Saturday, 15 November 2014

A Complicated Story

Today was a difficult day. Yes, again. I went to do a demo lesson at a private school I have been interested in working at for some time. I had an interview a couple of weeks ago and it went well. But I woke up feeling discouraged and crummy and tired. Then my multimedia presentation wouldn’t load on the computer. After the class, the school’s director told me he was really disappointed that I wasn’t more creative. I cried all the way home. There’s no one to talk it through with, and I am just so – so - tired of not being quite good enough. Everything is tangled together in my head, and I want to sort out which part is my fault and which part is God’s choice for me – but you can’t separate those things. It all runs together and mingles and the only answer is that God is good, and he will choose the way for me.
And now I sit here in the dim of my apartment – mine for another eleven days – and I wonder: what is faith, anyway? If I say I trust God, but my heart is full of fear and discouragement, is that faith? If I choose to believe in his goodness, even though I have neither power behind that belief, nor joy to confirm it, is it still faith? God knows my heart. He knows that I choose him, even when my whole heart roils with The Question. Yes, that one: Why?
Nevertheless, he is the One to whom I direct my questions. Isn’t that a kind of faith?
A few days ago I was reading 2 Samuel 16 and 17 – chapters full of loss and betrayal, and discouragement. Ziba, Mephibosheth’s steward, had come to David with donkeys and bread, raisins, figs, and wine – and news that his master, Jonathan’s son, had betrayed David. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t remember what happens next in the story. Mephibosheth? I kept asking in my mind. Surely Jonathan’s son could never betray David. Surely he must remember the mercy David had showed him for his father’s sake. Usually I know the endings of the Old Testament stories long before I get there. I’ve heard and read them all before. I kept going through my memory, trying to find something related to Mephibosheth being an ungrateful traitor, but it was blank. I was unexpectedly disturbed at such a picture. What a relief it was to read a little further on that it was Ziba who had lied. (David. You and I both believed him!) But then Shimei comes out, pelting David – the king! - with stones and cursing him, and when Abishai wants to cut off his head, David tells him to leave the man alone in case God is the one telling him to curse. After all, he reasons, Absalom, his own son, is trying to kill him.
David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. (2 Samuel 16:11)
And then, as if that were not enough, Hushai, David’s confidant, goes to Absalom and says, “Long live the king!”
Absalom said to Hushai, "So this is the love you show your friend? If he's your friend, why didn't you go with him?" (2 Samuel 16:17)
Here is where I cried. How can Hushai leave his friend? Why is David allowed to experience such abandonment? Again, with real relief I read about Hushai’s plan in the next chapter. He pretends to be against David, but his real purpose – and God’s – is to give Absalom bad military advice and maintain David’s right to rule. Phew, right? Wrong. God’s purpose is also to allow Absalom to die.
God allows Absalom to fight David. He allows Absalom to die. He allows Mephibosheth and Hushai to look like traitors. It’s a bit of a mess to understand, really. Absalom’s rebellion is partly David’s fault. He has been a lenient and careless father. Mephibosheth’s loyalty, however comes to him in response to his care for his friend Jonathan and for Jonathan’s son. David responds poorly to the Mephibosheth situation, but then he is human and broken and full of fatherly love at his son’s death. It seems he isn’t either a good guy or a bad guy.
But though the story twists and turns as it is told, God never lost control. He chose seeming and real betrayal for David again and again. He hurt David and rescued him. Nevertheless, the story was always in God’s own hand.
So is my story. I'm tired. I'm lonely. I don't know how much of this is my own fault, and how much is God's grace working in ways that are hard to understand. I don’t know what my future is or who my friends really are, but God does. I’m not sure what faith is, really, but regardless of what I feel, I am in God’s hand. He will untangle the threads and make them all tell his story.

Monday, 27 October 2014

As The Ruin Falls

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains. (C.S. Lewis)
God wants my heart, broken. On the outside and to me it seems cruel, even senselessly so. But I believe that He who loves me best breaks to build. He empties to fill. He is tearing me apart, but I believe that he will build me up again. Who but He really knows this long, long hurt and the tearing and the emptiness in me? Who but He could choose this for me? Who but He could have the restraint and the wisdom to sit silently and wait with me in the dark, and resist the urge to comfort, to undo my breaking? Oh, it is a mystery. Yet Jesus who wept can never leave me alone. Jesus who bowed himself in the dirt and sweat and bled and cried - and asked "Why?" - He can be trusted with all that belongs to me.

And yet here, in the middle of all my hurt and my embarrassing weakness, I am hard pressed to give thanks with my heart. My faith is a groan, not a song. How to reconcile this desperate trapped flapping of mine with the freedom I have known in Christ?

My confusion cannot change the truth: He is working in me and for me. This breaking is blessing. Jesus of the Scars is the One who stays his hand from rescuing me. God-With-Us metes out my wounding. I don't know why He gives this. I don't know the reason for his silence, nor can I understand why He waits to change me. It is mysterious, but so is the truth that those who have not known emptiness never know the real joy of fullness, and only those who have been deeply humbled can be trusted to carry the great things that belong to God.

I trust Him. I trust Him. I will let him break me all apart. I will cry out all my tears into the bottle that God himself keeps. I will gather together all my broken pieces to worship Jesus the Wounded.

