Deane's Blog

When you think you can’t change….

Deane Watters2 Comments

I have an opinion about something in my life that I wish was different. Owning this perspective often, I find myself grumbling about it. Well, I don’t complain out loud. It is mostly in my mind. As an irritant, it seems to reach up and rub against fear and anger in me, reminding me that it is still alive and well. This troublesome thing has been around a long time and when the right situation presents itself, I can feel it in an instant.

Why have I put up with this attitude for all these years?

Well, I guess I’d have to admit that in my mind, I’m not the problem. It is clearly someone else’s deal. So I’m waiting and looking for change… but not in me.

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Jill Briscoe, teaching from Lamentations 3, told a story in which I deeply resonated. She shared that when their children were young, her husband had to travel a lot. She resented the fact that she was basically having to raise their children by herself. She fussed, asking questions like: Why does my husband have to be gone so much? Why do my children have to be the ones without their dad? Why do I have to be home all the time without him?

She realized her attitude was not healthy. She knew her position needed to change but she couldn’t find her way to transform it on her own. Her husband’s job included travel; that was not going to become different. So she realized that the only way her heart was going to align with what she knew was right, was to ask God to do it.

So she carved out a few hours of solitude and talked with God about it. She realized that her situation was the yoke He had put upon her. She was resisting and resenting it, even though she knew it was from Him. So she cried out to God asking Him to change her heart and she planned to stay right there with Him until He did!

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him…

Lamentations 3: 25-28

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Many times I have spoken the words, “God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” We cannot save ourselves, so God sent Jesus to do it for us! Yes, I totally believe that. But how does God make the changes in us that we need to make? Jill asked God to do for her what she had been unable, up to that point, to change by her own self-will.

God met her. She stayed in silence until He settled her heart and peace came. After those hours with God, Jill found herself no longer resenting her husband’s absence. Joy came and a willingness to bear the yoke that had been put on her shoulders. God did it. She couldn’t and she didn’t.

So when I confront the source of my angst, I realize that the change I seek is really not in someone else but rather within my own heart. I can fuss about how slow He is in changing the other person, but I am convicted that I am the one who needs to accept the yoke that has been placed on my shoulders. Perhaps I’ve been focusing my attention in a place that is not mine to focus. I am saying, “Look in the mirror, dear. Ask God to bring rest to your squirming irritation under the yoke He so clearly placed on your shoulders.”

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

I’m not sure what I have always thought Jesus was talking about in this verse, but it certainly becomes clearer in light of Jill’s story. Wherever God has placed us, there we are, and we can squirm and complain, or we can ask God to fill us with such love and trust, that the angst will fall away in light of His absolute wisdom.

What about you? Is there something needling your soul, triggering you to complain and resist a situation in which God has clearly placed you?

Let’s stop, you and me, and let’s take time to come to God and own-up to our uncooperative attitude and admit we have been unable to make the changes we know need to be made. He will, in his best timing, meet us and do the work only He can do. We need to let him.

I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to let go and be free! How about you?

Glimpses of Pink

Deane Watters4 Comments

Usually, now, during my morning quiet hour, the skies are dark. I ignite a candle, turn on a soft lighted lamp, pore over a verse or two and speak out heartfelt prayers for those I love. While jotting down words in my journal I slowly sip on my first cup of hot, dark roast coffee. Usually, I’m not finished with all I want to do at this desk before it’s time to meet my two hard-walking friends to begin our morning hour together. But I go anyway.

Today was different. It was dark when I shuffled to my desk but my friends are out of town so I lingered there, settling into the warmth of quiet prayer. I thought of our family: one in Minneapolis, six in Costa Rica and three here in town. I love to bring them to God each morning asking that He would grow within them a deep awareness of His presence. There is another little girl I’m praying for too. I don’t know her but she is healing from a traumatic brain injury and my heart has been deeply involved in talking with God about her. I’ve joined up with “Eva’s Army” praying for her just as I pray for my own grandchildren, about her same age.

Little Eva loves the color pink and people around the globe have been Instagramming glorious pink sky photos as an encouragement and a reminder to pray for her. The pink sunrise or sunset reflects thousands of people’s prayers that little Eva be restored to full health.

As I wrote and talked with God this morning I happened to look up to the sky outside my window. Of course, it is always dark! But today I had stayed a bit longer. As my eyes lifted, there, in the west, a gentle pink sky rested quietly behind puffy gray clouds. I’ve seen many glorious pink sunrises and plenty of stunning pink sunsets, but this one did not have any fanfare with it. The pink-reflected beauty from a sunrise I could not see was quite comforting somehow. When I looked to the east it was dark gray. When I looked again to the west, the pink was already starting to fade.

