Friday, February 26, 2010

Respect Comes From the Heart

I teach Latin at a Christian study center. Yesterday I observed two girls obviously and openly disrespect the center administrator. One thing led to another until I found myself involved in the process of seeking repentance leading to forgiveness and reconciliation. The process didn't go very well!
I was astonished that neither girl was willing to own up to the blatant offense nor was either willing to apologize.
Acknowledging wrong, confessing personal responsibility, asking forgiveness and even being willing to make any restitution required seems a no-brainer for any believer in Jesus.
It was so sad for me to watch playing out in live technicolor a process that flew in the face of all that God requires of us. It was alarming to realize that our culture has drifted so far from our Biblical moorings that we have apparently (as a nation and individually) lost all sense of sin and shame, consequences, grace and forgiveness.
The great epiphany for me was that respect in name only is not respect at all. Respect has to come from the heart. That's key! THEN when disrespectful actions and attitudes happen, there is common framework to deal with the heart issues. Only when our hearts are changed by God's loving grace can we ever understand the egregious nature of our offense.
Then there is the whole issue of what Jesus did on the cross - taking my sin and shame and giving me His grace, forgiveness and righteousness!
Jesus spoke about the truth that our hearts determine our attitudes and actions:
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)
John Donne wrote, "Batter my heart, three-Person God ... and make me new!"
Restoration starts in the heart and God alone can accomplish real, lasting restoration!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Broken Feet?

I've been thinking about feet lately. It's winter in western PA. That means snow and cold and dry hands and feet among other things. I have several spots on both feet that just plain hurt. My friend Debbie says Super Glue is the best remedy. In case you need to know, careful application of Super Glue to a crack in hands or feet allows the crack to heal from the inside out. It also takes the pain away in about 30 seconds, and I'm all for that!

The Bible talks about feet - beautiful feet and crippled feet. Isaiah 52:7 says the feet that bring REAL hope and change are beautiful. How beautiful ... are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who ... say, "Your God reigns!" Jesus healed people with "broken" feet. Peter and John healed a beggar with "broken" feet. (Acts 3:1-10) King David brought the son of his best friend (Mephibosheth, King Saul's son Jonathan's son) who was "crippled in both feet" to live in the palace and eat with the King. (2 Samuel 9:1-10)

I'm thinking feet have a heart connection. Where my feet go depends on the condition of my heart. Do my feet take me places I shouldn't go? Do my feet reflect laziness? Do my feet take me to people who need a caring touch? I'm thinking that "broken" feet can't go far, but when God fixes "broken" feet then His Gospel can bring REAL hope and change!

Lord, fix my "broken" feet (and heart) today so they can take me to care about people in need with the loving heart only You can give! Help my "broken" feet to carry Your Gospel today!

Dr. Paul Brand talks about feet in his wonderful book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made:

After World War II German students volunteered to help rebuild a cathedral in England ... As the work progressed, debate broke out on how to best restore a large statue of Jesus with His arms outstretched ... Careful patching could repair all damage to the statue except for ... [the] hands ... Finally the workers reached a decision ... The statue of Jesus has no hands, and the inscription now reads, "Christ has no hands but ours." (p. 206)

Jesus has no feet but our feet in the world today! Where are your (and my) feet gonna take us today?

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Canine Heart Lesson

Our wonderful black Lab Susie left us two weeks ago. She isn't here, and we miss her terribly. She taught us lots of life lessons. Those lessons live on in our hearts!

Some time ago, I made some notes for this blog related to lessons we learned from Susie.

Susie didn't bark. We don't know if she could or if sometime before she came to us she lost that ability. We know she barked before she came to us. Perhaps she was so happy that she didn't feel the need to bark. Susie communicated with her eyes, her tongue and her "stance." When she wanted a treat she would "lick her lips" - it was a clear message. When we took her out to walk, she would "bound" down our driveway and keep looking over her shoulder to be sure one or both of us were following. She loved for me to run with her.

The night she died, she just kept looking straight into my eyes. I knew she was telling me something; I just didn't know what the awful truth was she was communicating. She was dying very soon. I think she knew that. I think she wanted to say, "Thank you for a wonderful life." I think she wanted to say, "I'm going away." All of a sudden her head fell and she collapsed. She was gone!

After she got so sick, she didn't bound down the drive any more. She would very painfully get up and get down very slowly.