Lord, give me bravery bigger than the hard things. Give me long patience to wait for You all through this breaking. Send me faith that sees the light beyond this darkness. I will trust You for the future, but hold me as the ruin falls. I'm falling too: speak Your peace to me. Remind me that there is a Man beside You who bears nail prints in His hands. Tell me again how the slain Lamb reigns, and He waits for those He loves, and He is our all our shield and sun. 

And for this hopethank You. Let all my folding up and falling in lead me into such freedom and light.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

No Promise But Jesus

This was a hard week. A week full of trying and going forward and falling again. A week marked by rejection and deep-inside-weariness. Don't think it's just other people pulling me down - my number one enemy is my own weak and treacherous heart. You can't run away from yourself.

When my hurt seems to go on and on, and hope burns low, I think about Joseph sitting in that prison for years, and Abraham waiting around for a son until his life was almost all drained out, and I take heart again. "But," always comes the sidling whisper, "They could wait. Joseph had his dreams, and Abraham his promise..." And again I am undone. It's true that I have neither dream nor promise. Nothing tangible. Nothing to hold to.

"No promise but me." The voice of him who is Truth.

I have no dream. I have no promise...except who Jesus is. Jesus who knows the indignity of being tired and dirty and sad. Jesus the reject, the criticized, the used. I have what Joseph and Abraham never had.

I will hold tight to Emmanuel, the God who wept. He sees my long, long struggle, and my often failure. He will give me his good. I will remember: his mercy endures.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Way God Hurts

Oh God, I know that you afflict
in love,
and I would bear this hurt
and give you thanks -
but I am weak and flopping,
and I don't know how to do what I would

How can I blame you - you who hurt for me?
Yet it is hard to understand the way
God hurts
Because you are strong -
you chose your hurt, but I could not choose this
Give me the love that makes strong
enough to hurt

If I loved you better, I could seek you (and not the comfort
you can give)
Yet how?
I am trapped within myself - bound by my own lack of love
and made small by my own in-turned self

Rescue me
and let me love you;
make me brave to bear.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

When You're on the Ground

"Even your God won't drop life in your lap," he said. 
"If you keep having problems, you should ask yourself if the problem is you," she said.
"You should be thankful for what you have. You have no real problems," she said.
They were trying to help, not hurt. And every word they spoke was true. But, oh. On a day when I am struggling to hold back the tears.
They say nothing really shuts you down
Quite like shame, it kicks you when you’re on the ground
Even with your good intentions
You always seem to lose against it (Jason Gray, Love's Not Done With You)
Must my weakness be so evident, so open to comment? Will I ever be strong enough, warmed enough inside, to bear the coldness of this place? Will I ever have enough grace? Where is that Comforter I have known? I have come this far, and how is it that I am so suddenly, awfully ridiculous, and so weak?

God knows. He knows the coldness that grips me, the emptiness that howls. He knows the reason I am here. There is a reason, firm and rich and full and worthy, for this senselessness, this confusion, this loss, this humiliation. I will trust in Him. I will wait here with Him. I will trust that He knows both the cost and the value of this hurt of mine.

These days, I am too often wretched and desperate and clawing, aware of only my own pain, and clumsy, awkward with the way I deal with others. I have struggled and fought to overcome, to give love when I am sore and empty - but everything is twisted, rotten at the core. The dim is all around, and it is hard to even see my own heart. I try to do good, but there is so little love in it that it falls in pieces as soon as I withdraw my hand. And sometimes I am fooled into thinking I can give a gift, but I am filled with such awful expectation when it's given that it is not a gift at all, and I am overcome with regret that I have tried. When, through exercise of will, I am able to tear out and hand over a shred of self, it is misunderstood and rejected, and I am left more bitter than before. Oh, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 

I am ashamed and tired, and I don't know where to hide my hideous self. I am full of grief, but I have lost nothing - yet I am full of emptiness. I know my thinking is wrong. I could give myself all the advice people long to give me, but it's useless. I have no power, no strength, no understanding. Where is Jesus, to rescue me?

He will use this, too, for good. He will love me back to life.

God! Let this make me gentle, not cold and dull, to others' pain! Burn off the sharpness and the selfish anger that pour out of me, and overcome my spewing hate, and love me into soft, warm, kindness. Let Jesus overcome me, and change me, and live in me.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Past Finding Out

