know your yesterday


A year ago, my motives were pure and my mission was clear. I simply wanted to proclaim God and prove that He is in our very midst, even in the most mundane of circumstances. Thus, if you open your eyes a little bit wider and if you pause just a little bit longer, you can really see… ordinary becomes extraordinary. But when we bustle through life, as most of us do, the supernatural can be missed. We must be intentional about it. Pause. Look. Reflect. And then see.

…on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Psalm 4:4b

This morning I visited my “about” page. See, the blog’s one year anniversary came about last week and I wanted to remember. I wanted to reflect, if you will, as to what prompted me to blog in the first place. And in truth, I’ve been wondering if I should continue. But you know… what I find there brings a smile to my face. Because I find that a quickly typed thought of yesterday has become so precious to me today. In fact, a mere idea of a year ago has become my passion for today: know your yesterday…

February 25, 2013: And here I sit, mind brimming, thoughts churning, and my most pressing thought? What first? Where to begin? I could start with today, but for me, yesterday is so important.

I see that yesterday was important to me then, but even more so today. Perhaps it’s because of my present circumstances. See, I’ve been looking back. And looking back. And my goodness, when I think I’m done, I find I’m looking back once again! I want to go forward, I really do. For I’m anxious to move forward from where I’ve been paused. Because I think this has gone on long enough. I mean, how much looking, reflecting and seeing can one person do? And so, I ask God repeatedly, “Why am I still here? Why am I still looking back?” For every time I think I’m ready to move forward and make a difference in His kingdom, I find I cannot take a step. I’m stalled. And honestly, I’m beginning to feel guilty about all this introspection. As a matter of fact, I feel 100% selfish wearing these inward goggles for so long. And so, writing has been hindered. Because embarrassment has settled on my soul. And I begin to wonder about other people… if someone follows these blogs, will they wonder the same about me? Will people think I’m narcissistic and that this blog would be more aptly named “the truth about me.” And so, confidence shaken, writing stills. I’ve been on pause as I’ve sat here with nothing else to do but look, reflect, and see. And so, a month ago, I finally did.

Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. James 1:23-24

This was a convicting verse to me. Because I have paused and looked and oh, how I have reflected as I’ve pored through 18 journals (yes, that’s right… 18 of them in four years time). And most importantly, I see what’s undone. For despite hearing from God over and over and over again – His words to me, written out by my own hand – I have failed to act on what He’s shown me. Throughout the pages of every journal, it’s there. It refuses to go away. And thus, I get a good look at the real me. Not the one everyone else sees, but the one that God sees. And she ain’t pretty. Because I’ve seen the truth about God and me too many times now… I know I hold tight to the very thing that’s a blemish to my insides. Pride is so deeply ingrained, that for the life of me I cannot seem to shake it. How many more times can He tell me to put it behind me. And so, through the words of a man named James, I really see my pride. And I see me. And for perhaps the first time, I see me as God sees me. A woman who has heard God’s word, and heard it, and heard it… and yet, she fails to act on it. A hearer of His word only, not a doer.

You know, James 1:23-24 tells of a man looking at his reflection in a mirror, but then, he forgets what kind of man he was. The wording in the HCSB version is “he is like a man looking at his own face,” and that word “own” means natural. It means the face of his birth. Essentially, it means where he came from. In a sense, his yesterday. And the man fails to do what he knows he should do. He doesn’t act on what God shows him about himself. In reading this passage of Scripture, I see a picture of me. And I get a glimpse of what this blog has turned out to be. For it’s my mirror. Through it, I’ve been reflecting on my past. At first, I went back a few years. But as the year progressed, I looked back further. For He wanted me to see my natural man. He wanted me to remember the face of my birth. It was as if He were bidding me, “Know your yesterday.”


