Old Pans and New Life

“Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  John 21:12a

“While you’re at Costco, pick out some new pots and pans.”

This was my husband’s reminder as I left this morning to pick up a few items we needed. We’ve been needing a new set of pots and pans for YEARS now, but I keep putting off the actual purchase.

I hate spending money on household appliances, just ask my friend Michelle. She once gifted me with an $8 potato peeler because I didn’t have one and didn’t care to or see the need of buying one when I had a perfectly good sharp knife in my kitchen drawer.  (On a side note, I still have that potato peeler, it’s probably 18 years old.)

As far as I’m concerned, as long as an item still “works”, I’m usually content with what I have. And, despite my pots and pans being 20 years old, I’ve used the same logic with them. Yet lately, (and by lately I mean the last couple of years) my non stick pans have become full stick pans.

It was time for new ones…I think. 

I walked into Costco and made my way over to the kitchen item aisle. I looked at the prices of the three different options displayed and zoomed in on the cheapest option. I stood there, contemplating.  Did I mention I hate spending money on kitchen things?

I walked away and began hunting for the other items on my list.

Maybe we can get by a little longer without new ones?  I rationalized.

As I shopped, I found myself going down memory lane aisle. Those pans are nearly 20 years old, Lord. They’ve been on quite a journey with me.

19 years ago this summer, I made one of the hardest and scariest decisions of my life. You could say that, just like my old pots and pans, my life was in full-stuck (stick) mode. Yet, it wasn’t until that summer when I made the hard decision to leave the familiar (as abusive and dysfunctional as it was) and step into the scary unknown.

When I left, I took with me the only things I could fit in the backseat and trunk of my car…my two dogs, a few garbage bags full of clothes, and a box of recently purchased pots and pans. Those old pans have traveled all over the country with me… from Northern Virginia to Arizona, from Arizona to North Carolina, from North Carolina to North Georgia…”outliving” even the two four-legged friends that began this unstuck journey with me nearly two decades ago.

As I stood in Costco thinking about that crazy chapter again, I was suddenly reminded of how appropriate it was to be thinking about it all on the Saturday before Easter.

It was Saturday when death seemed to have won. It was Saturday, when all of humanity appeared to be hopelessly stuck in “full-stick” mode.

Yet, today, we know the rest of the story.

We know that death and darkness didn’t get the final word.

The scary unknown is not the last chapter.

The One who promises to redeem our lives from the pit…LIVES.

I made my way back to the kitchen aisle, it was time for a new set of pots and pans.

The Blurry Background

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how crazy this faith journey can look and feel during those moments in life when you are peering through the wrong lens. It happens sometimes. It happened just the other day on the drive to work. I suddenly had this thought: “what if this is all in vain? Am I absolutely nuts?” (Don’t answer that last question 😉 )

I love how Paul explains this partial sight of faith in 1 Corinthians “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known”

It reminds of when a photographer takes a photo where the image upfront is clear and sharp but all background images have been blurred out to some degree. Life is happening behind the scenes in all the blurriness yet we just have a hard time seeing, defining, or understanding it all. Our eyes are focused on the stuff right in front of us. But then, there are those moments when the eyes of our hearts catch a glimpse of what lies beyond in all the blurriness.

I catch glimpses of His glory there… and I hold on to those image for as long as possible. Oh! to see all clearly…to understand fully!

Yesterday I texted with a volunteer to see how she was was doing, her mother-in-law had passed away a couple of days ago. Her reply took me there and my heart could see the blurry images with clarity again. She said, “We got to be there with her when she passed, she had tears in her eyes (we think sadness for leaving us yet joyful tears for seeing Jesus and family)…she had a smile on her face!….She kept reaching up for awhile…the light of Jesus. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this moment for anything!”

And, of course, I couldn’t help but think of that Sunday afternoon so many years ago when I watched my own mom pass. I thought about those eyes again and how they contained more joy and hope than I ever knew eyes could possibly hold. I thought about the smile on her face, her reassuring words to me, and her reciting Psalm 23.

