This is a note I posted on Facebook on this date in 2009. It still holds my hope and heart today.
Lent Day 28: Tattoo
March 24, 2009 at 7:40am
Lent Day 28:
My older daughter is visiting us. It is good to have her close and it will be hard to let her go when it’s time, but our connection is good. While she was here, she got another tattoo. This bothers her father. I try to remain neutral. I have to admit that of all the ones she’s gotten, I like this one the best. It’s the Celtic symbol for motherhood—or at least I hope it is!
Over the years both my daughters have tried to talk me into going with them and getting a tattoo. There’s something “special” about doing that, so I’m told. I know that there are biblical comments prohibiting tattooing, but that’s not why I haven’t gone. I am a wuss about pain, but that hasn’t been my deterrent, either. I can’t imagine anything that I want engraved on me for forever. The image of a wilted rose on an 86 year old woman’s body just doesn’t get me all jazzed up.
And yet, somehow, I want my life to be tattooed with Jesus. I want my laughter, my conversation, my touch, my service, my work, my prayers, everything that I am to immediately point to Jesus. As much as I want that, I know that my life is so far from consistent. My heart desperately seeks to live in a way that is pleasing to my Father, but my choices betray my lack of trust and my selfishness. I truly understand the struggle that Paul speaks about in Romans 7.
In my life I have known the absolute bowels of wretchedness. I know what it’s like to screw up so royally that you lose all respect, wallow in shame, and try to rebuild integrity. I’m thankful for grace that makes climbing out of that dark pit possible. I’m thankful that Paul moves from chapter 7 into chapter 8: There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So, if I ever got a tattoo it would be a grapevine bracelet (symbolizing that I am just a branch needing to stay connected to the vine). In the vine would be a turtle (a rich symbol and spiritual totem) and a daisy (for me a symbol of hope and faithfulness). All three would serve as reminders to me to keep living, to keep being fruitful, to truly make every effort. The only place they may ever be is in my heart, but hopefully they will be seen by those Jesus sends my way each day.
Yesterday it was barely noticeable. I thought maybe a stray eyelash or hair was in the corner of my eye. At other times my eye just felt extremely dry and like there was sand in it. This morning when I woke up the pain was still there and I knew…I had a stye.
I went to images to bring you a picture, but I changed my mind. If you want to see one you can go look. The only kind I have ever had is the tiny white dot. Some of the ones shown were huge and I couldn’t imagine the pain. The little bitty ones like I get are bad enough.
Before I was nine years old, I had four corrective muscle surgeries on my eyes. I don’t like things in or around my eyes. I’m extremely sensitive.
I sat down and tried to write today’s devotion. I knew I had to quit complaining about the relatively minor pain. I went to work on my attitude and perspective. The first thought I had was, “At least it’s not a log.” (Remember my booger post from a few days ago? God can even use a stye.)
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV)
Early in my faith journey I read a book about the Sermon on the Mount (How to Be A Christian Without Being Religious by Fritz Ridenour). The author discusses this whole plank verses speck issue. And I learned the phrase “Plank Eyed Saints.” I didn’t hear it again until I was listening to Casting Crowns song “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” (I’ve attached the song at the end of this post.)
I don’t know how the conversations have been around you, but I find it difficult some days not to be drawn into “plank-based” conversations. Perhaps you’ve heard them too. They’re negative and judgmental. Folks spout facts and figures, and make pronouncements on all sorts of topics…about all kinds of people. Their opinions know no boundaries.
And grace is nowhere to be found.
Would it be amazing, if instead of grousing and complaining, we would just admit we’re confused and maybe even afraid. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of a posture of false bravado we assumed a posture of prayer? If instead of judging we took them to the One who has all the answers and the true means to solve the problems.
Wouldn’t it be.
PRAYER: God, it’s Monday and typically there are more planks on this day than any other. Forgive us for thinking we could possibly take the speck out of anyone else’s eye, and help us to determine to deal with our own issues, fears, and needs before we go looking at those of others. Help us to see and feel and dive fully into your love today. Amen.
In John 6 we find the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. When lunch is over he identifies himself as the Bread of Life. Then in a way that shocked the crowd, he goes on to tell them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Their response: Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” (John 6:60, The Message)
Too tough to swallow.
What do you find tough to swallow?
Has life handed you some bitter pills?
I always had a terrible time swallowing pills when I was a kid. All the way up through college, I would ask for a shot rather than have to swallow pills.
