Small words can pack a big punch.
They have a limited amount of letters but carry a lot of meaning.
Recently I was in a gathering where the Pastor from my church shared a story from John 13:1-5. He got me thinking about a small word. It was near the end of Jesus Life. He knew it. He knew that one of His own, Judas, would betray Him and set off a chain reaction of events culminating with His death. He also knew that all power in heaven and on earth was given to Him and He could stop all of this at any time.
The the story reveals Jesus next move.
…so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
There it is. That small but powerful word. So has a story all its’ own.
Jesus knew the enemy, He knew the assignment, He knew how much power He possessed. He could have ended it all with one small word and never face the betrayal, beatings and death. Instead, He used one small word to begin something.
In a shocking move Jesus bows down and starts washing feet. Washing feet was a custom in Jesus day. The host would have the guests feet washed by a servant out of respect and necessity. Feet got very dirty so washing them was an important custom; but it was considered too lowly for the host to do. A servant was assigned this task.
This is NOT something the King of the universe does. This is NOT something the Leader of this tribe should be doing. And yet there He was…all because of “so”.
The word “so” is intriguingly placed in this narrative to get our attention. Jesus could have done anything, so He chooses to get dirty and do what the lowest position in the house does. It’s one of the clearest pictures of Jesus. Mind blowing humility in the face of great adversity combined with the reality that He could have taken Himself out of the entire situation. He chose to stay. He chose “so”.
So is a cross road.
I am fighting with my spouse, so…
I’m addicted, so…
I don’t know what to do about my job, so…
I’m overwhelmed, so…
I don’t know how make things right with my friend, so…
I don’t know how to make this decision, so…
I have a chronic disease, so…
So is not a fix-it kind of word but rather an invitation. So invites us to get beyond ourselves, even for just a moment. It welcomes the idea of Jesus coming into our point of need. So asks us to allow Jesus to get on bended knee and wash clean the thing that has created the dirt to begin with. So is the beginning of a conversation not the conclusion. Jesus could have just fixed everything, instead He invited HIs disciples into something greater.
Jesus would rather restore us in our present troubles in order to meet with us at our point of need.
Meeting with Jesus is the real point of “so” in this story. Without the “so” dirty feet wouldn’t have gotten washed. The disciples would have simply gone on ignoring them. Without the “so” Jesus the kneeler would never have towered with great self restraint, compassion and humility. Without the “so” there would be no Savior to meet.
Each “so” that comes is an invitation to meet Jesus; to welcome Him in to wash our dirty feet, our anger, our mistakes, our confusion, our doubt, our illness, our anxiety, our wounded souls. Each “so” we acknowledge initiates a conversation between us and Jesus. We look at our dirty feet and He begins to wash them, carefully removing the stains. Cleaning the sores so infection stops. Wiping the heavy dust from the roads traveled. We are embarrassed by our dirt. Our instinct is to not let Him see, let alone wash, but He is compelling, convincing. We know we need His touch.
And tomorrow we will again face another “so”. The conversation continues. So is a small but powerful word.
I watched the sun set tonight.
I was on the beach with a smattering of people, all there to do the same thing, or so it seemed.
Four or five people stopped their beach walk to capture the fire ball going down on their phones. Three young men behind me were in their own world. Reliving their glory days, or moments, or whatever with all sorts of #%&@!. A couple of families with children floated in and out of the water. Completely unaware of the miracle that was around them.
The sun began to kiss the water line. Soon she was gone. Sunken deep in that mysterious place underneath the sea. And as she left two people began clapping.
I’m not sure exactly why they clapped or for whom they were clapping but they celebrated.
When my kids were little we spent a few vacations in beautiful places where the sunset always ended our lazy days. Each time the sun fell away we clapped. Applauding our Creator for His insanely crazy ability to motor the sun through the sky each day, on our behalf and for our good. We celebrated Him and all that He brought to us that day. But that was easy. We were on vacation.
Sunsets happen every day. Magical moments are all around me just waiting for applause. Why does it take a vacation for me to see wonder and applaud what is praise worthy?
