Saturday, 15 December 2012

With Mine Eye

I will instruct thee and teach thee the way in which thou shalt go; I will counsel thee with Mine eye upon thee. (Psalm 32:8)
I'm depending on You, Father. You know I can't find my own way.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

From the Wilderness, Leaning

Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? (Song of Solomon 8:5)
Between the leaving of Egypt and the Promised Land lies a wilderness. Jesus' step out was his baptism, and he went directly into the wilderness, where he was hungry and tempted. When he returned, there was no turning back on the road to the cross. After Joseph's dream came betrayal and Pharoah's prison. Moses, after admitting his identity as a Jew, became an exile in Midian. Elijah, after proving the power of God openly, went running into the wilderness to hide from an angry Jezebel. After he was named king of Israel, David was on the run from Saul for years, living in the woods and hiding in caves. Paul, after meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, was taken away to Arabia.

Why the wilderness? I don't know. The length of time is different for everybody, and maybe so is the purpose...except for this one: they all seem to come out leaning. Even Jesus, Son of God, was ministered to by an angel.

Let me too, Father, come out of my wilderness leaning on my Beloved. Keep me from complaining and hopelessness and restless wishing. Lead me, too, by cloud and fire. Come with me through this wilderness. And help me to remember that this is not the end, but the way You have planned to the place You have promised.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Learning to Dance

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5)
My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
...our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.
If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere . . .” Revelation 3:10. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest)
It's like learning to dance, this watching and waiting and moving along with God. I've never been good at dancing. Instead of understanding, it takes training. Trying. Failing. Trying again. But the pipers are piping, and I've avoided this dance for a long time, and the Lover of my soul holds out His hand again. He is patient with my stumbling and overstepping and I am embarrassed but grateful, and there is grace in this waiting, stepping, stopping, turning. Jesus bends low. He takes me by the hand, and how can I tell Him, "No"?
My soul faints for your salvation: but I hope in your word.(Psalm 119:81)
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)
 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
And this Gospel? It doesn’t come wrapped in twinkling lights and satin bows; it comes straight into our pitchest black. The Gospel of Christ, it’s a messy, bloody thing and this is how God was born, bloody and bruised, and that’s how God chose to die, bloody and beaten. And our God, He knows the comings and goings of our blackest bloody battles, and this is exactly where He meets us. (Ann Voskamp,
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. (Psalm 57:7)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Father, I don't know what You are doing, but I know that You are Good and merciful. My mind runs in circles and I cannot trust myself or my understanding. I don't know how to see, but take me Your way. I am in Your hand. Hold me when the tension grows great and I am tempted to squirm and scream. Fold me in grace and continue to give me Your Good.
Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. (Isaiah 50:10)

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Into Your Hands

No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. (Ecclesiastes 8:16, 9:1)
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me: your mercy, O Lord, endures forever: forsake not the works of your own hands. (Psalm 138:8)
Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: my eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my body...I am like a broken vessel...But I trusted in you, O Lord: I said, you are my God. My times are in your me for your mercies' sake. Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon you...Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you; which you have wrought for them that trust in you before the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man...For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before your eyes: nevertheless you heard the voice of my supplications when I cried unto you. (Psalm 31:9, 12, 14-17, 19, 20, 22)
When the devil comes with His subtle questions and insinuations, refer Him to your Lord, in whose hands your times are placed. When you have a lawsuit, the opposite side will likely come and talk with you, to see if they can get something out of you. It will be your wisdom to reply, “If you have anything to say, say it to my solicitor.” If the devil comes to you and you get into an argument with him, he will beat you, for he is a very ancient lawyer and he has been at the business for so many ages that you cannot match him. Send him to your Advocate! Refer him to the Wonderful, the Counselor! Always shelter beneath this fact, “My times are in His hand. I have left the whole business to Another and I cannot dishonor Him by meddling.” Satan knows the Christ too well to go to Him—he knows the taste of His broadsword, of, “It is written.” He will not contest with Jesus if we leave Him to plead the causes of our soul! (C. H. Spurgeon)
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. (John 12:3)
I cannot, like Mary, touch You, Lord Jesus, but accept these tears as my ointment poured out. You alone know the cost. I fall at Your feet. Lovely feet, pierced for me. How can I doubt You?
"At any cost, by any road" means nothing self-chosen in the way God brings us to the goal.
There is no possibility of questioning God when He speaks, if He speaks to His own nature in me. Prompt obedience is the only result. When Jesus says, "Come," I simply come; when He says, "Let go," I let go; when He says, "Trust God in this matter," I trust. This work of obedience is the evidence that the nature of God is in me....
It is through the discipline of obedience that I get to the place where Abraham was and I see who God is. God will never be real to me until I come face to face with Him in Jesus Christ. Then I will know and can boldly proclaim,
"In all the world, my God, there is none but Thee, there is none but Thee."
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 17)
Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfil my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents, altogether unnoticeable and mean; but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God's Redemption comes to the point of obedience in a human soul, it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God. (Oswald Chambers)
"Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings." 1 Peter 4:13
The sufferings of Christ are not those of ordinary men. He suffered "according to the will of God," not from the point of view we suffer from as individuals. It is only when we are related to Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us. It is part of Christian culture to know what God's aim is. In the history of the Christian Church the tendency has been to evade being identified with the sufferings of Jesus Christ; men have sought to procure the carrying out of God's order by a short cut of their own. God's way is always the way of suffering, the way of the "long, long trail."
Are we partakers of Christ's sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp our personal ambitions right out? Are we prepared for God to destroy by transfiguration our individual determinations? It will not mean that we know exactly why God is taking us that way, that would make us spiritual prigs. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through; we go through it more or less misunderstandingly; then we come to a luminous place, and say - "Why, God has girded me, though I did not know it!" (Oswald Chambers)
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.