Penicillin was the worst. I couldn’t make those pills slide down no matter how much I drank. Nothing tasted worse. I would cry, beg, to not have to take the pills. My mom wasn’t very sympathetic. I know now she was “hard-nosed” about the whole thing because her ultimate concern wasn’t my immediate comfort but my eventual health.
Have you begged and cried out for God to remove some difficulty, an illness, financial challenges, physical limitations, or loss? But he lets it remain.
And that’s just pretty tough to swallow.
Doesn’t God care that you are suffering? Doesn’t he want you to be happy? Doesn’t he hear your pleas for relief?
Yes. But just like my mom, he loves you too much to leave you in your sin-sick condition.
There are so many stories in the Bible that are just heart-breaking. Widows who lose their only children. Poor Naomi and Ruth. And who can forget Job? But let’s consider Paul for just a moment.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church (See 2 Corinthians 12) he writes about his “thorn in the flesh.” Whatever it was, the apostle prayed on three occasions for God to remove it. And God said no.
He also said: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
As a result Paul declared: “I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (1 Corinthians 12:10).”
Talk about a bitter pill. Paul endured much that we would find tough to swallow. But he also knew a strength and grace that enabled him to come through all the difficulty and in a way that brought honor and glory to the One who provided the strength and grace in the first place.
On the day when some of Jesus’ disciples found his message to be a bitter pill many left. Jesus turned to those who remained and asked if they were thinking of bailing, too. Peter spoke up for the remaining twelve: Where else can we go? You alone have the words of life.
Peter didn’t try to sugar coat it. Sometimes bitter pills lead to life.
Job, that persecuted and often misunderstood man from the Old Testament, grasped this one thing like nothing else in his ordeal. He summed up his ability to hang onto God in the midst of all his suffering this way: shall we take the good and not the bad? (See Job 2:10)
Paul went a step further and told the Roman believers that no matter how bitter the pill God was able to cause all the bad, the negative, the difficult to work for good. He never says that the bad is good, just that God can take all the negative and difficult and make them work for our good and his glory (See Romans 8:28).
Tough to swallow…perhaps. But remember, God knows what is absolutely best for you. You can trust him. It may be tough, but don’t walk away now. In him there is fullness of life, your life and mine, now and forever.
I hadn’t even made it out of the introduction and I was already in tears and convinced I would probably need to purchase a whole case of this book. For sure, I wanted to share it with my grown daughters who had experienced many of the struggles Sarah describes…and grown up under the microscope of being a pastor’s daughter.
This story is so much more than just the recounting of a “PK” gone wild…it is the truth of the gospel: there is grace. A contemporary Christian artist puts it this way:
You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far
That you can’t get back when you’re lost,
Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much
That you can’t change who you are,
You can change who you are (Who You Are by Unspoken)
The level of courage that Sarah Jakes demonstrates as she shares the gritty details of her choices and how far she feels she moved away from what she knew and the grace that could save and sustain her seems to come from someone much older than just twenty-five.
This book is gift of hope. Hope for the one whose made devastating life choices, and hope for those who love them.
When I started reading I purchased a little pad of sticky notes and started writing down the points that stuck out to me. I gave up somewhere in the second chapter–there were just so many. This would make an excellent women’s study, broaching topics and examining feelings that often stay hidden and do so much damage.
Sarah makes this statement in her conclusion: The chapters of my life I’ve shared with you within these pages reveal some of my darkest hours and most painful disappointments. But as a broken window acts as a prism, filtering sunlight through its cracks I hope that you can see the many beautiful moments of color dancing within my rooms.
I recommend this book very highly and am proud to have it on my bookshelf.
I received a copy of this book to read from the publisher in return for my review.
I woke up this morning with a cut on the pad of my left middle finger. It was like a large paper cut and unfortunately, it is my dominant hand. And as is often the case when I get a paper cut, we are into eating oranges and grapefruits: attack of the killer citrus! Owie. No matter what I did this morning I was bumping, brushing against or getting citrus on it.
It’s not a big pain. It’s just an annoying and constant reminder.
Thinking on that reminded me of one of my favorite songs from the musical movie Godspell, “By My Side.”
In case you wondered, here are the lyrics:
Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?
Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you
Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)
I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
“Meet your new road!”
Then I’ll take your hand
That you are here
By my side
By my side
By my side
By my side
Then the man they called Judas Iscariot
Went to the chief priests, and said
“What will you give me to betray Him to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver.
And from that moment, he began to look out for an opportunity
To betray Him.
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe, and watch me walk….I shall call the pebble dare.
