Monday, 30 December 2013

Hidden Things

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." (C.S. Lewis)
"Oh no, don’t speak of things being lost. Say rather that they are hidden—received and accepted and taken up into the secrets of the divine mysteries, to be transformed and multiplied, like everything else we offer to him—loaves and fishes, or mites, or bread and wine—and given back to you and to the one for whom you kept vigil, in the presence of the whole host of men and angels, in a hilarity of glory as unimaginable to you in your vigil as golden wings are to the worm in the chrysalis.” (Thomas Howard, On Brazen Heavens)

Though You Slay Me (Shane & Shane, 2013)
I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still all that I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Learning Obedience

Sometimes the hurts and the pressures of a day are so tightly fitted together,so targeted to my specific weaknesses, so seemingly designed to dig deep into the wounded spots of my heart, that it is hard to believe they can have been coincidence. And the thought comes - only someone who knows me deeply can have invented this string of hurts, and only cold cruelty can have orchestrated them. That thought is most savage of all.
Father, the enemy is merciless, hateful, and shrewdly wise, and he would have You blamed. But I will worship You. I know that there is no coincidence in my life - You have chosen it all. You have weighed and measured every hurt, every joy. You have decided what to allow and what to deny. You have allowed me to cry and rage and even blame You. But I will believe that Your purpose is not my harm. It is hard to keep that thought straight in my head just now. But Jesus cried alone in that garden, and He knows how hearts wrench and souls writhe, and He knows what it is to wish for another way. And it must be that some of this awfulness is just - necessary, since even He was not able to escape it. Like the Baptist in prison, I am overcome with fear that this has been for nothing, but without You, what is my life? I will hold fast to You, when fear howls and the darkness crawls. 
God, I have not hid my heart from You. You know all about my smallness and the bitterness that rises and suffuses the best of me. You know my struggling and scrabbling after lesser things, and You know that beneath those is a real longing to please You. If You choose, You can give me joy in seeking and finding You. You can give me eyes to see things as You see them, to value things as You value them. I once had the sense of things, all in their right place, and I don't know what has made me blind, but everything's a circus in my head now. You can put me back together. You can make me sure again. You can give me hope and peace, even if you don't change my circumstances. You can restore my sense of purpose and give me joy in laying myself down. But if You don't, I will worship You. I will offer You the warped and broken me. I will give You thanks when I can't feel thankful. I will come before You with my tears when I have no song to sing. You are the Beginning and the End. You are worthy.
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:7,8)
Jesus learned obedience. He did not learn - as we do - to obey. A perfect son could only obey a perfect father. He learned what it feels like to obey - the cut of it and the cost of it. Sometimes I wonder why there is so much struggle in me even when I have chosen to obey. But like Jesus, even we who have learned to obey must learn the cost of obedience in this broken world - how it can cut us in pieces and make us hopeless and blind to glory; how it can rob us of joy and purpose and hide from us the kindness of our Father. It is not easy to obey, not even for a son.
God heard, but he did not answer the prayers and pleadings even of his son - that One in whom he was "well pleased". He did not rescue him from death. He made him a sacrifice. Sometimes there is no escaping the breaking, the horror.
Yet I believe there is beauty in love and peace in hope, and I believe these overcome when time grows full. We are tricked into believing that what is right now is all there is, and time moves slow, and we want to evaluate it all in a snapshot. There are things that are, just not right now. There is light that outshines the dark. There is love that delights in its own hurt. There is peace that transcends raging storms. There is courage that stands up and fights the giant fear. There is glory that subsumes even ugliness and awkwardness. There is beauty that transforms horror. There is joy that rises in sorrow. There is hope that is not overwhelmed by great gaps, by emptiness. These are beyond my grasp just now, but they must come. The God of Love wounds, but he heals. He will give light, love, peace, courage, glory, beauty, joy, hope.
...until the day dawn and the Morning Star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

God Loves Me

What they don't tell you in the stories is that hearts don't really break - they stay horribly whole, and the hurt just goes on and on until everything has turned to cold grey stone, and it's strange that just when it seems like there's nothing left to hurt, that's when the ache feels rawest. And then the lies come crawling.
There is no answer for this long hurt of mine, this curious mixture of betrayal and disappointment and emptiness. It will not be organized. It will not be laid in rows and made into meaning. Not just now, and maybe not at all. But truth that God loves me stands here, tall and quiet and relentless beside this ache, though the tension of its contradiction threatens to tear me apart. Shall emotion and confusion overwhelm the concrete evidence of love - that Jesus died and I am forgiven?
Sound it into the encroaching dark and the gaping void: God loves me. Resist the urge to give in, to go quiet into the long dark night of the lie that I am alone, that He has forgotten, that He is as disappointed with me as I am with myself. Kick against that evil thing that, all the time whispering, slays courage and quells grace. Rage and yell. Call it out: God loves me! He does. He does. He has not left me. He loves, deep and warm and true and unchangeable. All else fades, closes, folds, falls; God's love expands to fill every crevice, every aching hole. When I am sod and stone and fail to feel at all, He loves me. He loves me. Jesus died, and he felt every hurt, and God loves.
Father, open my eyes to see truth. Speak it over me, again and again. Let me not be led into the hopeless dark of that first awful lie, that You are less than love and Your way is less than the good that You could give. Have mercy on me, and lead me, because You love me. Remind me, when all grows dim and I am filled with confusion. Gird me with your truth. Let me not forget. Let me not, in my tiredness, give in to the lie. Wrap me in love and let it hold onto me when emotion betrays me and threatens to carry me away. Let me not, in my frustration, run away from the light instead of toward it.
I am Yours.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

He Will Rise Up

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts...

As a pregnant woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pain,
so were we in your presence, Lord.
We were with child, we writhed in labor,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth,
and the people of the world have not come to life.