There’s a really old hymn that has one of my favorite lyrics. It’s a prayer to God. “…tune my heart to sing Thy praise.”
My heart needs tuning. To see with deep eyes. Observing mysteries in all their fullness. To move with responsive recognition. Giving witness with thunderous applause. But I cannot get there on my own. My heart needs tuning, remembering, reminding, turning, focusing.
The two people who clapped tonight were answers to a prayer I’ve prayed a thousand times as I’ve sung, “…tune my heart to sing Thy praise.” In-advertant missionaries converting my soul; sent to tune my heart into singing God’s praise.
All praise to You God who holds the sun in one hand and my world in the other. The holy celestial dance replays over and over. I step forgetfully into my day not remembering Your faithfulness and goodness from one minute to the next. But Your sun, moon and stars put on a show for all the world to see. I awake from this worldly slumber and clap with glorious wonder. My heart in tune with Thee. ~ Amen
May you clap today in glorious wonder. Awake with awe. Full with songs.
So I recently cleaned out my silverware drawer. Every time I opened it I was frustrated by the chaos. A small voice kept after me, just deal with it, clean it out, fix it up. So I finally did.
You’re thinking, big deal, right?
Well it is to me. I have one drawer where I keep silverware and most all the kitchen utensils. When I first moved in this house this drawer seemed most natural to me to host all things kitchen utensil-ly. So it became the silverware home. And like all homes, over time it needs some fixing up. Something I had neglected for a long, long, time…ask anybody who has tried to open it.
So one snowy day I decided enough was enough and I cleaned it out. I purchased new drawer liners and threw away anything that hadn’t been used in a year or that had at least three more just like it. It’s amazing what can accrue over time in a nasty silverware drawer.
Alas, I got the job done and all was right in my kitchen.
As I looked at the newly organized drawer, ok I know some of you are looking at it and are thinking “That’s organized?” believe me…it’s a step up …a big big step up!! But as I looked at my drawer I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with how long it had taken me to deal with the mess. I was embarrassed by the amount of useless things and crumbs taking up space. Why did it take me so long to fix this mess?
And then it came to me. Almost as if a little voice quietly spoke these words.
Everybody has a mess somewhere they don’t want to deal with.
I know I’m not the only one who has a messy silverware drawer. Raise your hand if you have a closet you are afraid to open the door to for fear it may never close? How about a garage that no longer can fit your cars? Maybe a basement that has been hijacked by old furniture, boxes of memories or the stuff that you think you may need one day? A crabby attitude that invades family time? Envy that has taken root and fills your thoughts with jealousy? Cookies you just can’t stop eating? Anger that is ravaging your relationship? Control that micromanages everyone and everything? Obsession with phones, tablets or computers that you can’t seem to live without? Fear that keeps you from leaving your comfort zone or keeps you up at night? Am I getting close?
We all have messes. We share this trait as humans. We all have something that we know needs attending but we’d rather not deal with it. This is a common thread in each of us.
After I had cleaned the drawer I realized that it felt good to have order back. It felt good to have invested in something that made my life a little better. Looking at my newly organized drawer I had another revelation. Improvement is good. Improvement is possible.
Which one of us is not drawn to stories of those who overcome? Who does not find appealing the stories of those who, although living with difficult, even self induced, consequences, find life in seeking order?
We are created for order in the chaos. We are flawed by our own inabilities and fears.
I took out one fork at a time when I cleaned my drawer. It felt big at first to tackle the mess. My drawer really was a disaster. But with each utensil I pulled out I gained a growing desire. A desire for order and a clean drawer. One motion at a time. Removing one item at a time, I began to believe it was possible to get through it.
I may be flawed but I am influenced by a desire for restoration.
Do you hear a voice whispering something small to you today? Our problems feel so big sometimes it keeps us from dealing with them. Sometimes a small voice is necessary for big jobs. Sometimes small voices are the ones that get us to take that one step, that leads to the next step that cascades into a series of steps toward order, improvement, health, growth, healing and restoration.
