Careful Words

“… a careless word is like the thorn of the honey locust thorn tree – it can cause a deep wound that can lead to the ‘infection’ of bitterness…” – Wally Armstrong, Practicing the Presence of Jesus

“All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God forgave you in Christ.” – Eph. 4:31-32

I have been on the receiving end of bitterness, anger, slander – spiteful words. I am quite certain we all have. As a young person, these words damaged me to my core. Thankfully, I have healed from these wounds and walk free from their pain. As an adult and a believer, I have felt mostly compassion and sorrow for the unbelievers who rage against me or my worldview. I cannot expect those who do not understand me or my views to accept them, and their opinions do not injure me.image

 

However, there is one party from whom careless words continue to hurt – fellow believers. While there is not typically shouting involved, or even discernible anger, careless words from believers can cut a person’s confidence, self-worth, and spirit. They can cause a person to question his/her calling or even leave the church. This pain has not been my experience alone, but the story of many people I have walked with over the years. Careless words lead to a wound of offense, which can easily become bitterness. Tragically, I have seen many walk away from friendships, from churches, and even from the faith, over offenses rooted in careless words.

I am talking about hastily delivered criticisms.

I am talking about sarcasm;

about gossip;

about jesting;

about snarky side commentary;

about words said out of earshot,

because they weren’t really out of earshot. These things have a way of getting around.

I am talking to myself. I used to pride myself on my sarcastic humor. You know what sarcasm means? To tear the flesh. And I gloried in it. Now my six year old son calls me out on it, and I realize my foolishness.

Careless words break trust. As believers, we should be covenanted to one another, preferring one another in love, anxious to honor each other.

“But I’m speaking the truth in love!”

Is it in love? Is it patient and kind? Is it rude or self-seeking? Does it always protect and always trust?

“People are too easily offended! That is their problem!”

We have a responsibility to forgive offense, yes. We have an equal responsibility to guard our words, to be slow to speak. The Bible charges us to use our words to encourage, heal, and extend grace.

If we find that offense tends to follow us, perhaps we are the problem.

If I am to dwell in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I must carry slow to speak and quick to forgive in equal measurings like offerings. Then I can give in trust the words of grace which build and heal.

 

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Parallel

What did you expect when you
tied on your robes, donned your chains,
your bells, your incense and oil;
when you saw him walking through crowds
paying his taxes, spitting in mud,
loving his enemies?

What did you expect when he unrolled the scroll,
broke your rules, fulfilled the law;
when he challenged your pride and died
on a thief’s cross?

Who did you expect:
A righteous warrior?
A crown prince?
Certainly not the Suffering Servant,
the Sacrificial Lamb.

What did you expect when you
put on the respectable clothes,
drove too fast, went to his house,
looked for your seat, the one with your name?

What did you expect, arms folded
mouthing songs about more about yourself than him;
critiquing the offering protocol, the message,
waiting to feel better?

Who did you expect:
A good-looking rock star?
A charismatic politician?
Certainly not the Risen Christ,
the Almighty Lord.

What does he expect, but a
heart broken and pure:
clean hands, empty of straws
grasped in a rush of fear;
eyes fixed on him?
Who does he expect?
The ones he calls “Beloved,”
even them,

even me,

even you.

30 Days to 30, Day 8

Day 8 – I Will Control My Thought Life

I listened to a lesson on freedom today by my pastor, one I’d heard before and through which I was preparing to lead a small group.  The lesson centered on renewing the mind.  In summary, one of the main points was that our thoughts determine our emotions, our emotions determine our attitudes, and our attitudes determine our actions.  Therefore, the negative things that come from me are rooted in my thoughts.  I can control my thinking by taking captive every negative or sinful thought and submitting it to Christ, nullifying it with the truth in the Word of God.

My apologies if you weren’t expecting a sermon.  There is no separating me from my faith.  It is who I am, and it’s going to come out.

Now, I am an introvert by nature and one with an above average IQ.  Trust me that I am not bragging there.  The combination of the two makes for a fairly distracting internal world, and I tend to be very socially awkward and unaware of my surroundings because the buzzing of analysis and synthesis in my brain overwhelms my ability to engage in the moment.  The relevancy then is that my thought life can quickly and powerfully leap from normal and balanced to detrimentally askew.  Negative thoughts create fear, anger, worry.  Those emotions stimulate an attitude of hopelessness and anxiety.  It is usually right before those attitudes turn into actions that I re-secure the reins of my life and begin the process of getting the horse back on trail.