(Isaiah 26:8, 17-18)
Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15)
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25:5)
Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. (Psalm 88:1)
Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake. (Psalm 79:9)
Father, what can I do except come before You again? If You fail to hear me, to whom shall I go?

I don't know why I'm here - only that I have followed You, and I have nowhere else to go unless You lead me. I will be led by You, Father. I dare not take on anything without the promise of Your presence and Your strength, because I am weak and weary, made of dust.

Speak to me, then, my God. Whom have I beside You? Show me the way. Give me a vision. Gather up my broken pieces and teach me the meaning of this, of me. Only let me hear Your voice; let me feel Your hand guiding me, and I will go on in Your way. Remember Your promise to send a Comforter. You are merciful and true. I kneel before You. I appeal to Your compassion, to the righteous Name of Jesus. Do something for me, O God. I have cried to You. 

I am so tired of feeling weak. If I could really know that this is the right way, I think I could accept it, but I am so full of doubt. Please give me a sense of purpose in this. Show me the difference between getting stepped on and willingly laying myself down. Teach me how to accept hurt, and feel the cut and the disappointment, and yet keep on giving - without depending. Remind me that my real weakness is not in my willingness to trust, but in my pride - that awful thing in me that squirms and talks loud and angry at being taken for a fool.

I am not enough. My heart is tired and sore and shrunken, and hatred and bitterness come seeping at the cracks. I confess that I am small and selfish and blind. Rescue me from myself! I have trusted in You; let me not be ashamed. Enlarge my heart, and let me desire great things, real things. Give me Your heart. Fill me with compassion for a broken people and a lost world; let me reach beyond my own hurt. Show me how to love those who spitefully use me. Teach my heart of stone to seek only Jesus, and let me be satisfied in Him. 
A Better Resurrection 
(Christina Rossetti)
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk;
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall - the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold
Cast in the fire the perished thing,
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
But you, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15)
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Thoughts and Intents

The Word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart...All things are naked and laid bare to His eyes with whom we have to do... (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Father, I am deceived by my own heart, but You know it through and through. You know the difference between the longings of my soul and those of my spirit. You know the things that seem good but are motivated by self, and the things that seem foolish, even wrong, but are motivated by love for Jesus. You alone know me, and You alone are able to set me right where I am tangled and undone. I have struggled in vain to sort and control this heart, to settle its crying and to rearrange its affections. You must do this for me. I will it, but I have not the power to accomplish it.

God, give me a vision. Give me meaningful work. Let me know why I live.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Choosing

Lord Jesus, when Mary poured out her ointment on Your feet, she chose to. She gave that precious ointment because she loved You. It was worth it because she knew why and for whom she broke the alabaster.

When You suffered at Gethsemane and at Calvary, You gave Yourself in obedience, for love of a Father. You went willingly. You offered all because it honoured God and rescued me.

I don't know what my hurt is for. I don't know who I honour. I don't choose this long, dark road.

Maybe I couldn't choose it. Maybe You just gave it because You read my heart, and You know that I do love You and I am willing to sacrifice, even when I lack the power to act. Beneath my weak whining, I do want to honour You.

Sin rises up and overcomes me. It confuses me, and makes me unsure of what I really desire. But You who see beneath the deceit of my heart, You know what I really want. You read my deep longing, and You have given this. So I, who cannot understand for what and for whom I hurt, can choose to honour You in how I take it. Accept the worship of my heart, not in the cost of my hurt, but in what it costs me to bow before You in the middle of my confusion.

I have offered no Isaac, but I bow. I accept Your taking away. I will honour You in my emptiness. I will sing a song to You in the great, howling gap that is my heart. Let it be my sacrifice. Let me honour You.

Monday, 25 November 2013

With Me

O Lord, I remember days when I felt all the things about You that now I only know. Your kingdom weighed in my heart, and it had mass that displaced lesser things. You haven't changed. You are the same God now that I knew then, but I am so much less than I knew. Wash me in grace. Let Your love cover me and re-make me. 

Thank You for crying in the garden, begging God to take away the pain. Thank You for crying on the cross, wondering that You could be forsaken. Thank You for not just accepting it all philosophically and religiously and thank You for not being what everyone expected.

Messy Jesus. Bleeding. Crying. How I love You. I trust You. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

You Do Not Answer

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. You have turned cruel to me (Job 30:20-21)
What a man Job is. He isn't afraid to tell the scary truth. He makes no excuses for God. He asks his questions and lets them hang there. He complains. He asks God for explanations. What gives him the guts to do this? Is it that he has searched his heart before God and laid himself out in the open? That he has first bowed himself before his Creator?

Father, I too have broken my heart open before You. I have turned my will toward You. Yet You sometimes seem cruel to me, as You seemed to Job. What can I do except bow again at Your feet, and empty my tears out before You? When will You come and teach my heart Your way?
I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me... (Psalm 119:75-77)
Your way must be good. You created me. You know my deep heart. I will wreck myself on You, Lord. You cannot ignore Your own creation. You will not waste a life for which Christ died. I wait for You.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands. (Psalm 119:176)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Cry to Jesus

Sometimes I just feel so not enough, and sometimes the walls move in toward me and I want out. now. but the One who died has brought me here, and where would I go?

Father, I don't know where You are taking me. I'm tired and confused and I want to run, but I trust You. I will go with You. When everything folds in on me, and I feel like I can't take it another second, then help me to take it, just that one more second, and make a way for me. When I am hunted and cornered by the whys, be my answer, You who fill all in all. I am Yours, with all my emptiness. 

Speak hope to me. Show me the way. Give strength. Help me, Jesus!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Because He is Faithful

Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before. (Joel 2:22)
Lord, I will thank You for the rain. Change my perspective, and teach me to value what You value. Put real thankfulness in my heart for the good that You give,  especially when it isn't what I wanted. Remind me that there is blessing in Your rain. You are faithful.
 

