Living Stones

03/26/2008

And so dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen,
make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.
2 Peter 3:14 (NLT)

As I have now crossed over the six-week mark after having surgery, I am astounded by something. That “something” is: When the doctor said it will take 4-6 weeks to recover from this procedure, what he meant was, It will take 4-6 weeks to recover from this procedure! Oh! I thought he really meant about two weeks, maybe less…but NO! He was telling the truth! It’s funny how he could be so knowledgeable about this, having performed the same surgery time after time, but I could be so ignorant about these things, never having gone through it before. Wait?? Reverse gears…of course he would know that, and of course I wouldn’t! But I do know now, as I continue to watch and wait while my body “springs” back from all that it has been through! Oh, and to “be at peace with God” in the process…a process that can seem to take forever!

But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is
like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years
is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his
promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being
patient for your sake. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT)

I’ve read while recovering from surgery, if you think something might be a “No,” then don’t do it. As in all things that God takes us through, surgery included, it’s a listening, a praying, a paying attention, and an obeying process…for our own sake. We think God is being slow and we’d just like to Fast Forward through so many things, but that is not God’s way most times. “He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9b (NLT) We are being urged to turn to God through all things, and to seek a life that includes rather than excludes the living God.

We start out in life maybe thinking we’re as solid as a rock, able to endure great hardship, able to make our way with our own strength, our own ideas, our own plans…and then the sledge hammer of life starts to beat us down to crush us into itty bitty pieces, and much of everything we’ve ever known gets confusing and it doesn’t feel very good. One good WHACK and we think, boy, I just want to get through this and I don’t want it ever to happen again. As in, “I don’t ever want to have major surgery again,” but then I just heard of a woman who has had 17 major surgeries in the last ten years…and she’s still here, fighting the good fight.

WHACK, WHACK, WHACK…are we being smashed into itty bitty pieces of stone so that we can come to a realization that the only true Stone in life is Jesus Christ? When we begin to understand that our true life is to be built on Christ, on the strong foundation of knowing Him and trusting in His promises, then it won’t matter how itty bitty we have become, because Jesus Christ is HUGE, and He is all we need!!

Oswald Chambers writes:

I claim the fulfillment of God’s promises, and rightly, but that is only the human side;
the Divine side is that through the promises I recognize God’s claim on me.
(My Utmost…March 18th)

WHACK, WHACK, WHACK…Ouch! Ouch!! Ouch!!!
God’s “claim,” mining His children from the earth, can hurt!
Placing us where we were designed to be can be hard!

Why is a mustard seed of faith enough to move a mountain? How can something so small be so powerful? Because, it’s not the faith that is moving the mountain, it’s the Person moving it that is powerful! Jesus Christ! Our Father God! The Holy Spirit living within us! That’s living power! That’s the Living Cornerstone of God’s Temple.

And now God is building you, as living stones, into his
spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests,
who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of
Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

In the Psalms, David writes, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” (53:1) Hearts that are not open to the things of God can grow into very hard, cold stones, trying to survive this life. Without the filling up and thus the flowing out of God’s love, cold stony hearts will constantly be adjusting to the shifting sand they live on, being tossed to and fro in the waves…can’t you just see them on the beaches you have walked on? There’s nothing constant, steadfast or sure in this except that as long as the earth is still intact, the waves will pound upon the sand, wearing on the cold hard stones in their path. We need more than that in life; we need a Cornerstone to give us our bearings, we need a starting point that makes some sort of sense in the pounding surf, we need Someone to point the way Home on this treacherous journey.

Jesus Christ is the Living Cornerstone. What is a cornerstone? It is defined as the “fundamental assumptions from which something is begun or developed or calculated or explained” Another definition is, “An indispensable and fundamental basis.”

The Cornerstone of love is an indispensable and fundamental basis in life. When Jesus told His disciples that the most important commandant is to love God, and then to love others, He knew that this simple Truth would, or should I say could, make life all that it was intended to be. But too many times we skip right over this simple bit of instruction of loving first above all else, and that’s when God’s “construction project” starts to tilt like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy! How long will it be before it topples over?

Love is SO vital, and God’s unconditional love is probably one of the most amazing miracles we’ll experience on this earth—from the unconditional love shown to us from the Cross, to the unconditional love we are to show to one another—it may be the only thing that gets us through the toughest stuff of life. If we spend our lives building our Truth on anything but the Cross of Jesus Christ and His love…life will be a shaky process with disastrous results spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.

