A Shipwrecked Life

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I love to flip through my Bible and see notes I have written in the past, reminders of a season or situation where the Lord came through or bestowed a particular blessing on me. The Bible tells us often to remember the works of the Lord and these notes serve as “memorial stones” to God’s active work in my life. I ran across one this morning that brought back a flood of memories – but not good ones. I had received some advice that disagreed with my plans. I ignored it and went head-first into a situation that turned disastrous further down the road. On June 2, 2013 I was terribly discouraged, grieving my foolishness, regretting my choices, and trying to gather up the pieces of my shipwrecked life (it didn’t help that the advice-giver was giving me the “I told you so” speech).

In my daily Bible reading, I came to Acts 27 where Paul had been arrested for preaching the gospel. He had pled his case before the local Roman rulers and was sailing from Jerusalem to Rome to stand before Caesar. It was a long journey and a choice had to be made to spend the winter in a safe harbor or chance the dangerous winter weather. The ship’s captain and crew ignored Paul’s warning not to set sail. As predicted, a fierce storm broke out while they were at sea and the ship was being torn to pieces. Their lives were in grave danger and they were desperate. Paul addressed the weary, frightened crew: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete, then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now, I urge you to keep up your courage . . . do not be afraid, and . . . have faith in God” (vv 21-25, sel.).

My personal side note reads: “You should have taken ______’s advice. You would have saved yourself a lot of trouble and heartache. But now . . . keep up your courage. Do not be afraid . . . have faith in God.”

You may be regretting some life decisions today. You may be dealing with some unpleasant, hard consequences of some reckless choices you made that you wish now you hadn’t. Or like Paul, you may be suffering in the aftermath of someone else’s foolishness. Beloved, keep up your courage, don’t be afraid, and have faith in God. He has not written you off because of your recklessness. He has not given up on you because you made some bad decisions or got swept away in some else’s shipwreck. He is in the rescuing business. He rescued Paul and the ship’s foolish crew. He rescued me. He will rescue you too. The sea may be rocky, but your Savior walks on the water.

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God’s Sonnet of Love

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Her hands were rough from years of hard labor. Her face was lined with deep wrinkles from years of living. Her body was bent, her legs weak as she shuffled along. But still she carried herself with a grace that belonged to women in a royal court, not in a grocery store in Alabama. She was scanning the flowers on display in my floral department when I greeted her and offered my assistance.

“My great-granddaughter is coming for lunch today, I want some pretty flowers to let her know she is special to me.”

“How old is she?” I asked.

“She just turned 16 last month. Oh, she’s had such a rough time lately. She’s a little on the heavy side, and the kids in school have been so mean to her. But she’s a wonderful girl and I want to help her see that she is special to me and special to God.”

“She very blessed to have you – I sure could have used those kind of words when I was 16.”

She reached her rough, wrinkled hand across the counter to mine, “Sweetheart, hear it now, you are special to God – like I tell my girl – you’re His poem.”

I placed her bouquet in her cart, hugged her and thanked her for her purchase and her sweet words. She reached up and patted my cheek, “Look up Ephesians 2:10 dear.” I smiled because I knew the verse well: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I’ve referenced it often in the context of being created by God for a purpose and a good work. But I dug into it again when I got home. As I studied, I saw that the original Greek transliteration of the word workmanship was poiema – from which we get our English word “poem.” I read that verse again with a personal touch, “I am God’s poem.” What a wonderful thought!

Beloved, do you know that you are also God’s poiema? You are His sonnet of love, of grace and beauty and rhythm in a world that is ugly and chaotic. When you look in the mirror you may see freckles or wrinkles, blond hair, or strands of grey. You may see someone with a little extra weight, or the effects of time and life etched into your face. But never forget that you are looking at the pièce de résistance of the One who created stars and mountains and vast oceans. You are the expression of God’s creative brilliance and power. You were formed and fashioned to show the world the creative beauty of the Author of your life. You, beautiful one, are a masterpiece.

