Poetry: The Thorn in My Side


The Thorn in My Side

 

A gentle prick in my holy veneer

Piercing where no eye can see

Ignoring the pain with a candy smile

The thorn in my side is me

 

Pain and grief and shame pour in

Self-mutilation with the sharp point of sin

Sinful desires rise once again

Leading to places I’ve already been

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m missing the point, but it won’t miss me

The thorn in my side is me

I should get paid, but I’m doing the Devil’s work for free

 

God is patient, God is kind

Hoping He can change my double mind

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

 

Can’t blame mom, can’t blame dad

Don’t see anyone holding a gun to my head

Who can save me from this body of sin?

The son of God, raised from the dead

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m getting the point, I’m beginning to see

The thorn in my side is me

Christ paid the price for one such as me

 

God is gracious, God forgives

In Him alone salvation lives

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

Advertisements

Acting Out Our Faith: Lead With Forgiveness


While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. – Acts 7:59-60 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but forgiveness is not always the first thing on my mind when someone is hurting me. There are a number of other reactions I can think of and none of them are what you would call “saintly.”  Anger, indignation, revenge – they all come rising to the surface in a moment of confrontation.  So what would I do if my neighbors were trying to kill me for telling them the truth?  How would I react to hatred and violence from those I was trying to help?

Stephen leads with forgiveness.  He doesn’t have time to process and work toward forgiveness – his life is ebbing away with each painful throw.  He could have lashed out in anger or prayed to God to smite down his enemies, but he chose love, grace and mercy.  At some point Stephen made the choice that if Christ could forgive, so should he.  He had probably heard the story of Christ’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” and took them to heart.

Too often I have to find forgiveness when I have been wronged, but Stephen, following in the footsteps of Christ, doesn’t need to find it.  Stephen is forgiving.  It comes forth from him like cool water from a fresh spring.  That is acting out your faith.

Lord, help me to be forgiving.  Teach me how to lead with forgiveness.  Fill my heart with love, grace and mercy so that they overflow to others.  Amen.

Read the Directions: Please Wash Your Hands


Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. – Psalms 24:3-5 (NIV)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry is on a date at a restaurant when he runs into the chef in the bathroom.  When the chef, Papi, leaves the bathroom, he does so without washing his hands.  Given Jerry’s phobic tendencies about germs, hilarity ensues when Papi brings their food to the table.  I have to admit my own unease with that kind of situation.  There are appropriate times and places for cleanliness, and preparing food for others certainly fits the bill.

When discussing salvation, I have heard the phrase, “You don’t have to clean up for a bath.”   The idea is that since God will clean you up in the work of salvation that you don’t need to clean up your sin first.  This is a true and correct perspective because we cannot clean up our own sin.  But once saved, we can maintain cleanliness.  It is one thing to ask someone to wash their hands before preparing food at a restaurant, but can you imagine if they had to take a shower every time they came back into the kitchen?

We need to be clean.  It is healthy, makes us feel better and certainly is considerate for those around us with sensitive noses.  In the same way, purity of spirit is healthy, makes us feel better and gives us the ability to “consider others as more important than ourselves.”  There is a cleansing we are given and there is a cleanliness we maintain.  One we receive that removes the stain of sin and one helps keep us from sin.

Too often we wait for the bath.  We wait until the dirt and grime of un-confessed sin has built up and the Spirit convicts us to seek cleansing.  Been there, done that (more than once).  By the grace and mercy of God, we are forgiven and made new, but maturity and purity ask us to grow strong and true so that we remain clean.  We all fall.  We all come short, but in the pursuit of holiness, we can find ourselves falling less and coming closer to the mark.  A daily discipline of cleanliness can help us in this pursuit.

Confession and repentance are the cleansing steps we take toward purity.  When we make them a daily discipline, we set ourselves apart for something better than a cycle of deprivation and redemption.  This is the life I want and hope for and struggle after.  This is the life God’s holiness calls me to.  This is the life God gently reminds me of in the moments I need a bath.  Lord, help me to be holy as you are holy.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart.  Amen.

The Discipline of Presence: Forgiveness


Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

It is interesting that the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus clarifies is the section on forgiveness.  Not God’s will, not daily bread, not temptation – just forgiveness.  It is the only prayer that is answered based on our success in doing the same for others.  Jesus is clearly speaking to the human propensity for holding a grudge that keeps us in our little kingdom-of-me instead of the Kingdom of God.

We have been doing some gardening behind the house the last few years and one thing is abundantly clear: you must tend the garden every day.  We learned this by watching horn worms devastate our tomato plants.  We took this to heart when weeds became so entangled with cucumber plants it was hard to tell them apart.  If we wanted our garden to bear fruit in season, we had to be disciplined everyday in its care and maintenance.

Condemnation, anger, arrogance and even hate can take root in our hearts if we do not tend the soil each day.  God wants fertile ground for the seeds of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (and) self-control.”  If we allow offenses to go unforgiven, our hearts are full of weeds that will not allow the fruitfulness God desires.  The ill-will we hold toward those we think have hurt us is like a worm eating at the vine that keeps us abiding in God.

Forgiveness is a daily discipline like weeding the garden. With God’s help, we can pull out the bitter roots and free up our hearts for the work of the Spirit. Forgiveness breaks the chains of judgment, pride and hate that can choke our growth in the Lord.  Forgiveness gives us eyes to see the wormy thoughts that eat away at the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is one of the ways we remain present in our walk with God.  It allows us to have an attitude toward others that reflects the attitude our heavenly Father has toward us:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

Is your compassion renewed each morning?  Do you begin each day by wiping the slate clean for others?  Maybe it is time to weed the soil of a heart that is broken and weary from the fruitless toil of anger and pain.  Maybe it is the season to prepare for new seeds to be planted, nurtured and watered with the work of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe today you can pull up one of those especially deep-rooted weeds that is keeping you from moving forward.  Maybe today is the day to move from being forgiven to being forgiving.