Wait!! Who punched a hole in my Monet?

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I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This past Sunday, Pastor John continued his series on the book of John. The message was based on John 9:1-12 describing the account of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. Pastor John told us the story about an $11 million dollar Monet painting that was punched and damaged by some random guy. To this day, the reason for this act of destruction is still unknown. Pastor explained that the restoration process took 18 painstaking months. He related the restoration work of this piece of artwork to the restoration work of God in our lives. It only takes a minute to destroy a painting and it only takes a single word, act or experience to destroy the “masterpieces” in our lives.  I really feel as though the Holy Spirit was not just tapping me on the shoulder but yelling at me “Are you listening? Are you paying attention?” So, I decided to take a walk through my own art gallery and take some inventory of the damaged Monets in my life!

So why don’t you grab your art museum brochure and wander through my gallery with me. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of pieces that feature squirrels; they take up a lot of my attention! I’ll act as your curator and explain each piece and the background behind them.

Ahhh, this first piece is a favorite of mine. It’s titled “Family” and the medium is finger-paints. It’s a precious picture of three sets of little hands. When we decided to become parents, I was determined that I was going to be the perfect parent. That lasted until we had our first child, Kenny!  Ohhhh! Who punched a hole in this painting? It looks like the size of  “Regrets’” fist!  Regret is an ugly character! He loves to attack often and when you are feeling vulnerable. And he usually shows up time and time again. I think Regret needs to be banned from my art museum!

Oh, and this next piece is special to me. It’s fondly called “Faith”. I’ve had this piece of art since I was 5 years old. It’s painted with a deep red paint, a shade that reminds me of the precious blood that paid for my redemption. There’s a cross on a hill and a little 5-year-old girl at the foot of this cross. I love this picture. I revisit it often and just remember the day this was painted: it was painted in a small Sunday School classroom located in the basement of the United Baptist Church in Peru. Audrey Wentzell oversaw this painting. Oh my goodness!! This painting also has a hole punched in it! Who on earth would dare punch a hole in this masterpiece? Let me guess! “Doubt”! I remember those days when Doubt would double up his fist and take a swing at my picture. Days like “There’s no more that we can do for your family member!”, or “I can’t believe God would allow this/that to happen to me!”, or “Are you sure God would really forgive you for….”. I think it’s time to move on to the next painting, this one is painful to look at right now.

The next painting is called “Friends”. This painting uses so many different colors and rightly so. I remember painting this piece throughout the years. I am so blessed by having some of the most precious people surrounding me. The size of this piece is very wide because it encompasses the friends I’ve had from an early age until this present day. If you are quiet enough, you can almost hear the laughter that comes with this masterpiece. And like the other paintings, there is a big old hole right in the middle!! And the culprit is named “Life”! During our lifetime, friends come in and friends go out. Different circumstances help to punch a hole in this piece of art. Sometimes painful situations come up as in “I no longer want to be a part of your life” or “We really don’t have that much in common anymore so let’s just part ways.” All too often, I try to restore these relationships on my own power without even considering that maybe God has allowed these friendships to fall by the wayside for my own good.

As I wander past these pictures, the Holy Spirit whispers to me and says “Remember what Pastor pointed out on Sunday? I restore sight to the blind and I can restore whatever you are hanging on to that needs to be restored!” And so with trembling and sometimes clenched hands, I turn over my “Monets” to him. They may not be worth 11 million dollars but they are priceless to me. And over time, sometimes not as quickly as I would want, He restores these masterpieces. I think back on the failures of being a parent and pray that God would fill in areas where I was lacking. I consider the faith journey that I have walked and thank God that He’s always been faithful even when I was not. He let me voice my doubts and He still loves me because He’s a gracious, loving Father. The friendships that I have made and lost, I turn them over to Him and let Him restore the relationships that should be restored and pray for peace for those that may never be restored this side of Heaven.

Thank you for walking through my museum with me. I encourage you to take a look at the masterpieces hanging on your walls. I’m sure, like me, you’ll see some with holes punched in them. You can trust me when I say that I have the best Restorer of Masterpieces working with me!

Oh, and one more thing!! Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out. We have lots of books for the art collector and bins and bins of stuffed squirrels for the distracted art lover. Ooooh, and what’s this shiny object……

 

Has anyone seen my ATM card?!

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Confession time!  I am a chicken!  I mean I’m a real scaredy cat!  You’re probably wondering what an ATM card, a chicken and a scaredy cat all have in common.  There is a correlation here, just give me a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I struggle with fear.  Fear of heights, fear of being left alone, fear of falling off high places, fear of getting lost, fear of failing at my job, and fear of being a bad mother (Kenny, Sarah, and Kaitlyn: your feedback is not needed!)   A few years ago, I had to fly back from Milwaukee by myself as Mark was staying behind to attend meetings in offices in New Berlin, WI.  I almost didn’t go with Mark on this trip because I knew that I would have to fly back home by myself.  But then I got thinking “What would that say to Kenny and his family if I choose not to go visit them in Milwaukee just because of my irrational fear?”  The fear of flying alone has so many components:  What if I don’t like my seatmate on the plane?  (Yeah, let’s make this all about my comfort!!) What if I get a window seat and I have to use the loo?!  I’d have to ask everyone in the row to move so I could get out!  What if I get on the wrong plane and end up in Istanbul…because that happens daily!! Ugh.

