Stop Climbing Stairs and Sit

They are called the Scala Sancta. The Holy Stairs. You can find them in Rome near the St. John Lateran Basilica. They are believed to be the same steps Jesus climbed on his way to trial before Pilate. The 28 steps were moved from Jerusalem to Rome around 326 A.D. by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. They are marble in construction but encased in wood to protect the marble.

They are protected because for centuries pilgrims have climbed these stairs for various reasons. Some out of devotion. Some to offer prayers. And some because they believe that if they do so they will be forgiven their sins—one year for each step. 28 years of sin removed. When the average lifespan was only 50, two trips to the steps could give a person assurance of entry into heaven.

But climbing the steps is not easy. The only way a person is allowed to climb the stairs is on one’s knees, stopping on each step to offer a prayer. Karen and I have done this once. We thought the experience would be a good one, like crossing off an item on your bucket list. It was an experience. A painful one. And we did not feel a need to have that experience ever again.

Martin Luther climbed them. The great Reformer struggled with his doubts as a young man. He said “my conscience would never give me assurance, but I was always doubting and said, ‘You did not perform that correctly. You were not contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.’”

On a trip to Rome he learned that if he climbed the Scala Sancta he could free his grandfather from purgatory and maybe help his own cause along the way. And so he began on his knees to climb one step at a time.

Maybe you haven’t climbed the Scala Sancta but you’ve had doubts too. Some of you don’t, I know. Some of you have a gift of faith and like a rock cannot be moved. But others of us doubt.

  • “With all I’ve done, how could God ever love me?”
  • “I just don’t think I’ll ever be good enough.”
  • “If the message of Jesus is so clear, why do I have so many questions?”
  • “If God is love then why do unloving things happen to people?”

A lack of assurance is nothing new. John’s audience faced the same. “… for whenever our heart condemns us …” he writes (1 John 3:20). If you ever think the first century Christians had an easier road to faith than you, think again.

But John had a remedy for “hearts that condemn.” He said there is a place to find reassurance: “before him.” “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him…” Instead of listening to condemnation listen to the One who works for your transformation.

That is the other place John points us to: our transformation. Do you have a firm belief in Jesus as the son of God who came in the flesh (1 John 2:23; 4:2)? Are you growing in your desire to be more like the Father (1 John 3:19-20)? Do you love those who also love the Father (1 John 4:12)? If your answer is “yes” then you can find reassurance that the fellowship with the Father and the Son is having its effect in your life.

Reassurance is not found in some secret code. It is not found in something detached from the world we live in. It is not found in rule keeping.

And it is not found by climbing 28 steps on your knees. Martin Luther knew the promise. “If your heart condemned you” you could gain assurance of eternal life one step at a time. So dressed as a monk, with a shaved head and bare knees, he began creeping up the marble steps with the hope of his troubled conscience finding peace.

At some point he suddenly heard a voice like thunder say, “The just shall live by faith.” He got up to his feet, left the place, and was reassured of his place with God. Not because he loved God first through any action. But because God loved him through his action. (1 John 4:10).

You will be assured too. When your heart condemns you do what Luther did. Hear the voice of God and believe in Jesus. Just sit before him. It’s so much better than climbing steps.

Question: In what way(s) has your heart condemned you?

When You Love Others Less It’s Time to Confess

It’s the first sin I can remember. A sin of commission. And I knew I was doing it.

My first grade year was not easy. As a child I had asthma and the harsh West Texas winters in Memphis, Texas knocked me out of a lot of school. Mrs. Newton, my teacher, wanted me to take a make-up test one day when I returned from a bout of sickness.

Mrs. Newton had me open my book. She showed me the questions I needed to answer. And then she left the room. They were simple math problems. Simple until I got to number eight: “Which number is the third number from the left?”

Sounds simple, right? I knew which was my right hand and which was my left. But I didn’t know if the question was asking for me to count from my perspective or its perspective. (Stop laughing.) I looked ahead and the next several questions were similar to this one. If I didn’t get my directionally challenged mind in gear I would miss them all and make a bad grade.