For it's only in Your will that I am free,
For it's only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
I bend to You, Lover of my soul. Break me in shards, as You will, and heal me because of Your mercy. Take my yesterday and my today and my tomorrow. Spend them all on what those who count things call "waste". I am all Yours. All Yours.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Help My Unbelief

Jesus said unto him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.
And immediately the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. (Mark 9:23-24)
Like this father, I believe. I believe all the pieces: God is good. God cares for me. God gives nothing but Good. He is kind and merciful, and He will never let me go. All these things I know to be true. Why, then, can I not seem to do the math? Why is it so hard to say "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight"? Why am I so full of fear? Why am I so foolish?

Lord, look in my heart and see - I believe! And help my unbelief.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

How to Train Your Dragon

Father. My heart cries out day after day, "Where are you? Don't you see me? Can you stand by and let me feel like this?" and with my rational mind I am horrified at my own foolishness and impudence...and somewhere deeper than mind or heart, I know that Jesus cried his own questions on the cross - "Why have you forsaken me?" and that is where I trust You and love You, and from there, I am sure that there is something waiting for me just beyond this heavy curtain that dims my view and dulls my sense of You.

I am so lost and confused, and I don't know what You are doing with me. Something in me complains incessantly and I just want it to be quiet, but it takes time to train this dragon of a heart. I don't know what I should be doing. Am I making this worse? Should I fight it out, or just wait? Should I put on a smile and pretend everything is fine, or try to talk it out, or just keep as quiet as possible? Should I try to protect my weakness, or run on and expect You to take care of me? Do I struggle to accept this bitterness, or do I instead spend my time searching for the sweet? 
And shall I pray Thee change Thy will my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But no, Lord, no, that shall never be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.
I pray Thee hush the hurrying eager longing
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire.
See in my quiet places wishes thronging,
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.
And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure.
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Well-Beloved’s leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.(Amy Carmichael)
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Who Shall Deliver Me?

It takes time to change a heart. I thought I could make a choice, will myself to bend, and God would work a miracle in me. But as it turns out, miracles aren't like magic that happens with a wave, and this learning to bow isn't something I can do once and for always. So this may be a long road. Today I will learn to bend my will before God. Tomorrow, I will choose to learn that lesson again. How long will it take? Are we there yet, Dad?

Here I am, Lord. I am willing for this - willing for today's bending, and tomorrow's, and the next day's. I will trust you to help me on this long road. I am tired already, but strengthen me. I will wait for my change. I will choose you again and again, until the enemy in me has been fully defeated, the rebellion in my heart fully put down. 

Overcome me, Jesus. You have the right, as my Creator, as my Saviour, and as the One I choose. Let me be willing to pour out my life for you...even if it looks wasted. Before You who gave all, can there be any waste? Let me pour out, drop by precious drop, my life, my heart, my all. You know how poor my worship is, and how dim my vision, but make me - even me - delight in You. And then I shall be free.
Who Shall Deliver Me?
God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.
All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.
I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?
If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.
If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!
God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys
Myself, arch-traitor to mysel ;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.
Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free
(Christina Georgina Rossetti)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

All In All

"’s always this willingness to suffer." (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
Come Unto Me
Oh, for the time gone by, when thought of Christ
Made His Yoke easy and His Burden light;
When my heart stirred within me at the sight
Of Altar spread for awful Eucharist;
When all my hopes His promises sufficed,
When my Soul watched for Him by day, by night,
When my lamp lightened and my robe was white,
And all seemed loss, except the Pearl unpriced.
Yet, since He calls me still with tender Call,
Since He remembers Whom I half forgot,
I even will run my race and bear my lot:
For Faith the walls of Jericho cast down,
And Hope to whoso runs holds forth a Crown,
And Love is Christ, and Christ is All in all.
 (Christina Georgina Rossetti)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Everywhere, There is Grace

A cousin who takes time out of her own very busy life to pray for mine...
A friend who ignores the fact that I haven't called or emailed her for almost a year, and just keeps on doing the hard work of being a friend and contacting me despite my self-destruction...
A brother who texts out of the blue to see if I need any shopping done so I don't have to spend my precious time home doing errands (a brother who hates shopping maybe even more than I do)...
A boss who offers me a nicer apartment if I want, and buys lunch, and then takes me to the store to buy me a new TV (or whatever I want instead)...
A co-worker who, with a wink and a smile, changed the time on our time-punch machine so I am not always a minute late...
A Mom who is always praying for me...
Forgiveness and peace that comes creeping about my angry, hurt heart when I have almost given up...

Everywhere, there is grace. Even here. Even today. He has charged the earth with His beauty. Dear, kind God. How shall I give Him thanks? With all my heart and life and breath, I will say that He is Good.