They say the truth will set you free
But I have sought the Truth
And here I am in chains,
If truth be told.
Where is God?
His ways are past finding out
And there is no one else beside;
I only wait for Him.
Why does He hide himself?
I cannot tell.
I only know that He is Love, and that
The enemy is cruel and he bombards my broken places
Till they ooze loss and ugliness;
To tell the truth, and not what ought to be
I have no grace,
And I am all in pieces.
Where is my escape? Or if there is no escape, then
Where is the strength that only God can give?
Why will He leave me bleeding here,
And yet refuse to slay me?
Oh, where is He?
But Jesus cried. And Jesus was alone. And Jesus, King of Heaven, took on shame.
It's baffling.
He is not far,
And yet I fail to find
The grace, the help that I expected in this place.
Where is God?
I know the answer,
And I could write it, smooth and neat, on an exam:
The Man of Sorrows knows my grief, and
God is here with me, close to the broken-hearted,
And I should not forget that He who Loves is working for me
Better than I can imagine.
All this is true; I know it in my deep heart's core
Yet I am full of emptiness
And grace is given to others, not to me
And I am broken-hearted,
Lost, and weary, disappointed in myself -
After all this time.
Oh, where is God?
I cannot bear the waiting -
Hope drags hard and grace has gone
And I wish I could be one of the strong, sweet ones
But I can't
(I thought that He would help me!)
Nor can I find the door that would eject me from this purgatory,
This anxious waiting, empty-handed and ashamed:
When I would give up hope, my heart will not!
It cries and cries to Him - that Man of Sorrows,
Surely He will hear the cry of one for whom he bled!
Though I fail Him; though I stumble in the darkness; though I fall-
Jesus, whose strong love made him full of tears
And too weak to bear a cross all the way to Calvary
(Yet he was strong to die)
Must come to me
He will not fail!
I wait for Him to rise
Triumphant over mocking enemies
And put all my broken pieces back into one
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Living Sacrifice

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)
The death of Jesus marked the end of all sacrifices, except one: the thank offering. That we owe.
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)
"All to Jesus I surrender..." I've sung that in church and meant it with my whole, unknowing heart. Most of us are aware that sacrifice means loss, surrender, and I thought I was ready for that.

I used to imagine myself as an Israelite, bringing my own little lamb to be offered. As I handed over precious parts of my life to God, I experienced the loss, the tearing involved in letting go, and I imagined that as the end of the process. It seemed hard enough. It is no simple thing to give what the heart has called its own. What I did not know to expect when I offered, with burning heart, all to Jesus, was the bloody, messy work of offering the sacrifice. I thought I could bring my heart's lamb and leave the slaughter and the bloody handling to the temple workers.

A sacrifice is a gory, brutal thing. Our God, Father though he is, does not spare us the slaughtering, the tearing of skin from flesh, the cutting, the washing - the handling of our broken, bloodied offerings. It is what he asks because it is what he gives.
The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
“ ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 1:1-9)
Again and again, this violence. The loud bleating and the quiet bleeding. For the worshipper, all is disarray and ugly, broken pieces. But to God, there is " aroma pleasing to the Lord".

Oh, to see things as he sees them! To be able to look past the blood and the brokenness and see something pleasing! When the tearing and the mess go on and on, and my heart has bled out all its strength, and I am the one laying broken on the altar, and yet more remains to be done to complete the offering, then I am hard pressed to feel that there is in this any honour for my God. How can glory come from this aching, awful mess? The purpose of the sacrifice escapes me, and though dimly I know it is necessary - and I can accept the loss - the work of offering it is more than I had reckoned on.
"Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint."—II Sam. 21:15.
As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all servants of the Lord.
Fits of depression come over the most of us. Cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.
There may be here and there men of iron to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows and makes them to know that they are but dust. (Charles Spurgeon, When a Preacher is Downcast)
I am weary and ashamed, and the tedium of living an offering overwhelms me. Especially, it is hard to imagine how God can be glorified in the turmoil. I feel that there is something wrong in it. Where are the priests, the professionals? Shouldn't I, after all, have left this to them? Surely they could do a better job than I, when I am all awkward reluctance and and ill-timed, shaking fear!

But if he does not explain, at least God's instruction is clear. He did not spare his son, and he does not spare us, his children. And in this long darkness, I have come to see two sides of a paradox: my faith is far weaker and more easily shaken than I used to think, and, after all, I trust God far more deeply than I ever imagined I could. As I am torn apart, I have the strange sense that something else, yet unknown even to me, is coming together.
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:7)
I will trust in the love of God my Father. To him belong the chaos of the bleating and the bleeding, and the glory of the flame, and the aroma of the rising smoke. To him I will lift up my pleading and my worship, both.
Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:7-8)
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:18-20)

Friday, 6 June 2014

A Holy Waste

Mary, breaking her precious alabaster - did she count the cost? Did it seem waste to her who gave, or did she know what it was for? 

We love things that can be counted, measured, assessed. It is not hard to give ourselves and our heart's deep treasures for what we can calculate, because this matches what we know from the world around us. Give to receive. It need not be selfish. We can invoke the social good and admit the value even of Jesus' command to help the poor. And this kind of investment is not wrong. It is wise. Give up the short-term, the precious now, for the much more precious future.

But this is not sacrifice. Sacrifice gives up. Not to receive. Not to accomplish. It gives to express - love, adoration, worship. It empties itself, not hoping for a result, but hoping in the One to whom it gives. It seeks not fruit, but honour.

I have questioned the meaning in my life, with all its seeming aimlessness and complicated hurts. I have searched in vain for fruit enough to make the cost worthwhile. I have questioned the wisdom of my investments, and I have raised to heaven in bewilderment my empty hands. What do I have to show for my years, my tears, my heart-cries? For what do I live and work and push myself onward and pour myself out? The hiss is loud in my ears: Why this waste? Surely it might have been sold and given to the poor...

