Friday, 27 April 2012

But for Gethsemane


Yet listen now,
Oh, listen with the wondering olive trees,

And the white moon that looked between the leaves,
And gentle earth that shuddered as she felt
Great drops of blood. All torturing questions find

Answer beneath those old grey olive trees.

There, only there, we can take heart to hope

For all lost lambs – Aye, even for ravening wolves.

Oh, there are things done in the world today
Would root up faith, but for Gethsemane,
For Calvary interprets human life;
No path of pain but there we meet our Lord;

And all the strain, the terror and the strife
Die down like waves before his peaceful word,
And nowhere but beside the awful Cross,
And where the olives grow along the hill,
Can we accept the unexplained, the loss,
The crushing agony – and hold us still.
(from Rose From Brier, by Amy Carmichael)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Man...Aquainted with Grief

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have you laid him? They said to him, Lord, come and see.
Jesus wept. (John 11:32-35)
People like to think that perfect faith means never being sad or upset or discouraged, always being happy in the knowledge that God is in control. Yet Jesus "groaned in the spirit, and was troubled". He knew Lazarus wasn't going to stay dead. He knew Mary wasn't going to stay disappointed. He knew the whole terrible situation was for the glory of God. Still, he wept. It was no funeral show. They were real tears, accompanied by a groaning spirit.

The Great God of Eternity, suffering the pangs and indignities of human emotion. This is why I can trust him. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Love Wins

Since I was a little girl, I've always hated tension. It has made me impatient for endings, even when the endings were something unpleasant, like spankings. I have always hated to wait for things to come about, to sort themselves out. I always feel like I have to know, at least, what's coming. I have to turn up the heat, check under the band-aid, shake the carton...whatever it is that will make something, anything, happen. I sometimes apologize even when I don't think I've done something wrong, just to get to the end of a fight. Or pick a fight, when there's one hanging in the air. I read the endings of books and watch the last chapters of dramas so that I will have the patience to get through the middle.

I can wait for trains, and for people who are late, and for doctor appointments. I don't mind re-worked schedules, or students who shuffle into my classroom after the bell, or even avocados that take forever to ripen. But when there is something hanging that just won't be worked out, I feel antsy. Not just antsy. Maybe more like crazy. Every minute, I'm thinking, surely there is something I can do or say to shake things up a bit. Even if it makes things worse.

For other people, it just seems like tension is a way of life...something to be avoided if possible, like traffic, but normal and tolerable when it can't be got around easily. To me it feels cruel, unjust, and mean. If it lasts for too long, something turns sour in my heart, and deep inside I begin to question the love and goodwill of God toward me. Foolish.

Going back to lay my frustration and my hurt before him yet again tonight, I could feel something just giving up and shutting down. Not in the good way, nor in the overwhelmed way. Just the way it does when you start to lose hope. I felt like I had heard the answers too many times before. They were old and brittle and impotent. There was no change, no new perspective; nothing to relieve the tension. Resignation was taking the place of my sense of purpose.

Then quiet and soft as a whisper, I heard the voice of the Eternal One. He spoke right into my heart: "You already know the ending to this story. Remember? Love wins."

No reproach. No reminder to pull up my socks, to get my act together. No condemnation for my impatience and lack of vision. Just infinite tenderness and understanding and pity from the Father and Friend of my soul.

When I feel tired of the tension in my own story; when I feel like hatred and hurt and self keep winning and no one is calling them to account; when it seems impossible for God to turn this one to good; when the howling spectres of the unexplained crowd around - how good it is to remember that I've already read the ending to this one. And Love wins. It always does, no matter how complicated the way.

Back to the fray! He will use even this awful tension for something he calls Good. Dear, kind God - as ready to defend me as my own Father, but holding back...waiting with me for the ending of this story.