Maybe we shouldn’t be listening for the big voices but the little ones?
We may share the messy trait as humans but we are united by our desire for wholeness and restoration. Breathing life into whatever needs a fresh start we write a richer story, we awaken the desire for good to spill into our lives, we extend the hand of unity to someone else needing to do the same.
Resorting order starts small. Like a silverware drawer. Maybe the little things we bring order to foster courage to tackle something bigger farther down the road? Today a silverware drawer, tomorrow the back part of the basement. Who knows?
January 1 2015 my son asks, Mom what’s your New Year Restoration?
You mean “resolution”?
No, “restoration”, that’s what it’s really about anyway.
He got me with that one. He’s right.
New Year Resolutions are about restoration. Transforming something in your life that isn’t so good into something better. Restoration. I like that spin on this age old tradition.
Restoration is practical, active and visual. How many times have we watched shows where old homes, junk or furniture have been restored for a new purpose?
Restoration is hope and possibility filled. There are places in my life that need to be restored for a new purpose. Who doesn’t need an upgrade of some kind?
Normally I do not do New Year Resolutions, but I will do a New Year Restoration.
Back to my conversation with my son.
Well Jake, my New Year Restoration is so say “Thank You” more often.
Because when I say “thank you” out loud I’m practicing gratitude and I want to practice gratitude. I want to appreciate people and blessings more regularly.
I think gratitude leads to a fuller life. Appreciation reveals goodness in everyday places. I want to focus more on what’s good versus the negative things I’m prone to recognize quickly.
That’s good mom.
And that was that.
Resolving to change has never really gotten me anywhere before.
I’ve been more successful at restoring something that is run down and refurbishing it. Restoration is a process. It takes vision and patience. A system of progressive steps. It isn’t so black and white. Pass or fail. Win or lose.
I know it’s just a slight shift of words but it brings a more attainable and purposefully meaning for me. I like restoration a lot better than resolution.
What’s your New Year Restoration?
How many ornaments have you broken this year?
I always break at least one.
I’ll be honest. Some ornaments I can live without, others are special and I would be sad if they broke. Things can’t last forever. Sometimes you have to let go.
Christmas is all about letting go.
God the Father let go of His son Jesus to come to earth.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to let go of her youth and hopes of a celebratory engagement.
Joseph, the father of Jesus, had to let go of his reputation and the security of his future.
Zechariah, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of his voice.
Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of her barrenness.
Christmas came through a series of letting go. (Luke 1:1-2:20 NIV)
Letting go can be one of the most difficult things in this life. Broken ornaments are one thing but letting go of a job, a dream, health, a home or a child is altogether different.
When my children were learning to swim my husband spent time in the pool teaching them what to do. When the time came for them to practice they would have to let go and swim out into the water. There would be that scary moment when they let go of the wall. There they were, dangling in that frightening place between the wall and their daddy’s hand. Those were swirling moments, when they had to let go, when they weren’t sure if they could reach their father, when they had to feel fear.
Letting go is sometimes forced upon us. We have no other choice and it is unwelcome.
Sometimes we have to let go for our own emotional, spiritual and physical health and it’s so very hard.
Other times we must choose to let go in order to gain something new.
In any case, letting go is a part of each of our lives, like broken ornaments.
Like many of you, I’m a bit reflective at the holidays. I think about Joseph and Mary, real people faced with a real predicament. An unplanned, albeit supernatural, baby. An assignment directly from God. A hostile environment both at home and abroad. So many things to let go of.
- Expectations for a “normal” life
- Support of family and friends
- Living in their hometown
- Never having the “honeymoon” stage of marriage (i.e. pre-kids)
- Financial security
- Their own plans
Maybe you find something on their list that relates to you?
It amazes me the hardship that is wrapped around the story of Christmas. It humbles me to think of how I idealize Christmas and forget how it was forged.
Letting go was imposed on Mary and Joseph. Read their story.
