Goofiness

I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality.

“Dear Mom, thank you for your love, commitment, sacrifice, wisdom, and goofiness. You’re really great and I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.” 

I received the above message from my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day morning via social media. It surprised, but somehow delighted me to see that description “goofiness” listed with the more lofty and important qualities.  

I think I inherited the goofiness from my dad, who made silly faces at us kids to make us laugh, and when we were upset, he would point at our bellies and make a huge, dramatic process of warning us that there was a giggle bubbling up – “Watch out! Here is comes!” It never failed. One time he got a guerilla suit from somewhere and galloped all over the house in it, with us squealing and laughing behind him. Another time, when we were on vacation driving along country roads, he honked the horn had us all call out and wave to total strangers sitting on their porches “to give them something to talk about.” His joke telling is legendary.  

But I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality to be listed in the same sentence as love, commitment, sacrifice and wisdom. 

“You never know what actions on your part are going to have the most significant impact on the people around you. Something you do that seems utterly mundane could be the thing that completely changes another person’s life. More than that, it could be the thing by which you become known.” — Jonathan Wattsi  

Yes, you never know.  

Then we went to church and the pastor gave a wonderful message for Mother’s Day on “momma guilt.”ii All moms think that they are ruining or have ruined their kids’ lives because of perceived failures and lack. But he urged us to let go of that lie. He pointed to 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 to show that none of us is everything, but that each of us has a gift given by God.  

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable … 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 

I don’t think I got everything he was saying because I was hearing God say, “if all were serious and somber, where would the giggles be? The thoughtful and dignified cannot say to the goofy ones ‘I have no need of you.’ But the parts that seem weaker are indispensable.” We need a good laugh. We need silly faces and silly songs.  

And that means my more serious parts can’t say to my goofy part, you are not valuable; you are not significant. I tuned back in just in time to hear the pastor end with this antidote to momma guilt: 

  • You are gifted 
  • Embrace God’s gifts 
  • Thank God for your value 
  • Receive the grace of God 

I laughed and I cried as I thought of goofiness as a gift from God. And that my goofiness gave me value. Because I have had a lot of “momma guilt.” And I have struggled to trust my kids to God, trust that he knows what he is doing. But he has always known.  

So, I am embracing my inner goofiness as a gift from God. A grace. And that this mundane goofiness is valuable, it has impact on people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure what that impact might be (ha ha). But I am trusting God for that also, he who has arranged me this way, and whose gifts are good.  

  i  Morning Musing: Mark 6:56  https://the-nexus.blog/2021/02/16/morning-musing-mark-656/ 

ii Goodbye Momma Guilt, Pastor Troy Gentz https://youtu.be/-PwhzWncwPU?t=1737 

Image, photo of me and two of my granddaughters performing a parody of Baby Face (by Harry Akst, with lyrics by Benny Davis) that we called Poopy Butt.

Repair Our Souls

He restores (brings back home, retrieves, turns back, refreshes, rescues, relieves, returns, repairs)

my soul (my self, inner person, my identity, who I really am, my life, mind, living being, desires, emotions, passions, that which breathes within me)  Psalm 23:3a

Oh Lord, restore our souls. Bring us back home. Turn us back. Retrieve us from the hand of the enemy. Rescue us!

Repair our souls, we pray. Our broken identities. Our fractured thinking. Our mangled emotions, desires, passions. Breathe your breath into us again. Refresh, revive, resuscitate us!

Give us the mind of Christ.

Give us a heart to know you.

Give us a soul – a passionate desire – to love our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors.

Human Coins

You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God.

“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:22-25 (NASB)

In the New Testament we read this famous account of the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus with the question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. They knew that either way he answered, yes or no, he would be in trouble.

The Roman coins were considered idolatrous by the Jews because they had the image of Caesar on them and, also, because Caesar proclaimed himself god. So, if Jesus said yes, he would be breaking the Mosaic Law. If Jesus said no, he would be breaking Roman law and could be arrested. He answered by saying, look, this coin has the image stamped on it of the one who owns it – so give it back to its owner. But, he said, give to God what is his. What did he mean by that?

