Letting Go and Holding On

When we made the decision to sell our home our middle daughter, Laura, was living with us. She had come home from Bangladesh where she’d worked with a mission group for a year. She was excited when she realized we would have to pare down our belongings. Every day she would ask, “What room can I de-clutter now, Mom?” She’d grin at me. I didn’t grin back. I would remind her we had six months before we had to move. She’d laugh and remind me that we were moving from a five bedroom into a two-bedroom house. It was like a cold cup of water – thrown in my face!

But it was reality. My husband had convinced me to follow the advice of the realtors and renovate our home before putting it on the market. We tore down and built up, we ripped out and replaced. We even bought new furniture. The process was not easy for me. I resented and resisted all these changes. I confess I am a packrat and I tend to hold onto things a little too tightly. I had a hard time letting go. I felt safe and comfortable in the midst of my clutter, my own little nest, surrounded by all my things.

And Laura, dear minimalist that she is, set about enthusiastically deciding what had to go. The problem was, she was a little too enthusiastic and my husband was cheering her on! For the next few months there was a litany that sounded in our house. “Laura, what did you do with… Laura, you didn’t throw that away, did you?”

Then came the day I couldn’t find my favourite potato peeler. I didn’t care that the handle was cracked, it was my favourite! Laura had thrown it away. And I was upset. In fact I was downright angry. The potato peeler was the proverbial last straw. Nothing in my house was the same anymore. It didn’t feel like my home, my nest. It had been disrupted and I was disturbed.

I realized that day that I’d forgotten something. My reaction was disproportionate to what was happening. I told myself that it was only stuff, that I shouldn’t be so attached, that it was good to let go. But when you let go of something you have to find something else to hold onto. I knew what that something else should be. Or rather, that Someone. I knew I had allowed my identity to be wrapped up in a house and a lot of ‘stuff’ instead of in Jesus Christ.

I remembered the passage in Matthew, one my husband would half jokingly point me to – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth …” (Matt.6:19).

I realized then I needed to not only reorganize my home, but my heart as well. I pray we can all let go of those things that don’t matter and hold onto the One who does.

I Want To Be Like Babe

Photo by Danny Gallegos on Unsplash

The wrangler patted my horse’s neck. “This is Babe,” he said, “and she’s been trained as a cutting horse. Know what that means?”

I nodded. I’d seen cutting horses in action as they stepped into a herd of cattle, singled out a steer and manoeuvred it until it stood alone or was forced into a nearby shute. I knew cutting horses were trained to respond immediately to the rider’s cues.

Babe was definitely a cutting horse. The slightest touch of the rein on her neck made her respond, indeed, leap to respond. She almost put me off a couple of times, as we made our way along the mountain trails, but once I got used to her she was a delight to ride.

I thought of Babe one time, when I felt a nudge from the Lord. But I was busy that day so I ignored it. The next day I felt the push again, but again, I dismissed it. I’ll make the call later, I thought. But the days flew by. The nudge kept coming, so finally, more than a week after I felt that first prompting, I picked up the phone and called my friend. “Been thinking about you,” I said. “How’s life?”

There was silence for a moment, then a soft whimper. I heard my friend take a deep steadying breath. “My mom died a week ago.”

I groaned and expressed my sorrow. We chatted for some time and then said good-bye. “Thanks so much for calling,” my friend said. “It means a lot.”

I was so glad I’d finally responded to God’s prompting. But I couldn’t help but wonder if my words would have been more of a help if I’d called right away, on first nudge.

Lord, I prayed, make me like Babe. Make me willing to respond to your voice immediately. Make me as eager to obey as Babe was.

I want to be like David, too, as he says in Psalm 119:59,60 – “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commands.”

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The Trickle of Time

What lies beyond?

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While watching a video recently and listening to this song I was struck by the image of that ancient tool of time, the hourglass. It made me sigh just a little, since I am not just “over the hill” but getting very close to the bottom of the far side.

And I have a friend who is dying. A friend who does not believe there is anything more than this life. He believes that when those last gains of sand fall into the receptacle on the bottom, that’s it. There will be no one there to turn the hourglass over so we can start again.

That belief saddens me deeply. Because I believe there is one who is waiting for us, a God who is monitoring the inexorable drip of the hourglass of our life, the one who will turn it over and open a new life to us, a life lived forever in His presence.

It makes me think of the place where I went to school, on the shores of a short strip of water called the St. Mary’s River. It joins two of the largest inland bodies of water in the world, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The high school I attended stood on a hill overlooking that river and the locks that allowed huge ships to pass from one lake to the other. I remember staring out a window before classes began one morning and thinking about the courier du bois, those courageous explorers who paddled canoes from one lake to the other.

I wondered what they must have thought as they came to the end of Lake Huron. They had heard rumours that there was more beyond, (their first nations guides told them so), but I imagine they wondered. Could it really be true? Could there be another lake, larger and more wondrous than the one they had just navigated? I imagined their excitement and fear as they came to the end of the St. Mary’s River and saw that yes, it was true. Lake Superior lay before them.

Just as heaven will one day lay before those who have believed in Jesus, the Christ.

As someone who is getting closer and closer to that moment, I take great comfort in that promise. Unlike those explorers, I have no fear of what is beyond because Jesus has told me, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1- 3, ESV).

It’s that last phrase that excites me but yes, makes me a little nervous, in a way. For how can I, one with so many faults and failings, come face to face with Jesus? But then there is another promise. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1,2, ESV).

