Archive | September 2017

The Messy Process of Being Made Perfect

 


In order to make repairs on the dam at one end of the lake on which I live, engineers lowered the water level to twelve feet below the normal height.

In a few days, the beautiful and serene pond turned into an almost completely drained mud hole; to my eyes, it resembled pictures of a moonscape.

Jagged-edges of rotted tree stumps pierced the surface of the water that remained in the lake.


I felt shocked to see how shallow the lake actually was and to discover what lay at the bottom of it. Not a pretty or fragrant sight! The odor of decaying material that had been uncovered caused me to move a bit faster on my walk back home.

There are days on my journey toward emotional and spiritual maturity that I want to avoid “smelling” my below-the-surface emotions. I know that something’s rotting there, but I’d rather walk a bit faster—keep busy and ignore the simmering anger or hidden resentment.

Because I’ve been a follower of Jesus for many years, I think that I should no longer struggle with these things. I feel embarrassed but he is not. 

He sees below my surface smile but does not shun me; still, in his kindness, he does not ignore my messy inner self. Without condemnation, he shows me what I need to correct. With grace, he takes me by the hand and helps me climb out of my muddy hiding place. 

Instead of using the power of fear to make me forcibly submit, Jesus uses the strength of compassion to lift me out of my stuck place. Then, with joy and gratitude, I place my feet back on the pathway of life–receiving and following the personalized instruction that the Holy Spirit gives to me through Scripture. 

Among the Scripture verses that I cling to , this is a favorite :”For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11 NET).

Why do I like this Scripture so much? It tells me that being made holy (perfect, complete, whole) is a process–a lifelong journey. On this journey, I often need some inner repair. All of us Christians, do. Pretended perfection is as smelly as the rotting material at the bottom of a lake.


The following poem, which I wrote quite a few years ago, reminds me of Jesus’ amazing attitude of grace toward those of us who are being made perfect. He says to us:

There’s Victory for the Weakest Saint

Don’t run away in fear and hide
when you are hurting so, inside.

Don’t cover up your sin so dark
for shame and guilt make worse the mark.

Your debt’s completely paid by me;
I bore it all upon that tree.

And you can trust I’ll meet your need–
my cleansing grace for every deed.

When you are at temptation’s door-
remember I’ve been there before

You. I know the way to win
unceasing battles over sin.

So, do not run or fear defeat
but with my Word the Tempter meet.

There’s victory for the weakest saint.
Be strong in faith and do not faint!

Jane Ault

This entry was posted on September 29, 2017. 8 Comments

Guest Blog: I Celebrate Gray Hair


INTRODUCTION:

Sandy has been following Jesus since she was 8 years old.  She studied at SUNY Potsdam and attended Koinonia Church (now New Hope Community Church) way back in the 1980’s.

She and her husband, Kevin, live in the Rochester area and are parents to three grown children.

Sandy serves in Children’s ministry and works at the public library in her town.

God has been gracious to bring many people in her life to encourage her and help her grow in her faith.  Jane has been one of those people! 


Guest blog: I Celebrate Gray Hair

The last few years, I have been thinking about what it means to grow older.  Perhaps it is because my last child has graduated from high school, or because when I look in the mirror, I see a few more wrinkles and gray hair.  Growing older brings about change.  

A few years ago, I was helping a friend out.  She was in beauty school, so I allowed her to color my hair as part of her training.  It turned out very nice. I got many compliments on it.  So a few months later, I felt an obligation to keep coloring my hair.  It was either going to cost me a nice bundle at the beauty shop or some time wrestling with a box of smelly, messy chemicals.  I wrestled with the box, several times.

Why was I doing this?  Was this something I really enjoyed?  As I thought about it, I started feeling rebellious.  Why should I cover up the fact that I have some gray hair?  Why should I care if I have a few wrinkles?  I didn’t like the societal pressure I perceived.  It felt sexist.  Many women color their hair, but the vast majority of men don’t.

Men, too, are bombarded with advertisements these days from hair replacement systems to workouts that will give one a six-pack and everything in between.  I felt angry that our culture worships youth – that I struggle with worshipping my youth.  Why is youth so valuable and old age irrelevant?  I really believe this is a lie from the enemy to distract us from focusing on what is true and good.

God values all life.  In particular, He values His saints in old age.  Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”  Our lives lived for God allow us to speak of His faithfulness to our youth. Psalm 71:18 says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those who come.”  It is not wrong to use hair color or to make ourselves look nice or to take care of our bodies.  It is not wrong unless we have made those things more important than serving and loving God and investing the things He has taught us in other people’s lives.  

Why fear and deny growing older? God is with us.  “Even to old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you.  I have made, and I will bear: I will carry and will save.”  Isaiah 46:4.  He is not afraid of the death of our earthly bodies. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 115:15.

My prayer is that we desire wisdom more than youthful looks and a relationship with our Lord more than a long life. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12.

May we use the days He has given us wisely and let’s celebrate if we are lucky enough to get some gray hairs and wrinkles!

 

This entry was posted on September 22, 2017. 4 Comments

I Will Choose to Look Up . . .


After reading and listening to news reports about Irma’s path of destruction in the Caribbean and Florida all day Sunday, I could not get to sleep. My mind would not rest. I got out of bed,  sat down in my recliner, and picked up  All My Days, a beautiful book written by my friend, Ellen Mainville.  

