Shedding the Cocoon

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 For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading a wonderful novel about family and forgiveness and tradition.  It starts in Wisconsin and comes to its completion in the mountains of Mexico, the journey of a young girl who takes her beloved Abuela’s (grandmother) ashes to the family village to be relinquished and celebrated on the Day of the Dead.  I recognized many of these traditions; having grown up in Southern California, I had some dear Mexican friends growing up.

 

There are many references in this book about the journey of monarch butterflies, who travel from Northern climes to the Mexican mountains, where there are sanctuaries, ancient trees and meadows where they congregate or ‘overwinter’ before beginning the multi-generational journey north again in the spring.  This journey in itself is testimony to the miraculous ways our God has designed this world.  The greatest impact this story had on me, however, is the metamorphosis of the lowly caterpillars into the beautiful winged creatures that fly to their homes.  Do you see the correlation here?  These BUGS have never been to this place before but they have an inborn instinct to get there, no matter what the odds.  No matter how much they have to change.  No matter how many obstacles are in their way, they make this journey every year, to the delight and bedazzlement of people in the know, who witness the culmination of this dangerous adventure.

 

I finished the story early this morning.  I read the last page with sadness and joy.  I recognized my own flight in this story.

 

I’m not there yet.

 

I do believe that I’ve shed the cocoon.  My chrysalis stage is ending, though my wings may still be a bit damp and untried.  You’ve probably read the story of how a butterfly must endure the struggle of freeing itself from the cocoon, because that very struggle is what brings blood flow and strength to the wings; without that difficult exertion, flight is impossible.  Whenever I bemoan the difficulties in my life, He reminds me that they were uniquely mine, meant to be endured so I could be strong enough to fly.  I was not alone in this struggle.  Everyone I know has their own—and when I hear the struggles of others He has brought my way, I am secretly grateful that their path was not mine.  Just as they marvel at my own strength—“How did you do it?”  Badly, resentfully, kicking and screaming every step of the way—until the layers got thin enough and I broke free.  Still marveling about that.  Where did these wings COME from?!

 

My journey continues.  It is fraught with the difficulties of daily life.  Some I can navigate—some I must cry out and ask Him to lift me up on a current of faith that will allow me to travel past the dangers.  I don’t know how much further I must travel before I reach the high places, but He does.

 

“Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed —in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality.”  1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (NIV)

 

Are you preparing for that day?  Deep inside each of us is a hunger to go home—a home we’ve not known yet.  We hear stories of glory.  We long to see those who’ve gone before us.

 

Oh glorious day.

 

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

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Those words flashed through my head as I listened to the sermon.  The reminder that we are light in the Lord—and need to find out what that means to Him.  What must I do to walk from the sins of the past and please God?  What areas will He expose to my view that I didn’t see before?  I’ve been afraid to look too closely at those things before—and that has been a stumbling block.

“You get what you pay for.” He tells me this clearly and firmly.  “Remember that the price I paid for you was EVERYTHING.  I suffered unspeakable pain.  I took on incredible burdens.  I did that because YOU are worth it to ME!  How much am I worth to you?”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:  Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:8-14 (NIV)

The song ‘Dirty Deeds’ was a hit back in the 70’s.  The Australian group AC/DC growled it out with demonic undertones and I hummed along mindlessly.  I rather LIKED the turn of phrase.  It flowed off the tongue.  I was asleep to God’s promises back then.  I had accepted Christ but I didn’t have the relationship that decades of life have wrought.

 I ‘googled’ the song and found out that: “the term “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is a homage to the cartoon Beany and Cecil, which Angus Young watched when he was a child. One of the cartoon’s characters was named Dishonest John, and carried a business card that read, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Holidays, Sundays and Special Rates.” (Per Wikipedia)

Truth in advertising.  DISHONEST John?  We are foolish enough to buy into those sinful things if the rates are good enough, if our anger is strong enough.  We forget (or never knew) that vengeance is the Lord’s—and in all our ways, if we acknowledge Him, He will make our paths straight. 

