Blue Light Special

I have fair skin. In my teens and twenties, I tried in vain to tan. As my fair-skinned (and funny) husband is fond of saying, “I have two colors:  White and Red.”

I decided I’d rather be red than white. So I’d foolishly smear baby oil on my translucent skin and proceed to roast like a rotisserie chicken beside our backyard pool. A few times I even held one of those foil reflector shields under my upturned face, as if the almighty Arizona sun needed magnifying. I cringe now at the thought.

Pass the aloe vera.

Fast forward a few decades and there is now a price to be paid for my youthful tanning indiscretions: wrinkles, sun damage, and skin cancer. I’m a frequent flyer at my dermatologist’s office. When I walk through that door it feels more like I’m entering a war zone than a waiting room, with all those aging faces sporting bandages.

We reap what we sow. Even if it takes years to appear.

While we are free to choose, we are not free from the consequences of our choices. This is a time-tested principle, a spiritual “law” if you will, straight out of the Bible:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:7, ESV) 

Sow sun, reap skin damage.

Today I returned to the dreaded “war zone.” Only this visit was for a treatment called “Photodynamic Therapy,” or PDT. Levulanic acid is carefully applied to the face and allowed to soak into the skin for one hour. It is then activated by a special blue light, which causes the chemicals to attack and kill any pre-cancerous cells.

But wait, it gets even better. This incredible treatment not only prevents skin cancer from developing, it also reverses past sun damage! I find this absolutely amazing.

It’s what I’d call a true “Blue Light Special.”

It’s also an illuminating illustration of our God.

…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10, NIV)

God is not mocked. But He is also merciful.

He enters those war-torn places in our lives and soothes them with His gentle, but penetrating light. Neutralizing the cancerous spread of sin. Repairing, even reversing the damage inflicted upon us by others and, yes, even ourselves. Restoring us to spiritual health and emotional wholeness.

No, we don’t deserve it.

We can merely receive it, with an upturned face and a heart bowed down.

Come. Shine on me, Lord.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays… (Micah 4:2a, NIV)

Wonderful, merciful Savior.

Beautiful, healing Light.

blue light 

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Imperfect Progress

I am a recovering perfectionist.

This may surprise those of you who have visited my home and observed my less-than-perfect housekeeping habits firsthand.  The problem with perfectionists is that we get trapped in this “all or nothing” mentality.  So if we can’t do something perfectly, we don’t want to do it at all.

I’m going to swallow my pride and share a current illustration of this in my life.  A little over three years ago I embarked on a weight loss journey.  It should not surprise you that I followed the program to a ‘t.’  As a result I lost over 30 pounds!  (34, to be exact.  We perfectionists like to be exact.)  This was huge for me (no sarcasm intended)!

Well, the weight stayed ‘lost’ for a while, but then the pounds started finding me again.  I finally recommitted to lose the extra weight again almost a year later and managed to shed ten of those unwanted pounds.  Unfortunately within the following year they paid me a return visit, only this time they each brought a friend!  So, once again, I re-enrolled in my weight loss program, bid twenty pounds farewell and (once again) arrived at my goal weight after several months of faithfully sticking to the plan.

Now, is it just me or did you notice a pattern here?  In case you missed it, let me highlight it for you:  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  I’m quite experienced in the weight gain department.  I had grown in my ability to lose weight.  But I was tired of this teeter totter.  Pounds up.  Pounds down.  I needed to develop a new skill: maintaining a healthy weight.

About the time I was longing to jump off this playground ride, a verse jumped out at me during a Sunday morning sermon.  It was Philippians 3:16, from the New Living Translation:  “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”   I had made progress in my weight loss journey.  The challenge now was holding on to it!

When the pounds start creeping back on, my perfectionist tendencies kick in.  I feel like a failure and quit trying.  The scales then tip (no pun intended) drastically in the other direction.  I relinquish nearly all the progress I have made.

But I’ve recently adopted a new mantra, one that is helping to change my unbalanced,  “all or nothing” approach to life.  Lysa TerKeurst shared it in her new book, Unglued.  Fellow perfectionists, recite with me:

“Imperfect progress is the goal.”

