The following devotions were inspired by the ongoing renovation of our home.
Restoration (January 2010)
We just bought a house with a history. It started out as a barn. Thirty-plus years ago, it was converted to a doctor’s office. Later, it became someone’s home. Right now, it is a mess. The bathtub is long gone, just a hole exposing the earth below. Chunks of drywall are chipped out of bedroom walls. Exposed 2×4’s outline someone’s plan that was never completed. Layers of flooring tell a tale of quick fixes that didn’t hold up to the wear and tear of living.
There are contradictions: the bedroom decor is reminiscent of roadside graffiti; other walls are beautifully sponge-painted. The two bathrooms are bad and worse; the kitchen is unscathed. Charming old posts and beams can be seen in the attic and closets; they’ve been completely boxed in and sheet-rocked in the living areas.
So what possessed us to spend four painful months navigating the mortgage maze to make this needy house our own? It met our price and location criteria–but it wasn’t our only option. I’ve always wanted a house that wasn’t like anyone else’s (three of our homes were in developments of matching houses)–this one will be unique. We’ve owned a series of fixer-uppers, each a bit more challenging–this will top the rest. But most of all, it just felt right. After our second time through the house, my husband said, “I think God wants us to have this house.” When we were walking around the yard, I looked up and saw a faint rainbow; it seemed like God had a whispered promise for us.
I’m guessing that this house will be a lesson in restoring the soul.
Hiding His Handiwork (January 2010)
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-15 (MSG)
Sometimes we choose to conceal every vestige of faith with the pervasive drywall of our culture, anxious to fit in and look like everybody else. We don’t want to be different–so we spackle over our relationship with Christ, relegating it to the closets of our souls, hidden from all but our most intimate friends. Others cannot see the exquisite workmanship that holds our bodies, souls and spirits together.
Restore our souls, O Lord! Drag us out from under those buckets, out of our closets–may we be glowing evidence of your handiwork. Amen.
Timeless, Not Old (January 2010)
We met with the contractor this week. He grew up in the neighborhood; our corner was his bus stop. He remembers when the house was still a barn. He gazed fondly at the beams laboriously uncovered by my husband. He reminded us that the building is over a hundred years old and added, “think about the trees these came from–how old were they?”
My soul has a timeless support structure. The beams in my house are not unlike those that formed the cross. God’s master plan for salvation transcends time and offers the gift of everlasting life.
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see:
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
to pardon and sanctify me.
George Bennard, 1913
Essential Support (February 2010)
My husband and I are short enough to walk under the beams in our new house without hitting our heads; others aren’t so lucky. A couple people have suggested that we cut out the hallway beams. But those beams are integral to the building. If we cut a three-foot section out of the middle, we would undermine the whole structure. It wouldn’t make the hallway safer for tall people; it would render the house unsafe for everyone.
My soul is like that. Jesus is integral to my spiritual well-being. I know there are people in the world who think believers should just cut Christ out of their interactions with others. If I did that, my soul would collapse in on itself, useless and lifeless.
You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred–and you, remember, are the temple
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (MSG)
Leprous Walls (February 2010)
I’m not a Hebrew scholar, and I was surprised to learn that the Hebrew word for leprosy–tzaraath–has a connection with evil tongue or malicious gossip. That certainly puts a different spin on the concept of shunning the leper. There is enough Scripture devoted to leprosy to make me think that it has serious spiritual significance.
Interestingly, houses can also be leprous:
When you have come into the land of Canaan, which I give you as a possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in the land of your possession, and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying, “It seems to me that there is some plague in the house.”
Leviticus 14:34-35 (NKJV)
We bought our house as is, and we had to sign a document saying that we would not hold the seller responsible for any mold in the building; I don’t think that this is a Scripture about mold on the walls. Some of the walls in our house were damaged, with graffiti and holes; I don’t think that is the topic of this passage either. We are removing walls, not because they are leprous, but because they are blocking the light, or they are too damaged to repair, or because they cover up the beams we want to see, or to make a larger space.
We may have walls in our souls that need to go because they block the light of the Word, or to make room for spiritual growth, or to let more of God’s handiwork show. Other walls may be truly leprous, built on the lies of our enemy, malicious ideas intended to bring about spiritual disease and destruction. According to Scripture, leprous walls are to be pulled out and cast into an unclean place outside the city. Our souls are restored by tearing out and casting away these leprous walls.
The Eyes Are the Windows of the Soul (February 2010)
I bought lots of curtain fabric this week–not that the house is ready for curtains just yet, but I am anxious to plan the decor. And windows are key. Windows are the source of light and cooling breezes. They frame the view to the great outdoors and give people passing by glimpses of the lives that dwell within.
According to an old English proverb, the eyes are the window of the soul. There is a similar passage in Scripture:
Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
Matthew 6:22-23 (MSG)
We are seriously thinking about adding windows to our house. If we can afford it, we will turn the southwest corner into a sunroom. I’m thinking that I need more light in my soul, too–more wide-eyed wonder and belief!
Open the Curtains of Your Soul (February 2010)
25 years ago, my husband bought a house I had not seen. He’d started a new job, and the kids and I had yet to join him. The house met his main criteria: we could afford it, and it had four bedrooms (at the time we had three children). He’d explained that it was a fixer-upper, but livable.