I know from painful past experience that dirty deeds done dirt cheap are something I need to run from.  People who hand me a ‘business card’ (metaphorically) that scream dishonesty are NOT friends.  My business is NOT to cause harm to anyone, no matter WHAT they did to me.

This life of light takes perseverance.  It takes constant self examination and constant prayer.  I’m certainly not there yet, but the alternative no longer holds any hope.  If anyone can say, ‘Been there, done that’—it’s me.

But my hope is in the Lord!  My strength is gone—and the only One I can turn to is Him.  He brings me proof of this in dozens of ways every single day.  My focus is changing.  My heart is at peace—even in the midst of circumstances that are wrenching and troubling.  I’ve tried enough to rectify them in my own understanding and just made it worse.  My very nature is screaming at me.  “You should have said this.  You should have done that.  Write a letter.  Make a phone call.  Send a text.”  But He says, “Be still and wait on Me.  If I want you to act, I will tell you.  No matter what happens in the days ahead, continue to trust Me.  I am working in the background, in ways you cannot see.  Let Me work and praise Me every chance you get.  That will please Me.  That will signify to others that you are no longer paying for dirty deeds done dirt cheap.  You need to be singing a new song—and it isn’t in the ‘AC/DC’ songbook.

Don’t look to Dishonest John.  Look to Me.  It will cost you everything you have—and I know how hard that is for you.   But it will be worth it.  And the phrase ‘Trust Me’ is only safe when it is applied to Me.”

Walk in the light.  Don’t look for someone to do dirty deeds for you—especially if that someone IS you!  Today my song sounds like this:  ‘and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.’

X Rated

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Ha ha! Got your attention, didn’t I? Today’s column is brought to you by the letter ‘X’. Sorry to those of you with prurient leanings—no erotica will be coming from my typing fingers today—or ever. I am pondering things that start with ‘ex’ today.

I just wrote a letter to someone I exhorted to trust God. We have been corresponding and there are good days a

nd bad days—but the last letter I received was definitely written on a bad day. This person says they’re ‘done’, God is silent, and they aren’t going there any more. I was angry when I read that. I felt desperate—how could I help them? He answered me quickly. “You can’t solve those problems. They are too big. You are too small. Turn them back to Me. Remind them I am NEVER silent; My word speaks loud and clear.” So I wrote a letter of exhortation, with a big dose of self-deprecating confessions of my own imperfections, problems and revelations that He is with me, always.Exhortation is a gift I didn’t ask for. I don’t feel comfortable with it. Who am I to presume I know that person’s inner thoughts? God said, “They are right in front of you, written in their own hand, of their own free will. You did not seek this information, they sent it to you. Now be careful—but exhort them to come back to Me. You are certainly qualified to tell them how I’m working in YOUR life—and I want you to do just that!” I looked it up—to ‘exhort’ is to urge (v.), press, push, encourage and insist.

I’m good at those things. I didn’t know that was exhorting! Okay, I can do that.

“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)

The next ‘ex’ word is ‘exhausted’. Tired, worn out, beat, bushed, pooped, done in, dog-tired, fatigued? I can relate! By the end of the day, I am all those things, particularly in these dog days of summer. I languished on the sofa last night. I got a text from Ducks—‘Going to be 100 degrees this week and no A/C! Why, God—why?’ I called her and told her we are moving to the coast! She is on board for that! But in the meantime, we will do what we have to do to refresh ourselves. Early to bed with the fan blowing refreshed me for yet another busy day—but the real refreshment I get is this time with Him. Get thee to the A/C equipped library, Ducky—and thank Him for a working shower, fans and cooler (WETTER!) autumn on the near horizon.

“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last-minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” Romans 13:11-14 (MSG)

The last ‘ex’ word for today is ‘exalt’. If you want to exhort those who are exhausted, exalt His name!