That’s when the temptation came. Mrs. Newton was gone. Her teacher’s book was on her desk. The one with the answers. All I needed was a peek at just one so that I could get my perspective corrected. I moved as quietly as a cat burglar to the book, stole a quick look, and headed back to my desk. Just as I was getting seated I saw Mrs. Newton through the windows coming back to the room to check on me. If she saw me she never said a word.

For several nights I couldn’t sleep. I just knew the test would come back with a note on it telling me where my eternity was going to be spent. Instead, she gave me an “A” and as far as I know she never knew what I did.

Maybe you can’t remember your first sin, but you can probably remember your last. You have some tapes that play in your head you wish you could erase. You have some words you’d like to take back. You have some actions you aren’t proud of.

And you call them all sorts of things: mistakes, bad judgment, poor decisions. And they are. But John calls them sin. And he thinks we should too.

In 1 John there is a specific sin he is concerned about. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.”  “But I don’t hate my spiritual brothers or sisters” you might say. Don’t be so quick to say you aren’t sinning.

The Greek word for hate, miseo, means “to love less.” Jesus used the word when he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus, who wants us to be known by our love, surely did not mean “hate” in the sense we typically use the word. He meant that if we want to follow him we have to love them, yes. But love them less. That’s what “hate” means here.

You may not feel the usual emotions associated with hate—things like anger, disgust, hostility—towards anyone in the fellowship. But you may love them less. Less than your own interests. Less than your own desires. Less than your schedule. Less than your personal agenda. The sin John is concerned with is not immorality or crime. Those sins need to be confessed too. But the sin he is concerned with has to do with missing the mark of a relationship with God that includes a relationship with others in the fellowship. You can’t have one without the other.

Loving those inside the church becomes a witness to those outside the church. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let’s love each other more. And when we love each other less, confess it. And then leave that sin for love.

It’s as simple as counting three spaces from your left.

Question: What specific step can you take this week to love those inside the church more?

Learn to Live “In this Moment”

In our first trip to Italy we stayed at Villa Rosalba. Rosalba was the woman who took care of the place and her guests. Álvaro, her husband, grew the lemons in their yard for limoncello and liked to talk. We bonded over his limoncello and our mutual love of tennis.

I noticed he had a favorite expression: “in this moment.” He’d say, “In this moment, Rick, my life is very good.” Later I read this about the Italians: “Italians see time as a flowing river. Once it flows past, you can never catch up to it. You can only sit on the banks of the river and appreciate what flows past right now–in this moment.”

Quite a contrast from the way we do things as Americans. We seem to always be trying to catch up to time. I remember a few years ago when our boys were still teenagers I bumped into an old college roommate by accident. He was catching me up on his life and his family. He ran a business and then ran his kids all over their major city for their sporting commitments. He said they change clothes in the car and eat in the car and go to sleep in the car.

I told him he needed to just buy a mobile home since he already had one. I haven’t heard from him since.

Does that sound anything like the way your life works? We assume everyone lives this way. We think it is part of a privileged life. And somehow we think it will eventually balance itself out. Someday. Maybe.

It was not so in the beginning. There is a flow in the creation account we ignore to our detriment. It’s not that we have not heard it. We have just ignored it. Here is the flow: there is work and there is rest.

God worked, or created, for six days. Then, on the seventh day, he rested. Later this is called the Sabbath. The Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

Why this flow? Why this command? Because the Creator knows what is good for his creation. Rest is part of that “good.” He was able, at the end of his work, to look over everything he had made and say it was “very good.” Then he rested. He did not work.

How does that compare with your evenings? And how does that compare with your weekends? If you are anything like the people in a study the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence conducted, then you still work in your time off.

More than 50% of adults indicate they check work messages at least once a day over the weekend. They check before and after work during the work week. They even check on work when they are home sick. And 44% check on work when they are on vacation.

Apparently we do not know how to “vacate” even on vacation.

What if we started making small adjustments? Go home one night this week and put the phone, email, and Facebook away. Find one day over the next month to rest. Spend time with your family and friends. Linger longer at the table.

