PORTRAIT OF CHANGE II…

illustration of change--its effects on the changer and the changee!

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about change.

  • Change is very disruptive.  Observe the photo.  Imagine how disruptive that sidewalk (that is half finished) was to the roots of the tree!  To say nothing of the pain to the tree.
  • Change is costly, but not as costly as NOT changing.
  • Change takes time and usually involves a process.  It is rarely instant.
  • Change is almost always messy.  Expect it, plan on it, embrace it…and the messy people around you.  A lack of messiness might indicate stagnation or apathy.  I didn’t think much about this until I was looking closely at the photograph.  It reminded me that the messiness that comes with change is a major part of what we don’t like about it.
  • In theory, at least, we all want order and some predictability in our personal lives.  This is true particularly in relation to our spouses, children and the people around us.  The reality of this dream is not nearly as desirable.  We need a little unpredictability, some spice in our lives.  We need some color to give some pop to the everyday beige.  In many respects, that is what happens when God brings change to our lives.  We don’t always appreciate it at the time, but eventually we do.  For those of you who have lived awhile, think of the moves you have made for a job.  Not all were exciting, some were downright difficult!  But when you look back on them, wouldn’t you say that many of the them, even if difficult, were good because of what you learned, or the deepening of a relationship that came as a result?
  • How has God used change in your life to grow you?  I love comments.

The good news:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature… II Peter 1:3-4

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND…

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves,

and pray  and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,

then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin

and heal their land.  II Chronicles 7:14

MY NEIGHBOR…

In the last week, I’ve had a few visits with my neighbor.  Since I’m going to tell you about her, I won’t tell you where she lives.   J.  is a delightful person.  She moved in about 15 years ago. Moving half way across the country with six of her eight children after a failed marriage with no local relatives was no small feat.  She is at least gutsy.  A trait I’ve always admired in women! 

During those years, we rarely saw each other longer than just to say “Hi” or “Bye” in passing on our way to or from work.  At the time, her house was teeming with teens all the way down to elementary aged children…and oh yes, a dog.  Mine was almost empty.  Sadly, I was always “too busy” to go out of my way to be a good neighbor.  I usually learned about her life after the fact.  We sometimes bumped into each other at neighborhood garage sales when we would chat a bit and I would determine to get to know her better.  It rarely happened.

Recently, her last child finished college.  Yes, they all went through college.  Many completed graduate school as well.  It required many long hours of work for her in what I consider to be an interesting job but one that was quite demanding in light of the size of her family and that she was alone to deal with all their problems.  I learned a few years ago, for example that her father came to live with her when he became older and debilitated.  Soon he was at the point where he was dying and she was the one taking care of him…and oh yes,  WORKING full-time.  I had no idea this was happening of course.  I, her neighbor was totally and completely clueless! (Part of the time I was out-of-town, but still…)

In the paradigm of my youth, I would have been beating myself up because I didn’t spend enough time “witnessing” to her.  I do regret that,  even though I know she attends a good church and could well be a believer.  When we chatted last week and she spoke of the difficulties she was facing when she moved here, I realized that I had no idea at the time.  I was TOO BUSY! 

 Even more, I realized, that I was the one who missed out!  I missed out on the joy of ministry to another person…outside my comfort zone.  I missed out on a great friendship.  Here is a woman who is as down-to-earth as you will ever find.  She is a hard-working person who is very intelligent with a great sense of humor (developed by years of raising children no doubt!)  She loves to read.  Her house is teeming with books.  (My kind of person!)  She has still found time in the middle of a busy career, family, and demands of life to go on a mission trip as well as minister to the needy locally (in her job).  This is a woman of about my age that would have been a delightful friend.  Despite my efforts to slow down my life, I was too busy to minister to a person very near to me…my neighbor.

13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.   Galatians 5:13-16

PRUNING ROSES…

Tuesday morning shortly after I woke up, I started pruning my Knock-Out roses.  I don’t know if you know much about Knock-Out roses but they are the ultimate in easy-care roses here in East Texas.  This is the “Rose Capital of the World” (Wikipedia) mainly because we have great acid soil that roses adore!  (We produce 20% of the US supply of rose bushes.)  In our community, Knock-Out roses grace many of our highway medians, mall entrances and  spots that want a pretty, low maintenance frontage.   Normally these roses need little pruning or spraying which sets them apart from their more familiar counterparts.  I think they get their name from the fact that they KNOCK themselves OUT by blooming prolifically unless it is freezing.  They thrive in our hot, humid summers that seem interminable.