It has taken me awhile to really believe this.  Little by little, however, I’m becoming more comfortable accepting my imperfections.  I have good days and bad days.  But I’m learning to pick myself up and forgive myself when I fail.  I don’t have to let one bad day turn into a month of bad days.  God’s mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:23)

I’m still learning how to maintain a healthy weight.  I have my ups and downs.  (Pun intended.)  But God sees my heart, and knows that I’m sincerely trusting Him to help me change–even when the number on the scale is moving in the wrong direction.  His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect(!) in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)  I’m so thankful for that.

It’s a battle sometimes (okay, all the time!).  But I’m still in it and I’m not giving up.  For me, that in itself is progress.

So here I am, no longer swinging from one extreme to the other, learning to live somewhere in the messy middle.

Imperfect, but making progress.

His work in progress.

And you know what?

I think I just might be perfectly okay with that.

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You Are Being Watched

“Restaurant Stakeout” and “Mystery Diners” are two of our new favorite shows.  In case you’re not familiar with this Food Network fare, both programs feature restaurant owners who suspect problems with their employees.  Hidden cameras are installed in the kitchen and dining areas, enabling the boss to secretly observe what goes on when he or she is absent.

And while the cat’s away, the mice do play.

The best part of the show comes when the staff are assembled and the restaurant owner reveals that he’s been watching them.  The looks on their faces as they react to this announcement are priceless.  You can almost see them rewinding and replaying the tapes in their own minds, trying to determine whether this is good news…or bad news.

Now imagine yourself in their shoes for a moment.  An emergency meeting has been called, and you’re curious, wondering why you’ve been summoned.  Then you hear the words:

I’ve been watching you.

Only this time it’s the voice of God.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV)

Rewind.  Replay.  Gulp.

That bad attitude you unsuccessfully tried to hide behind a fake smile?  Those little compromises you justified because you thought no one would ever find out?  The poor work ethic you displayed when you assumed the cat was away?  It’s all there, in plain view, up on the monitors.

Oh and by the way, there’s plenty more footage where that came from.  Cringe.

Before you crawl under the table in fear and shame, may I suggest something?  That whether the knowledge that you are being watched is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news might depend less on your performance and more on your relationship with the owner?  Please read that again.  Then allow me to illustrate.

Typically on these shows, once the offending employees are identified they lose their jobs.  Good riddance, right?  Justice served.  Problem solved.

But in one of the restaurant stings, a trusted employee was caught red-handed, brazenly stealing from his employer, a close family friend.  When confronted, the thief begged for a second chance, promising to change and make restitution.  Instead of being fired, he was forgiven.  Why?

Because he was more than just an employee, a hired hand.  He was “family.”  He was shown mercy, because he was a beloved friend.

Certainly the fact that we are being watched should give us pause.  We should try to live in such a way that we bring honor to Our Maker and Master, seeking to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23, NIV) more than we desire our own convenience and comfort.

But if you have a personal relationship with the Owner, the revelation that He is watching you should not strike terror in your heart.  For the eyes that are upon you are peering through the lens of love.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18, NLT) 

You are so much more than a mere servant.  You are a dearly loved friend.  You are Family.

“I no longer call you servants…I have called you friends…” said Jesus to His disciples in John 15:15 (NIV).

Listen to how one Bible commentator describes the watchful gaze of the Lord:

“He observes them with approval and tender consideration; they are so dear to him that he cannot take his eyes off them; he watches each one of them as carefully and intently as if there were only that one creature in the universe.” (From The Treasury of David)

Let that sink in.

He loves you.  He approves of you.  He values you.

He’s not waiting just to catch you in the act so He can kick you to the curb.  He’s watching because He cares about you.  He may discipline you and correct your behavior, but it is always out of a heart of love and a commitment to nurturing an ongoing relationship with you.

Isn’t that good news?

Doesn’t that make you want to please Him?

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”  (2 Chronicles 16:19, NAS)

The Helix Nebula, also called the “Eye of God”

 

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