Good Words from Other Places ~

Earning the Privilege of Healing Each Other
19 02 2009
“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I was at church (Dad was a pastor…I was ALWAYS at church), playing with a friend out on the church playground. It had rained, so there was plenty of opportunity for slipping and sliding. One of us had the brilliant idea of using the slippery circumstances to stand up on the slide and “surf” down it. The “brilliance” of the idea, however, was soon overshadowed by the sharp pain on the back of my head after it hit the slide on my way down. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it had to be bad by the way everyone kept reacting to it, and by the way my parents threw me into the back seat of the car and sped off to the hospital.

This was a day I would face yet another fear on my long list of childhood phobias. This was a fear near the top of the list, one I had carefully and gratefully avoided until now: stitches. I can still remember the word coming out of the doctor’s mouth…He was almost apologetic about it, and yet he was certain. I wanted to ask, “Are you sure?” But I could see it in his eyes. There would be no getting out of this. I knew it was inevitable. So I mustered up all the trust I could find and I put myself in his trained and skillful hands. Mind you, I didn’t really have a choice, so “bravery” or “courage” probably are not the right words to describe it. But I did it. I faced my fear by trusting in someone else.

Pain does funny things to us. It makes us see things unclearly, it makes us recall things incorrectly, but one of the most troublesome results of pain is our unwillingness to trust anyone. When I am in pain, I just do not want to let you close, because I don’t know that I can trust you. That is a problem, because often the healing process requires that I trust someone; it requires that I let down my guard and permit someone to administer the healing mechanism. For physical injuries, that may be stitches, or medicine, or setting a broken bone. But for emotional or Spiritual injuries, it usually means a healthy dose of truth. And truth, it seems, can be the most painful of medicines.

When you are called upon to administer truth into my life, when you must speak the truth in love to me, you must first remove all doubts in my mind about your motives. You must convince me that you have my best interests at heart. You must create an environment where I feel safe and where I am willing to allow you to administer painful medicine. If you do not accomplish this first and foremost, you simply cannot speak truth in love to me, because I cannot hear it.

Speaking the truth in love requires a relationship between us. It doesn’t have to be longstanding (the doctor who gave me my stitches had never seen me before), but it must be a relationship in which I trust your motives. Without that, you are not much help to me.

Have you learned to forge those kinds of relationships? Are there plenty of people in your life who trust you enough to hear the truth from you? This, I believe, is the work of the church. This is where we spend our time and our resources: relationships of accountability, relationships built on unconditional love. Because the injuries are sure to come. That is a given. The question is, when they come are the relationships in place to bring healing?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website:

The Dangerous Delight of God

I call it "dangerous" delight, because as soon as anyone begins to understand God's delight in His children, and then apply that understanding personally, both to themselves, and their relationships....eyebrows begin to raise. As freeing and exciting as the revelation is, as soon as you or I begin to take what we see of the love of God and believe it and walk in it, some will suddenly become concerned about "balance".

I can see why that is. After all, the love of God is a very UNbalanced force. It took the scales of justice, and balanced them, once and for all, in the person of Jesus Christ. No effort on my behalf, except to believe, was expended. But then, in addition to God taking upon Himself the task of my justification, He chose to heap my side of those then-balanced scales with blessing upon blessing, according to John 1: And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

My friends...those scales are now entirely, gloriously unbalanced. If it makes me unbalanced to believe it, then I'll gladly be a bit off-kilter. Crazy-good news tends to do that to people - it makes them laugh and sing and dance and hug their grumpy neighbor.

This unbalanced message of a God who loved us while we were yet sinners, who no longer counts the sins of the believer against them, (all sins - past, present, and future), this message of a God who "rejoices over us with joy" (which, by the way, is "joy squared." Joy times joy. Dangerous delight.)...this message is the gospel message. This is the message we are to continue in, every day. This is the message that will lead you to repentence. It is what you will find in God's word, from Genesis to Revelation - some form of this message is to be discovered.

The love of God for you and I (our sons and our daughters, our friends and our brethren) is not an angsting love. It is not a worried love. It is a love that is best thought of as delight. The Lord rests in His love. He knows that He has saved us to the uttermost...we who come to God through the prescribed door of Jesus Christ. Do we know we are utterly saved? Do we live, thus loved?

Zep 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Re-opening the Wells of Grace

Isaac, child of promise, re-opened the wells (the good things of God) dug by the generation gone before:

For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. Ge. 26: 17,18

Oh, this grace-thing, this message, is not some latest discovery. It is the greatest, but it is not the latest; nor is it a fad, nor is anyone preaching any new message. These wells have been dug before, by our fathers in the faith. We, in this generation, are re-opening the wells. Hear the words of a message preached by George Whitfield, in the 1700's!

