A New Leaf

Ponderings in Changing Seasons


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On RULES … Crayons and Coloring Books

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Splatter!  My crayons spilled out of their box onto the floor beside my desk.  “Oh, what a pretty flower!” exclaimed David Sullivan.  Funny Boy!  I giggled!

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We were only 7.

Mrs. Watkins told me to put them up back in the box and get into line for Lunch.  Girls were leading;  Boys, following.

After Recess, we colored pictures.  I was chagrined to see that several of my crayons had broken in the fall.  I was careful to use only the ones that were intact.  I didn’t like the broken ones.  I needed the black one, but since it was one that was broken, I used the navy blue.  A small tear fell from my eye as I thought about my whole box of Crayolas: ruined!

Flash forward to College.  In studying to become an Elementary Teacher, we took Art.  The Professor, who loved children and loved her students, encouraged each of us to find ourselves in artistic expression.  One class, I’ll never forget.  She encouraged us to break the Crayon Rules:  to break our crayons … and to strip off the paper around them.  Horrified at the thought, my mind flashed back to Second Grade and my “pretty flower”!

Obeying her lead, however, I exposed the bare crayon.  I began to explore ways I could use a crayon besides coloring in the lines in a coloring book.  The most fun:  turning the Crayola on its side, making big swipes of color in the pastel streaks of a morning sky.  Amazing!  How the waxy color took on depth and hue so different.  I used my fingers to rub a bit on the colors on the page, blending the edges into transition from blue to lavender to pink to yellow.  On the edge of the sky, I applied more yellow to intensify the moment just before the sun’s golden orb emerges on the horizon.

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This simple, yet complex discovery led to more discoveries about the function of Rules!

RULES.  So important to bring order and predictability to our lives.  RULES.  No society can long endure without them.  RULES.  They make a family secure.  RULES. Language, our communication with one another follows them.  RULES.  They set safe boundaries around us all.

BUT.  What happens when we break the rules?  Might there be any good reason to break a rule?  Ever??

Rebels will posture:  Weren’t RULES made to be broken, after all?

BUT.  We’re not rebels here.  Only children, exploring the extent of the boundaries.

Looking to see what lies beyond.  How far can we stretch?  Our minds.  Our bodies.  Our lives.  What if … ?

Jesus always moved with purpose and design.  Nothing He did was random or careless.  Once, He and His Disciples were hungry.  It was on the Sabbath.  As they passed a wheat field, they stopped and partook of some wheat heads to quell the rumblings in their stomachs.  CAUGHT!  Breaking the RULES!  

The Rule?  Do no work on the Sabbath.  The Second Commandment:  Honor the Sabbath and keep it Holy.  Apparently, breaking off a few wheat heads amounted to work:  Breaking the RULE of the Sabbath!  Expediency for Jesus trumped the “Fence Rule” that the Pharisees had derived from the Commandment.  Honoring the Sabbath, as Jesus impatiently pointed out, has to do with honoring God, His Holy Day.  He doesn’t ask of us to go hungry.  Who doesn’t cook or prepare a meal … or have one prepared for you on the Holy Day?

Another time, Scripture tells us that David and his men were also very hungry.  They were on the run from King Saul.  The most convenient food available was the shewbread in the Temple.   So, they partook.  Well, you’d think they’d eaten the Holy of Holies Itself.  What an offense to the priests of the Temple.  The offense was to man, however, not to God.

Or, how about you?  When you’re baking and you’re lacking a specific ingredient?  Do you not break the rule and use something else in order to break bread together in a timely way?

There are so many rules that drive our world.  There are rules for driving, rules for eating, rules for fashion – work, sports, relaxing.  There are even rules for health and for happiness.

God made each of us unique.  Some of us show our colors best from the side.  We are display of His Handiwork.  We were made to grow, to change, to expand our influence and impact.  Sometimes, we just have to BREAK THE RULES to become fully who He created us to be.

We’re not talking about immoral here.  Or, illegal.  We’re talking about not being such a rule follower that we are scared to get out of the mold that confines us, that keeps us stuck in the mire of regrets or the fear of changing because of what lies ahead.

We’re talking about living outside the box, living large, because that is precisely what He created us to do.  He created us to be creative!  His is a mobile, a fluid creative work in each of us.  In the Psalms, 104:30, I find a cry that echoes within my being:  Send forth Your Spirit, and we shall be [continuously] created, and renew the face of the earth.

And in John 10:10 He tells us that He intends we have Life and Life MORE ABUNDANTLY.  That, my friends, is what our Creator, Sustainer God wants for each of us.  Not a life of rule-keeping, but an expansive, generous, scandalously lived and loved Life.  

Scandalous!  Does that shock?  It doesn’t God because He Himself Loves scandalously, which means NOT counting the cost, but rather giving without reserve.

God’s Grace and His Mercy toward us is scandalous!  It defies logic and common sense.  IT BREAKS ALL THE RULES.

Read Hosea this week, a short book late in the Old Testament, tucked between Daniel and Joel.  Think of yourself as Gomer.  And remember how Hosea stayed the course with her out of his scandalous commitment, his unwavering love not even so much for Gomer as for his God.

Then, grab some crayons, break them up, color your life expansively, generously, scandalously, because You are made IN GOD’s IMAGE!

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Part 2: Uprooted … Untangled … and Rearview Mirrors

“There’s a butterfly inside, at the window,” my husband exclaimed.  “It’s the middle of November!”  Did it ride in on a plant, a chrysalis opened in the warmth, premature, but living out the life cycle of worms to butterflies?

