What’s in a Name?

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body, she was filled with grief and frustration. She arrived at the tomb at first light, but it was empty. Jesus was gone. The others went home disappointed, but Mary lingered, longing to know what had happened to the body of her beloved Lord.

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;  and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). John 20:11-17 NASB

This passage has always tugged at my heart, but it touched me even more deeply this Lenten Season as I witnessed the power of love in a new light. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus, but that isn’t surprising. None of us see what is right before our eyes, especially if it is something we are not expecting to see.

Henry Cavil, the actor who plays Superman in the new movie, stood in Times Square under a giant advertisement for Superman vs Batman wearing a tee shirt with the Superman logo on the front. His face was in lights above him, but no one recognized him. He was responding to criticism about Superman’s trademark disguise. Critics pointed out that glasses would never be enough to hide Superman’s identity from those around him. The experiment proved superman didn’t even need glasses; he could easily hide in plain sight because people do not see what they are not expecting to see.

Mary asked the man she thought to be a gardener what he had done with the body. He simply said, “Mary!,” and suddenly her world was changed forever.  One of the most powerful moments in the Bible, for me, is when she utters, “Rabboni.” She wanted to embrace Jesus, but He bid her not to come near because He had not yet ascended to His Father. Like Mary, I am beautifully changed when someone speaks my name in love. Being known heals and makes my heart whole. No one knows that better than God, and Mary learned its power that morning at the empty tomb.

The first time my son uttered the syllables “ma ma,” my heart melted into a puddle. The first time my granddaughters called me “Gigi,” my heart went to a new level of love. The children in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class call me “Gigi” when I visit or volunteer, and that fills my heart with joy. They squeal with delight each time they see me at school or out in the community. They act as though it’s been years since they’ve seen me. That delight is what love is all about, and it never gets old.

God delights when He hears His children say His name with love, but His heart is broken when His name is used to justify violence or spread hatred. His greatest desire is to be with us, and to know that we know how much He loves us. When we say His name and the names of those around us in love, His kingdom comes, and His will is done.

A name spoken in love brings joy into the world, and that is what Easter is all about What’s in a name? Everything!!

Happy Easter 🙂

 

 

 

Unpacking My Heart

My dreams this week have been unlike any I can remember. Like folders neatly stored in a box, they have come in simple succession. Each contained a small bit of history or a memory long forgotten, and each was very pleasant. I’ve dealt with recurring nightmares that contained trauma too difficult for daylight, but these mundane little memories were simple scenes that left me wondering what to make of them. God used a tapestry to remind me to enjoy each and not ponder hidden meanings.

I overthink, overlove, overeat, and overdo; so God’s message made me smile as I enjoyed the memories the dreams brought to the surface. There are many opinions when it comes to the meaning of our dreaming, but I agree with the notion they are meant to help us heal and move forward.

“In the 1980’s, Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift took the work of Ann Faraday and further explored the relationship between images produced in dreams and the dreamer’s waking life. Their books identified patterns in dreaming, and ways of analyzing dreams to explore life changes, with particular emphasis on moving toward healing and wholeness.” (Wikipedia)

I’m not an expert when it comes to dream interpretation, but I have found great healing in dealing with recurring nightmares in the past, and I am finding sweet solace in the simple dreams of the past week. When I downsized before moving, I had to go through the painful process of letting go of things that were dear to me. It wasn’t an easy process, but the results have been amazing. I am moving forward, unencumbered and free.

I found healing and wholeness packing and unpacking all those boxes, and the simple dreams this week have unpacked my heart in the same manner. My sister, Ann, made a tapestry for me years ago that I have above my desk. It reads:

“We shared many secrets,

the same Mom and Dad.

We shared lots of good times.

Don’t think of the bad.

Our memories we’ll cherish

with love without end.

I’m glad you’re my Sister.

I’m glad you’re my Friend.”

When I woke wondering about the deeper meaning of the simple dreams, I saw the tapestry and smiled. I needed to remember the good times, the simple times, the everyday and ordinary times. My heart has been deeply hurt by bad times and and shared secrets, but it is by good times and shared memories. God’s lesson for me this morning was to unpack those memories and savor each one.

When I got to the bottom of my heart, I found love expressed in thousands of moments which came to the surface in simple dreams. It was nice to unpack each, smile, and remember to focus upon the good times instead of the bad. I’ve allowed nightmares to define me, but God sent a new image with a series of sweet, simple dreams that paint a much more accurate picture of my heart.

