Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


8 Comments

From Charlotte …

I’d like to tell you about events that happened in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina this past week:

My neighbor helped a motorist with a flat tire.

A teacher gave her struggling student a fist bump and a “you got this.”

Friends invited the “new kid” to sit with them in the cafeteria.

A young woman took a lonely widow out to lunch.

After filling her prescription, a pharmacist at Walgreens walked an elderly lady through the store and to the parking lot where her ride waited.

A Sunday School teacher went to the hospital every day to visit a sick child.

In Subway, a customer entered line behind a police officer and stepped forward to pay for his sandwich.

A teenager, who recently entered the foster care system with no possessions, was clothed with new outfits, shoes, accessories, and the love of Christ.

A hospice chaplain took on extra hours to offer her prayerful presence to a heart-broken family.

These events weren’t sensational enough to make the news, of course. Most likely, you didn’t hear positive reports broadcast this week from my hometown. I don’t mean to minimize the circumstances that prompt important and necessary discussions about race issues in our country. But I think we can agree that when it comes to the media-driven culture, negativity and drama are predominant, from the playing field to protests to politics. And sometimes my soul needs the kind of care which comes not from escapism or denial but from recognizing that God is still sovereign and still at work near and far. While I appreciate the American freedom of expression, these recent days remind me to intentionally look for other forms of expression – those ordinary actions which express God’s love for and through the people of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Perhaps you are like me, living a seemingly small-scale life that feels more ordinary than extraordinary. But this ordinary day is ordained by God to move you into a place where you can express His love as no one else can. When you help a person on crutches with her grocery bags, when you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a hungry person, or when you trim the widow’s shrubs, you are giving expression to the God-given dignity of every individual.

Regardless of developmental stage or ethnic/economic status, every person is the Imago Dei, created in God’s image. Persons who in faith receive His Son as Savior are also in a process of being transformed into the image of Christ, or the Imago Christi. If you are a Christ-follower, the fact that you can give expression to the Imago Dei and the Imago Christi is the most sacred, significant thing about you. If there were a heavenly news-reel, your simple, heart-felt actions would make the highlights. More than ever, cities like Charlotte need the hands-and-feet expressions of the Gospel, the good news.

Politicians can make speeches, players can refuse to stand, protestors can voice their perspectives, but the only form of expression which will truly heal originates and overflows from God’s heart –

Every person has worth, created by God with purpose. (Psalm 139)

Jesus paid the ultimate price so that every person can be free. (Galatians 5)

Every person is loved regardless of status or performance or human standards. (2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 16)

This love also bridges separations, breaks down barriers, and calls each one of us to unity. (Ephesians 2:14)

The Cross radically transforms how we see and treat life – whether young or old; rich or poor; able-bodied or impaired; slave or free; white or black; weak or strong. The healing begins as we choose to follow the example of Jesus who gave His all for all.

Expressions of healing happen when we choose humility and kindness, when we direct our eyes from our gadgets to another human, when we give our time as a free gift, and when we listen more than we speak.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

The Gospel reconciles sinners to God and also person to person, community to community. Imagine our symphony of voices, each uniquely gifted, rising in reverence for Imago Dei in every person. God created you with something sacred to express, and your encouraging word, smile, prayer, open door, or gesture of forgiveness add to a chorus which can change cities like Charlotte one life at a time.

(Thank you, Pastor Alex, for influencing me and my family so deeply in our appreciation for the Imago Dei in every person and for encouraging us to create ripples across the waters.)

I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. (2)

 


5 Comments

Moving from Less-Than to Lovely

It’s ten degrees above average where I am in North Carolina today – which isn’t a big deal, considering that spring has been beautiful here, and we’ve been spared the kind of weather that’s been disastrous in other parts of the country. But April, which is usually my favorite month of the year, has been far from typical where I live – meaning down in my soul.

From my car, I watch as my daughter struggles up the school steps, bent over with a book-bag stuffed with year-end projects on her back. In her, I see myself, burdened by a load of cares and my same-old shortcomings. Somewhat ironically, the places where I feel lacking are the places which pile on my insecurity and disappointment.