A lie from the father of lies. Jesus has not come to tell us how to live. He has become our reason for living. He is the purpose and the goal and the deep meaning in it all. He has asked us, not only to work to serve and to achieve, but to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, poured out to him. This flies in the face of human accounting. It overturns the tables and does violence to all within us that would make merchandise of Jesus and the worship we offer him. It turns out the moneychangers in the temple that is us. Such a life is not a failed investment; it is a holy waste.

I have been taken captive by lies. I have lived in fear and raised idols to combat that fear, but my weakness and bondage is increased. I am sometimes overcome with shame and dread. I have come so far and learned so little. I don't know what my place is, and I am often discouraged.

Our opposition is more in us than outside. In this world, we must fight for truth. The lies we believe cannot separate us from the love of God; they can't change the good God has planned for us - but they can obscure our thinking. They rob us of peace. They keep us from gratitude and fellowship and joy. 

Father, give me eyes to see the real value of things. Shine your truth into my life, and let it destroy the power of lies. Un-blind me, and let me run for you, and love you, and find my freedom and my place in you. Let me give my life, not as an investment, but as a sacrifice to you, a holy waste, for the honour of your Name.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Could A Garden Come Up From This Ground?

My vision and my strength is taken away, and I could cry like Samson, "Let me die with the Philistines!" But Jesus is here, whom Samson never knew, and he is the Redeemer of all lost and broken things. He grows beauty and life out of death and dust. He the One Who Never Fails.

When my heart races and my blood creeps, I will fold myself into him. I will trust only him.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

And Will Look Up

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:  for unto thee will I pray.My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. Psalm 5:1-3
My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defense; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory:  the rock of my strength,  and my refuge, is in God.  Trust in Him at all times:  ye people, pour out your heart before Him:  God is a refuge for us.Psalm 62:5-8

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

One Thing

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.” (Psalm 62:11-12)

Monday, 5 May 2014


The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:7-9)
Father, You put thanks in my heart, and I offer it back to You. You have ordered all of my disappointment. Change my desires. Let me long for Your glory. Let me value things the way You value them. Let me trust You when I cannot see. Be my shepherd: I cast myself on You. I give You my thanks.

You are Good, and You give Good. Let my life and my lips praise You.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

God is the Strength of My Heart

At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvellously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it. (from The Brothers Karamazov)
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:15-17)
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness... (Exodus 34:6)

Friday, 2 May 2014

No Promise But Jesus

The Bible is full of promises. Promises we think we can cut out and use like coupons, handing them up to God like we can just exchange them for all that will fill our deep, longing hearts. And oh, our confusion when we find it doesn't work that way! 

God keeps his promises. Without doubt, he is faithful. But he will not be conjured. He doesn't come when we ring the right bell. His time and his ways are inscrutable; past finding out. We cannot know how or when he will work, and in a world of time, that fact in essence renders a whole Bible full of promises useless as coupons. 

Martha of Bethany learned this. She had sent Jesus word: "Lord, the one you love is sick." When Jesus came to her, too late to save her brother from death, she reminded him of what he could have done.  She knew - not just believed - that he had the power to save Lazarus from dying. 
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
 There was no confession like this one in all Jesus' days on earth. Martha, the one Jesus rebuked - not sweet, worshipping Mary - knew Jesus as the Son of God and said it plainly. She believed that He was able to not only cure Lazarus' sickness, but even to raise him from the dead. Her faith was straightforward and practical. She was sure of what Jesus could do, yet she had learned not to presume, not to try to guess what he would do.

There is only one promise for us, just as there was for Martha, and that is who God is: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

Let us hold fast to him, the resurrection and the life. Let us fling ourselves wholesale on him, and risk all that we are and hope for on who he is, that One Who Cannot Lie. What he has for us must be better than we would choose for ourselves. It must.
If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope—
who can see any hope for me?
Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:13-16)
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8)
"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame..." (Psalm 25:3)
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)


You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)
So why don't we receive everything we ask for? Even Jesus' cup was not taken from him. But his prayer was answered, after all. He prayed that his father's will would be done, and it was. On an earth that had been sold into the hand of Satan - God's will was done, and the enemy defeated on his own territory.

Jesus, praying, bowed his will to God, and God's will was done through him, on earth just as it is in heaven.

This is our great privilege - not to beg God, nor to conjure his power on our own behalf, but to bend ourselves to him, and allow his will to be done for us, and through us, for our own broken world. This is the way that God's will and his love make their way into a world like ours. This is the way that the Master we have chosen regains the right to work for us and in us and through us. He longs to give good, and our bent will is the means through which he may reach us, and through us, the world we belong to.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Hurt and the Healer

The trouble with us is not simply that we are sinners, but that we are sinners with God-hearts and God-desires. We have sometime known the perfection of fellowship, and we are filled with longing for it, but we are always stumbling over self and sin, and these overcome us. We long to trust and be trusted, but we are faithless and unfaithful. We cannot be believed. What a cruel trap we find ourselves caught in!

There is real consolation in Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us.

It isn't his power or even his vastness that call out worship from our hearts; the beauty of the Man from Galilee is that he knows, as no God has ever known, our pain and our brokenness. He, like us, is too-soon tired. He bleeds. He knows first-hand those peculiarly human agonies - being misjudged and misunderstood, fear and dread, humiliation, betrayal, rejection.

See him as he goes, in dusty sandals, to the house of his friends on the outskirts of the city. To them he has given, and from them he has received - true friends, they. Mary has sat at his feet. Martha has worked long and hard to serve him and the guests that came with him. If anyone knows who Jesus really is, surely it is these two. If there is love and trust in friendship, surely he will find it at their house in Bethany. Their brother Lazarus is dead now, but he too has been a friend. The Scripture says it, straight up: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus".

The practical Martha is there to meet him as he comes, too late to save her brother. Lazarus is already in the grave, and she is full of grief. She squashes the reproach in her heart, but she can't help wondering: why hasn't Jesus come in time? He, the great Healer, was surely able to cure Lazarus. He has healed so many others.

Mary can't bring herself to meet her friend. She has listened to him, trusted him, loved him. She sent him word that Lazarus was sick; she didn't doubt that he would come. But her brother lies in the grave, and Jesus is there too late. When he finds her, she is inconsolable. She stops short of blame, but she voices her bewilderment, weeping: if Jesus had but come - !

It's enough to make God cry: the disappointment and the hurt of dear friends, and the pain of being misunderstood. Jesus himself weeps. God cries hot, bitter, human tears. He can raise Lazarus from the grave, but he is not above the pain of a friend's reproach.

Now watch him as he goes to Gethsemane. His closest friends go with him, eleven men - once twelve - who have been with him constantly for three full years. They have left livelihood and family to follow him, and he has watched them go from amazed wonder to able helpers. He leaves eight of them to watch, then goes further in to the garden with those closest to him - Peter, James, and John. They have seen him full of glory, transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah. If anyone knows who he is and why he has come, it is these three. The Man of Sorrows knows that the cross is his alone, but surely these three closest men will support him as he prepares his heart for the difficulty to come.

He asks them to pray. They have promised to die with him; surely friends such as these will share his suffering as far as they are allowed. He is overwhelmed with the sorrow and dread of what awaits him; surely they will bear him up in prayer.

They fall asleep. He wakes them up, reminding them of the night's urgency. He has told them plainly of his coming death. Again, they sleep, and Jesus is alone in his darkest midnight. Alone, he cries to God. Blood and sweat mingle and fall. Alone, he hears the answer: No. Alone, he bends his will and weeps.

Emmanuel. God-with-us. He can heal disease. He can forgive sin. He can even raise the dead. But he knows the longing of the human heart to depend on its fellow, and the sting of disappointment and betrayal. He knows the wrenching pain of being the one to let down a friend; he knows what it feels like to be mistrusted.

Some day, we will love as God loves. We will give selflessly, trust implicitly, and be worthy of the trust of others. We will know unbroken friendship and fellowship. Until then, we walk the road that Jesus walked. Why doesn't God rescue us? Why must we learn amid such pain? He who knows first-hand the brokenness of humanity, and the trap we find ourselves in - why does he consent to our hurt and our frustration?

We are too much like children, ever quick to believe the lie that power is everything, and that it works like magic - with the muttering of words or the wave of a wand. Power is great, but it pales before the greatness of love, which enables its bearer to endure the ache of disappointing and and being disappointed. We will, some bright day, know as we are known. Think of it: we will know God as he knows us. We will each know the other through the fellowship of suffering. God knows our hurt; now we, in our hurt, are learning how to choose the beauty of his anyway-love.

If Jesus did not suffer; if he did not know our brokenness, our common ache, our bleeding - how could we ever trust him? If we do not love through suffering, how could we ever know the greatness of that Heart of Love that bends itself to bear our hurt?

Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Only he who suffered as we suffer is able to console.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

He is the Faithful God

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Monday, 7 April 2014

In Its Time Swiftly

There is nothing for us but to steadfastly - even stubbornly - believe that God is able and willing to make up to us every step of our way in the darkness, every anxious dreadful heartbeat, every lingering ache...and when we are not able to feel that it is true that He is always and in every thing for us, we must act upon it anyway. We who have claimed to be loved by the Great God of the universe - what choice have we but to risk all on Him?
...the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
The least of you will become a thousand,
the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
in its time I will do this swiftly. (Isaiah 60:20-22)
A Way To See In The Dark (Jason Gray)
Here I am
Begging for certainty again

But simple trust
Is what you're asking me to give
If I am saved
You tell me it will not be by sight
So when I pray
I'll close my eyes
, I'll close my eyes
I'll reach for your hand in the night
When the shadows swallow the light
'Cause I'm giving up, giving in
Once again a childlike faith
Is my only way
To see in the dark
The question mark
Hung at the end of every fear
Is answered by
The promise that you are with me here
And that's all I've got

When the lights go out and I lose my way
So I'll close my eyes
I won't be afraid, I won't be afraid

Sunday, 23 March 2014

When Hope Looks Lost

 Sometimes I am filled with a great weariness. There is, all around, brokenness and emptiness, and my own dissatisfaction and my gaping failure, and the yet-unfulfilled promises of God. My despair is the more deep because my hope is high, and I hope still, but I am weary with the wait, and hope's joy has gone out into the vast dim.

