Here’s a beautiful Psalm to reflect on today…
(Special thanks to my washing machine for prompting this book review. . .)
As I reached in to grab the wet sheets out of my washer this morning, I quickly realized that more than sheets had been bundled in the load. Not only were tiny bits of paper stuck to the linens, they also dotted the interior of the machine like spit wads.
It reminded me of my days as a middle school teacher- only these were slung into place by centrifugal force.
At first I thought I was finding the remains of a disintegrated receipt or paper towel, but when I pulled out a giant, mushy blob I realized what happened. My new book had been swept into the washer with the sheets.
The shredded, water-soaked casualty? The Wall Around Your Heart by Mary DeMuth
Mary is one of my favorite writers these days. We’ve had “friends of friends” connections for years since we are both represented by Christian Speakers Services and travel in speaker/writer circles.
(Believe me, Mary is light years beyond me in both categories. She is the kind of writer/speaker I aspire to be one day.)
We got to meet in person at The Declare Conference in Dallas back in August. Her words have been so moving to my heart for years that it made me teary eyed to stick out my hand to shake hers. I felt like I was in the presence of greatness.
She was kind enough to pose for a picture with me…
Time is at a premium these days, I am very, very, very selective of where I spend my reading time. I’m picky about my prose. With that said, Mary’s book grabbed me by the heart from the first chapter and I did not want to put it down.
(Although I obviously did put it down- on the bed- in the sheets.)
As I read Mary’s words, I wondered how she knew about some of my recent hurts and what I was struggling with these days. Her words spoke to places in my heart I didn’t even realize were walled up.
More importantly, Mary’s writing was giving me a new way to look at the Lord’s Prayer. Her insights gave me hope for a way of escape through shifting my perspective to a heavenly view of my tough circumstances. The Wall Around Your Heart was helping me focus on what God was doing in my heart (instead of wallowing in what was being done to me by others).
Along with my Bible, The Wall Around Your Heart was the only book I took along on my day of listening in a monastery last month. For me, that says a lot about the impact it was having. (I’ll write about that day in a future post.)
I hadn’t even finished the book when I found it’s remains in the washer this morning, so when saw it’s smushy, crumpled lump of remains, I was sad- but just for a moment.
You see, when Mary introduced the release of The Wall Around Your Heart at The Declare Conference, she very generously gave copies to all the conference attendees. (She’s not just a gifted writer, but a generous one.) I ended up with two copies (Hooray!)
If I didn’t, I would be headed lickedy split to a book store or logging onto Amazon to pick up another copy.
I won’t do that for many books, but this one was doing deep work in my heart- tearing down ugly walls. Because I’m an avid underliner, I was sad to lose all my colorful marks and dog-ears in my first copy of the book. Now, I plan to start over at the beginning and highlight at will.
I’ll also be more careful so that I don’t send this copy of the book through the wash. 🙂
You might want to pick up a copy of The Wall Around Your Heart and read it, too. Maybe it will help you see and pull down some walls that have been built up around your heart as well.
Oh, and just in case you wanted to know, here’s what came out of my lint filter once my sheets passed through the dryer…
Here’s a page from my watercolor travel journal created on our 2011 study tour of Israel.
It was a beautiful spring morning when we stopped just north of the Sea of Galilee at the Jordan River. Across the water we could see the hillside where Jesus fed 5,000+ people.
I’ll never forget how fabulous the wildflowers were in that area. (We were there in March, but I understand it’s not like that all year round.)
Our stop at this place reminded me that Jesus was all about fulfilling prophecy.
He was the Bread of Life in the flesh, yet on this remote hillside, He miraculously provided bread- and fish- to hungry people, many of whom would have been traveling through this exact region on their way to Jerusalem for Passover.
My time in Israel helped me see that where Jesus did things was just as important as what and when and how He did them. He had a heavenly perspective on the perfect “when, where, why, and how” of His ministry.
He also has a perfect heavenly perspective on the “when, where, why, and how” of my life.
Here’s the Bible passage surrounding the site of the feeding of the 5,000. . .
Matthew 14:15-2 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I can’t wait to take another group to Israel next year! Let me know if you want to join us.