See if it makes a difference in your life. It should. You were wired to work and rest. You were created so that, at the end of the day you could say with my Italian friend: “In this moment, my life is very good.”

Question: How can you live more “in this moment” today?

 

 

 

How to Forge Through a Funk

A few years ago I experienced a rough season. Literally every day for several months was filled with some new “issue” I had to deal with. Stress levels were high and relaxation times were low. It was a season that could only be described as a “funk.”

Maybe you’ve been there too. Sleep seems hard to come by. You’re already tired when the alarm goes off. You move like a zombie through the day. Your mind is somewhere else while people are talking to you. And getting things accomplished is just not happening.

How do you forge through a funk? You need to answer that question. Most employers may understand a day or two every so often. But you simply cannot go through a long period of time without some productivity before there are consequences.

Here are some steps that have helped me when I entered the funk:

  • Get up. Yes, that sounds pretty simple, but it’s the first step. (Literally and figuratively.) I remember a life skills seminar once where the speaker was asked by a college student: “How do you get out of bed every morning.”

The college student thought his life was difficult. And maybe it was. So the speaker looked at him and said, “Well, here’s what I do. When the alarm goes off I put one foot on the floor. And then I follow it with the other foot. Then I stand up. That’s how I get out of bed every morning.”

Simple? Yes. But it’s the only way to defeat the funk. Staying in bed will not help.

  • Finish something. Another speaker has suggested that the way to make a difference is to begin your day and immediately finish something. I’ve written about this here.  The example given is to make your bed. It may be that you sit down and complete a journal entry. Or maybe you make breakfast and clean your dishes when done. Whatever it is, start it and finish it.

And when you get to your workplace do the same. Find one thing that needs to be done and do it. Make it something simple and short. Once you’ve already knocked something off the list at home and something at work you will be encouraged to do more.

  • Make a list. “Funk” is defined as “a state of great fright or terror.” You can find yourself in a funk because of a dejected mood. But it may also be a sense of anxiety over the tasks ahead. One affects the other.

I’ve learned to talk to myself in those moments. When faced with a difficult task or one that I’d rather someone else have to deal with, I merely face it head on and remind myself, “It’s not going to go away. It will be here tomorrow. So I might as well get it over with. An unpleasant task today will not magically disappear overnight. Take care of it today and it will be gone tomorrow.”

One way to stay focused in a funk is to make a list. Break a bigger project into pieces and tackle it one bit at a time. When your mind wanders train yourself to come back to the list. As you complete each part write “done” to the side. Your progress will help you progress.

  • Take a break. Breaks are needed to help you keep going. The first time I hiked in the Rockies I learned that going uphill in direction and elevation is a huge contrast to hiking on flat land. Even if you are in good shape. When you are in a “don’t feel like doing anything” state it is even more difficult. When the climb is steep you have to set goal markers in the distance and tell yourself, “When I get to that spot I’ll sit down and catch my breath.” If you don’t you’ll have a tough time finishing the hike.

The same is true in your daily routine. So set yourself some “rewards” along the way. For example, do 50 minutes of work then take a 10-minute break. Get up and take a walk. Read an article for fun. Check in with a co-worker. But keep it under control and then after you are refreshed go back to your list. (see #3 bullet point)

  • Add accountability. Tell someone else what you need to get done and that you want them to ask you how you are doing on that task. Give them permission to hound you a bit. The added accountability will give you the extra nudge you might need to keep pressing forward.
  • Do More When You Feel More. When you feel the funk lifting a bit try to do a little extra. I recently had a day when the stars seemed to align. I needed to do some writing and when I began the words just came without effort. I finished one assignment in record time so I decided to move on to the next one. And, like the first, the sentences just flew across the page as quickly as I could type them on my laptop.

That spurt of productivity put me a week ahead on writing. You can do the same. Because there will be days you and I are in a funk. It’s unavoidable. And there are moments we need to be free to not be as productive. No one can push at near 100% 100% of the time. Build some free space into your schedule by doing more when the energy is there.

