Good Medicine

Stand there and take your medicine!

The red-headed lady who raised me wasn’t done with the scolding yet, but she could no longer make herself heard over the blubbering.  The words had an effect, if only for a moment, as the little towhead tried to work out in his head what kind of horrible-tasting medicine she was going to force down his throat.

The moment passed.  It was only another of her sayings, a mini-parable describing the situation.

I’ll admit it:  I’ve always been something of a crybaby.  Perhaps it was because crying seemed to deflect scolding—or punishment.  My brother and I once thought we had figured a way to make our dad’s spankings less severe.  We would begin to cry early in the process and amplify the noise with every swat.

It didn’t work.

Still, discipline always—from my earliest days—brought out the whine-factor.  And, since I earned—seriously, I worked tirelessly for them—so many sessions with the belt or paddle, I learned how to mope and cry better than most.

It’s a life-skill which has served me well. Perhaps, not served me well, but it has been trotted out with some frequency over the years.

I would tell you I haven’t had a whipping for many years, but it wouldn’t be true.  Oh, no one has hit me with a paddle or strap, but discipline has come even so.

While we draw breath, lessons are learned the hard way.  For some of us anyway, it’s the only way we remember the principles.

While we draw breath, lessons are learned the hard way. Click To Tweet

The Preacher suggested that God disciplines the ones He loves, just as a father does for the child he delights in, the boy or girl he is teaching to become a mature adult.  (Proverbs 3:11-12)

But, what if—what if—the events we imagine to be discipline are nothing more than stops on the way to maturity?  Could it be the things I’ve been moaning and whining about are simply bridges to be crossed, milestones to be left behind as the finish line draws ever nearer?

A young man—somewhat wiser than I—sat across the table from me in the restaurant the other day and made a surprising statement.

This past year has been quite a successful one for you, hasn’t it?

I looked at his face quickly to see if he was joking.  He wasn’t—the sincerity in his voice mirrored in his features.

I picked up my glass of water to draw from the protruding straw.  I wasn’t thirsty; it was just a delaying tactic.

This could take a minute.

It didn’t.

I wanted to argue.  I wanted to say it had been one of the worst years of my life.  But, in that tiny interlude in which I stopped to think, the truth dawned.

Another epiphany.  Well?  It is still the season, is it not?  Why should not the time when we consider the coming of The Light be a time in which we become aware of other beacons of truth we have missed along the way?

In the time it took to take that drink, my mind ran through the year just past.

Every step—every stumbling, plodding step—has brought me a little closer to being the person He wants me to be. 

It hasn’t been pleasant.  In fact, there’s still a bitter taste in my mouth as I look back.

But, it’s been good medicine.  Medicine which has had its intended result.

The young man isn’t wrong.

Call it discipline; call it a growth spurt.  We never choose those, but they are necessary for life to continue.

I remember the horrible taste of cod liver oil in my mouth.  I still recall the sting of Merthiolate in an open cut.

I lived through them and thrived.

I stood and took my medicine.

We still need to grow more.  God has plans for how to make that happen.  He knows the plans.  They are for our good and not to hurt us.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Good things.

Stand there and take your medicine.

 

 

Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.
(from “War and Peace” ~ Leo Tolstoy ~ Russian author ~ 1828-1910)

 

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 ~ NLTHoly Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Tell me the Story

In moments when I least expect it, clarity arrives.

I sat, with others around me, in a service the other day and noticed the lady at the keyboard. I know her. She was my neighbor for upwards of fifteen years. I have heard her sing. I have heard her play.

All I expected was to enjoy the music—possibly to reflect on some lyrics. It would be nice.

Nice isn’t what happened.

I hope you won’t mind. I think we call it epiphany. With a small “e”.

An arrival. A light, small but bright, blazed as my friend sang the old familiar hymn. I have never thought of it before. Never.

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sung the words. But, in her simple gift of song, the words shone with a clarity I’ve not known any other time.

The writer of the letter written to the Hebrews describes it as the fulfillment of a promise made long before. In your hearts, He will place His commandments, and on your minds they will be written indelibly. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

Is a little of that light shining through yet? Maybe, it’s just me.

Every word. Written on my heart.

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I am moved. Overwhelmed, even. But, the light shines on past the initial reaction and I start to wonder.

Is it just for me that He has written on my heart and in my mind?

You indulged me when I wanted to call it an epiphany. Will you indulge me a bit further?

I know the heart mentioned in the Book isn’t the physical, beating organ, but it is the center of our very being—the existence of which we cannot function without. If the physical heart circulates the life blood our brain and entire body must have for life, surely the symbolic heart we describe must circulate the very essence of who we are.

If we follow Christ, He is the essence of our being. Circulating through our veins.

So, I ask again: Is it only for my benefit that He lives within my being?

It is for my benefit. To that, there can be no argument. But, what of those around me? Those who have sin—and loss—and, in the end, death—written on their hearts?

He has put eternity in our hearts!  How could we keep that quiet?

The Apostle—my namesake—lays out the process.  How shall they call on Him unless they believe?  How will they believe unless they hear?  How could they possibly hear if we don’t tell them? (Romans 10:14)

He is the foundation, the Rock at the center of our existence!  How could we hide it?

How could we not tell the story?  How could we not ourselves write the words which have been written in our heart?  Or, speak them?  Or, sing them?

Every word, every action declares who (and whose) we are.

Well, well.  An epiphany in the season of Epiphany.  A small light as we acknowledge the Light of the World.

The Word who was born in a stable, in reality came to be inked on our hearts.  And, He invites us to share His story by sharing our own.

The Word.  Written on our hearts.

To be written on the hearts of others.

Time to tell the story. 

Again.


There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
(Maya Angelou ~ American Poet ~ 1928-2014)

If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.

If I told you my story
You would hear Victory over the enemy.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Freedom that was won for me.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life overcome the grave.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.
(Music Publishing LLC, Open Hands Music (SESAC) (All rights on behalf of itself and Open Hands Music adm. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
Writers: Mike Weaver / Jason Ingram

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2018. All Rights Reserved.