My deadline involved the completion and delivery of a couple of home portraits. I was really proud of my self when I dropped off the paintings yesterday afternoon- that “Girlfriend-you’ve-got-it-goin’-on-so-pat-yourself-on-the-back” kind of proud.
(WARNING: “Proud of myself” is typically followed by a major thud. Read on. . .)
My embarrassment came when I received a text less than an hour later telling me one of the homes had the wrong brick color- the house I delivered was painted tan (see it above) while it should have been deep red (see it below).
I’ve had to tweek things like inaccurate trim color on paintings before because reference photos can do strange things with color when the pictures are taken at different times of day, in different light. But, this time, there was nothing wrong with my reference photos. I had no excuses.
If I was driving, I would have not just missed a turn off the interstate, I would have been in the wrong state altogether!
The only thing I can figure out is that, while working on three paintings at once, I carelessly assigned the brick color of one house to another. Then, I got in a hurry and did not pause to check my work before it was packaged. Whatever happened, it was all my fault.
(Now, don’t get me started on all the other silly mistakes I’ve made over the years. That could give me blog material for months!)
While driving to pick up the painting for repair, I caught my self-talk going something like this: “Why, Debbie, you are in the professional color business, how could you possibly miss such an obvious mistake? What’s wrong with you?”
I knew the brick color was an easy fix because it just involved layering a deep red over the tan. You can see it right here…
Correcting the color was easy. Letting go of the guilt of my mistake was much harder.
Two powerful lessons from this incident resound in my heart right now. . .
Lesson 1- Always remember to PAUSE, step back, and see the bigger picture.
The old saying, “You can’t see the for forest for the trees,” came to mind as I corrected the painting. I got caught up in the “trees”- teensy, weensy details of finishing the painting, packaging it, printing an invoice, watching the clock, and making the delivery. When that happened, I didn’t pause to remember the “forest”- the bigger picture of getting the house color correct.
Both the forest and the trees are important. I need to be attentive to both.
Lesson 2- Learn from past mistakes and PRESS ON with a resolve to not repeat them.
The great thing about this whole mess is that the red glow of my embarrassed face has helped imprint this incident in my mind. Therefore, it’s a lot less likely to happen again. I can learn from it yet not linger on it.
I love the words of Paul when talking about his mistakes of the past and looking toward what awaits him, in Christ, in the future:
Philippians 3:13b-14 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The rest of the story? Well, I “pressed on” with the correction and re-delivered it to my client. Thankfully, she seemed pleased with my changes and was very gracious to forgive my error.
I hope this encourages you to pause and press on if you’re dealing with the guilt of a mistake today. (Especially if you got some brick colors totally wrong.)
The Pondering Palette: Have you ever missed the forest for the trees? How?
Over Christmas we toured Fort Clinch, a Florida State Park. It’s a Civil War era military defensive post overlooking the far northeastern tip of Florida (near the beautiful town of Fernandina Beach, FL). I enjoyed the tour. . . until I stepped into the jail.
In one cell, a primitive ball and chain sat on the floor. (You can see it above, behind the door on the right.)
I stood there thinking, what if that was me? What if I had a ball and chain on my ankle or was forced to wear a sign stating my sin? Gotta admit, it made me a bit sick at my stomach to think about it.
I did know this: If I was locked behind one of those doors I would want one thing more than anything else in the world. I would want to be set free.
I’d want the ball and chain removed. I’d want to be able to walk free in the sunshine outside. I’d long to throw off the humiliation of that shameful sign worn around my neck.
I’m so thankful that freedom what the LORD wants for His children. Something I read in Exodus this week helped me to understand why He wants this for us.
When words or phrases are repeated in Scripture, that’s a sign we need to stop and take notice.
Bible study tip: Repetition = Emphasis = Importance
That’s why I’ve been pondering a repeated phrase I noticed not two or three or four but six times, yes S-I-X, in Exodus this week. When the LORD was preparing to deliver His people up out of their 430 years of slavery in Egypt, He told Moses to say this to Pharaoh: “Let my people go. . .”
