Clean Cups

I have a beautiful cup that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now. It is deep purple – made of thick glass- the kind you can rarely find anymore. It is such thick glass and such a deep purple you cannot see inside the cup. The glass belongs to a set that came from one of the grandmothers in my family. Somehow the cups made it to my home. They are my favorites. And this one has been sitting here for a week. I have picked it up several times to use it because it is out and within my reach. And every time I look inside I am surprised to find someone poured some kind of grease drippings into the cup. I guess I keep forgetting because from the outside you would never know. It looks as lovely as ever. But there it is- nasty grease. As of right now, the cup is unusable except as a container for grease, but not to drink from which is the reason for which this lovely cup was created.


Jesus talked about cleaning the outside of cups. He told the Pharisees this is what was wrong with their religion. They had beautiful cups that were filthy inside. We can read this and feel so judgmental towards the Pharisees. Until we look at our own lives. Our own religion. Our own belief system. We all want beautiful cups. We think pretty cups mean pretty lives and doesn’t Jesus want our lives to be pretty?


Doesn’t Jesus want our family to be a picture of perfect love? Doesn’t He want our children to be successful and us to do well in our jobs? Surely He wants our homes to be lovely and our grass to be mowed. He needs us to represent Him well by serving faithfully in a local church and volunteering in our children’s schools. And we need to take care of ourselves physically so we should be eating well and exercising since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So now our jobs look good, our homes look good, our families look good, and our appearance is good. Everything is good. It is a beautiful cup.


But what about when it isn’t? What about when the kids are struggling? The marriage is struggling? The home is falling into disrepair because the job isn’t going so great so there’s no money for repairs. What about when you are handling one crisis after another and you pick up a nasty junk food habit and lose the gym habit? That cup takes some hits. The beautiful glass is dinged and chipped. It’s lost some of it’s shine. It’s actually not looking anywhere close to beautiful anymore. It’s looking rough.


I have met these women. The ones whose lives are not picture perfect. I am one of these women. I did not set out to be. I set out to have a beautiful cup. But somewhere along the way by the grace of God, I found out Jesus wasn’t looking for beautiful cups. He was looking to purify hearts and give us clean cups. These women I have met- they have dirt under their fingernails. They have wrinkles on their faces. They have tear stains on their pillows. And their cups pour forth some of the clearest, purest love of Jesus you will ever experience. Because somewhere along the way, they realized the beautiful cup was only good for looking at. It was a mirage. An ideal. A fantasy.  But a clean cup? This was useful. This mattered. Because people are thirsty.  They need a drink of something real and pure and hopeful. What’s even better about a clean cup? It comes from Jesus. Only He can clean the inside of our cups. We don’t have to do it. Maintaining a beautiful exterior is hard work. Exhausting work. Sometimes that’s the only reason some of us give up on it. We just get so damn tired.

But then Jesus. He meets us in the tired. He meets us in the hard. He says, “Let me take over from here.” And He takes the dirty greasy mess we are carrying around and He cleans it. He wipes away the grime and the heaviness and all the residue from walking through this world and He fills our cup up with something of value. Himself. Living Water. And now we see that maybe our cup may not be as beautiful on the outside as we had wanted. It may have cracks and chips and imperfections. It may be a little warped and lean too far in one direction – but it’s full of Jesus. And Jesus is what every person we will ever meet needs. He is what our kids need, our husband needs, our home needs, our workplace needs, our church needs, our schools need. And you get to be full of Him. You get to stop working so hard to have a put together life and you get to just start living life. Abundantly.



Butterflies and Grace

My youngest is homeschooling this year, which lends itself to downtime. In between subjects, when my brain is trying to recuperate from figuring out high school geometry (which, by the way, I do not consider to be real math... when the answer is in the form of a paragraph it is not math) to decompress, we sit outside and watch the butterflies.

We have two large butterfly bushes and although we have butterflies every year, this year has been something spectacular. Giant yellow and black swallowtails, along with several other varieties, have covered the bushes.

We watch them and photograph them and talk about them because...well, because we are basically giant nerds I guess. Something struck me though as we sat and watched the way they flutter and flit from flower to flower and bush to bush so gracefully and effortlessly.

These beautiful creatures began as caterpillars crawling on the ground. Fat, fuzzy, creepy crawly caterpillars. Not only do they now have gorgeous wings and colors, but they also no longer crawl—they fly!


Of all the superpowers, this is the one most people want. To be able to fly. But that is not even the most remarkable thing: the incredibly striking thing is butterflies never forget they are butterflies.