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

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The Power of Brokenness

It happened the moment Jesus broke the bread

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

It seems there were two men, two of Jesus’ disciples, who were deeply loved by Him. He loved them so much that he took the time to chat with them as they walked away from Jerusalem toward their home in a town called Emmaus. That would not have been particularly unusual, except that Jesus had been crucified three days before. The account of this story in the book of Luke tells us that the two men were “kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16), even as Jesus “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v.27). It wasn’t until they were eating with him that their eyes were opened and they saw.

It happened at the moment when Jesus broke the bread.

I don’t think that moment was a random act. I believe Jesus chose it to teach those two men something. I believe He was also teaching us something about brokenness.

The Psalmist David knew about brokenness. When the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba, David poured out his heart to God, acknowledged his sin and sought God’s forgiveness. He knew what was required –

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NIV)

It’s not easy to think about that, let alone desire it. We don’t often pray, “Lord, break me.” We don’t often recognize that we are already broken people, damaged by our own sin. It’s common knowledge among those who work with alcoholics that they cannot be helped until they have “hit bottom.” Until they recognize their need for help they cannot change.

We are all in that place.

Until we recognize our need for God, for his mercy and grace and forgiveness, we cannot fix our brokenness. He is the only healer who can accomplish it.

Why brokenness? Because it leads us to our Saviour, to the one who loves us so deeply he takes the time to walk with us and reveal himself to us. He has broken the bread of his own body and offered it to His Father as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. He offers it to us. All we have to do is acknowledge our brokenness and reach out to take the gift that will give us complete healing in every way.

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Thank you for taking the time to read. My name is Marcia Lee Laycock and I invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more of my work about finding the extraordinary in an ordinary life. 😊 You can find me at https://medium.com/pondrings and https://medium.com/koinonia and a few other publications on Medium.com.

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Blessings to you all! M

Love Transforms, Love Demands

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Do you remember your first love?

Picture a sixteen-year-old girl. She’s walking home from school, her shoulders hunched, her eyes on the ground. She’s wearing dark, somber clothing. Her hair often goes unwashed. She rarely makes eye contact with anyone and doesn’t smile much. She doesn’t have many friends.

Fast forward four years. That same girl is wearing a flowing floral dress. Her head is high and her eyes sparkle. Her hair flows out behind her, gleaming in the sun as she runs across her neighbour’s lawn. He hardly recognizes her. “You’re in love,” he says. She laughs and admits that it’s true. And it has made all the difference.

Love does that. It transforms us, it makes us believe that life is good and worth living. It makes us believe we are worthy of being loved. Yes, the discovery of love, especially God’s love, transforms us.

And the Demands of Love work to continue that transformation. Love is never easy. People tend to be complicated and their lives are often messy. Loving well inevitably leads to the need for sacrifice and a selflessness that most of us resist. But we are called to love unconditionally, as Christ loved us. We are called to give much, because much has been given to us. Luke chapter 7: 36 to 47 teaches us this truth. Jesus was invited to have dinner with a Pharisee. A woman who, the Bible tells us, had “lived a sinful life,” arrived with a jar of perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet and washed them, wiping them with her hair.

When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus tells the Pharisee a story about two people who owed money to a moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both.

“Now which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked. Of course, the Pharisee said the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.

Then Jesus said to him, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 43-47).

Have you been forgiven a little or a lot? I think we can all agree that it is the latter. Yes, we have been forgiven much, we have been given much, and we are expected to forgive, to love well, and give much in return.

Love transforms but love also demands.

 

The Promise of Christmas

Nativity sculptureChaos reigned supreme. That’s how it seemed as we rehearsed our Christmas play. The first rehearsal didn’t really happen. The second one was only a bit better, and three quarters of the cast didn’t make it to the third. Those of us who were supposedly “in control” wondered if we were going to have a play at all.

That was nothing new. Every year it seems to happen. Kids run helter-skelter, some don’t show up, some can’t find costumes or those made for them don’t fit. The choir director is tearing her hair out This year seemed a bit more chaotic than usual. But somehow it all came together in the end. The night of the performance seemed to go well. I say seemed, because I was too busy trying to keep my “cast” quiet and focused, to notice if the play was working. One of the magi discovered he could use one of the shepherd’s headbands as a slingshot to wing the beads off his crown clear across the front of the church. That delighted the kids in the front row who dashed out to pick them up. Mary couldn’t stop squirming because her costume was made of wool, and Joseph kept changing his mind about which robe fit best – right up until he walked out onto the ‘stage.’

I wasn’t sure it had really all come together until the audience stood to applaud at the end. When many congratulated us on a job well done, all I could say was, “It’s a miracle!”

And that’s the promise of Christmas – it all comes together in the end. I’m sure the followers of Jesus, watching the drama of His life and death, felt the same way we ‘directors’ did. To those who thought they were in control, it looked like chaos reigned. From the moment of His birth, He and His parents had to run from those who wanted to kill Him. As He performed miracles, religious leaders plotted against Him. Even the disciples themselves didn’t understand His message. They were disappointed that He didn’t chase the Romans out of the country; He never did set up an earthly kingdom. Then, the cross. It looked like everything they tried to accomplish was doomed to fail. But in the end …

In the end, the stone was rolled away. The baby born in a stable and crucified on a cross was raised glorified, to the glory of His Father.

And there is another promise yet to unfold. As the birth of Christ is overshadowed by the cross, which was blasted away by his resurrection, even that will be outdone by His return. One day, God has told us, “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength’.” (Isaiah 45:23,24)

It will be a miracle and it really will all come together in the end.

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