It was one month ago when I read this passage of James and the words spoke deeply. But it was the picture beside the verses that nearly took my breath away. For a picture of a bronze mirror assured me God was speaking directly to me through a man named James. See, I had just finished reading about the Old Testament temple… about how God’s presence resided inside that dwelling. However, before a priest dared approach Him, there were steps to be taken, one being the bronze laver. It was where the priest washed before stepping behind the veil into His presence. At the laver, he cleansed himself. And you know the most astounding thing… Exodus 38:8 tells that the bronze laver was made from bronze mirrors. So the bronze laver, where the man of God cleansed himself, must have been reflective. Perhaps in looking through the waters, he caught a glimpse of his natural face peering up. Perhaps in running the waters through his hand, he remembered… the face of his birth and from where God brought him. In fact, he may have reflected on his yesterday and who he once was, and perhaps was still. And perhaps it was then, when he got a really good look at himself, that he was met with humility. Because he saw

Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:1

One year to clarity. One year of pausing. One year of writing and examining my past. One year of reflecting on the old (and the not so new) me. And one year to see. The blog, which I hoped would be an encouragement to everyone else, becomes encouragement to me. For it’s my mirror. And through it, I see the face of my birth reflecting back at me. Oh, it may be true I haven’t changed much in many years. But I have hope. Because the blog is still the truth about God & me, after all. It’s just that for me to see God as He really is, I first have to see me as I really am.

Ironically, the fact that my confidence has been shaken gives me hope that I’m changing. And though some would view shaky confidence in a negative light, I see it as a positive. Because for once, I’m not as sure of myself. And lack of reliance in me leads to more faith in Him. And this alone gives me hope that this time is real… that the inward goggles really worked this time around. Because I think I see something new. I believe, through the murky waters of my words, I see the beginnings of humility. Incredibly, backlit by reflective bronze, a humble countenance is peering back at me. And what astounds this prideful soul, is that the reflection looking back is me.

God’s message is clear. He says… “Pause, look, reflect, and see.” He wants me to remember my yesterday. And if it takes a year, then so be it. Because before moving forward with Him, I have to see.

“Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent. Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

The Stable


While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the inn. Luke 2:6-7

Why the stable? And a manger? Could a more unlikely place exist for the Savior of the world to make His entrance? Because we have some chickens out back, and if I were to stick my nose in their coop, I would find it smells. Bad.

And if I were to walk through their pen, I would definitely come out with poop on the soles of my shoes. And these are just chickens. What about horse and cow manure? Or worse yet, a pig pen. Can anything smell worse than pigs?

So, in contemplating the nativity sets, I wonder if they perhaps give a false idea of what it was really like on the night of our Savior’s birth. Because the treasured scenes we place around our homes make our hearts glad… but they leave all the ugliness out.

Come December, you won’t find any little cow pies as you unbox your stable, manger, shepherds, and cows. And so, we have this nice, sterile image of what it was like the night of Christ’s birth.

And carols enhance the image.

Like Silent Night.

Oh, it’s one of my favorites. Absolutely beautiful. But was it really silent? And calm? For a young, virgin gave birth. No, I’d venture to say it was not silent at all. Loud, no doubt.

But see, an idea forms as I contemplate who may have been present at the birth of Jesus. There was Joseph and Mary and some lowly animals. But were there others? I just don’t know. I don’t think any of us can really know.

Surely when Mary’s time came, Joseph went to find a woman to help. Maybe even a couple. But I don’t find this in Scripture. The 2nd chapter of Luke simply states, “she gave birth to her first Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough…”

Because there was no room for them at the inn. No, it mattered naught who Mary was. Or more importantly, who she was carrying. Plainly, there just was no room.

And so my theory is this. Perhaps the stable was the very best location for Christ’s birth. Because there, everything was silent that should be silent. Oh, there were likely groans and cries coming from the young virgin. And words of comfort surely slipped from Joseph’s terse mouth.

And the animals? Oh, the animals had to have lowed and neighed and brayed. So likely, it wasn’t silent at all. BUT, the voices and sounds that went forth on that first Christmas long ago were authentic. Sincere. For there was no room for pomp and circumstance in a stable.

Naturally, my next thought is this…

Where were all the religious people of the day? God’s select? Because God had come near. Immanuel.  And the elect had been waiting for this very moment.

But they were nowhere in sight.