What would happen if I could consistently stop it at the thought-level?

Thirty makes me realize I am too old to play games with my bad emotions and attitudes.  I am too old to be sunk every time my mind takes a situation or word the wrong direction. And, I know I want to kill the habit of being controlled by my thoughts before I get too old. I know what God says about His people, and I am graced enough to claim it for myself.

The Extravagant Praise of King David, or, Why Can’t My Life Imitate Art?

I’ve been thinking about musicals a lot lately.  My husband and I re-visit the same discussion about musicals every time a movie comes out in that particular genre that I want to see.  This time, it was Les Miserables.  He always says musicals are ridiculous.  Silly. Over-the-top.  Most of all, they are unrealistic.  And I get it: many of them are silly, and it’s not like we randomly burst into song in our daily lives, lifting up operettas in cubicles, or waltzing with potatoes up and down the produce aisle (well, unless you are the parent of a preschooler, but I digress…).  If something like a scene from a musical actually transpired in front of us in real life, most of us would take a few steps backward, look around awkwardly, and make for the nearest exit.

But then, I found an argument for the musical way of life in Scripture.  There are moments throughout both the Old and New Testaments in which godly people, overcome with love for God, cannot help but stop what they are doing to lift up a song of praise to Him.  Moses and Miriam both did it; so did Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Apostle Paul.  And, of course, there is the most prolific songwriter of them all, King David.  I get the feeling that his life was much like musical theater: there was an underdog story, followed by a little romance, betrayal, a chase scene, a bromance, and yes, some adultery and murder (shield your ears, kids).  All the while, David sings songs, plays the harp, and dances in the streets.  In fact, why isn’t there a Broadway show about the life of David? (Mental note: write a manuscript.)

I was reading one of David’s psalms this week, Psalm 18, which is given the following introduction: For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.[1] First, I noticed that David sang, not wrote, this song initially.  While I do not know the entire context, I know David was not one to sit quietly and write a poem.  This is a man who faced lions and giants and bears.  My guess is that he sang this loudly, in front of many, and he probably danced while doing it.  The next thing I noticed was the sheer grandness and depth of the language:

4The cords of death entangled me;

the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me;

the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry came before him, into his ears.

The earth trembled and quaked,

and the foundations of the mountains shook;

they trembled because he was angry.

Smoke rose from his nostrils;

consuming fire came from his mouth,

burning coals blazed out of it. [2]

 

Forgive me, but this is no namby-pamby, Christian radio-friendly pop song.  This is a declaration of the power of our God.  He continues:

30 As for God, his way is perfect:

The Lord’s word is flawless;

he shields all who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God besides the Lord?

And who is the Rock except our God? [3]

 

The entire psalm reads this way.  It is a grand, over-the-top, epic of a song to glorify the one true King.  This is the kind of worship God desires.  David was called a man after God’s own heart not because he was the most well-behaved or most holy guy, but because he poured out his life in adoration and devotion to God.  Everything he did was done with a posture of praise, and not just any “Thank you Lord for this day” praise, but the kind of big, all-encompassing praise which scatters the enemy.  In victory, David praised God; in frustration, he praised God; in sorrow, he praised God.

Some might argue that this kind of praise is just emotionalism or attention-seeking, and maybe, for some, it is. But I believe that issue is between us and God.  Besides, I would hope that when I stop to worship Him who has given me all, my emotions would be touched as well.  After all, I never want to be accused of holding anything back from Him who holds nothing back from me.

So, I hope that I can aspire to praise God the way David did, in a way that gets as close as humanly possible to the way He deserves.  To the rest of the world, it may look silly, over-the-top, and unrealistic.  But I know, we know, that it is the most natural thing for those who have found Love of our lives.


[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 18:title). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 18:4–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 18:30–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ordained

“Ugh, Monday again. Just gotta make it through today.” I overheard yet another person make yet another comment about trudging through yet another Monday.  I felt a check in my spirit.  Recent comments and conversations began replaying through my head, all filled with the tones of personal anxiety, need, or general disdain for doing any of the ordinary, daily activities required by life.

“How are you?”

“Tired.” “Busy.” “I’m not feeling very good.” “If I could just get through.” “I need more time/better health/more money.”  “Wish it was summer/vacation/Friday/weekend/insert anything other than here here.”