The Lord, the Lord Christ, the everlasting God, is your righteousness. Christ has justified you, who is he that condemneth you? Christ has died for you, nay rather is risen again, and ever liveth to make intercession for you. Being now justified by his grace, you have peace with God, and shall, ere long, be with Jesus in glory, reaping everlasting and unspeakable fruits both in body and soul. For there is no condemnation to those that are really in Christ Jesus. Whether Paul or Apollos, or life or death, all is yours if you are Christ's, for Christ is God's.
My brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! O think of the love of Christ in dying for you! If the Lord be your righteousness, let the righteousness of your Lord be continually in your mouth. Talk of, O talk of, and recommend the righteousness of Christ, when you lie down, and when you rise up, at your going out and coming in! Think of the greatness of the gift, as well as the giver! Show to all the world, in whom you have believed! Let all by your fruits know, that the Lord is your righteousness, and that you are waiting for your Lord from heaven!

To all this, we at Harvest Church say, "Spring Up, Oh Well!"

Squirrels and Grace

One day, a few years back, I took my customary walk. My walk is my treat to myself. I walk for exercise, but I also walk to get time to think my own thoughts. As this walk was underway, and the sweat began pouring (always the best, most productive part of exercise - every relaxation chemical your body makes, begins to flow when you exercise to the point of a light sweat) I realized I was enjoying the Lord and this day more than usual. I had been fighting some pain and sickness, and so did not expect this walk to feel that great. I began to contemplate the promises of God, to praise Him, to adore my heavenly Dad.

Suddenly, a pile of dead leaves rustled to my left, and I saw the very tip of a gray bushy tail disappear under them. I stopped on a dime, and stood, catching my breath, and watching this. I had never seen a squirrel tunnel under leaves before. He scurried along in a straight line, a moving lump under the leaf pile. It was hilariously cartoon-ish. He was headed straight for me, and I nearly laughed out loud at the mental picture, if he were to bump right on into me.

POP! Up came his little head and arms and chest. He was holding a small berry, and he was now so close to me I could have stooped down to touch him. No lie. Oh, his tiny chest was so silvery white, and his eyes so bright! He was just about the cutest thing I ever saw. He looked right up at me, munching away on his berry. He seemed to think he was safe, for the moment. I made little noises to him, and he calmly looked me in the eyes, and ate and ate. I do not know, honestly, how long I just stood there with him.

I was in love. I was overwhelmed with the desire to pet this squirrel. Foolishness, I know. I reached up to wipe the sweat from my brow, and still he was not afraid. I actually began to wonder if he was someone's escaped pet. I squatted down slowly, to get a better perspective, and marveled at the fact that still - he did not run away! I was painfully, delightfully close to him. I began to believe he might let me touch him.

Then, some nameless fear gripped him, and he ran off and up the nearby tree.

In that moment, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the Scripture, "All of creation groans and waits for the manifestation of the sons of God." The air around me seemed infused with a certain sweetness as the presence of the Lord flooded my heart. I don't know if I can put into words the "squirrel metaphor", but I will try.

That garden of Eden in Genesis was God's heart - His desire - for us. (You could have pet a fuzzy squirrel in Eden!) All creation fell when Adam fell - we lost our Eden. And just as every human being has that "God-shaped vacuum", that hole in our heart that only the love of God can fill, many animals also might long, in some way, to be cared for and protected by this higher creation called "man". But most will never experience it. (No, I'm not an animal rights person - this is going somewhere MUCH better than that...)

That squirrel was under a curse - the curse of Adam. That very curse was the "nameless fear" that gripped him, even when just inches away from someone who loved him. I realized, that day, that tiny squirrel would live its whole short life and die, never once knowing how he was an object of my delight. He would die, never knowing how good a gentle petting feels, never tasting the amazing things I could have fed the little guy, had he only hopped into my arms and come home with me.

I was sad. I felt downright stupid to be sad, but I was. There. I said it.

But don't you know? (deal with it- you knew this was coming...) We are that squirrel. We draw so close to God, maybe closer than we ever have before. Our faith increases, and He is so near! But one "move" on His part that we are not familiar with or comfortable with sends us scurrying to our tree, questioning His motives. We too have a "nameless fear" when it comes to God. Some people actually live and die never knowing they were objects of His delight. They never know His gentle touch, and have never been fed from His hand those delicious things like "the finest of the wheat", and "honey from the rock".

Not me. Never let that be me! I told Abba Dad that if no one else from Adam till that point had ever truly believed that He is good, I was going to believe it. If no one else in history had ever taken the promises of God, and simply trusted Him, I would. I was "having a moment", you see. But even one step in the right direction is better than going backwards. I am not at all ashamed of having spoken that way to God. I think He was smiling.