God didn’t orchestrate Christ’s birth to take place amongst the priests and Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes even though they were the ones who knew the most about Him. And were looking forward to Him. Yet, not one little figurine we pull out of our nativity boxes depicts a Pharisee.

So I deduce the following. The religious leaders of the day must have been too busy. Their tight schedules were intricately woven with feasts, and traditions, and ritual washings. Quite simply, they left no room for the unexpected. Not another thing could be squeezed into their hectic schedules.

But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” Matthew 23:5-6

Pharisees were of the strictest order and every single thing had its place. And sadly, all the rules and regulations left no room for something out of the ordinary…

Not even if it were extraordinary.

Like a miracle to behold. Something grand to see. Thus, when God graced the earth with His very presence in the form of a newborn infant, the ultra-religious folks missed the whole thing.

Despite all their knowledge and religion, they missed the first Christmas.

And Jesus.

They just didn’t see Him.

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

I’ll tell you what I know. Knowledge puffs up. And good deeds can do the same. In fact, a girl can become downright prideful regarding the things she knows and the things she does. So activity drives her. And saturates her schedule. And acknowledgement only fuels the fire.

Hear what I say.

And see what I do.

Acknowledge me.

But inevitably, the downfall comes. Just like with the religious leaders of old who missed it all. Because they didn’t even see the miracle of that first Christmas. And because her schedule is so crammed full, she does the same.

Every year.

For she simply has no room.

Her intricately woven schedule cannot allow for one more thing. Not even when it’s something extraordinary. Like a miracle to behold.

Because for a girl become Pharisee, silent nights are few and far in between. Calmness evasive. And it’s just too darn hard to hear God above the din of her own stuff. No, when a girl is overflowing with her own noise, she can’t hear when He speaks.

Not even when He’s near. If He comes near. For the uncomfortable truth is God does not reside with the proud. For His dwelling place is with the humble.

And this is what I know to be true. Personally.

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Why the stable for the birth of our Savior? Perhaps it’s because within the walls of a humble cow shed there was no pomp and circumstance. And only the pure of heart were there. Those are the ones who see God, anyway.

The pure of heart…

As for the ultra religious folks bound by their mile long to-do lists, they were absent that day. Nowhere near the Nativity. As such, God’s Spirit wasn’t hindered by rules and tradition and the noise of a thousand voices.

And because only a hand-full of people were present, and some animals, the most beautiful thing happened…

There was silence.

And calm.

Oh, there may have been moans accompanying Mary’s labor. And Joseph may have spoken softly. But noisy, knowledgeable souls busy about a thousand tasks were no where to be found.

So, in its own way, I guess it was a silent night after all.

And the blessed silence allowed the one most crucial sound to be heard. For in the calmness of a holy hush, God’s voice was magnified. Those present heard it…

It was a newborn babe’s cry.

Joseph’s Nativity


And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. Luke 2:4-5

I’m currently on a journey to my spiritual Bethlehem. And my prayer is that I’ll stay off the well-worn path of consumerism and busyness, in hope of finding something deeper along the path less traveled. And to my surprise, I find I won’t have to wander far. For I’ve discovered my spiritual Bethlehem, or House of Bread, is where I least expected to find it. For it’s right here. My Bethlehem is the same small town in which I was born and raised.

It was the nativity that opened my eyes to this truth. Literally. See, if you look closely, you’ll see one of mine actually spells it out… N – A – T – I – V – I – T – Y. And recently, the word captured my gaze for more than a mere second or two. So, I pondered it. I wondered what does it really mean?

Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that nativity is derived from a Latin word meaning birth. So quite rightly, the nativity depicts just this…

The birth of Jesus Christ.


I wanted to go deeper, though, and through a Bible concordance I unearthed that something deeper for which I longed. Because in Hebrew, nativity encompasses not only the birth, but also family, relatives, children; land of birth, native land, kindred. And honestly, this put me in my rightful place today.