Friday, 23 November 2012


My beloved spoke, and said to me, "Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
For, behold, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens her green figs. The vines are in blossom. They give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away." (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)
Woke up one morning this week to the inside-my-head sound of this verse. Why? What does it mean? I don't know, but I know my Beloved. He calls me, and I will go.

It were not hard to suffer by His hand,
If thou couldst see His face;—but in the dark!       
That is the one last trial:—be it so.
Christ was forsaken, so must thou be too:
How couldst thou suffer but in seeming, else?
Thou wilt not see the face nor feel the hand,
Only the cruel crushing of the feet,    
When through the bitter night the Lord comes down
To tread the winepress.—Not by sight, but faith,
Endure, endure,—be faithful to the end!
 (Harriet Hamilton-King)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

By Suffering

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
Seldom have I been so cut off from God's perspective of things as I am now. I feel the need of vision. I long to see as he sees. I so often feel that whatever is being drawn out of this experience can hardly be worth it...but how I can speak of worth before that One who is worthy of all that I have and am; before whom there can be no waste...?
“For the glory and the passion of this midnight
I praise thy name, I give Thee thanks, O Christ!
Thou that hast neither failed me nor forsaken
Through these hard hours with victory overpriced..."
(H. Hamilton King)
Nevertheless, I know, deep deep deep, that He is Good. That He loves me. That all He gives, no matter how it hurts, is Good, and for my Good. And deep deep deep, I love Him. I love Him more than I love comfort. I love Him more than I love being in control. I desire His approval more than I desire the approval of those I can see and hear and touch.  Beneath my fears and my quakings; beneath my roiling emotion and my shaking, I trust the Jesus who cried, who became weary, who was frustrated, who hungered and thirsted, who died. I trust the Jesus who cried from his cross, "Why?!" He is altogether lovely, my Jesus. With all my breath and energy, with my sweat and tears and blood, let me tell who He is, that One who loves, who gives, who waits still, for me and for you...
Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Philippians 1:29)
That most closely we may follow Him
By Suffering, have all hearts of men allowed.
Is Suffering then more near and dear to God
For its own sake than Joy is? God forbid !
We know not its beginning nor its end ;
Is it a sacrifice? a test? a school ? . . .
We suffer. Why we suffer— that is hid
With God's foreknowledge in the clouds of Heaven.
(H. Hamilton King)

If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

But if, impatient, thou let slip thy Cross,
Thou wilt not find it in this world again,
Nor in another; here, and here alone,
Is given thee to suffer for God's sake. —

In other worlds we shall more perfectly
Serve Him and love Him, praise Him, work for Him,
Grow near and nearer Him with all delight;
But then we shall not any more be called
To suffer, — which is our appointment here.

Couldst thou not suffer then, one hour — or two ?
If He should call thee from thy Cross to-day.
Saying, it is finished ! — that hard Cross of thine
From which thou prayest for deliverance, —
Thinkest thou not some passion of regret
Would overcome thee ? Thou wouldst say " So soon ?
Let me go back, and suffer yet awhile
More patiently ! — I have not yet praised God."
And He might answer to thee, — " Never more —
All pain is done with !"  (H. Hamilton King)

Your grace is enough
More than I need
And your word I will believe
I wait for you
Draw near again
And your spirit make me new
And i will fall at your feet
I will fall at your feet
And i will worship you here
Your presence in me
Jesus light the way
By the power of your word
I am restored
I am redeemed
By your spirit i am free
And i will fall at your feet
I will fall at your feet
And i will worship you here
Freely you gave it all for us
Surrendered your life upon that cross
Great is your love
Poured out for all
This is our God
Lifted on high from death to life
Forever our God is glorified
Sovereign king
Rescued the world
This is our God
And i will fall at your feet
I will fall at your feet
And i will worship you here
And i will fall at your feet
I will fall at your feet
And i will worship you here
Freely you gave it all for us
Surrendered your life upon that cross
Great is your love
Poured out for all
This is our God
Lifted on high from death to life
Forever out God is glorified
Sovereign king
Rescued the world
This is our God.

Friday, 16 November 2012

But the Lord is Faithful

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that you both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
A sense of being carried today. I know someone is praying. And this gave me courage.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

This Testimony; His Just Due

"He has done all things well." Mark 7:37

Yes, from first to last, from our cradle to our grave, from the earliest pang of sin's conviction to the last thrill of sin's forgiveness, from earth to heaven; this will be our testimony in all the way the Lord our God has led us in the wilderness: "He has done all things well.
In providence and in grace,
in every truth of His Word,
in every lesson of His love,
in every stroke of His rod,
in every sunbeam that has shone,
in every cloud that has shaded,
in every element that has sweetened,
in every ingredient that has embittered,
in all that has been mysterious, inscrutable, painful, and humiliating;
in all that He gave,
in all that He took away, this testimony is His just due, and this our grateful acknowledgment through time and through eternity:
'He has done all things well.'"  (adapted from Octavius Winslow's, The Sigh of Christ)  

Truly He has. Let me say it from here, while I feel the "taking away" far more deeply than the giving: His way is perfect. He is Good. He does all things well. I will let my hurting heart thank God, who always hurts in order to heal. I believe it. Let everything that belongs to Him praise Him for His goodness.
...we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Let Us Have Grace

Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Lest there be any immoral, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
For you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, or unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as an animal touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a spear:
And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.
See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape, if we turn away from him that speaks from heaven:
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:16-29)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sacrifice Thank Offerings

