Unmasked

Unmasked

Finally we are breathing a sigh of relief and taking off our masks. A year and a half of living in cautious isolation, distance and covering up to provide a measure of protection for ourselves and loved ones has been very difficult. Humans were created to be interactive using all of our senses. It really is nice to see my friends’ faces in person and not on a screen or half hidden.

A mask is simply a covering for all or part of the face and they have been used for tens of thousands of years for many different purposes. There are many types : Camouflage (to conceal) – Ceremonial (funeral, worship, war) – Cosmetic -Disguise (pretend, theatre)-Natural animal color patterns and Protective (from dust, pollutants and infection). This list represents masks that are changeable, tangible and visible.

But don’t we all wear masks on our hearts from time to time? We try to hide our fears, feelings, faults and failures. But we really need friends and places where we can be ourselves, free to share and feel safe. Unfortunately The Church has not always been that safe place for wounded people to come as they are. The world sees a bunch of hypocrites. False expectations of performance or presentation get in the way of true transformation and growth. We need to remember that The Church is not about a building but it is a bunch of broken and imperfect people who are gathered to worship a big and perfect God. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered themselves, ran and hid. God went looking for them calling, “Where are you?’

The group Casting Crowns wrote a song called “Stained Glass Masquerade” that spells out the feelings of not belonging while everyone else pretends they have it all together.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles that hide our pain
But the invitations open
To every heart that’s been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

God knows we wear masks of pride, offense, perfection and strength to hide our fear of exposure, inadequacy and failures. These masks prevent us from finding grace and healing. They hide the real us but also keep other people from seeing Jesus. Masks obscure our vision from seeing the needs of people near us and the purpose He has for our lives.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. Psalms 139:1-3 (NLT)

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7 (NLT)

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body Eph 4:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus is our living example. He never wore any kind of mask. He had no use for pretenders and called them out. He was exposed, vulnerable and judged. It might be scary to take off a mask you have been wearing for awhile. Find a friend to pray with you for courage and the strength to be real. Encourage one another to let the light of Jesus shine through your imperfection ……. and live mask free.

Free to Be Me by Franseca Battistelli

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me
And you’re free to be you

Open Your Eyes to Wonder

Open Your Eyes to Wonder

We live in such a fast-paced world so preoccupied by the next thing on our to-do list that we are actually missing out. When was the last time you were awe-struck by something beautiful and amazing? Maybe the birth of a baby? An especially beautiful array of color at sunset? Experiencing wonder can have a positive impact on our health and quality of life. Too many people have their noses buried in their screens and miss what is right in front of them. We don’t need Google to answer all of our questions or Disney to fill our imaginations. And we don’t need to go on a grand vacation (although it is nice). On the contrary, we just need to open our eyes and minds to the marvels around us every day.

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good a dead, his eyes are closed. – Albert Einstein

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the County fair children and adults love watching the miracle of life unfold before their eyes at the chick hatchery. We silently cheer for the baby chick as it wobbles around in its new environment. Talk to a beekeeper and learn how we get honey from an insect. It’s an amazing feat of nature. My father once took a small piece of grass and placed it over the ant hill and told us to watch. Within seconds the ant patrol came up and removed the object blocking their path. How do they know what to do?

A Lesson from the Ant: 6 You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. 7 Nobody has to tell it what to do. 8 All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions Prov 6:6-8 (MSG)

Living in New England, I’ve been to the ocean many times in my life but if I let my eyes gaze to the end of the horizon, it allows me to see past my present place , to imagine what lies past the edges and what creatures live beneath the sea. Rest, relax and imagine. It sounds silly but people actually go to the seashore during storms. They are drawn by the immense power of the winds and waves and want to experience something bigger than themselves.

In the the Sayings of Agur we read: 18 Three things amaze me, no, four things I’ll never understand— 19 how an eagle flies so high in the sky, how a snake glides over a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, why adolescents act the way they do. Prov 30:18-19 (MSG)

We can all look up at the moon and stars but there is such a limited view in the city and suburbs. Instead, go to the country side, away from the lights and noise, where the sky is filled with countless stars, vast and unending . Stand still and be amazed at the beautiful expanse of the heavens.

O, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder. Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power thru-out the universe displayed. Then sings my soul….. from How Great Thou Art

The Pandemic crisis caused many of us to shut down and focus inward. We have been bombarded by negative media and statistics as well as many real losses. As we regain a sense of normality put down your tablets and lists, look up and around. This is an act of soul care that is FREE – to stop, deep breathe and count blessings instead of losses. Do not lose the joy of wonder.

Other verses to read: Job 38, Psalm 104, Psalm 139,

Mom’s Who Pray

Mom’s Who Pray

Being a Mom is a full time responsibility and privilege. Moms who pray know they can’t accomplish all that is required for children to grow into strong, healthy, self-sufficient, law abiding citizens without asking for the Lord’s help.  

Hannah had no children and even though her husband loved her, his other wife made life miserable. In those days, a woman’s worth was measured by bearing children. As a family they went to the Temple where Hannah, being deeply distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She vowed that if God gave her a son, she would bring him back to serve the Lord.  Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli (the Priest) took her to be a drunken woman and reprimanded her. But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” Eli then blessed her. She became the mother of Samuel who became a great prophet, priest and judge over Israel and she was blessed with other children as well.     1 Samuel 1

Moms who pray know that God hears the cry of their heart.

… For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.     Romans 8:27,27

Moms who pray know they don’t have all the answers and ask for His wisdom and guidance.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.        1 John 5:14-15

Moms who pray will hand over their worries to the Lord in exchange for peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus       Phil 4:6-7

Moms who pray will praise God despite current circumstances because they know He is in control.

Mary was a poor, young, unmarried woman when told she was to become Jesus’ mother. In her small village there would be a lot of gossip and disapproval. Her response to the angel’s message was a beautiful song of praise.

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…”    Luke 1:46-49

Moms who pray, trust in a big God who loves them and their children (grandchildren) far more than they can imagine. Faith accepts that God has a better plan even if the results are never seen. Hannah prayed for a child she so deeply desired. Mary praised God for a child given to her in an unusual and unimaginable way. Both women trusted in their Heavenly Father to provide for their needs.

There are all types of women who fill the roll of Mom; biological, adoptive, foster, grandmothers and aunts but will you be a Mom who prays?

Are You A Percolator Christian?

Are You A Percolator Christian?

I love a good cup of coffee and we are Dunkin’ fans in my house. Did you know that after the Boston Tea Party in 1773, drinking tea became an unpatriotic act and sealed coffee’s fate in America?

It only takes a few minutes on Google to learn there are at least five official ways to brew coffee and thousands of opinions as to what is the best brand and method. The coffee culture has seen a lot of evolution and advancement in how we make our coffee and the devices available. The making of coffee is a serious business to connoisseurs and baristas alike.

In the movie The Bucket List, billionaire Edward Cole was handed an article about his beloved Kopi Luwak coffee which is widely considered the most expensive in the world.  In the Sumatran village, where the beans are grown, the wild Palm Civet eats and digests the fruit then defecates the beans. The villagers then collect and process the stools. It is the combination of the beans and the gastric juices of the tree cat that give Kopi Luwac its unique flavor and aroma.  (This is all true, but I won’t be buying it at over $100-600 a pound.) 

A coffee percolator is a type of pot used for the brewing of coffee by continually cycling the boiling or nearly boiling brew through the grounds using gravity until the required strength is reached. They can be manual – used on the stove top – or electric. I often use a large electric percolator when we are entertaining. Coffee percolators once enjoyed great popularity but were supplanted in the early 1970’s by automatic drip coffee makers. (We love our programmable one.)

I can honestly say my love for God’s Word is far greater than my love of coffee but I know I should spend more time “cycling through” or meditating on the context rather than reading on autopilot.  Reading through a passage several times gives a much deeper insight into how I should apply it to my current situation.

  but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalms 1:2 (ESV)

 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.  Psalms 119:130

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.    2 Tim 3:16-17

Invented in 1929, the French Press method is widely considered as the best and easiest method for brewing superior and consistent coffee. In a press pot, ground coffee is soaked, steeped and strained in hot water; therefore the flavorful essential oils, caffeine and antioxidants are better diffused and preserved.

Due to the Covid 19 shutdown I missed several opportunities for being soaked in God’s word and spending time with other believers. A Christian family camp and a writer’s retreat are two places where I feel God’s word being poured over me in very different ways. When I spend more quiet time away from the daily grind to steep in His Word I feel refreshed and renewed. Time away can help “the essentials diffuse and be better preserved” in my heart and mind.