See, I was outraged by a national figure’s description of Christmas in a magazine not so long ago. She said, “To me, it’s about time with family…” And me being me, I was filled with ire that the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, was omitted from the article. And me being me on a journey to a more spirit filled Christmas, this woman’s quote set me off.

But today, I am set in my place. Here in my home-place. For the truth is, although Jesus is the reason for the season, perhaps some small part of Christmas is in fact about family. Because Scripture tells the story. And before Christmas was even Christmas, Joseph took Mary to his native land. The land of his fathers.

And so, Mary and Joseph were among the very first holiday travelers, journeying home that first Noel.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Agustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Luke 2:1-2

By immersing myself in the Christmas story, I find myself wanting to know everything. All of it. And though I’ve simmered in Mary, I’ve not really stewed on Joseph. Jesus’ earthly father. So that’s what I do this day…

Scripture tells me Joseph was of the line of David so Bethlehem was his home-place. The land of his ancestors. The book of Matthew invites me to take a closer look into his lineage and through his rich heritage, I gain a glimpse of what kind of man Joseph really was. For he came from good stock.

Yes,the pages of Scripture give testimony of Joseph’s forefathers’ proven character. First, there was Father Abraham, a man made righteous by his faith in God. And there was Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel. And further down the line, I find Boaz… a man of strength and honor. He redeemed the woman Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And of course, there’s King David, the once shepherd boy.

And down the line we go until…

… and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations. Matthew 1:16

Joseph came from good stock, indeed. He was hand selected by Father God to rear God’s own Son. A good man was Joseph, but surely he wasn’t perfect. Surely, his faith was shaken once or twice.

For he was betrothed to Mary, a virgin. Oh, what he must have thought when she told him her news. That she was with child. He was a man so he must have felt the sting of pain. And a moment of rage. Did sorrow turn to utter disbelief? And shock? For he loved his betrothed… did he fear Mary had betrayed him?

Joseph must have endured those moments because he was only human. I’m sure I would have. I would have gone through every stage. The quick fury settling into the slow burn of anger. Sadness to confusion. And then, fear would have set in. Oh, I would have thought the worst of my beloved. For a time, at least. And from Scripture, I believe Joseph felt it all, too. At least for a time…

So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21

Perhaps the above passage provides the most information about Joseph’s character. He was righteous. He was caring. Despite his hurt, he wouldn’t think of publicly disgracing Mary. No, he’d handle matters privately. Quietly.

But then, lo, an angel appeared with good news. Words of encouragement. Just when he needed it the most, Joseph received a personal word from God. And because he was nourished through that morsel of spiritual food, Joseph took courage and did what he knew he had to do. He acted in faith.

Joseph decided to walk forward with Mary despite how dire the circumstances appeared. He extended mercy instead of outrage. And he swallowed down his pride as he took Mary on as his bride.

Surely the road ahead was a rough one. For people talk, right? Rumors abound. And Joseph was likely to endure whispers, nudges, and laughter at his expense. However, right here I find Joseph’s greatest trait. And perhaps it’s the very reason God selected Joseph to be the father of Jesus. For Joseph was a humble man.

Humility before pride…

His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever. Song of Mary, Luke 1:50-55

The father of Jesus came from good stock. His home-place was a little town called Bethlehem and it was small among the clans of Judah. And Joseph, a carpenter, probably seemed small to people of a certain stature.

But God looks beyond the exterior. He sees the heart. And within Joseph, God found what He was looking for in Jesus’ earthly father. God looked deep and found righteousness and courage. He found compassion and mercy. And perhaps most importantly, He found humility.

And this was Jesus’ father. The one depicted in nativity sets everywhere. His name was Joseph.

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

Laundry… or greatness?

Last Sunday we talked about greatness in Sunday School. The question, “What keeps you from greatness?” There were a lot of answers ranging from debt to fear to busyness. I even put out my hands to portray a set scales… laundry in one hand and greatness in the other, to show which outweighed the other. Laundry had it. But this morning, I’ve come to the conclusion I can have it both ways. I can have my laundry along with that elusive greatness. And this morning, I see that I am the very thing that’s keeping me from it. Ironically, it’s my inaccurate sense of self-importance that keeps me from greatness.