This song, this entire musical, made an enormous impact on my life, and my faith. The seeds of grace and forgiveness expressed in the story of the woman caught in adultery were planted deep in my heart. Little did I know then how much I would need them as I faced my own stoning moment.
But, why a pebble? Why call it dare?
Like the woman, I want to follow–but there is always a cost to following. I want my commitment to mean something. I don’t want to forget what the grace which enables me to journey with the Savior cost–him or me.
Amazing how much one can learn from a little cut. I still haven’t figured out how I got it. I guess that isn’t as important as what it caused me to remember.
(You can find the story that inspired the song in John 8.)
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8, NLT)
There is so much fanfare, hype, glitz, and spending at Christmas. It sort of takes over. And we overlook the simplicity that characterized the first Christmas.
A young couple. A husband who could have demanded his own rights, yet humbly cared for his wife and believed that God had a plan. A young woman who was probably scared to death, determined to be God’s servant…a pretty humbling choice to make.
A stable. A manger. And the first recorded visitors: shepherds. The King was not invited. He wasn’t even informed. The wise men who sought him came later. Came to the palace, but found the Messiah in a humble home.
Paul paints a really clear picture of what Jesus gave up to come to us. Live with us, showing us God’s love and grace, and then giving his life.
I’m humbled by that.
He did that for me. He did that for you.
I did a word study once and the word humble has a root that we would recognize as humus…you know like dirt. Remind you of anything? Adam was made from the dirt. He had a humble beginning. And Jesus chose to be humble.
Today my job ended. The woman I’ve been caring for the past five and half years died this morning. I had the privilege of being there.
I was still a little numb when I got home. When I lost my job in 2008, I hadn’t gone looking for a job as a care giver. It was quite hard for me at the beginning. God and I had some long talks because I felt so useless. At the beginning my lady was still “with it” enough to resent the heck out of my presence. I likened it to babysitting a teenager: they don’t think they need a babysitter, yet it brings comfort to the parents. I was comfort for the family.
More recently, as she became bed fast, my lady accepted my help–most of the time…but like a child: she didn’t like bath time.
It seems to me that life is held together by bookends. We start sleeping a lot, eating orange fruits and veggies, and wearing diapers. The end looks that way too.
The family I worked for cared about me. Not long ago they made me a huge basket with fresh produce, a loaf of zucchini bread (which my husband enjoyed) and several other things. It was so heavy I could barely lift it into my car. Today they included me in their grieving and their remembering. It was such a precious gift to me.
Back to feeling numb…I sat here at home for a bit and half wondered, half prayed. I heard the mail truck go by…actually I heard the dogs barking out in their pen, like they do when the mail arrives. My body responded by going out to the box, even though my mind wasn’t really in the task.
As I pulled the stack of bills out of the box, I noticed one that had a hint of green in the window. A check. I wondered what my husband overpaid this time. I glanced at the return address, Judson Press, and realized the check was for me. They had accepted another devotion. Instantly I could see nothing else as my eyes filled with tears.
The $20 check didn’t make me rich, but I still felt lavishly loved in that moment. Last week two publishers mentioned my submitting articles. I was encouraged by that and began immediately to work on articles for them. On the weekend, a friend whose opinion I highly respect, spoke to me about my blog and her words encouraged me deeply. Then this. I’m dense at times, but God got all the way through my fog and numbness.
So until something else should come along, I will be writing. I have so many things started and now I have time to finish them. Submit them. Edit others. Work on two books I have in process. Seek out contests.
I don’t feel as numb. Actually, I’m feeling excited. And ready to get to the next phase of this journey.
A final thought:
As I read back through this another thought occurred to me–another window into God’s hand upon my life.
I used to function in an extroverted manner that was off the scale. It was so bad that I used to think I needed others around me just to breathe. Then God gave me the job as caregiver. It was one on one. It was quiet. And except for my lady, I was alone. I didn’t like it at first. I chaffed. I squirmed under God’s hand. But I stayed, and I came to love it. The quiet has become so much a part of me that I can’t imagine going back to the world of noise.
As I have immersed myself into the world of writing, I have read many articles about the solitary lifestyle required for writing. I questioned whether I would be able to survive in that lifestyle. This morning the voice of hindsight whispered in my heart, “You’re ready.”
The search may have been for unlimited power, but the discovery seems to have been unlimited grace for those with overwhelming shame, those struggling to trust and forgive, and those simply seeking to serve.
Once again Davis Bunn has provided an exhilarating story that invites the reader to think big: big about the world we live in and big about God. Not to be forgotten was the battle that evil wages within the heart of man to control the source of power for selfish means.