There was a time in my life when I allowed this image and this moment to fall back into the blurry background and I lost my way.  Today, I hold this moment close to my heart, where it belongs. It has guided me through uncertain days filled with unanswered questions. It has reminded me to hold on to HOPE time and time again.

This morning, on the drive to work I thought again of a post I wrote several years back “But Mary faced the tomb…” from John 20. But the words that hit my heart this morning were a little further along in the text. “Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Thinking he was the gardener. I love that. Mary had mistaken Jesus as something her mind could just brush to the blurry background. At that moment, she was looking through the wrong lens. All she saw was the picture clearly in front of her…her Savior, her Hope was missing. But then, the blurry background, called out to her by name…Mary!

Lord, would you call out to us by name today? When we are tempted to leave all that is blurry or hard to understand or describe in the background, would You help us to hear Your voice calling our names and see Your hand guiding us home.

Sharing the Wrong Story

For 27 years I’ve had it in my head that my mom was 54 years old when she died. Yesterday, I found out I’ve remembered it wrong all these years; she was really 55. (She turned 55 just 7 weeks prior to her death.) I can’t figure out how I managed to remember this incorrectly from the beginning. I’ve always known she was born in 1936 yet, never once since her passing, did I ever do the math and realize my mistake.

Since discovering this error yesterday afternoon, I keep thinking how odd it is to be believing and sharing the wrong “story” all these years. I know it’s a “small” shift from the other narrative I’ve been sharing… but it still feels strange to me.

For 27 years, whenever I’ve spoken or written about my mom’s passing, I’ve always shared the “My mom was 54 years old when she died…” part of the story. That number has been etched into my heart and into my head. My lips have formed that number and my fingers have typed that number for nearly three decades. Now, at 46 (and yes, I just had to stop and do the how old am I? math to make sure 😉 ) I will be telling a different story.

I guess this just has me thinking about other subtle ways we may be remembering or believing less than accurate narratives. Our minds and hearts are so finite and so prone to error. The truth was always right there for me to know. It was hiding in plain sight; I simply hadn’t take the time to uncover it.

Truth: My mom was 55 years old when she died…

That’s going to take awhile to get used to saying, writing, and believing.

What to do after doubt punches you in the gut…

“Real doubt searches for the light; unbelief is content with the darkness.” Bible.com devotional

“In John 20, Jesus walks into the room & shows Thomas his wounds. In the process, Thomas comes to faith.

The church can win over a doubting world, but not by coercion, gifts, impressive programming, etc.

One of the ways we can win over a doubting world is through vulnerability.” Richard A. Villodas Jr.

After reading both of these thoughts this week, I was prompted to read through the account again in John 20.

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

One of the thoughts I had after reading it was, Thomas’ belief was triggered because he had seen Jesus. He was close enough to touch him. Jesus was in his midst. Maybe that’s one of the first steps we need to take in seasons of doubt and unbelief…steps toward the confusing and the unknown…not away. Read this part again:

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

I think what Thomas did after admitting his doubt is crucial. “A week later…Thomas was with them.” You know what he could have done instead? He could have concluded that all his friends who were claiming Jesus came back to life were off their rocker. He could have walked away instead. But, Thomas makes a different choice. In many ways, it’s the harder choice…to stay (or continue to put himself) in that uncomfortable place of “lack of belief”. Yet, that’s when it happened, that’s when he finds himself reunited with his Savior!

That crossroads Thomas was at resonates with me and is such a source of huge encouragement.

What do we do next…right after doubt punches us in the gut?

Our answer is tucked away in this story of Thomas. “A week later…Thomas was with them.”

A week later. A week of unanswered questions and faith rattling doubt…Thomas stayed with them.

This actually just reminded me of something I would hear at AA meetings years ago early in recovery, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.” In recovery, group members have an opportunity to share whatever is on their heart. Sometimes what you hear are stories of folks barely making it. Sometimes it’s a tear-filled confession that they slipped up again.