Ellen is a wise and gentle woman who truly walks with God. He is in her book. I highly recommend it. When I read it, his Spirit comforts me, encourages me, and gently corrects me.

On Sunday night, I read Ellen’s poetic meditation “Love is Hard.” It resonated with me. Yes, love is hard. Sometimes it feels too hard. Love is also a choice.

Sometimes I don’t want to make that choice.  Sunday night, I renewed my desire to make the hard choices that love requires; I expressed that desire in the following poem of my own.


I Will Choose to Look Up

I will choose to look up
When I’m feeling down
I will choose to smile
When I want to frown

I will choose to be kind
When I’m feeling cross
I will choose to forgive
When I’ve suffered loss

I will choose to give
When I want to keep
I will choose to climb
When the road is steep

I will choose to pray
When my faith is small
I will choose to hope
When I feel none at all

I will choose to trust
When I know not why
I will choose to sing
When I want to cry

I will choose to stay
When I want to split
I will choose to rest
When I don’t want to quit

I will choose to follow
When I want to direct
I will choose to honor
When I’ve received no respect

I will choose to obey
When I want to rebel
I will choose to be silent
When I want to tell

I will choose to protect
When I want to expose
I will choose to be silent
When I want to disclose

I will choose to give thanks
When I want to complain
I will choose to learn more
When I want to stay the same

I will choose to resist
When I want to give in
I will choose to love
When I feel nothing within

I will choose not to remain
In the swamp of regret
I will choose to persist
When my strength is spent

I will choose to write
When I’m struggling with doubt
A flickering light
I will not put out

I will focus my eyes
On the heavenly scene
And choose as my treasure
That which can’t be seen

9/10/17 Jane Ault

These verses depict the choices I want always to make. Do I always make them? Not even for one day. My will power is insufficient; about an hour after I wake up, it becomes nonfunctional. For example, I might get irritated at my husband or complain about my dietary restrictions.  Because God is gracious, I receive forgiveness and move on. In a cooperative relationship with the Spirit, which I call ” the dynamic  dance of choosing grace”, the Holy Spirit gives me the ability and to make the choices that I , apart from him, cannot do. 

This entry was posted on September 15, 2017. 12 Comments

Learning to Love Recess



My mother was a very loving and generous Christian woman. She was also a very hard worker. To me it seemed like she worked all of the time. I remember asking her on various occasions, “Mother, don’t you think you need to rest?” Her usual reply was, “I will rest when I get to heaven!”  

That seemed to be my mother’s motto; however, she did take time to relax and do things that she enjoyed—quilting, crocheting, and scrap-booking.  Nevertheless, I internalized her “I will rest when I get to heaven!”  motto, exceeded her in sticking to it, and became a dedicated workaholic.

Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? For many years, I thought so. Some days, I still live according to that unwise motto. Unless my work is done, I feel guilty about relaxing.  I resist naps; yet, the more I resist rest, the less efficient I become in doing my work. I need recesses in my day, but understanding what that means challenges me.

I have very effective work habits, but I don’t yet have very effective play habits. What is the difference?

A work habit is mostly about “doing”;
A play habit is mostly about “being”.

A work habit helps me produce things;
A play habit helps me enjoy things.

A work habit is mainly about structure;
A play habit is mainly about spontaneity.

Of course, creative work includes elements of spontaneity, and refreshing play can contain elements of structure. Finding the balance makes our entire lives enjoyable.

Structured work and unstructured play make, for me, a happy day.

As a child, I loved doing my schoolwork more than I loved recess. In fact, I hated recess. Why? During recess, my classmates argued about who had to have me on their softball team and teased me about my clothing and weight. I had no place to escape and eagerly waited for recess to end.

It was through academic success that I gained approval and acceptance—at least with my teachers. Being the best speller and the fastest reader did not make me very popular among the others students.

As I grew up, I thought that God was like my school teachers. To please him, gain his acceptance and approval, I must keep busy and excel in my work. Recess did not become part of my spiritual-life picture.

To earn God’s acceptance and approval through unflawed performance became my goal. This was very hard work. It required my full attention. There was no time in my day for a recess. Discovering that God’s acceptance and approval are gifts of grace gave me the freedom to take a work break; yet, for me, that was not simple and easy to do. 

Being a lifelong learner means learning to love recess as much as I love work.

This week I’ve been placing recesses in my days. Yes, more than one! I’ve already noticed a positive shift in my energy level, as well as in my joy level.


“Hallelujah!Thanks to God.
It is recess time!

I will sing a happy song,
Or write silly rhyme.

God does not command me
To work without a break.

To ignore my need for play
Would be a grave mistake.

I will go for walk–
Take a little stroll;

It makes my body happy
And cheers up my soul.

I’ll take nothing in my
pocket–not even a phone.

If I really want to,
I will write a poem.

It doesn’t have to rhyme
Or fit an accepted form;

I will sniff the fresh air
And stop just to stare

At the clouds in the sky–
Watch the way they roll;

Feel the rhythm of my heart,
As I create a dance.

I want to stay forever here.
May this moment never end.

At last, I’m learning what it
Means to love “recess time.”

This entry was posted on September 8, 2017. 10 Comments