On my first tour through the house, it struck me as dark and dreary. Heavy curtains hung at every window, the woodwork was faded and the walls dark. We’d been told that the owners had experienced the death of a child while they lived in that house, and I wondered if the decor matched their mood.
First thing, I took down the drapes and discovered white sheer curtains underneath. Light streamed into the living room from two sides–and I liked my new home.
Thus it is with our souls. When we shut out the light of God, the sunshine of joy and the gentle breezes of gratitude, our souls become dungeons. We are entrapped in the darkness of negative emotions.
Throw open the windows of your soul! Let the Son shine into the depths of your being.
Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
flooding my soul with glory divine.
Henry Zelley, 1899
Whitewashed! (February 2010)
My hubby has been doing heavy labor–pulling down drywall and removing 2×4’s to reveal the original beams in the downstairs ceilings. He’s had help from several other men, but the work called for more strength than I can offer. Uncovering the living and dining room beams has uncovered a job that matches my skills–scraping whitewash from the old wood.
Here’s some background on whitewash from Wikipedia: In the middle of the 20th century. . .whitewash was a necessary part of routine barn maintenance. A traditional animal barn contains a variety of extremely rough surfaces that are difficult to wash and keep clean, such as. . .rough-cut lumber for the ceiling. Left alone these surfaces collect dust, dirt, insect debris and wastes, and can become very dirty. Whitewash aids in sanitation by coating and smoothing over the rough surfaces. Successive applications of whitewash build up layers of scale which flake off and in the process remove surface debris with it. The coating also has antimicrobial properties that provide hygienic and sanitary benefits.
Much of the whitewash has already flaked off our beams. Some of it is quite thick and can be easily separated from the wood. Some is thoroughly embedded in the rough surface and must be painstakingly scraped away–a tedious chore that requires more perseverance than muscle-power.
The term whitewash can also mean to cover up or gloss over something corrupt or scandalous. Jesus was used it: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27 NIV).
My soul doesn’t have to be filled with unclean things. When I confess my whitewashed sins to Christ, he cleanses the whitewash with his blood. Thanks be to God!
Truly White (February 2010)
Our Enemy has a false version of just about every good and wonderful gift of God. God offers us the gift of cleansing:
Purify me from my sins,and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7 (NLT)
Whitewash is the Enemy’s version of cleansing: nobody’s looking, just make it look good, you’ve got to look out for #1, do it to others before they do it to you.
I know from recent experience that whitewash is superficial, it flakes off to reveal what is underneath and prolonged contact with it is irritating.
Dear Lord, cleanse me from my whitewash. Make me truly white. Amen.
A Tale of Two Houses (February 2010)
I’m living in one house, renovating another. As I put more thought and time into the new house, I find myself liking the old house less and less. Annoying things about the old house loom large: the uneven floors, the noise and dirt from the highway, the musty cellar, the rattling windows. My thoughts dwell on the charm of the new house: hand-hewn beams, wide window sills, cozy convenience, the starry night sky, woodland views. I have trouble motivating myself to do the basic cleaning in the old house, even though we will be living here for weeks to come.
If I force myself to be realistic, I know that there is much I will miss about the old house–the gracious entry, the shaded back yard, the huge closet in the bathroom, the spindles on the stairs where we’ve hung our Christmas stockings. Yes, I’ll even miss the busy intersection that is first plowed in a snowstorm! But as I become more devoted to the new house, my commitment to the old one diminishes.
As my soul becomes more devoted to Christ, my commitment to worldly things diminishes.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).
Matthew 6:24 (AMP)
Over-Protective? Under Protective? (March 2010)
I spent a couple hours last Saturday putting painter’s tape and plastic over the hand-hewn beams of our new home. My husband has removed all the covering drywall and painstakingly fitted new wallboard behind, beside and in-between. Spackling is next on the agenda, soon to be followed by painting. We want to protect the beams from our inevitable drips and smudges.
It occurred to me that we parents have a hard time finding just the right level of protection for our children. Some people are so afraid that their children will be hurt by the world that they erect a wall of security around them–not unlike the drywall that completely covered the rustic beauty of our beams. Others don’t set limits at all, which almost always leads to trouble–equivalent to leaving the beams completely exposed while we paint. Hopefully, the basic lessons we’ve discussed over and over will stick with our kids when they are out of sight–just as I hope the tape doesn’t peel off before our work is done. Our prayers serve as a protective covering for our children–like the plastic sheeting I’ve put between the ceiling and the beams.
Our heavenly Father isn’t over-protective. He let us make our own decisions, good or bad, and reap the consequences. Nor is he under-protective. We are never out of his sight. He rescues us countless times, even when we don’t deserve it. He encourages us to be out and about, salt and light for the world. He has laid out the basic rules for living in the Scriptures. Hopefully, the lessons stick. Meanwhile, Christ is interceding for us.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go:
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Psalm 32:8 (NIV)
He Restoreth My Soul (February 2011)
to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition, as a building, statue, or painting
to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor
Think of restoring a house: shoring up the foundation, repairing damaged walls, replacing broken windows. Likewise, restoring a soul: strengthening faith, removing fear and doubt, flooding the space with love.
Do a walkthrough of your soul. . .what needs restoration? Your Creator knows your original design–who better to take charge of the reclamation of your soul?
You can see by the dates that these are old thoughts on my part. I welcome your new thoughts in response.