Not even for a second.

What if they came out of the cocoon with those dazzling wings and a voice whispered (or yelled) to them, You aren’t really a butterfly. Who do you think you are thinking you can fly? You are just a fat, fuzzy caterpillar that will never leave the ground. What if they heard that voice and in spite of the transformation that had taken place, in spite of the wings now attached to their slim, nimble bodies, they believed they were still what they once were and instead of taking off in flight, they walked away feeling shame that all that time in the cocoon, all that time waiting in the darkness, had produced nothing. Would they be any less of a butterfly? Of course not, but they would miss the joy of flight. And others, like myself and Halle, would miss out on the beauty of that flight. And not only would we miss out on their beauty, but our entire ecosystem would be thrown asunder without their performing their designed function for the world. So they would still be butterflies, but they would miss the joy and the purpose of their lives. All because they believed the lie that transformation had not taken place.

Are you believing the lie that you hear whispered in your quiet moments, maybe inside your head, or maybe it’s a voice coming from somewhere around you—friends, family ,church (because the only way we would believe those voices is if they came from someone whose opinion actually mattered to us)—the voice that whispers (or maybe yells), You aren’t really a new creation. Who do you think you are? You are just a big mess and no matter how hard you try, you will never leave the ground.

This is painful to even write because I know how often I still listen to and believe that voice in my own life.

And my failure at times seems to reinforce that maybe I haven’t transformed. Maybe all the time I’ve spent waiting in the dark was just that- waiting in the dark. Not a transformation, not a new creation. Just wasted time in the dark. But I know enough now to know this lie is what the enemy wants me to believe- that I am and will always be what I once was. That all my effort and all my trying has been in vain, that I will never get off the ground.

But maybe that’s not really where the transformation is supposed to take place— in my behavior.

Maybe the cocoon and time in the darkness that really matters is the time Jesus spent there: When He suffered and died, spent three days in the grave, and rose again.

Maybe He was resurrected for my transformation.

Maybe my transformation is less (okay, maybe not just less, but not at all) to do with me and more (okay, everything) to do with Jesus and the price He paid. Maybe the transformation comes with the believing more than the doing. If a butterfly spent all its time trying NOT to be a caterpillar- what a waste! It doesn’t have to try to not be a caterpillar. It’s not a caterpillar! If the resurrection of Jesus made me a new creation then I don’t have to try to be a new creation or to not be an old one. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Grace. Grace. Grace. We must embrace grace. Not just embrace grace but truly and wholeheartedly believe grace is what we actually get. Mostly we believe we get a second chance. “Ok- you screwed this up the first time. Now I’m going to forgive your past- but going forward try to straighten up and act like a Christian.” How utterly hopeless for us if this is true! Thank God, it’s not.  But so often we settle for living according to a set of prescribed rules and trying hard not to mess things up again. And when we do- because we will, especially when we are butterflies trying not to be caterpillars- then shame becomes our closest companion instead of the Holy Spirit (Who is actually our Comforter and Teacher not the Shamer and Guilter). We think if we feel guilty enough or bad enough for long enough about our caterpillar behavior then we will finally get it together and get off the ground. So we keep trudging around hoping one day to be good enough to fly and ignoring the beautiful wings that are on our backs.

Jesus is my righteousness.Jesus is my forgiveness. Jesus is my new life and my future and my past all at once. Jesus says I am a new creation in Him. Jesus says I can fly now. Today. Not one day later on when I get all this religion stuff down- like memorizing enough scripture or praying without ceasing or all the nots and the shoulds. Jesus says right now, in this moment, in my weakness and failure and victory and glory (because we all have all of those on any given day)  right here I get to use my wings. Today I get to belong to Him and never be unworthy. Never be unloved. Never be left behind or left out. He is mine and I am His.

So why would I spend my life walking around with a new body and wings attached to my back and never fly just because some voice says I can’t? Jesus says I can. Maybe all I need to do is  believe Him. transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)


Jesus, thank You for the finished work of the Cross. Thank You for loving us and believing we were worth the price You had to pay. Now help us to believe it. Help us to see ourselves the way You see us—new creations in You. Give us the mind of Christ. Help us to truly believe we aren’t just forgiven, but we are transformed simply by Your life flowing in us and through us. We don’t have to work hard or try hard or behave really well—we just have to believe You are who You said You are and You did what You said You did and that is enough. Give us a heart revelation of grace. Help us see we were made to fly. Amen.