Micah 6:8 says to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. I believe He says to walk humbly because we need to have an accurate view of ourselves. It’s in Romans 12:3 that we read, “For I say, through the grace given to me to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The truth is, if you think too highly of yourself, you cannot practice justice and mercy. Because if you believe yourself to be holier than thou and that you can do no wrong, then you may think that perhaps the person collecting benefits from the government should be out there working like you do, right? And if you think you’re so high and mighty, then just maybe the person who is doing something wrong deserves every bad thing that comes their way, right? Because you’re not doing that wrong thing. The ugly truth is if your opinion of yourself is overly elevated (and I’m speaking for myself here), then you will not be able to do justice and love mercy. It’s impossible, and I should know. Because I’m living proof.

We can simply walk with God, or we can walk humbly with God. It’s our choice. I wish I could say I chose the latter, but for years now, I believe I simply walked with Him. And highly, I might add. Because I walked and talked with God, and attained all the knowledge I could. But rather than apply it to my life, I tucked it all away inside my head. And that caused me to feel good about myself… all that stored up knowledge. And because I was walking with God, who is Greatness, well, there were times in which I could not help but feel as if some of His greatness rubbed off on me. There’s no denying that sometimes I have sat back feeling smug in the knowledge I’ve acquired, feeling oh, so enlightened. In fact, there have been times that I’ve felt pretty, darn great. But not about Him… about me!

So how do I fight this? It’s evident that knowledge puffs up, so what can I do? Fortunately, God showed me what it is that I lack. It’s something called wisdom, and He offers it to us all. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5.  I see that knowledge without wisdom is useless. Because they work together. Wikipedia states that wisdom is the judicious study and application of knowledge. And so, that’s one of my problems. I haven’t applied what I’ve learned.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17

Envy and self-seeking are not new conditions of the heart. They’re worldly and they’re as old as the hills. It’s in our nature to covet what someone else has, and to desire what we don’t have. Jealousy comes naturally to us. But it’s earthy, sensual and demonic. And it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden, and the first sin. It goes back to Cain and Abel, and the first murder. It goes back to Jacob and Esau, and determining who would rule the other. It goes back to the hatred of Joseph’s brothers, when their father loved him best. And it goes back to the disciples. They had a worldly way of looking at things, too, as there was rivalry among them. They argued about who would be the greatest. Jesus said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And when the disciples’ mother was self-seeking and ambitious for her two sons, the others were moved to indignation (self-righteous indignation, I’m sure). Jesus said, “But whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Wisdom is thrown at us every day. But there’s worldly wisdom and there’s godly wisdom. The two do not go hand in hand. Because what the world says is great is the complete opposite of what God says is great. The world says look out for number one, but Jesus says to look out for them. The world says the more money you have the greater you are, but Jesus says to give it all away. The world esteems those who are wealthy and famous, snubbing those who don’t reign as high. But Jesus says blessed are the poor. And Jesus, who was the greatest to ever walk this earth, did not come to be served, but to be Servant. He is our example.

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15.

Sunday, I wondered, “Laundry… or greatness?” Well, I wanted greatness. And now I know, I can have both. Rather than resent the duty of laundry, it can be an act of service I humbly provide to those I love the most. If my attitude is lowly, and if my heart is not lifted up, then in the eyes of my Lord and Teacher, laundry is greatness. Becoming servant to my family and loved ones is what will make me great in His kingdom. I simply need God’s wisdom to apply all the truths I’ve learned. And then, as I walk humbly with Him along life’s highway, I will be changed through the process. I’ll be able to accurately and soberly assess myself because I’ll have glimpsed God’s glory. And so, when I am not lifted up… I will be able to live out Micah 6:8, serving God by doing justly and loving mercy. Because God will direct my path as I humbly follow Him. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way… all the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth. Psalm 25:9-10

As time goes by, I’ll come to understand that it’s not at all what I think that will make me great. But the complete opposite. Because God’s wisdom is so different from my own.