And then…the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked me “What do I have to say about ‘fear’?”  Ummm, good question but I’m not sure I want to know the answer because that would mean that I’m being disobedient to your Word!

Psalm 23:4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. (Living Bible Paraphrase)

Even when I walk through the dark valley of death!! Or as in my version: “Even when I walk through the terminals of an unfamiliar airport I will not be afraid of getting on a plane bound for Istanbul, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way!”

Oh, and then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder again, because I tend to be a slow learner, and He asked me “Now what do I say about ‘Courage’?” Ummm, can I just work on the “fear” issue first and then we can work on the “courage” thing?

Do you know how many times the word “courage” is used in the Bible?  Me neither, but it’s a lot!! And it’s usually preceded with “Be strong!”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)

“Have I not commanded you?”  Yeah, this being brave and courageous isn’t an optional thing!  We, as believers are commanded to be courageous! Ouch!

Matthew 14:27 “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (NIV)

“Take courage!” Not, “Well…if you feel like it, why don’t you try to be a little more brave.”  This is a command! Not a suggestion.

I’m a visual learner.  You can tell me something over and over again but until I see it or can get my hands on it, I probably won’t retain it.  So with the whole “courage” thing, I like to think of it this way:

God has a big bank and each one of us believers has an account in this bank with our name on it.  And in these accounts, there is everything we need to live a successful spiritual life.  I believe that God has deposited a huge amount of “courage” into each one of our accounts and all we need to do is make a withdrawal.  It’s like having millions of dollars in the bank and living like a pauper! God tells me to “Take courage!” or “Make a withdrawal, kid!”.  I have, at my disposal, an unlimited amount of courage but I live life like a scaredy cat.  How much does that frustrate God?

So, with all that being said,  I need to use that debit card (oh and mine won’t have a chip.  I really don’t like the new cards with the chip.  It’s much more fun swiping that card than just inserting it and waiting for the beep of approval!) and I need to be constantly withdrawing from my spiritual account.

So the next time any of my friends see me looking like a deer caught in the headlights because I’m dreading something or fearing something, just remind me that I need to pull out my atm card and take out some courage!

thbq2w7xm0

What is that smell?!

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bad-smell

Fun fact for you:  Did you know that the sense of smell triggers the most vivid memories?  There are so many times that I get a whiff of wooden slats and I’m instantly taken back to my Grammy Brown’s house and I can smell the green wooden blinds on her front porch.  Or the smell of lilacs reminds me of our wedding day and I remember my mom and I placing bouquets of my favorite flower around the sanctuary of the United Baptist Church in Peru, Maine.  Walking into my mother-in-law’s house when she is preparing homemade spaghetti sauce and I’m reminded of the time when we lived with them and how comforting it was knowing that supper was going to be so yummy and so worth the wait!

The other day I bought some bars of Ivory Soap and as the scent of the soap hit my nose,  I was mentally transported back to a little Sunday School room where Esther Russell was our teacher.  One Mother’s Day, Mrs. Russell taught us how to wrap Ivory Soap with cloth to make them look like little Bibles.  We were all so excited to give these gifts to our moms.  After all these years, that’s what stays with me. I wish I could say that Mrs. Russell’s lessons stuck in my brain or that I remember all the verses she taught us.  But no, it’s the smell of Ivory Soap.  Sorry, Mrs. Russell!

While I was inhaling the clean scent of Ivory Soap, I got thinking “What scent do I give off?  What stays with people long after I’ve walked away?”

In the book of  The Song of Solomon in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as “The Lily of The Valley” and “The Rose of Sharon”.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to be referred to as a Lily of the Valley?  One of the sweetest smelling flowers ever.  I read online that the lily is one of the tallest flowers but hangs it’s head low.  So much like our Jesus.  He humbled Himself and came to earth as a helpless baby.   Am I content to humble myself when I feel like I deserve recognition for a job that I feel was done well?  Do I consider others above myself?  Do I leave a sweet scent after I have left a room, or a conversation, or an interaction with someone?  Do people know that I’m a follower of Christ?  Do people remember me as one who spoke words of love and kindness?  Or do I leave them with the scent of a less than desirable fragrance?  A scent of bitterness, anger, or discontent?

Ephesians 5:1 & 2 basically sums up what I’m trying to say:  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I fail miserably at times but I’m thankful for grace and second chances.  So I’m trying to be less like a Trillium (Stinking Benjamin) and more like a Lily.