God Smooths Out Our Jagged Edges

smooth stone

Have you ever taken a close look at a river rock?  These flat rocks, found in riverbeds and on beaches, are unique in size, shape, and color but with one similarity.  They are smooth.  No jagged edges, sharp corners, or pointy bumps.

What makes these rocks so smooth?

Water flowing in a river is constantly moving.  A powerful force that carries along dirt, sediment, and smaller stones in its path.  These rough items bump up against the river rocks, acting like sandpaper.  They break off the pointy bumps, round out the sharp corners, and smooth the jagged edges.  This is a natural process, called weathering or erosion, and occurs over a long period of time.  The end result is a smooth and shiny stone, beautiful in its purity.

Can we compare this process to our own lives?

At times… are you the jagged rock?  Uneven and rough.  Covered in sharp edges that cause pain in your own life or the lives of those around you.  Each rough spot representing a heavy burden, a sharp tongue, a harsh response, a jealous thought, or a past pain.  Without realizing it, you become something that causes others to wince upon contact.  Something that cannot hold or be held.

And how often do you feel like that rock being tumbled around in a swirling river?  Bumped and tossed.  Crashing into those around you—or being crashed—with a force you feel you can’t control.  It can make you feel helpless… or even hopeless.  There’s no gaining your footing in such a riotous atmosphere.

I encourage you to look at this in another way.  The pain is real, but the process is powerful and profound.  The driving force is the water and it’s no random occurrence.  The water represents the Divine Source that is constantly washing over your jagged soul, breaking off those burdens and pains.  Carrying them away.  Smoothing them out.

We believe in a loving God that shapes us in this way.  We are first introduced to this Living Water at our Baptism.  An outward sign of an inward grace.  A never ending flow of mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness. The process isn’t always easy.  Weathering can be painful!  Life tosses us around whether we like it or not.  God uses these “tossed” experiences to shape us.  God uses our trials to smooth us out until we are transformed.  “See, I am doing a new thing!”  (Isaiah 43:19)

Does this sound good to you?  Are you asking: How can I get in on this deal?  It’s simple.  All you have to do is let it happen.  God is always working in you, whether you realize it or not.  Let the healing water of God’s love rush past you and surround you, making you smooth, shiny, and new.  If you’d like to become more tuned in to the ways in which God is working in you… try prayer, Reconciliation, meditation, or reading and reflecting on the Word of God.  You’ll find yourself gaining in awareness of God’s constant and overflowing presence in your life.

Take a look at the stone in the picture above. As you gaze at the surface, use God’s eyes to search for your shining reflection. What do you see?  Do you see the grace-filled moments of your life reflected back at you?  Can you see the unfolding of your purpose?  Can you see God’s promise and His deep love for you?

May God bless our journey and continue to polish us into shining reflections of His love.

God Picks Us Up When We Fall

girl on bike
For three years my office window looked out over a church parking lot. People used it for all kinds of things. A practice course for school bus drivers in training, a path for neighborhood walkers, an unofficial commuter lot, a place for truckers to park and eat lunch. But my favorite thing to see was parents using the parking lot to teach their children how to ride a bike. What a sweet distraction from my day’s work. I could see the fearful looks on the faces of the young riders. I could hear the parents’ promises floating up through my office window.

“I won’t let you fall!”
“I promise you won’t get hurt.”

I remember my husband and I saying these exact words to our boys when they first learned to ride, and I’m very sure my dad made the same promises to me. It’s what you have to say to get past the fear in your child so they can take that leap.

If we’re being honest… these promises are not exactly iron-clad. It’s likely our would-be cyclists WILL fall. There’s a chance they COULD get hurt. Not too badly, you hope, but anything could happen.   What you might more honestly say is this:

“If you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“If you get hurt, I’ll be there to soothe your pain and dry your tears.”
“I will ALWAYS be there, no matter what.”

For me, there’s no better way to describe God’s role in our lives. But it took me some time to come to that realization. I used to pray exactly like those scared kids teetering on a bike for the first time. “Please, dear God, don’t let anything bad happen to me… EVER!” I was so afraid of getting hurt that I held myself back from new experiences and new challenges.

Life has taught me that it doesn’t work that way. We all fall. We all get hurt. It’s part of engaging in the world around us. Living up to our potential involves a certain amount of risk. This knowledge could easily leave us paralyzed with fear. Afraid to lift our feet from their firmly-rooted spots on the ground and peddle like mad.

But the beauty of our faith is that God is ALWAYS there for us. To offer comfort. To dry our tears. To ease our pain. To pick us up no matter how many times we fall.

This knowledge is what frees us to get on that bike and go. To fly. To take a leap of faith. To push ourselves toward our sacred destiny. It’s what God wants for us.