Don’t let the funk keep you down. Try these things to overcome it.

And if it helps, listen to funk music while you do.

Do This if You Want a Better 2016

Only a few days into the New Year. Many have made resolutions. But what happens in January may be forgotten by March:

  • Gyms gain new members that will all but disappear by then.
  • Books longing to be read will be stacked in order to be read but not touched within weeks.
  • Procrastination that was vowed to be left in 2015 will have to wait.

What is it you wanted to do differently in this year from years past? And how is it you want to be different in this year from years past?

Maybe the most difficult thing for any of us is change. And the place change starts is in our thinking. Dallas Willard has said “The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon.”

How we think matters. And so thinking differently this year from how you thought last year is the starting place for whatever changes you want to see in your life.

For instance, many people will want to lose weight in the new year. Until you think differently about food it will be difficult to accomplish. Your ideas about food have to change. So you begin to think about food as fuel. You think of the options in front of you as either good fuel or sludge. You’d never want to put pure sludge down your gas tank, would you? Then why would you want to put it in you?

When you see food options that are full of bad calories, saturated fats, and processed “who knows what?” you find it easier to make healthier choices. Then you think about portions. And when your thinking changes your weight will too.

Or maybe you are tired of feeling negative about things. You can choose to think differently. Here’s an example. How many people have you heard complain about their Christmas break being over and having to go back to work? (Maybe it was yourself you heard?)

Change your thinking. Think about how great it was that you could have some time off with your family or how you were fortunate enough to be able to give and exchange gifts. And then think about how blessed you are to have a job you can go to. Talk to someone who has lost their job and see how well complaining about yours sits with them.

How we think matters. When we think better we live better. Thinking is the act of holding up a thought or idea or image and determining if it is true or is not true in light of what else we know to be true around us.

Thinking is especially needed when we think about God. This is why Jesus said we are to love God with our minds as well as our heart and soul and strength. Satan’s attack against us is in our thoughts about God. He will have us think wrong thoughts about God so that we doubt his care for us and go searching for other ways to fill our emptiness.

On every level change starts with how we think. The Apostle Paul taught to “Demolish strongholds… against the knowledge of God… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Can you do that in 2016? Take captive every thought. Don’t let your thoughts attack you. You grab them and hold them up and inspect them. Then make them obedient to Christ and what he has thought. He is the greatest thinker to have ever lived.

Want to do differently this year? Think differently.

Want to be different this year? Think differently.

Give some thought to your thinking. Exercise your greatest freedom and decide what you will think on.

Question: What are of your life do you need to “think differently” in this year?

Dream Something New this Christmas

On January 8, 1940 he handed his secretary the 48 measures of a song he wrote and told her, “I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

Originally written as a satire its first verse began with the words: The sun is shining. The grass is green. The orange and palm trees sway. There’s never been such a day In Beverly Hills, L.A. But it’s December the twenty-fourth, And I’m longing to be up north.

You’ve probably never heard that verse. The song’s composer ordered it cut. He was the hit maker of Tin Pan Alley, a Jewish immigrant from Siberia who penned 451 hits. His song was married to the voice of another hit maker of singing for the movie Holiday Inn. The movie has been all but forgotten. But not the song.

It was released four months before Christmas of 1942 and immediately shot to the top of the charts. America was almost a year removed from Pearl Harbor and millions of young American men were serving their country abroad for the first time in their lives and missing their families and homes.

And so a song that started as satire became the standard for all Christmas dreams. A yearning of being where you want to be rather than where you are. A dream of something different than what you know.

Together Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby connected on the song “White Christmas” that still holds third position as one of the most performed songs of the Christmas season. And why not? It has a dream: one for “a white Christmas just like the ones we used to know.” And it has a wish: that all “your days be merry and bright and all your Christmas’s be white.” It was a dream to be home.

Joseph dreamed of home. As a tekton or one who “creates” he worked in wood and stone. He knew a hard day’s work and a small paycheck. (He and Mary will later give the offering of the poor when Jesus is presented in the Temple.)