Jesus is Rock Solid, there was no wavering in the life He lived on earth even when those around him were faithless, doubting, scared and defiant. Let’s look at Peter for example. He wanted to walk on water, and at least he tried, at least he got out of the boat, but he began to sink in fear. Peter wanted to follow Jesus, but when it came to Jesus having to be arrested and dying on the Cross, Peter wanted to fight against what God’s plan was in that. Peter wanted to be a faithful friend, he said he would die for Jesus if need be, but he ran and hid with all the rest when they took Jesus away. Peter followed, but far behind, cowering, saying he never knew Jesus. Peter was all over the place in his human emotions and reactions to things, but in all of it, Jesus’ unconditional love for Peter never changed, not one iota. Jesus knew Peter to the core, and He loved him, no matter what Peter did.

Jesus never changed Who He was because of who Peter was at any given moment. There was a plan for Peter’s life, and Jesus knew it was a perfect one, even if it took time for it to play out. Jesus didn’t hold a grudge, He didn’t play mind games, He was straightforward and always loving, always faithful to Peter. Because Jesus knew who He was, Jesus was able to see clearly who Peter was…sometimes doubting and with a faith that was very small, and later as the very rock Jesus’ church would be built on. What must this unconditional love have done in Peter’s life, in his walk with Jesus—what could it do in ours as we get to know our Lord? It could move mountains!!

I was asked the other day what it is I miss about my son Phil. It was a good question, it made me wonder…do I miss his physical presence, his sense of humor, the traveling we did together, the conversations we had…all the things that made Phil who he was? The tears started to flow when I realized that what I miss most about Phil is the unconditional love he showed to me. Maybe I took it for granted when he was here, I probably did—but now looking back, I realize that his heart contained an amazing capacity to love others, and especially to love me, his mom.

A teenage boy is not usually wired as Phil was…we did not argue, he never held a grudge when I made mistakes like in over-protecting him from all the germs out there when his immunities were low, he never tired of spending endless days together either while he was in the hospital, at home recovering, or even traveling when he felt better. One day shortly before he died he said to me, “Mom it’s good we get along so well since we spend so much time together.” Those were priceless words to me then, and even more so now.

Phil was just Phil, going through each day, doing what needed to be done, and even surprised at times that others liked him. He knew he wasn’t one of the cool kids on the high school campus. One day he came home from school, having been absent for a bit due to the treatments he was going through for his cancer, and he said, “Mom, the kids at school like me.” He was surprised and pleased…my heart thanks them on this day for being kind to my child. Unconditional love, especially towards a hurting heart, can change a person’s life. It can be just what “the doctor ordered” when life beats us to a pulp.

I believe this kind of love changed Peter’s life. Jesus loved Peter no matter what, and even though Peter wavered all over the place in the beginning, when we read 1 and 2 Peter, he has become rock solid in his faith. The doubting, small-faith filled follower of Jesus had changed…Jesus knew he would with love and time…but how much? Only God can know, but we can trust that changes are taking place even if we can’t see them when we are doing what we have been called to do…patiently love. The rest is God’s responsibility—some plant the seeds, some water them, but God alone makes them grow!

I had a conversation the other night with a man who has known great hurt and abandonment in his life. The rejection he has dealt with, the questions as to why he was not loved by family and friends has plagued him for about ten years now, but he told me there was one person in his life who loved him unconditionally through it all. Even when he turned to alcohol at times for relief, even though he knew it was wrong and the person who was loving him knew it was wrong, the love that was shown to him never wavered…love just waited patiently through the storms with him, being the anchor he so needed. He told me that this person was a lifesaver to him and now after ten years, his life is turning around and his heart has found some healing. He said, and I quote, “Try to get good people around you.” I asked him if he wondered at times if there were still good people out there, and he said, “No, I knew there were, but there are a whole lot more of the other kind.”

What kind of person are we?

The person who walked in love with this man could not know the final outcome, or how long it would take. There may have been great frustrations along the way, how could there not be? There may have been times when that person would have liked nothing more than to just let this man have it, to tell him what to do and probably where to go…if you know what I mean. I don’t even know that both these people are Christians, and it saddens me to say, sometimes those who don’t know our Lord love in a greater way than those who do know Him. Maybe they’re not getting caught up in the “religious to do’s” and are more able to just “be” with someone. Let that not be said of those of us who love Jesus!