What am I to make of my glimpse of this pale, understated, reflected beauty?

I believe there is so much more to know about God. Right now I just see reflected beauty but one day we will see Beauty personified and He will be glorious. Somehow the glimpse of that pink sky reassured me that God is here, now. He sees, knows and loves us and longs for all to be fully restored. That is why He sent Jesus.

So I pray. I ask God to give us the trust needed to live a life of faith. My family, my little pink-girl-prayer-focus, and even my own heart need reminders and continual reassurances because uncertainty remains. But, thankfully, there is plenty of room for wondering! While spending time with what God has given us, we find comfort and courage because the One who loves us is so patient:

  • “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16a)

  • This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son... (1 John 4:10)

  • Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…" (Romans 8: 1)

  • He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8)

  • Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

  • For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

    When things feel shaky, you and I can rest with these truths while trusting, watching and waiting. While we stay, let’s keep our eyes open for glimpses of pink as a reminder that in this small physical way, God is showing us that He dwells in His people and is steadily doing His work while faithfully keeping His promises.

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When You Need a Hand to Hold

Deane WattersComment
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After playing at the small neighborhood playground for an hour or so, it’s time to head home. We four adults, grandson, Oliver, and little black curly haired dog, Moby, make our way up the street. It’s late afternoon and the sun is low behind the cozy houses along the way. As we approach the street we need to cross, Oliver’s dad reminds the two-year-old that it is time to hold his hand. Oliver, always thinking, looks at his dad with a smile and immediately grabs his own hand. Greg quietly laughs and tells his little guy that holding his own hand doesn’t work in this situation; he needs to hold his daddy’s hand.

I smile at the innocence that enables this little guy to think that holding his own hand will keep him safe.

Thinking about it later though, I realize that holding one’s own hand is a practice that really could save someone from being hit by something dangerous and bring safety to an unperceived threat.

For example, one time I went shopping with a friend to a jewelry store, to help him pick out a ring for his girlfriend. It was a surprise, of course, because he was going to have the ring in hand when he proposed to her. Later in the day, when we were all together, I accidentally mentioned that we had been in a jewelry store! Oh my goodness, I was appalled that I had let this little bit of information slip. For the rest of the day I was incredibly embarrassed and angry with myself. Shame quickly came and camped out on my shoulder insisting that I agree about how inadequate and incompetent I was. Oh yes, “stupid” slipped in also.

What I really needed in that situation, instead of a royal ranting and relentless lecture, was the wisdom to hold my own hand. Even though this was not a major issue, I became a war zone to my own soul, rejection spewing sour and putrid.

Grace is what I needed for the 20 something girl who was me. One who was incredibly shy, who spoke before thinking it through. I needed grace for a silly slip of the tongue. A deep breath and a clear thought would have told me it was OK…that I was OK. My friend quickly offered the forgiveness I sought but I didn’t even think to apologize to myself for my angry and accusing thoughts.

Susannah Conway writes in, This I Know, “When you know you can rely on yourself, no matter what, you can do anything. Go anywhere. Make magic happen in your life, because you have an ally in your corner who’ll always cheer you on. who will believe in you and mop your brow before you head back out for round two.”

Through books like Conway’s and through healing work and scripture, I realized that

  • If God is for me, I will not be against me.

  • If God is for me then I will be for me too.

  • If God so loved me, then I will so love me too.

  • Who am I to call inadequate who God has declared a part of his handiwork? (Ephesians 2:10)

    Realizing this truth was a deep revelation and a gentle light to my soul, as I slowly gave myself permission to love the me that God created and loves. Sure, I make mistakes, but I recognize the need to jump quicker to be kind to myself.

  • This love for myself is NOT because I am so great… far from it. It is because God is so good.

Have you ever thought to hold your own hand? To say to yourself, “I am going to be on your side, quick to be patient with you, understanding and kind.”

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The beautiful thing is, like Oliver, I have a Father who stands with me. He is ever- present, His hand on my back, ever-ready to guide me “across the street.” This Advocate, who loves me perfectly and who has much more power and authority, stands with me to tell shame to skedaddle. And it has to leave, because who can stand against One so full of such a powerful love?