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Lord Stands Beside You

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6)
Why does it feel like wisdom to doubt the God who shamed Himself for us?

Why do we continue to believe the same lie - that God will give us less than the Greatest Good?

Father, help me not just to give up, but to give over - to trust You with all. This world gets in my eyes, all smokey, and the things You say don't match what I see and feel, and I find myself questioning You instead of the haze that crowds my senses. Like Eve, I am unsure of Your goodness, and flesh screams, and reason wavers and bends under the pressure, and I begin to think that there is some good You withhold from me. I am tempted to just give up on Your way, because it doesn't seem to fit, and because it seems too hard, and I make the excuse that I am just too weak for it all. But faith means putting You to the ultimate test - jumping out of the boat and sinking and calling You for help, risking all in hope that You are right and Your way leads to Good. This world says there is a better, smarter way to succeed. It says that doubting You is wisdom. But faith bets all on You, on the wisdom of Your way, on the truth of Your Love. I will cast myself on You. I will risk all on the truth that Your way must be better than mine. I will wait for You. I will try on Your truth in real-time.

Oh God, give love, that ability to sacrifice and keep on sacrificing; to take pain and yet keep on giving and then to not carry resentment. Give deep, driving passion for the honour of Your name. Give faith, rich and real - faith that risks it all on You. I give in to You. I will let go of other things. But give love.
Psalm 121: A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem
I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Rock Eternal

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:32)
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job13:15)

Monday, 21 October 2013

All That God Has Done

...then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. (Ecclesiastes 8:17)
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) 
Father, here I am. I don't understand, but I confess that all that You do is Good. Give me Your best. I am willing for pain. Crush my idols, and draw me close to You. Show me Your mysterious way. I bow.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Agony of Agape


Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews & all the decorations, too
Until the congregations few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

We must not worship something that's not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

'cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong
And you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2John 1:6)
Alan Redpath says that the English word "agony" comes from "agape". It's not hard to believe. There is a cost, a real agony, to loving agape-style, sacrificing on purpose, without expecting anything in return. I know that God asks us to do this, but I haven't been able to. I want to, but I can't. I find myself running from the agony of it every time.

If I loved God most, I could love others more. If I trusted God, I could allow people to hurt me. What is it that has risen in my heart and blocks my way to freedom in Christ? What robs me of the glorious mystery of "Christ in you"? What sucks my joy and saps my strength and terrorizes me with darkness in weak moments?

Father, let me worship you. I have failed to love You best. I have withheld the worship You deserve. I have given in to fear. I am ready for You to change me. I am ready for this agony, because it is better than the bitterness that overtakes me when I don't have Your love. I will trust You. Do what You will with me, and tear out every idol that raises itself before you in my heart. Let me love You so I can love the people around me. Let me see Your beauty. Let me see the beauty You have placed in the most obnoxious and frustrating people in my life. Restore me. I hunger for this power.

Love suffers long, and is kind;
I can be kind for a while, but it wears thin. I am certainly not kind after suffering too long.

love envies not;
I envy. I feel hurt and frustrated when I see others in the place I want and think I deserve.
love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,
I get puffed up and feel the need to defend my qualifications, my right to the treatment I think I ought to have.
Does not behave itself rudely,
Oh. I find myself not caring about other people's feelings. All I can think about is my own.
seeks not her own,
And I go running after what's mine, what I think I deserve.
is not easily provoked,
How easily I am provoked these days! A word or two out of place and I am raging...
keeps no record of evil;
This is the bitterness that sets in when the suffering has gone on too long: I take satisfaction in counting it up and reminding myself of it, because it justifies my anger and my pain.
Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
Bitterness always gives way to taking satisfaction in the wrong things. I am pleased when I see others making the same mistakes as me, because it justifies my own wrong.
Bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails...

Father. I am failing. I long for the power to agape-love. My way isn't working. It isn't giving me any power, any satisfaction, any strength. Come and set me free from myself. Tear every root of bitterness from my heart. Renew worship in me, and let me love you with my mind. Fill my thoughts. Overcome me and remove all that I have placed above You in my heart. I am willing to be changed. Clear the stage, and set the sound and lights ablaze. I will seek You. I will wait for You.

Monday, 14 October 2013

My Expectation is From Him

And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
Lord, I have been blind: blind to Your goodness, to Your purpose. I have been groping in the dark. I am still unable to see You as I long to see You. I don't know exactly what it is that I'm looking for, but I remain unsatisfied, though I know that You can satisfy me. I do believe that Your way is the best way, for this life as well as the next one. I do believe that the reward is here and not just in eternity. I do believe that following You is the rich life, the exciting life, the full life. I will hold on.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall you encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored on Pharaoh, and on all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. (Exodus 14:1-4)
 What is interesting in this story is that God is so specific. He doesn't just send them to the bank of the sea and then leave them there to wonder what He's doing with them. He tells them exactly what He is going to do, and what they need to do, and what the purpose is. Sometimes I just feel like if I had this much information, I wouldn't be struggling the way I am. Isn't the hard part not knowing? But then, maybe I'm being unfair. After all, how long did the Israelites wait in Egypt, aching for deliverance, before they packed their bags and ate the Passover? They waited for God to lead them out; waited while a generation of baby boys was drowned in the Nile; waited while Moses grew up and ran away and hid in Midian and learned how to control his temper. No, it's not fair to compare. And after all, God may do as He pleases with each of us.
These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens. (Revelation 3:7)
Father, change my circumstances or change my heart, whichever You will. You alone are able to open doors and shut them, and no one may oppose You.
 My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
I lean in to You, Father. Give or take away. I am afraid, but I look to You. I cannot make my own way. I will receive it from Your hand. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Love Suffers Long and is [Still] Kind

