Clay Pots

Do tough times always follow moments of insight or inspiration?

Last week, in Stuff Happens, I shared about how God saw me through a scary time after hand surgery. How, in spite of all that happened, surrounded by love and care, there was a glow to it. When it was all over I felt like my faith had grown.

Just when life was getting “back to normal” (I truthfully am not sure what that is) my hand started getting worse, instead of better. That means the surgery may have stirred up an inflammatory response that can go crazy. Already my thumb has a contracture, is getting harder to flex and hurts like the dickens. Enough whining. You get the picture.

Moreover, the infection I’d been taking antibiotics for before the surgery came back. After a few days on another round of antibiotics, although I initially starting feeling good, the infection grew substantially worse, instead of better — here it goes again – which means the bacteria is now resistant to that antibiotic. I’m allergic to the best antibiotics used for that purpose, and the choice is narrowing quickly. I started a new antibiotic on Friday night, was improving dramatically, but this afternoon felt like I was going backward.

On top of that, one of my children, who has had some tough stuff going on in the family, had even worse things poured on. In spite of all our prayers, everything is getting worse, instead of better.

What’s going on here?

Probably a lot of things I’ll only understand when I get to heaven.  It could be the darkness before the dawn.

One thing I know is I’m finding out if what I believe about trusting God is real, inside, where it counts . . .

And outside, where others see it and are influenced by it — where the “ouch” comes in. Even on my finest day my life isn’t enough to illuminate others! As my husband likes to say, “We’re just cracked pots.”

Quito Pots © Jack H Thompson

 It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.

That last line surely fits me!

Today we sang one of my favorites during the Spanish service, Puedo Confiar, which means, “I can trust.” It has a great line, “Puedo descansar,” meaning “I can rest.” It goes deeper, more like, “I can lean back and relax.”

Have you ever been in one of those team-building exercises where, blindfolded, you have to trust your teammate to lead you safely through obstacles? The high point comes when you are pushed backward, off your feet. You hope your teammate catches you (or at least breaks your fall if you’re bigger than they are).

We can fall back into arms that are big enough and loving enough and reliable enough to catch us, no matter what our feelings say, even when we can’t see or touch anything that assures us it is safe.

We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.

The refrain of Puedo Confiar says I can trust God, even if the sun refuses to shine. As I sang, I closed my eyes and let myself emotionally sink back into His arms. (If you’ve been around the block a while, right now you might be humming, “Leaning on the everlasting arms.”)

We’re in a world full of hard stuff. If our feelings and ability to trust are focused on our circumstances we’ll be puppets on a string, jerked around by what we can’t control and don’t like. By the things that don’t fit into our plan.

Instead, I choose to close my eyes and lean into arms that have caught me every time I’ve fallen, even when I didn’t know who it was.

 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

(Quotes are snatches of 2 Corinthians 4:6-16, from The Message. You can download the YouVersion app to your phone or tablet, or got to on your computer, and read the whole thing, in lots of languages!)

Let’s chat:  What do you do when things pile up? When it seems like nothing is working right ?

Stuff happens

Before I went to sleep last night, and again as I awoke this morning, I tossed ideas to write about around in my mind — deep, profound subjects – or so it seemed.

However, on the way to my desk, I discovered that Lily, our Golden Retriever, had relieved herself some time during the night on our family heirloom, antique Persian carpet. Not just a little piddle, but a huge, soaked-through-the-horsehair padding-in-a-huge-puddle kind of pee.

solomn Lily
by Jack H Thompson all rights reserved

My husband had already tried blotting with towels and spraying with Odor-Ban, but the smell was deeply embedded in the fibers.

Definitely not the way I wanted to start my day.

Recalling that club soda is the best antidote to urine in a carpet, I blessed my daughter who had given me a soda-making machine, so I could produce as much unflavored soda as I needed.

The minute that grateful thought entered my mind, my spirit lifted.  And with that, the lessons I’ve been learning lately rolled through my mind.

I could curse the dog and grumble about the loss of time and my aching hand.

Or, to be really alive, I could choose to be grateful, no matter what. My attitude was up to me, and that, alone, would determine my experience.

I could choose to be in the moment, even one that stinks. Because living isn’t only on mountain tops or seashores or rose gardens.

If we don’t live in the daily or the grungy or the unwelcome times, we pass up most of our lifetime.

I had soda and towels and a body that generally responds to my commands. Smile.

So I poured and blotted, sniffed, made more soda, poured and blotted, and continued, giving thanks it was a rare, dry day in Florida, and a cool one at that, so I could open all the windows. I gave thanks for the large sliding doors out back that provided great ventilation, and for the recently installed screen cage that made it possible to have air without bugs.

I sniffed, made more soda, went for more towels, poured and blotted, and gave thanks for a washer and dryer to deal with the mountain of stinky towels I was creating. I even gave thanks for the ability to smell the faintest of odors, so I would know where and how much to clean.

The morning sped by with the next couple of hours of pouring club soda and blotting and scrubbing – making impossible any opportunity to write before time to provide the music for the Spanish service at church.

Nevertheless, because I had chosen to stay in the moment with a grateful spirit, I enjoyed the beautiful day and noticed the songs of birds recently arrived from up north.

by Jack H Thompson all rights reserved

And I arrived at church with much more than my guitar.  My spirit was primed for worship because I had spent the morning giving thanks.

In spite of pain from my recent hand surgery, I was able to play the guitar for all sixteen songs. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed that my voice was stronger and clearer than usual, and with our music, we were able to invite the congregation into the presence of the Holy One.

by Jack H Thompson all rights reserved

More than anything else, I am giving thanks for the work the Healer has been doing inside me, the wholeness I am experiencing and the ability to choose my attitude, to jump into Life with thanksgiving.

I couldn’t create that change all on my own.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.                                Ephesians 3:20  The Message


Let’s talk about it:

Have you had a challenge to your attitude lately?

Have you handled a hassle recently that felt like progress or growth?