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18)
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
...He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:14-15, 23)
Sometimes the thank offering really is a sacrifice. But He is worthy.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lead Me To Calvary

King of my life I crown Thee now,
Thine may the glory be,
Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Thanksgiving, At Last

Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make music to our God on the harp.
He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope
in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:1-11)
At last I can offer thanksgiving from my heart to Him who loves me. He is able to restore and rebuild even me. All hurts find their place in his great heart, and grace is free. Even for me.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

These Strange Ashes

“From this one place I can’t see very far; in this one moment I’m square in the dark. These are the things I will trust in my heart: You can see something else, something else.” (Sara Groves)
But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness,
This baffling sense of loss?
Son, was the anguish of my stripping less
Upon the torturing cross?
Was I not brought into the dust of death,
A worm and no man, I;
Yea, turned to ashes by the vehement breath
Of fire, on Calvary?
O Son beloved, this is thy heart’s desire:
This, and no other thing
Follows the fall of Consuming Fire
On the burnt offering.
Go on and taste the joy set high, afar -
No joy like that to thee;
See how it lights the way like some great star.
Come now, and follow Me.
(Amy Carmichael)
“Had I come here, leaving so much behind, on a fool’s errand? If this was how the Lord of Hosts looked after His servants and His glory, if this was a sample of how He answered prayer for His work and His workers, it certainly fit none of my categories…. As I look back on that time, I think it was Lesson One for me in the school of faith. That is, it was my first experience of having to bow down before that which I could not possibly explain…. Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? ...Over forty years have passed since this story took place. Nearly every time I have told it and tried to explain what I think God wanted to teach me in it of absolute commitment and trust, someone has asked, ‘but why did God let it happen?’ Someday they and I will be satisfied with His answer. Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”  (from These Strange Ashes, by Elisabeth Elliot)
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. (Galatians 2:20)
"These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can do this for me, I must do it myself. God may bring me up to the point three hundred and sixty-five times a year, but He cannot put me through it. It means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the emancipating of my personality into oneness with Himself, not for my own ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus. There is no possibility of dispute when once I am there. Very few of us know anything about loyalty to Christ - "For My sake." It is that which makes the iron saint.
Has that break come? All the rest is pious fraud. The one point to decide is - Will I give up, will I surrender to Jesus Christ, and make no conditions whatever as to how the break comes? I must be broken from my self-realization, and immediately that point is reached, the reality of the supernatural identification takes place at once, and the witness of the Spirit of God is unmistakable - 'I have been crucified with Christ.'" (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)
"On July 28, Saturday, I sailed. We had to come on board on Friday night, and just as the tender (a small boat) where were the dear friends who had come to say goodbye was moving off, and the chill of loneliness shivered through me, like a warm love-clasp came the long-loved lines--'And only Heaven is better than to walk with Christ at midnight, over moonless seas.' I couldn't feel frightened then. Praise Him for the moonless seas--all the better the opportunity for proving Him to be indeed the El Shaddai, 'the God who is Enough.'" (Amy Carmichael)
What is there to say? The One who loves my soul has brought me here, right here...

God, give me the strength and the faith, since I have the will, to break this "husk of my individual independence" of You. I will trust You. I will seek the friendship and the fellowship of your Christ. Before him, there is no waste, no second best.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Then Shall the King Say...Come

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
...I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings...
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father... (Matthew 25:33-34)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you... (John 15:9)
What is the joy set before me? It is no crown, no promise of position, no honor. Deep down, beneath the desire for comfort, beneath the weakness that overcomes me in dark moments, is my true desire: to know the Christ; to work beside him; to give joy to the One who loves me best. I wait not for pleasures, nor public praise, nor a throne.

His word, the spoken "Come..." will be worth the loss of all that is mine. Gladly let me lay it down.

The Answer

Jim Elliot to Elisabeth in 1948:
Dearest Betty, I charge you in the name of our Unfailing Friend, do away with all waverings, bewilderment, and wonder. You have bargained for a cross. Overcome anything in the confidence of your union with Him, so that contemplating trial, enduring persecution or loneliness, you may know the blessings of the ‘joy set before.’ ‘We are the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.’ And what are sheep doing going into the gate? What is their purpose inside those courts? To bleat melodies and enjoy the company of the flock? No. Those sheep were destined for the altar. Their pasture feeding had been for one purpose, to test them and fatten them for bloody sacrifice. Give Him thanks, then, that you have been counted worthy of His altars. Enter into the work with praise. (from Shadow of the Almighty, by Elisabeth Elliot)
I, too, have bargained for a cross.

Thank You, Father and Friend. You have read my heart to the very depths. You know what I desire most, and You are faithfully fulfilling that desire. Let me lie myself down on Your altar daily. Remind my dull heart what is that "joy set before", so that I may have courage to "do away with all waverings, bewilderment, and wonder..."
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight. (Matthew 11:26)

Friday, 2 November 2012

His Love Endures...

