By Vicki L Pugliese
Do not point out my flaws, my weaknesses, where you see that I have failed. I will only put up walls. Raise my defenses. See your flaws. I will not hear. I will return judgment.
Instead stand me before a mighty creator and show me the intricacies of His creation.
Let me see how small and insignificant I am before the vastness of space or at an oceans shore.
Let me struggle with how frail and fragile life can be on the top of majestic mountain, or at the moment life begins.
Instruct me on the wonders of just how similar and just how different things look under a microscope, so I can understand how little I understand.
Show me the beauty my busy life has had me missing. Let me drink in the colors of a sunset, the softness of rain drop, the sweetness of snow flake.
Let me see myself before the great I am, and I will naturally bow before Him.
Then tell me that He loves me beyond compare. That though I dare not raise my face before Him, yet He died to bridge the gap. His love so immeasurable, I can not comprehend.
Tell me the story of His life. His death. For me. Because of this love. And my heart will crumble when I take it all in. When the story seeps in, my heart will break beyond words.
When I am face down before Him, broken hearted. I am ready for Easter, for the celebration, the gratitude, to go and spread the good news.
Then may I remember to show others the great I am in all His majesty, beauty, unfathomable creativity and immeasurable wonders, and unstoppable love so that they might truly be ready for Easter too.
By Vicki L Pugliese
My childhood was filled with song. My stepmom and my dad were both prone to breaking out in song for no particular reason. Sometimes it would be hymns or Barber Shoppe songs or even silly children songs. One would start and the other would usually harmonize. It was common to go for a “drive” to give us more chances to sing as a family.
We sang at church as well. Sunday evenings were my favorite because most of the service was spent singing hymns. The pianist would ask for favorites. People would raise their hands and if selected, call out the number to their favorite hymn. You could count on being called on a couple of times each Sunday, if you wanted. I made my fellow congregation sing “In the Garden” most weeks. It has always been my favorite.
I remember just singing to God when I was by myself as a teenager. I talked to Him far more regularly then. I did have more time. My faith was strong, before life had a chance to batter it – tarnish it. Not that my childhood didn’t have struggles too. I have the emotional scars and abandonment issues to prove it. I had reason to need my faith just as much then. I clearly recall the whirlwind moments when the enemy was screaming lies and fear in one ear. God always sent someone to whisper gently the truth in my other. He has sent His love for me through the arms of His followers so often that I can’t count them.
This weekend our Pastor was reminiscing about a trip he just returned from. His sermons often remind us that “God’s better is better.” This weekend he completed that conversation and his words pierced my heart. He had asked himself, “Do you trust God?” Of course this is always the point of God’s better is better. His reply is what struck me. “I do but not enough.”
“I do but not enough.”
Me too, I thought. As a kid, I believed without a doubt that God had a plan and all of my sorrows would be used for good. I did my best to follow His leading. Do I still do that? Mostly, but it’s often not my first instinct.
Life has a way of wearing you down, stealing your innocence, beating you back until your faith is not your first response. Fear has a way of being my gut reaction. I know it’s the opposite of my faith. I have to remind myself of all the angels in my life, all of the times God rescued me from my own bad choices or the wrong instincts of others.
When I remind myself “God’s better is better”, I am putting my trust in God. I would not have survived my last job loss without that phrase and I truly hung onto it every day. But I wished God might bring his better to fruition a little faster, as if the timing wasn’t also just as perfect – because I do trust God, but not enough.
That kid, the one who’s home and life was filled with song, mostly worship, she did. The beauty of that childhood is a blessing. Not everyone had parents who valued music like mine. Not everyone had parents that valued the community our church brought to our lives. The blessings I had as a child, humble me.
It takes more work to polish up that faith that life has tarnished, beaten. I can’t help thinking the big difference is that life and work have marginalized my faith. I no longer run around the house worshiping, and I should. I no longer talk to God throughout the day as effortlessly as I once did. He is still faithful, waiting, working in me. He still rescues me and has plans that are far better than my own. I do still trust Him.
But maybe not enough
By Vicki L Pugliese
I imagine his total devastation. This man who was so easily the first to lend a hand, the first to do his masters will. I imagine his total heartbreak and bewilderment. “How could this be happening?!!” His confusion and disappointment only surpassed by one other. He must have stood and watched from a distance. Scared. Surely something miraculous is going to occur! This can’t be how it ends!
Peter must have wept as they took his savior down off of the cross. I imagine so wrapped up in his confusion that he must have watched. Just in case. But not too close!
