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.