Whatever is Pure
This Isn't What I Signed Up For!
"I take you to be my lawfully wed (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
With graceful measured steps, the perfectly coifed, beautifully clad blushing bride walks down a rose petal strewn path toward the altar and her beaming handsome groom. Months of preparation have been spent in anticipation of this one moment. Hand in hand, the confident couple stands before the minister and with sincerity and conviction ringing in their voices; they repeat the traditional vows. After a discreet yet passionate kiss, the couple are announced as husband and wife and the fairy tale continues with a scrumptious feast where the groom gallantly feeds tidbits to his beloved; followed by a enjoyable and romantic first dance where the bride whispers how safe and wonderful she feels in his masculine arms. All the while, the couple remains basking in the good wishes of their loved ones.
Fast forward, a few months and the scene changes, the young couple is in bed, their foreheads glowing with a feverish sweat. Boxes of Kleenex surround them and the wife makes a disgusted face as she sips tepid stale water as she swallows another aspirin. There is a definite chill in the air as the young wife rips the covers from her beloved; accusing him of being selfish and cruel and stinking like a gym locker. With an icy contemptuous glare, the husband stomps into the kitchen and returns with one glass of refreshing, ice cold orange juice which he promptly places by his side of the bed with a triumphant smirk in between coughs. Reaching for another Kleenex, the young girl blows her nose and pulls the downy duvet around her; after all, it was a gift from her Aunt Susan. With a bone-chilling glare of her own, she repeats. "Selfish, selfish to the bone!"
Don't be too hard on our young couple; they suffer from the universal malady called 'Selective Amnesia'. This dreaded disease of the heart causes certain portions of their wedding vows to be lost in a fog of self-centeredness that only allows clear recollection of the fun stuff within their vows; richer, health, good times. This condition often momentarily lifts in order to allow the sufferer to throw those vows in the face of their not-so-beloved to remind them of their woeful failure to follow through on their own vows.
Many Christians fall prey to this same affliction; the symptoms usually appearing a year or so after giving their lives to Jesus Christ. They remember the peace that overwhelmed them and carried them through in the early days of their salvation. They remember the joy of answered prayer and the blessings of sweet fellowship with their Lord and their fellow believers. They remember the promises of God all to well; after all these promises were the first verses they memorized. The promises of God's love, his peace, his mercy, forgiveness, and grace. The promises of still waters and green pastures. Yes, that was they were promised when they asked Jesus in their hearts. Indeed, they speak of their own commitment and total surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and their promise to walk with him, no matter where he may lead. After all, God wouldn't lead them places that weren't very nice, now would he? Surely, he didn't really mean that bit about picking up a cross and following him or maybe he meant a wee little cross, tiny in proportion to his, like those mini-shopping carts at grocery stores so children can pretend they are shopping?
When trials, sorrows, tragedies and temptations begin to come their way, in bewilderment many a Christian cries out to God. "Hey! This was not in our contract! Where is the milk and honey? Where is the prosperity, where is the glory? Why is my son still rebelling against me? Why did You allow me to lose my job? Why does my family mock me when I tell them about you? Why hasn't my husband changed? Why are you convicting me of my own sin when everyone else in the church are hypocrites anyhow? How fair is that?"
There are no hidden clauses written in small print in the covenant God made with man through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the clearest of terms, Jesus laid out the terms of the agreement. His gave his life to save our lives from the consequences of our sin. He rose from the dead to free us from the chains of death. In turn, we give our whole being to him to use as He sees fit and we allow him to transform us his likeness, no matter what the cost, trusting Him to bring His best in and through our lives.
Matthew 16:24-26 NIV
Mark 10: 29-31 NIV
James 1:2-4 NIV
Father God, deliver me from this malady of selective amnesia because I can see that it robs me of my peace and my trust in your character. I ask you, Holy Spirit, to remind me of your truth and my own heart's condition. Bring me back to the terms of our covenant. Father, I ask your forgiveness if I have caused young Christians to stumble in their faith through presenting a water-downed gospel message that failed to spell out the sacrifice that they would have to pay in following you.
My Years Of Tears
I will use my years of tears,
I will use my years of tears,
I will use my years of tears,
I will use my years of tears
Each tear a building block in
A Tale I'll Tell
Consider ye, a tale i'll tell, the story of a man
For years his wicked life was bent to rise and fall again,
But then one day his kingdom fell, the glory all was gone,
The court convened, the man was tried, the testimony gave,
They led him through the city streets, his head he could not raise,
For o'er the hill a rider came, his horse did eat the ground,
"Release the prisoner, set him free, the ransom hath been paid,
Oh how the day so dark and cold began to shine so bright,
Though you be guilty and condemned, and though no hope you see,
And through this world you'll onward go, and storm the gates of hell,
"The Position Has Been Filled"
"The position has been filled" she declared, "and I'm not taking applications."
Maggie's words sliced through me like a machete through bamboo. Four years of careful cultivation of what I hoped would yield a "kindred spirit" friendship had just been scissored into confetti right before my eyes.
"I have Sean" Maggie continued, "he's my best friend. I don't need anyone else."
I sat across the table from Maggie and her husband, stunned. Choking back tears, all I could do was nod.
I lost my dearest friend five years ago. We were so close that some thought we shared the same heartbeat. I lost Gwen to illness at age forty-two. If you've ever had such a friend-the kind who knows you so well that she can finish your sentences, knows when to lovingly "slap you upside the head" and when to offer a hug-you can understand why losing Gwen left a Grand Canyonesque gap in my life. Maybe you'd also understand why I've been looking for candidates to help fill the hole left by her loss.
