The Lunch Invitation

Nancy looked at the lunch invitation with delight. Meals at her friends’ house were always an adventure. They liked to experiment with their recipes, often finding creative ways to tweak the ingredients to make the dishes unique and unforgettable. This meal, scheduled for the following week, should be no exception.

Each day she tried to imagine what they would be serving.  Probably nothing as ordinary as spaghetti or grilled cheese, unless they added some fun ingredients, of course. Maybe something with lobster, she thought, mentally licking her lips.

Finally the day came and she drove to her friends’ house with great anticipation

“Come on in! I’m so glad you’re here!” Susan exclaimed as she held the door open for Nancy.

“Thank you for the invite,” Nancy replied. “I love your cooking!”

They walked down the hall towards the kitchen. “Bob is finishing the salad right now. We kind of burned the main dish so we added some extra ingredients to make the salad larger. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Salad actually sounds good.” Nancy knew whatever they served would be amazing.

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The large salad in the center of the kitchen table did look amazing. So full of greens with lots of colorful veggies, eggs, and cheeses mixed in.

Bob held the salad fork and motioned to the salad. “We weren’t expecting to have to make such a big salad and didn’t have enough greens so I added some lettuce leaves from our backyard garden. It’s the first time we’ve ever grown lettuce and I’m so excited that they were ready to use today.”

Nancy glanced out the window to the back yard, then stared with horror. A dog was peeing on the bed of lettuce. Was this the same bed that Bob got his lettuce for the salad? It had to be.

“Umm…” she began. “Your dog is… umm… peeing on your lettuce.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” Bob said. “He does that all the time. It doesn’t hurt the lettuce.”

Nancy looked at the salad. Was some of that peed on lettuce part of this salad?

Susan saw her look and said, “Don’t worry. I’m sure Bob rinsed the lettuce before adding it to the salad.”

“Of course,” Bob agreed. “I always do.”

Nancy thought of the quick rinse she usually did to her own vegetables. Surely he did better than that.

“Besides,” Susan went on, “even if he happened to use a lettuce leaf that had gotten peed on, it’s such a little part of this salad that you won’t even notice.”

Somehow, Nancy had lost her appetite and began wondering what excuse she could make to get out of there without eating.

Later, much later, she thought… is this like us and sin? We think we do so many wonderful things that a little sin here or there doesn’t really matter. But is that how God sees sin? That it’s OK to accept small sins as long as we basically try to do the right things? Would that be like Susan and Bob accepting that salad since it was basically all good ingredients? A little contamination wouldn’t be noticed?

No, God was pure holiness. There was no darkness in Him at all. So all sin, no matter how small, must be as despicable to Him as the possible yellow lettuce had been to her.

Wow! That sure puts sin in a whole new light.

Don’t Get Too Close to the Fence

“Where are you going, Kevin?” she asked, holding on to his leash and trying not to be pulled by his strong legs. “You need to come back here.”

But Kevin had seen something that caught his attention and he was determined to investigate it.

“Stop, Kevin! Don’t get too close to that fence! It will hurt you!”

But whether he didn’t hear or didn’t understand, he ignored the warning and continued running towards the object of his interest, which happened to be on the other side of the fence.

“Kevin! Stop! You’re too close! Come back!” she yelled, trying desperately to pull back on the leash. But he was too determined and did his best to keep going.

He saw the fence, but he had seen fences before. No big threat. He could get past that. But as soon as his nose touched it, he found out different. This fence was NOT like the others. This one bit!

Terrified, he took off, his broken leash dangling behind him, across the large yard and up the long driveway as if he was never going to stop running. He had to get as far away from that fence as he could.

“Kevin, come back!” she called out. “You’re heading for the street!”

But this time terror prevented him from hearing anything. When he got to the top of the driveway, before turning to run down the street, he paused. Did he hear something? Yes, he could hear her voice calling him. Coming from a long way away, it was soft, but somehow loud enough to break through his terror.

He watched her a few minutes as she continued to call to him.

“Come on, boy. It’s OK. Come back to me.” she called gently, crouching down in an inviting position.

Not sure, he just stood there. He still didn’t understand what had happened. How did a fence hurt that bad? And why was it there in the first place? All he wanted to do was check out something on the other side.

But what he did understand was that this girl loved him and could protect him. And he loved her. So he ran to her as fast as he could and hid behind her. And there, he was determined to stay.

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Muddy Purity

She read, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

“God, I have a problem. My heart is not pure.”

“Yes it is.”

“It sure wasn’t when that driver cut me off in traffic.”

“True, you could have handled that differently. But your heart is still pure.”

“No way, not after I yelled at my kids for not cleaning up their stuff.”

“Yeah, they told me about that. It’s something to work on, but your heart is still pure.”

“How can You say that after the way I ignored that homeless person holding up that handwritten sign on the corner last week? I didn’t want to give anything to him so I pretended I didn’t see him. I’m so ashamed.”

“Now that you’ve experienced that sorrow, maybe next time you won’t ignore the pleas of the poor. But your heart is still pure.”

“How can my heart be pure if I’m doing all those things? No matter how much I don’t want to, I keep sinning.”

“Sinning is not the same as purity.”

“Huh?”