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Love suffers long, and is kind... (I Corinthians 13:4)
 It takes something different than what we've got to remain kind after long suffering, to make no threats against those who hurt us. I am ambitious for this kind of power.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Though He Were a Son

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
Emmanuel, God with us. God suffering and learning hurt and the cost of obedience. How I am thankful for Jesus.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

An Unexpected Grace

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26)
The window is open, and outside somewhere, someone is playing a cello. It's a mystery in this neighborhood of neon signs and massage parlors and the grace of it mingles with the smell of car exhaust and of stale frying oil from the take-out downstairs and the distant, wobbly sound of someone singing off-key in the karaoke rooms on the next street. And strangely, wound in and around my tired, tangled thoughts, there is the sudden sweetness of gratitude. Here in my struggling heart is thankfulness for a gift I couldn't imagine and didn't wish for, and the music brings me an understanding that words and my internal remonstrations have failed to work up: the sense, and not just the cold knowledge, that God is good.

I have been discouraged. With everything, and, more humiliatingly, with nothing at all. I have told myself to be strong, and reminded myself that God has a purpose in everything that He chooses for me, but I have failed to overcome. I am full of stumbling and confusion and frustration. I am all running and flapping, and no rising up on wings as an eagle. I am ashamed of my weakness and and worst of all, disappointed in God for not rescuing me from myself. The enemy is always there to point out my blasphemy, and then it's a smooth twist from there to the dark suggestion that God doesn't really care about how I feel - a thought I know to be foolish, but it resonates and lodges in the dim corners of my heart just the same.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
(Psalm 42: 9-10)
But others before me have so failed. Elijah sat under a juniper tree and begged God to kill him. John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus if he was really the one. The answers they got are the same ones that God gives me: silence, scripture, and sleep. Maybe my job is not to overcome the discouragement, but to be willing to endure it. Then the enemy will see that my merciful God uses broken things.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth justice unto victory. (Matthew 12:20)
When I am tired and discouraged and cannot feel that God is kind, I will hold tight to His kindness anyway. I will believe that He loves. I will wait for Him to restore and to make sense of this waste. And for tonight, there is the sound of the bow drawn across the strings. It goes on and on, and this night the unexpected grace of the music, and the sense of gratitude that comes winding with it, is enough.
And I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, and the consuming locust, and the cutting locust, my great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25)
Until I can see, I will wait. 
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Monday, 30 September 2013

Be Strong...and Wait

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
And this is what takes real strength and real heart: waiting. Waiting to understand. Waiting to be made like Jesus.

God spoke to me today; spoke right into my noisy head, in the middle of things happening and people talking. He asked me if I could trust Him with my life. And the obvious answer is yes, of course. He's God, after all, and most days I'm not even sure who I am. But it's not so simple. Sometimes I want to trust Him, but I can't quite make it into actually resting my heart and letting Him do His work without me whining and crying and pounding the door down with wondering if He's sure this is the right way and how long He's going to take. I know the truth: that I don't even know what I want, let alone what's right, and God knows both, and He cares about both. But a lot of the time, the truth feels cold and very far away, and I am filled with fears and tired tears and caught in that sharp place in between reality and feeling. But for today, He has given me enough faith to trust Him. It's good to have it, and I will spend it waiting. 

Make no mistake: this is the hard work of following Jesus; harder than all the things we think we need to do to earn Him praise.

Someday, I will give him all that is in my heart because I see and understand, but that day won't come without today's waiting in the dim cold of my not-knowing. Beautiful, inscrutable God, I wait for You. Accept this, my sometimes-empty heart.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Falling

The woman came and knelt before Him. "Lord, help me!" she said. (Matthew 15:25)
Father, I have humbled myself under Your hand. I have waited for You.

I have neither strength enough to overcome myself nor grace enough to rise above my circumstances nor love enough to order my heart nor faith enough to see things as You do. Have mercy on my stumbling, then, and use my failure for some good. Falling, I fall into Your hands.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Faith is Willingness to Wait

O Lord, the value of Your truth and Your way is that it's more than just pretty words. Right now, I feel like I'm hanging on to words and ideas that I can't connect to my reality with any power. 

Shall I rage against You or against those who carry out Your will for me? Let me lean in to You. Control me, Father, when my heart throws temper tantrums. When I am sighing, groaning, crying, screaming inside - give me the strength to overcome my own feelings. Give me grace - great, wide, sweeping grace to sit still - still, while I am dying to get up and run and hit and yell.

Teach me how to respond to my restless self, and to those who try my patience sore. Teach me Your good way when I can't imagine one, and give me rich grace to wait.
Faith is willingness to wait. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
I confess my lack. Help me, Jesus!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Where Can I Flee?

O God, I long to run away, far away. But it's You I'd be running from, and there's no use. Where can I flee from Your presence? Hide me! Make a way through my Red Sea, because You are the same God that led Moses into an impossible spot, and then took responsibility for him and for your people. Remember, I am Yours - graven onto Jesus' hands.

Let Me Love Jesus

...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:8-14)
This is the beginning, and we are the firstfruits, the promise and the harbinger of that great day when all the universe and all of heaven will bow in unified worship to the God of Love. Lord, let me do it now, while it hurts, and I am tired, and my flesh kicks against me and hates to bow. Let me not rob You of this beginning - small, but precious in Your eyes. 

The awful truth is, I have a heart that loves me more than it loves the Christ. That is what makes it so hard to love others. Oh, I can love my own, because that serves me. But to love those who don't belong to me, who don't love me back the way I want them to...it's just harder than I ever dreamed.

Our world dresses love up in pretty clothes; they would have us believe it's something warm and bright that you can fall right into and live happily ever after. Real love is hard and gritty, and it stomps all over you with its hob-nail boots. It shakes you out and turns you upside down and makes you want to run home crying, and it takes everything in you to desire it anyway.