Someday I will come back here and tell how good God is, and how even His hurts lead to joy, but just for a moment let me be honest about how I feel right now. The Enemy of Souls whispers softly that God has betrayed me, that He is making a fool out of me, and that he is cold and silent while I cry out for Him...and I know that is a lie - truly I do - but it seems so easy to believe. I am so tired of struggling to reconcile what I know with what I feel, and why is this taking so long!? and this all felt bad when I was young, but it didn't feel so hopeless because when you are 25 or 28 or even 30, everything still feels like the beginning, and there's a chance to change the ending, but why do I feel like it's too late to change the ending now and where is God and why doesn't he care that I'm failing now when it's too late to fix?? and my hair is falling out and I have a knot in my stomach approximately one third of the time that I am awake and why do I feel this way??? and shouldn't I be better able to manage myself at this age?! and why doesn't God just change the way I feel, because I am willing to accept any outcome; it's just this whorl of emotion that I loathe and can't control??! and will I ever have real friends here that I can count on? and should I just accept the fact that I am a big failure and go home to my parents? and please stop the world because I WANT OFF RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW.
That is how I feel. And this is what I know:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
 (Psalm 136: 1-3)
What do I do with this disconnect? Why am I so helpless? Why can't I get some perspective? What is wrong with me? What is God doing? How do I thank Him for this and mean it?

God, please have mercy on my weakness.
Your love endures forever.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Be Near Me

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack'd with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.
(Lord Alfred Tennyson) 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Till My Change Come

All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
You shall call, and I will answer you... (Job 14:14-15)
Father, let me not sink when I am overwhelmed. Rebuke my enemy, that father of Lies, and save me from the darkness and disorder he would lay on me and so muffle gladness and praise to You. Let thanks come springing from my heart to Your throne. Draw pure worship from the depths of me. Lift me out of the mud, and set my feet on a rock, and let me tell out of dim, weary days who You are, Bright Redeemer of all lost things. 

I don't ask for changed circumstances, but a changed heart. You who promised to make Jacob from a worm into a new sharp-teethed threshing tool, surely You can transform this heavy stone in my breast to a white-winged bird that sings and rises in dark storms to fly straight to Your heart. Let me joy in You, and bring joy to You.

Monday, 29 October 2012

His Mercy Endures Forever

Failure. Yet He knows my heart. And He forgives.

His mercy endures forever.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Binding the Sacrifice

God is the Lord, who has showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you: you are my God, I will exalt you. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures forever. (Psalms 118:27)
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit... The first man is of the earth, made of dust: the second man is the Lord from heaven... And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly...
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47-49, 53-55) 
Love can drink bitterness and not die. Self can't do that. It will writhe in agony for days or weeks, but bitterness will surely kill it in the end. God's mercy endures forever. Love never dies. I will step out on this, rest all the weight of my heavy heart on it: death is swallowed up.

Bind this sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar. My heart (and that long-clawed self within it) kick and bite and scratch and resist the bitterness, but I will have Love. I will drink the bitterness of another's sin. I will bear the hurt and not pass it on. I will hold it close and not turn it to anger or hatred or something that gives me more power. I will let myself be humbled and made foolish. I will wait. I will hold myself still. I will entrust myself to Him who judges righteously.

"You can't do it!" calls the Enemy. "You're too weak. You will break down in the end. Or you will do this wrong and it will destroy you. Give up now!"
The power of his words lies in their half-truth. I am too weak. And bitterness drunk wrong, not in love, is an acid that seeps and burns the beauty and the strength out of life. But that is only half the truth. This battle is not mine to fight. I am still a child in this, just learning to wield weapons like Love against the terrible power of hatred and selfishness. The Teacher is near, and he has brought me here. He will fight for me.

I am afraid. The death of self is no easy thing. It is messy and painful. But faith is made of this, being afraid and walking forward anyway, and when self dies, Love will live! I want to know what that is like, and I want that knowledge to shape me and make me into more than my tired, confused self. I want to live deep and warm and rich and strong and beautiful and free.

His mercy endures forever. I believe it.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Restoration for a Weary World

Sometimes you get destroyed in the grinding wheels of this great old world; sometimes the coldness and the hardness (it was never meant to be there!) just club you to death and you wonder why and why and why...and sometimes you brush too close to the way it is, razor-sharp, and the raw sting of fresh wounds rises and becomes an old, old ache. It wasn't meant to be this way, you know...this gaping wilderness where we look for warmth, communion, joy. There was a day before this violence, these lies...and there is One who gave all to fight it.

To arms, to arms! The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. (Job 9:24) He will not be defeated with the iron of will nor the cold steel of hatred. Distrust will not shield us from his lies; anger will not kindle a fire great enough to overcome him. No, we must learn to wield more potent weapons than these.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:14-18)

It will cost us, this battle. It cost Him all.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone. (from Edward Shillito's Jesus of the Scars)

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4)

Still With You

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days you have ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. (Psalms 139:13-18)

Is it still faith if I am not sure I am following? If I am just going this way because it's the way I'm in? Is it still faith if there is no promise? No promise, yet I cling to You, Father of my heart. No direction, yet I trust You to order my steps. I walk blind, and I trust You to turn me around if I have been mistaken. I am afraid, maybe more afraid of my own failure and foggy-thinking than I am of anything You might give me. I am not holding to what You have told me; I am just holding to You...You who know me fully and love me deeply. 

Let me know You. Give me the creativity and the strength and the courage and the blood-red love to let You so imprint Yourself on me that I will be able to communicate You to hearts full of wilderness. I am thankful that You have not asked me for words, because I don't have them. I don't really even know what to ask for...but You have read my heart. I am not even sure of myself, but You are. 