He came from a ragtag lineage and we know little about him other than what Matthew tells us. But one thing we know. He was a dreamer. As he was thinking about how he would dismiss Mary quietly an angel came to him in a dream.

And what a dream! He is told Mary is with child from the Holy Spirit and he is to name the child Jesus or “Yahweh saves.” He is Immanuel or “God with us.”

And that’s what Joseph needed. Of all people Joseph needed to be saved. His world seemed to be falling apart. He had dreamed of a simple life with a wife and family. (Imagine the whispers he heard at work about Mary’s pregnancy.) His heart was breaking. He needed saving in the deepest way.

And he needed God. Not distant. Not untouchable. Not uncaring. But “with” him. When dreams die our first response is often to blame God. Our first feeling is that he is far away from our cries. We need him near. A God who is with us.

There will be moments when we realize our dreams are not going to happen. But just as God called  Joseph, God will call us to a new dream that has been born in a child named Jesus. Like him he dreams of a day when we set sin aside and love our neighbors as ourselves. Like him he dreams of a day we will be with each other in redemptive ways as Jesus was.

And he will watch to see if we obey like Joseph did. Joseph did not weigh his options. He simply obeyed. God’s dream may be costly to us. We will be asked to give grace when wronged. We may be asked to move when we’d rather stay. Following Jesus is all about God’s dream and not so much about ours. We will be called to lay down our dreams and take up God’s.

Joseph never forgot his Christmas dream. May we never forget God’s.

Thankfulness Yields a Healthy Soul

There is a soul virus you know well. Just think about a time you went into work on Monday morning determined to have a great day. You wanted to start your week off right. You got up, got dressed, got into work with a smile on your face.

Everything was going well until Oscar entered the room. You don’t really remember his name but you call him Oscar. As in “the Grouch.” By his grumbling you’d think he lived in a trashcan. And even on Sesame St. it did not take long before there were more Grouches, a whole species. That’s because grouchiness grows and spreads like germs in a dumpster. A grouch’s main mission is “being as grouchy and miserable as they possibly can be and to make everyone else feel the same way.”

This Oscar succeeded in his mission. Before you knew it you were grumbling too. You carried it to lunch and before you left your lunch mate was griping about the service and the cost. He took it to his cubicle and it spread to the next. By the end of the day your Monday had become Glumday.

And your soul was in danger.

The virus of ingratitude had done its work. You can find some solace in knowing that it has had more experience infecting souls than yours has had rejecting it. First some history and then an antidote for those who wish to be healthy.

You see, ingratitude is the original sin. Adam and Eve had so much for which to be thankful. They had a lush lawn under their feet. Bouquets of Bluebonnets in their fields. (Why Bluebonnets? This was the Garden of Eden. It must have looked like Texas.) An energy efficient sun keeping their temperature at the optimal range of 72 degrees. An abundance of fruit to eat and a variety of animals to pet.

They had safety and security. They could live without clothes and feel no need to hide. Very different from your experience, right? Just get up tomorrow morning, take off your sleepwear, and waltz outside to greet the morning and see how you feel. They had it made. They had everything for which to be thankful.

Until…until a virus was planted in an apple. Ever notice that Satan didn’t ask them about all the things they had? Instead, he asked them about the one thing they could not have. Instead of being grateful for what they had they wanted more.

The virus of ingratitude has spread through humankind ever since. But there’s good news. If ingratitude can kill your soul then gratitude can heal your soul. Maybe that’s why over 100 times Scripture gives examples or commands for gratitude. For example Psalm 103 reads: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits …”

Paul taught the same. In Philippians he writes “Do all things without grumbling…” Instead, he teaches “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

God’s will for us is to give thanks. Not just once in a while. But always and in everything. So writes Paul to the Colossian church: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Gratitude is the antidote to the ingratitude virus. Gratitude can boost your soul’s immune system. More gratitude will not come by acquiring more things you don’t have but by remembering all the things you do have in God.