I had an immediate affinity for our hero, not that I’m a scientific genius, but that I know what it is like to have failed someone and beat myself down with a mallet of shame. The struggles that floated up with issues of trust and forgiveness were also portrayed in real and relatable ways.
The story was totally engaging. I found myself shouting words of warning (“Don’t go there!”) and tearing up at the pain when evil seemed to triumph. It is definitely the kind of read that will evoke the emotions of the reader as well as challenge the reader to think and consider. In that sense it is a great balance for head and heart.
I give this book 5 stars. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to seeing the pages come to life when the movie adaptation is released this fall!
Simon Orwell is a brilliant student whose life has taken a series of wrong turns. At the point of giving up on his dreams, he gets a call from an old professor who has discovered a breakthrough in a device that would create unlimited energy. He needs Simon’s help.
Upon crossing the border, nothing goes as the young man planned. The professor has been killed and Simon is assaulted and nearly killed by members of a powerful drug cartel.
Now he must take refuge in the only place that will help him, a local orphanage. There, Simon meets Harold Finch, the orphanage proprietor who walked away from a lucrative career with NASA and consulting Fortune 500 companies to serve a higher cause.
With Harold’s help, Simon sets out on a quest to uncover who killed the professor and why. In due time, he will discover secrets to both the world-changing device and his own unlimited potential.
Unlimited, the movie: <img src="
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About Davis Bunn
Davis Bunn is a four-time Christy Award-winning, best-selling author now serving as writer-in-residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Defined by readers and reviewers as a “wise teacher,” “gentleman adventurer,” “consummate writer,” and “Renaissance man,” his work in business took him to over 40 countries around the world, and his books have sold more than seven million copies in sixteen languages.
Unlimited is Davis’s first screenplay to be released as a major motion picture. The book, Unlimited, is a novelization of the screenplay.
The inspiration behind the Unlimited film and novel is Harold Finch’s book, Success: Four Keys to Unlock Your Unlimited Potential. Download a free copy of Success here: http://unlimitedthemovie.com/4-keys-book/.
Q & A with Davis Bunn
The storyline in Unlimited is inspired by true events. What actual events inspired the story?
Harold Finch was formerly the founder and CEO of the first management-leadership consulting groups in the US. In the mid-seventies he sold the company to H&R Block for over a hundred million dollars—back when a hundred million actually meant something. Answering God’s call, he has spent the past three decades traveling the world, teaching his concepts for free and helping underprivileged children learn that they do indeed have both a purpose in God’s eyes, and the potential to succeed. His experiences form the basis for this story.
What ignited your idea for the characters to create a device that would convert raw wasted energy into useable power?
I actually wrote the screenplay for the film before writing the novel. This happens occasionally—Godfather and Love Story were both conceived in this order. While working on the film script, the producer and Harold and I were discussing what might work as a basis for the story’s suspense element. We were looking for something that had the means of revealing this ‘unlimited’ potential in people. I don’t actually remember who first came up with the idea of wasted energy, but soon as it was said, we all jumped on it.
Simon Orwell, the protagonist in Unlimited, is a brilliant, cynical electrical engineering student who finds danger irresistible. Did you model his character traits after yourself or anyone you know?
Alas, we all know a Simon. These days, this type of person is all too common. An individual with huge potential, who allows himself or herself to become distracted by the multitude of temptations that basically define modern life. And yes, I do know several such people. Some turn this into hugely productive directions, thank goodness. Usually to do so requires divine help, a clarification of focus, and strength they must reach out and ask to receive.
Armando Vasquez and Harold Finch are important mentors in Simon’s life. Who has been a critical mentor in your life, Davis? How has that person encouraged you to push beyond the boundaries of what you thought possible?
There have been several such mentors, for which I remain extremely grateful. One such person is Carol Johnson, who recently retired as editor-in-chief at Bethany House Publishers. Carol has been instrumental in my becoming the best writer I could be, and continues to act as a sounding board for new ideas and characters. Another, I am happy to say, is Harold Finch. His lessons on combining God’s teachings with lifelong aims have been a genuinely rewarding experience with far-reaching results.
Many of the characters in the story are orphans. What parallels do you see between the orphans in the story and real-life spiritual orphans?
A beautiful question. While researching the core components of this story, orphanage leaders repeatedly stressed the need to teach orphans to believe in themselves and their natural abilities. Too often they see themselves as lost, without purpose, without a role to play, without chances, without love. What made this story work, I think, is how Simon Orwell shares these same feelings about himself. And how he comes to realize God is the only one to fill this need.