I think the sad thing is that I hear these things from believers.  Born-again, Spirit-filled, walking free from their past sins believers.  I hear them from me, too.

John Lund/Riser/Getty Images

John Lund/Riser/Getty Images

I guess the question I began to ask myself is, Why are Christians sometimes the most defeated people?  That’s not what the Word says we are: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Have you acknowledged your ordination yet?  It is time we, as Christians, recognize that we are ordained by God to be His priests and ministers of the Gospel.  We are called to live as Jesus lived, which means everyday is an opportunity to heal the sick, set the captives free, and proclaim the year of jubilee.  We must break free from the mentality (or, more aptly, spiritual condition) that makes the only ministry we see that which we need.  We claim our Savior, yet live as ones destitute, hungry and naked from spiritual impoverishment.  “Pray for me,” we beg, yet we ignore the dying all around us, too distracted by our own needs to have the heart for another’s.

Every day is a gift.  And while that is a cliche, it doesn’t make it untrue.

Yes, we all have needs from time to time, and God wants to meet your needs.  But it is our faith that looks at those needs in our lives, declares, “His grace is sufficient,” and pushes through to live as a son of God, without hindrances, moving in the authority granted us in Him.  Satan would love to keep you too bound in your own impoverished state to do damage to the Kingdom.  But isn’t it time we awoke from our state of stupor, stepped beyond our immediate comforts, and looked at the Kingdom, with its fields ripe with harvest. Beloved, are you His?  Are you a new creation, with the DNA of Christ in your being?  If so, you are ordained into the priesthood.  Put on your habit, the clothing of Christ.  Walk in each moment with the intention of the Kingdom.

How do we do that?  Wake up every morning with the prayer that God would show you your calling for that day.  Do you have errands to run?  Pray to meet someone who needs the Gospel.  Working in a cubicle?  Have a God conversation with your neighbor.  Cooped up in a house with three preschoolers?  Put on the worship music and let the Spirit of God invade your home and their little hearts.

Beloved, it is a choice we must make every morning to advance the Kingdom.  We must put on Christ daily and choose to find ways to turn each day into a mission. With mission comes joy, purpose, and the fulfilled promises of God in your own life.  I charge you, me, to embrace Monday, the grocery store, the cubicle, and even the illness that sends us to a doctor; it is in those places we take the Kingdom by force.

The Kingdom

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. – Matthew 11:12 (NKJV)

The above scripture has always been a source of confusion for me: Who are “the violent”? Demons? Angels? Believers? Everything I knew about the character of God seemed to contradict violence. My Jesus is the “turn the other cheek” savior, the one who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and wears a crown of thorns. Could He really be the one to promote aggression?

Through this semester in School of Leaders, I have discovered that the Kingdom of God is one of contractions. As Misty Edwards puts it in one of her songs, it is, “The inside, outside, upside-down Kingdom, where you lose to gain, and you die to live.” Jesus taught about the Kingdom as something which appears humble and insignificant at first, but becomes powerful and life-giving. Jesus Himself is a picture of the Kingdom: born into a humble family, living a life of service, dying a criminal’s death. Yet it is through His service and His suffering that we see His strength. Only an unwavering faith can produce powerful humility, which heals with a word or a touch, causes repentance in the fool-hardy, and brings life where the was death. This is the Kingdom: the present and future manifestation of the reign of Christ; where the “violent” are the unassuming followers of Christ, and the “force” they wield is a faith which moves mountains and compels the most hard-hearted to take notice.

As I have journaled through the last semester, the question I was faced with was not, “How do I advance the Kingdom daily?” but, “Do I advance the Kingdom daily?” I found it difficult to answer that question in the affirmative for the first few weeks. Almost daily, I am privy to stories from my husband about meeting people on the job, witnessing to them, praying for them. Still finding my footing as a stay-at-home mother, I spend most of my days cleaning, meal-planning, toddler-chasing, and doing other administrative tasks which tend to fall into my lap. I do not have much contact with people and, when I do, I have to spend most of my attention on my rambunctious child. I do not have the great stories that others do, and many days I do not even get the chance to pursue them.

