Broken Pieces

 IMG_1063 Broken Pieces

One day while walking along the seashore, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for revealing himself in the dazzling light of day, the uniqueness of each sea creature, and the roar of the crashing waves. I then asked him to show me more.

As I made my humble request, I had visions of finding the perfect shell… perhaps a Conch or shiny, new Sand-Dollar. Instead, I felt God calling me to pick up only the broken pieces of shell on this special quest. Even as I wondered who in the world wants the broken ones, I felt God responding to my unspoken thought: “I do” came the simple reply. Why… I wondered as I gathered the broken pieces of shell that had been rejected, left behind, or discarded in place of something new…why would anyone want the broken ones?!!

God’s word came to me almost at once and I knew: The son of man came to save those who are last, least, lonely, and broken. “Those who are well have no need of a doctor!” (Matt 9:12 paraphrased) Thus, determined to obey, I gathered as many broken pieces of shell as I could find on this beautiful, sunshiny day. As I bent to pick up one final broken piece, I was treated to a burst of color and life only to discover a ladybug had made its way to the beach!

IMG_1068With my bucket now full of broken pieces of shells, I somehow knew there was but one thing left to do. Like a puzzle, I gathered all the broken pieces together and at last, I could see the Sand-Dollar I had hoped to find. Far from perfect, shiny, or new, this Sand-Dollar required putting each of the broken pieces together before I could truly recognize the beauty and poetry of its original design.

IMG_1281As I reflected on the meaning of this strange and wonderful Sand-Dollar find, another type of picture came to mind. With deep love, God sent his own Son from heaven above to gather us-the least, last, lonely, and “broken ones”- into one body where His life-giving Spirit “is in all and works through all.” (Eph 4:6; 1Cor 12:7 paraphrased) Through God’s call in Jesus Christ, we have gone from broken to chosen! Though we have many faces and represent many places, together in Christ, we become but a glimpse of God’s great love and amazing grace.United to reflect our Father’s heart, “Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body even though it is made up of many parts.” (1Cor 12:12)

The Buck Stops Here: Bitterness, Joy, and the Choice

Thanksgiving on the road 010

The Buck Stops Here:
“Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.”
(Proverbs 14:10)

“The buck stops here”…this was my first thought as a buck literally stopped directly in front of me along a hiking trail one morning. Although I can’t say exactly who was more startled, I can tell you that it was a moment I won’t soon forget for a couple of reasons. First, at the time, I wasn’t a “happy camper”- no pun intended.  Shortly before our camping trip, I had fractured my foot in several places thus limiting my activities due to the constraints of a huge shoe boot. Even as I hobbled down the path on this particular morning, I was asking God to deliver me from the temptation to cast blame for my predicament in addition to protecting my family from the rising poison of my own bitterness. The ugly truth is I was feeling sorry for myself because while everyone else was having the time of their lives hiking, riding bikes, exploring, etc. – I could only watch from a safe distance. Secondly, it is not every day you find your ramblings to God interrupted by the sudden appearance of a buck. I was hardly finished praying; yet, the message was clear enough: the buck stops here! “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10)

In this moment, God reminded me that it is not our circumstances that define us as much as how we choose to respond to them. As we turn our attention from ourselves to Him, God is more than well able to transform our bad attitude into one of gratitude.

Along with a new attitude, my prayer time brought to mind some wise counsel I once heard: “Ultimately, we can choose to be bitter or better. Note there is only one letter difference between the two. Those that become bitter focus on the “I” – I should have, I could have, and I feel sorry for myself. Whereas those determined to become better will focus more on the “E”- Emmanuel- God is with us.” God promises to be with us in every circumstance and then leaves the choice in how to respond up to us: “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10) Choose joy!