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2

History repeats itself… or so I’ve heard.

History repeats itself, right? A popular saying that originated from I don’t know where, but I’ve heard it from more than one person. So it must be true, right? Yes, history repeats. The newest saying I’ve heard more than one time is insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but hoping for a different result. Well… if that’s true, then quite clearly, I’m insane. Because after reviewing my journal from 2010, and comparing it to where I am today, I am doing the same thing again and again. And no surprise, the end result is always the same. The most damning piece of evidence was laid bare yesterday morning. The truth is, I hurt my son. It wasn’t a big hurt, but when it comes down to it, a hurt is a hurt – big or small. It happened during the mad dash of getting ready for school. Time just got away from me, and I cut it so close that I had to dress my son. Because bless his little soul, he only moves at one speed called “taking his time.” As I hastily pulled up his jeans, I felt resistance but tugged anyway. Well, his little foot was caught and it hurt him. And so, because I neglected to manage my time, I caused my son pain in the ensuing madness. And honestly, I think his feelings were hurt more than anything. Obviously, I felt like the worst mother in the whole world. And do you want to hear the most awful part? It was a couple of hours later as I perused through my old journal notes of September 15, 2010 that I realized this wasn’t the first time I had done this.  I read my own confession: “rushed and hurt my son.” It’s a fact that I had the same encounter with my son two and a half years later. Thus, it is a proven truth… history does repeat itself. I felt like a terrible mother then, and I feel like one now. And because I am doing the same thing over and over again (rushing in the morning, but hoping for a different outcome), some would classify me as insane. And I would have to agree with them.

If I’ve learned anything in my journey with God, it’s that there are no coincidences.  And when He wants you to see something about yourself, He’ll bring it right to you. He’ll show you a picture of yourself that you cannot deny. My reflected image came by way of a piece of pottery of all things. It’s the bowl I described in “A Bowl Girl.” I realize that I am the bowl. Just not as it is in its present condition. In no way do I resemble that bowl as it rests on my countertop reflecting rays of light. No, I resemble the bowl as it looked some months ago… when it was high and lifted up on the top of my fridge, collecting so much dust that even if the light had reached its surface, it wouldn’t have glimmered at all. Yes, I am just like that bowl when it was on display… just like a Pharisee. And so, I cannot say I was too surprised when I found notes in my old journal that could have been written by my own hand today. Everything that’s happening in my life today is mimicking what took place then. Again, it is proven… history repeats itself. Because I am struggling with the same thing over and over again. As always, same outcome. This is insanity.

Yesterday morning, I wondered about my being a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I had confronted that particular issue last year. And through reviewing my very old journal, it appears it was my struggle two and a half years ago, too. And until this past week, I didn’t really think I was a Pharisee… again. And as I ponder my past, it becomes clear how I arrived to today… to insanity. See, I am a legal assistant and work for a lawyer. The law is important. I’ve always been a rule-follower at heart. Even as a teen and young adult (when I got into things I shouldn’t), deep down I had fear because I knew there was a right and wrong. My fear was that I would get into trouble for breaking rules. And so years later, after I became His and when I finally came to a point in which I was desperate to know God, I sought knowledge. Basically, I wanted to know what His rules were. Because rules I could follow. And although seeking God’s law is not a bad thing, it can be dangerous for someone like me… a rule follower. Because acquired knowledge can cause someone like me to become arrogant and a know-it-all. It can cause someone like me to be prideful. From experience, I know one can begin adhering to one’s own set of scales of justice. And woe to anyone who falls short, because judgment will follow. I know, because this is exactly what happened to me then, it’s what happened to me a year ago, and apparently, it’s happened to me recently. I cannot deny my own handwriting. And so there’s no denying that I am a modern day Pharisee, repeating the history of Pharisees (religious leaders) from long ago. My attitude no different than theirs, and this is insanity!