I began to ask God to show me how, where, when I could serve Him. I was reminded of the word I received about leaving my job – God was telling me to make myself available to Him, not just for my son (although that is a huge part of it), but to whatever else He called me. I took an inventory of everything in my days, beginning with my son. Every day I pray over him, worship with him, and expose him to the things of God. If nothing else ever came out of my life, what I pour into my son will be a testimony that will live after me.

Next came the environment I create for my husband. He is going through one of the most challenging times in his life, but it is one which will change everything for him. The menial tasks I do to take care of him, from laundry to paper-editing, help him to focus and be productive daily, which will in turn contribute to his success and future endeavors. I am doing what God commands for the wife: to be a helpmate, assisting him on his calling.

Last, I looked at the things I experience in ministry. Most of the things I do seem insignificant: a couple of hours at the House of Prayer every week, meeting with some mentees at my kitchen table, spending hours on a computer revising documents and e-mailing countless people, and preparing Sunday morning lessons which may or may not go according to plan. But, the Kingdom is such as these. God began to show me that every prayer, encouragement, and task creates a ripple in the Kingdom, and fruit I may never see.

I may not have daily divine appointments in the traditional sense, but I have found that, if I am paying attention, I always have a divine assignment. They are usually humble and unnoticed, but the Kingdom is such as these. When I walk in obedience, I walk lock-step in with those in the Body of Christ, forming a Kingdom which is constantly advancing. God is not asking us to change the world by ourselves, but to move when He tells us, where He tells us, and in doing so, we together change everything. It is the upside-down Kingdom, where strength is found in submission, love, and faith, not control or brute. The beautiful thing is that He who is the suffering servant, born in obscurity and dying a criminal’s death, He is the One who receives the glory. After all, He is the One who is worthy of it.

Vision

I was nine years old when I got my first pair of glasses.  They were massive, with clear plastic frames, covering, yet magnifying most of my face.  I felt ridiculous, but I could see.  I never realized how much I was missing out on.  My third grade teacher noticed it before my parents.  She wondered why I couldn’t read the vocabulary charts at the front of the room, and told me I probably needed glasses.  That officially began my life as a nerd.  No matter how much I tried to live it down, all my classmates knew it then: I was a glasses-wearer. 

We live up to our labels, and I proved all my classmates correct.  With each new school year brought a new pair of glasses, each with thicker lenses than the last.  In gym, sporting equipment was drawn to my cranium like a kamikaze moth to a flame.  I spent most of my days behind crooked Coke-bottle lenses.  It was a nice place to hide, and I needed a place to hide.

Sophomore year brought contact lens and freedom.  Still a nerd, but without glasses to hide behind; now, I was just eccentric.  The morning ritual that follows me to this day of poking myself in the eye with floppy plastic is almost an afterthought.  Sometimes I forget what it’s like to see with my natural vision.

I once asked God to show me how He sees the world.  The still, small voice whispered, “I already did.” 

Elaborate, God, I’m not that smart.

One day, I took off my glasses and thought about grace.  Looking around, all I could see were color and light: no defined edges, no boundaries between objects.  Everything was one cohesive blur, a close-up of an impressionistic painting.  Honestly, it was beautiful, and a little detached.  I wanted to stay there.

Grace covers our blemishes and our hard edges.  It blurs the lines we’ve created until we are all one picture of light and color.  This is what God sees when He looks at us: light and color and beauty.  And He sees the whole painting.

So maybe my vision wasn’t a curse or an imperfection in my DNA.  Maybe it was God’s way of letting me see like Him, even if it’s only one corner of the whole painting.  Maybe He wants us to see each other that way.  How would I treat others if all I saw of them were light and color, and none of their hard edges.  Like the line of “Amazing Grace:” “…was blind, but now, I see.”  Grace is pretty amazing like that.

Now if I could only get away with driving without my glasses.

Logic

The most difficult class I took in college was one called “Logic.”  This should tell you something about me.  Anyway, I had taken a philosophy class my first semester, freshman year, and the next class in that series was Logic.  It fit a general requirement and I assumed it would be an easy A.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be all about formulas and proofs.  It was like taking geometry in high school all over again.  I had nightmares about standing in front of a blackboard, receiving the barks of Mr. Knight as I fumbled chalk.   I scraped out of Logic with a B minus, and to this day, I hold that class personally responsible for keeping me from graduating Summa Cum Laude (furrows brow, shakes fist in silent aggression). 