He had denied Christ, just as he said he would. He failed the man he loved in the garden in His last moments here on earth. Jesus begged them to pray and they fell asleep. They failed to see the significance. They wanted to build an altar. He was rebuked for cutting off an ear. He had been so wrong. Why was it ending like this?
Just a week ago Peter had walked beside Jesus, one of the chosen twelve as they laid palms before him. Peter had visions of Jesus the King, the Messiah. He had dreams of freedom from Rome. He didn’t understand it all but he had such a different picture of Jesus coming into His kingdom!
He saw the miracles and wonders. He knew Jesus had the power of God. He saw Lazerus be raised from the dead! Peter himself had walked on water. His heart must have crumbled trying to understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and hung on a cross. Surely Jesus had the power to call down Angels! Surely He had the power to begin His kingdom right here, right now! Peter must have been completely lost.
Here is the man Peter adored, knows to be the Messiah. Peter knows he betrayed and failed Jesus. And he isn’t even present as He dies. This horrible, painful, shame filled death and Peter is not beside Mary and John. He isn’t strong enough.
Peter was supposed to be important. One of the twelve. How can they be lowering Jesus from the cross?
To be known for your epic highs, first off the boat, first to swear you’d never leave Christ. Peter the ever willing, ever eager heart. This is the heart that must have been most broken and afraid the night Christ died. This is the heart that must have been deepest in despair. Peter pained by his own shortcomings and betrayal.
How did this heart that was the lowest of lows become the man on which Christ built His church on? How does this man become the Rock? How does this man endure a life on the edge, willing to lay it down for his savior at any moment? How does he become a man willing to go to prison, endure ridicule and beatings? How does this man who is missing at the moment of Christ’s death, go on to martyrdom even upside down on a cross of his own?
Because Jesus, his Messiah, the King of Kings, his Lord and Saviour… Came Back!
And that changed… Everything!!
The way I see it we weren’t made for this world anyway. Our design is all wrong. We are designed to fit into the next world and some of our gear might make this world just a little more difficult. Think about the brand new diver getting ready to go scuba diving for their first dive. They put on their wet suit. They put on their weight belt, flippers and mask. They put on their tanks. Their instructor checks their tanks to make sure it’s sitting on their backs correctly. He makes sure that their weight belt is on securely. He checks to make sure that there is as much air in the tanks as planned. He has them try on their masks and try to breathe through the mouth piece to make sure everything is hooked up correctly. He instructs them to breathe slowly and calmly. Then they have to take all this heavy gear and possibly walk backwards down the sand to get into the water. It’s awkward and clunky. They can’t walk forward because they already have their flippers on. Their weight belts are heavy and so are their tanks. Their wet suit is hot in the sun. Because all of this gear is not designed for them to hang out on the beach – it’s designed for them to have their first scuba dive. Even if they are walking down to get on a boat, it’s still very awkward.
Then once they enter the water, the instructor makes sure they are still breathing calmly and slowly. They push off with those flippers, in the water where they are designed to work. And ahhhh that’s what those flippers are for! They make all the difference in how you move in the water. The weight belt and tanks help them to descend to this new world they have only seen pictures of. You can’t descend the way you need to without them. They are necessary in the new world. All of that preparation the instructor did on the beach was for this moment in the water. Wow, that’s a real live turtle and there goes a dolphin. Oh my goodness a dolphin! I love dolphins! The coral is more amazing than you could have imagined. This is a world pictures don’t capture well, you have to see it for yourself.
That’s kind of how I see this world. Christ is preparing us for the next. We don’t always fit so perfectly here. Some of our gear really will work better in the next world. He told us that as Christians this world would hate us, like it hated him. We are designed for the next world. Some of our gear really is better suited for the next world. Make sure all of your gear is on the way the instructor showed you. Breathe slowly. But the real show, the dolphins and turtles and whales and all that great new world that you have only seen pictures of, all of that is waiting for you on the other side of the veil. When you are ready the instructor will wade you in and you will experience more than you can ever imagine or hope for.
Until that time, enjoy the time on the beach. I know that you might be hot, and the belt might be heavy. But we can have fun falling over in the sand as we are headed toward the waves. You just have to have a great attitude about the process. You have to enjoy hanging out with the instructor. The Master he is making sure we are all set to go. That we won’t breathe in that full tank in the first 30 seconds but we will breathe slowly and calmly. That our tanks are on properly and our weight belt is secured. He’s the perfect instructor. He wants to make sure we are perfectly ready to experience the next world. He wants to make sure we are ready because the next world, the next world is WOW!