Unpacking My Heart

Surgeon’s Scalpel

Hebrews 4:12-16 says God’s Word is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword. The word Paul uses describes an instrument very similar to a surgeon’s scalpel. There’s nothing sharper or more precise when it comes to cutting. Sharpness increases the precision and decreases the pain of an incision. I’ve never had surgery or seen a scalpel, but I know it is a powerful tool in the hands of a trained surgeon. It is designed to heal and help and so is God’s Word.

God’s Word isn’t a war sword or a butcher knife, but I’ve heard it used both ways. God’s Word, like a scalpel in skilled hands, cuts right between my soul and spirit. It separates the marrow from my bones, exposing my innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing is hidden from God, but He exposes those innermost thoughts and desires so I can see what He sees and begin to heal.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.(NLT)

Surgery is necessary when souls, spirits, minds, and hearts are hurting. Recovery is often difficult, but I can trust and relax in God’s capable hands. I can avoid His Word and keep hurting, or I can agree to let God heal my hurt. The choice is mine. Surgeons and God both know better than to operate on a moving, uncooperative target. Patients must be ready and willing before they can begin to help them heal.

Christ came to understand my weaknesses. He faced all trials I face and many more. He came away without sin so I could come boldly to God’s Word and let His Holy Spirit use it as an expert surgeon uses his scalpel. God’s mercy, grace, and love are unfailing, and His Word is more precise than the best laser or scalpel in the hands of the finest surgeon on earth. That makes me breathe a sigh of relief, relax into His Word, and let God do what He does best, heal.

Surgeon's Scalpel
Surgeon’s Scalpel

 

The Seasons of My Heart

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Winter usually fills me with dread, but I plan to relax and enjoy its slower pace this year. God showed me that every season has a purpose, and fruit only comes when my heart makes its way through each. Eccleciastes 3:1-8 says,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (KJV)

My heart has been through four seasons in the past forty-three years. Just as fall, winter, spring, and summer form a cycle of growth for plants, the fruit of my heart comes from dying, resting, awakening, blooming, and then beginning the process all over again.

I fell in love for the first time in the fall. I was very young, and it was a beautiful example of what God wanted for me. I wasn’t ready to be loved, so I let it slip away.

My thirty-year marriage was a cold winter that left my heart numb and unable to function as it should. A fairy tale romance unthawed my heart but left me mired in the mud of reality as my prince rode off into the sunset when I professed my love for him.

Summer brought flowers and promises of sunlight that warmed my heart and gave me hope. Fruit ripened but spilled its seeds onto the ground before the season came to an end.

I know love will grow again in my heart. Such is the cycle of growth, life, and love. Winter is the perfect time for fields to be fallow, and my heart is yearning to be fallow for a season.

God reminded me to be thankful for every season, relax into obedience, and let Him transform and heal my heart as only He can. I know there will be beautiful fruit in my future, and I don’t have to know more than that. I have tasted love’s sweet fruit, and I know I will again. I also know there’s nothing better than ice and rest for an aching heart.

My heart may be aching, but I know it is only for a season. Pete Seeger says it beautifully in “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

One Brief Moment

A Kid Again
A Kid Again

The following poem was in my room on Topsail Island. I can relate to the poet because the island takes me back to childhood and allows me to be the me God created me to be. I am so close to God on the island and feel a sweet sense of healing each time I go. My sister is a big part of the healing I find there. We play much as we did when we were children, and there is nothing better for my heart than finding that carefree kid in me “for one brief moment.” It carries me beautifully to the next summer.

There is an island at the edge of the great wide sea

That stands like a bridge to eternity,

Where a child long ago ruled and roamed

As conquering king and lord of the loam.

There from a dune he could look o’er to Spain

As he played in her sun and drank in her rain

With never a thought to the mainland’s cares

Or the march of time and the change of years.

Oh, but the secrets of those sands and place

Where plovers waltzed and blue crabs raced

And pelicans were all pterodactyls then

And every new face revealed a new friend.

A sand fiddler was more treasured than gold

And there was no sound sweeter than the waves on the shoal,

And every passing mast held a buccaneer’s sail

And every cloud that flew by was riding a gale.

