How to Salt the Earth Right Where You Are

pablo(18)

When I was 34 years old, I shared something in common with more than 4 million teenagers. I wore braces. Being someone with small teeth and sensitive gums, adjusting to braces also meant adjusting to a few canker sores and other mouthy maladies.

Once, my orthodontist noticed an infected molar bordering a metal band. He quickly instructed his assistant to remove the band and counseled me to massage the gum and rinse my mouth with salt water at least three times a day. And that was it. No prescription. No suggestion to purchase a medicated mouth wash or oral antiseptic. A few swishes of common table salt dissolved in warm water were what the reputable doctor recommended. The salt water instantly soothed my sore mouth and eradicated the infection within two days.

As I was swishing, a commonly recited scripture verse bounced on my heart. “You are the salt of the earth…” Matthew 5:13. I’ve read that verse countless times, each time thinking of the mineral’s distinctive taste, but never considering other traits of the seasoning. Without a doubt, salt adds zip to food, and it is also an amazing preservative, but it can also promote healing. Gargling with warm salt water relieves a sore throat. Tepid salt water soaks also are known to cure fungal infections. And saline sprays abate nasal congestion.

As a grain of salt for Christ, I am commanded to add a specific flavor to the world I encounter; a taste so basic yet so essential that the complexities of its make-up are often unnoticed. Components of the flavor include patience, kindness, mercy, grace, selflessness, peace, truthfulness, hope, trust, and forgiveness. Mix those ingredients together and the created composite is love (recipe found in I Corinthians 13:4-7).

And it’s a flavor needed in ever fiber of my life and my surroundings. Sometimes adding salt is difficult, but sometimes it is much easy than you’d think it to be.

When I sit still and earnestly listen to my seven-year-old son chatter  about the pumpkin zombies he created in Minecraft, I’m sprinkling salt on my relationship with my son.

When my non artistic self spends a Saturday afternoon  painting potter with my talented daughter, I am seasoning the quality time spent with my sweet girl.

When I stop what I’m doing and refill my husband’s mug with coffee before he even realizes he was running low, I’m dashing salt on my marriage.

When I bring a meal to a new mother, console a hurting heart, or pardon a wrong against me, I’m dousing salt on friendships.

Pouring love into a pot of boiling affliction begets a flavor so bold, so savory, so edifying that it pleases even a woefully wounded palate. Like salt, love is more than a remedy for blandness it’s an agent of healing.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5: 13 NIV

A version of this post was originally published on August 6, 2010 at (in)courage under the title “Flavors of Salt.”

You Don’t Have to Be a Superhero

_BeautyofGrace_pins38

As soon as the blue mask slides down his forehead and covers three-quarters of his face, my son disappears and before me stands Batman. Batman eats my son’s food, cuddles my son’s favorite blanket and plays with my son’s sister. But he will not answer when my son’s name is called. Or if he does respond, it is only to remind me that he is Batman.

I play along. But he doesn’t fool me.

He’s my boy.

It takes just one clock’s hand tick for me to pick him out in a crowd. I know every single cowlick perched in his tousled blond head. I know when his aqua-marine eyes hold mischief, delight or a mixture of each. I know his laugh, his gait, and his voice (even when it is disguised).

He can call himself Batman. He can fight bad guys and save damsels like Batman. He can stand erect with his hands on his hips and his cape floating around him, but still, he doesn’t fool me. I know him.

He’s mine.

Truth be told. He knows he isn’t tricking me. After all, he doesn’t dress up to pull the wool over my eyes. He’s dresses up to play a role. He dresses up because when you’re three, it is fun to pretend that you’re someone else. Someone heroic. Someone strong. It’s also healthy.

And when you are slightly (mild throat clearing inserted here) more than three decades old, it is sometimes fun to pretend that you’re someone else too. Someone who is strong … invincible even. Someone who can solve unsolvable problems.

Someone who owns a heart immune to

chipping


freezing

rusting

But when you’re a grown up, it is not healthy to assume a whole new identity. It is not good for the soul to hide away from reality. It is a sign of insecurity and not strength to mask weakness and not answer to your own name.

Yet still, I do it. I pretend that I am capable of handling anything that comes my way … all by my little self. And sometimes I get so wrapped up into the role in which I inhabit that I do not even respond to my own name when it’s whispered by Him.

It’s almost comical, because I know I’m not fooling God. And honestly, I’m not trying to fool Him.

I’m trying to fool myself…trying to hide away from truths about myself that can be painful to accept … painful to examine … painful to change.

But even when I hide, my Father knows me.

He calls me. He helps me untie my cape and remove my mask. He forgives me.He encourages me.

He lends me His Strength.

He loves me. I am His.

This post was originally published at (in)Courage on March 5, 2011 and is now featured in Dawn Camp’s lovely new book, The Beauty of Grace.

Having my words BoGcoverprinted in Dawn’s lovely book truly blesses my heart and makes me pinch myself to see if I am dreaming! The book combines heartfelt stories from some of today’s most popular writers with Dawn’s stunning photography of God’s incredible creation.The book makes a wonderful gift and also serves as wonderful devotional when you’re looking for soul rest.

I’m also thrilled that Dawn selected the post of mine that she did. The message of being tempted to hide who we really are is especially relevant in our social-media saturated culture.

We see the glossiest, happiest pictures on Instagram and Pinterest and read one success story after another on Facebook. Honestly, I think all of that can be wonderful. I love to celebrate the beauty that shines forth from the stories others tell. But if we aren’t careful, we could fall pray to the comparison trap and start longing to be more like someone else.

I wrote “Mask and Cape” as an encouragement to you … a reminder that even if you get caught up trying to be like Kate, or Christy, or Natalie, that God knows you. You’re His. He loves you deeply and is thrilled when you take off your mask and show the world the woman he designed.