That means to praise, laud, acclaim, applaud, pay tribute to, and sing the praises of the One who brought us tearful letters, dog days and all the other things that challenge our walks as human beings. One dear friend had surgery yesterday. Another is just beginning the wait as her husband goes under the knife. There is much to pray about! No wonder I’m tired! But I’m also confident that He is working in all these situations—and yours too.

“The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Exodus 15:2 (HCSB)

I just wrote an ‘ex’ rated rant! I CAN do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength! Sorry…but you know I’m silly like that…

Fondly,
Stephanie

Chasing the Rabbit

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I think I told you about the GRACE acrostic I have on the back of my phone—it goes like this:

G –Gifts: find yours, then improve your strengths

R-Remove anger; then add remorse

A-Ask God for forgiveness daily

C-Chase ONE rabbit

E-Encourage others

My friend Jane’s brother wrote this—and sorry, Jane. I don’t remember his name to give him full credit—but I spotted it on the back of JANE’S phone—and put it on my own. I read it all the time. I embrace and put it into practice as often as I can—and I was going to take a picture of how dog-eared the tape that holds this little list has become on the back of my phone, but just realized that I can’t TAKE a picture of the back of my phone with the front of my phone—oh well. Trust me-it’s on my phone.

Good advice, Godly even. The one I have the most trouble with is chasing the ONE rabbit. I chase multiple rabbits all the time. People often remark about how busy I am—and I think “ME? I’m not that busy!” Until I look at my calendar and realize that it will be weeks before I can truly spend quality time working on the ONE RABBIT project that is dearest to my heart—unless I start to say ‘no’ everything else. There is a fruit of the spirit that is missing from my own fruit salad—and that is self-control. I want to do EVERYTHING-for EVERYONE—ALL THE TIME!

Last night, I sat at a meeting and wondered why I had agreed to join yet another ministry, which will expect a commitment on my part for every Tuesday night for the next seventeen weeks. I LIKE this ministry. I agree with its principles and its purpose. It has helped me through some hard times myself—but do I want it to be my one rabbit? No. Am I going to tell them I changed my mind, knowing they are depending on me? Ohhhh…this is so hard, Lord! Why didn’t I just say ‘no’ in the first place? That still small voice says “You must do it. It is part of the learning process—and it will remind you to be reflective and prayerful the next time you are asked to do something that isn’t on the ‘rabbit’ agenda. You’ve already identified one area where you will give up something you have loved to do in the past. It conflicts with the rabbit—and the rabbit is your first priority.

He also tells me that when I try to spread myself too thin, I cannot be effective on ANY of the many projects I run after. In recent years, I’ve been freed from many of the daily restrictions that a lot of people have. I don’t have a partner to commit to and make plans with. I don’t have the daily chores associated with running a household with children, soccer games, ballet recitals, etc. I have a job where I can do what I need to do at a moment’s notice—I’m freelance and my boss loves me. Because he loves me—and I love him, I agreed to take him to a convention this weekend. That will entail driving his old beater car (which he also loves) many miles to the coast. That will entail giving up any semblance of a weekend for myself—unless I can slip away and walk on the beach while he catches up with his old ham radio buddies. That entails not having a day OFF for twelve days in a row—Oh, wait, I have weddings the following weekend. Never mind. I’m insanely busy. Lord, help me!

I love the tangents He sends me on. I typed ‘hard work’ in my bible software—and He gave me this:

“If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.” Romans 4:4-5 (MSG)

My one rabbit IS a gift, a sheer gift of His grace. My one rabbit is NOT hard work, unless you count that I have to learn to embrace that it IS my work and toss out everything else that I can to focus on it.

So today, after I work and go visit my friend in the hospital and work on my website (!), I will come home and look at ways I can eliminate some of the commitments that take me away from my one rabbit. I am going to notify the Tuesday night ministry that I will not be part of it for now. I will not feel guilty. I will not feel guilty. I will not feel guilty—because part of GRACE IS GIFTS—and He tells me to improve that strength by allowing Him to do that work. Ouch. My brain hurts.

But I’m free Friday night! How did that happen! Think I’ll spend it with my rabbit!

Fondly,
Stephanie