Friday, August 18, 2017

Faithful Friends

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Proverbs 27:6

In our house, we call them "spiritual black eyes". It's when a trusted friend delivers a powerful right hook of truth even while consoling and comforting. It seems counter intuitive to kick or punch a man (or woman) when they're down, but for me, a few short years ago, it was literally a life saving tactic.

I was reminiscing with a good friend about that just recently. Over the course of two years or so, I was knocked down and wounded through a series of events that occurred in the last place I ever thought possible. My faith was shaken. My faith in people almost non existent. For months, I carried around my imaginary torch and pitchfork, demanding holy justice for the mistreatment I suffered. I was angry, discouraged, and in a tremendous amount of pain.

On one particularly difficult day, I sat in the living room of my friend, rehashing the painful events yet again. Like she always does, she listened intently to what I was saying, even acknowledging and validating my feelings. But on this day, my friend decided to administer a different kind of "comfort". She decided to deliver the above mentioned spiritual right hook, squarely in the center of my self-pity. It threw me for a loop and I left that day feeling quite sore at my now "former friend". But by the time I got home, I realized that was just what I needed to pull me out of the pit I found myself in. It wasn't easy to hear her words, but the Lord used them to begin a much needed healing process. It truly was a life saving conversation and I wouldn't be here writing a post about it today had it not been for her courageous actions.

There's another verse that says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister) is born in adversity." (Proverbs 17:17). This kind of love is not the love of this world. It's a love born of the Spirit of God. It's a love that manifests itself both in the embrace of a comforting word AND in the one-two punch of a much needed "attitude adjustment".

This kind of friendship doesn't happen overnight. It's cultivated over time. Trust is built and earned not automatically established. It's given as a gift from one person to another. 

A friendship like this is a gift from God. I prayed long and hard for the one I'm fortunate to have. I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful for her. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

In the Quarry of Character

"...only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel, or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built." 1 Kings 6:7

1 Kings 6 gives a very detailed account of the temple Solomon built to replace the portable tabernacle which was constructed in the time of Moses. In 1 Chronicles 28:12, we read that God gave Solomon's father, David, "...the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind...". It was a divinely inspired piece of architecture, built for the express purpose of glorifying God. It was a holy place, meant to inspire awe and reverence in the hearts of all who entered in and drawing them nearer to their Creator. 

Verse 7 is what inspired the page above. The stonework for the temple was fashioned and fitted at the quarries nearby, away from the building site. The work was done out of view and earshot so as not to detract from the holy focus of the temple.

God often does just that in the life of the Christ follower, fashioning our character out of the limelight. We are "temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19), hammered, chiseled, and dressed in the "quarries of character". With every blow of His hammer and every strike of His chisel, we are made ready to be presented as the holy house of the Living God. And even then, the beauty of the structure is not found in it's materials but in the One who resides in it.

" also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

How often we pray for the power of Christ, to be used mightily, and to do great exploits for our God. But in our asking to be more like His Son, we must be willing to submit ourselves to that hammer and chisel that forges the godly character needed to achieve such feats.

"Consider Christ-like character to be of utmost importance. Character is everything. The fruitfulness of your work in the Kingdom will be determined by what you are. Seek after conformity to Christ and discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." Paul Washer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Better Than New

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
Ernest Hemingway

In the Japanese culture, there is an art form known as Kintsugi ("golden joinery") or Kintsukuroi ("golden repair"). The process involves repairing broken pottery with a mix of lacquer and dusted gold, silver, or platinum, making, the piece "better than new" and aesthetically more beautiful than before. According to several articles*, the philosophy behind the technique is to acknowledge the history of the piece and to incorporate the breakages into the design rather than hide them.

It was this art form that came to mind as I was reading several scriptures on brokenness. Like most people, I've been heart broken by the actions of others and have also been guilty of the same. As I meditated on several verses (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 51:17, Ps. 147:3, etc.), I felt not only the Spirit's comfort but also His gentle discipline. The result of that precious time in God's Word is the page below. 

The page began with forgiveness. On the left, I wrote down every offense, hurt, 
or injustice I had not yet forgiven or let go of. On the right, I asked the Lord to search 
my own heart for offenses I have inflicted on others. The page was then covered in black...

Having filled and covered both pages, it was 
time to "blot out" the transgressions on both sides (Isa. 43:25), to forgive, 
and to receive the forgiveness that Christ paid for.  

White was the next layer...
"Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow..." (Isa. 1:18)

Next came the repair. 

What Forgiveness Is and Isn't

Forgiveness does not change the reality of one's hurt. It does, however, bring healing and the ability to move forward. 

Forgiveness does not always mean a restoration in relationship. Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is to physically detach. But, more importantly, forgiveness releases us from the emotional chains that bind us and hold us back. 

Apart from scripture itself, two books that have helped me in this area are Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall and Wounded by God's People by Anne Graham Lotz. I refer back to both of them from time to time for "spiritual upkeep". 

The Beauty of Our Brokenness

Like the Kintsugi pottery, our cracks and fractures can tell the beautiful story of a broken vessel made more durable and more beautiful by the skilled hands of the Master. It's a story that so many need to hear. 

*More on the art of Kintsugi/Kintsukuroi: