Tuesday, September 27, 2011

we are the clay, and thou our Potter, II

Previously I discussed the starting process for throwing clay on a potter's wheel. Just as the clay must be centered on the wheel so must we too be centered in God's will to be formed into the right shape. So what makes for a good throwing clay?

Possibly the most crucial aspect of good clay is it's Plasticity. This is what determines how easy it is to mold and shape the clay. If you are working with a clay that is low in plasticity you will have to press hard and struggle against the clay to work it into the form that you are hoping for.

What does it look like for me to bear the characteristic of plasticity? I ask myself  - Do I resist correction? Am I teachable? When things aren't going my way to I fight the change or try to adjust my expectations and desires to align with truth?

I wish I could answer with an unabashed Yes! On the contrary I find that I am quite stubborn and filled to overflowing with my own expectations for my life. I am that two year old in the store who is throwing a fit; red, swollen face and wailing to wake the dead unless I get what I want.

Now if you are working with clay I hate to disappoint you but no matter how much you ask the clay to be more cooperative nothing is going to happen. But where we are truly blessed is that we can ask our Father to increase our plasticity. How could our great Potter be anything but delighted to answer our prayers for transformation away from selfish stubbornness into gentle submission under His omniscient guidance. How much greater would my life be if I could relinquish my pride and humble myself to the greater good that my God has for me?

This isn't easy, not by a long stretch. Not only am I not naturally inclined to this condition but I don't often want to be. In my final post in this series I will attempt to make sense of why I should even desire the characteristics of good clay and how to pursue that end.

All powerful, yet gentle Father, work your hands on my condition. Would you break me of my prideful stubbornness that seeks only it's own will. Please change the state of my heart to quiet itself before authority and wisdom and to know it's proper place before you. I ask you to give me a heart, mind and soul of high plasticity in your hands. May I be willing to follow the squeezing and stretching that you sovereignly bring in my life. Thank you for being patient with me. I know that I am safe in your hands. Amen.                                   

Monday, September 26, 2011

we are the clay, and thou our potter

This post is going to be the first in a series I want to do on pottery and the characteristics of clay and how hopefully help us meditate on this verse from Isaiah.

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. - Isaiah 64:8
A few years ago my friend Julie was taking a pottery class at Biola. I stopped by to visit her in the art studio. She was working on a project for class wherein she had to use a potter's wheel and throwing clay. I watched as she tossed a misshapen ball of clay on the wheel, wet her hands and set the wheel spinning. Her hands carefully and methodically guided the clay up and down forming a cylindrical shape.

I watched her work for several minutes, my mind mesmerized by her slow and subtle workings on the clay. It wasn't long before this previously shapeless lump was beginning to take the form of a cup. Julie looked up at me,

"You want to give it a try?"

I chuckled but had always wanted to work clay on a potter's wheel and so I took her up on the offer. Julie sat me at a wheel and handed me my own ball of clay. I tossed it down on the wheel, wet my hands and started the wheel spinning.

Right away I knew something was wrong. As I began to try and mold the clay into a cylinder, I could not keep it inline with it's base causing it to be crooked. I looked befuddled at Julie. She smiled knowingly.

"If you don't center the clay when you toss it down you'll have a heck of a time keeping it straight."

I stopped the wheel, collapsed the clay, lifted it up and tossed it back down, aiming for the center. Not surprisingly it took my several attempts before I was able to get the clay in just the right spot so I could even begin to work with it.

Honestly, I wonder how many times my Father has had to do this with me as well. Though in His case it's not His fault that the clay isn't center. As the clay I'm often choosing to slide out of the center of His will. Making it harder for me to be shaped into the idea of what He wants to form me into.

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. - Prov. 4:27
 I must allow my Father to change my position with Him. If I am not inline with Him how can I hope to be used by Him? One of the problems with having to toss the clay back onto the wheel is that you can loose some of the shape from the impact. Shaping has to begin again. However once the clay is centered wonderful things can begin to happen.

All knowing and wise Father, when I stray from the center of your will would you continue to be gracious and place me back. I want to be the form of your choosing, to be used in the time and place that you see fit. Help me in my times of fear or stubbornness that would see me resisting your correction. Would you give me wisdom to know that without our relationship being aligned the changes in me are futile. Thank you for not settling with second best in my transformation. You have everything to see that I will end up the product of your powerful hands, according to your will.  Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

These lines come from the writer of the 42nd Psalm. This evening, as on many previous, those words resonated deep within me.

I have been feeling anxious. Nothing all too new to me as I am nearly 12 years familiar with the dropping in my stomach, the icy hot tingling on the back of my neck and the feeling of dread and despair that quickens my pulse.

What has become frustrating is that I cannot think of any particulars of which I am finding myself fearful. It could be many things, walking about my current home seeing boxes of my roommates things as he prepares to move out tomorrow is certainly a reminder of life's inevitable changes. Which on the forefront I rarely take delight.

Could it be the stresses of looking for full time employment? The worries of never finding a loving spouse? The fear of failing the people to whom I have made commitments? Perhaps.

These thoughts plague the minds of many at my age but I cannot help but think it may be deeper. A melancholy that is scarred on my being. This fear that I am struggling to keep my head just above the water and that a large wave is all that is needed to succumb me to the depths. Occasionally the past seems filled only with guilt and sadness and the future looming with fear of pain and loss.

It gets overwhelming. Too often I seek to distract myself but inevitably I find myself alone in my room and on edge.

Loneliness has been an intense battle over the past 6 months. I feel that it contributes to much of what I find myself experiencing but will delve into those meditations another time.

What then, is the solution, relief, and comfort? If any?

A Godless world will tell us to look within. Which from all that I survey is what has actually gotten me into this tar pit.

The Psalmist declares to his own soul and ours.

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. 

 Hope. In. God.

Not myself, friends, family, work, healthy, money, spouse, home or any of the other countless things I too often turn to for peace of mind.

This hope is not in vain because I know the character of God. His faithfulness, trustworthiness, goodness, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, grace and mercy for starters.

The psalmist says that He is our help and our God. I Love the possessiveness that God allows us to have with Him. I am His and He is mine.

The line "for I shall yet praise Him" tells me that this man's trials were far from over but that in the midst of them he would praise God. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:  

You can worry or you can worship but you can't do both.
I have found this to be true. When my foundations are shaking I must cling to the Rock that cannot be moved.

He is where I will seek rest. Refuge. Peace.

O' loving Father may I seek only you for my souls rest. May all other streams dry up and always leave me thirsting for the fountain that satisfies. Please use every minute of these trials to shape me more into that which is most beautiful to you. Teach me to bring my every burdened thought to you in humble prayer. Forgive me for placing hope anywhere but in you. Thank you for your grace and for meeting my greatest needs and being a source of refuge and strength. Hold my hand every step of the journey until we meet face to face and give me the wisdom and heart to encourage my brothers and sisters on our journey home.  Amen.