The way up is down. The way to the light is through the dark. And the only way to really live is to lay yourself down and die...today, and tomorrow, and all over again the next day...
Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:67-68)
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, 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)
Father, I can't always feel that what You say is true, and I can't always see the beauty in Your way, but Jesus who sits at Your right hand was spat upon, and I have tasted that You are Good, and I will hold tight to You. Jesus was spat upon - ! How can I not trust such a God? 

I will remember that dark is light to You, and first is last. I will believe that it is light that blinds me, not darkness. I will believe, when I feel most alone, that You are near. I will believe, not just in tomorrow's provision - but that today's emptiness is a fullness of a better kind. My view is too small. There are many things I cannot see, but You know them all, and I will hold on to You. The worst that You can give must be better than the best I would work out for myself.

I don't know what I want. I only feel. Overcome my feeling, and give me faith worthy of You - enough faith to wait for Your goodness. I bow before You with my tired, hurt heart. You are the One with whom I have to do. Let me have the strength to love people the way You ask. Let me love Jesus more than myself. Let my dying birth praise...praise for the slain Lamb, that One who alone is Faithful and True - Jesus, in whose face they spat. He is worthy.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Sit Still

Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will fall. (Ruth 3:18) 
 I am learning how to let go, how to walk straight into the dark and let the fear crawl icy over me and lean into my Father, how to feel the pain and know there's more out there, and yet choose to go; and Jesus comes with me, and He is kind. I am still a worn-out child, alternately trusting and crying, but He never wavers and He is here in the dark with His wounds, and His hand is in mine. Ultimately, I believe that Jesus, the Wounded God, is trustworthy. I believe that this stripping and emptying will enrich, deepen, colour my life; that this lowness and smallness will give me enlarged borders. I believe, and He is every day proving Himself faithful. Father, it is good to learn You.
When we know Christ, we always know how things are going to go — always for our good and always for His glory... God only allows pain if He’s allowing something new to be born. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
And when my heart screams and my blood races, I am learning, a little, to lean hard on Him: to wait for Him and hear His voice and to look for His goodness in the hurt. He is Good.
"Even Satan knew that none but God could touch Job, and when Satan was permitted to afflict him, Job was quite right in recognizing the Lord Himself as the doer of these things which He permitted to be done. Come joy or come sorrow, we may always take it from the hand of God." (Hudson Taylor)
There are no second causes, and God is always good.. I must learn how to accept all - all! - from my Father's careful hand. He is teaching me, little by little, how to trust His choice, and how to lean into Him and allow Him to control my reactions.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Do Not Weep!

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne... (Revelation 5:5-6)
Do not weep-! I've been doing a lot of that lately. But John says, "See." The triumphant lion is a slain lamb. The way up is down. Victory lies in defeat. Joy is cradled in the darkness. Death is swallowed up. Love wins by laying everything down.

I have not come the wrong way after all. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is a slain Lamb.

The Hard Thing

The hard thing about God is that you can't be sure what He will or won't do. You can be sure it will be good in the end, but you can't be sure it won't hurt horribly before then. God is kind - but the results of kindness can be scary too. Anyway, I know this is all a little-kid way to look at things, but that's how I'm looking at things these days. I do trust Him. I do want His way. I'm just small and weak and unreasonably scared of everything and unable to see more than a few feet in front of me.

My heart is full of whispered lies and I am weary and desperate for the truth: the truth that God loves to his own hurt; that He is for me; that no matter how much it looks like the Enemy is winning, he has already been defeated; that love will always win over hate; that kindness is more powerful than political force; that in Jesus I am precious, I am sought, I am loved; that God is always in control and always working for good.

Father, thank you for giving me good when I am too short-sighted to appreciate it. Thank you for waiting while I learn who You are. Thank you for loving me enough to give me the kind of good that You know will make me hurt and angry and full of bitterness and blame. I can't see beyond this, but I believe You. And when I can't believe, I will hold on to You. I will wait for Your end when all I can feel is hurt and hopeless. You have given me no promise but Yourself. You are the Beginning and the End. I have tasted Your goodness, and I hope in Your love. I rest my weary soul in You. I honor Your Name. Search my heart to the depths and see me sure of You beneath the tumult. You are worthy of my trust, even when my emotions claw it back and overcome me and I lose the peace of trusting You - still, You are worthy, and I will wait for You. 

Monday, 2 September 2013

He That Spared Not His Own Son

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
If I had written this verse, it would have run something more like this: He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, so why can`t you just be happy with that?

But God is more kind and more generous than my mixed-up mind is capable of imagining these days, and He doesn`t scold me for refusing to be content with what ought to satisfy me. Even now, when my child-heart is full of crying and selfishness, He is merciful and full of good gifts. I am so narrow-minded and dim. Still, He is Good and my cold, cold heart melts a little at His unexpected mercy and suddenly, I find something stiff and angry and entirely unreasonable in me bowing low before Him.

I.can.trust.Him. Life has no guarantees, but He who gave His own Son, He is the guarantee. God hurting. God weeping. God bleeding. He cares for my hurting, weeping, bleeding heart. I have to remember this. I have to remember it again and again, and speak this truth into my own soul when it is weighed down by lies and the smoke of what seems.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Where There is No Way

My question these days is never “Why, God?”
It’s most often “How?” (Joni Earickson Tada)
God will make a way where there is no way. Through our Red Seas, God makes roads. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

He Is Always Good

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

“From where we stand, we can’t see whether something’s good or bad. All we can see is that God’s sovereign and He is always good, working all things for good.” (Ann Voskamp, www.aholyexperience.com)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Heart Training

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.
“ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made... (Jeremiah 33:12-14)
Father of my heart, it is hard to wait when I don't know what I'm waiting for. It is hard to not understand where this is going. But Your purpose is not to frustrate me. I will hold tight to You. I will let You hurt me. I will feel the heaviness of this that You give, and I will let it press upon me, and all that is crushed in me will be Yours. I will give this to You as a thank offering for who You are and what You have done. 