I told Him that I wanted His touch - believed in His love - would trust in His tender care - would never run away. I confessed that I had been redeemed from the curse, from every named and nameless insecurity that tempts me to distance myself from God. I said I'd been redeemed even in my faith: I would choose to believe Him, not my circumstances.

I had to say it. I had to remind myself of In Whom I Have Believed, because this world and the circumstances it generates, exactly like that squirrel, is in a cursed state. None of it will ever line up with God's heart unless and until a child of God comes and in childlike faith, begins to take dominion. Churches won't get built. Some orphans won't get fed. Habitations of cruelty will continue in cruelty. The gospel won't get preached - not without a child of God, believing God.

I decided I was going to take some dominion (which again, means simply to believe God) and jump right into His hands, and find out what He wanted to do with me and for me. After all. His eyes are always friendly, so full of love, and He is so close already, anyway. Why not throw caution to the wind?

I decided that if no one else had ever made that final leap.....I would.

Puppies, Cookies, and Grace

I've heard some incredible teachers and preachers in my (short...ahem) time on this planet. I've heard them use majestic metaphor and substantive simile. I love the depth that has been illustrated for me, time and again, by solid thinkers in The Faith - some are well-known, some, like my own husband, little-known.

Try as I may, my mind won't work majestically. I sigh and I try, and therein lies the problem. When I tune into my life as it really is, in all its quotidian acedia (oh, do look the words up - they are delicious to say, but bitter to live) the revelation of grace can come honestly. Like the revelations to be found in puppies and cookies.

It is no secret that I adore my puppy. He is a teacup poodle named Rambo, and he is aptly named. Just you try to touch me or especially my husband, when we are holding our 2 pounds of fuzzy furry...the itty bitty silver bullet....the Rambo Beenie. He will snarl and lunge like a warrior-rottweiler.

In fact, my puppy sometimes acts appallingly, and I still smile. I delight in this little dog no matter what. Not long ago, I examined this anomaly. You see, I am known to be ever-working to improve myself, and therefore take unbridled delight in only a few things. But I take disturbing delight in my poodle...everyone finds it disturbing, because his misbehavior has no affect on me whatsoever.

I decided this is because I have no fear for this animal's future. God bless all those who believe that puppies have eternal souls: I do not. Therefore, no amount of spoiling on my part will send Rambo's soul to the Lake of Fire. In essence, this dog is "eternally secure", in that his future is fully known to me: he will live in the lap of luxury and love, and one day die. That will be that (and yes, I will grieve terribly). Nothing in terms of Rambo's ultimate destiny is up in the air. He can't misbehave his way into Canine Judgement. He can't bite hard enough to hurt a toddler.

I am utterly free to delight in my dog.

It was then, when I stopped to consider these majestic metaphors, that I realized: the Lord delights in me! He knows the plans He has for me. He has forever settled my ultimate destiny. No amount of "misbehavior" on my part can shake Him from His love for me, in Christ Jesus. Far from being antinomianism, (and unlike Rambo) this kind of good news actually makes me want to "heel" - to follow close by my Owner's side forever.

Poodles and antinomianism and eternal security aside (after all, a mind can only take so much splendor) I also began to wonder why baking cookies for the kids wasn't so much fun anymore. In fact, I was just pondering this tonight. Used to be, a batch of cookies was a day-maker. Making a couple of sheets of home made chocolate chip cookies had the potential to bring inner healing to four children who, on some days, were fraught with naughtiness and discord.

Ah, but now they are All Grown Up. They are adults, three of them, with jobs and net spendable income. They can buy these treats for themselves, anytime they want. They can work for them.

As it is with the free Gift of Grace. It is precisely when we think we have matured our way "past" it, that the gift begins to lose its luster. The fun is taken right out of living in it. The truth that used to make our day and heal our hurts, now is something we can earn for ourselves. If we can get it for ourselves, it must be pretty common and obtainable. When God offers it to us, His grace is reduced (in our minds) to merely The Nice Gesture. A Nice Gesture is entirely unable to change us.

Hear me - hear me well! Don't rob God and yourself of the delight and fragrance that should characterize piping hot, fresh from the heart of God, sweet grace. You will never be able to work for it, you cannot obtain it on your own, all ideas of any righteousness of your own are a dangerous illusion.

This is where the metaphor breaks down, as it isn't dangerous at all for my children to make their own cookies. See why I sigh? My metaphors just aren't majestic enough.

Oh well. It is what it is. Puppies and cookies and grace.

LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me...

