WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF PETALS

In reading Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God, I had to stop and meditate on a section, much as you would stop at a solitary painting in a gallery. Not because it’s the most spectacular painting in the show, but because it touches you – and perhaps only you on this particular day – in an imperceptible but undeniable way. This section of the book spoke to me of the incredibly fierce, passionate potential of love; rather than the simple sweetness of a valentine card we mandatorily distributed in grade school and often enough didn’t receive in complete reciprocity in grade school.

IMG_6773

This kind of love is hard for me to understand when it comes to my children, much less for the rest of world. I struggle to love someone very close to me when the “love” I grew up with was conditional, with strings attached, at a price that I could never hope to repay. And repayment would be expected, although I never knew when or how.

What I’m coming to understand about loving others as my Father loves me is this: God loves me always and anyway. If I were to hold a daisy and play “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” it would have but one single petal. Because he loves me!

But what about my sin? Surely each sin should add another link in the a shackle for the world to see, a reminder of my human failings, an ever-growing statement of my shame, a testament of God’s exhaustive mercy. Yet it’s not only forgiven, it’s undeservingly forgotten, and I doubt very much that God’s glory would be as evident if his children walked around with the chains of their failures dragging behind them. No. We are set free!

Several years ago, about a week before Christmas, I told my husband I was going to Kmart to pick up a few stocking stuffers. Everything I got was less than $3.00, more often under $2.00. Imagine my surprise when the cashier informed me that I owed her over $200.00! As I drove home, I considered every plan I might use to return at least half of the items. Would I return a few things at a time, or should I just bite the bullet and return half of my haul at once?

Neither option allowed for me to hold onto my dignity. And I gave up any hope of simply not telling John, because I’m a lousy liar! He was naturally taken aback by my abundance of small stocking stuffers. Two hundred dollars was way more than we could afford! He said, “Just keep it all. It will be fine.” I’ve always remembered his quiet mercy. But here’s the thing – when I told this story to some friends a few years later, he said, “I’d forgotten all about that!”

Actionable Steps to Create Body LoveI can’t imagine how! I’d spent years keeping that mistake on my list of “Things to be Ashamed Of”, and he had stopped thinking of it entirely! I began to wonder what other things he may have forgotten, how many other things should I be cautious about reminding him of – just in case he’d forgotten them as well. (Wink, wink, nod, nod, know what I mean?)

To make the comment all the sweeter, he wasn’t aware of how very many times I’d heard my mother say, “I’ll remember that.” And she did, bringing up a slight on my part every time I did something wrong and she wanted to make sure I, as well as my step-father and brother all knew how very horrible I was. Yet here was someone who had not only chosen to not keep a $200 mistake in his arsenal, but had managed to forget it. And he loved me.

Now, if my husband could not only forgive but forget one of my wrongs, what God promises is mind-blowing! But this is exactly what our Abba promises. Imagine what we could do without the weight of remembered faults. Imagine the freedom of being able to not only forgive others for being just what they are – people capable of disappointing us, failing us, hurting us, ignoring us, or just plain getting on our last nerve – but to actually treat them as if they hadn’t slighted us at all. What if our mercies could be new every morning, too?

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

What if, before I even open my eyes in the morning, instead of getting irritated because I know that I know that I know a certain empty can of Pepsi is not in the recycling bin, but rather right where my husband left it – so close to falling off the counter next to the recycling bin that a faint breeze would be enough to push it off the edge, I thank God for the man he gave me? (I have a more adhesive memory than my husband does, which is inconvenient for him. ;D) What if, instead of expecting my co-worker to misfile something because she “always does”, I look for the woman God sees; a woman who loves her family dearly and has immeasurable potential?

Don’t expect a sermon or a Power Point presentation on how I learned to forgive and forget. I stink at both! (Although forgetting seems to get easier each year that I grow older.) Sadly, I simply cannot grasp how anyone can forgive and forget. I can’t imagine there are many of us who can. Remembering where our pain has come from can be as much a means of survival for us as remembering where the nuts are hidden is for a squirrel. And part of becoming a good, upstanding citizen depends upon our behavior being rated on a scale from selfless to horrendous. Our parents, teachers and other authorities are there to nudge us back to mid-scale so we don’t hurt others, to prevent anarchy. Unfortunately, those “nudges” are sometimes tainted with shame along the lines of “Naughty boy!” Some of us have had those lessons reinforced with the more effective use of punishment and fear, from being disregarded and unloved to being beaten and malnourished.

Have you ever thought that if people knew more about you, they’d be amazed that you can function at all? I have. Often. But then I realize that there are a lot of us out here who are functioning the best we can, in spite of so many things. If only we could extend to them the same compassion and patience we crave.