The power of God’s unconditional love that changes lives forever is the greatest miracle on earth. It’s not merely a Band-Aid that’s put on a wound; it’s a healing that comes from deep within. I heard this in the words and the tears during the conversation I had with this man. What surprised me was that the tears he shed were not flowing out of the wounds that had been inflicted, but instead out of the gratefulness for the healing that had come. That’s the way life was meant to work, the way God designed it—for love to conquer the enemy! Jesus was the Living Example of that during His short time here…it’s the way He worked in Peter’s life, and the way Jesus can still work in and through all our lives, if we will only allow Him to.

What do we want said about us at our own funeral services…what do we want others to say they miss most about us when we’re gone? Will they talk about the great way we played softball, the awesome way we skied, the great tennis or racquetball serve we had? Will they talk about our diligence in getting the job done, about the most delicious cake we ever baked, or how beautiful our home was? Will it be our cool car, or the way we dressed…what will it be? What would we like it to be? I have to say that after being asked what I miss about my own son—and figuring out that I miss the way he loved me—I know that unconditional love is the most valuable gift we can give to others while we are here on earth. It is truly the spiritual sacrifice that pleases our Lord.

I know it’s easy to love some, and so hard to love others. But God’s Word says, “…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Luke 6:35 (NIV) That’s a huge challenge! We have our ideas about how someone should live their life, and if they don’t follow our plan, or respond to our ways, we can easily think they are doing it wrong and walk away from them in their pain. It’s easy to judge another but we may have no idea what their past has held, what they are going through minute by minute each day, or what they fear about their future. We can’t know what’s hidden behind a smile, or even see through a blinding of tears to know a heart like God does. We can never know when our words or actions may be the last straw dealt to someone’s hurting soul…so we must always err on the side of love! It can literally save a life!

I am starting to believe that sometimes losing the living who we love and who seemed to have once loved us (Experiencing their abandonment, deception, betrayal, and lies, etc…), can cause more harm to our hearts than even losing those we love through death. In this world, rejection is a huge weapon of the enemy…Jesus understands this better than anyone! To lose the living weighs heavy, and can be lonelier than to lose the dying—casseroles and condolences are at least offered in our grief. We need the unconditional love of God in this world when things get really “ugly.”

I was visiting at my kids’ house the other day, always relishing in the opportunity to love on the grandkids—they have my heart…hook, line and sinker. My only sadness is that some live so far away I can’t get to them as often as I would like. But on this day, I was visiting a very grumpy, whiney, unfriendly little guy named Jack. Jackson Dean Shore is his full name, and he is 23 months old. I think he’s an adorable toddler…why? Because I’m his Oma, that’s why!! And I’m completely prejudiced! But on this day, Jack was not acting “adorable,” and my son, Chris, apologized for his behavior. In watching Jack, I saw how we sometimes act with our Father in Heaven…we don’t want anything to do with Him or anyone else. We don’t want to be hugged on or to hug, we don’t want to talk, we don’t want to be pleasant and cute and lovable…but do you know what our Father in Heaven sees? The same thing I saw on that day, an adorable, lovable, cute child. My love for Jack did not change in any way because of his behavior. It was just a matter of time before the tickle games and tossing of the ball would begin again. It has!

The unconditional love between a grandparent and grandchild perhaps is a small glimpse of the greatest love of all…our Father’s love towards us… and He longs for us to bask in that love. His love is not only for His sake, but for ours and those He brings into our lives. Soaking up the love God has for us equips us to love others as we should…it’s a perfect plan that can work in a very flawed world if we will only let it.

Love takes time in life…time to show it to others, time to feel it from others, time to build up trust in relationships. Jesus took that time with those He met. He was the perfect Cornerstone to build on, setting up a rock solid foundation for our lives. If the process seems slow, it is for our sake. If the world pounds on us, breaking us up into itty-bitty pieces that seem to crush us beyond repair…let’s hang in there. There is life after disaster, after devastation, after abandonment, after judgment and humiliation and disease. There is life after divorce, death of a loved one, amputation of a limb or even total paralysis. There’s life after surgery, I’m finding out, and it can feel good to feel good once again.

There is life in this world, because there is Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without Him, we have nothing to work with. With Him, we have everything we will ever need, we have love. And sometimes, when we set our itty bitty stone of a life next to someone else’s itty bitty stone of a life, it might be said of us when we’re gone:
(Fill in your name)

“I miss ___________ so much because of the way they loved me.”

I think Peter must have felt this way. He might have had big screw-ups in life, but when he thought of his Friend, Jesus, we know he would have said, “I miss Jesus so much because of the way He loved me.”

As itty bitty living stones, let’s connect to the One True Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and be a part of the greatest building project ever devised, God’s Kingdom here on earth and in Heaven to come!

Until we meet again,

Diane