Monday, 23 April 2012

To See the King

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)
For it befitted him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
I go walking along the river these mornings. The banks are a tangle of dry, scraggily weeds, but in amongst them, in the oddest places, are little bunches of violets that have sprung up - bravely! - and twined themselves around the dead stalks. So in my own heart I find with a little surprise that hope – the hope of learning the Eternal Heart – has not been stifled, but grows still among the dry, snarled weeds of my own tired thoughts.

He Who Is Before All Things speaks, and though his words cut me sore, I find peace as I bow before Him from whom I am come and to whom I go. He, too, has come this way.

There is nothing wasted and no regret before Jesus. When all that I have to lose and all that I hope to gain is sifted and weighed and counted, He is dearer still. And Him I can never, never lose. My place is at His feet.

An Unlikely Angel

I've had weeks and weeks of feeling terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad - and struggling (and sometimes failing) to keep on my game face at work. Last Friday a woman I don't work closely with (who hardly spoke to me before) asked me if I was homesick. I said I was, a little, and she nodded and said she thought so. She seems like a toughie so I hastened to add that in a little while, I'll be okay. Then, as she handed me some vitamins (oh Korea - I know this is how you show real care!) I noticed that she had tears in her eyes. Don't know when I have been so gobsmacked and so thankful. She - a stranger, almost - was sharing my pain. Today she came into the room where I was marking my students' work and brought me a cup of coffee and a cookie. Warmth in her eyes. Kindness and sympathy. Human comfort. A great, gaping void where I looked for and expected to find those things, and then to have them come tiptoeing in from an unexpected quarter...

This has God's mark on it. Dear, tenderhearted Father, who knows just how much it means to me to be understood!

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Conversation With God (Not to be confused with the flaky book by the same name...)

Me: Well, Father, it has been a long, rough haul, but finally we are close again. I've missed you.
God: I've missed you too.
Me: Look, I'm really thankful that you are always there for me through all the dark and difficult days, but wouldn't it be nice if we could spend some happy time together?
God: Yes.
Me: Then, why don't we? Why is it always the hard times I feel you near?
God: But I'm always near. What about you?
Me: Oh. Erm...right.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

My Beloved and My Friend

Blessed is that man that makes the Lord his trust. (Psalm 40:4)

The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts. (1Samuel 2:7)

For the Lord shall be your confidence, and shall keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3:26)

His secret is with the righteous. (Proverbs 3:32)

And every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:21)

The Lord will do what is good in his sight. (1Chronicles 19:13)

The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore will I hope in him. (Lamentations 3:24)

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. (Psalm 16:5)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

The Lord will indeed give what is good. (Psalm 85:12)

He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend. (Song of Solomon 5:16)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say:

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say:
Lord, blessed be Your name

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

He Delivered Me

I have been under a cloud of oppression. The enemy has roared about me and accused, blaming me and bringing up old insecurities I had long forgotten. Subtly he drew me into his web of deceit, until I was criticizing and blaming myself - I hardly knew what for. Before God, I knew my hands were clean - but still I felt myself inadequate, foolish, and at fault. I was convinced that there was some awful flaw in me beyond the ones I already know - something ugly and shameful; something to be pitied and despised. Praise God - the truth has set me free! It was all a lie from the father of lies! I feel exhausted and cheated and angry that I couldn't see past such a cheap card trick - but light has shined into my darkness and I am free! My heart has been laid bare before God, and I am entirely His own child. Sweet peace!

He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me: and as for his statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight. With the merciful you will show yourself merciful, and with the upright man you will show yourself upright. With the pure you will show yourself pure; and with the fraudulent you will show yourself unsavory. And the afflicted people you will save: but your eyes are on the haughty, that you may bring them down. For you are my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness. For by you I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and he makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like hinds' feet: and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms. You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your gentleness has made me great. You have enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip. (2Samuel 22:17-37)

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:1-7)



For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

With Singing

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
(Janelle, I stole this from you. Didn't think you'd mind...)