In Jesus’ time there was something called the Mishnah, an oral tradition of the wisdom of the rabbis. It was later written down. But these sayings would have been known to Jesus’ learned challengers who were trying to ensnare him. One teaching, comparing stamped coins with people, is pretty amazing when applied to Jesus’ answer:

The mishna teaches: And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. — Sanhedrin 38a:10

Applying this teaching you could say that we human beings are stamped with the image of God. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26). But unlike the Roman coins which were all stamped with the same image of Caesar, the stamps God puts on his human “coins” are all unique, revealing God’s inexhaustible power and creativity.

For we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

And when Jesus, pointing to the image, said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,” the teachers of the Law would have understood what he has saying to them. You have the image of God stamped on you. You are a human “coin” who belongs to God. Give that which is stamped with His image – yourself – completely to God. Give to Caesar what is stamped with his image.

This idea of human coins made me think of the parable that Jesus told of the woman who lost a coin and swept the house carefully, searching for it, until she found it. The insight of the rabbis gives this parable a totally different meaning for me, or a deeper meaning. Jesus told this story along with the parable of the lost sheep. Each human “coin” or “sheep” is precious to God, and he will tear the house apart, search high and low to recover one that is lost.

When an expert in the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:34-37).” That is giving to God what is God’s. But Jesus went further. He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He was commanding us to acknowledge the preciousness, the inestimable value, the unending diversity, and creativity revealed in the unique stamp of God’s image on each one of our brothers and sisters, each human coin, and love them – as God loves us.

 

Photo of Roman denarius by DrusMAX – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24408884

 

 

Buried Treasure

You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

I have always seen this verse interpreted, and thought of it myself, as us finding the treasure of Jesus. And then going off and selling all that we have and following him, like Jesus recommended to the “rich young ruler” in Matthew 19:21 (NIV).

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But this time, as I read Matthew 13:24-44, I saw something else. Previously, in these verses, Jesus is comparing his people, his chosen, as good wheat planted in a field (this world), and the “sons of the evil one” as weeds. What if the treasure found in the field is us too? What if the good wheat and the hidden treasure are the same? And what if the man who finds the hidden treasure and goes away and sells all he has to buy the field is Jesus?

Yes, I believe and know and am joyfully grateful that Jesus is my Treasure, my “Pearl of great price,” worth everything I am and own. But, I am seeing that I am his treasure too. The treasure he came to find. The treasure for which he gave up everything to buy back, to redeem. The treasure that he can rightfully claim as his.

… Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:13b-14 (NASB)

The Greek word translated “possession” in the above verse is periousios, which means peculiar in the sense of special, or one’s own. H. Preisker has written that “Christ’s work of redemption has created for God a people that is a costly possession or special treasure.”[i] A treasure for whom Jesus joyfully went and “sold” all he had, for whom he sacrificed all.

… who for the joy set before him endured the cross … (Hebrews 12:2)

.. who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 NASB)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

You were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV)

Can you see yourself as a special treasure? You who see yourself as buried, forgotten rubbish, good as dead, worthless, hopeless. Can you see yourself, not as buried waste, but as buried treasure? A treasure worth, to God, his very life. A treasure he has pulled up out of that hole in the ground. A treasure who has, through his death on the cross, been resurrected out of the grave to new life, new value, new hope. You, yes you, are his precious treasure.

“You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 (NIV)

 

Photo by Puuikibeach on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/DyTeW1

This post is also available as a Bible study, freely available for use at Buried Treasure Bible Study

 

[i] Preisker, Herbert, “periousios,” in Gerhard Friedrich, ed., and Geoffrey Bromiley, trans. and ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), VI, p. 57.

Identity

Accepting that I am beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving.

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16a

God has been speaking to me lately about identity, about my real identity as he sees me. About how a false identity, one built on lies, is like a cracked or crooked foundation, skewing my whole life.

“And His Word makes it clear: at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – Anne Voskamp[i]

My whole life I have given in and accepted other people’s definition, the world’s definition, of my identity pounded into me from birth – mangled, marred, not good enough, just not. But, thinking that way makes me an innocent victim, while in reality, as Tim Keller writes in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from Him.” The truth is hard to accept when you are chin-deep in self-pity.

“Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” — Søren Kierkegaard

Ouch! I don’t want to hear that. That listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying, martyrdom is sin. Accepting that I am beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way wrote that lies about her identity had “become like my own name engraved right onto me. Fraud. Phony. Not Good Enough.” Engraved right on me too. I have always felt like a fraud, a pretender. I think it comes from having to perform in the crazy, imaginary theatre of other people’s heads for so long. Like removing a regretted tattoo, this engraving has got to go.

God has engraved my real identity on the palms of his hands. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16a). I know that, in this context, this verse is about Israel, but I believe it is about all whom God loves. He has engraved me on the palms of his hands, a place that is always visible to Him. How can I not engrave His real identity into my heart?

Lover (Song of Songs 6:3)

Redeemer (Psalm 14:16)

My Life (Colossians 3:3)

Restorer (Joel 2:25)

And if I do that, I have to accept who he thinks I am, who he made me to be – beloved. That is hard for me, after a lifetime of self-rejection and even self-hatred. Still absorbing that – not only how he sees me but what does accepting that truth mean? Being open to what he wants to make of me.

“There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into His hands and let themselves be formed by His Grace.” –Ignatius[ii]

How can God form me if I have “set” myself rigidly in a mold of lies? I must be pliable as fresh, new clay. The old me must be broken up, must die, be made over. I feel that after 45 years I am just now beginning to realize – and to admit into the secret place of my soul – the breadth and length and height and depth, the passion, the zeal of God’s love for me. Words cannot contain and it will take eternity to grasp. Where my treasure is there is my heart and my true identity. Let Him be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value. Lord lift the veil over my mind and bring life-giving revelation of how you see me, how you see us all. Beloved child of God.

 

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way. P. 184.

[ii] Letter to Ascanio Colonna (Rome, April 25, 1543)

 

Love is My True Identity

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.  -Thomas Merton

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 3 (NASB)

And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5 (NLT)

Yes, Lord, fill my heart with your love. Let your love become my true identity, my name, my character. Let my life be hidden in you Jesus, let me live in love. May the world only see you and how much you love them when they look at me. May the words I say, the prayers I pray, the thoughts I think, the healing touch of my hands be yours – for you are Love.

 

Image copyright Jack Bair 2019

Accepting God Accepting Me

Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope. Zechariah 9:12a (NIV)

In our last Bible study at the jail we looked at the above verse. One of the sweet ladies commented that to her, “returning to the fortress” meant coming back to who God meant her to be. “Accepting God accepting me” is how she put it.

At first, I didn’t get it. Doesn’t “return to your fortress” mean returning to God? But I think she was on to something. Maybe part of returning to God is discovering who he is, his character and unfailing love. And once you know that – not what the world thinks or what you are afraid he is – but who he really is, his true character and identity, then you also know who you really are. Who you were meant to be. The loving Father loving you, his beloved child. The good Shepherd caring for you his little lamb. The hen who gathers her little chicks under her wings. Is this what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NIV)?

“For too long we’ve primarily associated repentance with someone pointing a finger at us and saying, ‘Behave!’ Here’s how I see it. Repentance is the hand of Jesus reaching out to us with the invitation to, ‘Become.’ Becoming begins with beholding God as he truly is (i.e. like Jesus). When a person catches a glimpse of the true and living God and they begin to really believe, they also begin to believe in the possibility of their life becoming far more than they ever imagined before.” J.D. Walt[1]

Concentrating on behaving can turn us into finger-pointing hypocrites. Concentrating on becoming, or being, makes us beloved children with our eyes turned adoringly to our Father. “That’s my Dad! I want to be just like Him.” And Jesus showed us how to do that. We can only truly become who we were always meant to be under the shadow of his wings, abiding in the Vine, following the Shepherd in his flock, with the Father’s loving, guiding hand upon our heads.

As J.D. Walt goes on to say, “Anyone who has walked more than a mile or two down this road knows that behavior has a way of taking care of itself when the Holy Spirit empowered process of becoming takes root.”

Yes. Accepting God accepting me. Return to your fortress, oh prisoner of hope!

 

[1] Taken from Don’t “Behave.” Become by J.D. Walt https://www.seedbed.com/step-19-dont-behave-become/?mc_cid=ad45fa3de2&mc_eid=27234cb1e3

Thank you to Ian Livesey for the photo of the lamb on Flickr.

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