Sometimes when the breeze blows ’round just right

And the moon shows up with his ole pal the night

With the whiff of hushpuppies riding the air

A veil covers time and once more I am there;

At that edge, by the sea where I long to be

Where the blue and the deep ever call to me,

And the wind still blows in from the distant Spain

And for one brief moment I find that child again.

TM

Worth the Effort?

Worth the Effort?I love searching for shells, smooth stones, and sea glass on Topsail Island. I keep my treasures on a wooden tray in my bedroom because the girls love playing with them. Looking at the shore for shells relaxes me as nothing else can. I love cleaning and sorting my stash because I wonder at the beautiful diversity before me. The entire process heals my heart and soothes my spirit.

I had to laugh while Edie and I were out searching. She’s younger and far more agile than I am, so she bends and stands back up easily. She was bending over, finding beautiful shells, and handing them to me at a rapid pace. I found myself watching her rather than the shore. I wasn’t getting my normal stress relief, but I was getting a kick out of her generosity. When I began pointing out shells and telling her to pick them up for me, she cut her eyes at me as only she can; but when she saw my grin, she knew I was messing with her. We both laughed and experienced an even better kind of stress relief.

Combing the beach takes a lot of effort; in fact, there are those who do it for a living. A decision has to be made in regard to each object in the sand. Is it really worth the effort bending over and picking it up with cost me?

God made it clear this week that He loves all His children and bends over backwards to pick up each and every one of them. He starts with the broken ones because they need His love the most, but He never wonders for a moment whether or not they are worth His effort. He knows they are!

I was humbled when I realized loving like God would mean picking up every tiny piece of shell on all the shores in the world. I couldn’t do that on one stretch of Topsail Island in a lifetime. I can, however, make an effort to pick up some of His broken children by being a loving presence in their lives. It takes effort, but it is worth bending my heart down and picking it back up again to experience the kind of love God desires for my heart. We wiggle out of His hands or bite like those pesky little gnats on the beach, but God picks us back up and loves us anyway. He always will, no matter what.

I could spend a lifetime searching for the perfect shell, but God knows I won’t find it if I pick up every shell on every beach in His world. They is no such thing as a perfect shell or a perfect person. He did, however, have one perfect Son, who made the effort to bend down in loving obedience so He could pick me up off the shore. I wiggle when I’m worried and bite when I’m angry, but He loves me anyway. He holds me especially close when I’m hurting because He understands my pain like no one else can.

I plan to tell Lilly and Mylah about all the shells, stones, and pieces of glass I found while at Topsail Island; but I want them to understand that shells, like people, need more love when they are broken. I think we’ll make a little shell hospital so we can wrap up the little hurt shells and give them the extra love they need.

Release & Restore

I didn’t realize when I started a new exercise class on Wednesday morning that God would use it to teach a very important lesson. The class, called Release and Restore, is designed to find and release stress in the lymphatic system. It involves using various balls, one with sharp spikes, to work out the tension in muscles and release built up toxins that cause soreness.

The exercises look innocent enough, and the music is meditative; but the pain that comes when the balls meet the stress is excruciating. I had the urge to scream, but my instructor bid me to relax, breathe, and push into the painful area. It’s a lot like the truth when it hits a spot in my heart. I want to cry, scream, and avoid the pain; but I know I can’t.

My muscles will never be sore if I don’t exercise, and my heart will never hurt if I don’t love. Both will atrophy and eventually feel nothing at all. My instructor is a beautiful young woman filled with lots of compassion. She looked at me with sympathy and said, “You didn’t realize you had so much tension, did you?” She was right; I didn’t, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know at that point.

The exercise class worked the tension out of my muscles and left me sweating and sore. God’s lesson worked the tension out of my heart and left me crying and tender, but both workouts left me breathing easier and understanding my need to heed the hurt in all my muscles. Since the heart is the strongest and most important muscle in my body, I have to pay very close attention to its sore spots. My exercise instructor is giving me the tools and techniques to help me work out the toxins and relieve stress in my body, and God is giving me the same for my heart.

The Holy Spirit is an amazing Instructor, and Christ’s precious love works God’s Word into my heart in a way that allows His grace and love to bring peace that’s even sweeter than the release I felt in my shoulders, hips, back, legs, and neck on Wednesday. God knows I am a visual learner who needs an object lesson, and He had a powerful one this week. I hope I remember to let Him release my pain and restore my heart every single day. If I should forget, I’ll get a powerful reminder every Wednesday morning from my new little blue friend 🙂

Spiky Ball