right materials, at just the right place, at just the right time. How does that sit with your busy schedule? Sound convenient and welcoming? Every part of it sounds appalling.

And how about the aspect of it being in public? Everyone saw what you were bringing and knew what sin that covered, (oooh, did you see what so and so did today?). They saw how often you brought it, (No way. That sin again?). And everyone would see what you could or couldn’t afford, (I think they have more than what they admit). Talk about humiliating. Perhaps for some that would be good for us, but because of Jesus we have atonement without all of this cost, confusion, or carnage.

Just like we hate the thought of the blood, the death, the gore of a sacrifice and find it so offensive, so God also is appalled at our sin and finds it offensive. It is needful to remember that just because there is none of this cost, confusion, or carnage to us that there was all of that to Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, that is the beauty of it! He became sin for us who knew no sin. The cost was of the ultimate price as He laid down His life for us. The confusion as we read, as to who to bring it to, what to bring and how to bring it, or even where to bring it or when, is settled in and at the cross. He is our sacrifice. We bring our brokenness and sin to Him and exchange it for His healing and His righteousness. We bring it just as we are - no special clothes or place or time - just to the foot of the cross we come. The carnage was no longer the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood that He makes peace with God on our behalf. It’s not the daily slaughter of animals but His one time death requires our one time trust in Him to not only cover but to remove all our sins—past, present and future.
We have the privilege and convenience to go boldly to the throne of God. He says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I am so thankful we live in the times since the cross. We can come privately without anyone seeing how often we need to go to God, what our sin was, or the ghastly procedure of mutilating an animal. It’s quite amazing that He laid down His life for me so that I can receive eternal life. It was an unforgettable grace.