That class left me with some understanding about logical conclusions, however.  A lot of “if this then that’s.”  As fate would have it, I was also doing some soul-searching at that point in my life.  It’s a long story, but I had basically come to the realization that either my life was worth living, or it wasn’t.  And my life was not worth living.  Throughout my adolescent years, I had tried every path you could think, from New Age mysticism to atheism to eastern religions and philosophies.  Reluctantly, and as a last resort, I found myself in a non-denominational church that spring.  And reluctantly, things started to make sense.  I had never approached Christianity in a logical way, always believing it a crutch for the masses. But as I opened my mind to the teachings and examined the world around me, it was the only thing that made sense. 

As I turned my life over to God, I gave Him an ultimatum (because, you know, I’m at liberty to do that…).  I remember praying one night that, if this was real, it needed to be my everything.  It didn’t make sense to worship a God, but only give myself to Him in pieces and portions.  Here’s where the logic comes in:

If God is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last; if He is the reason for my existence, your existence, and the existence of everything; if He created everything and everything works in a greater plan that all points to Him, then it follows that everything I do and say should be for Him.  If He created me for Him, my only goals in life should be for Him, directed by Him. 

Let’s follow this rabbit a little further, shall we?  It sounds like this God is pretty selfish, huh?  Creating all of us and everything just for Him.  I mean, how arrogant, right?  Shouldn’t we just get to live our own lives the way we want?  But we forgot something else with regard to logic: A does not equal B.  God is all goodness, all love, all perfection.  I am not.  I am fault and carelessness and sin, even when I have good intentions.  I am worthy of nobody’s worship.

God takes His goodness one step further, too.  He doesn’t force our worship, our love, or even our respect. He gives us the choice. 

So what does all of this lead us to logically conclude?  God is worthy of everything we have, everything we say, everything we do.  He cannot be an afterthought in my life.  He cannot take the passenger seat or wait until I feel like going to Him.  My existence is proof of His.  My life should be proof of His goodness and mercy. 

And one more thing – this conclusion doesn’t mean that life as I wanted it is over.  You see, I’ve also realized that what God has planned for me is so much more amazing than anything I could plan for myself.  Not “win the lottery, live on a yacht” amazing, but “I can’t believe I did that” amazing.  At nineteen, my ten-year plan had me alone in an apartment with a crappy office job and a persistent feeling of insignificance.  God has given me a husband, a career, a beautiful child, and purpose. 

The popular thing to do is ridicule Christians for their beliefs, and I used to subscribe to that philosophy.  Now I see, though, God is the logical choice.

Solomon

Solomon was a wise guy, quite literally.  When God gave him the choice of all kinds of gifts, he chose wisdom – see, smart already.  Scripture mentions his wisdom as having “a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29).  He made lots of great decisions, settling disputes amongst his kingdom with common sense and clarity of mind.  He even threatened to cut a baby in half in his wisdom, but we can assume he was just trying to prove a point (sarcasm is so hard to convey in print…).  The Queen of Sheba, not exactly an Israelite, was compelled to come see him because of his wisdom, riches, and splendor.  The guy was the man. And, as far as a relationship with God is concerned, the Bible tells us he encountered God personally twice.  Not once.  Twice (1 Kings 11:9). 

But Solomon isn’t perfect, and there is a lot to be said about his devotion and humanity.  You see, despite his answered request for wisdom, his God-bestowed riches and glory, and the rather blatant visits from the Almighty Himself, Solomon fell for the same old temptations of his father David.  1 Kings 11 recounts Solomon’s girl troubles.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Brother got around.  And, as we are wont to do, Solomon was willing to go to great lengths to please them (“hell hath no fury..”).  They worshipped gods he did not, but he was willing to play the part to please them.  He constructed altars to Ashtoreth, Molech, and other pagan gods for his wives to worship.  He didn’t stop there, either.  He decided to go there himself and worship, all in an attempt to please his many wives.  Mo’ money, mo’ problems, I guess.

Alright, so no one I know has even 2 spouses, much less 700 and 300 concubines.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.  Except in Nevada.  And maybe Utah.  But I digress. 