They also chose to let go in order to embrace something new. I think this must have been intensely difficult. Choosing to let go is just as challenging as being forced to let go.
My children had to let go of the side of the pool in order to find the waiting arms of their father. Sure, they flopped in the water, their heads went under, they felt fear, they tried their best to swim, but their father grabbed hold of them just at the right time. In the chaos of the letting go they found their fathers embrace.
Sometimes letting go is just that. Flopping, fearing, sinking, trying. It’s chaos. It’s a broken ornament all over the floor.
Is there something you need to let go of? Has letting go been imposed on you? Do you feel the chaos and uncertainty of it all?
Find your story in the Christmas story for it too is filled with chaos and letting go.
Letting go free’s your hands to embrace something new.
In the flopping, fearing, sinking, trying, chaotic, broken ornament minutes of our lives, Christmas comes to teach us how to let go because letting go happens to all of us.
Christmas is the display of the Father’s embrace.
It’s the tangible expression of Light’s promise to peer into our darkness.
Christmas lets us sink but will never let us drown.
It’s hope wrapping around, telling us our mess doesn’t have to define our lives.
Christmas is whispers of love songs that slowly melt us and lead us back to wonder.
Christmas comes to free our hands to embrace something new in difficult times.
So I broke my crockpot last night.
You heard right.
I broke my crockpot. You know the cooking appliance that you throw ingredients in and leave it to cook all day. You pretty much can’t mess it up….yea. Somehow I found a way to ruin mine.
I wanted to try something new. I tried a recipe for home made bread in the crockpot. It sounded easy so I gave it a go.
Now I probably should have realized it was a bad idea when the instructions stated to place the inner liner of the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature for over an hour. The actual heating element of the crockpot….the part that makes it a crockpot...wasn’t actually going to be used.
So I followed the instructions as written (something that I don’t normally do but I was hoping to prove to my family that I could follow a recipe). I heated up the oven. Put the crock pot with all the ingredients in and…poof….after some time out came my experiment.
It didn’t work.
This is nothing new for me, or my family. I’m used to things not working in the kitchen. I began cleaning my mess. I noticed something wrong with my crockpot, there was a sticky cloudy coating on the inside. I scrubbed and scrubbed. It wouldn’t come clean. Then I realized…it wasn’t a stuck on mess…the glaze had come off… grrrrrrr.
Now I’m not sure but I don’t think I can use a crockpot in this condition. The glaze seals the pot so it’s safe to use…but it has to be used properly. (I think they remind people to use appliances properly for a reason. Lesson learned.) Apparently putting the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature falls outside meaning of “used properly”.
Sharing my failed bread making attempt with my husband, he blurted out, “If you wanted a loaf of bread why didn’t you just get in the car and go get one instead of trying a new recipe and ruining the crockpot?”
“It wasn’t the bread I wanted. I wanted to try something new.” I responded.
We both found each other to be funny. He looked at the entire endeavor one way and I the other. The bread was the desired result but we assumed two different goals. Mr. Practical was about securing a loaf of bread. Miss Inginuity was about experimenting with creativity and innovation.
Isn’t that like relationships? They are formed by two people with different mental, emotional and relational DNA. When two people assume the wrong things about one another, crockpots get ruined. Many disagreeable moments happen because we fight over how to fight. We misunderstand one another. We are familiar with one another but we don’t know one another.
One loaf of bread. Two ways to get it.
How many arguments happen because we only relate one way – our way. How many fights ignite because we react instead of respond, or we posture ourselves to be the right one instead of listening or asking questions to better understand? Just because we are in a relationship doesn’t mean we know how to relate. Just because we are in a marriage doesn’t mean we know how to be married. We are siblings but struggle to feel like family. We c0-exist with other workers and fail to collaborate. Friends wonder how to be good at friendship.
The point is, relationships don’t always get used properly.
I didn’t realize that crockpots in a high temperature oven for a long time is a bad idea. I was unaware of how to properly use it. I didn’t think I needed to read the owners manual. In the same way we don’t realize we need to go to school on relationships. Having a relationship isn’t the same as being in a relationship. Friendship isn’t automatic when you are friends.