In your time, come to me with Your Grace, Lord Jesus. I am waiting for You here.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

To You I Call

To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit. (Psalm 28:1)
 Show me Your way, God. I am listening.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Learning Jesus

I am learning
To walk with You;
One by one
Match my steps to Yours,
Hold myself still
When fear creeps
When self shrieks

I am learning
To go along with You
Pushing on
When I want to rest
Waiting with You
When I cannot rest
When I want to flee

I am learning
To fix my eyes on You
Let You draw me
Take me by the hand
Calm my stormy heart
When the tension tightens
When the hurt grows great

I am learning
To seek Your heart
Let Your love
Fill my emptiness
Trust Your kindness
When the way is dim
When my heart is sore

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Do Not Be Anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I have a lot of questions these days, and I'm emotionally all over the place, but this has been my answer over and over again. It shows up everywhere I look these days - almost every day. God has not let me go. He will take care of me. He is unlimited. Praise him, my weary heart!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Self Pity Revealed

When I was really little, I used to have this recurring dream. In my dream, I was walking down the steps into our basement - except the basement was FULL of stuff. I mean full - like, I couldn't walk on the floor because stuff was piled everywhere. That wasn't too far off our basement, since we had lots of stuff, but this stuff was different. It was organized, neatly piled, but everywhere. There weren't even paths between it. As I went down the steps, I could hear a baby crying. I went crawling over piles of furniture, linens, and who knows what else. In the middle of all this, there was a crib, with a baby in it. I was filled with compassion for this poor, crying baby, and I picked it up and took it upstairs to my mother. I expected her to feel the same way I did - pity for the poor, helpless, crying baby. Instead, she looked at it with shock and horror. As I was explaining to her where I found the poor thing, she cried, "Drop it! It's not a baby! It's an evil spirit!" At that point, I would always wake up from my dream with my heart pounding, terrified. I could never get to sleep again after that dream. In the light of day, my dream felt foolish but creepy.

Much, much later, after I had grown up and graduated from university, I was going through a hard time. I was depressed, crying way too often, and I felt out of control. One day I was taking a shower and crying in the shower, wondering when the pain would end, when I thought of my dream and the crying baby. I had always wondered what it meant. Then, as suddenly as if someone had spoken, I was struck by the realization that I was the baby, perpetually crying. The pity I had felt for that baby in my dream was the self-pitying spirit that I had allowed to take hold of me. There was no baby. The self-pity I was allowing myself was evil and destructive, and it was making me weak, not strengthening me the way compassion does. I immediately rejected it, and I was set free.

Yesterday, I realized that I had again picked up that baby in my heart. I had allowed a spirit of self-pity to grip me in the same way. Again, I rejected it as soon as I realized, and I felt a freedom I haven't had in a long time. This morning I had another little struggle with it, then I was again set free.

Praise God! I don't need self-pity. It is God's job to pity me and worry about me. It is my job and my great privilege to seek his glory. I don't need to feel sorry for myself. The very God of heaven allows me to work alongside him. He holds my hand. I am finished with feeling sorry for myself. Jesus is mine, and I am his. Whatever I lose, whatever I miss, I have Him, and my purpose and my place in him is infinitely suitable to me and pleasant to my soul.

God has again healed me from a hurt I didn't believe even he could, or would, heal. Celebrate with me! This is not over, but it has begun to be over. Oh,dear God! Dear peaceful God!

...a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness,a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor(Isaiah 61:3)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Let Us Fix Our Eyes On Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (Hebrews 12:1-12)
From Isobel Kuhn's In The Arena:
On the ship on the way to China, a veteran missionary was meeting with the new girls going over, and one day she said, “Girls, when you get to China, all the scum of your nature will rise to the top.” Isobel “was shocked. Scum? Was that not a strong word? All of us were nice girls, were we not? Scum? A bit extravagant surely. And so I was totally unprepared for the revolt of the flesh which was waiting for me on China’s shores. The day was to come when on my knees in the Lord’s presence I had to say: ‘Lord, scum is the only word to describe me.’” 
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor(Isaiah 61:3)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Our God Is In Control

This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
And our God is in control

This is not how it will be
When we finally will see
We'll see with our own eyes
He was always in control

And we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we're waiting for that day

This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control

Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and see
That our God is in control

And we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we're waiting for that day

We're waiting for that day
We'll keep on waiting for that day
And we will rise
Our God is in control

(Steven Curtis Chapman)

Father, you won`t leave me here. This is your way to build surety in my heart of who you are, of what you are doing with me. I am lost and afraid, but when you have brought me through all my fears, I will know better how to trust you. You are defeating the power of fear over me. I am waiting for you.
I know the one who trusts you has peace in this world, not just in the next one. You don`t ask me to wait too long. You will come to me. You will renew me and heal me. You will explain. I trust you.

More Into the Treasury

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
Father, teach me to let go - when no one can see, and when my little seems much only to me and giving it can accomplish nothing for anyone else.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
 Let me wreck myself on you, Lord Jesus. I have neither the strength nor the vision to do it, but you can let me.
O Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
Answer me quickly, O Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
 (Psalm 143:1-10) 
Father, you are able to overcome the chaos in me. You can re-order my thoughts and control my emotions. I don't even know how I should be feeling now, but you can make me right. Until you do, I will offer you my hurt and my confusion as a sacrifice of love. I will trust you to hold my hand tight.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Before Abraham Was, I Am

Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)
I don't know why this gives me comfort when nothing else seems to, but, like Job, I find the knowledge of who God is more settling than any of the things I would have supposed might bring me peace.
Father, glorify your name! (John 12:28)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Meditations From a Weary Day

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Micah 7:8)
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain meThen I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. (Psalm 51:12-13)
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (Psalm 50:14-15)
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
 Father, You are truth. You can neither lie nor deceive. You are Good. My thinking is mixed up. I am tired and discouraged. I can't see what you are doing with me. I can't control my own thinking and feeling. Forgive my lack of faith and my complaining, which denies your mercy and your love to me. Gather me up and re-order my thoughts and my affections until You are again the centre and the source. Teach me your way, and lead me when I cannot see. Fight for me! Renew my spiritual sight and my strength. Dry my tears. Let me rise like a bird and fly to you. Let me bring glory to the name of Jesus and so joy to your heart.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare...Yet I am poor and needymay the Lord think of meYou are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.(Psalm 40:5,17)
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Still Raining

Praise You In This Storm

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand

You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

(Casting Crowns)

Lord, I did think you would have come by now and changed my heart. You know just how tired I am. I know that this is for me. I know that you are giving me Good.But I am like a child, overtired and hungry and having lost a toy. I know better, but my heart overwhelms me.  Overcome the part of me that kicks against you. Deal with my stubbornness. Bend my thinking to yours. I wait for you.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

But If Not

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(Habakkuk 3:17-18)
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) 
Said Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose".  Sometimes we have no promise from God except Himself. He will not be pinned down. He is Good, and what he does is Good. That is all. We would hold on, but we can't. We would run, but we can't. He corners us, and there is no escape, no figuring things out, no managing our expectations. He sees things too differently from the way we see them. We must simply accept Him, no matter what he gives.

He may break our hearts. He may lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. He may let us fall. He may let us despair.

But he will withhold no good thing. He gave his own Son for us. He will do right. He will give Good. What that good looks like, we don't know. With Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we have to say that he is able to rescue us, but then we must make our choice, even if he does not...!

Father, I unclench my fists. Give me what you will, even if it means no grapes on the vines, no cattle in the stalls; even if it means the furnace, I will have You and the Good that you give. Only you can make me desire Jesus above all, but I can will - even against this clamour within that seeks self. I choose Jesus. Still this complaint in me the way you stilled the wind and the sea, and make my heart's desire match that will. But if not...!

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

Friday, 28 September 2012

A Lesson in Hope

My grandfather had Alzheimer's disease. I didn't realize it as a child, but thinking of him now, I realize how bitter a thing that disease was to him. It separated him from us, and from everything, almost, that made his life worthwhile. He had watched his own father gradually fade from the world about him and recede into a shadowy realm of old memories. He hated the shame and the division Alzheimer's wrought, and prayed that God would spare him.

God didn't. Why? I don't know. I just don't know. But my parents, along with us four children, moved in to help take care of my grandfather, and four little girls watched every day as a man who had lived life with active gusto and discipline and patience and intelligence slowly but surely lost his independence and his confidence along with his memory. Four little girls saw the end of a life lived step-by-measured-step for God. Four little girls watched a man be broken down and closed in until he didn't know where he lived or how many children he had. And four little girls learned what makes a person beautiful and a life worthwhile. Four little girls had their hearts branded with what matters to God. Four little girls were marked and changed forever by the broken, faded end of a man who couldn't escape the disease he feared.

My grandfather spent his life traveling through the furthest and poorest reaches of Nova Scotia, preaching the good news of Jesus' death and forgiveness. He never preached to us at home, nor do I remember the days when he didn't have to pause in speaking to search his memory, stumbling a little and then suddenly unsure. Yet my life and my consciousness have been seared by the conviction and the peace that marked even the man undone by the bitterness of a disease like Alzheimer's. I think he would have called that worth it.

Sometimes I just can't imagine what God is thinking, or why his mercy seems so far away. Then I think of my grandfather, and the sermon his life preached when he could no longer remember the words. I believe it was the greatest sermon he ever preached. The message it spoke to my heart marks the borders and the foundations of my spiritual life even now, 25 years after his death. It remains strong and sure when my heart melts and grows limp in the heat and grind of life.

When the bitter thing I fear comes to me, and I am tired and sore, and I do not understand what God is doing with me, and I seem to be accomplishing nothing, I remember my grandfather and the deep beauty hidden in his "bitter thing"; the triumph in his breaking and his humiliation. God's mercy to me is not less. He is giving me the beauty that I seek. He has read my heart, and he will satisfy my deepest longing.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:68)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Looking for Your Promise

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119: 81-82)
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands. (Psalm 119: 176)
"Steadfastness, that is holding on. Patience, that is holding back. Expectancy, that is holding one's face up! Obedience, that is holding oneself in readiness to go and do, or stay and not do. Listening, that is holding quiet and still, so still, as to hear." S.D. Gordon

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What Can Make Us Whole Again?