Do you automatically make time for reading the Bible as a daily habit just like drinking your coffee (or tea)?  They say that coffee is a healthy antioxidant for the body but God’s Word can lift your spirits and strengthen your inner heart. I challenge you to make some time and space to let the words percolate in your mind and pour over your soul this week. 

 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.       Psalms 19:14 (ESV)

True Worship

True Worship

During Holy Week we spend time pausing for prayer and reflection on all that happened to our Lord Jesus His last week on earth. Worship comes from the core of who the worshipper is and what God means to them. Worship is not about a place but the posture of the heart. True worship is directed towards God and His message of great love and forgiveness not the messenger. Prayer, praise, poems and music, whether private or corporate, are all forms of expression used in worship. A true worship experience should change your heart and mind because you have spent time in God’s presence.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3  Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:1-8 (ESV)

This is the second time we know of that Jesus was anointed with a jar of costly perfume. The first time was at a dinner with some Pharisees. A woman with a questionable character entered the place crying at His feet with great sorrow for her sin and in worship of the only One who could forgive and redeem her life. ( see Luke 7:36-50)

In this passage in John, Jesus is spending time with some dear friends before heading to Jerusalem for Passover. Lazarus is resting as close as he can get to Jesus. Mary does what she does best by showing great hospitality and Mary washed Jesus’s feet using expensive nard and tears of love. Mary took the role of a servant by washing His feet; the very example Jesus would soon be giving His disciples .

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 (ESV)

How can we show love and gratitude toward our Savior? How should we worship a Holy God?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (ESV)

We worship the eternal God and Father Who is Almighty, all knowing and always present. He is our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend. Our posture in prayer should be one of awe with hearts wide open. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to take the punishment for our sin and die in our place. He did this willingly and not because of anything good or deserving we have done but because of Who He is.

Come, let us worship The King.

 

WOUNDED

WOUNDED

Over the years as a surgical nurse I helped create wounds in my patients in order to remove disease or fix a problem with the body’s mechanics and then we close the wound carefully to allow for healing.  An open and or unattended wound cannot heal but instead will become infected and as the infection grows the surrounding healthy tissue will also be affected. The Surgeon in this situation has to make an existing wound even larger to remove the diseased part and cleanse it thoroughly to allow the body to heal properly. All wounds come from an injury but aren’t limited to a cut in the skin. A wound can be superficial or deep, emotional, physical or spiritual.

Lisa Terkeurst said, “Right now in the middle of the pain you didn’t cause- the change you didn’t want, or the reality you didn’t know was coming…your life can still be beautiful.”

There are wounds that have been inflicted upon us and God knows about those. The abuse you have endured, the betrayal of a friend, the losses you have incurred and every bump and bruise you have had along life’s journey are known to Him. He also knows about the wounds you have caused: that careless word, the lies and juicy gossip heard, the selfishness that hurt another.  He knows it all. The diagnosis is the same – SIN.  Sin causes injury, separation, pain, decay and death.

Another fact about wounds is they leave scars.  I have a large scar that runs half way around my body from chest surgery that I had – twice. There weren’t any “scopes” available then to help make the scar smaller. Our scars remind us that we once were wounded but have been healed and mine is a part of a much larger story of God’s guidance, protection, provision and healing.

 Kintsugi is a centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and transforming it into a new work of art with gold, the traditional metal used in Kintsugi. The name of the technique is derived from the words “Kin” (golden) and “tsugi” (joinery), which translate to mean “golden repair.”. The scars and cracks of the broken ceramic become the focus and turn the object into something unique and exquisite.

 

In Hebrew the word el Rapha , means to make healthful. Jehovah el Rapha means The Lord Who Heals. Like the Kintsugi  pottery – God wants all of the pieces of our lives- our wounds and brokenness – our joys and good times too. He will cleanse us and make us whole and beautiful both inside and out with new purpose.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.    Isaiah 53:3-6 (NLT)

 At this Lenten season especially we look toward the cross and all He accomplished for us. Our healing begins on the inside when we ask for forgiveness and offer Him all of our heart, soul and mind. Come as you are – He offers freedom from sin and guilt, peace in uncertain times and a calm assurance that we are never alone.  Let Him make something beautiful of your life.