Let the Comforter Comfort

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She sighed with satisfaction as she put down her scissors. Finished! It had taken awhile but the hand quilted comforter was finally finished. And just in time for her friend’s birthday. She imagined how cozy her friend would feel cuddled up in the large softly padded blanket. She didn’t usually make such an elaborate gift for birthdays, but this friend was special, as was this birthday.

She lovingly folded the comforter and tied it with a pretty red ribbon, then placed it carefully in a large gift bag. She couldn’t wait to see her friend’s face when she gave it to her in a few days.

She spent the next few days packing for her move out of state. Each time she passed the bag, sitting on the small table near the front door, new images formed in her mind…

…her friend, sitting on the couch, reading a good book and wrapped in the warmth of the comforter.

…her friend, sleeping peacefully on her bed under the cozy weight of the comforter.

…her friend, sitting in her bathtub seeking safety from a storm and surrounded by the softness of the comforter.

When the day came, she handed the bag to her friend with a huge smile, eager to watch her friend’s surprise and delight.

She wasn’t disappointed.

“Oh, wow! This is amazing!” her friend said, holding it up and admiring it. “I can’t believe you made this for me. It must have taken you forever!”

“It did take a while,” she answered. “But it’s well worth it. I wanted to give you something to treasure to remind you how much I treasure you and our friendship.”

“Aww… thank you. I feel the same way and I will treasure this comforter my whole life.”

Six months later, settled in her new home, she began missing her friend and decided to make a visit. Upon entering her friend’s house, she saw the comforter she had made. It wasn’t on the couch where it could be easily grabbed and used. It wasn’t on the bed waiting to provide warmth in the cool evenings. It was displayed on the wall!

“I love the comforter so much that I didn’t want it to get dirty or damaged so I put it on the wall. It looks great up there, doesn’t it!” her friend told her.

Hiding her disappointment, she smiled and agreed – it did look good up there. But it wasn’t made to be displayed on a wall. It was made to be used! To part of her friend’s everyday life. What good was it up there? How could it provide warmth and comfort from up there? But she knew it wasn’t her right to force her friend to use it the way she had purposed it. It belonged to her friend now and it was her friend’s right to choose what to  do with it.

On the way home, she sought the comfort of her Friend… and made a startling connection.

“Lord,” she prayed. “Thank you for Your gift of the Holy Spirit to be my comforter. Help me to allow Him to be part of my everyday life, to seek Him to comfort me when I’m scared and to warm me when I’m cold. May I never keep Him at a distance, knowing He’s there but not allowing Him to serve the purpose for which You gave Him to me.”

And she drove the rest of the way home wrapped in the cozy embrace of her Comforter.

Sometimes Muddy Water is a Good Thing

 

Emotions churned inside her as she bowed before the Lord in prayer.

“Jesus, I don’t know what’s happening inside me. It’s such a mess. And I don’t even know why. Everything seems to be going well right now – job, family, health. So why all this turmoil?”

“Just a little cleaning up.”

She frowned, not understanding. How can cleaning up make her feel bad? She thought about it for a while. What exactly WAS she feeling? So many emotions all mixed up inside her. Pain and confusion from her teen years that still plagued her. Doubts that she was actually hearing from God and that it wasn’t just her imagination, and fear that she would lead others wrong as she began speaking out for Him.  Depression that seemed to cling to her no matter how hard she tried to fight it.  Very low self-esteem, more like no self-esteem.  The list seemed endless. She struggled to put a name to it.

“Muddy water.”

Muddy water?

She thought of her small garden pond. She enjoyed going outside to sit by it each day and watch the fish swim around. The pond looked beautiful – clear shiny water with green flowering plants growing in and around it. From time to time she would add a little water to compensate for the water that had evaporated.

She remembered a time she had not gone outside to the pond for several weeks. When she had finally made it there, she had been dismayed to find the water level to be as low IMG_20180510_000206722as it was. So she had taken the hose and watched as the water refilled the pond. Almost immediately the clear water had gotten cloudy as the running water churned up the dirt that had settled at the bottom.  Within minutes she could see leaves and pine straw swirling around in the very muddy water. Yuck. She decided to keep the water flowing and as the water flowed over the top, it had taken the mud, leaves and pine straw with it until all that had remained was clear clean water. Her pond was beautiful again, only this time it wasn’t hiding a bunch of dirt and debris at the bottom.

She made the connection. She might look good on the outside, but deep inside her heart,  a lot of dirt and debris had settled over time. Jesus had turned on the hose in her heart, filling her to overflowing with living water!

Amazed at the way He helped her understand, she thanked Him for the work He was doing. It might not look so good at the moment, she thought, but when He gets done, my heart will be clean and clear and truly beautiful!

Slime Monster

Where did this feeling come from, she wondered. This warm, want-to-hug-people feeling?

She had never wanted to hug anyone before. As a child, she had been forced to hug every relative hello, regardless of who they were and how she felt. That was not OK with her. In fact, she hated it. But she did it dutifully. She learned to see hugging people as a chore and to bury any feelings involved in it.

But now…she WANTED to hug people.

People in her family.

People in her church.

People at her prayer meeting.

People who befriended her.

People she knew.

People she didn’t know.

Even her pesky little sisters.

Where had this huggy part of her come from?

Then one day she read Romans 5:5. “…for we know how dearly God loves us and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

Ahh! So that’s where it comes from, she thought! I’m so full of God’s amazing love that it oozes out of me every time I get near someone. I’m like some kind of slime monster!

And that was just fine with her.

