Personal Parables

What Keeps Me Singing

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Every year I seek out new ways to study God’s Word. In 2015, I reveled in the words of Oswald Chambers through My Utmost for His Highest. Streams in the Desert was another constant companion. Mid-year, I found a copy of Daily Strength for Daily Needs. I was blessed daily by the consistent message these three devotionals provided. I also became introduced to Lysa TerKeurst through Facebook posts and her devotional Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress.

This year I embark on a new year with six new resources. Susie Larson’s Blessings for Morning and Blessings for Evening will no doubt encourage me as much as her daily morning and evening Facebook posts. I was so excited my sister mentioned the morning blessing book, and that she mentioned another I was considering. As a result, I have added Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. I am hoping for more peace this year with the assistance of 365 Devotions for Peace by Cheri Cowell. I always plan to read the Bible through every year and maybe The Daily Message by Eugene Peterson will help me accomplish the goal this year.

I am most excited to read Timothy Keller’s The Songs of Jesus. A whole year studying the Psalms! Now that makes a poet’s heart sing!

But, this is what keeps me singing. The more resources I collect, the more I discover God’s resourcefulness. He never ceases to connect the thoughts of men and women across generations. As a writer, that ignites my own inspiration to share my insight because only God knows who might read it someday. As a reader, I thrill at the idea that my story is a continuation of someone before me and mine could become part of another in the future. All because One Source tells the greatest story if only the whole world would stop to listen.

Songs like this one also encouraged me to keep singing. May it inspire all of us to continue singing through 2016.

How Can I Keep From Singing by Ginny Owens

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Personal Parables, Uncategorized

Watch Out!

We are being robbed. Every day this fleeting perpetrator steals our money and influences our youth. We race to the next destination, congratulating ourselves for beating it. We apologize for letting it get away from us. But, it makes constant demands on us no matter how much we strive to manage it. We expect others to share it with us. We are reluctant to give it up. We watch it. We wait for it. We claim to cut it in half or kill it. What we mean is we want to save it. But, we can’t. It continually, relentlessly passes us by.

Time.

How can we believe it heals all wounds when it activates within everyone a ticking bomb that could detonate at any …time?

The truth is timepieces don’t give us peace time.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Peace time happens when we are thankful for every piece of time we have been given. Gratitude relaxes us during our rush-hour moments, especially if we get a glimpse of flashing lights in the distance. One deeper breath stops us from trying to track down what we can never catch and helps us remember …

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime.

Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, 11-12 NASB

Personal Parables, Uncategorized

The Sweaters

A small stack of sweaters sits off to one side on my closet shelf.

One is a boat-neck, striped, garter-stitch pattern in blue, white, and yellow. It hangs funny on me, and the shoulder seams are loose. I love this sweater. It is the first sweater I ever made. I finished it in time for a women’s retreat. The colors represent the theme that year–our personality colors. They are also the colors of the Swedish flag, a piece of my heritage. The sweater didn’t turn out exactly how I planned, but it reflects part of who I am.

The over-sized teal one with baubles and leaves is one my mom knit when stirrup pants were in style in the late 1990s. I hear stirrup pants are making a return, so maybe I will get to wear this one again. I love this sweater. Its intricacy and precision reminds me of how detailed and intentional my mom is in everything she does. Her love is that way—purposefully designed to comfort. This sweater makes me feel embraced as if I were a little girl again.

One of the sweaters is a gray cardigan. The buttons are gray with etched flowers. I chose it because it is gray. It isn’t mauve or blue. The pattern is just a little different. The stocking-knit stitch is smooth and even. I love this sweater. It is one of the best of my grandma’s last before she started making them all the same pattern in either mauve or blue. I pretend she made this one a little different just for me. Actually, she just made it for someone who would need it most. I guess that person was me.

Much like these handmade sweaters, love binds the entire Christian outfit together. Human perception cares more about the trendy appearance in the worldly mirror. Christian perception based on love sees the best intentions, the intricate details, and the common good. Love may be put on for an event or designed with someone specific in mind. Love is also simply made for sharing with someone who needs it most.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Personal Parables

Remember the Suspenders

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 NIV

“Forgive and forget.”

While contemplating this easier-said-than-done phrase along with Colossians 3:13 and searching for an article of clothing to represent this idea of forgiving—and, in a way, forgetting—I remembered a story.

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, published in 1902, is a compilation of bedtime stories he penned and shared with his children. In “How the Whale got his Throat,” he periodically inserts parenthetical reminders—“(you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved).”