 Q:

Are you facing any circumstances that make you want to assume a new identity?

How do you escape when you life gets tough?

And, what motivates you to take off your mask and cape and be real before the King?

What We Hold In Finds a Way Out

What We Hold In Finds a Way Out

I knew exactly what I wanted when my mom told me I could pick out my first pair of real earrings. I was four and strands of my blonde, static-raised hair were all that reached counter level at the local five and dime store. I stretched my pointer finger toward the two tiny balls and said “I want the smallest ones.”

Two minutes later I clutched the white paper bag that held my prize for taking good care of my newly pierced lobes. I could hardly wait to remove my training earrings and replace them with a dainty set made from real gold.

We ate dinner at my grandparent’s house that evening and I danced around the table, tilting my head left to right so everyone could see my new jewelry. I spent the night at that little house next to the Central Pennsylvania woods, and when I woke up, my grandfather discovered something missing.

“What happened to your new earring, Angie?” he asked.

My fingers moved quickly to caress the backs of both my ears and thinking my grandfather was playing a trick on me I laughed.

“They’re both right here, PapPap!”

He came closer. His eyebrows furrowed with concern as he softly squeezed my earlobe between his pinky and thumb.

One of the tiny balls had tucked itself deep into the hole and with just eight hours of sleep, the newly pierced flesh sealed what it thought needed healing. The stem and back were in their proper places, but little glittering ball was stuck inside a layer of skin.

Our faithful family physician, Dr. Stark, took our frantic phone call that Sunday morning and agreed to meet us in his office so he could remove the earring. The smell of rubbing alcohol on cotton as he swabbed my ear was strong and so was his voice when he  told me not to move. The earring needed to be cut out from my ear with his scalpel and the procedure would have to be performed without a numbing agent. Any flailing or wailing could result greater injury.

I remember my mom holding my hand as I laid flat and stiff on my back staring at the ceiling light while my vision blurred. I know I was terrified, but I don’t recall a stitch of pain. My mother’s retelling of the story, however, testifies to its presence. She recounts that I wrapped my fingers tight around hers and remained silent and still as tears slipped fast and full from my eyes … rolling down my face, cheeks, and chin. I didn’t move or whimper, but the pain still found a way out.

Our strongest emotions have a way of escaping. The feelings we take great care to hold in eventually work their way to the surface; advertising our brokenness. And that’s often when healing begins.

The way emotions come undone varies from person to person. For me I’ve noticed a trend concerning the two feelings I often try to bury deepest: Fear and sadness.

When I try to hide my fears they usually escape through an eruption of anger. Commotion often triggers my anger faster than anything. So if I’m in the kitchen and meat is sizzling in the skillet, a fan is buzzing, the television blaring, and children chattering, I become unhinged. I snip and snap and say things I regret. Then I apologize for my outburst and say I had no idea what came over me. But if I really take a moment to reflect, I know exactly what happened … the eruption usually sprang from a river of fear.  The fears aren’t always the same, but the results usually are.

When I attempt to muffle my sadness it trickles out through fatigue. If I wake up on a Saturday morning barely able to move or make simple decisions, that’s a pretty good sign that I’m stuffing a heartache. Sometimes it’s a fresh hurt and other times it’s an old, nagging pain I had thought healed ages ago.

Fear and sadness touch every human regardless of social status, religion, or ethnicity. As a Christian, I have the tendency to askew those complex emotions with quippy sayings, or even a quick recitation of scripture instead of dealing with them. I tend to stuff them deep down on my insides because letting them out makes me feel as though I’m failing Jesus.

But Jesus knows the crushed world in which we live. He knows His followers will encounter terrifying circumstances. He knows those who love Him will be pecked apart by loss and earthly defeats. He knows.

And Jesus doesn’t tell us to snap out of it. He tells us to come to Him. I love how The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-30.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Coming to Him and allowing Him to work through our twisted sufferings is when we can embrace the peace, joy, and mercy we need.

———————————————————————————————-

Disclaimer: Please know that I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t refer to scripture or a Bible-based mantra such as “Choose Joy” when you’re struggling. Doing so genuinely often helps frame the situation with the right perspective … I’m just encouraging you to not simply recite a memory verse as a way to brush off your trouble. Instead, take a moment to let the truth run through your veins and allow your spirit to come to Jesus for what it needs.

When God Uses Fear as an Agent of Hope

Hope

Two weeks after I graduated from college, I moved to Orlando, Florida. I knew three people who lived there and I set off on the adventure with only the items I could stuff into two suitcases (in 1996, airlines still allowed passengers to check up to two pieces of luggage for free). I didn’t have a job, a place to live or enough money to pay my first month’s rent.

It was an honest-to-goodness leap of faith and I knew with all the matter making up my flesh, bones, and soul that everything about the journey fit perfectly into my life.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t harbor any reservations. I worried some about the big unknowns, such as where I would live after I wore out my welcome at my friends’ home, or if I’d really land a job as easily as people predicted.

I also had a few concerns that some might find superficial: namely, alligators and super-sized bugs.

Yep. That’s the kind of gal I am. Give me a one-way airline ticket and some hopeful words of encouragement, and I’ll make a new home more than a thousand miles from the one I’ve known since girlhood. But toss a spider in my direction and I’ll scream loud and high enough to shake glass. And I’m not even going to write anything about what I’d do if faced with a real, live, toothy gator, because friend, I’ve got some issues with reptiles. Especially the ones that want to eat me …
Read the rest of this story and (in) Courage to see and how God now uses bugs to remind me that Hope isn’t a feeling. It’s a promise from the Giver of Life.