_I think it’s just that kind of love that Jesus was here to share and demonstrate. When he healed the crowds, I very much doubt that he stopped to decide if someone was worthy or not. I would imagine there were those who were cruel and abusive to their families, those who had stolen from their neighbor, betrayed their spouse. Perhaps they were among the very ones who needed Christ’s touch the most. The kind of healing they required had the potential to create healings far beyond a broken hand or restored hearing; this was the kind of healing that impacted everything and everyone the hand ever touched thereafter. To think that Jesus knew the hearts of everyone he touched and still loved them enough to heal them. He had to have known there were people for whom a healing touch may not change anything, but such is his love for us. His healing provided hope that things could be different!

Today Christ doesn’t see just what is, but what should have been when we were formed in our mother’s womb, and what still could be because of the future he has spoken over us.

It’s not too late until we draw our last breath, because our Father loves each of us always and anyway. Imagine…He loves us as much as he loves his own son.

“LARONDA, I AM YOUR FATHER”

Have you heard of the phenomenon known as “The Mandela Effect”? It’s named for Nelson Mandela, whose death in prison had become a widely accepted truth in spite of the fact that he was, in fact, very much alive. The Mandela Effect refers to a widely accepted belief that something that did not happen or that something happened differently from the way it actually happened. For example, many people – probably those who did not actually see Star Wars – would tell you that Darth Vader said to Luke Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father” when he actually said, “No. I am your father.”

The Mandela Effect has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

But today I am spending time alone with my Father. I need to because right now, I feel like my life is full of impossibilities, and I need to spend more time with the way maker than I do with the obstacles in my way.

For the past week, I’ve been in significantly more pain than usual, which is already a lot. In addition to the bone-on-bone pain of my permanently dislocated shoulder creating a new place to call home and the accompanying nerve and muscle pain, other bones and muscles are uncomfortably adjusting to my shoulder’s re-location, and they are clearly displeased with the imposition.

The tendinitis in my left hip is getting progressively worse, and I remember all too well the last time this happened because I spent nine months in agony, only able to sleep in my recliner at night – all to get through a 40 hour work week. And most recently, the back muscles on my right side painfully seize up each time I set down my right foot, complementing the grinding pain in my knee. For those of you playing at home, that’s fifty percent of my steps. 🙂 Then I have the the gnawing, unrelenting nerve pain that goes with spinal stenosis spreading through the bottom half of my body. And I may have a hangnail.

And?

And I’ve been trying to work 40 hours a week because we need the money. Even on the days that everything in me cries, “I can’t.” Last night, I couldn’t even lay in bed without my back muscles protesting. That’s when I decided to text my boss that I would not be at work today. I’m worn and exhausted. The pain won’t be any less, but at least I don’t have to feel the pressure of pressing through. Today, I really can’t!

So I’m spending the day with my Father. And a kitten who likes to suckle on my clothes.

I just wish God would give me a small encouraging glimpse of what’s ahead, of where I’m supposed to be or what I will be doing. I could use some tangible hope. To be honest, my preference would be to have the time to write until something really good ends up on paper.

I was delighting myself in this possibility as I got ready for bed. I got out of the straight jacket we call a bra and into the comfort of a well worn nightgown, then I brushed my teeth. When I finally turned off the light and pulled the covers over me, I opened an app from Morgan Harper Nichols and found this:

74905535_2878796148797801_3271987638931816448_nYes! My spirit sang for joy at the thought that this was God’s answer. I was meant to be in bed, warm and free from the constraints of a bra! Praise God! I still hurt, but I could deal that thorn as long as I could deal with it in bed.

But I’m not foolish enough to believe this is the good plan God has for me. (Truly, I’m not!) But as I joke about it today, sitting in a quiet house with a perfectly content kitten sleeping on me, a heating pad warming my back, I think there may be an answer there for me beneath the sarcastic humor.

Maybe this is closer to the truth of where I’m meant to be:

6ccc7c70edb34738abce5fe4ae53dbc3Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Now that is appealing! Resting comfortably in my Father’s arms, wrapped in his provision and protection, wanting for nothing because he knows what I need. He is the good Father who delights in me and is the giver of good things. He has a good plan for me and goes ahead of me to make the path straight, lighting the path with his Word so I have no reason to stumble.

I really have no reason to worry about my future because the same powerful, steady hands that hold me up when I’m weak are same hands that gently hold me close to his side now. I never knew the comfort of a father’s reassuring embrace, but I’m beginning to believe that it wouldn’t hold a candle to the peace I feel spending time with him today. My Father is a good father. He knows me. He sees me. He loves me. And he’s got this!

I may wait, but like C. S. Lewis once said…img_e9609_400x.jpeg