A Little Fluff of Spring!

He is already singing. Full-throated trilling, warbling, chirping and tumbling, quivering notes of joy. I've named him Bocelli, after the famous Italian tenor - but I'm sure I'll end up calling him "Bo" for short.

This little guy on You Tube isn't mine, but to hear what Bo sounds like, you can listen:

My Valentine's Day Present

You won't believe what Tim gave me for Valentine's Day. He gave it to me today. He gave it a day early because he is an Atchley, and Atchleys can't stand waiting until "the day" - be it birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, whatever - and...well....because he loves me.

Oh, look! Look at this beautiful thing ~

He's a Variegated Scottish Fife Canary. He is a little traumatized from the ride home. I'm told this is normal, and as long as I feed him scrumptious things like apples and raisins, and keep him out of drafts, and maybe even play some bird song CD's for him (I do have one playing right now, in fact)...

...I'm told he'll sing again within the week.

I can't wait.

A Quote, Too Good to Miss...

"To love anyone is to hope in him always.From the moment at which we... limit our confidence in him, from the moment at which we pigeon-hole him, and so reduce him to that, so we cease to love him, and he ceases to be able to become better.We must dare to love in a world that does not know how to love."

~ from Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water

A Little Wedding Shopping...On A Wordless (Almost) Wednesday

Earlier in the day...Hannah and I (behind the camera) out shopping

A buggy full - all 50% off! What girl can resist?

Sarah...always curious. "What's in the box???"

Hannah's shopping blister (and Brighton shoes - which I, the mom, desperately covet)

"This is heavy!" (the object, not the girl...)

Sarah, enjoying our Super Duper Chocolate Fix, after alllllll that shopping...

Twins always share!

M-m-m-m, m-m-m-m, M-M-M-M!!

Smell This ~

I want you to do something for me. Do something for yourself. Lean forward....put your nose as close to your computer screen as you can.....and sniff my blog.

Isn't that just incredible? I'm creating a batch of chicken soup; yes, I am creating chicken soup, not just 'making' it. Where's the fun in mere making, when you can create? I took the back of my biggest Henckels knife and crushed that whole bulb of garlic, releasing all those cloves from their paper containment. The aroma was instantaneous and therapeutic. Then I quartered an onion, and sliced a lemon.

Heaven. I'm beside myself about it all.

I'm creating chicken soup because I can. Not because we aren't feeling well; we're fine. Not because it is budget-friendly, though it is. I'm creating soup because the very act of doing it is my version of a life well-lived. Always has been. I am an eccentric, and I own up to it, wholeheartedly. My idea of wealth has never, ever, been that of most people I know. Truly, this is the gift of God, not of works, and so I can't boast. I have been gifted with a perspective that sees things upside down and sideways.

I've heard it said that most people long for eternal life, and yet they don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy afternoon. This...this "knowing how to be", this keeping to simple pleasures, to me constitutes great wealth. I needed to be reminded today. It is strange, how a strong whiff of garlic and lemon can zest the soul. It is strange, how something so elemental and so basic as creating with well-worn cutting board, knife, and fresh things from the market, can remind me of what I value most.

I value the creative moment (I could say "the creative life", but life is lived in moments, not even in days) and I value the time it takes to act and live and speak soulfully. And as hilariously as possible. I value the artful perspective - one that exists wholly, and freely, placing great value on the ordinary.

Often, the thing that strikes me is that all the works of art in terms of hand made furniture, tools, painting, and sculpture - all the artifacts that tourists check off their lists of "things to see in Old Italy" for example - were the every day stuff of life for a simple people gone on before us. We admire it all with wonder, we feel a sense of peace and completeness in these beautiful remnants of history...the wooden spoon and hand made chair...yet we head back home to our silicone spatulas and mass produced minutae and our plastic everythings.

I have plenty of my own plastic things. None of us can entirely escape it, this utilitarian perspective we have, where people and things are thought of in terms of merely useful, instead of beautiful and useful. But I do want to escape the utilitarianism that suggests that wealth is measured by how often one eats out, or the number of conveniences that are owned - as though hanging out the wash, growing a garden, and creating chicken soup are things to be avoided.

Yeah - sniff my blog. In a few more hours, come by for some soup and soulful conversation.

"To affect the quality of the day; that is the art of life." Henry David Thoreau

"If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place." Ranier Maria Wilke

I Couldn't Agree More...

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

--J.R.R. Tolkien

(...please see my post, from this past week, about heaven...)

Unexpected Pleasures...

Ps 147:16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.

Yeah...we did doughnuts in our cul-de-sac

Crape Myrtle, dressed in white

Our pond area

Looking out my back door, this noon...