I, too, have been thinking about how much song there is in God's presence. It is the pleasure of our enemy to quell the song of praise, but let us who are children of the Great God live with courage and sing to Him with our whole hearts.

Father, give me a song to sing to You, even when my heart is ragged.




Monday, 16 April 2012

Learning to Forgive

All that is human in me tends toward hatred. The minute I get hurt or insulted or too-rudely treated, the anger and the self-preservation and the desire for vengeance come bubbling to the surface. Forgive me, Father! How can I say I am your daughter, and harbour these, your bitter enemies, in my heart? When will I learn to respond in love, as Jesus did? When will I learn to turn the other cheek?

I have longed to join you in the battle; together to meet our foe and glorify your great Name by showing the greater strength of Love and the infinite superiority of forgiveness. But just one bitter-tipped arrow through a gap in my armour, and I find myself fighting for the other side - raging and spiteful and eager for revenge. I am no warrior, it seems. Carry me home, Father. Bind up my wounds. Give me the courage I lack - to love through my hurt.

You are my defender. How foolish I am to think I could take better care of myself than you can! Remind me how much love I have received from you, and how much forgiveness. So will I be strengthened to bow myself before you. So will my stubborn heart be melted to your mould. Remind me how you see me, with pity and deep love. Let me see others this way, Father. Let me see their beauty - your beauty expressed in every one of your creations. Give me the same compassion for their weakness that I seek for mine.

Teach my hands to war - not against those that would fight me, but against the evil within me that responds to their hatred. Strengthen my weak and weary heart to love. I will trust in you. I will wait for you.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1John 4:6)

Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. (Psalm 144:1)

I'm giving you my heart, and all that is within
I lay it all down for the sake of you my King
I'm giving you my dreams, I'm laying down my rights
I'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life

And I surrender all to you, all to you
And I surrender all to you, all to you

I'm singing You this song, I'm waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear, I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing You for the glory of Your name
To know the lasting joy, even sharing in Your pain
(Surrender, by Marc James)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

God's Gift: My Friend

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
(Psalm 41:9)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
(Proverbs 27:9)

What a treasure is a friend who can be trusted; a friend who can see when I cannot; a friend who loves me when I don't really love myself. Of all the good things to be had on this earth, can anything compare with a true friend? Thank you, God, for such a gift. Thank you for teaching me who my friends are.

"I wish you friends whose wisdom makes them kind;
Well-leisured friends to share your evening's peace
Friends who can season knowledge with a laugh..."
(from Wishes for William, by Winifred M. Letts)



Friday, 13 April 2012

Hoping in God

Is this faith? This being sure of one thing, and unsure of everything else? This desperate hanging-on as I am torn between my deepest and most potent insecurities and the utter unassailability of what I know about the goodness of God? Is it this continuous and exhausting striving to re-align my skewed sense of things and my chaotic emotions so they fit what I cannot deny - the immutable kindness and righteousness of a God who came to die? Can this struggle be good?

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
(1 John 5:4)

In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ...

(1 Peter 1:6-7)

Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
(Psalm 43:5)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

My Fine Pearl

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. "
(Matthew 13: 44-46)

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him..."
(Isaiah 53:10)

My heart has found its fine pearl. Jesus is worth losing all for. Yet I was surprised when I read of the man who sold all he had in his joy. I have cried many tears over my loss for the Christ. What is the difference? He was thinking of his treasure, while I am thinking of the price. Can there be pleasure in this pain?