I met Maggie at church a few years ago. A tall, slim woman with soft features, I watched Maggie for over a year. I saw potential. She could never "replace" Gwen completely-no one could-but Maggie had qualities that I admired. We hit it off. When an unusual series of unforeseen events threw our families together, we clung to each other. A bond emerged that seemed strong. Further shared experiences began to mend the hole in my heart. After awhile, one name topped my "Best Friend Candidate" list: Maggie.
I thought this was reciprocal, until four years later when a conversation took an unexpected turn: "The position has been filled." Blindsided by Maggie's announcement, I stared at the floor, not knowing what else to do. The horrible realization dawned on me that I had completely misread the relationship. Maggie was suddenly foreign, speaking a tongue I didn't understand. Waves of disappointment crashed over me. The light finally went on: "All this time I've been looking in the wrong place."
I felt like a First Class Fool. Turns out I was pouring heart and soul into something that was never real. There was no anger, no raging cauldron of resentment-just residual sogginess where the "best friend" oasis had melted into a merely moist mirage.
When's the last time Disappointment lumbered into your life? Was it in the job you applied for, fully qualified and competent, but someone else was hired? Was it in your child's report card? Did the cruddy creature sashay across your bank account, birthday, vacation plans, health, or spouse?
Disappointment arrives in all sorts of packages-some large, some small. Some folks seem more prone to its poison-tipped pike than others. If you're breathing, however, you'll most certainly do battle with the "disappointment dragon" at least once in this life. So, what do you do when the scaly creature slithers into your life and tries to set up shop? Reflecting on this the other day, Romans 8:38-39 hit me:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
How much is "nor anything"? It's nothing! As in zero, zip, nada. No thing can separate us from the love that's greater, higher and deeper than any other-the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
God's Word opened my eyes to the true source of my disappointment: me. Like the country/western tune, I was "looking for love in all the wrong places"--looking for a person to fill a void that only the Lord Jesus Christ can fully fill.
Disappointment hurts, doesn't it? But let's learn together. When the cruddy creature flexes its claws, let's run to the One whose faithfulness is beyond words, whose love no tongue can tell. He won't disappoint. Christ gave up everything to take those dragon talons for us, and He will!
The position has been filled-by the only One who can.
The Heroes of My Faith
I have never been much of a team sports fan as my diminished eyesight makes it difficult to follow such games. I'd be hard pressed to name more than two or three players in my city's major sports teams. Looking back to my childhood, I wasn't your typical teenage girl of the seventies who had 'teen idol' posters plastered on her walls. Batman, Robin and the Lone Ranger were fodder of inspiration for my brothers and not for me. While I counted as friends many of the characters in the books that I read as a child, I didn't choose to model my life after their actions.
While I have great respect and I have learned much from the teachings and lives of fellow believers such as Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Elisabeth Elliot, I would not count them as major influences in my daily walk or list them as personal heroes.
The true heroes and role models in my life have never made the headlines, they are not authors of famous inspirational books and they've never been keynote speakers at Christian conventions. They have no trophies or awards in display cases and most live with a modest family income. As far as I know, not one is a brilliant inventor or recognized for their creative skills. However, by merely living their lives before me, they have earned my admiration and respect and I make a conscious choice to model my life after them.
Frank is one such role model. He came into my life when I started attending my present church. A retired farmer, Frank lived with his daughter in order to help raise her children, as she was a working single mother. His old-fashioned gracious manners and genuine warmth extended not just to his church family but also to visitors. He'd be one of the first to shake hands with newcomers and would take careful note of their names, remembering them and greeting them like old friends upon their next visit. He would literally get down to the level of the small children at church and I'd often see him sitting cross-legged on a rug, having a friendly conversation with a toddler. Frank was often one of the first to arrive at church in the morning and one of the last to leave. Shoveling snow, sweeping the floors, taking the offering when the teams were short-handed, he was a living example of a servant-heart. Although life circumstances called Frank away from our congregation, his influence remains. When I see a discarded cup on the gym floor, rather than expect someone else to pick it up, I remember his example and stoop over to pick it up. When a newcomer sits near me at church, I swallow my natural reticence of approaching strangers and greet them with a smile and while my handshake may not be as firm as Frank's, my hope is that I extend to them the same unconditional love Frank afforded me.
Mabel is another living example. Upon learning the news that her prodigal brother, a drug addict, had contracted a debilitating brain infection from a dirty needle, Mabel immediately went to his aid. When it became clear that her brother would never fully recover and would require constant care, Mabel took early retirement from a much-loved job and brought her brother home rather than see him waste away in a state-run institution. With the help of visiting nurses and therapists, Mabel nursed her semi-comatose brother for over fifteen years before he passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. Although her extended family would give her respite on Sunday mornings so she could attend church and come in occasionally so she could run errands during the week, Mabel unselfishly gave of herself, never losing faith that her prodigal brother had indeed come home in more ways than one. Her gentle yet practical outpouring of God's selfless love often comes to my mind when the Lord prompts me to go that extra mile for a difficult family member.
There are many more such heroes in my life and perhaps in future months, I'll introduce them to you. My prayer is that I can live my life as they have modeled their lives, in gentleness, temperance, modesty, and humility.
As of May 2012, "WHATEVER IS PURE" ARCHIVES will no longer be seeking submissions. As most authors and poets now have their own blogs, we noticed a significant drop in submissions over the past year and felt it was best to move on to other endeavors.