One of the comments people will often say at the end to encourage you is “Keep coming back” and “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”

I am so thankful Thomas kept coming back and didn’t quit before seeing the miracle.

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As I drove into work this morning with all of this still on my heart, I thought more about how hard that week for Thomas must have been.  I can imagine it was hard for all of them…but especially Thomas. I wonder if he thought about that moment Jesus shared hard truth shortly before going to the cross, about being the bread of life.  Jesus asked those who had made the decision to stay and not walk away, “Do you want to go away as well?”  I wonder if Peter’s response then echoed in Thomas’ ears in the midst of that confusing and hopeless feeling week.  ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

As these words swirled around in my heart, this song started to play.

“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!”

Coffee Not Condemnation

There was absolutely nothing I could do that would separate me from His love.

In my quiet time this morning, I was taken back to a sweet season with the Lord when I was learning how that statement wasn’t just a nice sounding sentiment but a truth that I could claim.

It was during a chapter in my life when my heart made a commitment to run back to the Lord regardless of how many times I would fall down or stumble. I was done attempting to navigate my own life; I was done settling for where that road always took me.

I resolved that shame would no longer be the loudest voice, it would no longer convince me insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result) would eventually work. I had listened to that dreadful, oppressive, insane, voice for years and had finally realized that that voice didn’t lead towards the freedom I desperately desired. That voice wanted to kill and destroy me.

After my heart took this much needed stand to run to Him even in the midst of sin, I thought back on the countless mornings I would show up on His doorstep…again… with an alcohol induced hangover.  And, each time I did, I was somewhat surprised that I didn’t encounter a lecture or that famous disapproving look that dads give you when you screw up. He never grew weary of me and the condition I would show up in. Instead, it was more like “come inside, my sweet Child, I’ve started a pot of coffee.”

As rough as that season was in my life…there was something that prompts me to look back on it today with such humble fondness. I could never repay Him for all the times He opened the door for me and, instead of condemnation, He handed me cup after cup of His love.

This morning these encounters with the Lord made me think of Isaiah 1:18

“Come now. let us reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they will be like wool”

I still love this about the Lord…His no condemnation approachable-ness. This is how we can know if the voice speaking to us is His or not:

His Truth, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be to hear at certain seasons in our life, will always be wrapped in a thick layer of grace. ALWAYS. His Truth will always lead to a place of more freedom, not less …more joy, not less.

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8: 35-39 Message

Bird Brain

“Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future.”

I sat on my couch this morning still half asleep sipping my coffee and those lyrics found their way into my brain. How appropriate. If “spring forward” week had a tagline that could be it.

I had also just looked at a 10 year old memory on Facebook of an interview I had done with my then 5 year old son. 10 years. Wow. Life seemed different back then but I can’t really even put my finger on how life was different.

Oh yeah…that’s right…I was younger and the time change didn’t make me as grumpy as it does today. 😉

For some reason, I looked up the lyrics of the “Fly Like an Eagle” song this morning and one section caught my eye:

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution

I think the one line I would edit (if I had any right do so) would be “let Your spirit carry me”

Heck, I know where my spirit has carried me in life and the destination felt more like a bird cage than soaring freely in the morning breeze.

After having this thought, I opened up my laptop and started a new online devotional called “Live by the Spirit” by John Piper. These verses, right out the gate, resonated with me:

“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts, except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. Corinthians” 2: 10-12

There really are just two choices: Trust and lean on ourselves and our own understanding or trust and lean on Him (as Proverbs 3 tells us).

And, of course, more song lyrics filled my brain again. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”

…and as soon as they did, I thought about the message from this past weekend at church.

“Brokenness can lead to openness.”   So very true!

And openness can lead to broken wings that learn to fly.  

Lord, break us today.  We want to fly.  