One day not too long ago, I was walking her down our steep driveway. All of a sudden her ears stood straight up. I glanced down the drive to see a bunch of deer running across our drive much further down the drive. She didn't bark. But she knew and remembered younger days when she might have gone in chase of those deer.

Susie taught me a "heart lesson": There are people in my world who also have no voice. They may be almost "invisible" living in the shadows. Many of these are people affected by some disability - emotional, physical, mental and certainly spiritual. Susie taught me that I can "hear" and "see" those with "no voice" when God opens my heart! Susie taught me to watch for communication even when there is no voice.

That's what we are doing in ministry to individuals and families affected by brokenness. God is opening our hearts to hear and see - even the unspoken need. Who would think we could learn such a powerful lesson from a dearly loved old black lab?

William Cowper was disabled by severe depression and other emotional brokenness. He spoke in and through his pain in his wonderful hymns. In 1774 he penned these lines:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill
He measures up His bright designs and works His sov'reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

... Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

I'm looking for God's wonders today! I want to hear His voice! I have learned that God's voice sometimes thunders and sometimes it's just a still, small voice. Either way my heart needs to hear and respond!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ending or Beginning?

NOTE: Restoration Heart has been on an extended "vacation" due to neglect and the tyranny of the urgent! I'm back....................... !

There are many "endings" in life and it seems their "tribe" increases:

  • Too little money and too many bills
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a home
  • Lies, deceit, slander from "friends"
  • Rejection by family and significant others
  • Reaching the threshold of heaven personally or with a loved one
  • Foolish choices and their consequences
  • Growing old(er)
  • Depression
  • Disease and disability
  • Taxes and the IRS
  • Too much to do and too little time
  • Unrelenting pain of all kinds
  • Fear of the future
  • Dillusion with government and alarming changes in society

All these circumstances and heart-breaking "milestones" happen and more beside! It may even seem like the end! You may wish for the end!

In the last two weeks, we reached "the end" with our beloved Susie. Susie was our black lab - 13 years old - and one of the greatest gifts we ever received! We never expected her to leave us so quickly and so suddenly. Exactly two weeks ago today our wonderful vet told us that "nothing matters any more." We went to the appoointment with a list of food and snacks wanting counsel on changes we should make or not. We left knowing it wasn't going to matter. Dr. Jim grabbed John's and my hands as we turned to leave the exam room with Susie. He prayed with us thanking the Lord for our wonderful Susie. She was sick beyond healing! No food or care was going to change her plight. Dr. Jim couldn't even hear her heart beat due to all the fluid that was in her chest and belly.

On a scale of 1 to 10 expecially up against the list above, losing our sweet Susie seems way down the list. BUT when our hearts are involved in the pain and loss we experience, the loss - the "ending" - the depth of the pain is HUGE!

Last night I watched a video - "When Disability Hits Home" - which features interviews with Chuck Colson and R.C. Sproul. Each man opens his heart about how his own pain over his seriously disabled grandchild "crashes" into his theology of the sovereignty of God and the ways of God. In the video Joni Eareckson Tada helps tell their stories as well as being living evidence of her own loss and pain. Joni, Chuck and R.C. all affirm their confidence in God!

Most people in our world would consider such devastating circumstances and heart pain clear evidence that God is absent and not benevolent or benign! NOT TRUE!

The truth is that no matter now final the end seems - no matter how pain may drive us to wish this is the end - It is NOT THE END! God is still God! God is still on His throne! God did walk into our world and put on our skin and live in our neighborhood in the Person of Jesus! (John 1:14, The Message)

The end hasn't come. It may be just around the next curve or miles down the road. That doesn't matter! For those who know and love Jesus the end is not the end anyway. It is the beginning of restoration of all that is painful and broken!

Jesus came to meet people - all kinds of people at his or her point of need. He acted to comfort the broken! He didn't just pat them on the head or shoulder and wish them well. He knelt to wash dirty feet. His healing hand touched blind eyes, mute tongues, crippled feet and hands and broken minds.

My heart prayer for you today is that God will reach into your brokenness - that brokenness that seems so final - and bring you restoration. Your brokenness and pain may seem beyond repair or escape. Hang on to Jesus! He WILL take care of you! He still kneels to wash dirty feet and touch blind eyes! Your broken heart matters to Him! Remember this isn't the end when it's the beginning of restoration. That's something ONLY God can do!