Nothing But The Blood - Matt Redman
Your blood speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims I've heard upon this earth
Speaks righteousness for me
And stands in my defense
Jesus it's Your blood
What can wash away our sins?
What can make us whole again?
Nothing but the blood
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can wash us pure as snow?
Welcomed as the friends of God
Nothing but Your blood
Nothing but Your blood King Jesus
Your cross testifies in grace
Tells of the Father's heart to make a way for us
Now boldly we approach
Not by earthly confidence
It's only Your blood
We thank You for the blood
We thank You for the blood
We praise You for the blood
We praise You for the blood
Nothing but Your blood
Nothing but Your blood King Jesus

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Fragrant Aroma

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”  (Isaiah 40:29-31)
This world is ruled by power. It runs on the principle that power will get you what you really want. We learn it everywhere we go; it is reflected everywhere we look. The kingdom of God is ruled by love. Advancing his kingdom in a broken, warped, power-driven world costs. It hurts. Makes you feel foolish and insecure. Torn and trampled inside. Because at least in the short run, loving makes us helpless, vulnerable. It is tantamount to burning every bill of the currency we have in this world.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
Walk in love...a fragrant aroma...

It's hard enough to love the people we can trust to love us back; it's nothing short of emotional suicide to love the people we can't trust to love us back...unless God helps us. And he will, but he has his own ways, and they are different from ours. Even Jesus wept when he lived in this hard world, knowing that his priorities as God meant that he had to give pain to those he loved.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:32-37)
  It is one thing to believe that God will help us. It is another thing entirely to take a running leap off the cliff, knowing that God doesn't always help us in the way that we think he will.But if what we want is the reign of Love, we must be willing for risks. Hardness. Loneliness. Scars. We have a Father whose Love will win, in the end. And he is able to heal every wound.
Let us be brave and very courageous, taking up love to defeat every enemy, especially the enemy within. Let us choose, with Jesus who died, to bear the hurts instead of running back for hatred's armour.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. (I Corinthians 16:19)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Set Free

O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf sealed,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love's great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.

--Thomas Toke Bunch

Father, glorify your Name! (John 12:28)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Your Kingdom Come

What is the "kingdom of God"? It is not a place, nor an age. It is the absolute reign of Love. I have longed for the day to com when that reign will be complete; when there will no longer be any more fear, for "perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18). There will be no more hurt, and no more misunderstanding, and no more fighting.

Yet God's kingdom has already begun.  If I choose, it may begin in me. The reign of love means death to self - death to me fulfilling my wants and death to all in me that is not governed and powered by Love. Actually, if I am to pray "Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven", I must be willing to let God's kingdom come to my life, and let love reign supreme in my own heart.

Can I give up my right to rule my own life? Can I sacrifice self to let Love have the first and only place in my heart? Can I accept the crossing of my self? Can I consent to look like a fool? Can I go back to learning how to do things all over again, like a child?

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1,2)

He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. (Luke 11:2)

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (Revelation 12:10)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

In Everything, By Prayer

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is nearDo not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GodAnd the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7)

I am not sure why, but coming to Korea has brought back the teenager-me I thought I had left behind forever. And was I glad to leave her behind! She was moody, needy, wretchedly insecure, and melodramatic - a rickety canoe in an open sea of emotion. I can barely even pity her; I certainly don't welcome her return. I have struggled and fought to regain my balance, but my normal coping strategies are proving useless.

I went last weekend to see old friends in another part of the city. One friend had just had a baby. I wanted to watch someone else's life - to escape, forget myself, and just enjoy a friendship that is not in the building stages. They greeted me with hugs and smiles. I was glad I had gone to meet them. After the usual greetings and exchange, we settled down to tea and they began asking questions about my not-yet-year-old life in a new country: "Are you homesick? Lonely?" I planned on brushing lightly past these, but suddenly I couldn't speak. I stared for a moment, willing the tears back, but they came anyway, hot and streaming. 

There really wasn't much to explain. I miss the security of home...but it isn't just home that I miss. I am plagued by fears and hurts that have only small connections to my reality. I have been hurt here, and betrayed, by people I trusted too deeply for the short time in which I knew them, but such hurt doesn't warrant the grief I have experienced. I ride a rollercoaster of emotion that alternately carries me to into a sky of happiness and plunges me into black despair - sometimes with very little reason. 

Dear friends! They listened. They held my hands. Then they spoke. "We will pray." 
Oh, the comfort of being prayed-for. They reminded me that other people are praying for me, too. My parents. My grandmother. My sisters. My friends. One friend told me her story of being prayed-for, and the changes that have come to her life because of it.

I realized that I have been trying to guard my own heart - to steady it - with reason and self-talk. I have stationed suspicion and self-protection on the ramparts and built bars over the open spaces. I want to be free to love and forgive, but often I find myself trapped inside my own prison. 

This week, I have been praying for those who betrayed me, and bringing my requests to God. He is the One whose peace can guard my heart. It is truly a peace that transcends understanding. I have long depended on reason to manage my emotions, but reason has fled and left me lost and afraid. God never leaves me, and the peace that he gives is un-connected to my understanding or my ability to reason through my situation. 

It seems trite; a Christian truism, another bead on the rosary: prayer changes things. But it does change things, not like you'd expect. More than changing my situation, it is changing me. Undeniably, it's a better guard for heart and mind than suspicion and self-protection. 

And after all, just maybe I needed to know that God - and the friends he has given - love and care for even the teenager-me.

I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” (Isaiah 57:18-19)