The Big Reveal in our Small World

This morning I thought more about the countless and sometimes very personal ways the Lord will display or reveal His glory to a single person or a group of people. I first read, again, the account of Nathanael meeting Jesus for the first time. Jesus revealed His glory to Nathanael in such a deeply personal way. Nathanael asked Jesus how it is that He knows him and Jesus simply responds, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48) and then Nathanael’s immediate response is “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

I’ve always wanted to know more of what Nathanael must have been thinking about in that moment alone under the fig tree right before Philip invited him to “come and see” Jesus for himself. Was he praying for wisdom or direction or answers? Was he crying out for help? I don’t know, but Nathanael certainly knew, and his decision to accept Philip’s invitation to “come and see” changed the trajectory of his life forever.

Jesus “revealed His glory” to Nathanael and, yet, it was so drastically different than the way He revealed it just a few short verses later in front of a crowd of people at a wedding when he turned water into the best wine people had ever tasted.

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11

I love this about Jesus. I love that He will reveal His glory in seemingly insignificant moments along the path just as powerfully and beautifully as the big, public moments. I was reminded of the Winter Snow song again by Audrey Assad.

“Could’ve come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below”

I love that Jesus doesn’t need a big crowd of people around to display His glory. I love that He desires to display His glory even if (at that moment) only one searching person actually sees Him, believes Him and embraces Him. It fascinates me and humbles me that the God of Universe will bend down so low and touch a single receptive heart like this. In a strange way, turning water into wine is almost expected from a big God…but speaking to and loving a single soul sitting quietly under a fig tree…that’s a miracle!

Show us your Glory today, Lord.  “Let every burning heart be holy ground!”

Roads That Lead Us Home

On the drive to work this morning, I thought quite a bit about my dad. He’s on my heart for several reasons. Tomorrow would have been his 79th birthday. He died 3 1/2 years ago on my 44th birthday. This past weekend my sister-in-law lost her father too. Anytime a loved one or a friend loses a parent, my heart hurts for the ones they’ve left behind and I also think of the passing of my own parents. I guess that’s pretty normal.

This morning, I thought again of how different losing my dad was from losing of my mom. Four years before he passed, my dad had a life altering stroke and was never completely himself again. In so many ways, we grieved the loss of him long before he left this earth. It was a strange and heartbreaking process.

Prior to my dad’s stroke he was a fiercely independent, “young” 72 year old. My dad was a private man and I could never quite figure out where he stood with the Lord. After his stroke, it was hard to find anything good coming out of a situation that leaves a person bedridden for four years. However, beyond what my natural eyes could see, I began to see this sucky situation with my spiritual eyes: my stubborn, independent dad was now God’s captive audience. He had lots of thinking time, lots of alone time, lot’s of time to ask questions, lots of time for much needed, long overdue, tug of war matches with his Creator. I prayed about this quite a bit: redeem even this, Lord!

As I thought about this process again, I remembered a conversation I had with his caretaker, Frances, about 3 months before his death. I blogged about it at the time.

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A few weeks ago, I called Frances as I was driving home from work and she told me that my dad had been talking with God all day long. As soon as she said this, my heart was filled with hope. My dad never talks to God.

After we hung up the phone I began to pray. Lord, nothing is impossible for You. I hope my dad was talking to you and I hope you were talking to him. No one is so far gone (not physically, not spiritually, not mentally) that God is unable to reach them.

“I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see.”

Could it be, Lord, in our lost minds, we are truly found? Maybe the route to redemption is that ridiculous. Because Jesus has a track record of showing up right in the middle of crazy, right in the middle of impossible, right in the middle of our hopeless looking circumstances. He enters our chaos and invites us to calm. He enters our pain and covers us in peace. In our gaping lacks we discover overflowing love.

Speak to us, Lord. Meet us in the crazy and offer us the cross.

And I will say it again and claim it again today: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

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A few days before my dad passed, he told his caretaker that he wanted to go home. Frances assumed he meant his home he had to leave when he had his stroke, the one he had begged to go back to every day…for years. Yet, when she asked him if that was the home he was referring to he responded, “No…I want to go home.”