“Maybe this will help. Imagine holding a diamond, a pure diamond without any flaws. IMG_20180415_052040472Now picture dropping this diamond into some mud. Is the diamond still pure?”

“Yes. The diamond didn’t change. The mud is only on the outside. Inside, the diamond is still pure.”

“That’s right. The mud cannot get inside the diamond. The mud can make the purity hard to see, but it’s still there.”

“So, my heart is pure. But my sins make that hard to see.”

“Exactly.”

“I don’t know. That’s a good illustration, but my heart sure doesn’t feel pure.”

“Purity is not a feeling. It’s a fact.”

“How do You know that?”

“Because I’ve said so.”

“You did? When?”

“That night I ate supper with my disciples just before Judas betrayed Me.”

“Wasn’t that when you talked about the vine and branches, and when You prayed for us? I don’t remember You talking about a pure heart.

“Sure. Read John 15:3.”

“It says, ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.'”

“What do you think I meant by that?”

“Um, I guess I thought that meant our sins were forgiven.”

“You guess? Maybe you should look it up in a dictionary.”

“OK, here it is. Clean. There’re two definitions. The first one says ‘free from dirt, marks, or stains’. That would be the mud, right?  My sins that you’ve forgiven?”

“Yes. What does the other definition say?”

“It says, ‘pure, innocent’. Oh wow, I never associated clean with pure.”

She thought for a minute.  “So in John 15:3, when you were telling them that they were clean – pure – you were talking about their hearts and not their behavior.

“Yes.”

“And nothing they did, no sin they commit, changes that purity?”

“Right. It can be hidden under a lot of mud, but it’s still there.”

“That’s all well and good for the apostles. But I wasn’t there.”

“It applies to you, too. Read the rest of the passage and you will see that it applies to everyone who abides in Me.”

“Oh, right.” She was embarrassed that she had already forgotten that connection. “So, You said it and my heart is pure.”

“I did and it is.”

“No matter how muddy I get.”

“No matter how muddy you get.”

“Amazing,” she thought as she pictured that diamond in a mud puddle. “Simply amazing!”

Just Like… The Kitten in the Woods

“Let’s try this trail!” My son pointed to a narrow trail through a little piece of woods that bordered the street we were bicycling on.

“It looks hard,” I answered. “Maybe we should get off our bikes.”  Inside, I was picturing riding down the steep slope, hitting that hump at the bottom, and flying off into the trees.

“Nah, we can handle it,” my husband said as he took off, my son right behind him.

My daughter and I watched the boys disappear over the hump, then turned to look at each other.

“You go next,” I told my daughter. I still wasn’t sure this was a smart thing for a middle aged lady to do.

After watching her navigate the path as smoothly as the boys, I cautiously started off. Gaining speed, I almost screamed when I hit the hump but managed to stay on the bike even as I made the turn that lay right behind it. When I came to a stop, the others cheered. We walked our bikes a few more steps around some branches when my daughter stopped us.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

We listened quietly a few minutes before we heard it too.

Just like I heard you when you called to Me.

“It’s coming from over there.” My husband pointed across the little stream that ran by the trail.

It took a few more minutes before we spotted the tiny gray form. It was on the other side of the stream, meowing pitifully. It would look at us, then try to cross the cold water. After several unsuccessful tries,  it gave up and paced up and down the edge of the water, looking at us as it continued to cry. She couldn’t get to us, so we decided to find a way to get to her.

Just like I did when I went to the cross for you.

It wasn’t until we got back home with the tiny kitten that we discovered just how bad a shape she was in.

cassi - CopyShe was very young, probably less than a month, wet, cold, covered with fleas. One eye was closed, covered with a brown crusty film, and her other eye wasn’t that much better off. There was a smelly discharge coming from her ears, and she had a kind of wheezing cough.

Just like you were when I found you.

Even so, we fell in love with her immediately. We saw past the disease and filth to the vulnerable and sweet kitten that she was.

Just like I see past all your sins and failures to the lovely treasure you are.

Even though we couldn’t imagine loving her any more than we already did, we knew we couldn’t leave her in that condition.

Just like I couldn’t leave you in your condition.

“She’s going to the vet first thing tomorrow,” my husband said. “She looks pretty sick.”

“She must be hungry. What can we feed her?” I asked. We had some dog food in the house but no cat food.

“We can ask next door,” my daughter said. “They have a cat.”

“Good idea!”

Our neighbor was generous but the kitten couldn’t eat any of the dry cat food.

“Maybe she’s too young. What else can we try? She has to eat something before tomorrow.” I said.

“What about tuna fish?” my son asked.

“Sure, we could try,” my husband replied. He went inside, and returned a moment later with a small dish of tuna.

As soon as the kitten smelled it, she attacked it like she hadn’t eaten in days. Mostly likely, she hadn’t.

Just like I feed you what you can handle.

Over the next week, her health improved dramatically as we applied the medicine the vet had given us. She didn’t like it and fought us at times, but we knew it was necessary if she was going to return to full health.

Just like how you are healing as I work in you, even if you resist at times.

After a month, you couldn’t tell that she had ever been sick. Cassi was healthy in every way, and had became my daughter’s best friend!

Just like you,  My friend!

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