Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heat and Oil

The problem is, I keep trying to be creative. I want the words to look nice, sound nice, feel nice. I want you to enjoy reading the words, even if they mean something awful…quote from Unforced Rhythms, a blog I follow.

This week when I read these words I resonated. For people who love words, who love to string them together, who braid them into ropes we feel this way. And often when I am writing a post for my blog this thought is just below the surface. I want beautiful writing. Beautiful words even about ugly things.

Well, some things are just plain ugly. And speaking of ugly...

Last week I talked with someone about the condition of our hearts. This is not the kind of conversation I am willing to have with too many people. I’m transparent, but only completely transparent with a selected few, and over the years the number of this select few has decreased rather than increased. But my friend and I discussed our hearts—the hardness of them. We reluctantly looked at the stony places in the middle of the flesh of them.

It’s almost absurd, but I am often surprised when I find a stone. I shouldn’t be, but I am. Just when I think my heart has become flesh, full of grace and compassion, I stub my toe on a boulder that I just didn’t notice or see. And I have to say, Really, Tamera. Really? How did you not see THAT?

Sometimes I know the boulder is there and I use it as a platform. You know, queen of the hill kind of thinking. I stand on top of the boulder as if it were a stage and the whole time my feet are slipping, sliding down the curve. I’m still yelling when my backside hits. At the moment I don’t have enough sense to know to be embarrassed. Oh, but I do later.

Often we know we need to change, but we just simply don’t want to harness the energy that will be required. Have you been there? You know what needs to happen. You know what should happen. But for whatever reason your heart, your will, just isn’t there. It’s not that we want to be rebellious. It’s not that we desire to assert our wills necessarily. It’s not that we are truly trying to be difficult. We just don’t know. Even if we attempt the what should happen would it make a difference at all? Would the situation really change?

Perhaps not. Maybe the situation would not change. Rarely, if ever, is our God about changing the situation.

Ask Joseph. Ask Job. Ask Ruth. Ask Paul. Ask Corrie ten Boom. Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ask Joni Eareckson Tada.

No, our God is about changing us.

If we are waiting for God to change the situation we might be waiting awhile. Situations and circumstances are temporary. They are a finite set of episodes and events that can be shifted and moved and manipulated. No, God is after changing our hearts, because out of our hearts do our mouths speak (this is how I know my heart is stony and ugly sometimes). The heart is the wellspring of our life; therefore, it is our hearts he wants to transform. It’s these cold, stony places deep within us that God wants to exchange for bloody, warm and pulsating hearts.

But often we have hard and dull hearts. Toward ourselves. Toward others. Toward God.

Hard hearts.

Hearts harden for many reasons: sickness, injury, atrophy and disease. And my heart, the will of me, has been afflicted by them all.

Isaish tells us that we are clay. Our hearts are clay.

I sculpt. And I know that if I leave my clay alone too long, uncovered and unworked, it hardens. And because I am a sculptor I know that clay does not change itself. It is the heat and oil (and sometimes water) of my hands that softens the clay and makes it pliable.

Usable—a workable piece of clay again.

Heat and oil.

The Holy Spirit.


All through the pages of the book God gave us oil represents the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will soften the hard clay of our hearts. He will make flesh that which has become stone.

The Holy Spirit will put us in the Father’s hand and his heat and oil will soften us. Make our hard, creviced hearts pliable again. The heat permeates and opens up the clay and the oil moves through giving it elasticity and cohesion.

And the Spirit will remove the stones. Dissolve them. Break them. Crush them. If we hand these hearts to him he will change us.

As much and as often as I resist I still want the Spirit to make me aware of these boulders in my heart (Read Idol Lies by Dee Brestin). I don’t want to stub my toe, but I also don’t want anyone else to ram into or be scraped by them either.


I am a work in progress. Ephesians tells me I am the workmanship of God. And that workmanship, this art, is still on the wheel and on the table. The clay, my heart, is still being worked. It is still being conformed and transformed. Sometimes the progress is slow; I tend to get off the table and remove myself. I tend to resist the working of the Spirit. I often wrap my arms around the boulders and do not let go.

Yes, some things are just ugly. But there is no sickness, injury, atrophy or disease our God cannot heal. There’s no stone too big for him. And he has removed not just a wheelbarrow full, but a semi full from my heart.

But, (oh, that wonderful conjunction of God) our gracious God has assured me (and you) that he will complete what he has started. He started a good work in me (in you)—he will bring it to completion.

But He is not finished with us yet.

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