I remember days when I saw things as You see them. I felt the weight and the warmth of all that You say is real and great, and the brightness of the wonder of You. I knew Your voice and I loved You. Though I am a stone, dim and cold and senseless, I know that You are the same today as You were then.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
I cannot imagine what You are doing. But You are greater than my imagination, and I know that I will thank You in the end, so I will thank You now - for every hurt, for every painful step of this way that You are bringing me. I will trust that the way up is down; that these chains bring freedom; that this shame brings honour; that what looks foolish from every human perspective is Your deep wisdom. You alone know how weak I am, and how narrow my perspective is, and yet - what is in my power to give, I give to You. 

I cry to You. I seek Your face. Help me to do this Your way. Let me honour You. Let me break my whole life open on Your feet and worship You without reserve - mind and heart and will together.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Jesus, Rock of Refuge

But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. (Luke 19:14)
I will let Jesus reign over me. I will let Him choose my way, through dim or through light. He is my King and my God. When I stumble and fall, I fall at His feet, and I trust that He will Himself lift me up in His arms. When I cry, I cry to Him. He will someday wipe away all tears.

When I am tired of myself and weary of my way, give me Jesus. I cannot tell what He will do. He may seem to let me down, lead me into harm, leave me alone - but I know who He is. He cannot deny Himself. He must do all for love. Someday I will understand why, and I will tell how He is good when all seems dim. Until then I will wait for Him. I will trust Him to make sense of the dead ends, the seeming betrayal, the tears, the wasted time.
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
(Psalm 31:1-5)
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,

that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide themfrom all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy

when I called to you for help.(Psalm 31:19-22)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

So Let Us Know

"So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." (Hosea 6:3)
I am always running away, always trying to find an escape from the uncomfortable. I look for shortcuts and easy ways out. I hide from hurt. 

Father, You have found me out. You have followed me all the way here. Teach me to hold on to You and face what comes. Help me to bow, to wait, to accept, to let go. Let me embrace You and release everything that is not You. Whatever comes, I will believe that You are Good. I will give you thanks. I will seek Your way. 

Show me Your goodness. Don't give up on me. Re-order me, and teach me how to seek and find You.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Fighting for Faith

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.
(James 1:2-4,9)
My sister told me once that the fears of every human being are rooted in one great fear: that God is not who He says He is. If we do not fear that, we need not fear anything else. It's true. At the bottom of every one of my fears I find the same lie: that God is not Good; that He is not Love; that He is not passionately interested in me. 

How is it that I have given such place in my thoughts to an idea I know to be untrue? How has it so ensnared me that its shadows hold joy captive and overcast my best days? I must learn to fight for faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead...
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
(Hebrews 11:1, 17-18, 24-27)
I, too, must struggle to reason, to choose mistreatment for God's sake, to persevere.

Father, teach me to see You, the Invisible. 
 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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 spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
(Hebrews 12:1-3, 7-13)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Complaint

When My Heart is Vexed, I Will Complain (C. Rossetti)
"O Lord, how canst Thou say Thou lovest me? Me whom thou settest in a barren land, Hungry and thirsty on the burning sand, Hungry and thirsty where no waters be Nor shadows of date-bearing tree: -O Lord, how canst Thou say Thou lovest me?"
"I came from Edom by as parched a track,
As rough a track beneath My bleeding feet. I came from Edom seeking thee, and sweet I counted bitterness; I turned not back But counted life as death, and trod The winepress all alone: and I am God."
"Yet, Lord, how canst Thou say Thou lovest me?
For Thou art strong to comfort: and could I But comfort one I love, who, like to die, Lifts feeble hands and eyes that fail to see In one last prayer for comfort - nay, I could not stand aside or turn away."
"Alas! thou knowest that for thee I died
For thee I thirsted with the dying thirst; I, Blessed, for thy sake was counted cursed, In sight of men and angels crucified: All this and more I bore to prove My love, and wilt thou yet mistrust My love?"
"Lord, I am fain to think Thou lovest me,
For Thou art all in all and I am Thine; And lo! Thy love is better than new wine, And I am sick of love in loving Thee. But dost Thou love me? speak and save, For jealousy is cruel as the grave."
"Nay, if thy love is not an empty breath
My love is as thine own - deep answers deep. Peace, peace: I give to my beloved sleep, Not death but sleep, for love is strong as death: Take patience; sweet thy sleep shall be, Yea, thou shalt wake in Paradise with Me."
O God, stop my mouth. Still my complaint. Silence my crying. Give me grace to accept all from Your hand. Let me  have strength to go forward in the knowledge of You. Teach me to say, whatever comes, "Your will, not mine, be done." Show me how to wait for Your giving. Make me able to let go of all into your hand.

Truly, Father, I want to do these things! I want to honor You with myself, a living sacrifice. Why am I so unable to rest in You? Why am I so blind, so restless? Why can I not bow before you with singing? I know what You can do. I know who You are. I have known, in the past, peace in the storm, joy in trouble, rest from fear. I have been fed by Your hand. I am so ashamed that I have seemingly come further and become less. If this poverty of soul comes from some choice of mine, then I renounce it, Lord! You are good. If I have refused Your goodness; if I am blinded by wanting my own way, then I am willing to be changed. Set me free, O God, from myself. Restore my spiritual eyesight and my joy. 

I can bend my body; I can direct my mind and draw it in again when it goes wandering - but what can I do with a heart that will not joy in You, except come to You for healing? I may make plans and prohibitions, may remonstrate, may rationalize and resolve; but I am deceived, betrayed from within! 