 

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A Rose of Affirmation

She was feeling down. Again. Seems she was always feeling down these days.

Her first year walking with Jesus had been amazing. Full of surprises  and discoveries. This second year so far has not been like that. She seemed to be frequently plagued with self-doubts and confusion.

This latest doubt centered on the baptism experience everyone seemed to be talking about. The Holy Spirit baptism. One of incredible joy and power. Or so she had been told. She had yet to experience that for herself. She knew the drill. Ask for the baptism. Get someone to lay hands on her and pray along with her. Yield to the Holy Spirit. Then He comes in with all His glory. Or at least as much of it as humans can take.

She had done all that. Several times. She never felt any of the joy people spoke of. In fact, she never felt anything, and she didn’t feel any different now than before all those prayers. So, what was the problem? Certainly it couldn’t be with the Holy Spirit. It had to be with her. She must be defective somehow. So how could she be an effective witness for God if she was not even capable of receiving this baptism? And how could she pray or worship God if she was this defective? How could He even be even a little pleased with her when she was so broken?

She was desperate to talk to someone about this. To open up and share her doubts and feelings. But she was alone. She asked the Lord to bring someone into her life who she could discuss this with her, help her make sense of it all, but no one came.

So on this night, she went to bed with her thoughts and doubts and feelings swirling around in her head.  As she thought about everything that had happened to her since her encounter with Jesus the year before, she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was surprised to find a pleasant feeling of relief had replaced the confused desperation of the night before. It was as if she had talked out her doubts and fears with someone while she slept.

“You did. With Me.” But she didn’t hear the quiet whisper as she prepared for the day.

A little while later, her eyes grew wide as she saw the rose one of her students was carrying. The rose was the biggest and prettiest she had ever seen. And it had just been handed to her! She was speechless!

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In the past, in that first year of exciting experiences, many times  after she had struggled between God and her doubts and had chosen to believe God, she would receive a gift from someone the next day. She had come to see those gifts as a pat on the back from God for making the right decision.

So she knew this amazing rose came from her amazing God! The student may have handed it to her, but she knew it was really God Himself handing her the rose. And in her spirit, she could hear Him say, “How can you say I am not pleased with you? You are my daughter! I am well pleased with you. You are OK just the way you are!”

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Mark 13:11  What Should I Say?

“I can’t do this.”

“Yes you can.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I am with you.”

She remembered what Jesus had told His followers in Mark 13:11: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

But did that assurance apply to her in this circumstance? She was not the one on trial. And this certainly had nothing to do with her faith. She was here because of a custody battle over one of her students.

She didn’t know much about the family. The only time she saw them was when one or the other dropped off their son. They were both friendly in different ways and the child was a delight. She had no idea there were problems until one day when the mom had come in her classroom with a large bruise on her face. Tears streaming down her face, the mom had accused her husband of beating her and said she was going to divorce him. The mom had been concerned how it would affect her son and asked to be alerted to any changes in his behavior.

A week later she was served with a subpoena. And here she sat, waiting to be called before the judge to… say what? She didn’t know anything!

She had no idea what to expect and was terrified that she would be asked who she thought would make the better parent. How could she choose? Because she had seen the bruise on the mom’s face, she was siding more with the mom, and it had been the mom’s lawyer who had subpoenaed her  – but what if the story she had been told was not the whole truth? What if the mom was crazy and blaming her husband for something he didn’t do? After all, she hadn’t been there. And she had heard enough stories over the years to know things are not always what they seem. She was scared she would say the wrong thing and the cause the boy to go to the wrong parent.

“God, help me,” she pleaded over and over again. “Don ‘t let them ask me that question.”

“Don’t worry,” the mom’s lawyer had said. “The judge never allows that question. He knows teachers only have limited information.”

“God, help me,” she pleaded again, too nervous to feel His presence, or even to trust that He heard her.

“I am here. You will be fine.”

Finally it was her turn. Facing the judge, the mom, the dad, and two lawyers was nerve racking just in itself. But then the lawyers started firing their questions until her mind was swimming. She got confused more than once and had to ask the dad’s lawyer to slow down. When she didn’t think she could handle any more questions, the dad’s lawyer asked her one more. “Who do you think would make the better parent?” She stared at him, then at the judge. Before she could say anything, the mom’s lawyer objected. He told the judge she wasn’t qualified to answer that because of her limited contact with the family.

The judge turned to look at her and said, “In my experience, teachers are pretty good at making intuitive judgments about their students’ families. I’ll allow the question.”

There it was. THE question. What could she say? She took a deep breath, then told the judge her impressions as the parents had taken turns dropping off their son in the mornings. “I don’t know who would make the better parent,” she said. “But because the mom always talked about her son, and the dad always talked about himself, I would have to choose the mom.”

All the way home, she kicked herself, remembering what she could of the interview, and realizing she could have done a better job. If only that lawyer hadn’t kept confusing her!

The next morning, when the mom arrived with her son, she hung her head and apologized to the mom. “I’m so sorry if I messed anything up.”

The mom shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. Your answers were perfect!” She handed a pencil to her. “Thank you so much!”

Atop the blue pencil was a large rubber eraser, shaped like a sun, with the words “God’s Love Shines On You.’

 

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And she knew that God has sent that pencil to her. It was like getting a hug from Him, assurance that she had done a good job regardless of her fears. Not that she believed for a minute that her answers were all that wise in and of themselves – but the Holy Spirit had guided her in what to say, and God had used it for His purpose, standing behind her and filling her words with His power and light. And that’s what everyone else had heard. Just like He had promised in Mark 13:11.

What an amazing, faithful God!