This morning I had the image of Lieutenant Dan, a character from the movie Forrest Gump come to mind. I thought about the scene where Lieutenant Dan “made his peace with God.” For some reason, it reminded me of my dad and the road that ultimately led…home.

Leading Us Out and Guiding Us Back…

I woke up this morning with a couple of thoughts rolling around my heart. First, was the name of the new series kicking off at church tomorrow morning “Ezra: The Way Back”.  Second, I thought about mouse holes. I know this seems random but let me explain.

Years ago, as this prodigal daughter painfully made her way back to the Lord after running in the wrong direction for years, I sat down one morning during my quiet time and the image of being stuck inside a house with seemingly no way out came to mind.

During this same morning the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The part that struck me that particular morning and offered me hope was, first, that my circumstances were not unique. They were “common to man.” I was not alone. And, second, this verse gave me the assurance I needed that when I was tempted he would always provide a way out.

It’s as this point I remember seeing the image of me being stuck inside a house and, all of a sudden, my eyes (and my heart) came across the way out. I suddenly saw this little ray of light coming in through this small hole in the wall and I knew, right then, that would be the way out, that way would lead to the freedom I was desperately looking for!

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This morning, my quiet time took me to Hosea. It’s always funny when following His breadcrumbs lead me to small books of the Bible I’m not as familiar with…I always end up having to flip to the Table of Contents to help me find the page numbers. Anyways, here were the words I read this morning. They immediately made me think of the blog post I wrote last week called, “It Can Hurt Before it Heals”

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For he has torn us,
and he will heal us;
he has wounded us,
and he will bind up our wounds.
He will revive us after two days,
and on the third day he will raise us up
so we can live in his presence.
Let us strive to know the Lord.
His appearance is as sure as the dawn.
He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring showers that water the land.” Hosea 6:1-3

As I meditated on these verses, the one that resonated most with me this morning was, “Let us strive to know the Lord.” Everything comes back and hinges on what we are striving for. These verses remind us that our goal and what we need to chase after more than anything else is “to know the Lord.”

Lord, there are lots of good things we can strive for in this life…but everything pales in comparison to this one. Lord, help us to desire this goal more than all the others. It’s this goal that always leads us out and guides us back to You.

What do you want me to do for you?

I’ve never been big into Valentine’s Day. I’m sure this indifference for the “day of love” stems from my childhood and listening to my dad always say that it’s just a day for card companies like Hallmark to get rich.

Yet, each year, I still have this desire to pick up my son’s favorite candy for him. This morning, I hid a bag of Sour Patches and a cookies and cream chocolate bar behind my back in both my hands and told him to “pick a hand.” He picked the left hand and I handed him the Sour Patches. I asked him to pick another hand. He picked the right hand but, by then, I had moved the chocolate bar to my left hand. I asked him to pick another hand and he picked the left hand again. I revealed the chocolate bar and handed it to him. Then, my son asked me if I happened to have anymore hands behind my back. 😉

For some reason, while I took my dogs for their morning walk and thought more about this particular day on the calendar, the question Jesus once asked a blind beggar came to mind. Jesus was walking along with his disciples and this man kept crying out to him. When the crowd around him told the man to be quiet, he cried out even more. He caused such a commotion that Jesus commanded the man be brought to him. “When he drew near, He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Luke 18:40-41)

The man responded, “Lord, I want to see!” (v 41)

As I thought about this interaction, the more I realized that it’s such an appropriate story for the “day of love”. Whenever I read this account, I try to imagine how this scene played out. I can see the humble, persistent, desperate expression all over this blind man’s face. I can picture him standing in front of Jesus with tears rolling down his cheeks, his lips quivering as he answers Jesus’ question. “Lord, I want to see!”

I don’t know if I can think of anything more loving for the “day of love” than this. Whether we realize it or not, at the core of all our requests, of all our deepest longings, is this desperate desire to see. Each of us longs to leave the darkness behind and live in the glorious light of truth and grace! This is the love story of Jesus. He hears our cries and meets us in our dark worlds and asks us “What do you want Me to do for you?