Pharisees knew the law better than anyone else, and they followed it to the letter… but, their heart’s were unmoved. Pharisees lacked mercy, and when they came face to face with Jesus, they didn’t know Him and His righteousness. Because they had their own self-righteousness. And this is what Jesus had to say to or about them: they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, they despised others, they exalted themselves and thus were abased, they were those who justified themselves before men (but God knew their hearts), they were lovers of money and turned their noses up at Jesus, and they held to what was highly esteemed before men (but was, and is, an abomination before God). A Pharisee knew God’s greatest commandment was to love God above EVERYTHING, and to love his neighbor as himself… but he wanted to clarify and dispute and test Jesus and justify himself. The Pharisee said, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s evidenced that he knew the correct answer when Jesus asked “who was neighbor to him who fell?” The Pharisee said, “He who showed mercy on him.” But head knowledge does not always reach the heart.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

You know, in Jesus’ day, the Pharisee lacked conviction. Because in his eyes, he did no wrong. And it was two and a half years ago when I asked the question within my journal, “Am I a hypocrite… a Pharisee?” One of the most condemning phrases I found to confirm my suspicion was “lack of conviction.” At that time, I knew I judged people. And yet, rather than feel bad about it, I felt justified in my thinking. Because I thought they didn’t measure up. Remember… the Pharisee adhered to his own set of scales.

Like a Pharisee, I know God’s commands and can follow all the outward rules. I can appear very devout, but what about my insides… what about my heart? Like a Pharisee, I am often unmoved, unloving and unmerciful. I’m just like that bowl I kept way up high on the fridge. It was there for display only… cold and hard to the touch. The bowl didn’t know it was useless up high. The Pharisees didn’t know they were useless to God either. And until now, I thought I was. But, history repeats… it’s insanity.

When I was a young girl, my grandfather, Eddie, used to call out to me, “Whoa, Pam!” Sounds similar to what Jesus called out to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Maybe Eddie wasn’t simply calling to me after all… perhaps God gave him insight as to what my future held, and just maybe he was calling out warning instead, “Woe, Pam!” The good news is, whether then or now, I’ve been warned. Because today is the day I see. And the truth is, it’s not at all about history repeating itself… or being insane. Quite frankly, it’s called lack of repentance. It’s called choosing to live in sin. Because to him who knows to do good, and doesn’t… it is sin. In His mercy, God showed me then, and again today. I can no longer deny the truth of what I am… a hypocrite and a Pharisee. This was true two and a half years ago, it was true a year ago… and it’s true again today. I’ve been doing the same thing again and again, hoping for another outcome. They say that’s insanity but today I know better. And the good news is, history does not have to repeat itself. He gives us the choice. And so, I know what I must do… it’s time to stop the insanity… it’s time to REPENT.

A Bowl Girl

“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand…” Jeremiah 18:2-4 and 6

About seven or eight years ago, my husband and I visited a town called Seagrove, which is known for its pottery. We spent several hours there visiting shop after shop and admiring all the different vessels. Before visiting Seagrove, I never gave much thought to pottery… I just thought bowls. But in Seagrove, I saw a treasure of urns, jugs, pitchers, soap dispensers, plates, platters, and cups, among other earthenware. Each shop housed a myriad of vessels, each one a different shape and size, each one varying slightly in color or texture. No two were exactly alike. And that’s what makes pottery special. Each piece is unique and not to be duplicated. Kind of like us… God’s own earthenware.

Although I was faced with many beautiful pieces that day in Seagrove, I selected a bowl. See, I’m a bowl girl and I simply adore them… all shapes, all sizes. When we were first married, I received several sets, but I didn’t part with any of them. Because to me, there’s something satisfying about the way a bowl looks. I have so many today, but my favorites are the old and scarred ones. I have several pieces of Fire King that remind me of my grandmother. I also have a couple of white bowls that belonged to her, and those are my favorites. Although the white ones are the most simple, and have not a spark of color, they are dearest to me because I remember how my grandmother filled them with sausage gravy. Just like pottery, her sausage gravy cannot be duplicated… hers was unique.