I’ve heard this phrase for years, seen it in books, heard it in gospel songs, watched it in movies, even sung it in choir. The problem it, the last part of the phrase the LORD tells Pharaoh is often omitted when we recount Moses’ story. Here’s the rest:
“Let my people go , so that _____ ____ ________ ___.”
You can look this up for yourself in Exodus 7:16, 8:1&20, 9:1 &13, and 10:3. Like me, you may be surprised by the words that fill in these blanks:
“. . .so that they may worship me.”
The big reason “why” the LORD wanted His people to be freed is repeated 6 times in these verses. His wants His people to be free so that they can worship Him.
We are freed so we may give the LORD our worship.
I’m not freed so I can brag about my freedom or be set loose to do whatever I want. I’m freed in order to offer unhindered praise to the God who delivered me, to bow before Him with thanks and gratitude for His greatness and mercy.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with an area in my life that’s been a constant source of emotional pain for over 40 years. Like the Israelites in Egypt, I’ve been crying out to God to be freed from this burden. These words in Exodus remind me that when the deliverance comes- and I am certain it will– it will do so for one reason: so that I can worship my LORD more deeply and completely.
When my friend, Laura, gave me a set of 2 paperback books entitled “Morning by Morning” and “Evening by Evening” thirty something years ago (three decades—boy, that makes me feel old!) she didn’t know what she was starting.
I fell in love with those books.
From the time I received these two classic devotionals, the Scriptures and insights on them by Charles Haddon Spurgeon have blessed me beyond measure. When my original paperbacks fell apart, I replaced them with one book compiling the two volumes. It’s called “Morning and Evening.” When I wore the stuffing out of that one, my sweet daughter had it rebound for me- it now sports a purple cover, no less- and she had my name engraved on the front.
Right now, I’m reading Spurgeon’s biography. It’s an amazing story of a boy brought up in humble beginnings in the countryside of England. The LORD used Charles to draw people around the world to Himself in a powerful way. (Long before the internet.) I’m just one woman who still finds great blessing in Spurgeon’s devotional writings over a hundred years after he penned them.
Part of Spurgeon’s appeal to me is his exquisite use of simple yet deep word pictures to describe the depths of God’s beauty and character.
Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about from today’s evening reading by Spurgeon. (Yes, it’s just after 9 a.m. and this is the evening reading, but I just had to read ahead!)
Scripture: “You, O, God, provided from Your goodness for the poor.” Psalm 68:10
All God’s gifts are prepared in advance and reserved for wants forseen. … A traveler journeying across a desert may pitch the tent only to find that some essentials were not brought along. “Ah!” says the traveler, “I did not forsee this. If I could start this journey over I would bring these necessary items.” But God has foreknowledge of all that His wandering children require. And when those needs arise, the supplies are ready. … You are poor and needy, but He knows your need and has the exact blessing you require.
Have you ever gone on a trip and forgotten something? I have. My entire packed suitcase was left sitting on the bedroom floor one time… and I didn’t realize it until we were 3 states away! I can SO relate to what Spurgeon says.
O, how I needed to be reminded today that I can rest in God’s perfect timing and provision when I’ve been wallowing lately in the very words, “If I could start this journey over I would…”
What a beautiful picture Spurgeon helps me see that when there’s something I’ve forgotten or have not anticipated, God has gone before me. He already knows all about it AND possesses the exact the provisions I need. When need arises, He provides from His goodness for me. Wow!
If you’re looking for a devotional book as a Christmas gift for someone you love, I highly recommend this classic by Spurgeon.
I encourage you to “shop local”, but if you can’t find a copy nearby, click on the link below. There, you’ll see a regular book size on the left and tan/blue travel size version on the right (be warned, this one is not large print). Click on the version you prefer and you’ll be directed to my ministry Amazon a-store** where you may order a copy.
Here’s the link: Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.
I hope this devotional book blesses you and your loved ones as much as it has blessed me!
**Shopping at the Wisdom In Watercolor Amazon a-store is much like entering a store at your local mall to make a purchase. The retailer- in this case, Wisdom In Watercolor- gets a small commission off the sale. Your purchases in our a-store help support this ministry. Thanks!