Monday, April 14, 2014

I'm Going to Your House Today

Think of me as the Dirt Terminator. I attack the dirt in my home as if I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger on a mission to free the world from evil. I am convinced that, if left to their own devices, the messes in my home would self-reproduce into indestructible colonies. The baseboards would be upholstered with dust bunnies. The ceilings would be draped with cobwebs. Dirty dishes would overflow the sink. Heaps of dirty laundry would carpet the floors. Beds would never be made. Toothpaste would line the bathroom sinks. Don’t even think about the toilets. The end result, of course, would be my complete nervous breakdown. To avoid such a catastrophe, I clean constantly. Neurotic does not begin to describe my obsession. When my kids were teenagers, they threatened to cordon off the house with a red velvet rope and charge admission to the Museum of Clean. They were convinced that they could raise enough cash to buy cars.

It all began twenty-eight years ago. On a Friday night, we had two couples over for dinner and games, one with their toddler in tow. Two days later, the toddler's father unexpectedly knocked on our door. I frantically threw junk into closets and swept dirt into hidden corners, trying to hide things which I didn’t want him to see. He was my treasured friend, a friend I had known since the seventh grade, and I was ashamed to let him into my home. I’m sure he heard me tossing things to and fro on my way to the front door, but he was gracious and friendly, simply wanting to redeem a forgotten high chair. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t even noticed that a high chair was there. It was leaning against the dining room corner, camouflaged by heaps of stuff strewn across the table. He knew exactly where he had left it, but when he left it there the dining room looked like the Emerald City. Now it looked like Dorothy’s house after being tumbled in the center of a tornado. To say that I was humiliated would be a gross understatement. As I watched my friend excavate the high chair, I wondered what else was hidden beneath the rubble. The instant I closed the door behind him, I went into motion. That house sparkled when I was done!

I have been completely neurotic ever since. Don't get me wrong. Other peoples' homes and messes don't bother me at all. It's my own dirt that I fear. I think that I am so afraid of losing control over it that my only option is to completely dominate it. For me, there is no middle ground. Yes, I know. I am way too neurotic about it. Be that as it may, I want to be prepared for guests at any given moment. Friends for dinner. The plumber. The mail carrier. The neighbors. The kids’ friends. People looking for pieces of furniture which they left behind. I want my home to be welcoming and comfortable to whomever knocks upon my door. I want my home to be a sanctuary of sorts, a place where my guests can escape into a bed-and-breakfast type atmosphere. I want my guests to feel relaxed, refreshed, and anxious to return.

Television commercials and magazines only encourage my behavior. I am inundated with advertisements for cleaning products. Who hasn’t heard of the Swiffer Wet Jet? Who hasn’t marveled over the genius who figured out how to put Windex and Pledge into wipes, thus making one-handed cleaning a dream come true? Who doesn’t praise the toilet bowl disc that not only minimizes the number of times one has to reach inside the bowl to clean it, but also fills the bathroom with the scent of fresh rain? Products such as these promise to make my cleaning experience simpler, more efficient, and even enjoyable. So is it really that strange that my neuroses about a clean home somehow make me feel calm, happy, and ethereal? My husband and kids may not understand me, but I am elated. I have beaten the Dirt Devil, and I revel in my victory.

I often sing while I clean. Trust me when I say that my singing voice helps to scare the dirt right out of my house! Today’s tune is stuck in my head. I’m sure you’ve heard it. It details the day that Zaccheus, the wee little man, was saved. Suddenly, I picture Zaccheus sitting in the top of a sycamore tree. Zaccheus, a wealthy tax collector, was a man of small build. As Jesus passed through Jericho, Zaccheus was unable to see Him because of the crowd. So Zaccheus climbed into a sycamore tree for a more advantageous view. When Jesus walked by this tree, He looked up to Zaccheus and said, “’Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly.” (Luke 19:5-6) Hmm. Zaccheus didn’t rush home to clean before he opened the door for Jesus. Zaccheus didn’t frantically sweep things under the rugs or into closets so that Jesus wouldn’t notice them. Apparently, Zaccheus didn’t have anything in his home that he didn’t want Jesus to see, so last minute preparations were unnecessary. The Bible simply says that he received Jesus gladly.

What if Jesus came to my house today? Am I ready for him? Well, the floors are shining. The carpet is freshly vacuumed. There are no dust bunnies or cobwebs. The dishes and laundry are neatly tucked away in the proper places. The beds are made. The closets are neatly organized. There are no hidden high chairs in the corners. Everything looks as if it is in order. The question is, does Jesus really care about any of this? Will He look at my baseboards? Will He check out my ceilings? Will he run a gloved finger across my coffee table? Will He peer inside my closets? These questions are absurd. The only rooms that Jesus will be looking into are those in my heart. The only clutter with which He will be concerned will be that which squeezes Him out. The only dirt that will bother Him will be that which glorifies me rather than Him. It doesn’t really matter whether my house is prepared or not. The readiness of my heart is what will or will not welcome Him.