Lord Jesus, can it be that I have so little understanding of your value? Wash my eyes with eye salve, and let me see a little more of your beauty and your deep worth. I know the truth, but there is so little I understand! Fill my heart with joy at the thought of you, my own precious pearl.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

From Strife of Tongues

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
(Luke 23:33-34)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5: 44-45)

Father, grant me the power to do more than say the words; to view those who hurt and insult me as the beloved handiwork of God - precious souls for whom Christ died. Give me your eyes to see a little of their infinite value to you. Give me your heart to love them and seek their good at my own expense. So would I pursue the gentle Jesus. So would I honor him.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Thanksgiving

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving;And it shall please Jehovah more than an ox, --a bullock with horns and cloven hoofs.
(Psalm 69:30-31)

Sunday, 8 April 2012

God Knew

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
(Exodus 2:23-25)

Friday, 6 April 2012

Rending

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 136: 1-3)

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
(Psalm 22:14-15)

Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
(Psalm 28:6)

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.
(Job 13:15)

I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
(2 Corinthians 6:18)

I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.
(Job 40:4)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Importuning the Judge

Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. (Psalm 55:1-8)

O Lover of my soul, You know all of me, but I will lay my complaint before You. Judge for me. It’s not the hurt that destroys me, but the weakness. What shall I do unless You give me Your strength?

Slay me, then, but let it be a full death. Let Christ live in me. I accept his hurt, but this weakness is not of Christ – I give it to you. Look on me. Give me Your hand. Like Peter, I sink in these waves! Have mercy on me. You are enough, but I am not.

I am your responsibility, O Creator. I run to You. I come crying and weary, and I hear your question – the same question Bartimaeus heard from You – “What wilt thou?”

It makes me pause, that question. Of course, I want you to make it all better – make the pain go away, restore all the loss, renew my happiness… Or do I? Why have you given me this pain in the first place? All that I receive comes only at Your consent. You have weighed this burden, measured it in Your own hand. And you are Good – this I have so experienced that I can have no doubt. Can it be that this hurt is part of Your gift to me, Giver of Good? Can this be the answer to my heart’s deep cry? Is this the death that must come to me if Christ would live in me?

O Righteous God, my heart is toward You. I turn my will to You, and bow myself to the dust before You. There is a part of me yet to be conquered by You, but I open the door to You. Come in and put to death what rebels against You, against Love.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Mercy

O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted. Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; And great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: And from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
(Isaiah 54:11-14)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Refuge

"O Thou who art my quietness, my deep repose,
My rest from strife of tongues, my holy hill,
Fair is Thy pavilion, where I hold me still. "
(Amy Carmichael)

Weaning

“But the God of all grace, Who hath called you unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:10-11)

Ah. At last I seem to understand something. The maturity of a person and a soul necessarily involves accepting the crossing of my own will. In order for me to grow into the person I was meant to be, I must be willing to have my own wishes thwarted. God is not about removing our suffering – he is about removing the rebellious faction in us that causes the suffering. This is painful. If I am ever to have real peace, I must receive willingly the pain of not getting what I want. I can circumvent the process by any variety of means, including my old favorite – escapism, but that will only keep me trapped and immature.

God is kind. As a father, he wants to satisfy my deep longings. His purpose is not simply to cross me. But he can see when my surface wants are thwarting what I deeply desire, so he allows them to come out and show themselves. When I see them for what they are – tumours on the beauty of a soul – I can choose to allow his divine surgery. God will never ask me to give up my deep desires – they are the right of an eternal soul – but if I let Him, He will cut away all lesser graspings, all that oppose themselves to what is deep and real in me. This is His way of giving me what I really want.

How is it that I can so easily blame the One who knows me and loves me best, and who always works for my greatest good? His refusal to satisfy my surface wants or remove the wants is not motivated by hardness – rather, it is his way of weaning my spirit from those things that will enslave it and keep it dependent and immature and unbeautiful. He is letting me grow!

God, forgive me! My heart is a treacherous organ, and I am again and again deceived in it. Too quickly I am led astray by my desire to rule in a way that only You have a right to rule. Too easily I am convinced to question Your motives and Your kindness, when mine are the ones in question. You are kind. Transform me. Allow me to want, that I may learn to overcome my wanting. Wean my spirit from its props, that I may grow. Let me be disciplined and mature, not a slave to my own whims. You know what I need and what I deeply desire. I can trust You.