Draw Near

I love mornings because they are almost always Joyful! My sweet granddaughter usually wakes up around 6 a.m. and we get to visit while her Mommy fixes her morning bottle. She always wakes up happy and smiling – she lives up to her name every morning. We’ll talk and smile until her breakfast is ready. I’ll lean her little head back into the crook of my arm and touch the bottle to her lips. She smiles and starts to drink, all the while her gray-blue eyes are locked onto my face. As she enjoys her breakfast, the early hour and the bottle start to call her back into the world of sweet dreams. Then the most wonderful thing happens. As she starts to drift off, she will turn her whole body in towards me and give a deep sigh. I draw her in closer to my chest – her head nestled hear to my heart. I feel her body relax and watch her eyes close in sleep. I whisper a prayer that she will always know that she trust me to hold her close to my heart, even if I can’t always hold her in my arms.

These precious moments always bring a verse to mind: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). It is an invitation with a promise. God is inviting you and me to turn our whole selves toward our Him, and He promises that He will pull us closer still. He will give us the comfort and blessing of His presence. He will give us His peace. Beloved, how long has it been since you’ve rested your weary head against your Father’s chest? How long since you’ve felt the beat of his heart against your cheek? The invitation is yours for the taking. His arms are open wide to receive you. Draw near. Nearer. You can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). Climb up into His lap and feel His strong arms enfold you. Breath a deep sigh Beloved, and rest.

For the Weary Servant

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This is for the ones who are weary of being the responsible one, the nice one, the one who always puts others first, the one who gives till it hurts. This is for the one who takes the smallest piece of chicken, the one who gives more than they have, the one who never sits down till everyone else is half-way through the meal. The ones who clean up other’s messes – the mess they left in the kitchen and the mess they made in their life. You are the givers and the forgivers, the doers and the do-with-outers, the backbone of the family and the pillar of the church.
Let me tell you who else you are – you are the imitators of Jesus Christ. You are following the example He gave when He washed the disciples’ nasty feet. You took His calling and made it the theme of your life. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). That is essentially what you are doing when you put others first. Because you do it out of love. Just as He did. And He sees you Beloved. He knows the burden you bear. And He loves the reflection of Himself in you. He says to you, “Do not grow weary in doing good . . . because your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (Galatians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:15).
Take a deep breath weary one, then pick up your towel. Someone needs to see Jesus in you today.

Amazing Grace

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Meditating this morning on Luke 1:26-30 and Gabriel’s words to Mary: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (vs 28) What was it about Mary that make her “highly favored?” Was it that she was a virgin? Hardly – there were many virgins in Israel. Was she somehow superior to other young women? The Scriptures don’t support that, even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches that she was.
Here’s the point we struggle with in the 21st century – it wasn’t about Mary at all. When we read the Bible we tend to focus heavily on the characters in the story because we are looking for something in them with which we can identify. “My favorite Bible character is Peter, because I can identity with him; we’re just alike.” I’ve said it myself about certain Bible people with whom I feel a “connection.” In the same way, we look at God and identify characteristics that highlight how He relates to us. And again, I’ve done it – my favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness, because He has been so very faithful to me. That is not wrong in and of itself, but it’s miss-focused. You and I need to see God for who He is, not who He is “to me.”
The Greek word “favor” means “grace.” Favor is a gift, a kindness, a blessing and it says nothing about the recipient, and everything about the Giver. When Gabriel spoke his greeting he wasn’t exalting Mary, he was highlighting the undeserved grace of God to her. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around that because we are a merit-based society. But there was really nothing special about Mary – God’s favor was purely His own choice. She received it in the same manner – praising Him for His grace, mercy and power (vs. 46-55). It is the same with our salvation. Despite what the church teaches, we don’t “choose to receive Jesus” – He chooses us to receive His grace – our only part is to respond in faith.
What’s your story with God Beloved? Do you recognize that you were chosen by nothing more or less than His grace? If we are in God’s blessed family it is all His doing, not yours or mine. Let’s refocus our spiritual understanding on this gift. It’s not about who we are – it’s all God’s Amazing Grace.