Many people believe they must wear a mask to hide the parts of themselves they are ashamed of. How is this story about removing that mask?
So much of life remains hidden away. The darker elements of a life without God only amplify this falseness. Simon has spent so much of his life, so much of his energy and time, in hiding. As the story unfolds, he discovers that an essential element of arriving at his full potential is being honest with himself. This is where the mask is most damaging, and also where it is often hardest to release. We seek to hide the truth, even when we know the act is a lie in itself. And the mirror we require to see the truth about ourselves is the one that God offers, in infinite patience, in gentle love.
The title, Unlimited, has multiple layers of meaning. What does that title mean to you?
Unlimited was the title brought to me by the film’s producers. When I first began working on this story, it was just that, a title. But as I grew to know Harold, and heard him teach, and read his lesson plan, and then actually applied what he has come to call his ‘Dynamic Life Retreat’ (see Harold full teachings on his website, HaroldFinch.com) I have come to agree with them in their choice. Bringing God into the equation of life’s direction, success, and reaching full potential does reveal the true meaning of Unlimited.
I have lived a relatively pain-free life. Until recently. I can remember about a year ago when I was sitting at a meal with friends and the person next to me asked what was wrong with my neck. She went on to say that I seemed to be moving stiffly. I was surprised because I hadn’t even noticed.
Fast forward about three months and I did start to notice some pain in my shoulder. I pretty much tried to ignore the aching because I feared that perhaps I had injured my rotator cuff and my mind was full of horror stories of painful surgeries and even more painful therapeutic recoveries.
Then about six weeks ago at a routine checkup I mentioned to my doc how the pain seemed to traveling down my arm, seizing the bicep and causing tingly itchiness all the way down to my hand. I was having trouble typing on the computer, which all but put a halt to my writing.
My doc sent me for an x-ray of my neck and the findings supported her suspicion and diagnosis of degenerative osteoarthritis of the C5 and C6. Welcome to the perpetual pain club that goes along with getting older. Take your ticket directly to physical therapy and make friends with your nsaid.
Then I got sick, so-much-pain-I-couldn’t-move sick. Seems I had a wicked strep infection that my body responded to with an interesting, but non-life-threatening, condition called ermythia nodosum. I ended seeing a dermatologist and having a biopsy and a rheumatologist and gaining a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, along with several other multi-syllabic scary medical words.
Yesterday I wore tennis shoes to work. I was a little nervous about it. I work ten hours and the longest I had shoes on for almost a month was about a three hour stretch. Other than soreness in my shoulder, I’m feeling pretty normal. I’m quite happy to report that I wore the shoes all through the day, right up to bedtime!
Normal. Just what is that? And what will it look like in the future? How does one learn to live with pain? I have watched my husband be in chronic pain for thirty years. I have seen him cycle in and out of major depression because of it. I have made excuses upon excuses for his moodiness and the dark cloud of pain that has hounded him for so long. I don’t want to let my pain control my moods. I have seen it try…I didn’t like the way I responded.
As I pondered this, my thoughts seemed to automatically go to Paul’s prayer for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Paul: God, take this away. I can’t do everything you want me to do with this. Others will see this problem and focus on how you seem unable to remove it. That can’t be good PR for an al- powerful and lavishly gracious God.
And God says: No. Nope. Not going to do it. See, the more dependent upon me that you are, the more you will find that I am all you need and that I will give you just what you need, right when you need it. Not one minute before. And it will feel like I’m late, like I’m not paying attention. Do not give into that lie. See, here’s the thing when you come to the end of yourself, your answers, your strategies, your strength, I AM there. When you’ve come to the end yourself I AM. And I will be. I will be your strength. And I will be your joy.
On the first Sunday back to church in a month, I had the blessed opportunity to sing a duet with my pastor, a godly man with a wonderful tenor voice. We sang the old hymn, “Day by Day.” Words that went straight to my heart. Psalm 84:7 describes how the followers of God go from “strength to strength.” There is no gap, no space where His strength is not available to us. No space whatsoever. None. Day by day, every hour, moment by moment, the Lord himself is near me, with a special mercy for each hour. For you too.
My prayer is that when the pain is bad, and the heart is weary, that God will make His strength known, both in my head and my heart, my feelings…because that’s the place where the gap sometimes forms for me. When what I’m feeling hurts and screams louder than what I know to be true from God’s Word, I need to lean hard on the One bridges the gap.