Like Oliver, I need to know that I can stand by my own side, because I am always in the shadow of my Father’s protection. Every day I pray that Oliver will be wise as he grows to know that, like his daddy, his Heavenly Father is with him, offering him a hand of grace, forgiveness and love. I pray that for myself as well.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

A Handful of Pearls

Deane Watters4 Comments

We had just finished an extraordinary afternoon with men, women, and children of the church deep in the African bush. God’s Word had been shouted out and they had received it with joy, clapping and laughing. In the midst of all the dancing and eating, thank you’s were said and gifts were generously given. The day was ending and we were starting our long, three and a half hour, drive back to town.

As we drove off, I thought about how these people had suffered. Surviving a terrifying cyclone four months earlier, their losses were still numerous. Their homes had been destroyed, their belongings were scattered and most everything had been lost. Life was hard here in the bush. We had offered them the hope of God’s love, some food for their hungry stomachs and blankets to warm them through the cold nights.

As we drove away, the people we had just ministered to were standing on the side of the path waving and thanking us. My husband spontaneously opened his window and tossed out a triple strand necklace of shiny white pearls into the unknowing crowd. (see note below) One pair of dark hands reached up, out of the stifling musky afternoon air, and caught the unexpected gift.

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Paying attention landed one woman an unanticipated treasure!

In the middle of her extremely difficult life, a precious item came her way and she reached up and grabbed it.

I thought of my mother, in the midst of harsh circumstances also, as she heard about the saving kindness of Christ. In desperation, her eyes were opened and she reached up and grabbed a handful of grace that started a legacy of forgiveness in the lives of her children, her husband, and many others, even to this day. Paying attention secured for her this incredible treasure!

I have a friend who is enduring excruciating pain in the midst of a shattered relationship, yet, as she prays, she finds, “God is certainly moving in me,” because she believes “God changes lives and softens hearts and makes all things new.” Pearls, every one of them. Unexpected. Given in the midst of desperate sadness.

Even in Jesus’s time on earth, precious truths were offered and taken, without knowing the outstanding consequences.

Like in John 4 where one day a Samaritan woman came to draw water from Jacob’s well. She was standing there doing her ordinary task on an ordinary day. But this day proved to be anything but ordinary. As she reached down to draw that common-ordinary water, a man, Jesus, asked her if she would give him a drink and then offered her a drink of living water.

A handful of pearls. Would she recognize it and catch them? Or would they fly and land in the dirt?

She did look up, saw that something beautiful was being offered and eagerly replied, “Sir, give me this water!”

Treasure, right there at Jacob’s well.

This morning while penning thoughts in a journal, my heart ached for dear ones in need of a handful of precious treasure, something good, anything to redeem the piercing pain. There’s the one struggling with intense sadness, and the one who’s daughter is fighting for her life. Grief overwhelms another and her thoughts are full of wondering about God as she allows the sorrow to do its work. A loving mother prays for her sons who have rejected their faith and the God who loves them. Struggling to feel loved and known by her husband and her God, another friend tires of the questions. A friend rejects a friend. A worker hates her job; another quits because the place is so toxic.

Darkness. Sadness. Fear. Anger

These feel like poison, terrifying and ugly, not pearls on a string, beautiful and adorning.

But John 1:5 says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Out of the darkness the Light of the world dropped from the Hand of The Giver. The answer to our darkness came to earth and those with eyes to see reach up and receive the strands of grace, wondering at such an unexpected gift. How is it that I am one to receive?

Ann Voskamp writes, “Who knows why God allows heartbreak, but the answer must be important enough because God allows His heart to break too.”

And look at what happened!

God’s heartbreak led to the salvation of mankind! Out of that darkness the Light came screaming through the dimensions and into our lives. Grace. The Treasure, given.

What is breaking your heart today? Does the way appear to be dark, the path unclear, the agony unbearable?

I wonder if, perhaps, an unforeseen deeper goodness or truth might be flying your way.

Let’s wait for it, keeping alert. Sometimes we just have to lift our hand and grasp the pearls spontaneously thrown and hold the treasure close to our hearts in thankfulness for the grace so beautifully and unexpectedly given.

I can just imagine that dear African woman waking in her grass hut each morning. Is she putting on her white shiny strands of pearls while feeling amazed at the gift and at how beautiful they make her feel?

Perhaps undeserved, unexpected, unsolicited grace adorns, in the same way, those who have eyes to see and hands to grasp these truths close to their hearts.

(Note: Brian did not usually drive around Africa with pearls in his pocket. That day he had used a necklace, donated by a friend here in the USA, to illustrate a talk he shared with the men about the kingdom of God. He had also used them earlier in our trip in sermon he preached at Savane, another bush church.)