Tattooed Hearts

A few weeks ago at church, a tattoo artist shared his testimony of how God transformed his tattoo business into a ministry; he removes or covers up tattoos from former gang members and women who were enslaved in human trafficking. The tattoos are painful reminders of past bondage, so removing them is a powerful statement and assertion of the person’s present freedom.

As I was listening to this testimony, I thought of the mark of the beast referenced in Revelation 13:17—“and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”

Whether or not this verse refers to a literal tattoo people will have, I think it can also symbolize the soul-deforming scars we all bear as we’ve given into the ways of the world or been marked by evil resulting from other people’s sin. It often seems we cannot “succeed” in life if we don’t live with these marks: can’t run a profitable business without dishonesty, can’t advance in a career without stepping on others, can’t reveal our hurt and brokenness for fear of being rejected. In these ways and others we have compromised who God created us to be in order to participate in the world’s “economy” of personal achievement and self-exaltation.

Yet Jesus was scarred for us that He might redeem us from the chains of sin, shackles we otherwise would feel obligated to submit to in order to survive in the world. Instead we can become slaves to righteousness, which gives us the freedom to be who we are in Christ as we rest in what Jesus has done for us. His wounds have healed ours.

With holes in His wrists and feet Jesus invites us to grasp His hand as He leads us on the narrow path that leads to life, and to freedom.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  –Isaiah 53:5

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Contentment

Contentment is the cultivation of a satisfied heart. It is the discipline of being fully alive to God and to others whatever our material circumstances. Contentment is not achieved through getting everything we want but by training the heart to experience full joy and deep peace even when we don’t have what we want…
Contentment combats the downward drift of the heart.

—Jeff Manion

Joy and Sorrow

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.”

“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

~Taken from “Streams in the Desert”

The Harvester

Oh, if only I would always catch the vision of the abundant harvest when the great Master Farmer comes, as He often does, to plow through my soul—uprooting and overturning that which I thought most beautiful and leaving only the bare and unlovely before my agonizing eyes. Why should I be frightened and surprised by the plow of the Lord, which makes deep furrows in my soul? I know He is not some arbitrary or irrational farmer—His purpose is to yield a harvest.

Beloved

If you’re looking for someone with whom to discuss biblical themes in [Disney] movies, that’s me. ^_^ One of my favorite Disney movies is “Beauty and the Beast”—I love how forgiveness, even and especially when it is not deserved, has the power to transform a life.

Themes of not judging by appearances but looking at the heart, and the danger of strict religious adherence without genuine love for God are obvious in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

And I can’t deny that I cry during “The Lion King” when the rain washes away death and destruction and Simba climbs Pride Rock for the first time as king—the prodigal son returning home, finally able to understand and accept who he is, particularly in relation to his father.

Recently I watched a less famous Disney movie called “The Mighty Ducks,” and likewise appreciated the redemptive truth in the story.

To read what this movie taught me about being a beloved child of God, check out my post here at Velvet Ashes, an online community of encouragement for women serving overseas. 🙂

Cookie Contemplation

A benediction-meditation for the consumption of chocolate chip cookies

As you eat these cookies, may they be a reminder to taste the Lord’s goodness in all areas of life.

May their sweetness remind you of Jesus’s tender mercy and patient kindness that first drew you to Him.

As you savor the melting chocolate in your mouth, may you recall the rich love the Holy Spirit embraces you with every day.

As you ponder the various ingredients in the cookie, may your heart marvel at how our Redeemer can take every life experience—bland, sweet, bitter—and create something beautiful out of the beaten and battered mess.

And may you remember that it is often through the heat of life’s trials that God’s grace shapes us into our final form—children of the King transformed by glory, the pleasing aroma of Christ to those around us.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. ~Psalm 34:8

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Obedience

I said: “Let me walk in the fields.”
He said: “No, walk in the town.”
I said: “There are no flowers there.”
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”

I said: “But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And He wept as He sent me back –
“There is more,” He said; “there is sin.”

I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone!”

I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered: “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem so hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into His hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.

~Obedience, George MacDonald

Like Stars in the Sky

Belatedly posted thoughts from when I watched the Perseid meteor shower one evening this summer and pondered some of the information I’d read about it earlier that day:

As of August 2013, the comet whose tail debris causes the Perseid meteor shower was more than 3.2 billion miles away from Earth. Most of the meteors that to us look like brilliant shooting stars are about the size of a grain of sand. While I considered these marvels of the universe, God reminded me of some truth as He so often does when I gaze into the vastness of the night sky.

Like the dust from a comet, even the smallest things that seem so far away can have a beautiful impact. Things we may think are unseen and unimportant, like our simple acts of service, a friendly smile, or an unexpected kind word.

But my Lord can take those small bits of sacrifice, of laying down self in love, and make them into something brilliant and beautiful—even to someone whose heart seems billions of miles away; even if the action was as small and unnoticed as a single grain of sand in the hourglass of life’s daily tasks.

People sit outside in the dark and brave mosquitoes to catch small glimpses of streaking light… how much more do we hunger for a moment of hope in our dark world? Our seemingly unnoticed acts of love can be those breathtaking flashes of courageous faith in a world shadowed by greed, hate, and despair.

For I believe God watches these simple actions and smiles—because as brief as they may be, they are specks of His glory: moments when His image-bearers are shining as He created them to, and He sees that it is good.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. –Philippians 2:14-16

Friday Night Thoughts

God must deepen me in order to fill me with His profoundest truths and overflowing love and joy. How are things deepened? A hole, by removing more dirt; a valley, by splitting the mountains further apart; a jar, by stretching the clay thinner; and my heart, by removing sin and apathy, splitting pride and fear, and stretching faith and trust. (Journal entry, September 9, 2016)