Yet I place my hope in You, great God. You have shed your own blood, and Yours is the right to bring all things into line with Love. You will not leave me adrift. Creator and Redeemer, You alone have the right to re-order me. I cannot change myself, but You can change me. Give me the strength to deny the arrogant self that asserts itself and betrays me; let me find rest for my weary heart in You. Teach me Your way. Still my clamoring heart. Let me look straight ahead. Make me courageous. Give me warm joy. Remind me how to sing hope-songs in the dark.

I am all a-jumble. Set me upright, and help me to see things as I once saw them. Jesus who died, my heart is Yours. Turn me to You and teach me to love what You love.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

You Have Promised

Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. (2 Samuel 7:28)

Monday, 29 July 2013

In the End

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)

I have been working long, late hours with my debate students, preparing for an important and difficult competition. One of the biggest jobs of a coach is convincing tired, discouraged, scared kids that their work will pay off in the end. No, we can't see the future. It may not be this competition, or the next. But in the end, they will get somewhere. It will be worth it. I remind them not to judge things by the fears that swarm them, nor by their past failures. I tell them that failure precedes success. Always.

Sometimes I am the tired, discouraged, scared kid. I struggle to remember that this is not the end. My Redeemer lives. He knows where I am, and He will not leave me. He leads to light, in the end.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Getting What You Want

"What you want a nanosecond before you even knew you wanted it...Modern luxury." So goes the ad for Celebrity Cruises. If you've ever had to wait too long to get something you wanted, you might be tempted to book yourself a cruise. 

The ad writers are wrong, though. Sometimes God, like Celebrity Cruises, gives me what we want before I know I want it. It doesn't feel good. Getting what you want before you know you want it isn't as comfortable as it seems like it should be. Satisfaction corresponds to desire. Nobody looks for hardship when they are on vacation, but the reality is that you appreciate things to the degree that you've had to go without them.

But unlike Celebrity, God reads my deep heart. He knows, even when I don't, what I really desire.

This life is not meant to be a cruise, and God is not about providing us with modern luxury, but the real luxury is that the God who is Good has promised to make everything in my life work together for Good. Everything. The hard things, and the uncomfortable things, and the things that make me cry and want to run far away.

That's luxury.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing. (Psalm 34:8-9)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Fullness

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy... (Psalm 16:11)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A Thank Offering

Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (Psalm 50:14-15)
He has promised to come in response to my call, but time goes on, and I am shaken in the silence. Round and round the questions go... Have I been mistaken?

No. I know whom I have believed.

Then why this emptiness, this silence? 

I don't know. I don't know.

Has He failed to keep His promise? 

I feel just now that His grace is not, after all, sufficient. My heart sinks when I call and hear no answer, know no comfort, feel no steadying hand. And yet I know, more assuredly than I know anything that I can see or touch or even understand - know beyond all doubt - that my Father cannot lie. He cannot.

It seems so impossible, so incomprehensible, so incongruent. How to reconcile the reality I know and the reality I experience?

Once before has God withdrawn Himself. I remember His silence; His absence. It destroyed and re-made me. I trace the pattern of it in my mind, and I am reminded that it was not random. He did not turn His back on me. He did not forget. His leaving was for a limited time, and it was for a specific purpose.

This void, too, has borders. It has meaning. Where? How? Why? I don't know.

I will call on Him. He will deliver me, and I will honour him.

Father, this is my thank offering to You. Here I am. I give my heart, my hope. I will lay the truth of my questioning and my hurt here beside the incontrovertibility of You who are Merciful and True. Thank You for everything I cannot feel thankful for just now. Someday I will say it with better understanding, but not with more sincerity. Let me honour You a little now, before You deliver me.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Looking For Your Salvation

You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114)
My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes. (Psalm 119:123-125)

Monday, 15 July 2013

Here I Am

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:17)
...when Christ came into the world, he said:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:5-7)
 Father, this is my thanks to You, who delight not in burnt offerings - myself. Here I am. Help me to offer all that I have, all that I am - a living sacrifice. Let me know and approve Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. Show me the way.

Friday, 12 July 2013

How Unsearchable His Judgments

...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
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 8:26-28)
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord said to him, “...Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1Kings: 19:11-15,18)
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
There are so many things I don`t know. God knows them all. I don`t even know myself. God searches my heart. From him and through him and for him are all things. He is good and in all things he works for the good of those that love him. To him be the glory forever.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

His Story

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep..." (Acts 13:36)
I don't know what God is doing. I don't know how His purpose is served in me. But this life is not the story of me. It is the story of Him. I am not the main character; He is. He who is Love must triumph in the end.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Lord, I bow to You. You give Good. You give Good. I will believe it. You who let Your precious Son be beaten in my place - You I can trust. I do not understand Your way. I am cold and tired and I want to go home now. I don't know why you brought me here. I don't know why you let me feel like this - so betrayed and lost and left. But I know that You love me. You are not lacking either power to help or care for my hurt. Neither can You forget. I am graven on the palms of Your hands. And so, I am left with a seeming contradiction - my pain and Your omnipotence and love. This is the root of the whole world's groaning and sighing, Father. It is not hard to understand why they choose the lesser lie, rejecting Your existence, since the apparent alternative (Your lack, either of power or of love) is too hideous.

Who are You, then, God? You are not the One I have imagined. Great mysterious Creator, Giver, Lover. What moves You? Why are You so inscrutable? How is it that You can love so deeply and yet remain so silent in my pain and my confusion? Yet I will trust You. Yet I will let You hurt me. I would give You my best, Lover of my soul. I have no one else but You, neither in heaven nor on earth. I am Yours to hurt or to save. I surrender to You. Slay me or lift me up. I know nothing except Your love for me, shown in the giving of Your Son.