But I have seen prayer answered unexpectedly this week - a small, pale prayer offered despondently, then answered swift and sure - and some winged thing in me has got to fluttering again.
The Son of God hung on the cross, and the Father had his hands in his pockets, so it seemed. Even the Messiah was not out of the enemy’s reach. Or was he?
See, it was in this moment of disarray — in this Chaos of chaos — that everything “looked” destroyed and turned upside down. But it was here, by all visible accounts, when things were the most over, that in fact they were the most not.
It appeared evil had won. That God was dead. That his enemies triumphed. But no.
It was in his dying, when our hope looked lost, that Jesus was actually securing it. It was when darkness covered the land, over against the Son’s forsaken cries, that light began to dawn and the Father realized his eternal purpose for the world. Beyond what it seemed, beyond what the circumstances would suggest, God was the one in triumph. Sunday morning made it sure.
So just when we thought he’d be gone forever, he was actually lifted up as the one who would never leave us, nor forsake us — the one who would say, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)
- from Ten Thousand Things We Can't See, by Jonathan Parnell
I keep waiting, child that I am, for my own personal Messiah to come riding in on his white horse and sweep me up in glorious triumph and vindicate me...and, after all, preserve my pride. But the truth is this: I haven't bargained for the kind of life that is held firmly in hand. I "have bargained," with Jim Elliot, "for a cross". And after all, I do want a life that lifts up Christ, not me. I do want to follow the Man of Sorrows. I want to bend myself down before him, to kiss his lovely feet.
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself.
On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.”
By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay.
I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge...
You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds. (Charles Spurgeon, - from An All Round Ministry)
But what of all the "hurrying, eager longing" that will not be stilled? What of all my deep heart hurt? Who will guide me? Where shall I find a vision?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
(Isaiah 58:6-11)
There is a God who hears. He is there and he is not silent. He knows this heart of mine, and he could change it if he chose.
Desire is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual affairs, it is an important adjunct to prayer. So important is it, that one might say, almost, that desire is an absolute essential of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified. Prayer is the oral expression of desire. If prayer is asking God for something, then prayer must be expressed. Prayer comes out into the open. Desire is silent. Prayer is heard; desire, unheard. The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is a meaningless mumble of words. Such perfunctory, formal praying, with no heart, no feeling, no real desire accompanying it, is to be shunned like a pestilence. Its exercise is a waste of precious time, and from it, no real blessing accrues.
A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The stronger the sense of need, before God, the greater should be the desire, the more earnest the praying. The "poor in spirit" are eminently competent to pray.
Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the request for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of spiritual need creates desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer. Desire is an inward longing for something of which we are not possessed, of which we stand in need -- something which God has promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of His throne of grace. (E. M. Bounds)
I will seek the glory of One whose name is Merciful and True. I will offer him my aching wish for direction and warmth and belonging. I will pour out before him all my emptiness and confused desire, and he will turn it into a prayer. I will turn to him in frantic moments, and I will seek him in my bewildered wanting, and I will make this heart-gap his, and all my hurt and hope will become supplication and praise.
"...And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." (Gerard Manley Hopkins) 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Let Your Love Be My Companion

“What we have to do is love these people who hate us—love them, pray for them. These people are wounded people who have hate in their hearts. They need forgiveness. They need the Lord. That is the answer we must give.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
 This is what I am hungry for.

Jesus-love doesn't come easy. I see it, and long for it, and reach for it - but it eludes me. It seems so often to glimmer through the mists of my tired thoughts - just beyond my grasp, until I reach for it. Then it recedes into the gloom, and I am left full of indignation and hurt pride and impotent rage.

Why? Where does the strength for this love come from? Why don't I have it? Why doesn't God just give it?

Maybe because he knows my deceitful heart, so willing to take credit for what comes easy. The truth he brings me back to, again and again, is that I can't do this. I can't love for wanting to. I can't forgive in my own power. He must give me this strength.

In Your justice and Your mercy
Heaven walked the broken road
Here to fight this sinner's battle
Here to make my fall Your own

Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder

I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
Throw my life forever
To the triumph of the Son

Let Your love be my companion
In the war against my pride
Long to break all vain obsession
Till You're all that I desire

Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder

I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
Throw my life forever
To the triumph of the Son

And I know Your love has won it all
You took the fall
To embrace my sorrows
I know You took the fight
You came and died but the grave was borrowed
I know You stood again
So I can stand with a life to follow
In the light of Your name

Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder

I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
Throw my life forever
To the triumph of the Son

And I know Your love has won it all
You took the fall
To embrace my sorrows
I know You took the fight
You came and died but the grave was borrowed
I know You stood again
So I can stand with a life to follow
In the light of Your name

Sunday, 16 March 2014

I Have Given Them the Glory

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:22-27)
There are some startling truths in this prayer of Jesus:
     Jesus has given us the glory that God gave him. It is a glory we can't see. Yet.
     God loves us the way he loves Jesus. Jesus has asked God to let us have that love.

This had me asking God when he would answer Jesus' prayer. And then I realized that perhaps he has answered it already.

I have given them the glory that you gave me...that they may be brought to complete unity. 
Seen the visible church lately? It doesn't look like complete unity. But there is something you can't see. That's the invisible cord that draws all that love Jesus. They may never know each other, and if they do, they might be distracted by selfish, petty squabbles, but one thing sets them all apart and binds them together and draws them in to a single center: love for the Man of Sorrows.

