Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If You Are Wise

I read James 3 this morning.
I expected to be slammed by the things James says about our tongues,
and certainly I did once again take note of them
in hopes of pushing them further into my heart.
From the time I was a child, I knew I was guilty in the face of this passage.
Perhaps if my tongue took a key to unlock,
I would pause long enough to hold it when I should.

But it was verse 13 onward that opened in my mind today.
"If you are wise and understand God's ways,
prove it by living an honorable life,
doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom."
Some translations call it meekness.
Wouldn't you almost think that wisdom and knowledge
would make you bold and brash?
According to the Scripture, it brings humility with it.
Because really, understanding God's ways
will make me more ready to submit to them.
And wisdom will recognize my own past foolishness.
My lack of understanding that led to the experiential knowledge, perhaps.

"Jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom," it says.
"Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition,
there you will find disorder and evil of every kind."
O Lord -- banish it from among us!

"The wisdom from above is first of all pure."
Clean. Innocent. Modest.
Jealous motives and selfishness are not its motivators.
It doesn't operate to protect me and my kingdom.

"It is also peace loving, gentle... and willing to yield to others."
It loves peace.
It is not hoping for a fight.

"It is full of mercy and good deeds."
This mercy is compassion that acts.
When we lack compassion, we are quick to judge.
We think the worst of other people's motives.
But compassion is quick to feel their pain.
To recognize fear or loneliness or aching hearts
in the actions of others.
It pities and prays and offers a hand,
instead of whispering.

"It shows no favoritism and is always sincere."
The world is a dangerous place to be sincere in.
But it is such a refreshing thing in a world full of lies.
There ought to be no question in our minds
when we are with other believers about their sincerity.
There ought to be genuineness and reality in our interactions --
an honesty about who we are,
not little intrigues and manipulations,
and party loyalties.

"And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace 
and reap a harvest of righteousness."
O Lord; open our eyes to ways in which we can plant peace,
and harvest righteousness.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

His Marks Will Cover The Whole

In between daytime and nighttime trips to an observatory for my son's birthday, we stopped to explore the Maryhill Museum. The grounds were beautiful, and I always enjoy looking at art, and the Native American artifacts drew our attention, too. Especially the waterproof parka sewn from seal intestines, and the intricate beadwork with its vivid depictions of flowers and animals.

But we wandered into a display of pottery made by Ken Standhardt that resembled basketry, and had a video playing showing the artist's technique, and that stopped me for awhile. What is it about the process of art that moves me so? I watched as the potter shaped and roughly centered the clay, as he moved it to suit his will, and gave grace to a blob, and symmetry to dirt, and made it into something beautiful. The pot's shape was complete, symmetrical, its future clearly marked out in its form. But he cut it from the wheel, and set it on a shelf. "He is preparing the surface for his mark," the narrator said.

You see, it wasn't ready. It was a pot, and it had purpose, but it was not able to receive the impression he wanted to put on it. It needed to dry out for awhile. It needed the texture of leather before he could mark it. Have you ever felt like you've been set down, and left to dry for awhile?

His tool was a can opener. Mainly. He also used a ball point pen. What common things press my soul, and leave a mark? In His hands, any instrument can work together for my good. Does it feel like He makes the same mark over and over again? But I wanted variety, and uniqueness in the outcome. And again, I feel the same shape pressed into me. Over and over, again and again. And I am supposed to yield. Trust Me: don't be afraid. Trust Me: don't be afraid. I need to mark this side, now. Trust Me: don't be afraid.

The designs he pressed into the pots were mesmerizing. He said people asked him how he got them so perfect, when he had no plan and didn't measure before he began to press his tool in the clay. "There's plenty of imperfection in each individual impression," he said. But the overall body of the work appeared perfect. How often I feel the individual marks made in my life have imperfection in them. But He is the potter, and I am the clay, and in the end, His marks will cover the whole.

You can watch him work here.