So start today. Make a list of the things for which you are grateful. Carry it into and beyond Thanksgiving Day. When you do you’ll find your soul coming alive. And you’ll find yourself full of more than a turkey dinner.

Your Soul was made for Walking

We hit New York City with a vengeance. My wife and I had only four short days to spend with our son and daughter-in-law and we wanted to take as big a bite out of the Big Apple as we could.

  • Day One: We arrived and soon found ourselves on a 1.45-mile-long walk on the High Line, an old elevated section of railroad in Manhattan. Afterwards we went to a belated 29th anniversary dinner while our kids went to a concert.
  • Day Two: The main agenda item was a Broadway musical. The neon lights are bright but not so much at a matinee. But it was great as we walked Manhattan and capped off the day with a seafood dinner back in Brooklyn.
  • Day Three: Karen and I took a “Real New York” tour led by Nathan. It was a walking tour. We literally walked over 19,000 steps. But we saw Times Square, Wall St., Ground Zero, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, Washington Square Park and Central Park. We saw Soho and Noho and learned that H-o-u-s-t-o-n in New York is “How-sten” not “Hyou-ston.”
  • Day Four: We strolled around Brooklyn that morning. When our son got off work at noon he wanted to know what we wanted to do. We said, “Just walk some more sites in Manhattan with you.”

“You don’t want to do anything?” he asked.

“No, just walk with you,” we told him.

We did a lot of walking in four days. There’s something about a walk with people you love, isn’t there? I believe it is because walking with others is wired into our DNA. Walking with God started in the Garden.

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Genesis 3:8). We get the impression that walking in the garden with the man and woman was a regular occurrence. God desires to walk with his creation.

“Walking with God” is a phrase used in the Bible to denote those who were close to him: “Enoch walked with God…;” “Noah walked with God;” “…the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me…”

Get the idea? God wants to walk with us. The Old Testament prophet Micah reminds us one more time: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Our souls need regular walks with God. Jesus had them. He said, “…the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:19).

I saw something like this on the subway in NYC. A lady sitting near me was talking loudly. She would pause at times, then ask a question, listen, then laugh, listen some more, and state something.

I looked around and could not tell that anyone near her was part of the conversation. I was a bit judgmental and determined she was the kind of person who talks to herself. Outloud. For everyone else to hear. When the subway door opened she continued the conversation as she walked. Near the exit to the street she turned her head and I could see she had a Bluetooth headset for her phone. She could hear something I couldn’t and was carrying on a conversation as she walked.

Just as my subway friend was talking with someone as she walked who was not there physically, your soul wants to walk with God too through the day. Here are a few ideas on how that can happen:

Turn your first thoughts to God. The psalmist writes: “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Before your feet his the ground take a moment and offer a prayer to God. Invite him to walk with you through your day.

Turn your frequent thoughts to God. Every task you perform ask God to be in it with you. Every person you encounter, quietly pray that God would lead your words. Every mile you drive, ask God to keep you safe and bless the guy who just cut you off in traffic. God is with us in Jesus. We just need to notice his presence.

And then, turn your final thoughts to God. Again, the Psalmist wrote: “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” Think about the past day talking to God about it. Let him review it with you. Ask forgiveness for your missteps. Praise him for the good He did through you.

You can then get a good night’s rest. You’ll need it. Because the next day you will be right back walking with God. That’s where your soul wants to be.

Re-Souling Your Soul

Imagine walking 3,540 feet above the ground on a suspended bridge. A nerve-wracking thought?  Then factor in that the bridge is made of glass. Then factor in that near the end of your walk on this glass walkway the glass begins to crack.

That’s the experience some tourists had recently in China. One person posted that she was at the end of the walkway when she “heard a sound. My foot shook a little. I looked down and I saw that there was a crack in the floor.” [1]  She screamed. Others screamed. And then she began pushing people out of her way so she could get off.

Fortunately for the tourists on the bridge the cracked glass was only one layer of three sheets of glass. Nevertheless, the officials closed the bridge until further notice.