That the love you have for me may be in them... 
Do we love Jesus? These days I often feel my lack of love. I am not enough drawn to the One who loved me. I am dull and slow and dim. Ah, dear, searching God who tries hearts. He sees below the bent and broken self, deep down to that part which will not be burnt off in fire. He sees the love that beats beneath. He knows all about our fears, our weakness, our selfishness, and he knows the willingness, the wanting to see and know and honor the One he has given and the One we have chosen. It's true that I am often blind to his glory, but when I am shaken and lesser loves fall, I am coming to know that there is a real and unshaken love for Jesus deep in my heart. What is love? It is longing. It is admiration. It is the desire to give good. All these I find even in my own dark self. They are too slow, too dull, too cold; but they do not waver when all else falls loose.

Love is not all comfort and warmth; it can break your heart. Even in me, there is an inexorable love for the Crucified One. Enough to break me in two.

Yet I will praise him.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
Lord Jesus, come hope or heartbreak, I love you. Your prayer is answered in me. In my heart is love that comes from our Father; love that seeks you and takes pleasure in you and longs to please you - but I would love you better. Open my eyes to see a little of your glory. Let me know your goodness and your beauty and your truth. And let me know, a little more, the Father's love for me.

He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied... (Isaiah 53:11)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Glory to Be Helpless

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)
"Let us receive this as the first great lesson of the spiritual life: 'It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless.'" (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)
I have a student - Robert, who greets me with a long list of questions every class. I love his questions, and he is eager and earnest, but he is always jumping ahead of the lesson, worrying that he doesn't understand concepts and vocabulary that I haven't taught yet. He is anxious to figure it all out and understand where the things he is learning fit in among all the things he doesn't yet know. I am always reminding him that learning is a process, and the learner is necessarily left hanging between what he knows well and what he has not yet learned. It is overwhelming, especially in the beginning, to have such a body of knowledge that is yet incomprehensible, but there is no escaping that reality. 

One of the things I struggle with the most is not knowing what God is doing, not knowing what I should be doing. I am confused about so many things. It is frustrating to feel that I am thrashing about in the dark, trying so hard and seemingly getting nowhere. It feels like my efforts are wasted and my energies misdirected, and nothing is more discouraging than feeling like I have pushed myself right to the edge of what I can handle only to realize that it wasn't necessary, or I exerted myself in the wrong direction after all. I am anxious to learn my lessons and figure out what God is teaching me, and I keep looking for the moral in all of this. But it eludes me.

It seems I am just like Robert. We both hate the feeling of helplessness that learning gives us. It is unnerving to not know.

But God allows me to be helpless, not knowing. He is the one working good in my life. It is not up to me to figure out what is right and do it. I desire His way. I long to be all that He has planned me to be - but I lack both the understanding and the ability. So often I find myself trying to love, trying to give, in my own strength. It always fails, and I am left despairing. Only God can give this power.
Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." (Luke 18:27)
Peter knew this problem. He was all flame and promise, but he failed when it seemed most important. It must have seemed like the end to him. He had promised to die with Jesus, but instead he pretended not to know him in order to save his own skin. Andrew Murray says:
Peter denied his Lord thrice, and then the Lord looked upon him; and that look of Jesus broke the heart of Peter, and all at once there opened up before him the terrible sin that he had committed, the terrible failure that had come, and the depth into which he had fallen, and "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
Oh! who can tell what that repentance must have been? During the following hours of that night, and the next day, when he saw Christ crucified and buried, and the next day, the Sabbath-oh, in what hopeless despair and shame he must have spent that day!
"My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that life of love, after that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied my Lord. God have mercy upon me!"
I do not think we can realize into what a depth of humiliation Peter sank then. But that was the turningpoint and the change; and on the first day of the week Christ was seen of Peter, and in the evening He met him with the others. Later on at the Lake of Galilee He asked him: "Lovest thou me?" until Peter was made sad by the thought that the Lord reminded him of having denied Him thrice; and said in sorrow, but in uprightness:
"Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
...You know wherein Peter's failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect: "Thou never canst suffer; it cannot be" - it showed he had not a conception of what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said: "Deny thyself," and in spite of that he denied his Lord. When Christ warned him: "Thou shalt deny me," and he insisted that he never would, Peter showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I read his epistle and hear him say: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of God and of glory resteth upon you," then I say that it is not the old Peter, but that is the very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.
I read again how he says: "Hereunto ye are called, to suffer, even as Christ suffered." I understand what a change had come over Peter. Instead of denying Christ, he found joy and pleasure in having self denied and crucified and given up to the death. And therefore it is in the Acts we read that, when he was called before the Council, he could boldly say: "We must obey God rather than men," and that he could return with the other disciples and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christs name.
You remember his self-exaltation; but now he has found out that "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price." Again he tells us to be "subject one to another, and be clothed with humility."
Dear friend, I beseech you, look at Peter utterly changed-the self-pleasing, the self-trusting, the self-seeking Peter, full of sin, continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, but now filled with the Spirit and the life of Jesus. Christ had done it for him by the Holy Ghost.
And now, what is my object in having thus very briefly pointed to the story of Peter? That story must be the history of every believer who is really to be made a blessing by God.
(Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)
What will make this change in me? God's Spirit, through God's Word. He is teaching me. I cannot effect my own change, but as I wash myself in the truth of His words, I will be changed. Someday, to me and Robert both, it will make sense.
"Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts." (Winston Churchill)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Time to Sow

There is something dark and long-clawed in me, something that hungers to return hurt for hurt; something that kicks and bites and scratches when I would love, and will have vengeance instead of healing for my wounds. It is not separate, but part of me, and yet I loathe it and would be free. It brings confusion, and leaves me blind and blaming, angry at the one who hurts me, and most of all at the God who lets me hurt. How can He leave me here to bear alone the weight of my hurt heart, of being, of disappointment? He, who knows my weak spots and all my old, old wounds?