The question here is, what can I learn from him.  Well, first of all, no one, and I mean no one, is exempt from idol worship.  Solomon had everything.  He knew it all came straight from God, too.  God appeared to him twice.  I would think one visitation would be enough to convince me of His existence!  Yet, Solomon was distracted enough by a pretty face (or two, or a thousand) to risk his good standing with God.  Another lesson here is about hanging out with the wrong crowd.  In his day, there was a very clear law about not marrying from outside your tribe, not because of some ethnocentric or racist attitudes, but because God knows the power of spiritual influence.  Marrying someone who doesn’t believe the way you do means, eventually, one of you is going to give up your beliefs to please the other.  And, let’s face it, we women are pretty persuasive creatures.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, Solomon’s consequences were as follows: God said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates (1 Kings 11:11). Adversaries rise up against Solomon, and he and his son eventually lose the majority of the kingdom to Jeroboam.

Kind of mean of God, right?  Isn’t He supposed to be all loving and merciful?  Yes, of course, but we forget that He is merciful because He is holy.  Seriously holy.  Like, can’t-look-on-any-sin holy.  It’s not His fault; it’s His nature.  God is a black-and-white kind of guy.  We are gray-area kind of people.  Gray area means there is an exception to the rules: a way out, a get out of jail free card.  To God, there are only light and dark.  And there was nothing Solomon could really do to make up for his mistakes.  After all, God requires obedience rather than sacrifice, which makes sense.  I’d much rather my husband just keep his marriage vows rather than cheat on me, then bring flowers to make up for it.  Same concept.

So God had to turn away from Solomon.  But, yes, He is merciful, so Solomon’s family didn’t entirely lose the kingdom.  In fact, the world would eventually be redeemed through his line through Christ.  And, the wise guy left us with some lessons.  Beware the girls, the gold, and the glory, as my pastor says.  Don’t be unequally yoked, as Jesus says.  And, as I like to say, as soon as you start thinking yourself too holy, you get reminded just how low you can go.

Curtains

A few months ago, my husband got a Blu-Ray player for the television in our living room.  We don’t seem to have time to watch a lot of TV, but movies at home are our standard weekend treat.  Now, my husband considers himself somewhat of a closet techie; he’s still trying to figure out most things tech-related, but really enjoys them when he does.  To get the most from his “Blu-Ray experience,” we went on a trek to Wal-Mart to find new curtains for the living room.  The old ones let in too much light, according to him, and caused an annoying glare.  I, being female, noticed nothing, but sometimes it’s easier to indulge his whims.  We came across a set of “energy-saving, noise-reducing” blackout curtains.  Jason beamed with excitement.  I was happy they came in a matching color.

                Once at home, Jason immediately removed the old curtains and replaced them with the new.  You could tell a big difference, if not on the television, in the room in general.  Nothing was getting through those heavy things.  The curtains worked great, for a couple of weeks.  One Saturday, without warning and in the middle of an action flick, a great snap was heard, and the curtains hit the floor.  They were just too heavy for the standard metal rod that held the old, lightweight curtains.  Light flooded the room with the disorientating realization that it was not night, nor were we in a movie theater.

                I was interested in that, on one day’s reading in the One Year this week, we deal with the issue of curtains in both the New and Old Testament selections.  The reading from Exodus details the construction of the curtain that would surround the Israelites’ make-shift temple.  Matthew’s selection tells us how that same curtain was ripped apart when Jesus dies on the cross.  One story shows us the lengths to which man must go for a relationship with God, the other illustrates the lengths to which God will go for a relationship with man.  You see, God never wanted a curtain, but the people of Israel couldn’t handle an up-close experience with the Holy One.  They wanted Moses and Aaron to be their middle-men.  They wanted to go on with their lives in their own ways and deal with God only when they wanted something.  But God doesn’t want a surrogate relationship with us. He wants to know each of us face -to-face. 

                Eventually, something had to give.  That something was Jesus.  His death broke the need for a curtain, even though it had a purpose for a while.  Can you imagine the reaction of those worshipping in the temple when the curtain split?  God’s glory must have flooded in, disorienting them, letting them know that it was no longer night, that they were no longer on the outside of His presence. 

                Curtains can serve a great purpose, or they can keep us from seeing the light (figuratively speaking).  What curtains do we have hanging up in our souls?  What areas of our lives do we still close off from God or others for fear of exposure to the light? That curtain might have served you well for a while, but it is time to let it go.  Letting the light in might be shocking, even disorienting for a time, but it always lets us see more in the end. 

                How do we open curtains in our souls? Get the issue out in the open.  Talk to someone.  Pray.  Search out scripture on the issue.  Better yet, apply the scripture to the issue. 

                It’s time to let the light in.