What do I need to do to be prepared for Jesus' return? Is believing in Him enough? Technically, it is. Salvation comes through faith, not by works. Yet for me, believing is the springboard for a deep, personal relationship with Christ in which I seek Him, serve Him, and glorify Him. I need to make Him a priority in my life, so that being a Christian is not something I do, but rather who I am. So I seek Him daily through Bible study and prayer. These two activities are inextricably intertwined for me. God has shown me that if I only spend time in His Word, I gain intellectual knowledge of Him, but I don’t feel a relationship with Him. If I only spend time in prayer, I feel an emotional connection to Him, but I don’t really know Him. However, when I spend time doing both, I have a complete relationship with Him, a relationship in which I know Him, I see Him, I feel Him, I talk to Him, and in which He responds to me. When I study and pray, I not only focus on Christ but I become more Christ-like. That’s how I will be prepared for Christ. That’s how I will be able to welcome Him upon His return without any last minute preparations, without scurrying about to hide things which I don’t want Him to see, and without feeling shameful about what he’ll find when He looks into the rooms of my heart.

With the tune to the Zaccheus song still running through my mind, I am reminded that Jesus will return without any forewarning. I must be ready when Jesus says, “Vicki, I’m going to your house today.” As I type this, I quickly glance around my office. There's not a speck of dust to be found. Just to prove to myself that I can let it go, I drop some papers on the floor and disarrange my desk. I should take a photo of this. My kids will never believe it. 

Off I go. My home may not need a spring-cleaning, but my heart certainly does. As did Zaccheus, I want to be ready to welcome Jesus gladly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Painter of My Soul

April is National Poetry Month, so I though I'd dabble with free verse. Here's my offering for today.

Painter of My Soul
by Vicki Scott Burns

This canvas
each thread woven by Your hand
tattered and tainted by mine
unworthy of the easel

Yet touched by grace
threads humbly yield
to pigments pure, unstained
the palette of salvation

Refining brushstrokes 
intimate, resolute
layer after layer
until transformation is complete

Human eyes
upon this portrait
perfection fail to see
unto itself, the canvas scarred and shamed appears

But by the Master of the brush
eternal beauty is beheld
the Portraitist shall not 
turn His gaze away

Painter of my soul
are You
to me

Copyright © 2014 by Vicki Scott Burns and by, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hardly Recognizable

In my previous post, I posed this question: whom do you serve? I offer this post for further reflection.

Hardly Recognizable
by Vicki Scott Burns 

Poised at her dressing table
she glams herself like a beauty queen
adding layer after layer
‘til the transformation is complete
Then perched on a lonely barstool
You can hardly recognize
the woman hidden there, somewhere behind her eyes
She knew You once, but then set You aside…

He’s out the door by 6 AM
no time to see the wife or kids
An indentured corporate servant
his life is no longer his
As he climbs the corporate ladder
You can hardly recognize
the man hidden there, somewhere behind his eyes
He knew You once, but then set You aside

Bit by bit they start to falter
step by step they start to fall
until they are hardly recognizable at all

As I stumble through life’s hallways
the floors are littered with my sin
I keep tripping over idols
that I treasure deep within
Before I reach my destination
I'd like to recognize
the holiness of God reflected in my eyes
I know you, Lord—but I set You aside

Bit by bit I start to falter
step by step I start to fall
In me, are You recognizable at all?
It’s gonna take a bit of work
it’s gonna take a bit of time
before the world can clearly recognize
the image of the Savior in my eyes
so that I am hardly recognizable at all
Copyright © 2006 by Vicki Scott Burns and by, IncAll rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Whom Do You Serve?

The “1872 Rules for Teachers” 
(Author Unknown)

Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.

Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.

Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

Every teacher should lay aside from each day’s pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and" without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

These rules are posted in historic schoolhouses across the country. Though they elicit a chuckle from most of us, they testify to an undeniable truth: society has always had rules regarding appropriate behavior. Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Moses presented the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. Even in current times, laws define acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Yet courtrooms are constantly active and prisons are filled beyond capacity because people fail to behave appropriately.

The New Testament writers—and Paul in particular—went to great lengths to describe appropriate Christian conduct. They repeatedly emphasized that Christians should know whom they serve: the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is when people serve themselves that their behavior becomes inappropriate. The bottom line is this: as is evidenced by your behavior, whom do you serve?

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15