Funny, suspenders had come to mind before I recalled the story. I had already done a little research. Not altogether surprising, suspenders and garter belts are worn only on occasion these days. They continue their grip on the formal apparel market, even as they cinched up daily garments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet, I discovered something surprising to me.

In 1871, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) patented “Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments,”(ADSG) (a.k.a. suspenders).

So what can be learned about forgiveness from a nearly-forgotten undergarment, two well-known storytellers, and a Bible verse?

First, it is important to momentarily forget about forgiving and look at the first word in Colossians 3:13. Bear has many meanings in English as well as in Greek. Anechō, means to hold up, bear with. The fact that this bear is used is critical. This is not the bearing that carries burdens. This is a bearing that holds up with forgiveness even after going through a course of events and doing all that can be done.

Different Bible translations aid in understanding which bear is referenced:

(Taking adventures with Tom and Huck teaches this lesson well.)

(This is especially applicable if you are in a frog-jumping contest in Calaveras County.)

(Fun Fact: The name Clemens, clement, and bear have similar meanings.)

All these verses remind me I must be as adjustable and detachable in my thinking of others as a pair of Mark Twain’s suspenders. I should expect to be offended, to endure quarrels, to hear grievances, and to listen to complaints on a daily basis. I need to be prepared before conflict happens.

But, why would Kipling’s shipwrecked Mariner “of infinite-resource-and-sagacity” cut up his raft into a grating and tie it across the whale’s throat with his pair of suspenders “(you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved)“?

Wasn’t the raft his only means of retreat? Didn’t he need his suspenders to hold up his pants? Was it because he wasn’t aware—with all his sagacity—that he was causing the whale’s hiccups? Could he not sense the whale was taking him back home? Why would he leave his “infinite resource” fastened across that chasm?

“By means of a grating

I have stopped your ating.”

Although it is just a story, could it be so? Could suspending judgment prevent others from being swallowed up by the same conflict? Who needs the suspenders more to prevent exposure? The one who may or may not escape? Or the one who needs protection from future hiccups …or worse?

Fathoming the depth of this verse comes only after taking extreme measures. It requires nearly stretching to emotion’s elastic limit. Bouncing back to an original relational position, seeing that the twain will meet again, seems impossible.

It isn’t. As long as we remember not to forget to be the suspenders.

Even as suspender straps appear parallel from the front, something else happens in the back. They cross forming an X or a Y. Whether the two cross paths and go their separate ways or they meet in the middle and then traverse together, the point is they remain connected at the join.

Just as an echo sustains the voice across a chasm, bearing with others creates a resounding “I forgive” against the surrounding walls. It becomes like whale echolation communicating across the fathoms.

Eventually, all stories come to an end. But, the end of Kipling’s you should be read for yourself. And “you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved.”

Personal Parables

Dressed for Every Occasion

Recently, I arrived at an event to discover another woman and I wore similar outfits. We had not phoned one another to coordinate. We just picked the same items from our individual closets. To some, this could be seen as a fashion faux pas. But, in this case, it reminded me of something basic and profound.

Every wardrobe should contain a few mainstay items:

skirts and slacks in black

coordinating jackets and sweaters in black

A white shirt, blouse, or pull-over

comfortable black shoes

a black belt

simple, but elegant accessories with pearls or diamonds.

This is dress for any formal occasion. It matches everything and never goes out of style. It reflects respect.

Maybe it all sounds cliché, but this outfit works. This is concert wear for playing in orchestras. It replaces robes for the choir. These are the colors worn by staff in high-class restaurants.

They are also worn by volunteer servers at funerals.

Most of us, myself included, desire a less monochromatic ensemble for less formal events. Yet, dressing for every occasion ought to require this essential, black-and-white raiment of Christian character traits.

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12b NIV

Why?

put on a heart… Colossians 3:12b NASB

Without a heart of compassion, we lack empathy. Inconsideration mocks kindness. Arrogance stomps on our humility. Harshness rubs out gentleness. Intolerance saps patience.

We hear quite a bit about putting on the armor of God.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17 NASB

Yet, without heart, stamina to stand firm wanes. Truth back-flows into lies. Self-righteousness inflates our egos. Pumped up with hot air, there isn’t a piece of us left for peace-making. Shields of faith drop. Helmets of salvation appear dented. The sword of the Spirit remains sheathed.

Maybe it all sounds cliché. But, perhaps it’s the classiest, black-and-white thing we can do as Christians. What adds grace to our servitude, what turns our page from a sorrowful dirge to a joyous chorus is wearing our hearts on our sleeves.