Self-preservation, hate, anger, malice, envy - these grow alongside my real desire to love, to worship God, to communicate his kindness and compassion.
An enemy did this... (Matthew 13:28)
But Jesus died, and I will have Him. How can His love not overcome hate? How can He who bled to death and rose again fail to heal me?

Fight hate and spite and awful self in me, O God! Overcome all in me that refuses love. Deliver me from the body of this death!

Jesus told the story of the sower who went out to plant. Across the fields he went, scattering his precious seed. Some fell on stony ground, and some on thorny ground, and some on hard ground, and some in prepared ground. Like that sower, I have gone out, scattering what is precious mine into dark earth. I know, as he must have known, the falling and the loss and the seeming waste among rocks and thorns and trodden ground. Did he feel, as I do, his helplessness to make a single seed grow? Did he go out the next day and look for shoots, and wonder foolishly, as I do, whether he would see the harvest?

Father, I want to trust what You are doing. I want to learn from You how to give up myself without just giving up. You know how I am trying to hold nothing back, and yet when there is a chance to live with open hands, I am all snatching and grabbing and fearful hanging-on. I confess that I can't love the way You ask me to. I don't know what to do, and even when I do, I don't have the power to do it and mean it. I know You hate fake. 

God, You can transform me! Look at my emptiness and fill me with Jesus-love. It is so exhausting to give everything I've got and keep coming up with the same not-enough. Give me courage to go forward - to keep on dropping my precious seeds into the dark, like Jesus' sower. Let me have long patience for your fruit, patience to wait for You to work in ways that I cannot. Teach me to love past hurt. Remind me who You are, and that You love me, and that I am Yours, and You mine.
Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it... (James 5:7)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Where Feet May Fail

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

This year, I don't want to just live. I want to become something. Something like this:

God doesn't promise that we won't fail. He doesn't promise that He won't take us places we can't manage. He only promises that He won't fail. He'll use it all for our good. The fear, and the squirming confusion, and even the failure.

I have been weary and afraid for a long time, but at last I feel again, a little, the ocean pull; the call to deeper water. I am afraid, but I will call upon Jesus' name. I want to live with blood-red courage. I want to see what the great Artist will do with all the broken pieces of my life. I want to be what He has made me. I want to worship God and display His beauty as I was meant to.
For from him and through him and for him are all things. (Romans 11:36)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Trust Him At All Times

Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8) 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

One Thing Remains

May your unfailing love be my comfort... (Psalm 119:76)

A New Thing

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
 A New Thing - from The Rabbit Room

2013 kicked my butt, and I was glad to see it to the door. No matter what the new year brings, my hope is that I will bring something different. I hope, I pray that I will be made more like my Father, who is full of mercy and loves without expecting anything back. In the beginning of this last long, dark year, I would have been happy with any change - my situation or my heart - anything that would bring me back to solid ground, anything that would let me be kind, joyful, thankful. Now only an inside change will suffice. New circumstances can not make this long road worth it. I must have my heart changed. I must have the strength, the peculiar grace to be kind, joyful, thankful in any circumstance. I will not be satisfied with less than the power to love past my weary, twisted self. I must have the strength to bear gladly.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:11-14)
In this place bereft of mercy, I must learn to come often before Him who is compassionate and true - The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6) - and having received, take and spread out the costly beauty of mercy where it may be snatched and discarded, and I misunderstood. I must be willing to give what costs without expecting anything back.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them... (Isaiah 63:9) 
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)
Father, let me live Your way - open handed and open hearted - receiving from You so I can give what costs without expecting anything back. Let me learn this people's suffering, and understand what traps them. Let me feel the weight of what binds them, and bear me up. Carry me and give me love that can withstand the strain of not being loved in return. This grace You can give, and I will seek it from Your hand. I will lie at Your door like Lazarus. Even the crumbs from Your table must be better than my mustered resolve, which twists and buckles under the heavy weight of loneliness, fear, indignation. You can make me more. I will have all that You have promised to those who love you!
I will not let you go unless you bless me. (Genesis 32:26)
Redeem my brokenness and my warping, Father. Gather up all my pieces and put me back together. Make me able to give again. Remember the promises You give to Your sons and daughters. Wipe away my selfish tears, and let me work gladly for Your glory. Replace self-pity with mercy, and fear with love. Teach me to guard and not grasp. Show me where joy is found. Let me face this year with passion and patience and red hot courage. You have these gifts to give, and You are the One who has taught me to desire them.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:132-135)
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Psalm 119:37)