I’m writing this post to join Emily’s discussion, Let’s Share What We Learned in April. But I think, at the month’s end, I know less than I did before. And oftentimes I feel less-than-Christian for the ways I struggle.

For everything I don’t know, however, I still know this – Jesus is mine and I am His. On days like these April days, I remind myself that where I am less-than, He is more-than. I have little else to claim but His complete acceptance of me.

Perhaps I’ve learned a few other things from April. It makes sense to expect that being generally weary and downcast would decrease one’s capacity to see things clearly. On the contrary, this season of struggle has sharpened my ability to notice and appreciate, to listen and observe. I like how Annie Downs expresses this dynamic:

My ability to feel the depths of something good was strengthened by my choice to feel the depths of pain. I don’t know exactly how this works. I just know the more I hang on and feel, the more I am able to feel; and each time more balm gets rubbed into the wounds of my soul …Looking for lovely is not about pretending everything is beautiful and nothing is ugly and you have no questions or doubts and picking out the beautiful in your everyday is going to protect you from anything hurting ever …. there is beauty in choosing to feel that pain, in calling hurt what it is, and not pretending everything is okay (Looking for Lovely, pages 75 – 76).

20160405_152328

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve been looking-for-lovely and I’ve filled my phone, and even my “real” camera, with photos as spring unfolds herself. It’s humbling to see that I don’t have it all together but even more humbling to grasp that the Creator does. The word “humility,” after all, comes from the root humus, meaning “earth.” Pausing to appreciate His hand in this loveliness gives me perspective.

Look at the birds in the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds.  You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it. Matthew 6: 26 – 27

The spirit of humility which God desires for us is never accusatory, like the less-than thoughts I struggle with. It’s being absorbed with His majesty and mercy. Every “less” in my life is swallowed up in unstoppable, lovely (saturated-with-love) grace.

DSCF1197

As I find solace in the works of God’s hands, I’m learning how restoring it is to set my own hands to creativity.  Every day we go about our lives maintaining things – our possessions, our bodies, our jobs. All this maintenance is necessary; it’s a fulfilling of God’s commandment to steward the earth. But creativity can be spiritual practice as well, a reflection of God who makes things new. When we cook a fresh meal or move furniture around to find a new look or write words or bake cookies or put a plant in the ground or play a few chords, the process can be inspiring and lovely and freeing in itself (no matter what the product looks like).

Unlike God, of course, the outcomes of my creativity are often imperfect or incomplete. It may look “less-than” to me, but every effort makes me intentional, unique, and more alive as an image-bearer of the Creator.

Perhaps I am moving from a “less-than” state of mind toward a recognition of the loveliness within, because of Jesus.

As I learn to regard myself humbly and kindly and patiently, I soak in these wise words from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

By cultivating a spirit that is more inclined toward delight and less toward duty, I’m treating others more kindly as well. By releasing demands on myself and my people, I let go of those measuring sticks that would keep us living less-than freely, authentically, and abundantly in Christ. The love of our Redeemer is more than we could ever ask or imagine.

I’m ready. Are you? Let’s come alive together.

20160406_155344

20160405_152638

There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance. It feels like beauty might be knots in the rope you are climbing, gas stations along the cross-country journey, the water stations set up strategically on a racecourse. Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going … I needed to find beautiful if I was going to hang in there. I have spent significant time over the last few years looking for lovely because I do love beautiful things. But mostly because I just don’t want to quit anymore (Annie Downs, Looking for Lovely, page 50).

20160331_152208

Even as we accept our own frailty, help us not to despise ourselves for it. Instead, may our weakness be a reminder of your strength within us. Embolden us to speak even if we misspeak. Enliven us to move even if we fall down. Encourage us to embrace even if we get hurt … As we face those places in our souls that are frozen, may the hard spots begin to thaw in the presence of Christ. May we not try to mop up the water that comes from the melting but offer it somehow to quench the thirst of someone else (Emily P. Freeman, a prayer in Simply Tuesday, pages 199- 200.)

I’m joining the “Let’s Share What We Learned in April” discussion at Emily’s site today.

DSCF1214

20160329_111106

20160405_142752-1

20160406_154913