There were a lot of flashy, bright bowls in Seagrove, but I chose a more subdued one… kind of deep brown overlaid with olive green, and almost unrecognizable is turquoise peeking through. And what I really love about this bowl is how it shimmers and gleams in the sunlight. At first glance, the bowl looks drab, but upon closer inspection you see the glimmer. However, it has to be in the light to shine. And you know what I did? At first, it was displayed on my sofa table. I thought it was pretty and wanted to showcase it. And where it was, it did catch some light. But basically, it just sat there… lifeless. A few years later, it was packed away into a box and kept in storage for close to a year. When it was unearthed, I again put it on display. With each move, I used that bowl as a decoration… a piece of knick-knack. And so, over time, it lost its appeal. It became part of the lay of the land around my house. I didn’t really admire it anymore. Finally, it was relegated to the top of my fridge. Still on display, high and lofty… but in the shadows of the room. There, it caught no light.

Just a few months ago, I decided to get that bowl down from its high place. See, to me it had lost its sparkle and shine. It wasn’t as special anymore, and so I decided to use that bowl for what it made for. I actually put it on my counter where it humbly housed fruit… it became serviceable. And so I was surprised when my cousin admired it in its lowly state. She even had to pick it up and peer closely at how the flecks of light sparkled in the sun. And it caused me to take a second glance. Because I had forgotten the shine. It was a dust catcher for so long, I forgot how beautiful the bowl really is. And what strikes me today is that unless I brought that bowl down off that high place where it used to be, it never would have caught the light. It would have been high, but in the dark. It would have stayed dull and unappealing. But that bowl, when low, really shone.

You know, that bowl went through a lot to look like it did. There was a process it endured not only to make it shine, but also to make it serviceable.  First came a drying period. A kiln used low temperatures to dry out the ceramic, and remove all of the water before the final firing. When the vessel was ready, the kiln used higher temperatures and a process called burnout. The kiln was heated to such a temperature that all the impurities were burned away. The next process was sintering, which means the particles of ceramic bonded to each other… the bowl became structurally stronger. That process actually changed the particles of the ceramic from clay into finished ceramic. The final stages of making the ceramic bowl involved glazing. It’s when the piece became sealed and acquired a finished look. This process involved such high temperatures that the oxidation of the exposed ceramic increased so high that the quartz crystal structured with the ceramic actually melted and flowed together. Not a comfortable process, but it’s what makes pottery so beautiful. And it sounds downright painful in light of the fact that this is exactly what God does with us. But it’s this process that gives His vessels their shine.

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?'” Isaiah 45:9-10

God is making each one of us into a vessel for His glory. And we can either let God have his way with us, or we can fight the process. And how much we struggle will probably determine the length of our stay in the kiln. It would probably be helpful if we could begin to understand what kind of vessel it is that He’s forming. Are we urns, filled with God’s living water ready to splash it onto whoever thirsts for eternal life? Are we soap dispensers, spurting out the truth that makes sinners clean? Are we platters, holding mounds of God’s word that nourishes the soul? Or are we bowls, teeming over with the fruit of the Spirit? In essence… how has He gifted us? Is He making us an evangelist, a teacher, a missionary… or something else?

Or perhaps what’s more important to understand is where we are in the process. Are we dry as we wander through the desert on a pilgrimage to Him? Or we in that burnout process, where our impurities are being purged? Are we becoming structurally stronger as we bond to Him? Have we been transformed yet, from clay to ceramic? Are we sealed by Him? Have we been brought through such high temperatures that our selfishness has melted away, leaving only godly desires flowing alongside His own? Have we made it to that final process where we are being glazed by His fire? If so, take heart… because we’re getting ready to shine.

The fact is we are all His vessels, created by Him for His purposes. He is the potter, and we are the clay. And once we know what we are, we can be used by Him. And He wants us to know. See, I’m a bowl girl. Or I hope to be. I hope that I can step down from my high place, and cease striving with Him. I pray that I will humbly let Him make me into whatever it is that He wants me to be. If I can do that, then He will place me on His countertop… for His service. And perhaps I’ll teem over with fruit… His fruit. And just maybe, parts of me will be lit up… just like that bowl that sits on my own countertop.

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you… the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2