Watching this yellow, fragile being with dots on each wing now for several days, no bigger than the bend in my forefinger, it stirs me.  It challenges my preconceptions, my notion of butterflies.  We’ve had many a mosquito surface in the house as late as January, but never a butterfly ~ in November!.

DSCN0281I put out some syrupy nectar in a little dish with flowered pictures.  And another dish with some fresh water.  Perhaps this tiny creature, out of place and time in our home, will survive a bit longer.  It doesn’t seem to notice.

The Word of God describes us a foreigners in an alien land.*  This place, this Earth, is not our home.  We are here only briefly, as I expect this tiny creature with gossamer wings will be. Yet, in the span of seventy, maybe less or more years, we have opportunity to partake in a glorious journey.

We enter naked and unencumbered, or so it seems.  Not exactly so, because we enter, carrying specific genetic predispositions.  In our DNA lies certain prescriptions for appearance and for being.  Along with genetics, there are generational influences and inhibitions that root into the soil of our ancestors’ choices.

Our human state calls forth from our God a Jealousy.

These lyrics sung by Misty Edwards echo in my mind:

He is jealous for me.  Loves like a hurricane.  I am a tree, bending beneath His Love and Mercy.  And all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by Glory.  And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your Affections are for me.

Oh, how He loves us so. Oh, how He loves us.  How He loves us so!

Genetics, Generational stuff, and a God who is Jealous for me!

His is the path to freedom, to axe laying, to uprooting and untangling patterns and habits and issues of the heart and mind that hold a person in bondage.

 *   *   *   *   *

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Glance in the Rear View mirror of your car.

What do you see?  Don’t read the Warning while you drive that “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” or it may distract you.  But, there’s a valuable lesson related to our Roots and Entanglements in the picture and in the warning.  We must look both in the rear and the side view mirrors.  We need to know what is following us, what lies behind us.

Simultaneously, we must be focused on what is ahead of us, what we view through the windshield and out the side windows.  It takes practice and skill to do this well whether driving ~ or living out our lives.

Ignoring what is behind us, our past, our roots, leaves us vulnerable to be blind-sided by what we did not see.  Likewise, if we are not looking at what is around and ahead of us, our future ~ our dreams and goals and plans ~ can be thwarted.  If we do this, ignore either one, we sabotage our own growth and development.

Three words can lay the axe to unhealthy, unsafe, unproductive roots:

CHOICE               CHURCH            CHANGE  

The Creator God, the pre-Existent One who spoke all Creation into existence, prescribed a seed to be the basis of life.  From each unique seed grows a specific individual.  Each follows after its own kind.  When it comes to human beings, we alone among all of God’s Creation have been given the power of CHOICEWhat a privilege and an awesome responsibility we have.

We can choose to allow old roots to gnarl around our hearts, to entangle our minds with distraction, discontentment, and discouragement.  We can choose to entertain ourselves, a means of distraction, with the world’s animated messages about the source of human significance and self-promoting ambition.  Or, we can choose to immerse our hearts and minds in the Truth of the Scriptures.  These Truths declare that in God YOU are loved unconditionally, embraced by Grace and upheld by Mercy; there is a Truth that reveals that people can choose Life over Death and that people can change, that they can tear down generational strongholds for themselves and for generations to come.

How do we hold the Hope, maintain the momentum, that these Truths impart to our wanton hearts?  How do we encourage ourselves and go forward when much that is welling up within are old lies and roots that confuse and entangle?

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We are created to seek Fellowship, to abide in Community.  We need each other.  Alone we are vulnerable and vacant.

Alongside fellow journeyers, fellow axe-swingers, we need to be filled and refilled.  CHURCH is the very place Jesus built to create and nurture that kind of Fellowship. Not merely a building, but composed of erring human beings the Church will never be perfect. However, it is the most suitable place on earth to learn about and to grow into the person He gifted us to be.  Rooted in the Word of God, the Truths proclaimed and processed in the community of the Church expose destructive roots and nurture constructive roots.

Finally, CHANGE.  Unless we purpose in our hearts to change our minds filled with many faulty beliefs, to do the hard work, the sometimes grueling work of change, it will not happen.  We can be saturated with Truth, but until we activate it in our own lives, it will lie dormant much as batteries within a flashlight.  The power is there, but until the switch is moved, there is no light.  Without recognizing that we have a CHOICE and that we need the CHURCH, the strength of fellow root-choppers, we will likely find we are stuck in the dark along with our deep-lying roots.

Some need intensive care along with intensive work to uproot.  Discouragement is often part of the change process.  Find and seek counsel from those who understand Roots.  Seek out those who are farther along in their own journey of axe-laying to assist you.  The Scripture says that You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.**  It is only the Truth we KNOW that sets us free.  We are created to be BUTTERFLIES, not lowly worms!

This path calls for courage and leads to CONTENTMENT, to FREEDOM and FULFILLMENT.  It is a narrow, yet well-worn path.  It becomes sweeter and smoother the further you go.

Along the path is a signpost that says, “A Quiet Environment promotes Healing.”  Be still and know that He is God!***  Take a few moments now in quiet and solitude to prayerfully consider what Roots our God wants to upRoot and remove in your life.  Then purpose to change, to do whatever is necessary to become FREE.

* Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 11:13

** John 8:32

*** Psalm 46:10