Sometimes our lives need to be closed till further notice. There are cracks in the foundation that we don’t often see. They can be caused by a number of things: Stress at work. Failed relationships. Harsh words from a parent or friend early in life.

Whatever has caused the cracks they are present. And unless repaired we would be better off closing down until further notice.

David needed to. There was a time David reigned in splendor as King of Israel. But after his affair with Bathsheba in which he also caused the death of her husband Uriah, his kingdom and household was never the same.

One incident came when his son Amnon lusted after his half-sister Tamar. He raped her and then tossed her aside. Her brother Absalom took her in and cared for her. David? When he found out all we are told is that he was angry.

You’d expect a father to do more. Punish Amnon. Lecture Amnon. Take his car keys away from him. But David did nothing other than feel anger.

Absalom, on the other hand, did do something. He got Amnon drunk and then killed him. And again David did nothing but weep in solitude. His lack of connection to Absalom was interpreted by Absalom as his father being angry at him, so he fled Jerusalem. He and his father did not see each other for years. There were cracks all over the foundation of their collective family and individual souls.

By the time David finally reunited with Absalom it was too late. Absalom led a revolt and took over the kingdom. David ran for his life from Absalom. In 2 Samuel 16:14 he and all the people that left with him arrive at the Jordan. The Scripture then says, “And there he refreshed himself.”   The Hebrew word for “refresh” is literally “re-souled.”

Maybe you’ve resoled a shoe when it was coming apart. You realized that the sole was wearing thin. You felt the gravel underneath your feet almost like you were barefoot. You held the shoe up to the light and could see the light shining through. Instead of throwing the entire shoe out you decide a new sole would wear better.

Maybe we need to learn to “re-soul” our soul when it is coming apart. David’s life gives us some direction of what to do.

  • Get away from the things that are wearing your soul thin: Sin. Busyness. Crowds. Toxic people.
  • Then find a refreshing place, like a river, and reset our soul on God. Psalm 63 was written during this time. Its words can be used as our own.

A fractured soul is like a suspension bridge made of glass hovering 3,540 feet above the ground that is cracking. It’s not safe for anyone. If the bridge is you, re-soul today.

[1] https://www.yahoo.com/travel/glass-walkway-3540-feet-above-the-ground-cracks-152000405.html

A Recipe for When You “Oops!”

Massimo Bottura is an Italian chef and owner of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. He tells the story of how one of his dessert dishes was created by accident. (You can listen to him here.)

One night at his restaurant it was time to serve the dessert. His Sous-Chef Taka had prepared two lemon tarts. When it was time to serve them Taka dropped one of the two tarts and it broke on the counter.

As Massimo tells the story, Taka was devastated. “He was ready to kill himself!” But Massimo helped him see the broken tart in a new way. He said, “Look at this. It is beautiful!”

They didn’t throw the broken tart away. Instead, they rebuilt it on the plate and took the other one and broke it too to look just like the rebuilt broken one. The new creation was given a title: “Oops! I dropped the Lemon Tart.”

Massimo says, “I think that is the poetry of everyday life. You have to be ready to see things that other’s don’t even imagine.”

If we could only see our lives in the same way he sees his cooking. Ever feel broken? Feel like your life should just be thrown away? Don’t do like Taka and prepare to kill yourself.

Instead, let another Master Chef work with you. That’s what God does. He sees something in you—your broken you—that other’s don’t even imagine. Maybe not even you.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Getting broken is not fun. Harsh relationships can leave us wounded. Angry words can put a dent in the hardest shell. Mistakes can leave us feeling ruined.

But getting remade can be captivating! You can wake up each day and wonder what God will do with you that day.

  • He can take bitterness and transform it into blessing.
  • He can rework sadness into singing.
  • He can heal wounds so that you can bring hope to someone else.

What Massimo did with a tart God can do with your heart. With the joyful love of a Creative Master he can put the pieces back together in a new way. A beautiful way.

You may feel broken and useless because of something in your past. If so, keep this life recipe at your fingertips:

Your “oops!” is not the end of you. In fact, it might just be the beginning of something new.

Question: What do you do with your “Oops!” moments?