YHWH. I call your name with every breath. Without understanding, I bow. Without feeling, I choose. Come and save me, above all, from myself. Let me honour Your name.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Here I Am

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:5-7)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
O God, I have been confused and disappointed by You. I am often tired and joy eludes me. Yet I believe Your promise - not what You will do, but who You are. You  are Jesus who died. You are the Good Shepherd, who goes out into the storm to gather in lost sheep. Sometimes it is so hard to see You. Sometimes everything in my life just feels empty and aimless and cold and lost. Sometimes I am an overtired and undisciplined child...or a wandering sheep. Have mercy on me. Call my name, and when I cannot find my way to You, then come out into my dark storm and find me, and lift me onto your shoulders, and carry me home. 

Speak kindness to me, Man of Sorrows. I know what You have done,and I know that You love, but I long for Your words. Help me to hold unswervingly to hope, and so honour Your name.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Losing to Save

If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me; for whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, he shall save it. (Luke 9:23-24)
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:11-12)
O Father, my desires are too small, too short-term, too self-focused. I do want more than this; I want to want more than this. You can change me, if You will. Gather up all in me that seeks less than the Christ, and re-direct me. Fill me with a deep longing for the honor of Your name.  Keep me from small, selfish things. Draw me, and I will come after You.

It is hard to lose my life. Remind me that what You give in exchange is never less than what I call worth it. Remind me that Your good is what I would choose if only I knew. Remind me that You never waste anything.

Speak Your comfort to my weary heart, Lord, and lead me the next step forward. Wherever You take me, let me know Your hand in mine. I will honor Your name. I will sing to You. Teach me how to have joy in the middle of the hardness of losing my life for You. Let me feel the weight and the shape of the great hope You have already set before me.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Abba, Father

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
(Romans 8:10-30) 
 Why am I so empty of love? Why is my mind so dull and my heart so weak? I struggle and struggle to control my frustration and my anger and my hurt hurt heart. I beat against the bars of my own self. I toss and turn and restlessness wraps around me. I gather myself together and hold tight my tattered shreds of hope amid the shifting shadows. I strain my eyes to see spiritual truth through the dim. But flee or stay, they always catch up with me - hurt, rage, hopelessness. I am the one who is wrong - that much is plain, even to me! Yet - how to change? How to live with grace? I am ashamed. I long for more. I have known - sometime, somehow - love that delights to give even while it hurts; grace like oil; hope like a white-winged bird that rises in the dark and the whorl; peace of heart strong enough to calm the clatter of what-ifs and what-if-nots that crowd me into dim corners. These gifts exist, and the child of God ought to have them. 

Abba, have mercy on my smallness and my emptiness. Give me eyes to see the Christ in the mundane march of my days. Give me a heart like Yours, wide and wild and full of love that delights to cover over others' sin. Give me joy, warm and deep and wide-eyed. Give me strength to run when the road is too long and too uphill. Give me the wisdom that knows not just what - but how and when and why. I am Your child, and I bear Your name. For the honour of Your name, Abba, remember me, and give me Your good gifts.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Honouring His Name

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered.
(1 Timothy 6:1)

If even slaves are to respect their masters, surely this applies to me. 

Father, I know that You hate slavery. I know that you hate injustice and oppression. Teach me to bow. Teach me to wait for Your deliverance. I want to honour Your name. Show me how to give my boss respect that, as a person, he does not deserve. Show me how to do this without dishonesty, without weakness. You didn't ask Mordecai to kowtow. Show me what this kind of respect should look like. Help me to humble myself and so exalt Your name. I need your wisdom and your grace to do this! Lord, let me live with joy. Let me please and honour You with all that I am.

Monday, 17 June 2013

I Will Arise

(C. Rossetti)
Weary and weak, - accept my weariness;
Weary and weak and downcast in my soul,
With hope growing less and less,
And with the goal
Distant and dim, - accept my sore distress.
I thought to reach the goal so long ago,
At outset of the race I dreamed of rest,
Not knowing what now I know
Of breathless haste,
Of long-drawn straining effort across the waste.
One only thing I knew, Thy love of me;
One only thing I know, Thy sacred same
Love of me full and free,
A craving flame
Of selfless love of me which burns in Thee.
How can I think of thee, and yet grow chill;
Of Thee, and yet grow cold and nigh to death?
Re-energize my will,
Rebuild my faith;
I will arise and run, Thou giving me breath.
I will arise, repenting and in pain;
I will arise, and smite upon my breast
And turn to Thee again;
Thou choosest best,
Lead me along the road Thou makest plain.
Lead me a little way, and carry me
A little way, and listen to my sighs,
And store my tears with Thee,
And deign replies
To feeble prayers; - O Lord, I will arise.
Father, I will call it sweet - this hurt - because You give it. I will not run away, though my heart is weak and I am weary. I will seek You. I am tired of myself - tired of my dim and shallow heart that cannot see anything but its own - but I will trust. How can it be that I am Yours and yet I have so little love? Can I have followed you this far and yet be so lost and empty? I am dried and broken shards. The wilderness frightens me and pens me in.There is no grace in me, no love, no fullness, and no fire. Restorer, come and make me more than this. Draw me from this choking dust, and speak your words to me. Speak to me and make me remember who You are - the greatness and the deepness and the beauty of You, and the honour of Your name, and the fullness that belongs to You and Yours. Open my eyes and my heart to see You. Sweeten this bitterness in my soul.

Is there something I have withheld from You? Is there yet a part of me that holds back? Take it to the last piece, Father. I am weary and full of wondering, but I will not say no to You who gave all. Can You have a purpose for this empty aching and this aimless trek? Yet You must. Can You, who demand my best, give less than Your best to me? Having given Your Son, can You deny me any Good? It is unthinkable. I will seek Your heart - You who stretched forth the heavens and who laid your tired head upon a stone. Speak to me, and I, too, will rise.