Who knew we need to learn to be a learner of those we live with and love?
Who knew crockpots could be ruined?
Who knew relating to others requires learning how?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. ~ I John 3:18
I was recently given a gift from my children. They gave me a subscription to Ancestry-dot-com. I have always had a fascination…ok…obsession….with history. When I drive down roads that are filled with 100 plus year old homes I wonder what the windows and walls have seen? I wonder what people were like 100 years ago? I can’t help it. I’m kind of a nerd.
I have always wanted to learn more about my own family heritage. My moms grandparents come from the Netherlands and Sweden and my dad came to America from Cuba. I do not have very deep American roots. My mom knows very little about her immigrant grandparents so I have always longed to learn more.
Needless to say, I’m obsessed with Ancestry – dot – com. I get on it and I literally lose all track of time, like… it’s now 1 a.m. and I have to force myself to put it away…kind of losing track of time. I won’t allow myself to go on the website until after 6 p.m. because once I’m on I have little to no self control. Seriously. I’ve never known something that has captivated me quite like this and I’m obsessed.
It’s a little unnerving to experience something that unleashes my lack of self control. As much as I’ve loved hunting online for clues to my mysterious heritage, I’m surprised by how this experience can sweep me away and overtake all of my mind and time. I guess that’s what obsession is; something that has the power to control you, even if it’s momentary.
Recently I was reading my Bible, (Matthew 6:25-34 to be exact), Jesus was talking to His friends about worry. Worry happens to everyone but He talked about worry in a way that made me intrigued. He says worrying doesn’t do anything for us, it can’t help or change things. Worry can entrap us. In subtle ways it can become the focus of our thoughts, it can cause us to try to manipulate others to comply with our needs so we don’t have to worry.
- Worry can rob us from being present with the people in the room.
- Worry can rob us from being peaceful and productive.
- Worry can erode our physical health.
Worry, if left unchecked, can become obsessive.
Jesus speaks to His friends and says that worry needs to transition from obsession to faith. I love it that Jesus gives a direction to take, He does not give judgement. He is not the voice that says, Shame on you for worrying. It shows you don’t trust me, what’ s wrong with you? No. Instead He extends grace and help in His teaching. He speaks to His friends as if they were children waiting for an explanation for something that would bring them comfort and insight.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sew or reap or store away food in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? ~ Matthew 6:26
Jesus remedy for obsessive worry is the character of God and the love He has for us. Fears of future needs and problems are real. Worry for the well-being of our loved ones and ourselves are real. God’s trustworthy character and unfailing love is able to hold us steady in the unknowns of life.
My obsession with Ancestry-dot-com has revealed a significant part of me, I am capable of being swallowed whole by something. We can be swallowed whole with worry.
One night I was deep in my ancestry search. For reasons I don’t know I looked over at my daughter. She was looking at me with a look on her face that read, Mom, do you even know I’m here? You’ve been on that thing for hours and you’ve not as much as glanced my way. Ouch! I was busted. I had been online for way too long. My daughters gaze was an invitation. Although I felt a bit guilty the non-verbal exchange was an opportunity to step away from the thing that was holding me hostage.
Jesus invites us to a way beyond worrying. He said,
…your heavenly Father knows you need them [food, clothes etc.]. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. ~ Matthew 6:32-33
He invites us to step out of worry and into the knowledge that God knows and cares about what we need. He goes beyond caring and offers us the opportunity to live with confidence that He will care for us, to live with peace and assurance that we are loved by Him, to live with the strength of conviction that we are able to follow His ways and not be tossed about by the floods of worry. This is what is meant by seeking His kingdom and righteousness. We step under His authority and rule. Although sometimes we can’t see how, when and where help will come from we live with confidence that it will come because God is unfailing.
May we continue to hear the invitation of Jesus. May we practice more and more, coming out of worry and into faith that God knows our need and will care for us because He loves us. May we experience more joy and peace because of this.