One beautiful spring day my son took his brand new bike out for a ride. A run-in with a nasty pothole landed him in the emergency room with a broken wrist, a mild concussion, and many cuts and scrapes. I smothered him with love for weeks after that, giving him all the comfort and gentleness a mother could give (which is a LOT!) His wrist healed, his bruises faded, and his headaches went away.  His worst fears (and mine) about getting hurt had been realized…and overcome. And so, too, we heal from the potholes and pitfalls of life. And we do so with the strength of an amazing God who will never let us fall so far or so deep that we can’t get up again… and keep on riding.

When Re-Gifting is OK

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Be honest, have you ever re-gifted something?  Not your proudest moment, huh? That’s ok, we’ve all done it. It’s your child’s final violin lesson of the year and you forgot to pick up a thank you gift for her teacher. Desperately searching the house, you find a vanilla scented candle that your neighbor gave you last Christmas. It’s in perfect condition. You never got around to lighting it. So you throw it into a recycled gift bag from Mother’s Day with some tissue paper from your most recent purchase at Macy’s. Your daughter is good to go and hopefully her teacher will be none the wiser.

This kind of last minute gift scramble is something we feel sheepish about and would never admit to. It somehow diminishes both the giver and the receiver (not to mention the original giver!)

Believe it or not, there are times when re-gifting is not only acceptable but encouraged. We receive tremendous gifts from God, our Creator, and He wants nothing more than for us to give them away. Here are three examples:

LOVE
Jesus gives us a great commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” We are meant to take the gift of God’s love and use it as an example of how we are to love and treat others. Jesus taught us how to do this in his every action. He humbly washed the feet of his disciples. He loved the sinner, the leper, and the outcast. He loved us to the point of death on a cross. How far are we willing to go to share his gift? Do we love those who challenge us? Do we love those that the world rejects? Do we love those who believe they are unlovable?

FORGIVENESS
Jesus teaches us about the amazing gift of God’s forgiveness through parables like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Surely this lost son might have received a blistering lecture from his father when he returned home. At the very least a resounding “I told you so!” Can we be inspired by this prodigal forgiveness to re-gift it upon those who hurt us? Have you been clinging to anger towards someone because of stubbornness or pride? Can you follow God’s example and forgive?

GRACE
Years ago we had an 80th birthday party for my grandmother and she received many gifts. As she opened each one she exclaimed, “I don’t deserve this!” This sweet declaration of feeling is the best way of describing grace; simply put, “the unmerited favor of God towards humankind.” Abundant blessings poured over us no matter what we do or how we behave. This undeserved gift is incredibly humbling and not to be taken lightly. St. Paul tells us that we are “faithful stewards of God’s grace.” (1 Peter 4:10) I try to remember this when I’m tempted to snap at my husband or criticize my children. Is there a more grace-filled way to interact with them? Am I truly living my life as an instrument of God’s amazing grace?

This week I invite you to reflect on God’s amazing gifts and be on the lookout for opportunities to re-gift them to the world. Use the comment section to share your thoughts!

The First and Greatest Gift

red-christmas-present
Yesterday’s liturgy marked the official end of our Christmas season. What was the best gift you received this year? I was lucky to get a Fitbit® and I’ve been having so much fun with it. Since December 26 I’ve walked the equivalent of 70 miles. Hard to believe, but a great feeling! As I watched my boys happily examining their Christmas bounty, it got me thinking about gifts from my own childhood. The one that sticks in my mind is from 1978. All year I wished and hoped for the “Pretty Changes” Barbie doll. She had a series of hair extensions, hats, and accessories allowing you to change her look from day-to-day. I was filled with joy to find her under the Christmas tree, and she was by far the best gift I got that year.

Several months later, in a minor tussle with my older sister, my doll’s head broke off. Feeling awful, my sister valiantly tried to glue it back on, but didn’t quite get it on straight. As a result, my Barbie had a thick and stubby neck, and permanently looked smugly off to the side, never meeting the gaze of her Barbie doll friends.

I lost my enthusiasm to play with “Pretty Changes” after that. She was broken…and I had no use for broken things. Continue reading

The Cracked Pot

As a follow up to my last post, Broken and Beautiful, I offer you this simple and lovely parable about a flawed pot.  Take some time today to think about how your flaws might be working toward a special purpose.

Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 2009

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto, 2009

A Water Bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one-and-a-half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes my water to leak out all the way back to your house.” The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, we would not have such beauty.”

~Source unknown

PRAYER

Divine Creator, you are the Water Bearer, cleansing us with mercy and forgiveness. Your water refreshes us like newly fallen rain.

Heavenly God, your amazing love has the power to set us free and make us whole. May we always turn to You for forgiveness and healing.

God of Love, bless our “cracked-pot” days, when we cannot see past our brokenness and flaws. May each crack become a place where your grace may enter.