Back to my point (and I know Christy is begging for me to get to it!) which is that I was pruning my rose bushes because they shoot up in this weather.  I intended to cut them back in early spring so they wouldn’t grow above my front windows but they were covered with buds at the time.  The winter was cruel (by East Texas standards) to many of my plants so there were less flowers than usual this March.  Like a two-year old, I decided to go for immediate gratification and didn’t cut my roses back then.  The flowers were beautiful, especially in light of the fact that my azaleas waited until long after the (mid-March) Azalea Trail to bloom this year!  Now it was time to pay up. 

Here are some thoughts that came to mind as I was snipping those barbed branches in the rising heat and humidity.  How many times do I put off dealing with areas in my life that need pruning?  Because I want to see the pretty rose that is about to bud?  Not a bad thing in itself, but when allowed to continue unchecked, can result in a garden that is out of control and unpleasant to the eyes.

However, the One who decides what work needs to be done in the garden of my heart is much wiser than I am.  He knows when the best timing is for the pruning of which branches.  The tearing out of which weeds.  The extensive reworking of large expanses of my garden.  My job is to run to Christ or at least, cooperate with Him when He is doing the pruning, digging and cutting away.  He is the one in charge of my justification and sanctification and everything else that relates to my soul.  He changes my heart through the sanctification process just as He did before I came to him for salvation in the first place!  He is the all-wise One who knows the beginning from the end.  He knows what needs to be cut out…and when.  What a relief!  One more responsibility I don’t have to carry.  It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13)

THROUGH THE EYES OF GRACE

I heard this term recently and loved it!  Seeing people with eyes of grace… not my natural judgmental eyes that long for justice.  You know the kind I’m talking about?  Not true across-the-board, fair-for-all justice that is wise and takes into consideration ALL the facts as well as the past and future implications of this action.  The kind of justice I want is more like the two-year old version that sounds like this:   “I want x.”   “No.”                 “But I want it!”    “No, you may not have it.”

But I want it now! (add histrionics and drama in background.)    “Child, you are not ready to have it now.”

Ending with the predictable  “But that’s not fair-r-r-r-r!”  (closing with an extended whine.)  

(Now, back from what seemed like a ramble but was really setting a backdrop for a contrast!)  GRACE, the lens through which I want to see others, is by no means a way of living in “La-La” land.  It is incredibly down-to-earth.  It is as down-to-earth as Jesus was.  Imagine how the eyes of Christ saw us when He “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him“?  What do you think our families and our churches would be like if we saw these people through “eyes of grace” as people who are being sanctified by the one who chose them (not us!) and is working to make them holy and blameless to His specifications?  Add co-workers, employers/employees, and neighbors…especially those we don’t especially enjoy being around.  God needs us to see them with “eyes of grace” as He works to change their hearts.

Think of the incredible burden of responsibility off our shoulders!  We don’t have to fix all these people…or judge them either.  All that is up to God.  The rest of this passage is great!

  “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he  set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time,  to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.   Ephesians 1:4-10

THE FABRIC OF MY LIFE…

Today I’ve been thinking about categories.  I’ve realized it is hard to categorize my life!  A few years ago someone said that women are like spaghetti, their lives are so intertwined and interrelated with everything and everyone that it is hard to separate into categories.  Men are like boxes, they open one up labeled work.  When they finish with that, they close it and open another labeled family and focus on that.  I’m sure there are many exceptions but I will say that my life is more like spaghetti. 

As a quilter, I think of it as fabric.  Everything seems interwoven.  When I think about home, it is also personal.  When I think about my church, it is often very personal and may also relate to members of my family and even touch on my home as well.  When I think about work, I consider its effect on my family, church and friendships.  And on it goes!

The truth of it is that we ARE all interconnected… like fabric.  Our actions and lifestyle, our love or lack thereof, our willingness to minister and share resources or not.  All have both a local and systemic effect on our families, our jobs, our communities, our churches and THE CHURCH!  Are the choices you are making today helping to strengthen the fabric in your part of God’s Kingdom?